Ano Hito no Jijō (That Person's Circumstances)
by
Saddletank

Chapter Seventy Six – It Also Happened Like This

But love was not enough to hold my grip.
Can't you just feel my fingers slip
Into those oceans in the sky where people swim,
Oceans in the sky calling me in,

- Guillemots, Redwings

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Different circumstances.

I was about to let go when the presence was there. It just came there behind me. Like it materialized out of nothing. I noticed it. She didn't say anything, she made no sound but I turned my head and looked at her and then she spoke.

I'm certain it happened in that order.

"Sakana? What? Don't. Please don't."

She sounded afraid. I guessed why.

"Inoue? You're…? What are you doing here?"

"Ah… I was shopping nearby. It's weird. I was just on my way home and I came in school. I don't know why, really I don't. The swim coach was just closing up and going out. He mentioned your name. And I… For some reason…"

She took a step forward.

"What? What reason?" I gripped the metal railing tighter.

"I don't know why. Really I don't. I was thinking of you. Just now. In a shop. And I came here. I don't really understand." The look on her face betrayed her mood. She was afraid, deathly afraid.

But who for?

"What are you doing Sakana? Come back from there."

"I. Uh… I… Don't come any closer Inoue. Please."

"What is it? It's not… Not because of her is it?"

"Inoue, I'm sorry, please go. Leave me."

"Don't be stupid Sakana. I'm not going anywhere, now please climb back over the railing. You're frightening me."

"I've decided Inoue, I want to do this. There's nothing for me now. Not now she's gone."

I kept watching her. She stepped forward again.

"Don't be stupid. Of course there's something here. Are you blind?"

"What?"

"Are you blind I said!"

She stepped closer still. She could reach out and touch me now. I frowned at her. I didn't get it. Blind? I must be.

"Me, stupid!" She looked cross all of a sudden, affronted as though how dare I forget her, "I'm here!"

"Inoue?"

"Come back over, please. You're scaring me. You're young, you're bright. And…"

"What?" I had turned half round now and hauled myself back a little. Damn my arms hurt. A muscle threatened to cramp up on me.

Her eyes were big and round. She reached out a hand.

"Don't you get it? I love you."

"Inoue?"

"For years, over two years I've loved you. You know that, baka!"

"Wait. I…"

I didn't know what to say. I was confused. My heart was broken, I had difficulty making it respond. The damage must have affected my brain too. Nothing seemed to make sense.

"Come back."

She reached for me. I lifted one hand. Was I reaching for her? I don't know. Then my other arm cramped up sharply and in that hand I held the silk nightdress. My grip slipped. My eyes went wide in surprise, not understanding what was happening, Inoue suddenly seemed to fly upwards as did the railing and the edge of the school roof. An arm came out and suddenly there was intense pain across my ribs, a great hot grinding bite of pain as my falling body and my chest banged against the concrete lip of the roof. My jaw snapped shut and I nipped my tongue between my teeth, the coppery taste of blood filled my mouth and it stung with sharp pain.

"OH!"

My arm hurt too, it burned and was clamped in a vice, a hot tight gripping thing trapped it.

"Inoue!"

"Sakana! Hold on! Owww!"

She had caught me. She'd bounded forward and grabbed my wrist. My body had slipped and I'd fallen but she had grabbed me just in time. I dangled over the edge and had bashed into the lip of the roof, my ribs hitting the concrete edging. My legs kicked out into space as though swimming. My other hand was twisted and burning from the cramps.

"Give me your arm!" she screamed.

"I can't! It won't move."

"Give it here! Quick!"

She hauled on my arm, the railing had bashed into her under her armpits, my weight dragging her against it.

"Sakana!"

"Inoue! Help! Don't let me fall!"

"I won't. I won't. I promise. Give me your arm!"

"Help!"

I flailed about, my cramping arm felt like it was on fire. A wolf with jaws of flame was feasting on it.

"Let go of it!"

"What!"

"What you're holding. That black thing. I can't hold your hand if you don't!"

"This?" In slo-mo I looked at the black silk nightdress I held. Maho's nightdress. I didn't want to let it go.

"I can't pull you up one handed. Give me your other! Let that damn thing go!"

I can't. It's hers…

Inoue, I can't let it go… help me…

"Sakana, please. I can't hold much longer…!"

"Inoue!"

"Sakanaaa…."

Her grip was slipping. I kicked frantically with my legs but could not get purchase on the smooth stone.

Maho, help me!

- let me go. let go of me and hold her. hold her Kanahrin…-

"Yes!"

- let go -

"Yes!"

"Sakanaaaaa, pleeease…! I can't…"

I released my fingers. The biting January wind whipped the fluttering silk from my grip and it blew away. I did not see where it went. I reached up blindly aiming for the lowest part of the railing. A hand gripped my wrist. I hauled myself up, or was hauled up, I don't remember. I screamed with the effort and got a foot on the edge. Arms came around me stronger, hauling up.

I rose up, toppled forward over something cold and hard and fell sprawling onto unyielding concrete. I banged my knees and elbows, I made wounds that would scab over like a grade school kid. Arms came tight around me warm and furious,

"You stupid, stupid woman!"

"Ah, Inoue, what?"

"You frightened me so much! You could have been killed!"

"Ah…"

"What were you thinking?!"

"I don't know. I was… I came here to think about Maho. I'm not sure…"

"Don't you ever do that again!"

I rolled over onto my back. Everything hurt, my ribs, my wrists, my knees. Above me dull grey winter cloud scudded by. Inoue's face came upside down into my vision.

"I'm sorry…" I began to say.

"Baka!" she shouted and scooped me up and hugged me, "Baka! Baaa-kaa!" Her voice became muffled as she spoke against me.

"Inoue?"

"What?" she let me down a little. She had tears in her eyes. I frowned at that. Everything seemed so disjointed and strange.

"Why are you crying?" I was good at asking stupid questions today.

She didn't answer, she just made a funny barking noise that I think was half crying half laughing. I was still frowning in puzzlement a few seconds later when she kissed me.

It was our first kiss.

It was a good one.

It was the first of many.

"There isn't nothing for you now," she said softly, "there's me."

- - - oOo - - -

15 November 2007 & 29 February 2008

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Ano Hito no Jijō (That Person's Circumstances)
The End
8 May 2007 – 29 February 2008

For author notes about Chapter Seventy Six please see my forum (click on my pen name)