Far and Away
Chapter Twenty-Two: Emptyand Beautiful
Babblings: Everyone! Calm down! I don't deal well with people freaking out on me. I think there is one main thing I need to make clear (again): Kira is going to end up with Jake. There. Now. Take a deep breath. Breathe. And remember: somewhere in this crazy brain of mine, I really do have a plan.
To Yuujirou: I love you, too. XD
"I fucking hate you," I growled, my voice low and threatening.
The woman standing across from me, hands on her hips, hadn't changed at all in all these years. But I guess that's the way it is when you're technically immortal. Her hair was still almost violently red, her eyes just as piercing. Her lips were pulled back into the closest thing she had to a smile. "Kira, is that any way to talk to me after all this time? I don't think that's fair."
"Fair? Fair?" I screeched. "Nothing about this is fair. How could you do this to me? I was finally getting my life back together. I think you do this just for fun, to see just how much you can fuck with one person's life. Well, fuck you, Kyuubi."
"I have a newsflash for you," she said calmly. "This is not my fault. You knew that if you weren't careful, this would happen."
"I'm a man! Does that mean nothing to you? I'm not supposed to be able to give birth."
She was silent for a long time, her eyes searching mine, for something I did not know. Then, quietly, she said, "You wouldn't have Junry."
"That's different," I whispered. "You know I love him. But I love his father, too. This… this could mess up absolutely everything. I don't love Wataru, and, yet, I'm carrying his kid. Just when I finally let him go."
"If Wataru truly loves you, Kira, then he wants nothing more than for you to be happy. This child will not prevent that from happening."
"What do you mean?" I questioned.
"It means that he will let you go, too."
I didn't entirely understand what she meant, but I knew that she was right.
My eyes fluttered open. I was completely alone in my large bed. No one was there to hold me and keep me warm. That, more than anything else, brought tears my eyes. And then they weren't just tears anymore. They were sobs that shook my whole body. I felt like a child again, but this time I didn't have my Dad to wipe away my tears and tell me to be strong. This time everything was not going to be all right.
I ignored the little notes and the flowers from Jake. I didn't even look at them, sure that if I did it would send me into another fit of weeping (because I hated crying more than I hated anything). I didn't talk to Destin or Estelle or call my parents. I didn't make an attempt to talk with Wataru about the fact that I would be popping out his kid. I hired the girl next door to be Junry's babysitter.
I couldn't breathe. Oxygen, it seemed refused to flow into my lungs. It felt as though if I didn't get out of there I was going to suffocate. At least then I wouldn't have to deal with all this shit.
This is what I do when I get depressed, when I get lost, when I don't know what to do: I shut out the world, my friends, my family. It's selfish; it's pathetic; it's so goddamn stupid. But I do it anyway. Why? Because no one fucking understands me. And the only person who ever did is dead, caput. She is not coming back.
I kicked a rock, stubbed my toe, and yelled "fuck!" as loud as I could in the middle of the street. Mothers stared wide-eyed and covered their children's ear with their gloved hands. "They'll have to learn it some day!" I want to scream, but I don 't. Because I am a parent and if some crazy person (who wasn't me) did that, I probably would have covered Junry's ears, too.
"Katherine, I need you," I muttered, once again blinking back tears. I want to blame it on the pregnancy hormones, but I don't. This has nothing to do with being pregnant. This has to do with being lost and confused and having absolutely no one to talk to.
Everyone will be so disappointed with me.
I can see it on their faces. "Oh, there goes Kira being a complete imbecile again. Why couldn't he have been more like Destin?" Deep inside, I knew that wasn't true. I knew that they loved me in spite of the fact that I'd spent the majority of my life being an idiot. Mostly, I think, I was a bigger disappointment to myself than I was to them.
The little voices inside my head told me that I should have seen this coming. Maybe birth control pills don't actually work. Maybe I shouldn't have slept with my best friend. But there hadn't been any morning sickness. Just those couple days of nausea and then it was gone. I had mistaken my slight weight gain for being normal because most people gain weight this time of year when it's freezing outside and it's easier to sit inside and eat and watch movies. But I really should have seen it coming. Of course I should have. Just when I thought I was getting my life back together something was bound to happen. Like getting pregnant. Nothing in my life was ever easy.
It had been one week since I found out and I still didn't want to believe it. Kyuubi said Wataru would want me to be happy. But there was no easy way around this. "Fuck," I said again, this time muttering it under my breath so no one could hear. I had probably scarred too many kids that day as it was.
Life would be a lot easier if it came with a user's manual. Like, for instance, if it told me how I could have kept the boy I loved in the first place and avoided all this unnecessary shit. That would have been a nice thing to have known.
When I finally stopped walking, I was standing in front of the walkway to Nina's little house. I had made up my mind when I was walking over and I needed her help, badly. I ran the doorbell and waited for a moment before the door opened, revealing a very flushed and happy looking Nina. Upon seeing me, her face darkened. My eyes, it seemed, had once again given me away. "What is it?" she asked, moving aside to let me in.
"I… I need… or… I was wondering if you would do me a favor. You don't have to… but…" I was rambling, so I stopped.
"Anything," she said, pushing me down on her couch and sitting beside me. "You know I'd do anything for you, Kira."
"Well," I looked down, digging my nails into my thighs. "I have to get out of here, Nina. Just for awhile. I need to sort some things out. And…" I was never good at asking favors, especially not favors involving big things.
"Junry is welcome in my house for as long as you need him to stay," she said, finishing my thoughts for me.
"It would just be for a few days and… Thank you."
"Listen to me," she demanded, looking right into my eyes. "You get out of here. Go to the ocean. Have you ever seen the ocean? No, of course you haven't. It's beautiful in the wintertime. Go to the ocean. Stay there. Relax. I don't want to see you for at least five days, do you understand?"
I stared at her, searching her for some sign of a joke. She was being completely serious. "What about work?"
"Tell them that Junry is really sick and that you have no one to take care of him."
"Okay," I mumbled. Suddenly, I was wrapped in her arms, enveloped by her motherly warmness. My hands shook as I held back my tears again.
"Will you tell me what's wrong?" she asked, rubbing her hands across my back in soothing circles.
"I… I'm… I'm pregnant," I stuttered out. It felt as though a weight had been lifted off my chest. Getting it out there in the open made it feel better even though it wasn't.
"Oh, God, Kira." Her hands stopped and she looked at me again, studying my face. "God, I'm sorry. Is it…?"
She didn't have to finish the question for me to know what she was asking. "It's Wataru's. That's why… I just fuck everything up, don't I?"
"No," she assured me, her voice strong. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, do you hear me? You don't fuck anything up." Silence came over us again for a moment before she said, "Bring Junry over here in the morning."
"Thanks," I muttered, standing up. "I'm just… I love you, Nina, you know that right?"
She smiled. "I know. I love you, too."
A hundred shades of orange blotted the morning sky as I threw my last item into the back of my car and shut the door. I had been up for hours already, getting Junry ready, driving him to Nina's house. He was excited, barely giving me a hug before going off to bother his newfound friends. My Junry – he was going to be a very independent kid. I wished he needed me as much as I needed him.
I heard a motorcycle drive up and then sputter to a stop. A figure marched up to me, sunglasses covering his face, but I knew who it was without even needing to look. "What are you doing here?" I questioned him, not meanly, just curiously.
"Where are you going?" he asked, completely ignoring my question. A hand with long tapered fingers reached up to pull the glasses off – why did he have to do that? I couldn't look into those eyes without being completely drawn in – and he shook his head, allowing his hair to fall over his face.
"I'm leaving for awhile. I have to get out of here." My words hung in the air between us, making the air constrict in my lungs. That was precisely the reason I needed to leave.
"W-wait," he stammered, and for a moment I was taken aback. Never, in all the time that I had down him, had I seen him so lost and unsure of himself, like at any moment he was going to break down and cry. His blue eyes were so wide, exactly like Junry's when he was about to beg me for something. "Let m-me come with you."
"Are you crazy? You're part of the problem." I didn't raise my voice, because I wasn't angry, just a little frustrated. I tried to ignore the way he was looking at me, the way he was making my heart beat way too fast for its own good. Having him come along wouldn't help me accomplish anything. I need to get away from this place and everyone associated with it. But, it just so happened that no matter how angry I was, he was the only person who ever made me feel any better.
"I know I am," he admitted, his expression changing to something more thoughtful. I had to glance away.
I am an idiot, I thought to myself. Going on a road trip with him would be nothing but huge trouble waiting ahead. But in spite of that, I felt the pull of his stare and his words upon my heart. I wanted more than anything to say no to him, to tell him to go the hell away and never come back, but I didn't. "Fine," I muttered and shooed him to the side.
"What?" he asked.
"Get on your motorcycle. I'll follow. I assume you'll probably need some stuff."
He nodded and ran to that wretched thing he loved to drive. What was I thinking?
His speed slowed as he turned onto the street with his art gallery. It took me a moment realize that his apartment was probably above the gallery, a typical place for a (possibly starving) artist. I figured I would wait in the car for him, but he tapped on my windshield and motioned for me to follow him up. He grappled with his keys, unlocking the door, and led me to a doorway in the back behind which ascended a set of stairs.
"Look around, sit, whatever," Jake said, motioning with his hands to another closed door. "I'll be right in here."
The apartment was small, but it was cozy, perfect for a small family. It had two bedrooms, the one Jake went into and another one that appeared to be unused. The kitchen had a full container of hot cocoa sitting on the counter. For some reason, this place felt like home. I felt like I was back where I was supposed to be. Everywhere I turned, it smelled of him, that lovely smell I had missed so much.
I poked my head into another small room off the kitchen, his paint room. On one easel stood a painting of a little golden-haired boy running through grass, his eyes seeming to glisten in the sun. On another was another picture of me, this time through a window, sipping a cup of coffee, a contented expression on my face. I wanted to touch it so I could see what he was feeling, but I felt like I had invaded his privacy enough, so I shut the door again and sat on his couch, the same old, comfortable one he had in his old apartment, and waited for him to come back out again.
"Do you want something to eat?" he asked, appearing before me again, a small duffle bag in hand. "I don't have much, but we might have something…"
"No," I interrupted, standing up. "I-I'm fine. Just ate and all. You know…"
"Yeah," he said, and we stood there for a long, awkward moment, staring at each other until I thought I was going to drown in the silence, and the deepness of his eyes.
I coughed. "We should, uh, probably go."
He nodded and looked as though I had brought him back from a far away place.
When we arrived at the bottom of the stairs again, Alia was there behind the counter, doing something with numbers on a calculator. She glanced up at us over her glasses. "What's going on?" she asked.
"Listen, Al, I'm going with Kira for a few days," he explained, quickly, his words almost slurring together. "You can close the gallery for those few days or keep it open. I'm not going to make you work it by yourself. But I have to go…"
A small smile turned up the corners of her mouth, as though she were remembering a secret. "Get out of here. I can handle it." Then she went back to her work, ignoring us.
Jake mouthed a silent "thank you" before following me back outside and closing the shop door behind him.
My car was like a small moving prison. The air was so stagnant, I had to crack open a window, even though it was chilly outside. I felt as though I was suffocating in there with him. The silence was unbearable. We were barely two feet apart, and we had so much to say to each other, but none of it came out. About one-hundred miles down the road, I finally turned on the radio. Soft, jazzy music floated out through the speakers. It seemed to go well with the drizzly weather, but it calmed me so I could hear my heart pounding in my ears any longer.
Some while later, we crossed into a small town (one of those ones where if you blinked you would miss them) and I drove the car into the lone gas station for gas and food. "Do you want something?" I asked him, the first words I had said since we started this journey.
"Yeah," he nodded, a soft strand of hair falling into his eyes. I wanted so badly to reach out a touch it, just like I used to, and tuck it behind those perfect ears of his.
He waited until I tucked the nozzle back into the pump and followed me inside the little store. Inside, all of the aromas of a gas station entered my nose and before I could head back outside I felt bile rise in my throat. "I'll be right back," I said, hurriedly, and ran off to the restroom. I barely had time to close and lock the door before emptying the contents of my stomach into the bowl of the dirty toilet. There is nothing more tacky or disgusting than puking in a gas station restroom. The mere thought of it made me dry heave for a couple more minutes.
I finally regained my composure, my stomach calmed, washed my hands in the sink and rinsed my mouth out with water than was probably contaminated with God knows what. I looked horrid. Jake was waiting outside the bathroom for me, a worried look etched across his face. "Are you okay?" he asked. "It sounded like–"
"I'm fine," I interrupted, brushing past him. "Just didn't realize how bad I needed to go."
Suddenly anxious to get back on the road and out of this place, I got myself a cup of hot cocoa, a package of gum, and a box of saltine crackers because I heard they eased upset stomachs. Jake was behind me, a large cup of coffee in hand and nothing else. When I placed my items on the counter, he put his up there with mine, and said, "I'll pay for it." I would have argued, would have told him that I didn't need his help, but I didn't have the energy to protest.
In the car once more, the silence again overtook us. I just couldn't think of anything to say to him. Whenever I glanced over at him, sitting quietly in the passenger's seat, and caught a glimpse of those blue, blue eyes, it was like all my words disappeared and I was left feeling empty.
I don't know how we did it, remained so quiet for so long. Humans, as a general rule, need noise, we need to talk. But somehow Jake and I managed not to. It was late afternoon before we spoke again. This time it was he who said something: "It was never like this before."
"What?" I asked, the sudden break to our quiet vigil shaking me.
He cleared his throat, dug his nails into the palm of his hand. "We used to talk about everything. What happened? W-why can't we do that anymore?" His voice cracked and I thought for a moment that he was going to cry, but when I looked again, his eyes were dry. It must have been a figment of my imagination.
"A lot happened," I murmured, nervously tapping my hand against the steering wheel. "A lot."
"I know, but what exactly happened?" he questioned again. "Why can't you tell me anything? I know you were throwing up when we stopped for gas, Kira. You can't really disguise that sound. But now you're fine? It just… it doesn't make sense."
"There is so much you don't know about me," I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear, surprised by the single tear that insisted on rolling down my cheek and splattering into my lap.
"That's because you never let me." His voice was rising, his abrupt anger and hurt overwhelming. "I told you everything about me. I spilled my heart out to you. I told you about what I had done after I ran away from home, about my exes, about Alia: the things I had never revealed to anyone else. But you never told me anything. You always had your secrets, the things that you kept close to your heart. I never understood why you couldn't just tell me something because I know…" This time when I looked, there were definitely tears glinting in his eyes, but they hadn't yet fallen; he hadn't yet let them go. He clutched at something near his heart, under his shirt in a place I couldn't see. "I know you loved me."
My heart was thumbing so loudly again in my chest that I thought for sure he could hear it. I wanted to scream at him, You do this to me! I still love you. I love you so fucking much it hurts to see you in pain. It hurts me when I'm not with you, when I see you every day in my child's eyes, the child you fathered. I love you, you big oaf!
But I didn't say any of that. In fact, I didn't say anything at all for a long time. Then, as the first of the sun dipped below the horizon, I said, voice wavering, "I'm sorry." He turned his eyes away from me and gazed out the window, at the passing plains and mountains and rivers leading into the sea.
I kept driving until long after the sun had set, ignoring the pang of hunger knowing at my insides. The crackers from that morning were long gone since I hadn't stopped for any more food, just gas. I imagined that Jake was about as hungry as I felt. We weren't going to make it to the ocean that night. I'd rather experience my first sight of that great water in the light of day anyway.
"There's a larger town a few miles ahead," I ventured for the first time in a long while. "I was thinking we could get something to eat and then get a hotel or something…"
He nodded, blinking his eyes. "I'd like that."
The lights of a city blinked ahead, welcoming us. When I got inside city limits, I turned off the highway into a part of town that I hope offered food at later hours of the night. I drove a few blocks before parking in front of a small diner tucked in between two larger buildings. It looked promising.
We got out, stretching our limbs, our senses reawakening in the cold night air. Inside the diner it was decorated with chrome and red upholstery and random neon signs. Only a handful of other people sat at various booths and tables. We sat at the counter without even conversing about it: we both headed there automatically. A hefty waitress with a wide smile and an apron that said "HILDA" (I'd never heard such a strange name before) greeted us and handed us menus. We both ordered hamburgers (mine a plain cheeseburger with only lettuce, his a bacon-cheeseburger with everything), milkshakes (mine vanilla, his chocolate), and agreed to share an order of onion rings.
I was thankful for the waitress, who seemed to have nothing better to do except talk to us. She was a bank full of (easy) questions that I was more than willing to answer, because if she left, I knew Jake and I would be left in our silence once again and that was unbearable. When Jake's hand touched mine when reaching for an onion ring, she covered his mouth with her hands, disguising what I knew to be a smile; I could see it in her eyes. I blushed and Jake looked away.
"Do you know of an affordable hotel nearby?" I asked when we were almost done with our meals.
She nodded and started to draw a little map on a napkin. "It's just down the street and then you take a left, here," she pointed at the map, "on Thirteenth Street. Very affordable and very clean."
"Thank you," I said, standing up and handing her enough cash to pay for the meal and a tip. "It's been nice meeting you."
She smiled again, the corners of her mouth nearly meeting her eyes. "You bet, honey. I wish you the best of luck."
We found the hotel without a problem. The clerk at the lobby desk eyed us strangely when we walked in carrying our few bags, like he didn't think we should be getting in so late and distracting him from his crossword puzzle. "You'd like a double, I presume," he said upon taking my identification to put into the computer.
"Yes," I replied, maybe too quickly. I didn't look back at Jake and I only hoped that the strange bamboo plant had enthralled him enough that he hadn't heard. We weren't together, we maybe wouldn't ever be together again, so maybe it didn't matter anyway.
I grabbed the key card he gave me and motioned for Jake to follow me up the stairs. We were on the second floor, all the way at the end of the hallway. There were two beds, a TV, and a separate bathroom. I claimed the bed closest to the bathroom in case I was to have any unfortunate incidents when I woke up in the morning. Jake quietly sat his bag on the opposite bed and then went into the bathroom, a handful of clothes in hand, and closed the door. A few seconds later, I heard the water running, and knew he was taking a shower.
I lay unmoving on my bed until he got out of the shower and then as soon as he stepped out of the bathroom, I was in there, fighting back a sudden onslaught of tears. Stripping down to nothing but my bare skin, I stared at myself in the mirror, at my scrawny limbs, my lank hair, the scar on my lower abdomen, and the slight baby bump I was already starting to form. There was nothing beautiful about this. I thought about the conversation we'd had that afternoon and turned on the shower so he wouldn't hear the sound of my sobs through the door.
For a long time, I stood in the shower, the water almost unbearably hot, crying and scrubbing at my skin with one of the rough washcloths, the same action that used to drive Wataru insane. The skin on my arms and chest and legs turned bright red, but I didn't care.
When I finally stepped out of the bathroom, Jake had turned off all the lights and was already in bed, seemingly asleep. I crawled under the covers of my bed, trying concentrate on how much the sheets weren't soft like my sheets at home and how the pillow wasn't nearly as squishy, instead of how much I wanted to be in the bed next to mine, curled around Jake's strong body.
I couldn't sleep so matter how hard I tried, no matter how exhausted I became. I blinked back tears again, unable to stop them because I was just so tired.
"Kira?" His voice drifted into my ears, the same way it used to all those years ago. For a moment, I thought I was dreaming until he said it again. "Kira?"
"Yeah?" I said, surprised by how tired I sounded.
"Will you –" He stopped like he wasn't sure how to phrase his question. "Come here, okay?"
"What?" I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly.
"Come over here," he repeated. "I know you can't sleep."
He didn't have to tell me again. I was sure I was sleepwalking over to him, imagining this whole thing to be happening when it really wasn't. I wanted to tell myself to stop, that I couldn't do this, but I didn't. As soon as I lit down onto his bed, he pulled me into his arms, pressing me closely against his chest. I was home again, right where I needed to be, right where I had longed to be for all these years. Our bodies still fit perfectly together, like two pieces of a whole, lost but now found again.
And then I was asleep before I could form another thought.
Before I opened my eyes, I tried not to get my hopes up. Every time I dreamed of this, that I was back safe in his arms, it turned out to be just that: a dream, a dream formed by too many nights of sleeping with his sweatshirts. So I was prepared for this to be just another figment of my imagination. What I wasn't prepared for was for it to be real.
His eyes were still closed, long lashes curtaining his cheeks in a gentle arc. His chest went up and down in the smooth pattern of deep sleep. He was so beautiful. I don't know how I ever walked away from him even though he did what he did. Snuggling closer to him, I decided I was never going to let him go ever again no matter what happened; I was going to figure something out.
It took a few minutes, but he finally started to stir in his sleep, waking up slowly. Watching him come back to life was one of the most wonderful things I had ever seen. When he opened his eyes at last, I felt like I was seeing the world again for the first time.
"Good morning," he mumbled, his body not full awake yet. Then he smiled and that's when I knew that this was for real, because that wasn't just any smile: it was the smile he always saved specially for me, the one that told me he loved me.
"Good morning," I replied, pulling back from him a little. "I hate to break this to you, but we need to be checked out by ten and that's only forty-five minutes from now. Plus, I hear they have a continental breakfast downstairs in the lobby."
As if on cue, his stomach growled, causing both of us to laugh, and just like that, we were able to talk to each other again.
"How far is it to the coast?" I asked the clerk when we had checked out of our room and Jake was stuffing himself with waffles. This morning the clerk was much nicer: she was a woman, younger, about my age, and seemed to be a morning person in general. "Oh, it's just a couple hours," she explained cheerfully. "If you get back on the highway and continue following it west, it'll take you right to the coast. Is there any town in particular you are looking for?"
"No," I said, blushing a little. "We don't really have a plan. This whole thing was rather… spontaneous."
"Oh!" she brightened even more. "Well, I know of this town called Seaside. They have this super nice hotel right on the beach and this time of year you can get it for really cheap. If you're interested, I could book it for you right now." I glanced over to Jake who had been listening in and said, "We'd love that," at his nod. She proceeded to get us reservations and print us off a map in the span of about a minute's time. I thanked her generously and sat down with Jake, digging into a bowl of cereal.
For the remainder of our trip to the ocean, Jake and I talked constantly. We didn't really talk about important things (the things we needed to talk about), but we talked, just like we used to.
Off in the distance to my left, it seemed as though the earth ended, cut off my something I couldn't see yet. "Is that it?" I asked.
"It sure is," Jake assured me.
I started speed driving, wanting to see the ocean that I had heard so much about at last. Finally, I saw it, glistening in the sunlight. "Do you know where we're supposed to turn?"
"About a mile up here," he said, rechecking the map.
I turned, driving into a quaint little town, still bustling with life in spite of the time of year. Then the main street ended and turned into beach. I parked the car, threw off my shoes, and took off, Jake barely having time to catch up with me. "You're crazy!" he yelled after me as I ran into the surf, the cold water nipping at my toes. It was exuberating. Everywhere I looked there was ocean and sand, a beautiful combination, a match made in heaven.
Jake caught up, laughing so hard he was clutching at his sides. "You're like a little kid," he chuckled.
"How do you think I stay looking so young?" I teased. It was then that I noticed something on his neck glittering in the early afternoon. Taking a step forward, I reached up, touching the baby soft skin at the base of his neck. He tensed, but let me touch the chain of his necklace. "May I?" I whispered, afraid of messing up, but also immensely curious. He nodded and I pulled the chain up out of his T-shirt, revealing something I never thought I would see again: the ring, the one he gave me to symbolize our commitment, the one I threw at his head after he had broken my heart.
He had a pained look on his face, like he was expecting me to yell at him. Instead, I wrapped my arms around his waist in a hug. "You kept it."
"It was only ever supposed to be for you."
It was silent for a few moments, while I contemplated what to do next. "Jake?"
I stood beneath him, staring up into those blue eyes of his. "I'm ready to tell you something."
His eye brow quirked and he went, "Oh?"
Putting one hand behind his neck, I pulled him closer and said, our mouths only inches apart, "I still love you." And then I sealed it with a kiss, our own secret promise.
Babblings: It's not over yet, people! They still have a lot of issues to get through. Tune in next time for "The Revelation: Kira Reveals All!" Or something like that. They still have the second half of their mini vacation. Now I have to make him end up with Jake! It would be cruel and unusual for him to go back to Wataru, right?
Also? I'm very sorry (or maybe not) that this chapter is so long. (The longest chapter I've ever written to anything). I just kept writing and writing and there just wasn't a very good place to stop until the place that I did and… yeah. It's about 2,500 more words than most of my chapters are. Be happy!
And, as always, review!
P.S. I apologize for any spelling and/or grammatical errors. I haven't edited it yet.