Chapter Thirty-Seven

If I Confess My Sins, Will You Please . . .

Yuki felt bad for yelling at Rin, but she couldn't take it anymore. She'd be better off without Rin? Rin was a terrible mother? Everything Yuki believed was great about her mother, everything Len had told her about Rin, was all a lie? That wasn't true. None of it was true. Rin was her mother, the person she cherished above all else, and she couldn't stand to listen to her mother trying to convince her otherwise anymore. It was so frustrating, but this seemed to be the only way to make Rin understand.

"Do you know how hard this has been for Mama and I?" Yuki questioned, holding her hand against the newly formed bump on her forehead where the alarm clock had hit. That part of her head was burning, so she winced a bit as her hands, frozen from being outside without gloves, made contact, but she did her best not to show how painful it was. Instead, she stared firmly at Rin, who was staring at her with a tad bit of fright on the bed. It hurt Yuki to be looked at like that, but there was no backing out now. "It sucks to see you so upset, Mom, and we're always trying to cheer you up, but it's never enough. I'm getting really tired, Mom, because I don't know what I can do anymore. I don't know how to make you feel better. I don't know how to be a good daughter."

Rin opened her mouth, hinting that she was about to speak, but Yuki was afraid to hear what Rin was going to say. The young girl picked up the pace in her speaking, refusing to leave Rin any room to fit in a single word. "You're my mother, Rin, so if you say you're a terrible mother, it must be my fault for being a terrible daughter. I'm sorry for being such an awful daughter, but I'll be better if you agree to be a better mother, too." Yuki couldn't meet Rin's eyes anymore. It hurt too much to see Rin flinching, stung by each and every one of Yuki's words. "We depend on each other, right, Mom? So we can be better together. I'm sure we can do it if we try." She tried her best to smile at Rin and requested, "So please don't cry anymore, Mom, because it makes me want to cry to, but I can't cry if you're crying because then who will comfort you?"

"It's not your job to comfort me, Yuki," Rin murmured, a slight hint of hesitation in her voice. She expected Yuki to interrupt her again, the younger girl guessed. "It's my job to comfort you. You're the kid. You're my daughter."

Yuki had to shake her head at that, guilt biting into her as memories surfaced. It was her fault, after all. So she told Rin, "It's my job because Len's not here to take care of you anymore."

Rin argued, "That's not your fault, Yuki. Len being gone has nothing to do with this. You don't need to feel responsible for me just because Len's gone. That's not your job. You're only a child."

"But it's my fault," Yuki insisted stubbornly, because she knew it was true. No matter what anyone told her, no matter how many times Miku had tried convincing her otherwise, she knew it was true. It was her fault, all her fault.

Yuki swung by herself on the swing set. She used to swing with her friends, but, before she knew it, they'd all disappeared from her sight. It was only here left now; they'd all gotten new families. She shouldn't have been jealous of them; after all, she'd been their object of envy for so long seeing as her auntie and Len visited often. She'd been the closest one to having a family, it had appeared; now, however, she seemed to be the furthest from achieving that dream.

Yuki hated being alone. She hated not having her friends here. She liked it better when they came crying to her, when she could help them feel better. She felt so useless being like this, so helpless and hopeless. What was there to hope for anymore? For Len and auntie to visit her? Even that didn't make her happy. After all, they were adults. They didn't have problems. There was no way she could be of any help to them.

If this swing set broke, she could try to fix it, but even if she could manage to, it wouldn't make her feel any better. It wasn't as meaningful as when her crying friends would suddenly smile at her after she'd said or promised one thing or other. Yuki let out a sigh. What was the point of something as empty as this? No friends, no family, no one to depend on her. It was so lonely.

"It isn't your fault," Rin argued, and Yuki's heart ached with such agony. Why hadn't she told Rin earlier? She almost had before, but she'd stopped herself. Would telling Rin now ruin the fragile relationship the two had created? Still, she knew she couldn't handle this guilt anymore. She had to say it.

Yuki forced her gaze upward to meet Rin's, stared her mother in the eyes, and tried to steady herself. The first time she spoke, no sound came out, so she swallowed and tried once more. The words came out this time, so harsh in the quiet of night against Yuki's ears. "It's my fault Len died."

When her auntie took a seat on the swing next to Yuki, Yuki wanted nothing to do with her. Maybe if she'd been as alone as her friends, she'd have gotten adopted, too. Len and her auntie had ruined her chances, but neither one of them was adopting her. They'd both made passing mentions of it in the past, but neither had ever acted on it. In that moment, that moment when she felt so completely alone, she felt nothing but resentment toward the two who'd visited her so many times and made her feel so much less alone in the past.

Her auntie didn't usually say much, so Yuki wasn't sure why she'd expected her to say something now, but it still stung that she didn't. Yuki frowned at the ground. It wasn't like she needed someone to comfort her; she was meant to comfort others, after all. Still, it would be nice for her auntie to act like she cared, to show some affection. However, seeing as the woman seemed to have no plans of doing so, Yuki asked to the air, "Hey, auntie?"

Even though they weren't facing each other, the woman didn't argue against continuing the conversation the child had started. "Yes, Yuki?"

Yuki fell silent for a while and then requested, "Will you adopt me?"

There was another silence that followed, and then a response. "If you decide that you like me better, I will."

Yuki wasn't sure, so she wondered, "Do you mean more than Len?"

The woman laughed. "I could never expect you to like me more than the man who visits you so often. The way you speak of him is the same as how she spoke of him. It makes me sick, really." Yuki wasn't sure what had brought on this response, but her auntie was still speaking, so there was no time to wonder. "If you like me better than her, I mean. If you like me better than you like her, then you in no way deserve to be her daughter."

That coldness was back. Yuki knew it well from her auntie. Yuki looked to her curiously now, though, and wanted to know, "You know Rin? What's she like?"

The coldness vanished in an instant, replaced with a warmth Yuki could only dream of having directed toward her. "She's the purest, most beautiful girl I could ever imagine. She's the most precious treasure this world has to offer."

Yuki went quiet for a moment longer. Her auntie had always spoken of Len as though she didn't know him personally, but how could she knew Rin if she didn't know Len? Before she could ask this, though, Yuki's other visitor arrived.

"Yuki, you'll never guess what happened today!" Len exclaimed, failing to notice the other woman on the swing and he ran to the young girl and lifted her into his arms. His grin was so huge that Yuki thought it might swallow his entire face if it grew any larger. "Rin and I are going to get married, and then we're going to be a family together: me, you, and Rin! Miku told me today that we'd finally gotten approval, so I asked Rin to marry me, and she said yes! She said yes!"

Yuki couldn't believe what she was hearing. Suddenly, her loneliness was far away, and she couldn't stop smiling. Her heart felt like it would fly from her chest, and she couldn't find a single word to express her joy. Then, slowly, that happiness faded, because Len's smile was falling, causing Yuki's to fall, too, as concern coloured her gaze. He'd noticed Gumi as the woman had stood up from the swings.

"What are you doing here?" he growled, his grip on Yuki tightening. He turned his body as though to shield her from his auntie. Yuki flinched, not understanding his hostility. Sure, her auntie was a little rough around the edges, but she was a valued person to Yuki. She visited Yuki at least once a week, without fail.

"Congratulations on your engagement," Gumi said with an icy smile that admittedly frightened Yuki. She wished her auntie would be nicer to Len. She still wanted to be able to see her auntie, even after she was adopted. "I'm sure you've gotten Iroha's approval, as well, or are you still acting as though you don't realize how she feels about this entire thing?"

Iroha? That was Len's childhood friend, right? What did she have to do with this?

"I'll call the police," Len warned. "Come near any of my family again, and I'll call the police. I'll tell them everything."

The greenette's lips curled into a smirk as she purred, "But if you told them everything, wouldn't that mean that you'd have to tell Rin, too? I'm not sure how much she'd be able to love Yuki after that."

Yuki didn't understand. Rin wouldn't love her? The child was suddenly afraid. What did her auntie mean Rin wouldn't love her? Why not? After everything she'd heard from Len, Yuki had already begun loving Rin, but if Rin wasn't able to love her, for whatever reason, how could Rin ever be her mother, like Len had promised?

"Get out of my sight and stay away," Len ordered.

Yuki's auntie lifted her hands in surrender and simply said, "Farewell for all eternity then, Len. I wish you all the happiness in the world for what's left of your life."

After that, the woman had left without complaint. Len and Yuki talked for a long time after that, and he hadn't ended up leaving until Yuki fell asleep. She'd been frightened by her auntie's odd behaviour, so she'd asked him to stay with her until she fell asleep. Not long after he'd left, Yuki had been woken up by the sound of a gunshot nearby, but she'd been swiftly cooed back to sleep by a nurse saying it was a television program playing downstairs. She insisted that that was the source of the sirens, too. Yuki didn't discover until later that it had been a lie, that there had been a shooting outside, that it had been Len, that it could have been avoided had he simply left earlier. It had been a drug scam, and he'd been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"If I hadn't asked him to stay that night, he never would have been shot," Yuki told her mother. "He'd wanted to spend the night with you, but I'd begged him to stay, and then, when he left, he got killed. It's all my fault Len died. I'm so sorry, Mom. It's all my fault."

She was dissolving into tears. Rin would never love her again, would she? Everything they'd worked toward would be ruined. This was her fault, too. Yuki had ruined everything. Everything she came in contact with, she ruined. It was all her fault, and now Rin hated her, and there was nothing she could do about it.

Suddenly, there was warmth about her. She recognized the feel of her comforter, and, holding it around her, was Rin's arms. Rin held the young girl tightly as Yuki sobbed, and Yuki's mother murmured, "I'm sorry, Yuki. I've been so selfish. I didn't realize you were going through all this. You have to know, though, Yuki, that it's not your fault. It's no one's fault but the man who killed him. That man is in prison now, Yuki, so please don't worry. It's all alright. You don't need to worry anymore. It's not your fault, and not even Len thinks so. I love you, Yuki, so please don't worry about it anymore."

Yuki's crying grew more frantic and desperate at that. She finally let herself cry like she never had before. She cried like the child she'd never let herself be, wrapped up tightly in her mother's arms. There was nothing to be afraid of anymore. She was loved, and nobody could take that away from her.