The time of my father's visit was, before I knew it, only a few hours away. I couldn't sleep at all the night before, and during breakfast I could barely eat a thing, thanks to nerves.
Malik was quick to notice my nervous state, between my shaking hands and lack of progression on my food. "Come to think of it, your dad was going to be coming in today, wasn't he?" he said, completely casually. I nodded slowly, not looking up from the table or saying a word. "Still not excited, huh?" An odd half smile appeared on his face.
"Not really." I sighed.
"You can tell them you don't want to see him, you know. Just say that he'll 'hurt your chances of recovery,' and they'll keep him away."
I shrugged. "He's already flown in from halfway across the world. I can't exactly stop it now."
"Hmm." Malik looked thoughtful. "Well, maybe he'll be more understanding about this whole thing than you're expecting. Anything is better than him showing up and being a complete asshole, right?"
"Yeah. God knows we need more daddy issues in this place." The last comment came from Bakura, who was only just now sitting down with a plate of bacon. Malik rolled his eyes at him.
"Like you're one to talk," he muttered.
Bakura ignored Malik's comment, continuing on as though he hadn't spoken at all. "Seriously, that's practically a requirement in this place. 'Your dad must be this much of a dick to enter.' That, or he's dead." He glanced at Malik. "Or both, in some cases."
"Whatever." Malik turned back to me, apparently making the decision not to comment on what Bakura had said. "I'm sure you'll be fine. It's usually just an hour or two before they make visitors leave, so you won't have to deal with him for very long."
"I guess." I sighed again. It was something that was quickly becoming a habit on days like these. Bakura looked at me and smirked.
"What, are you worried he's going to say something mean to you? You do know there's an easy way to deal with that, right?"
I almost dreaded Bakura's answer, but sensing that I had no other option, I responded anyways. "What is it?"
His smile transformed into a complete grin. "Just be an asshole back to him. Be more assertive with him, and don't let him talk shit about you." I had my doubts about what Bakura had said, but I just nodded and let it go, not wanting to start a fight by disagreeing. Still, there was a small part of my brain nagging at me with a single thought.
What would happen if I really did try that?
The room they led me to was painted a pale green color. In any other situation, I would have thought of it as nice and comforting, a perfect fit for this sort of place. But at that moment, they might as well have been painted a plain white like the rest of the hospital, for how little good they did at calming me down. My heart was racing, and my entire body felt warm. I could barely concentrate as they told me that my father was only minutes away from joining me. Based on their reactions I think I nodded, but at that point, I didn't really notice what my body was doing.
Just like the doctors had promised, my father entered the room after what I assumed to be a few minutes. Without saying anything- or even giving me a single glance- he found his way to the chair set across from me at the small table and sat down.
Neither of us spoke right away. If his emotions were anywhere near where mine were, then he wasn't at all sure what he should say. I was staring at the table, and I assumed that he was doing the same.
Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I broke the silence, if only to get it over with.
"I didn't expect to see you so soon."I looked up, but he still refused to look me in the eye.
"I managed to get some time off work more quickly than I had thought," he said, finally looking at me when he finished his sentence. "Are you doing well?"
I froze. Was I doing well? Did nearly killing myself and ending up in a mental hospital, having nervous breakdowns over the tiniest things, count as being alright? I hadn't died. I was still, in a technical sense, alive. So I decided that it was close enough.
"I'm fine," I said after a moment. Even if it was the biggest lie on the planet, it didn't matter. He didn't really need to know, or even want to. More likely than not, he was only asking as a formality.
He nodded slowly. "I see." Another pause passed between us. It was funny, really, how a father and son- the only two living members of their family- could have so little to say to each other, especially after being apart for so many months.
I should have seen his next words coming. I knew the question would come sooner or later. Still, it managed to catch me slightly off guard.
"They told me about what you tried to do." I clenched my fists so tightly that my nails dug into my skin.
"I'm… I'm sorry." I wasn't sure what else to say, but it didn't seem to do anything besides annoy him slightly, based on the slight change in his expression. "I-I didn't-"
"Didn't what?" His expression was as cold as ice, and he was glaring directly at me. It was almost terrifying, because I couldn't read much further than that into his emotions. My only assumption was that I had managed to somehow anger him more. "I have to say, Ryou, I never expected you to be selfish enough to try something like this."
I couldn't help but let out a small gasp. My eyes widened, and my nails dug even deeper into my skin.
"Selfish…" The word echoed through my mind over and over again, like a skipping CD. I was selfish. I finally tried to make a decision about myself, for my own life, and I was called selfish for it. I felt like I was going to be sick.
"You didn't consider anyone else's feelings besides your own, did you?" He finally looked away. "You can't just give in to such immature impulses so easily, Ryou. I thought I raised you to be stronger than that. I thought you were stronger than that, especially after we lost your mother and Amane."
I was speechless. First he called me selfish, then he decided to pretend like he knew anything about me? How could he say that, when he had never expressed any interest in me or my life? How could he suddenly decide that I was valuable to him? Was it because he was just as "selfish" as I was, finally realizing what he had and choosing to keep it to himself?
Vaguely, in the corner of my mind, I recalled the advice Bakura had given me earlier that morning. He had told me that if something like this happened, I should try standing up for myself. There was no reason to keep letting my father walk all over me, was there?
But as I sat there shaking, I was still at a complete loss. Where exactly could I find the right words for this situation? Did I need to swallow any doubts that I could have had and say how I felt directly? How cruel should I be when I said it? What would he say to me, after all was said and done?
Slowly, I unclenched my hands and looked up. I could do this, and whether or not I really wanted to, I would do this. I was going to take Bakura's advice. I was going to become the strong person that everyone had always wanted me to be, including my father.
Swallowing, I stared my father straight in the eye.
"Dad… How can you try and convince me that I'm important to you after all this time?" My voice trembled, despite my desperate attempts to steady it. "How can you say something like that when I haven't even gotten a phone call from you in over a year?"
My father moved his stare back down to the table. After a moment of silence, he muttered, "Ryou, you know how expensive international calls are. I already spend enough money each month so that you have a place to stay, and food on the table."
"There are other ways though, Dad. Letters are probably just as expensive, but I remember that I gave you my email last time you visited." I couldn't back down now. Inside I was a mess of nerves, but I couldn't turn back anymore. I wouldn't let him convince me of anything this time around. "I know we were fighting at that point, but… if you're going to argue that I'm important to you, don't cut off all contact with me until it's almost too late."
He continued to stare- whether it was at me or the door behind me, I wasn't exactly sure. His face was completely devoid of emotion. "You're my son, Ryou," he said. "I came halfway across the world for you when I found out what happened. Even though work is busy right now, and I had to beg my boss for a few days off, I still took the time to come see you."
"And when's the next time you're going to do that?" Without meaning to, my voice dropped to a shaky whisper. "When was the last time you did that? Are you sure you're really doing this because you care about what happens to me? Or is it to make yourself feel better?" I paused. "I know you wouldn't have come if I hadn't done what I did, dad. I-I'm not saying it was right, but can you really say to me that you would be here right now if I hadn't tried to kill myself?"
"I'm doing the best I can, Ryou!" My questions could have continued on forever- they were flowing out of my mouth, everything I had previously held back suddenly coming forth. But I was interrupted when my father's voice, suddenly much louder than before, cut in. "This is how life is! I have a job, and I need to do it if I want the two of us to have a place to live, or food on the table. I may not be able to say much to you in between, but whether or not you're old enough to understand where I'm coming from, I'm trying to do what's best for you!"
I stared back down at the table. A part of me really, really wanted to believe in what he was saying. I wanted to savor the occasion, in a way- when was the last time he had said anything to me, let alone something like that? But still- maybe it was because of the scarcity of those words, but I was having an extremely difficult time believing him. Was he saying what he truly thought? Or was it all just a front, one he was using to regain my trust? I wasn't sure anymore. All I knew was that either way, it couldn't possibly make up for our past.
"If that's the case," I finally said, my voice steadied only by my constant effort to stay calm despite my need to break down completely, "Then why stay here? Why not go back to work right now?" He opened his mouth to protest, but I cut him off. "If it really is one or the other, then do what I know you would rather do. Stop acting like you care, and go back to Egypt. I don't need you here. Even when I did- when I hoped and hoped that you would show up- you were never there. I managed on my own for all that time. Now, I don't-" I cleared my throat to give myself a pause before I continued- "I don't want you here, dad."
Yet again, all he could do was stare at me. I could see traces of surprise, anger, and- of all things- disappointment in his eyes. For a split second, I worried that I had said the wrong thing to him. Even if I disliked him, he was still my father. It was incredibly difficult to hurt him without feeling something, and wishing that I could take it all back. Eventually, a sad sort of smile crossed over his face.
"I see," was all he could say, after a very long pause. "You really have grown up now, haven't you?" Slowly, the smile never leaving his face, he sighed. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there to see it happen, Ryou."
"Dad, I-" But he clearly wasn't listening anymore. By the time I processed what was happening, he had already risen from his spot, and was slowly making his way out the door. But right before he left me completely alone, he turned to face me one last time.
"I'll be flying back to Egypt tomorrow morning. I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I won't be able to come back any time soon." He turned around, his face once again hidden from my view. Just before the door closed, he said, "You can be better than this, Ryou. So don't try anything like that again." The door shut behind him, and I sat in that room, motionless and completely alone.
Alone, where no one could see me as I finally let my emotions overtake my control on everything I had been holding back.
I typed it. Finally. I need to be better about typing/posting the things I write immediately after I, you know, finish writing them. This has been sitting in my notebook for a loooong time. But I figured that I should finally do it- apparently people are actually reading this story now, so I need to start doing a better job at keeping up with it. But hey, at least you're better off than the followers on pretty much anything else I write- 4 months since I updated In Chaos and Darkness (although an update is coming), about 7 months since I updated my 100 themes…. Wow I'm terrible at this whole multitasking thing.
But I, as always, digress. Thanks to the support I got upon returning last chapter, I probably will start to focus more seriously on this story starting relatively soon. I haven't got the entire thing planned out yet, but there are some pretty great things that I do have in store for people who stick with it. So stay tuned, I guess, and don't forget to leave another review (or your first review, if that's the way you're rolling right now)on the way out.