Part 36: Guess Whos Coming Never MindUpdate 32: Guess Whos Coming Never Mind
They really break out the musical big guns this update. It includes a couple tracks we dont see much. I highly suggest you listen to them.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Katawa Shoujo OST - Generic Happy Music
A kick in the shins from an unmistakably plastic foot cuts me off, but not before Mrs. Ibarazaki's eyebrows shoot upwards.
Emis eyes flick between speakers over the course of this conversation. Its a neat effect.
MEIKO: "What about your leg?"
EMI: "It wasn't a big deal, that's all... I just was, er, inawheelchairforabit."
The last few mumbled words are quickly deciphered by Emi's mother - I suspect she has experience with this sort of thing - and a worried frown appears on her face.
MEIKO: "So that's why he kept dodging my calls... Oh Emi... I know how much you hate being in a wheelchair. No wonder you've been in such a mood lately!"
HISAO: "Yeah, she's much happier on her feet, so to speak."
MEIKO: "Well of course! She spent enough time in a chair just after the accident."
HISAO: "She didn't get prosthetics immediately?"
MEIKO: "No, she had to finish healing up before they'd let her start the sort of therapy you've got to go through to adjust to those things. Especially since she wanted to run on them."
HISAO: "I had no idea."
EMI: "Yeah, it sucked. Oh, did you see Rin's mural at the festival?"
Emi's sudden change of topic makes me realize belatedly that she's been fidgeting the whole time her mother and I have been talking. I should have figured on her being a little skittish when it comes to talking about the accident. Even around her mother.
MEIKO: "No, I didn't make it out to the festival, remember? Although I caught a glimpse of it at your track meet. It seemed pretty weird to me."
EMI: "I think that's more or less what she was going for. She talked a lot about it being dreamlike. Or trying to make it dreamlike."
MEIKO: "Rin's art is one of those things I don't think I'll ever understand."
EMI: "That's not surprising. I don't think Rin expects to be understood. She told me once that art allows people to understand stuff they wouldn't understand otherwise, but all the same she doesn't think it actually works that way."
I'm surprised that Emi's talked about this with Rin extensively enough to actually have Rin's opinion, such as it is. Although I expect that Rin could not, if she were so inclined, say the same thing about Emi's. Unless, of course, Emi is purposely keeping me in the dark about everything; which is likely, but unpleasant to think about. I drift down this unpleasant train of thought for a while, losing track of the conversation.
MEIKO: "Hey Emi, I've been meaning to ask..."
MEIKO: "Are you going to visit your father this year?"
From the way she says it, you'd think Emi's mother was talking about the weather. From the way Emi reacts, it's clearly not the weather they're talking about. She flinches, a slight jerk of the head backwards as if she's just been slapped in the face.
EMI: "Can we talk about this later?"
Her voice sounds brittle, strained. It looks as if she's been severely shaken by the question. It seems that Mrs. Ibarazaki misjudged just how close Emi and I are. Some things, it seems, are best not conversed about with me around. Her father is one of these things. The accident that took her legs is probably another one of those things, if her reaction to the earlier conversation between her mother and myself is any indication. It doesn't take Emi's mother long to realize she's screwed up.
MEIKO: "Of course we can, dear. I'm sorry to bring it up, I just wanted to ask so I could make plans"
EMI: "It's fine. Don't worry about it."
Emi fidgets nervously, as if embarrassed by her own reaction. I confess that her reaction is confusing. She only just mentioned her father to me earlier today! Less than a few hours ago, even! Why does a simple question about when she'll visit her father cause such a strong reaction? Unless whatever serenity she claimed to have reached by means of our talk the previous evening has suddenly evaporated. Or it didn't help as much as she thought. Or claimed.
EMI: "I'll uh, be right back. Gotta visit the little girl's room."
Emi gets up suddenly and leaves the table, leaving me and Mrs. Ibarazaki alone. I'm a little conflicted. Should I go after her, or should I stay here? It's obvious that Emi's departure was not based on the call of nature. Something's bothering her, and I have to know what it is.
How to go about it?
>Go after her.
>Talk to her mom.
Normally Id go into the logic behind my decision.
=>Talk to her mom.
But the next section does it better than I ever could.
There's an awkward silence at the table for a while after Emi dashes off. I cant think of anything to say. Emi's mother sighs, breaking the silence.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Breathlessly
MEIKO: "Sorry about that, Hisao. I sometimes forget that Emi's touchy about certain subjects. And I was talking about the wheelchair thing, too..."
HISAO: "Should I go after her?"
MEIKO: "Heavens no! She didn't leave the table to continue the conversation, you know."
HISAO: "But if she's troubled, shouldn't someone help her?"
MEIKO: "If it were anyone else, I'd say yes. But my daughter is stubborn as a mule, and if she wants to be alone it's best to let her be alone. Otherwise she'll probably say something she'd regret, which would cause you to say something you'd regret, and I would prefer that dinner doesn't end with one or the both of you storming out of the house. If that were to happen I'd be a terrible hostess, wouldn't I? I've already acted as a fool once today."
HISAO: "That's okay, I shouldn't have brought up the wheelchair, apparently."
Mrs. Ibarazaki frowns, clearly more bothered by Emi's omission than she'd let on.
MEIKO: "I wish she wouldn't do that. It just makes me worry more, you know."
HISAO: "She does this often?"
MEIKO: "What, running off to the bathroom? No, I cant say she does. Keep injuries from her mother, though? Well, that's a little more common. Every time I catch her lying like that, she assures me that the only reason she didn't tell me is because it wasn't a big deal."
HISAO: "If it's any consolation, I'm sure the only reason I knew about it at all was because I saw her every day."
This elicits a dry chuckle from across the table. Mrs. Ibarazaki sighs, a little sadly.
MEIKO: "Still hesitant about getting close to people, huh? I keep hoping that she'll get over that. It's funny, really. She's bounced back so well from the accident in so many ways... I guess some things never really go away."
From the looks of it, the whole thing still bothers her, too. She seems to be a little more willing to talk about the accident without Emi around, though.
HISAO: "Hey, I've got a question, if it's all right."
HISAO: "What else did Emi lose in that accident? The nurse said that she gets this way near the anniversary, and she won't talk about it to me..."
MEIKO: "So you thought I'd fill you in, hmm?"
HISAO: "Er, yeah. Hopefully."
MEIKO: "Well, there's a problem with that request, you know."
HISAO: "Let me guess: you promised Emi that you wouldn't tell anyone she didn't want to know, and you don't know if she wants me to know?"
MEIKO: "Something like that. I promised Emi that she'd be the one to tell people the full story."
HISAO: "But isn't that important? I mean, it's clearly had a huge effect on her if she's still like this so long after the accident happened."
MEIKO: "That's true. It did have a long-lasting effect on her. There are a few things that she'll probably never really get over."
For a moment Mrs. Ibarazaki looks incredibly saddened, as if an old wound is bothering her.
MEIKO: "I suppose there are a few things I'll never really get over either..."
Another dry chuckle, and with a shake of her head Emi's mother banishes the memory.
MEIKO: "Look, there's something you absolutely must understand about the way Emi thinks about the accident."
HISAO: "What's that?"
MEIKO: "It wasn't a big deal."
Somehow I manage to keep my mouth from falling open in surprise, but it takes some effort. That has to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
HISAO: "I beg your pardon?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Shadow of the Truth
MEIKO: "Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but it's a pretty accurate summation. Emi believes that the accident did not define her, and that everything she lost that day didn't define her either. She's not that girl who lost her legs, she's The Fastest Thing on No Legs. Her optimism and energy came out of that wreck without a scratch, as far as she's concerned."
HISAO: "Yet it goes beyond that, doesn't it? I mean, last night she told me that she refused to rely on me because it would make losing me too painful."
MEIKO: "Not really. You said she won't tell you about the accident, even though you've asked her about it before. The reason she won't talk about it when you ask is because to her it's not something you absolutely need to know. Even if she wasn't terrified of getting too close to anyone, she still wouldn't talk about it."
HISAO: "She's afraid of being close to me?"
MEIKO: "Oh goodness me, yes. For all that talk about being unscathed by the accident, she's gained the ugly knowledge of how quickly it can all be over. So she's not going to let people get especially close to her, and she certainly would resent any implication that she cannot work through this on her own."
HISAO: "But I don't think she can."
MEIKO: "Oh no? Are you sure you've been dating my daughter and not somebody else? Trust me Hisao, she could get through it on her own."
HISAO: "But she has nightmares, and can't sleep well, and"
MEIKO: "And she does this every year. Tell me, if she wasn't able to get through it on her own, do you really think she'd still be alive? She would've killed herself, or something equally melodramatic."
HISAO: "So what, I shouldn't try to help her?"
MEIKO: "I didn't say that! I hate seeing my daughter like this, and knowing that she could rely on someone else would let me relax. You just need to understand that accepting help goes against everything Emi thinks about herself and the way the world works. If you still want to offer her help, then I guess that's your call. Honestly, I'd like you to, but it'd be silly not to warn you that it's not going to be easy. You just need to be patient with her. She's already closer to you than anyone else she's ever met at Yamaku."
HISAO: "Well it sure doesn't feel like we're very close."
EMI: "Good, that makes this part easier."
Emi's voice nearly gives me a heart attack.
HISAO: "Whoa! Didn't hear you come back, Emi."
EMI: "How convenient."
HISAO: "Wait, were you eavesdropping?"
EMI: "Nope. Just happened to come back at the right moment, I guess."
MEIKO: "Emi, Hisao was just"
Emi holds up a finger, cutting her mother off.
EMI: "On his way out of the house? Yeah, I know.
Emi's trembling with anger now, looking vaguely betrayed.
MEIKO: "Emi, don't be ridiculous, we were just"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Caged Heart
EMI: "You promised!"
The pain carried in that last word is almost too much for me to bear. The idea that I could hurt her that much is like being kicked in the gut. Emi's mother looks similarly pained by the thought.
MEIKO: "And I kept that promise! Just listen, there's no reason to go throwing people out of the house."
Emi's mother seems to be both angry at her daughter's outburst and embarrassed that I'm a witness to it. There's only one real solution to this problem, I think.
HISAO: "It's okay. I'll go."
MEIKO: "Now really, that seems a little unnecessary..."
HISAO: "Don't worry about it. Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Ibarazaki, and for the advice."
MEIKO: "It was my pleasure, Hisao. I'm sorry we didn't get to the dessert."
HISAO: "That's okay. I have to watch what I eat anyway. Good evening, Emi, Mrs. Ibarazaki."
The formality of our conversation, coupled with the fact that I'm getting ready to leave, seems to snap Emi out of her anger.
EMI: "No, wait. I'm sorry, I've been so... and after last night I just thought... You don't have to go, I take it back, it's okay"
I cant help but smile slightly. She can barely articulate her apology, and I really would like to stay... But I don't think I can, right now. I need to think about what her mother said, and about what I'm going to do about us. I don't want to risk accidentally getting Emi angry again in her current state, either.
HISAO: "No, I think I'd better leave. You seem pretty shook up, and, well, I'd only wind up trying to help you again. I know you'd prefer I didn't, so I'm going to leave instead."
HISAO: "Hey, it's not a problem. You don't want a knight on a white charger, right? Just promise me one thing, okay?"
HISAO: "Don't be angry at your mom, okay? She was just giving me some advice, that's all."
Emi nods, hesitantly, like this simple idea is all that she can grab on to at this point. She's so terribly off-balance, but I cant do anything about that right now."
HISAO: "See you tomorrow, okay? Running in the morning. Don't forget!"
I can see that I've hurt Emi by deciding to leave. But there's nothing I can do for her as things stand, and I know that she's too stubborn to admit that she wants me to stick around. I watch various emotions cross Emi's face as she tries to process everything that's just happened.
Shortly comes that calm look again, like last night, and that voice that tries so hard to sound careless.
EMI: "Sure, Hisao. See you around."
Both of us are unwilling to concede emotion at this point, and I'm having a hard time keeping up my facade, so I turn on my heel and walk out the door.
I shut it behind me slowly, pausing for a moment as the latch catches, my hand on the doorknob. Did I make the right decision just now? Should I have stayed and tried to work things out?
No, I decide. Not in front of her mother like that. In spite of everything, I'd rather keep Emi's mother insulated from the sort of anger that surfaced last night. Even though she's probably used to it, some protective instinct wants me to keep Emi's image as a cheerful girl intact. With a start, I realize my hand is still resting on the knob. I take my hand away, put it in my pocket, and head down the slowly darkening street.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
I let out a long breath. The wait until tomorrow morning comes isn't going to be easy. In any case, I have to think on what to say to Emi. I must apologize, and I must get through to her somehow. On that account, something has been on my mind for most of the way back to my room.
The letter of apology from Iwanako.
I was so concerned about my new life when I received it that I didn't even bother to really read it. Now that I find myself in a similar position, my curiosity got rekindled. What did she want to let me know so badly? If nothing else, reading her thoughts might help me frame mine. I remember tossing it away. Damn, where did I throw that thing? I check under my desk. That turns up nothing, so I look for harder-to-reach, more unlikely locations.
Well, now I know where that lost sock went, at least. Still no letter, though. It's when I try sweeping my arm under my nightstand that I feel something crinkly jammed between it and the wall. Grunting a little with the effort, I reach for my prize and soon manage to bring it into the light. Bingo.
I sit at my desk and spread the crumpled paper open. A flick turns on the table light. Skipping past the empty pleasantries, I look for the point where I stopped reading. Ah, here it is.
Iwanakos Letter posted:
There are other things I want to say. I'm writing to you because I felt that there are things I should've said after the incident back in winter. I really regret that I wasn't able to say them in person, and I have no excuse for it.
The truth is, the times when I visited you at the hospital made me worried about you. I am not talking about your health. You seemed to become more distant and disheartened. It was natural after something like that happened, I'm sure, but somehow I got the feeling that you had given up on something back then. Happiness, maybe?
Giving up on happiness... This sounds unpleasantly familiar.
Iwanakos Letter posted:
I wanted to somehow express my feelings, but the right words didn't come to me. I couldn't say anything to comfort you. I am really sorry for not being able to support you when it mattered the most, even though I like you so much. At least now, finally, I can be more honest.
If I could go back to those quiet days in February and March, I'd tell you to not give up on yourself. That's what I would say. Maybe you wouldn't have drifted so far away if I had just said something. I hope you've managed to get back on your feet on your own.
Now that the distance between us is also physical, it also feels more final, somehow. I wonder if we will meet again. Perhaps it's for the best if we don't? Still, if you would like to correspond with me, by all means write me back. I'd very much like to hear about your new school and how you are doing. I wish you all the best.
After finishing reading the letter I smooth it out carefully and set it aside on my desk.
Thank you, Iwanako. I wanted to answer yes to your question on that snowy winter day, but I never got to. By the time we met again, it was too late. Or so I thought. What would have happened if I had behaved differently, back in that dismally sterile hospital room?
I'm sorry. There's no point in wondering now, but there's no point in trying to forget either. I am who I am because of all that happened to me and all I look forward to experience. Present, future, and past.
And the past may just have taught me an important lesson now.
END OF ACT 3