Chapter 10:

It Couldn't Really Be Over

School For The Mediums

*forgive any spelling or grammar errors you see, I will be going in and editing all of the chapters in the next few weeks. Bookmark here

I snuggled my feet into the Kotatsu. The warmth from the table-blanket hybrid warmer tickled my skin. Bookmark here

“Listen, you won’t believe how magical it was!” Shizuko squealed. She sat opposite to me, her feet moving around underneath the kotatsu. Bookmark here

“Yeah?” I leaned against the table with my elbow.Bookmark here

“Yes, so, so, magical!” She swayed placing a hand on her cheek. “He is just like, sooooo amazing!” She stressed with joyful gush. “I mean, I mean, like, did I tell you we already exchanged numbers? And he already sent me a text. Do you know what he said?” Bookmark here

I popped a potato chip into my mouth. “Hi?”Bookmark here

“Yes!” She nodded with another squeal. “He’s just so amazing, handsome, and amazing and…haah.” She trailed off into a dazed dreamy sigh. Bookmark here

“Shizuko?” I snapped my fingers, pulling her back to reality. Bookmark here

“Oh yeah!” She came back down with goofy smile. “It’s just amazing, Hadi-chan. It’s like I’m in my own Shoujo girls’ anime or something! I feel really happy about it!” Bookmark here

“Mhm.” I crunched on another potato chip.Bookmark here

She was bouncing like a kid in a candy shop. No parental supervision. Unlimited cash. Unlimited options. Bookmark here

“Hiroto?” I turned my eye to the other kid in the candy shop. This time no cash, metaphorical parents behind him, and cavities littered in his teeth. Bookmark here

Or putting it simple, he was looking mopey and sad. Bookmark here

He sat a little distance from Shizuko. Bookmark here

“Hadiza?” He answered with scrunched-up lips. Bookmark here

“You don’t have anything to say about Mister Transfer Student and Shizuko?” Bookmark here

“Nope.” He shrugged. Bookmark here

“He sits by the window seat,” I added. Bookmark here

“Nothing.” He leaned back on his arms. Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s not nothing! He’s been complaining all day that Haru-san and I had just a ‘moment’ and nothing more! He’s jealous!” Bookmark here

“Jealous?” He scoffed, taking off his glasses. “I’m jealous?” Bookmark here

“Yes, yes you are!” She glared him down. “Haru-san and I did not have ‘just’ have a moment! We have something special!” Bookmark here

“Okay, so what? He saved you from some creep on the train, and now he’s ‘something special’? How many times have I done that for you?” Bookmark here

“Haru-san is sweet, nice, funny, and handsome. You are not. So, when you did it meant nothing.” Bookmark here

Hiroto rolled his eyes. “Oh please, do you know how many girls I’ve had confess to me? Face it, this face---.” He stopped to proudly point at himself. “---Is irresistible, and my head? Too hot to handle.” He slid his glasses on with a wiggle of his brow. Bookmark here

A look of horror took over Shizuko. “Don’t ever say that in public, please.” Bookmark here

“And how many confessions have you had?” Bookmark here

“Me?” Her eyes went wide. “I’ve had a bunch! Hadi-chan knows!” She turned to me for backup, but all I could do was give her a quiet shrug. Bookmark here

“Uh huh.” Hiroto rolled his eyes again. “I bet that was back in middle school.” Bookmark here

Shizuko’s eyes were turning fiery, her cheeks flushed red. “No, it wasn’t!” Bookmark here

“Sure, it was.” He nonchalantly hummed. Bookmark here

And, here we go. Bookmark here

I watched the two of them, their bickering unfolding. Bookmark here

“You’re just jealous!” Bookmark here

“Jealous of an inexperienced, loudmouthed, immature girl who still wears kids’ patterned underwear, sure.”Bookmark here

She was burning red as a tomato. “You said you didn’t see!” Bookmark here

“No, I said to stop using my bathroom.” Bookmark here

“This is why no girl would ever like you!” Bookmark here

“This is why no guy would ever like you.” Bookmark here

“You’re awful!” Bookmark here

“Awful when provoked. You started it.” Bookmark here

“No, you started this!” Bookmark here

“No, you.” Bookmark here

Their eyes challenged each other. Bookmark here

“No, you!”Bookmark here

“No, it’s always you. Always.” Bookmark here

“No, you’re the one who always starts something and---!”Bookmark here

I couldn’t hold it in anymore. A burst of uncontrollable laughter escaped from my throat. “Ahahaha!” I smacked a hand over my mouth, the laughter coming in waves. “Ahahaha!” Bookmark here

“Hadi-chan?” Bookmark here

I heard Shizuko but I couldn’t answer her when the laughter just kept coming. It was impossible to hold back. Bookmark here

“Ahahaha!” I clutched my stomach, chuckles and giggles just spilling out from me. Bookmark here

“Did we…say something funny?” I could hear Shizuko. Bookmark here

“Ahahahaha!” I hooted and hollered. Bookmark here

“I don’t think we did.” Hiroto replied. I could feel his eyes on me. Both of their eyes on me. Bookmark here

I know what they were both thinking. Bookmark here

What was so funny? After all, they didn’t say anything that would cause me to be rolling with this much joy. In fact, I’ve always found Shizuko and Hiroto’s cat and dog barking and hissing to be mildly annoying before anything funny. Yet right now?Bookmark here

“Ahahahaha!” I covered my face, happiness and laughter pouring out from me as easy as liquid. Bookmark here

How can I explain to them that I’m laughing because my life is absurd? I thought I was crazy. I thought I was hearing things. But really, I was just freaking out and my head and brain were all kinds of messed up because my heart stopped for 3 minutes. Bookmark here

Then, I told the imaginary voices to shut up---they did and now I’m back to normal and life is back to normal. Bookmark here

I don’t hear anything and I can talk to myself in my head freely, and even listen to the people around me speak or argue and hear every bit of it.Bookmark here

There’s no more strange voices sobbing, men and woman yelling, and horrible singers singing their heart out. None of it anymore. I’m suddenly normal as if none of this ever happened. Bookmark here

It’s amazing. Life is absurd and it’s amazing. Bookmark here

“Ahahahaha!”Bookmark here

How could I explain that? Bookmark here

“Ahahahaha---sob.” Bookmark here

And how do I explain why my joyful laughter is turning into tears and sobs. Bookmark here

I don’t know. I don’t how to explain it. I don’t think I want to know. All I know is that it’s over.Bookmark here

“…Hadi-chan.” Shizuko hurried to me. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine---.” Sniffles and muted sobbing cut up my shaking voice. “…I-I I’m fine and I---.” More tears were pouring from eyes in gallons. Bookmark here

“Shut up.” Shizuko spat. “You’re not fine, stupid. You almost died!” She throws her arms around me enveloping me into another bear hug. “We thought we almost lost you and we can’t lose anyone else again! We just can’t!” Bookmark here

“Shiz---,” I try to speak through sniffles but Shizuko smothers me tighter. Bookmark here

“I was so scared! You really, really scared us and I’m trying to pretend like it’s normal but I’m still scared Hadi-chan.” She snuggles into my chest, cool water damp on my shirt. Bookmark here

“I know.” I hug back, feeling her small body against me tremble. Bookmark here

I took a deep shaky breath, and as I did, I caught a glimpse of Hiroto quiet and glassy eyed in his own little corner. Bookmark here

“..Pfft.” I almost laugh through the tears. Bookmark here

Ironic, how familiar this is. We cried, sniffled, and sputtered like this at Aoko’s funeral procession. Bookmark here

I remember that day imagining all the ways how that could’ve been me in Aoko’s coffin. I remember thinking how nice it would have been to switch places---for Aoko and I to trade. Me, dead and her, alive. I pictured my own funeral so many times before that now, the idea of it being a near miss is ironically terrifying. Bookmark here

Today we’re all crying for me as if I did die. In fact, these past few days it’s all been tears, emotion, and pain. It hurts but it seems so natural at this point. Bookmark here

These misses I keep having with death…I wonder which one of these days will it catch up with me and my borrowed time?Bookmark here

--DIZA. Bookmark here

With a clearing of my throat, and a large sniffle, I wiped away my tears. “…Sorry for scaring everyone.” I looked down to Shizuko and up to Hiroto. Bookmark here

“Yeah, we know it wasn’t your fault,” he said, pinching the core of his nose bridge. Bookmark here

That again. It was a trick Aoko told him about. Pinch the core of nose bridge and it’ll stop you from crying anymore. Bookmark here

He adjusted his glasses. “If anything, it was probably that Mystery Junk crap’s fault.” Bookmark here

Still clinging onto to me, Shizuko lifted her head. “Excuse me? Are you blaming me for Hadi-chan’s allergic reaction!” Bookmark here

I felt the volume of her voice against my chest. Bookmark here

“Did I even say your name?” He titled his head.Bookmark here

“Well, you’re implying!” Bookmark here

HA—DI.Bookmark here

“Listen,” he said gesturing with his hands. “I’m just saying maybe if you hadn’t making her your experimental guinea pig for that toxic mass, they call candy she wouldn’t have gotten sick.”Bookmark here

“Mystery Bites are edible!” Shizuko barks. Bookmark here

“Yeah, only to you and your iron stomach.” Bookmark here

“Shut up!” She bounces off me, fully enraged and engaged with Hiroto. Bookmark here

“You eat like absolutely everything. It’s a wonder as to how you haven’t bloated into a whale.” He makes an expanding motion. Bookmark here

“I do not eat everything!” Bookmark here

And here we go again. Bookmark here

Oddly enough, I can’t help but to smile. Bookmark here

--IZA. Bookmark here

“I wonder what ‘handsome transfer student’ will think once he takes you out for a date and sees that you order the entire menu.” Bookmark here

“Oh, and says you!” She puffs out her cheeks. “You’re the guy who organizes and color codes his foods!” Bookmark here

“Hey, that’s a serious matter. The foods can’t mix together or it won’t taste right.” Bookmark here

Knock! Knock! Knock!Bookmark here

I heard heavy knocks coming from the door. Bookmark here

“No, no, no!” Shizuko shakes her head. “Who in their right mind eats by first chewing rice and then eating the sauce after? That’s a sin. That’s sin to do to food.” Bookmark here

“I can’t have them mix.” Bookmark here

“But you’re chewing them in your mouth!” Bookmark here

“In a certain order,” he clarifies. Bookmark here

“Takahashi, you’re literally the dumbest smartest person ever. All of the foods mix in your mouth, no matter the order.” Bookmark here

“Nope. The order matters.” He says with a deadpan straight face. Bookmark here

“It does not!” Bookmark here

“I’ll get the door,” I mutter, mostly to myself since their argument was just beginning. Bookmark here

“It does.” Bookmark here

“It does not!” Bookmark here

Their voices fade into the background as I headed over from sitting area to shoe hall and finally to the doors. Bookmark here

Knock! Knock! Kno---Click!Bookmark here

I open the door to see Mom juggling some groceries. Bookmark here

“I picked up some stuff from the store. I thought maybe I’d make something for your discharge for hospital,” she says immediately shoving the load of paper bags onto me. Bookmark here

“Okay.” I adjust my new load of items and step back and Mom pushes her way inside. Bookmark here

She glanced up to me as she spoke between sliding her shoes off, “Also, I was---.” Bookmark here


With a little pause, she peers over me into the distance of the house. “Your friends are here?” Bookmark here

“Yup.” I nodded with a little press of my lips. Bookmark here

“Well, I’ll make something for those two newlyweds as well.” She finishes putting on her indoor slippers and takes some bags back from me. “Everyone’s favorites. I’ll make it.” Bookmark here

Before I know it, she’s smiling bright and hurrying past me to the kitchen. She went about her way so quickly to adore us with food, she left the house door wide open. Bookmark here

Haaah,” I exhaled a light sigh. “You forgot to close the door!” I shout back to her. Bookmark here

“Sorry!” Her yell echoes back. Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah.” I shake my head and set the bags down to have some free hands to grab the door handle. Bookmark here

Creaak!Bookmark here

Just before I swing it close, I see them; on the empty street the same weird duo that in the crowd earlier. They stuck out like a sore thumb before and now, they do even more now that everyone’s gone. Their black suits and black sunglasses contrasted with their sliver like pale skin. In the daylight of the sun, they had to be cooking. So why were they still here? Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

I could still faintly hear the popping of bubble gum as she continued to chew while her matching partner remained like stone. Together they just stood there standing and staring. Bookmark here

HA—DI.Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Just as they watched me, I watched them. Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

What were they even doing here? Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

To get a scoop story on me? Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

They had to be. Bookmark here

I felt a cool draft of air tickle my ears. Bookmark here

I mean what else could they be here for?Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop!Bookmark here

Pop—SLAM!Bookmark here

I slammed the door shut. Bookmark here

Whatever they were here for, they’ll leave eventually. They had to. Bookmark here

“Hadiza?” Mom called me. Bookmark here

“Yeah?” I tightened the door locks. Bookmark here

“You got the rest of my groceries!” Bookmark here

“Yeah, coming.” I picked the bags back up and headed back to the everyone. Bookmark here

Tsssch! Cling! Clatter!

Bookmark here

Mom was already buzzing, humming, and bouncing around the kitchen cleaning vegetables, preparing pots and plates. Meanwhile, Hiroto and Shizuko were still right where I left them. Bookmark here

“That’s not it. That’s not it at all! I’m telling you that it doesn’t matter which order. Eventually all of the food is going to mix.” Shizuko was steaming red faced. Bookmark here

“Nope. It’s like a ‘Is Water Wet’ situation. There is some form of technicality that draws the boundaries.” Bookmark here

“Takahashi!” Bookmark here

“That’s the way it is.” Bookmark here

This is the way it is. I looked around. Normal. Weird how strange it seems. I feel almost of out place looking around and seeing and hearing all of these familiar things when just a few hours ago I was in a hospital hearing voices. Bookmark here

HA—DI.Bookmark here

I’m not sure I can really believe I’m here right now. But I am. I need to let go of the shock, confusion, the questions in the back of my mind---all the hows, whys, and whats. It’s not important right now. Bookmark here

HADI--.Bookmark here

Things are normal. Normal as they can be. Bookmark here

HA—DI.Bookmark here

If Aoko were in this type of situation I wonder what she would say. Maybe she wouldn’t say anything. Maybe she wouldn’t keep going in circles like I am. Maybe she’d just say, stop hesitating and smile. Bookmark here

HADIZ----.Bookmark here

And I think that’s what I need to try.Bookmark here

“Hadiza, my groceries,” Mom asks again with a little hum. Bookmark here

“Yeah.” I step over into the kitchen and set the bags on the counter. “Need any help cleaning vegetables or anything?” Bookmark here

She sets some onions on the cutting board. “No, it’s alright. I don’t want you doing anything too much from the hospital.” Bookmark here

“No, um, I think I’m okay.” I meet her eyes face on. Bookmark here

Mom stops cutting her onion midway. She sits her knife down and looks to me. “You are?” Bookmark here

“…Yeah.” That’s what I hear myself say, but all I can see next are flames. Bookmark here

“AHHH!” my screams come automatically.Bookmark here

There’s fire everywhere on me. I can see burning glow all over my hands, arms, and feet. I can feel the burning sting of hear all over while the smell of cooking flesh burns my nostrils.

“GET IT OFF ME!” I flail backwards trying to stop the fire from consuming me whole. But my kicking, running, and screaming does nothing. I can feel myself melting, heat seeping into my bones. Bookmark here

I’m beyond burning, I’m blazing into a seared crisp. Bookmark here

“SOMEBODY HELP ME! PLEASE! IT BURNS!” My tears are hot as I scramble around trying to stop it all. Bookmark here

HAD--- ZA--I was---lonely--man.Bookmark here

There were noises clashing with the crackle of the flames growing like a beast around me. It was worse than the fire that day, these flames were violent and hungry. Bookmark here

All I could do was scream and crash from wall to wall. “AHHH!” Bookmark here

I’M SORRY—CAN’T---STAY—CAN’T---KEEP THEM---AW-AY---I thought that he was the one for me. I spent my entire life chasing after him but I----Bookmark here

--“AHHH!” It burned so awful. The pain was more than I could handle. Bookmark here

I’LL—HURT—YOU---BY STAY—ING---FIND—IZ-U-MI—WILL—HELP----I want another chance at life. Can I just have another chance? I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t!---“AHHHH! AHHH! AHHH!” Bookmark here

“Hadiza!” Bookmark here

“AHHH!” Bookmark here

“What’s wrong with her now?” Bookmark here

“AHHH!” Bookmark here

“I don’t know she just started screaming. Hadiza?” Bookmark here

“I’m calling the ambulance!” Bookmark here

“Hadiza!” Bookmark here

“AHH---.” I stop screaming when the realization hits me. I’m not burning. I’m not on fire. Bookmark here

No, instead I’m on the kitchen floor with everyone huddled around me. Mom and Hiroto terrified, and Shizuko is crying again as she dials for help on her phone. Bookmark here

They’re all out of breath with wide eyes, a mixture of confusion and pain in their furrowed eyebrows. Bookmark here

They’re scared. Bookmark here

I’m scared. Bookmark here

I should’ve married a rich old guy. That way I would have had some money before I died. Bookmark here

And the voices are back as if they never left. Bookmark here

Shahi John
Miao Miao
You can resume reading from this paragraph.