By Lady Bethany
Disclaimer: I don't own it.
This story is unusual. It's upsetting. And if you are not listening to some sad music, it might be boring. Please keep this in mind. Please don't flame me.
I had taken two extra shifts that day. October 3. You know, things like this should happen on days that mean something….if they happened at all. I took the extras shifts because I needed the money. I wanted to buy my little girl and boy something special for Christmas that year, so I needed all the overtime I could get. I didn't earn much….but I wanted to buy them something they could show happily to their friends, not that they didn't anyways. But whenever the two of them did, their friends already had the same thing, bigger and better than the one that my wife and I scrounged to dig up.
I know it seems like a selfish reason, but I guess I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted to let them know that I loved them so much, even thought I was only just making minimum wage driving city buses.
There was no one on the bus that day. I wish there had been! If only one crying baby, one nagging old lady, one lady arguing loudly on her cell phone with her husband or even a teenage couple cooing little pleasantries to each other! Maybe if someone had been on the bus that day, someone, anyone, maybe I wouldn't have fallen asleep….
I was only asleep for a moment, but it was enough. Just barely enough. I was just there, driving down the street on my route, middle of the afternoon on a workday, and I just shut my tired eyes for a second….and them snapped them up to look at the scared face of a teenage boy right before I hit him.
I remember feeling the impact as I hit him. He didn't fly through the air from the impact, not like you'd expect….instead he fell under the wheels…..
I don't remember stopping the bus, or one of the passerbys calling the police and the ambulance for assistance, but it must have happened, because they came. The paramedics took one look at the boy and shook their heads sadly.
The police questioned me intently. The Inspector looked ready to punch me. I think his name was Megure, I don't remember anymore. It's funny, you'd think I'd remember every detail, even the way the wind was blowing….but I don't. The Inspector finally certified it an accident, but requested I remain on the scene for further questions if they needed me.
There is one part that I remember all too clearly. I remember that moment, when the boy's parents and close friends arrived….
The boy's mom was a lovely young woman with honey-colored brown hair and large eyes. The first thing she did upon arriving was run to the body bag the paramedics had placed her son in. She looked in….and the first thing she did was begin screaming his name, as if he could wake and smile at her, if she only screamed loudly enough…
Her screams haunt my steps to this day.
The husband came and placed a hand on his wife's shoulder. He also looked into the bag. In movies, the man always comforts the woman, and doesn't cry, but he did. Hugging his wife, the two of them collapsed onto the ground, shaking and sobbing loudly.
I had hidden myself by the side of the bus, too ashamed to show myself. But at the woman's screams, I had started to step around the corner….and stopped. What right did I, the murderer of their son have to intrude on them? None.
I stepped back into my spot, hidden again from their view. I only heard bits of the occurrences the police officer relayed to them.
"Bus driver fell asleep at the wheel…..your son killed….didn't die on impact, went under the wheels…crushed his skull….I'm sorry, Kudo-san."
Kudo….Shinichi…..it took me a few days to realize exactly who it was I had killed. I didn't put the names together until I saw a news report a few days later, reporting that Kudo Shinichi, Detective, Savior of the Japanese Police Force, had been hit by a bus driver fallen asleep at the wheel….
A teenage girl came also. She didn't immediately see the body bag. What she saw was me, crouching in shock next to the blood-stained wheels of the bus, clutching a little stuffed bear my daughter had given me as a good luck charm. Her eyes first fastened on me I think, and that's when I looked up. Then she looked at the bloodstains on the front of the bus, and then at the bloody wheels….and then she saw the body bag with the crying couple still beside it.
She dropped the schoolbag she had been holding to the street and ran over to them. She was too young for this to happen…
I then faintly heard the couple tell the girl not to look in the bag, but a desperate scream a moment later told me she hadn't listened. It was then that I started really crying, burying my face in the stuffed bear to disguise the gut-wrenching sobs. I don't know how long I cried, but I ended up having to hobble to the side of the road to throw up my lunch.
I think it was a few hours after the mourners left that the police called my wife to take me home. She looked at me, tearing up and offering a helping hand up to get to our car. I remember thinking that she must have walked to the bus garage to retrieve it, for we only have one car, though both of us work.
The ride home was silent, neither of us saying a word, and no music or news on the radio. When we got home, I just stumbled to bed, and thanked the Lord that the children were asleep so they wouldn't see me. I stumbled into the master bedroom, and all but collapsed on the bed, still clothed in the blood-stained garments I had worn the whole day. When I had sat against the wheel, the blood had come off on me….
My wife had come in and I remember her wrapping her arms around me and speaking softly to me like I was a child, petting my hair and rocking back and forth. I remember crying loudly. My little girl came in, rubbing her eyes, freshly awakened from deep slumber.
"Go back to sleep, Mitsuki dear."
"'K Mommy…" yawning, she left. I'm surprised she didn't bother us more. It must have been her guardian angel watching over her. I'm glad she didn't stay longer. I told everything that had happened to my wife, who held me, and sometimes cried with me as I related all that had occurred.
"One second, I only fell asleep for one second! I didn't mean for anyone to die!"
"I know, dearest. I know….shhhhhhhh….."
I fell asleep later on, waking up in my nightclothes the next morning. The children had already gone off to school. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling blankly. I wished with all my heart that it had all been a dream. But it hadn't. I stared at my hands. They were clean….but only to the eyes of others. I could feel the bloodstains on my hands, and knew deep down that I had crossed the line. I was a killer. A murderer. A taker of life. I had robbed a young man of his life only just the past day. Again I cried, and this time my wife was not there to help me. She had gone off to work. Time, tide, and bills wait for no one. If she had stayed home, she would be fired, and we would starve. Money was tight enough as it was…..but now….I had most certainly lost my job, and there was no pension….I had to find a new job, and quickly. But who would hire a murderer?
A week past, and I finally went job hunting. I found a job stacking boxes in a warehouse. It was hard work, and little pay, but at least I knew my family wouldn't be out on the streets when the mortgage on our apartment wasn't paid. It was that same week that the lawyer came to our door.
Mrs. Kudo had sent a lawyer to speak with us. They were thinking of pressing charges against me. In desperation I pleaded with the lawyer to let me speak with the Kudos. He said he's see, and left, suggesting over his shoulder that we might want to look into lawyers.
Mr. Kudo refused to have anything to do with me, but Mrs. Kudo agreed to see me the in two days time at her house. I dressed up my best. I knew the Kudos were rich, and I wanted to do my best not to look shabby. I wish I could tell you I was confident as I walked up to the large mansion, but I wasn't. I was shaking like a leaf. If the Kudos pressed charges, I didn't know what would happen. Best case scenario was that I would have to dig into my children's meager college funds my wife and I had set aside. Worst case….I didn't want to think about it.
It was a private meeting, just the two of us. She had seated us both in chairs, and she didn't sit behind a desk. She started by telling me stories about her son, about the odd things he had done as a small child, the intelligence that had grown, how he had saved so many lives and captured so many criminals. Then she asked me how much I though her son was worth. How much money could she take from me to make her feel avenged? How much money did it take?
I don't remember what I told her, only that I started crying at the end. I told her what I remembered, what I had thought, and what I had seen. I told her how sorry I was, and how much I regretted it every moment. I told her about my two children Mitsuki and Kaze, and how I looked at them and still could only grasp what was happening to her and her husband. I told her how we had no money, to hire a lawyer or to pay any money that was demanded. And most of all, I told her how much I wanted to change what happened.
I don't know how long we sat there talking, but it seemed like an eternity. In the end, I was escorted out, and a taxi was called. I protested. There was no way I could pay a taxi, but I didn't say so. I had walked, I could walk back. But Mrs. Kudo called one anyway, and paid it up front.
I remember when the lawyer next came to our door. It was to inform us that no charges would be brought against us.
I went to Kudo Shinichi's funeral. I sat in the back, away from all the other 'respectable' guests. I don't think they would have liked me there. I sat behind all of his classmates, who in turn sat behind the Kudos and their closest friends. As I heard the preacher talk, it again occurred to me the heinous nature of my crime. I watched the burial, which took place in a large, open cemetery. The gravesite was under a tree, a weeping willow. The Kudos stood right at the front as the preacher spoke, dressed in black and wan, but composed. The teenage girl stood beside them, leaning heavily on the arm of a person who was probably her mother. She was not near as composed, and had tears running down her young face constantly. She was asked to say a few words after the Kudos, but she shook her head. I doubt she could have said anything if she had tried. If I had to wager, I would bet she had been crying constantly all the time since….I had killed him. Her voice was probably too scratchy to even whisper.
I left quickly afterwards. I was the untouchable, the evil. So I went home and hugged my children, telling them how much I loved them, and kissed my wife. I didn't want them taken from me. Like I had taken a cornerstone from another family.
That Christmas I was able to buy my son and daughter the presents I had wanted to get them. My son was given an old Game Man, and to my daughter I gave a talking doll. I will never forget the expressions on their faces as they unwrapped the gifts my wife and I had picked out so carefully. Their gifts had come at such a high price. I smiled at my little daughter as she squeezed the dolls hand again and again, talking to it and feeding it imaginary food. My son was eagerly playing a Masked Yaiba game, and the blips of the game music brought a smile to my face, a smile that had long been fleeting.
That March I planted a tree next to Shinichi's grave. A pine tree, a blue spruce. An evergreen, one that lives and thrives even during the long winter, even when the weeping willow lost it's leaves to the wind and storm, this little tree grew stronger.
I went again to his grave about every month or so. And I went on the first anniversary of his death. But when I went, the teenage girl was already there. Turning quickly, I walked to another grave and pretended to pray there. I didn't deserve to speak to this girl. It was my fault she was even here in this cemetery. As I sat at the stranger's grave, I unwittingly heard her conversation to the dead. I tried not to, but the wind changed slightly, and carried me her soft words.
"You know Shinichi, I'm going to graduate this year. I'm going to go to law school afterwards. I've been nominated for valedictorian. I can't help but think that you should be up there. I can just think of what your parting line would be to the outgoing students. 'There is ONE TRUTH!'" She laughed softly and sadly and paused, as if gathering her thoughts.
"….I miss you, Shinichi. More than anything. It hurts, you know that? Like there's a big gaping hole in me…..Sometimes I want to kill that bastard that ran you over. I want to hurt him, hurt him until he understands what he's put all of us through! Everyone seems a bit muted now….your mom's settled down at home for once, and your dad's writing is a bit more forced and depressing, like he just doesn't have the heart for it anymore….Heiji is trying to take up everything you left, and Dad simply has no one to rant and rave about anymore. When I go to law school, I'm moving in with Mom, so Dad'll be alone, and I'm a bit worried about what he'll do." again she paused.
"You know why I'm not going to kill that man who killed you? I don't think you'd like that. Almost your entire life was devoted to tracking down murderers, and I don't think you'd like if I became one. So the guy lives, I guess." She sniffled.
"….I love you, Shinichi." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her wipe away a tear as she leaned forward to kiss the gravestone. Standing, she walked away.
I sat at the strange grave for a long while, thinking about what she had said to her boyfriend, words not meant for me or anyone else but him.
After a while I went and kneeled by his grave as well, praying for his soul as hard as I could. It was sitting there kneeling that I heard footsteps coming towards me.
I looked up quickly to see the teenage girl gazing down at me, holding a bouquet of flowers. Belatedly, I realized that she had placed no flowers earlier. She must have forgotten them in her car.
"Ummm…hello. Did you know him?" She asked, eyes wide and still slightly red from crying.
I looked down, unwilling to meet her eyes. "Not really."
"Oh…" The unspoken question hovered in the air.
Clenching my fists, I gathered my courage. She deserved to know why a stranger was kneeling and praying at her boyfriend's grave.
"…I'm here to pay my respects…." I said lamely. Why is it the words never came when bidden? I had thought a similar scene out in my head for so long, but the words had abandoned me to my fate.
I took a deep breath. "I'm sorry?"
I had confused her even more now.
With a quick prayer for the right words to come, I explained. "I was the bus driver who hit him."
The girl stiffened and I could hear her gasp. I still wasn't meeting her eyes.
We sat in silence for a little while, me kneeling, her still standing, flowers crushed in her grip.
"Do you realize what you've done to us?!" She yelled at me.
I looked up slowly to look her in the eye. I deserved to let her know. "Yes…"
"How can you? How can you possibly understand what you've put us through?!"
"I've tried. And I will regret that day until the end of my days."
"Well that just isn't good enough!" She was full fledged screaming now, and glaring at me with an odd, half-crazed look in her eyes.
"I'm sorry…." I trailed off. I took a deep breath and asked the question that had been plaguing me. Gathering my courage, I spoke.
"I know you can't now, but do you think you could ever in your lifetime find it in yourself to forgive me?"
She was silent for a few moments. I looked away, down at the grave which I had filled. I heard her take a breath and listened closely for the answer.
My breath froze in my throat. And yet I had somehow expected it. After all, how could she forgive me? If I was in her place, I don't think I could have either.
Unable to do anything else, I slowly got up and left, without saying a word. I walked to my car and slowly drove home to my family.
I have reached my conclusion. I know I will never be forgiven. And I don't believe that I will ever forgive myself. But there is not a day that goes by without my regrets, and not a day that I don't tell my children that I love them, nor a day without kissing my wife goodbye in the mornings. I will always have time for them. Always. To the end of my days I will mourn. And I will never forget the life I banished from this world. May he rest in peace.
Author's notes: I hope this wasn't boring for you, if you even made it this far. This is my first time using the Japanese names, I hope I got all of them right…. This idea was just one of those things that sneaks up on you….like the time! It's 11:00 and I have school in the morning! Please read and review! Goodbye!