Summer Grass

What she remembers most is the smell of summer grass, even in the dark gloom of her apartment. When Misaki closes her eyes she still hears the river and the hum of cicadas, a low backdrop to her father’s voice.

(Misaki, this is important, listen—)

The only thing she can’t remember about that day is his face, no matter how hard she tries. It’s not as though she doesn’t have photos; he took pictures obsessively, and now they’re gathered in albums, kept carefully hidden under her other stacks to keep them from being found. But as much as Misaki looks at the pictures, the faces in them may as well belong to strangers.

(There’s something I need to give you, so pay attention.)

She doesn’t let on how much she doesn’t remember, how much is hazed over by a fog she can’t seem to pierce. The world itself feels distant and unreal, and Misaki supposes this feels no different. Even so, she spends the early morning splayed on her floor between stacks of books, staring at the ceiling as light slowly filters in. She is, as always, acutely aware of how much time has passed. In two minutes, she’ll get up, pull on her clothes and wrestle her hair into some semblance of cooperating. She’d cut it short just before moving to Signapore, and she doesn’t regret this decision; it had used to take hours to even make her hair vaguely presentable, much less stylish.

(’You see this earring?’

'Ah, it’s pretty!’

‘Yes, the same color as your eyes. Listen, Misaki…’)

In fifteen minutes, she will grab a rice ball before taking her books and heading out. She now has a legal license, but on a morning like this, the bus ride will clear her head. Misaki mentally notes not to forget her contacts this time, and sits up as the minute ticks over, letting the last of the morning’s dizziness wash over her and fade away. In twenty-five minutes is the next bus she’ll need to catch to get over to her school, and in fourty-five minutes she will be there, if early, to make sure the stacks are in proper order before class. The same as yesterday, and the day before, and every morning for the last two years. She sighs, reaching up to put the same long, pendulum jewel of an earring in her right ear, as she always has.

(‘As long as you wear this, I can protect you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says about your eyes, or your hair, or where I’m from. You just need to promise me one thing…’)

She is halfway through buttoning up her vest when her phone beeps, indicating a text and an interruption to a perfectly routine morning. Misaki could almost kiss whoever’s at the other end, except this, too, is an extension of a dream she made up. She knows before picking it up who it is—only one man would even bother calling her number, and that’s Yamazaki Masaru.

(’No matter what happens, you have to believe in me.’)

If he wants to change the routine this morning, then she’d go along with him this time. Night pulls her hat down over her eyes, hiding the brilliant crystal blue that matches the blue in pictures of her father and heads out the door. In the back of her mind, she still hears the wind through the summer grass that day, and always will, but for this once she’ll drown it out in conversation and the hum of a car’s engine.