'I wanted to show you me a-all of me' Hanako stammers out. My mind goes blank if this was a normal situation and we 'normal' teenagers I would be happy? Excited? At the prospect of a girl undressing in front of me but all I feel is dread.
Not dread because I'm afraid of her scars, on the contrary, I've seen her face, neck and hand and although at first I thought them bad, now I'm used to them. In fact without them, Hanako wouldn't be Hanako. Just as I wouldn't be Hisao without my heart condition. Wow, I never thought I would be accepting of my condition - but spending time with Hanako and Lilly, who don't let their conditions hinder them, especially Lilly has changed my outlook.
'Hisao?' Oh right, I should say something. 'Yes Hanako?'
She turns towards me and my gaze flicks to her bared chest before redirecting to her face. 'Aren't you going to say something? I know I'm not pretty l-like Lilly but, well I don't know' As if first noticing her bared chest she covers it self- consciously with her hands. I can't mess this up; I need to just tell her how I feel.
'Hanako, I won't lie to you when I first met you your scars were intriguing to me but - and I really can't stress this enough - they never bothered me. It sounds cheesy and when I heard it in the past I thought it a bit of a cop out. Beauty really is on the inside, your beauty is one that shines from the inside and your scars only enhance who you are. I wouldn't change you'
Hanako looks up at me covering the scarred side of her face in her little nervous habit. At first I think I've done something wrong. Damn it, and I tried so hard to reassure her, that speech sounded better in my head. Seeing the conflicting emotions across my face she steps forward and lays a comforting hand on my shoulder.
'Do they, do they really n-not bother y-you?'
Without thinking I retort 'Does my surgery scar bother you?' She quickly shakes her head and smiles. I smile back thankful that for once I haven't said the first stupid thing that enters my brain and has the unfortunate opportunity to leave my mouth.
'You know Hanako you have helped me a lot more than I think I have helped you, Lilly too' She gazes at me appearing confused before I go on.
'Before I met you and Lilly my condition was something I denied, wanted to hide and not acknowledge. But seeing how you and Lilly acted made me accept who I was and that my heart condition was a part of me, a scary, unknown, inconvenient part but a part nonetheless. I'm now glad I had my heart attack. That may sound silly and reckless, but if I hadn't I never would have come to Yamaku. I never would have learnt my condition need not define me. But most of all, I never would have met you and, well; I would rather have ten heart attacks than never have known you.'
Completely surprising me, Hanako almost jumps forward, snakes her arms around my neck and kisses me. It is a sweet kiss, innocent like Hanako, my heart pounds deep in my chest and for a second I'm worried before it settles down, as if Hanako is calming oil over the troubled waters of my heart. The kiss lasts a moment longer before she breaks off and does that wonderful rare smile she does. A smile from Hanako really does brighten a day.
'You helped me too, before you I barely spoke to anyone other than Lilly. I just never wanted to since I didn't want to exist. I hated it when people acknowledged me. I saw myself as invisible so why couldn't they? Y-you were different, you were the first person to look at me without pity for my scars. You were the first to not tiptoe around me all the time, yes you worried for me but I never found it overbearing - you were like Lilly. I thought Lilly being blind was why she was the only one to treat me such a way, but now I know it's because she is special just like you are Hisao'
Her words touch the deepest recesses of my soul, this girl, this wonderful girl, how did I ever live without her? She is the milk of human kindness, the light that shone through in my otherwise dark world. I love her. Without thinking I just say it.
'Hanako I-I love you, I really, really love you' She doesn't only smile but beams at me. Hanako actually beams. I have never seen her give a truer smile since I've known her. It makes me smile earnestly too.
'I love you too Hisao, very much' She wasn't even nervous like I was, she didn't even stutter. We stare into each other's eyes and we kiss again, more heated than previously but my heart stays steady. Until she reaches down and starts to unzip her skirt. Suddenly my heart thumps not painfully but enough for me to take notice of it.
I love Hanako and I would love more than anything to do this with her. But we have only just confessed to one another, it almost feels like too much too fast. Then there's my heart although I take my medication regularly and I haven't had any major flutters recently, I don't think risking it would be a good idea. I don't want history to repeat itself. The last time someone confessed to me look where that ended up, and this is a whole lot more than confessing. The thing that makes me still her hand on her zip though is Hanako herself. I don't think she is ready for this and neither am I, she has only just stopped stammering her sentences around me and I don't want to push her too hard.
Hanako's huge eyes look up at me questioningly, 'Hanako wait, it's not that I don't want to but we have our whole lives ahead of us to do this. It's too soon don't you think?'
Hanako looks at me and giggles. Hmm, Hanako giggling, that's new, 'Okay Hisao, your heart probably couldn't take it anyway.' Well that was blunt but she allays my concern by giggling again, leaning in, and kissing my cheek sweetly.
'Very funny Hanako. Well, erm, what would you like to do now?'
She looks down at herself and chuckles, 'Well after I get dressed again c-can we play chess, I mean, only if you want to.'
That makes me chuckle. Chess seems like a perfect activity for a guy with a heart condition and a girl with social anxiety. Me and Hanako have our whole lives to take our relationship to the next level but right now I'm content with how things are. Hanako is precious to me and nothing else will come before her in my mind, her happiness is my only concern.
She reaches for her shirt but I motion to stop her. She looks at me, confused, probably thinking I changed my mind. I look about her room and find what I seek under her pillow: her nightgown. Grabbing it I walk over to her and indicate she should lift her arms. She gazes at me sceptically before raising her arms and allowing me to slip it over her head. Poking her head through the collar she ruffles her hair and looks at me.
'You really want me to wear this? It's mid-afternoon.' Laughing at her observation, I nod.
'Yes, it reminds me of the first time we had tea with Lilly. I think that's when I first stated loving you, you looked relaxed for the first time since we had met.' Giggling again she goes off to the corner of the room where she houses her chess board. As she gets it out I slip off my shoes and loosen my tie. Laying the chess board on the bed we both sit and begin to play.
'I beat you again Hisao.'
'No fair, besides I let you win.'
'Of course you did, always the gentleman and I let you lose' I chuckle heartedly at her sarcasm, sarcasm from Hanako something else new. Yawning I consider playing again but curfew is nearly in effect and I should get back to my dormitory.
'Yes you caught me, I am very tired, it's been a big day I should go.' She gets a panicked look in her eye before grasping my arm.
'No stay, I want today to last a little bit longer, sleep with me.' My eyes widening I begin to panic before she giggles again and says, 'I meant actually sleep Hisao.'
Oh. Well… good. Phew. I nod as she gets up and puts the chess set back in its drawer by Lilly's doll. Pulling back the sheets, I climb in and open my arms for her to join me. She smiles and does so, she is warm and comforting and her smell is like a lullaby sending me into almost instant slumber.
'I love you Hisao, goodnight.'
'I love you too my Hanako, goodnight.' I sleepily reply before nodding off immediately.
In the morning I stir and feel confused until it all comes back to me - ahh Hanako. She stirs next to me and I feel a heat over my chest, looking down I see her hand on my bare chest covering my scar. Instant love blooms in my heart, such a perfect way to wake up.