I couldn't stop crying in that dank, dim room.
There was already a growing pile of wet kleenex.
That whole box wouldn't be enough for me
I couldn't help but tremble as the old lady's hands gently, gently,
brushed, cleaned my hair and dusted off my clothes.
I blew my nose hard.
Then the smell of a heavy musk of wood and paper greeted my senses.
"How about some tea?"
I kept my head low and accepted the steaming cup of tea.
It immediately warmed my pale, tense, shivering hands.
The warmth spread from my finger tips up along my arms and right into my chest.
Suddenly there was a tiny glowing fire in my heart,
gently flooding into the rest of my body.
"Subarashii ne? Tea is wonderful isn't it?" She smiled.
I smiled back weakly.
"I love tea. It will always speak right to your heart. Right to your soul."
She sat down slowly next to me, holding on to the table for support.
"Tea is like magic.. It cures everything, you see."
I raised my head a little, the dried tears on my face stinging.
She reached over and pointed directly at my heart, grinning lopsidedly.
*Subarashii ne? - Wonderful/great isn't it?
She snapped her fingers.
"You are healed."
I glanced at her questioningly.
She smiled kindly.
"Kokoro de. In your heart."
I was silent. I had no idea what she meant.
There was no one who would show me kindness.
Especially not like this.
Someone that the entire school by now hated.
Someone who raised their skirt up high and dyed their hair multi-tone of browns.
Someone who had no family.
How could I...?
*Kokoro - Heart
I couldn't reply because suddenly there were two arms around me.
They were warm and gentle... and kind.
An embrace, snuggled up against her soft wool sweater.
I hadn't even raised my head.
I hadn't even lifted a finger.
I just started crying.
"Airu-chan wasn't it?"
"Hai.." I replied.
That was her first time saying my name.
Even the way she said my name was kindness.
Moments ago, I was reduced to a weeping infant.
I wanted to feel like a child, yet frustration in my heart won over.
I was frustrated I wasn't as tough as I should be.
Frustrated I let those girls do what they want.
Frustrated this old lady treated me like a baby.
I had sat back up and put on my false facade again.
"Feel free to come back any time, Airu-chan."
That's what she had said before I spun around and left.
I couldn't understand the look in her eyes. Was she angry at me?
I stayed away from that area for two weeks.
But still I went back. Once, twice, again and again.
There was something that kept me there.
Her wool sweater.
Her gentleness and kindness.
That Obaachan became very dear to me.
*Obaachan - Grandma/Granny/Old lady (affectionately)
Gradually she told me about her past over hot cups of tea.
Any season, any day, I escaped from reality there.
I was there on one of her old wooden chairs on a rainy afternoon.
The rain was pelting at the windows like a light rhythmic knocking.
I decided to skip class, as some of the girls at school were stepping up the game.
A day earlier, they cornered me in the washroom and soaked me with water.
The old lady's house became my source of strength.
It was my refuge.
Her story was much like mine.
She ran away from home and lived on her own.
She was in gangs and soon was left with nothing.
No family, no friends, no future.
A kind old man took care of her after wards.
Mending her soul and her heart.
She smiled at me with her usual kindness,
wrinkles all over her face,
hair faded into grey.
Then she said,
"This is life. Life is about getting up when you fall.
There are only two different types of people.
Those who are losers and those who are winners.
The winners stand back up and fight on.
Until the end, they've fought a good fight."
Her hand rested on mine.
"Life is about one person helping the next to stand up again."
"I will always be here to help you stand up again.
Airu-chan, you must become strong.
Then, you can help the next person to stand up."
Two months after, she passed away quietly, alone.
I lost everything. Her tea, her wool sweater, her kind embrace.
I was asked to look through the house and clean up for her as she had no family left.
I came across the table that we always sat at.
On it was a pair of gold earrings and a note.
Sorry that my memory is so bad.
I am going to visit my home town just for two days.
Make yourself at home whenever you'd like; this is your home too.
I wanted to give you these earrings yesterday but I forgot.
I received them from Maruyama, the old man back in the old days.
They are yours now; be strong.
Enjoy some tea.
~~~End of flashback~~~
The gold caught what sunlight there was left.
Even under the cloudy skies.
She smiled at me with tears in her eyes.
"They've always shone on. Nothing can stop them."
The tears started falling down her cheeks as she kept smiling.
I stepped forward and pulled her into a tight hug.
She buried her face against my shoulder.
"Thank you Airu."
Memories... memories that we will always hold on to.
"I haven't learned how to become strong yet.
But if I fall, I know I've got to get up."
She said quietly.
"To fight is what life is about."
I said quietly.
"That's what Obaachan said right?"
No matter what we lose in life,
no matter what situation,
we will continue to fight.
YOU ARE READING
Secondhand Memories (Pioneer English Cell Phone Novel)Teen Fiction
[Coming-of-age, Romance, Existential, Japan] Seiji and Aoi have been inseparable childhood friends and eventually, high school sweethearts. Believing in naive dreams and love, all seems well until a tragedy separates them with a chasm of frozen time...