AN: Sorry everyone for the incredibly late update! Like…the year long update. -- Again, I do apologize for my absence. Let's get on with it, shall we. I think I'm going to speed up the story a bit.
Chapter 16 – Death and Dying
It's been a week already and Sakura hasn't been in school. I haven't seen her since the date with Hiroshi. Why do I catch myself staring at her seat wondering where she is?
I know she never misses school. She's under the impression that she can't. But what happened?! I feel nervous for some idiotic reason just thinking about it. My stomach feels sick thinking that something happened to her. I know she's strong…that's how she's made it this far, but she's not that strong!
After sitting through an entire day of school, I can hardly take it anymore. I hurry to her house after school, trying to rid my gut of that sickening panic.
When I knock on the door, no one answers. And that somehow makes me feel even more sick. Did Hiroshi pull something on her? Was she kidnapped? Where the hell is she?!
I'm getting impatient, but all I can do is sit at the front steps and wait. The sky is darkening and still no lights appear.
After five hours, I finally hear foot steps shuffling towards the house. It's difficult to see without any surrounding lights, but the street lamps illuminate a figure similar to Sakura's. I sigh in relief.
"Sakura, is that you?"
The girl squeaks in surprise. "Syaoran-kun?"
"Yeah…I've been waiting a while for you. You haven't been in school all week." I stuff my hands in my pockets.
Her voice is tired as she answers, "I know. The week's been hectic. Come in." She attempts to restore the warmth to her voice, but she only sounds more haggard.
As she flips on the switch in the house, I notice that she has huge bags beneath her eyes. And she's skinnier…a lot skinnier. "What the hell happened to you?"
Sakura drops her bags to the floor and falls against the wall as if all the strength in her body has left her. She rubs her eyes and tries to seem more energetic, but her face is about three shades paler than usual. Her entire frame looks smaller than the time I had seen her almost a week ago.
Her voice shakes, "It's…my dad. He's sicker. And the treatments aren't working…the only treatments we can afford aren't working…" Tears are welling up in her eyes and I don't know what to do. "He's…dying."
"Are you sure? Have they tried everything?"
"Of course I'm sure! Don't you think me and Touya would try everything in our power to ensure his life?!" Sakura snapped.
I stand in shock. I've never heard her raise her voice. Her face is tense.
"I-Sy-Syaoran, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be like that. It's just that I've spent so much time in the hospital this week, and I haven't been sleeping or eating or doing much of anything but running around looking up new treatments." She pressed her palms to her eyes and looked up trying to smile. But in the attempt, more tears just ended up falling and she sank to the floor crying.
I feel awkward just standing here watching, but how do I comfort her? I've never tried comforting a girl before…never mind a crying girl!
My brain's on automatic. I set myself next to her and hold onto her hand. She clasps it tightly shaking so hard.
"Come here." I whisper slowly, pulling her closely to me. If only she could be closer, but that's not even physically possible anymore. If only she could be closer so I could protect her better.
I can't help but notice how thin she is in my arms…as if I'm holding nothing.
"Why don't I make you something? You look like you could use some food…"
"Okay." She manages to breathe out.
I walk her over to the couch. She curls up on it, drawing herself in.
Why the hell is it so cold in her house?! I walk upstairs and bring her the comforter from her bed and head towards the kitchen.
I open the refrigerator, but there's hardly anything there. Some old vegetables and ham lay lonely in the refrigerator along with a box of eggs. I dig through the cabinets in hope of something else, but all I find is all sorts of boxes and bags of noodles. Maybe I could make some noodle soup?
After half an hour of fumbling for ingredients, the soup doesn't look half bad. I ladle it into a bowl and take it to Sakura.
I don't think I've ever seen someone so vulnerable. Her eyes are puffy and she looks like a five year old who's been left behind on vacation with no idea where to go.
"Here, this is all I could make."
"Thank you." She accepts the bowl and sips slowly.
"You have to eat more if you want to feel better." I say.
"I can't…I don't feel up to it."
"Look, Sakura, you're not going to feel any better if just stay curled up on this couch. Eat. It'll make you feel more energized and ready to face whatever's happening." I reason.
Sakura takes my advice and reluctantly eats the noodles. Her appetite seems to return as she eats.
She settles back into the couch when she's done, curled up again. "How much time do I have left with him? I can't believe I wasted so much time…"
"You still have plenty of time as long as you make the most of it." I reply.
Her head turns into the comforter as she closes her eyes and cries. "I can't seem to stop crying. I've been crying this entire week. Why can't I stop?"
I don't respond. All I can do is be there. Words can't comfort pain.
My eyes open, and I wonder where I am. I find myself draped over Sakura's couch. The sleeping girl is at the other end, still curled in the comforter. She looks more peaceful, now that she's sleeping, but a certain level of distress still appears on her face.
Thanks god it's Saturday. At least then she'll be able to have a break.
The girl looks as if she'll break if anything more happens. Literally.
I glance up at the clock. 10:00 AM already. I drag my body off the couch and manage to scramble some eggs. I gently shake Sakura awake for breakfast. Today she seems better…more cheerful. She eats the eggs and even manages a smile.
"Thanks for helping me last night. I do feel a lot better." Sakura manages. "Sorry I cried so much…I didn't mean to scare you…"
"No, no…it was fine." I lie. Last night, I was a nervous wreck. "Come on, let's get out and do something. To take your mind off things."
"I can't. I need to get back to the hospital."
"That place will just make you sadder." I say, though I know she has to go. Who knows how many days her dad has?
She shakes her head.
"Why don't we go out and get something for him? To make him feel more at home?"
Sakura cheers up at that idea. "I think he would like that! I've always wanted to make him a scrapbook…"
"Then why not? All we need are some pictures and some material. Should we head to the crafts store?"
My heart settles now that I know she's happier.
"Oh, and he'll like this picture!" Sakura holds one up of the entire family out at a picnic. "But…this is our only copy of the picture…should we reprint them from the film roll?"
"If you want to. Then you'll have a copy too."
She smiles and nods.
I offer to pay for the reprints. I know money has been tough on her family right now. And then after…too…when they have to pay for the funeral.
She turned me down at first, but I insisted. I told her she would respect my wish to do that if we were really friends.
I feel bad that I exploited our friendship in order to help her, but I know she needs it. And I'll never hold it against her. God…and only 3 weeks ago, I had hated her and resented her for no reason at all. Guilt still eats at me for my stupid behavior those few weeks ago.
Sometimes, while we were making the scrapbook, Sakura would start crying over one of the pictures. She would paste it onto the page sadly. Probably because those memories could never be relived.
I assume the only thing that was keeping her going was the gift she wanted to give to her father.
The scrapbook was finished by the end of the day. My contributions to it probably only included holding the glue stick and cutting paper.
When we delivered, I could see that Sakura was struggling with her tears. She wanted Fuji to be happy, but at the same time, she didn't want her dad to see her upset.
"Thank you so much Sakura-chan. It's been a while since I've seen my family." Fuji smiled.
I found myself smiling and laughing with Sakura and her father. It had been a while since I felt like someone's family too.
AN: Sorry for the short chapter. I'm still trying to get over writer's block. Till next time! Which will hopefully be a lot sooner than last time!