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Bravery

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“Dearest mother. I am having a sleepover with my good friend, Hayashida.

But now we’re caught in a thunderstorm. And I’m kinda freakin’ out.”

“Hey, Kamiyama?” Hayashida asks, staring sternly out at the mouth of the alley, distorted through the heavy rain. Kamiyama’s doing the same thing. With the roof of the sleeping bag draped over their heads, it’s difficult to look up, but that’s not a good view anyway: just the metal awning of the building they’re huddled against and the grey-fog sky beyond that. They rain started suddenly, hard, and now it’s pounding down and wracked with shudders as the sky occasionally splits, sparking random flashes of light and then delayed, booming claps. The plastic-like material of the sleeping bag is a small comfort and keeps out some of the moisture and pads the rough ground, but they’re still irrefutably screwed.

After finally gathering his thoughts and internally saving the correct wording, Kamiyama answers, “Yes, Hayashida?” He doesn’t bother to look over at his friend; it’s obvious who they’re speaking to. The alley’s deserted. The road beyond it is deserted, too. No one else would dare be outdoors on a night like this, but the two of them, having just made it to the store before closing and dawdling too long outside, had no chance of making it home in time. So they’re huddled in a new sleeping bag against a dumpster in a random alley, planned sleepover effectively ruined.

...Well, technically, they might end up still sleeping together, though sleepovers usually imply being at one person’s house, not like this. This is more like camping. Without any supplies or nice scenery. Hayashida asks, “Who’re you talking to?”

The rain starts to pelt down even louder, and Kamiyama has to raise his voice to be heard over it, even though they’re sitting as close as possible, pressed against one another’s sides with their knees protectively drawn up to their chests. “I’m planning out the letter to my mother I’m going to write when we get back.”

“If we get back.”

Head jerking aside, Kamiyama snaps, “Of course we’ll get back! What kind of wishful thinking is that?”

Hayashida’s expression is as dead serious as it always is when he says something ridiculous. His tuft of stray purple hair, which was mostly wilting in the rain a few seconds ago, is now twitching to life. “What if we die out here? What if the storm never stops?” He looks sharply sideways then and adds, “Tell your mother we did our best to survive.” There’s a proud gleam in his eye.

Kamiyama deadpans right back, “If we die here, I’ll never get to send the letter.”

“I’ll hear the letter,” Hayashida insists. “It’ll be in my heart.” Clenching a sudden fist and looking down, eyes squeezed shut, Hayashida gulps, “Tell me your last wishes, Kamiyama. I’ll listen.”

Kamiyama answers with silence, because Hayashida is absolutely nothing like his mother at all.

But then, it isn’t as if there’s much else to do. They were going to watch Pootan and play games, but obviously they can’t do that now. So much for their sleepover. But then, that’s what they get for not thinking ahead to having two sleeping bags. It didn’t seem fair to have one person sleep in a bed and the other on the floor, and buying a second sleeping bag seemed like the obvious choice. Obviously, it wasn’t a smart one. But then, they couldn’t have known the skies were about to split open...

Kamiyama’s sigh is snatched away in the howl of the wind. He shifts closer, even though they’re already as close as possible. He tries to press as much of his side against Hayashida’s as he can, because each other’s body heat is the only thing keeping them from freezing to death. Hayashida reaches an arm around Kamiyama’s shoulders, maybe just to be reassuring, but probably to steal more of that warmth. Their uniforms are damp, even though they ran with their sleeping bag over their heads to this alley, where the awning and the sides of the buildings are at least somewhat helpful in cutting down the raging wind and tornado of rain. Kamiyama leans his head stoically on Hayashida’s shoulder and says, tilting his face to Hayashida’s so as to be heard over the roar around them, “Dearest mother. I am having a sleepover with my good friend, Hayashida. But now we’re caught in a thunderstorm. And I’m kinda freakin’ out.”

“Me too,” Hayashida adds, nodding as though this is the wisest thing he’s ever heard anybody say. Kamiyama elbows him lightly in the ribs and goes on.

“We were trying to obtain supplies in the interest of fairness, but what we didn’t know was that a mighty storm was brewing. Fortunately, we found safety in an alley. We are now waiting out the storm. It’s already dark, but hopefully we will make it out before it’s too late, and I’ll be able to send this letter to you and let you know that I’m okay. If not, I fear we must sleep in the alley overnight, but we have a sleeping bag and we’ve already eaten, and we’re sturdy, strong people. I believe we will survive.”

“We are delinquents,” Hayashida says thoughtfully.

“Right. We will survive.” Kamiyama nods firmly against Hayashida’s shoulder, knowing his friend will feel it. If the storm doesn’t end soon, it’ll certainly end by the morning, and either they’ll crawl back home, or a rescue team will find them. They’ll live.

“Kamiyama?”

“Yes?”

“If I die, I want to be cremated. Make sure Freddie’s horse eats my ashes.”

Kamiyama fidgets against Hayashida’s side but doesn’t point out how insane that is. It won’t do any good. Obviously, Hayashida’s determined to think this storm means their certain doom. Instead, Kamiyama asks, “Why Freddie’s horse?”

“Because I want to be one with a horse.”

“Okay.”

When Hayashida nods, his chin brushes across Kamiyama’s forehead, so Kamiyama feels more than sees it. He’s been staring at the shelf of falling water this whole time, but after another few minutes, he gets bored.

He turns sideways and tries to lie down, grabbing Hayashida and wrestling him down too. Hayashida makes a small protest but ultimately gives in, and they fidget around inside the tiny sleeping bag while Kamiyama tries to do up the zipper on the side, Hayashida holding the top firmly over their heads to catch any stray droplets that ooze off the awning. Finally, their temporary nest is snug, and Hayashida whispers, “We should keep our heads low so other roaming delinquents don’t try to steal our fortress.”

Though it doesn’t seem likely any one’s going to be moving about in this weather and this is hardly a fortress, Kamiyama says, “Right.”

They lie on their backs, fully clothed and side-by-side, trying to breathe inside their stuffy cocoon. Hayashida mumbles, “I’ll keep first watch. Good night, Kamiyama.”

Kamiyama decides to add a vote of confidence with a short, “I believe in you, Hayashida.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Good night.”

“Remember. Cremated. Freddie’s horse.”

“Gotcha.”

“Kamiyama?”

“Yeah?”

“Tell your mom I said hi.”

“Okay.” And Kamiyama shuts his eyes, ready to attempt sleep. He doesn’t bother mentioning that according to Hayashida’s theories, they’ll never make it out to write and send that later, so the only place Hayashida’s greeting is really going is his own heart.