Nanami stared at the single envelope left under a coffee cup on her well-worn coffee table.
I supposed I should have seen it coming…
Her brown schoolbag dropped from her shoulder without care as she slumped onto the floor, senselessly reaching out her shaking hands to pick up what may well be the last words that her absentminded father had deigned to leave her with.
The room was silent save for the soft crinkle of the folded stationary as she unfolded the letter inside. She glanced at the first few words through increasingly blurry eyes, and the sobs she had been holding back burst forward.
Every single time. Every time she opened the door, she would hope that maybe, just maybe, her father would come to his senses and stop his destructive lifestyle. She gave up hoping long ago for him to act like a responsible adult, but had expected that he'd at least care enough about his only daughter not make things harder for her. It was only yesterday that she had quietly asked him if he would please help out with the groceries once in a while, and he'd agreed quite amicably before promising to be home for dinner tomorrow because he loved his daughter's cooking and it would be a shame for all that food to go to waste. Nanami hadn't given much credence to his words, but having him home for dinner would have been better than having him spend time at the local bar and losing pocket change to his so-called buddies.
She had trouble making out the last few sentences of the letter. Her father never had good handwriting anyway, and as the tears welled up in her eyes she found she didn't really care. The letter didn't contain anything her father hadn't already said. She knew all about his insincere apologies and his penchance for making up excuses. She knew, even years ago, that he'd had enough of the life that he shared with her mother, and that having a child on top of his disastrous relationship with his wife could only have made things worse. She knew, from the first time his father had struck her mother during an argument, that he was unwilling to care about much besides his money, what little he had of it. He had been apologetic afterwards, but the damage had been done.
The seconds ticked by, but Nanami would soon have no use for time. In a few hours, even the run-down apartment she had so determinedly kept by her meager earnings would be taken away from her. According to the letter, her father had sold the unit to pay back a portion of his debts. It wasn't enough, but she supposed she was lucky, because though she had heard horror stories about moneylenders and their ruthless tenacity, the cranky old man her father had borrowed from took pity on her, knowing that over the years she'd tried to make up for her father's shortcomings. The so-called kindness only extended so far, however, because as far as the old man was concerned she wasn't his problem, and at least this way he could recoup some of his losses. That her father had left her with no other option but to sleep on the streets now was...typical.
She bit her bottom lip in frustration and hurried into her bedroom. There wasn't much in there - a threadbare mattress on top of a rickety bedframe she'd rescued from the recycling, with a small desk off to the side. Below it, and under a nearly invisible crack that ran through a loose tile, was the emergency money she'd stowed away, a portion of her earnings she had painstakingly kept safe from her father's addiction. She lifted the tile, stared at the empty cache, and hung her head to try to stifle yet another wave of sobs. Of course he would be meticulous in sniffing out any potential cash in his place of dwelling. A glance to the left told her that the jar of coins where she kept her loose change atop her desk was gone as well. No doubt those coins were jingling in her father's pockets at this very moment. It had been untouched until today, as Nanami never stored anything more than the amount needed for the week's groceries. Her father, displaying a rare instance of astuteness, knew that stealing those would have upset the fragile balance between them, and had left those alone, until he'd had no further need to.
Unbidden memories flashed before her, and she ruthlessly squeezed her eyes shut against the images. The sound of the doorbell buzzed angrily into her apartment, and she tiredly swiped a sleeve across her face to dry off her tears. Whoever it was on the other side sounded angry, and probably rightfully so. Nanami got up to open the door in a daze, but she must have moved too slowly, for the door was broken down before she could let in her visitors, and a few disgruntled men shoved their way into the apartment. She looked on dispassionately as they started hauling out the furniture, pieces of her broken home that she had clung onto because the happier memories from the time her mother was still alive were superimposed with the ones in which her father slammed cabinets and drawers to express his anger from his recent losses. One of the workers poked his head inside her room and frowned, clearly debating whether or not it was worth the effort to take her bed and table. He apparently decided against it, and motioned for the others to go. In a few minutes, she was alone again.
The passage of time didn't quite register, and when she glanced around again the sun had hidden itself behind the distant hills. Nanami blinked owlishly in the faint light of the dying day, stood up, gathered her few personal items into her schoolbag, and walked down the stairs of her decrepit home onto the quiet street below. She almost choked on the first breath of chilly air that entered her lungs, its icy touch unrelenting in reminding her of her solitude. The tapping of her hesitant footsteps echoed loudly against the pavement, and if the occasional individual passed by the sad, lonely girl wandering the street in a school uniform, they thought nothing of it.