Chapter 12:

Death in the Family


There comes a time in every person’s life where they realize that they are small, and their problems are infinitely minuscule in comparison to those around them. Inevitably every human on Earth will go through an event that will trigger that realization. People tend to see themselves as the center of the universe. The main character in the story, the whole world a book written just about them. It’s not a sign of an enlarged ego or narcissism. It’s a side effect of only being able to hear one’s own thoughts. Nobody in this world can truly know and be conscious of the fact that every other person is just like them. They have their own thoughts, emotions, and struggles. They have hardships.

It is when those hardships come across the paths of the ones a person surrounds themselves with and cares about that the realization comes. When a man sees the look of anguish on his friend’s face. He comes to realize that he might not be the main character, at least not in this story. It’s upon realizing this that a person drops everything in their life to stand by their friend. A man’s own problems become small, and some even disappear in the face of this.

Kento had to stare this realization in the face at point-blank range. For almost two months now it felt like he was living in some kind of romance novel. So much had happened, and he had changed so much. He felt like he was the protagonist, with the heroine by his side, and a lovely cast of side characters, along with a mysterious force seemingly wanting to take the heroine from him.

All of this slipped away when his best friend collapsed into his arms. A man Kento couldn’t even imagine with a sad expression had tears streaming down his face. When the news broke it almost didn’t settle in Kento’s mind. He had been so obsessed with his own life that he hadn’t even realized the tell-tale signs that something was wrong. Now he stood, trying desperately to give even the slightest bit of comfort to someone who had stood him by so many times.

He could vaguely hear Aiya and Rin sobbing behind them. They were all getting ready to go home when Abe stumbled into the office. He looked awful as if he had not seen sleep or a shower for a week. Kento almost made a remark about it, but the dead eyes resting on Abe’s tired face stopped him in his track. He rushed forward, grabbing onto Abe’s shoulders to support him. He asked what was wrong, and the answer caused the room to freeze over.

“My wife is dead,” Abe said. His usually joyful tone was barely above a whisper now. Kento felt a dagger stab through his heart. He wrapped Abe in a hug, and the man who seemed like an immovable rock collapsed. They were like that for nearly an hour, but Kento didn’t dare say anything. He didn’t even make a sound. Abe was a father. He had probably spent all the time since it happened being strong for those around him. Now it was Kento’s turn to be strong for Abe.

“I’m sorry,” Abe said, gathering his composure and letting go of Kento. “I hadn’t had a chance to do that for a while.”

“When did it happen?” Kento asked. He felt like an idiot. Abe had told him that his wife was sick, and he had barely paid it any mind. If he just knew, maybe he could have helped in some way.

“Last night,” Abe said. “She started coughing really badly. We rushed her to a hospital, but they couldn’t do anything.”

“Abe, I’m so sorry,” Kento said. “I… I don’t even know what to say.” Aiya and Rin finally stepped forward, putting their hands on Abe’s shoulders. “Whatever you need, I’ll handle it,” Kento said. “I mean it. If you need money if you need someone to get something done, even if you just need someone to talk to. Night or day, you can call me and I’ll be there.”

“Thank you, Kento,” Abe said. Kento felt another chill rush down his spine. That was the first time Abe had called him by his name since they had met. He finally got his wish, in the worst way possible. “But I’ll be fine.”

“Abe, don’t,” Kento said. “I’m not going to let you try to act like a man and bear this on your own. I’m your friend. Even if you don’t want me to I will be there for you. I’ll annoy you into taking my help if I have to. You’re better off just letting me.”

“You really are hardheaded,” Abe said, a grim smile splitting his face. “I’ll work you to death, you know.”

“Can’t be worse than what Rin does to me,” Kento said. This got a chuckle out of Abe. It was good to hear him laugh, even if it was short-lived.

“We’re here too,” Aiya said. “And we’ll help in any way we can.” Rin nodded her agreement.

“Thank you,” Abe said, his voice catching slightly. Tears began to form in his eyes again. “I don’t know how I’d get through this without you. Even now it feels like my heart died with her.”

“You’re strong,” Kento said. “You always have been. I’m sure you’ll find a way. For now, don’t feel ashamed about being sad. You of all people really deserve it. Come on, we’ll take you home, and I’ll stay there to help with anything that needs to get done.”

“Thank you,” Abe said again. He straightened his back, and his face lit up with a smile. “Let’s get going then.” They all made their way to the elevator, Abe’s bright smile somewhat thawing the room. They rode down mostly in silence, but it wasn’t an awkward silence. Everyone was radiating support, and Abe was basking in it. They knew their presence would speak much more than their words ever could.

Stepping out of the elevator, they were confronted with someone. She looked like she had rushed here. Her hair was done up sloppily, and her clothes looked ruffled. She immediately ran forward, wrapping Abe in a hug.

“I’m so sorry,” Mirai said. “I heard what happened.” She pulled back. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine,” Abe said. “Thank you for coming.”

“How did you find out?” Kento asked. He didn’t even know until Abe had told him.

“News travels fast,” Mirai said. “Abe, do you need anything?”

“Just the company is enough for now,” Abe said. “Though we might have a bit of a problem now.”

“What is it?” Rin asked, beating everyone else to the punch.

“Your car can’t fit all of us,” Abe said.

“Not with that attitude,” Kento said, raking it as a challenge.

“I take it you have a bright idea?” Abe asked.

“Of course I do!” Kento said, striking a dramatic pose. “We just throw Mirai in the trunk!” This elicited a small laugh from everyone but Mirai, who lightly hit Kento on the shoulder.

“I’m sure we can make it work,” Mirai said. “I mean we’re only five people, right?”

Just like Mirai said, they did make it work. It was Rin’s car, so she took the wheel. No one had any arguments letting Abe get the front passenger seat. It was the least they could do. That left Kento in a bit of a precarious situation though, sandwiched between his girlfriend and the girl that seemingly wanted nothing more than to see their relationship fail. He barely paid that any mind though.

His thoughts were spinning, trying to come up with even the smallest thing he could do to lift Abe’s burden. Unfortunately, as most people learn in their life, there wasn’t really anything he could do. Nothing he could do or say could make the pain that Abe felt any lighter. The most he could do was stand by his friend and give him all the support he needed. The rest would be up to Abe.

The next day whizzed by in a blur. Keeping to his word Kento stayed by Abe’s side. The girls took charge of Abe’s children, trying their best to distract them from the harsh reality they were now forced to face. It was easier said than done. The two young kids couldn’t understand the concept of death yet. It was a tragedy that they had to learn at such a young age. The girls primarily just tried to keep them distracted and happy. They knew Abe was probably burdened heavily by how this was affecting his children. If he could see them with a smile then it might just lift some of the weight off his shoulders.

Kento was playing a much more practical role. While Abe called family and friends to inform them of the news, Kento scoursed the internet and made phone call after phone call to make arrangements for the funeral. He had lost his grandmother a few years prior, so he was already familiar with the whole process. He couldn’t make the final plans, but he could narrow down all of Abe’s options, considerably lightening the load.

When evening came the girls all went home, but true to his words Kento stuck around. He cooked dinner for Abe and the kids and helped put them to bed early. Soon it was just him and Abe, sitting in the living room and sharing a drink.

“Do you believe in heaven, Mr. Shifutu?” Abe asked. Kento never thought he would be relieved to hear Abe address him like that.

“I’d like to,” Kento said. “It’s a nice thought to think we’ll see our loved ones again one day, and that we’ll all live together in eternal bliss.”

“I miss her so much,” Abe said. Kento was surprised to find a smile on his face, despite how sad he sounded. “I didn’t think it was possible for anything to hurt this much. She was my everything, and living my life without her…”

“I get it,” Kento said. “I know

“Yeah, you have Aiya,” Abe said.

“I do, but I wasn’t talking about her,” Kento said. Abe raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m talking about you, Abe.” Abe pulled a disgusted-looking face.

“I’m single for less than a day and you’re already coming on to me?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting for a chance to snipe you for years,” Kento said playing into the joke. He and Abe shared a laugh. “I am serious though. I know it’s different, but you’re my best friend. I can’t imagine losing you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Shifutu,” Abe said. “I know I might not show it, but I really appreciate you being here. If it wasn’t for you and the girls I don’t know how I would have made it through today.”

“Just be careful, I think Rin might try to take your kids from you,” Kento said. “Her maternal instincts have gone into overdrive.”

“We need to find her a man,” Abe said. Kento raised his glass in agreement.

“Maybe if she had a boyfriend she could take all her frustrations out on I wouldn’t be worked so hard,” Kento said.

“You work so hard by choice, remember?” Abe asked, pointing an accusatory finger at Kento. “You don’t have to arrive early and leave late every day.”

“Maybe if the rest of my coworkers weren’t useless bums you’d be right,” Kento said. “As things stand I carry that place on my shoulders.”

“Rin really needs to go on a firing spree,” Abe said. He took a sip from his glass, taking a moment to enjoy his drink.

“Yeah, at this point those leeches aren’t worth their salary,” Kento replied. He realized this was a meaningless conversation, but he didn’t intend to stop it. If Abe wanted to have a meaningless conversation then that would be exactly what Kento would provide. “I mean, would it kill them to at least show up on time?”

“Speaking of time,” Abe said. “It is late. We should get some sleep. I’ll go get you a futon.”

“No need for that,” Kento said. “The couch is fine.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Abe said. “I still need to work you to death. Can’t do that if you have a bad back, right?” Abe got from his chair and went to the hallway closet, pulling out the futon. He threw it on the floor in the living room and tossed a blanket and pillow at Kento.

“Thanks,” Kento said.

“No problem,” Abe said. “Now get some sleep.”


The next week dragged by. Kento had gone home to go get a few changes of clothes, but other than that he never left Abe’s side. The girls also made their rounds when they could, but with Aiya and Rin having to pick up Kento’s slack at work they couldn’t come around all too often. It was grueling, but the day of the funeral finally arrived. It was a small affair, with only close friends and family coming.

The priest did his thing, but Kento could barely pay attention. He was very sleep-deprived. He knew Abe was too. The two had worked hard to make sure this went off without a hitch. With the emotional strain stacked on top of that, they were both exhausted. Kento couldn’t even imagine how much worse off Abe was than he.

The funeral concluded, and everyone dispersed, most claiming they had some responsibility elsewhere. Abe’s sister stayed behind and offered to look after the kids for the day. That left Abe, Kento, Aiya, Rin, and Mirai.

“I am starving,” Kento said. “Let’s go get something to eat.”

“Didn’t you eat anything at the service?” Aiya asked.

“I was too busy putting out fires,” Kento said, his head dropping.

“And I had to suffer through a parade of sympathy,” Abe said. “I know they mean well, but I couldn’t even get so much as a grain of rice in me.”

“Food it is, then,” Aiya said. She hadn’t realized how busy these two had been. Rin pulled out her car keys, the jingling signaling everyone to follow her. They piled into her car and drove to a nearby restaurant. Once there, they got themselves a table and placed their order. Idle conversation filled their booth. No one was completely sure what to talk about.

“Guys, you don’t have to walk on eggshells around me,” Abe said, breaking the tension. “I know you don’t want to upset me, but believe me the best thing you can do for me right now is to just be like you always are. I’d like at least one part of my life to not change.”

“If that’s the case,” Rin said. “Give me my money.” Abe scoffed.

“You are not getting anything out of me,” he protested.

“Are you going to go back on a bet?” Rin asked, trying to provoke him.

“I feel like I should interrupt here,” Kento said. “Just for the record, I don’t like you guys betting on my life.”

“What’s done is done,” Rin said, brushing Kento off. She turned to Abe. “Now hand it over!”


“Kento, can I talk to you for a minute?” Mirai asked. They had just finished eating and laughing together and were about to head home.

“Sure,” Kento said, hanging back. The other girls didn’t seem to think anything of them talking. Abe shot Kento a knowing look. Kento nodded back, signaling he had the situation under control.

“I’ve been holding off for Abe’s sake,” Mirai said. “I didn’t want to do anything that would affect him after his wife passed, so after the carnival, I decided not to do anything.”

“You say that as if you knew she would die,” Kento said, no trace of the happiness that had just been in his voice.

“Point is, I’m not going to hold back anymore,” Mirai said. “I’m doing you a favor by warning you. Break up with Aiya, and stop interacting with her.”

“Why?” Kento asked. He wanted to grab Mirai by the shoulders and shake her around. “You aren’t making any form of sense! Why can’t you just let us be happy?”

“Because it won’t end well!” Mirai shot back, matching Kento’s tone. “If you two stay together people will end up getting hurt.” Her voice lowered. “Please, trust me. It’s for the best if you two stop associating with each other.”

“Go to hell,” Kento said. “I’m not breaking up with Aiya over some vague crap like that.” He stormed out.

“I’m really sorry it has to be like this, …” he heard Mirai say. He couldn’t catch the last part of her sentence, but he didn’t care. He wanted to tell Aiya everything, but he remembered Mirai’s threat. He couldn’t risk doing anything that would make her make such a ridiculous claim. He had to find another way.

“Is everything ok?” Aiya asked as Kento got into the car.

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Kento said. Mirai came and stood next to the car.

“I actually have something to do close by,” she said. “You guys can go on ahead.

“Are you sure?” Rin asked.

“Yeah, go home,” Mirai said. “I’ll see you all later.”

“Suit yourself,” Rin said, pulling away.

“Did something happen between you two?” Aiya asked Kento.

“No, she just asked me for directions,” Kento lied. “Her phone’s battery died aparently.” Aiya frowned.

“Kento, you wouldn’t lie to me right?” she asked. “You’d tell me if something was going on?” Kento felt a pang of guilt stab through his gut. He was lying to Aiya, and he hated doing it, but he couldn’t see any other choice. Even if he told Aiya about Mirai’s threat too, if Mirai came crying and spun a convincing enough story then Kento would probably lose. He wasn’t willing to take that chance.

“Of course,” Kento said. “I’m just a bit distracted by everything. I’m sorry.” Aiya’s frown vanished, replaced by a smile.

“Ok,” she said. She fell sideways, letting her head come to rest on Kento’s shoulder. “Sorry I pressed you. You’ve just been acting a little weird lately.”

“Sorry about that,” Kento said.

“If one of you says sorry again I’m kicking you out,” Rin threatened. “Seriously, you two are insufferable.”

“You’re just jealous,” Aiya said, grabbing onto Kento.

“Yeah, you got a good one there,” Rin commented.

“Yep,” Aiya agreed. “And I’m never letting him go.”