NARRATOR: "Once again, I find myself in front of Hanako's door after another of her unexplained absences from class."



NARRATOR: "Nothing. Considering this is the second day in a row she's been like this, I'm starting to worry about her. Summoning my willpower, I decide to try one last way to get her to respond."

HISAO: "Hanako, if you don't say anything I'll go get the nurse for you."

HANAKO: "...Go away."

NARRATOR: "Wh... what? It's hard to tell whether her tone's one of depression, anger, or both. What in the world can I actually do to help her, if she doesn't even want help? The message is clear enough. I can't just leave her like this, though; just sitting in her room for days on end. Rubbing my temples in thought, I withdraw to my own room to think about how to proceed. Rationality is what's needed here, as an overreaction may just make matters worse. I dig around drawer after drawer of my desk, looking for where I put that damned piece of paper. Before she left, Lilly told me the number to call her on while in Scotland and I wrote it down. Now that I need it though, the damned thing is—"

NARRATOR: "Ah. Here. I probably should have just entered it directly into my cell phone, come to think of it. Without further ado, I enter the numbers and anxiously press the call button. The fact the phone rings at all shows that I got the prefix for a call to Scotland right at least. I've never made an international call before, so that's some comfort. Eventually the phone picks up, a feminine voice I don't recognize on the other end. It's probably Lilly's mother."

???: ">Good morning. This is Karla Satou. May I help you?<"

NARRATOR: "English? Suddenly finding myself unprepared, I realize I can't understand a word she says, either due to my limited vocabulary or her heavy accent. I should have anticipated this, since according to Lilly, her mother is a native Scot. I soldier on in the hope that she must know some Japanese, considering it's her daughter's native language."

HISAO: "Um, it's Hisao Nakai... speaking..."

NARRATOR: "An enthusiastic sound of realization can be heard as she recognizes the language. My feeling of relief is immense.

MRS. SATOU: "Ah, you must be one of Lilly's friends from school, correct?"

NARRATOR: "Even so, her accent means I have to concentrate to work out what she's saying."

HISAO: "Yes, that's right. Pleased to speak to you, Mrs. Satou."

MRS. SATOU: "It's so nice of her to find someone so polite! Lilly dear, it's for you!"

NARRATOR: "Her mother seems nice, if a little overenthusiastic given the mundane situation. There's a small silence as Lilly takes her time getting to the phone. In the distance, I can just make out her mother scolding her playfully for just getting up."

LILLY: "Hello, Lilly speaking."

HISAO: "You sound awful."

NARRATOR: "She makes a sound somewhere between a dying animal and a yawn. The one thing I did remember to check before calling was the time zone. It'd be pretty late in the morning over there, so she really has no excuse."

HISAO: "Not feeling well?"

LILLY: "Just tired. What time is it there?"

HISAO: "Late afternoon. School finished for the day not long ago. You're really not a morning person, are you?"

LILLY: "I don't need you making fun of it as well..."

NARRATOR: "It takes me a measure of restraint not to laugh at her pained groan. Poor girl."

HISAO: "How're you doing over there then, bar the mornings?"

LILLY: "It's been enjoyable. After not meeting them for so long, just having a meal together with my parents is nice. Though the pool and the sheer size of the house might have something to do with that as well."

NARRATOR: "Even if they're not in Japan, from the way it sounds her family must be pretty wealthy to live so luxuriously."

LILLY: "Are things all right with you and Hanako?"

NARRATOR: "Damn, I was hoping that wouldn't be brought up quite so quickly. I take a moment to try and sort out exactly how to describe the situation without causing her undue worry, but she picks up on that without a word being said."

LILLY: "Hanako's not well, is she?"

HISAO: "How did you know?"

LILLY: "Because today is her birthday. I'd hoped she might have gotten at least a little better after coming to know you, but... How is she right now?"

HISAO: "She missed school yesterday and seemed out of sorts when I checked up on her. Today she missed school again, and just told me to go away. I've really got no idea what to make of it. Has this happened in the past? Is it related to her scarring in some way?"

LILLY: "Unfortunately so. Roughly the same thing happened last year when her birthday came up. As far as I can tell, it's because her parents died in the accident that caused her scarring, and Hanako blames herself for their deaths."

NARRATOR: "What she says does seem to make sense. If she's blaming herself on her birthday, she may well be ruing that she was ever born. The fact that Lilly seems so in the dark about it though, almost to the extent that I am, is a surprise."

HISAO: "So that's why she lives in the student dormitories, as well. Has she told you any more about the accident?"

LILLY: "As close as we've come... she's very barely told me anything about what happened. What I know about it is largely conjecture."

NARRATOR: "She sounds depressed, almost defeated. Considering the trauma Hanako must have gone through, I really can't fault Lilly for not knowing. Nevertheless, she still seems to consider it a personal failing."

HISAO: "Don't blame yourself, Lilly. With everything she's gone through..."

LILLY: "I know. Thank you, Hisao. I'm sorry I can't be of more help to you."

HISAO: "It's fine, I'll just give it some more thought. Thanks, and have a good time in Scotland."

LILLY: "Um, I..."

HISAO: "Hmm?"

LILLY: "It's nothing. Thank you for taking care of Hanako."

HISAO: "...Okay. Bye."

LILLY: "Goodbye."

NARRATOR: "And with that, the line goes silent. Amid the seemingly only increased number of questions I can't answer, the most immediate is what Lilly was going to say. Oh. Oh no. I'm an idiot. She must have thought I was calling to talk with her, but I only asked for help with Hanako. Even more shameful than that thought is the fact that such an appraisal would be largely correct. Well... first things first. For now, I need to at least sort out Hanako and make sure that she's actually eating okay. The occasional passing students give badly hidden glances at the plate of food I carry to the female dormitories. It's hardly a meal to be proud of, only being an instant microwave meal from the convenience store, but it should at least fill her up. Eventually I arrive outside of her room, after having to ward off a couple of girls who jokingly tried to pilfer the food I'd taken so long to procure. I decide to forgo knocking, since it was proven to be an utterly useless measure and it's somewhat difficult to do with my hands full."

HISAO: "Hanako, it's Hisao. I know you're listening. I got some food for you."

NARRATOR: "Silence. As I expected."

HISAO: "I'll leave it beside your door. Please eat it at least, okay?"

NARRATOR: "There. I've said my piece. Now it's up to her. Putting the plate down, I walk back to my own room to eat my dinner. By the time I return to Hanako's dormitory, a good hour's passed. Thankfully, there isn't anything to be seen beside her door. I walk back at least somewhat happier that she's eating. If she intends to get through this by herself, then being able to help, even if it's just in such a small way, is at least something."

Next Scene: A World Away