We'll be holding a party at my place. Please come at six o'clock to room 225 in the girls' dormitory.
Sorry for notifying you this way, but I have class representative duties.
- Lilly Satou
NARRATOR: "Not reassured, I continue walking down the hallway until I reach Lilly's dormitory room. I hesitate for a second, but eventually give three sharp taps on the door. A brief and muffled exchange of words can be heard from the other side. Listening closer, I can just pick out Hanako and Lilly's voices. As they finish, Lilly calls out."
LILLY: "Might that be Hisao?"
HISAO: "Yep. I got the note you left for me."
LILLY: "You can come in, the door is unlocked."
NARRATOR: "Glad that I managed to get the right room, I press down on the handle and let myself in. As the door swings open, my greeting to them is stolen from my mouth."
NARRATOR: "Lilly sits at a low table in the center of the room in her pajamas, while on the other side sits Hanako in a nightgown. Being dressed in only my normal school clothes, I feel quite out of place. I steal a quick glance at the lovely sight of the two, my eyes tearing themselves from Lilly's long, thin and pale legs only with a measure of reluctance."
HISAO: "H-hi. I... think I brought everything that was needed."
NARRATOR: "She smiles and nods. I wonder if she's even aware of the pleasant sight she makes. The thin dark blue silk of her pajamas really suits her, accentuating both her eyes and her curves. The look of her last night, that tentative and almost shy demeanor, seems all but replaced by her coy nature. It's nice to see her confidence returned, though I can't help casting my mind back to how she looked back then. I look to Hanako, who nervously sits opposite her in her gown. It isn't a surprise that she'd wear something so conservative, though it definitely looks cute."
HISAO: "Hi, Hanako. Happy birthday."
HANAKO: "Ah... th-thank you."
NARRATOR: "She's unusually skittish, despite the fact that she's warmed up to me considerably over the weeks we've come to know each other. This is a pretty unusual situation, I guess."
LILLY: "Feel free to take a seat, Hisao. I'll just pour you two some tea."
HISAO: "Sure thing."
NARRATOR: "Lilly takes the steaming red teapot from the side of the table and gently pours its contents into our teacups as I take a seat beside them, setting my bag against the nearby wall. With my senses returned and hormones somewhat calmer, I realize that this is the first time I've ever been in Lilly's room. The first thing I notice is the ambient smell, just slightly different from that in mine... probably faint perfume, or nail polish. It could be anything of a girl's, really. Another is the plain nature of the room, visually. Beige walls, a smart yet unadorned cabinet, the lack of posters or wall hangings. It's distinctly utilitarian, something I should have anticipated given her blindness. The only thing that really seems out of the ordinary is several piles of books sitting on the floor, each reaching from roughly knee height to waist height. Some of them have printed titles, others are entirely blank except for dots of Braille. The fact that the ones with printed titles are uniformly in English is interesting, though not completely unexpected. She did mention her parents impressing the language upon her and Akira, after all."
HISAO: "Your room looks nice, Lilly."
NARRATOR: "I hear a call of thanks from beside my shoulder. Looking back to Hanako, her gaze is fixed on her lap and her hands are nervously clutching her gown. It's now that I notice why. With these clothes on, the extent of her scarring is far more visible; reaching down her neck and out to cover her right shoulder. Considering this is a party for her, she doesn't really look like she's enjoying the experience now that I'm here."
HISAO: "So how old are you turning? Eighteen?"
NARRATOR: "Her look of surprise, not at all helped by her total lack of skill at hiding her feelings, shows that she was trying to mentally tune me out. This is really quite awkward."
HISAO: "On the plus side, there's only two more years till you can drink. So who's older? You or Lilly?"
HANAKO: "Lilly. She had her birthday in... F-February. What about... yours?"
HISAO: "Earlier this year, so it's already passed."
NARRATOR: "Unstated is that it passed while I was stuck in the hospital. That was... a particularly low point of the experience. Conversation with her dries up as quickly as expected. It isn't long before Lilly's finished preparing our drinks, setting down the three teacups in front of us. I pick mine up, immediately noticing a much stronger aroma and taste than the tea we've been having."
HISAO: "Huh, it tastes different than the tea we have in school."
LILLY: "It's a different variety, rather than the kind we've been having there. You've never tasted Orange Jaipur before?"
HISAO: "Not... that I can remember. I usually drink coffee after all, like when we were in town. This is nice, though."
NARRATOR: "As we settle down and sip, Hanako seems to become more relaxed, or at least a bit less tense about my presence. We all finish our cups at about the same time, with Hanako failing rather badly at hiding her anticipation for the cake that's sitting to the side, begging to be eaten. Come to think of it, I'm feeling very eager myself. First things first, though."
LILLY: "Yes, now is good."
NARRATOR: "Each of us knowing exactly what the other means, I lean sideways and dig around in my bag for the doll I bought Hanako as Lilly gets up and retrieves her gift. Hiding our gifts in our hands, we present them both on the table at the same time."
LILLY: "Happy birthday!"
(at the same time)
HISAO: "Happy birthday!"
NARRATOR: "Hanako silently sits looking at them for seconds on end, out of sheer surprise. My little wooden doll, replete with Victorian-era dress and little hat, lies next to a light brown and fluffy stuffed bear from Lilly. She clutches at her gown as she moves to speak, not taking her eyes off the modest presents."
HANAKO: "Th... thank you... Lilly and... Hisao..."
NARRATOR: "Her voice begins to crack as Lilly reaches forward, wrapping her in a soft embrace. The sight of Hanako holding Lilly so tightly is heartwarming, so much so that I couldn't wipe the smile off my face even if I wanted to. As Lilly gently rests her face on Hanako's head, she speaks so quietly and softly that I can barely hear."
LILLY: "Happy birthday, Hanako."
HISAO: "Happy birthday."
NARRATOR: "Hanako gives a small nod, holding on to Lilly for a time before breaking off and wiping an eye. I guess that for Hanako simply having someone, anyone, to be there and love her would be special. The fact that Lilly and I can now share that role for her is something I think I will always be grateful for."
NARARTOR: "Hanako gently takes the doll and teddy bear, holding them both to her chest as she warmly smiles. For a long time, all three of us simply sit in happy silence. The quiet is not broken until Lilly's soft voice beckons."
LILLY: "Shall we have at the cake, then?"
NARRATOR: "Her proposal is met with two looks of unhidden anticipation."
HISAO: "No argument from me."
HISAO: "Phew, that was good."
NARRATOR: "I contentedly sit back, both Lilly and Hanako looking just as satisfied with the food as I. It took some effort, but we managed to finish off the cake in one go."
HANAKO: "I don't think I could fit any more in."
LILLY: "I think next time I'll buy a smaller cake."
NARRATOR: "Hanako and I give a chuckle, but I can't help noticing that, come this time next year, we'll have graduated from Yamaku. That fact is somewhat depressing, since I finally feel as if my life is starting to get back into some kind of order. Idly looking around Lilly's neat and orderly room, her books catch my eye once again. This may be a little impetuous, but my curiosity gets the better of me. Besides, I don't think she'll mind in any case."
HISAO: "Hey Lilly, do you mind if I take a look at one of your books?"
LILLY: "You're quite welcome to, Hisao. That said, if you can overcome two language barriers I will be quite impressed."
HISAO: "Two? Braille and... oh right, English."
NARRATOR: "She gives a nod."
HISAO: "I knew you were studying English, but I'm still amazed that you're this proficient at it."
LILLY: "One could say it's a perfect way to avoid people borrowing my collection."
NARRATOR: "She says it in jest, but I am a little disappointed. Having all these books around me with no way of reading them feels like one big tease. Hanako giggles quietly as I reach over the closest pile, plucking the topmost book with only a cursory glance. “Death on the Nile,” in large letters on the cover, is the only printed text to be seen. I sit down for a while with the book open on my lap as Lilly and Hanako talk. Try as I might to feel out the dots of Braille printed on each page, they seem to blend into one another and become indistinct. I'd thought this to be a lot easier than it actually is. With some practice though, I could see someone with a better sense of touch than mine managing to read at a pretty fast speed. Noticing a silence that had probably begun earlier, I look up from the dotted pages to see Lilly smiling as Hanako sips another cup of tea."
HISAO: "Is something wrong?"
LILLY: "Quite the opposite, your curiosity's quite endearing."
NARRATOR: "I am inordinately pleased by the praise, though I can feel my cheeks heating up a little."
HISAO: "Thanks, but I don't know how else I could act."
LILLY: "To be honest, I wasn't altogether sure of how you saw us, since you were a new transfer student from another school. If you'd pitied us, I would have been quite offended."
NARRATOR: "There's a certain edge to Lilly's voice, one that I'd quite possibly place as pride. Glancing over to Hanako, she seems even more subdued than usual, looking towards Lilly rather than me."
HISAO: "I wouldn't worry about that. Considering the position I've found myself in, I'm perhaps the last person that should be dispensing pity on others. My parents' first interactions with me after my heart attack... I wouldn't want anyone to see that kind of face."
NARRATOR: "I catch myself from going any further, but not soon enough. Both of the girls seem to be put off, Lilly especially."
LILLY: "I'm... sorry. I shouldn't have gone that far..."
NARRATOR: "An awkward silence reigns for a few beats, thankfully ended as Lilly's head perks up in a gesture I've come to easily recognize."
HISAO: "Hear something?"
LILLY: "The door..."
NARRATOR: "Everyone looks towards it, trusting in Lilly's senses. True enough, the door handle shudders and turns, a flash of yellow and black slipping through."
AKIRA: "Akira Satou is in the house! Happy birthday, Hanako!"
HANAKO: "Ah... thank you..."
NARRATOR: "Akira takes a seat at the table as she plops her tall bag beside her. She has her trademark boisterous air about her, making no small deal of her entrance. Hanako clutches her gown to steady herself, but doesn't appear too shaken after she settles down. I guess she must have met Akira before, not a huge surprise given how close Akira and Lilly are. Akira doesn't seem to be the least bit put off by Hanako's scarring, despite its prominence, but she also doesn't pull any punches in how she acts despite Hanako's shy nature."
LILLY: "I thought you said you'd have to work, Akira. Did you manage to get off for a while?"
AKIRA: "Eh, kinda. I feel bad about ditching the guys doing overtime, so I gotta get back soon. But I felt bad about not coming to your cute little Hanako's birthday too, so for now I'm here."
NARRATOR: "She grins widely at Hanako, who flowers into a full blush as she pins her eyes downwards toward her lap. Her mouth seems to widen and retract over and over, as if she was trying to suppress a smile out of embarrassment. It's a little strange how her reaction seems to be more immediate and forceful than when she's embarrassed by the way she looks. All she manages to give in return is a tiny nod, failing to hide her appreciation to any great extent. Not that many people give her positive attention, I suppose. It makes me respect how well Akira can handle her, making her so happy, compared to what little I could do."
AKIRA: "Now then, before I go..."
NARRATOR: "She reaches into the bag beside her and grandly displays its contents. Out come two large glass bottles, both with long French names on the labels. Hanako's expression is an odd mix of surprise and curiosity, and I suspect mine's no different. Lilly, not seeing the proceedings, is oblivious to what's going on."
HANAKO: "Akira... this isn't..."
LILLY: "What is it?"
HISAO: "Wine. One red, one white."
LILLY: "A-Akira! That's...!"
AKIRA: "Relax, relax, it's not like Shizune's here to scold you."
HISAO: "Lilly has a point, that's not exactly allowed on campus. ...or anywhere, really. We're still short of the legal drinking age, remember?"
AKIRA: "Rich words for someone practically drooling as they examine a bottle."
NARRATOR: "She got me there. I am genuinely interested in trying some, even just a little. While Hanako may not be handling one herself, her look does tell me that she's far from opposed to the notion as well. Lilly rubs her forehead, giving up the fight that she knows Akira would win due to simply not caring enough about those funny “rules” and “regulations.”"
LILLY: "Just don't breathe a word of this to anyone in the school, please. I beg of you."
AKIRA: "I'm not stupid, don't worry. That said, I gotta get back to work pretty soon."
LILLY: "So soon? But you only just arrived..."
AKIRA: "Sorry, Lilly. Good to see you two again though, and you Hisao."
HISAO: "See you later, then."
HANAKO: "Um... g-goodbye... Akira..."
NARRATOR: "She levers herself up with a grunt and waltzes out of the room, leaving us alone with the two items on the table."
NARRATOR: "Lilly gives a nervous giggle at her sister's antics as Hanako takes a wine bottle."
HISAO: "What do you think, Lilly?"
NARRATOR: "She rests her elbow on the table and pinches the bridge of her nose, thinking things through. She really doesn't seem to be able to keep up with her sister."
LILLY: "Well... it's already here. We may as well have some."
NARRATOR: "No sooner does she say it that I take a quick glance around the room for glasses."
NARRATOR: "A small groan above me reminds me that Lilly retired to rest on her bed for a bit a few minutes ago. Almost completely drained of energy, I manage to stand up and drag myself to the side of the bed, sitting down and leaning my back against it."
HISAO: "Good God."
NARRATOR: "Lilly's groan sounds lifeless."
HISAO: "Too much to drink?"
LILLY: "My head hurts."
HISAO: "Yeah, too much to drink."
NARRATOR: "I rest my head back and idly stare at the ceiling. What an unmitigated disaster. Like proper idiots, we all drank the night away with one glass after another. Hanako simply fell to the side asleep, and it's a miracle I don't feel as ill as Lilly."
LILLY: "Hey, Hisao? I'm sorry about today. I... didn't think this would happen."
HISAO: "It's fine, Lilly. To tell the truth, I had a lot of fun today."
HISAO: "Mmm. I think Hanako did too. No, she certainly did."
NARRATOR: "There's a short silence, before another groan resounds from the supine Lilly."
HISAO: "You okay?"
LILLY: "As you said, I just drank too much. What's the time?"
HISAO: "The time? Uh, it's..."
NARRATOR: "I quickly look at my wristwatch, its numerals barely legible in the gloom."
HISAO: "About midnight."
LILLY: "Curfew's in effect, then."
HISAO: "Yeah, guessed as much. We'll all have to sleep here for tonight."
NARRATOR: "As soon as I say it, I hear the sheets moving as Lilly starts to sit up."
HISAO: "Ah, no, go back to sleep, don't try to get up."
LILLY: "Hisao, I have to..."
HISAO: "You're in worse shape than me by any stretch. Get some rest."
LILLY: "But what about..."
HISAO: "I'll grab some spare blankets and put them over her, don't worry."
NARRATOR: "As I give a deep yawn and stand to retrieve them, I hear her lie back down with a soft thud."
LILLY: "Thank you, Hisao."
HISAO: "No problem, it's the least I can do. You look outright wasted."
LILLY: "I'm not... wasted... just a little bit... tired."
NARRATOR: "She starts pouting, a slight slur beginning to distort her words as the alcohol takes hold of her again. I grab a couple of blankets rolled up at the end of her bed. Quietly walking over to Hanako, I carefully lay the blankets over her peacefully sleeping figure, making sure not to wake her up. The thick smell of alcohol coming off her breath makes me doubt she'd wake up no matter what I did, though. I stand and take one last measure of the room. Two girls, both very drunk, and one guy sleeping overnight with them in the female students' dorm. What a scandal that'd be if it broke out. As I move to sit back down at the side of the bed, I steal one last glance at Lilly. Her sprawling, disheveled figure lies resting peacefully, slightly turned to the side. I crouch down to get a better look."
NARRATOR: "Her white skin blends in with the white pillow of the bed, a look of slumber-born peacefulness on her face. Usually she seems so confident and forward, always there and caring for Hanako. Now, though, she seems painfully delicate. I think back to Hanako's presents. I thought it'd be a nice occasion for her, but I'd hardly expected it to be so moving. One birthday after another, year after year. Just she and Lilly, all alone. ...I guess it wasn't just the presents she liked. Resigning myself to an uncomfortable sleep, I sit down at the side of the bed once again and rest my tired arms beside me."
LILLY: "Hey, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "Lilly's voice is so quiet I can barely hear it. She must be on the verge of sleep."
LILLY: "Thank you."
HISAO: "Thank you? For what?"
LILLY: "For being here."
HISAO: "...That's okay."
NARRATOR: "As I hear a deep breath, it's obvious Lilly's gone to sleep. After closing my eyes, it doesn't take long for slumber to take me as well."
Next Scene: The Day After