Author's Note: Oh my god. I took a bar examination, and then... a wedding (my own). Now, I am married, and I live in a new city (which is stressful to someone without a memory). After two months, I am finally beginning to learn where items are, inside the house. But it still feels unfamiliar to me. Every day, I want to go "home" - only to realize, this is my home.
So, in any case. I apologize for the delay. On the plus side, I have lots of new (nasty little) experiences to add to my story about memory loss.
Each section of each chapter is becoming longer now. Kagome's memory (along with my own) is getting better, so I can write more, at once.
Part .09 – Dreams
Kagome lay on her side with her head tucked beneath a pillow, but it did nothing to block out the sound of someone else in the room. The bedsheets rustled softly. A lamp turned off. Soon, only a trace of light from the window illuminated the room.
Heart racing, she stared into the darkness. What was she doing? Why had she stayed in Naraku's bedroom? It was not as if she needed his permission to stay or to go. No. If she insisted, then he would allow her to leave. But despite her better judgment, she remained.
Ultimately, it had been her choice to stay in this room. Naraku had suggested it, and she had protested, but... then again... she had not struggled very hard when he pulled her toward the bed. If she had truly wanted to leave, then she could have done so. She could still do so. Yet somehow, it did not seem worth the effort.
It was difficult to make up her mind whether to feel nervous about that or not.
On the one hand – it seemed insane for her to stay in the same room as... as... as a man! After all, the house had a guest room. So, she should sleep there. Not here. Why would he even suggest such a thing?
On the other hand – Naraku was a doctor. He was not going to hurt her. Probably he was just teasing her, when he told her to stay.
Perhaps it was a test! He wanted to see what she would do, if he asked for something like this. Perhaps she was supposed to...
"Stop hiding." His voice interrupted her wild, mental conjecturing.
She froze for a moment, clenching her fist, pulling the pillow more tightly over her ear. But immediately afterward, she felt extremely foolish. Damn it. What was she doing? She should answer, not huddle into a ball and pretend that she was unnoticeable as long as she did not move.
With a deep, fortifying breath, Kagome rolled onto her back. Hugging the pillow tightly against her chest, she faced the ceiling. "M'not hiding," she mumbled.
Oh, yes. That sounded very convincing. Especially when she was clutching at a pillow like it was armor.
Evidently, he was dissatisfied by this reply too. Fingers traced down the length of her arm, from elbow to wrist, and her gaze darted to the side, only to discover that he was closer than she had thought, laying in the middle of the bed. One hand propped up his head, while the other gradually slid to a stop above her own and rested there, slowly heating her skin.
It felt like the heat from his palm was seeping upward, through her arm and across her cheeks. It was not fair! Although the only thing he had done was touch her hand, she was blushing. But thankfully, she rationalized, he would not be able to see this, because the room was dark.
"I should leave," she said firmly this time, determined not to sound timid or mumble. "My little brother, Souta, says that I steal the covers. And... you might... snore. So, neither one of us will be able to sleep."
A small frown marred his expression. "I don't snore," he replied with amusement.
"Ah!" Kagome objected, rolling onto her side to face him directly. The sheets twisted around her, as she moved, and she had to push the pillow down to leave enough room between their bodies. "That is what everyone claims! But people don't actually know what they do when they're unconscious. How do you know that you don't snore?"
This time, he did not respond. She chose to interpret this as a sign of victory. Still though, she did not exit the room. She did not even get out of the bed. Perhaps she was not very good at winning arguments.
"Besides, it would be inappropriate," she continued, "For me to sleep... here."
His frown deepened imperceptibly, while his free hand glided over her arm once more, upward now, until it reached her shoulder. "In that case," he intoned softly, voice dark with humor, "I must be sure not to tell the neighbors."
A soft puff of air skimmed across her cheek, as he shifted toward her. Eyes wide, she shied away and the breath caught in her throat. No! This was not how a first kiss was supposed to be!
But in the end, nothing happened. When he saw her scoot farther away, he did not kiss her. Naraku merely traced the side of her neck, then her cheek, slowly rubbing his thumb over her skin.
Kagome's blush intensified, even as she started to breathe again. It felt like... she felt... Well, honestly, she was not sure. Part of her felt relieved, and part of her felt disappointed, but for the most part, it was hugely embarrassing. In some ways, it seemed even more personal for someone to stroke her face, than it would have been to kiss.
Furthermore, why was her mind wallowing in the gutter? Laying there passively, thinking about kissing. Obviously, that was not what Naraku had intended. He was just...
His fingers sank into her hair and curled, tugging her head backward sharply. She flinched from the pain, but there was no where to go, because she could not move her head. "What are you..." she started to ask, before he made it abundantly clear, by pushing her onto her back and pinning her down with his legs.
Frightened, she struggled to remove him, pushing on his chest, but it did not help. Gripping her wrists, he stopped her from moving entirely. In the darkness, his eyes almost seemed to glow as they trailed across her face, reflecting like those of a cat.
As if Naraku was arguing with himself, and she did not need to participate at all, his frown darkened into a scowl. Breath coming in short gasps, he leaned over, until his forehead rested gently against hers. She blinked at him, wondering what the hell was happening, and whether he was all right, and whether he was completely safe and sane. The latter appeared doubtful right this second, but she hoped to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Naraku?" she whispered nervously.
He released her arms, uncurling and sliding down on top of her, until she was holding most of his weight, as if she was part of the mattress. "Don't call me that," he answered finally, a rasping quality to his voice.
Right that second did not seem like the best time for questions. So, she agreed mildly. "All right."
Holding very still, she wondered how to ask for permission to sleep in the other room without angering him. Again. Because she might need permission, after all. It hadn't seemed that way earlier. But now, he was actually laying on top of her, so she could not move without attracting his attention. She didn't even dare to breathe too deeply.
The temperature of his skin was unusually warm. And she was uncomfortable, because he was heavy. And she wanted – no, she needed – to write this down, before she forgot it, which required paper and pen. It was this last thought, which finally prompted her into action.
Squirming slightly, she attempted to slide to the edge of the bed. Only to feel Naraku shift onto his side and then draw her back toward the center. After returning the pillow, he smoothed out the blanket so that it lay evenly across both of them and tucked her under his arm.
She frowned. This would not do. Falling asleep in a strange room, it would only terrorize her when she woke up, she just knew it! In the morning, Kagome would open her eyes, see Naraku lying in the same bed, and she would panic, because she would not have any memory of how she had come to be in such a situation. There, now. That was a good argument for why she should sleep in the guest room - much better than the stupid reasons she had invented earlier. Why had she come up with such pitiful excuses? Perhaps she had not really wanted to leave.
"I tend to forget things when I go to sleep," Kagome murmured. "So, I should... you know... write down my location, in order to skip worrying about it, in the morning."
His arms tightened around her. Apparently, her request had the opposite effect than she desired. Naraku acted even less willing to release her. "No," he contradicted her. "I will wake you."
And for the first time, she thought, she could hear the lie hiding within words that he did not say. He might wake her, in the morning, but that did not mean his explanation would be complete. It might not even be true. At the moment, she could not find the usual amount of trust in her heart, for the person behind her.
"I would really like to..." she started to repeat herself.
But then, the other half of the equation finally occurred to her. Even if she did write this down, even if she transcribed everything that happened this evening, it would not assist in any way. Before her accident, she had never reviewed the pages of her diary. It was highly unlikely that she would bother to review those pages, now.
Besides... keeping a journal simply cataloged events, it did not clarify them. It would be pointless to write down a succession of events, without touching the depths, without remembering the purpose of the exercise. What could she really learn from tonight? Nothing. Nothing other than the fact she enjoyed her privacy, but not enough to safeguard it. She thought Naraku was attractive and confusing (and a bit frightening when he pulled on her hair), but she did not want to write those ideas on paper. In the end, she did not have any information worth entering into a journal.
With a sigh, Kagome relaxed and settled into the mattress. He would explain everything in the morning. And she would think that he was telling the truth. And perhaps he would be.
It smelled like coffee, but Kagome hated coffee. The air was cold, absolutely frigid, and she thought the air-conditioning must be too strong. The office space in front of her was cluttered, and it didn't make sense, with two desks at an angle, one of them covered with papers that she could not read.
What was she doing here? Oh, yes. She was a secretary. Two people, a woman and a man, sat in front of her. The woman's hair gathered in a tight bun, and the man was in a suit. He looked eager to please, and Kagome recognized this, because she had seen the same sort of smile on her own face in the mirror.
She could not understand what they were saying, however, no matter how hard she tried. Something about a job application. Wait! He was applying for her job! But she already worked here... he could not simply take her position.
But she had to apply too, didn't she? She was only a temporary worker. She had to apply, and that was why she was carrying a nice, red folder. A nice, red folder that contained a resume, a yellow pad of paper, and many business cards in the front pocket.
"Here, I finished my application," she said quickly, holding out the resume, interrupting their conversation. She shoved the sheet of paper between their bodies, but the older woman merely glared at her.
"You hoped to continue working for this company?" asked the lady contemptuously. "Then, it would have been wise to submit an application, by Friday. The position has been filled."
It was Monday, now. Kagome knew this. It was upsetting.
But surely, they would not want a new employee. Not when she already knew how to work here. Not because of a simple, forgetful mistake. She was only a few days late. She had known that she needed to apply for the job, but she had problems with her memory, so she had forgotten to prepare a resume, but now she had remembered, and it was not very late. Friday. Monday. What was the difference?
"Honestly, this is very unfortunate," continued the woman, as if she could hear Kagome's thoughts. "You are fully trained. But now, you must waste everyone's time and train a new employee, after lunch. Time is precious, you know. I cannot understand why you would be so careless. I suppose that you did not want this job, after all."
Their eyes were judgmental, and Kagome stuttered a response, desperate terror building inside her stomach. She had not intended to be disrespectful. Yes, she did want a job, yes, yes, very much!
"I a-apologize for taking so long," she stammered. "I forgot to prepare a resume, until I saw the note on my calendar. You see, there was an accident, and I have problems with my memory. I have to read the calendar..."
"You failed to apply on time, because you are disorganized?" the woman snapped, "Because you cannot plan ahead? That does not recommend you. Leave us."
Kagome felt sick with dread. The manager was not listening to her explanation. It did sound terrible, actually. Why would anyone want to hire her? Someone without the ability to remember anything, unless the information was written on a sheet of paper, unless she was carrying that sheet of paper with her...
She wandered into the kitchen. There was a kitchen for employees inside of this office. It was tiny, with a drink machine, a coffee pot, and a sink with a disposal in it. There were cabinets over the sink. The room was long and thin, and she began to pace, up and down.
Anxiety overwhelmed her. The terrorized feeling would not seem to fade. Obviously, this was her fault. It was not the company's fault. A manager was perfectly correct to despise her for being incompetent. "Why did I forget?" Kagome asked herself. "Why would I forget something so important? I wanted to apply for the job. But I forgot."
No, no. She was not broken. Not careless or stupid. No. Part of her mind denied this, vehemently.
And she would prove it! This was due to a simple mistake. Nothing serious. She must have written the application deadline, but placed it on the wrong day of the week. A simple solution, then. Next time, she would simply write the instructions early – that way, she would not have any chance of forgetfulness.
Pulling the calendar out of her purse, she opened it to the correct day. Today. But looking down at the leather-bound calendar, she saw nothing. It was totally and completely blank. White. No days, weeks, or months. She didn't know when it was...
Breathing was difficult, when she became this upset. There was simply not enough air in the room, and it was too cold. She would never be able to breathe again. A deadline was a simple thing, a small speck of information, and she should be able to remember it. Even without a calendar!
'Yesterday was Sunday' – such a simple idea. She needed to find a way to make herself remember.
Memories formed more easily with pain. Even a two-year old child, or a dog, or a squirrel recalled pain. If it hurts, then animals do not forget. Not on the most basic level.
So, the answer was easy. Lasso the memory with a painful event. Then, she would always remember the importance of recording simple details. It was important to write a deadline down properly, important to check the calendar in the morning. Then, when the calendar went blank, she could buy a new one before it became a problem. Yes. Easy.
Kagome looked around the room, looking for something painful that would not kill. She did not want to hurt herself, not really. Not much. Just a small cut.
But there were no knives in the kitchen, not in any of the drawers. She opened every single one, and she looked into all of the cabinets. Frustrated, almost panicked, she collapsed into a plastic chair near the counter.
How could she solve this problem? Hot water, perhaps. She returned to the sink and she stood in front of it, running water over her hands, while the faucet was on its maximum setting. While waiting patiently for the water to grow warmer, she tapped her foot on the tiles.
But no matter how long she waited, the water never became too hot. Instead, it felt pleasant. It was hot, but not enough to burn. The office was too safe. It had been built by protective people who did not like lawsuits or employees who complained about burns in the break room.
There was another solution, but Kagome did not like it. The disposal in the sink.
Panting for air that would not come, she contemplated her options. She only wanted to remember, not to harm herself irreparably. She only needed a small amount of pain to fix the memory of this event in her mind. Loosing a finger would not help, in the long run. Would it?
Finally, she decided. It would be worth it. She would be very careful, only to stick the edge of her pinky finger inside the disposal, while it was running. Just the pinky finger on her left hand. And afterward, she would always remember to write important information down on the calendar. Afterward, she would never forget to look at the calendar each morning, because when she awoke, she would notice that she was missing the front of her finger, and it would represent the importance of this.
So, she switched on the appliance and turned on the water in the sink, because there was really no need to make the entire kitchen look bloody, once she was finished, and without water running, she might forget to wash her hands, because she would be in a great deal of pain. But that would be all right. Because it would have been her choice to feel pain. It was under her control. She needed a mind, a memory, a reliable-moment in time, more than she needed a fully functional finger.
Very carefully, she gripped her left arm with her right, forcing it to continue a process that she did not want to perform in the first place. It would only be for an instant, and only her pinky finger, and then away. Holding her breath, she found she could not even blink, because she was so panic-stricken.
The closer she came to completion, the more glacially paced her movement. Plastic guard, pushed out of the way. Strangely enough, the blades were not at the base of the disposal. No, there was only a spinning, metal circle. The grinder had to be on the circumference of…
Pain blinded her, cutting off her thoughts. She screamed in terror.
But there were hands around her shoulders and a voice in her ear, and she was going to be fine. Absolutely fine. The other employees would rush into the kitchen, and they might think she was crazy, but she was fine.
A finger was worth a memory. Pain would engrave these instructions, bright and crystal clear, inside of her mind. Don't forget. Take your time. Write it down. Be careful. These were important things to remember. It was just a finger...
Curled into a tight ball, she realized she had both of her hands squished against her chest. But the hand did not hurt anymore. And there was fabric under her cheek.
"It's all right. You're awake now," Naraku said, trying to reassure her, although he did not sound very certain of it. One of his hands moved from her shoulders to forehead, brushing the hair off her face. The hair was sweaty, and it clung to her skin. "Just a dream," he continued. "It was only a dream. Kagome?"
She blinked in confusion. Slowly but surely, her heart rate began to calm. A dream? Of course, it was a dream – a nightmare, but only an illusion.
Fuzzy with sleep, her brain did not work quite the way she hoped, as she hurried to explain. "It's okay, I did it on purpose," she explained weakly.
But then, she realized that would not help her to look normal. Normal, sane people did not stick their hands into kitchen sink disposals, simply because they wanted to make powerful memories. She frowned. "I mean, no... It was an accident."
As he encouraged her arms and legs to unfold, releasing her left hand from a death-grip, Kagome started to tremble. God, what a horrible dream. A small sniffle escaped.
Where was she? She must have shrieked so loudly that she drew Naraku all the way from his room to hers. At the same time, though, this did not look like any bedroom that she recognized.
"M'sorry," she muttered miserably. "I didn't mean to wake you."
Naturally, he immediately asked an impossible question that she did not want to answer. "What did you dream about?"
She shook her head, stuffing her face into one of the pillows on the bed. The fabric smelled good. Like winter. No, like nothingness. Crisp and clean and empty.
But he prodded her firmly, refusing to allow her to avoid the issue. So, she told him. She had this sort of thought-process fairly often. And psychologists liked to discuss things. When she considered it, she figured that he probably knew already.
"It was one of those dreams," she began reluctantly. "I forgot to do something important. I missed a deadline. When I tried to explain, other people didn't understand; they didn't want to listen. So, I thought I should fix the problem, by…"
Hmph. How was she supposed to finish this sentence? Now that she was conscious, the solution that she had invented for her nightmare seemed insane and horrible.
It probably would work, though. Pain was a very good motivator...
Kagome shivered uncontrollably. No, she was not going to do this, not when she was awake. Traces of the dream must be tainting her thoughts, that was all.
"I thought I should..." She managed to look Naraku in the eyes, but she still could not manage to complete the sentence. Phrasing it differently might help. "Pain helps to cement memories into the brain," she persisted. "So, it seemed like a good idea."
Although his expression did not appear displeased, only contemplative, Naraku stayed silent for a long time, searching her gaze. Eventually, she looked away, burrowing into the covers. It broke the silence.
"One of 'those' dreams," he reiterated her earlier emphasis on the words. "Do you have this sort of dream often?"
Kagome shrugged. "I don't know. Don't remember my dreams well," she said.
Then, a sharp bark of laughter burst from her, in response to an unintentional joke. Obviously, she did not remember her dreams - she couldn't recall anything, most of the time. But Naraku did not hear her joke, which was not very funny anyway, because she did not speak it.
"That's fine," he sighed. "Tell me what you do recollect."
Maybe she had not told him about these dreams, before, after all. Or maybe he simply wanted to hear about it twice. "I only remember the scary ones," said Kagome, sheepishly. "Like, one time, I dreamed that I was married to a horrible person, who... um... raped... me every night, but I didn't remember in the morning, so I always smiled and greeted him happily the next day."
When he did not reply, merely listened attentively, she warmed up to the subject, gradually releasing her stranglehold on the blanket. "And another time, I witnessed a murder," she continued. "I can picture it, even now; my brain saved the image. But in the dream, when the police questioned me, I couldn't recall the details, so they thought I might have participated. I couldn't even defend myself at trial, because I didn't want to lie and say that I remembered something that I didn't."
Morning light filtered through the window blinds. At least she had not woken anyone before sunrise. That was good. Glancing around the room, she noticed it felt larger than normal. Also, the sheets seemed to be a darker color than usual.
"Do you record these, in your journal?"he asked with mild curiosity.
A-ha! So, she did keep a journal! Although even then, she probably did not bother to track her dreams. They merely represented fears and frustrations about forgetfulness. She knew this. It seemed obvious that she would have such thoughts, so there was no need to record them, over and over again.
Kagome shrugged once more.
Her lackadaisical response prompted him to return with paper and pencil. "Since you do not feel comfortable talking about it, right now," Naraku urged, holding out a legal-sized pad, "Write it down, and we may speak of it, later."
At this, Kagome bit her lower lip, blue-eyes clouding over slightly. She did not want to think about her dreams, once she was awake. But then, he was a doctor. It probably was a good idea.
"Write down as much as you can," he instructed, calmly. "How everything looked and smelled, how it felt."
With a sigh, she surrendered and dragged the paper onto her lap.
"Ayumi Watanabe," the announcer called over the microphone. The crowd watched appreciatively, as a young girl with curly hair stepped forward to take a diploma.
Reclining on the grass, Kagome quietly watched the last of her friends walk across the stage. It was a small ceremony at the middle school building, and the announcer had requested that they not clap, until every name had been spoken. Still, the inside of Kagome's heart seemed so full that it might explode. She wanted to cheer. Ayumi had always been her favorite – the most naive and gentle of their group of friends – ever optimistic and supportive.
A few more names, and the ceremony ended. Standing quickly, Kagome brushed off the back of her skirt and peered into the audience, trying to see her mother. There had not been enough chairs, so Mrs. Higurashi had taken a seat, while Kagome sat elsewhere on the ground. Still, she did not want to loose track of her mother.
From afar, brown eyes met hers. The older woman waved, and it meant – 'Go and see your friends' – Kagome could translate these gestures quite well. With a smile, she swirled in place and marched toward the graduates at the front of the courtyard.
Yuka caught sight of her first. "Kagome!" shouted the short-haired girl, with a huge grin.
"Congratulations!" she shouted in return. Her expression mirrored the joy on her friend's face.
Dragging her into a hug, Yuka practically crushed the air from Kagome's lungs. Next, she turned and pulled her toward the other two girls, initiating one last get-together, for old time's sake.
Honestly, they didn't even need a ceremony for graduating middle school. It seemed a little bit silly. But Kagome was glad to have watched one, anyway.
Eri was the hardest girl to round-up, and the first one to speak, when she finally noticed Kagome's presence. "Ah! You came!" cried the taller girl. She had gone without her headband today, and Kagome realized that she missed it.
"Of course," she assured them. Then, hoping to turn her forgetful nature into a joke, at least for a moment, she gushed happily, "Forgive me for asking again, if I have already, but where are all of you going to high school?"
There, now. That would start their conversation on a pleasant note. Everyone loved talking about his or her own achievements, and students desperately desired others to feel proud of where they attended high school. It was like a badge of honor. And Kagome was a good listener.
Sure enough, each of her friends acted more than willing to repeat this precious information to her. They were all going to the same local school. Yuka and Eri seemed overly excited that the school-uniform involved a pretty plaid skirt and jacket, but then, this reflected their personalities precisely.
Kagome nodded agreeably, until the conversation came to a pause. Then, before she even knew what was happening, Eri had thrown an arm around her shoulders. "Oh!" the other girl groaned unhappily, stomping one foot. "This is unfair! You are supposed to be right here, with us."
Ayumi blanched, happy expression fading. At her side, Yuka hissed sharply. "Eri, don't..."
Ironically though, it actually made Kagome feel more comfortable to hear someone mention her head-injury. "It's okay," she answered quickly. "I'm right behind you guys."
They stared in disbelief, which annoyed her. "I mean it!" Kagome persevered. "I'm getting much better. I'm just taking a short break, but I'll finish school soon, and then I'll see you again."
Ayumi instantly picked up on her enthusiasm. "That's great!" she exclaimed. "Maybe we can help you study?"
Next, it was Yuka's turn to carry the torch. "Yea! Also, I bet you can get special accommodations on the entrance exam."
It sounded like a nasty comment, if interpreted the wrong way. But Yuka was always like that. She would search for advantages and pitfalls in every situation. When she suggested 'special accommodations' on a test, it meant that she actually thought Kagome deserved special treatment.
As if their words had sparked a flame, a determination to succeed flared inside of her chest. They were correct. There was no reason why she shouldn't finish school. Middle school at least.
It was just a test. Yuka was probably correct. She might obtain special accommodations for taking the high-school entrance exam. And once she passed, then she could study for a while, on her own. But allowing herself to fall behind, that was pointless and unacceptable. If she wanted to graduate from school, then she would. She would!