The curtains are whipping fiercely by the open window, but there’s no wind. It’s all the doing of the ghost.
I’m frozen by the door to the classroom, staring in shock as Mitsuo’s feet just . . . disappear out the window. And all I can feel is a complete sense of disbelief, that this can’t really be happening.
Hasumuna is not frozen. He’s a blinding flash of motion, covering the drama club’s classroom in one leap, it seems, head and shoulders out the window in a second, long legs like springs pushing him.
Then his feet, too, are gone from view, and the drapes wave slowly to a stop. At last, I’m able to move again, and run madly back down the hall to the stairs.
I haven’t even gotten halfway down the stairs when I hear Mitsuo scream.
His cry echoes despairingly in the stairwell.
I wrench open the side door at the bottom of the stairs and pound outside. There’s a crowd gathering, students staring in surprise at two of their fellows seemingly falling from the sky. I grab one of them and try to summon up some scrap of the cold, heartless, intimidating Ichi I used to be, who had wanted nothing other than for Mitsuo to back off, and leave me in my guilty misery. “Go call an ambulance!” I growl at the guy. He kind of pales and nods and runs off. I push my way through the loose circle of gawking students that has formed.
Mitsuo is kneeling by Hasunuma’s side, head bent, his trembling fingers ever so lightly touching the taller boy’s cheek. Hasunuma is very, very still. Blood trickles down from his temple to puddle by his ear.
I crouch beside them and hesitantly reach out to touch Mitsuo’s arm. “Mitsuo?” I call softly. “Are you . . .?”
His eyes are filled with tears when he looks up at me. “It’s my fault, Ichi,” he whispers, then he turns away and says nothing more, no matter how I plead.
A week later, and he still has that wounded look. Even the heavens seem to be in sync with him, with his emotions. There hasn’t been a day free of rain since . . . the accident.
Hasunuma hasn’t woken up yet, and the doctors are saying that every day, the chance that he will lessens. Mitsuo spends a lot of time with Hasunuma . . . and alone. He doesn’t speak much in class. He doesn’t even talk much to me, even though I’ve tried. He goes to the hospital and then immediately afterwards to the shrine, to pray for hours on end.
Even the High Priest has noticed his devotion.
I’ve stopped writing the sutra on myself- while it obviously worked, I can’t do it all by myself, and Mitsuo couldn’t stand the way Hasunuma and I hovered over him constantly- but I still tag along with him almost everywhere he goes. At least I don’t have to skulk around any more to see him.
I almost miss working together with Hasunuma to protect Mitsuo.
But today, I make an excuse as we exit the hospital, and don’t accompany Mitsuo to the shrine. He gives me a hurt look, and for an instant, he almost appears betrayed, but nods shortly and leaves me at the door, his shoulders slumped as he walks slowly away.
I watch him for a moment, then re-enter the hospital, and head back up to Hasunuma’s room.
I haven’t actually been inside before; Mitsuo insists on visiting him alone. I walk up to the bed and stare down at him. I know he’s in a coma, and that he doesn’t even know I’m there, but I swear, it looks just like he’s only pretending to sleep, so he can pounce on Mitsuo and grope him or something when he least expects it.
I don’t miss that at all, though.
For a moment, I forget why I’m here, and my fingers comb absently through his shaggy forelock. Once I realize what I’m doing, how . . . intimate that gesture is, I snatch my hand away. It clenches into a fist at my side.
“You’re a selfish bastard, Hasunuma,” I mutter, venom filling my tone. “You hang all over Mitsuo all the time, and embarrass him, and now . . . now you’re just lying here, and he’s blaming himself for it. He prays at the shrine every day for you to wake up and be well again, and you just lie here.”
I lean closer and hiss into his ear. “You’d better wake up, you jerk, before Mitsuo is downed by his guilt. I don’t like you, no, but as much as I hate to admit it, he was happier when you were around. So wake up, damn you.” I stop, because my voice is shaking, and it would never do to have oh-so-superior Hasunuma think that I couldn’t control myself.
I turn away, and almost make it to the door, then the perfect thought strikes me. I look back over my shoulder at his motionless form, and grin. As smugly as I can manage, I say, “On second thought, just stay there. If you’re not around, maybe Mituso will turn to me for comfort. And I ought to let you know that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not seeing Natsuko in him. I like him. I like him because of who he is, not because Natsuko possessed him.” With that, I quietly let myself out.
Out in the corridor, I sag against the wall and smile faintly at nothing. Well. That ought to wake him up.
But I can’t decide whether I said it because I mean it or because I want to make that miserable expression that Mitsuo always seems to wear now go away.
With a sigh, I push myself away from the wall and head to the shrine.
Someone still should keep an eye on Mitsuo . . .
May 18, 2004
© randi (K. Shepard), 2004