Hoshi walks me up the stage, staying next to me. Misa is right in front of the left side of the stage – where I usually stand –, only a couple of meters farther, and Lais walks around, keeping an eye on me. They all are watching over me but my nerves are still on edge, feeling Kane and Iau’s occasional glances on my back. Should I approach them? But what could I say, that I’m sorry? That I didn’t mean to hurt them? That I get it now? Drowning in regret I can’t hear the instructions and I stand in place, frozen.
Apparently, I was supposed to play my guitar for the sound check. Misa hops in front of me and closes in in a few steps, grabbing my head and putting his forehead to mine.
‘Focus, Kei, concentrate. Get over with it sooner so you can leave for now, okay?’ His stern commands get through to me and I nod. ‘I am right here, so you just look at me, play for me. Play something that you feel.’
Huh. How could I forget such an obvious fact? Nothing makes me feel better than communicating through music.
Seeing the realization on my face, Misa steps away and returns to where he stood before.
When the tech guy calls to me again to play something, I do. I think of all my feelings bottled up and my fingers move on their own, creating sounds of frustration, hopelessness, desperation and regret. I finish in less than two minutes and nobody makes a sound, they just stare at me wide-eyed. The rest of the rehearsal is a blink of an eye for me; my body feels light as a feather after shouting my feelings out of me through my guitar. They are not gone, they still torment me, but now I know, anyone who heard it can get an idea of how I feel. Secretly I hope my sounds found their way to Iau and Kane, but it’s just a sliver of promise.
As soon as Jay gives the word, Misa comes and starts pushing me off the stage, Lais falling in line.
‘You did good, it’s over for now.’ He hooks an arm around my shoulder. ‘But we’ll have to talk about that sound you made.’
‘Later.’ He looks around and pulls me closer.
‘Misa? Is everything okay?’
He’s wearing an especially pained look but he shakes his head. Instead of a spoken answer, he fastens his pace.
‘Oi!’ We hear someone calling out and Misa halts for a split second before he tries to practically run out of the hall. ‘Fucking stop already!’
Defeated, Misa finally stops and turns, glaring at Kane who’s a few steps behind us, looking tense.
As I look around, I notice Iau curiously looking over at us, seemingly stopped mid-action.
My guts tell me to run, but I feel Misa’s arm still around me and it gives me a sense of security. He said he’d be by my side, and he is, literally, right next to me. I think I can face Kane like this.
Or I thought so, until he takes a step in my direction and I reflexively shrug, feeling like I’m growing smaller.
‘Kei, can I talk to you?’ Kane forces himself to appear calm, but fails spectacularly.
‘Um…’ I try to speak but my voice breaks, so I clear my throat and start over, but Misa cuts in.
’We’re kind of in a hurry, so how ’bout no?’
Kane turns to him, his false calmness breaking. He looks like he’ll explode and as an old habit, without thinking I step closer to him, reaching for his hand and holding it in both of mine.
‘It’s okay.’ I hear myself talking in a doting voice I didn’t know I had.
I also have no idea how I’m supposed to continue, I just did what I’ve always done when I wanted to calm Kane down.
He looks as surprised as I am, looking at his hand and then back at me, returning to his hand until he finally opens his mouth.
‘Are you happy now?’ My eyes widen at Kane’s short question. ‘You wanted all of us to be happy, and I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you, I am not happy. I doubt Iau is. How about you? Are you happy now?’ He repeats it and after his little monologue I’m speechless.
Though I have a long response in my head, I want to tell him that I am not happy and I’m sorry they aren’t happy either and I’d like to beg for his forgiveness and Iau’s too; but I can’t bring myself to make a sound. My eyes get teary and I softly shake my head to which Misa stands next to me, retorts something to Kane about unnecessary questions and leaves the place with me.
The next moment I come to my senses, we’re sitting in a car, heading back to our hotel. Misa sits next to me, stroking my back as I weep. Lais sits in front of me and turning back, he tries to comfort me with words. What a kind guy. I’m thankful to have them around me now.
Kane was absolutely right. And I’m shit that I couldn’t even give him a proper answer. I haven’t felt this miserable ever in my life, not even when my parents were killed.
Misa takes me to our room and I hear him exchange a few words with Lais before he closes the door behind us. The photographer seemed worried about me, which makes me feel even worse; I’ll have to apologize to him later.
I fall on the bed and I hear it crack again as Misa lies next to me, still holding me close. Between sobs, my guilt overflows and pours out of my mouth.
‘I don’t deserve you.’
‘What are you talking about? You did well today.’
‘No. I only fully realized it today, but I never payed attention to anything important.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’ve been ignorant. I took everything for granted.’ I explain. ‘And I never made the extra step if there were any problems, I’ve always waited for others to solve them. That’s why I picked the wrong solution: I’ve never had to fix anything. So in this case, I’m the bad guy, I don’t deserve kindness and comfort.’
Misa listens to me pensively as I tell him my jumbled thoughts. He then says he knows, surprising me, so I wait for explanation.
‘I know the way you are. But it has never bothered me. You were always like an alien among humans, and I’ve just observed you, aiding you if needed. You never fail to amuse me with your unexpected actions and extraordinary mind. And I’ve always assumed that it’s part of your nature, your genius. So yeah, you may be a little dense or can appear even rude sometimes, it’s all because of who you are. I mean it’s not like you don’t know manners, you just tend to forget them. It’s only that you have to remember how you’re supposed to act, or you can appear so out of place.’
Misa describes how I’ve felt all my life and it’s such a strange sensation. It’s not like I’m a bad person on purpose, but as he said, most of the time I have to remind myself to behave like any other person would. It’s not like I didn’t love Kane and Iau, I really wanted them to be happy, but I choose a wrong method to express my desires. And from the outside, I look selfish and even cruel. How could I explain this to them? And how does Misa know it without needing me to explain?
At the lack of my response, Misa peers into my face.
‘You stopped crying.’ He notes.
‘Is what you said true? Is that how you see me?’
‘Do others see me this way too?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘How do Kane and Iau see me?’
‘You never asked them?’
‘Should I have?’
‘Well, I can only tell you what I saw today, but I may be wrong.’
‘Iau couldn’t tear his gaze away from you. He was longing for you and what you’ve had with them. And Kane, obviously trying to restrain himself the whole time; and when he came after you, it took a lot for him to do that. In conclusion, they miss you like hell. And they can’t really understand why you did what you did. I understand, though I can’t agree with you and in my opinion, you were stupid. But they only think you were stupid, I’m not sure they see the reason behind it.’
‘You understand people so well… you understand me so well.’ I whispered, thinking about what he just said.
‘Maybe they do too, I don’t know. I don’t know your relationship with them that much.’
‘I’m not sure anymore. I’m not even sure I understand myself. After all, I did something I never meant to do.’
’Your intentions were different from the outcome. You never thought much of your actions, so it’s only natural you don’t understand. But now that I think of it… Even if your boyfriends didn’t understand you, with that sound check you made it pretty obvious how you feel, so perhaps now the three of you will be able to talk and maybe find a better solution.′
‘You heard it too, right?’ My eyes sparkle thinking that my impulsions worked.
‘I tried my best to be honest with that melody.’
‘And you succeeded.’
‘What?’ Misa started answering with only a few words and that never means good.
‘Misa?’ I put some distance between us and see his face.
He’s dead tired. Huge dark circles shade his usually lively eyes and a frown is stuck between his eyebrows.
All I can think of is how I’m doing this to him. I am the reason why he’s not even sleeping, to help me, even if it means all-nighters and exhaustion for him.
‘How could I pay you back all the things you’ve done for me?’ Instead of answering me, Misa just shakes his head. ‘Seriously, you’re sacrificing so much…!’
‘Let me stay by your side.’ He speaks quietly.
‘But if you’re always supporting me, I’ll rely on you too much.’
‘That’s fine. Please.’
‘Please, Kei, we’ve always had each other, right? I know I can only be a friend to you, but I already accepted that.’ To my shocked stare, he continues. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t propose to you or anything.’ He giggles.
‘Do you… like me?’ I mumble barely audible.
‘Of course, I do!’ Misa declares, like it was his duty to like me.
‘But like not only as a friend?’
‘Ahh, it’s heartbreaking, finding out you never took me seriously.’ He agonizes.
‘I thought you were joking…?’
I’m aghast to hear that my best friend’s been liking me not only as a friend. I’ve never looked at Misa as more than a friend, maybe a brother. My heart squeezes to think how much I must have hurt him when I turned to him to talk about my love life.
‘It’s okay, Kei.’ He smiles so gently, it pains me. ‘I’m a down to earth guy, I don’t have any false hope, so don’t worry. Just let me stay like we’ve always been and don’t hate me.’
‘I could never hate you!’ I chafe. ‘But are you really okay like this? Doesn’t it hurt?’
‘I don’t know how it works, but it only hurts to see you unhappy. As long as you live a happy life, I’m content as well.’
‘You’re strange!’ He frowns but laughs. ‘Now let’s grab something to eat, and prepare for tonight’s show.’
I nod obediently and I can feel that in the last hour I grew a little as a person. There’s this buzzy feeling awaking inside me that drives me to be better and start doing the right things. Right now I can’t name it, but I already feel so much better.
I watched Kane approaching Kei, I saw their exchange and the scene stuck in my head on repeat. Kane’s effort to maintain his calmness and Kei’s honest reactions made me realize their true feelings and showed me my own faults. I’m not sure about Keiji’s intentions, but I never doubted that he has no ill will. I’m guessing it’s harder for Kane to understand; he’ll think that he’s the source of everything bad that happened.
Getting back to the hotel after another walk I’m headed to the bar; I know I’ll find Kane there before in our room. But I’m wrong. I can’t see him anywhere so I go to the room, confused. As I walk in, there he sits in an armchair.
‘I was waiting for you.’ He says quietly, standing up.
‘Kane, I don’t know if…’
‘Just listen to me. I… I think I understand Kei.’ You do? My eyes widen. ‘He must have been thinking about this for a long time. He must have been partly suffering and trying to figure out how to make things better. And knowing him and his weird logic, this seemed as a good idea to him.’
‘What else could he have done?’ Kane asks me with a low, forced calm voice and he’s right. ‘Sure, he’s stupid but we are as well. To think that we could have avoided this if I could have accepted my feelings.’
‘Stop. You know, it’s like you never listen to us. I’ll tell you again, but if you won’t understand, I can’t do any more. Your doubts are yours and they don’t mean we don’t love you with or without them. And we know they also don’t mean you don’t love us.’
‘But do you?’
‘I hurt you both all the time, how could you think I love you?’
‘Because we feel it. Do you know how I know that I love you both?’
‘When I think of that park where we played day and night for so many years, I’d give everything to not have it changed. And when I think of Keiji from today, that song he played, seeing Misa’s arm around him, I feel like screaming with rage and running to him. What do you feel when you think of us?’
‘The same.’ Kane hangs his head. ‘If I hadn’t met you, I’d be dead; and when Kei clasped my hand today, I didn’t want to let go.’
‘And we know this and it’s all that matters to us, even when you’re unreasonable and on a self-hating rampage.’
‘But how does Kei think of us?’
‘You should ask him about that.’
‘I can’t bring myself…’
‘Honestly, me neither.’ I collapse on the couch. ‘It’s idiotic, but I’m afraid of the answer. What if he’ll be indifferent and says it’s fine either way?’
‘With that sound he made? I doubt. But I understand.’
‘So, what now?’
‘I decided something for myself.’
‘No matter how this turns out, finally I’m going to keep my promise and I’m going to change for the better.’
‘I know you can do it. And I know I also should revise a few things about myself as well.’
‘If you feel the need… What do you think, will Kei do something too?’
‘I don’t know. But I have an awful thought that he does.’
‘Why is that bad?’
‘Because the reason he will evolve will be because of Misa.’
‘Remember, he’s always been there for him. Even if we weren’t. I can’t get this out of my head. And who’s that blond guy?’
’Iau, now you’re jealous?′
‘I’m surprised you aren’t.’
‘I am, a little, but I trust Kei.’
‘You do realize that we broke up with him.’
‘But we still love each other, don’t we?’
‘Yes. We do.’
In a sense, Kei wasn’t that stupid to do what he did. Apparently, this is what we needed to come forward and start talking, truly.
So in the end, I made up with Kane but we kept our distance. Hearing him having plans to be better, meditating more thoughtfully over our relationship than ever before, I felt left behind once again. And maybe this is my problem, trying to support them while neglecting myself and my own growth. I have to get over my overprotectiveness and let them be, so I can keep up with them. Assuming that Keiji comes back to us.