Aya, Kei, and Shouta entered the small room unable to keep from glancing at the empty bed–the light blue sheets were folded neatly along with the similar colored plaid comforter, no one had slept there and a part of them still expected Shi to be lying on top just as they had left him. The trio stood behind Dai as he kneeled on the floor–his legs ached but he seemed to enjoy the pain as a sign of his love and devotion to the memory of his lover.
“Hey, are you okay?” Kei asked concerned.
The last funeral he remembered was Miu’s–the cold lifeless body of the girl he dreamed of spending his life with flashed in his mind he suddenly wanted to vomit, the strong scent of the incense made him nauseated.
Dai glanced up finally as if remembering to do so. “Yes. He’s home now and that’s all that matters.”
Aya eyed the polished urn next to the sweet burning powder, her blood simmered, she understood how unsympathetic she would sound but she did not care. ”Why didn’t tell us?! We all could have said goodbye!”
“He wasn’t yours to say goodbye to.” Dai simply stated engulfed in his own grief to think about hers.
Reluctant to continue her voice broke and paused she half expected Dai to get heated and fight with her–but his words seemed so matter of fact. “But even so…” She hung her head low–defeated.
“Hey why don’t we leave?” Kei intervened escorting the crying girl out the door.
“I’m sorry I can’t help it…I…I really liked him.” She sobbed once they reached the pavement.
“I understand how you feel.” He placed a warm comforting arm around her. “But without Shi’s family around Dai and his grandfather had the final say and this was the decision they made. You have no place to say otherwise and besides what’s done is done.”
“I know.” She sniffled settling down.
“Hey why don’t I take you to Gremory’s Café and get you that berry smoothie you like so much.” He smiled–he hated watching girls cry, their soft voices and teary faces instantly forced him to react. Worse he hated seeing a girl he cared for weep and he had known Aya for so long she was almost like a sister to him…almost.
The thick smoke of the incense and somber mood engulfed the bedroom and Shouta had no idea how to comfort his friend. His eyes raked over the small altar by the wall on the floor. The rolled ashy trails left behind littered the table and the little bowl of rice was spoiling by the picture frame. He wanted to say something, anything, but for a long time, he stood watching Dai rest on his knees with his head hung low and fingers clasped together in silent prayer.
“I’m sorry for everything that happened.” The blond faintly spoke.
With a small sigh, the smaller teen unclasped his fingers looking to his friend. “It’s not your fault. Shi knew that taking revenge on Miki would cost him his life.”
The heaviness between them lifted and Shouta kneeled beside Dai to offer his own prayer.
“How long have you been like this?” Shouta asked feeling the shift of the body next to him.
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter.”
Shouta opened his mouth to speak when the bedroom door slowly crept open. The old man stood tall with a slight crinkle in the corner of his eyes. His gray hair combed and his grey sweater and ash colored jeans gave him a young causal appearance. He must have been very handsome in his heyday. His lips remained full and only showed the slight creases of his age. Shouta wondered if Dai would look like him in a few years. After all Dai was only half Japanese…come to think of it Shouta had no idea what race Benjirou was but despite the name he most certainly was not Japanese. Perhaps Mediterranean or something judging by the light olive tone of the flesh. He shook his head not wanting to dwell on such matters.
“Ah, Shouta. I didn’t expect you. Would you like something to eat as well?”
“Sure, thank you.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“C’mon, Dai. Maybe you can eat a little?” Shouta said worried.
“Dai, I understand you are grieving but you must eat something or you will make yourself sick.” His grandfather warned–his voice stern.
“I know Grandpa.” Dai nodded. “It’s just that right now I want to be with Shi.”
“You can eat your meal in here if it makes you feel better. And Dai remember, you have only a few weeks with his remains before we give him a proper burial site. Understand?”
Dai sighed, the thought of even his remains finally leaving him was not something he wanted to hear. He had planned to keep them, but this was the one thing his grandfather did not relent on.
“I’m going to see an old friend. Shouta, make sure he eats.”
The old man tried to shake off the approaching cough as he shut the door.
Benjirou entered the small and narrow foyer making sure to slip off his oxfords and hung his jacket on the rack before entering the humble apartment. He missed the dusty musty smell of the worn books lining the shelves–the thick voluminous pages that could not be found in any library. The walls themselves might as well had been the books. He stepped over the scattered papers and old scrolls on the light pine wood floor, his dark navy socks making such a feat almost impossible as he slid before maintaining his balance. He reached the frayed red cotton chair–once majestic with its green trim and gold buttons now the item missed a few.
Benjirou rested his arms and sat back annoyed by the creaking of his spine.
“Sorry you had to see my place in such a mess.” The man shouted from the equally cluttered kitchen. Fresh farmer’s cheese rested on the cutting board, yellow onions, parsnips, and potatoes lined his portable island. He reached for the small hanging pot and a garlic bulb dangling above the window–which he now opened the bamboo blinds allowing a stream of light to bounce off the red brick walls. Dr Johnson’s eyesight wasn’t as good as it used to be, he was even forced to retire from archeology after mistakenly shipping off the wrong Roman vase to a curator in Cairo, an item worth more than the one that was supposed to had been shipped. The Egyptian refused to return the vase and it took a lawsuit and more money than the company could spend to retrieve it. Given a large bonus he was let go to ‘relax and take it easy’; advice he never wanted to take.. However, his leave afforded him the time and money to move to Tokyo and be closer to his old friend and former colleague. With great care he sliced the vegetables and wiped his hands on his yellow apron making sure nothing spilled on his light brown and red lined tweed jacket.
“Oh please, I’m used to your place looking like a storm blew through it.” Benjirou smiled bending over to pick up a book on Ancient Mummies, His fingers grazed over the image of the long dead wrapped figure on the cover his mind transported to the desert; the heat and the sand in his shoes as he trekked the steps of those who had lived thousands of years before him. How he imagined himself an Egyptian priest walking the hot sands toward the towering temple.
“Has your hearing left you?”
“I asked if you would like some English tea or the vanilla Caramel.” Dr Johnson chuckled.
“I’ll take the vanilla caramel.”
Dr Johnson waved his hand dismissively. He knew he would choose the Vanilla caramel, it was his favorite but he hardly thought it was a worthy brand to drink, especially since he had the English and Earl Grey imported from that sweet little tea shop in London.
“Have you heard word from Frank?” Benjirou asked of their old friend.
“No, sadly I’ve lost his number and never been able to remember, hell he probably forgot mine too. Why? Haven’t you heard from him?” He replied placing the mugs on the small round table and taking the seat next to him, his own steamy mug pressed to his lips.
“No. I just wonder if he’s dead.” Benjirou stated so matter of fact.
Dr Johnson laughed, the creases formed on his dark eyes. “If he was dead I think I would be able to feel it. Sometimes hatred is a strong connection.”
“What? You two still harboring that old feud?”
“Hell yes. I’ll never forgive him for stealing my job back in ’74. I mean I found a better one but still, it’s the principle my handsome friend.”
Benjirou laughed while replacing the book with his mug, smelling the steam and taking in the scent of the vanilla and caramel infusion. A rich bold perfume reminding him of his late wife. “We’re at that age.” He sighed.
The meaning of his words was clear. “Yeah, it sucks.”
“You’re telling me.” He took a sip of his lukewarm tea and smiled. “I worry about my grandsons, especially Dai. I don’t know what will happen to him when I’m gone.” His face took on a grim expression.
“Are his episodes gone?”
“Oh yes, to some extent, he did suffer from some hallucinations in the hospital, which didn’t help matters much. But I fear he is going to think he is alone.” He loosened his body against the chair and sighed. “I really want him to reconnect with his brother.”
The day was going to be a long one, he could feel it. Up at six a.m., at the office by seven, five calls waiting for him, and a cup of coffee tasting like cigarette buds–he had to get that damn secretary to find him a new brand. His head throbbed, no Advil in the drawer, and a budget meeting waiting for him. Fuck!
The jolting ring of the phone startled him and he almost felt embarrassed by his reaction. He grimaced to no one in particular before picking up his cell.
“What is it?”
“Hey did you sign the papers for my field trip to Hokkaido?”
“What?!” He squeezed the corner of his eyes–why won’t this headache go away? He finally tossed his glasses off his face and ran his fingers through his black hair. Now he remembered. “Oh yeah. Look I don’t think I can make it.”
“What?! Why not?”
“I have work and you know that.” He replied nearly cutting the boy off.
“What about our promise to get along and do things together?”
“Satoshi. I haven’t broken that promise it’s just that there are certain things I can’t do.”
“Like be there for me”
“Don’t say that. I am here for you now. I just…I’ll see what I can do but give me time.” He finally breathed.
He heard the boy groan on the other end before promptly hanging up. Whether his brother believed him or not he had no time to dwell on the matter.
Over the past few days, the snow melted along with Dai’s weight. Under the watchful and worrisome eyes of his grandfather. Dai shielded himself behind bulkier clothing when he was not behind the doors of his room. The area was fast becoming a sanctuary to him. Like a small oratory housing the soul of his saint. The only person who visited often was Shouta armed with a big juicy Shax burger or a large pizza from the Pizza Garage to treat him and force him to eat. However, Dai wasn’t taking anything, which annoyed the blond and Benjirou who slipped him the cash. If Dai did not begin eating soon he was afraid he would have to take drastic measures and have him committed again.
Shouta entered the small room watching Dai in his all too familiar pose by the shrine. Sea green eyes raked over the thin frail body of his friend, his concerned turned to annoyance that he was not taking good care of himself. Shouta eyed the picture of Shi..
“Is this what it’s like to really love someone?” He thought wanting nothing more than to see Dai’s smiling face again.
When Dai noticed him looking, he smiled a sad and wistful smile. “We took that on a date.”
Shouta kneeled beside him almost afraid to touch him out of fear he would break.
“You need to stop this. Your grandfather is worried sick about you.”
“I know. He gives you money to entice me with food.” Dai replied, his gray eyes never leaving the altar.
“Shi would not want this, they both care about you…and I care about you too.” He spoke softly encouraging him. “Do you think Shi would want this for you?”
“Shi doesn’t want anything because he is dead.”
“I would much rather you cry everyday than not eat.”
Dai covered his sulking face, the warm tears poured from his eyes. “I know, it’s like a hole I know I have to start climbing out of but I can’t.”
“Then let me help you climb out!”
The teen shook his head. “I won’t inconvenience your life like that.”
“You’re not an inconvenience! You’re my…friend. I care about you Dai… I…” Shouta faced the frail boy who finally removed his hands from his face. The taller teen lifted his head by his pointed chin planting a soft kiss on his wet lips.
The closed mouth passionless kiss lasted for but a moment before Dai retreated and before he could lift another wall Shouta pulled him closer into a deeper kiss.
‘I’m actually doing it.‘ He thought feeling the soft mouth against his rough one. Deepening the kiss further tasting the warm tongue. The body of the frail teen soften against him and give way and just as Dai’s tongue timidly peeked, forward his mouth went limp, and the room grew dark.