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shinu ga iya nara
mō shinanu zo ya
Oh young folk—
if you fear death,
Having died once
you won’t die again.
When I first landed in Tokyo, my first thought was, Finally!
As I pulled my rolling luggage through the air-conditioned Narita International Airport, my mind tweaked with all the people speaking that rhythmical language of Nihongo. It had once been a secret code of sorts between my mother and myself. Now it fell from everyone’s mouths like flowing water. When I passed through the sliding doors to the warmth outside, the smell of car exhaust thick in the busy air, I spied the slouched figure of my father in his purple and green company windbreaker from the blend of the crowd. He waved, his smile bright but lacking confidence. As I mirrored his smile and waved back, a second thought hit me.
Jesus. Did I even run far enough?
Coming from the airport, all I could recall was a fragmented array of traffic, lights, faces, and words. I got lost somewhere along the way. One moment, my dad was driving and pointing out his office building. I blinked, and suddenly I was elsewhere, outside of my new two-story home, shaking my step-mother’s hand. Her name was Fumiko. I would never call her anything else. I hated her instantly. When I first met her, I was confused by her look of annoyance. I hadn’t yet realized I’d been shaking her hand for a full minute.
I met my step-brother, Kento, too. He was too cute for words, so for the moment, I won’t even make the attempt to describe him. I followed my dad into the house–western styled save for one room. I unpacked. My room was an average 1 mat size, and already outfitted with simple bedroom furniture–one twin size bed, a study desk, a bookshelf, and a nightstand. A tight fit, even compared to my old bedroom.
I didn’t normally lose so much time in a single day. Later the doctors told me it was the stress of the flight, plus the gap in my medication schedule, but I think it was also culture shock. Or maybe it was just nerves. Not totally surprising, I guess, considering I had my first dinner with my father that day in more than a decade.
I don’t remember what was said at the dinner table. I found it strange in the washitsu family room, sitting on the tatami floor, and tried not to show it. I already missed chairs to lean back and slouch in. Fumiko and Kento went to bed early. I stayed up, despite my jet lag. My dad asked after my mother, his eyes shifty, his grip on his beer denting the can. I opened my mouth to answer–
Then time slipped again.
It happens. Still does. Back then most times, I didn’t notice it. But soon that would change. Soon, I’d come to dread it.
I was only certain it was dead when the clothes lit fire and it didn’t move or make a sound. I took a hose and put out the flames because I didn’t actually want it burned. I wanted to see the flesh whole and new for me to part with my claws. It is at this point in death that the body is most like a puppet, for rigor mortis has yet to set in. I enjoy posing the cadavers, then finding their insides. I’ve done this when they were still alive, but all the screaming is not to my liking, never mind that it draws attention. This one had a pink backpack with fairies on it. The ones in pink always screamed the loudest.
Somewhere far off, I felt a girl’s spirit recoil in horror. This was a nightmare for her…
…But for me, it was the most pleasant dream, and she was just going to have to wait for it to be done. I hadn’t had a chance to play like this in years.
I woke up in my bed, disoriented, dressed in street clothes, and with a pounding headache. I’d had a terribly bloody dream, and its horrifying images still flashed vividly in my head, clouding my emotions. I could still hear the screaming, so shrill, and…brief. Snuffed out like a candle, swallowed by muted, wet gurgles. Wheezing. That moist sound as meat is carved. God! I could still see the sprinkle of skull fragments and brain matter on dark asphalt. The red flames, the pink plastic.
I felt ill as I sat up, my stomaching doing dangerous turns. When I stumbled from my dark bedroom out into the equally dark hallway, I realized something.
I didn’t recognize my surroundings.
The smells were wrong.
The floors were wrong.
The walls were wrong…
Fear gripped me, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak. Physically, I couldn’t. My mother described this as a demon holding my voice captive. If she’d known what I’d soon go through, she never would have said that.
I stumbled through the first open door I saw and struggled to find a switch. I hit a button on some sort of small panel and was alarmed to hear a fan turn on. I thought I heard screams in the hum of the motor, and I wasn’t sure if it was from my nightmare or memories. The fact that I couldn’t separate the two made me begin to hyperventilate. The panel had a digital interface and I squinted at it. It just showed numbers and weird symbols I couldn’t make out. My quivering fingers found another button, beneath the panel, and this one turned on the lights. I jumped at what I saw.
I was in a bathroom, and before me was a large mirror. My reflection showed me dressed in a black sweater with gray cargo pants. My chestnut hair was disheveled, my freckled face sallow and thin. My lip trembled as I let out a shocked gasp. An unsteady hand reached toward my mouth and chin. They were stained and flaking with something red. The stains went down to my throat and vanished beneath my collar.
The nausea I’d been fighting off won the battle as it punched up my throat and into the sink. The vomit was blood red and had pieces of something lumpy in it. The sight made me retch even harder. I started to sob between my nauseous attacks.
Finally, when the fit had ended and I could breathe, I found my voice again and managed to scream, “MOM! MOM, WHERE ARE YOU!?”
A moment later, there was a thump, and I could hear someone clumsily enter the hallway, groaning and cursing. I didn’t recognize the voice and felt my heart stop. I retreated further into the strange bathroom. There were two sections to it. The sink and toilet were in one space, and in the next, separated by a partition, was a strange short tub that was really deep and a shower head that was fixed over the tiled floor.
Tripping and falling into the tub, I covered my head with my arms just as I saw the person enter. I flinched at the hand that touched my head.
With a sharp inhale I looked up. My dad peered at me, his strong Nordic features tightened. His warm hair was tousled, and his baggy gray-green eyes squinted from the light.
All at once I remembered—the sleepwalking, the bad dreams, the therapy, the long flight, the trial, and the death threats that landed me here like a bomb on my dad’s peaceful life with his other family in Japan. I had been there only a few weeks and already I’d had another episode. I bet Fumiko, my dad’s new wife, was going to love this.
And to think, this was supposed to be the first day of my new high school.
Could it get any worse? I thought, as I burst into tears.
It got worse.
My dad had offered to call the school to say I wasn’t feeling well, but I vehemently refused. The last thing I wanted was to acknowledge anything had happened at all. I just wanted to establish something normal, even as everything around me seemed alien and bewildering. Looking back? I should have taken him up on his offer.
It struck when I was standing in front of my new class, being introduced by the teacher. The classroom was neat. The walls lacked all the colorful postings I was accustomed to in American schools. There were only the occasional educational posters or diagrams. Over the door, in a white banner in Japanese, the words bono malum superate appeared in latin, then the Japanese kanji beneath it. It was the school’s motto. “Overcome evil with good.”
The students, all girls, were dressed in the same uniform I was: white-cotton button-ups, royal blue neck-ties, gray pleated skirts, white knee-high socks, and polished black penny-loafers. Everyone was Japanese, with the exception of one other student—a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with a ponytail. The school was known for its high number of international students, a grand total of twenty, including me…which was high for a native-speaking school of this size. Most foreigners go to international schools.
My homeroom teacher, Chieko Imaizumi, was a fair-faced thirty-something with chocolate brown highlights and full plum-colored lips. As she wrote my name on the chalkboard and asked for the students to welcome me, it hit.
An irrational fear gripped me. My body started trembling, and I felt cold. A metallic taste appeared on my tongue, and my breathing turned shallow. Then I felt a painful jolt from my feet to the top of my head. I took an unsteady step toward the door, then another. I could hear Imaizumi-sensei calling my name. The other students started to speak, but they grew more and more distant and confusing. Suddenly I collapsed, and my limbs stopped working. I felt a sensation as though thousands of beetles were digging out of my chest. It hurt. Burned.
When I later opened my eyes in the nurse’s office, I saw a girl sitting next to my cot. She was leaned in close, her eyes on my face. They were the color of burnt copper. Her long silky black hair teased my arm, her breath a butterfly’s kiss on my cheeks. She had a round, innocent-looking face, long blunt bangs, and long dark eyelashes. She looked so young and sweet. When she saw that I was awake, she gave a start, her eyes going wide before her cheeks started to color.
“Oh! Uh. E-Excuse me,” she said in Japanese. She gave a bow of her head, her bangs covering her eyes, and stammered, “My name’s Yamashita Haruko. I’m in 2-C with you. Imaizumi-sensei sent me to make sure you were all right…”
I sighed and sat up, wincing as I felt the bruises on my body protest. It appeared no one caught me before I collapsed. Damn. Putting aside my bitter lamentations, I turned my eyes back onto Haruko.
“Geez,” I muttered ruefully. “I wish we could have met under different circumstances. Uh, well…My name’s Amaya. Amaya Alastor. Or, uh. Alastor, Amaya. It’s, uh…nice to meet you, Yamashita-san.” My slow, dazed tone belied my anxiety. After my debut at the classroom, it couldn’t get much worse.
All I wanted was a new start. Why the hell did things have to start this way? I thought with anguish.
Haruko bit her lip, her hands wringing her skirt hem. “How are you feeling?”
I rubbed at my eye. “Tired. A little bruised. But otherwise I’m fine.” Actually, I wanted to run screaming into heavy traffic. This was not how I wanted my day going.
“Imaizumi-sensei said you could stay here as long as you needed to.”
I peered at her sidelong. I hadn’t even been in Japan that long, and I already felt like a freak. Being an American was like being the albino in an African family. It didn’t matter that I was fluent in the language. I was different, and standing out in Japan was like painting a target on your back.
“I…I might just take her up on that offer,” I mumbled.
Haruko fidgeted in her seat, her hands tightening on her skirt. She looked over her shoulder, then gave me a shy grin.
“If you don’t want to go back just yet, I could give you a tour of the school?”
Clueless, I said, “But the headmaster already showed me the campus.”
She just giggled at this, and I looked at her in confusion. “I promise, my tour will be a lot more interesting!”
I raised an eyebrow. The Kuromori School for Girls was already pretty interesting in my book. Even for a private school, the campus was stunning with lush green landscapes, acres of privately owned land, and a beautiful view of Tokyo in the distance.
“Does Kuromori have some secrets I should know about?” I asked, now really intrigued.
Her smile turned coy. “I won’t tell until you come!”
It was about this point that I started to notice the glint in Haruko’s eyes.
My enthusiasm waned like my smile.
Is she…? No, I’m imagining it. I…damn, I’m not ready for that!
I fumbled, trying to think of something to say. “Wh-What if we get caught by…by a teacher?” It sounded like an excuse even to me. My face colored and I stared at my hands, wondering if I could will another seizure to strike. It would stop me from talking for a few more minutes anyway.
Haruko wasn’t fazed, though.
“I know all the best ways to avoid the campus monitors!” she declared as she stood, holding out her hand. “Let’s go!”
I looked from Haruko to her hand and back. If I was honest with myself, I would admit that I really wanted to go with her. She wasn’t what I normally went for, but she was beautiful, there was no doubt about that. I could see the comeliness of her body, the innocence with which she carried herself. It surrounded her like a glowing aura, bright and warm and wholesome. Her guile was even endearing, like a child giggling over a pleasant secret. In my time in Japan thus far, I had met no one like this. But bad things happened when I got involved with people. The responsible thing would have been to say no.
Sadly, I’ve never been very responsible.
After I slipped on my shoes, I stood carefully and put on my school jacket, which was hanging on a hook on the wall. Haruko stood with me, and with a glance at my face that said her confidence was rising, she led me toward the door. The nurse’s office was small, and for some reason, the nurse wasn’t in.
As if sensing my question, Haruko explained, “Takano-san was here a moment ago, but she had a meeting to attend. I hope you don’t feel neglected!”
I gave a short laugh. “In America, you’d be lucky if there was even a qualified nurse to say you were faking it!”
My classmate looked at me in surprise as she slid the door closed behind us. “How strange!”
The east wing hallway was empty as everyone was currently in class.
Haruko led me toward the northern exit, which would lead us to the staircase where we could get our outside shoes from our lockers. The Japanese have a belief regarding outside “evils” polluting places of learning. It’s a tradition sort of thing.
Speaking of traditions, there was one regarding name use and honorifics. As I had just met Haruko, I used her last name, Yamashita, and in respect, I added san to her name. San was acceptable between us as equals in age. But by the look on her face, she wanted to kill this, and quickly.
“You’re new to Japan, right?” She asked tentatively, her hands wringing before her. “You can call me Haruko. Let’s be friends…okay?”
I raised an eyebrow at her, and her smile widened. She didn’t duck her head anymore, but held my gaze steadily. I offered a shaky smirk.
You can be quite forward, can’t you?
“Okay…Haruko-chan.” Chan was used in affection, or towards younger people. With my chin to my chest, I bashfully scratched at my cheek. “You can call me Amaya.”
“Amaya-chan?” Haruko said this as if asking permission.
I gave a nod, and she hugged me quickly around the shoulders. Now it was my turn to blush. Her chest was so soft. “Yay! Amaya-chan, you’re going to love it here! I know it!”
She took me by the hand and led me through the different parts of the school—to the horse stables, the fragrant gardens, the archery range, the gymnasium, the tennis courts, the Olympic-sized swimming pool, the massive library…all things I’d seen before. But it was better with her. As she promised, she made each site more interesting, telling me intimate stories of each place. Like how Japan’s current prime minister’s wife was proposed to on the steps to the library, or how the horse stables were haunted by the spirit of a murdered student. And also, just as she promised, Haruko was careful in keeping us out of sight of the school officials, making me wonder how many times she had snuck off for…god knows what.
The last place she took me was a ways from the main school grounds. It led into a wooded area where a brook giggled through the dark stones and sunny earth. The lilac trees were in abundance there. The creamy-white flowers filled the air with a sweet scent. Haruko approached a large cherry blossom tree. The tree’s bark seemed chipped and pale, while the branches weren’t as thick with leaves as seemed proper. It was on a small elevation where the brook cut through the earth beneath it in a curious crescent. I could see the roots peeking from the hard soil and rock, and bent over to peer at them. They were dead and brittle.
“This is my favorite tree,” Haruko said softly. “I come here during lunch sometimes. Just…to feel its presence. I think the tree keeps me company. Does that sound weird? What am I saying, of course it does.” She giggled nervously.
I looked up at her, still with my hands on my knees. She had laid a hand on the trunk of the cherry blossom and had a dreamy smile on her face. “During the spring, the tree blooms, and you can see the petals floating down the river and out of sight. It’s lovely.” Her face tightened as her fingers slowly slipped down the trunk. My back started to tingle, and all at once I felt hot. “But the tree hasn’t been doing well, and I don’t know why.”
The breeze picked up, stirring the forest into conversation. I heard whispers. Spooked, I straightened and hugged myself. “Haruko-chan, maybe we should head back?” I tried to join her next to the tree, but suddenly I swooned. I fell to my knees, scraping them on the rocky riverbank. Blood swirled quick with the current.
“Amaya!” Haruko slipped down the incline to join me at my side. My chest started to hurt in that familiar way. I could feel the “beetles” coming.
“No,” I whispered in English. “Not again!”
“Amaya-chan, hold on to m—”
But everything blacked out as I slumped forward, and I felt the nightmares close in.
It wasn’t that long ago. Or maybe it was? I was a little stronger then. She came to me, crying…hysterical. She had a baby rabbit in her hands, and she kept stroking it.
A violent red stained its white fur.
“I can’t believe they did it!” she sobbed. “I can’t believe they actually did it! I thought they were teasing me!”
She sat near me, and I breathed in deep, smelling her scent, feeling the warmth of her energy. No one else has her kind of energy. It spilled over that day, and I just knew this was true. I’ve been around a long time. If there was one thing I was certain of, it was this.
Haruko was special.
…She was special, and she was mine.
“They took my knife from my book bag,” she whispered, her eyes staring into infinity. She was pale. Shaking. Her face tear stained. Her grip on the rabbit was becoming too hard. It squeaked in her hands as she roughly ran her hand over its head, completely oblivious. “They called me a freak. They said I’d do it myself anyway, so what was the big deal? They picked up Momo and the babies and…” her voice trailed and she just sat there rocking for a long time.
I didn’t need her to continue. I could fill in the rest. Poor girl. Her species is notoriously barbaric. It’s no wonder she is as she is.
“I’m taking Chibi home…” she whispered, holding up the baby rabbit in the sunlight. “No one understands. Momo didn’t hurt anyone. Neither did I. Why would they think I…?” She smiled, but her eyes were blank. Hollowed out from pain. “Chibi needs a safe place, where they can’t reach her.”
And I was Haruko’s safe place. Her peers always misunderstood her desires. But I know them perfectly well. The hour has become desperate, and I think it’s time for some mutual gratification…
When I opened my eyes, I was back in the nurse’s office, but this time Haruko wasn’t there. Instead, I saw a woman dressed in a simple blue dress with a white lab coat at a desk–Takano-san maybe? Also in the room, standing at the foot of my bed was—
“Dad!” I sat up, but I regretted it. The room blurred and spun, and my stomach flopped inside me. I felt hands push me gently back into the bed.
“Amaya, take it easy! You know how your body is after just one grand mal, I can’t even imagine how you must feel after two in a row like that!”
I blinked up at him, at first uncertain of what he meant. Then it slowly came back to me. “I had…another seizure?”
My dad nodded as he sat in the same chair Haruko had. He was dressed in a corporate business suit, but his tie was absent and the top button unfastened. “They called me after the first seizure and I tried to get off work then, honey. I really did. But my firm is completely tied up in deadlines and they just wouldn’t give me a break. It was only after you had another one that I was able to convince them to let me go.”
“Fumiko wasn’t available?”
He seemed surprised by the question. Looking at his hands, he shook his head. “No. She wasn’t.”
I gave a small sigh. “What happens now?”
“Well…I spoke with the headmaster and the nurse. If it had been just the one seizure today, then we could have left it at a day or so of rest. But after having two grand mals so close to one another, we think it might be best if—”
“I’m not staying at home, and I don’t want to see that doctor again! There isn’t anything left for me to do but to keep taking the medication. It’d just be a waste of time and money!” Never mind that I hated hospitals.
“Amaya, this is ridiculous! We thought you could handle school after your flare-ups died down, but we have to take this seriously now! You haven’t had attacks this badly since you were a little girl! What if something has developed?”
“What? Like brain cancer?”
My dad’s face paled. “Don’t joke about that!”
“Dad, trust me. I’m fine. Please, please, please don’t trap me in some kind of bubble. I’ll go crazy!”
He took a deep breath, his shoulders heaving. He rubbed at his face, then at his hair. “I’ll think about it. For now, let’s just get you home.”
The day’s passed. I mostly kept to myself, only sometimes playing with my younger half-brother, Kento. He was nine-years-old and the only one I felt any considerable affection towards. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate my dad, per se. But we’d been apart for years, and we hardly ever communicated in that frame of time. It doesn’t exactly do wonders for the father-daughter relationship, you know? And don’t even get me started on Fumiko. Her and me got along about as well as a Neo-Nazi and a Black Panther. She resented me for being the product of my mother and father’s marriage. I resented her for keeping my dad on such tight lockdown. We avoided each other on principle.
But Kento? I couldn’t really blame him for how things were. He was just a kid, and so sincere and kind that you couldn’t help but just love him. He was one of the reasons I stopped crying after I left America. When we first met, he presented me with a welcome drawing of himself, dad, Fumiko, and me outside of the house. As he handed me the paper, the very first words out of his mouth were:
“I’ve always wanted an older sister!”
Then he hugged me tight around the legs, and when he came away, I saw tears in his eyes. Tears! Just for meeting me!
Then again, a few days spent here quickly revealed to me why.
Kento didn’t have any friends at school. His mother was both critical and over-protective. My dad was busy with work all the time. The neighborhood kids teased him. Until I came along, he was a really lonely kid.
We were perfect for each other.
We played lots of Old Maid and Japanese word games. We also played Mr. Driller and Tekken on his PlayStation. Even though I could speak the native language, my reading and writing was not much better than his—it was really good practice, then, all of our time together. One day, with my dad’s permission, we even got to go down to the local market to get some ice cream. It was after that, when we were returning with our Caramel-Vanilla and Pistachio ice cream cones, laughing and making funny faces, that I saw her.
Haruko stood outside of our home, dressed in ripped jeans and a pink sweater. She kept tapping her sneaker, her hands wringing before her as she chewed at the corner of her lip and stared at the sidewalk. My stomach started to knot as we approached, some dark intuition telling me that I wouldn’t quite like what this encounter would bring. I took Kento’s hand and quietly tried to lead him away, down a different block.
It was at this same moment that Haruko let out a loud, “Moh!” and quickly started walking away.
Things would have ended there if Kento hadn’t suddenly cried out, “Amaya-chan, you’re going to make me drop my ice cream!”
I winced. Slowly my head turned. My eyes met with Haruko’s. We mirrored each other’s surprise.
Nervously, I waved at her. She waved back. With a heavy sigh, I started back toward the house, my eyes shooting daggers at Kento. Cute or not, intentional or not, it was clear he could still play the role of brotherly monkey wrench. Christ.
“Hello,” I said as we neared.
“Hi,” Haruko said, with a stiff bow. What was with the sudden formality? Up close, I noticed she had dark circles under her eyes, and her skin was sickly pale. “I–I hope I’m not intruding!”
I gave a nervous laugh. “Haruko-chan, you don’t have to be so stiff! We’re supposed to be friends…” But the girl seemed to tense up at this, and my smile faltered. “Uh…Right?”
She gave a nod of her head, but still kept her eyes on the street. “Mmm…”
I stared at her for a moment, before a tug on my arm reminded me of Kento’s presence. Blushing, I gestured at him. “Haruko, this is my half-brother, Kento. Kento, this is Haruko, from my new school. She was the one who helped me, after my second seizure.”
Kento’s eyes brightened. “Is that true?” He asked her excitedly.
She gave a shy smile. “Yes.”
With a cheer, he ran forward and threw his arms around her waist.
“Thank you so much!”
Haruko stared down at the top of his head, taken aback.
I slapped a hand to my head. “Kento, your ice cream…”
The boy whipped around to stare at me, then looked at his cone. His Pecan scoop was on the street. He touched his head.
Haruko and I laughed, and I held my cone out to him. “Here. You can have the rest of mine. I wanna talk to Haruko alone for a minute.”
“Okay!” He took my ice cream, and gave a final wave. “Bye bye, Haruko onee-san!”
He went through the gate and scampered up to the front door, slipping out of sight.
The silence stretched on between us.
I cleared my throat. “Haruko…how did you find me?”
She bit her lip again and turned her head. “I snuck into the office and found your records.”
My eyebrows rose. She is sneaky!
“I…I didn’t want to startle you, but I…needed to speak with you about something. It’s important.”
I crossed my arms, frowning softly. “Yes?”
Haruko’s eyes lifted and met mine. They were dull, almost glassy, and I could see they had become teary. She took a step toward me, then another. I tensed but didn’t move as she closed the distance between us. When she finally stopped, we were a scant few inches apart. Her eyes searched my face intently, her brow furrowed. My arms slowly uncrossed.
“Haruko-chan?” I said uncertainly.
She slowly shook her head. “Your eyes…were different then. And…and your ears, I thought. But maybe I was imagining it.”
Haruko’s gaze dropped and her face started to gain some color. “D-Did you really mean what you said?”
“About me being yours.”
My eyes widened and I let out a bewildered laugh. “Uh…”
My hesitance wasn’t the answer Haruko had expected. Her face twisted up in an emotion that I couldn’t quite explain. Certainly she wasn’t happy with my reaction, but was she angry? Or…
“Amaya-chan, you said I was yours when you…you forced yourself on me! When you touched me and made me feel that way! You said I was yours!”
I took a step back, my hands going up. My heart was loud in my ears, and I could feel my face heat up. “Haruko, I never said that! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Haruko’s face crumpled and the tears gushed forth. She was sad. She was sad. What the hell? “How could you say that? I thought you understood me! I thought you accepted me! Was it all a lie!?”
“But I don’t know what you’re talking about!” My voice was rising in anger. What was Haruko going on about? We barely knew each other—how could I ever—
She unzipped her sweater and advanced on me, making me practically skip backwards. Underneath, Haruko wasn’t wearing anything at all. Her breasts, her pink nipples were free to the air. I averted my eyes, my body seizing, but something in my head registered that something wasn’t right, and reluctantly my eyes returned to her.
Haruko’s entire torso had been cut. It had large dark scars running across it, crissing and crossing so that they blended together in places. There were bruises on her ribs as well, and they looked fairly recent. My hands went to contain my gasp of horror. This reaction caused her to flinch, and she quickly wrapped her sweater around her.
“So it was a lie,” Haruko sobbed. She shook her head again as she backed away. “Amaya, how could you use me like that? Did the others put you up to this?” Her hands tightened around her body. “Amaya, damn you!”
I couldn’t speak as she spared me one last look of anguish before running off. My feet were rooted to the spot. I could hardly breathe. All I could think was…
Why is this happening?
…And why do I feel like I’m betraying her?