Date Started: March 28, 2013
Date Finished: March 29, 2013
Minor Edits: May 17, 2013
Summary: A Wolf Children fanfic: When Yuki is finally picked up at school by her mother, she learns of what happened the previous night with her brother Ame. How will she react, knowing how much her brother embraces his other half, when she so strongly rejects it? Movie spoilers.
From Snow to Rain
Souhei and I ended up spending the entire night and much of the early morning inside the school building. We hid from the last few teachers and patiently waited for my mom to arrive. Nothing further about how that time was spent needed to be said and everything began anew when Mom finally arrived the following day. She was bruised and filthy, with a hand clutching her swollen abdomen. She greeted us with a silent smile, said nothing as to why she was late, and helped us both get in the car. I didn't really know what to make of it. My mother always smiled.
The ride to Souhei's home was nerve-wracking for all the wrong reasons. Did I want to tell Mom that I had shown Souhei our secret? Did I want to yell at her and make a fuss as to why she didn't arrive to pick me up properly the previous day? Would she wonder and question as to what two twelve year olds had spent the night doing? The silence we three shared was deafening. Souhei reached over from the back seat and squeezed my hand. I squeezed back, immediately wondering how he was able to realize my distress.
When the car stopped, and the back doors unlocked, Souhei quietly stepped out. He bowed to my mother, whose hands continued to tightly grip at the steering wheel, and thanked her for bringing him home. Again he received nothing but a silent smile and an appreciative nod.
"Sou-chan," my voice squeaked. "Thank you for being my friend," I said as my goodbye.
He grinned and waved and then ran off towards his home. Living in the countryside like this, our houses were all miles apart. Even having been dropped off on his family's land, Souhei was still a good ten or so minute walk away from his house.
I turned back to my mother and waited for her to start the car up again. Or to at least begin questioning me as to what happened between us during the night. In the end she did neither. She turned back to me again, the tears welling up in her eyes and offered me the saddest smile I had ever seen. All it took was one brief look at Mom, and I knew I would never forget the haunting expression that she had then worn.
Everything I heard about my mom's delay was through her second hand account at that very moment. My brother Ame had left us, and she had just let him go with a smile on her face. I sat there frozen as Mom spoke, my hands shook and the distress I felt during the silent ride had by now easily multiplied. A strong chill went down my spine as I kept thinking of "why's" and "what if's."
I recalled what Ame said to me yesterday morning. Yuki, stay at home today. Stay with mom.
Are those the last words I was to ever hear from Ame? At the time I wondered why he wanted me to stay home, and I suppose now I knew. He must have already planned on leaving. It had been set in stone, and he must have known Mom wouldn't be able to follow him out in the wilderness with that raging storm going on. But really, despite now knowing, I still didn't understand.
"Why did he leave? Does he hate us now?" I didn't know whether to feel depressed or frustrated.
"He is following his own path," Mom answered. "He is a wolf."
"He's not a wolf," I could feel my voice rising at my protest. "He's human!"
My mother could only shake her head. But I just couldn't accept it. If Ame wasn't human, than neither was I. If Ame was a wolf, then I had to be one too. Weren't we one and the same?
I felt defeated. "What will we do now?" I had to ask. I felt meek and powerless and I knew I sounded like such as well. I didn't know much, but I knew that human children didn't just disappear without notice. There would be questions. If Ame's secret was exposed, then mine was sure to be as well, and both the trust I had in Souhei along with his promise to keep it will have been for naught.
It seems that Mom has thought about this as well. "We can't tell the villagers he had gone missing during the storm. They could end up wasting weeks searching for him in the woods. For now, let's pretend everything is normal, shall we?"
"Normal?" I repeated. The word felt as if it were an insult on my tongue.
"It will be some time until someone notices he's missing. We'll try and think of something before that happens."
With those final words, my mom turned on the engine, and started the slow drive home. The ride proved very rugged and uneven, and the roads remained wet and muddy from the heavy rainfall of the previous day. I looked out the window towards the woods and mountains where Ame had run off. I continually stared out of the moving vehicle and in the end my only reward was the strain in my eyes as my vision began to blur. Still I thought, maybe if I looked out into the wilderness long enough, I would be able to see Ame coming out of the foliage somewhere. I sat there in my seat and imagined him running over to us, he'd be on two legs of course, and he would realize the mistake he'd made.
"He's really forcing us into a big lie, isn't he, Mom?"
"And we will love him enough to keep it," Mom responded, resolute and determined, "The village must never know there's a wolf about."
"Do you think he'll ever come home?" I had to ask.
My mother turned to face me, again with that sad, haunting smile. "He's already home."
Mom called in sick to work for the next few days, apologizing profusely to the park rangers for her absence, and always asking me to stay home with her rather than go back to school. I always obliged, as I knew she needed the reassurance that I would stay with her and not run away as well. And so I stayed, because I knew that I had to. I loved my mom and I had to fill in the hole that Ame had left in her heart.
I thought about going out into the woods also, not to run away, but to find Ame. I wanted to hear from him exactly why he left us. I wanted to know why he thought being with wild animals was so much more important than being with his family. When I brought up the suggestion, Mom simply told me that Ame was where he wanted to be, that he was happy and at home, and that he had found a world of his own.
I accepted that for a while, and our routine returned to normal. Normal, that insulting word again. As if things could possibly be normal anymore without my brother around. The room we shared feels twice as big and twice as lonely. Family meals are no longer only missing my dad; they're missing my brother now, too. Rather than normal, I should simply say that Mom returned to work, and I returned to school.
One day a teacher came up to me as classes were ending. "How is your brother doing?" he asked. "We haven't seen him in quite some time. It's a shame he doesn't like school as much as you do."
Quite some time was certainly an understatement. Ame had all but stopped going to school by the fourth grade. Even when he did, he'd skip classes and spend all his time in the library reading up on mountains and forests.
I answered the only way I knew how. "He still spends more time fooling around in the woods than I'd like to see him doing."
It was the only true answer I could provide. Even then, I still felt like a liar. There is a difference between keeping a secret, and lying, I think, isn't there?
"Just keep telling him about all the fun you have in school and all the friends you're able to make," my teacher responded with a hearty laugh that truly didn't fit the situation. "I'm sure he'll come around and realize what he's missing."
He should be missing me. He should be missing Mom. Aren't we enough? He never managed to make any friends like I did. He was bullied by older kids until I stepped in and prevented it. Why couldn't he appreciate what I've done for him and try to fit in just like I did? It's not like I had an easy time, either, not with such interests as snakes and animal bones.
I nodded and left, slowly walking to the bus where I knew Souhei would be waiting for me. I thought back to Ame. Perhaps I should have been more understanding and helpful when I noticed him skipping school. I know why Mom never had any lingering thoughts about it. She was afraid of us going to school as it was; afraid our secret would let out. So if Ame didn't want to go to school, she didn't want to force him into a place where he would feel vulnerable and ruin his chance at normalcy.
Could we ever be normal? Normal, it's no longer quite the insult; it seems now to be a goal that is achingly too far away to reach. Is such a thing even attainable for us? Ame probably didn't seem to think so, which is why he turned his back on whatever humanity he had left in him.
Again, I begin to wonder. Is this all my fault? Have I failed my little brother? I became good friends with Shino, and Bunko, and Keno and of course with Souhei. Perhaps Ame could have been good friends with them, too, if only I had given him the chance.
I took my usual seat in the back of the bus next to Souhei. I was still deep in thought as we shared greetings.
"Sou-chan," I began, "have you ever met my brother?"
He folded his arms in thought, as if trying to remember exactly who my brother was. "I can't say we've been properly introduced. But I've seen him around your house a couple of times, mostly when I was dropping off homework and stuff."
"Do you think… is it maybe possible… that you two could've become friends one day?" I found that my voice was shaking, and there were breaks in my words as I tried to organize my thoughts into a proper question. I had to know if I had any part in Ame's running away, if I could've prevented it by including him in our group of friends.
Souhei frowned. "Is that why he doesn't come to school? Because he can't make any friends?"
I didn't reply, but my downcast expression must have been answer enough, as Souhei continued. He brightened up with a smile and said, "Introduce us next time. I'll be good friends with him, I promise. I'll teach him cool sports like boxing and wrestling."
"No fighting," I said.
Souhei raised a brow, and I noticed his vision briefly lingered over my hands. He nodded in understanding to information I hadn't planned on sharing. "I see. Maybe we'll just play some basketball then, or I can show him some of my card tricks. Either way, we'll have fun, the three of us, I guarantee it."
Something about the way he said the three of us got to me. I kept thinking of it as I said my goodbyes to Souhei and got off the bus. Mom, Ame, and myself; I wanted it to be the three of us again, just like it had been before. My vision began to blur and I took off in a sprint from the bus stop towards my house. I didn't even notice when I changed, but when I reached home both my backpack and dress were missing. They must have fallen off when I began running on all fours.
It was only the brief sound of my mother's voice that kept me from turning around and going back to pick up my things. It overwhelmed me with both confusion and curiosity. I had started going back to school, so hadn't Mom started going back to work, as well? I peered closer.
I snuck a peek in through the gap in the front door. Mom was kneeling by my father's picture, talking to him as if he hadn't died over ten years ago. "It's been a week now nice Ame left us. He's an adult now, isn't he? He's a wolf. He's happy without me."
I felt like I was intruding, but I couldn't look away. There were longer pauses now, Mom was losing her bearing. Her eyes glistened as tears threatened to pour. She continued, "You said you were watching over me. That I raised them both well. But I made so many mistakes. At times I thought I was raising wolves, but they were still just children. And now I've lost one of them."
Her sobs interrupted her speech. She sniffled loudly and rubbed at her eyes. "That Ame, I can't help but worry for him. And I know we go through this every day, but I still fear that Yuki will leave me next. And then, I will be alone."
I'm in the sixth grade now. The middle school for our village is far away. I would be required to leave home and live on the school campus. Seeing my mother like this, who after those last words continued to quietly sob in front of Dad's picture, I decided that I wouldn't ever think of leaving.
And so I did the only thing that I could. I had accepted the situation for what it was up until now, but nothing Mom could further say would dissuade me from my decision. I was back on all fours, my nose in the air, and I ran off into the surrounding wilderness. I was going to find Ame, I was going to make him explain himself with whatever reasoning he could provide, and then I was going to force him to come back one way or another.
You wanna go?
I recall saying those words the first time we fought. It was a petty sibling squabble, I think. I wanted so badly for him to come to school, to try and be normal like I did. I resented him for embracing his wolf half, when I at the time was so deeply ashamed of mine. Perhaps if I had won that fight, things would've turned out differently. Instead he was stronger, he overpowered me. He hurt me. How could I have possibly expected any other outcome? Mom was helpless to stop us; attempting to stop two wolves like that would've only gotten Mom injured, too. I realized that too late.
In retrospect, it doesn't seem like such a petty sibling squabble anymore. Would the outcome now be any different? Probably not, since Ame had been out in the woods on his own for the past week, and kept running off there as a wolf for the past two years. I would probably end up hurt again, but I was determined enough to find him even if it again came down to a fight.
"Ame, is that you?"
Despite my search, it was in the end Ame who found me. I'd spent hours looking for him in the woodlands and the mountains, and just as I was about to give up, lest Mom think I had run away as well, a large grey and blue wolf stepped out into the clearing. It gave me the impression that even during my search, he had probably been following me and I had never even noticed that the person I was looking for was trailing after me all along.
The wolf looked at me, cocked its head and then raised its snout upwards in a howl. The action only proved to irritate me further.
"Have you given up on human speech now, too? Or do you just not want to talk to me?"
Again there was a wordless response. He could only offer growls and hisses. "Have you… have you gone feral? Have you forgotten me, and Mom, too?"
Just asking the questions tugged at my heartstrings. I could feel the ache in my chest and it felt as if Ame himself had dug into my chest and squeezed.
He shook his head. That by itself was a good sign at the very least. Still I could barely believe it. When Mom spoke of him being an adult, I never once imagined she meant something like this. He was no longer a wolf pup like I was. He was a fully grown adult male. How was this possible? As my human brother he was still only ten years old.
"What are you doing here?" I could barely recognize that voice as belonging to Ame. Had I just not heard it in a week and was now beginning to forget it? The thought itself frightened me. I convinced myself it was just the rasp in his voice from the long time he'd spent mute without anyone to speak with.
"Ame, come home," I pleaded. "We miss you, Mom does and so do I."
"I am home."
"You're not!" I cried out, "This isn't home! This can't be home! Home is with me, and with Mom. And with Dad!"
"What do you know about Dad?" he shouted back at me.
I flinched at his voice, but tried not to waiver. "I know he loved us very much, and that he loved Mom with all his heart."
"We never knew him."
"It doesn't matter. Mom always told us everything we needed to know."
"Yes, she did. She told us he was a wolf, that the two of us were wolves. Why are you trying to convince me otherwise?"
"Dad still tried to be human, didn't he? He fell in love with Mom, and they were happy together." A sudden thought came to my mind, and I tried again, "His human side gave him this happiness. His wolf side killed him."
That seemed to shock Ame. His eyes widened towards me. "He died hunting for us in the city."
I nodded. "And so will you die hunting out here in the country? How would Mom feel about that? She's lost Dad to his wolf side, why must she lose us to ours as well?"
"She smiled at me," Ame said. "She said I could go."
At that I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. "Mom always tries to be cheerful and happy for us, doesn't she? She smiles brightly, even when it's hurting her inside." I put my human hand over my chest to emphasize the pain and loss Mom and I have been feeling. "Our family is not whole with you gone, Ame."
"There's nothing for me back there. Go back to Mom, Yuki. I don't want to be a human."
"So just like that," I frowned at him, "You would turn your back on us. Did all our time together mean nothing to you? How can you throw that all away? Please come back, give school another try. I'll introduce you to my friends. You'll meet Souhei, he's really fun. And he knows about us, so you can feel more comfortable when it's just the three of us."
"You told someone our secret?"
"I told someone my secret," I corrected.
He sighed. "You make such grand plans and then announce them as if I would want to have any part." He turned his head away from me. "I'm done here. Goodbye, Yuki."
"Ame, don't you dare run away from me! I won't see you off with a smile like Mom did!"
"Who says I'm running?"
"I do!" I shouted at him. "Because you are, aren't you? You couldn't make any friends at school, you were bored in class. Did you think I didn't go through the same things? I found out the hard way that no girls enjoyed playing with snakes and collecting dead animals. But I was determined and I pulled through! What did you do? Oh, that's right, you stopped coming to school. Being a human was too hard, huh? So let's just run around in the wild like the wolves we are, is this what you thought?"
"That's right. We are wolves. This is where we belong. The human world has no place for us; you will figure that out soon as well."
"You're wrong. You're wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong!" I kept repeating myself. This was something I couldn't accept. It came to be that I truly didn't understand anymore. Why did he not want to come back home and give it another try? I was more than willing to help him adjust.
"Enough, Yuki," he said. It almost sounded as if he was trying to pity me. "You should go home. You can play your human game all you want. I'm at least being true to myself."
"What happens when you're seen? Or your howling is heard? The villagers won't allow for a wild wolf. They'll fear for their animals and livestock. They will hunt for you. The old man has a rifle."
I tried to scare him into coming back. He rebutted it with a scoff. "You couldn't find me. Neither will anyone else."
"Ame," my eyes blurred again, and I could no longer deny that it was because I was crying. "If you are really a wolf, then you can answer me this one question, can't you?"
"And what is that?"
This was it. It was my last attempt to convince him. If this question didn't pierce right through his heart, then my brother was fully lost and I would never again get him back. "If you are indeed a wolf, then where is your pack?"
I could tell that question had the intended effect. His body froze and his fur stood on end. His yellow eyes widened towards me. I had hit deeply. "The wolf in the exhibit was alone," he said after a moment of silence. "He didn't need a pack. I don't either."
I've heard about the wolf from Moscow. I had never gone to visit him, but both Mom and Ame had mentioned him in passing more than once. And so I knew how to proceed. "Was that wolf happy, being without a pack? Without a family?"
"He was caged. I am not. I am happy."
"So you are happy being without me, and without Mom. How can you stand there and say that, knowing Mom almost died looking for you?" my voice turned somber, "I didn't know you hated us so much."
This time there was no reply to my accusation. Ame swiftly turned away and ran off, quickly disappearing in the foliage. Even had I been a wolf at the time, I probably still wouldn't have been able to follow him. My tears returned and I tried to find my way back home. In the distance I could hear Ame howling. There was no happiness or joy in those sounds as he claimed. I could only hear a desperate longing and sadness. Ame might not have found joy as a human like I did, but I could tell he was ignoring the depression that surely continued to follow him even as a wolf.
I wiped the last of my tears away as I arrived back home. I turned back to face the woods and mountains. My words barely escaped in a whisper, "Goodbye, Ame."
Having noticed I was running late from school, Mom had gone out to look for me. I could only imagine the fear and worry she had experienced once she found my dress and schoolbag lying abandoned on the path towards the bus stop. Without a doubt the first thing she would have thought was that I had left her behind just like Ame.
When I appeared back home, dressed like a newborn, she ran up to me, tears in her eyes and clasped her arms around me. I don't think I've ever been hugged so tightly before. My own arms circled around her as well. My eyes stung, and I briefly wondered if I would begin crying all over again.
"I went to find Ame," I told her after having apologized for probably the twelfth time. "I tried to convince him to come back home."
But Mom could only shake her head while once again offering me that sad, haunting smile of hers. "Ame is where he wants to be. We can only support his decision."
I never knew how Mom had at one point been on her knees, begging Ame not to leave. If she had failed then, what kind of success could I possibly have expected? It had been a futile attempt from the very start.
The ominous way Ame asked that I stay home with mom still lingers on my mind. Often I wonder what would have happened had I stayed. And then my thoughts crumble and my heart shatters and I realize that nothing would have changed. It is at those times that I truly wish I had known exactly how long Ame had been planning to leave. Maybe then I could imagine having done something for him when my actions still mattered.
In a strange way, Ame's last words to me were no longer the request he made. Now Ame's parting words with me ended up being rather poetic. "I am happy," he had said.
Yet despite those seemingly strong words, I knew that they were simple lies. He had said that in an attempt to convince himself more than to convince me. It's from this that I realize secrets could indeed be different from lies, and I'll continue to keep this secret from Mom: that Ame is simply lost at this time. She can believe that he is happy, because how else could she possibly continue to smile if she knew that Ame was even more alone without us than we were without him? For now, I'll remain hopeful that he will truly find himself one day and then will decide to finally come back home.
As it was, the weeks and months passed by without notice, and soon came the day that I was graduating from elementary school. I had thought, maybe, that Ame would have come back for that. But he certainly didn't even know what day of the week it was, let alone the date of my graduation. It was a useless thought. I don't know how much longer Mom can hide the fact that Ame is no longer with us. Whenever he is brought up by guests, or teachers, or friends, the only answer we can ever give is that Ame is out playing in the woods. The questions are becoming more numerous, and the tone when they are given is slowly being filled with more and more concern.
There's also the excess worry now that rumors are appearing of wolf sightings, just as I had feared, and many villagers are expressing concerns that Ame should not be wandering off alone beyond the settlements. It's further reminding us that our secret can't be held forever.
When the topic of middle school came along, I simply told my mother I wouldn't go. I wanted to be with her, so she wouldn't be alone.
"I'll never be alone," Mom patted me gently on the head. "I'll have all the memories we shared together to keep me company."
She said all this with that same sad smile, and I didn't know how else to react other than to accept. And so in the April of my thirteenth year, I moved away from home with a heavy grief in my heart.
"Yuki! Here!" Souhei presented me with a ripped off button from his school uniform. Three years had passed since my family had split apart. Souhei's mother had remarried, and had given birth to a new baby boy. Poor Souhei had then been cast aside by his mother and shipped off to the same campus school I attended; there was much empathy shared between us. We were now graduating from middle school, and according to tradition boys were required to provide their second buttons from the top to the girl of their liking in order to properly show their affections.
Souhei's expression was almost comical. He was red in embarrassment, and yet he was almost fuming that I hadn't yet accepted his button. "Well, take it!" he said whilst I just stood there staring at his hand.
I spent my school days happy and carefree. Well, to say, most of them were happy and carefree. The ones that weren't usually started right before the breaks when the campus closed down and I went back home to visit Mom. Visiting Mom should have been wonderful, but instead I was always reminded of Ame, and always disheartened that he had not yet returned to us.
My first break from school I had the unrealistic expectation that upon returning Ame would be back home, happily enjoying his days with Mom. In my idealistic dreams he would have returned to school and would have found the same happiness that I did from living as a human. It was a major disappointment time and time again whenever I arrived home and found that my expectations had failed to realize.
This time I was coming back home again, with only the slightest change. Souhei's mother had left the village, and had moved back to the city with her new family. So in the interim between middle school ending and high school beginning, Souhei will spend the month-long break with me and my mom.
And so we waited on the school grounds, which was a good three hours away from the village going one-way, for my mom to come pick us up. Souhei had taken this time to give me his button, which wasn't entirely unexpected. The second button from the top was the one closest to the heart. It was a metaphorical way of offering me his love. Shaking the sadness away, I reached for his palm to accept the item in question, and then stepped up on my toes to give him a peck on the cheek in thanks.
His blush deepened considerably, and I suppose he was thankful to be saved from further embarrassment when my mother arrived. We loaded our bags quickly after our greetings and settled in for the long drive back.
Mom seemed refreshed and exhilarated. Her smile was no longer quite that sad and haunting like the one she wore that day so long ago when she first picked the two of us up at the elementary school.
Souhei and I spent the ride back home telling Mom about our studies and our friends and our school. I told her how Shino had gotten a boyfriend at the beginning of the year, and how Bunko and I had been so very much jealous, much to Souhei's amusement. But then I announced, loudly and brashly, how Souhei had given me his button and now I had a boyfriend, too, to level out the playing field. My mother let out a soft laugh while Souhei sunk down into his seat and pretended not to have heard anything.
When we finally pulled up to our old home, the first thing we did was step out to stretch our legs. Soon Souhei and I both had a suitcase in each arm and a backpack slung over our shoulders. My mother grabbed the single leftover schoolbag. It was quite the exhausting ride, and I was glad that it was finally over.
My mother nudged me to go on ahead first. I shrugged and nodded. "Let's go, Sou-chan. I'll show you to your new room."
The front door lay open before me, and we both stepped in after removing our footwear. I turned to the picture of my dad and breathlessly announced my return, "Tadaima, Otousan."
I didn't expect a response. So just imagine my surprise when that unexpected yet familiar voice called out to me with those few delicate words that I had never thought I'd get the chance to hear again. "Nee-chan! Okaeri!"
- "Tadaima, Otousan" means "Dad, I'm home."
- "Nee-chan! Okaeri!" means "(Elder) Sister, welcome home."
- "Yuki" and "Ame" mean "Snow" and "Rain" respectively, hence the double meaning of the title.
- Button traditions in middle school and high school are just as described in this story.
- Both middle school and high school only last three years in Japan; grades 7-9 for middle school and 10-12 for high school.
So I watched Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki today. It was such an emotional movie that it left me still thinking about it long after it had ended. It left me a bit depressed, that Ame had just left like that. I saw Hana begging, pleading with him to stay behind, and that he could just up and leave like that was less than unsettling. I wondered what Yuki would have thought about it, especially after her mother nearly died trying to prevent her brother from running away. Considering Hana didn't come pick her up, and Ame had given this ominous request that she stay home that very day when he planned to run away, I figured her thoughts on the matter were jarringly absent. The entire scenario felt unfinished and unsatisfying to me. It was almost as if the movie had ended mid-way before the falling action could result in a climax that fixed and solved everything. I honestly felt empty and unfulfilled without it, and not to mention that churning feeling in my stomach when Ame took Hana into the woods to show her the old fox he spent all of his time with. I just knew things would go south from there.
I found myself needing an outlet to give me the ending that I wanted and craved from this movie. And so barely two hours after watching it, I sat down and began writing this. It was such an emotionally filled drama that I couldn't see it as anything other than a family falling apart, and I can't even begin to explain how depressing watching that was. Hana's husband dies, her son runs away, and her daughter moves off to a boarding school. The cheerful and happy/cute moments of the children as kids with their mom only served to cause me further distress with how everything ended so poorly later on. Though Yuki claims her mother is happy at the end, she's always smiling, and while sure, I can believe she's happy, I most certainly believe if things had gone a bit differently that she could have very well been happier.
Thank you for reading.