The clock struck two a.m. when Dai and Aya finished cleaning the mess spilled from Benjirou’s fall and settled on the living room couch. Aya tucked her feet under herself giving them a gentle rub, happy to be out of her shoes. She wondered if it was even a good idea to keep wearing heels for her dancing career but she couldn’t help buying a pair when they struck her fancy. Dai sat on the opposite end of the old couch grabbing a throw pillow—a festive looking thing and pressed it against his belly wrapping his arms around it.
“Okay what did you want to talk about.” He shifted getting comfortable.
“It’s nothing.” She replied. “You have more important things to worry about.”
“Aya, I need to take my mind off of everything. I want to hear what’s on your mind.”
“Um… Are you sure?”
Aya tried to begin with the least amount of tension. “I think I’m in love with Kei. We dated briefly…in secret for a bit…okay we went out on one date but, I don’t know.” She wringed her hands before grabbing her glass of ginger ale and taking a sip.
Dai smiled he wondered when she would eventually admit something like this.
“I knew you would react like this.” She sighed.
“I’m not making fun.” Dai replied. “I can kind of see it. The two of you have been hanging around each other a lot. Not to mention you guys are the most normal outta the bunch.” He laughed.
“It’s so weird saying it out loud.”
“Go for it.”
“I can’t, at least not now. He’s involved.”
“With some thirty year old woman. I doubt it would last.”
“Maybe. It sucks seeing him happy with someone else and our date was sort of awkward but also good. Maybe…I most likely did something to ruin it.”
“I did have sex with Shouta and Kei at the same time.”
“Wait..Kei was there?!”
“You knew?!” She covered her reddened face with her hands. “Who told you?”
“I’ll kill him!” She screamed grabbing one of the other gaudy throw pillows and burying her face in it.
“It’s all right.”
“It was a stupid lapse of judgment that happen before me and Kei.”
“Big deal. You’re only human.” Dai waved it off dismissively “I doubt it would deter Kei if he really liked you and besides it builds character.”
Dai laughed. “No. Just character. The one thing I’ve learned from everything I’ve been through so far is that nobody is perfect and there are no mistakes in life. We make whatever choices we make because at the time we thought it was the best choice or because it was fun. People who sit on their high horse passing judgment on others are typically boring assholes no one likes anyway. I say you’re better off not even having them around. The choices you’ve made in the past helped make you the person you are right now, and I think that person is awesome. If Kei doesn’t then fuck him…oh wait you already did.” He laughed and Aya pounced him with a pillow blow to the head.
“I want to tell him how I feel but we graduate soon and I’ve already sent my audition tape to Julliard. If I get in then I’ll be headed to New York.”
“At least speak to him. Trust me, I know firsthand about wasted opportunities.”
“Are you talking about you and Shouta or you and Kane?”
“About that.” Dai thought of their earlier conversation in the bathroom. “Kane and I almost had sex several months ago. Shouta and I weren’t together but…I rejected him.” Dai sighed. “And it was all because I was too afraid of regressing to the same person I was before. No, actually I was enjoying my little power trip and didn’t want to lose it to him.” He pressed his back against the corner of the couch, his arms forming a warm band around the fabric of the pillow. “Now I see him and I can’t help but think I’ve made a mistake. I still love Shouta very much but I realize there will always be something between me and Kane.”
“I get it.” Aya sat back watching Dai stare hard at the rough rug that covered the floor—nothing remarkable, just some old thing purchased at a garage sale. “Shouta has noticed.” When Dai turned to look at her she pressed on. “Anyone who sees you two together can see the attraction. It’s better to just stay away from him.”
“I can’t.” Dai replied. “I won’t cheat on Shouta, and Kane never pressed the matter afterwards. I can’t explain it all that well but I do enjoy Kane’s company. I like having him with me and on my side. But nothing would come of it.”
“I get it, okay.” Aya tucked her still numb feet under her bottom. “Maybe half way but I get it. Be careful though. Remember that Kane was playing you before; pretending to be a good guy when all he wanted to do was use you.”
“I know, but with all honesty I wanted to be used. I wanted Kane so much and I thought it was a silly crush. But I guess my feelings have sort of matured. I want to be his equal and I don’t feel Kane would treat me as such.”
Aya decided to let the matter drop, she knew he could be stubborn when he wanted to be. “Exams are coming up but I see no need for me to take them but my parents want me to have a backup plan in case Julliard doesn’t come through.”
“I’m dropping out.”
“Cause I hate it and I’m sick of it. I’m failing and I don’t even care enough to want to try hard. Besides, I’ve ready decided not to go to college.” He shrugged. “I’ll just run the shop full time and I want to be there for my grandfather. I don’t ever want to come home to this ever again.”
“Argh!” The girl nearly shouted to the ceiling. “We so need tubs of ice cream right now cause we so need it!”
“I know, right?!”
“Let’s at least find something dramatic and tear inducing to watch.”
The teens settled down a bit more and Dai grabbed the remote. “Oh God. Beaches is coming on.”
“Whelp, that’ll do it.”
The next morning Dai said his goodbyes to Aya and headed to the hospital; he needed to see his grandfather, he didn’t feel as though his grandfather was safe unless he laid his own eyes on him to bear witness. The disinfecting solution hit him once more; a smell he grew to detest and when he reached the room he entered with delicate movements so as to not disturb the sleeping man. He looked over his Grandfather lying there connected to the heart monitor and breathing tube. He wanted to lash out into a full blown crying fit but he had to stay strong for both of them. He held his emotions in check, pushing them as far into the pits as he could and prepared for what’s to come. He had no words to say and he wondered what he should do. He picked up a nearby magazine and read out loud several articles hoping to stir something in him but before long he lost himself to sleep. He woke up no more than an hour later to see the old man sitting up in bed and staring at him with piercing eyes, his cheeks more gaunt than before as though he had aged overnight.
He smiled at Dai. “Maybe you should go to school today, there’s nothing you can gain from watching me lay here.”
Dai knew his grandfather was a stubborn man but he himself had grown to be just as stubborn in his own right. “No,
I’m not leaving you. I’m going to stay until you get better.” Dai made his statement final.
“All right.” He shifted in his bed. “Do me a favor. Make yourself useful and grab my clothes. I’m going home.” As
Benjirou tried to get out of bed, Dai gently held him down.
“What are you doing?! You can’t leave!”
“Dai, I already know I’m going to die. I don’t need any doctors to figure it out for me.” They both settled down. “Dai, I don’t want to die in this hospital, I want to go home and stay surrounded by my own things. Not treated like a room number. Please do this for me.”
Dai struggled between doing what he felt was best, which was Benjirou staying in the hospital for proper treatment and whatever wishes his Grandfather—who probably wasn’t thinking straight, wanted. He looked into his Grandfather’s pleading eyes and reached for his coat. It took some time to convince the doctors to release him but they couldn’t keep him against his will. Dai signed the papers and they caught the first cab home.
He helped him change into his pajamas, a soft cotton garment he’d worn for years now and grabbed the keys to open shop.
“I’ll open shop. You go on to school.” The old man said rising out of bed.
Dai gripped the keys. “But, Grandpa . . .”
“No Buts. I want you to graduate.”
“And I want you to live.” Dai tried to catch himself.
“I need some sort of a routine to keep me going. I’m not going to stop living because my stupid heart decides it’s ready to quit. Go to school and do well and I promise I won’t work too hard.”
The grime on the floor and walls, the gates barring any would be troublemakers from its premises, the dark decor was provocative in its invitation to all lost souls willing to play. Dai entered, passing the large guard who stood at the doorway adjusting his uniform tie. He plopped down near the bar resting his elbows on the littered surface. The muffled seductive song played in the background “Blood stained sheets…and the shape, of your heart…”
“Dai? What the hell are ya doin’ here?” Shouta caught himself. “I mean it’s not like I’m not happy to see ya but don’t ya have classes?”
“Classes? Wait. I thought you knew?”
“Knew what?” Shouta asked wondering if he was going to hear something ominous.
“I’ve officially dropped out.”
“Many reasons. The truth is ever since he got sick I’ve been afraid to go to school out of fear I wouldn’t be there if something bad happened. I’ve dreaded it every time I’m not there. Besides, he may speak a lot about being able to run the shop but there are plenty of times where the shop was not open because of his illness.”
“Stop it. Ya Grandpa is so strong I doubt he’s going anywhere no matter what those doctors say! I’m sure he’s fine right now.”
Dai allowed his words to sink in. His Grandfather was sure about getting him out the house. And he looked fine. ‘What if the doctors are wrong?’ “I don’t know.” He finally spoke. “I’m going to call him in a few hours to check up on him.”
“Ya said there were many reasons. Ya grandfather being sick was only one.”
“I just don’t want to do it anymore. I have no intention of going to college.”
“So ya just gonna hang out in this dump?” Shouta said not hiding the lecturing tone of his voice.
“No.” Dai replied back brazenly. “I need to find a way to ease him into the idea of allowing me to stay home and run the shop.”
“Well, I can’t tell ya what to do with ya life but I really hope ya know what ya doin’.”
“Hey.” Kei sucked in air; slapping his hand on the bar, his body worked to return the oxygen to his body. Shouta immediately poured him a glass of water. “Ya look like shit.”
“Her husband showed up so I had to jump out the window.”
Shouta and Dai laughed as Kei picked what looked like rose bush thorns from of his hair.
“I better go home and check up on my grandfather.”
“Yeah. We’ll talk later, Love ya.”
“I love you too.”
The exchange drew Kei from his own wandering thoughts and he was surprised to say the least. He knew Shouta and Dai were seeing each other but he didn’t know their feelings had developed so much.
“Love? It’s at that point now?” He asked once Dai was out of ear shot.
Shouta brushed the leaves and other debris from the bar thinking about the best way to approach it with his friend.
“Yeah. I think I reached that point. The question is, has Dai?”
“He just told you.”
“The one thing I realized about Dai is that telling me something and actually meaning it are two different things.”
“If you can’t trust him then why be with him.”
“I love the guy. Although I can’t say if that’s a good thing or a bad thing at this point.”
“Let me guess the root cause. Kane.”