ENTITLED: The Unhappy Ending
FANDOM: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
LENGTH: 2,500 words
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. I have no money. It is known.
NOTES: I really like writing about beautiful, depressed people. This is probably because I have some deep psychological issue wherein I know I will never truly be equal to Barbie.
SUMMARY: Nothing gets better, ever. Except then it does. — Yukiatsu, Anaru
She tries to take up smoking when she's nineteen, because it's the first year of university and she already knows she's going to drop out. She smokes on the roof and looks at the city and thinks that smoking's going to make her ugly, so she takes another drag, because being ugly scares her more than anything.
Everyone here knows what they want. Everyone here is so serious, and they all write their essays on time about things like subtext and chemical compounds and math, if you can even write essays about math.
Mostly she organizes her desk in preparation for sitting down and hashing out the essays she never really writes, due to a combination of fear and apathy.
That sounds so stupid. Fear of an essay.
She hates looking stupid.
She takes another drag, and does it right this time, so the smoke actually goes into her lungs, and not her throat, and because nobody's there, she coughs it back out, and tries again.
She's sure now that Jintan's destiny is to die three times before he stops living. The first time was when Menma died. The second was after her spirit left them. The third will be at the end of his life. Anaru knows with equal certainty that he will only ever love one girl.
But he tries. He still moves, which is saying a lot for someone who has died twice, she thinks. After his second death he had gone back to high school and finished with the rest of their class, kept his head down the whole time and read a lot. Kid stuff, mostly. She'd dated him for half a year before realizing that he didn't even know that she was his girlfriend.
She'd stopped regularly seeing him after that, and suspected he was secretly grateful to be left alone. He'd left his heart behind, and could only seem to find it in the games they'd played together as children.
Jintan dreamed, Tsuruko studied, Poppo wandered, Yukiatsu pretended, Anaru faked.
And Menma was still just dead. Out of the equation. Leaving them an unbalanced and uneven sum.
Yukiatsu calls her more than anyone else. More than her parents, even. Jintan never calls and Tsuruko's never going to call when she can text, (if she ever texts) and Poppo probably doesn't even know how to work a phone. And Menma's dead, so.
She's surprised, in all honesty. Not that he'd call her, but that he'd do it so frequently.
But whatever. He's a creep, but it's good to talk to someone who's got smiles as angry as her own.
Or maybe it isn't. Maybe it's a nasty, self-destructive, sneaky-hate-spiral.
She can't decide.
She'd always figured Yukiatsu would end up being a doctor. She doesn't even know where the assumption came from, only that she believed in it with everything she had.
"Law?" she repeats, eyeing the tome he pours over. His back is going to bother him, later. The way her lungs bother her now. They're too young for this. She's too good at putting herself back together before she's been allowed to feel the hurt.
"It pays," he flips a page. She sits opposite him, wincing at the harsh noise the chair makes when she pulls it back, breaking the library's stagnant air. Her nails make clicking noises when she drums them agains the table top. Acrylic. She'd had to pay extra. What did that say about her, anyway, that even her fingernails weren't good enough?
"So does being a doctor."
"Lawyers wear better clothes. And I don't like blood. Besides," he looks up, smiling in the hard kind of way he was apt to over-exercise, "Doctors are heroes. I don't save people, I go out of my way to ruin their lives."
"That's true," Anaru decides, with her customary lack of tact towards him. She wonders if he'd really been kidding.
He snorts. Then looks up, "And you?"
"I know how to make friends," Anaru says stiffly. Yukiatsu widens his eyes mockingly.
"Where are you headed, Anaru? Modeling? You might be tall enough."
"Not quite," she says, bitterly, but without knowing why or where the resentment came from.
"Well," he looks back down, "There's always magazines. You've got a pretty face."
She looks at him for a second, then reaches over the table and slams his colossus of a book shut on his deserving fingers.
Tsuruko sips her drink, careful not to slurp. It goes down silent as the rest of her, while she listens to Anaru's angry recount of what had happened to her earlier.
She wants to say, "He never said I was pretty."
But instead, "I don't understand what you're upset about."
Anaru breaths out sharply. "No. Of course not. Nobody gets it."
Tsuruko lets the silence steep with her tea, angry ghosts turning over in her stomach. She wants to scream. "Perhaps," she suggests, icily, "If you wanted to be defined by something other than your appearance, you should put a bit more effort into the unknown things you alone seem to associate yourself with. Perhaps you shouldn't have let yourself drift out of university. Perhaps you should learn to paint."
She hangs up, and is so angry with herself that she begins to cry.
It occurs to Anaru, as she listens to the dial tone, the echo of Tsuruko's jealousy, that maybe not everything was as buried as she had assumed. But, surely—surely Yukiatsu had had plenty of time to move on from his strange, brief fixation on her. It had only been an extension of the confused feelings Menma had brought with her, right?
She dwells on this.
She almost drops the phone. She hadn't meant to call him. She hadn't even thought about it. This was so disgustingly unfair.
"I just talked to Tsurumi."
"Do you still have feelings for me?"
"I should be asking that!" she cries, "What's wrong with you? Why are you always running around after me, when we both know that you don't feel that way?"
"What's wrong with you?" he shoots back, "You almost broke my hand."
"Oh shut up," she snarls, and yanks viciously on the ends of her hair, "Shut up, shut up, shut up, you asshole. Why do you have to make me feel so awful about myself? So unimportant and shallow and stupid. I hate you. So maybe I'm going to drop out and maybe I can't paint and hey, maybe you're right, maybe I should be a model, because it's not like I can do anything else, and you know something—you know what? So maybe I wasn't in love with Menma like you and Jintan were but it still hurt, and you know what else? What else is that sometimes I feel like I've been dying for my whole damn life."
"I know," he says.
And she hangs up.
She starts avoiding her roommate. There are only three weeks left in the term, and she's a goner, everybody knows it, and the looks she gets make her feel worse than useless. She'd smoke, if it wasn't so expensive. Self-destruction is a luxury she cannot afford.
She starts looking up modeling agencies, and new apartments. She puts off apologizing to Tsuruko, and dodges Yukiatsu's calls, until three days have passed and she stops feeling so embarrassed about her melodramatics.
"I've got an uncle who's chief scout in Blue Fire Talent Agency," he tells her over lunch, (he's buying), "Can you sing? Dance? I know you can act. I've made you an appointment for Wednesday at three."
Her stomach tightens. All she says is, "Thank you."
"Of course," he shrugs, "It's natural for a young woman to count on her suitors for help. You should have told me."
She gives him a deeply disturbed look, and picks at her salad, uncomfortable. "That isn't funny."
"I'm not kidding."
"You ruin lives," she reminded him. Yukiatsu shrugged.
"I could be your hero."
"I suddenly feel sick."
"I did just save your butt."
Her meeting goes well. She gets a one year contract, magazine work, of course, and a couple tapes are taken of her reading from script. She sounds good on camera. She looks better. They send off the tapes, (which go on to land her three music videos, two as extras and one as the main love interest) and she leaves on a high note, as an impossibly glamorous woman looks her over and says with complete sincerity, "I like her sense of style."
What's harder is Tsuruko waiting for her in the lobby, legs crossed at the ankle and tucked demurely behind the leg of one chair. She eyes the fashion magazines artfully strewn across the coffee table with unmistakable distaste.
Anaru slows, and considers throwing herself in the opposite direction.
Tsuruko gets to her feet, and looks Anaru steadily in the eye, "How did it go?"
"Good," Anaru mumbles, petrified. "Good enough to keep me in the city."
Tsurumi smiles blandly, then turns and walks out the door.
Anaru fumbles through her purse for her phone.
Yukiatsu answers the door in a towel.
Of course he does.
Anaru forcefully stares into his eyes, and makes it clear that she has no intention of looking away from them, ever. She is so focused upon her task that it fails to register when he closes and locks the door, or the way in which he casually shepherds her to his room.
"You should—" she struggles to explain. He glances at her, once, still rubbing a towel against his wet hair.
"What?" he mutters, but he looks her straight in the eye as he says it. It always makes her hesitate. She's never been able to figure out what she'd done to warrant his full attention. Most times, he could barely be bothered to turn his head towards the person he was addressing.
Her eyes dip once to his lean torso and she looks away immediately, face flushing. "Tsurumi," she manages.
"You're blushing," he notes, and takes his time meandering over to her. Anaru jumps with a cheep, stammering.
"That's cute," he chuckles, letting the towel drop down to his shoulders, though his hands still grip the ends of it, loosely. Anaru watches them with deep suspicion, waiting for one to fall. He was always so—God, he was so evil. Flustering her like she was some middle-schooler. Anaru squared her shoulders and set her jaw just in time for him to drop down, thumbing her nose affectionately. Her solid presentation was left in shambles.
"Tsu-Tsurumi!" She squeaks again, insistent, though the rest of her argument is somehow vague and difficult to articulate. She scrambles backwards, crab-style, over the bed until her back hits the wall. Yukiatsu doesn't follow her, but props his elbow on the edge of frame to rest his chin against.
"Well, there you go saying someone else's name. I'm jealous."
"No, you aren't," Anaru snarls, and stabs an accusing finger at him, "Stop that."
"Stop..." her tongue slips over the word seduction, and she only blushes harder, but somehow manages to cough out, "Stop distracting me."
"I could put a shirt on," he offers, completely without modesty.
"No," Anaru begins, because that isn't her point, but then she realizes how that sounds by the playful flicker in his eyes, and she almost dies from embarrassment.
This is a disaster.
Somehow, she rallies, "I am trying to have a serious conversation with you."
"Let's not," he pulls lightly on her pinkie-toe, and she makes a sound. He seems delighted. What a creep. "Anaru, really. What will the neighbors think?"
Really, she hates him. But, "I saw Tsurumi-san today."
"I didn't know your feet were so sensitive."
She glares at him. Fine. It's not like he can command his ears not to listen. Probably. "I don't think—"
"I don't want to talk about her," he interrupts. She pauses, because she's always been timid, but it's the principle of that matter. Also: Yukiatsu is still a jerk.
Atsumu. Atsumu is still a jerk.
"You need to listen to me."
"I always listen to you."
"Tsurumi-san is—we're really hurting her."
"I'm really hurting her."
Anaru stops at that. She'd expected some sort of denial, at the very least, feigned ignorance. But now somehow, her hand reaches comfortingly for his shoulder before she jerks back, remembering the taboo that was his bared skin.
Yukiatsu's mouth picks up on the end, and he drops one hand on the mattress, half-way extended towards her. After a long moment of fidgeting hesitation, she closes her fingers loosely around his own. Her spine trembles and she can't seem to lift her eyes from her knees. There's a scrape on one of them from the last time she'd shaved, and she presses her thumb down on the fine row of scabs self-consciously, until he tugs her hand a little for attention. She gives it to him reluctantly, biting her lip and watching his handsome face.
How many girls would love to be right here, right now?
"I'm her friend, too," she says, soft, her eyes almost shut, and she didn't understand. She didn't understand anything, anymore.
She wakes up late, and just in time for lunch. Her first class had finished two hours earlier. And Yukiatsu is touching her face, so lightly that she might not have felt it"You know," he looks up at her, a thoughtful frown pinching between his brows, "I could fall in love with you."
Anaru shoots him an exasperated look, and hopes this compensates for the color spreading across her cheeks, "No."
"Have you ever loved somebody, without having to hurt for it?"
"Don't be stupid."
"I'm not kidding."
"It's supposed to hurt!" she says, angrily. It's supposed to tear you to pieces. It's supposed to rip you to absolute threads. Loving someone enough can kill you. It killed Jintan, twice. It's been killing her for years.
"It's only when it doesn't work that it hurts. We could work."
"We couldn't. You're angry and bitter and hateful."
"So are you."
She flushes, "I'm moving on."
"So am I."
"No, you're not."
"I'm going after what makes me happy. I'd say that's moving on."
"You'll ruin my life," she whispers, because this is true. He smiles.
"No, you just wish I would."
She kisses him on the mouth, and they smile angrily at each other.