Hana stepped into Ryou's darkened room. She flipped the light switch on as his simple room was illuminated. Just looking at his room caused her heart to feel as if it was a sinking ship.
Aya came from behind and placed her hand on her daughter's shoulder, "Miss him already, huh?" she said in a comforting voice but even so it still carried a hint of sadness in it as well.
Hana just nods slowly as she blinks back her tears, "Can we keep his room like this for a little while?"
"Of course we can sweetie," Aya hooks her arm around Hana. Hana leans into her mother's chest as she quietly sobs.
Later on that night Hana walked into the bathroom. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her bloodshot sullen eyes stared back at her. She felt an immense void in her heart just thinking about Ryou and how he would never come back. She was hoping that all of this would just end up being a bad dream and she would wake up the next morning to find Ryou fine and well. But she knew that was impossible…even so she still wanted to cling onto that false reality. Because it was the only perfect solution, it was times like these when Hana wished she could be a kid again and still have hope that such miracles could really occur.
She picked up the last tissue in the box and blew her nose as more and more tears leaked out of the girl's eyes.
"You should open up to yourself more."
Hana looked at the mirror once more, she took her reflection in slowly as she watched those slivers of water course down from her reddened eyes to her flushed cheeks. She continued to let her tears fall more and more as they splashed into the sink all throughout the night.
Snowflakes fall down like rain as Hana is passing through the sidewalk soaked in the white landscape. She soon makes her way to her school which to no surprise is also covered in snow. She walks inside and goes over to her old classroom from last year where a certain glasses wearing brown haired man is doing paper work at his desk.
"Good morning, Mori-sensei," Hana says with a bright smile.
"Ah Hana," Mori says as he looks up from his papers. "Good morning. What brings you here? You do know it's New Years Eve, right?"
"Of course I do," Hana playfully swings her arms behind her back as she leans forward. "I just wanted to help you is all."
"Oh, that's very sweet of you Hana. Very well then," Mori pulls out a chair and pats his hand on it, "Come take a seat."
"Aw, thanks Dad!" Hana cheers as she skips over to her seat.
Mori was taken aback at Hana's remark, "I told you not to call me that while we're at school!"
Hana put her finger to her lips, "My bad, Papa."
"Sorry, couldn't resist," Hana giggled as she startled digging through the paperwork.
Mori let out a heavy sigh, "Geez you and Yuki have to realize I'm still your teacher as well."
"Well, technically you're not really our teacher anymore," Hana chuckled. "That was last year, silly."
"I'm still in a position of authority here!"
"Sorry, Mori-sensei," Hana grinned as she continued scouring through the paperwork.
Hana and Mori both set down a couple of roses on the gravestones of Ryou and Kazu. Hana's blue eyes carried a hint of sadness as she stared on at those graves. Her brother and her best friend…she had lost both of those just one year ago. She wasn't sure if that was a short or long time but she felt this void inside of her heart that never ceased no matter how much time passed. Hana had learned to keep on living in spite of the people she lost but even so, she always felt as if something was missing, something that could never be replaced.
"Hey, chin up," Mori said softly to the girl as he reeled her in to his chest. "They would both want you to be happy on this day."
"Sorry, I can't. I have a lot of work I need to do as the class representative."
"It's okay. Ryou-kun and I can help you, right?"
Ryou nodded agreeing with Kazu, "Yeah, I'd love to help you out Hana."
Hana's walking suddenly sped up to an awkward pace. "No thanks. I can handle it on my own."
"Okie dokie!" Kazu ran through the road, spreading her arms out to mimic airplane wings. "Let's fly to school!"
Kazu grinned at Ryou holding her arms behind her back. "Hey Ryou-kun, you ready for lunch?"
He smiled kindly at Kazu, "Sure that sounds nice."
"Yay!" the childish girl cheered, pumping her fists in the air. "Here. Try some of mine." Kazu pulled out a bento box from her backpack. "I've been taking cooking classes and my instructor says I'm the most original cook he's ever met!"
"Okay sure." he picked up the chopsticks lying in the middle of the box and placed the food in his mouth. Hepuffed out his cheeks keeping the food from oblivion stored in them.
Kazu cockedher head innocently, "What's the matter, Ryou-kun? Aren't you gonna swallow it?"Kazu bats her brown eyes at him, "So did you like it, Ryou-kun?"
He hesitated as he avoided direct eye contact with the fatal cook. "Uh yeah. It was good." No! Why did I lie? I guess it just came out.
Kazu claps her hands together, "Yippy! Okay then from now on, I'll always make your lunch for you!"
"Ryou, it's time to wake up." He slowly opened his eyes and saw Hana's smiling face in front of him. "Oh, so you're finally awake?"
He rubbed some sleep out of my eyes, "Hana? Why are you in my room?"
Hana put her finger to her lips, "I just wanted to let you know I'm baking a cake for Kazu-chan."
Ryou blinked, "A cake? Why?"
"Why do you think?" Hana places her hands on her hips. Because it's her birthday silly."
Hana nodded, "Yeah, but don't tell her about the cake. It's a secret okay?"
"Happy birthday!" Hana and Ryou greet Kazu as they walk downstairs.
Kazu smiled widely at them, "Aw, thanks you guys! Now give me a million dollars and I'll be happy."
"You might be happy but we'd be bankrupt." Hana said with a smile.
"Well then at least give me a million cakes!" Kazu demanded.
Ryou grinned walking over to Kazu, "If we did that then your stomach wouldn't be happy."
"Screw my stomach!" Kazu shouted with enthusiasm.
"So is everyone ready?" Hana asked as she puton her book bag.
Kazu jumped up from the couch, "Yep! Right after I get my one million cakes."
As Hana, Kazu and Ryou walk to school pink leaves dance around in the air.
"Cherry blossoms." Hana said watching the leaves float about in the wind.
Ryou nodded, "Yeah, I've never seen them up close before."
Kazu ran through the road like an airplane again swinging at the cherry blossoms, "It's time to fly to school again!"
"Be careful, Kazu-chan!" Hana shouted through her cupped hands.
"Ryou…Kazu-chan…" Hana blinked back her tears as her vision became blurred with their graves. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes back. Why was she feeling this way? She's been living her life without letting their deaths bring her down for the past year. She didn't ignore it all, she would come to this cemetery every day. But she didn't let it weigh her life down either.
"It's natural to miss them," Mori said softly with a bitter smile. "And we'll keep missing them for the rest of our lives. But…it's not the end. I'm sure we'll see Kazu and Ryou again one day. Maybe that's why Kazu had to go as well, so that Ryou would have a friend waiting for him."
"Do you mind if I say it just this once…please?" Hana's voice was gentle as she asked choking on her words.
Mori simply smiled and nodded, "We're not in school."
"Thank you, Dad…"
Later on that night, Hana, Nakamura, Mori, Aya, Ayano, and Rin were all gathered around on the blue sofa in the living room. Aya cradling a baby in her arms and feeding him a bottle of milk, "I'm really glad you and Rin could make it all the way over from the city, Ayano."
"Oh, it really wasn't too much trouble, it's not too far away after all," Ayano laughed. "Besides, we're happy to come visit our friends anytime."
"Mom," Hana sighed. "That's all you've been saying for the whole night."
"Now, that's not true Hana. Your mother has said more than that." Mori informed her with a suspicious smirk.
"Thank you," Ayano nodded profoundly.
"She's also been saying how she can't wait for it to be midnight…over and over and over again…"
Hana and Mori both laughed as they reached for the plate of cookies lying on the coffee table only for it to be swiped away from them in an instant.
"No cookies for meanies," Ayano swung her head to the side.
Mori scratched his head, "Please act your age in front of the guests, okay?"
"Oh like you're one to talk!"
"Hey, we only have five minutes left," Rin took notice of the time on his cell phone. "We should get our soup ready." Everyone nodded in agreement as they reached for their bowls of soup.
Nakamura picked up a bottle of ketchup and squirted the condiment all over her soup. "Yuki," Mori spoke in a stern voice, "How many times have I told you not to use ketchup for things like soup.
"I told her she could do it tonight since it's a special occasion," Ayano informed him.
"You tell her she can do it every night, Ayano," Mori said with a heavy sigh. "And that's the problem, you're way too easy on her."
Ayano shook her head, "No Natsu, you're way too hard on her!"
"She'll be going to college soon, what do you expect?!"
"None of that has anything to do with having a little ketchup!"
"It's not a little! It's a whole gallon!" Mori groaned as he ran his hand through his hair. "Never mind this is pointless."
Rin laughed, "Wow, it's only a been a year and you two have already got the old married couple routine down.
Ayano put her hand to her mouth and chuckled, "I'm still kind of surprised it happened honestly. "I mean, I never would've pictured you two getting married."
Rin leaned in closer to Mori's face, "I still remember how drunk you were at the bacherlor party, haha."
"Dad was very lewd with other woman," Nakamura said with a straight face.
"Yuki!" Mori shouted out in embarrassment.
She turned her head and flashed her index and middle fingers up with ketchup streaming down her chin, "That was a joke."
"You've got some ketchup on your chin."
"Some is an understatement…" Hana said with dull eyes.
"Alright, it's time!" Rin alerted everyone as they all held up their bowls of soup close to their mouths. "It's interesting, isn't it? Ryou-kun only had six months to live yet in that time, he managed to have such a major impact on all of our lives. None of us would be here if it weren't for him."
"Imagined what it would be like if we never let him out of the hospital?" Ayano pondered.
"Kazu might not have gained the confidence she needed to get her first B. And I'd be spending this New Year's Eve alone still lamenting my failures as a parent," Mori realized looking down at his soup.
"I'd probably be working," Ayano said as she looked down at the baby in her arms. "And Kyo wouldn't have been born.
Nakamura looked up to the ceiling as she spoke with hesitation, "I would…be dead."
Hana simply closed her eyes as all her memories of playing and talking with Ryou flashed before her eyes in an instant, "My life wouldn't be the same." Just as the clock hit twelve, Hana raised her bowl up high, "Cheers to Hamasaki Ryou!"
Everyone else joined in banging their bowls against each other, "Cheers to Hamasaki Ryou!"
And so that's it everyone. I hope you all enjoyed, but please let me know what you think. Feel free to let me know your favorite characters and chapters (or least favorite, I don't mind). As well as any other overall opinions on this story you might have. So once again thanks to Clear World for Beta Reading this story. And thanks to all of you who read and/or reviewed as well. I seriously do appreciate it! Goodbye!