Fear is the Heart of Love

Chapter 18

How long does this happiness last?

Even after two days, I woke with a smile on my face. I was more affectionate, more dependent on Masamune. He joked that he should have proposed to me a long time ago if he knew I would act like this. I laughed too, but I wondered that if I wasn’t dying, would I be like this?

At work Monday, Kisa noticed the ring on my finger at lunch time. Suddenly, he was dragging me to a break room.

“Kisa! What are you doing?! I’m supposed to eat lunch with Ma-I mean, Takano-san!” I remonstrated.

He closed the door behind us and faced me with his arms crossed. I stood there awkwardly, waiting for him to say something.

“Richan, is there something you need to tell me?” He questioned reproachfully.

My cheeks flushed pink, but I was tongue-tied. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone else.

Kisa sighed and said, “What’s with the ring on your finger?”

My blush deepened, but I figured it was pointless to deny anything.

“…I got engaged.”

Kisa gasped in surprise and clapped a hand over his mouth. Though I was still blushing, the corners of my mouth quivered upwards in a smile.

Kisa squealed in happiness and hugged me around the neck tightly. He cheered, “You guys are getting married? Congratulations!”

I laughed and hugged him back lightly, patting him on the back. He pulled back with a smile, giggling a little.

“Why are you so happy? I’m the one getting married.”

“Oh but Richan, I’m happy for you! When’s the wedding?”

“We didn’t set up an exact date yet, but we’re thinking in a month or so. It’s not going to be a ceremony really; just getting married in a courthouse, something simple.”

“That’s good enough! Oh, this is so great Richan, you have no idea!” Kisa laughed.

“Did you tell your parents?”

My smile fell as my cheeks turned crimson. I looked to the ground in shame, showing my obvious response.

“But Richan…Did you at least tell them…you know,” Kisa looked down on me with commiseration.

I bit my lip, closing my eyes as I shook my head slowly.

“Oh Ritsu,” Kisa murmured. He hugged me again, but gently. I gratefully hugged him back.

“I’m just…..scared,” I closed my eyes, imagining my mother’s face if I told her I had half a year left. And what about my father? I hadn’t even spoken to him since my collapse, much less forgiven him.

“It’s okay,” Kisa patted my back, his voice soothing. I felt like a child being soothed by its parents, but I needed this comfort right now.

A knock on the door startled us out of our embrace.

“Oi Onodera, you in here?” Masamune called.

“Uh, yeah! Hold on,” I responded. Kisa unlocked the door, opening it and walking out. As he did though, he smiled and whispered to Masamune, “Congratulations!”

I blushed as Masamune smirked.

“That’s what you two were talking about?”

“O-One of the things,” I shrugged. I sighed and decided to enlighten him about the issue brought to mind.

“Masamune, we have to tell my parents. Everything,” I looked up at him, hoping he’d understand what I meant. He did, for he sighed and nodded.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get through it,” Masamune gave me an encouraging smile and hugged me. I wrapped my arms around him, resting my head on his shoulder. I relaxed in his embrace, feeling my problems and stress melt away. He was the only person capable of doing this; making my senses and heart go wild, but at the same time, put my mind at ease.

He kissed me gently, encouragingly. I kissed him back before I heard footsteps coming down the hall. I quickly separated from him with a blush and he sighed, but ruffled my hair with a smile.

“You don’t need to hide it from everyone anymore,” He taunted.

I frowned and snapped back, “Let me have my pride!”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Let’s go, I’m starving,” Masamune led the way out.

When we reached home, I called my mother. I made it quick, telling her that Masamune and I had something to tell them. She sounded concerned, but agreed happily and invited us Saturday. I almost changed my mind about the visit. She sounded so happy; I couldn’t crush her hope to have me for one more year. But it would be even crueler to die early and her never to know.

As we drove to my parents on Saturday, I wrung my hands together. How would I tell them? How would they react? What would they do? How would my father react to my engagement? What should I do?

So many questions.

We were half way there when Masamune stopped at a red light and I croaked, “Masamune…I don’t think I can do this.”

I couldn’t look at him as I said this. I felt like such a coward. I didn’t want to look over and see the disappointment in his eyes. But he just simply reached over, laced his hand with mine, and kissed me on the cheek.

“I’ll be there,” he said. That was all the reassurance I needed. How could his simple actions make me feel like I could fly? Make me feel like I could accomplish anything with him, even defy inevitable death?

I nodded and we continued forward.

We soon reached my parent’s house and was greeted by my mother directly. She enveloped us in her arms, kissing us on the cheeks. She treated Masamune like he was her own son.

“So, what do you need to tell me?” She smiled gently as she led us to the same drawing room as before.

“Umm…I think we should wait for Dad to come home,” I suggested as we walked.

“Ah, Kei is actually up in his study. I’ll send a maid for him,” She stopped a maid and ordered for Kei, which the maid happily obliged.

“There’s no need to worry about Kei. He’s……come to peace, you could say,” My mother chuckled, but I knew better. She must have threatened him with something, for my mother was actually quite cunning.

My father was down in minutes. He hugged me as if nothing happened and shook Masamune’s hand generously. He sat next to my mother across from us as I sat next to Masamune.

“What’s the news?” My mother asked.

“I suppose we’ll start with the good news,” I spoke softly, almost anxiously.

“Good?” My mother questioned with apprehension.

“Yes. Masamune and I...” I trailed off, unable to finish. But Masamune reached over and held my hand, giving me newfound courage. I took a deep breath.

“Masamune and I are getting married,” I declared with confidence.

Both my parents blinked before smiling. My father’s was more strained than my mother’s, but my mother was beaming.

“Really? Congratulations! Is there a ring?” My mother asked excitedly, searching my hands for one. I blushed a little, but held my left hand forward for her to see. She gasped and reached across the space between us, holding my hand gently and admiring.

“It’s beautiful! Oh Masamune, you’re such a sweetheart!” My mother giggled and I flushed a deep red.

My father bowed his head slightly and said, “Congratulations.”

After a few minutes of my mother tittering happily, my father interrupted and asked, “You said that was the good?”

I tightened my mouth and sighed, “…Yes. There’s something else I need to tell you.”

My mother turned to me in uncertainty and worry. I had to look down from her gaze. They reflected what I felt.

“I saw Dr. Yukue last Saturday,” I stopped, gathering my strength. Masamune squeezed my hand and my parents looked with alarm.

“Compared to a month ago, the virus has increased by eight percent. I’m now eighty-eight percent infected and there’s no way to reverse it. If the virus continues to spread this quickly, then,” I took a chance and looked up. My mother had her fingers pressed to her mouth, her eyes misty with unshed tears. My father squeezed her other hand, his own face grave and body rigid.

Tears sprung into my eyes and leaked down. But my voice was surprisingly strong as I gave the verdict.

“I have six months to live.”

My mother moaned in despair and wept. My father enveloped her in his arms, shedding his own few tears. I sat there with Masamune, watching them break and crumble. Piece by piece. Every time, I took something from them. A son, a family, love. And I replaced it with emptiness, confusion, and suffering.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” I chanted over and over as I cried. My voice was strong but my tears betrayed me. Masamune hugged me close as I continued to apologize pointlessly.

My father looked to us and I saw in his eyes that he wanted to say, “Please. Just leave for now and let us cope.”

He didn’t mean it in disgust, but meant it in pain.

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