We spent the rest of the winter like that, just being friends and hanging out together. She even came to my place a few times after school. We never did anything extravagant, mostly we just enjoyed one another's company, be it playing video games or running around outside in the snow. I loved being with her. I loved seeing her every day. Even though I had only known her for a few months, it felt like I had known her all my life. We shared our secrets, our fears, and our feelings. Truly, she was my best friend.

With spring came climate change. I mean that in more than one way.

We walked to third period together, since our classes were right across the hall from each other. She seemed distracted, almost spacey. Not the ADHD kind of spacey like I would usually expect from her. It was almost a sleepy kind of spacey, like she was unaware of what was happening around her.

We were halfway to class, when I noticed her stop and lean on the wall. I looked back at her. Now that I got a good look at her face, she looked really pale, and it was like it was taking a lot of effort just to stay upright. "Hey, Kat, you don't look so good… Are you feeling ok?"

She nodded and tried to smile, but it was obvious how tired she was. "Yeah… Just need some… water or…"

"Kat?"

"…"

"Hey, Kat, can you— Whoa!" I caught her as she started sliding down the wall. She was going limp in my arms, and her body was so cold. I tried my best not to panic as I tried to get her to come back around. "Hey, Kat! Stay with me here, ok? Can you hear me?"

"Haru…" Her voice quavered. She was getting weak. "N-not feeling well…" She couldn't hold on any longer. I tried not to drop her as her weight fell onto me while I tried desperately to hold her up, trying to get her to come back around. I hardly noticed the crowd of students surrounding us as I gently laid her back, going through what I learned in health class. Her breathing was slight, her pulse was weak, and her skin was still cold and a sickly pale. My mind was nearly frozen. What did this mean? Bad circulation? Why was this happening?! I felt my heart beat faster and harder as I heard someone shout for a nurse. I couldn't hold back as tears of fear streamed down my face and I held her close. What was happening to my friend?!

I felt one of the teachers put a hand on my shoulder. "Haru, what—"

"Don't touch her!" I said that out of instinct, holding her limp body close to mine. I was so afraid to lose her.

The teacher understood, I guess. He knelt down next to me as the nurse came and gently pulled Kat away from me while the administrators cleared the hallway out. He helped me to my feet. I stepped back, watching as they tried in vain to get a response. An ambulance was called. I watched helplessly as they took her away. My mind was totally numb. I wanted to throw up. What was happening to Kat?


I couldn't focus the rest of the day. Who would after going through something like that? I couldn't stop thinking about her. Was she ok? Was she sick? Was she hurt? What was happening back at the hospital? It was driving me crazy, not knowing. I wanted to see her. I wanted to talk to her.

I visited her place after school. I remembered her address, since she gave it to me once before when I stopped by to pick her up for something or other. She lived in one of the nearby apartment buildings. I didn't have the patience to wait for the elevator, so I went up the stairs to the room she lived in. I knocked twice, then waited a while for someone to answer.

I was met by a little old lady with thick glasses and her hair tied into a bun, not much shorter than myself. I guess she must have been suspicious of me, because she flew into a frenzy of hasty questions. "Who are you? What do you want? Are you here to take a census or something? We're not interested in anything you're selling! Go away!"

At first, I thought I might have the wrong address, but I wanted to make sure first. It was for Kat, after all. "Um, my name is Haru. I was looking for a Miss Kathryn Kole. Does she live around here?"

That was when she hit me on the head with an umbrella. "Ouch! Hey, what do you—?"

"You ask too many questions! What do you want with my granddaughter?! If you don't leave, I'll—!"

I heard a voice from in the apartment. "Gramma, it's ok! He's a friend of mine. You can let him in."

She gave me a sharp glare through her glasses, then stood aside and let me in. I thanked her sheepishly and kept my distance, for fear she might hit me again with her umbrella or bite my head off or something.

I glanced back to see her glaring at me still as I entered the apartment. There was something generally unsettling about that crazy old woman, yet it was that craziness that made it clear that she was definitely a relative of Kat's. Maybe that's where she gets it from, I thought.

I walked into the living room to see her lying on the couch, dressed in clothes comfortable enough to sleep in and covered with a fuzzy blanket. Her color looked better from before. She smiled at me. "Hey, Haru."

I sat with her on the couch near her feet. "Hey. I wanted to come check on you. Are you ok?"

She nodded. "Yeah. Listen, I'm sorry about earlier. I know it must have scared you…"

"Hang on, you're apologizing for passing out? What, it's not like you woke up this morning and said, 'I think I'll go to school and black out in front of everyone today and scare the living crap out of my best friend. Yup, sounds like a plan!'"

She laughed. It was good to hear her laugh. It let me know she was ok.

I laughed along with her. "Seriously, though, no need to apologize. Sure, I was worried, but I just wanted to make sure you were ok, that's all."

She looked at me with those big blue eyes of hers. "Thanks. Really."

"It's no problem. That's what friends are for, right?"

She nodded again, slowly this time. "Right."

"So… I mean, uh, did they find out what's wrong?"

She curled up a little. "I have a weak heart. It kinda runs in the family."

"Oh… Will you be ok?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I just need rest, that's all."

Her grandmother came into the room with a tray of tea and sweets. "Gets it from her father's side. It's one of those 'genetic' things." She set the tray down on the coffee table next to us. "Thought you two might like a snack."

"Thanks, Gramma." Kat said.

"Thank you, Mrs. Kole."

"Actually, it's 'Takara'," she corrected, "I'm her mother's mother."

Kat smiled. "Yeah. Mom was half Japanese. Gramma's that half."

"Yeah, yeah. More genetics." Mrs. Takara left for the kitchen. "I'll get started on dinner. Would you like to eat with us, Haru?"

This was quite a contrast from the elderly woman I first met. "I don't want to impose…"

Kat tugged playfully on my sleeve. "Oh, don't be like that! You can stay if you want. Unless you're allergic to chicken, that is."

I couldn't say no to her, especially when she was in this condition. "No, that sounds fine. Mom's gone for a few days on a trip, so I don't think she would mind if I stay for a while."

She hugged me. "Yay!"

I couldn't help but laugh again. She was a funny girl, always making me laugh. I saw her grandmother in the kitchen preparing dinner. "So, your grandma…"

She giggled. "Yeah, she's something else. Sorry about before. She's not so good with first impressions."

I agreed, but it would sound rude to say it. "No, I think she's nice."

"I'm glad. I was afraid she might have scared you away." She hugged her knees to her chest. "She was the one who took me in when I lost my parents in a car crash…"

"Oh… I'm sorry." I really didn't know what to say to that. I guessed that must have been why she came to Japan. Her Grandmother must have been the only one qualified to take her in, or maybe even the only one who wanted to take her. I didn't ask, though. I figured it would be a sensitive topic.

She looked back up at me. "It's ok, really. I didn't have too many friends back in America anyway. Besides," She grinned at me again, "I met you here, didn't I?"

"Yeah." That warm feeling came back to my chest. "And I met you."

We talked a while longer, and I ended up staying for dinner after all. As I got to know her grandmother more, she seemed less scary. Actually, she ended up to be a pretty nice lady with a good sense of humor, and good at cooking, too. I felt comfortable there. I felt wanted. I loved being around Kat and her family. I hoped she would get better soon.