The Fall of Prince Hayashi
“Whoever you are, get the hell up out of here.”
In the matter of seconds, Satomi Imai’s cool work tone turned turned into fiery mess. She was glaring at me, like if I didn’t leave in this very moment, she was going to hurt me. I took a step back, the imaginary fire spreading around her.
I raised my hands in the air. “I’m sorry! It’s just that-”
Imai got out of the cashier booth, her eyes glued onto me as she inched closer. “I know exactly what you’re going to say: I didn’t except Imai to be working at a supid convenience store. Is it true? Did you kill him?”
I needed to make space between the both of us, before anything could tick her off. Imai was known for being a little hot-headed in high school, but she wasn’t this aggressive. The last thing I wanted to do was hit her right now in self defense. I pushed my suitcase in front of me, with the false idea that she would see it as a barrier between us. Instead, she just inched closer and closer.
“Look,” I said, backing up into the fridges behind me. “That’s not what I was going to say-”
“Yeah sure,” she said. “Get out of here before I force you out!”
“Where’s your boss?” I shouted, moving away from the fridges towards the chips. “He wouldn’t like it if you forced a customer out of the store!”
“Luckily for you, the boss is my Dad,” she said. “I doubt he would fire me, especially if I said that a ‘suspicious man’ was lurking around the store.”
Suspicious? “I don’t look suspicious!”
“Really?” Imai’s face beamed as I tripped over my own foot, landing right on my backpack. “Then your glasses must be broken.”
Okay. This was starting to get annoying. If she kicked me out, not only would I be losing my lead, but I would be losing to a girl. As much as I didn’t care for something as fragile as an ego, some part of me still felt shame at losing to a girl. At least when I used to get bullied in high school, I knew I stood no chance to them because of their strength. Yet cowering on the floor in front of a woman?...
Damn, you really are a wimp. Just get out of the store-
“I knew Hayashi!” I shouted, covering my face with my hands. “-And I didn’t even know he committed suicide till a couple of days ago!”
Imai stared at me, anger still in her eyes. Yet even I could swear that something inside her calmed down just a bit at hearing Hayashi’s name. I took in a deep breath. I stopped her rampage...for now. Maybe I should get the hell up out of here before she gets back to being angry.
She suddenly moved and I cut my plan to run short. Rather than stomping on me till I ran out the store, Imai crouched down to the floor right besides me. Should I look her in the eyes? What if I turned to stone? God, my heart was racing in my tiny chest. What was she thinking? What was she planning on doing? The last time I felt this stressed was when I was freaking out yesterday night and even that was nothing compared to this stress. I’m going to faint the moment this is all over, or at the very most drink a gallon of coffee.
“I knew Hayashi,” I whispered, choosing to focus my attention on the floor. “He and I had a rough friendship….if that’s what you can even call it.”
Imai sighed, her eyes not leaving my face. “I could say the same thing.”
For a moment, we both just sat on the floor. The time reaching 2am, the smell of bleach from the floor getting stronger with each passing moment. I didn’t look Imai in the eyes, or even considered her presence next to me. If she wasn’t breathing, I wouldn’t have known she was there till someone told me. It was like a bomb stood right in front of me and any movement I made would trigger it at any second.
Who would have thought that this was how my search was going to start.
“I didn’t catch your name.”
“Hmm?” Was she talking to me?
Imai pushed herself back up onto her feet, looking down at me from where she now stood. Her eyes were really auburn, almost glistening in the white light that filled the store. When she wasn’t threatening to kick me out she looked alright. No wonder Hayashi decided to date her when he had the whole school in his hands.
“Hello? Are you deaf?” Imai shouted, kicking my shin. I shouted, grabbing my leg before pain could surge through me. “I asked what your name is!”
“Are you insane??” I got up, ignoring the pain in my legs. “I didn’t hear you obviously! My name is Souta Fujiwara! Ring a bell?”
She put her hand on her waist. “Souta Fujiwara? You mean the pathetic kid everyone bullied?”
That’s it. Even if she had the story behind it all, there was a limit to how much I could handle. Satomi Imai. Who knew she was this rude? Or this loud? Or this horrible?! Besides her looks she had no good values and even then, after staring at her face for long enough, she wasn’t all that special anyways. I wasn’t a child anymore. Messing with Red on the train was just the warm up and Imai seemed to want to face the main course of my anger.
I grabbed my suitcase and held my chest up high. “Look, I knew Hayashi in high school but we played online games together. We didn’t interact in school because he knew that my status would drag him down. I ended up moving before the middle of second year, and he ended his own life by the end of the year. Why? Do you know? Or if not can you show me anyone who might know? Because I’m getting sick and tired of yo-”
“So you were Souta Fujiwara?” Imai smirked. “I never saw why people bullied you...till now.”
“You must be very slow then,” I spewed. “Makes sense why you work in a convenience store.”
But….you worked in a convenience store too-
I can’t back down right now. Even if she hit me. Even if she smacked me. I was going to walk out of here with the custard cakes, chips and my dignity. I was Souta Fujiwara, and despite growing up a loser I wasn’t a loser anymore! I couldn’t let a girl beat me up! My apartment was ten minutes away from here, all I needed to do was power walk there and head straight to-
Imai bursted into a fit of laughter, her hands flying over her stomach. Her laugh echoed throughout the small store, bouncing off the walls and hitting my ears with full speed. Why…..why was she laughing? She grabbed the small stand of chips, as her face grew red from pure joy.
She must have been insane. I needed to get out of here. Before she murdered me in cold blood.
Without another word, I started making my way out of the store backwards. I’ll just leave the money near the doorstep and run. Then, I’ll be safe from this insane woman. Tip toe quietly like I was walking through the house at night. Light feet. Light feet.
“Hey! Where are you going?”
A hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back violently. I swear that if this girl grabbed me one more time my shoulders would fall off from sheer force.
“What the hell do you want?” I shouted, throwing her hand off of me. “I’m not in the-”
Imai cleared her throat. “I’m super sorry about laughing at you...it’s just hilarious.”
“The fact that you kinda suddenly...I don’t know...became like a skunk?”
Was she….saying I smelled? “I’m sorry, but what do you mean-”
“I know it sounds crazy but lemme explain myself,” Imai grabbed the food I dropped on the floor and put it back into my hand. “Listen to my explanation and then I’ll listen to what you have to say. No ifs. No buts.”
I must have been insane or super desperate, but I decided to go ahead and listen to Imai. She grabbed my forearm and dragged me outside of the store, back into the cool summer night. I knew for a fact that it was past 2am right now and that I was losing hours of sleep. If losing sleep meant food and a head start on finding out the truth...I’d do an all nighter anytime.
Imai leaned against the wall of the shop window, the white light now illuminated her back. It made her seem angelic, the way she was so at ease in the bright light. She motioned for me to lean next to her, so I took my place and leaned back on my heels.
“Don’t you have a break room?” I asked. “Where you guys chill in between breaks?”
Imai opened my packet of custard cakes and took one for herself. “Nope, it’s a room full of inventory and since there’s only two employees, we don’t need a break room.”
I took my other cake and bit into it. It tasted like how it should have: the sweetness from the custard, the artificial fluff from the cake. I might have been delusional from the long train ride and the lack of food, yet this simple cake tasted heavenly. I didn’t bother trying to hide my obvious hunger in front of Imai. She thought that I was like a skunk, so all respect for me was probably out the window already.
“The reason I said you were like a skunk is because you became super offensive,” Imai said, chewing cake between each word. “It was like when you come near a skunk and they suddenly lift up their tails. You were ready to attack me all because of a comment I made.”
“If you knew me back then, you would understand why I did that.”
Imai waved her hand. “Yeah, yeah. I bet you have unresolved trama or something. Ever thought of seeing a therapist?”
I felt myself flare up as I took in a deep breath. This woman was seeing all my buttons and pushing them one by one.
Imai laughed again, this time with less intensity. “Oh relax. I have my fair share of trama too.”
I swallowed by food and took another bite. “Oh really? Let me guess...your boyfriend cheated on you?”
“You’re kind of close,” Imai looked down at her feet. “But nope. Instead my boyfriend ended his own life. Remember?”
Imai’s demeanor was like a chameleon. She was changing moods every minute, changing her mind every second. Right now, she seemed to be near the verge of tear. Before, she laughed at my own pain and misery. I shoved the rest of my cake in my mouth to prevent myself from screaming.
“....I never knew Hayashi that well for someone who dated him for a year and a half.”
“You’re not the only person who didn’t really know him,” I said, taking a water bottle from my backpack. To be fair, only a couple of people ever ‘knew’ Hayashi. One of those people were me (or so I thought I was till a couple of days ago) and maybe some online friends. It was rarer to know him than to see him.
“I thought we were happy when we first started dating. Actually, Hayashi asked me to be his girlfriend first. It was probably the third week of school by then.”
Of course Hayashi got a girlfriend in two weeks. Classic prince behavior.
Imai sighed. “And then….”
“Then…. I understood Kota.”
Ah. Going from ‘seeing’ to ‘understanding’.
Imai passed me the chips she had in her hand and I took them. Either she was offering a peace treaty or she wanted me to shut up before her emotional rampage.
“I loved Hayashi you know,” Imai said.
I guess it’s the later.
“I wanted to know him but he kept this wall up. We had to do everything that he wanted. We always had to do everything that he saw as ‘okay’. Yet he never got close to me. The most I ever gave him was a kiss, even then for like two seconds before he pushed me away.”
Imai grabbed a chip and crunched down on it. “I thought that maybe he didn’t like me anymore. So in the beginning of second year I broke up with him.”
“Broke up?!” I shouted. “But you guys...I swore you were together when I left Kumano!”
“That’s because your an idiot!” Imai shouted. “Hayashi asked me not to tell anyone that we broke up because of two reasons: 1) he didn’t want rumors flying around and 2) he thought that the girls in the school would jump back onto him.”
To be fair….that would have happened.
“So you guys hide your breakup from everyone?”
“Yes. And now that I look back at it...I should have seen the signs of Kota suffering before anyone else. I was his girlfriend for crying out loud! No one else was as close to him as I was supposed to be!”
I heard a sniffle. Imai suddenly slid down the wall and dropped her face in her hands. “I was supposed to help him when he needed it the most. But instead, I broke up with him!”
She bursted out into tears, as I stood there munching down on my chips. What...what was I supposed to do? When I cried, the last thing I wanted was for people to see me. Yet, Imai wasn’t me….she was a woman. Did girls want someone to comfort them? I crouched down onto my knees and watched her silently.
Imai was beautiful even when she cried.
“You….you are not responsible for Hayashi,” I whispered. “You were his girlfriend, not his mom.”
Oops, why the hell did you say that!?
Imai sniffled. “Still, I should have known-”
“I know, I know. You were supposed to understand him. I was supposed to understand him. But in all honesty, no one ever knew Kota for who he was. Because…”
She looked up from her hands. “Because?”
“Because Hayashi never wanted anyone to see through his shell. Even if that meant lying about who he was. Even if it meant suffering on his own.”
Imai’s eyes were blood shot red, a color to match the flames on the spicy chip bag. I passed her the bag and she moved her hands away from her face completely. Her lashes were drooping since they were soaked with tears. She looked like a china doll, a sad china doll waiting on a dusty shelf. Beautiful and miserable.
I opened my backpack and grabbed the tissue box I stashed in there. Imai needed these tissues more than I do. Besides, I could buy another box in the store. She took the box and plucked a tissue out.
“After Hayashi died,” Imai blew her nose. “-after that, everyone became afraid of me. They thought I pushed him to….to… well, I went through the rest of high school being called ‘the death goddess’ and everyone thought that being near me would cause their end.”
Imai said. “I went from being at the top with Hayashi to being shot down to the bottom alone.”
To the bottom? How could anyone like Satomi be ‘shot at the bottom’? I wanted to argue against her, tell her that what she felt was never the bottom. That the life she lived was still ten times better than my own experiences. But….how was I so sure that she was better off? I wasn’t here in Kumano when this all happened. In my own mind, time stopped here the moment I moved away. The idea that something drastic would change never seemed to hit me.
Imai loved Hayashi and could never understand him. Once he was gone, she suffered every day till today. The way she automatically turned vicious when I mentioned Hayashi’s name...as if she was used to his name being an insult to her. She blew her nose into the tissue and let out some more tears. What do I do? How can I help her?
“How about you help me find out what happened?” I blurted out.
What….what was I saying?
“We’ll find out the truth together!”
Why was I pushing for her to join me?
The words came out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. Now I can’t even take the words back. If Imai agreed, she would be on my team and help my mission pass by faster. If she rejected me, it would actually be better for both of us-
Imai grabbed my hand, her face glowing with renewed motivation. “I’ll join you!”
She shot herself back up onto her feet and dragged me with her. “I know exactly where we can start first!”
“Where?” I asked, getting up and leaning against the wall.
To be honest, I had no clue where I was going after coming to Kumano. I thought that after I’d arrive things would flow the way I wanted it to naturally. I don’t know why I thought this or if there was some logic behind my sudden optimism. I just knew that things would work out eventually. Who would have thought that the thing to help guide me was the emotional and crazy ex-girlfriend of my so called ‘best friend’?
“To Hayashi’s house!” she shouted.
“Shush! It’s like 2am right now!”
“You can’t just say sorry and-”
Imai slapped her hand over my mouth. “Hayashi’s parents moved out after he ended his own life. They didn’t want to live in the same house because of obvious reasons.”
I pushed her hand off my mouth. “So? What can we find at the now abandoned Hayashi household?”
She beamed, her whole demeanor back to normal in the matter of seconds. “You and me might know as much about Kota as a rock, but I knew his house well.”
She knew his house? That means...Wait. My face flushed and suddenly the floor seemed interesting. “You don’t mean….”
Imai grabbed my forearm and dragged me back into the store. “I told you, the most me and Kato ever did was kiss. So get your mind out of the gutter.”
“I wasn’t!” I felt my embarrassment grow as I started to get dizzy. “I swear I wasn’t!”
Imai ignored me and made a beeline for the cashier counter. Just over thirty minutes ago, she was threatening to kick me out of the store. Now, she was happily dragging me back in with a plan in mind. All I wanted was some food for my walk back home and somehow ended up in this huge mess.
Imai grabbed a pen from her counter and grabbed a receipt roll of paper. She didn’t let go of my arm as she scribbled down what she was writing, like in the moment she let go of me, I would run far, far away.
She wasn’t wrong though…
“Here!” she passed the paper to me and I looked down at it. “It’s my phone number and the address of Hayashi’s old house!”
Imai’s handwriting seemed just like her. Energetic, crazy, and thanks to the fancy lettering, ineligible. I typed the number down into my phone contact list, which was so short that it barely filled in half a page.
Name: Satomi Imai
Number: XXX XXX XXX 234
I pressed save contact.
Imai’s phone binged on the counter and she grabbed it. She smiled as she opened her phone and started typing.
Imai: hi! :) this is my number. save it okay? tmr I’m gonna text u once i reach Souta’s house okay?
God. How was she typing so fast? I had this phone for the past three years and the most I could ever type out in a minute was “okay” and “not okay”. It made me feel like I was fifty rather than nineteen. Also, what did ‘tmr’ mean? Should I ask her?…..no. If I ask Imai something like that she’ll probably break out into a laughing fit and then start crying or maybe kick me in the shins.
“Did you get my message?” Imai asked.
“Yep,” I showed her my phone. I grabbed my suitcase off the floor. “Right here.”
Imai raised her hand and leaned in a little. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 4pm then!”
“I’ll see you then…”
I left the shop, my suitcase in hand and my backpack in tow. The only thing that was missing was a tissue box. The one I handed that crazy woman just a couple of minutes ago. If I knew I was going to meet someone like her I would have brought pepper spray. Just to protect myself.
The night was as quite as it was before, which wasn’t surprising at all. There was little difference between 1am and 2am. It was when you passed those two times that each hour seemed to matter. The night was still dead silent, the only lights being the lamposts above me. My apartment was, thankfully, only ten minutes on foot from this side street. It must have been a coincidence that it was so close to this convenience store, although that in itself turned out to be a convenience for me.
“Satomi Imai…” I whispered. Her auburn hair flashed into my mind, her tear stained eyes in the bright white light. “She was surely a crazy pick Kota.”
Notes from Zen:
I love Satomi!! She's my favorite character in the book and hopefully she grows onto you guys! She's just so alive in comparison to Souta's gloomy aura. ;)
Make sure you like the chapter if you enjoyed it and if you want add the story to your library! I update right now every Tuesday-Thursday because I hope to finish this story before the deadline for the MAL x Honeyfeed contest deadline. Wish me luck!