“Whatcha” doing tomorrow? Wanna come hang out with Maachun and me?”
Yamamoto Sayaka shook her head no, even though she knew Yokoyama Yui couldn’t see her through the phone, “Can’t. Gotta work tomorrow.”
Yui made a small noise of disapproval, “I can’t believe you actually got that job. They must really be short of caretakers or something.”
“Ha,” Sayaka frowned at her friend’s light jests, “I’ll have you know that I’m more than qualified to take care of a bunch of sick people.”
“Okay, whatever you say. You’re just lucky they’re already dying otherwise you might kill them with your skills,” Yui chuckled lightly despite Sayaka’s loud protests on the other line, “Do you know anything about your patient yet?”
“Not much,” Sayaka answered, shuffling through the papers that were scattered around her desk, “Just her name and age and stuff like that.”
“You’re probably going to spend so much time with her. Who knows when I’ll ever get to see you again,” Yui sighed loudly in the speaker, “I’m kind of jealous she’s taking my best friend away. Is that bad to be jealous of a dying person?”
Sayaka laughed, “I’m more than sure that it’s a little bad.”
Yui snapped her fingers, “Damn and here I thought I would’ve gotten away without doing anything bad in my life.”
“Don’t worry, even if I won’t be able to fit you in my busy schedule, I can still call you when I have time.”
“Speaking of time,” Yui shifted her arm to get a better look at the numbers illuminated on her wristwatch, “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
Sayaka glanced over at her own digital clock that rested on her nightstand, swearing lightly under her breath. It was way past the time she told herself she should’ve went to sleep at, “Thanks Yuihan.”
“Where would you be without me?”
“Without you I wouldn’t be on the phone and probably sleeping.” Sayaka retorted playfully.
“Small details,” Yui scoffed, waving her hand nonchalantly back and forth, “Anyways, good night. Have a good first day.”
“Night,” Sayaka smiled, tapping the end call button on her phone’s screen before tossing the device on her bed, her body quickly following her phone. She glanced at the clock again. It was 11 PM which meant that if she went to sleep now she would have at least six hours of sleep before she had to wake up for work. Sighing lightly, Sayaka made herself more comfortable before closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep.
Sayaka awoke to the loud and shrill shrieks of her phone’s alarm ringing in her ears. She groaned and sleepily shut the alarm off, a little angry at herself that she set her alarm for 5 AM. Sayaka closed her eyes again, feeling her body drift off into sleep, before quickly reopening them and jumping out of bed. She had almost forgotten about her new job in the midst of her sleepiness. Damn Yui for keeping her up that late last night.
Sayaka quickly made her way towards her dresser, pulling out the scrubs that were in the bottom drawer. She examined them quickly, the soft fabric underneath her fingertips and a wide smile playing on her lips. It was going to be a good first day.
“You’re late, Yamamoto.” A stern voice belonging to even sterner face reprimanded her.
“I’m sorry,” Sayaka quickly apologized, bowing towards the stern woman who towered over her.
The woman clicked her tongue in annoyance, “And on the first day as well, not a very good impression. I hope it wasn’t a mistake to hire you.”
“I promise it won’t happen again.” Sayaka said, head still lowered and back arched.
“Fine. Follow me then,” The woman turned on her heel, not bothering to check if Sayaka was behind her, and slid down one of the many long corridors. Sayaka frantically straightened her back before following the woman, struggling to keep up with her long strides, “I take it you’ve read up on the information about your patient, correct?”
Sayaka nodded before realizing that the woman couldn’t see her response, “Yes.”
“Good. At least you’ve done that right.” She stopped her steps and pointed towards the door that stood at the end of the hallway. “That’s your patient’s room. Room 565.” The woman moved towards the door and quietly pulled it open, motioning for Sayaka to go through first.
“Thank you,” Sayaka stepped through the doors into the room. The first thing she noticed was how cold it was compared to the hallway. Shivering she wrapped an arm around herself in an attempt to keep warm.
“She’s sleeping now, but she should be up soon.” The woman said, closing the door shut behind her.
Sayaka nodded, glancing over at the bed tucked away in the right corner of the room and the girl that laid on top of it. Sayaka took a hesitant step forward, “How much longer does she have?”
“The doctors estimated around five more months.”
Five more months before this girl that laid in front of her wouldn’t exist in this world anymore. The thought was strange and foreign to Sayaka. Her heart twisted painfully in her chest. She had never known someone that had died or was this close to death.
“She’s so young,” Sayaka mumbled quietly to herself, “She’s only a few months younger than me.”
The woman that was now standing besides her cleared her throat, “Disease has no prejudice.”
Sayaka took another step forward enthralled by the sleeping figure. She was beautiful, which was exactly the last thought that Sayaka wanted to have right now.
“Good morning, Watanabe-san,” The woman spoke up, striding over towards the edge of the bed and motioning for Sayaka to follow her.
“Good morning, Nakada-san,” The girl in the bed greeted, rubbing at her sleep filled eyes.
“This is Yamamoto Sayaka-san, she’s going to be taking care of you from now on.”
Sayaka stepped closer, a smile as wide as she muster plastered on her face, “It’s nice to finally meet you, Watanabe-san. I hope we can get along well,” She extended her hand towards Miyuki.
Miyuki stared at Sayaka’s extended hand before reluctantly extending her own hand causing the sleeve of her dressing gown to slide down, “Me too,” Miyuki said, her voice barely above a whisper. Sayaka continued to smile, even after noticing the ugly, dark blue marks that trailed up Miyuki’s arm.
Sayaka turned her head towards the familiar voice that was calling out her name, catching a glance of Mayu waving excitably to her from one of the many tables that were littered around the cafe. Sayaka let out a small sigh under her breath before waving back and striding towards the table.
“Take a seat!” Mayu motioned towards the chair that was across from her own.
“Where’s Yui?” Sayaka asked curiously after taking her seat; it was a rare sight to see Mayu without Yui and vice versa.
“Oh, she just went to get something from her car. She’ll be back soon,” Mayu took a small sip of the drink that was set out in front of her, grimacing at the taste, “I heard you got a new job. How is it?”
“It’s been good so far. Nothing too exciting yet.”
Mayu nodded, her attention focused on ripping open the bright pink sugar packets before pouring them into her drink. Sayaka counted at least six packets so far. “It must be depressing though; working at the hospice.”
“Yeah, it’s-” Sayaka paused, remembering the way her heart wretched the first time she had met Miyuki, “It really makes you appreciate life.”
“I bet,” Mayu raised the glass to her lips again, this time looking a lot more satisfied at the taste, “What about your patient? What’s she like?”
“She’s really quiet,” Sayaka looked down at her hands that were spread out on the table, “She spends most of her time reading when I’m with her.”
Mayu shrugged her shoulders, “Can’t always get the interesting ones, I guess.”
Sayaka thought about protesting against the other girl’s words but quickly decided against it. Mayu probably wouldn’t understand the way Miyuki had piqued her interests anyways.
Sayaka shuffled in her seat for what seemed like the umpteenth time. The room, like always, was entirely silent aside from the occasional sounds of pen scratching on paper from Sayaka and the soft sounds of page turning from Miyuki. Sayaka cleared her throat, it was now or never, “What are you reading, Watanabe-san?”
Miyuki looked up from book, her eyes meeting Sayaka’s whom quickly averted the gaze, “It’s an Osamu Dazai book. ‘Schoolgirl’.”
“Oh.” Sayaka trailed off, not knowing where else to go with this conversation. Sure, she had heard about Osamu Dazai in passing; who hasn’t? But she’s never read any of his books before nor did she have any interest in doing so. “So, you like his books?” Sayaka felt like smacking herself upside the head as soon as the words left her mouth.
Miyuki let out a small laugh, “Yeah, I guess I would say that.” She set the book down onto her lap, “Have you read any of his works before?”
“Uh, no. I’m not really a fan of reading,” Sayaka had considered lying and saying that she had read his books before just to impress Miyuki and further the conversation, but she quickly dismissed that idea when she realized that further conversation would’ve required her too actually know something about the book other than its title.
“I wasn’t either,” Miyuki straightened her back as she sat up in her bed, “But after a while here it gets kind of boring just staring at the walls. You start to feel as if you really could go crazy,” She finished off with a laugh.
“How long have you been-” Sayaka paused and made a waving motion with her hand, “Here? I mean if you don’t mind me asking.” She quickly added.
Miyuki tapped at her chin in a manner that Sayaka could only describe as cute, “A long time,” She smiled down bitterly at her lap, “Anyways, if you’re interested in Dazai I think I have a book of his somewhere around here you could borrow.”
Sayaka nodded, a small smile playing on her lips, “That’d be great.”
“She likes to read.”
Yui looked up from her phone, a confused look on her face, “What?”
“Watanabe-san.” Sayaka leaned forward, “She likes to read.”
“Who?” Yui raised an eyebrow at her friend’s odd behavior, “You’re being creepy.”
Sayaka cleared her throat and leaned back into her chair, “She’s the girl I’m working with. My patient.”
“Oh,” Yui set her phone down onto the table, motioning for Sayaka to continue.
“She likes Osamu Dazai. Do you know anything about him?”
Yui hummed, tapping her chin in thought, “I think I read one of his books for a course a while back.”
“She said she would lend me one of his books and I was just curious if you knew him since you like those kinds of things.”
“You? Reading?” Yui shot Sayaka a look, “You hate reading. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen you pick up a book like ever.”
Sayaka shrugged her shoulders, “There’s a first time for everything. Maybe I just haven’t found the right author to interest me.”
Yui let out a loud chuckle, “I need to meet this Watanabe-san. She must really be something if she managed to convince you to read something.”
“It’s not like that,” Sayaka idly folded the corner of a napkin that was set underneath her plastic cup of coffee, “I just don’t know what else to talk to her about and I don’t want her to spend her last months with a caretaker who won’t talk to her.”
“That’s unexpectedly nice of you.”
Sayaka cleared her throat, looking away from Yui who was widely smiling at her. “I’m just doing my job.”
Sayaka hummed in response, not lifting her eyes from the paperwork she was slowly working through.
“What do you like to do in your free time?”
“That’s a random question,” Sayaka shifted her gaze towards Miyuki.
“I just want to know more about you,” Miyuki turned away from the window to face Sayaka, “You’re interesting.”
“Interesting?” Their eyes met and Sayaka resisted the urge to look away, “That’s not exactly a word I would use to describe myself.”
“You’re interesting to me,” Miyuki uttered the words in such a casual tone that Sayaka wondered if she actually meant it or if it was just part of her ploy to get Sayanee to talk about herself.
“I play guitar but-” Sayaka cleared her throat, “Rather I played guitar. I haven’t played since I graduated high school.”
“Why’d you stop?”
Sayaka tapped the edge of her pen against the wooden oak of the mock desk that Nakada had set up for her, “Just didn’t feel like it anymore.” Sayaka shrugged, “What about you?”
“You already know what I like,” Miyuki held up the book that was in her hands. Sayaka noted that it was the same Osamu Dazai book she had spotted Miyuki flipping through a couple of days ago.
“That’s all you like?”
“Even as a kid I’ve always been sickly,” Miyuki frowned, fingers playing with the white covers that were draped over her body, “In and out of hospitals. I’ve never really had a chance to take up a hobby besides reading.”
Sayaka stopped her rhythmic tapping as a sudden unfamiliar sadness washed over her, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Miyuki looked up at Sayaka a gentle smile etched on her lips, “I used to hate the life that I was given. I hated my parents who made me go to the hospitals and I hated the doctors who prolonged my suffering. I wanted to die instead of having to suffer through this sickness. I thought like that for the longest time. But now I feel nothing but content.”
Sayaka stayed silent, letting Miyuki’s words sink in. The emotions that Miyuki must have felt through those times, Sayaka couldn’t even begin to imagine. Even now. It left Sayaka feeling empty. Her pain was nothing compared to the pain that Miyuki’s went through. Empty. Knowing that death was inevitable. Sayaka had never thought about death before this but now it permeated her mind and it scared Sayaka. It scared her to know that one day Miyuki would cease to exist. That Yui would cease to exist. That she would cease to exist.
“Sorry, I ended up saying too much, didn’t I?” Miyuki spoke up softly, her voice cutting through the silence that had engulfed the two.
“No! I-” Sayaka quickly replied, shoving aside the thoughts that had occupied her mind, “I’m happy you told me. You’re far more interesting than I am, Watanabe-san.”
Miyuki simply shook her head in response but didn’t bother to speak her argument, instead she held up the book that was laying in her lap, “Here,” She leaned over, dropping the book onto Sayaka’s lap, “It’s my favorite book of Dazai’s.”
Sayaka grasped the book in her hands, it was small, probably only a hundred pages or so. She turned it over, inspecting the cover, “Schoolgirl,” She read out loud more to herself.
Miyuki smiled as if just the title of the book brought back hundreds of happy memories for her, “I think you’ll like it.”
“Thank you, Watanabe-san,” Sayaka reached for her bag, carefully placing the book inside, “I’ll be sure to read it.”
“Miyuki. You can call me Miyuki,” She replied with the grin that made Sayaka’s heart beat just a little faster than it should, “Can I call you Sayaka?”
Sayaka simply nodded in response, her mouth suddenly having gone dry.
“I hope we can become even closer than, Sayaka.”
“Shit,” Sayaka glanced down at the black watch that adorned her wrist, “I knew I shouldn’t of have let Yui convince me to go with her,” Sayaka muttered quietly to herself, adjusting the straps of her backpack that hung loosely over her shoulders. Now she had to deal with the pain in the ass that was Nakada with her monotone voice and emotionless face looking down at her. Sayaka groaned at the thought.
“Good evening, Yamamoto-san,” The receptionist at the front desk greeted her, a smile, that was much too bright for Sayaka’s tastes, present on her lips.
“Good evening,” Sayaka greeted back, quickly making her way over towards the elevator and pressing down repeatedly on the up button. Maybe if she was quick enough she could make it into Miyuki’s room without Nakada spotting her, “Come on, come on.”
“Pressing it like that won’t make it come any faster.”
Dread washed over Sayaka at the sound of the familiar voice behind her.
“Late again, Yamamoto-san.” Nakada clicked her tongue. Sayaka could hear the loud scratching of pen against paper as Nakada hastily scribbled down something in her clipboard. Probably something along the lines of ‘fire Yamamoto after her patient dies.’
Sayaka quickly turned on her heel to face Nakada and dipped her head in a deep bow, “I’m sorry Nakada-san my class ran late and then the bus was late and when it finally came we ended up stuck in traffic,” She apologized in one breath. If she couldn’t sneak her way in the least she could do was lie her way through.
Nakada hummed half heartily in response, “Don’t let it happen again, Yamamoto.”
“I won’t, I promise,” Sayaka stood back up. By now the elevator was open and ready to save her. Too late now you dumb elevator, Sayaka thought bitterly to herself.
“Yamamoto, wait.” Nakada’s voice stopped Sayaka mid-step, “How’s Watanabe-san?” If it wasn’t for how flat the question sounded, Sayaka would’ve thought for a split second that Nakada actually cared about Miyuki.
“She’s doing fine,” Sayaka watched the elevator slowly close shut again, “She says a lot of interesting things.”
Nakada chuckled and Sayaka almost couldn’t believe her ears. Who knew Nakada was even capable of laughing. “I’ve known her since she first started coming here. She’s always been a curious child, always wanting to know about everything and how it worked. Kind too, always so selfless. Her dream was to be an entertainer so she could bring people to smile. She was always making the nurses and doctors laugh. Her parents were always so proud of her. They were heartbroken when they found out we couldn’t help her anymore. It’s sad isn’t it? When children die before their parents.” Nakada’s voice was filled with emotion as she spoke. Sadness. Grief. Emptiness.
Sayaka cleared her throat, “I should go, Mi- Watanabe-san is waiting for me,” She pressed the up button down firmly, pretending that she couldn’t hear Nakada’s sniffling behind her.
“Please watch over her, Yamamoto. For Miyuki’s parents who weren’t strong enough to do it themselves,” Nakada paused, her voice wavering with every word she uttered, “And for me who can’t bear to lose another child.”
The elevator doors slid open. Sayaka stepped forward, “I will.” Sayaka didn’t turn back around until she heard the doors slide shut again, “I promise.”
“Miyuki?” Sayaka leaned back in her chair, the hard cushion pressing against her back. For once Miyuki didn’t have her nose buried in a book and instead opted for idly looking out the window. The sun shone brightly through the window, painting the room in a yellowish gold.
“Yeah?” Miyuki didn’t avert her eyes from the window.
“Do you ever think about what life would be like if you were healthy?” Sayaka stole a glance at the bedridden girl. As the days ticked on it became more and more apparent just how sick Miyuki was. Her face was thinner, her skin pale, almost translucent enough to see through, and the bruises that ran up and down her arms were darker. Sayaka averted her eyes.
Miyuki closed her eyes.
“You don’t have to answer if-”
“Boring,” Miyuki opened her eyes, “It would be boring and mundane. I wouldn’t question why I was happy or why I was put on this earth if only to die. Endlessly going through the motions. Another person who could be easily replaced in this society. At least like this I don’t have to worry about that. I can just think without worrying. Without people questioning why. I can just be.”
“I see,” Sayaka crossed her arms over her chest, mulling over Miyuki’s words.
“At least that’s what I thought,” Miyuki continued, “I always wondered why people were afraid to die. Living was so much more scarier to me than the thought of death. Perhaps because I’ve never had anything that was worth living for,” Miyuki sat up, her eyes meeting Sayaka’s.
Sayaka swallowed. She had never noticed before how much life Miyuki’s eyes held. Miyuki’s light brown irises were bright unlike her own eyes that were a dull brown.
“’Whenever I was asked what I wanted my first impulse was to answer ‘nothing’. The thought went through my mind that it didn’t make any difference, that nothing was going to make me happy.’ For the longest time I thought that nothing was going to make me happy. That I would live a short, unventful life with my only companion being books and my thoughts. I’ve always been content but happy-” Miyuki let out a small laugh, “I still wonder what happiness is.”
“Hope,” Sayaka mummered softly, “Happiness is being able to hope.”
“If that’s true then I think I can safely say that I’ve found my happiness,” Miyuki smiled crookedly, holding her hand out towards Sayaka.
Sayaka leaned forward, grasping Miyuki’s hand with hers. She was warm. Sayaka’s heart thumped painfully against her chest.
“Thank you, Sayaka. I’m happy I met you.”
“Yui what do you think about death?”
Yui paused mid sip. Shooting Sayaka a look she set her plastic cup of coffee back down onto the table, “That’s kind of a morbid question for afternoon coffee time, don’t you think?”
“Sorry, it’s just that I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” Sayaka responded flatly, idly folding her napkin into triangles.
“About death?” Yui raised an eyebrow, leaning over the table to place a hand on Sayaka’s shoulder, “Are you okay? I think this job is doing weird things to your head.”
“I’m fine,” Sayaka shook Yui’s hand off her, “It’s just weird isn’t it? Knowing that one day you’ll just no longer exist, leaving nothing behind.”
“It’s a necessary part of life,” Yui shrugged, “Besides when we die we do leave something behind. That’s why we have memories. So we’ll never forget those important people who left us behind.”
Sayaka crumpled the napkin in her fist, “I don’t want her to be just a memory.”
“Who’s her?” Yui asked, voice weary.
“Miyuki,” Sayaka threw the crumpled napkin back onto the table, “The five months are almost up. Her time is almost-”
“Sayaka,” Yui frowned, her expression turned pensive, “Please don’t tell me.”
Sayaka stayed silent, focusing her attention on folding a new napkin into triangles.
“Are you crazy?” Yui hissed and for a split second Sayaka wondered if she really was. After all only a crazy person would fall for her dying patient. “You should know better than this.”
Of course Sayaka knew better than to grow attached to Miyuki. She always knew from the start. But to know didn’t always constrain.
“Sayaka, are you listening to me?” Yui repeated louder, “You need to quit that place.”
“I can’t,” Sayaka started working on another napkin.
Another napkin. “I made a promise.”
Yui reached over stopping Sayaka’s hands from making anymore triangle napkins, “I don’t care about that. I care about you and it’s obvious this is effecting you more than it should.”
“I’m fine, Yui. I really am. I know this love of mine would never work out,” Sayaka smiled wistfully, “I can’t quit because I need to fulfill my job until the end. That was my promise.”
Yui let out a small sigh, gripping Sayaka’s hands firmly with hers. She was cold. “I’ll always be here for you, Sayanee. Don’t forget that.”
When Sayaka got a call at 3AM and saw that it was the hospital calling her she already had the over looming premonition of why. Despite that Sayaka still had hoped that they were simply calling her about a mundane occurrence, that she had messed up a word on one of her reports or that she had the day off tomorrow. Something. Anything that wouldn’t have to do with what Sayaka knew it would be.
“Yamamoto-san,” It was Nakada, her voice as flat as ever, “Come to the hospital immediately.”
Sayaka doesn’t remember the last time she ran that fast.
“Good evening, Yamamoto-san,” The receptionist greeted her, tone cheery as usual.
Sayaka ignored the receptionist, making a mental note to apologize to her later, and made her way towards the stairwell. Sayaka ran all the way up seven floor, paying no mind to her burning legs or the burning in her chest.
“Yamamoto-san,” Nakada was waiting in front of Miyuki’s room, arms crossed over her chest, a pensive look on her face, “She wanted to see you.”
Sayaka silently nodded, reaching out towards the sliding door that separated her from Miyuki.
Nakada placed a heavy hand on Sayaka’s shoulder, “Thank you,” She whispered, squeezing Sayaka’s shoulder gently.
Sayaka sucked in a deep breath, forcing a small smile on her face. She couldn’t show Miyuki that this was affecting her as much as it was.
“Sayaka,” Miyuki called out softly as soon as Sayaka slid open the door into Miyuki’s room.
“Miyuki,” Sayaka’s smile faltered as her eyes met with Miyuki’s. There was still so much life in her eyes. Sayaka let out a small breath, “How are you?”
Miyuki simply chuckled in response, motioning for Sayaka to come closer. Sayaka obeyed, sitting down in her usual chair next to Miyuki’s bedside, “I think I might’ve seen better days.”
Sayaka shakily reached a hand out, grasping Miyuki’s thin hand delicately with hers. Warm. She was still warm. “Miyuki. I don’t want to lose you.” Her voice quivered with every word she breathed, “I-I, you’re my special person. You’ve taught me so much, about life, about death.” Sayaka paused, “About love. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Sayaka,” Miyuki lifted a trembling hand, resting it against the side of Sayaka’s face, “Don’t cry.” Sayaka hadn’t even noticed that wetness that dripped down her cheeks, “Not all patients can be saved.”
“You’re more than just a patient to me,” Sayaka cried, clutching at Miyuki’s white gown tightly, “You can’t leave me. Not yet. Please, not yet.”
Miyuki wiped away at Sayaka’s face with her finger, “You don’t know how badly I want to stay. For once in my life I’m more afraid of dying than living. But I’ve already accepted this as my fate. Don’t let that be a burden to you.”
“Miyuki,” That feeling of emptiness washed over Sayaka again. She still had so much life in her.
“I’ll always be with you.” Miyuki moved her hand down Sayaka’s chest, over her heart, “I won’t leave your memories.”
A curt knock resounded throughout the room, “Yamamoto-san. Times up,” Nakada stood in the entryway, besides her were two men whom Sayaka assumed were doctors.
“For you,” Miyuki reached under her covers, placing a heavy book in Sayaka’s hands. She smiled that same crooked smile that still without a doubt made Sayaka’s heart skip a beat, “I love you.”
“Yamamoto-san,” Nakada motioned for Sayaka to leave the room as the two doctors made their way towards them.
Sayaka squeezed Miyuki’s hand one last time before letting it go, “I love you too, Miyuki.”
“You did a good job, Yamamoto-san,” Nakada said, sliding the door shut behind them. She was surprised to see Nakada’s own eyes wet with tears.
“Thank you, Nakada-san,” Sayaka looked down at the book that was clenched in her hands. No Longer Human. “Miyuki was more than just a job to me though.”
Nakada cleared her throat, raising a finger to wipe away at her eyes, “Is that so?”
Once Sayaka slowly made her way back home it was already 6AM. Sayaka let out a heavy sigh, throwing herself onto her bed, the book that Miyuki gave her still in hand. Sayaka ran a finger over the words etched out on the front cover. She never had the chance to return the other book that Miyuki had lent her. Sayaka flipped the book open and that’s when she noticed the tiny piece of paper that was stuck to the first page. ‘Turn to page 30.’ It was unmistakably Miyuki’s handwriting.
Sayaka sucked in a breath between her teeth, flipping through the book to find the page Miyuki specified. 28. 29. 30. There. A familiar paragraph was thickly underlined. “Whenever I was asked what I wanted my first impulse was to answer ‘nothing’. The thought went through my mind that it didn’t make any difference. That nothing was going to make me happy.” Sayaka stared down at the passage, letting the words sink in. They were the same words that Miyuki had recited to her a month ago. She glanced over at the margins and noticed that there was something written there. Thank you for showing me happiness. Thank you for giving me hope when no one else would. I love you, Sayaka. ~ Miyuki.
“Miyuki,” Sayaka breathed, blinking away at the tears that were welling up in her eyes. She closed the book, a small smile playing on her lips, “I love you too.”
Chapter 2: the epilogue nobody asked for
"in a nightmare, i am falling from the ceiling into bed besides you. you're asleep, i'm screaming, shoving you to try to wake you up."
Sayaka's eyes shot open, "Miyuki?" silence, "What's wrong?" Sayaka wiped at her wet eyes, "What's wrong?" she repeated. The bed was cold. Unfamiliar. Empty. Sayaka sat up, eyes adjusting to the dark room. That's right. She was gone. Sayaka took in a shaky breath, hand reaching out to the night table, feeling the familiar book beneath her fingertips. She was gone.
Sayaka ran a finger across the worn spine. She had opened this books hundreds of times. searching for comfort within the pages but no matter how many times she had scanned the words, Miyuki was still gone. She was gone and nothing would ever bring her back. No matter how many times Sayaka had pleaded, no matter how many times she had thought it was unfair, she wasn't coming back.
It had been a month since she had last seen Miyuki. a month since she had last seen those bright eyes looking back at her, smiling at her. Sayaka clutched the book to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut.
They had let her go from the hospice a week after Miyuki's passing. They told her she just wasn't stable enough for another case. Sayaka couldn't help but agree. Yui still stopped by occasionally, but Sayaka couldn't stomach seeing her for long, she couldn't stand seeing the pity in her eyes. Poor Sayaka, she just had to go and fall in love with a dying girl. Yui had warned her, and although she had never said "I told you so", Sayaka could see it in her eyes.
"Miyuki," silence. Sayaka had stopped expecting an answer. Sayaka breathed out a heavy sigh, letting her eyes close again with the familiar weight of the book pressed against her chest.
In retrospect Yui should've seen it coming from the first time Sayaka had mentioned the patient who liked to read. The soft smile she only seemed to reserve when she was speaking about Miyuki, the brightness in her eyes. she had noticed. Yui always noticed when it came to Sayaka.
Sayaka had let out another sigh, face pressed against the palm of her hand, eyes focused on the snow falling outside the window. Sayaka hadn't looked at her once, not since Yui had arrived, two hot coffees in hand. this was how their meetings usually went now. Yui forcing her company upon the other girl while Sayaka sighed and stared out the window, probably thinking about how she could've saved Miyuki.
Yui didn't mind the silence anymore. at first it was suffocating, stifling, but over time Yui had learned to bear it. Sayaka only had Yui now, everyone else had left her. feeling awkward by how silent Sayaka had become, frustrated by the lack of response, disgusted by how skinny Sayaka had become, how pale her face turned.
Sayaka did speak to Yui once in a while. It was usually nothing pleasant, but Yui much preferred it over the silence. Questions of why she was still here, shouts of why she didn't leave. Sometimes Yui wondered the same things herself. ever since Miyuki, Sayaka had changed. No more soft, unspoken smiles and lingering gazes. But Yui knew why she still stayed. She couldn't leave her. Never. Yui had learned to smile and bear it.
Yui had wished numerous times that she had words to tell Sayaka besides "I'm sorry". Yui wished she had the courage to say something else, to tell her that life moves on, with or without Miyuki. She wanted nothing more than to tell her that she had others waiting for her to come back, that she had Yui. Yui was still here. She was still here with her. Breathing. Living. Alive.
Sometimes Yui wanted to take out her frustrations on Miyuki. The ghost who had captured her friend, held her hostage for months and stolen her from Yui.
It had been three months since Sayaka had last seen Miyuki and she was still hopelessly drowning in her grief.
"You look awful."
Yui looked up shocked from her open wallet, "Excuse me?"
"You look awful," the cashier repeated without a hint of hesitation.
Yui paused before taking out a couple of bills from her wallet, choosing to ignore the cashier's words.
"Here, it's on the house," The girl continued on despite Yui's silence, sliding over a croissant as well as the two coffees she ordered, "you look like you need it."
"Thanks," Yui wasn't sure if she should be offended or grateful.
The cashier simply hummed in response before turning around and tending to her other duties.
Taking a small bite out of the warm pastry, Yui smiled for the first time in months.
It wasn't easy. It was never easy. But six months since Miyuki, Sayaka was starting to get better. Slowly. It wasn't anything earth shattering. Sayaka still hardly left her cramped apartment, but she had started to eat more, talk more, act more like she was alive. Yui felt triumphant at the small victory.
"It's a gift from Haruka," Yui slid over the bagged pastry to Sayaka.
Sayaka was silent, but the small smile that played on her lips was more than enough for Yui.
"She wants to meet you," Yui placed her hand over Sayaka's, "You have to come with me one day, okay?"
Sayaka let out a small hum in response.
"It's a nice place. It's calming and they're always playing that kind of music you like. I think you'll really like it. Haruka is nice too, although a little blunt. She means well though."
"Do you like her?" It was the first thing Sayaka had said to her all day.
Yui flushed, "Of course. She's a good friend." Haruka had kept Yui afloat. As much as she loved Sayaka and was devoted to helping her, there were times when Yui needed a break. It was frustrating. Some days it seemed as though Sayaka was getting better only for her to revert back to being miserable the next day. But Haruka understood. She always understood. She kept her calm and encouraged her to keep going back and to keep trying and trying to break through to Sayaka. Sayaka needed her. Haruka understood.
"Thank you." Sayaka closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall.
"For being with me. Even when I was a shitty friend."
Yui squeezed Sayaka's hand tightly, "Always."