Come Home

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You woke up the next morning to a single text from Oshiro.

"Overdose."

...

"I don't want to go," you said as Aina's mom laid out a black dress on the bed at your feet. You fought the urge to childishly kick it off and onto the floor.

You were sitting in bed, knees tucked under your chin as you curled in on yourself. Your eyes were glazed over and your fingers shaky as you tapped away at your phone, pretending to be a functioning human being.

She saw right through it, of course. Everything about you was precarious. A carefully constructed house of cards waiting for a stray breeze to use as an excuse to fall down.

I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this...

"I don't want to go," you repeated, louder this time since she obviously wasn't listening to you.

She picked up the dress and sat in its place. She didn't make any move to reach out to you, hug you or pat your shoulder, as if you were a rabid dog she thought might bite. It was good for the twisted little wreck that was left of your sense of security.

"I won't force you," she said at last. "But it might be good for you. And for your friends."

There was a long pause before she sighed, "I talked to your friend Oshiro's mom. Apparently she hasn't gotten out of bed all week. It was a struggle even getting her ready for the memorial service. She wouldn't put on her shoes. She wouldn't hold Minoru's hand. Oshiro's mom tried to make her, but both girls just started crying."

So you were the only one among your friends that hadn't broken down completely. Good to know. It was probably because you knew her a fraction of the time they did.

"I feel bad," you admitted, your voice breaking as you held back tears, "Because we weren't friends when it happened."

You refused to cry.

You'd been doing very little else the last few days except cry.

"Oh, Aina," Aina's mom cooed, finally reaching over to stroke your back, "That's the furthest thing from everyone's mind."

You could guarantee it would be the first thing on Oshiro's and Minoru's minds. If there was one good thing to come out of this, it was that there was no way in hell they could love you anymore. You were having trouble finding things about yourself to love.

"I'll go, as long as you promise not to leave me alone for a second," you declared at last, slowly stretching out your legs to touch the tip of your toes to the edge of her thigh.

"I'll be here for you as long as you're not too embarrassed to be hanging around your old mom," she said with a little laugh, trying to lighten the mood to some avail.

You managed to maintain a grimace of a smile until she walked out your bedroom door.

...

Lovely service, beautiful music, and a closed casket. These were the little things that stood out to you about the funeral. You gave the casket a wide berth, clung to Aina's mom's hand as an anchor.

You hoped you wouldn't see them, hoped they would just be two familiar faces in a sea of attendees, but there they were. Your ex-friends.

Oshiro was a wreck. You noticed someone was wailing when you entered the funeral parlor. You would never have guessed it was her, though. She kept up the tough-girl persona around you so long that it was strange to see any kind of crack in her armor.

Now her armor had cracked open and crumbled to the ground at her feet. There were two people by her side at all times, whispering solace and keeping her on her feet. Once one person stepped away without being immediately replaced and she fell to her knees, howling in despair.

Minoru hovered nearby but Oshiro shoved her away whenever she wandered too close. You couldn't help but glare at Minoru. Returned to the scene of the crime, huh?

Then she looked up and saw you and just stared, unblinking, for a straight minute.

"I've got to go to the bathroom," you told Aina's mom. Really you just wanted not to be in the same room as that girl.

"Then go," she said.

"You promised you wouldn't leave me alone."

"Aina..."

"Please?"

She wouldn't go in the bathroom with you like you wanted her to, but she promised to stand guard outside and not let anyone in.

A lie, obviously, because who else but Minoru walked in just as you wrapped up your most recent crying jag in the bathroom stall.

"We need to talk," Minoru said once the door completely shut behind her, sufficiently trapping you.

"There's nothing for us to talk about," you hissed in reply. You went to move past her but she grabbed hold of your wrist, her hand tight and cold as an iron shackle.

"Oh, but there is," she whispered. She was close enough for you to see just how red and puffy her eyes were. She must feel a lot of regret. You know... For a psychopathic murderer. "I need you to come home. With me. With us. We need you."

"I can't," you told her. You'd return to Minoru's clique over your dead body. "You're a murderer, Minoru. You killed Kimiko!"

She let go of your wrist but gave you a good shove as payback for your condemnation. Crocodile tears streamed down her cheeks. She looked radiant, like those weeping statues of the Virgin Mary.

"It's not my fault!" She sobbed. "She needed more and more medicine to get the same results. Sometimes she would take her medicine and then just up and leave. I warned her not to drink, but she did it anyway. She was such a brat, so difficult to love. You were so easy. But I loved her anyway..."

And your "love" killed her, you thought. You made no move to comfort her. She should feel guilty. If it wasn't for her and her constant need for control, Kimiko would still be alive.

You tried to get around her, but she retreated until her back was against the door, efficiently blocking it.

Eventually, she managed to stop crying and get a hold of herself. Then she looked you dead in the eye and said, "Come home." Like it was a magic spell that you would obey without question or hesitation.

"I can't."

"Can't or won't?"

"I can't. You'll kill me. You'll kill me just like you killed Kimiko."

"No, you're not like her. You won't run away like she did. I'll watch over you, make sure you're okay every minute of every day."

You shouldn't have dignified her with a response, but you couldn't resist trying to talk some semblance of sense into her. "That's not love, Minoru. That's imprisonment. I don't want you. I don't need you. Let me go."

She just shook her head, like you were an unruly child and she was the knowing adult. But the two of you were the same age, and the one claiming to know best was a serial killer.

At that moment, someone entered the bathroom, pushing Minoru away with the door as if she weighed no more than a paper doll.

You tensed when you saw it was Oshiro. This could be really bad for you. To your surprise, though, she just looked at you without really looking at you. It was a wonder she could still see at all. Her eyes were practically swollen shut. "Get out," she said in a hoarse voice.

You didn't need to be told twice.

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