Good Mourning

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Kimiko didn't harass you anymore after that. Minoru kept her too doped up to do anything anyway. Uppers to keep her alert, downers to keep her calm, painkillers to keep her happy... She poured all her love and attention into her one and only remaining princess.

Kimiko still glared at you, angrier than a kicked hornet's nest, whenever the two of you happened to pass each other in the hallway, but she didn't dare approach you again. You tried your best not to trigger her possessive instincts, either.

You kept everyone, teacher and classmate alike, at arm's length. And they took the hint and kept their distance. This is for the best, you told yourself, even as you yearned for a hug, a pat on the back, some kind of gentle touch. The girls had spoiled you before and now you were touch-starved.

You were leaving this school as soon as college entrance exams were finished anyway. You would make new friends at your new school. Safe friends. Friends that wouldn't stab you, or anyone else for that matter, in the back.

...

One of the first things you did after Minoru cut you off was get rid of the phone she gifted you. You didn't give it back to her. That would set a precedent, and you couldn't un-cash the check she gave you for the window.

You kept the girls' numbers saved in your new phone, however. You still ignored their texts and calls. But if they texted you anything remotely creepy or threatening, you wanted to have screenshots you could show to the police.

It seemed they preferred calling. You didn't like to talk on the phone, didn't want to talk to them, so you just let it ring.

Minoru hadn't contacted you once since you told her you didn't need her anymore. Oshiro called once, the night Kimiko left you in the broom closet.

Hinata called most often, every hour on the hour when you two weren't in school. Those calls abruptly stopped after she committed herself. The psychiatric hospital she was at probably took away her phone.

Kimiko's giving Hinata a run for her money, you thought one night after you'd been awoken by your phone for the twelfth time. The first time had been at two AM and it was three AM now. You tried silencing your phone, but the light and vibration was enough to stir you from your slumber.

Having had enough, you angrily turned over in bed and grabbed your phone from the nightstand. With more force than really necessary, you held down the power button until the screen turned black.

Your mom would wake you up in the morning. She was driving you in every day, after all.

...

You didn't know what new rumor Minoru spread about you, but all eyes were on you the next day at school. It must have been something heinous, because people kept turning their heads to you before quickly looking away.

She wasn't even in school that day, and neither were Oshiro and Kimiko. That made you uneasy. What were they planning? You'd normally assume it had nothing to do with you, but you were the main character. Everything had something to do with you.

No one told you. You had to find out from morning announcements what happened. "As many of you already know, Kimiko Noa passed away early this morning. In honor of her memory, let us pause for a moment of silence to reflect, meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity."

Time seemed to stand still.

That was impossible. Kimiko never died in the original game. But this isn't the original game, a voice in the back of your head informed you. If it was, you wouldn't be the main character.

Did... Did she kill herself? No, that wasn't her way. She loved herself too much. She would sooner set the world on fire than take a match to herself.

Could one of the other girls have hurt her? Maybe there was a disagreement over whether they should go to the police and confess to Hiro's murder. No, that couldn't have happened either. She was proud of what she had done, like a cat presenting a dead bird to their owner.

Then the moment of silence was up and everyone returned to their day. Including you. You went through the rest of the day on autopilot, not paying attention to anything that was said or done.

You went to the school counselor's office during Study Hall. There was a line of girls going out the door, all weeping inconsolably. Kimiko was a polarizing girl but a popular one. The whole school mourned her. It took you the entire period to get to the front of the line.

"How did she die?" You asked the counselor.

"A natural question for those in mourning, but-"

You cut her off, didn't want to hear what she had to say, just wanted an answer to the question that wouldn't stop circulating in your mind. "How did she die?"

"It's not important how she died, only how she lived."

"How did she die?!"

"I'm calling your parents."

Good luck with that. You left the office without even giving her your name. She called after you, but you just returned to World History as if you never even made the trip. With Hiro's and Minoru's empty desks around you, you felt adrift. Land was in sight but out of reach.

News of Kimiko's death made it back to Aina's mom somehow. She kept throwing you concerned looks on the drive home.

"Do... Do you want to talk about it?" She asked after an eternity of silence. "It" already hung in the air like the sword of Damocles. You shook your head and she dropped the subject, just like that. It made you wonder if she even wanted to talk about it or was just offering to be nice.

You took the stairs two at a time as you ran up to your room, to your phone, still turned off and plugged in. With shaky hands, you held down the power button until the logo appeared. The screen was blindingly bright in your dark room. Notification popped up instantly.

48 Missed Calls from Kimiko.

Without thinking, you called her back. This was a prank. It had to be. She wasn't really dead! It was a meanspirited prank, one that would get her in big trouble when she showed up at school tomorrow.

But the telephone just rang and rang. No answer. Answering machine full.

This is wrong. I stopped playing the game. No one else was supposed to die.

You sat in bed, phone in hand, for a long time. Long enough that the room got even darker around you as the sun set. You'd like to think you were processing your grief, but you couldn't hear your own thoughts over the roaring in your ears.

Finally, your finger moved, navigating to your messages. You shot off a text to Oshiro before you could think better of it, before you could remember that you cut contact and for a good reason.

"How did she die?"

You fell asleep waiting for a response.

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