Story: Hesitation (all chapters)

Authors: Love-is-god

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Chapter 1

[Author's notes: Part 1 of 2]

Hesitation 1.html

I bite my lip. It's a delicate thing, I know, as are the straight little white teeth slowly coming closer and closer to piercing through the soft flesh, letting bright ruby red blood flow over bright ruby red lipstick. Biting one's lip is considered a common reaction to hurt, but this means more than that to me. I hate my lips right now, for never doing what I wanted them to do. They never released the words I wanted her to hear, they never pressed against the skin I wanted them to touch. It's an irrational hate, my lips are nothing more than a part of the coward I am inside, and I have nothing to blame for inaction but the craven whole.


That doesn't stop me, though, I savor the increasing pain as if it brings me some cleansing penance, wondering how much longer I can keep up the steady pressure before--


"Kikukawa-sama, are you okay?" A tenuous but anxious voice calls to me. My eyes snap open, and I remember where I am. I look first down, at the thin paper crinkled under the force of whitened knuckles, then up to a concerned young face staring at me. Building back my now-famous composure in an instant, I smile easily at my assistant.


"Yes, Christina-san, I'm fine."


"But Miss, you looked--"


"I'm fine, thank you." I said in a tone audibly as cheery as the first, but with that special quality that had made more vocal persons than my young assistant fall silent at my behest. That did not stop her from becoming worried, however, and I allowed a more honest smile to sneak out at the sight of her pouting with her head against the car window. I had not told her any more about this sudden trip than I was going to see a very old friend, and I am sure she was vexed my this unusual reticence on my part. But she still didn't say anything more. This is what I wanted, but I couldn't help but feel a pang in my heart, knowing that I'd been in her place before; sure that I should say something, but being too afraid. In my case, it was starting to appear as if I had been correct and should have spoken up, and I sincerely hoped that she was not this much like myself.


I looked down at the paper that I had been straightening automatically, always composing and organizing as I did everything outside of me, as if to make up for the unruliness within. I looked once more at the first words at the top.


Name: Suzushiro Haruka




Age: 29


Has it been that long?


Profession: Unemployed, most recently Tokyo Police Department.


Unemployed? It didn't fathom with the Haruka I remembered, to be doing nothing. And what was with that police employment? I scanned down to the area that followed her past high school. Apparently, during her second year at Fuuka University her performance had begun to decline. It had baffled the faculty and the other students. They might not have always enjoyed this student's overbearing personality, they all said, but she had been sharp and full of promise. For two years her performance declined, then even more sharply shot down during her fourth and final year. She had scraped by that far, and was slated for an at least above-average, if not special, graduation and life, but abysmally failed in her last year. The businesses she had interned with at various points over those years all closed their doors and promises to her. Then, she somehow managed to gravitate into the capital and start at the bottom rung of the Tokyo Police Department.


That in itself was not so unusual. Haruka might have been pushed by her family to get into the richer field of business, but it was not so hard to see Haruka having a rewarding career in law. It was a bit more of a stretch, but remembering her high-school antics I could even see her in officer blue, chasing down what criminals the city had to offer. Actually, the thought made my blood run cold, of Haruka lying in a dirty alleyway, riddled with gunshot wounds or knives. Of Haruka zealously pursuing her quarry regardless of the risk and finding herself outnumbered, of her being disarmed by a group of low-life thugs, forced into submission; beaten, killed, or worse…


I shook my head, that had obviously not happened, I didn't need to worry about it. So while her college performance was inexplicable, her career path in itself was not. What was still unknown was the inexorable decline in her life that seemed to follow her from school. At first, she'd apparently managed to be a fine example of the Japanese police officer. She did her job tirelessly and without complaint, and had achieved a few awards for that ethic, as well as a few accounts of bravery in the field. Her glory, though, as I read further, had been relatively short-lived. It was about four years into her position there, she was twenty-six . She started missing days and offering flimsy excuses, and her coworkers had reported an odd absence from the usually vibrant woman's personality. When she was there, she still did her job, and without complaint, but it was with none of the energy that had permeated her work, and the work of most everyone who had associated with her. That was one thing about Haruka I remembered, was that however people may have grumbled about her abrasive leadership, her drive was infectious and everybody found themselves working harder. Or perhaps it was just to keep from getting yelled at, but I preferred my original thought.


But she'd lost that, I read. The quality of her work had slipped, and nobody could stand to work with her any more. It had all culminated a short seven months ago, a decline that lasted nearly three years. She had wrecked a patrol car by running a red light on a busy intersection. Nobody was killed, but she'd caused severe damage to three vehicles and one building, and those who got her out of the vehicle found… found…


This part I still couldn't believe, but the police report included mention of several bottles of alcohol in the backseat. Under questioning, it was discovered that she had been nursing a tendency towards alcoholism for three years, and this had not been the first time she'd had a drink while on duty. There was a fine, of course, and a jail sentence. I saw that she was offered a lesser sentence if she agreed to counseling, particularly in light of her previously sterling record, but she refused out of pride and served five months in jail with those she had helped to put in there. She was released on good behavior, I imagined a drink was hard to find in there, and had been living off of unemployment for the past two months. Knowing Haruka as I did, that could only mean she had fallen back into bad habits. That was the only reason I could come up with for her inactivity.


I discovered that I was thinking much more clinically now. The first time I had read through this report I'd asked gathered I had done so in private, and had cried myself to sleep that night. The second time I had picked it up was during this car ride, and I had only felt disgusted with myself, and with her. I had found myself wondering what might have been, bur for my inactive lips controlled by an inactive me.


Now this third time, I only felt cold. It was an odd feeling, like the story you hear that fills you with righteous anger and indignation, before you think about it some more and doubt its veracity. That was it, somewhere inside I could not believe that this was true. I could not believe that my Haruka-chan had done such a thing. There must have been another Suzushiro Haruka fitting her description and personality that had gone to Fukka University… my own silent, bitter laughter filled my mind. Perhaps that was not the case, but I would be getting the truth soon.


I only knew my life after Haruka left. After Haruka had gone to college, and I had stayed behind at the Academy, I had of course started thinking of ways that I might be able to make her mine. The more I thought, however, the more I froze. Not so much just as far as cowardice were concerned, but inside and out I cultivated a layer of ice. During the beginning of my term as Council President, where I had found myself in my third year, I had been compared with former president Fujino. I was lauded for seeming to have all of her diplomacy, tact, composure, and organizational ability, but also having a degree of warmth, openness, and care for the students that the oft-vanishing Fujino had failed to express, even with her cheerful personality. By the end of my term, however, it was whispered that I was, in fact, one of the more distant, cold president's in recent history. I had gradually fallen out of contact with Haruka, gradually distanced myself from everybody I knew. I continued to fulfill the duties of my office, but the council meetings were business-only affairs, started quickly and ended even more so. I hadn't even noticed this change then, it was only in retrospect could I remember that I was not always like this. Not that anybody else saw me as such now. I'd mastered the political technique of hauling all of that unfeeling ice inside, and packing it ever-so-carefully around my heart, while allowing a superficial warmth to enter into my interactions with others. This was the kind of dishonest front that I remembered Haruka-chan found absolutely hateful, and this went so much further beyond any aloofness that Fujino had ever managed to achieve. Strange, how I still felt that guilt inside, how I could still hear Haruka talking after all this time, to "Be fair and square in everything you do." But the cutting edge of that guilt fell ineffectively against that thick, unforgiving layer of ice. I knew now that the shadow of Haruka's memory would never be able to cut through to my soul, and wondered if there would be anything in the real Haruka that could do the job now. I wondered if there was anything she might still feel for me that could melt me inside like she used to do so easily and obliviously. Because…


There was also one aspect of her life that I'd specifically requested information on. In all the time that she and I had parted ways, in all the time that I had fled away from her, she had not, to any one persona's knowledge, had any sort of intimate relationship with another person. I wondered about that, about how accurate that was. Truly, if somebody had requested information on myself, they would have found the same conclusion. It wouldn't be true, however. It had taken me a while to break through my natural reservations and Haruka's voice in my mind, but after that it was easy. It had not been hard at all to find what I wanted, what I needed, to find other women who would want my touch as much as I wanted theirs. Except that I had never actually wanted theirs. None of them ever knew that it was not them I was thinking of when we were together. None of them thatknew I imagined their hair golden, their eyes striking violet, their bodies strong and supple. But they gave me what I wanted, whatever I had to fantasize about to get it from them, and I would return the favor, no matter what I had to fantasize about to give it to them. I still had political aspirations, though, so I'd had to be careful. So far as I knew, I had been discreet. Certainly none of my opposition had pointed out any indiscretion as would have readily been done.


The Haruka I remembered would have been incapable of such subtlety. But then, the Haruka I knew would have been incapable of much she seemed to have done. I did not know why I suddenly felt like knowing what had become of her. I had very much expected to hear her name more in higher circles, after I had returned from my travels abroad. Yes, I had traveled extensively, I had not let anybody know. I had already dropped most contact with those close to me, and I wondered how Haruka might have felt when she learned I was out of the country and had not even told her. I heard she had come to the graduation ceremony for my year, but presidential privilege being what it was, I picked up my diploma that morning and left the school. I looked back plenty of times, but I know better than anybody that looking carries no meaning. It's what you do that will ultimately mean something, and I only ever looked back.


But being out of the country, that probably helped hide my indiscretions with various women. Haruka, however, wouldn't have had any such opportunity, so then maybe…


And my mind kept coming back to that. Was there really still something inside that made me want her so much, even now? Something kept turning my mind to my Haruka-chan after I'd given up and pushed her behind me so many years ago.


Then again, if I had pushed her behind me and gone so far, how is it that I felt like I were traveling forward to see her now? The fires inside my icy heart had never really stopped raging, I knew. That conflict was still there, had been feeding on itself the entire time. There was hate and love, disgust and hope, with everything negative slowly eating away everything positive until I couldn't believe my heart didn't just burn away one night and leave me, finally, at peace in the morning. I tried to think of what that would be like. The only person I could consider being the most upset, why… she was right in front of me. I didn't like to think that my weakness going on twenty or so years now would hurt anybody else.


"Christina-san, I need to ask you something." She popped her head up from the window, and she instantly transformed her sulk into a face that indicated her always-present eagerness to please, "Have you ever been in love, do you have anybody you love right now?" I asked her, no doubt my serious and cold expression unnerving in combination with those traditionally hot and dramatic words.


"Er, ah, well, I don't, that is…" I watched her bumble and flush for a few moments. I wasn't surprised by this, I had selected her as my assistant after a good deal of observation. She reminded me quite a bit of me when I was closer to her age. I saw the people she looked at most closely, and I saw how she looked at me. I knew what those looks meant like my Haruka never had been able to.


"I know," I said simply, "But do yourself a favor and stop. I fell in love with a dream when I was your age, and I poured all I had into it. I poured all of my happiness and hope into that dream, and then I had to wake up. The dream was gone, and it took everything with it. Don't let that happen to you, dear. Wake up now, before it's too late." I looked away to let her know the conversation was over. Somewhere deep, deep inside, I hoped that she mightwould disregard that. I hoped she would prove me wrong, she would speak up. Perhaps she would cup my cheek in her hand and try to kiss me, she would do something. She would stand up tall, would try and become so intertwined with her dream that it would be the same as her reality; she would try and make it her reality. But she stayed silent, just as I always had, and I knew it had been best to cleanly cut her heart now than allow her to be tugged along by it until it were ripped out.


And the car kept going forward. Strangely, despite my apprehension, I began feeling calmer. I still had my attachments after everything that happened, it seemed, and they had been stretched all over the world. Now I was coming back to my Haruka-chan, and the tension was lessening.

Chapter 2

Hesitation 2.html

I knock politely on the door, and wait. Christina is back in the car, and I would bet the chauffeur is getting an ear full of the reasons that she should be accompanying me into this shady apartment complex. Or not, she was a quiet one. Perhaps I just prefer to think of ways she could be different from me. Nobody answers the door, so I knock more firmly. Still nobody comes.


A moment's hesitation.


I turn the knob. Slowly, ever so slowly, I edge open the door. All the while I fight the urge to throw it open, to run in and see the woman that swam through my dreams both waking and asleep for the past twelve years. But I didn't. I opened the door quite deliberately. My first impression was that it was dark, my second impression was the silence, and my third was the musty, dank odor of the room. I take a step inside and blink, adjusting my eyes to the light. I glance around, and it's easy to see that Haruka has apparently fallen into bad habits once more. There are several bottles lying scattered about the room, none of them particularly refined. I find it hard to imagine that drinks can be reduced to such cheap causticity and still remain palatable. Still, I noticed in a strange, detached way that I didn't have any reaction to this. It did not feel real, did not concur with all that I knew of my one and only love. I hear a clatter in the next room. I walk over, and take my first look into the kitchen. I almost immediately wished that I had not, for it was a decidedly… unsanitary place. What catches my eye more than the piles of grimy, food-covered dishes and stained counters, however, was the flash of a foot turning around the corner into the next room, accompanied by heavy footsteps. Having passed through the main room and the kitchen, this had to be the bedroom. I still did not feel any pains, or fears, or sadness. Just a clinical observation of the surroundings. I assumed that I probably had some reasoning somewhere in the back of my mind for this, but I was not too interested in collapsing this bubble of indifference, not if it meant letting in the grief that I should, by all rights, be feeling at this scene. I walk to the bedroom, my footfalls silent, just as they always were when following in the wake of my noisy Haruka.


I hesitate before the door, then banish my fears and open it. I don't knock, don't indecorously announce my name and intention. I merely walk in, and lay eyes on her for the first time in twelve years. I blink. Something feels wrong, inside of me. It feels as though I want to systematically list the identifying characteristics of the woman before me, but I feel a tug somewhere in my chest. It hurts. It hurts badly. I blink again, and my vision swims.


Her beautiful, long, just barely curled golden tresses are hacked short at the shoulder, matted and more than a little dirty. She's garbed in a plain white t-shirt and pair of blue jeans, and is barefoot. Her hands, I see her hands and want to fall to my knees. Her fingernails are chewed to nubs, and a good deal of her hands are swathed in bandages, and where there are no bandages there are cuts in various stages of healing. I look around, and see several broken bottles lying around. Likely it was hard to clean them while inebriated, though she had tried now and again. She has not even noticed my arrival yet, she's sitting in a chair at a small table. Her hand is wrapped around a bottle with clear liquid in it that I can still smell from over here. Her head is bowed, what hair she has left obscuring her face. So then, I know something now. This is not my Haruka-chan. My Haruka-chan is not an alcoholic, she is not a dirty person, she is not one to sit statically, she is not one to ever, ever be defeated like this poor woman I saw before me. None of that fit with Haruka, none of it made sense. If it did not make sense, it was not true. She raised her head.


I took a step back, I could not help it. Violet eyes stared at me, intense but unfocused. But though there may have been some intensity, it was not what I remembered. It was not the bright energy of a new day coursing through her veins, nor the zealous dreams of what she might accomplish giving her purpose. It was the intensity of one who has nothing left but bitterness, and wants nothing more than to be left alone in it. The eyes were dull, the spark gone. I let out a heavy breath, one that I had not realized I'd been holding.


"Who the hell are you?" A voice came out of the room, and I looked around.


"Over here, you, right in front of your pretty little face." I looked back at Haruka, who I now knew was Haruka-- those eyes were one of a kind. Could that low voice, devoid of life and coated with a lifetimes worth of sorrow and pain, could it really be hers? It was. And she had asked me… who I was? She did not recognize me? My hair was a little longer now, as my public relations team had suggested, and I now wore a little bit of make-up, but I did not think that I looked altogether that different. Then again, I wondered if I would have recognized her on the street, not expecting to see her.


"D'you hear me, I said who the hell are you, what are you doing in my place?" The words she spoke, they caused that peculiar painful tug in my chest again. They were the words that should have been coming from some drunken man getting evicted from his apartment for failing to pay his rent, not from my headstrong Haruka-chan facing her best friend from twelve years before.


"Ha… Miss Suzushiro-san, you are Miss Suzushiro Haruka-san, correct?" I said in as officious a tone as possible, not knowing why I did so.


"Yeah, so what? Look, I'll get the rent in a few days, I got another check comin', just lay off will you…" She seemed to forget I was hear after that. I could imagine her saying that to various people, all of whom would look at her piteously, or disgustedly, and then turn around and leave. She surprised me now, though, and started speaking again.


"People always talking about money, like it's important or something. Used to think that was important, used to think a lot of things was important. None of it is, I know that now. Not anything in this world as important as…" She drifted off.


"Nah, can't be thinkin' about that again. Why do I always think of that, it's been too long to still think of that. I got plenty of trouble, why does she keep coming back… but she doesn't, does she? She never came back, I never saw her, never knew why. God I miss her…"


I stood stock still, petrified in the doorway. I know she isn't talking to me, and I wonder how much time she's spent just like this, leaning over a bottle and talking to herself. I wonder if I'm dreaming. Anything can happen in a dream, especially a nightmare. This is easily be one of the worse nightmares I've ever had, it's so real. I can't think of any other reason for this… this person in front of me to exist, but that she does not. But for this to be a nightmare, to explain why the strongest person I ever knew, and thought I ever would know, was this ruin I had come to.


"I miss her… why didn't I know how much I would miss her before? Why couldn't I know that, maybe if I would have told her, she could have told me? Took me long enough to figure it out, and I was supposed to be a good student." I watched, and she reached an unsteady arm out before her, bleary eyes trying to focus on something unseen in front of her, "Yukino…" My shell broke, my icy heart melted under a deluge of hot tears.


"Haruka-chan!" I yell, running towards her. She whirls around in the chair, and I cough slightly as her hand stiffly pushes out into my stomach, and then I feel a vice grip on my wrist. I stand there, too shocked to say anything. She looks up at me again, rage in her eyes.


"DON'T SAY THAT! NOBODY EVER SAYS THAT, NOBODY EVER CALLS ME THAT, EVER EVER EVER!" She rages, and her grip tightens, my hand throbs.


"Nobody… never say that… no one but her… no…" Her grip slackens.


"Yes, Haruka-chan, nobody but her." I say more softly.


"Wha? What are you playing at, didn't I already tell you… rent soon." She shakes her head. As if remembering the bottle in her hand, she picks it up and brings it to her lips. I want to grab it, throw it against the wall, but I hesitate. She tilts it back and bubbles float up through the bottle. My throat burns just from watching her.


"Haruka-chan… please." I don't know what I'm asking for, I don't know anything now.


"Am I dreamin' again?" She asks me, almost cordially, "I never dreamt of Yukino all grown up, wouldn't know what she looked like. I guess I didn't dream too bad, though I really did like her short hair. Too much makeup too. What do you look so sad for, anyway? I'm the one that should be sorry… I never knew exactly what it was that I did, I never got to ask… but I did something to make you go away. Why did you go away?" She took my hand and brought it up to her face, and I didn't know what to think when she gently pressed her lips to the back of my hand, "Why, Yukino…?"


"Because… because I was afraid of you."


"Afraid of me? But Yukino, I would have died for you, wouldn't let anything happen to you. Ever. I wouldn't do anything to you, why would you be scared of me?"


"Because I thought you would never do anything to me, not even love. I wanted you to love me, and I didn't think you could. I loved you, I wanted you, all of you."


"No… no… not even in a dream." Haruka mumbled, "I don't dream like that. I waited too long to find that out about myself, there's no way Yukino loved me too, that whole time. You're lying." She looked back up to me, eyes suspicious and accusing.


"No, no I'm not. I was afraid of what you would do if you found out. I didn't think I could live without you, but I knew for sure that I couldn't live with you like that."


"No… no no…" She started crying, "I want to wake up now. I thought I could live without her. I did, I thought that she was a strong girl, she could go her own way and be a fine woman. I would just go along like I always had, I would be fine too. But I'd always had her with me, going with her was the only way I knew. I always thought of her, of you. But it was too late by the time I found out, I couldn't find her, and she never came to find me. I'm sorry, Yukino. I waited too long."


"No, Haruka-chan, I'm sorry. I waited too long." I leaned down, put my face close to hers.


"But I'm here now, and so are you. We both know, we both want to love. Can we…?" I move my face half-way to hers, then I hesitate. Come on, Haruka-chan, go the rest of the way.


"No… I can't. Look at me, Yukino. You can't love me. You look like you're doing fine for yourself, you can't love some useless scrap of person like me. I can't drag you down…"


"Haruka-chan, I've never stopped thinking about you, please. Please, I want to love you. Let me love you, let yourself love me. You want to, you said so."


"No… no, this is just a dream. I don't deserve Yukino, I shot her away and she's not coming back. You're not real!" She let go of my hand and recoiled from my face as though it burned her, "Get out! Get out and leave me alone! Yukino didn't care about me, she's had a happy life. She's settled down with somebody she loves, she has a family, she has a successful career, she's happy! She's happy! She's happy without me!" She started screaming hysterically, and I backed away. I didn't know what to do. I kept backing away, I turned towards the door with tears in my eyes. I sank to my knees outside the entryway. I sat with my back against the wall, hearing Haruka's sobs through the opening. I shook, I trembled, I wondered what to do now. Inside the room I heard a click, a very familiar, unmistakable click. I knew exactly what I should do, I should run back into the room as fast as I could, should through myself towards her and stop her. I could stop her, she might have been stronger than me, but she was also inebriated and clumsy. All of this flashed instantly into my mind, with the irrevocable knowledge that I should do this right now.


I hesitated.


I heard the report of the shot. The sobs in the other room stopped. My own sobs stopped. My own everything stopped, until my protesting lungs forced air in and out again. My breathing came in gasps and bursts. I climbed jerkily to my feet, turned around the corner. There was so much black in there now. I knew that it should be red, but in the dank, unlit room it looked like so much black. I felt as though I were breathing it all in, the blackness rushing down my throat to meet the ball of ice forming in my stomach. Flooding my veins with clammy, slimy cold. Going into my heart, freezing it inside and out. The last source of heat I had in this world was gone. I shivered. I tried to think of leaving. I tried to think of sweet little Christina back out in the car, worrying about me, tried to think of going home. But all of that entailed moving forward. But… Haruka-chan had always pushed me forward, even when I was away from her. Her voice had always been in my mind, her body always in my dreams. Now Haruka-chan wasn't here. I couldn't be pulled along by her around here any more. But... maybe she could where she was now. I picked up the handgun from where it lay, a few feet from where she lay. It felt oddly hot in my hand, though I knew the metal should feel cold. But it was reversed, the metal felt hot and the… the wetness spattered on it, that's what felt cold. I sat down next to the girl that I loved. I cradled her head in my lap, held her still-warm hand. I didn't mind the mess, this blackness was already a part of me, inside and out, what did a little more matter? I formed her fingers around the handle, put the barrel to my head.


"I left you before, but I'm not being apart from you any more. Take me with you, Haruka-chan."

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