Between Life and Death
The Wandering Girl
It had been almost two days since I had my little conversation with Claire. I hadn’t heard from her since, nor had she called after giving me her phone number after having part ways last night. It seemed like I would just have to wait for her to hunt me down like last yesterday.
Today was Monday, May 11th. The weather was nice and school had been the usual. Though, today I had almost missed class since for the last few days I had been studying like crazy for midterms. (I'm not the brightest student.) And so last night, I decided to pull an all-nighter and study until my hands cramped.
Unfortunately, my body wasn't one for tolerating a massive disturbance to its sleep cycle. So I ended up passing out on my desk at four in the morning. By the time my mom noticed I was still sleeping and hadn’t left for school yet, I only had ten minutes left until school started. I was lucky she was able to drive me there before I missed class.
So that's why today I've decided to take a break. They do say that frequent breaks in between studying helps you retain more information, you know. So don't be calling lazy. If I work myself to the point of passing out, I deserve a bit of relaxation.
I figured watching a movie could be a good way to forget about trivial things like midterms. There was a new movie that just released and had turned out to be a surprise hit. There was a shopping center with a cinema to the west of where I was, so I turned left at the next intersection with that destination in mind.
That reminds me, the latest volume of the series I had been reading was released recently as well. The shopping center conveniently also housed a bookstore. I could stop by after the movie and see if it was in stock. As I continued to ponder on my plans, I made another left turn.
Hmm… But after all of that, I need to think of some place to buy something to eat. I'm not hungry at the moment but I'm bound to be. I'm pretty sure the bookstore has a cafe but they only sell pastries and coffee. But the great thing about shopping centers is that they cater to everyone's taste. Specifically meaning that there will be no shortage of food there. I'm bound to find something to eat. As I pushed my dinner plans aside, I made another left turn.
I'm guessing I won't make it back home until around 7 pm. That was around three hours from now. A good amount of time to do a fair bit of things. Still, I should probably let Mom know that I'd be coming home a bit late.
And by the time I had finished texting my mom that I wouldn't be home for a while, I had arrived all the way back to the intersection I had started my stroll at. That's right, I had walked in a circle—or rather, a square.
Now, before you go ahead and call me stupid, I had a good reason for doing so.
I turned around to examine the street behind me. Other than the two people at the intersection at the end of the block, there was no one else on the sidewalk.
But, when I turned around, I did notice a pair of eyes dart back into a nearby alleyway.
I knew it. I was being followed.
Still, I wanted to make sure. Maybe it was just a weird coincidence that someone hid behind a wall the moment I looked behind me. However unlikely that might be. And why would someone be following me in the first place?
So I kept my eyes fixed on the entrance to the alley until...those same eyes appeared once again. They looked around cautiously, scanning the whole street until they found me. And just like last time, the moment they noticed me staring back at them, the head they were attached to quickly hid behind the wall.
Okay, so it wasn’t a coincidence. I was definitely being followed.
There would be no point in just standing here or leaving. Plus, I was a little curious as to who my stalker might be. So I started toward the alley, careful not to make a sound as I approached. Once I was only a few meters away, I got up against the wall of the building adjacent to the alley and slowly inched closer.
When I was just centimeters away from the corner of the wall I stopped my approach and slowly guided my head around the corner when…
When I turned the corner, someone else's face met mine with only a centimeter of distance between us. I must have scared them because they let out a little cry as they stumbled backward and dropped to the ground.
The whole thing startled me as well, but I managed to keep myself standing.
When I looked back to see who it was that I had almost smacked my face into, I saw a young girl—seemingly my age—on the ground. Her hair was a light brown, but the way the few bits of sunlight hit her hair made it seem like there was a shade of pink in there.
Even though she had been stalking me for the past few minutes, I rushed over to check if she was okay.
"Sorry. Did I startle you?" I asked as I extended my hand.
That moment, a fit of deja vu came over me.
At the sight of my hand, the girl grew startled and tried to back away from me only to realize that the alley was a dead end. With nowhere else to run, the girl timidly turned to face me, hiding behind her arms.
"U-umm..." she stuttered, "you kind of startled me there. Sorry if I frighten you as well." She bowed deeply only to try to casually slip out of the alley. "If you'll excuse me…"
She began walking towards the sidewalk, but I stepped in her way. She had definitely been following me, there was no doubt about it. I couldn’t let her leave until I at least knew her name.
"Before you leave, you should introduce yourself. If you're this interested in me, you should at least tell me your name." I got straight to the point and accused her of following me.
I might have been more aggressive than I had intended because the girl took a step back, averting her eyes from mine.
"Y-yes, you're absolutely right. Sorry. I-I should have introduced myself a lot sooner." She stumbled over a few of her words but eventually she got her point across. Without lifting her gaze from the ground she said, "My name is Yuuko."
So that was her name. Yuuko, huh? I didn't know anyone by that name.
"My name is Yuuta Kinoshita." She had told me her name, so it would be bad manners of me if I didn’t do the same, but… "...I don't think you mentioned your family name." Had I missed it or had she just not said it?
"Oh… That's...u-umm…" For whatever reason she looked around anxiously as she took a step back, still not wanting to meeting my gaze.
I was starting to worry that if I kept pressing her for an answer she would just up and collapse on the ground from anxiety or run away. She was even starting to shake a bit.
"I-It's okay if you don’t want to tell me. I won't force you to," I assured her in an effort to calm her down.
Fortunately, it seemed to work because she stopped shaking and she slowly lifted her head.
"No. Since I'm speaking to you now, I might as well tell you the truth."
"The truth about what?"
The truth about her name? Was it supposed to be a secret or was she some super famous celebrity in disguise.
"That's not it," she began, timidly. You could barely make out a faint quiver in her voice. "The reason I didn't tell you my family name is because...I don't know what it is."
"Huh?!" She didn't know her own name? "What do you mean by that?"
But the moment I asked her that, she dropped to her knees, almost as if her anxiety had stolen all of her strength, and she started sobbing.
"I-I don't...I don't remember anything." she cried. "I just woke up one day...and I couldn’t remember anything."
What?! She can't remember anything?!
Regardless, I couldn’t get any of my questions through to her. She continued to cry and I tried to say something that would help calm down, but nothing seemed to cheer her up.
As I was running out of ideas and slowly becoming more and more concerned for her, a familiar voice called out to me.
I turned around to find Shizuka, a friend of mine since I was little.
"What's got you so stressed?" she asked, tilting her head. "Were you speaking with someone just now?"
"What do you mean? Can't you see that I'm trying to get her to stop crying?"
For whatever reason, Shizuka looked at me puzzled, putting her finger to her chin and tilting her head to the left this time. "Who are you trying to get to stop crying?"
"Huh?" At first I thought she was joking, but her confusion was so genuine that her question only served to confuse me even further. "I'm trying to calm this girl down," I claimed as I pointed to the girl weeping on her knees.
But the only response I got in return was "What girl?"