There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Watanuki was sweeping the front walk when she came. He'd been sweeping for awhile now. Afterwards he'd work on raking, at least that was the plan. She kind of ruined the plan.
"Good Afternoon." She had said, surprising him. Watanuki hadn't noticed her come up. His eyes swung to her face and he nearly gasped.
She was pretty. All delicate features and clean lines. Her long dark hair had been curled into soft waves that framed her face well. The bruise that spread over her cheekbone and up her temple was livid and ugly and menacingly purple on her pale, otherwise perfect, skin.
"Hello." Watanuki greeted her, trying not to stare at the mark on her face. "What can I do for you?" He thought she must be plagued by particularly nasty spirits for them to leave that on her.
"I'm not entirely sure. Somehow I just found myself here." The smiled she cocked at him was full of sly humor.
"Ah, that's normal." Watanuki sighed.
"Welcome." A new voice drawled from behind them. Watanuki turned to see Yuuko in the door, smirk clear on her face but clothes oddly casual, for her anyway.
"Thank you." The woman answered in amusement. Her clothes were not casual. Her clothes were the height of fashion.
"Come in. We'll need tea Watanuki." Yuuko instructed, turning to lead the way.
As the woman passed him Watanuki noticed a large bruise on her arm, shaped like a hand, and as she walked up the stairs he noticed another, older bruise on her leg.
"What is your name?" Yuuko asked her as Watanuki sat out the tea service. They had been be sitting silently in one of the Western rooms. There was a third seat at the table, Watanuki took it to mean he should sit.
"Tsuruko." She answered in her modulated voice. Watanuki got the distinct impression that everything about this woman was completely modulated. This was a woman who thrived on control.
"Crane child." Yuuko nodded. "Pretty."
"Thank you, although I suppose my mother deserves the credit."
"Tell me, where did you get those bruises?" Yuuko asked as Watanuki poured the tea. For a minute Tsuruko said nothing, and the silence stretched awkwardly.
"You know you can love someone, and love them, and convince yourself they love you too, and doing that, you find you can forgive them almost anything. So, that first time they hit you, and they apologize of course, you think, oh it was just the once. But it's not. Then come the lies, but it's not him lying, it's you. He doesn't really mean it, he can change, it's not his fault, it's stress, it's the way he was brought up, you make a thousand excuses for him while he makes none. But one day you realize something's got to change, because if it doesn't, you might die." Tsuruko unwound a scarf around her neck, revealing a disgusting pair of bruises in the shape of hands, ringing her throat like a morbid necklace.
But that wasn't all there was.
A thick, twisting rope of black feelings and murderous thoughts lay wrapped around her neck like a noose, a heavy length of it running over her shoulder, down the floor and out the door. Watanuki had no doubt it led to that man who beat her. The pure malice of it choked him and he struggled to breath through his mouth.
"Is he okay?" Tsuruko asked as Watanuki sat hunched in his chair, hand over mouth, gagging.
"The darkness and taint your lover has left on you disturbs him." Yuuko reach over the table and set the scarf back around Tsuruko's neck. "I'm afraid it's rather bad. If something doesn't change, you will die, and soon."
"I already knew that." Tsuruko told the witch, as though it were a fact of the same caliber that the sky is blue. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, my lover will kill me. "I just don't know what to do about it yet."
"Why not make a wish?" Yuuko invited.
"A wish?" Tsuruko laughed. He laugh was as carefully controlled as her voice. "What sort of good would wishing do?"
"This is a shop, where any wish one might make will be granted, provided you can make the proper payment of course." Yuuko explained to her, carefully refilling her cup of tea.
"Of course." Tsuruko agreed.
"How about it? You could wish to change him. Make him love you. Make him treat you right." Yuuko enticed, all sharp smile and dangerous eyes. This was her hunting face, Watanuki thought.
"He already loves me." Tsuruko told her.
"He hits you!" Watanuki injected. "If he loved you-"
"He does love me!" Tsuruko interrupted him, voice breaking halfway through, that carefully modulated tone cracking. "He does, but sometimes love isn't enough. Sometimes people have love, but they don't know what to do with it." She swung her head back to Yuuko. "What would changing him do? You can't force others to change. Don't you think I tried? He doesn't have to change! I do!"
"You want to change?" Yuuko spoke calmly, even as Tsuruko heaved breaths in front of her.
"I want... I need to change." Tsuruko's voice returned to it's elegant tone. "But I don't know how."
"It's not very hard." Yuuko explained to her, getting out of her chair to retrieve something from the sideboard. "All you have to do is throw away everything you are." She sat a pair of heavy steel shears on the table. "Starting with this lovely hair." Yuuko lifted a waist length lock in her hand.
Tsuruko's fingers flew to her hair, running through the heavy texture of it.
"It took me twelve years to grow it out." Tsuruko said in thought.
"Mmm, well, it's up to you." Yuuko dropped Tsuruko's hair a returned to her seat. She lifted her teacup to her lips and calmly sipped it. Minutes crawled by silently as the battered woman stared at the scissors and Watanuki stared at her.
Slowly, almost hesitantly, she reached for the scissors. She tilted her head to the side, eyes closed, facing Watanuki, as she gather the thickness of her hair in a hand. Suddenly her eyes flew open and she closed the scissors over her hair with a single, loud snip, no hesitancy at all.
She sat the hair and scissors on the table before snatching her expensive purse off the floor. She dumped the contents of it on the table, snatching her wallet she emptied it of identification, subway card, and two thousand yen, leaving the rest inside before tossing it on top of state of the art cell phone, designer make-up, and leather appointment book. She stood from her chair and began pulling her costly silk shirt off her body. Watanuki quickly slapped a hand over his eyes.
"You don't have to do that Watanuki-kun." Yuuko told him, smile in her voice. Watanuki slowly lowered his hand. Tsuruko stood in front of him dressed in a camisole and bike shorts, her skirt in a pool around her feet.
"Thank you." She told Yuuko. And Watanuki directed his attention to her face. There was a light in her eyes that hadn't been there before. It was small, and it flickered and sputtured as though it might vanish at any moment, but it was there. She left, leaving her fifty thousand yen imported shoes at the door.
"Take everything to the store room." Yuuko directed Watanuki as she wrapped a ribbon around the mass of hair to form a long tail. "Be careful with this."
"I don't understand. What just happened?" Watanuki blinked in the direction Tsuruko had left so quickly in.
"She just decided she needed a change is all." Yuuko told him with a smile. "On your way back bring some gin. This tea needs gin."
16 months later:
He was playing on the front lawn with Maru and Moro when a woman stepped through the gateway.
She was pretty, and smiling brightly. Her short black hair framed her delicate features well and Watanuki wondered how long it had taken her to get such a natural golden tan. She wore a large Red Sox baseball jersey and black bike shorts with sleek black running shoes on her feet.
"Hello!" She cheered at him, giving a small wave.
"Hello. What can I do for you?" Watanuki asked her.
"You don't remember me do you?" She laughed, it was loud and brilliant and unrestrained.
"...No. I'm sorry." Watanuki admitted.
"Hmm, some time ago I came here with bruises, and left with most of my hair, and clothing, missing." She give him a flirty wink, rocking back on her heels. "I have to admit, my memory of the whole ordeal is patchy, but I remember you."
"That's not surprising." Watanuki sighed. It seemed very few could remember Yuuko.
"I just wanted to thank you." She twisted a ring around her finger as she talked.
"For what? We did very little." Watanuki disagreed.
"True. I learned nothing that day I didn't already know, but sometimes it's important to have it thrown in your face." She smiled again as she ran a hand through her short hair.
"You seem so different." Watanuki stated, and it was true, she was completely different.
"I had to leave everything I was behind and become a new person. I had to change everything." Tsuruko explained spreading her arms wide to demonstrate.
"Do you ever miss her?" Watanuki asked. He didn't have to explain who. Did she ever miss the person she used to be.
"Sometimes, yeah. I spent me whole life creating her after all. I loved who I used to be and it's a little sad that she's dead now. But, the dead always leave their mark on the living. Who I was became in part who I am."
"That's good." Watanuki told her and meant it. "But why did you decide to drop by now."
"I met someone, and he adores me." Tsuruko laughed again, a joyful sound. "He thinks I hung the moon and stars."
"Do you love him?" Watanuki asked.
"No, not yet, I don't think so anyway. But I could, and that's important." She smiled. "But he's leaving for America, to play baseball for the Red Sox in Boston. He asked me to go with him. And I said yes."
"Do you still love the other man? The one who hit you?"
"I do. I will always love him. But that doesn't mean I can't love someone else. The human heart is really amazing you know, it can love one person more without loving another person less." She bounced slightly on her toes as she talked.
"I see." Watanuki said even though he didn't. Tsuruko just laughed at him.
"You don't, but that's okay. I gotta go now. My flight leaves in three hours, and I gotta get to Narita before Keisuke freaks out and thinks I've changed my mind. He still doesn't quite believe I said yes." She shook her head and rolled her eyes, as if lamenting the stupidity of her lover.
"I hope you are happy." Watanuki told her sincerely as she turned to walk out the gate.
"I will be." She told him. "Because I finally realized I deserve to be." She looked back at him them, a fierce light burning her eyes, a roaring inferno that had once been a flicking flame. "We all deserve to be happy."
"Yes." Watanuki agreed softly as she walked away, throwing a jaunty wave over her shoulder in farewell. "We all deserve to be happy."
Author's Note: Oh my god, could it actually be a happy ending? Holy crap. Anyways this is my second favorite of the stories. Let the Rain Sing You a Lullaby is my favorite.
Title from a song by The Smiths. An awesome song by an awesome band.