Between Life and Death
Even if the day before was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a ghost, today came like any other day. Time didn't wait for me to process yesterday's occurrence, and May 12th arrived without delay.
The morning sky, dotted by only a few clouds, kept me awake with its sunshine as I strolled through the neighborhood on my way to school.
Not many students live in the area I do. That's why I often enjoy my walks to and from school. With such nice weather and quiet streets, any stroll outside becomes a daydream.
Even so, I couldn’t keep my mind from thinking about yesterday's event.
I checked my phone for the time. 7:04 am. Arguably it was too early for me to be heading to school given that it was only seven minutes away. If I wanted to, I could even take a detour and grab something to eat. Sadly—or rather, fortunately—my mom had made me some breakfast, so I wasn't hungry at all.
Either way, the extra time at school would be helpful. I could go to the library and do some digging. There was a possibility that I could find a clue related to yesterday's case there.
Though my school was close to the city, my path there was entirely through the residential districts. So because of that, I always passed by a plethora of homes. Some big and some small. And sometimes the occasional house you just wished you lived in.
But not far from school, there was a certain house that I knew of. In fact, I was approaching it right now. Even though I knew who lived in that particular house, I was still surprised to find Mr. Satou standing in his driveway.
"Good morning, Mr. Satou."
It's common courtesy to greet someone you know, even if you have somewhere to be. But I was in no rush.
Since Mr. Satou had been facing away from me this whole time, he didn’t notice me until I spoke up. "Oh, Yuuta?! Good morning to you, too. And I'm guessing Chizuru and Shouya are doing fine as well?"
Those names belong to my mother and father respectively. They were friends from high school if I remember correctly.
"They're a bit tired from working but they're doing well."
"Mm, good." He nodded, looked back at his home—specifically the second story window—and asked, "What about your little sister, Yui?"
"She's doing great, thankfully. Though, recently she has been keeping us up at night," I chuckled. Regardless, my baby sister is just too cute to get mad at. Let's just hope that cuteness never fades.
As I tried to contain my relatively conspicuous adoration for my little sister, Mr. Satou just said "Hopefully she'll let you sleep soon" as he kept staring at the second floor window.
With that, he turned back to me.
"I thought you were supposed to be at work around this time."
"You'd think so," he started as he moved his gaze to the truck parked in the driveway, "but there's been a power outage at the building I work in. There would be no point having several dozen men and women loitering around the office if the computers they use to work are completely useless. So they called me to let me know that I shouldn’t come into work until things are fixed."
Hence why he was standing in his driveway. And now that I looked more closely, the truck parked outside seemed to be one that you could rent when you needed to move heavy things. And currently, there was a large box in the back. He even had a utility dolly close by.
"Five days ago, our refrigerator stopped working. It was rotten luck because all the food went to waste," he chuckled. "So I bought it yesterday and went to pick it up today. The only problem is…" he mumbled as he scratched his head, "I don't know how I'm going to get it inside by myself."
Though I'm sure he could figure it out eventually, it wasn't really a one man job. The refrigerator he bought was pretty big. Judging from its size, I'm sure I could fit comfortably inside. So it must be pretty heavy.
Mr. Satou, you need to think these things through.
"I can help you," I offered.
"Would you look at that, it’s almost as if you read my mind."
I'm sure he had conjured up the idea the moment he saw me. But it's not like I had any reason not to help. So…
Between the both of us, we managed to get the refrigerator off the flatbed truck and onto the utility dolly without destroying it. Next, I was in charge of holding onto the box making sure it wouldn’t fall off the dolly that was way too small for this job.
But that was only the easy part. When we reached the front door, we realized that the refrigerator box barely fit. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the box was that exact same size as the door frame. The next few minutes were spent figuring out how to maneuver such a heavy box through the door.
But it's like how they always say: With enough brute force, something will eventually give.
That something was the door frame.
"I'll fix that later," Mr. Satou chuckled once we got the box through the door. I wasn’t even sure if the door could close anymore.
From then on it was smooth sailing as we rolled the giant box into the kitchen. "You don't know how good it feels to have somewhere to store food again," he said with a sigh of relief as he tore open the box. "Hopefully this'll cheer up Kaori. Now she won't have to step out of the house every time she's hungry."
With a pained look, Mr. Satou's eyes followed the stairs until he could see nothing else but the ceiling. I was certain I knew what he was thinking of. From the way he spoke, I knew that his wife, Mrs. Satou—or in other words, Kaori—was somewhere in their bedroom upstairs.
"Golden Week just ended a few days ago," I mentioned vaguely so as to not offend.
But Mr. Satou could see that I was worried and only smiled.
"I've come to expect it every year," he began. "Some things can be accepted by people. Those become mere memories. But the things that people are unable to forget end up becoming nightmares."
I watched his hopeful eyes as they gazed upon the stairs. Waiting. Hoping for something. Something that I could only assume was a happy ending.
I first learned of what had happened to Mr. and Mrs. Satou around three years ago—Mr. Satou told me himself. They were both very good friends of my parents, and so I often spoke with them.
Unfortunately, it's one of those stories that's so sad you just want to bury it in the deepest parts of your mind. And yet, it's a story that happens far too often. So I’ll try my best to summarize it as best as I can.
More than ten years ago, around the time I was one, Mrs. Satou came running to her husband with amazing news. A development that they had been waiting for years to happen. Something that they were sure would bring them joy.
She had gotten pregnant.
Like I said, it was something that they had been imagining for years on end. For the past three years, they had tried time and time again with no luck. But now they had received a glimmer of hope. A chance at a family.
For the next three months, Mrs. Satou lived with the knowledge that one day they would have a child of their own. It was a thought that never left her mind. A thought that brought her pure joy.
But of course, I wouldn’t be telling this story if her joy had persisted.
A little after the end of her first trimester, she became violently ill. Ms. Satou tried pushing through the pain for a few hours, but not long after it became clear that she had to go to the hospital.
At that moment, she somehow knew that her dreams of motherhood had been slashed.
Once at the hospital, the doctor informed them that if she continued with the pregnancy, there would be a great risk to her health, most likely resulting in fatal consequences for the would-be mother. But what the doctor said next was the thing she dreaded the most. Even if they continued, the baby's chance at life had already been extinguished.
They returned home late at night after several painful hours. She couldn’t bear staying at the hospital any longer. The lights were off and the night sky did little to illuminate the interior. Mr. Satou helped his wife up the stairs and into their bedroom where he lied down with her in bed until she fell asleep. Her pillow stained with tears.
And so, May the 5th, Children’s Day, the final holiday of Golden Week came and went. Every year now, a week usually full of excitement only brought her mind back to that terrible day, leaving her in a depressed state.
I helped Mr. Satou finish setting up the refrigerator which required nothing more than to plug it into the wall and slide it into place. After that, he gave me his thanks and I was off on my way to school.
It was a story that I sometimes wish I could forget in order to remember Mrs. Satou's usual kind and radiant personality. It was a story I am reminded of every time I meet with them or pass by their home. Even after more than a decade of time had passed, Mrs. Satou always fell into depression when May 5th came around. Sometimes it was for a few days and other times it lasted until the end of the month.
Regardless, eventually, she always pulled herself out of it, as if she caught a glimmer of light. If only to then fall back into it the following year. But that’s the reason Mr. Satou could still bear a smile every day, even when he saw her in such a state. He knew that one day it would end, and it would all just be a bad memory for her.