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Fragments of Memory
This novel is an assignment from my high school. Once it is complete, it will display knowledge of Japanese culture that I had learned over a time period in a fictional setting. I have always been interested in Japanese culture, so this was a great opportunity for me to write about it. I've never been to Japan, so I, sadly, don't have first hand experience with the setting at all. Thanks to all who have the time to read my work.
The men and women behind my father and I perturbed me. It seemed like at any moment were they going to be able to snatch us out of the group and pick us apart limb by limb, dismantling us and finding out that we were the culprits. I had practiced my facade for a few years now, and it seemed to be paying off in this situation. If there was a moment where I’d be frightened about being caught, it would be this one. No notion towards it came, and people looked at me wondering if I was scared that my sister had died.
Some events took much longer than others. In this case the police had barricaded the house from the few other rundown abodes around. Yellow caution tape looped completely around our house, police cars had their sirens wailing and even more entering the scene. My father and I stood and watched our mother getting asked questions by one of the policemen, presumably the captain. I couldn’t see much of the commotion from where I was, so I had to tiptoe to gain a better view. The best view I could get was of my mother’s face; I looked up at my dad. His face was lackluster in his own facade, replacing it by imperceptible, evil twinkle in his eye. To our family and in particular my father, this was all foresaw. Slowly he balled his fists, remembering that he was too part of this family, and acted out in grief. His eyes slowly started to water, then wailed from his eyes. As people looked over, they assumed he was crying out of grief. Half of that was true. My sister’s loss wasn’t a momentous occasion that we’d love to remember. I had loved her like any other sister would. I took time out of my days to talk to her, bond with her. She taught me many things such as climbing trees, starting a fire, and skipping stones on water. I wished that I could cry, too. Although I knew that this was necessary.
Some of my senses told me to cradle myself. The cold air ironically reflected every action that had just ensued, particularly from my family. It blew the evergreen trees all over, and same with my long hair that would sometimes brush in front of my eyes and land on my breasts. Sometimes it would fly over my shoulder, accidentally hitting someone behind me. These uneven spurs of movement didn’t bolster my confidence until the movement would stop. Then I would be motivated to take a step forward and peek over the yellow tape. I may just be detrimenting myself, however. A look at my dead sister would cause me to cry.
But then my parents would be ashamed of me. We were repeating a cycle left down from our family for generations. My grandpa had said to me that “We were the ones whom defied the balance of the world”, and died moments afterwards. My oblique thoughts cursed themselves whenever father would ask me how dedicated I was to pursuing our family tree once I turn eighteen. I would always take a moment to respond, hesitating whenever I was forced to say “I will always put family first.”
My mind swirled. This was the first time I had witnessed our powers to its fullest potential. Now I was thinking to myself “This is what mother meant by ‘putting family first’?”The thought pounded on my head like a hammer on a nail, but there was nothing I was able to do to vocalize my displeasure with the situation without getting beaten by my parents later. I guess my fate was decided when God signed my soul to this body. This was what I was getting treated with now, and this is where my life would take me for the years to come.
Just then did an officer come up to me and ask if I would like to see my mother. I nodded my head, looking up at the tall officer with a counterfeit bitterness and a fake tear in my eye. The officer glanced up at my father for approval. He nodded, sniffling and acting as if he was sad. The officer put a hand behind my back and led me forward through a wave of medics and even more policemen.
My mother had finished talking to the officer while I was arguing with myself. Now she was there overlooking my sister’s cold, dead body. She lay on a stretcher, her eyes were closed and her body was becoming pale. There was a large, white sheet over her torso. Right where her heart would be was a giant, red splotch of blood that stained the sheet. When I saw it my whole body winced. I started to sweat from the top of my head; my brain was agonizing itself in which it could not handle. I wanted to walk away, disgusted at the sight. My sister was only thirteen years old, and this had happened to her. I, being two years younger than her, wished I could unsee this sight. I looked up at my mother. She was sobbing over her dead body, some tears falling onto the sheet and dampening it.
“Ma’am.” The officer said to my mother. “Your other daughter is here.”
My mother trembled as she lowered her hands from her eyes. Her skinny eyes were almost completely red from all of her crying. She looked at me in despair, as if the sight of her one other daughter only exacerbated the situation. Her long and dark brown hair frizzled as if it reflected my mother’s emotions. Some strands covered her eyes like she had just woken up. She extended her hand to me.
“Come here.” Mother had commanded. At first I didn’t obey, instead I continued to stand there and watch her sob more. Tears ran down her cheeks like streams and her stance wavered in balance, and it occurred to me how long she had been crying for. It pitied me to see her like this. She was just like the rest of our family, and she was the first prospect of our powers that I had witnessed for the first time and my parents had witnessed in many years. I took a step forward. My footstep seemed to echo off of the gravel. All of them seemed to as I got closer to her, and all the while my eyes were glued to hers. I couldn’t get the thought off of my mind. It disturbed me greatly knowing that she took her. One could argue that there was still a part of her left inside of my mother. They could argue that without knowing it was true, literally.
Her knees slammed into the ground when I was near her. A little bit further and she pulled me into her, embracing me by wrapping her arms around my entire body and squeezing me as tightly as she could, all the while still flushing tears now onto my right shoulder. My mouth was right next to my ear, and this would be the perfect opportunity for me to exclaim my displeasure without father hearing. But I couldn’t. She’d see my words in a completely different way than I’d intend them to be seen. Wisely I kept quite.
I didn’t react to her embracing me. Neither of my arms moved to wrap around her body, nor did I even have the thought. My body still felt like walking forward; I could feel myself being pulled forward by an undefined gravity but I was being blocked by my weeping mother. Looking over mother’s shoulder I could see our house. The ebony wooden stairs led up to the first floor with an array of flora decorating the railings. The single door was swung wide open and I could see the interior of my house. This ‘pull’ was pulling me to climb those stairs, enter my house, and lock the door behind me without letting anyone back in.
After a long while did mother pull away from me and look into my eyes. I saw her sobbing cease for a split second when she saw my stoic expression, but she resumed crying afterwards.
“I… I’m so sorry it had to come to this.” She said, in between words letting out soft sniffles and cries. “I had thought this would never have to happen but… b-but it did and....” Mother couldn’t keep her words going for long before she would break down again. I noticed about seventy percent of the time I was staring at the back of her hands covering her face, as she was too embarrassed to look at me in such degrading way. Slowly I lifted my hand and touched her withering skin. It would regenerate, but now it was withering. I plucked one finger that was suctioned onto her face, and then another, and then all of her fingers and it released one hand. I did it to the other until I forced her to stop covering her face. Instead she clenched her eyes shut, refusing to look at me.
“Mommy.” I said. My voice sent chills down her spine. I could tell as she suddenly vibrated violently right afterwards, incentivising her to look up at me. She gritted her teeth and averted my eyes.
“I told myself that I’d never let this happen… That we’d never do it again. But it was not under my control this time.” She muttered just loud enough for me to hear. Her eyes went above and past my shoulder, glaring at something behind me. I didn’t turn around to see what it was.
“Mommy.” I said again. She finally agreed to lay her eyes upon me for longer than a few seconds. “Mommy, will this happen to me, too?”
“No, it won’t. Trust me, it won’t. I will never let this happen to you.” Mother frantically said. It calmed me just a little, but not enough for me to begin trusting her again. She grabbed my shoulders. “She saved my life, ok? I cannot thank her enough, but then again I cannot begin to grieve enough… No. I shouldn’t be so selfish. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” Mother ended in a whispered tone and let go of my shoulders. She put one hand on her knee and pushed herself upwards, now standing over me. I looked up at her, but she was not looking at me. She was continuing to look behind me, but I refused to look behind myself. Instead I kept looking at her, and only her. My peripheral sightings didn’t phase me at all. Finally she turned away. She slowly began stomping towards the house. It filliped me to say something that I pained to say.
“Mommy, I’m glad you’re ok.” I yelled to her. The words stopped her walk, and she almost tripped over her foot as she was taking another step forward. From the distance now, I couldn’t tell what my mother’s reaction was, especially since her back was turned to me. From here, I could only see that she was standing still and breathing noticeably. Then she turned. Her reaction was enough to make me satisfied and put a smile on my own lips as she did with her’s, even if she wore only the smallest of smiles. The reassurance was enough for a small glimmer to come back into her eye, and that was what I loved to see in mother. However it was different this time. Her glimmer looked even more like my sister’s than it had did before.
“Come with me into the house.” She said to me. With that she lastly turned around and climbed the steps into our house. With some time left with after, I decided to turn around and see what my mother was glaring at.
It was my father.
How can the ceilings of our forefathers be so high when our own expectations lower as we deceive what we have been made for? To exist? To coincide with others?
I remember a story my father once had told me that his father had told him…
About our kind.
He had asked about us. We were belittled. We were signs of trash amongst a dump even though we held our values close. Though the closer we held these values the worse the scorn on their faces became. And the worse the scorn on their faces became the more and more we began to sink into the shadows. Our kind began to slowly evaporate. They raised their pitchforks and marched us off into the forest. We were not accepted by them. We both wanted peace, but they were vastly superior in numbers and our powers had no effect. He said that we were shoved out of the community for the remainder of that generation. This happened until the shadows consumed us fully.
We were evil; treacherous, cunning, and silent. So silent that we could hide amongst a crowd; hidden in civilization even when we were face to face with them. We could see our reflection in their eyes and see how they saw us. We looked the same as them. For me it was odd how they saw us. I could never tell us from them. They were our identical kind, and it maddened me beyond mental belief. Even though I was just a child at the time, I divulged into an unsensible, internal rage. Luckily my parents never saw this side of me. Instead we conceal ourselves behind this fake epidermis.
They looked at us normally and we had found it very weird as we knew the feeling of being looked at with hate better than the ones of consent. Slim eyes and grimaces became things of the past. As time had moved on, we became accustomed to this weird change. They now looked at us with smiles and have no hint of remembering who we are. I couldn’t tell if it was right or wrong. I could only tell that it was unusual but refreshing. To know that they are looking at you as equals. My childish and bitter mind had told me it was a good sign. But now I learned that looking at things nicely always had its downfalls.
My father had told me never to trust anyone except your family. Be selfish. Use deception to your advantage. Gain their trust, make them think you are a good person. Lead them with riddles. Gain an advantage. Take their souls. These rules helped me attune myself to who I was today. It took a long time to learn, longer than many people would think. Letting nothing get in my way was the hardest task for me. I couldn’t fight. My physical strength was weak, my mental fortitude was faltering, and my capabilities had just begun to develop. My mind had overflowed, and I cannot remember the reason why. I eventually matured and adapted to this and many other environments. Some that had crossed the sea, and others right beside my hometown. All the more, smiles were directed at me for my kind service. I saw it as an offer of friendship. They thought I began to trust them.
However it was a burden. I couldn’t tell if I liked it. I could tell that my mother didn’t like it. She was born with it like I was. Her burden worsened when she had me, and she had told me how my burden is her responsibility as well. It couldn’t be stopped, nor could it be cleansed. It was our way of life. Why they had shunned us was because it wasn’t normal, but it was how we were created by God. It isn’t a chosen lifestyle. My mother called it a curse. My dad had called it a blessing. My parents had their heated arguments, just like all parents who didn’t have it, but they were discussing it. Life wasn’t worth anything at this time. Living behind a lie was the least of my worries. I could only worry about the future, and when it would come.
Without it we would be like them. My father didn’t like them, because he had known our history. He was the eldest, he was the one that made most of the decisions. My father was a powerful man. He was smart, cunning, and everything that described us. As one of the last of us, he may just be the most powerful one of us all if the others managed to survive without my parents knowing. He liked our kind and embraced our differences. He wished my mother and I would agree with his point of view, but his persuasion was always hesitant.
If there is one detail about my parents, it’s that my mother rarely became angry. That is because my dad did everything in his power to prevent her to become angry. Before every outcome in the world came her. I could not fathom a future for my dad without my mother.
Did nothing ever change about him? Despite his stubborn attitude, seemingly antagonistic personality and powerful motives, he was loyal to her. He wished it didn’t have to be this way. All of our past was divided into small memory fragments that we dare talk about today. Omoide Kakera. Washed away in the depths of an alternate dimension just because her will connected to his at a greater magnitude than his will connected to his kind’s. It was finally derailed. It became forgotten for decades.
But we had stayed the same, just without it. We would now die in this world. Without it, we were vulnerable. Without it, we would now have to repeat the same process we had done many, many years ago. To adapt, to reform, and to socialize.
It made me scared… so scared. I breathed in deeply, held it, and exhaled. I held a bag at my side. My parents were behind me. It was time to start over.
My knees buckled. I fainted at the escalator because I was so scared. I didn’t want to leave these memories behind.
Dokoni? Doko kono atarashī seikatsu wa tsureteitte nodarou ka?
For some reason I couldn’t keep my mind stable. It may have just been the van. The engine was old, rattling the van every time my father would press on the brake, and rhythmically vibrate the van for moments afterwards until he tapped his foot on the accelerator again. My sister had the window open next to me, not regarding how my hair, of which I had combed neatly this morning, was blowing wildly inside of the van, and her disregard of my disdain for the action. She was lucky. Her hair was a lot shorter than mine. For me, I could see my brown hair blow in front of my own face, and when the wind calmed my hair would drape over the headrest behind me and down past my shoulder, stopping right above my heart. The wind was cold which, in theory, would agitate me, but luckily I had decided to wear my jacket this morning. Though not everyday I would wear it, I liked the grey color and the hood that came along with it, and the softness that encased me in my own body heat warmed me in the coldest weather that I’ve been in throughout the small life that I’ve lived so far. It was probably a good idea to wear it. After all, airports are normally cold inside.
I could hear my sister’s music from the seat over. I have no clue why her, nor anyone, would blast maximum volume rock music out of thin pink little earphones connected into a blue and older version of the iPod Nano like that. I would imagine that they would go deaf. Her elbow propped her arm up on the top of the back car seat and she pressed her hand flatly against the side of her head, back facing me, her eyes staring outside. She wasn’t looking at anything in particular. At least I think so. The sky was completely grey, complementing the cool breeze, but wasn’t raining like it was earlier this morning. The trees were damp, even some of the taller ones were still dripping small drops of water off of the top onto the grass below. The two-lane street we were traveling down was glossy and I could hear the van tread on the thin layer of water that covered the road. She looked bored, and I could understand her. Her short, dyed white hair blew like mine in the wind, though not as wildly. When the van came to a slow or stop, an inch of her hair managed to rest on top of her shoulders, covered up by a white jacket. She wore a sleeveless black shirt underneath of the jacket. If she took her jacket off I would be able to see the pink strap of her bra. Memories of high school boys flocking to her just for how she showed off her cleavage was comical, and I would smile whenever she would tell me about it. Though, unlike other high school girls she preferred long blue jeans, like what she was wearing right now, instead of short shorts. I looked down on her lap and saw her iPod flipped over. I never even noticed that she wrote in Sharpie, “Hana’s iPod”, on the back until now.
With a small laugh I looked away and mirrored Hana’s position on my side of the car, bracing my right arm up and looking out the right window of the back seat. The inside of the car remained void of any voices for the duration of the trip so far, and I was for certain sure that was due to how long ago we all had woken up (which was not long ago). My parents woke up before Hana and I so they could wake us up. They probably thought that I had fallen asleep in the back seat, explaining why the vehicle was so quiet. Even the radio was turned off. Personally I would appreciate it if it was turned on since I left my iPhone in my backpack, which, through my sleep deprivation, had mistakenly placed in the back of the van at the start of the trip, which was now probably being squished in between six different sized suitcases. I slid down slightly in my seat and let the edge of the seat belt grind against the right side of my neck. I didn’t care that the position that I was in now had lazily let my hand push my cheek upwards and make my skinny eyes even skinnier. There were a few houses outside, though nothing special. They looked like they had been built years ago, even before I was born. Worn down and tainted by the constant rain here and then melted by the sun, though still fully operational as a living home. They blended with the trees really well, and someone that isn’t as observant as me would be oblivious to them.
A few moments had passed until I had completely zoned out through the ruckus of the van. My eyes were lost as they were looking for something outside to focus on, although that medium never came. I should’ve expected the outcome and probably should’ve forced myself to sleep. There was hardly anything exciting to look at here in this part of New York. For the life that I had lived here it was sad for me to say that. In the city it was just people. Anywhere else was only dull and exhaustible terrain void of any action except the possibility of a serial killer or large animal hiding amongst the tall trees.
The van turned a sharp right corner, and just as it did my body had reluctantly shocked itself up. My body and mind became startled, and at first I was confused about what caused it. Then I looked over. My sister lay her finger that she had just poked me in the arm with on the middle seat, her arm lax with it, and her face sordidly amused with my reaction. Her brown eyes looked into mine, and I’m sure she could see the muddled reflection of herself in mine. She smiled.
“Nervous, Akina?” My sister asked. I hadn’t answered immediately, and her smile began to slowly dwindle. My mouth had opened, just about to answer, but then no voice came out. It was weird for me, but I couldn’t feel more shameful than to say that I was nervous.
“A bit.” I answered with half of my actual feelings and turned my entire body towards her. Before she said anything else she had propped herself back upright and hit the “Pause” button on her iPod. She took her earphones out of her ear and set them in her lap.
“That’s good.” Hana said.
“How is that good?” I retorted back, confused whether her statement was an insult or not. She gave a small chuckle after my question; a small card she would play to let me know what she was about to say was uncounterable.
“There’s no shame in being nervous, ya’ know? Especially when it comes to something new. Everyone has the habit, so don’t think too much of it.” She smiled at me reassuringly. Hana liked to prove points and she was good at it. I brought my knee to my chest, feeling a bit defeated by her point.
“Are you nervous for the same reason then?”
“Yes.” She nodded her head. “But… I guess you can say that I’m more excited than you. I mean, no matter how sudden this move is I’m anxious. What about you?” Hana asked me.
I didn’t know. If it were for any other occasion, I’d be completely stoked. But the more and more I thought about it, the further I saw this road becoming darker. This was not some ordinary vacation that we were going on, but a completely new journey. If I could not rehabilitate myself to our soon-to-be new home then what point is there for me to travel there? That, and I found it hard to leave all of my friends behind. Very hard.
Inadvertently had my face scrumpled. I wasn’t proud of the change, nor was I excited for it. I figured my reasoning behind that was everything that I was leaving behind me. I wouldn’t be able to see my friends from school anymore. I’d miss our old home; a two-story building with a lavishly decorated lawn out in front, a fabulous interior that’d make newcomers gasp, and a pretty view of the forest behind it. I tried to hide my shame, but sadly I wasn’t quite good at that. Hana could notice and she frowned.
“Not that psyched, huh?” She asked and I nodded. She bit her lower lip. “Ehh, it’s fine. Not everyone can be excited about change. But hey, I think you’re going to like it there.” She patted my head, once again reassuringly.
My sister and I had a good relationship despite how different we were. Hana was two years older than me, although only one grade above me. I probably laughed too hard when she failed her Junior year of high school by failing geometry, geography, and aquatic sciences all in one semester. However it was her fault that she didn’t come to me. She knew that I know more about those subjects than her, but she was stubborn. She begged the teachers for a second chance and yelled at them when they didn’t give her one, and when her friends (who were now a year ahead of her) teased her about it, she’d go up and beat them down with words until they were forced to back away.
I envied my sister in that respect. She was brave enough to walk up to someone and speak her mind. I can barely present a project in front of a classroom without stuttering. And I admit, it was something that I need to improve. My own cowardice has gotten the better of me in many situations where, if I were brave enough, could’ve gained me an advantage or two. I was able to think my mind away. This reflected in my schoolwork, and my sister was jealous of me in that respect. After we had both realized this, we made a deal. I’d help her study if she’d help me learn to talk better.
It… was a struggle for both of us. Currently we have recent memories that we would tease each other with. For me, it was how my sister had slammed down her fists on her desk, kicked her chair back, stood up and argued with the teacher for about five minutes on how x was supposed to equal 7, when x actually equalled 64. After school, I explained to her what she had done wrong, and I chortled all the way home when all she did was miss a negative sign. Luckily my sister respected me, so she didn’t go around and tell the entire school when I failed to ask a boy to the Valentine’s Day dance. It was too embarrassing to explain.
“Hana.” I said. “How are we going to help each other there? We don’t even know the language.” Hana looked at me questioningly for a moment. She didn’t understand until I raised an eyebrow; afterwards she shot out laughing.
“Well… I guess we’ll both have to learn together.” Hana looked in front of herself and to the seat in front of me. In the direction of my mother. “Mom. How much longer until we get to the airport?”
“Not much longer, I believe.” My mother’s soft voice made her way to the back seat. She turned around, careful of not whipping her long and brown hair into my father’s eyes while he was driving. In fact her attire was exactly like mine, save a few rips in my jeans and stains on my jacket compared to hers. Many people had often compared me to my mother whenever we were together. Even my dad said that I had taken more after her. Soft, caring, quiet, but smart. Although she did have much more of a voice unlike me. For example, her tirades could be excessively loud at times. Rarely were any directed at my father more so her displeasure working as an E.R nurse at St. Luke’s-Cornwall Hospital. She liked her job solely because it paid good, however she exclaimed that some nights of work were extremely stressful. Despite everything, she was also tough. I hoped I could attain that attribute from her one day.
“Good, because I’m starting to become restless.” Hana said as she kicked her legs onto the top of the driver’s seat, probably annoying my dad a bit.
My mother sighed and said, “Ehh. When are you not after sitting in a car.” Hana chuckled as my mother panned her eyes over to me. “How’d you sleep Akina?”
“Well enough for the journey, but still could stretch.” I stretched myself out and yawned to show my mother that I was still a little tired.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be able to sleep on the plane over there if you really want to.” She said.
“If planes wouldn’t shake as much, it might be easier for me.”
“Well think of the vibrating as someone rocking you to sleep. Maybe that would help.”
“I don’t think being rocked to sleep involves chattering teeth, annoyingly cold air, and tens of other people sitting around you.” Hana intervened. She made a great point. Every time I’ve been on a plane I haven’t been able to fall asleep. Then again it takes me a while to fall asleep in my own bed normally, so it may be impossible to begin with.
“You know for once you should probably turn the air off above your seat like I always tell you!” Mother said sternly, and once again my sister laugh. I smiled. I enjoyed seeing their small bickers back and forth. In the end it made all of us happy.
“But I’m too lazy, mom!”
“How can you be so restless in a car but not be able to reach up and press a button on an airplane!”
“You should do it for me, I’ll fall asleep.”
“You just said you wouldn’t fall asleep!”
“Hey, hey! Everyone settle down now. We don’t want to raise our voices minutes before we get there!” My father finally spoke from the driver seat. Although he wasn’t able to turn his head since he was driving, I could see light reflect from his eyes onto his glasses as he glanced up at his rear-view mirror. Unlike my mother he wasn’t born with the skinny eyes my mother had, instead giving a bold look like many of the people that live in New York. My dad was everything that you could ask for in a father, and dare I say he was near perfect. He worked as a computer technician for a local school up until a few days ago where he quit, telling his boss that he was moving out of the country. He was robust, kind, and energetic. Not many people ever complained about him. My neighbors’ biggest complaint was that he could be overly-energetic. I never found that a bad thing. It made things more entertaining. My sister took more after my father than my mother, and that was easily shown.
“Oh relax, Devin. We’re just having fun.” My mother said.
“I know, Isaye. I’m just sayin’. It’s really early in the morning and I barely had any time to wake up. Cut me some slack!” My dad playfully complained, just like Hana had.
“Well surely you’re not tired enough to drive.”
“I was reluctant to drive.”
“Well you’re still driving. Keep going. We’re almost there.” Mother finished with a smirk and turned her head to Hana and I. “When we get there help me unload the suitcases from the back. Dad will go get us registered. We get our bags in, go through baggage claim, and head on up. Ok?”
“Yes mother.” Hana and I both replied at the same time. Mother smiled.
“Good. It will take about 15 hours to get there, so you both have better packed something to keep yourselves entertained with.”
“Will they have USB ports on the plane?” Hana asked. Mother shrugged.
“How would I know? Why don’t you ask when we get there? If so then lucky you, you’ll be able to play your game thingy all the way there.”
“Hey, remember what we’re going there for. This isn’t a vacation. Remember that.” Dad said sternly. We all knew it, especially my mother. There wasn’t much I knew about the situation, but from what I’ve heard it has made sense to me, making me feel bad for her. Dad took his eyes off of the road for a quick second and glanced at my mother. “How’s she doing?”
As my father said that I could feel myself sinking back into my seat just a little bit. Not for my own sake, but for my mother’s. It was a bad event. If it happened to me, I’d call it a tragedy.
I looked over at Hana. She had crossed her arms on her chest and was staring intently at my mother, observing her displeased expression. Like me, Hana worried for mother. Mother’s face was distraught and caught up in her own thoughts, probably her own telling of the future. She sighed.
“I got a call from dad last night…” She said and paused. “Nothing is getting better. Her condition worsened overnight. He said she’s heating up, and nothing he tries is working… Devin I don’t know what she could have.” The more she spoke the more frightened she became as if she was realizing the severity of the situation as she was speaking. It also scared me. The moment of silence that happened afterwards built a tense atmosphere throughout the entire car.
“We can’t think too much of it. Isaye, for all we know it could just be the flu -”
“The flu kills people her age.” Her voice now staggered just thinking about it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Hana glance warily at me, then sat up straight and continued to look at her as if she was about to interfere. My dad went silent again, letting my mom burn some fumes before speaking again.
“Isaye I’m sorry.” He apologized. “Look; the more we think about it, the more it’s going to make us stressed. All we are able to do now is hope the best for her.”
“He’s right mom.” Hana did say. Mom turned her head and glared at her, but it faltered under Hana’s warmful gaze. Hana leaned forward and set a hand on mother’s shoulder. “We can’t let it get the best of us. You know her best. Believe that she’s strong. Believe that she can pull through this.” Through her clothes, the warmth of her hand seemed to spread through my mother and it reflected on her expression. Though it wasn’t completely soothed, she lightened up just a tad. She was still tense afterwards but made an attempt to calm herself in this situation. Hana puckered her lips and smiled at her. “This hand is for dad, too.” She said, and patted my mom on the shoulder before pulling away.
It was a motherly moment where the child had supported the mother, and I sat and watched in awe as it happened. I hadn’t noticed that I was beaming at both of them until the end of it. My sister looked at me, and when she saw me smiling she chuckled herself.
My mother took a deep breath and looked back forward, letting out a bunch of stress while exhaling. If I could I would reach over and give my mother a hug right now. It pained me to see her in this much disdain, even more when I knew that the thoughts going through her head were not positive ones. My own mind tried to wrap around positive things to say to lighten the mood, but just as my brain grabbed onto one of them the sentence pried itself from its grasp. As a result, I didn’t say anything. After a moment of contemplating, my mother stuck her elbow by the side window and rested her head on her fist.
“Onwards. To Japan.”
The rest of the road trip was silent as we all anxiously waited to be let out of this small contraption and into the airport. I latched my fingers together and laid them out softly on my lap, letting them bounce up and down on every bump we went over. My eyes had began to wander all over the place because my mind was still unable to keep steady. A few times they landed on Hana, who went back to selecting songs on her iPod, the other times outside of the window, where I began to notice more and more buildings coming into view marking that we were very close to our destination.
As I was thinking about it, it came to fruition. Our van turned a sharp corner and we began treading on a finer form of pavement. It lead directly forward, and I soon noticed that more and more cars were beginning to travel in front and behind us. Not much longer after that, and the airport came into view. Riding on the street, I could only see a small portion of it. From personal experience I knew that it was a well run, moderately sized airport. Silver in normal fashion. Small and tall buildings scattered throughout, and a runway that came into short view as we turned a corner. I have only ever exited the state twice, both of which were to see my dad’s family in California. This time it was different. We were to spend a full day traveling by plane to Japan to go stay with my mother’s family. This would be the first time both Hana and I would ever see them, and from the little information about what mother had told us about her father, I wasn’t particularly excited.
We stopped at a tollbooth and after paying a small price we were let through into the parking lot. It was ginormous. Letters A-W marked the different columns and numbers 1-9 marked the different rows. It hardly took long to find a parking space, which I found to be quite surprising. Had it been any other time, we’d be down on the far end, closer to the rental cars. That would be bad since, half of the time, the people who rented the rental cars didn’t know how to drive in New York. I could laugh for days at tourist drivers.
It felt magnificent when I finally stepped out of the van. The first thing I did was stretch my arms, legs, and body as if I was part of a yoga club. My sister had the same, but audible, action as me as I could hear her stretch from the other side of the car. I quickly noticed my mother walking to get by me and I stepped out of her way as I stretched. I’m 15 years old and I was about only two inches away from my mother’s 5’9” height. Hana was just as tall as my mom, and my dad was taller than all of us. It was quite fitting. We looked like a family run by age.
I stepped around when I heard the back of the van open. When I looked inside, sure enough I saw my small blue backpack being crushed between two massive suitcases. I wasn’t even able to pull it out right away; instead I had to remove the two suitcases before doing so. I was displeased when it was all wrinkled like a piece of clothing. There wasn’t much in it, just enough to keep me entertained for the long haul. My dad handed the keys to the van to my mother and he walked ahead of us. When I looked over, he was already crossing the street to get us registered. I walked around to the front of the van and began looking through my backpack. It didn’t long for me to find my phone. I put it in my pocket and zipped my bag up.
I heard a fast skittering of footsteps behind me. Curious, I turned around. Before I could react someone’s body slammed into me and nearly toppled me onto the ground. I barely held myself up and realized that this person wrapped their arms around me and held me close. My eyes went wide open, wondering who this was for a second, until I saw a different figure over whoever I was hugging.
He walked over with his shirt loosely tucked under his jeans and hands in his pockets, glasses bridged on his nose and smirk on his stout face. His full name was Timothy Klienzeba McEren, but my friends and I just like to call him Tim. I like to refer to him as a jack of all trades. He takes mostly after his dad as a software engineer, so he loves to tinker with software on computers and every once in a while take one apart. He was a God at researching, and by that I mean looking beyond the first five pages of Google and past Wikipedia unlike the rest of my school. If there ever came a group assignment he’d be able to list sources until a printer would be out of ink. To be completely honest, he could start a black market selling MLA cited formats with legit sites to people and probably make cash out of it. Besides that, he could do things I’d never thought he could do. One said skill would be card flourishes. He was pretty good at those.
The first time I had seen him I had thought he’d be your typical nerd (which he was). But in many ways I had grown attached to him as a friend. He kept me entertained, helped me with my homework, and was a very nice and open person.
It also occurred to me that with him being here, there would only be one other person with him. As she pulled away from me she clasped onto my shoulders and looked at me with her icy blue eyes. Her jaw was slightly dropped and was slowly shaking her head. It was her character to overreact at something, then express herself broadly in front of everyone, causing sometimes unintended ruckus and chatter. This seemed like a great representation of that.
“Oh my God, Akina!” She frantically said, taking a quick breath afterwards as if she was exhausted. “I can’t believe it! I really can’t I… I…” She rammed and hugged me again. The force blew some of her blond hair into my face, and I had to blow it away from my mouth.
“Jane…” I muttered. I didn’t want to talk more. I knew how sensitive she could be, and especially now. I held onto her like I would my sister: loving and caringly. She stayed with her head over my shoulder long enough for Tim to walk up behind her.
“That’s enough, Jane.” Tim said. He took his hand, put it on her shoulder, and pried her off of me, causing me to lose my balance a little bit afterwards. With her being pulled back, she already looked like she was on the verge of crying. If she did, tears would end up staining the white dress she wore which went down to her knee. Her face pouted as she continued to look at me in grief. I wasn’t sure if it was selfish of me to be mourning over the same grief or not. Either way, her expression made me want to cry as well.
“I’m sorry, Akina. I got a little bit ahead of myself there.” Jane said bravely enough. She took a deep breath and wiped her arm over her eyes and pressed down, destroying the tears that were laid underneath.
“It’s ok. I… I understand.” I said and looked up to Tim, who was a good few inches taller than me; about as tall as my dad. “She’ll be driving the van back?”
“Yeah, she will. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she won’t be getting into a crash.” Tim reassured. It was a little bit sketchy, but he pulled out his wallet from his pocket and quickly flashed his license at me. Jane didn’t get hers too long ago, and even still she was known to be a bad driver more than a good one.
“That’s good. Wouldn’t want to hear that the van crashed as the first thing we hear in Japan.” I mused.
“That’s not funny, Akina.” Jane exasperated. I frowned at the pouting in her voice she always voices whenever she expresses unhappiness. I’ve known Jane longer than most of my school friends. We met in first grade and were friends all the way up until now, sophomore year of high school. We watched each other grow, and even though we were different in many ways we still were able to see eye to eye on a lot of things. On top of it all, we managed to keep each other happy. It was a similar bond to me and my sister. Sadly, now it seemed I was losing it. “I’m so sad right now. You can’t imagine it.”
I chuckled, “I know you are. I can already begin to see your tears smear your eyeshadow.” I walked close to her to examine it, and though it was very small, I could see the eyeshadow definitely start to smear. I put a hand up by her face. We both smiled at each other. Her smile didn’t last long.
“What am I going to do without you, Akina? I feel hopeless now.”
“Why say that? You know that I’m going to be talking to both of you on Skype every night, right?”
“I know. But,” she glanced back at Tim, “I can’t talk about girl stuff with him in person, ya’ know.” She laughed and giggled up against my hand. Speaking of Tim, afterwards I took my hand away from Jane and walked up in front of him. I always found it annoying to look up at him, as it always made me feel inferior even though I knew I wasn’t. We both stood silent for a moment, looking at each other. Meanwhile a cold breeze blew by and blew our hair to the side.
“It’s hard saying goodbye, huh?” Tim asked, bouncing on the heels of his feet.
“Yeah, it is.” I said rolling my eyes.
“But you’re going to a good place with family. At least you’ll be safe there.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I can believe in you.” He smiled at me afterwards and I felt a warm sensation flutter through my body. I couldn’t quite identify it, but I feel as if there was something I needed to tell him but couldn’t remember, and it started to irk me. “I mean… if I were in that situation, you’d believe in me, right?” He said awkwardly, optimistic on finding a good topic of conversation. I smiled at him for at least trying.
“Yeah, I would.” I told him. Just as I said that, another voice yelled out from in front of the van.
“Is that Tim I hear!?” My mother called out. Tim peaked his head up a bit and looked towards the back of the van.
“Yes! It’s me, Mrs. Amano!” Tim responded. Quickly my mother trotted to the front. She gave Tim a quick smile.
“Hello Tim. Nice seeing you on this frantic day.” She greeted. Tim didn’t say anything before mother switched to Jane. “Ah Jane, you came too. Great. Here.” Mother reached inside her purse and pulled out the keys to the van. She handed them to Jane, who gladly accepted it. “Remember. Pull the van into the driveway and drape the tarp over it. Keep the keys and make sure to check the house at least twice a week.”
“Will do, Mrs. Amano.” Jane told with a confident smile on her face. I wasn’t sure if she was more excited with the responsibility of tending to our house while we were gone or driving the van back. Either way, I was happy that she was happy, and so was my mother.
“Good, and thanks again. Couldn’t have asked for more.” Mother turned around and faced herself to the front of the vehicle. “Hana! We’re ready!”
“Just one minute, mom! I’m almost done unpacking!” Hana yelled, making my mother just a bit displeased. However just after she had said that, we heard a loud bang happen on the other side, and I could hear my sister curse under her mouth.
“Just what is she thinking? Hana!” My mother yelled, after not hearing anything she scoffed and shook her head. “Give me a minute. Take a… selfie or something until then.” Mother flapped her hand at us.
“Great idea!” Jane said. She reached down with her hands and patted the sides of her legs, then recalling that she didn’t have any pockets. She looked at me and said “Akina can we use your phone?”
“Sure.” I replied. I grabbed my phone out of my pocket, switched it to camera mode, and turned around.
I held the phone up in the air to get a semi-aerial shot of us three. I was in the front, Jane was second, and Tim was in the back. The sun blared in my eyes, causing a lens flare effect from my point of view and almost blinding me. Jane had slung her shoulder around me and was smiling the most beautiful smile she could while in the back Tim held up two fingers signifying “peace” and smiled lightly. I pressed the button and the flash went off, and the picture was saved to my phone.
“You better send that to us later.” Tim said from the back.
“I will.” Just as I had said so, my mother and Hana finally came out of the back, both pulling two suitcases behind them. I quickly jogged to the back of the van and pulled one suitcase forward from one hand and the other suitcase from the other hand. I remet them out in front where they were waiting for me. Without much more discussion, me and my family headed off towards the airport.
“Have a safe trip!” Were Tim’s last words to me…
“Don’t forget about us! Chat me on Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram maybe!” Were Jane’s final words. It wasn’t hard to determine that she was already desperate to talk to me after I had just left her line of sight.
I have been covering my own tears this entire time. Jane’s predicament only worsened my own, and I was desperately trying to not break down in front of all of them, which I just managed to accomplish. Now that we were inside the airport, I had a bigger tendency to do so since it was only in front of my family and many other random people I’d disregard. My face shown these symptoms worse and worse the farther in the airport we went. At security, I noticed one of the security guards stare at me, probably thinking that I was about to break down. What he didn’t realize was that I was.
After everything we still had a long wait before our flight. I’d like to look out of the window and into the runway below, watching planes take off and land. I found it spectacular and mesmerizing. So much in fact that I had created my own metaphor about the departures and landings of planes when I was young. Although sometimes it had not crossed my mind to remember on some flights, now I remembered that planes that were taking off were planes transporting other people to a new portion of their life. Planes that were landing were the planes that held the people of whose new portion of life had just started. It was a half hour of my eyes rotating between these two types of planes, and my mind sitting on the thought of me boarding one.
The boarding began. There were many people ahead of us, and we were one of the last families let on the plane, and oh so conveniently placed in the back portion of the plane. As soon as I sat down, I threw my backpack down underneath my feet, reclined the chair as much as I could, and let a huge puff of air come out of my chest. My dad sat next to me; one chair over was Hana, and one more, in the next aisle, was my mother. The chair’s rough fabric irritated me once again, and I had wished the chair reclined a little bit more so I wasn’t in this oddly angled position. But it had to make do. During seatbelt checks, my dad had reminded me that he put a Japanese Language studying book into my backpack for me to look at on the trip over there. If he expected me to study that thing for twenty hours, he was highly mistaken and clinically insane.
The plane took off with a rattling and uncomfortable start. We were sent high into the air and were already experiencing turbulence with this grey weather. Thankfully it didn’t last long. Once we broke through the clouds the plane ride seemed to smooth out and glide peacefully along. Now it was all a matter of me staying occupied and finding something not boring to do. I decided against taking out the Japanese book for the first portion of the flight. Instead I went into my backpack and took out a blanket I had packed for myself instead. Afterwards my mind aimlessly led me to scroll over my phone. I took it out, dialed in my password, and randomly scrolled through it. My background was a picture of the forest behind my house simply because it had reminded me of home whenever I left home. I clicked the camera icon and it brought up my camera, and with a swipe on the touchscreen it took me to all of the pictures I had taken. I selected the most recent photo.
I stared at it for a long time. Despite how we all tried to put on our best smiles to make it a picture to remember, I could notice a tinge of despair in each one of our faces. For them, the loss of me; and for me, the loss of them. It felt like the time where I first left my mother to go with my dad to see his parents. I cried knowing that she wouldn’t go, and on the day we had departed, being the little child I was back then, I grabbed and held onto her leg begging her to come with me. I held onto her legs as long as I could until my father insisted and pulled me away from her. The memory had taught me a lot about being brave. If it wasn’t for my father I wouldn’t have ever left my mother’s side. If it wasn’t for my mother, I probably wouldn’t have ever left my friend’s side. It seemed like a fate-bound repetition, although I now realize that I would probably never come back.
I laughed. Maybe if I knew this would be the last picture I ever took with them, then I would’ve tried harder to make a better face.