18 Days Without

I was in the Southern Shopping district. I looked around wondering how I'd gotten there. Suddenly I saw Yosuke come out of nowhere, he was running toward me with an expression of pure joy and happiness. Just like it had since the first day I met him, my heart started beating faster.

I knew it was hopeless thinking- wishing- that Yosuke might love me back, but I couldn't stop myself from doing it. I loved him, I loved the way he could always make a situation funny- whether he planned to or not. I loved his laugh; I simply loved everything about him, even the darker side of him that no one else had seen. It made him more human.

I snapped out of my thoughts as I felt Yosuke's arms snake around my waist. I was surprised to say the least- not that this was unwelcomed, but Yosuke always said this was for girls. My eyes widened comically as he rested his head on my chest.

"…What are you doing?" I asked him quietly, afraid to wreck the moment.

"Hugging you, what's it look like?" He laughed and looked up at me.

"Well yeah it looks like your hugging me, but why?" I asked.

He didn't answer he just leaned up and our lips touched gently.

Suddenly my alarm went off. My eyes opened slowly and my heart felt like it had been crushed, as I realized it was once again only a dream.

It had only been 18 days since I'd left Inaba and yet my heart ached whenever I thought of my friends, especially Yosuke. I missed them all so much, I'd called them all and almost all of them answered. The one that didn't was the one I wanted to hear from most- my best friend (and crush) Yosuke. When it seemed apparent that he wasn't going to answer or return my phone calls I resorted to asking the others how he was. From what I could tell he wasn't doing well at all, they said they hadn't really seen him, at the end of class he'd 'run' out of the classroom and disappear till it was time for class again. He also hadn't been coming to any of the get-togethers they had at Junes. They also said he was pale, and looked like he hadn't been really eating or sleeping. They were all worried.

I sighed and rolled out of bed trying to put my concerns for Yosuke out of my head. I went and took a shower and got dressed in leisure clothes (today was Sunday) before I went downstairs for some breakfast.

As soon as I entered the kitchen my mom started talking, "Souji are you okay?" She looked concerned.

I tried to lie by saying, "Yeah, why?" but I knew she could see through it. I was a horrible liar.

"You haven't looked good since you came home…" she sighed, "Your school called… they think you might be depressed. " I started to object but she stopped me, "Don't say you're not. All you do is hang around the house unless you're going to school and even then it's like you're a robot. You used to participate in a lot of extracurricular activities. Even when you were in Inaba you were, your uncle told me." I visibly flinched at the name of the town, "You haven't had any friends over, you hardly talk anymore unless you're spoken to. I need to know what's going on with you, I'm worried."

She wasn't lying; the only emotions you could find on her face were worry and concern. I sighed she's right I have been acting like a robot… I think if Yosuke just answered his phone and I could hear his voice- not just some recording of it- I would be in much better shape…

"Souji…?" My mother interrupted my thoughts.

"Hmmmm?" I asked forgetting the question.

"This is what I'm talking about! I asked you a question and you just zoned out." She walked up to me and put her hands on my shoulders, "Please tell me what's wrong."

"I just… never mind." I tried to walk away. I don't want to hurt her by saying 'I want to go back to Inaba to live with Dojima and Nanako because it's so much better there…

"No Souji you are going to tell me what's wrong. I'm your mother and I have a right to know." She said stubbornly.

"I miss my friends is all." I tried to make it sound like I actually would rather be here than there.

"You can always go visit them on your next vacation." She tried to cheer me up.

"It's not the same!" I exploded, "I miss seeing them in the halls at school, I miss hanging out with them after school at Junes! I miss seeing their faces and I miss talking to Yosuke! I can't fall asleep till the early hours of the morning because I'm thinking about them! They plague my every thought, at home, at school, everywhere! I miss Nanako and Dojima! I feel like my whole life has been ripped out from under my feet!" I felt tears falling down my cheeks, I quickly wiped them away and my mother's hands fell from my shoulders. Her face only holding shock.

After a few moments of silence she spoke again, "You could always call this Yosuke if you miss talking to him." She seemed almost scared I would start yelling again.

"I've tried; he's not answering any of my calls and not returning them. I've left him at least 20 messages asking for him to call me back, but he hasn't. And he also isn't speaking to our other friends, he's distancing himself from everybody and it worries me. When I talked to Chie last she said he looked pale and really tired like he hadn't slept in weeks and he's getting skinnier…" The tears were really flowing now.

"Have you tried his home phone?"

"Yes, but his parents are no help. Especially his father, all he thinks Yosuke is good for is helping out at Junes. His Mother is also concerned, but says Yosuke doesn't want to talk to anybody, he just comes home and locks himself in his room till dinner."

My mother sighed, "Well I'm sorry Souji." She seemed lost in thought for a minute so I decided to get some cereal and started eating it. "What I don't understand is why this is affecting you like this, it's almost like you're… Souji, was there a girl back in Inaba who you loved?"

I nearly choked on my cereal, as perceptive as always… well kind of…. After a minute of coughing I said, "…There was… someone..."

"That's why you're acting like this, you're lovesick. So who's the lucky girl? Is it this Chie you talk about every now-and-then?" My mom had a glint of humor in her eyes.

"No, mom, it isn't Chie."

"Yukiko?"

"No"

"Rise? You told me she liked you…"

"No mom." If she keeps going I'm going to have to tell her…

"Naoto?"

"Nope."

"Hmmmm, that girl form drama club… what was her name…?"

"Yumi, and no mom it's not Yumi either, nor is it the creepy woman from the Hospital or Ai Ebihara."

"Then who is the lucky girl? You haven't mentioned anybody else… I think…" she looked at me with curiosity sparking her eyes.

I sighed, here comes, "It's not a girl."

To my mother's credit she didn't freak out, she even hid her surprise quite well. I could only see it because I've been around her almost my entire life. After a few seconds she spoke again with a smile, "Honestly I was wondering if that was the case. You avoided the word girl when you answered my question. And before-when you first came home- when you told me about Yosuke teasing Kanji about how he acted so gay you frowned like you didn't like Yosuke teasing someone about that, and it was different from the frown you normally give when you speak or hear of bulling. It seemed like you took it personally." She smiled at me again.

"So… you're not mad or disgusted…?" I thought most people didn't accept gay people…

"No of course not! You're my baby and I just want you to be happy. If Kanji makes you happy then I'm glad."

"Mom, I don't like Kanji, well I mean I do as a friend, but he isn't the person I'm in love with. Yosuke is, he may not want it or even know he has it but he has my heart." I looked at the floor feeling fresh tears in my eyes from thinking about Yosuke once again.

"Oh, honey, that must be rough." She came over and hugged me. After a minute she pulled away and tried to coax a smile out of me. Once she did she turned away and called over her shoulder, "Well I have a few calls to make but we can talk more later." I looked at her with a questioning gaze as she rounded the corner.

What calls would she need to make at seven in the morning? I shrugged it off- feeling much better just having all of this off my chest- and went back to eating my- now soggy- cereal.

After I cleaned the bowl and put it in the dishwasher, I was about to head up to my room to do something when my mom walked back into the room.

"I've got some good news." She smiled at me.

"What?"

"Dojima and Nanako miss you too." I caught the mischievous glint in her eyes just as it disappeared.

"Yeah I know they do, I call them almost every day."

"Well, it seems they miss you enough for Dojima to graciously decided you can stay with him and Nanako for another year- if you want to." She grinned at me whilst my brain processed what she was saying.

Suddenly it clicked, "You mean… I can go back?" I was cautious not wanting to believe what she was saying.

"Yes, I just arranged it with Dojima. I told him about how depressed you've gotten since you came home and why you were that way –not the Yosuke thing, I think you should tell him that yourself- and he immediately offered to keep watch on you for another year."

I had no words to convey what I was feeling so I simply walked up to her and gave her a bear-hug. Then a thought occurred to me, I pulled back and asked, "What about dad?" He wouldn't keep me here if I didn't want to be here right?

"I talked to him last night about what the school had said and we agreed I would try to help in any way I could today since your father went to work at four this morning. I called him after I talked to Dojima and he said that if it will make you…better… then he's all for it." I hugged her again, wishing my father was home so I could hug him too.

A few minutes later we were sitting on the couch discussing details, I would be arriving in Inaba on the eleventh of April, exactly one year after my first trip there. I would go back to school the next day and I had to follow everything Dojima said just like last time. We'd called Yasogami High and talked to them and they said they would love to have me back and they didn't even care that this was really short notice; I was apparently one of their best students. And my old school was okay with me transferring again.

That night I packed the basics of what I would need trying to calm my excitement, I felt more like myself than I had in a while. I almost called all of the team to tell them I was coming back for another year, but decided against it. I only called Yosuke, I got his voicemail once again (what a surprise NOT!). I left a message saying he had better call me back because I had big news. Then I decided to call his home phone.

It rang three times before someone answered, "Hello?"

I nearly stopped breathing, he answered the phone! I was too shocked to find my voice for a second.

"Hello?" He didn't sound good, he sounded like he hadn't talked in a while…

"Yosuke?" I asked trying to deny what I knew was the truth, that what my friends had said was true.

"Souji?" He sounded hopeful but fearful at the same time.

"Yes! Why haven't you been answering you phone!? I called like five minutes ago."

"I… I haven't been ready to face you, I'm still not ready… but I answered the phone so…" He still sounded fearful, but also sheepish.

I chuckled, "Yosuke I have big news."

"What you enjoying your new life with a new best friend and a girl friend." He sounded bitter. Only one way to fix that…

"Nope, I'm moving back!"

"You- You're coming back!?" Suddenly he sounded like the old Yosuke excited, happy, ext. It was like someone had flipped a switch.

"Yes!" I smiled as I heard Yosuke laugh.

"When are you getting in?"

"The eleventh of April. Exactly one year from my arrival in Inaba. I'm going to start back up at Yasogami the following day."

"Awesome! So who else have you told?"

"Nobody. Only you, I kind of don't want to tell the others, I wanted it to be a surprise."

"Then why not surprise me as well?" He sounded kind of smug like it pleased him that I only wanted to tell him.

"I … no reason." I quickly changed my mind, I almost said because I like you more than the others but I didn't know how he'd take that. The last thing I wanted was to freak him out when he'd just now started talking to me.

"Mmhmm, don't tell me then." I could hear the smile in his voice, "but… um… I'm glad you did tell me…" He sounded embarrassed.

"Why wouldn't I? You're the person I trust the most. Anyways my plan was for someone to bring the whole group down to the train station to pick me up, but no one can know why they are really there…"

"I can handle that. Oh, man it's going to be so much better with you back- I mean I missed you- but not in the girly way…" I could see him scratching his head in embarrassment in my head.

"Why do you sound so flustered?" I asked trying to tease him.

"I was just trying to-" he was cut off as someone in the background said dinner was ready. "I… have to go… call you later?" He sounded hopeful but unsure.

"Yeah of course! Go eat!" We said goodbye and hung up.

I sat in my room for about twenty minutes thinking about our conversation and the effect it had on me. I decided that my previous thought that I'd be better if I could just hear his voice was incorrect, because whilst I was feeling better, when I thought of how far apart we were, I still felt depressed.

A knock at my door broke me from my thoughts, "Dinners ready." My mom said as she cracked open the door.

"Okay, be there in a minute," I got up and went to eat.

Once we had served the food we ate in silence for a few minutes, but my father broke it. "So, your mom thinks you are lovesick." I nodded, "Who is the object of your affection? Your mother wouldn't tell me."

I nearly panicked but then I remembered what my mom had said about them both just wanting me to be happy. I took a deep breath and let it out, "Yosuke."

I expected some kind of response from him, but he didn't even look surprised, "I thought so," I looked at him questioningly I thought I did a good job of hiding it…. "You always talk about him, which by itself isn't too odd, he was your best friend in Inaba, but I've walked past your door in the middle of the night and I've heard you saying his name." He smiled at me warmly.

After that my parents wanted to know why I liked Yosuke and basically everything about him… not that I hadn't told them lots of it before.

After dinner I went back to my room and heard my phone go off. I looked at it and it said I'd missed a call and had a voicemail.

I listened to it and it said, "Hey… it's Yosuke, I just got done with dinner and wanted to talk some more so… call me back… oh! And I'll answer this time." I could hear his smile.

I smiled as I called him back, "Hey, told you I'd answer this time."

I chuckled and said, "Yeah, sorry I didn't catch you the first time, I was eating…"

"No, it's fine, so I didn't get the chance before to ask, but why are you moving back? Not that I don't want you to, I'm just curious…"

How can I word this in a way so I'm still telling at least a half-truth…? "…My…" Got it, "School called my parents with concerns that I might be depressed, my mom talked to me today about it, I… kind of exploded and I explained that I missed you all so much," especially you, Yosuke.

"Really, that got you back here?"

"Yeah that and my concerns for yo-" Did I really just let that slip?"

"What do you mean concerns for me…?"

"I… talked to the others, they said you weren't talking to them, looked paler, thinner, and like you hadn't gotten any sleep…. I… I started worrying. You are th- my best friend and I was afraid that something similar to what I was going through was happening to you too…" That was close, I almost said 'the person I care for most.'

Yosuke was quiet for a while, "I didn't realize it was that noticeable…" He said finally.

"I know what you mean, I thought I was being discreet, but my school thought I was depressed and my mom thought I was turning into a robot…" I sighed.

"Yeah… well I'll try to look better when I see you in two days." I could hear his smile, "But that means I have to go to sleep."

"Goodnight then." I smiled as I heard him yawn.

"Goodnight Souji." And with that he hung up.

I decided it was time for me to go to bed too, so I got dressed in my pajama bottoms and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.