Chapter Fourteen: The Morning After

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Hiro wakes you up around eight. Your eyelids are so heavy when you open them. You sit up slowly. Your head is spending and a sharp pain hits the back. You hiss in pain and rub the back of your head.

"What is it?" Hiro asks you.

"I-I don't know-" The memories flood back. Tadashi is gone. Your head is killing you because of how you landed on the pavement. "From when I fell yesterday. After the. . . I-I just hit my head really hard."

"We should've taken you to the hospital," Hiro says.

"No. I'm fine."

"You probably have a concussion. We can tell Aunt Cass. She can drive you."

"No," you say sternly. "Cass has enough to deal with right now." Hiro looks down and nods. You sigh and push your fingers through your hair. "I'll have to go home. I need to change clothes and everything." Your shirt still smells like smoke. You keep your head lifted so it isn't as strong in your nose.

"Will you come back?" he asks.

"Yeah," you answer. "I'll be back. I'll probably bring a bag of clothes and stuff and just crash here for a few days." You nod. "I'll see you in an hour or two, Hiro." You stand up and head down the stairs. When you get down there, Aunt Cass is asleep at the kitchen table. She's slumped over, her face pressed against an open page of her address book. You take her car keys off of the counter. You walk over to the couch and grab the throw blanket. You bring it to her and drape it over her shoulders before leaving.

Back at your place, you let a few tears out. The few tears that you allow to turn into sobs when you see the picture frames of you and Tadashi around your room. You walk to your dresser and pick up every frame that holds a memory. Prom, senior year, graduation. . . you shove them all your bottom drawer and close it harshly. You take out a duffle bag and open it up. You first put your hairbrush and toothbrush in the bottom, and then you open your top drawer to take out your clothes.

Tadashi's yellow cardigan sits on top. He let you wear it a few days ago in the garage because you were cold. You pick it up and press the fabric to your nose. You close your eyes and take a deep breath. The familiar smell of the bakery, his laundry detergent, and his soap fill your nose.

You'll never be able to hug him and smell it again.

You fold it up and put it in your bag. You won't wear it, not now, but you want to always have a piece of him with you. You pack a pair of sweatpants and a t shirt, and then a black dress from your closet. His funeral is coming up soon, you figure. This makes you stop. Funeral. You shake your head and pull out a small stack of random clothing, not bothering to see if they match.

You go into your bathroom to shed the clothes that you wear. Before you jump in the shower, you bundle up the outfit and shove it in the trashcan. You'd never wear it again, anyways.

You cry until you get back to the cafe. By then, you feel completely empty. The shock is over. Tadashi is gone and this is your reality now. You can feel the difference. So does Hiro. He doesn't say a word to you when you put your bag on the floor beside his bed. He sits on his bed and stares out the window. When you go back downstairs, Aunt Cass hands you a cup of coffee. You smile and shakily take a sip of the burning liquid.

"I keep thinking that he's okay," Aunt Cass says softly. "That he's just eating breakfast with his friends or he crashed in his lab at the school."

Your grip on the cup tightens. Tears springing in your eyes, you say, "I'm trying not to be angry at him."

Aunt Cass doesn't say anything.

That night, you make dinner for them. Aunt Cass makes it through one bite of the spaghetti before excusing herself. She takes her cellphone. You sit alone at the table, your food untouched. Tadashi's chair beside you is empty. You think back to one of the best days of your life.

"I want you to have dinner with us," Tadashi said after school one day. He always drove you home after school.

"Okay," you said.

"And I want to tell Aunt Cass that we're dating," he continued.

You gulped. "You haven't told her yet?"

"No. I wanted to wait for you. It won't be bad, ___. Aunt Cass loves you and so does Hiro. I'm pretty sure she expected us to get together from the start."

You sighed and bit down on your lip. "I don't know. . ."

Tadashi stepped forward and cradled your face in his hands. His thumbs stroked your cheek lightly, leaving a trail of blush behind. "Please? I don't want to keep having to wait until Aunt Cass uses the bathroom to kiss you." He leaned forward and caught your lips with his. You tilted your head to deepen the kiss and wrapped your arms around him.

"Okay. Promise me that she won't get mad?"

Tadashi rolled his eyes. "Aunt Cass, mad? You worry too much." He crossed his heart.

Later, you sat beside Tadashi at the kitchen table. Your hand was in his as it rested on the wood and everything was perfect.

And now, you sit here with your eyes clenched tight, as if keeping them closed forever will let you spend eternity with him in your memories.

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