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Never Forgive Me

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I put on some lip gloss, brushed my hair again. It circled my face in ringlets I had formed using a curler. I had put on a dash of makeup and my favourite dress. I wanted everything to be perfect. Even though he had been admitted in the hospital for only a week it felt like a lifetime. Now I finally got to meet him and my breaths were coming out in short spasms. I could hardly wait.
As I walked towards the bench, under the arch just outside the park, I saw him there already. I savoured the moment turning it around my head at every angle. I wanted to remember this day forever, exactly like how it was, the smell, the taste of the autumn leaves falling.
I stood in front of him and he turned to face me. I stopped dead.
His face was pale, ashen, and grey. He looked emaciated, weak and the light in his eyes had almost gone out. My eyes searched for a smile, a smile that used to lift up my spirits, a smile that made the world stop and stare. But all I got was a small upturn at the corners of his mouth. The blood rushed to my head, I saw black spots in front of my eyes. I was getting dizzy. What had they done to him?
But I steadied myself, I had to be strong. I forced my lips to a watery smile, and I hoped my eyes did not betray me. I sat down beside him, and looked up into his eyes.
He put his arm around me.
“Hey” he said softly in the same voice that caught my attention all those years ago.
That did it. I lost all control, the air that I had relished moments before suffocated me. My hair felt fake, my face worthless, my clothes tattered. How could I think about things that were so material, when these didn’t have any meaning anymore?
I let it flow, the tears streaked my face. My careful composure, my layers of persevered confidence were all torn apart. I cried like I never had before. I must have startled him; he hasn’t ever seen me cry. I was ashamed and I felt my emotions betray me. I was scared to look in to his eyes. So I buried my face into his shirt.


















*
He was a sophomore and I was a mere freshie. He was really popular and could have tons of girls if he wished but he never seemed to be interested.
He stood out in any crowd. His six-foot-two frame was muscular but not bulky. His black hair he wore in a long plait but in the front most of his silky air was ruffled. He was a Japanese-American with a Japanese father and an American mother. His features were delicate and his lotus eyes would have mesmerized any impressionist. They were a startling green. He exuded a general air of easiness; an aura everyone wanted to be in the presence of.
“Toshio, you look like a genetically-modified intellectual rock star” I once told him.
His father Dr. Sato was a multi-millionaire chemical engineer whose empire extended all over the world. He bestowed everything on his only son without spoiling him.
But sadly for Dr. Sato his son never showed any interest in stepping into his shoes to lead the prestigious Sato Enterprises.
In that respect Toshio took after his mother who gave him more than his green eyes. She moulded his thinking and his ideals. When his father was away controlling an international crisis his mother whispered stories in Toshio’s ear. Sandra Robinson Sato, a bestselling author herself created an erratically amazing writer, poet and dreamer. There was nothing Toshio never dreamed of.
“So you’d pick a quiet life to controlling a seriously bad-a** company that could make presidents eat out of your hands?” I asked him the first time we met face-to-face.
“Yes” he replied grinning. “And you think I’m crazy right?”
“Oh yeah” I said grinning back.

















*
Toshio was the head of the college’s undergraduate editorial board. The weekly he had started months after entering college Our voice, your views was a campus-wide hit.
Despite my life-long aim to become an anesthetist, I had an insane imagination and I loved writing. But I suffered a set-back in school when one of my articles was branded ‘worst thing ever written’ by the English head. She took back her words later on and helped me rewrite it but the sting had remained. I hadn’t written anything since then.
I didn’t know who Toshio was or where he came from when I first decided to overcome my fears and write a piece for the weekly.
I spent weeks on it toiling in the night so it didn’t interfere with my science work. Days before it was nearly done my laptop broke down.
But it was determined.
“You’ll bull-doze your way through, Katara. When your mind is set on it nobody can stop you. Not even me” Toshio told me the day I slapped a guy for calling me ‘babe’ on campus.
So I sat down and wrote it all over, writing every word by hand. I wrote the article about five times and by then I nearly knew it by heart. Not until I had dotted all the is and crossed all the ts was I satisfied. I handed in my work in the morning.
I was surprised to find my article published next week. When I got my laptop fixed I found an email for the head editor.
My roomie Campbell read the email over my shoulder.
“Wow, Toshio must really like your work; nice going!” she said.
“Who’s Toshio?”
“You mean you didn’t send the article to grab his attention?” and then, “Typical you Tara”
“I’m kinda lost here”
“Who’s Toshio…?” she plopped down on her bed. “Rippling muscles, kill-me-now eyes, deep voice, Who’s Toshio you ask, he’s just the most gorgeous human to walk this campus. Wait scratch that, who knows if he is human? He is too perfect to be one. Vampire maybe? No maybe a fallen angel..”
I groaned. Campbell was blabbering again.
“English, Campbell please!”
“Huh? Oh right. I forgot I was talking to miss-no-clue-on-the-dating-scene.”
I rolled my eyes. Just like Campbell to bring the fact that I wasn’t interested in boys again. According to her tons and tons of guys wanted to date me, but I just couldn’t care less. I mean I have of friends who are boys and they are fun to hang out with but I don’t need a boyfriend to feel complete.
Well, thank goodness I was wrong.


















*
After my second article got published, I was informed that Toshio wanted to meet me.
What had I done wrong? Did I forget to do a spell check? Was my article a little too critical?
I was trembling. I didn’t want another ‘worst thing ever written’ moment again.
“I loved it!” He said.
“Huh?”
“you article was brilliant, your style of writing is so mature!”
I blinked. What?
“The thing I like about your pieces is that you handle delicate issues with such candidness that people are forced into thinking things your way. We are short on the undergraduate team of permanent editors. Would like to give it a shot?”
“You want ME to be an editor?”
“Yes”
I was not prepared for this. What was I supposed to say?
“Sure, I’d love to”
“Great!” he said grinning. “I’ll give you the forms”
As he turned his back towards me I studied him closely. For such a popular guy he was serious. His eyes shone with concentration and I could see he loved his work.
At least we had something in common.


















*
So I began attending editorial meetings. I researched as much as I could about being an editor. I was once an editor at school but that didn’t count as the teachers really decided what went on in the school magazine.
But here the students controlled everything. All of them were seniors, juniors or sophomores so in the beginning I felt a little left out. But everybody was so brilliant and kind, that the mood was infectious and soon I found myself talking and contributing as much as everyone else.
Soon I was looking forward to Mondays for the meetings.
The other editors respected my ideas, and when I started talking everyone grew quiet to listen. This was not new to me but strangely here it mattered more to me than ever before. It was in those meetings I realized that Campbell was probably right and that people really valued my opinions, I was not the only one with radically different views.
On the 8th of April, the Dean announced a regional article competition which was prestigious and the prize money was nearly a million dollars for the winning team. Two editors were to be chosen to write the article and thereby take part in the competition. I clapped like mad when Toshio was selected. It was now up to him to choose his partner.
The next Monday meeting was a frenzy. Everyone was talking about who would be selected.
Toshio and some seniors were discussing hard in the adjacent room.
Finally they came out and Toshio started talking.
“It was a difficult decision for me to choose one of you as I was the one who recruited you to be a part of this magazine in different times over the past two years. But we have come to a conclusion and one young and bright candidate stood out.”
Yeesh, he was making this sound like some election. But I was relaxed, as I knew I wouldn’t be the editor Toshio was looking for. So I smiled.
Then I found him looking at me. My smile wavered. I lost myself in his eyes. During my time as an editor I didn’t spend much time with Toshio as we always thought a decision out as a team of twenty and I never felt singled out. Something fluttered in my stomach. Hasty dinner?
Why was he looking at me?
“That student is……… Katara Brown.”






















*
Me. Me, the girl who could never find her socks in the morning. Me, the girl who once thought ‘anyways’ was correct English. Me, the writer of ‘the worst thing ever written’.
“But there must be some mistake!” I cried. The meeting was over and my head was reeling.
“No” he said.
“But I’m not ready!”
“You’re not?” He was fiddling with some papers on his desk. He wasn’t listening.
“I don’t have any experience and I have never entered an essay competition”
“The competition rules say we must write an article. That reminds me I have to give you the rules and regulations list”
“Toshio, look at me!”
He coolly turned his eyes up.
“What?”
I saw that look in his eyes. Something I was powerless against. The same look that would shut me up every time in the next few years. I was furious. How did he do that? What right did he have?
“Nothing” I snarled.
I walked out of his office and slammed the door shut.



















*
I ignored his string of emails and messages. I didn’t even attend the next Monday meeting.
I was not going to humiliate myself by writing the worst essay in the history of the college. Did I say essay? I meant ARTICLE.
On Tuesday morning I was up early. I hardly got sleep anymore. I walked to my favourite spot under a willow tree with my Biology text book.
When I opened it, I heard a rustling sound behind me. Someone walked up and sat down next to me.
“Hey”
I sighed.
“Hey, Toshio”
“Can we talk?”
“You are here aren’t you?”
He laughed softly.
“That I am”
“What is it?”
“I wanted to talk to you about the article”
I turned to look him in the eye.
“Oh don’t you start again” he said, chuckling.
“So this is all a joke for you? Is that why you wanted me on the team? To humiliate me?”
“Just listen ok? I’ll tell you my ideas and if you don’t like them I’ll pick another editor. Deal?”
“Ok”
He laughed.
“What?” I was biting my lip hard to control my temper, I didn’t want to lose it. Not in front of him. Years later I would be biting my lip hard to control myself in front of him again. But then the context would be utterly different.
“You’ve got that glint in your eye”
“Glint?”
“Yes, that stubborn glint which says no-matter-what-your-idea-is-I’ll-make-sure-I-hate-it”
“Well, go on then”
So he started explaining his ideas to me. The more I listened the more I understood why he had chosen me. His topic was fairly simple, about the clash of thought between the two kinds of intellectuals; the scientists and the authors. Why literature couldn’t be without science and vice versa. I realized he had chosen the topic because of the conflict he faced in his own life.
“Katara”
“Hmm?” I was too engrossed to say anything more.
His voice softened.
“You do it every day”
“What do you mean?”
“You balance science with art so successfully. Once you’re out there in the world your imagination will shake the corners of fiction. There is no magic without science and no science without magic. Do you like Greek mythology?”
I nodded. I was a big fan.
“I thought so. Goddess Athena is called the Goddess of Wisdom and War. Why do you think that is?”
“Because the best wars are won with proper strategies and not aggression. Ares, the God of War is the best Strategist. Which is why he hasn’t lost a single war and never will. Also the most complex battles are the ones of the mind. Of ideas and opinions. No war is fought manually, we fight with our minds and hearts first before the thought process reaches our hands”
Toshio’s eyes glazed over and he looked away.
Oh great. Go all mysterious on me. I sighed again.
“All right. I’m in.”




















*

We worked day and night. The Dean had exempted us from all tests and projects so immediately after class we rushed to meet each other at the library.
“Here’s your hot chocolate” he said. Toshio knew I hated the lunch at the cafeteria and always got hot chocolate for me.
“Thanks”
“I got this great idea last night” he would begin.
“Me too. Sometimes you just have to daydream for inspiration to come” I said giving him a wink.
He laughed. We hardly slept at nights. We were in the library from 3 pm to midnight and we were the first to enter at 7 in the morning before class started. The seven hours we got in our dorms we spent researching or writing down furiously our gaps in information.
“I’m seeing too much of you, Katara” Toshio once complained. He was the only person who called me Katara. Almost everyone else except the Dean called me Tara or Katie. I liked the way he said my name. He made it sound exotic.
“You’re a guy.” I had replied. “You can do anything. It’s not the same for me though.”
I lowered my voice furtively. “People talk you know”
He threw his head back and laughed.
“Like you care!”
The librarian, Miss Potts, glared at him.
He gave Miss Potts one of his apologetic smiles and she was immediately turned to mush. It was a written rule that all ladies above forty was in love with ‘little Toshio-san’. Not that any lady below forty could control herself either.
“It’s a cardinal sin to turn on your smile, Toshio” I said.
“Well, let’s just say I’m a hardened criminal then”






















*

I didn’t care much when we won the competition, a month later. I didn’t care when I was offered half a million dollars in cash and the college awarded me and Toshio with individual scholarships offering completely free undergraduate and graduate courses.
Toshio didn’t need the money but his face shone as much as mine at the awards ceremony.
I didn’t care when my exams came and went and I performed well. I didn’t care when I was elected co-head of the editorial board of Our voice, your views . I didn’t care when my birthday was the biggest party on campus and that even all the teachers attended it.
But I did care about one thing.
That I was utterly and irrevocably in love with Toshio Hachiro Sato.






















*

We started dating when we found that we couldn’t really spend time apart. He was always in my mind whenever I did anything. Not that it distracted me or left me disillusioned. On the contrary he strengthened me. When I was thinking of him, I understood myself better, and learnt to fight any obstacle.
On a Saturday morning, at the end of August, he asked me something that took me by surprise. Don’t get me wrong, Toshio is always unpredictable. That’s exactly why we clicked so well. But this was strange even for him.
“Katara”
“Yep”
“Yep?”
“Sorry Toshio, Campbell is a bad influence on me. I’m just crazy happy I’m going home tomorrow”
My parents had come to visit me all through the year and now since we got two weeks off I pleaded them to not come. I really wanted to go home myself.
He smiled.
“Yes, I know. You deserve the time off”
“what is it?”
“Katara, I…” he hesitated.
I stopped in surprise. The Great Toshio hesitating?
“Katara, I want to take our relationship to the next level.” He gushed.
“Wha..?” I looked up at him. Then I frowned.
“Kingsley put you up to this didn’t he?”
Mark Kingsley was Toshio’s best friend, something I just couldn’t get. How could he befriend the most aggressive guy in school?
But Toshio never really caught up to Campbell too so I guess that was mutual.
“No, no. I really want to do this”
“So what is this next level?”
“Well, Mark told me…”
“Aha! I knew it was him!”
“Katara, listen to me!”
“Hmmm?”
“I want to have sex with you”
“you WHAT?”
That was the first time I saw Toshio blush. Somehow that didn’t make him less attractive at all. I thought it made him cuter.
“ok, so sex huh?” Trying to sound casual. Actually the prospect terrified me.
“Yes, I think we are old enough and its only logical…”
“Toshio, listen to yourself. You’ve never used the word logical in your life!”
“So if you want to do it you have to take the test first” I continued. I was sick of all this serious talk. I wanted to see if he took a joke.
“what test?” he asked.
“Well, the test for AIDS of course! How will I know you are not infected” I said casually, my eyes sparkling.
He paled. Poor guy I shouldn’t have done this.
“Yes, of course, I understand. I shall tell father to arrange for it..”
“Toshio! I was kidding. I’m sorry…. I didn’t mean to, really.. please”
But the damage was done and things would never be the same again. Years later I replayed the conversation again and again, kicking myself.
That was the day I realized how much Toshio loved me.
No matter what I said that day and the next he would be deterred.
On September 1st 2010, He took the Enzyme-linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA) test.



















*
A few months later when all this had blown over, Toshio came to meet me at our regular spot under the arch just outside the park. I smiled and closed my psychology text book.
“Hey” he said
“Hey”
It was nearly a week since I had met him alone. He had his finals and was busy studying. The only time I had met him was by accident, before the Literature exam when I slipped a ‘good luck’ card into his text book and he caught me. Lit. was his least favourite subject unlike me, if I had taken an English major; Literature would be the subject I loved.
“Thanks for the card, really helped me calm my nerves. You always know exactly what to say, Katara”
“How did you know I’ll sneak it in your bag?”
“I missed you Katara, I watched your every move. Also it was pretty predictable. You knew I was distressed. I knew you’d do something.”
“I have something to tell you, Katara”
“Don’t you always?”
That made him smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. I noticed he had rings under his eyes. He looked different. What was wrong?
“You know the ELISA test I took”
I lowered my eyes. Why was he bringing this up again? Didn’t he know I thought about it every day?
“Katara, look at me”
I looked into his eyes promptly getting lost in them.
“The results have come and well….. I..”
Why was he hesitating?
That’s when I saw it in his eyes. The difference. He was carrying some heavy burden and hiding it from me. He couldn’t hold on any longer, I could see the pain in his stance.
Something clicked then. A porthole opened and I was peering into it.
“No, Toshio….. Please tell me…”
The silence crept into my soul searing it.
“NO, NO, NO!”
“Katara…..”
I jumped up, my head was spinning I couldn’t see straight. His face clouded. I staggered dangerously.
I threw my book.
“Katara!”
Without a backward glance I ran away.


















*
I ran like the wind deeper and deeper into the woods as if I was trying to get away from myself, from what I had felt.
My heart raced, I felt the brambles tear at my feet. My hair hung loose and the wind whipped it off my face as I ran as fast as my legs could carry.
The moon was out and it lit my path for me, the evening was bathed in silence. Every bird had stopped singing, every flower yet to bloom.
I tripped over a root and fell hard on my face. I felt my head hit something.
I waited for the pain, the tears. I waited for my screams to tear the silence.
But I couldn’t move, I had forgotten how to breathe. My throat was parched. I was rooted down, shivering and scared. Alone, confused. But I couldn’t feel anything.
Why didn’t it hurt?
What was I going to do?
I felt the curtain of life falling........ Finally…….I could rest .…. Forget what couldn’t be forgotten…….I saw a silhouette …… someone saying my name …….. green colour, so green…. So beautiful.

















*
When I woke up all I saw was white.
So this what heaven is like. But I felt the stinging feeling still of some forgotten pain. What was it?
I heard voices.
“She’s going to be fine Toshio-san”
“That’s a relief. When I found her she looked terrible.”
“Yes, she has been a through a lot though. Do you know what happened?”
“We had a …ah misunderstanding”
I could feel the difficulty he faced forming those words. Toshio never could lie.
My eyelids fluttered involuntarily. Toshio saw it and quickly led the nurse outside out of earshot.
What were they saying? What more did he have to hide?
Before I knew it he was by my side.
“How does it feel?”
“Fine, I guess”
Silence.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Me? Yes I’m fine”
Silence again.
“Toshio?”
“Yes, Katara”
“Will you ever forgive me?”
“For nearly killing yourself? No definitely not.”
“You know I’m not talking about that”
“I’m going to be alright, Katara”
“You have AIDS Toshio. You’re never going to be alright. Do you know how it happened?”
“You really want to know?”
I looked up at him. He really looked tired. How could I have not noticed?
“Okay. I’ll tell you. I was raped.”
I gasped. But he was a boy….
“The first article you wrote Katara. Do you remember what it was about? Rape victims. And you described it perfectly. That’s why I wanted to know you, way back then”
“You knew who I was?”
“Everyone knows who you are Katara, you’re the most popular Freshman” Again he left me speechless. Me? Popular ?

He smiled.
“When I first saw you and your total disbelief when I selected you as an editor; I knew then your achievements will outlive both of us. You don’t appreciate yourself Katara. Laugh a little, enjoying life is a right you deny yourself the most.”
I felt totally embarrassed. How could he say that when I had stripped him of something everyone values the most?
“When I was 13 years old and had just hit puberty, I was still small and childlike. My elfin features didn’t help me. I was molested by an African maid in my house. I didn’t tell this to anyone but my mother and the maid lost her job. Mother kept me protected from then on, I grew up not knowing the nightmares the world held.”
I always found it strange that he always formally referred to his parents even though he was closer them than anyone else in the world. May be it was his way of telling sorry for all the things he didn’t do.
I realized then that I saw him in a new light. To me Toshio embodied perfection in every sense. His flawless face, his carefree attitude. Little did I think of him as someone who endured more pain than anyone else. He knew how to tide over it, he stood strong when it tore him apart. From then on pain was always relative to me. Relative to what Toshio was going through.
“How do you live with it?”
“With what Katara?”
“The pain”
He smiled again, this time it nearly reached his eyes.
“You learn to love it”



















*
It’s been a year now when we meet under the Park’s arch.
“I get 15 years Katara”
“And then what?”
“Then the symptoms will show. After which I have barely two years.”
“Don’t. Don’t talk like that!”
“I have to tell you the truth Katara, I’m done hiding things from you.”
“Okay”
I looked up at him. There was so much I wanted to say. I wanted to tell him I was sorry for everything. I wanted to promise him things would be better someday. I wanted him to believe in my empty promises.
But I saw that look in his eyes. The one that silenced me two years ago, for the article. It seemed like a lifetime away now.
I sighed and looked away. I couldn’t say anything.
“Mark told me about an acronym the other day. What was it? VIBGYOR?”
“Yes, Toshio for the colours of the rainbow”
“Yes. Violet is for the colour of your nail polish the first day I met you. Indigo, the colour of the ink you wrote your first article with. Blue is what the sky is when you stand under it, green is colour of the vine that circles our arch outside the park. Yellow is the colour of the first flower I gave you and orange is the colour of the sky that reflects in your eyes right now at sunset”
He never told me what red stood for, but I knew. Red was the colour of blood. The colour of love, the colour that united us and tore us apart. The last colour we both would see and the first colour we saw everyday. It was our colour.
That sunset as I looked at the day reaching twilight, I understood I could live like this forever.
I had to start forgiving myself.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.





















*



Join the Discussion

This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

Sacred_falls said...
Aug. 14, 2011 at 5:29 am
:D thanks!!
 
Kish ARa_34 said...
May 30, 2011 at 3:02 am
Sniff! Adorable! so intimate :) lovely
 
Sally4324 said...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 6:12 am

This is lovely!!

Plot was simple but well-written.....

Keep writing! :):):):):)

 
ForeverIsADistance01 replied...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 7:06 am

Thanks!

I was afraid of the length........ that it was a bit too long for Teen ink!

Thanks for reading!

 
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