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“There are words that will never be said. Feelings that will never be told.”

That guy was always weird from the beginning. Frustrating, even. Who tries to drop-kick someone the moment they meet them? And on the stairs too. Weirdo. He says it was because my face pissed him off. This was the face I was born with and I don’t recall making any particular expression.

Yet, after that, he caught my eye. I saw him everywhere and at some point, I started going to find him myself. Even from the start, I would tell myself I shouldn’t concern myself with him. He was a stranger. Somebody that had nothing to do with me. I said that out loud as if to convince everyone, even myself. But it was the undeniable truth that I kept gravitating towards him even if it meant just hearing his yelling ringing in my ears. That whatever he asked for, I would give. Not that the stubborn fool would ever ask for anything. He would probably drown first before asking me to save him.

No, I knew exactly when I decided to start seeking him out. To make sure he was never alone. Back when my eyes unconsciously started seeking him out whenever he was near. That day was already so full of him. Maybe that is what happens when you go to the same school and are in the same grade as a guy who glares at you every time he sees you. It’s kind of funny. How people casually talk to him, see him as the nice guy, and ask favors of him. Yet, they also see him as the strange guy to keep away from. The fact that he holds people at a distance clearly doesn’t help. I noticed that about him. Seeing him that day, alone, in the morning in front of the shoe lockers. As if he was invisible in a bubble. Nobody really saw him or talked to him. I couldn’t help but observe him to see if he was really there. Until he spotted me and hissed at me like a cat. He even scampered off like one too. Dumbass. This observation process repeated in the hallways as we passed each other. During cleaning time when he was sweeping. Even though he wasn’t on cleaning duty. I saw a guy casually call out to him, seeming to beg him to take over for cleaning duty. And he just accepted it. Tch. Too nice. Then, he’d slightly grumble under his breath, making me turn my ears to catch the words, “I had my part-time job to go to, you know… Urgh, I’m gonna be late…” That’s probably why I saw him after my archery practice. And why my eyes caught him on the riverbank, clutching a tiny cat’s corpse. How I heard him utter, “I’ll die like this too. Alone.”

Hearing that left a bad taste in my mouth on the way home. It started a quiet, seething rage within me that gave me an irritation that seemed to be trying to claw its way out from under my skin. I couldn’t help but throw my bag on the floor and sit at my desk in a huff. He said it like it was a fact. That he would die alone. Alone in the world like that cat probably was. Sad, starving, cold, deprived of human warmth and contact. On a rainy day where no one noticed it died except for him. He said it so forlornly. Held that cat tightly to his chest as if he could bring it back to life. Seeing himself in it and his own fate. Wishing it wasn’t so but knew in his heart it would be so. That’s probably what broke me. Seeing him like that. It infuriated me. The fact that this was a fate he didn’t want but I knew it would be at the rate he was going. He held people at a distance and he was such a strange guy that he chased people away with his actions. I knew he mumbled to himself, looked distinctly in places when there was nothing there, and seemed to just scowl at the air. Despite his manners with me, he did seem to be a good guy. If only he reached out more he’d probably be popular with people. Yet, he didn’t. He looked like he gave up and resigned himself to a fate he didn’t want. That’s what lit the flame within me on that day. That he wouldn’t fight this so-called fate. So, I decided to help him fight. To be by his side and make sure he wouldn’t die alone. Looking back at it now, maybe it wasn’t that I broke that day. I probably broke from the moment I met him. The moment Watanuki Kimihiro came crashing into my life and buried himself under my skin. He does have a way of getting in my head and bringing out strong emotions within me that I never expected. And now, somewhere along the line, that goal changed. My desire grew. It went from not letting him die alone to making sure that idiot didn’t die where I wasn’t looking. Then to just trying to keep him alive for as long as I could. I would protect him with my life and make sure he never had that face ever again. Then things changed so much, it all spiraled out of control.

He decided to stop his time and wait for Yuuko.

But my time wasn’t stopped. I couldn’t wait with him. I knew I couldn’t ask him to stop my time to let me be with him. He wouldn’t let me. Just like that time with the spider. He would never want anything from me and would never ask anything of me. Not even me. Not my feelings towards him or my resolve. He would just do what he always does. Climb back into his shell, mope for himself, and tell himself to be alone. That he was fine being alone. This time, while he was waiting for that witch. To a future I can’t be in. I couldn’t let that happen.

So I teamed up with her. That girl, Kohane Tsuyuri. We both loved him and didn’t want him to be alone. “We’re the same now, Kimihiro-kun and I. We’re both not alone. And I won’t leave him alone. I want him to be the same as me forever. You feel the same for him right, Shizuka-kun?” She said with that same soft smile that she had whenever she spoke to him. She was the one who came up with the plan and proposed to me. She had more resolve than me to make sure there would be someone by his side in the future. I wanted to be the one by his side. I couldn’t help but want to be only by his side and be with anyone else, even if it was for his sake. But I knew she was right. I knew what had to be done. So we got married.

It was our plan. Something we executed together and made perfect sense to me. To make sure he wouldn’t be alone, I had to make sure there would be someone by his side when he finally met Yuuko. When his time would restart and tick again. To be by his side when he died. Someone who would make sure for me that he would never make that face again. That he wouldn’t be lonely. So we got married. We made sure we had kids. That those kids would have kids. And so on. I knew there would eventually be someone that looked like me. I took after my grandfather so I was betting on the fact one of my grandkids would look exactly like me. I didn’t want him to feel the time passing by. That I would leave him alone. I wanted him to feel like it was me by his side. So when I started looking too old, I stopped visiting him. I waited for the one that would look exactly like me to appear. I would pass down the egg and the ring. Hoping that maybe the right moment would come where I could help him. Make sure he was safe. I left behind my things. I made sure the next kid would be grown up before meeting him. That they would have my mannerisms. That they knew about his. Tsuyuri indulged in me this much. She also agreed that she didn’t want Watanuki to feel like we were leaving him. To feel the effect of the time outside the shop, which he had no control over and no power to visit.

We were teammates, her and I. Comrades. Yet, I still couldn’t call her Kohane and she kept calling me Shizuka-kun. It just felt.. Wrong. To call her by her first name. As if we were closer than we really were. Even after getting married. Even after having a kid together. It made me feel guilty and sorry. We were both guilty and sorry. To each other and most of all, to Watanuki. He was actually happy for us. Happy about us getting married. The one time I let it slip in front of him, calling her “Tsuyuri”, he scolded me. Saying, “You should be calling her Kohane-chan! You two are going to get married and she’s going to be a Doumeki.” I just nodded along.

It made no sense that part of the guilt was that it felt as if binding myself to her was a betrayal to him. Even if we weren’t actually together, whether it was him and me or me and her. It was the same reason that trying to call her Kohane made me feel like my guy got punched and a sour taste emerged in my mouth as if I was going to throw up. She just smiled understandingly and said, “It’s ok, Shizuka-kun. If I could just call you Doumeki-kun, I would but… I know about Haruka-san. Kimihiro-kun is special to me and… I don’t want to lose that specialness that only him and I have...” My eyes widened at the realization and it was my turn to nod in understanding.

So we decided to live our lie, putting our plan in motion. Deceiving the people around us, using our children. I hoped he would never discover what we’ve done. All while wishing for the opposite. Hoping he would see what we’ve done. Realize how obsessed we were with him. How he was loved and would never be truly alone. That there wasn’t only Yuuko to look forward to. Then I would remember his disappointed and sad face. I don’t want him to have that face. Not even where I can’t see it. Not even when I’m not there. So I pray for that future for him, praying like I never did before.

Then I always think back to that one time with Yuuko. Back when I paid for his blood with my blood. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to lose him, that I would pay anything to see him gripe about something meaningless again. Looking at my desperate face, she just smiled and said, “There are words that will never be said. Feelings that will never be told.”

At that time, I just knew she was right. That the extent of my feelings for him can never be conveyed. How I couldn’t tell him how much I loved him and what I wanted for him. However, at that time I still thought there would be a future for him and I. A lifetime where I could slowly convey my feelings and make him aware. Be together with him.

She must’ve known what I was thinking and knew what was to come because she said next, “There will be more that you will never tell him. Secrets that will emerge in your life that you will try desperately to hide from him”

She just smiled that usual sly smile of hers as she took the price from me and never said any more. I didn’t ask. Probably for fear of learning what I know now. That I would give my life for him, but in ways I never expected. That I would hear “Welcome home” when I went to his place and truly would feel like I’ve gone home to him but know I could never truly be with him. That staying with him would be impossible. The pain and the joy of being with him whenever I could but not in my last moments, where all I look back on is him. All I can think about is him. Here, in the end.