Chapter 21:


Third and Final Time

For the longest time, I’ve been in love with someone.

My best friend - Akane Yuki.

Though, I hurt her, so, so much, and…I don’t have the right to love her this much.

We first met in middle school, but we were only friends for a few months.

It was our class’s first group project and, by chance, Akane ended up with me, Haru, Amane and Sayaka - she was, to put it bluntly, really awkward to talk to.

She didn’t act or talk like a girl our age and she was very shy; whenever one of us tried to start a conversation with her, it always felt like she was forcing herself to join in.

If we talked about fashion, she’d talk about luxury brands none of us had ever worn.

If we talked about schoolwork, she knew the answers to every single question before we got started.

I think the weirdest time was when we were talking about our parents and Akane just went completely silent.

For whatever reason, Akane didn’t like talking about her home life.

I wondered if she didn’t get along with her family or something, but I never ended up asking her about it.

…God, looking back on it all, it’s a miracle that we became friends.

After those first few uncomfortable weeks, Akane opened up to us a lot more and lightened up.

She became more easy-going, more sociable, more friendly and started acting a bit more like a normal, teenage girl.

She became a part of our friendship group, we ate lunch together, went out on the weekends once in a while, and she hung out round our houses. She never stayed the night, but Akane always seemed happiest whenever we hung out outside of school.

Those days might have only lasted for three months but, to me, they were the most precious days of my life.

One day, when we were walking home from school, a purse snatcher tried to take my bag and run off with it.

The man ripped my favourite bag off my shoulder and pushed me to the ground.

Before he could get two feet away, Akane had kicked him hard in the back of his knees, pushed him to the ground and pinned him there beneath her body. He tried to fight back, but Akane had trapped him so effectively that he couldn’t even struggle.

People nearby saw the commotion and came over to us, helping Akane hold him down while helping me sit up right.

I’d scrapped my palms and knees pretty badly, and I was still in shock over what had happened, so all I could do was sit there in awe of my best friend.

She was amazing.

I didn’t know she could do that and-

I felt my heart thump louder and louder in my chest.

“Ami, are you okay?”

Akane, from that day onwards, I fell in love with you.

I don’t know if it was because of the adrenaline or because she’d just looked so cool that day, but all I could think about for the rest of the week was Akane.

Then, when we were at school, I started noticing just how beautiful she was.

I’d always known she was pretty, but now she was captivating.

Her eyes.

Her smile.

Her smell.

The way she always did her best.

The ways she helped us out with our homework.

How sweet and kind she was.

How cute she was when she was embarrassed.

Everything about her made me fall in love with her even more.

It became such an overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t hold them in any longer.

I had to tell her, and soon!

We all made plans to spend Saturday at an amusement park and, once we had a nice mood going, I would confess to her.

I didn’t know if Akane was gay or not, but she’d always been uncomfortable talking about guys, so I thought maybe, just maybe, I had a chance.

That or she was just really shy, and I’d lose my best friend.


I could get everything I ever wanted.

That hope kept me going as I anxiously awaited our trip.

Unfortunately, that day never came.

Wednesday afternoon - Hayate tried to burn me, and Akane protected me, just like she did before.

My heart sank.

I saw the fire.

I smelt her burning flesh.

And all I could do was collapse as my best friend, the woman I loved, suffered before my eyes.

I don’t remember what happened next.

Haru said I had been in such a daze that the teachers sent me home, but all I remember was waking up the next morning with a massive headache.

When I got to school, I learnt the truth.

Akane had been badly burnt and would have a massive scar on her chest that would never heal.

I threw up.

I’d rushed out of the classroom, thrown myself into the nearest toilet and vomited up my breakfast.

It’s my fault.

If I hadn’t been there, or if I’d moved out of the way quicker, Akane wouldn’t have jumped in front of me and gotten hurt.

“It’s not your fault!” Haru reassured me with a weak smile. “It’s Hayate’s! And he’s already been expelled, and I hear the principal’s told every other school in the city about him. He’ll be lucky to ever graduate middle school, let alone get into high school.”

I knew that Hayate and his idiot friends were really responsible, even before Haru told me, but it didn’t help.

I still felt guilty.

I still felt sick.

More than that, I hated myself.

I had done this to her.

I had ruined her body.

I had destroyed her life.

I took three days off school.

I wanted to take longer, but my parents and teachers started to get really worried about me.

“I’m fine, I promise.”

I lied.

I forced myself to smile.

I forced my vomit down my throat.

I forced myself to act normal, ignoring the aching pain in my chest that threatened to strangle my lungs.

And I only kept getting worse.

Haru, Sayaka, Amane and everyone else Akane called a friend visited her at least once a week.

I went to that hospital every day and never took one step inside.

I couldn’t.

I didn’t have that right.

Every day, I tried.

Some days, I got to the doors. On a few, I managed to make it to make it into the reception, but I panicked and ran away.

Every time, without fail, I ran.

I went with Haru and ran.

I went with my parents and ran.

Alone, I couldn’t even muster up the courage to walk towards the building.

On the last time, the day before Akane was set to be discharged, I finally made it to her door and almost knocked at the door.


What if she was angry?

What if she was upset?

What if she hated me?

What if-?

The next thing I knew, I was at home, clutching a box cutter in one hand against my bare arm.

When I realised what I was doing, I threw it onto the ground and started screaming. I cried and cried, screamed and screamed.

My parents tried to get into my room, but I’d locked it and wouldn’t open it for them.

I didn’t eat anything before going to bed and the pain stopped me from having a peaceful night’s sleep.

Ever since Akane got burnt, I hadn’t slept well.

Most days, I’d manage four hours of sleep.

If I took some pills, I could get eight.

Either way, I started taking naps after failing to visit the hospital.

If…If I could just talk to Akane, then I could make this go away, I’m sure.

I-I just need to tell her…to say I’m sorry, to say-

When I saw Akane, I averted my eyes.

When she spoke, I wished I could close my ears.

Just standing next to her was enough to make me shut down.

How could I act like this to her?

She was the one who got burnt.

She’s the one who has to live with that pain forever engraved on her body, so why-

Why do I feel like this?

I have no right to feel this way.

She’s the one who got hurt, not me!

So why?!

Why can’t I say I’m sorry?!

Why can’t I look at her?!

Why…do I feel so dead inside?

For weeks, I tried.

I tried to talk to her, but I froze every time.

The words got caught in my throat.

The sweats I got down my back made it uncomfortable to breathe.

It’s my fault.

All of this is my fault.

If I’d stopped Hayate-

If I’d moved out of the way-

If I’d visited Akane even once-

Things wouldn’t be like this.

Akane, please just hate me.

Don’t act like nothing ever happened.

Don’t talk to me like we’re friends.

Don’t treat it as if it’s nothing important.

Please, hate me.

Yell at me.

Hit me.

Say something, anything!

Please, Akane!

She never did.

All she did was try to be my friend again.

And I couldn’t do it.

Scars started appearing on my arm.

I could cover them over with my blouse or with makeup, but they started multiplying.

So, I started cutting the same bits again and again.

Three lines.

Three lines that would never fade from my wrists.

I knew if I cut the wrong spot, I could die, but it didn’t stop me.

It helped.

It made me feel…something better.

It hurt, but even that comforted me.

I deserved to feel this pain.

I didn’t deserve to feel anything but agony.

“Thank you for everything up until now,” she said with a polite bow. “Goodbye.”


I wanted to cry out to her, to say everything I’d always wanted to, and yet-

She slipped away from me, forever.

I had lost my best friend and the woman I loved, and it was all my fault.


When I saw Akane on my first day of high school, I knew I had a chance to redeem myself.

I could give Akane back the life I took away from her!

So, with Haru, Sayaka and Amane’s help, we spread every positive rumour about Akane we could imagine.

About her great grades, her work ethic, the way she cared for her friends, the way she helped anyone she could, and how she always did her best with everything.

We even told people about the Hayate incident to paint her in an even better light, though, of course, our own reputations plummeted as a result.

I was fine with it.

As long as Akane’s happy, that’s all that mattered.

Except, life didn’t work out how I wanted it to.

Akane Yuki was isolated from everyone once again.

She wasn’t just a good person; she was too perfect of a person.

To be friends with someone like that was difficult, especially because Akane had reverted a little bit back to how she was when we first met.

She kept conversations short and to the point.

She always spent lunch alone and rarely joined in in class.

If things kept like this, Akane would never have a happy high school life.

So, I thought I would try to repair our relationship with her during the Kyoto trip.

It’d be difficult, and I know that my heart would feel like exploding every moment we spent together, but I had to try.

It hurt me to see her like this.

“I’ll go!”

Hinata beat me to the punch and Akane was so happy about it.

I was happy too.

I was.

I just had to ignore the crushing pain in my heart.

I didn’t stop harming myself.

I watched Akane and Hinata’s relationship from a distance to tell myself that she was okay, but I still felt like I deserved to suffer.

Akane was happy and that was all that mattered, even if my one-sided love never came true.

Every day, I watched over them and I finally managed to do something right for her when I came out myself.

She spoke to me, thanking me and I managed to talk to her.

It was a single sentence, but it meant the world to me.

As the days went by, I thought maybe Akane was finally happy and that everything would be okay.

Those hopes came crashing down during the cultural festival.

I was the first to her side, cradling her in my arms.

“Akane! Akane!”

I called and called to her, but she didn’t answer.

Vomit was trickling down her lips and she looked as pale as a corpse.


Hinata rushed to my side; I held onto Akane more tightly.

I knew you loved her, but I’m done sitting back and watching over her from a distance.

This time-!

I stood up, holding Akane in a princess carry.

I’ll protect you!

I had never run so hard and fast my whole life. I yelled at people to move as I rushed to the nurse’s office and I almost broke the door down when we got there.

I explained the situation to the nurse, just as Hinata, Akane’s other friends and other students started to gather.

“Alright, all of you, out! She’s sick and the last thing she needs is you lot crowding round her, so go away. Teachers! Keep this area sealed off for a while.”

“Wait!” Hinata grasped the nurse’s arm. “Can I stay? Please? Just me.”

“…Fine. The rest of you, scram!”

I had no choice but to abandon Akane.

So, I snuck around the outside of the building and opened the window to the nurse’s office.

Just a little bit, so that they didn’t catch on, so that I could hear when Akane woke up.

I peeked in occasionally to see Hinata staring lovingly at Akane.

As I watched her, I understood - she loved Akane, too.

No, I imagine it was more than that.

I thought back to their close skin-ship and connected the dots in my mind.

Akane was happiest beside Hinata.

I would’ve cried if I didn’t hear how happy they were together.

I couldn’t stop myself grinning like an idiot, desperately clenching my eyes together to stop any tears from falling.

I wish you both a long and-

“What if I’d been keeping a big secret from you?”


I snuck up close to the window so that only my eyes and the top of my head were visible. Thankfully, neither was looking my way, so they didn’t know I was there.

Akane’s confession was unbelievable.

She had lived two miserable lives and wouldn’t live past the age of twenty-five.

She had screwed up so badly in both lives that she tried to kill herself.

She had married Ryuuji Sakamoto and he’d caused her so much trauma it made my stomach turn.



Is that why-?

That’s why you were so desperate to reconnect!

You should’ve hated me, you know you should’ve, but you refused to because our friendship meant more to you.

That pain was nothing compared to what you’d been through and I, I…oh God, what have I done?!

It was preposterous, but I believed every single word.

Everything that ever seemed odd about Akane now made so much sense.

The way she spoke.

The way she gave her best at everything.

The reason why she was so uncomfortable around Ryuuji when they’d never even met.

I remember seeing her leave soon after he’d introduced himself, but I never would’ve guessed that was the reason.

I thought it was her phobia of men that she shouted at Inori about.

I did the same to her.

She hurt herself to save me, and then I hurt her again.

I silently sobbed whilst the couple talked inside.

I only stopped when I heard them finally leave, and I followed Akane home.

From a distance, like a stalker, I followed her home.

Just before she went inside, I finally ran up to her and yelled out to her.


She was startled, obviously, and slightly anxious.

We’d barely spoken in years and I, out of breath and with blood-shot eyes, had suddenly chased after her.

“I’m so sorry about everything! I’m sorry that I never thanked you for saving me. I’m sorry that I ignored you and treated you so badly. I’m sorry that I couldn’t do anything for you when you needed me too, and I’m sorry that I never had the courage to speak to you before now.

“I’m sorry that I ruined your life. I’ve regretted that day so much! If I’d-”

I needed to catch my breath as I panted heavily, staring down at the ground in anguish. My lungs were on fire and my lips were cracked, but it didn’t matter.

I had to tell her everything before it was too late.

“If I’d thanked you back then, we’d still be friends! If I’d just been strong enough to see you in the hospital, we’d still be best friends! If…” I started weeping again and pathetically looked up at her. “If I’d just moved away when I saw Hayate acting like an idiot, you’d never have gotten hurt.

“Ever since then, I’ve been…depressed. I know I don’t have the right to tell you that, but…not being with you, hurts so much. I…I started cutting and-” I rolled up my blouse’s sleeves to reveal the scars. “It doesn’t even help me anymore. I love you so much, Akane. Not as a friend, but as a woman; I’ve always been in love with you! I was going to confess when we went to the amusement park and then I threw it all away! Akane, I’m so sorry! If you want me to, I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you, so please-please, don’t leave me alone!”

I couldn’t carry on.

I fell onto my knees and cried so loudly the neighbours came to see what the fuss was.

Akane was standing there, dumbstruck, as her parents came to the door and then-

I passed out.

When I woke up, I was in a warm bed in soft pyjamas; they weren’t mine.

Confused, I sat up and saw Akane sitting on her desk chair, smiling a little at me.

“Good morning, Ami.”

“…Good morning.” I turned red and hid my face beneath the covers. “Did I…?”


“And did you…?”


She turned pink and we laughed awkwardly together.

“Thank you.”


“For saying everything you did. It meant a lot to me and…I forgive you.”


“Did you mean it all?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

Akane smiled warmly at me. “I see. Did you have a good night’s sleep?”

I almost cried as a wave of relief washed over my body, purifying the disgusting mud that had almost swallowed me whole.

“I haven’t slept this well in a long time.”