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Emilogue Part Deux

mehkanik Mar 5th, 2012 8,038 Never
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  1. Emilogue Pt. 2
  2. Dining with the Devil
  3.  
  4. A couple days became a couple weeks, then a couple months.
  5.  
  6. I'm pretty sure Emi didn't want to leave, although she always said from time to time that she really should get back to her mother's. “Good, I don't want you here. All you do is freeload. Don't even do chores!” I always told her indignantly with a smile.
  7.  
  8. “Hey! I run a lot, I like relaxing when I'm home.” I didn't mind. It always warmed my heart to hear her call this place home. Plus, it was interesting just seeing her laze around. I always saw her running from one place to another, always upbeat.
  9.  
  10. It was something seeing her doing nothing for once or just taking a nap on the couch. It was like watching a cheetah in their natural environment. For now, she was curled up on my lap, her prosthetic legs leaning against the couch.
  11.  
  12. She sort of reminded me of a puppy. All wag, pep and energy but by the end of the day, all she had the energy left to do was tuck her knees to her chest and fall asleep. Usually on me. I rested my hand on her shoulder, my other resting on the small of her back while she sleepily rubbed her eyes.
  13.  
  14. “Hisao...?” I had been watching television while she slept. For once, I wasn't the one who was always napping. Emi beat me on that one hands down. The little ball of energy needed her pick me up naps.
  15.  
  16. “Yeah?” I looked down to the girl and she promptly kissed me without warning. “You don't say?” Emi beamed at me, folding her hands on her chest as she met my eyes with a nod.
  17.  
  18. “I do say.”
  19.  
  20. “Well, you might have to repeat yourself, because I don't think I understood.” She smirks at me, grabbing hold of my neck and pulling me to her and herself up to me. “Maybe I should give you a speech then, huh?” I nod eagerly. We kiss again, but this time a bit more forcefully.
  21.  
  22. ...And then I realize that her free hand is wandering to under my shirt.
  23.  
  24. “Getting frisky?” She gives a small laugh, smiling abashedly at me.
  25.  
  26. “You know how I get when I wake up from a nap...”
  27.  
  28. “Oh, so you want me to sex all the energy out of you, huh?”
  29.  
  30. “...Mmmmmaybe?”
  31.  
  32. I can't help but to chuckle. I mess up her hair. “Maybe another time. Lots to think about lately, not really in the mood.”
  33.  
  34. Emi sits up, peering at me as if I were a decoder ring and she was solving the codes on the back of a cereal box. “What's bothering you?” My smile folds a little. Very little could cuase me to deny her or myself the opportunity to enjoy each other's company in bed.
  35.  
  36. Well, there was a number of things that were bothering me. One, Aya was constantly talking shit about you whenever she got the chance. She had only stopped recently, because I blew up on her. Two, my classes were getting tougher and I was juggling work to pay for my half of the rent, the additional utilities and food used by two people. Last, and most worrisome, her mother had invited us to dinner with her boyfriend at the end of the week.
  37.  
  38. 'I'm really sorry to drop this on you so suddenly, Hisao, but I know Emi. And she's going to keep running from the problem until I make her look at it.' Meiko told me over the phone call.
  39.  
  40. I wanted to argue with it, but I could tell by her tone that she had finally made up her mind. After a couple months of playing it safe and letting Emi do as she pleased, Ms. Ibaraki was putting her foot down.
  41.  
  42. Now I was just worried about the fallout from calling in the bomb. I wasn't too fond of shrapnel, figuratively or literally.
  43.  
  44. I pulled her forehead into my chest, sighing. “It's nothing more cuddling won't solve.” She was silent. She was usually the one who I had to grapple with about secrets, not the other way around. It was worrying her, it seemed.
  45.  
  46. Worry or not, Emi winds up falling asleep on me after I put on a movie we both decide on to diffuse the situation. Which is what I had hoped for, honestly. I grab a pillow and place it under her head, grabbing my cellphone.
  47.  
  48. The only thing I can think of to put this into perspective, is to call a friend. I'd call Rin and ask her for some insight on this, but... I somehow doubt I'd get much clarification from her. I'd probably end up more confused than anything.
  49.  
  50. So I dial the only other person who I feel could help me out.
  51.  
  52. Calling:
  53. Aya Nasao
  54.  
  55. Only because she'd apologized for how she had acted lately and seemed to be legitimately sincere.
  56.  
  57. Almost immediately after the first dial tone, she picks up. “Hisao?” She asks, almost incredulously. Which is expected, seeing as I've never called her before.
  58.  
  59. “I need a little bit of help with something. Think after school tomorrow, we could chat during a run? Away from the rest of the group. It's kind of private.”
  60.  
  61. She stutters for a moment, not sure how to respond to this. “Su-sure.” She clears her throat. “What about, anyways?” I bite my lip, glancing over my shoulder towards the couch, where Emi is quietly sleeping. I was always most worried when Emi was quiet.
  62.  
  63. “I'd rather not. Not here.”
  64.  
  65. This seems to incur a bit of understanding on her side. “Ohhhh. Gotcha. Tomorrow it is, then.” She can't seem to contain her excitement and it shows in her tone. I sigh. I wish she wasn't so interested in me. She's one of my closer friends and it complicated things. I didn't have too many of those.
  66.  
  67. “Alright. Thanks. Bye.” I close my cellphone and walk over to the dining room table, placing my cellphone on top of it. My nerves were starting to work on me, so I walked into the bathroom, hoping that some hot water could help me settle down.
  68.  
  69. I turn the handle until steam meets my face from the basin. Cupping my hands, I ignore the heat and bring it to my face. It is relaxing. Having dinner with Emi's mother, her boyfriend... this was something Emi had to do, and it was something I was going to have to make her do. Her mom was the only family she had.
  70.  
  71. And therein lies my source of stress. Should I put her in a place she doesn't want to be so that things can improve, or do I want to take the easier path and let it all just go?
  72.  
  73. Even though Emi wasn't going to like me going against her will, she wouldn't want me to take the easy way out. She's always moved me to improve myself, to face adversity so I could grow.
  74.  
  75. I feel it's only right to do the same for her, even if she'll get mad at me for it.
  76.  
  77. I just need to figure out how to do it.
  78.  
  79. That's where I was hoping Aya could come in handy. I'm sure she could give me some insight on how to talk to her about it while causing as little damage as possible. After having soaked my face enough, I dry my face on a hand towel and flick off the light.
  80.  
  81. I go to pick up my phone, but my hand pauses. Didn't I put down my phone the other way? It's facing the opposite direction now. I pick it up, quietly moving over to the couch, where Emi was laying...
  82.  
  83. And she's still laying there, exactly as I left her on the pillow.
  84.  
  85. Pocketing my phone, I guess it was my imagination. Oh well. I look to the clock on the wall and then to the movie. Do I really want to watch it? Not really. Instead, I lift Emi and cradle her as I carry her to our bedroom.
  86.  
  87. I'd rather hold Emi and sleep. I smile somewhat bitterly to myself. She might not want to sleep in the same bed as me, after what I'm going to pull in a couple days.
  88.  
  89. I lay her in bed and climb in besides her. I slide my arm beneath the curve of her neck, pulling her tightly to myself. The other arm goes around her waist and my lips rest on her forehead. I let my eyes fall and my mind empty. For now, I didn't want to worry about anything. I just wanted to enjoy this moment with her, even if she wasn't really here to enjoy it with me.
  90.  
  91. While she sleeps, her hands creep to my chest, grabbing hold of the fabric of my shirt. My lips turn upwards in a smile as she instinctively nestles herself against me and absorbs as much of my warmth as she can.
  92.  
  93. “You mean the world to me, you know.” I whisper into her forehead, gingerly kissing her warm skin.
  94.  
  95. “I know.” Emi whispers. I'm a little surprised, I wasn't expecting her to be awake. Usually when she falls asleep, she stays asleep until she wants to wake up. “I feel the same way.” I smile at her words as we both drift off to sleep, hidden beneath the covers and from the world.
  96.  
  97. =====
  98.  
  99. The next morning, I leave for school and so does Emi. She takes the train, whereas I just jog to school. I change out of my windbreakers and into my uniform when I get to the campus and then head to class. Classes are the same as always. Challenging. Complicated as hell. But satisfying.
  100.  
  101. And afterward, I meet with the track club like usual. Except today, I'm splitting off of the group with Aya. The president of the club gives me a questioning look that says 'What are you doing?'. He and I have mastered the art of communicating with minimal body language. It's a well-guarded secret of mankind, speaking without words. Body language and grunts. Kenji would be proud.
  102.  
  103. I shrug, hands at my sides. 'I need her help, got no other choice'. He sighs, shaking his head. 'Careful, kid'. “I'm always careful.” I say aloud and Aya glances at me after she finishes her stretches. “What?”
  104.  
  105. “Nothing. Talking to myself.” A stupid smirk as the rest of the group goes in one direction and I go in the other with Aya.
  106.  
  107. We jog alongside one another, following a different path alongside the park.
  108.  
  109. “So what's the matter with Emi?” Wanting to jump my bones or not, at least she was fast on the uptake.
  110.  
  111. “Long story as short as possible, Emi's mother invited us to dinner. The mother's boyfriend is going to be there.”
  112.  
  113. “Daddy issues?” I scowl a little but try to repress it.
  114.  
  115. “Her dad's dead. I think that's a whole different kid of 'daddy issue'. I shouldn't even be saying any of this to you, let alone anyone, but I have no idea how to approach this.” Aya grimaces a bit at my words.
  116.  
  117. “So, why don't you just not go to the dinner, if it's going to bother Emi so much?” Yeah, that's the obvious course of action, isn't it? Shame that I'm about as bright as a blackhole when it comes to decision making of all kinds.
  118.  
  119. “Because that's not what's good for her or her mother. Her mother's been alone for a hell of a long time and Emi needs to accept her past and face the future, as hard as it is. And I want to help her with that, like she's helped me. She's always moving forward, but she spends too much time glancing over her shoulder.”
  120.  
  121. “I can't for the life of me figure out a good way to bring this all up to Emi without pissing her off.” I say, my eyes aimed at the ground while we jog.
  122.  
  123. “Well, you definitely shouldn't just toss out why you want her to go. She'll probably just feel insulted, get mad and then cause a fight. No one likes being told they need to get over it.”
  124.  
  125. Right. So how should I say it?
  126.  
  127. “I don't know the little legless wonder too well, but I think it might just be a good idea to try and make her realize that she'll be hurting her mom if she keeps on hating the fact she's dating. She moved into your place to avoid her mom, didn't she?”
  128.  
  129. I nod, keeping the pace brisk.
  130.  
  131. “Yeah. There's been nothing wrong with that in my opinion, except for the fact she doesn't talk to her mom at all.”
  132.  
  133. Aya gives a long 'hmmmm'.
  134.  
  135. “I think it'd be best if you just tell her about the dinner and ask her to do it for her mom. Her mom's her only family left, isn't she? I doubt she wants to lose that, too. It might sting, but I think she'll start moving on and accepting the past and her father having died. You'll just need to be there and guide it along.”
  136.  
  137. “Excuse me?”
  138.  
  139. That voice. I stopped dead in my tracks and raise my eyes. Emi was standing there, arms folded and fury written in excess on her face. Or was it disappointment?
  140.  
  141. “You told her about my father?” My heart was already beating from the run, but I think I just skipped a handful of beats. Oh God- my heart was losing it's rhythm.
  142.  
  143. “No- not entirely.” I clenched my chest. I stole a glance towards Aya and she looked horrified. Did she know what was going on? I felt my chest throb and my vision started narrowing. No, no no. Not now, please.
  144.  
  145. Emi seemed too angry to notice the pain I was suddenly in. The shock she caused me was too sudden, too unexpected. I usually have good control over my heart's beating, but that scare... it was stronger than any physical hit to my chest.
  146.  
  147. “So this is what you were talking about yesterday? What's been bothering you? It's been me? So you go and talk to HER about ME? And my past, that I asked you to never tell ANYONE about?”
  148.  
  149. “Emi- please, calm...” I winced as the throbbing in my chest became stronger.
  150.  
  151. “You crossed the line, Hisao-” It's as if her expression and anger in her voice are the driving forces behind my chest's pain. And the fear of what was to come was just as painful.
  152.  
  153. “EMI, look at him!” Aya shouts and I feel myself falling to my knees. The pain in my chest is getting too strong for me to handle. I'm gasping for breath and the slivers of white-hot pain coursing through my body start drowning out the sounds of the two hanging over me.
  154.  
  155. “Oh God, Hisao... I'm sorry, I- I wasn't- Oh no, this is my fault!” Emi grabs hold of my arms, along with Aya who drags me off of the path and towards the grass. I can barely hear her or Aya, they're both grabbing hold of me and shaking me. I think they're trying to get me to focus. All I can do is grit my teeth and roll my eyes back, trying to stave off the impending heart attack.
  156.  
  157. I could feel arms wrapping around me, holding me. I could just barely hear Emi repeating 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' over and over. Don't apologize, Emi. I wrap an arm around her, gripping her arm tightly. “D-don't... wo-worry.” I manage out as I keep clutching my chest, my hands shaking from the force with which I'm holding on.
  158.  
  159. And honestly, I'm holding on for dear life here. All I can focus on is trying to regulate my heart, trying to stay alive. If the heart attack was bad enough, I could go into cardiac arrest and die.
  160.  
  161. Slowly, the pain starts to fade and I start to loosen my grip on Emi. She doesn't let go of me though. She's sobbing into my shoulder, shuddering apologies into my skin. I'm... so tired. My whole body feels slack and I feel exhausted. My whole body is aching.
  162.  
  163. I lay back in the grass, my eyes focused on the clouds.
  164.  
  165. Hey Rin, if I die, I'll go up to those clouds and I'll go figure out what they taste like for you. I feel damn close to death and the clouds sure do seem to be getting closer to me. I just want to go to sleep, but I'm afraid to. I'm not sure what'll happen if I do.
  166.  
  167. Moving my eyes, I see Aya talking fervently to Emi, who keeps turning towards me, checking on me. I think she's saying something, but I feel like someone's put covered each of my ears. Everything sounds so muffled.
  168.  
  169. After a while, the sensation of sound returns to me. Silence for some time, and then I hear Emi speak. “Hisao, you're the biggest idiot I've ever met. And I'm an even bigger idiot for being so suspicious of you.”
  170.  
  171. I tilt my head. When did they move me under a tree? Well, who knows, but better under a tree than me dying on the sidewalk and in everyone's way.
  172.  
  173. “Huh?”
  174.  
  175. “Aya told me why you were meeting her. I heard you last night on the phone and I got scared. I thought you were getting tired of me or something and wanted to break up-”
  176.  
  177. I reach out with a hand, missing my intended target. Her cheek. “Woops. Hold on, stay still.” Emi gives me a half-hearted smile. “I am still, Hisao.” Oh, right. Well, it looks like she's moving. I finally land my palm gently on her cheek and I draw her closer to me.
  178.  
  179. I plant a shaky kiss on her lips and then bite the lower of the two. “Ow-w-w-wwwww!” She whimpers. After a few moments. I let go and give her a smirk. “That's what you get for thinking that. I wouldn't ever exchange you for anyone. Remember what I said last night? You're my world.”
  180.  
  181. I groan a little, placing a hand on my chest. Every beat it takes hurts, although it's normalized. Aya's calling someone. I can hear that she's been on the phone with the track club president for some time. How long has it been...? It feels like minutes since I just had the attack, but it seems like it was really only seconds.
  182.  
  183. From what I gather, they're on their way in the president's car to bring me to the hospital.
  184.  
  185. “Well... you've been acting different, Hisao. What am I supposed to do?”
  186.  
  187. I grin at her. “Trust me.”
  188.  
  189. She sighs.
  190.  
  191. “Aya told you about the dinner?”
  192.  
  193. Emi nods.
  194.  
  195. “Then you should trust me when I say you should make amends with your mom. She misses you. And you miss her. She's all you have, aside from me.” Emi pouts, puffing out her cheeks as she looks away.
  196.  
  197. “After almost killing you, I don't really think I can say no...”
  198.  
  199. “Next time, just talk to me. I don't like you keeping secrets from me, Hisao.” I nod slowly, closing my eyes. “I'm sorry. For that and almost dying. I didn't mean to.” Emi laughs.
  200.  
  201. “Of course you didn't, you goofball.”
  202.  
  203. It isn't much longer before I'm helped into the president's beaten up sedan and driven to the nearby hospital. Good thing I'm still under my parents' health insurance...
  204.  
  205. =====
  206.  
  207. I get dropped off with Emi at the apartment. I'm already feeling better, and the doctor says he's even surprised that I had that small attack in the first place. 'You've got a damn strong heart and your blood pressure's excellent. Take a day to rest and you should be fine. Keep taking your medicines, too.', he told me.
  208.  
  209. I can understand why I had the attack, though. Emi's known for jumping to conclusions. She's a 0 to 60 kind of girl. And seeing me with a girl she absolutely abhors, in secret, after finding that I had made a secret call to her...
  210.  
  211. She assumed the worst and it meant my life around me was going to become a train wreck very quickly.
  212.  
  213. I guess I was thankful for the attack, as stupid and self-destructive as it sounds. If it wasn't for it, she wouldn't have stopped her assumptions dead in her tracks. When she stopped, Aya managed to explain everything to her while she was busy worrying about my health.
  214.  
  215. Emi hasn't let go of my hand or stopped mentally beating herself up.
  216.  
  217. “It's my fault too, Emi.”
  218.  
  219. “I know.”
  220.  
  221. Ouch. But she gives me those eyes of hers and throws her arms around me. Emi has a look of sadness about her that I can't stand seeing.
  222.  
  223. “It still doesn't change that I didn't think it through before looking at your phone and ambushing you on your run... I hurt you, Hisao.” She legitimately sounds upset about it.
  224.  
  225. “It's alright, Emi.”
  226.  
  227. “I'm still going to punish you for telling her about my dad, though.”
  228.  
  229. I gulped.
  230.  
  231. “What? Why? I nearly died!”
  232.  
  233. Emi chuckles evilly. “You broke a promise, Hisao. You're never supposed to do that.”
  234.  
  235. Her hand tightens around mine and so does her arm around mine. I want to resist, but I know if I do, it'll only make things worse. I did break a promise. The only thing Emi's probably ever asked of me. 'It's something I'm not very comfortable about... and it still hurts me a lot. So please, keep it a secret?'
  236.  
  237. I have to accept whatever I'm getting. If I'm forcing her to be tortured by going to her mom's, then how can I be exempt from breaking a promise?
  238.  
  239. She drags me into the bedroom and sits me on the bed.
  240.  
  241. “Close your eyes, and hold out your hands.” She says, placing her two open palms close to one another, touching. I nod slowly, wondering what she's going to do.
  242.  
  243. I feel cold metal slap against my wrists, a rattling click as whatever they are tighten fast.
  244.  
  245. I open my eyes, more worried than curious.
  246.  
  247. Handcuffs.
  248.  
  249. And a devilish grin that would make Loki think twice.
  250.  
  251. “Uhh... Emi?” I ask as I look to the metal bracelets that are now impeding my ability to move. She grins as she moves towards me, pushing hard against my chest and throwing me to my back.
  252.  
  253. “I really thought I was going to lose you, Hisao. First because of Aya, and then because of me.” She climbs on top of me, pressing her ear to my heart, listening to its rhythmic beating.
  254.  
  255. “I don't want to lose you. I always lose everything. Even my mom, to this new guy. My father to time... I really don't want to lose you, too.”
  256.  
  257. “So is handcuffing me and having your way with me how you say 'I don't want you leave my life'?” Emi pouts, sitting up. She didn't have anything to say to me. I smile wholeheartedly at her. “Maybe you should just say you want to be with me for as long as forever is.”
  258.  
  259. She looks at me harshly for a second. The word 'forever' is a one she's always worried about. Forever is fleeting. Forever can change. Forever is what you make of it. But I don't want her to be afraid of forever. Or afraid of the concept of forever with me, even though the scope of forever might be very short for myself.
  260.  
  261. Then she lets go of a sigh and her expression eases. “Maybe, I do, okay? Let's just... live for now, alright?” I nod and sit up to kiss her while she sits atop of me. We're an odd couple. Having a heart to heart while one of us is wearing handcuffs in bed.
  262.  
  263. “You ready for your interrogation, now?” Ah, there's that devious expression again. I smirk. “As ready as I could ever be.”
  264.  
  265. Although I was expecting to be domineered by her, instead the lovemaking was slow and raw. She had her arms wrapped around my torso the entire time, heavy breathing on my neck and ear. She refused to let me take any kind of control and the sex was slow, constantly teasing me with the sensation of climax, but never letting me reach it.
  266.  
  267. She didn't let go of me the duration of, or even after we had finished having sex. For now, she wanted to erase the thoughts of being replaced and losing me from her mind. As well as the concept of dinner with Meiko and her boyfriend.
  268.  
  269. =====
  270.  
  271. “Can I please go back to your apartment, Hisao? I don't want to do this.”
  272.  
  273. “You've got to. Running away will never get you anywhere.”
  274.  
  275. Emi folds her arms, looking away from me. “I don't know how you convinced me to come here...”
  276.  
  277. “Well, maybe it was the heart attack you gave me and then the fact you didn't let me come last nig-”
  278.  
  279. Emi jumps up and clasps her hands to my mouth. “SHHHH. My mom's probably on the other side, listening!”
  280.  
  281. A laugh from the opposite of the door. Emi's face starts to turn red.
  282.  
  283. “Psh. You're nearly twenty, do you really think your mom's going to assume you've never done anything with the guy you're living with?”
  284.  
  285. “Be quiet! Quiet, quiet, quiet!” I laughed. The distractions and slight embarrassments probably weren't making it any easier on her finally confronting the first of many obstacles tonight presented; knocking on the door.
  286.  
  287. I could tell it was weighing on her, because
  288.  
  289. “Emi, remember what we talked about? We move forward together.” I take her hand and she blushes a bit. “Stop being all mature and stuff. I like it better when you're just a big goofy nerd.” We take a step together and she raises her hand to the door. It's shaking a little, but I squeeze her other hand.
  290.  
  291. “It'll be fine, okay?” She nods and knocks on the door twice. A minute of waiting and I can see Emi's expression souring. A laugh from Emi's mom and then she opens the door.
  292.  
  293. “Hello sweetie.” Unlike usual, there's no loud hellos from Emi or playful banter between the two. “Hi Mom.” I nod to her. “Hello Miss Ibarazaki.”
  294.  
  295. “Oh, Hisao. Just call me Meiko, already.” She beams at me. I guess she really appreciates what I've done for her daughter. We sometimes talk on the phone when I'm out for runs and I tell her about her daughter. Since we've started dating, she's changed a lot. And her mother credits it to me.
  296.  
  297. She has become more trusting, more open. She makes friends easier now, some of them come by the apartment. She always gets embarrassed when she realizes she always forgets to mention she's living with me to any of her friends who come over.
  298.  
  299. “Hello, Miss Emi.” A male's voice says as he looks over Miss Ibarazaki's shoulder. He's fairly handsome. Looks rugged, in that western cowboy kind of way. Weather-worn face, stubble, tired eyes that look like they've seen everything at least once. And a warm smile. A father's smile. I've seen it on my own dad's face before.
  300.  
  301. Emi wraps her arm around mine.
  302.  
  303. “Hi.” Her tone was entirely on edge, sharp and distant. “I'm Takeda, pleased to meet you both.” He extends a hand to me, which I shake. He then extends one to Emi, paired with an amiable smile. "Last time wasn't a very good meeting, can we count this as the first? We can just pretend our first meeting never happened." He said, giving a playful little wink.
  304.  
  305. Emi looks from his hand to his face, the emptiest expression I have ever seen her wear greeting him. Meiko tries to diffuse the situation before it gets worse. “Come on in, you two.” Emi's grip intensifies on my arm the minute we step inside. I shoot her a look of assurance. Tonight will be fine, I tell her with my eyes. It will be.
  306.  
  307. We all sit quietly at the dinner table, Emi and I on one side and Meiko and Takeda on the other. “The food looks good, uh... Meiko.” I say, awkwardly trying out her name. It looks like grilled salmon, seasoned nicely with a side of rice, miso and some tofu.
  308.  
  309. “Thank you, Hisao. Takeda helped cook it. He's quite the chef, he suggested some excellent spices.” I glance over and see Emi hesitate from eating another bite of the salmon with her chopsticks. I can hear her grumbling in her head, and I pinch her thigh, to which she jumps a little. Evil glare, then continues eating quietly.
  310.  
  311. “So, Meiko tells me that you're going into physical rehab as a career. I think more kids nowadays should get into jobs that really help other people's lives.” Takeda says to Emi. She chews for a while. I haven't ever seen Emi this distant. It almost scares me.
  312.  
  313. After some time, she says one word; “Yeah.”
  314.  
  315. Takeda sighs, a defeated smile on his face as he turns back to the food. Meiko won't say anything about it, it took me nearly dying to get her in the seat she's sitting in. Idle chit-chat is thrown back and forth, Emi talks happily with her mother or me about school or life, but instantly falls out of conversations the minute that Takeda joins in.
  316.  
  317. When Emi finishes her food, she stands up, grabs her plate and brings it to the sink. She starts washing it herself, rinsing it and then drying it slowly while looking out the window over the sink. I glance to Meiko, who's frowning.
  318.  
  319. “I'm going to sit outside Mom, okay? Call me in when you guys start to have dessert!” She says happily, but we can see it's just a poorly put up facade. I hate seeing her act this way. I can see the conflict beneath her eyes, the struggle she's having with herself, with being here, with seeing this man sit at the table her father used to, with the woman he loved.
  320.  
  321. She opens the sliding door to the back patio and closes it behind herself. “It doesn't look it, Hisao, but she's already improving.” I nod slowly, looking to the last sliver of salmon on my plate. I don't really have the will to finish it. I glance to Takeda, who sighs.
  322.  
  323. “I'm... going to go talk to her.” Meiko looks like she wants to tell him it's a bad idea, but he holds a hand out to her. “Don't worry. I can handle it. I've know what to do. The opposite of what I've done in the past. It'll be easy.” He gives a bitter smile, which makes me wonder what exactly he means. Looking to Meiko, she looks like she's about to cry.
  324.  
  325. =====
  326.  
  327. I'm looking down at my knees and tapping them together as I sit on the wooden patio. My dad built this patio, I remember it. I followed him around the yard, carrying a can of nails while he asked me for them so he could hammer the boards together. I laugh for a second.
  328.  
  329. His face is just a blur, his voice too distant for me to hear.
  330.  
  331. I close my eyes, squeezing the fabric of my jeans, trying to dredge out the sound of his voice. I just want to remember; I don't want my memories to fade. Pictures and recordings don't mean anything if my mind can't remember, if I can't remember who he was. Those things will just wind up being empty reminders that I don't remember him at all anymore.
  332.  
  333. C'mon... I just... I just want to hear your voice again, Dad. I just want to hear you say my name. I miss you, Dad. I hate this. All I can do is run, try and fill myself with the beating of my own heart and the rush of adrenaline. Those are my best memories of you, the only ones I know I'll never forget.
  334.  
  335. Still... I wish I could hear your voice.
  336.  
  337. ...h
  338.  
  339.  
  340.  
  341.  
  342. ...he...
  343.  
  344.  
  345.  
  346.  
  347.  
  348.  
  349.  
  350.  
  351. ...hey...
  352.  
  353.  
  354.  
  355.  
  356.  
  357.  
  358.  
  359.  
  360.  
  361.  
  362. “Hey, Emi.”
  363.  
  364. I'm torn out of the depths of my mind by the voice coming from besides me. Takeda sits down on the bench near me and I immediately feel myself slipping deeper into my body. Drawing into my shell, hiding from things I don't want to acknowledge. I don't want to see you. I don't want to hear you.
  365.  
  366. I don't want you to be the tape and new face that goes over the hole in my memories.
  367.  
  368. I don't want to like you.
  369.  
  370. “I just wanted to talk to you, even if you don't want to say anything back, okay?”
  371.  
  372. My lips stay still, but I can't help but hang on his words. Why would he want to talk to me? I'm just his girlfriend's daughter. He doesn't have to like me. I don't have to like him. I just have to deal with the fact he exists. Nothing else.
  373.  
  374. “I know you lost your dad. I know you hate people knowing about it, because you don't want to be pitied. I get it, you make your disability yours, not the other way around. And you don't want people to put it on you that way.”
  375.  
  376. “But I bet you didn't know I lost a daughter.”
  377.  
  378. I don't care. I don't care. I don't care.
  379.  
  380. “I know what the hurt is like. We both hurt each other and we don't want to. My little girl was just like you, according to Meiko. That's why... I've been wanting to meet you so badly. Why I've been pushing your mother to have you here. I really would like us to be friends.”
  381.  
  382. Why? So I can be your crutch? Replace your daughter? How can someone even act like that? How can they devalue their lost loved ones like that? I'm silently fuming, but he keeps talking.
  383.  
  384. “Nothing can really fill the void, remove the hurt. But you know what? I can make that crater feel like a pinhole. If you make your heart big enough, and fill it with enough things and people you love- it doesn't hurt nearly as much. I spent a lot of time being miserable, being callous and bitter when I lost her. It took me a long time to realize that was the last thing my daughter could've wanted from me.”
  385.  
  386. I want to keep brushing him off, but I had to ask.
  387.  
  388. “How did she die?”
  389.  
  390. “Drug overdose. The wrong crowd, wrong parenting...”
  391.  
  392. He heaves a heavy sigh.
  393.  
  394. “She blocked me out. Ignored me, pushed me out of her life when she got to a certain age. She was my baby girl, she was my world. Always used to follow me around, help me work around the house. I was a mechanic, fixed cars. She'd always help me in the garage. But when she got to a certain age, she shut me out.”
  395.  
  396. “It hurt like hell.”
  397.  
  398. “I got mad all the time.”
  399.  
  400. “I'd shout at her, break things, tear apart the house. Just hoping that eventually she'd start talking to me. She never did. I kicked her out of the house because I couldn't stand seeing the person who I was so close to remove me from their life.”
  401.  
  402. “My wife divorced me, couldn't take how aggressive I had become.”
  403.  
  404. “And then about a year later, the police contacted me.”
  405.  
  406. An empty laugh.
  407.  
  408. “Heroin. Fucking heroin. I just couldn't stay calm, talk to her. Even if she wouldn't talk to me, I didn't know how to reach out to her.”
  409.  
  410. “I guess to me, this is a little bit of penance. I want to redeem myself, maybe in a small way that doesn't really matter to anyone. Even if you don't like me, hate me, scorn me- I just want to be here for you and your mother. And I wanted to let you know that. Sorry I made tonight so uncomfortable for you. I hope we can become friends eventually, though. I've become a very patient man.”
  411.  
  412. I glance to him as he finishes and his smile hurts me. And so do his eyes. Those deep blue eyes that I've avoided like an infection the minute I got here.
  413.  
  414. Turning away, I say nothing. I don't have anything to say. I couldn't find something to say if I wanted to.
  415.  
  416. So he stands up, taking in a deep breath and walking back into the house.
  417.  
  418. I don't say a word to anyone for the rest of the evening, eating dessert in silence and tugging on Hisao's sleeve to tell him I wanted to leave.
  419.  
  420. =====
  421.  
  422. When we get back to the apartment, Hisao walks in and I close the door behind us.
  423.  
  424. “That was... easily the most awkward dinner I've ever had.” Hisao says without turning to me, simply placing his hands on his hips.
  425.  
  426. Those eyes... I still can't get them out of my head.
  427.  
  428. I lean back against the door and slide down it, placing my face in my hands. This wasn't what I wanted, damn it! This was so upsetting... I didn't want to...
  429.  
  430. I can't keep myself from crying.
  431.  
  432. Hisao turns to me, a look of terror on his face. “Emi! Are you alright? Why are you crying? I shouldn't have made you go to the dinner... I'm sorry. We don't have to anymore.”
  433.  
  434. I tear my hands from my face. “No, that's not it.”
  435.  
  436. “I'm crying because I want to, and I hate it. I hate it so much, Hisao.”
  437.  
  438. He looks confused as tears coat my cheeks.
  439.  
  440. “I hate that I like him. That Takeda seems like a nice person and that he wouldn't be bad to have around my mom. I hate that he might actually replace my dad in my memories. I... just...”
  441.  
  442. Hisao moves towards me, taking me in his arms. Although I'm still shaking from my sobs, I feel more comfortable in his arms.
  443.  
  444. “I love my dad... I really do. And I don't want to accept that he's going to fade out of my memories completely. But I have to. I know it's going to happen, no matter what.”
  445.  
  446. “Then just keep running, Emi. That's how you can remember him best. That's what he did, that's what you love to do. Those feelings you get from running; that's your dad in you. And you'll never lose that, no matter how faded those memories become.”
  447.  
  448. I bury my face into his neck. He's right. He's right and I can't stand it.
  449.  
  450. “Time will make it easier on you. And so will I. I love you Emi. I'll always be here for you. We can move forward together. Remember what you told me when I first started running with you?”
  451.  
  452. I laughed into his shoulder between my body's shakes.
  453.  
  454. “Crawl before you walk, walk before you run.”
  455.  
  456. “You know Hisao, you've gotten a lot faster than me.”
  457.  
  458. He gives me a confused grin. “No way. I'm still a snail compared to you.”
  459.  
  460. I shake my head. “No, you're much faster than me. I always thought I was running ahead of you, leading the way through life. Somewhere, you beat me.”
  461.  
  462. “Is that a bad thing?”
  463.  
  464. I shake my head, kissing his neck.
  465.  
  466. “No, not at all.”
  467.  
  468. A long silence and he continues holding me, brushing my neck with kisses until I finally settle down. When I do, there's still the image of Takeda's eyes burned into my mind.
  469.  
  470. “You know how my favorite color's blue, right?” Hisao nods. “Did I ever tell you why?” He shakes his head.
  471.  
  472. “My father's eyes were blue, like Takeda's. My mom probably sees a little bit of my dad in him. That's... that's probably why I'm having such a hard time disliking him.”
  473.  
  474. Hisao is silent while I give a bitter smile.
  475.  
  476. “He'll still never replace your dad, though. No matter how much you come to like him, or even love him or consider him a step-father one day. Your dad will always be with you.”
  477.  
  478. I nod, my eyes starting to water up again.
  479.  
  480. “Hisao...”
  481.  
  482. “Yeah?”
  483.  
  484. “Don't get too ahead of me, okay? I don't want to lose sight of you.”
  485.  
  486. He picks me up, cradling me in his arms with that smile that always makes my heart do funny things. My big, strong, goofy nerd.
  487.  
  488. “I'd never.”
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