“Who’s Shiraishi?” I asked.
“That’s my name. My real name. My name is Yamada Shiraishi.”
“Shiraishi. That’s a pretty name.”
“Thank you.” Shiraishi said.
“But I’m so used to calling you Meeshee, I might just have to stick with that.” I said with a chuckle. Shiraishi laughed.
“Do you know where you’ll go now?” I asked after a minute.
Meeshee looked down. “I’m not sure. I’m on my own.”
“Do you have any friends or family?”
“I don’t, accept you.”
I smiled, glad Shiraishi considered me a friend. However, I didn’t deem it wise to have a woman in my apartment for too long, even if I lived on the roof, but she did need a place to go.
“How about this,” I suggested, “I get you a room in the apartment, I’ll pay the first couple months, and that will give you time to work to pay your own way the rest of the time.”
Shiraishi didn’t reply immediately, but put a hand on my shoulder. I looked over at her once she did that, and I could see she was smiling at me.
“I’d be happy to live nearby. Thank you.”
We opened my apartment door and clicked on some lights. Despite what the man said from the Kami Naifu, the apartment was all intact. I guessed it was just a ploy to get me to comply with them; they wouldn’t have been able to trash my place very easily either, someone would have heard and called the cops.
“Would you ever think of going to school at Hokkaido?” I asked, taking my coat off.
“Hmm?” Shiraishi asked, turning towards me.
“I bet you could do well as a mechanical engineer. You might have to work for awhile to pay for the tuition, but it’d be a field you could really soar in.”
Shiraishi didn’t really reply, so I figured she’d think about it, or might not be interested as I turned towards the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten really in the past couple days and I was starving. As I opened the fridge and brought out all the materials to make a sandwich, Shiraishi sat down at the island in the middle of the kitchen. She watched me without a word as I made two sandwiches, one of me and one for her.
“Why are you being so generous to me, Tamaki?”
I turned, smiling as I set one of the sandwiches before Shiraishi.
“Because that’s what I do. I’m generous to people who need it.”
Shiraishi smiled. “I like that about you.”
“You’re not the first girl to say that.”
“Who else told you that?”
“Risa.” I said shortly.
“No!” Shiraishi said, standing up and putting her hands on the counter.
“Yes,” I said, “she even told me she liked me.”
“That girl who nearly shot me?!”
“The very same one.”
Shiraishi stood there, eyes wide.
“I wouldn’t have thought she was your taste, Tamaki.”
I shrugged. “She is a nice girl, if maybe a bit insecure.”
Shiraishi smirked. “You have a very optimistic way of putting her.”
I smiled. “Was I wrong for being optimistic about you?”
We ate our sandwiches in silence, not really saying anything, then once we were done I had an idea.
“Hey, come here for a sec.”
“Hmm? What’s up?” Shiraishi asked.
“Come over here.” I said, gesturing to my art studio. The canvas of the unfinished picture of Shiraishi, or, more accurately, Meeshee, was sitting there.
“Sit over here,” I said, gesturing to the sofa behind the canvas.
“What are you doing?” Shiraishi asked.
“Just watch,” I said, smiling from the other side of the canvas as Shiraishi sat down. Using the same basic template for the picture I had before me, I recreated Shiraishi’s face as I saw her now.
“Here, just, tilt your head to the left a little.”
Shiraishi did so after only a moment’s hesitation.
“Ok, keep it like that.” I said, giving her a thumbs up from the other side of the canvas.
Then I drew again. The image seemed to leak out of my charcoal like a broken fountain pen, taking shape before I felt I was even directing its flow. Gone was the three months of pain and agony the poor girl wore on her face, and through electrical current had haunted my dreams, and instead was a face that was peaceful. Full of past hurts, but the eyes held a strength that the smile intensified. It was a face that held hope and high expectations for the future. As soon as I was done, I flipped the canvas to show Shiraishi. Shiraishi’s mouth hung open.
“Do you think this looks better?” I asked, smiling. “You look much less distressed now.”
I smiled, but noticed Shiraishi wasn’t saying anything. I looked at her, and was a little surprised to see Shiraishi was crying. She wasn’t sobbing or had her head in her hands, but tears definitely were ebbing their way down her face, forming glossy lines which dripped onto the old stained clothes she wore. Shiraishi sniffed and rose, wiping her eyes. I sat there and let her cry for a moment, then I sat by her and put her hand on her shoulder.
“Thank you.” was all she could say, her words muffled by her talking into my shirt.
“Hey, any time.” I said, letting her cry herself out.