RESPECT: I WON'T BE THERE
Chapter Five: A Lucky Streak
Here's what I love about being a doctor: I get to serve so many people. The feeling of taking care of different people and saving them from a crazy disease is something extraordinary. I just can't help but smile whenever someone thanks me. I feel so accomplished.
I watched as I waved goodbye to my cancer free patient. Being an oncologist has its bad days and its good days. Sometimes, I just have to tell the patient's family that there is a slim chance of survival, in other times I get to tell them the good news. Today was a good day. I got to change the life of another person.
"It seems that you've been on a lucky streak, Amai-san."
I looked at the boy walking towards me. It was Oishi. We work in the same hospital, saving lives at almost the same time. He has become an orthopedic doctor. Like his uncle, the man who helped save Tezuka's life.
"It's great to finally see her leave the hospital. She's been here for quite some time and I just love watching her smile like that." I said as I smiled back at Oishi.
He got closer to me and took out a folder on his next patient. He gave me a smile and then said, "Did you see the game of Tezuka, yesterday? He won all three matches."
It's been quite some time since someone said his name. The doctors in this hospital rarely talk about tennis and so I'm freed from the pain.
"I haven't been watching his games." I replied right away. I looked at my watch wondering if now as a good time to check on that fifteen year old patient.
"Ah, he's seemed to have lucky streaks, too." He commented.
"I don't really mind." I turned around. "I'm sorry. I have to check this patient." I walked away from Oishi. Hearing Tezuka's name more than once was already enough to break me down.
The moment after we graduated from high school, Tezuka started his race to being a professional tennis player in Germany. This led to more delayed phone calls and emails. He took most of his time to practice. He, too, had started roaming the world for the next tennis tournament. I, on the other hand, continued to pursue my dream to become a doctor. I was so immersed by my love for studying and he was immersed in his tennis life that we ended up with a decision. We couldn't handle waiting for each other. We were both hindrances to each other's futures.
We broke up.
I used to send him emails once a month, after our break up. I just told him about my studies but I never told him how much I missed him. I knew that even if I wanted both of us to be together, that was already impossible. With how far he has reached, he may not have room for me anymore. It's been years since I last sent him an email.
I opened the door to my patient and found her sleeping peacefully on his bed. It was pretty silent and her loved ones left to take some rest. I had to wake her up to perform some physical check up. She was pretty normal today and so, I left her alone.
"Amasawa-san?" She called out before I opened the door. I turned around. "I hear some rumors here that Tezuka Kunimitsu used to be your boyfriend?"
I raised my eyebrow, "Saya-chan, where'd you hear that?"
She looked at me and smiled, "One of the nurses. I was watching his game yesterday when the nurse came in. She sort of spilled it out, unconsciously."
I glided to the side of her bed. "Well, I guess, you shouldn't be listening to those rumors. Get some rest. There'll be more exams later." I tucked her underneath the blankets.
"How long were you two together?" she whispered.
My eyes gazed at hers. "I don't want to talk about it."
She grinned and sat up, "So, it is true. You were together with Tezuka Kunimitsu."
I sighed. "Yes, I was."
"Whoa, that is so cool." She tried to fix the bed, so that she could sit properly. I helped her doing so, but I didn't really want to help. Saya was just going to ask more questions. "I never had a boyfriend in my entire life. Why don't you tell me some of your stories?"
I glared back at her. "Seriously, Saya, get some rest." I took the blanket and tried to tuck her in but she stopped my hand.
I breathed out heavily, "Fine." I took a seat from the side and moved it closer to hers. "What do you want to hear?"
"Everything! From the start to the end."
I pushed up my glasses, "Alright. I should start with my first year in middle school."
Her eyes lit up.
"That's how far your history is?"
I smiled and nodded, "I'll tell you exactly how that famous tennis pro was when he was a child. I'll tell you everything."
I stayed in her room for quite some time. I couldn't tell her the break up story just yet because we were still in the Osaka Arc. I had to leave because I was called up by a nurse and her family started appearing.
By the end of the day, I left the hospital to go back home. While walking towards the bus stop, I felt drizzles of water falling on my hair. I looked up and a huge drop fell on my glasses.
Fuji once told me that Amai joined this medical mission that a photographer's alliance sponsored. He said that she didn't change much and was still the same cheerful girl.
"However, I did ask if she was watching your games." I remembered him saying, "But she replied saying that she doesn't have time to watch it."
I got out of the bathroom and changed into suitable clothes for sleeping. I grabbed some water from my refrigerator on the first floor and sat on the chairs of the dining room.
I continued to recall that conversation we had with Fuji, "She also said that she wasn't interested in watching it."
I stayed silent as I listened to him talk.
"But Tezuka, that doesn't mean that she has completely forgotten about you. I think that…"
I interrupted him, "That's alright, Fuji. I wasn't expecting her to watch it anyway. Our break up is a good enough reason to miss those games."
"Tezuka, are you sure you're fine with it being this way? You should also try to contact her."
"It's fine." I replied.
But in reality, it wasn't fine. I always dared to reply to her emails after we broke up. I even try to send her one; however, I can never seem to click on 'send.' Sometimes, I feel irritated that I can't get to contact her. It was my fault, and here I am, trying to forget her.
That wasn't ever possible. Seldom times, I would hear echoes of her voice while I play on the field. However, when I look up and search for the owner of the voice, I could never find her face. I try to get better, to stay in the game, hoping that one day I would find her cheering her for me.
Arriving Japan wasn't easier than I expected. I wasn't excited about the sudden fame that I achieved, or the interviews that I participated in. Almost every single day of my life in Japan was busy. My manager wasn't going to give me some time to be with my old friends. But no matter how much I didn't enjoy it, I had to bear with it. This is the result of all the hard work that finally paid off. Being a tennis Pro.
I turned to my right and saw Oishi heading towards me. It was an amazing sight to see him in a doctor's outfit. It's been too long and right at that moment, all the memories came flooding right back at me.
"You really did come to this hospital." He said while breathing heavily. "Sorry, I took too long."
"That's fine. I didn't wait too long." I replied immediately.
"You haven't changed at all. You still are as respectful as usual." Oishi looked around before looking back at me. "Maybe I should go hide you somewhere. This place might be flooded with people later."
I nodded and Oishi instantly took me to his clinic, two floors up through the elevator.
"You know, watching you play makes me feel really proud." He smiled while giving me a drink of tea. Fixing himself up on his seat, he purely praised me and told me how happy he is to see me playing in the international field. All I could reply was "thank you" and I shared how much I wanted to play alongside him and the others.
"Playing with all of you gives me a different kind of happiness." I said.
He leaned on the chair and said, "You know, maybe you have changed a lot."
"I guess change is good." I replied.
A knock suddenly came on the door before he could give me a reply. A head of a male doctor popped out of the door. "Syuichirou, are you busy?" he asked.
Oishi stood up and excused himself for a second. "What do you need, Satoshi?"
"Oh, just some second opinion on this patient of mine."
Before I could say anything, Oishi left me alone in the room. I stood up and walked around the small room. Everything reminded me of my check-ups during my days in middle school. Even the air around Oishi remind me of middle school. By the door stood a cabinet, where it was filled with different medical books. But one interesting book struck me. Stephen King. I picked it up and scanned through the pages. In less than two seconds, I found a picture inside. Three people. Oishi, the doctor awhile ago and Amai.
Her hair was way longer than I expected. She didn't have her troubling bangs anymore and they rested on her eyebrows elegantly. This was the Amasawa Amai that I haven't seen for a long time. This is her new life that I'm not part of.
As I heard the door open, I quickly returned whatever I found. But Oishi knew what I found in his cabinet.
"So, you found the book." He muttered. "I finished this before a week could end."
I nodded. "This is the same book I borrowed when we were in middle school."
He grinned. "I know." He turned to look at me. "Amai told me."
The way he said the name Amai brought jealousy to my heart. I didn't know why. But there was clearly something that's left from that long relationship that we had. That hard and long relationship.
Oishi started looking jittery as he returned back to his seat. I didn't understand why. "You know, I was told that I wasn't going to tell you this but it seems like I just can't hold it."
"The other boy in the picture." He started. I looked at the picture once more. Amai stood at the left most area and smiled, while a boy stood beside him. "His name is Kanai Satoshi." I stared at the black haired boy smiling greatly. "That's her boyfriend."
I was shocked. I was close to actually dropping the paper. His last sentence brought me to a great sense of reality. I didn't have any right to be jealous of anybody at all. Not even Oishi who could call her by her first name so freely. I don't have any right at all.
"Satoshi called me awhile ago because he wanted to propose to her this afternoon."
I blanked out for a second. I've missed her for so long and here she was, moving on faster than I expected. I couldn't believe it but there was nothing really unbelievable. She had all the power to do whatever she wanted. If she would say yes to this guy, I couldn't do anything to stop her. Nothing. I have no power over her. I'm nothing to her. We're just an old relationship. Old partnership.
But how come I feel like I want her to be mine?
Clearly, I shouldn't be feeling this.
"Tezuka, did you hear me?" Oishi's voice sang beside me. "I know you're shocked. I am, too. We all thought that you and Amai were going to end up together happily forever. I guess happy endings don't happen to everybody."
I still didn't give a reply.
"She's just in her clinic. You can always just see her now. Maybe, you're last few words before you finally give her away to another guy." He continued.
I didn't need to give her a message. She could do whatever she wants and I shouldn't complain. I should just leave her alone.
But I can't. I want to tell her something. I don't know what to tell her but I just really want to tell her anything.
"You know, she's been waiting for at least a little something from you. A gift on her birthday, a call from the phone, a reply through email." He said. "But you never gave anything. Tezuka, she prayed that you guys would get back together."
"She's waited too long." I finally said. "And I don't have any right to just appear right before her eyes without warning. I don't have any right to ruin the chance of a great life for her. I really don't."
We stood silent for a long time. I didn't know for how long but I knew that the seconds were running fast between the both of us.
"Does this Satoshi know that Amai and I were once together?" I asked out of the blue.
Oishi nodded. "He knows."
I returned the picture in the book. "I should get going. I'll see you later in Kawamura's?"
He nodded. "Take care of yourself, Tezuka."
I opened the door slowly and found another figure trying to open the door on the other side.
What I never understood was how my day ended in such an odd manner? My boyfriend proposed to me right after I saw Tezuka. It's like he knew that Tezuka's sudden appearance will take me away from him. I didn't want that to happen at all. I wanted to be with Satoshi. He was the right choice, the right man. The man I want to wake up with in the morning, eat with during dinner, give him a kiss before going to work.
But why was my heart saying otherwise?
I shook my head in reply to his proposal. He already knew why. And it pained me just seeing him rejected. I love Satoshi. I really do but after seeing Kunimitsu again, a surge of hope suddenly ran back to me. It took me forever to get myself to let go and even in the most crucial of times, I've realized that I just cannot let go.
"It's Tezuka, isn't it?" Satoshi said as he took his seat back, closing the box encasing the ring.
I didn't want to answer. There was no need for an answer.
He shook his head, "I've lost against a professional tennis player. Well, that was a match." He quickly stood up from his seat and said, "I do think that this is goodbye. Whatever happens though, I'll always be here for you."
I nodded, while I felt tears running down my cheeks. Sympathy was the feeling I had for Satoshi. I couldn't look at him in the eyes, it seemed wrong. There was no more reason for me to see him, I'd only hurt him.
Or have I just hurt myself in the process?
I plopped myself on a couch in front of the TV screen while drinking a warm cup of coffee. I wanted to punish myself for hurting Satoshi. There was just nothing I could think of doing. As soon as I switched on the television, Tezuka Kunimitsu's face showed up. I wanted to switch it immediately, but I couldn't bring myself to doing it.
He was having a live interview in one of the biggest talk show of Japan. I was quite late since it must have started a little while ago. However, I reached a segment that entitled TEZUKA'S LOVE LIFE. The interviewer faced Tezuka and asked, "I hear a lot of rumors that you fell in love with this girl way back in middle school and ever since then, you've been in a long distance relationship? How true is that?"
Tezuka looked at the interviewer and hesitated, "It's all true. Although, we broke up a little before I finally reached the Professional scene."
"Wow!" The interviewer exclaimed, "Tell us a little more about that."
"There really isn't much to tell. Long distance relationships are hard to get by. With her, of course, she was always easy to reach. She wouldn't mind sleeping late just to listen to me. She was always open to me and found time to be reach me. However, with me finally starting my quest to be a pro, I lost time to reply to her and when I finally did I told her that we had to end it."
The interviewer shook his head, "After her were there any more girls in your life?"
"None. I found it unreasonable to have any other girl who couldn't live up to be just like my first girlfriend."
"That's very sweet of you. Have you been in contact with her?"
"Actually," he adjusted his glasses, "I just saw her awhile ago in the place where she works. A friend of mine told me that she had a boyfriend who was just about to propose to her."
"Oh. Such bad luck you got there, Tezuka."
He smirked a little, "Indeed."
"Maybe there is something you want to tell her right now."
"If I may?" Tezuka asked while the interviewer nodded, "I don't know what your fiancé thinks of me, or if he hates me right now. I just simply want you to know that even through all these years, you're the only face I search for when I'm playing on the court. Yours is the only voice I want to hear yell out my name. And you are the only person that I would want to spend my life with. But if you have chosen to be with the man you love now, I will not stop you. For all I want is your happiness."
And with that, the interviewer clapped his hands. "Wonderful."
Instantly, at that moment, I texted Sadaharu, who knew must have been in that studio. I quickly typed, scanned through my phone list, and sent the message. In that short matter of time, a commercial break occurred. My phone rang and I received a message. Sadaharu had said that he understood.
When the show came back on, the interviewer looked a little too happy. My hands were on my phone close to my ear as I watched the TV and I waited for my call to be answered.
"Apparently some good news has arrived during that short break. This will come as a shock to the audience and to Tezuka." The camera panned to the audience then quickly returned to Tezuka, "It seems like your dear ex-girl friend has rejected her fiancé, and we have her on the phone right now." The interviewer looked at the audience, "Amasawa-san?"
I perked my head up, and answered, "Yes?"
"We have a Tezuka Kunimitsu here who wants to talk to you." He looked at Tezuka and nodded his head to him.
"Hey." I replied with a huge smile on my face. I was biting my nails as this had taken place.
I shook my head, "Nothing. I just had to make a choice and I didn't choose him."
The interviewer was smiling, and so were the people in the audience. He raised his thumbs up in the air.
"And who did you choose?" Tezuka asked slyly.
Beads of sweat were forming on the top of my forehead. The heat was scorching my skin. I was exhausted and dehydrated. But I still wanted to fight. I was leading 5-3 against this French player. He, too, was having a hard time against me. It was his turn to serve and I caught up with the ball instantly. And there we were, up for another long rally.
However, I didn't mind at all. For as long as there was only one person I knew who was watching out for me. And this time, she wasn't just watching from a screen. She was here, a few meters away from me, with only this court to separate us. She's the reason why I play and she's the reason why I'll be winning this game, too.
Amasawa Amai, this time, I will be there.
A/N: How long did you guys actually wait for me to finally finish this off. Sorry for the delayed ending. But thank you for the support. Respect has gone a long way and this is where it ends.
Thanks for everything!