Where there was once a person, is nothing. Where there was once grief, is hope. She can be considered a goddess, but one word cannot contain an entire conceptual rewriting of reality. Nor can it describe what fills the cracks of the universe: formless and molten, blinding and ephemeral. The only word that might come close would be 'dream'.
On the first day, she held out her hand and changed the world.
"I'm Kaname Madoka. Nice to meet you!"
She was a bright girl. Her smiles were earnest and cheerful. At first Homura was apprehensive to stand near her, for fear of the shadow her light would cast. It appeared Madoka didn't even notice her own radiance. It was that which drew her to the girl named Madoka.
"And you see, take the derivative here for the answer…"
"I get it, I get it!"
Her enthusiasm was infectious. Initially, Homura wanted to refuse the invitation to get some extra help from an upperclassman, but Madoka insisted. So the golden haired girl named Mami offered them cake and solutions to the math problems they struggled with in class.
"Would you like some more tea, Akemi-san?"
"I'm fine, thank you,"
"Ah Mami-san, this cake is really the best!"
"We should all go to the bakery together sometime."
We. Homura had forgotten that word during the months she spent in that clean white room. She had waited so long get it back. 'We' meant she had friends and together they would go out together and enjoy the day. Homura smiled in silent agreement.
"Ah, Homura-chan, you smiled! You should smile more! It suits you," Madoka chirped, such words coming easily to her.
Homura blushed, reaching for her tea cup in embarrassment before realizing it was empty.
"I'll make us some more tea."
"Yay! Thank you Mami-san!"
"We did it! We're going to high school together!" Madoka was jumping up and down, hugging Homura and squealing with excitement. Homura still needed a moment to digest the news, her gaze stuck on the entrance exam results.
"This is going to be so much fun, oh my goodness, we'll see Mami-san too and everything!"
Homura's vision blurred and she blinked away the tears, surprised by the solid lump in her throat. It was like time passed in a blink of an eye and the future was hurtling towards her faster than ever.
It seemed just yesterday they were having lunch on the roof, laughing under the blinding blue sky.
"Why are you crying? Is something wrong?"
"N-no, sorry, I'm happy. I'm very, very happy." Her hands were shaking almost as much as her voice, but it couldn't stop the swell of emotion in her chest. The weeks leading up to this day had been filled with alternating dread and panic. Scared of being left behind again, in a clean white room with no one to talk to. No one to take her hand. No one to smile with. "I-I'm just relieved…" Her stutter had faded a year ago, but it surfaced in times of emotional duress.
"You shouldn't worry about it, Homura-chan! Even if we weren't going to the same high school, you're still my best friend."
An overwhelming peace settled over Homura, her concerns banished by a single, illuminating smile.
"Now let's go call Mami-san and tell her the good news! She'll be so happy-"
Madoka was happily dialing on her cellphone as Homura took that moment to wipe her eyes and compose herself. She had to live up to her name, after all.
"If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?"
"I…" An overwhelming feeling of deja vu, like a stone dropped into a still pond, rippled through her. A wish? Something about that word echoed uneasiness in her mind. A granted wish was a miracle. But then again, from the perspective of a lonely girl in a clean white room, wouldn't her present circumstance be a miracle? Sitting beside her best friend on the beach, watching the fireworks of their classmates light up the evening. A class trip. A normal life. A brightness she sometimes couldn't bear to look at, but held closest to her heart. "I'd wish… to always be together, I guess…" Knees pulled up to her chest, she hid her face in embarrassment. A high school student with such a naive wish was not exactly living up to her name. "W-why do you ask?"
Madoka's laugh was gentle, not like the harsh light of fireworks flaring and being consumed in the night. "That's a wonderful wish Homura-chan, but I want to get you something else for your birthday too."
"Ah, I had forgotten," Homura murmured, cheeks burning faintly. Of course, that day was approaching. It always seemed to slip her mind, as if her birthday was a day she'd never reach. Yet it came every year, just like clockwork.
"I'll be happy with any present from you, Madoka."
How fast time flies, I can't believe how quickly the moments have passed.
She wanted to face this day as a person living up to her name, which according to her best friend, was 'cool'. Instead she was struggling not to cry out her contacts in the girl's room before heading into the auditorium with her graduating class.
The precious years have come and gone too soon, here with you.
Somehow she managed to follow along with the words during the ceremony, resolutely holding back tears. For once she'd like to match Madoka's smile with her own, to prove she has come this far.
I've learned from you the right way to do what must be done.
Imagine her surprise when they met up outside their high school and for once it was Madoka who was crying and also laughing at how silly she was for crying.
"We'll be in the same 'll see each other again, Madoka," Homura assured her, although the words were just as much for herself as they were for Madoka. "So you don't have to cry. Okay?" No matter what, Homura would protect her wish. No matter the odds or distance- the distinct sensation of holding her best friend's hand as they took the familiar way home for the last time filled her with determination to keep going forward.
Now is the time to say farewell, with an eternally grateful heart.
To: Akemi Homura
From: Kaname Madoka
Subject: re: ✦✧✦✧
Homura-chan! I have a class soon but I'm emailing you instead (￣▽￣)ノHow are you doing at school? Don't take too many hard classes. Let's go to that bakery again sometime, okay?
"Ah, this cake will always be the best!"
"I think so too."
It was just the two of them today, sitting at their usual table. The cake was always good, but it probably wouldn't be so without the memories of coming in after school with Mami and sometimes Sayaka and Hitomi.
"How is working at the hospital? Mustn't be easy, being a doctor."
"I'm just an assistant right now. Also, it's manageable. How about your work?"
"It's so much fun! You know, yesterday was show and tell with the kids…" Madoka launched into a lengthy description of the antics at the daycare where she worked. She seemed so lively, talking about those children. Homura was surprised by the strange pain in her own chest, thinking of the lengthening periods of time between their actual meetings. Emails were one thing, but they never quite captured the same experience of being able to sit across from Madoka and once again, feel completely at ease.
Some days, she felt like she was living on borrowed time. Like everything up until the moment she sees Madoka's smile was a dream, and then she's waking up to a warmth like the sun.
"Ah, so you remember Sayaka, right?"
"Huh? Sayaka, from middle school?"
"Uh huh, she's getting married this weekend!"
"Yeah, crazy huh? Well it took them years to even start dating, but they sure got engaged quickly. So anyway, I got the invitation last week, but I haven't actually seen her since last Christmas," she said sheepishly, "And I probably won't know half the people there… so will you go with me?"
"Eh?" Homura was still trying to wrap her head around the idea of Sayaka getting married and completely missed Madoka's invitation.
"O-of course if you're too busy at the hospital-"
"No, no I'd love to go," she was stumbling over her words again, just like old times. Occasionally, even though she always strove to live up to her name, she reverted back to that lonely girl in the clean white room. It happened less often over the years, but always at least once around her best friend. It was a curious if somewhat frustrating habit. "It'll be like old times again, huh?"
"Sorry, Madoka, for troubling you…" Her head felt fuzzy and if she wasn't leaning on her friend, she probably wouldn't have made it from the station to the apartment.
"It's not a problem, Homura-chan, but I'm sorry I forgot you can't really drink," Madoka was laughing, still sure footed even after the ordeal of an open bar at a wedding.
"I still can't believe you're totally fine," Homura mumbled, collapsing gratefully on an unfamiliar sofa. This was Madoka's apartment then.
"I think it's genetics, considering my mom," Madoka explained, handing her a glass of water and some painkillers. "Here you go."
"It's nothing. You'll feel better in no time."
Homura wanted to correct herself, to say it wasn't just thanks for taking care of her in this moment, but for always taking care of her. From the very first time they met to where she was now, she couldn't shake the feeling it was becauseof Madoka and her existence that she was able to come this far. It was also Madoka who let her see a future, instead of perpetually dwelling on the past. If she traced back the lines of what what illuminated and enriched life, it all went back to her.
"What I mean… is that I have so much to thank you for, Madoka…"
"We'll talk about it tomorrow, okay?"
Homura woke feeling particularly rested, which was strange because she couldn't remember having a solid night of sleep in weeks.
Or was it months?
When was the last time she dreamed, for that matter? It must have been years.
Or was it centuries?
It was all slipping away now, like trying to cup water in her hands. There was no point trying to hold onto something like that, there was only moving forward again. The sun was rising on the horizon and Homra felt it again- the warmth of Madoka's smile and the brightness of her laughter.
"Thank you, Madoka."
You're welcome, Homura-chan
Dreams are limitless. So are ideas, space, and the potential of hope. She is awake, but does not exist. She dreams, but eternally protects the world she gave up out of love. She is in the light of the stars and the grace of the universe. Boundless is her reach, yet unreachable she'll remain.
And so she'll sleep, forever in the hope of (our) hearts and in the tears of (our) joy.