Hisae took Eri's shaking hand and let the girl fall into her. Her arms encircled the girl, awkwardly pausing before a hand set on her back and the other on Eri's head, stroking her hair.
"I'm sorry." Hisae's words were drowned by Eri's sobs. "I'm so sorry."
Why? Why had she been the one to apologize? Eri watched the back of the girl she once knew. Why? She could feel her eyes sting with tears but fought them back.
Eri timidly squeezed the green haired girl's hand causing her to glance back at her. "So, where are we going?" She asked.
"I have to go visit Pops."
Eri brows shot up in question.
"He's the one who found me and took me in."
Eri's head fell. "Hey, can I ask you something?"
"Did you ever look for-" Hisae cut her off.
"No. As I said I don't remember much before the accident but there are some things…vague moments that I-" She paused. "There wasn't any reason to look for anything. I may have had friends." She smiled yet her eyes said otherwise. "I had no family. My parents were dead, so I would have been all alone anyway."
Eri stopped walking. Her face twisted in confusion. She let her head fall and stared at the ground.
"Don't take it too hard. If I remembered someone who could cry over me like this I would've definitely wanted to see them again." Hisae put her hands up to show that she meant no offense.
"You let your hair grow." Eri said out of the blue. She took hold of a piece of the green locks and let her fingers run through it until they fell back to her friend's waist.
"It's a real pain, always getting in my way."
"So why don't you cut it?"
Hisae shrugged. "I thought about it a few times but the thought kind of bothered me."
"Really?!" Eri eyed her hopefully.
"Yeah." Hisae resumed walking, pulling Eri along.
The pair continued the rest of the walk in silence. Upon reaching a small antique shop, they stopped. Hisae let go of Eri's hand and poked her head in the doorway.
"Looks like the coast is clear."
A loud cough made Hisae jump. A few inches from the doorframe stood a very amused old man.
The old man held out the broom in his hand which Hisae, blowing a puff of air, reluctantly took.
"You're early." Pops ran his hand across his thick, grey mustache. "What happened?"
"They fired me."
"Fired or let go?"
Hisae rolled her eyes. "What's the difference?"
Pops lightly smacked her on the side of her head. "Whether it was done out of spite or necessity."
"Sensei is closing the diner. I think the loan only made things worse. The place will be completely shut down soon."
Pops merely shook his head before noticing the other figure in the doorway. "A customer!"
He shoved Hisae to the side and pulled Eri through the door. "Come, come, sweet pea. Feel free to take a look around and call "Pops" if you see something you like." He clapped his hands together and leered at her.
"She's not here to buy, you snake. She's-" Hisae tensed when she felt Eri's eyes on her. She was sure the girl was expecting something. "She followed me here."
Eri's jaw dropped.
Hisae nodded in approval of her choice of words. They were true after all but she felt a small pang in her chest when she said them.
"Oh, a ghost from the past?"
"Eri Inoue, an old friend." Hisae corrected.
Pops' lips pressed into a thin line as he scanned this 'ghost.' The young girl squirmed under his pensive stare. "Hmmm." He slammed his fist into the palm of his hand. "Huzzah! I know what you need!"
"Me?" Eri pointed to herself.
"Not you, you!" He pointed at a dumbfounded Hisae.
"I know exactly what you need! Come here you!"
Hisae followed the old man into the backroom, leaving Eri to her own devices. Eri pulled out her cell phone and flipped it open. Her thumb moved diligently for a few seconds only stopping after a minute to reread what she had typed in before she hit the send button.
"You're too old to make sense." Hisae emerged from the back, waving her hand. Eri noted that she held a paper bag in her other hand. "Let's get out of here."
"Actually, I wanted to circle around town and come back. Yes, that's it." She grabbed Eri by the arm. "Come on."
"So where are we going next?"
"I don't know about you but I'm going home. I lost my first job, just got sent home from my second and my third is allegedly closed until next weekend."
"Don't you live with Pops?"
She cradled the paper bag in both hands and hugged it. "I owe him enough…Goodbye."
The last word echoed in Eri's head. It sounded so final. Was it all going to end here? No. It couldn't. She wouldn't let it.
"May I?!" She cried out. "May I come too?" Hisae's retreating form didn't stop.
Eri's shoulders slumped.
"Hurry up and follow me home, puppy."
The blonde jumped in excitement and chased after her old friend. "Wait for me!"
"So what is someone like you doing in this part of town anyway?" Hisae dug through her pockets for her keys finally fishing them out from her back pocket.
"My parents are here on business. I was actually on my way to the shopping center when I saw you."
Hisae threw the door open and stepped aside to let the other girl in but Eri froze in the doorway.
Eri stifled a gasp. The apartment, if one could call it that, was nothing more than a tiny room with two doors. She assumed one led to a kitchen and the other to a bathroom; those were two necessities that no kind of home could possibly be without, right? With only a few steps she was in the center of the living room. She eyed the chipped wallpaper that hung from all sides trying to decide whether to abandon their stems.
Eri shook her head. "N-no. It looks cozy."
Hisae gave her a look that said 'that's not what your face says.' "How long do you plan on staying?"
"Am I bothering you?"
Eri's stomach growled. The girl's cheeks turned a bright shade of red.
Hisae turned away. "Now you're bothering me." She grumbled.
Eri followed Hisae into the other room which was, to her relief, a kitchen. "I don't get guests but since you claim to be a friend, you'll have to deal with my mouse diet."
Eri gasped. "M-m-m-mouse d-diet?" She searched the floor franticly.
"I don't have mice!" Hisae reached into a cupboard over the stove and pulled out a small bag of rice. "Rodents primarily live on grains and greens."
"Oh." Relieved, Eri plopped into the only chair in the room. "So what's with this mouse diet?"
"I'm dirt poor."
Eri blinked. She hadn't expected such an honest answer but what bothered her the most was how casually Hisae said it. Looking at her friend again, her eyes widened slightly. Why hadn't she noticed it sooner? Why hadn't she noticed how loosely the white tee-shirt hung on her friend's form? As the mid-day sun shone through the window, she could clearly see the frail silhouette beneath the fabric. She stared down at her folded hands and mumbled something.
"What was that?" Hisae pulled away from the stove.
Eri shot out of her seat. "This is just too ugly! Let's go home, Hisa-chan. Let me take you home right now!" She grabbed Hisae by the arm, her eyes pleading for this all too real nightmare to end. "Hisa-chan, I'm so-" She tilted forward her eyes closing. "-so-rry." She collapsed into Hisae's arms.
"Hey! Eri? Eri!" Hisae shook the girl but she didn't stir. She was silent for a moment before picking the girl up, with much difficulty, and dragging her to the living room. She ran into the bathroom and then back into the kitchen where she wet a towel with cold water. Eri was probably exhausted. No, that wasn't it.
"What do you have for me, old man?" Hisae asked throwing the broom to the side.
Pops circled his desk and opened a drawer. "What have I always been telling you about tact?"
"Last time I checked, sparing feelings gets people nowhere. The truth-" She touched her scar. "I don't like any kind of lies."
"You should have seen her face while you were running that mouth of yours." He laid a box on his desk and pushed it towards the edge.
"Ha! Not just any origami. It's a Senbazuru Set."
Hisae took the box and inspected it. "Don't they say that if you fold a thousand cranes, your greatest wish will come true?"
"Yep, I suggest you get started."
"I don't get it. What's your game?"
"I was hoping you'd wish for a personality."
Hisae's jaw clenched. The man really knew how to get under her skin.
"She looked like hell and I'm sure she's been there and back looking for her friend. If someone I loved went missing for three years, I'd just die. If they were like you when I found them...I would die all over again."
Hisae was about to say something but stopped. What Pops just said wasn't meant to be an insult. She vaguely remembered people from her past. She couldn't recall who they were or what they looked liked but she was sure there had been people there. As long as she walked in the mist called amnesia, she was safe from all feelings of loss but what about Eri and others who carried all of the memories?
"That's right." Pops smiled knowingly. He took the box from her hands and put it in a bag. "Why don't you take the rest of the day off to figure out the other half?"
Eri's eyes fluttered open and met with darkness. She sat up feeling a little disoriented. When had it gotten so late? Where was Hisae? The answer to the latter was hunched over in a corner with her back to her.
"There's nothing that I want enough to wish for. Frankly, I like things just the way they are but it's not all about me, is it?"
"What are you talking about?"
"It's not perfect." Hisae got up and came to Eri's side. She took the girl's hand and placed a paper crane in her palm. "Folding a thousand of these would be pointless for someone like me so maybe, just maybe, my cranes could grant other people small wishes. The thousandth wish will be mine, though."
Eri cradled the crane in her hand and gently poked one of its crumpled wings. "My wish?"
"Eri, I think I'd like to see the place you call home...if that's your wish."
Eri nodded. "Hisa-chan!" Eri stretched out both arms only to have a hand in her face.
"I have duck tape."
Eri made puppy dog eyes and stuck out her bottom lip.
Hisae rubbed the back of her neck. "Maybe some other time. Anyway, shouldn't you be heading home or whatever?"
"Nope! I told mom and dad I'm staying with Hisa-chan and I'm not leaving without her!"
Hisae's brow twitched. What had she just gotten herself into?