guh. feeling...short sentence-y.
Challenge: #20. the road home
Note: In romanization, Fuji Syuusuke is spelled Fuji Shuusuke, however, I have stuck to "Syuusuke" for clarity in comparison with the other name.
Baby blue must be blood, Yumiko thinks, facing her brother's killer. He is small, she notes, barely a hundred and twenty centimeters tall, complete with an angel's chubby face. He lives in the orphanage down the road, and though he couldn't be younger than five (nor older than seven), he claims that he is only one.
He doesn't have a name, but that is because he's an orphan.
"Hello, sweetie," she coos at him, and he stares back blankly, as if she'd just spoken Chinese. “My name is Fuji Yumiko, and I'm here to take you home.”
He didn't mean to – hurt Shunsuke, that was. It'd happened so fast – the lights, the horn, the ball in the street, flattened right next to his flattened shoe and flattened toe, right next to his flattened friend.
He hadn't meant to. Shunsuke had been his friend – his only friend, the only person in the world who'd bothered waving at him when he caught him staring out the orphanage windows. He hadn't waved back – bitter, perhaps, but also a bit envious, because Shunsuke had everything and he had nothing, and when he was one and a half (six) he used to dream about Shunsuke giving him one of his parents, just so they'd each have one and it'd be fair.
He wouldn't have meant to. He barely knew Shunsuke – they had met, once, and Shunsuke had proudly (and promptly) introduced himself. The boy's happy voice reverberated through his thoughts and dreams for the months. Hi! My name is Fuji Shunsuke. I was born on August 12th, and I live with my mommy, daddy, and neesan. Who are you?
He hadn't answered, but only because he couldn't.
They had come for him one morning, pulled him out of his high bunk and dragged him to the office. He didn't want to go. They might beat him. They might give him away. At least here, he had memories of Shunsuke and the stain on the road.
"Yes, that's him," he heard a woman's voice, faint and whispery. "Where do we sign?"
The director had pushed a stack of papers in the woman’s general direction. "Are you sure about this?"
He can't remember the rest of their conversation, because after that, all the words blurred together and sight was his only remaining sense. The lady bent down and looked at him, looked at his eyes, smiling a smile that didn't look quite right. Her mouth moved and he thought he saw a tear before she straightened up again and he's eye to eye with her waist again. The man ignored him, hand moving rapidly over some paper before he left. The lady followed soon afterwards, and then he is led back to his room.
In the end, he's not quite sure what the entire ordeal was about. But he has a name now, and it sounds funny (familiar); he rolls it around on his tongue, staring at the ceiling.
"Fuji." he says in his baby voice, "Fuji Syuusuke."
Yumiko-neesan takes care of him on his first night at home, bathing him and dressing him, then tucking him into a bed in a room that has "Shunsuke" hung on the door. "Oyasumi," he whispers before she leaves, and she smiles back at him, looking too old to be a teenager. "Oyasumi, Shun-Syuusuke," she whispers back, leaving the door open just a crack because he told her earlier he was afraid of the dark.
But there are scarier things, he decides, trying to bury both ears with the pillow still underneath his head. Like the lady and the man – Shunsuke's parents – arguing downstairs. Like the crying coming from the room beside his, and Yumiko-neesan's soothing voice and a rhythmic patting weaving between the sobs. This is my new family, Syuusuke thinks, and he wonders if Shunsuke ever felt this lost.
It isn't until he is older that he realizes that he was adopted to fill Shunsuke's space, to honor Shunsuke's sacrifice, diving in front of a car to save an orphan that the world didn't care about – wouldn't care about, ever. But he understands from the moment he enters the house that from now on, he is Shunsuke. And he is off to a good start: he has the same build. The same hair, same eyes. But he does not have the same mannerisms, and because of that, everyone but Yumiko-neesan hates him.
He looks at the apple pancakes uneasily at breakfast, and okaa-san (she insists)'s lips purse tightly before she turns back to the stove, cooking bacon for otou-san. He is not used to this strange food that isn't porridge, because that's what they served at the orphanage, every morning since he can remember. Yumiko-neesan shifts closer to him and cuts up the pancakes, feeding him. "Shunsuke used to love these," she whispers to him between bites, "Apples were his favorite fruit." And he understands that from now on, when okaa-san asks him what he wants for a snack, he must say "apple, please."
The little brother hates him, this he's sure of, even before Yuuta spills hot oil on his thigh. He is not Shunsuke, and Shunsuke is the brother that Yuuta adored and that adored Yuuta. He stares blankly at the boiling substance running down his leg, faintly registering pain but taking more notice of the look on Yuuta's face. Horror – he hadn't meant to, after all.
"Yuuta," he whispers, which is all he has done in this house, "It's okay. It's my fault."
Yuuta reaches for his own thigh instinctively, face contorting into the strangest expression he's ever seen.
"It doesn't hurt," he continues, "It's okay, Yuuta. It's not your fault."
Somewhere, young as he is, he knows that Yuuta is reliving the pain and feeling the guilt. The guilt of standing there while Syuusuke was frozen in front of the car. The pain of being frozen while aniki jumped and lost his own life. The pain, and the guilt, and the memory of aniki, covered with more red than that time they found okaa-san's paint supplies, and the ball Syuusuke had been playing with, flatter than the pancakes aniki loved to eat.
"It's okay," Syuusuke soothes and wonders if his leg will hurt soon, "Aniki's here. Smile, Yuuta."
And Yuuta almost does, before Yumiko walks in and screams, and Yuuta drops the empty pan and runs out of the room. Syuusuke is rushed to the emergency room, where skin grafts are performed and he spends two months recuperating, with Yumiko-neesan as his only visitor.
He starts going to school as soon as he is discharged, after okaa-san comes to pick him up from the hospital and greets him in that friendly, distant way of hers. He thinks for a minute, and pats her hand lightly, just as he's seen pictures of Shunsuke doing, and she smiles wearily but with less pretend at his small gesture. You’re becoming more and more like him every day, she murmurs before wheeling him out.
Saeki Koujirou is Fuji Shunsuke's self-proclaimed best friend, though he doubts Saeki really was, given the amount of people who have stared and whispered about him today. The teachers introduce him as "Fuji Syuusuke, close friend of Fuji Shunsuke," but they all, including the children, know better. Fuji Shunsuke was kind and well-loved, but he also had a mischievous streak that kept him from being too close to any one person.
That part is hard for Syuusuke, who has spent his entire life looking for someone to care for and care back.
At recess, Saeki takes him to a corner of the playground and examines him. He shifts his weight to his left foot, but then remembers Shunsuke is right-handed, and switches legs. Two months in the hospital gave his impressionable mind too much time to think and he knows all too well what Saeki is looking for: similarities. And he knows that Saeki will find many. He is the closest Shunsuke had to a mirror image, perhaps the reason why Shunsuke waved to him all those months ago. Shunsuke's face is a bit sharper, his eyes a bit smaller. His hair was a bit shorter, but Syuusuke remedied that with a pair of nail clippers. In terms of build, Syuusuke is thinner and more feminine, but he allows Yumiko-neesan to dress him so he wears the same styles Shunsuke used to. He looks like Shunsuke, to say the least.
Saeki finishes his examination with a grunt, indicating that he'll do. "You're not Shunsuke," Saeki says bluntly, as only children can, "because Shunsuke would have laughed and asked me what I was doing. Then, Shunsuke and I would have gone to play on the swings, at least until someone else asked to play with him. And then, Shunsuke would have smiled at me, and left."
He nods and absorbs this new information with all the memory he has, storing it like he stored all the stories Yumiko told him between lessons in the hospital: Shunsuke was trying to decide between tennis and soccer. Shunsuke had been fascinated by otou-san's camera. Shunsuke, Shunsuke, Shunsuke had been top of his class, so you should study hard, Syuusuke.
That afternoon, he beats up three boys who are picking on Yuuta, and they run home crying. Yumiko-neesan tucked a hankerchief in his back pocket, he remembers, so he takes it out and offers Yuuta the pressed cloth.
"Aniki..." Yuuta cries, clutching onto his hand.
He realizes that the sun is behind him – in Yuuta's eyes – and with the blinding brightness he must look like Shunsuke did. But if it's a spell, he decides, he doesn't want it to end, because Yuuta is too kind to be spiteful, and the hand gripping his feels too nice. He smiles and brushes a hand over Yuuta's hair, opening his mouth to soothe. Yumiko-neesan breaks the moment by yelling "Syuusuke!" and running over to check over them both.
The look on Yuuta's face is betrayal.
Yuuta apologizes to him that night, and he brushes it off by handing Yuuta a notebook full of stories. Shunsuke stories. Yuuta climbs into his bed later, after all the lights have been turned off, and asks if he can read him one. Yuuta can't read all the characters yet, as the child grudgingly admits, looking at him with something akin to hope. He smiles, and agrees. Shunsuke would've said "of course, that's what older brothers are for", but he won’t push his luck just yet.
Years pass and things get better – okaa-san learns to look at him without frowning, Yumiko learns to love him more, Yuuta learns to use him as Shunsuke's replacement, and otou-san learns to stay away from home. Most of all, he learns to be Shunsuke, and though he is Syuusuke, there is no difference anymore.
He learns over time that Saeki is not the boy he first thought he was, and that Saeki and Shunsuke were indeed great friends, though more dependent on Saeki's side than Shunsuke's. By the time they are in elementary school, he catches Saeki's glances at him and knows there is something there besides friendship, and though he would willingly give into it, he doesn't – he is not Shunsuke, and it is not Syuusuke Saeki wants.
Saeki corners him and kisses him two months later, but he laughs and asks Saeki what he's doing before leaving to find Hirata-kun. The next day, otou-san moves the family out of Chiba, because business would be better in a bigger city.
Three days later, he enters Seishun Gakuen, and meets a boy named Tezuka Kunimitsu.
questions, comments, confusion? i know the style and format might be a bit strange, so don't hesitate to ask. @_@ now, off to sleep...