A quiet and small chat around the table, Yuki didn’t imagine this to be how he’d talk to Yumi for the first time. Well properly for the first time. Outside of school they had never crossed paths. Though given the situation, it seemed inevitable.
“Uh, sure, I don’t mind. What is it?”
“How do you…pick?” She noticed he only gave her a head tilt. “The path…you follow…”
He leaned back in his chair. “That’s a lot…heavier sort of question than I was expecting. I figured it was going to be Momo and me.”
“Yeah. Oh I guess it’s Momoko around here.”
“Oh Miss Momoko! I’m so sorry!”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind breaking script, it’s a little refreshing than the same explanations.”
He smiled back trying to brush past the confusion. “The path I follow, huh? I think that’s the first time I’ve been asked that. Read it a lot of times, got lots of answers.” Yuki returned his gaze back to a completely lost Yumi. “None of which are what you’re looking for. You’re not looking for a cheap line from a five hundred yen light novel.”
Was that supposed to be more comforting for Yumi?
Chapter 32 – Matter of Self
Putting questionable preambles aside, Yuki had to consider the question. It felt random. But the look she gave him told him otherwise. Something weighed on her. She wanted help. “I haven’t exactly been alive long enough for great life experiences, so you’ll have to forgive me if it doesn’t come out super sage like.”
“The path I take is filled with so many regrets and failures. I made a lot of mistakes. I still do! But I keep going forward because I made a promise…” He drifted off again. The sound of beeping of medical instruments tapped on the back of his mind. Pain coughing wormed into his ears. Shallow breaths drawn out with a struggle gripped his arms.
Yumi’s voice snapped him out of his haze. “Oh right, right! It’s what guides me. It makes me want to do better. To not focus on my past that I can’t change, but towards my future which still can be different.” He rubbed his hands together. “That probably sounds pretentious coming from a fifteen year old!”
A rough laugh came out of him. “What teenager knows about real pain and regrets, right? They’d probably yell at me!”
“I don’t think so!”
Yumi carried a surprisingly assertive expression. She leaned in, pressing her hands together. The depth behind his words went over her, but she felt his words all the same. It was familiar. She understood them. “We might be…kids, children still…but we can still…suffer too!”
“You’re right…” He laughed again, fixing up his facade. “I didn’t mean to get into such heavy topics. Not sure if that answered your question.”
“It did…” The words from Yuki eased her mind. Turmoil and doubt started to become like a fog, something traversable now. She walked back through the memories of her past. They didn’t feel like chains for once.
Yumi sat at the kitchen table alone. The lights remained off in the house as it no longer felt familiar. She held her head down on the table with her hair covering up her face.
Unnoticed by her, Yori returned home from elementary school. He walked around to her side trying to see what was wrong with her. When he called out to her she didn’t answer, remaining in silence. He placed his hand on her shoulder hoping that he could get her attention. “Yumi?” However, he was not expecting what happened.
Yumi jumped up from her chair grabbing Yori by the waist and plunging her face into his shirt crying. He was taken aback by her reaction and collapsed to the floor not certain what to do next as his sister couldn’t stop crying. “She’s not here! She’s not here! I want to see mom!”
“…Yumi…I-I…” Yori held Yumi in his arms as she kept crying.
“I didn’t know…I…won’t let you be alone, Yumi!”
She paused in her tears for a moment pulling herself away to look at Yori. The words had given her a little strength to be able to break through the emotions. “Yori? You…”
“I promise you, Yumi! So you don’t have to cry anymore. I’m here.”
“I’m not alone?”
Yori helped her get back on her feet and clear up her tears. It was obvious to him how upset she still was about the matter. “Let’s make something to eat. You’ll feel better!” He started to walk her over to the kitchen looking back at Yumi, he was holding on to her hand to give her something stable.
“Can you cook?”
“Sure! And you can help me!”
“But I-I don’t know…”
“It’ll be fine. We can make something for mom as well.”
So many of the memories clung to her, yet they lost some of the weight. Yumi stood up from the table, finding energy back in her body. ‘I need to talk to him…’ A confident smile came over her. She nodded internally over matters.
She found herself walking over to the locker, but stopped when someone called to her. They came from behind her, Yuki of course. “Huh?”
“You going somewhere?”
Blinking, she remembered where she stood. Yumi looked down at her store uniform and back to the door. Miss Momoko stood on the other side. “I’m sorry! I got distracted.” She turned away from the locker.
“If you have somewhere you need to be, I’m not going to stop you. I can tell Momo–”
“No! I’ll finish…my shift.”
“If you’re sure.”
Yumi walked back to the table to clean up. “I am.” With his job done, Yuki started to slip away from her. It wasn’t until she finished wrapping everything up in the bag that she even noticed. “Um…Thank you!” She smiled with some relief.
There seemed to be more to it. He tilted his head a little trying to search out what he felt. Nothing would be found. “You’re welcome! I’m glad I was of some help.” Yuki nodded to her and opened the door to leave.
The shift at the bookstore finally ended granting her the chance she sought. Excitement and eagerness surrounded her in ways that were unfamiliar. She accepted the feelings, focusing on the ride home. Leaving the bus stop, Yumi saw her house at the far end of the street. Those feelings began to drain away some as the moment approached.
She still managed to walk up to the house and open the door without pause. Shoes at the entrance told what she already wanted. “I’m home.” By the time she left her shoes behind, Yori appeared out of the kitchen.
“Welcome home.” There was something a little off about Yumi. He narrowed his eyes trying to read her for the answer. “Did something happen?”
“Yes, do you have time to talk?”
Yori raised his eyebrow with curiosity. He leaned back into the kitchen hearing the bubbling of the pot on the stove. Quickly, he jumped over to get dinner back under control. “Give me a minute.”
She nodded, having followed him into the kitchen. While Yori set the food to a lower heat, she took a seat at the table. The bus ride did little to prepare her. In fact, none of her thoughts went towards any sort of plan. Now in the moment, that felt like an oversight. ‘I hope I can speak as clearly as Hayashi did.’
With dinner safe, Yori sat down with his sister at the table. “What did you want to talk about, Yumi?”
“I thought about what you said.” She focused on Yuki’s words for direction. The path to take held at the fork. She had to make a pick. “I…understand where you’re coming from.”
“Yes, because they’re trouble. It’s simple to see.”
“Please, brother…” She waited to see him nodded slowly. Once he was listening, she continued. “I’m grateful for everything that you’ve done.” Her mind wandered between her friends and Yori. The past loomed in the background tied to them. A past like Yuki mentioned.
A past not to be controlled by.
“You’ve done so much for me. And Kaede and Katsumi too. When things were bad for me, I had them for support. You’ve all supported me so much, I couldn’t be happier to have you. But I want to be able to make my own choices now.”
“I don’t need all the protection. I’m not a child anymore. I want to stand and walk my own way. I want to make my own mistakes and fail.”
“What are you saying?”
“Please don’t interfere with my class. If my classmates cause trouble, please let the teachers handle it. I’ll be fine. If something does happen, I have Kaede and Katsumi at my side. You can be your own person, brother. You don’t need to keep protecting.”
“Yumi…I…please…I’m doing this for you.”
“Because I needed you when I was younger. But I want to…I need to walk.”
Yori clinched his hands together as he pressed his weight against the table. New emotions rose to the surface for him. He struggled to understand what they were. Each popped and replaced with another. And across from him, his sister sat there facing him directly. It didn’t make any sense. What was happening?
His sister watched the different expressions roll over his face. She hardly knew what went through him. All of the murk that bound her seemed to have transferred. Watching the sight left her in silence for a while. Each second hoped for the understanding she wanted. “Please, brother. I’m not turning you away. I just want to find my own experience.”
He shook his head, clearing everything out. “No. No! Yumi, nothing has to change. You can do that and still…”
“Please understand. I’ll still ask you for help when I get lost. But let me look.”
“If you still need me.”
“Of course, you’re my only brother. We’re family.”
“Thank you. You’ll not do anything to push for their suspension?”
A slow and distant nod came from Yori. He agreed, though it seemed like other thoughts haunted him. His fingers rubbed against the glass on the table. It was a different sight than she was used to seeing her brother in. Nothing further came out of him. She could only leave him to his thoughts. Yori would understand in time. That was certain.
Yumi walked out of the kitchen. She picked the right turn in the hall. A warmth covered her as she saw something new and different in front of her for the first time. It looked exciting. She wanted to know what was ahead. But that was part of the experience. ‘Thank you…Yuki…’
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