Grasping These Fleeting Memories
“Rui! Open up!”
“My my, Sawako-senpai, you look tired. Your bun’s all messed up and you look like you ran a marathon. Isn’t it raining out there?”
Greeting Sawako at the door with a slightly surprised look was Nakamura Rui, one of Sawako’s friends from high school.
“The drizzle stopped as I was heading to your door.”
“A shame, too bad she’s not here to see the drizzle. I bet she would write something fancy about it.” Rui joked as she tried to start a mindless conservation to relieve Sawako’s stress after seeing Sawako’s unnaturally tense face. Rui had a habit of reading people’s faces after all.
“Sorry Rui, but it's not the time for gossip about other people. I’ll apologize about the late notice but I need to use your kitchen real quick. I told you about it during the call.”
“To make sushi, right? Can’t you just buy some? Ah, also put your umbrella by the door.”
“Can’t. I need to hand-make these fresh. It’s important.”
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen you. You should hang out with us more instead of running off to America. Ah, but those old rainy high school days are long gone now. Shiori and Tomiko miss you too, you know?”
“Well I’ve been pretty busy with life.”
“Hmm? So, who’s the guy?”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Well? Who’s the lucky guy you’re going through a typhoon in a kimono to make sushi for?”
“Typhoon? I don’t look that bad.” Sawako tries to brush back her stray strands of hair and fix her bun with no success.
“Nee, is it that one senpai? The one that brought a firework when it was the homeroom teacher’s birthday and almost set fire to the gym and shut down the city’s power that one time?”
“Hai hai, that’s the one. Don’t bring back those memories, they make me die inside.”
“Really? You’re dating him? I guess the rumors were true then. But seriously, I can’t imagine it. Senpai, you’re always trying to maintain that superior image right? Why would you date him?”
“What do you mean ‘superior image’? What do you take me for?”
“Ah, it’s nothing. I just thought that you always worry about how others perceive you or something.”
“I’m not always worrying about my image, am I?”
“I don’t know, but I guess you did a good job maintaining it. There’s still some male classmates with broken hearts sobbing in our group chat because they didn’t get into the same college you went to. Also, some girls at the school still talk about you there today.”
“Really? Did I make that much of an impression?”
“I mean you are the only one in our school that went to America for college. Say, how was America? I heard they make everything big there. I even heard that some provinces are bigger than all of Japan.”
“Well, I only stayed in California so I don’t really know. Now I need to concentrate, so less talking please.”
Sawako efficiently cleaned the utensils and prepared her workstation as Rui sat back on the counter observing her work furiously. With tons of experience preparing food for Haruto, Sawako moved with expertise. But as she worked, Rui could notice that Sawako seemed a little shaken.
“This is for Tanabata later right? Ah, what am I asking, of course, it is. This is totally a date. You wouldn’t be working so hard if it wasn’t.”
Sawako stopped what she was doing and blankly stared into space.
“Hey, Sawako-senpai? Hello?”
“...Rui, why don’t Orihime and Hikoboshi meet for more than a year?”
“What type of question is that? It’s just a legend. I don’t know, ask the storytellers or the stars.”
“Yes but… why don’t they meet more? Why don’t they try to meet more?”
Sawako seemed like she was unraveling from the stress she had built up in her mind. She had tried to maintain the fictional dream that Haruto and everything was fine, but the pressure was crushing her.
“What? Sawako-senpai, are you ok? Hmm, well I guess according to the legend the heavens dictated that they can only meet once every year after they made a mess up in heaven from their love or something. Something about loving each other so much they neglected their duties or whatever. Didn’t Hikoboshi’s cows make the Milky Way?”
“Why don’t they petition the heavens to let them meet more? Why don’t they break the rules, I don’t know, maybe sneak out and meet in secret? Maybe they could have fought back against the ruling? Don’t they love each other? If they really do love each other then why aren’t they fighting for each other? Why aren’t they chasing each other across the stars to see each other? Why aren’t they… Why…”
Sawako was on the verge of tears, but she wouldn’t cry. She doesn’t cry in public, it would be embarrassing. She doesn’t cry. Ever.
“Sawako-sen-... why are you asking this? Aren’t you the sciency type? I didn’t take you for someone to fall prey to sappy romantic fairy tales. Look, as a certain someone would always say: that’s just how astronomy works. The stars align every year. They’re just fated to meet like that. Both in legend and in real life, the world has decided that their fate is to meet once every year.”
“Then… then why aren’t they trying to change their fate? Why are they just rolling over and letting fate step on them? If Tanabata is supposed to symbolize love, then what use is love if it is powerless against fate? Why can’t love change fate?”
Rui stopped and looked at Sawako. She could tell that Sawako was trying her hardest to keep it together but was buckling under enormous pressure. Stray strands of hair had come out of her normally well-kept bun. Rui noted that this was uncharacteristic of her.
“Ah, sorry, I was talking out loud to myself again. Sorry…”
“No no, it’s fine. Just calm down, you don’t have much time, the sun is going to set soon.”
“Yes, thanks… I’m calm.” Sawako spoke as she took deep breaths.
Sawako once again regained her mask of composure. Rui was concerned but chose to change the topic.
“Anyways, don’t you have sushi to make? I got the rice ready. By the way, you owe me.”
Sawako prepared the sushi with care; spreading the rice out, applying the nori to cover every corner, and cutting with quick precision. The repetitive sushi-making Sawako had practiced weekly helped calm herself.
“Nee, how are you liking my steel kitchenware? I bet, no, I know that you totally only have cheap plastic tools in your kitchen, Sawako-senpai. You always buy from the sales aisle when we go shopping.”
“Hey, no! That’s not true… haa… I have some high-quality stuff…”
“Eh? I can’t picture it, unless you’ve changed over these years. Ah, I bet all the expensive stuff were rejected gifts you brought to housewarming parties. You always spend more on others than yourself. Told you that you try to maintain some sort of high-class image with others.”
“Hai hai, whatever you say.”
“Hmm? When did you start doing that?”
“What do you mean?”
“That ‘hai hai’ habit. Also that ‘haa…’ When did you start doing that so much?”
“I… I don’t know. I guess I picked it up dealing with a certain annoying person
who I don’t know what to do with.”
“Hmm… well I think it’s cute!”
“Hey, what? How did you come to that conclu-”
Rui giggled, finally glad that she was able to take some stress off of Sawako’s mind.
“Well anyways you should get going. You’re done making sushi right? Ah, look at the time. Didn’t you tell me you needed to finish before sunset? You should have left 20 minutes ago.”
“Ah, you’re right! What is wrong with me today? I’m so disorganized.”
Rui watched as Sawako hurried out the door.
Here Sawako was running and faking; trying to bear the burden of the world while pretending to smile and say everything was ok. Perhaps she was running to avoid reality. Perhaps she was running to catch up to love. Whatever it was, she was determined to keep chasing it, no matter the obstacle.
“Hey is that a Ringpop?”
Sawako ran up to Haruto who was holding a half-eaten Ringpop. Strangely, he looked confused? Perplexed? Uncertain? Sawako couldn’t think of a word to describe it, but his facial expression was different. It was distant and somewhat foreign.
“Ah, Sawako-chan you’re back! Uhh, is this what it’s called?”
Haruto showed Sawako his Ringpop. It was glistening in the afternoon light, as if it was meant for something greater than just a sweet snack.
“Hai hai, it looks like it. Those are so rare here, how did you get one? I haven’t seen one in years.”
“You want it? I thought you didn’t like to eat things that are too sweet.”
“I’m fine with western sweets. During my time studying abroad I got used to them I guess. You can keep the Ringpop though, I’ve had a few before but this is your first one so you should enjoy it.”
“Ah, I didn’t know you liked that type of foreign stuff. If so I would have gotten you something.”
Something was wrong. The way Haruto spoke was so different. Compared to his previous characteristic way of speaking, this was monotone. It lacked that flair that made it Haruto, but Sawako chose to ignore it. She had to continue her happy demeanor for his sake.
“Hey, it’s getting late, we have to hurry to watch the sunset. Let’s go, we need to fight for a spot on the bridge before others take it. We’ll miss the fireworks if we don’t. Hey, the sun is setting fast. Come on!”
“Ah ah ah, alright let me throw away this thing first. Hey, Sawako-chan wait up!”
Sawako felt like something was off, but she had to continue smiling for Haruto.
“Haruto! Haruto wait up!”
Sawako followed Haruto as he weaved through the crowded bridge.
“Sawako-chan, I found an open spot right in the middle of the bridge next to the railing. Look, you can even see the ocean.”
“Eh? You’re right.”
Haruto pointed towards the horizon. Beyond the red railing was the vast ocean and several smaller Japanese islands. The sun slightly dipped itself on the horizon, testing the waters to see if the world was ready for night. The couple sat in a scenic spot on the apex of the bridge, cuddling to stay warm. Around them were the soft murmurs of families and couples anticipating the future and the rhythmic sounds of the sea.
“Really though, Sawako-chan, we wouldn’t have had to struggle so much to find a spot on the bridge if we picked a different area, maybe like the shore or a hill. It would have been the same site anyways. We should just- eh look up there!”
Before Sawako could respond, Haruto called to attention the darkening sky. Stars began to faintly appear, with the two brightest being Altair and Vega as they approached each other to fulfill their destined reunion. The sun continued its slow descent, bringing the festivities of night along with it.
“There goes the sun, we can probably see the stars now.”
“I’ll look for Orihime, you can look for Hikoboshi then?”
Sawako scanned the sky, searching for Hikoboshi. For some reason, she felt that she hated this Hikoboshi that rolled over and surrendered his eternal love to fate. How pathetic for celestial gods to bend the knee to destiny when they have the gift of eternity. Were they only agreeing to meet annually because they knew they were eternal or did they only love each other when they met? How could humans wish to live in this world if even the gods so weakly bowed to the whims of fate? Whatever the excuses Hikoboshi could give were, Sawako didn’t care. To her, the tale of Tanabata was false love.
“It’s almost time for the lanterns.” Sawako whispered with her head on Haruto’s shoulders.
“It is? Since when did they fly lanterns during Tanabata?”
“Every year. I used to think that tradition was silly but I guess it can create a nice, romantic mood when done just right.”
“Do you want to fly one?”
Haruto’s voice was cold and flat, a large contrast to Sawako’s soft, warm whispers.
“Haruto, we don’t have the money for that. Well, it’s dinner time anyways so let’s just eat and watch.”
Sawako handed Haruto a bento box she prepared. After a closer inspection, Haruto notices his bag is definitely bigger and heavier than Sawako’s.
“Ah, you didn’t, did you? Sawako-chan you shouldn’t give me extra food.”
“Hey don’t complain. I spent all of yesterday making this while you were sleeping in the hospital. Here, I got all your favorites. Takoyaki, fried tofu, onigiri, tempura, and some mochi when you’re done!”
“You really shouldn’t have, I-”
“Haa… Just let me do something nice for you, you always do nice things for me after all. I’ll feel guilty if you don't accept it. Oh yea, and I know you like sushi but I can’t put it in the bento since the raw fish would spoil so…” Sawako reaches into her bag and pulls out freshly prepared, handmade sushi. “Tada! Fresh sushi made!”
“When did you-”
“Well you’re usually so absent-minded so when I chased after that umbrella I took the chance to quickly run off and buy all the ingredients, drive to a nearby friend’s house, and prepared it all in 30 minutes. Seriously, did you think I would spend almost an hour chasing an umbrella?”
“But really you’re going to stuff me full with all of this fo-”
“Hai hai, just eat. You need the extra protein to help you regenerate your cells in your injured body”
Sawako expected Haruto to do something that would embarrass her like get on his knees and worship, like his usual antics would dictate, but there was nothing. He only simply thanked her.
“Well I guess if you care for me that much, we can feed each other the takoyaki though, you know, like how couples do.”
“Haa… I’ll allow it.”
Both of them laughed as they joked and ate. They watched as bright orange lanterns rose up one by one into the night sky. Soon, the lanterns rivaled the stars in numbers, dancing in the wind and causing the calm ocean to sparkle as it reflected the colors of the floating lights, the moon, and the cosmos.
“The lanterns really are beautiful.”
“Yea it really adds to the mood. I guess they were right when they said the Tanabata festival in Osaka was the most beautiful in all of Japan.”
“Osaka… Right. We’re in Osaka…”
Haruto’s eyes looked puzzled.
“Yea and we took hours to drive to the bay, no thanks to you.”
“We should get a lantern, shouldn’t we? We can write our names on it and send it to the heavens.”
“Haruto, do you really want one that badly? Well if you keep insisting… I guess this is a special occasion, I’ll get one then, but expect a loan on our rent next month.”
Sawako got up to fulfill Haruto’s request.
Cost doesn’t matter after all. Money is worthless compared to memories. Yes, I need to make this the best day in his life, before it’s too late. Wait, what am I thinking? Everything is as it should be. We’ll watch the lanterns and the fireworks then life will continue the way it always has, unchanged and boring with Haruto randomly disrupting it with his ridiculous banter.
“Everything is fine.”
This place is really like a dream, isn’t it? Sawako thought, or perhaps she felt. Her internal thoughts were no longer distinguishable from her unconscious worry. They mixed together with her emotions, like the churning, turbulent waters of the ocean.
As Sawako weaved her way through a dreamlike mirage of colorful kimonos with luminescent stars and even more brilliant lanterns hanging in the sky, she continued to believe in an even more fantastical dream where she could be happy.
The lantern stand was covered in decorative lanterns and crowded by couples and families. The lanterns featured traditional Japanese designs and star themes to fit Tanabata.
“Which lantern do you want?”
“Hmm? Well I don’t know. Just choose quickly, the fireworks are starting.”
“Ok ok, hey what about this heart shaped one?”
The couple standing in line in front of Sawako were playfully bickering over which lantern to buy. After a few minutes, they left with a handful of lanterns, chatting and laughing as they disappeared into the brilliant festival lights. Sawako watched them with a sense of longing.
“So young lady, which lantern do you want?”
The old lantern salesman showed Sawako an assortment of colorful lanterns.
“We have these cheaper, smaller, single colored lanterns. We also have some of these larger, decorated ones, but they are more expensive. Look at this one, it has a beautiful hand drawn firework on it. Or this one, it has a deep red background with a flower pattern all around it. Or perhaps the lantern with the painted maple tree?”
“I suppose I shouldn’t be cheap and spend more on Haruto…”
“Hmm? What’s that?”
“Ah, sorry, I was thinking out loud.”
“Well, if you want the pricier options, we have the fireworks, flower patterns, and maple tree designs.”
Sawako instinctively reached for the maple tree lantern before halting. Thinking twice, she glanced at the colorful fireworks design before finally settling on the flower-patterned lantern.
“Oh? I was sure you would go for the fireworks or the maple tree. Young people these days always want the most illusory and imaginative ones.”
“No, I like the flower patterns. It’s… warm and familiar.”
The flower pattern reminded her of Haruto for some reason. The old Haruto, someone who is overly friendly and warm. Not the newer one with blank looks and a colder voice.
No, the new Haruto doesn’t exist, does he? Sawako wasn’t sure and she didn’t want to think deeper. Sawako didn’t want to think about it.
“Hey young lady, do you want to write anything on the lantern?” The old salesman handed out a pen. “It’s a specialty for expensive purchases.”
“Ah, no, it’s fine, I’m in a hurry.”
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Writing can help calm you, you know.”
Sawako gave in. But what would she write? She twirled the marker around as she stared at the flower patterns on the lantern. What would she write?
Sawako suddenly remembered the stainless steel spatula she used yesterday. It was from an old, familiar Haruto who wished her the best all those years ago. Although they exchanged lots of gifts after that, she hadn’t had the chance to ever reply to that message. Maybe I’m too hard on Haruto sometimes…
With a deciding stroke, she wrote:
“I hope you watch the fireworks with me, love you!”
“Ah, how stupid.”
Sawako worked her way through the crowd of kimonos like a needle through cloth as lanterns filled the sky. As she ran her bun slowly came undone, letting stray strands loose.
“Haruto! Haruto! Haru-!”
Sawako paused. In front of her was a person with Haruto’s looks but not Haruto's soul. His face was an expression that Sawako did not associate with Haruto. He was distraught.
No, that had to be Haruto. Of course that’s Haruto. Why would Sawako doubt herself? She had to keep a smile for Haruto. She had to pretend she was having the time of her life so that Haruto could have the time of his life. She’s just overthinking things, right?
“Hai! I got the lantern! Let’s light it before the fireworks.”
In front of Sawako sat a confused man who was called Haruto. He had a blank expression and faint tear marks on his cheeks.
“Hello? Earth to Haruto? Haa… Are you going to try one of your flirting rambles again? Hellooooo? Earth to Haruto, this is Sawako making contact, if there is any life ple-”
Haruto looked at Sawako with deep eyes. For an instant, Sawako saw a flash of vibrant life in those eyes, but they dissipated as fast as they came.
“Ah that’s right! Hi Sawako-san!”
Sawako recoiled in a mixture of confusion, worry, and shock. Her previous happy demeanor and characteristic half-grin vanished, replaced with a face of concern marked with worried eyes.
Sawako-san? Sawako-san? Isn’t that what she wanted? Isn’t that what she asked him to call me? Then, why is it wrong? Why is it so wrong? Where is the flair? Where is the purposeful teasing? Where is Haruto!?
Reality approached her with Haruto’s words. She had to wake from her dreams.
“Ha-… h-hai, Sawako-san... Let’s light the lantern Haruto...” Sawako held out her newly bought lantern to the boy next to her.
Its flower patterns matched the diary in Haruto’s pocket: the old Haruto. Both were filled with heartfelt pleas.
“Ah, a lantern? We could light it and let it fly like the rest of the ones in the sky.”
“H-Hai hai… I have the pen, let’s write our names... Here, I’ll write first. Sa. Wa. Ko, see? Your turn.”
Haruto’s face had a shadow of despair as if he were struggling. This was wrong. This was very very wrong. Where was that playful face that signaled another harmless prank? Where was that sleepy face that greeted her in front of his door every morning?
“Sa… Wa… Ko… Like Sawako-san... Ok, do I just write it here? Uhh, let me just... My name was… It was…?”
That was the confirmation Sawako dreaded. It was the wake-up call that told her that she can’t ignore reality any longer. She knew this time would come when she heard the doctor that fateful morning, but she rejected the idea and banished it away.
“It’s Haruto, Hojo Haruto. See, Ha. Ru. To. We’re together right now, like Orihime and Hikoboshi. Let’s write our names and send it to the heavens to bless our rela- relation- our…”
Orihime and Hikoboshi. Two false lovers too weak to chase each other, instead they bent the knee and accepted their fate.
The girl named Sawako couldn’t talk. She was too busy holding back her tears. She cried silently. She couldn’t show Haruto. She couldn’t ruin his happiness.
“Ah, so like… Ha. Ru. To. So then what?”
“Then- then just light it and it will soar with- with our love…” Sawako wiped away her tears and continued to instruct the boy called Haruto next to her, hoping to salvage the fragments of her shattered fantasy.
“So like this? Let me just hold it out and take the lighter… Ah,” Haruto dropped the lantern and it tumbled over the edge of the bridge, landing in the murky water below. The waves ebbed and flowed, pulling the flower-patterned lantern away like memories against the tides of time, reality against the delusions of fantasy, and hope against the will of fate.
“Ah I’m so sorry, I lost your lantern!”
“No, no, no it’s fine. It’s all right. We don’t need a- a silly lantern to love each… each… each oth-”
Boom! Loud explosions could be heard. In the sky, fireworks lit up the starry night, painting the sky in fleeting memories of multicolored wonder before disappearing silently into the hearts and minds of the watchers.
“Ah, so those are fireworks huh.”
“Yea… They’re… They’re beautiful aren’t they?” The girl named Sawako didn’t wait for an answer... no, she knew he couldn’t give an answer. She put her head on Haruto’s shoulders, hoping to hide tears.
“Eh, uhh Sawa… Uhh are you ok?”
“Hai hai… Stop looking at me, I’m fine. Enjoy the fireworks.”
The fireworks ignited the air, sending summer colors flying throughout the sky. It seemed like it was raining stardust. The booms echoed across the land, demanding attention and awe at the majesty of art and color it displayed. The stars of Altair and Vega, known in legend as Hikoboshi and Orihime, now together in the sky, were the only stars that outshined the brilliant fireworks. The fireworks blew away the last remnants of Sawako’s false dreams.
“What are you doing, Haruto, stop looking at my face, it’ll ruin your night. Look at the fireworks… please.”
“Ah, sorry, I tried looking at the fireworks but your face was more beautiful.”
That broke her.
Where was the long-winded explanation? Where was the flirt-killing tone? This wasn’t Haruto. Haruto was lost, she knew it. Her Haruto was gone.
After that comment, Sawako paused, sat back up, put her hands over her face, and cried.
She cried more than she ever had in her life. She no longer tried to stop the tears that poured across her face, they fell like a maple tree shedding its beautiful summer-colored leaves. She stained her new flower-patterned kimono crying, but she didn’t care. Her well-kept hair was a complete mess, but she didn’t care. People began to notice and murmur, but she didn’t care. She only cared for Haruto, and he was gone.
“Haruto… Remember me. It’s me, Sawako-chan! Your Sawako-chan! Who has a habit of saying ‘hai hai’ that you find annoying. Who is trying to study to become a doctor so we can have money. Who has to call you so you can wake up in the morning. Who- Who glares and pouts at you every time you do something dumb. Who- Who secretly adds extra portions to your lunch before you go to work. Who laughs when you try to make dumb jokes and gets angry when you try to flirt. Who- Who wants you to be happy!”
Ah, she was thinking out loud now. She was speaking her mind. She was unraveling.
People were watching now, seeing a broken girl facing the burden of reality and fate. They were whispering rumors and shuffling away. Sawako didn’t care though, why should she. What is the worth of embarrassment when you lost everything?
“It’s… It’s not fair. IT’S NOT FAIR! Why… Why… out of all the times you’ve tried, this time your stupid flirting worked? Where is the endless ramble that kills the mood? Where are the joking replies and that face that doesn’t pay attention? Why… Why… Why are you gone? It’s not- I can’t- I- I- I should have treated you better. I shouldn’t have been so cold to you. Is- is that what the gods would have wanted? Is that why my Haruto received such a cruel punishment in my place? Why… Why…”
Her words were drowned out by the booms of the fireworks she once wanted to see. It didn’t matter that much though, Haruto couldn’t understand her, she knew it. She was alone, talking to herself, embarrassing herself. Her words would reach no one. They only make her look like a lovestruck fool. But she didn’t care.
The night was filled with the incoherent cries of a girl lost in hopeless love and the deafening roars of colorful fireworks. And, as fate would have it, when the firework show finally died down, all that was left were the sad cries of a lonely girl who lost the things she cared for the most.
“Hey… hey… are you ok?” The boy she called Haruto shook the crying girl’s shoulders. Sawako didn’t respond. She couldn’t respond.
The boy called Haruto grew a pained expression on his face, as if he was torn between two sides; as if he was fighting between two selves.
Both parties had tried to make each other happy. Both parties found themselves in grief. Both parties blamed only themselves for this situation.
There, beyond the red railing of the old wooden bridge sat the murky waters of Osaka Bay, 50 meters below his feet. Below drifted a dead flower-patterned lantern inscribed with words that were never read. There were no lanterns up anymore, they had drifted away or sank under the waves. Fireworks no longer lit the skies, only the moon and the stars Altair and Vega shined down, watching a silent boy and a crying girl.
Between her sobs, Sawako could see pain in the boy she called Haruto’s eyes. Mixed in there was another, more sublime emotion. A certain flair of fire that, had Sawako looked closely, she would have recognized. It was the color of determination, the same that Sawako had as she chased her happiness. Some would call it love.
In a silent moment, Sawako watched as a boy she loved called Haruto stood up, walked towards the railings of the bridge, and jumped.
She watched her dreams try to erase themselves, and she decided to chase them.
“NO! NO NO NO NO NO. DON’T YOU DARE. NO!”
Sawako grabbed Haruto before he fell. She held onto him more than her own life. Holding with more effort than the endless chasing she did in that imaginary beach. He was her dream. Her real dream, right in front of her. Tangible, present, and fading. She wouldn’t let this dream fade to white anymore. She won’t let go.
They both collapse down, with Haruto’s back against the railing and a crying Sawako hammering his chest and holding him as tight as she can. Pounding, pounding, pounding, like those countless, rhythmic CPR compressions she did as she hopelessly grasped her dreams.
Sawako didn’t even have the chance to properly thank him for mixing up her kitchen with expensive gifts. Didn’t even have the chance yet to apologize for her cold demeanor. Didn’t even have the chance to appreciate his carefree behavior and joyous company. She didn’t even have the chance to love him to the fullest yet.
“NO, NO YOU CAN’T. YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO DIE. YOU- YOU- WE- We haven’t even experienced life together yet! You- You still owe me 50 years Haruto! You still owe me more hugs and kisses and… and dreams… You- You can’t leave me yet Haruto! You can’t abandon me yet since I haven’t abandoned you! You’re not allowed to die. You can’t die. I won’t let you. I don’t care if the stars smite me or if the ocean swallows me, I won’t let you die! I’ll throw away everything twenty times and more if I could spend one more second with you! I don't care if you don’t remember me! I don’t care if you don’t love me! I won’t let go of you!
So- So- please… Haruto… don’t die…”
She was tired, she spent the last few days with little sleep worrying about Haruto’s condition but it didn’t soften her hug. She was holding on to something more important than her life.
In a stubborn act of defiance, Sawako decided to hold until even fate surrendered in trying to make her let go. She wouldn’t be like those false lovers in the sky, currently shining and laughing at her and her Haruto. She will face her new reality head on. She will fight fate for perpetuity if it was just a second more with Haruto.
“I… won’t let go even if I have to hold you for an eternity. I won’t ever-”
A timer rang out from within Haruto’s pocket. It signalled that it was 11:59 PM, one minute before the end of Tanabata and the start of their 3rd anniversary. It signaled Sawako to finally awaken from her fabricated, stagnant dream that everything was fine. It told Sawako to finally accept reality.
As Sawako held everything that was dear to her, Haruto was twisted in a battle between his new self and his forgotten self. A war between him and his fate. They shared the same sentiment, one of compassion, care, and fondness we humans have defined as love. This wasn’t the weak-willed love of Orihime and Hikoboshi that bowed to the heavens. This was raw, unrivaled love, an emotion felt only by fleeting mortals, grasping at memories and chasing their dreams.
The old Haruto called out to Sawako, the girl clinging on to the one thing dear to her: him.
“Sawako-chan… Will you marry me?”
Sawako stopped crying for the first time since Orihime and Hikoboshi met that night. Their eyes meet, staring through the tears to see the deep colors of each other's irises. They brewed a deep color of nostalgia and warmth that Sawako recognized as Haruto.
“Yes… Yes I will…”
The night was held in still silence as the stars shone down on the two reunited lovers. High in the heavens, the stars of Altair and Vega watched enviously at the girl named Sawako’s stubborn and determined will. She was brave enough to take up the task of fighting fate for her love, something they could never do.
Yes, yes she will.
She will accept reality and change fate.