But I Love Her
Nakashima was shocked by this statement. Eventually, she managed to get out of the tangled chains that held her down. She floated by Mariko, ignoring the two humans who kept getting closer.
“What the hell do you mean?!”
She created a wind that pushed both Okamoto and Yukari back. Nakashima then turned around to face the couple. It seemed that Yukari’s limbs were back to normal - which surprised Mariko, even in this state. Any worries she had for her friend came rushing back and for that moment, her ‘power’ flickered. It seemed that Nakashima noticed that and decided to extend her arm inhumanly and bring only Yukari back by the collar.
The other woman kicked and screamed around but Nakashima completely ignored her cries.
“Put Yukari down!” Mariko yelled out. “This is between us! This doesn’t have anything to do with Okamoto or her!”
“Oh, but she is. This is the only person you want forgiveness from? And why is that? Is Masa-chan no good for you anymore? Not like his opinion mattered. Not like he ever had a choice. He would’ve never been into you anyway. He hated people like you! Did you manage to find other men to bewitch in your life?” She really stressed the word ‘life’ with a mocking tone and Mariko grew only angry from that statement.
She ignored the rest of the statement. She wouldn’t even tell Nakashima that Okamoto was close enough now to hear that. However, she managed to drop Yukari on the ground once again. A spoiled child is done with her toy once more as she tried to retort against Mariko.
“Because she’s my friend. My only friend in Okuta--”
“I was your friend, you fucking idiot! Did you forget? Do I need to show you the flashback again? How are you this dense? I knew you were ungrateful, but I didn’t think you’re this dense!”
“At one point, you were, maybe! I was so wrapped up in myself that I couldn’t see it! Nakashima, I was more scared and surprised you hung out with me at all! I was too scared to call you my friend!”
This surprised the ghost. She blinked back as she held Yukari still. “What? I don’t understand. I thought it was obvious.”
“N-no… You remember the teacher told me to show you around, right? I thought that a pretty girl like you would be instantly popular and would forget about me. When you asked for my home number, I was shocked… but I was also counting down the days until my classmates got to you. I never realized it was me who did that…”
“But when you started to ignore my calls, when you ignored me in school, and even on the track, I knew it wasn’t meant to be. That’s when I knew my dream had ended and that’s when I started accepting the fact that you will never like me - it was just another joke. I’m sure they told you about the pranks they pulled on me back then… but pretending to be my friend was one of the worst things they’ve done. So I was worried you were the same way too.”
“But you said those cruel things about me! How I’m not smart enough to be with Masa-chan, how I may have even slept with that ogre of a coach…!! That’s cruel, Mariko!”
“I know I said those. I’m not denying that…I need to atone for that, even now.” It seemed throughout the conversation that Mariko’s ‘power’ was getting stronger. “But like I said, your fight is with me. Don’t bring Okamoto down with you. Don’t involve Yukari. They have nothing to do with our problems.”
“You really are stupid. They have everything to do with us. You had to involve that stupid woman into your mess. You probably bewitched her like you did everyone else in your life. And Masa-chan? He said he’s going to join me. He’s an adult. He can do whatever he wants but I wish… I hope he can join me soon.”
“You’re the idiot!” screamed another voice. It seemed that Yukari charged at her with everything she got. Even though Mariko shouldn’t be surprised, she couldn’t help herself but be amazed at Yukari’s tenacity. She didn’t see the other woman move with ease. However, Nakashima didn’t move - she glared at her instead as the woman went right through her. She then crashed near Mariko and winced at the actual pain she experienced.
“Did you forget that I’m a ghost?” For this, Nakashima busted out laughing suddenly. It wasn’t creepy our evil this time - it was a genuine laugh… a laugh that neither Mariko or Okamoto heard in a long time. “You sure know how to pick them…”
“You’re an idiot!” Yukari shouted once again. “You’re the one who’s doing this whole elaborate scheme to get back at Mariko! And for what? For a death that’s not even her fault? You’re such an idiot… I suppose it’s pointless to say you need to grow up but you really do. It sucks that that old piece of shit killed you but it’s by no means Mariko’s fault.
“And it’s fucked up that you want to drag Okamoto-kun down with you. He gets to live too, doesn’t he? Why does he have to come back for you? In fact, he should really see someone about it.”
Finally, Okamoto spoke. No one really seemed to pay attention to him, not even Nakashima. Mariko still glowed but her glow started to extend to Yukari as she talked. Mariko started to notice it but she knew to trust it - it was there for protection after all; that’s what she said. And whoever that she ultimately was, Mariko had no other choice but to trust her.
“Don’t… Stop trying to make decisions for me!”
Both living women and the dead one turned to Okamoto - but Nakashima had a smile on her face.
“I want to kill myself! It’s the only way I can be with Hiromi!”
Nakashima floated over to him and then surrounded him. The best way to describe Okamoto was frantic - his hair was mussed up and he no longer wore glasses. He didn’t look like himself and he didn’t sound like himself. He sounded desperate and excited and he almost sounded enthralled - the Okamoto that Mariko came to fear from him now seemed to be out in full force.
“Inai-san… do you know what I had to do in order not to get arrested? After she died, I tried sneaking in so many times… my friends did their best to comfort me but it wasn’t to any avail. They always blamed you and I didn’t understand…”
Okamoto started to sob uncontrollably. Nakashima tried to comfort him and as he sobbed into his hands and crumbled to his knees, she gave the two women a glare - like it was part of a plan. Mariko couldn’t abide by that. She started to get up as Okamoto started to speak coherently.
“Even after that flashback, Hiromi, I still don’t understand how it’s her fault… Didn’t you first appear after they announced your death in class to me? Didn’t you show up scared? Hiromi… I couldn’t believe it… I-I couldn’t believe it at all!
“But everyone thought I was crazy!! They said that Inai-san bewitched me if I could see the dead. There’s no way it was true. They all thought you did it, Inai-san… but I never realized how cruel they were to you and how oblivious I was to all that. But it didn’t matter because… when I turn 30, I was going to kill myself. I’m going to join Hiromi in this school here… We’re going to meet at our usual spot, aren’t we, Hiromi?”
“Of course, we will, Masa-chan.”
“Okay, both of you deserve each other.”
“Yukari, no! Okamoto-san, no you don’t! How do you know it’s going to work like that? How do you know you won’t be pulled into another area? How do you know you won’t be punished? Or even go to heaven? Nakashima-san is stuck here… because she’s angry at me. Because of my actions that led to her death, she’s forever bound to this school… but you have no more ties to this school other than her. What makes you think you’ll even come back? Do you have any more regrets?”
His cries became more frantic and his words became incomprehensible once again. Nakashima tried her best to comfort him as best she could. Then she glared at Mariko once more.
“He does - he regrets meeting you. He regrets living in this school knowing that you’re around again. Not unless you want to add more blood to your hands?”
“Hiromi…” Okamoto managed to say, “P-please stop talking on my behalf…i-if you could...”
This surprised Nakashima. She turned to him and gave him a disgusted look when she was sure he wasn’t looking but Mariko caught it - and was surprised.
To Be Continued…