“I want to do something fun…” The ginger standing next to you pouts, kicking the small sand dune in front of him. “I know, how about a swimming race?”
“Oh, that’s a great idea!” Nodding at Hinata and turning to face your boyfriend, you tug on his arm. “C’mon, Tobio, let’s race!”
“I don’t really want to,” he murmurs as he looks off to the side, uncomfortable with the sudden suggestion.
“It’ll be fun!” Hinata bursts out. “I mean, we all can swim, so why not?”
“It’ll be good training for you two, too,” you muse. “Endurance and stamina and stuff, right? I mean, we’re at the beach – we might as well take advantage of it!” You stretch your arms backward, arching your back before sighing.
Staring out over the wide expanse of sparkling blue, the cerulean water laps gently at the sand. Wriggling your toes into the soft white grains, you watch the seagulls soar over the ocean and you smile as their familiar sounds remind you of precious memories of previous summers. The salty air fills your lungs and a comfortable breeze whips your hair into your face; you tuck it into place behind your ear before discarding your towel on the sand and making your way into the water.
“Wait for me, (First Name)! I’ll beat you this time!” The smaller boy wades in and swims out towards you. Turning to watch Hinata, you glance back at Tobio, who stands uncertainly on the sand.
“C’mon, please, Tobio?” Walking back through the waves, you take your boyfriend’s hand and try to pull him into the water. “Can’t you swim with me today? The last time you didn’t even so much as touch the water. Please?”
“Fine,” he grumbles as he lets you pull him into the ocean. “But I’m winning this race.”
“Oh, no you’re not!” Winking at him before dropping his hand, you dive into the waves and start freestyling further out from shore.
I want to win! The thoughts circle your mind as you turn to the side and gasp for air before returning to your intense strokes. If I can’t beat Tobio at volleyball, I’ll show him how good of a swimmer I am! After five minutes, you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, the shore a mild line in the distance. A cramp erupts in your side and you press a hand to your stomach before turning to look back at the beach. You spot Hinata’s bright shock of hair floating in the waves; he gestures at you and you wave back, laughing at his erratic gestures.
You can faintly hear your boyfriend calling your name and you wave harder, using your legs to keep you floating in the water. Does Tobio sound more concerned now?
The sky darkens and rain hits you from above; you turn around to see an encroaching thunderstorm. Mouth falling open, you begin your frantic swim back to shore while ignoring the sharp jabs of pain from your side. Barely five meters in, you’re buffeted by the wind above water and knocked around by the waves when you turn on your side to gasp for air.
“(First Name)! C’mon, hurry up!” You can hear your boyfriend’s worried shouts for you, muffled by the water filling your ears, as he watches your (hair color) hair being tossed to and fro. Struggling to stay afloat and almost succumbing to the pain in your side, you can discern a faint figure leaning out towards the ocean. Tobio seems to be standing on shore, awfully close to the edge of the water, as his voice floats tantalizingly above you. “(First Name)?”
You slip under the waves.
“I’m sorry,” the lifeguard says to Tobio. “I’m really, so very sorry.” She stands over your body, washed up on shore mere hours after the thunderstorm passes. Watching his face contort slightly, she swallows and continues. “Your girlfriend… she’s not breathing.”
You’re still alive.
He’s positive about it.
He can’t bear to be in the apartment you shared with him anymore. Any minute he’s certain you’re going to pop around the corner, waving a napkin at him and scolding him for forgetting to throw out his instant ramen bowls. He can still hear your steps in front of the apartment, the way you pause for a moment to fish around in your bag for your keys, the familiar click of them in the door before you enter the room.
When he walks into the bathroom, your favorite shampoo and body wash sit there, untouched. The onyx-haired male can hardly bring himself to take a shower in the apartment; he has to run over to Hinata’s place instead, just to avoid sinking to his knees amidst the burning water running over his body. His eyes always return to your toothbrush sitting on the counter, never to be used again; he compulsively runs his fingers over your hairbrush and favorite eyeliner, remembering the way you’d happily dress up for the dates he’d take you on.
You’re alive, he’s certain. Your body lying in the sand, seaweed tangled in your hair, was just a prank – it was just a silly joke, one of the many you loved to play on him. Yeah. It was just an elaborately planned hoax.
He sits on the couch, hugging your favorite plushie to his chest, trying to remember what you smelled like as he inhales and exhales slowly. His phone rests on the coffee table in front of him and Hinata stares at him from across the table, the ginger’s chin resting in his hands.
Tobio picks up his phone, checks it, and puts it down. Thirty seconds later, he picks his phone up, checks it, and puts it down. Rinse and repeat; the motions go on.
“She’ll call. She’ll definitely call me,” he murmurs, staring at the small object lying on the table.
Hinata watches his friend. “It’s okay, Kageyama.” He doesn’t mention your phone sitting on the dining table, out of Kageyama’s sight, covered in a thin layer of dust.
“No, she’ll call me. She’ll text me.” His ringtone goes off and he jerks, grabbing the phone; his eyes are frantic, darting around as he answers the call quickly. Hanging up a few seconds later, he smiles weakly at Hinata, who flinches at his friend’s expression. “It wasn’t (First Name), but she’ll call me,” Tobio offers as an explanation. “She’ll definitely call. She calls me at least once a day.”
“Alright, Kageyama. Well, I’ll go now,” the ginger says, standing up softly. “I’ll show myself out. Take care of yourself, okay?” Casting one last glance at the male sitting on the sofa, who stares at his phone in his hand, Hinata walks out of the small apartment.
“Where is she?” Your boyfriend whispers, pressing his face into your plushie. Inhaling deeply, he can faintly smell your favorite perfume as he closes his eyes, imagining you standing in front of him. Reaching out with a hand to grab your sleeve, his eyes fly open. In front of him is nothing but empty space. He opens and closes his hand, grasping nothing but air as he stares at the unoccupied chair in front of him. “Hey, (First Name)…
“Why aren’t you calling me?”
He struggles with your absence.
Every time someone walks by or knocks on the door, he thinks it’s you. Every time he smells the tell-tale fragrance of (favorite shampoo flavor) in someone else’s hair, he thinks it’s you. Every time his ringtone sounds, he thinks it’s you.
It’s hard for him, especially with the pictures of you and him hanging on the wall, reminders of a time lost forever. He’s tempted to take them down and rip them in half, tossing the remains in the trash, but he can’t bring himself to do it.
They’re too precious to him.
You’re too precious to him.
It’s been weeks since your death.
Hinata is still as gung-ho and energetic as ever, but even he can’t cheer Tobio up despite his best efforts and weird sounds. Your best friend Mei had stopped by occasionally to check up on your boyfriend to make sure everything was okay, but her visits have been less and less frequent, reaching the point where they’ve stopped altogether.
It’s as if nobody cares about you. Tobio’s fist tightens into a fist as he stares down at your phone resting in his lap. A tear slides down his cheek and lands on the screen; wiping it away slowly with his thumb, he presses the home button and sees your screensaver flicker to life, a picture of you and him looking at the camera. You’re smiling widely as he grimaces at the camera. Heartless bastards, all of them.
Putting your phone down, he picks his up and unlocks it, opening his messaging app and rereading his conversations with you. Tears continue to gather on his cheeks as he continues reading, memories of surprise dates, pranks, arguments, and reconciliations surfacing. Nostalgia hits him like a giant wave and the tears fall even more, salty drops from a thunderstorm.
There’s not one text from your friends on your phone; you would have gotten notifications otherwise. Nobody stops by your apartment to offer condolences; nobody bothers with anything relating to you anymore. Tobio’s had multiple texts from girls, your friends, a week after your death. He smiles bitterly, the scary (or endearing, as you called it) expression stretching across his face. They did their mandatory “Oh my gosh, this is awful! I can’t believe she’s dead!”, their required sobs and wails and hiccups of grief. Now they’re done with it and they’re done with you.
He’s the only one who continues to cry at your death, almost as if his grief overpowers everyone else’s. Tobio’s the only one persevering in his sadness, the only one whose heart aches at your absence now, the only one who still mourns and still cares about you. It’s like everybody forgot about you, and he’s the only one left. It’s like you vanished off the face of the earth.
Had you been nothing to them?
How could they throw you away so easily?
Standing up, he pulls on his sneakers and heads into the thunderstorm howling outside. Walking slowly, he pays no heed to the mud that slops into his sneakers, making it difficult to walk comfortably. The rain soaks through his shirt, chilling him to the bone, cold and merciless. He clenches his hand into a fist, trying not to reach for the empty space where your hand used to be when you had walked next to him in the rain so long ago.
His nails dig into his palm as he grits his teeth and bites his lip. Why don’t they care? Tobio speeds up to a steady walk, then a run as he splashes through the muddy puddles. The water from the sky mingles with that on his cheeks and he sticks out a tongue, tasting the tangy saltiness. Gasping for breath, his lungs burn as he kicks a rock and stops in front of a brick wall lining the street. He glares at it before looking at his open palm, opening and closing it, under the dim streetlight.
Tobio makes a fist and punches the wall.
He can feel his knuckles chafing under the rough contact, the warm blood trickling slowly down his fingers. His heart pounds loudly in his ears and he bites his cheek, the tell-tale wet iron taste filling his mouth. Rain falls on him as steam rises from his body.
Your boyfriend stops and leans against the wall, tears streaming down his cheeks. Glancing at his hands, he holds them up to the sky to let the water from the storm wash away his blood.
Lightning flashes, illuminating the heavy, humid summer night. The low rumbling of thunder’s boom reassures him, distracting him from the silence of your heart and the steady beating of his ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom bass accentuating his steps.
He drops his arms to his sides and watches the puddles tremble with rain.
Rain showers are anguish, pain, and tears wrapped up in a messy package with a poorly-tied bow slapped on top. The falling rain is an act of bargaining, of pleading, of asking ‘Why?’ over and over again; the word is repeated like a broken record, imprinted on skin like a tattoo, endured like chilling words to the heart. Overcast skies mirror the frigid droplets that fall from them; the water is contaminated with a core of dust, leaving grimy streaks down the cheeks of those who gaze up at the murky heavens. A shower is a needy thing, refusing to let go and say goodbye. It’s the feeling when your heart is torn from your chest, when you’re willing to sacrifice anything and everything for that one person, when all you want is for that person to smile at you and laugh. It’s desperation at its finest.
“Hey, Kageyama! Where’ve you been? The professor’s gonna kill you for skipping class so much!” The energetic ginger pounds on his friend’s apartment door, glaring at the wood.
Tobio hears the dull thuds but ignores them, drifting towards the room he shared with you so long ago. He can faintly hear your airy voice as you sing along to your favorite song; your haunting voice echoes in the lilting strains, drowning out the original singer.
He turns your favorite song up louder to drown out the thumps, courtesy of Hinata. Slowly dragging his feet over to your closet, he stares at the painted white door, eyes tracing the swirls of the wood grains. He runs a tentative hand over the panels, finally finding the handle before pushing it aside.
The smell of your perfume hits in him the face; it surrounds him until he’s drowning in it.
Back at the front door, Hinata sighs loudly, forehead hitting the wood. “I’m coming in, Kageyama!” He tries the handle and the door swings open lightly, surprising him; he had expected more of a challenge. Closing the door behind him, the male takes off his shoes and steps inside the apartment.
“Kageyama?” The smaller male pokes his head into the living room and his eyes fall on the table, covered with dust save for a small rectangle the size of a phone. Your phone. Gently dropping a stack of summer class notes next to the rectangle, he bites back a bittersweet smile before proceeding further inside the home.
Your favorite plushie lies on the couch, lovingly placed amidst a myriad of pillows and blankets Hinata recognizes as your favorites. A near-empty box of tissues sits on the coffee table in front of the sofa, lying on its side. He glances over the rest of the living room, not a thing touched since your death. His muted brown eyes are downcast, staring at the fluffy eggshell-white carpet you loved to roll on so much when you were alive.
Hinata forces himself out of the living room and walks further down the hall. The doors to all the rooms are closed except for one left slightly ajar. He can hear faint sobs and hiccups coming from inside the room.
“(First Name), please,” a cracking voice begs. “Please. Come back to me, I need you.”
Kageyama. The name flits across the ginger’s mind as he pauses in his steps. Inching slowly towards the door, he peeks through and sees Kageyama’s back, hunched over as he sits on the ground.
The ebony-haired male’s shoulders wrack with dry sobs and hiccups. Pitiful whimpers fill the air, sounds Hinata never thought he would hear from him.
The smaller male slowly goes back the way he came, passing down the hallway with pictures of you and Tobio, through the living room with your favorite plushie and pillows, past the table where your phone once resided, and back to the front door. He glances down at the shoe rack and sees only two pairs of shoes, his and Kageyama’s – yours are nowhere to be seen.
Shoving his sneakers on roughly, Hinata exits the apartment and closes the door firmly.
Tobio rubs a photograph of the two of you standing in front of the Tokyo Tower, where he had taken you for a Christmas date the prior year.
It was snowing and your hair was decorated with white sparkles; the ground crunched underfoot from the crisp layer of freshly-fallen snow. Tobio had shared his scarf with you and took your hand into his own, gripping it tightly as he shoved both hands into his coat pocket. You snuggled into his side as the two of you looked up at the sky-high tower peak, and you had the smart idea to flag down a passerby to get a picture taken of the two of you.
Placing the laminated picture down, he picks up a framed photo of you and him at the carnival, you with your signature smile and him with his signature grimace-of-a-smile. It had been a warm, humid night and the two of you had gone on every ride and eaten every food available. At the end of the night, you had a stomachache and he had to half-carry, half-drag you back home to the apartment.
The nostalgia surfacing bubbles through his thinly-woven composure and fresh tears rise, threatening to overflow. His hand shakes as he gropes for a tissue from the box next to him, wiping his eyes.
His gaze slowly loses focus until he’s left staring at the picture, looking at it but not seeing it. Tobio vaguely hears a voice – was it Hinata’s, perhaps? – but he doesn't know if it was real or just in his head. He bites his lip and inhales sharply. He can’t tell if the pain in his chest is from his shaky breath, the heavy humidity weighing down on him, or from your absence, but he has an inkling that it’s a combination of all three.
Please, he begs, gaze turning upwards to stare at the clean white ceiling. Please, (First Name), where are you? Body starting to wrack with dry sobs again, he hiccups loudly and clasps both hands together; his knuckles slowly turn white as his arms begin to shake.
Tobio lets them drop on his knees, hugging his legs closer to his body. I’ll do anything. He stares out the open window, watching a lone tree wave pitifully in the wind. I’ll do anything to have you back.
The hot air inside the room is confronted with a sudden blast of cold air from the open window, blowing Tobio’s hair back from his face and drying his tears in their tracks.
(First Name), tell me what to do. He picks up the Tokyo Tower picture with trembling hands again, rubbing your face slowly with his thumb. You always have the answers.
He can hear your reprimanding voice in his head telling him to go eat something, to go take a shower because wow does he smell, but he ignores the advice. I don’t want to eat. I’m not hungry. I haven’t been for the past three days. Tobio smiles wanly at the photograph and runs his thumb over the side of your face. I don’t want food, (First Name).
If starving myself means that you’ll come back, I’ll gladly give up food forever.
He rocks back and forth on the swings lightly as the grass sways softly in the wind, the lush green blades surrounding the ants shuffling around on the ground. The small black insects run about in their complicated paths, some carrying bits of leaf and others crumbs of food left from lunch.
He looks up over the park. Silence greets his ears where conversation had once been; empty playgrounds and discarded water bottles stretch across his vision. The sky turns a delicate lavender, painting the clouds a cotton-candy pink and framing the blood orange sun.
A light drizzle begins to fall as Tobio drops his head to rest in his left arm, his right one falling to the bench. He grips his coal-black strands, rubbing a lock through his index finger and thumb. Wrapping his hand around his hair, he imagines that it’s your (hair color) tresses running through his fingers, threading between his digits and tangling itself in a messy nest. The male remembers when you used to lay in his lap and nag at him to stroke your hair, purring softly when he reluctantly gave in to your demands.
He gives a wan smile at the memory and looks up at the sky, watching the rain fall in straight paths to the ground. His mouth hanging open slightly, Tobio blinks slowly and lets go of his hair to wipe the rain from his cheeks. The sky turns a smoky gray color as the droplets continues to fall in small pitter-patters.
His thumb resting on the bench begins to slowly trace circles on the wood, wiping water away from the laminated wood. He can still feel your delicate fingers on his skin when you touched his shoulder, your tight grip on his arm when you dragged him around carnivals, your gentle caress when you had kissed him needily that one night long ago. Your soft touches haunt him, the want to take you into his arms again only increasing with the wind ghosting over his body. He still craves the feeling of your skin against his and he shivers at the memory.
A shiver crawls down his spine, but whether it’s from the wind or from the nostalgia, he can’t tell.
What did you think of before you died?
Did you hear my desperate calls for you?
Why didn’t I stop you?
Were you scared to die?
I should have told you… Tobio lets out a soft, pitiful wail and lets his head fall into his hands, elbows resting on his knees. I should have told you that I loved you.
He wakes up, panting, in a tangled mess of blankets. His eyes dart around the room as he breathes loudly, trying to calm his rampaging heart; his hair sticks to his face and neck. He rubs his arms, feeling his damp skin covered in sweat; his cheeks are stiff from the dried trails of his tears during sleep.
Tobio stares out towards the window, curtains drawn. Slowly untangling himself from the blankets, he rises and drags his feet across the carpeted floor to the window. He pulls aside the fabric, opening the window and letting the cool summer morning air wash over his hot skin.
Gazing outside, watching the trees shrouded in mist sway in the wind, he tries not to think about his nightmare.
You were drowning in the ocean, and he was next to you. A rescue boat had pulled up haphazardly in the raging storm and he was clinging onto a life preserver, reaching out for your hand. The salt water burned his eyes and stung his lips, but he continued straining forward for your hand, calling your name loudly. He couldn’t hear your response over the howling wind, but he saw a breath fall from your lips before a wave crashed on the two of you, pushing the boat further away from him.
When he surfaced from his rough dunking, he saw your head, barely bobbing above the water. Tobio reached out for your hand, but you had slipped under the waves…
It’s foggy today. Tobio closes the window and draws the curtains again; he pulls on a jacket and opens the door, as if afraid of the outdoors.
The mist begins to engulf him as soon as he steps outside. It swirls and blankets the city, to the point where he can’t see five feet in front of him.
He begins to make his way to the market and enters the building, grabbing a basket on his way in. He’s inside the store for perhaps an hour, distracting and distancing himself from his apartment and his past with the colorful fruit and vegetable displays inside.
On his way back from the grocery store, plastic bags in hand, he rubs at his cheeks as if to get rid of the dried streaks left from his tears the previous night. The mist is beginning to let up and he collapses on a bench outside the park, watching the passerby.
He continues to rub at his eyes to the point where they become red and puffy. Pulling out his wallet, Tobio takes out the picture of you he carries around with him everywhere. He stares down at your cheeky grin, thumb rubbing your cheek; he smiles softly, blinking twice before placing the picture back into his wallet.
His cheeks are dry as sunlight begins to cut through the mist.