Bittersweet

Christmas Eve Dinner

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Christmas Eve Dinner:

"How are you?" Tsuzuki whispered.

"Good," Anna said. "Is he…?" Her man nodded.

"He's gone," he said. The woman's eyes lit up in relief. They looked up when they heard footsteps. Becky stood in the doorway, watching them. Anna quickly sat up.

"Becky?" she asked. Her best friend gasped.

"Nurse!" she yelled as she raced down the hall. "She's up! She's up!" Anna turned to Tsuzuki.

"What do we do about her?" she asked. A sweat drop formed on Tsuzuki's head.

"I'll think of something…" he mumbled.

At seven o'clock, the whole crew knew that Anna was up and better. The nurses cleared her to leave in the morning after an overnight observation. The crew had dinner in the hospital cafeteria. Mike passed around the meals.

"Here you are," he said to each one. "Sorry the food sucks here."

"It's alright," Angie said. Mike gave Anna extra food.

"You need this after three days," he said. Anna gave him a nervous smile.

"Thanks…" she mumbled. She didn't argue; he was right after all. It had been three days. Anna paused when something touched her hand. She looked and saw Tsuzuki eyeing her. He gave her a little smile.

"It's okay," his eyes told her. Anna smiled back as she held his hand. She took in the conversations around her.

"We'll leave in the morning."

"This sushi sucks."

"I warned you."

"How is your husband, Lisa?"

"Good, he keeps asking when we'll come home."

"Soon, we found Anna. Now, we can go home with her."

Anna smiled as she shook her head. "No."

The American women all stared at with wide eyes. "What?!"

"But why?" Becky asked. Anna gave her a little smile.

"I am home now," she said.

"You can't mean that!" Amy said.

"What about California and your aunt?" Angie asked.

"I never felt like I was home in California," Anna explained. "I love you guys and Aunt Allison. But, I don't belong there." She tightly held Tsuzuki's hand. "Japan has always been home to me. I can't leave when I have friends and lovers here."

"But…" Becky began. Willow touched her hand.

"Willow?" her friend asked.

"Let her stay," the other woman said.

"But…"

Willow shook her head. "We can't cling onto her forever. These people are good to her."

"I'll keep in touch with you," Anna promised. Becky eyed her with big eyes.

"You promise?" she asked.

"Yes," her friend replied. "Every day." Becky broke down into tears. Willow rubbed her back.

"Shhh," she whispered. "It's okay. It's okay."

"No!" Becky cried. "She's leaving us!" Her crying hit the sky as people in the cafeteria all eyed the group.

"Is she okay?" a woman whispered. Tatsumi waved her off.

"Yeah," he said. "She just heard some bad news." The woman turned back to her meal with unease.

"Cut it, Becky!" Clare hissed. "You're making a scene!"

"I don't care!" the former photo club president wailed. "She's leaving us!" Everyone gave off a nervous laugh. Watari clapped his hands together.

"Okay!" he said. "Who wants dessert?" Everyone raised their hands at the table. They all had sweet dumplings.

"Yuck!" Tsuzuki wailed. "These dumplings suck!" His girl giggled.

"What?" he whimpered. Anna smiled and shook her head.

"Nothing," she said.

"You could have nothing!" Tatsumi said sharply. Tsuzuki lowered his head.

"Okay…" he mumbled over the stale-tasting treats. Anna smiled as she looked at her people. For once, she felt happy with them. Her old glass box came crashing down around her in the sky and formed stairs to the ground. These past three days opened her eyes and helped walk down to the earth. Anna looked at them. Becky, Willow, Amy, Clare, Angie, Lisa, Gillian, Edith, Emiko, Sara, Hotaru, Mike, Rihoko, Yoko-chan, Tatsumi, Watari, Hisoka, and most importantly, Tsuzuki Asato. A warm feeling bloomed in her chest.

I don't feel so alone anymore, Anna thought. I never really was alone to begin with. My friends have been there for me all along.

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