Prelude: A Willing Pain
"You haven't told me why we're having one of your special dinners. Should I be cracking open one of your book review magazines, or are you just in the mood for wine tonight?" The black-haired woman laughed in response. The brown-haired girl across the table just smiled a bit.
"Congratulate Satu, sweetheart. The publisher's accepted my new novel."
"Well, congratulations. A toast, I suppose. May this novel be as popular as the newest one of the scarred wizard boy. And if not that, than at least half as popular." The woman laughed again and lifted the glass filled with wine. The girl smiled a bit more and raised her own glass of cider. The soft chime of glass against glass hovered in the air as the two gave a toast to the success.
The girl brought her glass to her lips, tilting the gently frosted wineglass to let the cider fall into her mouth. The woman set her own glass down and gazed at the girl. After a moment, the girl put her glass down and returned the look. It was quite a while before either one spoke.
"Mom?" the girl asked. "What's wrong? Aren't you happy about the publisher accepting your novel?"
"I am, sweetheart," the woman replied. "I'm very happy. I'm just…a little worried. School starts the Monday after next."
"Mom, it'll be fine," the girl murmured. "This is my last year, and then I can go to college—"
"No, honey," the woman said softly. "I'm not worried about that. I suppose I shouldn't have mentioned school. I'm just worried about you. It's been almost two years since…" The girl's brown eyes slid shut, her face turned away. The woman cast her green eyes to the floor, biting her lip slightly.
"Mom, you can say it," the girl said in something close to a whisper. "I need to learn to deal with Mother's death just as much as you." The woman sighed heavily.
"It's not that either," the woman sighed. "I'm talking about Sanura. What she did for you." The girl kept her eyes closed, thinking about what had transpired in the winter almost two years ago.
The town in northern Washington state was a small affair, with a large river running along the northeast border. A large bridge, one often traversed by commuters to the city and a place often visited to look down at the lazy river, spanned the waterway in a gentle arc. In the winter, a thick sheet of ice covered the water and was a spectacular sight to see.
A girl, only seventeen years old, leaned on the balustrade that separated the pedestrians from the air above the eighteen-foot fall to the ice below. Her brown eyes, a dark chocolate, stared at the ice. Her long brown hair fell slightly in front of her face, and she sighed heavily.
"Hey, Kira!" The girl glanced up from her crossed arms, her eyes barely open. The gray winter jacket's sleeves covered most of her vision, but she could still make out a tall girl with dark red hair running towards her. The red-haired girl rushed up and leaned against the balustrade with her hip.
"What's up, chica?" the red-haired girl asked. "You said you had something for me, Kira." The brown-haired girl, Kira, stood up and put her hands in the jacket's pockets. The red-haired girl raised an eyebrow, her blue eyes questioning.
"Kira, what's wrong?" the girl questioned. "You look like you've been crying."
"No, no, I'm fine, Sanura," Kira murmured, forcing a smile. "I've just been kind of lonely over the break. I know we said that we wouldn't give each other gifts until after Christmas with our families, but I just wanted to give you your present early." The red-haired girl, Sanura, gave her friend a defeated smile.
"Well, I never could say no to you," Sanura chuckled. "But why do you want to give me my present early? Have I been that good of a little kitty?"
"Something like that," Kira muttered as she pulled a wrapped box from her jacket. Sanura took the box and held it carefully, asking Kira silently if she could open the gift. Kira gave a smile and nodded. Sanura tore into the wrapping paper with gusto, barely avoiding tearing the card to shreds. The red-haired girl pulled the envelope open with her long, slender fingers and retrieved the card from within.
"You've always gone for the sappy stuff," Sanura groaned teasingly. "Let me see. 'I remember when I first met you eleven years ago. We were in the same kindergarten. We both got held back because we didn't make friends. From then on, we've been friends and had all the same classes together except for your music and my art. I can't remember a day where I was so upset that you couldn't cheer me up. You've been such a great friend for all these years.' You're such a sentimental goof." Sanura wrapped an arm around Kira's shoulders and squeezed.
She turned to lean against the balustrade once again, facing towards the other side of the ice-covered river that Kira was staring at. Sanura opened the box and gasped softly. A gold heart-locket hung on a delicate gold chain, and a smaller note lay beside it. The red-haired girl opened the locket carefully and saw a picture of herself on one side and a picture of Kira on the other. She blushed slightly, closing the locket and putting the necklace on. Sanura lifted the other note to read.
"'I care about you so much, Sanura. I don't think you're just a friend anymore, but I don't know if I should say that. I'm so sorry, Sanura. This is the one day you won't be able to cheer me up. My mother died, and I'm not going to go on. Even if I knew how to say how much I care for you, I'm not going to go on.' Kira? Kira, what do you mean?" Sanura turned to look at her best friend of eleven years only to find that Kira was gone. She spotted Kira's feet falling over the edge of the bridge.
"KIRA!" Sanura shouted. Shouts went up all along the side of the bridge that Kira had jumped from. Sanura stared on in horror as Kira smashed through the ice, headfirst, and vanished into the black waters. Someone was screaming for someone else to call nine-one-one, and people were running to get to the path to the river. Sanura's long fingers touched the gold heart for a moment and she felt her own heart break. She didn't even think about what she was going to do, she just did it.
Sanura dove from the bridge. She crossed her arms over her head to crash through the ice and protect her face and skull. She took a deep breath just before hitting the ice and water. The cold nearly stole the air from her lungs, but she kept her bearings and looked through the dark water. Kira was sinking into the depths of the river, her eyes closed and the water cloudy around her. Sanura swam swiftly to her friend and grabbed her by the wrist.
Her chest hurt from lack of air and her head hurt from the pressure but Sanura pushed the pain away and pulled Kira with her as she kicked madly for the surface. Her head broke the thin sheet of ice that covered the hole Kira created and she gasped for breath. Sanura's limbs were shaking from exhaustion and cold, but she managed to pull Kira and herself from the water onto the thick ice.
"Dammit, Kira, don't do this to me!" Sanura pleaded. "Breathe! Breathe! Come on, don't do this!" Sanura was far behind thinking about her actions and rolled Kira to her back. She began chest compressions, counting off the compressions aloud to keep a pace. After fifteen, she opened Kira's mouth and gave two breaths. She began to press on Kira's chest and noticed the ice was turning red under Kira. On the eleventh compression of the second set, Kira coughed harshly, water erupting from her lungs.
"Kira!" Sanura gasped. "Kira, come on, keep breathing! Look at me!" Kira's eyes opened slightly, unfocused and pained. She was visibly shaking, and the blood puddle on the ice was growing larger. Rescuers and good Samaritans carefully rushed over the ice towards the two girls. Sanura passed out from exhaustion and cold, but was smiling at the fact that Kira was alive. Kira's vision grew dim, and she fainted as well.
Kira suffered a severe concussion and a damaging laceration to her back from the ice. Nerves were damaged, and Kira was left with a bad limp in her right leg. She could walk, but it was easier with a walking stick. The doctors marveled at how much faster Kira could run than before. The quicker she ran, the easier she could run. Sanura only had a minor concussion and slight lacerations from the ice.
The two girls spoke little to never about the incident and even less about what Kira had said in the note. Sanura never took the locket off, though. Despite the incident, the two remained close friends. The only thing that ever bothered Kira was that she couldn't fathom what she felt for Sanura, but she never pressed the issue.
"Kira, you can't keep ignoring your heart so much," the black-haired woman reached over the table and took Kira's hand. "Please, sweetheart, you have to do something. You're eighteen and Sanura's nineteen. I think you can handle talking to each other about how you feel about her." Kira couldn't meet her mother's eyes.
"Please, Kira," the woman murmured. "Promise me that you'll talk to her."
"…OK," Kira gave in. "I promise I will. I promise on our name that I will."
"On the name of the Seiko family? By my name as well."
"Yes, I promise on the name of Janus Seiko," Kira recited with a sarcastic shake of her head. "I promise that I'll talk to Sanura Ratana. Happy?"
—to be continued—