30 Nights and Tomorrow On

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I had all and then most of you some and now none of you (Lord Huron – The Night We Met)

Dead souls didn’t just come and approach their reapers, it seemed.

Gilbert hated it when he had to search for them instead. Especially when they died inside their locked away apartment or some countryside three hours away from the downtown. This time, he stared at a ten-million-dollars-worth house in front of him and wondered how to get in.

It’d be easy to knock at the gate and wait for someone to come and get him—but how would he explain why he’s here? Oh, I am a reaper at work, searching for this kid who just died, can you check on her?

Minutes of wandering around, looking for ways to climb the gate, Gilbert noticed that there might be no one else home. Pity, he thought to himself, a daughter just died at their house and their parents just decided they didn’t want to see her and went out on their own.

Gilbert easily made it to the other half of the gate, jumping over the bars and barged into one of the windows in the kitchen. The interior had him in awe for a while. Everything shimmered in gold and silver, ceramic tiles underneath his foot shone his own reflection. There were pillars and paintings on the corridor, dim lights led him out the kitchen toward the living room where it all began.

A girl, probably in her middle school, sat at the couch, watching a morning drama aired on her luxurious LCD. She’s still wearing a uniform with wavy hairs tied lowly into pigtails. Anyone would guess she’s on her way preparing for her school when the incident happened.

Gilbert’s eyes pained at the sight on his left side. At the bottom of a spiral staircase, red was coming out fresh from a body, tainting the entire ceramics. The body, sprawled lifeless and stiff, was that girl’s.

Well, none or less.

“Anna Hughes, is it?”

The girl only moved upon hearing her name. Gilbert stepped closer, sitting at the arm roll. He should have not been surprised to see how blank her eyes were.

Anna stared at him back and bowed. “Nice to meet you, sir. I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Well, I’m about to introduce myself. No need to be so formal. You’re just a kid,” he replied, pulling his nicest voice ever. “Are you enjoying the drama? Do you want to watch it until the end or should I send you off now?”

“Actually—" she rose, turning the TV off ”—I want to see my parents before I truly leave. Could you wait until then?”

“Okay...” Gilbert said, hesitantly. “Where are they now?”

“At work.”

Woah, as if it couldn’t get any worse. “Do you want me to wait for you until evening comes, considering that’s when your parents finish working? Kid, I have a tight schedule. There’s so much I can do for a soul like you, but baby sitting is not on the list.”

“You can leave me here.”

“What if you run away? I can’t let a soul run away. It’ll cause havoc, both the world and my reputation.”

She pursued her lips. “Oh, right. I completely forgot about that. Adults are always doing that. Working, I mean. I’m sorry.”

This kid looked like she could pull every last bit of Gilbert’s nerves in just one single exchange. “Why would they go to work on your last day and make me in distress now? Don’t they see your numbers? Don’t they know you hit zero today?”

“About that,” she said, “I didn’t tell them.”

“WHAT?!”

This was the first. Gilbert had worked for this agency almost all his life—he’s 22 this year. Completely experienced and reliable, putting clients above his need every time. But this time, this girl, he soon became unsure about what to do.

“I didn’t tell my parents,” Anna continued, keeping her face flat. “They don’t know I’m going to die. So they just went off like usual. I also went to prepare for school like usual. But all of sudden I lost consciousness and fell down the stairs.” She pointed at her dead body over the stairs. “This must be it, I thought.”

“Well, but why?! Kid, you are still like, uh, thirteen? Don’t you tell your parents everything? And this is not some lovesick issues teenagers tend to keep from their parents. This is about your death!”

“I know!” Her voice raised, anger and frustration flashed on those eyes before returning dark. “I know, I should have told them. But I... I didn’t know how and when. Because all they did was to leave the house for work and cut me off every time I tried to bring it up!”

Gilbert could go forever on his list about why telling your parents were important, and yet it’s all just a facade. Truthfully, he didn’t know how it felt to become a teenager and hide things from their parents. He had lots of thoughts before, but none of the church sisters were interested enough to keep him going. The sad thing was he became used to it.

It seemed that Anna was used to it, too. They had to have given up at some point.

He sighed, letting all his muscles relax by the soft material of the couch. “You probably hate them, don’t you? Why bother waiting till evening to tell them? They can just see your body and freak out, then cry over your nonexistence while regretting everything. Is it not enough?”

“I may dislike their deeds, but I don’t hate them. They are my parents. I want to deliver a proper goodbye. I want to stay a good daughter until the end so heaven would accept me. The church said that.”

It’s not worth it, Gilbert thought. For better or worse, he still thought it’d be wise to send her off now. Yet clients were number one. Anything he could do for the souls, he would do his best.

So he sighed in surrender. “Okay, then. You have to follow me working until your parents come home so I can at least keep an eye on you. Just... don’t do anything useless. Don’t scare other souls. Don’t scare humans. Don’t burden me with questions. Just see and keep quiet. Do you understand?”

Anna nodded. “Thank you for fulfilling my request. Can I ask one more?”

Gilbert rose, fixing his jacket. “Yes?”

“Can you help me clean up my blood? It will leave a stain on the ceramics for a long time if we let it dwell any longer. I don’t want my parents to be sad every time they see it.”

He glared at her in surprise. “Why would I—"

“If I can at least touch and move things, I have done that by myself.” She stared at her hands and squeezed the air between them. “Can you also clean my body and rest it on the wall? The sight will be a little less terrifying for them.”

Gilbert’s mind flew to the idea of his jacket getting ruined by red stains that were blood. He shook his head and walked out. “Nope, even when you paid me.”

***

They settled down for seats near the outer window; Yuriko with her veggie sandwich, Elizabeth and her pork. Subway would always be the best resort to eat lunch as late as a rush-hour like now.

“Now, now, Yuriko. You only eat with me just because I’m dying, don’t you?”

Yuriko almost dropped her sandwich when Elizabeth peered her at the gut. She pushed her glasses. “It’s not! Don’t we still eat together back then?”

“It was back then...” Elizabeth sighed. “You become so busy when you’re promoted to that guy’s right-hand man. Gilbert and I thought you have forgotten us or something.”

“No, it’s not like that! You two always come to my mind. It’s just... it’s hard to find a time, you know.”

“It’s fine.” Elizabeth took a full bite. Mouth’s full, she muttered, “What’s best is that we’re all here.”

“I heard you saw Azrael yesterday. Did he tell you about your promotion?”

Elizabeth swallowed the sandwich. “Yes. It’s clearer now. I’m glad he told me.”

“You don’t look much happy though. Is it too sudden?”

“Ah, it’s...” She shifted, drawing her head closer to Yuriko’s side. “I’m worried about Gilbert. I feel like I did something wrong.”

It took a whole second for Yuriko to react, her eyebrows lifted in return. “He’s pissed about you leaving, perhaps.”

“I don’t think so, Yuriko. I feel like he’s eager to see me leave. But last time, he literally ran out of the restaurant we had dinner once after paying the whole bill. He never did that!”

“Really?” Now the statement had Yuriko interested. “He’s making a move on you.”

“I think he’s upset because I called Azrael handsome in front of him.”

“No, I mean, it could be one of the reasons. But no! Liz, he probably has a crush on you”

Elizabeth laughed, mustard and bread scattered over her jaw. “You don’t tell your crush to die every chance you have, Yuriko. I know better than that.”

“He’s just insecure. If you have taken him seriously, you might have noticed it!”

“I have.” To her surprise, Yuriko looked taken aback, eyes widened on the counter. “Nothing changed, though. He’s still as dick as he previously is.”

“Liz...”

“He might not consider me as his childhood friend, but the fact that he ran to my apartment at 11 PM just to check if I was okay is already... enough.” Warm pooling inside her chest, Elizabeth couldn’t help but let out a smile. “I like it the way we are now.”

“It’s not over, Liz. Things can change. We do change. And there’s still time—"

“WHY DO SOULS LIKE YOU WANT TO EAT ANYWAY! I TOLD YOU TO STAY PUT AND DON’T BOTHER ME ESPECIALLY WITH MINOR INCONVENIENCE LIKE THIS!”

The familiar voice roared through the room as the entrance split open by a young man with white hair and... a girl. A soul. The man—Gilbert—scanned through the room to meet all the eyes that’s plugged to him for the result of his shout.

Elizabeth could imagine Yuriko facepalm behind her. “There goes your knight-in-shining-armor.”

Gilbert’s face was flushed upon getting the attention as he bowed down to apologize before closing the door behind him, lowkey leading the soul into the waiting line and letting her order. He only turned around to meet Yuriko and Elizabeth when one of them whistled to his back.

“Are you a soul babysitter now? What happened to your previous job?”

“Shut up,” he cursed under his breath. “Fancy meeting you two here. Must be a fun day to be slacking off now.”

“Hey!” Elizabeth joined in. “We’re only taking a quick lunch. What’s the matter? Are you jealous because you still have work to do?”

“Hah! As you can tell and realize, I’m a responsible man who takes my job seriously that I will sacrifice some of my personal times to ensure my client’s satisfaction—"

“Uncle, I want the beef one!”

Elizabeth sure she almost puked her sandwich from laughing too hard. “Sure, Gilbert. Go ahead and satisfy her hunger.”

“FUC—I’ll be back to punch your face.”

Continuing to curse under his breath, Gilbert fled furiously to queue as the soul clung on his sleeves. He looked cute, Elizabeth thought, like a new dad. She didn’t realize she was giggling until she saw Yuriko squinting at her.

“Totally not in love,” she said.

Elizabeth felt her face burning. “Don’t you think it’s cute? That stoic good-for-nothing Gilbert taking a kid on a detour? He’ll be a good dad one day.”

“Yeah, you’ll be a good mom too.”

“No, no, Yuriko, I swear if you joke about that again—"

Yuriko’s phone vibrated on the table. Without looking at the caller, she quickly shoved the rest of the sandwich down her mouth and slung her bag. Elizabeth pulled a thin line on her lips, eyeing her friend as she shot her an apologetic look.

“Break time’s over. I have to prepare an emergency meeting. Sorry, Liz.”

“Well, yeah.” Elizabeth swallowed deep the uprising disappointment, hoping it didn’t show by the wrinkles of her face. “It can’t be helped. Careful on your way back.”

Yuriko winked. “I’ll miss you.”

Elizabeth snorted. “As you should.”

So Yuriko went off, leaving Elizabeth and half of her sandwich. She looked over her watch and thought to get moving. That’s when Gilbert returned to her table, tilting his head in concern as he watched her devour her remaining sandwich.

“Yuriko left early. Work,” she said between chewing. Her eyes landed on Gilbert’s pale hands, holding the kid’s smaller one. It’s cute, she’s not just imagining it.

“Ah, just when we reunited. Fuck that guy,” he replied, probably mocking Azrael. He shifted his eyes to the girl who’s busy eating her lunch. “Be hideous a little, people might be wondering why there’s a flying sandwich going around. Geez, you don’t have to do this to me.”

“Do I look invisible to people now?” she asked. “You can see me because you are a grim reaper. How about this aunty?” She pointed at Elizabeth who’s frowning on the word ‘aunty.’

“She’s a... We basically worked on the same field. So she can clearly see you.” Gilbert probably bit a laugh on how upset Elizabeth looked now.

The girl scanned Elizabeth from top to bottom as if she’s making notes on how she looked. She stepped out from Gilbert’s hold and bowed down. “Nice to meet you. I’m Anna. I just died.”

The number on Elizabeth’s collarbone itched. Weight settled at the back of her eyes. She knelt until their height matched, patting Anna’s shoulder slightly. “Welcome to the beginning, then. Why are you still staying?”

“I’m waiting for my parents to come home from work. I have to tell them that I died.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth pulled her hands away, still holding contact with Anna’s blank stares. “They must be really busy for you not having the heart to tell them, right? You had it rough, sweetie.”

“Oi, Liz. Get up. People thought you lost it by talking to air.”

Elizabeth pushed to her feet, checking back her watch. It was her first plan to move early to the next client, but this current situation jarred her heart. “Can you leave her to me instead? I don’t want her to tag along with some reapers whose job is watching car accidents and people catching their last breath.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll bring her home in the evening and we’ll meet there. Don’t worry, I won’t lose her. You know how good I am taking care of children, unlike some people I know.” She batted her eyelashes on him and felt satisfied when Gilbert flinched.

“That’s a surprise. I get your point but you don’t have to, really.”

“Don’t you trust me enough?”

“Well, it’s...” He ruffled his hair, making the strands stand in every direction. “Fine! You’re right! Just bring her far away and don’t teach her weird things. I want the very same Anna I found this morning when I meet her again later.”

“Oh, don’t doubt me. I teach her nice things, including how to tell whether some old men with white hair are dangerous or not.”

“I DON’T TRUST YOU NOW!”

***

Anna watched words being exchanged between those two, head’s flopping to whoever had the chance to talk. In the end, she wasn’t against the idea of being dragged to Elizabeth’s side. She went along with it, thanking Gilbert for the sandwich before being pulled away.

Gilbert watched as those two walked away from him, waiting until the sight of their backs disappeared by blocks of tall buildings. A slight jealousy arose for a second, realizing his job had been taken by someone that wasn’t even in the same division as him. It’s like admitting to Elizabeth that he’s bad at taking care of younger clients. That he had lost to her.

But then again, it was for the best. Anna was too good to see more bloodshed today. Hers was more than enough.

Moreover, seeing Elizabeth holding a kid made him realize. She’s going to be a good mother someday.

Gilbert shivered, burying the thought deep within.

***

Elizabeth did bring the kid back safely to her house around seven. The house’s still empty when they got back, light’s off and things untouched, including Anna’s body which was previously moved to a sitting position by Gilbert—who had also ended up cleaning the whole pool of her blood on the ceramics. Gilbert had to enter the same place twice to realize the whole situation was too solemn.

The air around him was suffocating enough to keep him alerted. The heater’s on, but he couldn’t stop shivering. Every tick of the giant clock from the corner of the room sounded like God banging His gavel. What a horrifying living place, and that kid once again had become used to it.

Waiting in silence as Gilbert constantly blew warm air to his palms, the door locks finally clicked open. Two adults, dressed in their uniforms, walked in. They didn’t bother to put their shoes on the shelves, just throwing their coats to the couch and went straight to the fridge to get some drink. It was only until Gilbert deliberately coughed, those two realized there was another presence in the living room.

Were, actually: Gilbert, Anna’s lifeless body, and Anna.

They jolted when they saw Anna’s lying on the floor, even more shocked to catch Gilbert leaning on the couch. It took a surprising turn when the man—Anna’s dad—took off a gun from his pocket and pointed it straight to Gilbert’s head. Her mom quickly used the chance to approach Anna only to find out she’s long gone.

“Oh, dear! SHE’S NOT BREATHING!”

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING—"

“Mr. and Mrs. Hughes, isn’t it?” Mr. Hughes almost pulled the trigger if Gilbert didn’t raise both his hands. Anna’s soul was trembling behind his back, repeatedly whispering ‘be careful’ to him. Gilbert was lying to say he’s not scared, but the little tug on his back sent courage to him. So he smirked at her and went to face her parents. “Excuse my rudeness for not introducing myself. My name is Gilbert, your daughter’s assistance onward. Anna Hughes died on February, 15th at 7:08 AM for the cause of asphyxia. She has lived a good life. She may relish everything and move to the next stage of life.”

“What...?” Mr. Hughes lowered his gun. “What are you talking about, you murderer?! What kind of bullshit are you trying to say?!”

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” cried Mrs. Hughes, hugging Anna’s body. “DID YOU WANT OUR MONEY? OUR GOLD? WHY DON’T JUST TAKE THEM AND LEAVE?! WHY YOU HAVE TO DO THIS TO MY ANNA, YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

This was it. The root of the problem. Gilbert kept his head cool, though Mrs. Hughes’ last words stung him a little. “Ma’am, sir, you have the right to be angry now, but please do hear us out. After all, I might have wished your daughter a peaceful rest if only she has agreed to be sent off earlier.”

“Us...? Do you also have a companion?”

“Sure.” Gilbert licked his lips, lowering his hands now that the gun fell to the ground. He looked back and patted Anna’s hair. “It’s going to be okay, I’ll back you up,” he murmured.

“Who are you talking to?”

“Anna,” Gilbert firmly replied. “Anna said thank you for having her to this world.”

Both of her parents widened their eyes. There were hopes for a second there until it vanished into disbelief. “ARE YOU TRYING TO BUY US OUT?”

“Anna said she was happy, even when she grew up lonely,” Gilbert continued as a soft whisper flew to his ear from behind. “That even though you can’t see her now, she’s still glad to see your faces for the last time. But you guys looked tired from work, so she thought to make it quick. Her farewell, I mean.”

“Bullshit! IT’S BULLSHIT!”

“So goodbye, Mom and Dad. I’m sorry for not telling you that I got numbered already. I found it hard to talk about it, knowing it will affect you in some ways. I want you to be happy after all. I’m sorry, Mom and Dad, I have tried my best not to be your burden. I did try...”

The air had finally suffocated his lungs. He also tried his best to deliver the lines perfectly, but every word spoken and repeated by him made him realize how heavy they were, how much Anna meant it, and how hard they were to convey. She’s not just saying good bye to her parents; she’s making good use of her remaining time now that her parents’ attention was fully on her.

“I know you work hard to pay for my education. I know you want me to enter the best school and provide everything for me. I know all those stolen times are for my sake. I know... I know how much you love me. Mom and Dad, please don’t freak out. I’m right here. I’m still pretty much alive until I’m not.”

It’s sad. Because the time she’s finally able to say everything was when her time’s over.

“At least I died knowing I’m loved. I’ll carry out your affection and tell everyone in heaven about it.” Gilbert flinched when he heard the girl laugh. “So please don’t be sad.”

“Quit it, will you...?” Mrs. Hughes was crying now. The grip on her daughter’s body went tighter as she bit back sobs. “Quit making things up. She’s gone.”

“No. She’s there.”

Mr. Hughes’ voice shattered the room. Waters welling up on his eyelids, the boiling anger had disappeared to the soft corner of his face.

“She’s there, honey. Can’t you tell? It’s her voice. I can hear her.”

“Where?! If so, she should just appear by herself! How can we trust this man? Whom can I trust now?!”

“Young man.” Mr. Hughes turned to Gilbert. “Can you tell me where Anna is now?”

Gilbert rubbed the back of his neck, slowly returned to meet Anna’s eyes. He nodded as he stepped out and made way for her. “She’s three meters away from you, standing on that tile. Just start talking, I’ll let you know what she replies.”

Mr. Hughes came forward until he’s a tile away from Anna. He stopped, bending his knees and stared into the air in front of him. Though so, he probably could feel someone shudder upon his presence.

“Anna. I’m... a bad dad, you know?”

Anna didn’t react. Her lips were pressed into thin lines.

“We are bad parents for thinking you’re just fine. This? This is something you should tell us. We are bad parents for making you hesitate to tell us. While people spend time with their loved one during the last 30 days, we went to work. And you suffered from loneliness here, in this very house we thought you’d be happy living in. We couldn’t tell at all, because we’ve never seen you properly. Until the day we can’t see you anymore, we... finally see.”

Anna stared in disbelief, her eyes were watering.

“I’m sorry. We don’t deserve you. You don’t deserve us.”

“No! It’s not like that! I—"

Mr. Hughes reached out to caress her cheeks. It went through her soul, and Anna’s eyes went wide for realizing it: everything she wanted would never get through her anymore. “Is this your face...? What kind of expression are you making now? Are you angry...? Right, you have the right to be angry.”

“She’s crying,” Gilbert said. “But not mad. She said she would never resent you two. She would die being your guardian angel. So raise your head and say your farewell.” He tore his gaze away when Mrs. Hughes dropped her body and ran to kneel next to her husband, saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again, catching nothing in her hugs.

It’s too late, Gilbert muttered. Too late to pierce through.

They hurt her much and she forgave them as much—they’re only lucky because of their daughter’s kind heart. They’re right, though. Anna neither deserved them nor this world.

His eyes squeezed shut. A particular woman came to his mind.

***

He shouldn’t be surprised seeing her waiting for him at Hughes’ gate. It was snowing heavily outside and she’s standing there, flakes crowning her hair like a snow fairy she was. Blowing warm breath to her palms, she immediately waved at him once she caught him at sight.

Gilbert swallowed a hard lump on his throat. Something inside his stomach twisted, something he had yet to put into words. It felt so foreign even when he felt it a little too many times. Whatever it was, he didn’t seem to hate it. At least for the moment.

“Well, well, looks like someone has too much free time.”

“I’m done for today and thinking you must have it rough after the whole deal. Let’s go home together.”

“Yeah.” Gilbert rubbed his throbbing forehead. “It was such a deal. I almost died.”

“Tell me later.” She winked at him and walked away. Gilbert jogged to her side. “How’s the send off?”

“Great. Her parents watched it.”

“That’s not great at all.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to be a part of any drama like that ever again.”

“You’re a harsh one, aren’t you?” Elizabeth threw him a disappointment look. “Your work requires you to face these kinds of problems often. You can’t just put it aside just because you hate it.”

“I hate dealing with kids and parents issues. They are the most troublesome one. Putting me into such drama.” He sighed dramatically. “What a pain.”

“Said the guy who took a kid out today to wait for her parents. You’re going softer these days.”

“That’s—!" He shook his head. “Once in a while won’t hurt!”

“Yeah, whatever you say, Gilbert.” Elizabeth chuckled, leaving trails of breaths into the sky. “If I were you, I’d do the same. After all, I understand what she felt.”

“Understand what part?”

“Not telling your parents. I, too, have not told Mrs. Lee. And I don’t think I will. It’s never because I don’t have time. I just don’t want to see her sad.”

“Oh. So you didn’t tell her.” Gilbert hummed, putting on his teasing smirk. “So did you tell me just to see me sad, then?”

“Are you?”

The question hit home. Gilbert earned a look he’s not prepared for. Clearing his throat, he put on a playful tone. “In your dream.” It fell too dry and flat, Gilbert prayed to heaven Elizabeth didn’t catch that.

Thankfully his wish came true. Elizabeth pouted, but she didn’t pull a long face. “I knew you won’t be affected at all so I felt comfortable telling you.”

“True that.” Lies. Of all people she told, he was certainly the most affected one. The only thing that barely kept him from breaking apart was the wall he built around him. “Why would I be sad over your silly death. Such a waste of time.”

The last sentence was made more to reassure himself.

She grinned. “So I made the right choice.”

The snow was getting heavier as they strolled deeper. They arrived at a crossroad where their paths were supposed to part. Gilbert eyed her a silent goodbye. Wordlessly he left, forcing himself to focus on the road and dissolved any will to look back.

Because she wouldn’t still be there, looking at his back until he’s gone.

He wondered when he would stop lying to himself. When he would stop swallowing hard pills that no one forced him to do so.

“Gilbert!”

His footsteps came to a halt. He was midway crossing the empty road when his name echoed between their distance. When he looked back, she’s still there.

Elizabeth stepped forward, filling the gaps until they’re one meter apart. Both standing so close, Gilbert turned on his heels to see her fume of breath traveling to the air. It was subtle. Two people who met and stopped for their moment.

“What?” he said, voice’s croaked and unusually shaky. It might have for the cold, not out of the loud drumming in his chest.

A flake fell to her nose and Gilbert had to restrain himself from wiping it with his finger.

“There’s something I need to ask,” she said, a glint flashed across her eyes before they darkened. “It’s nothing, really. It’s just... Yuriko kept rubbing this to me and I should prove her wrong before she gets more into the misunderstanding.”

“Well, go ahead. She’s probably right, since you’re stupid—"

“Do you like me?”

Gilbert froze.

As if the temperature suddenly dropped to below minus forty and his organs were now shutting down—

Except for the heart which was marching to a quicker beat.

“Do you have feelings for me?” she repeated, firmly this time, probably thought Gilbert didn’t catch her for the first time.

The smirk earlier crumbled apart. Gilbert watched her in disbelief, waiting for her to laugh it off and excuse herself for always joking (like how she used to), but all she gave him was a look of sheer curiosity.

“I can’t believe you’re bugged by shit like that,” Gilbert said after the silence became more unbearable. “Only fools fall in love.”

“Almost whoever said that falls in love with someone.”

Gilbert faked a laugh, a butterfly on his throat started to make him nauseated. “I’d love to hate that.”

“Quit dodging the question, or I might think that you’re... really... you know.”

Gilbert could continue joking until the end of the day, teasing her with possibilities and left her head over heels frustrated the whole night, however Elizabeth clearly didn’t show any sign to drop the question until some words spilled out. She’s serious.

Gilbert ran his tongue over his teeth, before settling down to his answer.

“No.”

It’s the truth. If she wanted some truth, then Gilbert had spurred her the truth.

“I don’t.”

“Oh.” She blinked. “So you don’t.”

“Yeah.” He gulped. “Is it enough? Can I go home now?”

“Sure.” Elizabeth smiled, more flakes stuck on her hair and nose. “That’s exactly what I want to hear.”

“Don’t cry the whole night because you were rejected. You ask for this.”

“No one was rejecting anyone because no one was confessing anything. Besides, I am happy with the way it confirms.”

Gilbert raised his eyebrows. “What did I confirm?”

“If what Yuriko said was true, then I have to see you hiding your sadness while I’m dying!”

Something inside Gilbert clenched. The same thing that knotted his stomach every time he saw her. The same thing that made him feel like spring every time she smiled. The same thing that burned him every time she’s sad.

“No one feels alright when their loved one is near the death door, though they have no choice but to stay strong,” she continued. Looking up, his eyes met hers and thought how bright they were during the night. “But it doesn’t matter now. You probably feel sad for me, but it’ll vanish in no time. As long as nothing happens between us, then nothing tragic will doom to happen. It’s always better this way.” She chuckled, her flushed cheeks beamed more in response. “So I really made the right choice.”

It’s a loud crash on the shore; what’s on his mind and what he spoke and what he did.

Gilbert had thought he’s giving her the truth by saying no. What else did he miss? He might be sad for her, but who didn’t? It’s normal. He grew up with her for so long, of course he’d be sad not to see her around anymore. It’s just a friend thingy, and like she said, he’d get over it in a second.

Except if the truth he thought it was, wasn’t the truth.

Except if he missed the whole subject.

Except if the sadness he felt was too overwhelming, it’s not just normal.

Except if it’s never a friend thingy.

Then he would never get over her—even in a million years.


Time remaining: 26 days.

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