Looking for Kana's Eyes, parts 30 - 34
This story was written online as part of the Kana: WAFFO! (Write A Fun Fanfic Online) project. Odd-numbered instalments were written by JPop4Life, and even-numbered instalments were written by Darkling.
"Here we are. 1001 Delights!"
"Do they really have a thousand and one flavours, Bro?" Kana asks, looking up at the store's marquee in wonder. "It seems like an awful lot..."
"Nah!" I laugh. "It's just a fun name. They've really only got forty or fifty different varieties."
"It still sounds like a lot to me," Kana marvels.
"You think it sounds like a lot now," I tell her. "Wait until you have to choose between them! Come on, Kana."
We step into the store. The interior is bright and cool, decorated in bright colours.
"Hi! Welcome to 1001 Delights!" the girl behind the counter greets us. "What can I get for you today?"
"We're still just looking, thank you," I tell her, as Kana steps forward and peers at the containers of ice cream in the display.
"Well, we have a special on our Triple Treat Sundaes today - three scoops of ice cream, plus whatever toppings and syrups you would like. Please consider it."
"We will," I say, nodding at the girl with a smile. She's kind of pretty in her short uniform and funny hat. "So, Kana," I ask, moving up behind her, "anything catch your eye?"
"Why do they all have such long names?" Kana wonders, peering into the display through her glasses. "Fully Loaded Rocky Road? Cutie Beauty Tutti Frutti?"
"It's a capability test," I tell her. "The ice cream here is so good that you have to be able to repeat the names without hesitation, or you don't get any."
"Even Chocolate Chippy Marzipany Hazelnutty Goodness?" Kana asks. "Exams at high school weren't this hard!"
"Ah, come on, it's fun," I say, encouragingly. "Do you think you'd like one of those sundaes the girl was talking about? And something to drink?"
"I think you might end up having to hire a wheelbarrow to cart me home," Kana says, looking out across the ice cream parlour to where another couple are struggling through two huge triple sundaes. "Maybe we could share one?"
"Sounds good," I agree. "I want an iced coffee; they're really good here. What flavours should we get in our sundae?"
Kana turns back to the display, the bright lights reflecting off the lenses of her glasses. "Let's see..."
"...a scoop of Mocha Almond Fudge Swirl, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and... Frosty Fruity Very Berry Bits please."
"Mmmm... oishii!" I say.
"It sure was, Kana," Bro says, rubbing his belly.
We sigh at the satisfaction of our snack. I watch Bro as he finishes the rest of his iced kohi before we set out.
"I like your new glasses."
"Yea... I like the way they make you look. It's... comforting."
"I'm glad, Bro..."
The days go on by. I work, shop, eat... Everything goes smoothly. I find that glasses are easier to maintain than contacts. I don't have to take so much time putting them in, taking them out, cleaning them, etc.
However, glasses do bring new challenges. If they slip down on my face I have to adjust them, or sometimes they get knocked off my face.
But people have noticed it, and some do like the way they look on me.
The day is over and I'm turning in for the night. I take off my glasses and set them on the table next to me and turn off the lamp.
"Eh?" I open my eyes, looking around in confusion. I'm standing in an ice cream parlour, with bookshelves everywhere. Tendrils of mist curl around my feet and ankles, lazily wafting through the room.
"Kana, what do you think you're doing?"
Who's talking to me? The voice seems to be coming from in front of me, through the forest of bookcases. I push my way forward. Sometimes I have to turn sideways and hold my breath to slip through. The buttons on my white blouse get caught, and one of them tears off. I can't find it in the mist. I'll have to sew on a replacement later, when I get home.
"Who are you to talk? Miss Geekier-than-thou?"
"I don't look geeky!"
"Everyone who wears glasses looks geeky. You know they do!"
"You... you just be quiet! That's not true! That's not true at all!"
The voices are closer now. I'm on my hands and knees, crawling through the mist. I squeeze through a gap in the bookshelves, and I'm there. I've found them.
They're both me.
The one on the left is me, wearing a pale pink knitted cardigan and a sensible long skirt. My glasses are perched on her nose. The one on the right is also me, but wearing my dark blue jacket over a pink t-shirt and jeans. She's not wearing glasses.
Behind them is a big rack of eyeglasses, and the big machine that the optometrist used to test my eyes, months ago. Two eye charts hang in mid-air, just floating there.
"And... and what about you?" Glasses Kana retorts. "Pretending to be something you're not! Thinking people will like you more just because your eyes are different! How stupid was that?"
"It wasn't stupid!" the other Kana protests. "It worked, didn't it? People didn't stare at me anymore! They-"
"They didn't notice you at all!"
"That's not what this is about! I'm not egotistical enough to want people to stare at me! I don't like it! I just... I just want to be normal!"
"Um... hello?" I ask, as I step closer to the two of them. "Can I... can I say something, please?"
They don't notice me. They just keep arguing, even as I walk right between them. Glasses Kana on the left. And... brown-eyed Kana on the right. She must be wearing my contact lenses.
"It's about Bro, isn't it?" Brown-eyed Kana says, suddenly. "You're doing this because he likes them! You're not doing it for yourself at all! Contacts are so much easier to wear!"
"Well, yes," Glasses Kana admits, a bit bashfully. "I do like it when Bro approves of what I do..."
"You can't do everything in your life for Bro!"
"Because we left him!" Brown-eyed Kana yells. "It's over!"
"No!" Glasses Kana wails. "No, it's not over, it's never over!"
I walk past the two of them and approach the display. There are three glass boxes on the counter. In the leftmost one are a pair of glasses. In the rightmost one, brown-tinted contacts.
I look back over my shoulder at the two Kanas arguing with each other. Glasses Kana is in tears. Brown-eyed Kana is looking away, pretending not to care - trying to be cool. But she's upset too. She's too sensitive not to be affected by the situation.
I have to end this.
In the middle glass box is the answer. I reach through the glass and pick up the tiny box, and prise it open.
I dab my forefingers inside the case and bring them up to my eyes. Two tiny hemispheres of clear plastic - with no colour, no tint. I take a deep breath and push them into my eyes.
The two Kanas vanish. The bookshelves around me start to dissolve, and I see Bro standing over by the ice cream counter, waiting for me. He wants to buy me another Triple Treat sundae. I laugh and start running.
Bro... I'm happy. I can be me, I can do what I want... and you'll be okay with that, won't you? You've always just wanted me to be happy...
I sit up in bed, my eyes flaring wide open in the gloom. I stare around the apartment at the fuzzy, indistinct shapes everywhere. But at the same time, everything suddenly seems very clear.
It's been a while since I've been here. The warm sun, the cool breeze and the sound of flowing water.
I'm at the river where I was lost so many years ago. Bro found me that day and, from then on, everything changed. So much has happened over the years... and things continue to happen.
Things happen for a reason. People do things for a certain reason...
…and with these reasons, we decide our new paths.
I stand next to the flowing water and test it with my fingers.
"Ah! It's cold."
I smile, looking into the river. Seeing the colorful fish and discolored rocks. Everything has its own look. Everything is so clear...
…everything has its own beauty.
I stand up, brushing off my skirt, looking at my surroundings.
Ten years, I think.
Who knew my life would have changed so much here on that day?
Yup, this is where it all began...
And this is where-
I smile as I turn around, hearing his voice...
He's finished spreading out the picnic blanket on one of the wooden tables. These tables weren't here the last time, I don't think - but they're not new, either. It's strange how the years get away from us, Bro. Things change around us, but we're so busy staring straight ahead that we don't even notice until we stop, and pause, and look.
"Mmm, yummy!" I say as I walk over. I slept over at the house so we could wake up early and make our bento lunch together - fried chicken and octopus-shaped wieners and rolled omelette. There's also rice and salad in little compartments, and some pieces of apple that I carved into rabbits. It all looks so good.
The train ride out here didn't take as long as I remembered. Maybe it's because I was smaller then, so time seemed a lot bigger to me? A few hours seems like a much longer time to an eight-year-old than it does to an adult.
"I'm growing up," I murmur, looking down at the two bento boxes. I sit down across from Bro as he pulls two bottles of tea from the insulated bag in his backpack.
There's such a variety of food here, all nestled in the sections of the black plastic boxes. I remember when I only wanted to eat really simple things, like oyako-don. A few ingredients, simply prepared.
The simple things do still have their appeal. I still like oyako-don, especially from the donburi place around the corner from my shop. But sometimes it's good to have a lot of different things to enjoy in one meal, too.
Bro taught me that. When I was hungry, Bro shared with me.
He's looking at me now, a little confused and a lot impatient. "Ready to eat, Kana?" he asks. He must be hungry; he's been lugging that pack all the way up the mountain.
"Itadakimasu!" I say, bowing my head briefly before reaching for my chopsticks.
"Itadakimasu," he agrees, sounding almost relieved. "Mmm, these sausages look great. Takes me back to the old days, when I was a kid."
"It's a lot like that day a long time ago, isn't it?" I ask. "Even our lunches are almost the same."
He shrugs, his mouth full of rice. "I don't really remember. I just remember Kana, the amateur bee-keeper."
I laugh and cough up some omelette. "I'm sorry, Bro. I... I don't even remember what I was trying to- Oh?"
A drop of rain spatters on the table between us. I shoot a glance up at the sky, which is still mostly blue, except for a patch of grey cloud that's crept up on us unawares.
"It'll be okay, Kana," Bro reassures me. "The forecast said there might be a couple of brief showers, but nothing too heav- Damn!"
The rain picks up, slashing down at us.
"Move, Kana!" Bro yells, slamming the lids down on our bento boxes and grabbing them as he runs for the small shelter nearby. Giggling, I join him, leaping and bounding to keep up with him. We scramble underneath the shelter and collapse, panting, against the back wall.
"Sure, Bro," I say, between gasps. "Brief showers, nothing too heavy. Maybe we can swim back home."
"It'll pass," he growls, looking out at the distant picnic table where our blanket is getting soaked. Rain plinks into the open tea bottles and streams down the clear plastic. I can see small puddles already forming on the paving stones. I can see the waterfall in the distance, and the forest we walked through to get here. I can see...
And it's because of you, Bro. You were the one who pushed me, who told me I needed new eyes. And through every step, you were there supporting me as I looked for the answer. You always wanted what was best for me.
Other things in my life may have been out of focus, but your concern and care - your love for me - has always been clear.
I move closer to Bro's side and slip my arm into his. I rest my head on his shoulder.
"Hey! Kana...?" he asks, jerking slightly in surprise.
"Just till it stops," I say blissfully, nuzzling my cheek against his damp shirt.
"Oh. Well... okay, I guess," he says.
I smile as we watch the rain together, waiting for it to end. Then we can go back out there again. I can see the world through my new eyes, with the brother I love at my side.
Epilogue: A Little Mischief
It's been several weeks since that day. I look at myself in the mirror every morning and smile. All of my beauty shows. It's not hidden behind frames or lenses. Nor is it distorted by my once fuzzy sight.
The store is closed for today. The bright shining sun invites me out for some fun. Bro is stuck at the university today, so I've decided I'm going out on my own. I've already gotten my train ticket and my map ready for today.
I'm going sight seeing. To look at all the beautiful things in the world. To see amazing shapes and colors. To observe vast lands and wonderful scenery.
I open the case and begin to put on my contacts.
I'm excited. No one knows me there. I'm sure I'll meet some great people and see many interesting things. And they won't know-
I pause my thinking, leaning forward to put the last contact in. After it's in, I look at myself in the mirror and-
"I like the way you look, Kana," I say to my mirror image. "You have such lovely eyes. They're so..."
I grab my things and walk outside to a place unknown.
Hehe... gomen, oniichan, I think to myself.
"Well... just a little." :P