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Lilly Epilogue (Good End): Family Matters

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  1. The paper lanterns that dotted the path all reminded me of the lamps that dotted the walkways at Yamaku. That same amount of light that held just enough illumination to see the sidewalk, but just dim enough to remind those that passed under them that it was, in fact, night time. Only in this case, the various children running around, being yelled at by their parents to be careful, helped to remind me that this wasn’t Yamaku.
  2.  
  3. The Tanabata festival was a welcome sight after a year of heavy studying. Although the two of us made a promise that we’d be able to go to it this year, I still saw our attendance as a reward for staying with each other for this long, through thick and thin.
  4.  
  5. “Something the matter, Hisao? You’ve gone quiet all of a sudden,” Lilly spoke up from my side, snapping me out of my thoughts. I’ve gotten so accustomed to her holding onto my arm to guide her I sometimes forget she is there.
  6.  
  7. “No, just lost in thought.” I replied. It seemed like only yesterday that we made a promise to attend this year’s festival in my hospital room, after my self-induced heart attack.
  8.  
  9. “It sounds like there are a lot of people here.” Lilly’s senses once again were on the mark. From the young toddlers trying to scoop up goldfish, to the elderly couple sitting on the bench, people from all ages and all walks of life seemed to be taking park in this year’s festival.
  10.  
  11. I couldn’t help but take a moment to look to my blind girlfriend. The light blue yukata wrapped around her beautiful figure matches her eyes perfectly, while the floral pattern has the same color as that of her blonde hair. The first time I saw her in it, I couldn’t keep myself from blushing. It was that amazing of a sight. To think that after a whole year I’d finally be here with the woman I fell in love with. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world to be with such an amazing person.
  12.  
  13. My gaze then shifted towards Hanako, who walked on the opposite side of her. The striking pink yukata definitely shows off her own curves, and the purple floral print matches the color of her own hair. They must have decided to wear matching designs on purpose. Although Hanako herself was making great strides in overcoming her anxieties, she still walked close to us for security. There is a healthy amount of people, after all, and though the yukata hides her scars well, people could still glance at her face, something that noticeably kept her a bit on edge.
  14.  
  15. “Is there anything you two wanted to do?” It was my turn to break the silence this time. “There’s some food stalls around us if you’re hungry, or we could try to find a game to play.”
  16.  
  17. “I’m fine with just walking around.” Lilly replied to my query. “Hanako, was there anything you wanted to do?”
  18.  
  19. Hanako bashfully looks to the both of us, shaking her head softly. “I-I’m fine with walking. Unless Hisao is feeling tired already?”
  20.  
  21. “That’s right, what about you Hisao? We don’t want you to push yourself too much just for us.”
  22.  
  23. They’re obviously speaking of my heart condition. Although I’ve been taking steps to help improve my health, it’s still something to take into account for even something as simple as a walk across the festival grounds.
  24.  
  25. “Nah, I’m okay for now. Running with Emi has been helping me out a lot, so the chances of me suddenly keeling over are pretty low right now.
  26.  
  27. Although my attempt at some light black humor seems to have put Lilly off, both girls still look glad to hear of my improvements. After the nurse at Yamaku caught wind of my episode at the airport that fateful evening (which he gave me a stern lecture about), he stressed that I take measures to improve my condition. As much as I tried to avoid it, what with my studies and all, Emi was more than obliged to drag me out to the track field for morning runs, even if she had to pull me out of bed with a pickup truck.
  28.  
  29. “Do you want to make Lilly cry when you’re stuck in the hospital again?” That one sentence from her was all it took for me to remember the look on Lilly’s face when she came into my hospital room and threw herself onto me, tears in her eyes and sobs in her throat. I didn’t want to make her go through that again, not now, not ever. So, I bit the bullet and went through with the routine. So far it’s gone for the better. While I still have the occasional flutter if I overexert myself too much, I’ve been able to push myself a bit more in my everyday activities.
  30.  
  31. “Very well then. Could you describe the stalls that we pass by in that case?” This had become our usual routine. Whenever we went to a new location, I served as Lilly’s eyes, describing everything in as much detail as I could. Occasionally we’d get the awkward glance from a passerby trying to understand what was going on, but I didn’t pay them any mind as I noted each of the different stalls we passed. Hanako also seemed to be growing more at ease the further we traveled, which put me at ease as well, and I’m certain Lilly felt the same way. We all really have come a long way since we met each other. It’s really surprising.
  32.  
  33. “Hey, you with the pretty ladies. You look like you got a good arm.”
  34.  
  35. A shout from a stall to my sudden left catches me off guard while I was describing a fortune teller booth on the opposite side. Turning towards the source of the voice leads my gaze to an older man with a colored bandana wrapped around his bald head. At the same time, I could sense Hanako huddling behind us, possibly surprised that someone called her pretty more than anything else.
  36.  
  37. “Want to take a shot? Just throw a ball and knock down the bottles. Easiest thing in the world. Do that and you win a prize. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?”
  38.  
  39. “What do you guys think?” I look over to my compatriots as I ask this. Lilly probably wouldn’t want to take part, for obvious reasons, but Hanako looks genuinely curious.
  40.  
  41. “I... I-I guess I could try it...” she quietly stammers. Lilly and I smile at her decision. She really is cute when she’s earnest about something.
  42.  
  43. “I’ll just wait off to the side. I don’t think my aim is good enough for this sort of game,” Lilly jokes. I noticed that she’s taken up a bit more humorous side to her lack of eyesight as of late. Not that I mind. It makes approaching it a lot less of an awkward conversation. Hanako even seems to enjoy the little quip she made.
  44.  
  45. While the two of us took up our ammunition, Lilly stood off to the side of the booth, using the counter as support. I don’t think the man running the stand has caught on to her blindness yet, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to care either way, as long as he gets a customer. I let Hanako take the first throw, and she nervously lets it fly, grazing the bottle on the bottom left. Her next two throws share the same results, and her face contorts into a cute little pout.
  46.  
  47. I take my turn next, breathing carefully to make sure my heart doesn’t get any ideas about going off on me. Unfortunately, my attempts don’t fare any better than Hanako’s, and I’m left with a taste of bitter defeat, which Lilly could apparently sense even from her position.
  48.  
  49. To my surprise, and that of Lilly’s as well, Hanako opts to take another shot at it. This time, she looks incredibly determined to achieve success, focusing on the bottle stack through the hair that covered half of her face. I can’t help but think that she’s treating this like she does our chess matches, where she carefully plans out exactly what she’s going to do before making a move.
  50.  
  51. Her intense focusing pays off, and the first ball she throws hits the bottle pyramid right where the middle and bottom tiers connect, splaying the stack across the area. The sound of the metal items falling to the ground results in an uproarious round of applause from myself and Lilly. For that one moment, Hanako seems to have forgotten all about her inhibitions, a wide smile plastered across her face. The bald man running the stand also congratulates her, handing her a moderately sized doll dressed in traditional Japanese garb as her prize.
  52.  
  53. “Sorry I couldn’t win you anything, Lilly,” I said to her after we bid the man farewell. “Guess my throwing arm is a bit out of practice.”
  54.  
  55. “It’s quite all right, Hisao. I didn’t fall in love with you because of your athleticism.”
  56.  
  57. “Ouch. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or to be offended,” I say jokingly. Lilly has another light chuckle at my expense before placing a light kiss of my cheek.
  58.  
  59. “I do appreciate the effort, though. At least Hanako managed to win something.” Lilly was referring to the doll that our friend was clutching onto. “It sounds like a beautiful doll too.”
  60.  
  61. “Yeah, nice work there, Hanako. I didn’t know you had such a good arm.”
  62.  
  63. Hanako had her gaze down towards the ground, but I could still notice the genuine smile on her face, as well as a tinge of red in her cheeks. She’s still not used to being complimented so much, but at least she’s not freaking out about it.
  64.  
  65. The rest of the evening was simple enough. Food was had, nothing too special, but since we never really had dinner before we left, it seemed like a good idea to get something in our stomachs. After some more wandering we decided to find a spot to watch the fireworks display that was going to be starting up. Hanako really wanted to catch it, and I was starting to feel a bit worn out from the walking, so it ended up being a good idea in the end.
  66.  
  67. It was fortunate that the park was nearby where the festival was being held at. We were able to simply walk over there to get a better view of the fireworks, and not have to worry about the crowds at the same time. At that point, it was simply a matter of finding a park bench that could seat all three of us for everything to be set.
  68.  
  69. Taking my seat, I take a deep breath and made sure to check my heart rate. Everything seems to be normal. It’s surprising, really, considering that last year I couldn’t even make a simple walk into town without nearly suffering from another attack. Of course, the fact that I forgot to take my medication then was an obvious factor, but even taking that into consideration, if I hadn’t taken up my new exercise routine, I probably would have made us stop a lot more often just to catch my breath.
  70.  
  71. “How are you feeling Hisao?” Lilly spoke up after a moment.
  72.  
  73. “Pretty good, actually. I think pretty soon I should be able to run a whole marathon,” I say jokingly.
  74.  
  75. “Well, I’ll be sure to inform Akira of your plans. I’m sure she can work out a sponsorship for you with the connections she has.”
  76.  
  77. Hanako giggles at our little back and forth banter, still clutching to her doll. Though in the back of my mind, I hope that she isn’t thinking that I’m serious about the whole thing. As it is right now, I can barely run a mile before running completely out of breath. Then again, if Emi heard us talking right now, she really could take me seriously. She’s just that dedicated to running, I suppose.
  78.  
  79. A loud pop ended up getting our attention, as we looked upward to the source. The sky was lit up in various hues of blue, red, green, and more, lighting up the night sky in their brilliance. The various patterns that form from each explosion dance across the horizon, as if they had lives of their own, before they fizzled out. A beautiful sight. One that I was able to share with the people that mattered most to me.
  80.  
  81. “It all sounds wonderful,” Lilly said, raising her voice a bit so as to be heard over the pops and booms as I was describing them to her.
  82.  
  83. “It definitely is,” I respond, wrapping my arm around her shoulder and bringing her closer to me. “Do you ever feel... I don’t know... saddened by the fact that you can’t... well...” As much as I’ve gotten better with sidestepping the issue of her blindness, it’s still one that I can’t help but ponder every once in a while. It truly does seem sad that she can’t fully enjoy certain experiences the way Hanako and myself can.
  84.  
  85. “I don’t mind,” she casually responds, leaning her head to rest it against me. “Sight or no sight, simply being here with you is all that I need to be happy.”
  86.  
  87. As corny as that line sounded, I could feel a smile grow on my face at her words. She was right, though. As long as we’re here, in this moment, nothing else matters. After everything we’ve been through, this feels like the climax of our relationship. Fate tried to tear us apart, but in the end, we were able to persevere through it all.
  88.  
  89. I use my free arm to gently direct my lover’s face towards my own, placing a soft kiss on her lips. We then turn our sights back to the display before us, as the performance continued on.
  90.  
  91.  
  92. ---
  93.  
  94.  
  95. The alarm clock cutting into my ears is normally set for weekdays when I get up to meet with Emi for runs. As far as weekends are concerned, however, they are the reminder that I actually have to get out of bed and get a paycheck. My fist has slammed down on that thing so hard so many times, especially after tiring days like yesterday when I just want a chance to sleep in, I’m surprised it’s still working. I’m going to have to recommend that brand to Kenji next time I see him.
  96.  
  97. As I lazily pull myself out of bed, I realize that something is holding my arm down. Of course, it’s Lilly. The events of yesterday must have done her in as well, as not even my repeated attempt to destroy the clock managed to rouse her from her slumber. The only problem is that she has a deathgrip on my arm. I end up very carefully sliding myself away from her grasp, taking extra care not to wake her up. She really is beautiful, especially when she’s sleeping. I could just sit there and watch her the entire morning and not get bored. Unfortunately, I have an appointment to keep with the shower and a cup of coffee.
  98.  
  99. After we graduated from Yamaku, Lilly and I felt we needed our own place if we were going to attend university, especially the one we were planning on going to. With Akira working in Scotland, Lilly had no one to stay with, and I doubt my parents would be fine with letting my girlfriend crash at their place (especially since it’d mean we’d have to work on curbing her “healthy adolescent sex drive”). Hanako needed a place to stay as well. We couldn’t just leave her to fend for herself, considering that she has no family to watch over her, and if she were to go back to social services, she could end up getting sent to a horrible foster home.
  100.  
  101. After a bit of searching, we were able to find a decent place. Nothing too fancy. Two bedroom, two bath, decent amount of room. It’s not much, but for a place to crash at, it serves its purpose. It’s also close enough to our university that we’d only have to take a bus straight down the road.
  102.  
  103. The problem we then had to figure out was how to pay for the damn thing. Akira offered to pay the rent for us, as long as we were all attending university. However, things like utilities, food, and other necessities had to come out of our own wallets, hence why I’m up at this hour letting the hot water from the shower smack me in the face.
  104.  
  105. I’m not the only one with a line of work, though, which is a great load off my shoulders. Hanako was able to find some work at the local library, which allows her to get at whatever books she wants. For the most part, no one really seems to bring up her scarring, and her tasks normally keep her out of sight of others, so it’s a good place for her to be at. Lilly has a part time job at a café down the road. At first, the owner was weary about hiring a blind girl to serve customers, but after she showed him her dexterity with her hands and ability to quickly memorize her way around the tables, he hired her on the spot.
  106.  
  107. I myself have a job working at a noodle restaurant a couple blocks over. It’s nothing too fancy, and the pay is mediocre, but the guy that runs it knows my parents, so it wasn’t too hard to get a position. The only problem I have is that they also serve alcohol, which means the occasional patron ends up having one too many. At that point, it becomes a process of getting him out before he does something stupid.
  108.  
  109. After drying myself off and putting on a fresh dress shirt and slacks, I walk out into the living room. At that time, I notice that Hanako is already up as well. She’s sitting on the couch in front of the small TV we have, playing one of her video games. I can’t say I really had that much of an interest in the medium myself. Only times I really played them were back before my heart condition first showed up. My friends and I would go to this one arcade once in a while. I wasn’t really terrible at the games they had, but compared to them, I considered myself pretty mediocre. Hanako seems to enjoy them, though, so we got her a used console for cheap, and a couple of titles of her choosing. She says she enjoys RPGs, because of the stories they each have. I guess it wouldn’t be that much different from reading a book, or in some cases, watching a movie.
  110.  
  111. “Morning, Hanako,” I respond to her in a warm greeting. “You’re up early.”
  112.  
  113. “Oh! G-good morning Hisao,” she nervously replies, almost as if I caught her doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing.
  114.  
  115. “Which game are you playing? Is that the new one we got?” I try to make casual conversation with her while I put some toast on and get my regular cavalcade of pills ready to be digested. Even with all my running and such, these things still serve as a daily reminder that I could fall over dead at any time unless I make sure they’re in my stomach.
  116.  
  117. “Y-yes. It’s about this man who is immortal, and he’s trying to find out why he is that way.”
  118.  
  119. “Immortal? Doesn’t that make battles a lot easier, since you can’t really die?”
  120.  
  121. “That’s not true! He still gets knocked out in battle, but he automatically comes back after a couple turns. B-but if everyone else is out as well, it counts as a game over.”
  122.  
  123. “Huh. I guess that’s all right then.”
  124.  
  125. Too be honest, I don’t really follow too much on the games she plays, and I don’t really try to ask her too much about them, out of concern that I may just end up asking something stupid. So, I let the conversation fall at that moment, instead watching the game in action. To be honest, being immortal sounds a bit overrated. Sure, you can live forever, but that also means you can’t keep any close relationships, since you end up outliving everyone. Then again, if I was immortal, maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about my heart going out on me at random times. Or maybe it’d just make my condition all the worse, since I’d have to live with it for eternity.
  126.  
  127. The sound of the toaster finishing snaps me out of my thoughts. I set myself to munching on my meal, then popping in my pills, chasing the lot with some coffee. I check the clock on my phone to make sure I’m still good on time. My boss is fairly lenient on how early or late I should arrive, but I still make it a point to show up at a reasonable time. One of these days, I’m going to buy a damn car. At least then I might be able to get an extra half an hour of sleep.
  128.  
  129. “Were you gonna be home for dinner?” I chime in once more towards Hanako. “I was thinking about making some curry tonight. Nothing terribly complicated.”
  130.  
  131. “I-I should be. The library isn’t open today, so I don’t have to work.”
  132.  
  133. “Sounds good. Lilly should be off work by dinner time as well. Then after that we can watch that new show that’s supposed to air tonight.”
  134.  
  135. “Okay!” Hanako responds, giving an enthusiastic nod and a smile. I offer a smile of my own before finishing off my coffee, and she goes back to playing her game.
  136.  
  137. Before I go back to the bedroom to see if Lilly is up yet, I become greeted by the sight of her sleepily staggering out of the hallway. Her hair is a mess, but with those familiar dark pajamas, she still looks positively radiant.
  138.  
  139. “Hey there, Sleeping Beauty,” I playfully greet her.
  140.  
  141. “Oh, are you still here, Hisao?” she responds, wiping the sleep from her foggy eyes.
  142.  
  143. “Just getting ready to head out the door. I was planning on making curry tonight. That okay with you?”
  144.  
  145. “That sounds wonderful, though the last time you cooked, you nearly burned your chest off.”
  146.  
  147. “Hey, that was a fluke! I can handle that dastardly stove this time.”
  148.  
  149. “All right then, if you insist. Have a good time at work.” She leans forward with her chin out, the symbol to let me know what she wants. Responding in kind, I lightly place a kiss on her lips. However, she suddenly wraps her arms around my neck, trapping me inside a long embrace that I practically have to force my way out of.
  150.  
  151. “Hey, now. I’m going to be late,” I say, trying to gently break her grip on me.
  152.  
  153. “Oh, but I’m going to miss you so much,” Lilly says, giving her trademark pouty face. I swear that look gets me every time, though as much as I would love to skip out, the bills aren’t going to pay themselves.
  154.  
  155. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back before long,” I say before leaning in close to her ear, whispering so that Hanako doesn’t catch word. “We’ll catch up later tonight.”
  156.  
  157. “I’m looking forward to it,” she whispers back, a lustful grin appearing on her face. I swear, I think her sexual antics are rubbing off on me.
  158.  
  159. I give her another light kiss before grabbing my other things, and give a hug to Hanako, who strongly returns the gesture. After that, I walk out the door, and into the morning sunlight.
  160.  
  161. As I walk down the cement path to the street, I can’t help but think that I have things pretty good right now. Sure, my heart is shot, but I have a place with the girl I love and a close friend, I’ll be starting university soon, I have a source of income. Considering that just one year ago I probably felt like the most pathetic sap on the planet, things are definitely looking up. Everything just feels right with the world.
  162.  
  163.  
  164. ---
  165.  
  166. “Yo, Nakai! Order up!”
  167.  
  168. The shout of Boss giving me my cue interrupts my focus on washing the bowls that have been stacked on a small pile next to the sink. I make sure to dry my hands thoroughly before carefully grabbing an order of two noodle bowls and carrying them to a couple at the table near the window. After completing the given task, I go right back to what I was doing before, carefully but quickly scrubbing each bowl thoroughly.
  169.  
  170. The restaurant that I work at can be described best as a hole-in-the-wall kind of place. It’s fairly small, and located in a spot where you could miss it easily if you weren’t actually looking for it. That being said, it has gained a bit of a reputation for having some pretty good food. Because of this, coupled with the fact that it’s located near a high school, it’s a fairly popular hang out spot for students, many of whom tend to just stand outside and chat.
  171.  
  172. The man I call Boss is the one who runs the place. He’s a tall, fairly well built man, probably a figure he built up rolling noodles and lifting boxes all day long. He and my dad used to hang out with each other back in high school, so it was fairly easy to convince him to let me work for him. Boss inherited the restaurant from his parents, and he hopes to have his son inherit it from him in the future. As for why I call him Boss, it was something he apparently tries to get all of his workers to do. Never really explained why. Probably so that he can feel important. Despite that and his gruff demeanor, he’s actually not that bad of a guy.
  173.  
  174. After I finish the last of the dishes, I look out over the restaurant. Other than the couple I served earlier and a couple people at the counter, the place is largely empty. Lately it’s been fairly slow, even during our normally hectic peak hours. Possibly because it’s summer, and less people are inclined to the idea of eating a hot bowl of noodles on an equally hot day. Fortunately there are still the occasional lunch and dinner rushes, which help to make what would end up being very dull and boring days a bit more interesting.
  175.  
  176. “So, Nakai, how’s things been treating you so far?” Boss spoke up to me after he cleaned up some of his cooking tools. “Your little girlfriend treating you right?”
  177.  
  178. “Yeah, we’re doing pretty well right now. Went to Tanabata last night with our friend. It was pretty fun.”
  179.  
  180. “Good to hear. You kids need to enjoy your youth while you still have it. I try to tell my son the same thing, but he seems to prefer keeping to himself. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that either. Means I’m less likely to worry about him getting into trouble.”
  181.  
  182. “Is he still trying to get into art?”
  183.  
  184. “Yeah, he still does that. He tells me he wants to be an artist for one of those cartoons he talks about. Wants to create a children’s show. I keep telling him that I want him to take over the family business, but he seems to have his own plans in mind.”
  185.  
  186. “Are you going to let him go through with it?”
  187.  
  188. “If it makes him happy, why the hell should I stop him? I didn’t have a choice when my dad gave me this shop. Pretty much just placed a spatula in my hand said ‘It’s yours now.’ As much as I don’t mind having a steady job, I’d rather not repeat what he did with my kid. A man has to be able to choose his own path.”
  189.  
  190. He holds his little speech to greet an older man in a business suit that just walked through the door, telling him to take a seat anywhere.
  191.  
  192. “And besides,” Boss continued, looking back to me with a grin. “If that whole animation thing doesn’t work out for him, he can always come back here anyway.”
  193.  
  194. I give Boss a smile before going out to take the man’s order. Thinking back on his words, I can’t help but be reminded of how my life has gone up to this point. When I had my first heart attack, I didn’t really have a choice about what I did. It was pretty much decided for me that I’d go to Yamaku. I can’t help but wonder how my life would have gone if I had refused. Would I have been forced to go anyway? Would I have the life I have now, with the woman I love and plans to go to university? It’s a lot to think about.
  195.  
  196. After I relayed the man’s order to Boss, I feel my phone going off in my pocket. The ring tone tells me that it’s from Lilly. What is she doing calling me for at this time? It’s highly unlikely to be an emergency.
  197.  
  198. “Hey, Boss, my girlfriend is calling me. Is it all right if I take this outside real fast?”
  199.  
  200. “Hah, go ahead. I can handle this. Just don’t spend too much time chatting, you hear?”
  201.  
  202. I give him my thanks and quickly make it out the back door, answering my phone just before it went to voicemail.
  203.  
  204. “Hey Lilly. What’s up?”
  205.  
  206. “Hello Hisao...” Lilly’s voice seemed distant. Maybe something really did happen?
  207.  
  208. “Everything okay?”
  209.  
  210. “Yes, everything’s fine. I just wanted to let you know that Akira called just now.”
  211.  
  212. “Oh really? How’s she doing?”
  213.  
  214. “She’s fine. She’s actually going to be coming into Japan this weekend to visit.”
  215.  
  216. “You don’t sound too enthused. Is there a problem?”
  217.  
  218. “No. I’m glad to be able to see her again. It’s just that...”
  219.  
  220. The sudden pause on the other line gets me concerned. She wouldn’t be calling me like this if it wasn’t something I really needed to know, and it couldn’t wait until later this evening.
  221.  
  222. “... My parents are going to be coming in with her. Their flight is due to come in late Friday evening.”
  223.  
  224. Oh fuck.
  225.  
  226. “I know you’re working right now, but I just... I felt like you should know sooner rather than later.”
  227.  
  228. That explains the melancholic tone she’s carrying. It was just last year that Lilly pretty much threw their invitation to go back to Scotland in their face in order to be with me. Well, she probably doesn’t think that’s what she did, considering I almost died trying to reach her, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. And now they’re going to be coming back to Japan to visit.
  229.  
  230. This.... could be bad.
  231.  
  232. “Yeah, thanks for letting me know,” I respond, trying to keep my voice as upbeat as possible to mask my worrying. “I need to get back to work, but we can talk about this more tonight. Is that okay?”
  233.  
  234. “Yes, that would fine. I love you, Hisao.” Even her farewell sounds depressing. It’s like she’s learned that she only has a week to live, which may very well be the case for at least one of us.
  235.  
  236. “I love you too, Lilly. Take care.”
  237.  
  238. I hang up and head back into the restaurant with a heavy load on my mind. Lilly’s parents are going to be visiting, and they’ll likely want to see the person that took their daughter from them. Suddenly, my entire world feels like it’s been turned upside down.
  239.  
  240.  
  241. ---
  242.  
  243.  
  244. The week seemed to drag on, counting down the hours until judgment day. Both Lilly and I have been on edge the whole time. What are they going to say about us being together? About sharing an apartment? What if they find out that we’ve, well, done it?
  245.  
  246. We decided on the game plan for the weekend. Akira and her parents will be coming over the day after they arrive. They’ll be staying in a hotel for the weekend, and Akira will be getting a rental car to drive them over to our residence. Lilly and Hanako will cook dinner for us all, whilst I entertain them to the best of my abilities and attempt to show them that we’re able to take care of ourselves. We were thinking a western dish, to make her parents feel comfortable. While Akira and her father shouldn’t have any issues with a traditional Japanese meal, her mother apparently has different tastes, so we decided to try to find something that everyone could enjoy. A couple drinks and maybe watching a sports game and everything should be peachy.
  247.  
  248. At least, that’s what we’re hoping.
  249.  
  250.  
  251. ---
  252.  
  253.  
  254. At long last, the day of the meet up arrived. Lilly has been pacing around the entire apartment like a man possessed. Considering her normally calm and composed nature, this was actually a scary sight, and served to remind me how important this is. If they disagree with what we’ve done, they may very well try to take Lilly back by force.
  255.  
  256. “Let’s see, we have chicken, fish, salad mix, rice, um... tea... coffee... oh god am I missing anything?”
  257.  
  258. “L-lilly, are you okay? You’re not usually like this.” Even Hanako is concerned. While we did inform her of what was going on, I’m not sure she even knows the urgency of the situation at hand.
  259.  
  260. “Yes, yes, perfectly fine. Is my hair straight? Do I look presentable? The rooms are all clean, right?”
  261.  
  262. “Lilly!” I shout to snap her out of whatever trance she’s in, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Calm down. You look great. It’ll be fine, I’m sure of it.” As much as I’d like to think that, the truth is that I’m also saying it to keep myself from similarly freaking out. My words seem to have reached her, though, and she takes several deep breaths before placing her hands on my face.
  263.  
  264. “Thank you, Hisao. You’re right. I’m just... I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
  265.  
  266. “I’m sure everything will work out in the end,” I calmly try to reassure her. “We’ll show them that we’re happy here, and if they have a problem with it, well, we’ll tell them to go screw themselves.”
  267.  
  268. “Hisao!” Lilly objects. While that comment did earn me a slap on the arm, it seems to have at least calmed her down a bit.
  269.  
  270. “Joking, joking! But I’m sure it’ll be fine, regardless.”
  271.  
  272. That last bit of reassurance seems to have worked, as Lilly dons her familiar smile and prim and proper demeanor. That is, until the doorbell resounded through the place, causing her to jump in fright. The moment of truth has arrived at last.
  273.  
  274. We all carefully compose ourselves, and let Lilly do the honor of getting the door. Though in this case, it can be seen like waiting for the execution.
  275.  
  276. “Hey guys! Glad to see you all again.” Akira’s smiling face pops into view first, causing the rest of us to feel more at ease.
  277.  
  278. “Akira! So good to see you again!” Lilly’s response to seeing her sister is definitely genuine. Though after she comes in, two more figures follow, quickly causing her expression to change into a more serious and composed complexion.
  279.  
  280. The first to enter is a tall, blonde amazon of a woman. Very attractive for her age, and well endowed to boot. Although her hair is a darker shade, she is the spitting image of her daughter, even sharing her blue eyes. She is wearing a light blue tanktop, likely to combat the summer heat, and tan khaki pants, with a stylish pair of golden sandals. She apparently isn’t too concerned if people see her as a tourist, considering her foreign appearance.
  281.  
  282. The second person to enter is a short, slightly chubby man, about the same height as Hanako. He wore a serious expression that sent a chill down my spine, and his jet black hair was done up in a way that made me wonder if it was even real. The sports jacket he had wrapped around his stocky build and dress slacks revealed the fact that he was definitely a rich man, as he looked around the room with a displeasing look.
  283.  
  284. “Mother! Father! It’s so good to see you as well.” Lilly took the moment to greet them both in a polite manner.
  285.  
  286. “Aye, my little baby girl! It’s been so long!” Lilly’s mother proclaimed, walking over to give her an emotional hug. “How have ya been, dearie?”
  287.  
  288. “I’ve been well, thank you. I assume the trip was enjoyable?”
  289.  
  290. “Bah, was terrible. I don’t think I can ever get used ta those long flights.”
  291.  
  292. Although she’s obviously adept at speaking Japanese, I can still detect her Scottish accent in her voice. It makes it a bit hard to follow her, but nothing too serious.
  293.  
  294. The excitable mood shifted drastically when Lilly looked over to her father, who continued to scour the apartment. It’s probably a good thing she couldn’t see his sour expression, lest she freak out once again.
  295.  
  296. “Father...” Lilly started nervously. “It’s good to see you also. How are you feeling?”
  297.  
  298. “Miserable.” That single word was all it took to completely suck the energy out of the room. He then directed his gaze to me, causing me to freeze up like a deer in the headlights. “So, is this the man that single-handedly stole my daughter from me?”
  299.  
  300. That didn’t take long.
  301.  
  302. “Yes, Father,” Lilly confirmed my identity. “This is my boyfriend, Hisao. He’s the one I came back to see after the incident at the airport.”
  303.  
  304. “Pleasure to meet you, sir,” I politely bow to him, hoping the gesture at least gets him to soften up some.
  305.  
  306. “Don’t call me ‘sir.’ If you need to refer to me as anything, just call me Mr. Satou.”
  307.  
  308. This guy really is serious. Perhaps too serious.
  309.  
  310. “Oh! You are such an adorable lad!” Mrs. Satou chimed in, rushing over and trapping me in a hug. “When Lilly mentioned that ye were in the hospital, I was worried for the worst. I’m so glad ta see ya pulled through.”
  311.  
  312. I take solace in the fact that at least her mother didn’t share the serious nature her husband did, giving a nervous smile as she pinches my cheek. I reassure her that I was healthy, or, at least, as healthy as my body would allow.
  313.  
  314. “And this is Hanako,” Lilly spoke up, directing their attention to the nervous girl on the other side of the room. “She’s our good friend, and is living with us as well.”
  315.  
  316. “H-hi... n-nice to meet you both,” she nervously stammers, dropping her head down in a bow so quick I thought she was going to give herself whiplash.
  317.  
  318. “OH MY LORD! You are so adorable!” Lilly’s mom exclaimed, releasing me from her grasp to put Hanako in the same maneuver. “Lilly told us about ye when she was visiting last year! You’re even more beautiful in person!”
  319.  
  320. Hanako was near panicking when Mrs. Satou grabbed her, but on hearing her words, she seems to lighten up a bit. Although her current situation can’t be the most comfortable for her.
  321.  
  322. “I like what you guys did with the place,” Akira spoke at last. “Funny how this is the first time I’m seeing it, despite paying the rent.”
  323.  
  324. “We really do appreciate you helping us on that, Akira,” I say to her, quietly working to free Hanako from her captor.
  325.  
  326. “Ah, it’s the least I can do. Oh, by the way, got a little house warming gift for you.” Akira makes mention of the rather hefty looking brown paper bag she has on her arm. She ends up passing it on to Hanako, who makes a brief inspection of its contents, looking back up at her with a look of surprise.
  327.  
  328. “W-wine?”
  329.  
  330. “Yep. All the way from Scotland. You wouldn’t believe how much of a pain in the ass it was to sneak that through customs.”
  331.  
  332. Good ol’ Akira. Still giving alcohol to those who aren’t even legally allowed to consume the stuff.
  333.  
  334. “Akira, you didn’t have to get us anything,” Lilly spoke. “We already owe you as it is.”
  335.  
  336. “Nah, it’s nothing. If anything, thank Mom. She picked out the brand.”
  337.  
  338. On everyone giving a surprised glance towards Mrs. Satou, she jokingly raises a finger to her lips, loudly shushing her. Apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We all enjoy a good laugh as her cover was blown.
  339.  
  340. My attention is then diverted by Mr. Satou making his way to Hanako, who had gone into the kitchen to place the wine bag on the counter. Upon seeing him, Hanako immediately straightens up, habitually covering the side of her face with the scars with her hand.
  341.  
  342. “U-um... h-hello, Mr. Satou.”
  343.  
  344. A pause filled the space between the two. Mr. Satou studied her closely, though I couldn’t tell if he noticed her scarring or not. Surely he knew of her from Lilly, right?
  345.  
  346. “You’re that girl with the burns all over her, right?”
  347.  
  348. The rest of the room looked over after the words left his mouth. Akira’s hand hit her face full force, while Lilly has a look of shock. And I thought I lacked tact...
  349.  
  350. “What’s your story anyway? You catch the oven on fire or something? And why are you so timid? You need to be more upfront. You’re never going to meet a good man if you’re acting like a scared rabbit all the time.”
  351.  
  352. Hanako didn’t say anything. She couldn’t even move. Her face was one of fear, confusion, disgust, and probably five other emotions that I can’t figure out. This man, who just blatantly insulted her, is probably close to completely undoing all the progress she has made over the past year with just a few words.
  353.  
  354. Fearing the worst, I quickly run over to Hanako’s side and pull her away, trying to redirect the conversation.
  355.  
  356. “Lilly! Uh, why don’t you go ahead and get the stuff for dinner set up?”
  357.  
  358. “Uh, right. Mother, would you care to help me get diner started?”
  359.  
  360. “Of course, dearie!” Mrs. Satou replied excitedly, either being oblivious of what’s going on, or simply not wanting to cause any more problems. “What did ya have planned for tonight?”
  361.  
  362. While they busied themselves, Akira joins me in bringing Hanako to her bedroom before she had a panic attack. Closing the door behind us, Akira looked like she was going to go ballistic.
  363.  
  364. “I can’t believe that asshole!” she said, noticeably trying her best to keep from screaming at the top of her lungs. “Are you okay Hanako?”
  365.  
  366. I bring the distraught girl over to her bed, setting her down gently. She is speechless, tears welling up in her eyes as she covered her scarred half of her face with one of her hands. Mr. Satou’s words really did leave a number on her.
  367.  
  368. “Is he always like that?” I ask Akira.
  369.  
  370. “For as long as I can remember. Guy has no consideration for other people’s feelings. I even told him to tread lightly with her, and he still screwed that up. I knew this was a bad idea.”
  371.  
  372. “What are we gonna do?”
  373.  
  374. “We’ll just have to see if Hanako can get by. I think for now we managed to stop him from doing anything completely stupid. Anyway, you better get back out there. I’ll stay with her for a bit.”
  375.  
  376. I give a slight nod before turning back to Hanako, kneeling down in an attempt to make eye contact with her.
  377.  
  378. “Hey, you going to be okay?”
  379.  
  380. She gives a slow nod, accompanied by a couple light sobs. Poor girl is really in bad shape, but I believe she’ll recover. I leave the two as I quickly make my way back to the living room.
  381.  
  382. Lilly and Mrs. Satou are working in the kitchen, with Lilly apparently chopping something up, while Mr. Satou is nowhere to be seen. I cautiously stride up to Lilly’s side, lightly placing a hand on her shoulder, to prevent startling her. “Hanako is back in her room. Akira is with her. Where’s your dad?”
  383.  
  384. “Father is in the bathroom. Mother, could you place the wine glasses on the table for me? They’re in the cabinet on the far left.”
  385.  
  386. Mrs. Satou quietly complies, taking out a couple glasses at a time and moving them to their appropriate positions. Lilly, on the other hand, keeps looking straight forward, slicing the vegetables on the cutting board with the precision of an expert chef. Now that I look at it, she seems to be concentrating even harder than normal to perform a task that she does regularly.
  387.  
  388. “You okay?” I quietly ask her.
  389.  
  390. “I’m fine,” Lilly replied, halting her actions for a moment to place a free hand on mine. “Thank you for taking care of Hanako. I’m truly sorry for my father. I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said. He just has a hard time communicating with others...”
  391.  
  392. Unlike Akira, Lilly seems to be more than willing to let her dad’s transgressions blow over. I guess that’s just how she is.
  393.  
  394. “Well, too late to try and change things now. I’m sure everything will be fine the rest of the evening.”
  395.  
  396. The sound of the bathroom door opening causes her to go right back to the vegetables. Giving her a light kiss on her cheek to try and calm her down, I go out to meet him.
  397.  
  398. “Where did Akira and that burn girl run off too?” he rudely asks.
  399.  
  400. “Her name is Hanako,” I remind him, trying desperately to keep myself from punching him in his smug face. “She’s showing Akira her room.”
  401.  
  402. “Ah, I see,” he replies back, slowly making his way over to the small couch in the living room and plopping himself on it. “Well then, let’s have a man-to-man talk. If my daughter is going to be seeing some middle class bumpkin, then I should at least get to know him a bit more.”
  403.  
  404. As much as I dislike being referred to as a “middle class bumpkin,” I can’t really refuse his offer. And maybe I can figure out why he acts like such a jackass at the same time. I formulate a theory that if he sees that I’m not that bad of a guy, then hopefully he’ll back off a bit and we can enjoy the rest of the evening without any further problems.
  405.  
  406. “So, tell me about this... heart condition you have. What’s it called again?”
  407.  
  408. Well this is a hell of a nice start...
  409.  
  410. “Father, he’s not really comfortable talking about it,” Lilly chimes in from the kitchen. Sometimes I forget how good her hearing is, on account of her lack of eye sight.
  411.  
  412. “Pish posh! I have diabetes, and I’m not afraid to make it known. In fact, I just did right now! There’s no reason he shouldn’t be open about whatever is wrong with him.”
  413.  
  414. “Father, please-“
  415.  
  416. “It’s all right Lilly. I can handle this,” I interrupt her, more out of concern that this could devolve into something unpleasant. I look back to Mr. Satou and take a deep breath. “It’s called arrhythmia. Basically, my heart is weaker than normal, and I have troubles doing some things.”
  417.  
  418. “Well I imagine it can’t be that bad. You look like a perfectly healthy young man to me.” He leans in closer to me and lowers his voice. “You better not be making this up to try to take advantage of Lilly’s kindness.”
  419.  
  420. “I take 17 pills a day, and I nearly died just last year because of it.”
  421.  
  422. “Well what the hell did you do to cause that? You try to fight a bouncer in some club or something?”
  423.  
  424. This is actually the first time I’ve ever met someone that has tried to make fun of my condition. I silently hope that the look on my face is showing my offense to his questioning.
  425.  
  426. “He caused it by coming after me that night at the airport,” Lilly intervenes once more, coming over and placing her hands on my shoulders. “He put himself at risk just so that he could see me one more time. I feared he really had done himself in after that, so I stayed behind.”
  427.  
  428. I can feel my frustrations slip away by her words, looking up at her with a smile. Mr. Satou still doesn’t seem to be convinced, though, giving a snort at our display, dropping the subject altogether. Lilly and Hisao – 1. Mr. Satou – 0
  429.  
  430. About an hour passed, and things so far have gone without a hitch. Akira and Hanako were able to rejoin us eventually, and Mr. Satou seems to have largely given up after being defeated, so we end up watching a sitcom on the TV. Akira, Hanako, and I ended up filling some of the void with our own opinions on the show, with Mrs. Satou and Lilly occasionally chiming in to add their input.
  431.  
  432. About another half an hour later, food was finally ready to be served. Our meager dining table could only seat four people, though, so myself and Hanako relegated ourselves to eating on the couch. Tonight’s menu included a light salad with slices of grilled chicken added in, followed by a full serving of fish, potatoes, and rice.
  433.  
  434. During the course of dinner, conversation picked up once more, this time with Mrs. Satou getting the ball rolling.
  435.  
  436. “So, Hiaso, Lilly tells me ya be studying ta be a scientist. Is that right?”
  437.  
  438. “Yeah,” I reply back after swallowing a spoonful of potatoes. “Haven’t really decided what area to focus on though. Was thinking maybe chemistry, or something like that.”
  439.  
  440. “Well I think that’s a great profession ta be working towards. Lord knows the current scientists in tha world are too busy foolin’ around ta make anything useful. If they weren’t, we’d probably have a cure for cancer by now.”
  441.  
  442. She then turns her attention to Hanako, who was slowly picking at her own food, the effects of earlier still lingering most likely. “And what about yeself, Hanako? Did ya have any plans on what ye be studying?”
  443.  
  444. Hanako nervously stiffens up, then looks to me, as if pleading for me to help her out. I give her a friendly nod, and she takes it as a sign to go for it.
  445.  
  446. “I... I hadn’t really decided yet. I helped out on the school p-paper at Yamaku, so, I think I may try Journalism.”
  447.  
  448. “Yamaku?” Mr. Satou finally spoke up, his mouth filled with food. “That’s the cripple school you all went to, right?”
  449.  
  450. “It’s not a ‘cripple school,’ Dad,” Akira responds, venom filling her words. “It’s a school where those with various disabilities can get an education at. They accept students without disabilities as well.”
  451.  
  452. “But the majority of students there are crippled, right? Then that makes it a cripple school. Simple as that.”
  453.  
  454. “Dad, you’re not-“
  455.  
  456. “Mother, can you pour me another glass of wine?” Lilly thankfully intervenes, although in a peculiar manner.
  457.  
  458. “Of course, dearie. Don’t drink too much, now. Don’t want ye to be stumbling around tha place.”
  459.  
  460. “I’ll be fine. Thank you, Mother.”
  461.  
  462. I can’t help but be concerned about Lilly’s drinking. Sure, she’s built up a bit more of a tolerance towards alcohol, but that’s still her second glass already. The stress of the situation must really be getting to her. Either way, the conversation is dropped, and we all quietly go back to eating our food, though it isn’t long before Mr. Satou decides to open his mouth once more.
  463.  
  464. “You know, Lilly, I could have gotten you into a very fine university in Scotland. I have numerous connections to school districts. They have great teaching programs there, and it’s a great place to expand on your English speaking skills. I could have even hired a caretaker to cover for your blindness.”
  465.  
  466. “I appreciate the thought, Father, but I’ve already decided on a university,” Lilly replies stoically in between sips of wine. It seems to be boosting her confidence in dealing with him. “And my blindness is not a concern to me. As you can see, I’ve been able to adjust quite well to it.”
  467.  
  468. “But you’re obviously struggling as it is to make ends meet, even with Akira paying your rent. I don’t want you to have to worry yourself about financial matters while you get your education.”
  469.  
  470. “Probably should have thought of that before you abandoned us all those years ago,” Akira mutters from her own wine glass. Though, it wasn’t really that much of a mutter, as she clearly made sure that her father would hear it.
  471.  
  472. “Now you see here, young lady,” Mr. Satou points his fork at his daughter. “My job requires me to be wherever the most action is at. I can’t take care of important matters when I’m on the other side of the planet. I didn’t have a choice at the time.”
  473.  
  474. “Your father is right, Akira,” spoke Mrs. Satou. “He really does care about you all, but his priorities are his business. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get ya into those private schools.”
  475.  
  476. “So you’re justifying him leaving us to fend for ourselves just so he could rake in cash more effectively?”
  477.  
  478. “Akira, we already discussed this at length.”
  479.  
  480. “No, honey, let me handle this,” Mr. Satou spoke up once more. Hanako and I share awkward glances, both of us knowing that this isn’t going to end well. Lilly, meanwhile, is already on her third glass of wine.
  481.  
  482. “Look, Akira. I didn’t bust my ass all these years to get where I am just because I wanted to say I had money. I wanted to provide you both with a bright future. I even helped get you the job you currently have, because I care about you that much. Are you telling me that you’d rather have me forfeit all of that?”
  483.  
  484. “I’m saying we both would have appreciated having our parents be around to help us when we needed them, instead of running away to another country. That is more important than any amount of money.”
  485.  
  486. “And I’m trying to tell you that my business didn’t allow that decision to be made. That was not an easy one to come to!”
  487.  
  488. “This food is really great Lilly,” I make a feeble attempt to quell the argument. “The fish is really juicy, and the-“
  489.  
  490. “Don’t you dare interrupt me, boy!” Mr. Satou turns and yells at me. I immediately clam up.
  491.  
  492. “Don’t yell at Hisao, Dad! He didn’t do anything wrong,” Akira bites right back.
  493.  
  494. “He has no right butting into our affairs, just like he had no right to butt in when he took Lilly from your mother and I after I personally invited the two of you back home!”
  495.  
  496. “That was Lilly’s choice to make!”
  497.  
  498. “What? To be with a weak shell of a man who could fall over dead at any given moment and a girl with half of her body fried instead of a life without worries or unnecessary obligations!? How is that for life security!?”
  499.  
  500. “That’s not your call to make!”
  501.  
  502. “Like hell it isn’t! I don’t want my own flesh and blood to be stuck with someone who can’t even run a short distance without falling over gasping for air, and that’s coming from a man who has diabetes, damnit!”
  503.  
  504. A loud slam cut off all discussion in the room, causing the wine glasses to fall over and spill their contents across the table, and gathering everyone’s focus to its unexpected source. Lilly.
  505.  
  506. “Father... I don’t care if you dislike the decision I made that day. I don’t care if you think I can have a better life in Scotland. I don’t even care if you disagree with the man I chose to be with...”
  507.  
  508. She is visibly shaking now, her hands balled up into fists. This is the first time I’ve ever seen her upset like this. It’s actually scary. Hanako is even cowering in fear. It’s like she’s a completely different person.
  509.  
  510. “But... I will not stand idly by while you badmouth those that I hold dear. I love Hisao and Hanako. Especially Hisao. I wouldn’t be the way I am today if it weren’t for him...”
  511.  
  512. Mr. Satou merely scoffs at her newfound determination. “So you would prefer to live with two cripples instead of with your own family?”
  513.  
  514. “If you insist on calling them cripples, then that means you consider me one as well. Is that what you’re saying?”
  515.  
  516. “Don’t you dare try to put words in my mouth, young lady! I thought I raised you better than that?”
  517.  
  518. “YOU HARDLY RAISED ME AT ALL, YOU BASTARD!!”
  519.  
  520. If it weren’t for the fact that the entire room was carpeted, you could hear a pin drop from the silence the outburst caused.
  521.  
  522. “Get.... out....” she said next pointing towards the front door, her entire arm shaking. “Just.... get out.....”
  523.  
  524. Mr. Satou said nothing, taking up his napkin to wipe himself off and tossing it onto the plate before him.
  525.  
  526. “Thank you for dinner.”
  527.  
  528. He quickly makes his exit, slamming the door behind him. Lilly finally collapses back into her chair, almost breaking into tears. No one else tries to say anything for a while, not out of concern, but rather the fact that no one even knows what to say after what had transpired.
  529.  
  530.  
  531. ---
  532.  
  533.  
  534. Two hours passed. The fallout from what occurred has largely passed over, with Akira and Mrs. Satou helping to clean up the mess caused by Lilly’s uproar. Lilly herself sat on the couch, not moving, not saying a word. If her sight allowed her to, she would probably just be staring at the floor. Even Hanako’s attempts to get her to say something were to no avail.
  535.  
  536. “Lilly, Akira,” Mrs. Satou finally breaks the long silence. “Don’t hate your father for what he did. He’s only trying to look out for the two of ye.”
  537.  
  538. “To be honest, it all had to come out at some point,” Akira conceded, placing the wine stained towel in the sink. “Probably better now than later.”
  539.  
  540. “Still, he made the decision he did back then because he thought it would be the best for ye. Ya have to admit, ya both have this grand life because of it, right? Especially Lilly. She has a wonderful home, with wonderful friends, and a great future ahead of her.”
  541.  
  542. “You left us to fend for ourselves,” Akira snaps. “You think that was easy for us to deal with?”
  543.  
  544. Silence creeps in once more. It’s starting to become like an unwanted guest at this point.
  545.  
  546. Lilly didn’t respond to any part of that exchange, remaining in her near catatonic state. Meanwhile, I’m at a loss for what to say that could possibly make things better. I’ve never seen her in such a state before. It’d unnerving, and I fear that this entire ordeal has changed her for the worst.
  547.  
  548. “Hisao,” Hanako quietly calls for me. “C-could you take the trash out?”
  549.  
  550. “Yeah, sure,” I comply. I look over to Lilly once more, but that blonde head of hers continues to blankly stare at the floor. I just feel so useless right now. Maybe getting some night air would help give me clear my head.
  551.  
  552. The trash bag itself isn’t that heavy, but it still requires me to carry it with both hands out the door because of the awkward shape of the items in it. Guess we had too much takeout this week. Coming down the stairs leading to our apartment, though, I cross paths with the one person I didn’t want to see right now.
  553.  
  554. Mr. Satou was standing off to the side, smoking a cigarette and staring at nothing in particular. The light from the lamps above him is absorbed into his black hair, and his emotionless composure makes him even more intimidating than when he was yelling at the top of his lungs.
  555.  
  556. “Boy,” he calls out to me. I really didn’t care for being called that.
  557.  
  558. “Yes, Mr. Satou?”
  559.  
  560. “Lilly obviously cares a lot about you,” he quietly begins. “I suppose I did lose this one.”
  561.  
  562. I couldn’t help but feel confused by what he was saying.
  563.  
  564. “I came on this trip because, in the back of my mind, I secretly hoped that she was miserable. I hoped that the place would be a mess, Lilly herself would be a wreck, you would be just some deadbeat she picked up, along with a bunch of other things. But seeing all this, and how happy she is... I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to accept that she chose you over me.”
  565.  
  566. He paused for a brief moment to take a drag from his cigarette, dropping the rest of it on the ground and stomping it out.
  567.  
  568. “When we first realized that Lilly was blind, her mother was hysterical. We thought that’d be the end of things. That because our child wasn’t considered normal, that everything had to change. To our surprise, she ended up being stronger than either of us. She didn’t let her lack of sight hinder anything, whether it was her coursework, or even walking down to the store. She didn’t want to be seen as different just because of her limitations, despite everyone trying to cater to her because of it. I guess she inherited her mother’s stubbornness.”
  569.  
  570. He pulled a fancy looking cigarette holder out of his coat pocket, along with a small, equally fancy looking lighter, carefully lighting another stick, and placing the holder back in its home. He took another huff, blowing out a small bit of smoke through his nose.
  571.  
  572. “This whole science thing you were talking about earlier. This isn’t just some excuse to find a way to cure Lilly’s blindness, is it? Be honest.”
  573.  
  574. “Not really. I hadn’t even thought of it, to be honest.”
  575.  
  576. “Good,” Mr. Satou quietly replies to my answer. “Lilly probably wouldn’t want that anyway. As much as I’m sure she’d love to be able to see your face, she’s become too accustomed to her life as it is. She would likely decline any options to remove her disabilities. Again, her mother’s stubbornness.”
  577.  
  578. “Why are you telling me all of this?”
  579.  
  580. He takes another long huff, apparently thinking hard about my question. “Because if you really are going to be spending the rest of your life with my daughter, you at least deserve to know some of the history behind her upbringing.”
  581.  
  582. “I don’t follow...”
  583.  
  584. “Look, Hisao.” That was the first time the entire evening that he referred to me by name. “Lilly is a strong, independent woman. I know that sounds cliché, but its true. Akira and her mother know this, which is probably why they have an easier time letting her go than I do. I just want what’s best for her.”
  585.  
  586. “If I may say so, that’s largely for her to decide,” I say at last.
  587.  
  588. “Heh, so it is. And she seems to have chosen well.”
  589.  
  590. Our conversation is interrupted by the sound of the door opening and the sight of Lilly slowly sticking her head out. “Hisao? Are you out here?”
  591.  
  592. “Yeah, I’m here. And-“
  593.  
  594. I look over to Mr. Satou, who has his finger vertically on his lips. I think I get what he’s trying to tell me.
  595.  
  596. “I just got distracted by a stray cat. I’m taking the trash over now. I’ll be back inside in a sec.”
  597.  
  598. “Okay,” Lilly calls back. “Um, if you see my father, tell him he can come in if he wants.”
  599.  
  600. “Okay, I’ll let him know.”
  601.  
  602. She slowly goes back inside, closing the door behind her. I look back over to Mr. Satou, who has a sly grin on his face.
  603.  
  604. “As much as it might sound offensive for me to say this, her being blind does have its advantages.”
  605.  
  606. “Are you not going to come in?”
  607.  
  608. “Nah. Not yet at least. I need to compose my thoughts a bit longer. You better do what you came out to do though, lest they think you dropped dead somewhere.”
  609.  
  610. A subtle attempt at a bit of humor at my expense, but, for some reason, I’m not really offended by it this time. Perhaps it’s the tone in which he said it in. Not his gruff, rude manner, but sincere, and a bit playful at the same time. Regardless, I go ahead and throw the trash bag in the nearby dumpster, and make my way back inside.
  611.  
  612. Upon doing so, I’m greeted by Lilly, who makes a dash to me, feeling my body to confirm my position before wrapping her arms around me. It’s sudden, but I can’t help but smile and return the gesture.
  613.  
  614. “You okay now?”
  615.  
  616. Lilly gives a small nod in reply. “I’m so sorry for the way I acted.”
  617.  
  618. “Don’t be. You were only doing what you felt was right.”
  619.  
  620. I lead her back over to the couch and set her down gently before taking a seat next to her.
  621.  
  622. “Hisao,” Mrs. Satou called out from the other side of the room. “Please don’t think ill of my husband for what he said.”
  623.  
  624. I shake my head in response to her request. “I don’t. I’m sure he has his reasons.” This at least seems to put her at ease.
  625.  
  626. Mr. Satou never did come back inside the rest of the evening. Whether it was because he thought it was better that way, or because he couldn’t figure out how to confront his family after what happened, I can’t say. Mrs. Satou and Akira end up leaving the apartment about half an hour later, after inviting Lilly and Hanako to go shopping with them tomorrow for souvenirs, which the two accepted.
  627.  
  628. The rest of the evening is eerily quiet, and activity is at a minimum. We all end up going to bed early, if only to gets our minds off this mess of a day.
  629.  
  630.  
  631. ---
  632.  
  633.  
  634. The next couple days were thankfully free of any similar drama. Which is good, because I don’t think I could handle seeing Lilly as upset as she was then. It also gave everyone a chance to formulate their thought when Akira and Mr. and Mrs. Satou finally had to leave.
  635.  
  636. Akira had returned the rental car she got already, and so they needed to take a taxi to the airport. Along the way, they decided to swing back by to our apartment one last time before heading out. Mrs. Satou was emotional as always, giving the three of us hugs and kisses. Hanako was still weary about her enthusiasm, but I think she’s gotten a bit accustomed to her antics.
  637.  
  638. The only outlier from this group of smiles was Mr. Satou, who stood by the taxi by himself. After me and Lilly gave our last words to Akira and Mrs. Satou, we both decided to encounter him together.
  639.  
  640. Silence once again filled the void, the thoughts of that night still lingering within all of us.
  641.  
  642. “Lilly,” Mr. Satou spoke first.
  643.  
  644. “Father,” Lilly replied back.
  645.  
  646. I could swear I nearly choking on account of how thick the tension is.
  647.  
  648. “Well, I highly doubt I can convince you to come back with us,” Mr. Satou finally spoke up. “I want you to take good care of yourself, you hear? And if you need any help with finances or whatnot, don’t be afraid to call me up.”
  649.  
  650. “I’ll be fine, Father.”
  651.  
  652. “I... I can understand if you hate for what I’ve said... and what I’ve done,” Mr. Satou is noticeably nervous about saying all this. He must have been practicing it for the past couple days. Lilly seems hesitant to respond at first, but shakes her head solemnly. “If I could do things differently, maybe I would have been around more to watch you grow up.”
  653.  
  654. “I could never hate you, Father. I may disagree with you on a lot of things, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re family.”
  655.  
  656. A smile forms on Mr. Satou’s face, as he places a hand on her shoulder, bringing her in for a hug. The act seems to have caught her off guard, but she returns the gesture in kind. It’s a touching moment, and I find a smile forming on my own face at the sight of the two.
  657.  
  658. “I really do love you, Lilly. You’re my daughter, and nothing can change that.”
  659.  
  660. “...I love you too, Father.”
  661.  
  662. Mr. Satou then breaks off to look my way, and I reflexively straighten myself up, a gesture he laughs at.
  663.  
  664. “Hisao, I want you to take good care of my daughter, you hear? I have connections to people that will hunt you down if you ever do anything to harm her.”
  665.  
  666. His facial expression and boisterous laugh may hint that it was meant to be a joke, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he really does have those kinds of connections.
  667.  
  668. The taxi driver calls out that the meter is still running, signaling the time for final goodbyes. We all do our share of farewells, and the leaving Satous move to enter the cab.
  669.  
  670. “Hey, Dad,” Akira calls out to her father before getting in. “You want to hit up Jigoro’s place before we go real fast?”
  671.  
  672. “Fuck Jigoro,” Mr. Satou replied from inside the cab. “Better if that damn wannabe samurai never knew we were even here.”
  673.  
  674. “Heh, good point,” Akira concedes.
  675.  
  676. After that, the cab drives off toward its destination, with me, Hanako, and Lilly waving after them. Lilly uncharacteristically breathes a sigh of relief after they drive out of sight, catching myself and Hanako off guard.
  677.  
  678. “Lilly? Are you feeling okay?” Hanako poses the same question I was thinking.
  679.  
  680. “I’m fine, Hanako. I suppose I’m just relieved that everything worked out in the end, for better or for worse.”
  681.  
  682. I wrap my arm around Lilly’s shoulders, bringing her close to me. “You did great, there.”
  683.  
  684. “Thank you, Hisao,” Lilly smiles back to me. I place a soft kiss of her lips before turning us to head back to the apartment.
  685.  
  686.  
  687. ---
  688.  
  689.  
  690. That night, I found myself waking up with an empty feeling next to me, as if something was missing. Sure enough, the woman that I share the bed with was no where to be seen. I deduce that she couldn’t have gone very far, and set out to find her.
  691.  
  692. Sure enough, she was sitting out in the living room on the couch, her blonde hair making her stand out in the darkness of the room.
  693.  
  694. “Can’t sleep?” I ask her, approaching from behind the couch. She looks up and turns her head towards me to let me know that she acknowledges my presence, shaking her head lightly.
  695.  
  696. “Sadly. Just a lot on my mind, I guess.”
  697.  
  698. “Want to talk about it?” I change my position to sit down next to her, placing an arm around her shoulders.
  699.  
  700. “It’s just that... what would you have done if I hadn’t come back for you that day?”
  701.  
  702. I think about this for a good moment. “Probably end up feeling miserable. I doubt I could live the same way without you.”
  703.  
  704. “I think I would have ended up being the same way,” Lilly replies back. “I originally accepted Father’s invitation to go home because I thought that I’d be happy there. But, now that I think about it, I would probably have been depressed without you with me. I thought that those feelings would subside with time, but after I heard that you were hospitalized.... I just couldn’t put those them aside that easily.”
  705.  
  706. “Perhaps that was what my father was hoping for. That I would eventually lose what feelings I had for this place and run away with him to live a new life. But, I really am happy here. This is my home. This is my family. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
  707.  
  708. I feel comfort in her words, bringing her in to allow me to place a kiss on her forehead.
  709.  
  710. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, either,” I say to her.
  711.  
  712. It then dawns on me that I’ve been holding on to something for a while now. Something I’ve wanted to get off my chest. Maybe, now that everything has passed, now is the best time to do it?
  713.  
  714. “Wait here, Lilly, I’ll be right back.”
  715.  
  716. I rush back into our bedroom real fast and look through my dresser drawer to find what I needed for this occasion. It should be in here somewhere. Where is that little... Aha!
  717.  
  718. After achieving my goal, I head back out to meet with Lilly, who was still sitting on the couch. I could feel butterflies forming in my stomach from what I wanted to say. I probably should have rehearsed this beforehand instead of doing this spur-of-the-moment approach.
  719.  
  720. “Um, Lilly. You really are the most important person in my life. As I said before, I don’t think I’d be able to live the same way I could without you to support me. You’re smart, beautiful, intelligent, kind. Everyday I’m with you is just that much better than the last...”
  721.  
  722. “Hisao, what brought this up all of a sudden?”
  723.  
  724. I decide to get down on one knee at that moment. Then I realize that she can’t see what I’m doing anyway, so I take hold of one of her hands and guide it to the item I have in my possession. I allow her to feel the contours of the square box, letting her take notice of the fabric that covered it, and allowing her to find the edges where it opens at. Her face changes its expression, and her cheeks take on a noticeable shade of red, even in the dark. As she opens the small box, she moves her fingers carefully to confirm its contents, discovering the small ring embedded inside. She pulls her hands back, covering her mouth in surprise.
  725.  
  726. “Lilly, I love you more than anything else in the entire world. I may not be as rich as your dad, and I can’t promise a life of luxury because of it, nor can I likely afford a fancy ceremony or anything like that. But I will work hard everyday so that I can be greeted with your smiling face when I wake up in the morning. I want to-“
  727.  
  728. “Shut up, Hisao,” Lilly cuts me off during my monologue. Before I can ask why, she pulls me in for a tight embrace, locking her lips onto mine for a long period of time before breaking off and whispering into my ear. “Of course I’ll marry you.”
  729.  
  730. Those words of confirmation were all I needed to hear to make me the happiest man on the planet. After locking in for another kiss, I take the ring and gently place it on her finger. I kind of guessed at her measurements, but I took solace in discovering that it fits her perfectly. We embrace each other once more in a moment of pure passion. Lilly’s tongue manages to find its way to my own, and I can feel her hands reaching up underneath my shirt as we end up falling back onto the couch, with her on top of me.
  731.  
  732. My eyes take in the sight in front me, my newly designated fiancé, as she slowly begins to unbutton her pajama top. I can’t help but smile at the display.
  733.  
  734. “Dirty-minded,” I say to her, watching her toss her top aside. I then take my own shirt off, throwing it in the same direction.
  735.  
  736. “Healthy adolescent sex drive, dear,” she counters with a lustful grin, leaning back in once more to nip at my neck whilst I worked on unfastening her bra. After succeeding in my mission, I let it drop beside the couch and pull her in close, letting the feel of her ample chest make contact with my own.
  737.  
  738. The sound of a door opening at that moment catches us off guard, causing the both of us to panic and take cover behind the couch, covering our mouths with our hands. The next moment had Hanako slowly wandering out of the hallway from her bedroom, rubbing her eyes and yawning uncontrollably. She proceeded to the kitchen, grabbing a glass out of the cabinet and filling it with some water from the faucet. Her movements were like that of a wraith, but are yet perfectly calculated.
  739.  
  740. As she began the trek back to her room, a full glass of water in hands, Lilly and I think that we’re in the clear. That is, until we hear her walk back out for a brief moment.
  741.  
  742. “Could you guys take it back to your room?” she sleepily asks. “I play my games on that.”
  743.  
  744. With that, she exits stage left in the same manner she entered, leaving me and Lilly to stare at each other in disbelief, our faces sharing the same color of red. It wasn’t long before we ended up having to stifle a series of laughs from both of us at the absurdity of the situation.
  745.  
  746. “She does have a point,” I say to my fiancé.
  747.  
  748. “I suppose we could change locations,” Lilly agrees.
  749.  
  750. I stand up, gently taking her in my arms and giving her another kiss before setting out for our own bed. “I love you, Lilly.”
  751.  
  752. “I love you too, Hisao.”
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