Where The Sky Meets The Land
Ducking my head wasn't the best action I should implement to portray my guilty conscience. Auntie Junko in front of me stood still, saying nothing upon the incident befell on her son. Both of us were waiting for a confirmation by a doctor who was attending him inside the ward. I've already lost the track of time. My shivering limbs and grumbling stomach forced me to sit down calmly, yet I couldn't obey to such simple instruction.
It felt freshly imprinted in my sight. The incident when Sora accidentally fell asleep during his peak of performance, which was later disregarded by the administration. Sora's injury has become in vain, thus thwarting me hugely.
I didn't hate the judges individually. I hated the injustice. Even though Sora was unconscious when he rolled beneath the ribbon of finishing line, they took it as a cheat and disqualified him as the gold medal pursuer.
Then, what was left as Sora's reward? Nothing. I repeat, nothing.
I wasn't the only one. Nobu-san almost went on rampage when he heard the news. Ignoring the unnecessary attention he incidentally allured from other students, he fought against the judges to let Sora obtaining the silver medal instead, at least. Yet our request was turned down and there was no room for persuasion too.
What should I say to Auntie Junko? It was her son lying on the bed there. Apologize? I wondered if she would even listen.
"May I speak to the patient's relative?"
A doctor in white coat exited the ward, approaching us while I got dreamy.
"Yes, doctor. I'm his mother, Junko." I heard Auntie Junko reacted to him.
"All right, Madam. Sora is getting better, and he'll get up in a few minutes. Let's move to my office so that we can discuss this over," the doctor gestured his hand towards a direction.
Right before they strode to the office, Auntie Junko had the slimmest opportunity to talk to me. A strange friendliness was detected hovering the atmosphere, which I found it bothersome. It didn't feel genuine.
"Riku, can you please wait for Sora inside? I will join you later."
I nodded at her once, still without looking into her eyes. I was afraid that she would scowl at me in tears of frustration. From her voice, I could say that she has just cried. A little hoarse yet still audible to talk. I went inside as told by her and sat on the chair provided, right by Sora's bed.
Sora's colour was returning though his paleness was seriously worrying. Seeing him breathing normally was enough to me. I thought he has split his head or injured deep through the skeleton. The image frames of him rolling to the finishing line kept on replaying in my mind, accumulating the guilt inside me.
I should've warned him not to get too full of himself. He shouldn't take it as if he has recovered from his syndrome. To think thoroughly, it was strange that he never ever once fallen into sleep during the day for a fortnight, whereas he always did during normal schedules.
He- No. I should be the one reminding him so that he wouldn't forget. He wasn't at fault. It was mine, solely, ever since the day our classmates forced us to join a game each. The remorse I endured heightened up as I realized I should've broken my promise regarding Sora's disorder. By then, I could protect him and he wouldn't have to compete in running race too.
His skinny hand. The one with an intravenous needle pierced into his back of hand. How hurtful it must be. I couldn't stop feeling sorry for whatever Sora had to brave alone. I couldn't forgive myself and simply forget everything I've witnessed. That bony hand, appearing pale and cold, I reached it and rubbed my thumb along his visible veins.
A soft throaty voice intervened my moment of regret. I lifted my head to meet eyes with Sora. He has finally woken up from his faint, though his eyes opened in halves. I sprung from my chair to draw myself closer to him.
"Sora, you're awake."
"Why are- you crying, Riku?" Was the first question Sora asked me, which I've just noticed it.
Sora was right. I've been weeping while waiting for his consciousness. The tear trails flowing down my cheeks was the proof, thus I wiped them with my palm.
"No- Nothing, Sora," Even my own voice stuttered. Have I cried too much? Maybe.
"Please. Don't cry."
My wrenched heart was about to explode. Why was Sora being the one persuading me? He didn't shed a tear at all. My welled up tears escaped from the corners of my eyes, unconditionally, depicting my immense bitterness and self-blame.
"I want to see you all smiles, Riku."
No. Please, stop it. Sora literally tormented me with his courage. He stared into my eyes, pleading me to fulfil his simple wish. I ducked my head for the nth time, hiding my face together with my mortification, repentance and grief.
I couldn't look him in his eyes. I wasn't as heroic as him. To his surprised, I sobbed.
"I'm sorry, Sora. I'm so sorry."
There was a pause in my confession. I slumped into his bedside, crying my eyes and my heart out without letting his hand go. If only he had no IV insertion, I would squeeze his hand as much as I wanted. The desire to seize him into my hug grew so that I could share my warmth to his icy skin. I failed to protect him.
"I'm sorry for my negligence. I'm sorry for not being able to be there when you were in need. I'm sorry for not warning you beforehand," The overpowering regret shuddered me that I couldn't stay upright. I leant my head against him instead. "What should I do so that I could erase this guilt? Tell me, Sora."
Sora lifted his hand, the one in my grasp, and stroked my hair. I was taken aback, almost rose abruptly in shock, yet the comforting stroke halted me from acting harshly. I sobbed, hiccupped, and snorted, entirely disheartened and tormented.
"Don't leave me, Riku."
The cold ward turned warm, with a tinge of medicine scents idling across the space, as my ears perceived Sora's unexpected wish. I slowly, really slowly, lifted my head up to see him dripping in tears. Why? What happened?
"Sora, are you hurt anywhere?" I asked him, slightly panic. I was afraid that I might be the cause. If that so, I would back off right away.
"Riku," Sora put his remaining strength to lift both his hands. "I want one thing. Only one thing, which that you won't leave me alone. I want nothing but that, Riku," his groping hands told me to gently fetch them. "Please, Riku. I beg you."
My sight turned blurry due to my welled up tears. Once I blinked, the tears rolled down my cheeks along with boundless sadness. I pursed my lips, hiding away my disappointment and self-blame, and nodding to his wish.
"Yes, Sora. I won't leave you alone. I promise."
I believed it was factored by equilibrium that I eventually felt a bit of tender snugness in Sora's hands, wiping away some of my anxiety. I neatened my grasp so that he would feel comfortable in my palms. Our gaze met, foretelling each other to stay in such position for a few moment before I went back home, or Auntie Junko returned from the doctor's office. Sora's whole countenance was still lack in colour but he was smiling despite the throbbing pain in his head, witnessed from his twitching lips and corners of eyes.
Time flew fast, too fast that I thought it was still at most 5 pm when we broke our gaze from each other. I shifted to the view outside the window, ogling at the twinkling star above the sky.
"I'm sorry for taking too much of your time, Riku," Sora heaved a sigh. "I'm such a nuisance."
"No, don't say it like that," I twisted a small smile as my assurance that it would never a bother if it was him. "Well, I have to go now. Auntie Junko must be itching to stay by your side, right? So better if I get going by now."
After bidding to each other farewell, I strode practically heavily out of the ward to get surprised by Auntie Junko. She has been standing by the door frame, on the outside, for me to wonder if she listened to our heart-to-heart confession. I blushed straightaway at her unknown existence, believably she eavesdropped the entire conversation.
I nodded once and changed my course to the other direction when she called me out.
"Riku, let's talk," she said.
I gulped the accumulating lump in my throat. I doubted my continuous calmness, yet I had no gut to decline too. Therefore, I chose to just obey to her and listen attentively.
Both of us settled down on a bench far from Sora's ward. Seemingly that she was being extra careful. I couldn't agree more – Sora might have done similarly to her like how she did.
"Firstly, Riku, I would like to thank you for bringing and accompanying Sora to the hospital," Auntie Junko initiated.
My heart pounded crazily. I could scarcely hear her.
"Secondly, I want you to tell me the truth."
That single line gave me goose bumps. As if I was enclosing my terrible marks from my father, but he happened to catch up the definition behind the clues much faster. He was arranging the best punishment for me, which then his introduction to those hellish days would always be "What if you tell me the truth then?"
"What is it, auntie?" I guessed I played it right. My voice didn't stutter too much.
"Is Sora being bullied at school?"
My hesitation verified it right away. A sigh escaped from her, denoting me that she was disappointed. I hoped she wouldn't feel so towards me, but her next treatment sensed differently in my opinion.
"Are you the one bullying him, Riku?"
"No, I'm not," the answer came out instantly. Nevertheless, I couldn't defend myself further. For everything happened until Sora's hospitalization, I was a part to be at fault too.
Out of the blue, Auntie Junko's hand rested on my lap, leisurely. I was startled by the sudden contact, yet I still could control my expression appropriately.
"Riku, I'm not going to pressurize you. In fact, I was grateful that I've come across you. I'm glad that Sora has found the best friend he has longed for his entire life. You do know about his narcolepsy, right?"
I nodded, understanding every single words she uttered out.
"He was once almost raped by delinquents."
Undoubtedly, I turned away, gaping in disbelief. That hugely stupefied me which I never thought I would hear from Auntie Junko. Deceit didn't suit her personality, verifying the truth she has just divulged to me.