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We need to talk

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"Congratulations, Azuma. You are the winner. Please, tell us what you would wish for a reward."

"I want Haru."

The rhythm of the cardiac monitor had become white noise in the otherwise silent room; hours had passed since an ambulance was called, but Tokaku was entirely unaware of it. It was only when she was forced to leave in the evening that she had acknowledged the passing of time.

She came back the next day as soon as she could. Haru was still asleep (at least one of us could sleep), and Tokaku couldn't bring herself to wake her up. She took her seat next to the bed, grasping the redheaded girl's hand in her own. She had amends to make, and they weighed heavy on her shoulders. Only the warmth of Haru's hand kept her anchored in the moment.

According to her phone, it had been little more than two hours later when Haru finally awoke. Tokaku sat up in her seat, her grip on the shorter girl's hand tightening. Her breath hitched in her throat. A beat of silence passed and she finally spoke. "Haru?"

Haru's expression was one of concern, and she sat up in bed, flinching at the sudden movement. Tokaku immediately moved her hands to her shoulders, trying to coax her to lay back down.

"Please don't push yourself."

Haru brushed her hands off. "I'm okay." A beat of silence passed, and she spoke again. "Are you okay?"

The taller girl nodded. Her eyes burned with tears that she blinked away. She knew if she tried to speak, her voice would crack. She remained silent, her gaze focused on the wall in front of her. She occupied herself by studying the several monitors propped in the room.


She drew in a shaky breath and betrayed a sob. Haru wrapped her arms around the blue-haired girl, pulling her close in an awkward hug. Tokaku sniffled and pressed her face in the other girl's shoulder. The most she could manage to say was a stifled, "I'm so sorry." She tightly gripped the back of Haru's hospital gown.

Haru threaded her fingers in the taller girl's hair, trying to calm her with quiet reassurances of "it's okay" and "I forgive you"; the sentiments seemed to do little to nothing. She sighed and paused. "Tokaku, listen to me. I forgive you. I'm honestly more worried about you."

The blue-haired girl froze at the comment. "Why?"

She closed her eyes, and for a brief moment, she remembered what transpired the day prior. The echo of the gunshot; the smell of gunpowder; the ringing in her ears; the unbearable pain in her chest. Tokaku raising the gun to her head with a shaky hand and tears in her eyes; Haru begging her to please, please lower it before she pulled the trigger. "If you're gone, then there's nothing there," Tokaku had said.

Haru pulled away from the hug and rested her hands on the blue-haired girl's shoulders, studying her face. It was obvious that she didn't sleep well; her messy hair and the dark circles under her eyes gave it away. Haru's expression softened. "You almost killed yourself." She rested her palm on the taller girl's cheek.

Tokaku couldn't meet her gaze.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

She nodded. Haru seemed satisfied with that answer and relaxed, the slightest hint of a smile on her face. She reached for the taller girl's hands, gently squeezing them.

"I'll be out of here soon," she said. She lowered her voice and added, "I love you, Tokaku."

Tokaku seemed to be a little more at ease. "I love you too," she responded. Haru could've sworn there was a smile on her face, but the bright fluorescent lights clouded her vision. A beat of silence passed, and Haru spoke again, the concerned expression returning.

"Where will you sleep?"

"I beg your pardon?"

Haru paused. "You got expelled, right? Where are you staying now?" It was a reasonable question; Tokaku had no immediate family who could take care of her. Her parents, aunt, and grandmother had passed, leaving her as the only living heiress of the Azuma clan. A fifteen-year-old girl couldn't take care of herself.

The blue-haired girl fell silent.

"Why don't you come stay with me?" Haru gave a sheepish smile. Tokaku didn't hesitate before answering; if it meant she could stay by Haru's side, she would take any opportunity presented before her.