Sitting in my room. A pencil in one hand, a book in the other. Okaa-san was downstairs, making dinner for when otoo-san gets home from work. She had the television on, listening to the news. I took a glance at the note that Takaki onii-san left on my desk.
It wasn't as though I didn't know he'd leave that day. He'd mentioned it once or twice before throughout the year, that he was planning to meet with Shinohara-san before we moved away. He asked otoo-san and okaa-san for permission, which they didn't give, since it was nearing exams, ad he needed to study. And because he needed to get ready for when we move. Nonetheless, he went anyway.
The note he left was quite short. "Mia-chan. I've left to go see Akari by at Tochigi train station. I won't be back until after midnight. Tell our parents that I'm studying with a bunch of friends, and I'll be back before morning. Takaki."
Takaki-onii-san trusted me to help him keep a secret. I didn't mind that. He wanted to see Shinohara-san. I didn't mind that either. He wanted me to lie to otoo-san and okaa-san about where he would be going. I didn't mind any of that. He is my older brother, and he has a right to tell me what to do. He has a right to have anything that I can't have.
I put the note in my pocket, and glanced outside the window. Frost was already growing on the window sill, since it was quite cold. And there were quite a few clouds in the sky.
"Five centimeters per second… one meter per second… cherry blossoms… snow…" What difference did it all make? I personally preferred snow. It was faster. Simpler. Colder. I didn't really understand why I liked it so much. Neither did I understand why people liked cherry blossoms so much. Cherry blossoms received so much more positive attention than snow. People associate cherry blossoms with beauty, perfection, and romance. People relate snow with cold.
Even though it was cold, I opened the window, and placed my head outside. The breeze was cold, but not quite cold enough. I really wanted it to snow. Partly because I like snow. But for somehow, that wasn't the only reason. At the time, I was unsure what the other part was.
The door opened, and otoo-san came into the house. "Tadaima." He dropped his heavy work breifcase down, and sat down at the table, in front of the television. "Where's Takaki-kun?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," replied okaa-san. "He hasn't come home yet."
I had yet to tell them the lie. It was only 5PM, though.
"I hope he gets home soon," okaa-san said. "It's starting to snow."
One snow flake after another flew against the glass window, and would slowly slide downward. A significant amount of the little ice crystals had accumulated on the window sill. I was entranced, really. My pen was tapping against my page of homework, which had been left untouched for near of an hour.
I took a subconscious glance at the clock. 7:10 PM.
"Ne… shouldn't Takaki be home by now?" okaa-san question echoed up the hallway. "Do you think he's being kept in school because of the snow?"
"Hmm… he should be fine."
"You're right… I'm just worried… this is a really serious snow storm…"
The conversation ended, with still a significant tension in the air. Both otoo-san and okaa-san were quiet enough for me to hear the news report.
"…ailway lines have been significantly delayed all throughout the country due to the heavy snowstorms. Such a degree of snow has not been seen for years, and passengers are burning in annoyance in response to the freezing cold weather."
I smiled inwardly. Snow is often underestimated. It's seen as nothing more than cold, frozen water. It's only when there are large quantities that people realize the power the simple droplets possess. Entire buildings holed in, and railway lines hindered for hours on end. Something that cherry blossoms can't do.
Something that love can't do.
I continued to stare out of the window.
"Snow…" I murmured. "Snow harder."
Even though it was almost midnight, I couldn't sleep. The snow excited me. The wind excited me. The fact that I still haven't told otoo-san and okaa-san the lie that Takaki onii-san excited me. It was not only me who was excited, though.
Okaa-san was making calls. "Hello?" she would start with, every time, followed by a courtesy-only greeting, before launching into the anxious explanation of the situation, and finally she would ask the question "Do you think your son might know where Takaki-kun might be?"
I tried my best to ignore it all. I really should have told them earlier before… I got myself into this situation. Nobody else is to blame. Takaki onii-san is going to get into trouble now, and it's my fault.
However, the above fact didn't seem to bother me, like it should. In fact, I remember that at the time, I actually felt some sort of… queer, twisted satisfaction.
I was jealous.
I was jealous of Shinohara-san for getting all of Takaki onii-san's attention; Jealous of Takaki onii-san for getting all of otoo-san and okaa-san's attention; I was sick of it all. Always having to make way for them, one way or another. In the eyes of everyone, I did not exist. I was not the main character of a tragic love story, or a supporting member of the cast. I was not a person who lives in the same house as the rest of the family, nor was I a ghost that lingered in the vicinity.
But now it felt different. My parents were panicking as they wonder where Takaki onii-san was. Takaki onii-san would be in trouble when he gets back. All this happened because I have not told our parents where Takaki onii-san was. If I simply told them, now, that Takaki onii-san was out with a friend, and that I didn't know which friend it was, Takaki onii-san would be safe, and our parents would calm down.
Everything depended on me. I had become significant.
I heard otoo-san's footsteps, as he paced around the room below. I heard okaa-san's voice, chattering endlessly over the phone. I heard the winds blowing ferociously, as though empathetic towards the circumstances. All this happened because of something as humble and underestimated as snow; cold, blank, unseen, ignored, shunned. All this could end with the snow. I just had to tell a single lie.
Otoo-san's footsteps became louder. He was coming up the stairs.
The closer he got, the more I began to tense. What if he didn't believe me? What if it went wrong? What if they saw through the plot?
No. I couldn't back down. Takaki onii-san was depending on me. I couldn't backstab him now. If he lost his trust in me, I'd lose even the little attention I get from him.
The door slid open slowly. Otoo-san stood outside, with the lights on. I sat on the inside, on my bed, with the lights off. It was time. He would turn the lights on, and ask me where Takaki onii-san was. I would tell him that Takaki was at a friend's house, and that I did not know which friend; like Takaki onii-san had instructed me in the note he left behind. Otoo-san will then leave and tell okaa-san where Takaki onii-san is supposedly at. Takaki onii-san would be devoid of responsibility, and I would accept the punishment for not saying anything sooner.
Only otoo-san did not turn on the light. He slowly walked in, and sat down on the bed, next to me. There lay a few seconds of silence; we didn't make eye contact.
"Mia-chan," otoo-san said. "You know that otoo-san and okaa-san are very worried right now, right?"
I nodded slowly.
"Since you and your onii-san get along rather well, I mean… you two grew up together… I thought you might know where Takaki-kun might be right now."
Again, I nodded slowly.
"Mia-chan, where is Takaki-kun right now?"
I opened my mouth to say, 'he's staying at a friend's house'. No sound came out, however, other than a near-silent croak. I couldn't say it.
It was the first time I had any recollection of either of my parents referencing me by my name.
I felt horrible. Sick. Saddened. Broken beyond repair.
Throughout my entire life, neither of my parents really paid me attention, and I had begun to accept it. Onii-san was born first, so he had a right to everything. Even now, otoo-san is only talking to me because they're worried about Takaki onii-san. Even if they start loving me now, start talking to me now, start caring now, I don't exist to them. In the end, it's always all about Takaki onii-san.
It wasn't fair, and I pretended I didn't mind it. But I did. I was jealous. I hated it. I hated Takaki onii-san. I hated Shinohara-san. I hated my parents, I hated my school, I hated reading, I hated neglect; I hated everything. Everything except snow.
'That's right' I thought. 'The snow is all that's ever brought me anything. The snow is what has brought me this attention, here and now.'
I had spent my entire life as a shadow of his. I'd follow him around, and people would forget about me. I had had to sacrifice my entire life for his happiness, his attention, his acceptance into the world. Happiness isn't created out of nothing. It's created from another person's suffering. And for the first time in my life, I had finally decided that I deserved some of my own happiness.
"He's at Tochigi," I whispered, barely audible. I couldn't see his face, but otoo-san was evidently surprised, and a little bit furious. "He wanted to see Shinohara-san," I added. "They've been organizing for months now."
Silence filled the room again. Only okaa-san's muffled echoing could be heard. But it was not the same silence as before. I felt uncomfortable in this silence.
I glanced up slowly, and saw that otoo-san was smiling.
In that moment, I felt a huge surge of emotion. For that brief moment, I felt as though I belonged. I felt genuinely happy; I had finally received the attention and acceptance into the family that I had been denied for years. No longer was I just a parasite, a ghost, or a blank sheet of scrap paper. I was a real person.
However, there also lay the tiniest tinge of guilt. I knew that, now, our parents would deny Takaki onii-san from ever seeing Shinohara-san again. Takaki onii-san would lose the person closest to him (perhaps forever) and it would all be my fault.
A/N: Haven't written anything in a while, and thought I'd update on something. I'm mulling over whether ot leave this here, as it is, or to add in bits for the next few chapters of the original movie. In any case, hope you liked it (to some degree).