The end to our story takes place on the same day in which it started – the worst day of my life.
My first spring back at work passed quickly and the long, hot days of summer were winding down. My twenty-fifth birthday had recently come to pass, and I spent it alone in my apartment, sharing a cupcake with my cat.
I buried myself in work, trying to keep my mind occupied with things other than my eternal loneliness. My patient load had increased and with that, the companionship my patients provided eased some of my isolation. With every bit of progress they made, I shared their sense of self-worth.
The morning in question, Subaru had come to me, his usual cheery demeanor amplified. My headache was so intense, however, that his energy only served to make it worse. As he sat down in the chair across from my desk, I pinched the bridge of my nose, desperate to make the pain disappear.
“Are you okay?” Subaru asked, concern leaking into his voice.
I nodded my head, trying to blink away the little white orbs that had been floating in front of my eyes. “I'm fine.”
“I wanted to talk to you,” Subaru began, and there was a hesitation in his voice that I had never heard.
“Oh,” I said. If my headache had not been so intense, I would have been more curious about his tone. “About what?”
“About leaving,” Subaru said, so quietly that I almost couldn't hear him.
I sat back in my chair, letting it sink in.
“I'm almost 20, and I really can't stay here forever,” He was fidgeting with the loose strings surrounding a hole in the knee of his jeans. “I feel like I am ready. I know I'll never get over my addiction. But lately, I've found myself thinking more and more about being in a polygamous relationship. And with that, I feel less and less like I need to have sex in order to feel something good.”
I nodded, not sure what to say. I felt sad that Subaru would be leaving, but he knew that he was ready. And from what he was saying, I too, thought that perhaps Shibutani Subaru was ready to re-enter the world.
Love was a complicated thing. One moment, you felt on top of the world, full of a joy that there was no proper word for. It made you feel like anything was possible. But, it could also leave you lonely, isolated from the world. Subaru knew that he could never be with Yokoyama, and yet, love gave him the courage to change his life.
Like me, like Shingo and Maru, Subaru would feel that isolation, that perpetual loneliness that came with love. He would know the desperation of being so in love with someone, unable to forget them, unable to function normally without them.
I wanted to protect him from those feelings and the thoughts that accompanied them. It wasn't my place, however, to keep him from living his life. He had grown up in front of my eyes, and the Subaru sitting across from me was a man.
“I agree,” I said to him. “I'm really happy for you, Subaru. I'll talk to Murakami about it. We'll help you find a place to live and set up some type of job for you.”
Subaru smiled brightly, standing up. “Thank you.”
“Have you told Yoko yet?” I asked, standing up and following him towards the door, blinking against the lights. A sharp pain filled my head, blurring my vision as I struggled to focus on Shibutani's face.
He smiled somewhat sheepishly. “Not yet.”
My head started throbbing then and I could feel my legs begin to give away. I threw my hand out against the wall, using it to steady myself before I collapsed.
“Yasu, are you okay?” Subaru grabbed my shoulders and helped me straighten up.
“Yeah,” I nodded my head. “I'm okay.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, letting go of the grip he had on my arm.
My knees did give out then and I crumpled onto the floor. Subaru reached down, attempting to help me up again, but I pushed his hands away. “I'm fine.”
“I'll get Murakami,” He left the room quickly, his face filled with concern.
I sat down on the floor and clutched my head, never having felt such intense physical pain. My head had been aching dully since I woke up that morning, but at that moment, I was keeled over as a sharp pain prodded every inch of my head. Every sinus passage felt like it had been filled with boiling water, and I had to fight back the urge to vomit.
Murakami entered the room then, kneeling down next to me. “Are you okay?”
I nodded my head, then quickly shook it as my ears started ringing.
“You should go home,” He put his hand to my forehead, testing my temperature.
“I'll be okay,” I said, trying to stand. “I just need a couple of minutes to rest.”
“No,” he helped me up. “You don't look well. Just head home and get some rest.”
I nodded, knowing that it was useless to disagree with him. Slowly, while blinking against the lights, I crossed the room to my desk and started packing up my briefcase. Suddenly remembering my talk with Subaru, I turned back to Murakami, “Ah, I need to talk to you about Subaru.”
“It can wait until later,” Murakami grabbed my arm, helping to guide me from the room. “Are you going to be able to make it home alone?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “I'll be fine. I'll see you tomorrow.”
Murakami and I had made it to the front door, and I quickly waved goodbye to my co-workers. Holding the door open for me, I thanked Shingo quietly.
Looking back on the moments leading up to my discovery at the train station, every step I took seemed to last a millennium, every breath I drew felt like the last.
The pain in my head intensified the closer I grew to the train station, and I wanted nothing more that to go home, draw my curtains and crawl into bed. The crowd gathered, the police carrying the stretcher from the station, and the realization of what had happened hit me, and the world slowed down in the moments leading up to when my eyes had landed on the bag an officer was carrying.
The same one he had the night I met him, the same one he had lovingly unpacked at my apartment, the one he had brought with him that last weekend we were together at my parent's house.
My heart slowed as I ran towards the stretcher, and squeezed my way through the tarp. And the moment that hand slipped out from under the sheet covering the body, I knew from the ring on his finger that it was Tadayoshi.
My legs gave out and I fell to the ground, my knees hitting the concrete with a loud crack. I didn't feel it though, nor the pain in my head. All the emptiness that I had been feeling since the day Tadayoshi walked out of my life, multiplied and my heart burst, the shattered bits covering me like a sheet. My body went slack and inside I felt dead.
The past two years, I had been holding onto hope that Tadayoshi would come back to me. Any strength I had to continue working, eating, breathing seemed to vanish as my eyes settled once again on the blood soaked sheet.
And then a pair of arms were wrapping around my midsection, pulling me up gently from the ground. “Yasu,” a familiar voice called softly into my ear.
I looked up into the concerned eyes of Yokoyama. “Yoko, is that...?” I needed to hear it, though I was already positive of what his answer would be.
“I'm sorry Yasu,” He turned me around and hugged me.
I shook my head, wiggling my way out of his grasp. I felt numb. I knew that I should be crying or screaming. The appropriate feeling would be anything other than the numbness that consumed me. “Are you sure? Is he okay?”
Yokoyama shook his head. “I was the closest on duty officer, and the first one to the scene. It doesn't look good, Yasu.”
The paramedics were loading the stretcher onto the ambulance and Yokoyama pulled me towards where they all gathered around. “He's a family member,” he pointed to the stretcher, and the paramedics nodded, moving over and offering me a place in the ambulance.
I looked back at Yokoyama before climbing into the vehicle. Behind me, the doors swung shut, and I stood frozen in place as they pulled away the sheet covering Tadayoshi's body. The tears that had refused to come suddenly emerged, and I bent forward, choking back the sob of horror. Taking a deep breath I steadied myself as one of the paramedics guided me over towards the bench seats.
Tadayoshi's once beautiful face was covered in blood, his hair matted to his face and neck and I struggled to tear my eyes away. That wasn't how I wanted to remember him.
My eyes traveled down to where one of the EMTs was cutting away Tadayoshi's blood spattered shirt. Further down the stretcher, another paramedic was studying his legs, which were bent at an angle that didn't seem humanly possible.
“You have to sit down and let them work,” the paramedic said as she pulled me down onto one of the seats.
“He's got no pulse,” one of the paramedics said, and the woman sitting next to me stood up.
She grabbed the defibrillator, rubbing the paddles together quickly.“Clear!” she shouted, pressing the paddles against Tadayoshi's bare chest. His body flopped on the table, and my heart filled with hope briefly.
“Still no pulse...”
The tears sprang to my eyes again, and I let them fall, trying to keep my sobs silent as the paramedic rubbed the paddles together again.
I couldn't watch. I need a distraction, so I picked up his bag up from where it had been tossed on the floor, hugging it to my chest. I pressed my nose against the leather and inhaled deeply, sighing as Tadayoshi's scent filled my senses. Something fell out of the front pocket and fluttered to the floor. I leaned over, picking it up quickly.
It was the picture of me and my family that my mother had given him. He had kept it the past two years, carried it with him in his bag like a precious belonging. That thought stirred something inside of me, and the heart that I thought had vanished forever started beating wildly in my chest.
I opened his bag, intending to replace the picture. I paused, inhaling deeply as his scent drifted from inside. The tears continued dropping onto my lap; his smell reminding me of the moments he would hold me in his arms, pressing my cheek so tightly against his chest as he rested his chin atop my head.
I opened the bag wider, attempting to breathe in more of his scent and the happy memories that came along with it. It was the first time in over two years that I had felt truly happy. The smell brought back so many memories and I was reminded of how whole I felt waking up to that smell – how well I slept breathing in that scent as I listened to the beat of Tadayoshi's heart.
“Clear!” the paramedic yelled once more.
And I knew that this smell would be gone forever. Like it had disappeared from my sheets and my apartment, it would also disappear from the bag. And I would never get a chance to get it back, because Tadayoshi would never be able to come back to me.
The picture I was holding crumpled in my first and I stared down at it. I opened the bag, preparing to toss it in like the useless piece of garbage that it was. He wouldn't miss it or me.
Then, another picture inside of the bag caught my attention, and I pulled it out. It was one of the photos that my mother had taken from our first date. Tadayoshi was smiling widely, his arm wrapped around me as I blushed. I wondered where he had gotten it. I had never seen this picture, and my mother probably kept them from me on purpose. But where had Tadayoshi gotten the picture?
He had either been back to my home, or in touch somehow with my family.
And my eyes landed on Tadayoshi's hand, dangling from the stretcher. He was still wearing the ring I had given him the day the picture was taken. A loud sob came out then and I buried my face in my hands.
I remembered the moment he put the ring on his finger, promising to never take it off, to wait for me. To this day he was still wearing it, still carrying around my picture, still wanting desperately to be a part of my family.
“I'm sorry, Tadayoshi,” I choked out, reaching out for his lifeless hand.
“Clear,” she called, her voice sounding defeated as she pressed the paddles against his chest once more.
“I love you,” my voice cracked, and I didn't care about the looks I was receiving from the other occupants of the ambulance. Then, I gasped in shock as I felt Tadayoshi's hand squeeze around mine.
“We have a pulse.”
I sat impatiently in the waiting room, Tadayoshi's bag on my lap as I fidgeted nervously. My heart was beating rapidly and dozens of emotions that I hadn't felt in over two years filled me – fear, happiness, anxiety, nervousness, hope.
By some miracle, Tadayoshi's heart had started beating again. I could remember the way his cold hand had squeezed mine tightly, and the prospect that we could be together again filled me with an indescribable happiness. I knew in my heart that he loved me, and that was enough to forget everything in the past and start over again.
And then the nervousness set in. Would he be able to forgive me for losing hope in him? Or for giving up so easily on our relationship? Would he still be able to look at me the same way?
There was always the possibility that he wouldn't make it through surgery. He had given up on life once already that day, the same way I had given up on him.
Again, I needed a distraction from those thoughts. Hope was all I needed. I needed to keep faith that he would come out of surgery, that we could start over. I opened his bag again, pulling out the picture taken before our first date.
On either side of me, I felt two familiar presences plop down. “Are you okay?” I heard Maruyama's voice.
“I'm fine. What are you guys doing here?” I asked, thankful for the distraction they provided.
“Yoko told me what happened,” Shingo's arm slung around one of my shoulders. “We thought you could use some friends right now.”
“Thank you,” I smiled, though my attention was still focused on the picture in my hand.
“How is Tadayoshi?” Maru asked, quietly, resting his chin on my shoulder and staring down at the picture.
I shrugged, “He's in surgery still.”
“Yasu,” Murakami leaned over. “Don't get your hopes up, okay? The chances of him living through that...”
“Shin-chan,” Maru scolded, and from the corner of my eye I could see him glaring and shaking his head at the older man. Maru returned his chin to my shoulder. “That picture is cute.”
I nodded my head. “I have no idea where he got it. He must have gone to my house sometime.” The more I thought about that possibility, the angrier I felt myself getting. My family had kept it a secret, for who knows how long. They could see how lonely I was, how lost I was without Tadayoshi. And still they had not told me.
“I can't believe they didn't tell me...” I pulled out my cellphone, preparing to call my parents.
“Shota,” Maruyama grabbed the hand holding the cellphone. “Now is probably not the best time for that.”
“Yes it is,” I pulled my hand away. “They had seen Tadayoshi, and they never told me. They never said a god damn word about it.”
“Maybe they thought it was for the best,” Murakami started, and I didn't miss the look he shared with his ex-lover.
“Shota,” Maru began, swallowing hard and glancing nervously at Shingo.
“Tadayoshi came to the clinic, too. When you were living in Tokyo he came looking for you,” the older man finished for Maruyama.
“What?” I turned to Maru, hoping that he would offer a more logical explanation. I received nothing. “Why didn't you tell me this?”
“We thought it was for the best,” Maru began explaining.
“For the best? You could see how miserable I was without him and you still kept it from me?” I didn't know whether to shout or cry, and my question came out as a mixture of the two.
“Exactly,” Murakami started, “Shota, he ruined your life. You've been depressed the past two years. I can't even remember the last time I've seen you smile. We couldn't risk him doing the same thing to you again.”
“That wasn't your decision to make,” I stood up, wiping at the tears in my eyes. “The past two years, I've felt so empty and alone. And now you're telling me that you kept me from the one thing that would have made me feel like a complete person?”
“Shota,” Murakami began, and I raised my hand, silencing him.
“I don't care if he would have left me again. It wasn't your god damn decision!” The tears were coming faster now, and I wiped them on my sleeve before continuing. “He could do it to me a million times over and I wouldn't care as long as I was able to feel happy again.”
They exchanged a look, and I knew they thought I was being crazy. “You both are so screwed up. You're way worse than I am. You both hurt as much as I do, and you can be together, but you're not even willing to take a chance to be together because you're both afraid of what can happen.”
They glanced briefly at one another before glancing down at the floor in shame. “It has nothing to do with Murakami not saying he loves you,” I pointed at Maru before turning to Murakami, “or being afraid of what your family thinks. This is completely about both of you being too afraid to commit to one another, to put faith in the relationship. All you can think about is how the relationship will inevitably fail. You're both cowards.”
They stared at the ground, unable to look me in the face. I received no reaction from either of them, so I clicked my tongue in disgust. “Do you realize what Tadayoshi did to himself? Did you ever stop to think about how you were playing around with two people's lives? You took away a decision that was mine to make, and I might never get another chance. I don't think I can ever forgive you for this.”
I walked away from the pair, not caring if I ever saw them again.
Pacing the hallway, I tried to breathe, to cool the anger that had filled me. I realized that it was the first time in two years that I had felt so angry or passion towards anything. I knew that I should return to the waiting room. Tadayoshi had been in surgery for a long time and I wanted to be there when his surgeon reported his conditions.
I decided to swallow my anger at my two friends and I returned to the waiting room, picking up Tadayoshi's bag and carrying it to another area of seats.
I closed my eyes, trying to remain calm, to regain the hope that I had felt when Tadayoshi's hand squeezed around my own.
“Are you Ohkura's family?” A gentle voice asked, and when I opened my eyes, a doctor was standing above me.
I nodded my head.
“Ohkura-san is out of surgery. He was lucky that the train had rubber wheels, otherwise he would have lost his legs. As they are, however, it's difficult to say if he will ever walk again.”
My heart beat fast, the hope spreading through my entire body. I didn't care if he never walked again as long as he was alive. “So he's okay?”
The doctor's face fell, “That was the good news, I am afraid. If the train had hit Tadayoshi's head, it would have instantly killed him. We were lucky that didn't happen, however, when he fell onto the tracks, he hit his head on the ties, resulting in some hemorrhaging. At the moment, he's in a coma and showing very little signs of brain activity. It's very doubtful that he will ever come out of the coma. Perhaps, you and the rest of the family should discuss...” he trailed off.
“Thank you doctor,” I heard Murakami say behind me.
“Of course. You're free to go see him anytime you'd like.” The doctor tried smiling reassuringly at me, but I could say nothing. “Room 1204.”
“Shota,” My boss started.
“I am going to go see him,” I said, standing up and letting my body carry me to the elevator.
Tadayoshi had walked out of my life two years ago, as abruptly as he had entered it. The moment he had left me, taking a piece of me with him, I had changed. From that day, I couldn't feel happiness or anger or passion or love or any other strong human emotion. I only felt emptiness, numbness towards everyone around me. Each day, I went through motions, for no reason except to live one more day and grow closer to dying.
I entered Tadayoshi's room, sitting down next to his bed and listening to the beeping of the machines that monitored his heart rate and brain activity, the whirring of the machine to keep him breathing. I grabbed Tadayoshi's hand, raising it to my lips. It was still warm, I could feel the blood pulsing through it and I knew that he was alive.
“Tadayoshi,” I opened my mouth, but the word came out in a weak, cracked whisper. “Tadayoshi,” I started again, knowing this would be my last chance to tell him everything. It would be my last chance to say goodbye, and I wanted him to leave the world knowing exactly how I felt.
I poured out every detail, every emotion I had felt since I met him. I wanted him to know how happy he made me, how miserable I was without him.
If I had to lose him forever, I wanted him to know that there was someone in the world who loved him the way he deserved to be loved. I wanted him to know how happy he made me, how he'll always be a part of my family. He needed to know that he changed my life, that I didn't want to live without him.
All of the feelings that had built up since the moment I had met Tadayoshi came spilling out. I had finally acknowledged all of the things I had been too afraid to say or think about during the last two years. By the time I had finished, I was mentally exhausted.
Leaning forward, I lay my head on the hospital bed. My hand slid up the scratchy wool blanket, searching for the warmth of Tadayoshi's skin. I found his hand, slipping my own into it and letting my eyes fall shut. I fell asleep easier that night than I had in over two years.
A/N: The chapter is too long for LJ again, so please click HERE for the second part.