Author's Note: For Berlioz II, who gives The Depth of Feeling more adulation than I ever hoped for.


Dear Risa


I might have struck her as the kind of person who's easily dragged into hopeless, perhaps even ridiculous situations, when I could've just avoided them by just saying 'no'. She could have thought me a ditz who often trips over his own shoes. I could have even come off as a coward, or easily confounded and brought down by things she would see as meaningless. Especially a rejected love letter.

In the case of the last assessment, she'd be justified. Please don't think me surly for no reason—I've loved her for as long as I can remember.

"I'm sorry Daisuke...I just don't think of you that way."

To which I might've replied, if I could bring myself to resentment rather than tears: "I've had these words in my head for years. When I decided to write them, it took me two weeks for the pencil to touch the paper, and another two for the scrawled, grammatically infringed letter to reach the envelope just inches from it."

Instead, in stupid dejection, I said, "Oh, alright..." While I blushed in trembling shame like an idiot.

She walked away. My position remained fixed by the window where I confessed a fairly obvious secret. I honestly think I stood there through almost half of fifth period before Takashi came to retrieve me from the arid, melancholy air of my gray floor tile.

"Oh, comon, Daisuke, there's other fish in the sea!" He chimed. (This is in Home Ec class. Dark would've already clocked him with a cookie tray by now).

Too bad Dark was about to become another big con abruptly thrown in my face.

But this is about the letter, not my genetic misfortunes, or Takashi's obnoxiousness, or Satoshi's wary stare, which by then was digging a hole through my already weakened spine.

No, this is about the letter.

It was 'return-to-sender'. I took it out from my desk and reviewed any fatal errors I might have written while Risa was too preoccupied from her inquiring coterie of gossiping friends to notice.

If you're wondering, it read (and though I tossed it into the fire I remember every word; I correct any grammatical transgressions for your sick enjoyment):

Dear Risa (Risa and I will be interrupting frequently, just so you know.)

Do you remember when we swung under the swing set? (My cheeks flushed from the ill-placed alliterations.)

"Yes, I remember, Daisuke," she said delicately, with the sweet smile of the memory on her face. She was to give me feedback for this letter until the end, while I stood before her, between life and death.

We were very young. I was five, and you were four. It was after your birthday party. (Don't be surprised I can remember that far back. I've burned every single word she's ever said to me in my mind to reflect on 'til the day I die.) Riku was jealous that you were getting more attention than her because it was her birthday too, so she hit you and you fell down. You cried, but you didn't tell on her. (At this she laughed lilting, "Neither did you, Daisuke. You were afraid of Riku then, weren't you? Even now, she's a little aggressive." )

I sheepishly agreed.

You had a little scratch on your knee. It bled a little bit. Being then only four, you were terrified and thought the flow would never end. I assured you that was not the case. I dabbed at it with a cotton ball in the euphoric aura of your bathroom; you cooed softly, emitting beautiful sounds of discomfort and pain; while Riku begged for you never to tell. You never did. Of course, if you broke this truce now it wouldn't matter. Your mother would laugh (no doubt beautifully) too.

Then she disclosed something disquieting, "She doesn't laugh a lot anymore."

"Why not?"

"My mother is sick."

She read the parts that followed in silence. Caught up in the colorless and blurry confluence of flashbacks. I waited expectantly. Due to my non-omniscient nature, I can't tell you what she thought. I can, however, tell you how she felt that day.

Her gratitude manifested itself in a gift that left me in a cloud of awe even long after the moment had gone. "Thank you, Daisuke," she said and kissed the tip of my nose. (And I didn't wash that little tip of my nose for almost a week; my mother had a hard time trying to pry my hands off my face when she gave me a bath every night).

This is the crucial part:

Then we went to the park and sat on two swings adjacent to one another. You said to me—and these are your exact words—"You're so nice, Daisuke. You're my best friend. My mommy says I'll find a nice husband one day. Maybe we can get married."

The first two sentences I was to hear throughout our friendship. The third, I was certain of.

The 'maybe' stung in my mind like something that would never be.

And today, I had been brutally justified in all I dreaded and feared. But the letter foolishly ends on a note of stupid optimism:

I've been in love with you since before we met. I saw you crossing the street with your mother one day, and I was smitten. I know you might not remember saying that maybe one day we could get married, but I do. I think about it every day. I promise I'll make you happy. Would you please go out with me?

Horrible, horrible finish. If I had the chance to turn back time and consult the Fates, I would certainly do that.

Her pink lips loosened and mouthed the remaining words, and a look of confusion seemed to spread throughout her demeanor. I cursed myself. She looked up, straightened out her dress, and said, "Daisuke...I never knew."

My blush was getting out of control. "Oh, uh, well, yeah...I uh...I..." Dark would never do this. He would have the guts to say, "Well now you know. I love you, Risa."

But I never did.

Then the unthinkable occurred. My hard work, brought to ruin.

"I'm sorry Daisuke...I just don't think of you that way."

Others would fervently disagree, but being slighted in love is one of the worst pains you could experience. And it's not just emotional. It wreaks hell on your body, too. After her near-fatal rejection, the words 'I'm sorry' setting the futility of my existence, I just stood there, numb.

"There's other fish in the sea!" He cried again and again.

I glared at the moonlight just minutes before my DNA would go haywire and turn me into Dark.

Risa is not a fish, I thought.

Even for nights afterward, food of any kind was disgusting, and my stomach reproved me for every morsel I ate. Sleep eluded me. Demon Darks flew on little devil wings, berating me. My mother even seemed happy that I was rejected—that way, she could see Dark for the first time.

My heart still throbbed in miserly, dull pains now and again—especially when I looked at her. At times when I chanced to glimpse the sight of her chestnut tresses wafting in slow motion, her pink bow bouncing to her girlish rhythm and her hips sending seductive waves to break the radar, Dark would tell me: 'There she is. The girl you'll never have.' (He was a tad sadistic then; just because Dark and Krad are opposites doesn't mean he condemned all aspects of Krad's behavior).

One day, when I resolved to try again at her love, I happened to reach a letter of correspondence designated for me in the deep abyss of my desk. I was initially looking for my geometry book, but I found this instead:

Starch white envelope from Precious Moments, not sealed, blue ink, rushed (frantic?) feminine cursive, a sad puppy with big, teary, droopy eyes in lieu of a 'sincerely', 'love', or 'truly'...

Hi

We haven't talked in a while. I'm sorry my answer made you so sad. It's just that we've been friends for so long, I can't think of you any other way.

You must hate me, because I said it again. But I didn't write this letter to rub it in your face. I'm not sending subliminal messages of any kind. What I really want you to know is that I cherish you as a friend and as a person.

I know that letter you gave me is return-to-sender, but I never wanted to give it back. If you still have it...

Please. Talk to me again. Things aren't good at home. I could really use a friend right now.

That is, if you don't hate me.

Risa

A little boy with big, teary, droopy eyes peered up at me, pleading to receive my forgiveness so as to give it to Risa for me.

I scanned the classroom for her beauteous frame. My eyes met a startling empty desk. Around me, my classmates whispered. Satoshi expectantly took no part in the gossip and hearsay, but seemed slightly confounded at the phenomena as well. The teacher called out her name, looked up, furrowed her brows, and checked her on the absentee list. Riku would not speak. The unprecedented caprice of the girl-less desk remained unsolved.

I turned back to my present occupation: her letter. I ripped out a sheet of notebook paper and scribbled:

Dear Risa

My second letter. Would I tell her I wasn't giving up on her? That my feelings were driving me to death's door? Would I die in the name of unrequited love to prove my point instead?

I-love-you. I-love-you.

No. I decided against it.

I disliked the way 'Dear Risa' was written, so I erased it and wrote it again.

Dear Risa (too slanted)

Dear Risa (the eraser burned a white, chafing mark into the paper)

Nothing else was to follow it. I had nothing else to write. I palmed my face.

Dark murmured in a dim corner of my consciousness, 'Something's up.'

The passage of empty time and all the unanswered questions that accumulated in it could've made me bleed with worry.

A day turned into two.

Two days turned to three.

Three to five. Then five to seven days. A week.

This followed her sister's sudden disappearance. Just when the teacher was on the verge of calling the police, Riku came in with a bruised shoulder blade and a cast encompassing the entirety of her left arm.

Weeks later, I found her elusive sister languidly ensconced on a park swing. In despair. It was 4 in the morning.

Dear Risa...

She looked up. Sleeplessness colored her eyes black. Her luminous eyes. Her teary, droopy eyes.

'Risa, you're scaring me.'

"My mother..."

"She's..."

"God, Daisuke... She's..."

Risa's breathing became erratic. Her hands trembled on the chains and sobs strangled her once euphoric, unbreakable voice.

I had never seen an angel in such pain. Risa's grief was as lost on Dark as it was on me. There was nothing I could do. What I could've said remained unsaid, an irretrievable blank, and the fleeting glimmer of it died on my mind.

I went home. The letter, blank. Me, deep in a vivid encounter. The bottle of white-out emptied itself into the canvas of notebook paper. No messages of consolation came. By the time it reached the trash can, I devastated it with cross-outs.

I forgive you.

Yeah, we can talk again.

Are you okay?

Are you going to be okay?

Why is Riku hurt?

Are you going to be okay?

I burned that letter.

(Too many enduring question marks.)

Miss Harada Risa

Miss Risa Harada

Hey, Risa!

Hi, Risa

Hey...

(Inappropriate, all of them. She's too dear not to be acknowledged as such.)

Dear Risa.

Sleep was a fitful apparition that played endless tricks on me. Instead of Dark, I was bombarded by sad puppy dogs and grieving cherubs with red, puffy cheeks, auburn locks and pink bobbing bows...

Her name, accompanied by that cliched term of endearment, ghosted over me in the quiet hours of the night. And I felt I knew nothing but her for an eternity.