Those of you who have read my one-shot "Still here" and "Smiling again" will know that at the end of "Smiling again" I said I would be willing to do full one-shots of the flashbacks I included in the story if requested. I have been requested to do just that, starting with the very final flashback-so… here it is!
He knew what he was doing, but at the same time he did not.
In the same half-daze of faked normality he had been in the past 3 months, he woke up, quietly went to the bathroom to brush his teeth, and then got changed into his usual dress-code of jeans and one t-shirt layered over another before pulling a red backpack from his cupboard and filling it with his wallet, sunhat, a couple of brochures, and one other final, important thing.
When he had finished, he went downstairs, slowly so as to make sure he made no noise, and headed into the kitchen, where he made himself a quick sandwich and ate it, and then proceeded to fill up two water bottles with juice, which he then added to the backpack.
Only pausing to make sure there was enough money in his wallet (which he ended up transferring to his front pocket), he left the house, only one thought in his mind.
Today, I will be your tour guide. Just as I promised.
Time failed to exist, in the way it does when one is caught up in the moment and enjoying art, the weather, the sense of bliss. Lunch sitting on a bench in the square, looking at a sparkling waterfall while eating and talking. More art, and then eventually to the park, sitting under a shady tree and chatting. It was so perfect, that he actually started to believe that she was actually with him, walking next to him, replying, bantering, and laughing. Well, in her minimal way. Mei liked to talk, but in little bits at a time, as if letting her tongue adapt to the fact that it was required to talk, that this time, someone would listen.
But …there was the small nagging worry .He hadn't told his dad that he had gone. Actually, he hadn't really told him anything since coming back. Meaning that, by now, his father would probably be going mad.
Frankly, he didn't want to encounter his father. He wanted this day to continue as long as it could. It was the first bit of happiness he had had for a long while now.
"Let's go get something to eat, Mei-san. Ice-cream sound good?" of course, he was talking to himself, but nobody noticed.
In those crowds, nobody noticed a boy with a red backpack talking to him, wandering around all of the art galleries, and generally behaving as though he was with someone. Nobody there realised that in that red backpack was a doll with one red eye and one green. Nobody knew that amongst the many of them away was a living embodiment of grief. There wasn't a single person there who knew that there was someone there who shouldn't have been there .Not until Yousuke Sakakibara arrived, along with a police officer, searching for his missing teenage son, still trying to figure out why he would have just upped and left the house at what could have been as early as 4 in the morning, taking that odd doll with him.
He was distracted by the ice-cream's flavour. Nothing special, just vanilla and chocolate sauce, complete with a flake. But even so, it was distracting.
A drop of ice-cream started to fall from the cone. Holding it carefully with his right hand, he used his left to feel in his pocket for a tissue.
His father's voice. He paused.
"How did dad find me?" he wondered. He turned to the direction of the voice. His father and a policeman pushed through the crowd of shoppers and tourists to get to him.
He opened the zip of the backpack he was holding in his hands, and looked in. he figured that she'd be frightened by this. She had always had a terribly vulnerable air about her. Even on that first day , at the morgue.
"It's Ok," he whispered "its ok, Mei-san."
The ice-cream dripped, no longer noticed.
A few hours later, he awoke and instantly realized he was in a took a while, however, for the rest of his senses to catch up. When they did, he heard 3 male voices talking-one was his father, the others unfamiliar. He also noticed a teenage girl sitting by his bedside.
He sat up and gave her a look.
She laughed. She was pretty. Nothing likes Mei, but pretty anyway. Her long black hair was caught up in a high ponytail tied with flowing purple ribbon. Her fringe fell into her eyes, but when she swept it away with her hands he saw a weather forecast of storms and rain.
"Are you a nurse?" Stupid question, but it fell out of his mouth before he could stop it.
"No!I'm your psychiatrists' Natsuhara. I like to visit dad's patients sometimes. Find out their stories .That kind of thing. You've been asleep for a while you know. Its 11pm."
He raised an eyebrow, as if to say, really?
"Yes, really. Now, All I know is that you are called Kouichi Sakakibara and that you walked out of your house yesterday and apparently had some kind of solo daytrip. Care to tell me the rest?"
The girl was a stranger. He did not care to tell her anything. The memories of yesterday were dreamlike in their fogginess. So what would he say anyway?
Kanae Natsuhara got up went to his bedside table, opened it.A bit of rooting out, and she took out the doll. Kouichi panicked. He stretched his hands in an attempt to stop her, but Kanae simply tutted at him and set it on top of the bedside table.
Kouichi relaxed. Kanae regarded the doll, looking at it from all angles. She looked from Kouichi to the doll and back again, clearly processing whatever her father may have told her about the whole thing. Kouichi didn't really care what that may have been. He just wanted to go back to sleep and forget everything. He wanted Kanae to piss off and leave him alone to wallow in his sadness. It was what everyone had been doing, and he was used to it.
Her next question surprised him.
"What was her name?"
"Her name, dummy. The girl –whoever she was. She must be pretty important if you carry her mirror image around Tokyo with you."
Kouichi stared at Kanae dumbly. Barely knew him and she already had a good part of the story nailed.
Quietly he answered. The words were like torture.
" name was Mei."
"Oh. Tell me about her."
"What. Exactly should I tell you?"
"Hmmm."Kanae thought about it. "Were you two going out? Were you in love? How did you meet? That kind of thing."
"Do I need a lawyer?" The bitter joke was an attempt to put her off. But, it didn't seem to work.
"No, but you need to talk. I'm all ears." She leaned back in her .Clearly not budging. Her grey eyes scrutinized him. What she was thinking was unclear. But she was certainly not going anywhere for a long while.
"I wasn't in love with her. But I loved her." The words felt as though they pushed through apple puree rather than air. After that, it all flowed easily. The words of a boy who was getting used to the idea of talking, really talking, again .A tongue adapting to the idea it once again had permission to bare the soul of its owner again.
Because this time, someone would listen. Really, properly listen.
Hope that was satisfactory!Thank you for reading , and please give feedback!