I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won't leave me alone...
From the song My Immortal (the Fallen album), by Evanescence
My name is Natsuki Kuga. My whole life I've been haunted by the ghosts of dead women.
The first belongs to my mother. I spent the first part of my life trying to put her soul to rest.
The second belongs to a woman I loved: a woman I still love; a woman I will always love. We could have been together when she was alive. But like I said, my whole life has been about ghosts. She had to die before I could give her the attention she deserved.
But unlike the case of my departed mother's soul, I'm not trying to put my beloved's to rest. Her ghost is all I have left. In her life, she loved me to the point of madness. In her death, I try to return the favor.
Her name was Shizuru Fujino. And when she was alive, she was the most maddening, infuriating, and utterly bewitching person I'd ever met or known.
She could have had anyone she wanted. She was beautiful, intelligent, charming and elegant. She was, in a word, perfect.
Only I didn't have the time or energy to spare for perfection. At first, I was merely coolly grateful for the help she gave me - for the support she quietly and unwaveringly offered in our first two years of friendship. In time I grew to love her. Who could resist loving her after all? But my love for her was a detached and muted thing - a peripheral emotion that orbited somewhat distantly around the hatred I nurtured in my core over my mother's death.
If I had been less preoccupied, I would have noticed just how intensely and desperately she loved me.
When I did find out, when I heard what she'd done as I'd lain ill, I had felt...violated. If only I had taken greater care then to understand what exactly had revolted me, perhaps things would have ended differently. Perhaps they could have even ended happily.
Then she had gone on that rampage, and my feelings of disgust and betrayal had suddenly seemed inconsequential. I'd realized then that we both had to die. And when faced with the prospect of death, agonizing over a stolen kiss and a naked embrace suddenly seemed pointless and trivial.
And even after we'd come back to life, there was still so much that had needed to be done, still an entire world that had needed to be saved.
It was only when things finally got back to normal - when the perspective and magnanimity that our Armageddon had afforded us had disappeared - that the trouble really started between us.
At the end of it all, it was really my fault. Normalcy gave me time to reflect, and the result of my reflection was unease. I no longer knew how to be with her. I didn't know how to respond to her love. Underneath her apparent strength was an explosive fragility that could destroy the world with its power. I loved her. But knowing that what she felt for me was different from what I felt for her also made me...afraid of her.
She knew it of course, without my having to say or do anything. I can remember the desolation in her crimson eyes, though she hid it well behind her silvery laugh. In the end, she simply decided to leave.
She said goodbye to me in that garden where we'd first met. Only I didn't realize it was goodbye. It was the day before the spring term, shortly after her graduation. She had walked in on me in that disquieting way of hers. I'd been pulling absently at the weeds. Ever since my first encounter with her, I'd been much more solicitous towards flowers. She had interrupted me then.
"Natsuki," she shook her head gently. "You shouldn't do that. Even weeds deserve their chance to grow."
I'd been faintly annoyed by her remonstration. "They'll kill the flowers if I leave them alone."
She'd looked saddened by this. "Weeds can't help being what they are. Who are we to judge whether they should live or die?"
She'd gazed at the garden then. The way she had looked at it had seemed like a caress. "I'll miss this view," she said softly. She'd looked at me while she'd said it, and I could hear her unspoken words. I'll miss you, Natsuki. I looked away. I thought then that she had merely meant going to university. But where she disappeared to over the next two years no one knew.
When I saw her again, when she finally came back, she belonged to someone else. And as for me, well, I was in love with her by then.