Chapter 33:

Last Chance

Grace Dances Upon the Clouds

[Hey, where were you, today? Did you catch a cold from rocking out too hard?]

[Missed you at practice. What’s up, bud?]

[Haru, are you ok? I can stop by if you want.]

Haru stared listlessly at his phone. His vision faded in and out of consciousness but never going deep enough to bring him back to the dream world. And with every failed attempt, tears flowed down his face.

He was scared. Too scared to go back. Too heartbroken to do anything else. Even if he dreamed, Grace would no longer be waiting there for him. He could feel it. Her final words hung too heavily as a farewell.

Haru thought back and cursed himself.

If only I hadn’t said those words back then…

“Dreams end eventually.”

There was no way of knowing the future, but that didn’t make it sting any less. Nowhere to shift the blame, no one to pin it on – the sadness in Haru festered underneath the sheets.

He had long come to the conclusion that his dreams would end someday. Fantasies spawned in adolescence and dripping with inconsistencies wouldn’t hold up in the end. No matter how much effort he put into it, Grace wouldn’t just show up in reality.

She couldn’t walk on the same streets, eat the same food, or experience the same fun. She couldn’t hang out with his friends. She couldn’t make Kasumi jealous at their closeness. And in the end, he couldn’t choose one or the other. Dreams stayed as dreams. Reality likewise.

Perhaps, his mind was telling him that such a desire was foolish. That Kasumi was too nice of a girl to wish drama upon. For sure, he had gone out with her because she became so endearing to him.

But so had Grace.

The way both girls crashed into his life, forced him to touch grass, and made his heart melt – they were two paths walking parallel. Haru knew in his heart that they couldn’t intersect.

So his mind stopped him when he tried. Enough was enough. And thus, the dream came crashing down. And here he was, scrambling for the pieces without knowing if they were still there.

A knock came from Haru’s bedroom window. He ignored it. Several more knocks stirred him from his makeshift cocoon. With a sigh, he popped up and saw a comically smushed face against the glass.


Surprise turned into annoyance. Haru threw open the window, letting Koichi tumble forward.

“You did that on purpose!” Haru pointed at him.

“You ignored me!”

The two looked at each other and chuckled.

“Are you two done up there? I can’t hold you up forever, you know.”

Haru peeked over the windowsill, Daichi was below, bracing Koichi on his shoulders, all while standing on some unsteady structure. Kasumi waved at him. The whole gang had come, worried since he played hooky and didn’t answer back.

“Fine, I’ll let you in,” Haru relented. Perhaps, the company would be a nice distraction.

Haru didn’t expect what happened afterward. Daichi immediately hoisted him onto his shoulders and carried him upstairs. From the corner of his eye, Haru spotted Koichi grabbing all the pillows he could hold. Kasumi just looked on in bemusement.

“Quick! We need 250 ccs of sleep, stat!”

“On it, Koichi! What should I do, put him in a neck lock?”

“He’s in critical condition, and you want to injure him more?! What we need is drugs, Nurse Kato! Fetch the melatonin!”

Utterly confused but compliant, Kasumi ran out of the room. Shuffling was heard in the nearby bathroom, the shaking of pillboxes indicating that she was raiding the medicine cabinet.

“Whoa, hold it! What the hell do you all think you’re doing!?” Haru finally managed to shout.

They all stopped mid motion – Daichi with Haru’s arms locked, Koichi holding embarrassing decorative cushions from the living room, and Kasumi dropping the bottle in her hand.

“Well…,” Koichi coughed, “when you don’t get a good sleep, it’s like the end of the world for you. I mean, just look how bad your face is.”

Haru glanced at the mirror. Dark rings sat heavily on his eyes. All the crying had made his face an utter mess, puffy and red, like a child after a temper tantrum. It was like the aftermath of being tortured, fingers snapped and toes crushed.

“All we’re saying is that we got you covered. You’ll be the same ol’ Haru in no time flat!” Daichi eased up on his hold, hoisting Haru onto his bed. A nod from him brought Kasumi over, with two pills and a glass of water.

“We’ll let the girlfriend take it from here. No room for us guys, unless you want a triple lap pillow across your body,” Koichi joked.

The thought of himself spread across all three of their laps nearly made water go down the wrong pipe. Haru quickly kicked Daichi and Koichi as they made the motions for it. But Kasumi reached over and pulled Haru down to her lap.

“I think you’re good now. Offer still stands, whenever, wherever.” Koichi flashed him a V-sign.

“Only in private though.” Daichi added, a bit on the stiff side.

Haru shooed them away. The bedroom door clicked behind them, leaving Kasumi and Haru alone.

“Are you sure you should be here?” Haru looked up questionably at her.

“Are you giving me a reason to doubt you?”

“No, but-”

“Then, shush.”

“But, I mean-”

“Sleep first. Then, we’ll talk. I’ll listen to anything you say, no matter how weird.”

Kasumi’s soothing voice as she stroked Haru’s head made it impossible not to feel drowsy. And soon enough, his eyes closed. Gentle breathing turned to snores.

Haru never got the chance to see Kasumi pull out her camera, sneaking pictures of his sleeping face. More insurance for another day, just in case he decided to run away from reality.


A cold wind blew around Haru. He was not surprised to see a bleak world full of gray. It was like Grace had taken the color when she left. And Haru saw no sign of her waiting.

All Haru could do was scream her name. He hoped that it would travel long and far enough to reach wherever Grace was hiding. But the wind grew fiercer. It fought to drown out his cries.

No feeling in his fingers to play a tune. No drive in his heart to sing a melody. The dream world stood still. All except for Haru and his ugly shouts.

No words could be distinguished from the frenzy. Not that it mattered anyway. His last ones to her had driven her away.

For a moment, he wished that he could lose everything, just so Grace would come back.

Perhaps, someone had listened in and granted it. A speck of color returned to the sky. It was a mesmerizing sight amid the color-blind world, one that couldn’t escape Haru. He broke free from the wind, he let it tear himself as he crossed it. Up the flight of clouds, Haru scrambled on all fours.

And even when it felt like he was losing the strength to climb, something pushed him upward. Haru didn’t bother to look, his eyes remained on the girl above.

Torn, broken, and fading out of existence – Haru could see that even her path was desperate. This meeting would not last.

That even this last chance was a miracle in itself.

Taylor J
Dhamas Tri (dmz)
Mario Nakano 64
Steward McOy
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