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Hearts of Storm

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Hugging her knees close to her chest, Yui sat, curled up on her couch. Her phone vibrated repeatedly on the coffee table littered with discarded facial tissues. The angry buzzing sounds a stark contrast to the otherwise silent living room.

She buried her head between her knees, making herself as small as possible as if that could somehow make the phone stop buzzing, make everything around her go away. Or better yet, it could make herself magically disappear.

It had been three days since she stepped outside of her home. Three days since she woke up that morning to this nightmare.

She tried her damndest to forget, but she simply couldn't. It was as if the more she wanted to wipe that truth from her memories, the more her brain was determined to make her remember that horrible morning when she opened her eyes to find the naked man sleeping peacefully beside her with purple bangs lazily draped over his forehead.

Her memories of that morning were still painfully fresh. She could clearly remember waking up slowly to the feeling of a warm body cuddling her, his strong arms wrapped around her small body.

The memories of the prior night’s reunion with Gavin was a bit fuzzy in her mind, so she kept her eyes closed, afraid that it was all but a drunken dream. Afraid that, if she opened her eyes, the feeling of Gavin sleeping soundly beside her would be gone. So, she laid still with her eyes closed, listening to the sounds of his even breathing, basking in a peace she hadn’t felt in months.

Six months and twenty-four days, to be exact.

That was how long she had been struggling to find a way to make Gavin and everyone else remember her. Or more precisely, for everyone to gain the memory of her existing in their lives, since, for some reason, the “Yui” in this dimension was not her and, apparently, Gavin, along with everyone else, never met this “Yui” before.

“Yui”, while still the owner of the Miracle Finder’s production company, led a very different life compared to her own. They did not even look alike, at least not to the people of this dimension; otherwise, Anna would have recognized her when she visited the office. She had not even met Gavin during high school. He had left for military school before “Yui” became a sophomore.

She didn’t know why things were the way they were, but she was determined to fix this reality. By becoming Shaw’s informant, she was hoping to find the way to do so. However, days turned into months and she still didn’t have the slightest clue what she needed to do. Bit by bit, she found herself drowning in hopelessness.

That night was the first night, since her arrival to this dimension, that she was able to sleep through peacefully without startling to nightmares or the sheer overwhelming loneliness of Gavin’s absence.

She would give anything for that moment to last forever, but life seemed determined to torture her.

When she finally opened her eyes, she froze in horror at the realization that the one who she had been intimate with the night before was not her beloved. The person who she kissed over and over again, held closely against her and took into her body last night was not the person she thought he was. As if mocking her, the man’s light purple hair and obvious lack of a prominent scar on his left collar bone grew blatantly clear to her as the bright morning sun illuminated her bedroom.

Yui pulled at her own hair as she relived the horrendous memories. She could still remember vividly how horrified she was and still is. Frozen with shock, she opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. It wasn’t until he began to stir that she regained her senses and fled the room.

Since that dreadful morning, she asked herself over and over again how she could have mistaken Shaw for Gavin that night. It was true that she was under the influence of alcohol, but that shouldn't be an excuse as the two of them were so different.

Although her memories of that night were patchy at best and the details were blurry, she vaguely remembered the times when she thought something was amiss. His rough treatment of her, his mocking tone and his light colored hair she’d had a fleeting glimpse of before he entered her were all clear signs of his true identity. Signs she all but ignored simply due to her desperation to be with Gavin.

Yui shoved her hand through her hair in frustration.

Not wanting to think anymore, she forced herself up from the sofa. She entered the kitchen and pulled a bottle of water out of the fridge. Needing to clear her mind, she forced herself to focus on her own movements as she twisted the cap open.

Yes, if she could keep her mind on what she was doing now, she wouldn’t have to think about what had happened.

She lifted the bottle to her lips and took a sip.

Why didn’t she take a moment to clear her head to think rationally that night?

Her hands began to shake as she leaned her back on the fridge.

If she had done that even for just a short moment, she would have known that the man she held so tenderly in her arms was anyone but her Gavin!

But she didn’t. She took one look at those familiar amber eyes and trusted.

Yui slid down onto the cold hard floor, one hand shoved through her tangled hair again causing a sharp pain in her scalp.  She squeezed the water bottle so hard that it crackled and cold water spewed onto her hand.

She felt none of it. All she could think of was how much she wanted to question Shaw. Why didn’t he stop everything from happening? But even she could vaguely remember that it was she who took the initiative. He had tried to push her away several times while she begged him to stay.

She wanted to lash out at him, to put all the blame on him for taking advantage of her when she had drunkenly taken him for Gavin. But at the end of the day, did she at any point give him reason to think she had mistaken him for Gavin? She couldn’t remember. What if she confronted him only to find out that it was Shaw’s name she called when she begged him to stay?

She didn’t have the strength to find out.

Feeling like an ostrich, she wanted to bury her head in the sand and pretend this never happened as long as she avoided talking about it.

But what would happen once she found a way to fix Gavin’s memories?

Yui slid further onto the freezing tiles of the kitchen floor, slowly curling herself into a fetal position.

She could already picture the hurt and disappointment in his eyes when he found out that she had shared her body with someone else. Perhaps, he would have looked at her with disgust and she would have deserved every ounce of it.

Gavin had always placed so much care in her, in their relationship. He held her heart gently like a small bird in his palms that needed careful nurturing. In return, he gave his heart fully to her, trusting that she would do the same.

Logically, Yui believed she didn’t actively choose to be intimate with Shaw, though she couldn’t help but blame herself for getting drunk and allowing herself to be vulnerable.

But that night on the rooftop, when she called for Gavin’s name over and over in the wind and was met with nothing but silence, utter loneliness engulfed her, suffocating her like a pair of cold hands wrapping tightly around her throat. 

She had been afraid. It had been so long since he had been with her that she feared she would soon forget his warmth, the way his gentle hands touched her and the feeling of being wrapped in the safety of his embrace. So she downed cans after cans of that fruit beer, desperately wanting to relive the evening they spent together on that warm summer night on the Cape Island beach.

She knew she was a lightweight and Gavin had warned her repeatedly not to drink when he was not around. She should have known better. And as a result, she had done the one thing that would hurt him in the worst possible way.

They had promised to belong to each other and each other only. And she had broken that promise.

But what if she kept pretending that none of this had happened? What if she lied by omission about her unfaithful encounter with Shaw?

That would have been the easy way out, no?

Her entire being reacted violently against it.

She couldn’t live her life with him pretending nothing had happened when she knew deep down that she was lying to him every minute and every second of their time together. She couldn’t do that to Gavin.

Once she corrected everyone’s memories, she would have to come clean with him. As much as it would hurt him, as much as it might ruin their relationship, Gavin had the right to know. If he chose to forgive her, it would be his choice, not because she had kept the truth from him.

But if he chose not to forgive her…

Yui could feel the tiny ginkgo leaf digging into her inner wrist as she hugged herself impossibly tighter at the thought of losing Gavin forever.

Gavin had always been her source of strength. It was the tiny hope that she could somehow find a way to fix everything and have Gavin back at her side that kept her from breaking down and surrendering to this reality for the past six months.

But if she stood to lose Gavin anyway, would it be better if he simply never remembered their past together? That way, perhaps, she could pretend that she was simply an underclassman with a good memory, something she claimed to be when she last spoke to him in that alleyway, trying to convince him she didn’t have malicious intent.

Perhaps, she could even try to get to know him again with this new identity. They may not return to the way they were, but at least there would be a chance to keep Gavin in her life, even just as friends.

Deep inside, Yui knew it was despicable to think this way. After all, it was she who refused to stay in the dream world and said that even if reality was cruel, it was, at least, real. And yet, when it came to Gavin, she wasn’t sure if she could make the same choice anymore.

BOOM!

Her room rattled at the sound of the enormous explosion.