Author's note: Apparently the entirety of the first chapter did not upload correctly thusly cutting out a large portion out from the final version of the chapter. I apologize for this. I should have verified the entire chapter got included. For some reason there was some corruption of the data that cut a large section. Here is the full chapter. Thanks for your reviews. More to come. Chapter 2 is out.
Asuka fumbled her papers as she took her seat. The morning seemed empty, the crisp feel of the season wind caught her breath as she made her way from the apartment earlier. Maybe it was that, she thought. She plainly watched as others began to fill the classroom. She kept her eyes away from theirs hoping to avoid contact. She didn't want to talk, her throat was too raw from the night before. She didn't want to give others the wrong impression. She lazily slid her chin into the palm of her hand now focusing through the window. The sun was only partly in the sky and yet her sense of dread had already begun to eat away at her. She could hear idle chatter coming from the front of the room alerting her that class had started. Peering down she attempted to open her book but was quick to notice a hastily ripped piece of paper hovering over the corner of her desk. Her blue eyes darted to the front of the room assuring herself she would not be seen. She gripped the small paper with her fingers and brought it towards herself keeping caution. She then looked over to the desk beside her, Hikari pressed her finger against her lips signaling for her to keep quiet. Asuka only nodded as she unfolded the paper exposing Hikari's handwriting
"So, Asuka. You deem it necessary to read notes in my class?" asked a demanding voice.
Asuka looked up and saw her professor standing with an annoyed scowl across his bearded face. She knew what was to come next, "I suppose you want me to read what it says,"
From the corner of her eye she could see the color ooze from Hikari's face. She had been through worse, Asuka thought, being one of the children of the Evangelion always brought a sense of entitlement. She had faced death many times, what else could the world dish out? She loudly stood from her chair gripping the paper in her palm. She could hear Hikari frantically whispering to her but paid it no mind. Why can't she be calm, like her? She stood at the front of the room allowing the countless eyes to take in her presence. She emptied her throat which stung severely and whipped the paper to read it.
Her eyes began to scan the contents reading the first sentence. She realized she had made a grave mistake. She could feel the professor standing beside her, his foot tapping against the floor. That was the only sound she could hear as her world slowly began to shrink into nothingness. Her eyes lifted slowly to Hikari whose hands cupped her mouth, her eyes glazed with tears. Asuka too could feel a lump in her throat as she forced herself to restrain her own.
"We're waiting," her professor hissed.
Asuka swallowed hard before saying, "I can't read this,".
"Oh, but you were so eager to read it before? What changed your mind?" he said in patronizing tone.
Calm down, Asuka, don't lose it now she said to herself. He doesn't know. He's new here. He wouldn't know. She lowered the note as she stared intensely towards the floor hoping this would remedy her now shaking legs. Please, she begged, just let me sit back down.
"Go on, read it,"
Hikari stood up violently knocking her desk to the ground, "Enough!"
"Asuka, I've known you for a while now and I can't imagine what you must be going through," said the woman. Asuka said nothing as she stared out the window. No one could imagine what she was going through, "I know how much you cared for…"
"I care for no one," Asuka retorted not lifting her gaze from the window, "Aren't you supposed to be my therapist and say shit to me that matters?"
Her therapist flinched at the profanity but continued to hold onto the smile she was trained to show, "Now Asuka, why can't you see what everyone else is trying to show you. It's no secret that you and him had something and now you are trying to recuperate after his…"
With frightening speed Asuka came to her feet and over the therapist's desk. Their faces only inches from the other. A look of pure rage whipping chaotically within her eyes.
"Be careful of what you say next," Asuka hissed, her words dripping with poison. The older woman merely nodded allowing Asuka to leave the room in a storm.
The clashing of the train tracks sparked electricity against the darkened tunnel walls. Working people huddled close keeping their personal belongings at hand. Asuka sat quietly to herself at the end of the train car her head resting against the window. Her bag rested on her lap, her fingers intertwined with the lace. This was her life. School in the morning, therapy in the evenings. She couldn't stand the therapy sessions. That bitch didn't know anything and to make her go through with it didn't help any. She had only agreed to go through with it because it allowed her to live alone. One of Misato's conditions. She lived in the same apartment complex only several floors below Misato. She couldn't live with the woman anymore. She needed to be alone. She figured Misato only gave her the condition because she thought Asuka would commit suicide if she didn't get the help she needed. Well, "thought" she needed. Truth was, she was close to it. She hadn't planned the small details about how to go about it but she did think about it.
She wasn't a coward.
The train began to slow. Asuka stood awaiting her stop. The doors opened and people began to file out like drones to a task. She followed the massive flow of people until she came upon the street which led to her apartment. Night was slowly dragging the warm glow of the sun beneath the horizon and Asuka could feel it like something inside her was dying along with the sun. Her heels clicked the sidewalk as she wandered down the same street she had done everyday. She could hear the commotion of bustling restaurants, people laughing and living out their lives. She wished she could do the same. To escape from the invisible burden that plagued her for so long. She found herself standing at a crosswalk when her stomach began to plead in hunger. Maybe she would eat somewhere tonight, she hadn't done so in years. Turning a corner she was face to face with a lavish restaurant. Intimidation struck her as the thought of being around many people suddenly made her hunger disappear but her resolve was sound. She forced herself inside, her eyes making contact with the hostess.
"Just yourself ma'am?" she asked.
Asuka felt a pang of annoyance, who else but her? She tightened her jaw and answered a simple "yes". She was led into the amber dining room, the soft glow of the amber lights made her insides feel somewhat at ease. The hostess laid a menu onto the table which had was decked out in a white cloth and precious glass cups. She sat herself down placing her bag beside her, the emptiness of the chair opposite her resonated the emptiness she felt inside.
"Your waiter will be with you shortly," said the hostess. Asuka said nothing as she took the menu within her hands and began to search for something appealing.
"I never took you for someone who went to places like this," said a voice.
Asuka peered over the menu and saw a pair of brown eyes staring back at her. She smiled as she placed the menu down, "Well, there's a lot you don't know about me,"
Shinji laughed as he played with the glass cup, "Even after all these years you still act the same. Maybe things could have been different,"
She nodded as the waiter approached her, "Ma'am? Would you like a glass of our house wine?"
She nodded allowing the well dressed waiter to tip the bottle he held into her glass. He stopped and prepared to walk away before Asuka took hold of the man's sleeve, "Please, him too."
She pointed to the empty glass across from her. The waiter eyed her suspiciously as he reluctantly poured the second glass with wine. He waited a moment and when no other command was given he promptly left the table. Asuka took the glass between her fingers and lifted her head back taking in the golden liquid into her mouth letting it burn the back of her throat, "What an idiot,"
Shinji smiled as he too took a sip of his glass, "You can't blame him, he doesn't know,"
"I can blame anyone I want to. No one knows how it feels to be me," she said.
A slight pause came as she placed her glass onto the table, "You know, a lot of people will understand if you just tell them. I mean, I know how you feel,"
Asuka gave him a glare of contempt before saying, "How can you? You aren't here to understand,"
"Are you really taking it that badly? You always made fun of me. You always said I was an idiot,"
She scoffed, "Don't you think it was just my way of being me? Why can't anyone understand that?"
"Because you're running away from your trouble. You're doing what I used to do,"
"Maybe you just rubbed off on me," she said.
"Maybe you just can't let go,"
She looked away feeling her vision slowly going blurry. This was insane she thought. She was going insane, "Do you really think it's that easy? We were the children of Evangelion for Christ's sake. We worked together for so many years. You and I and that stupid Rei. Do you think I can just let that go after you…"
"Asuka, what happened had happened. There's nothing to change that. I don't want you going on through life thinking anything could be different,"
She feigned a smile, "Since when did you learn to talk to me like that? I always remembered you would stumble when you talked to me. You always didn't know what to say and know all of a sudden you can outwit me?"
"We are a little bit older, Asuka. We were children," he said to her in a whisper. He was right, she thought but she couldn't allow him the satisfaction.
"Do you think I'm insane, Shinji?" she asked taking a sip of her wine. She looked at him as a soft smile manifested across his lips.
"Of course not, Asuka. I think you are lost,"
She shrugged, "That makes two of us," she said in a mocking tone.
"Ma'am, are you alright?"
Asuka looked up to see the waiter standing alongside another man wearing an elegant suit. She took the man in the suit as the manager. Her eyes suddenly scanned behind the man and noticed many other people staring at her. She looked away and downed the rest of her wine. Fire seemed to erupt within her stomach.
"No, why do you ask?" she said softly trying to evade his look.
The manager shifted uncomfortably as he bent towards her, "We've gotten some complaints from other patrons that you were talking to yourself. Is anything the matter, ma'am?"
Without thinking she withdrew a few bills from her bag and set it down on the table. She thanked them for their concern but quickly made her way out. She couldn't bear to match eyes with the other people. She could feel the lump in her throat steadily rising.
Asuka stared numbly at the ceiling. She hadn't been able to fall asleep for several hours and after a while she no longer tried. She watched as lights danced across the walls from the streets below. Silence was her best friend allowing her mind to think undisturbed. Boxes among boxes of her belongings scattered the room most unopened. Her mattress sat an angle, her sheets messily sprawled across her floor. She lied there, her hands cupped over her abdomen and her hair spread in a red halo around her head. She found herself sitting up, her eyes staring at a lone box near the door. She crawled towards it and pried open the flaps. She stuck her hand within it feeling around for what she hoped was there. Her fingers met the plain surface of something solid and with a quiet joy she withdrew it from the box. It was a cassette player. Looking at it she frowned.
Where are the headphones, she thought? She searched the box again but came up with nothing. She sighed cursing under her breath. She went into her living room which was now a maze of boxes that were towered precariously at an awkward angles. She eyed a small box that sat by itself within a corner. Coming to her knees she dug into the box but was unable to come across the item she needed. She stood, for a moment she felt the sting of defeat but held onto the feeling of relief. She stood at the window, the glow of the moon emanating into the room. She eyed the cassette player and ejected the tape. Taking it within her fingers she read the white label: Listen to me.
She scoffed. He was an idiot if he really thought she was going to listen to it. She pressed the tape back into the player and tossed it onto a nearby box. She crossed her arms and stared into the darkness of the room. Suddenly she heard something ringing. Her head turned towards a chair, a coat hanging off the back. She came to it and dug into the pockets pulling out her phone. Flipping it open she stared at the screen, the word: Hikari, blinking in the darkness.
Her thumb moved to the "ignore" button but something within her forbade it. She took in a breath and raised the phone to her ear, "Why are you calling me now?"
"Because I know you are awake," Hikari said softly.
"What do you want?" Asuka said hotly.
"Do you want to talk?"
"Not really, I was trying to sleep,"
"I'm at the park. I think you should come,"
Asuka lowered the phone feeling anger beginning to rise in the depths of her mind, "Do you have to do this, now? Can't this wait until tomorrow?"
"Asuka, can you afford to wait until then?"
Asuka approached the entrance to the city park, her breath was visible as she shoved her hands into her coat. She didn't know what possessed her to humor Hikari's request. Sometimes she felt as if it was Hikari who had problems and not her. She wandered through the winding paths eventually coming to a bench where someone sat. A simple park light hovered over the figure casting a dark shadow over the sidewalk. The figure turned and waved at her. Asuka did not pay the same respect and instead approached her "friend" taking a seat beside her.
"What is it?" Asuka said without looking at her.
"I'm sorry," she said, the sound of her voice began to quiver, "I was just worried about you. I didn't mean for it to get out of hand yesterday,"
"It's fine, I'm used to it,"
"I don't want you to get used to it, Asuka. You're beginning to scare me,"
Asuka couldn't help but shoot her friend a look, "How am I scaring you?"
"I remember the day everything happened. No one could find you afterwards. I knew how you felt. I could see it in your eyes. I know how you felt about him. I know that feeling, Asuka. Why can't you just tell me? Why can't you just open up to me? What you are doing is unhealthy,"
Asuka got to her feet and took a step away only to feel the hem of her coat being tugged back. Turning her head she could see Hikari standing too, her eyes wet with tears.
"Why can't you talk to me, Asuka? For God's sake, I was your friend. I lost someone too. He was my friend too. Jesus Christ, Asuka, he saved my life. I own him a lot. And now I'm trying to help you. Let me help you Asuka, please!"
"There's nothing you can do, Hikari. You don't know how it feels to be with someone for so many years. Take them for granted. Abuse them. And just when you realize what they mean to you, lose them in a heartbeat. I don't know how to open up. I just want to be left alone,"
Hikari gripped Asuka's shoulder and spun her around, "And do what, Asuka? Kill yourself? Don't try to pull one over me. I know very well of what you're capable of. Shinji would never want this for you,"
"You don't know what Shinji would have wanted, you don't know anything," Asuka said harshly.
"Is that it? You are so deep in your own ego that you can't even admit to yourself that you need help. You're always been like that. You don't even know what you're running away from. Stop running away, Asuka,"
With a flash Asuka erupted whipping her hand across Hikari's face sending her backwards onto the ground. The young woman stared up at her, the look of hurt evident through her eyes. Not only physical but mental.
Hikari touched the side of her face feeling the sting of the slap and began to shake her head, "You were like a sister to me, Asuka. To see you in this much hurt only breaks my heart. You broke my heart, Asuka. And if Shinji were here, you would have broken his,"
She then dug inside her coat pocket and withdrew the note she had written to Asuka and placed it onto the bench. Asuka watched as her friend disappeared into the night without another word. Her eyes then locked onto the note that sat on the bench. She took it and sat unfolding the letter:
The note read: "Asuka, I know how you feel. I miss him too,"
Asuka lowered the letter and buried her face into her palm. She couldn't restrain the tears any longer as they began to flow uncontrollably. Her tears seeped through her fingertips and onto her lap. She took another look at the letter and found something new had been written at the bottom. Wiping as much tears away she forced herself to read the last part.
"You are always loved,"
Asuka crumpled the note into her palm and cried.