Later on, I never remembered much about the drive to Iwaki. My thoughts just kept going around and around in panicked circles, as I stared blankly at the back of the driver’s head. I prayed a lot, to every god and spirit who would listen. I begged them to spare Katou, to not take him from me. And I know that my lower lip was nearly raw from me gnawing at it. But nothing else registered, not even Sawa’s tender consideration or Yukihito’s compassionate presence. The other two men might as well have not been in the car with me. All I could think about was my lover. And all I could feel were alternating bouts of despair and desperate hope. That trip seemed to take an eternity in subjective time. But finally we arrived in the city, and the driver stopped to get directions to the hospital.
“We’re almost there, Iwaki-san,” Sawa said to me encouragingly. I tried to work up a small smile for him, but it died halfway to my lips. But his eyes said that he understood completely. He had twined his fingers with his lover’s, and I knew that he was thinking about how he’d be feeling if it were Yukihito lying in the hospital badly injured right now. I looked down as tears forced their way up into my tear ducts, and tracked down my cheeks of their own volition. I hadn’t wanted to cry; I superstitiously felt that if I did, then it somehow meant that Katou was going to die.
The driver returned to the car and we pulled back into the traffic. Fortunately, the trip to the hospital wasn’t very long. I felt like I was coming apart at the seams the closer we came to it. The car stopped in front of the building and let us all out. I clutched my own bag and the one I’d packed for Katou in my hands, as Sawa and Yukihito hurried me into the lobby of the hospital. I didn’t really want to go, just as much as I did. I was terrified of what I’d find. We went up to the reception desk, where a friendly-looking nurse looked up at us inquiringly.
“We’re here to see Katou Yohji, the actor,” Sawa said to her, because my voice seemed to have stopped working altogether. At his words, her eyes suddenly flew to my face and widened. Clearly she recognized me. Then they darted back to the writer, and I saw that she now remembered who he was, too. He smiled at her encouragingly. “How is Katou-san? Is he still in intensive care?” What he was really asking was – is he still alive? I knew it, and all my muscles tensed as I waited for the answer to his question.
She consulted her computer hurriedly. “Katou-san is still in intensive care, yes,” she said after a moment. “He just got out of surgery a few hours ago.”
“Surgery?” my voice sounded hollow and far away. “What kind of surgery?”
She shook her head, her dark eyes compassionate. “I’m sorry Iwaki-san, but I can’t tell you that. You’ll have to speak to his doctor.”
So she did know who I was. “Who is his doctor?”
“Dr. Nobunari is his physician. He’s a very good doctor, I assure you. If you’ll just take the elevator to the fifth floor and speak to the intensive care nurse, She’ll be happy to call him for you.”
“Arigatou,” I said to her with a little bow. Her eyes watched us as we went to the bank of elevators across the lobby. Sawa pushed the button for the fifth floor, and I stood stiffly beside him as Yukihito positioned himself on the other side of me. The two of them were clearly keeping a sharp eye on me. I didn’t care; all I cared about right now was finding out about Katou’s condition. At least he was still alive…Thank you, gods, I thought in relief for this knowledge. The elevator seemed to rise very slowly, and people got on and off at every floor. Some stared at me and whispered; it wasn’t every day that they had a fairly well-known actor in their midst. Sometimes I forget that I’m a public figure. It’s only at times like these that I’m sharply reminded of this fact. But at least none of them asked me for an autograph or pestered me. I’m sure my face was pretty haggard by then, and betrayed my anxiety and worry. And by now all of the hospital had to be aware of the fact that Katou Yohji was in their intensive care wing.
I was grateful for the consideration. The last thing I needed to deal with right now was a fan. My fingers dug in to the leather of the carry all bags as I closed my eyes and tried to take deep breaths. Almost there, almost there…and then the elevator door was opening, and we walked out onto the fifth floor to make our way to the intensive care wing. The double doors that led to it were up ahead, and I could feel my breath faltering as sweat broke out on my brow. So close, and then we were pushing through the doors and approaching the desk.
The nurses there both stared at me. “Hello,” Sawa said to them politely. “We’re here to see Katou Yohji.”
One of them looked between the writer and me. Her face wore an apologetic expression. “I’m very sorry,” she aid anxiously with a bow, “No one but family members are allowed in to see patients in intensive care.”
I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut. Never mind that Katou was my family; we weren’t related. And since we weren’t legally married, either, I couldn’t even see him. I felt as though my brain was reeling, and I think I actually swayed in place. Sawa put a firm hand on my arm to steady me. “But we ARE family,” he said smoothly to the nurse. “I am his cousin Katou Nagisa, this is his cousin Katou Yukihito, and this is his brother Katou Kyosuke.”
Her mouth opened at this brazen lie, but the writer simply looked steadily at her as his hand rubbed comforting circles on my arm. Her eyes went to my white face, and she suddenly nodded. “All right. If you’ll all just sign in…” she pushed a clipboard across the desk. “But remember to put your full names” she added warningly, to make sure that we signed the fake names that the author had given us.
After we’d all signed the sheet of paper, she came around the desk. “I'll take you to his room," she told us. As we followed her down a white corridor, I looked at Sawa. “I should call his parents and sister,” I told the writer. “If no one has told them yet.”
He nodded. “Who better than his brother to do so?” he agreed. “Do you have all their numbers?”
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket. “Hai,” I said as I flipped it open. “I have all their numbers in my directory.”
As the phone rang in Katou’s parents’ house, I felt my stomach twisting. How could I tell them? They adored their son. I tried to steel myself for their reaction as a feminine voice that was an older female version on Katou’s came on the line. “Katou-san,” I said to his mother, “This is Iwaki.”
“Ahh, Iwaki-san! How nice of you to call,” she said pleasantly.
My throat was trying to close up. “Katou-san, I’m afraid I have some bad news,” I choked. “It’s about Katou-kun.”
Sudden anxiety sprang up in her voice. “What is it? What’s the matter?” she cried.
“H-He’s been in a car accident. He’s in the hospital in the city of Iwaki in the Fukushima Prefecture. I’m here now, at the hospital. I’m just about to see him.”
“Oh, my! Is he all right?” the fear in her voice was justified. I couldn’t have sounded very encouraging at that point.
“I don’t know. I’ll call you back as soon as I can after I’ve seen him.”
“Arigatou, Iwaki-san. Have you called Youko yet?” she asked.
“Ie. I was just going to call her after I talked to you.”
“All right. His father and I will come as quickly as possible. Please be strong for him, Iwaki-san,” she begged.
My voice trembled. “I-I will. I’ll contact you again as soon as I know anything.”
“Please do. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
My fingers were shaking as I hung up the phone and then called Katou’s sister Youko. Her bright voice answered the phone right away. I could hear a baby crying in the background. That would be Katou’s nephew Yosuke, who had been named after Katou and I, and was considered by his adoring mother to be a nephew to both of us. I told her what I’d told her mother, and distress rang in her voice as she vowed to pack up her young son and drive to Iwaki as soon as possible. She didn’t ask me if I was all right; she knew better. “I’m sure he’ll be fine, Iwaki-san,” she said firmly, and obviously believed it. I had to admire her faith, and that strength of will would help to buoy me if my own belief faltered. She hung up to begin packing as the nurse led us into a large room near the end of the hall.
There was a bed in the middle of the room, and a still figure was laying in it, hooked up to a tangle of machinery. I froze in the doorway, my tongue cleaving to the roof of my mouth, as I stared at Katou’s still, waxen face. His head was swathed in bandages, and he looked like a marble effigy. He didn’t seem to be alive at all. If I hadn’t been able to see the heart monitor showing a steady rhythm, I would have believed him to be dead. The second most distressing thing was the fact that there was a tube shoved in his mouth, for he was hooked up to a respirator. I whispered his name hoarsely, hardly believing that this was my lively, energetic lover.
Sawa’s hand on my arm coaxed me across the room toward the bed. The closer we got, the worse Katou looked. There was a mottle of bruises on his handsome face that showed up clearly on the too-pale skin. He looked far worse than he had when he was playing a dying man on Inside Report, the television show in which I’d played a doctor whose mistake had killed a patient. I’d wept then, unconsciously and silently, just at the very thought of Katou dying. Now he might actually be doing so, and I wanted to flee screaming from the room rather than face this all too real situation. I also wanted to throw myself on him, to bury my face in his chest and weep. But as I could do neither thing, I merely stood and gazed down at my lover in a kind of frozen despair.
“Hello, I am Dr. Nobunari,” a voice broke me out of me haze. We all turned to see a youngish man standing in the door of the room. His eyes went to my face. I could see that he knew who I was, but he didn’t change expression when the nurse said somewhat anxiously: “These are Katou-san’s cousins and his brother, Doctor.”
“Of course,” he replied. “I will speak to them privately, Nurse. Please leave.” She did so, going back to her station with a last look over her shoulder.
After she had gone, the doctor said quietly: “I don’t mind if you maintain your illusion of actually being members of Katou-san’s family, Iwaki-san. And Sawa-san,” he added for the writer’s benefit. “I can understand your wish to be able to see him. I have no objections.”
“Arigatou, Doctor,” I replied gratefully. I paused. “How is he?” I forced myself to say. “Is he…will he live?”
“We can’t be sure of that yet,” he said gravely. “While he suffered some internal injuries, and a broken ankle, the worst injury was to his head. He was not wearing a seat belt, I’m afraid, and his head impacted the back window with a great deal of force. His brain swelled, and we had to perform surgery on him to relieve the pressure.”
My stomach swirled with nausea. “How did you relieve the pressure?” I asked in a sickly tone of voice, feeling as though the world were whirling around me.
“We had to drill a hole in his skull,” the doctor’s voice was gentle but steady.
“A hole,” my voice didn’t even sound like my own.
“Hai. While it seems to have been effective, I must warn you that if Katou-san comes out of his coma, he may have suffered irreversible brain damage.”
The words ‘coma’ and ‘brain damage’ made a rush of dizziness rise up in me in wave. This just couldn’t be happening. My mind reeled, and I saw my vision narrowing to a tunnel. Then I was falling into darkness as voices cried out around me, and I knew no more for a long time.
When I awoke, my eyes opened to a world of white. I lay blankly staring at the white walls of the room around me, and it took a moment for me to even remember where I was and what was happening. My head hurt; I wondered dimly why. It throbbed in time with my heart. Then a familiar silver-haired man appeared in my line of vision, followed by a slim boy with similar features. “Iwaki-san!” the writer cried, looking relieved. “Oh, my! I’m so glad to see you awake! We’ve been so worried,” he added.
“Why – why am I here?” I managed to say, weakly lifting a hand to indicate the hospital room.
He shook his head. “Well, Iwaki-san, you were naturally upset by what the doctor told you about Katou-kun. You passed out, and unfortunately you hit your head on the metal railing of his bed when you fell. So the doctor checked you into the hospital too, for observation.”
“Oh,” I said. That explained why my head hurt. “How is Katou?” I asked, far more worried about my lover than myself.
He sobered. “The same. But that is as much good news as bad news, Iwaki-san, since he’s not doing any worse, either. His parents and sister both arrived while you were out of it, and have been in to see him. They’re all going to stay at a local hotel for a few days, and Yukihito and I are also checked in at the same one. You’ll be sleeping here tonight” he went on firmly.
“Okay,” at this point I didn’t feel like arguing. I felt weak and weary, and not just from the knock on the head. And at least I’d still be in the hospital, close to my lover, should anything happen. “What about Kaneko-san? Katou’s manager?” I asked suddenly. I felt ashamed that I’d forgotten his nice young manager so completely.
“Don’t worry, Iwaki-san,” the writer replied soothingly. “He’s in better shape than Katou-kun. The airbag saved him from any really bad injuries. He’ll be released from the hospital in a few days.”
I closed my eyes, feeling relief run through me. I liked Kaneko, and I knew that Katou would be grateful that his manager hadn’t suffered any debilitating injuries in the accident. The writer hesitated, his face sobering. “Iwaki-san. There’s a policeman here who wants to talk to you about the accident.”
“A policeman?” I repeated in puzzlement.
He nodded. “A Sergeant Houseki. He says that it’s important. He says…” the silver haired man paused, a grave expression on his face. “He says that it may not really have been an accident, Iwaki-san. That someone may have…deliberately caused the crash.”