Are You Happy?
* Disclaimer and TW: for readers who have continued to read up till this chapter, please take not that the content relating to Makaira’s apparent eating disorder will continue to progress and you are asked to keep in mind that people’s experiences with eating disorders vary. The thoughts, characteristics, and behaviours which Makaira have are examples of what some people may have, or in fact may not have at all. Once again, if you feel that may be triggered by such content, please do not proceed. Otherwise, please enjoy this story, and do not be afraid to reach out to the people who you think may be having trouble with similar problems as Makaira!
“Are you happy?”
Makaira doesn’t move an inch, but she’s stopped reading. In all 18 years of her life, she has never once been asked whether she is happy. And frankly, now that her attention has been brought to the topic, she doesn’t really know what her answer is.
Happy? Do I say yes? What does being happy mean…? Am I happy?
With chaos going on in her head, Makaira’s eyes water, and Yuuto starts to panic. He didn’t mean for the question to be sensitive or anything, but he wonders what’s making Makaira emotional.
“Maybe she’s just really happy that she’s crying?” he thinks, but looking at her, he knows those tears streaming down her face are not happy tears?
Why am I crying…? I’m happy, aren’t I? I am, right? So, why am I crying?
Makaira drops her book and brings up a hand to wipe her tears.
Clearing her throat, she says, “Sorry, I’m a bit emotional for some reason. What a stupid question.” she chuckles nervously, “Of course I’m happy. Why wouldn’t I be?”
She may sound fine, but her face says otherwise. More tears begin to fall after she spoke, and now she’s trying her best to use her sleeves to catch her tears.
Without speaking, Yuuto stands up and holds Makaira’s hand, then gently leads her out the backdoor into the alleyway by the café.
There, Makaira proceeds to cover her face as she quietly sobs. Yuuto holds her in his arms and slowly rubs her back to calm her down.
“It’s okay. Cry as much as you have to. Don’t hold anything back.” he says, embracing her tightly.
After a while, Makaira has slumped down onto the pavement after she calmed down. Yuuto sits beside her with his arm on her shoulder.
“Are you feeling better?” he asks.
After a few minutes of silence.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Yuuto asks.
Makaira thinks for a moment, then asks, “Don’t you have to take care of the café?”
“Oh, my god, yea! I completely forgot. I’ll just close the counter, it’s late anyway.” Yuuto says, jumping up to his feet.
But before he could walk back into the café through the backdoor, Makaira takes hold of his wrist.
“Will you be back?” she asks.
Yuuto blushes lightly and nods, “I wlll.”
After Yuuto closes the counter, he goes back outside to join Makaira.
“You know, if you don’t want to talk about it and want to go home, you can go ahead. I can walk you home if you want. Since it’s dark and all.” Yuuto breaks the silence.
But Makaira shakes her head and says, “I… I want to talk about it.”
“Okay. I’ll be here to listen. Take your time.”
Several minutes pass again before Makaira takes a deep breath and starts speaking.
“Nobody’s ever asked me that question before.” she says. “‘Are you happy?’ So, when you did, it really surprised me, and I realized I just didn’t know what my answer really was. And I guess… I still don’t know.”
“Well… Why don’t you think you know?”
“I mean, what does being happy even mean? I don’t even remember the last time I was happy.”
“If I’m being honest, I think you know deep down that you aren’t happy, Koyanagi-chan.”
Makaira thinks for a bit, then nods slowly.
“I guess I’m not.” she says with a sad smile, a tear running down her cheek.
Yuuto hesitates at first, but puts his hand on the girl’s back and pats her gently.
“I’m here to listen to whatever you have to say.”
“My parents are both incredibly successful people and I grew up in an environment where a lot was expected from me because of their status.” Makaira says, now much calmer than she was. “I was never a problematic child or anything, and I always delivered what was expected of me, but if I’m being honest, I feel like whatever I’ve done was never enough. Even now that I’ve entered the top university of Tokyo and pursuing a career in law… I don’t know if my parents even care. I don’t know if they even think about me at all. You must think I’m ungrateful.”
“No, what? Why would I ever think that you’re ungrateful?”
“People always think I’m ungrateful for what I have. My parents are well-off, and I have the money to go to university here in Tokyo. You don’t think I’m acting spoiled?”
Yuuto shakes his head without a doubt, “If anything, your parents are the ungrateful ones. They have such a hardworking daughter who’s tried to satisfy them for so long, even neglecting her own dreams and wants, but won’t even do as little as acknowledge her accomplishments? I’m sorry if I’m disrespecting them, but it makes me angry and disappointed to know that your own parents don’t see how much work you put into things.”
Makaira smiles unknowingly, then says, “I just want them to be proud of me. I don’t want to be an embarrassing daughter who they can’t brag about in those big parties with their business partners. I just– I–“ she stumbles, “I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“Nothing. You’re doing absolutely nothing wrong. You’ve been living your life for your parents and not yourself. You should be doing what makes you happy.”
“What if what makes me happy is making my parents proud?”
“How are you so sure that that is what would make you happy? For your whole life, you’ve gone out of your way just to make your parents proud, yet each time, they disappoint you by disregarding your dedication and hard work.”
“I just want to believe that when I become a lawyer one day, they’ll finally be proud of me. I just know that that would make me so happy.” Makaira smiles looking down.
Yuuto, who although cannot empathize will how much Makaira is willing to give up just to make her ungrateful parents proud, admires the fact that Makaira is such a persistent and dedicated person. The more he learnt about her, the more he liked her. He wanted to take care of her and be there for her from now on, so that she won’t have to be alone again.
“Whether or not your parents will be proud of you that day, I want you to know that I’m already proud of you.” Yuuto says, looking at Makaira and smiling.
Makaira smiles back at Yuuto, letting yet another tear fall out of her eye. Yuuto tucks a strand of the girl’s hair behind her ear and looks into her eyes, which are glistening under the streetlights which had just turned on. He brings her head onto his shoulder as she quietly sobs some more.
Even though this physical contact is foreign to Makaira, she feels strangely comforted by and safe around Yuuto.
“Thank you.” she says. “For just being here.”
Yuuto smiles at her and for maybe just a a second, Makaira’s heart skips a beat and she shyly smiles back.
“Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me this.” he says.