I look up from my vacant state, it takes me a minute to realize where I am. A small wooden table, a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal set in front of me, Mina's pouty face...she must've been calling my name quite a few times. She gives me a side glare while crossing her arms; suddenly, her expression softens.
"Hey, are you feeling alright? You've been zonking out quite a bit lately." Mina turns her back to me as she reaches up to put the oatmeal mix box back into the overhead cabinet.
"Yeah" It's a curt response but it's all I have the energy to say. She doesn't seem convinced as she proceeds to push on. "Bullshit. It's written all over your face!" Gently setting her emptied bowl of oatmeal into the sink, she walks over to my side of the table, and flicks me on the forehead. I jolt back in my seat unprepared for this sort of torture first thing the morning. I don't even have a moment to get any sort of edge on her because in the next second she is gripping my head.
For a few moments she inspects me closely, her intense brown eyes bore into my anxious green ones. The wall I've kept up in front her crumbles with zero resistance. The way she constantly breaks them down without hesitation is something I'm still unaccustomed to. With her face inches away from mine she mumbles something incoherently, most likely in Japanese. Her slender, slightly tanned fingers extend my eyelids. She clicks her tongue in dissatisfaction and moves to the surrounding skin, her touch sweeping past my bottom lashes. Mina, you're too close! I scream internally, I think I might be turning red by now. This was way too much to handle! Doesn't she realize how painfully awkward this is for me?
"I'll have to report you for making sexual advances on a sixteen year old!" I blurt out in frustration and successfully, Mina winces and quickly takes several steps away from my chair.
"S-Sexual advances"?! You jerk. I was trying to help you!" Pointing at me and screaming like a banshee she desperately attempts to defend her actions. Of course I knew she had pure intentions but I had to do something to get her off of me. Seeing her so uncharacteristically taken aback I smile despite myself, sometimes I wonder which one of us is the adult here.
"Oh, are you amused?!" She continues to fume and demands an answer, I hold back the need to chuckle.
"Relax Mina. I'm not reporting you." I start lightly, but my mouth hardens with the next part. "And...I promise to take better care of myself. I'm serious." Mina clears her throat, as she regains some of her usual composure.
"W-Well you better! You look like you haven't slept in ages, you're paler than a ghost, you haven't been eating properly, and…" She pauses, her eyes waver with uncertainty as her attention falls to the floor rather than my gaze; yet another thing I'm not used to seeing in her. Through pursed lips she finishes her sentence. "I saw you crying last night…when I went into your room to check up on you..."
"Oh…" That explains her outburst at least.
"Do you...do you want to talk about it?" Her eyes are filled with concern, and it's growing harder to shrug off her efforts by the minute. She's well aware of my situation though, what more do I need to say?
"I just had a nightmare...about mom, well no. I shouldn't say it was a nightmare. Dad was there there too. We were all so happy...that when I woke up I just couldn't help myself." Happiness...it had been so long since I've even uttered the word that just the sound of it felt lost on my tongue, as if it didn't belong there.
I began to get caught up in my thoughts again when I glanced up to find that Mina once again closed the distance between us, this time rounding behind me. I was about to ask what she was doing, but my train of jumbled thoughts was abruptly interrupted by the feel of warmth surrounding my waist.
"Can I be a mother to you?"
Bewildered, I shiver in her arms. "What did you say?" I ask, not sure if I heard her correctly.
"Can I be a mother to you?" She repeats again, this time hardly above a whisper. I can't refute my ears this time. My mouth goes completely dry trying to form an appropriate answer. It's such a simple question and yet I find myself rendered completely speechless.
"Well? Say something, or else I'll just assume you're rejecting me." I can almost hear the smirk on her face. I would think she was joking if not for subtle unsteadiness in her voice.
My neck stings with an incredibly hot sensation, I assumed it was my body's natural response to this uncomfortable situation until I notice Mina's long raven colored hair spilling over the head the chair onto my shoulder. Is she...really this embarrassed? Just when I thought I'd seen enough new sides to Mina today here I was discovering another one. This one being the most surprising. Mina has always been strong and confident. In contrast to now she's being extremely vulnerable in a number ways. Did witnessing me crying really bring out all of these emotions? Dammit this is all my fault!
"Mina, what's up with you today? Are you on your period or something?" I try to make a joke, hoping to lighten things.
"Shut up!" She mutters into my neck like a child.
"Mina listen, you've been taking care of me for five whole months now. It's not long, but you are like my mother in a sense…" Did I say the right thing?
"No! That's not what I mean Henry." I don't dare to look up at her, it wouldn't matter anyways because she just buries her nose deeper into the crook of my neck.
"Then what are you trying to say?" This time her grip on my waist tightens. I await her reply but I don't get one.
"Mina?-" Just then I hear the muffled sound of Mina's ringtone playing from inside her bag on the couch. Reluctantly, she leaves my side. My body feels cold.
I slump over onto the table, my mind spinning from that overwhelming experience.
Mina...wants to be my mother?
Ever since meeting Mina I never imagined she would want that kind of relationship, sure she was kind and treated me with respect, but I've always made sure that there was a line, a line that I told myself I should never cross because if I did it would only result in loss. I'm sick of losing, if I keep my distance I have nothing to lose. From the very beginning she was just my editor, she is only here with me now out of convenience and because I have no other place to go. There shouldn't be anything else. That line I worked so hard to maintain...is now…
"Ugh! No good this is no good." Mina walks into the room, eyebrows furrowed and no longer as emotionally distressed as she was before (at least not visibly). I sigh an internal breath of relief.
"That was Ms. Fordworth, she wants to know what's taking that 'genius author' so long to give her that sequel he promised her" I stand up from the table, chair squeaking in the process. I walk towards her as she scrolls through various text messages.
I knew this was coming. I was such a fool to to think I could even have a glimmer of a second chance, it was only a matter of how long it would last.
"I tried to get you more time. Told her that you still need some time to get yourself back together...but she was less than willing since you already announced it's progress months ago. 'People don't wait on tragedy in this business and as long as he's not in a hospital bed dying somewhere then he should be working!'" Mina mocks Ms. Fordworth's poise British accent and finishes with a sigh. She bites her bottom lip in frustration as she often does when searching for a solution. This morning doesn't seem to be showing either of us any mercy.
She knows how difficult it's been for me, how difficult it's been for her to get me to even look at another computer screen. To write 1000 words 100 or even just 1, my page is always left completely empty and blank. Writing was once a sweet release, a release far away from the pain I faced in the world; the one I had no control over, but now there was just...nothing. Even that small amount of freedom was taken from me. If I couldn't even have that then…
"Ya' know? Maybe absorbing yourself back into your work could be a positive thing, if you try hard enough I'm sure you could get something going." Mina coaxes cautiously. "As your guiding light in writing I'll be there for you every step of the way. I've promised you that!" She forces a gloomy smile and my stomach twists in guilt. This just won't work.
"Tell Fordworth I'm done."
"What?!" Now it was Mina's turn to be stunned.
"I never wanted this...to be famous. There's no point if I don't even know if I can keep up with these deadlines." Mina grabs for my shoulders and for the first time this morning I really do push her away.
"Writing...The words I created were all I had left once dad died! Everything in my world was constantly changing...mom, my friends, my emotions, the way I lived...I could never call any of them my own! Mom died and it was all my fault! Then suddenly-" My vision was blurry and my eyes were stinging just as horribly as they were the night before but I didn't care. I was just done. Done with everything. My heart slammed against my chest, and my muscles tensed as I forced my shaking body to face Mina directly.
"Suddenly, I became this 'bestselling author' and gave everyone false promises about who I was and what I could do. Don't you see? My head is empty. There's absolutely nothing there anymore! The words everybody became so entranced with, the words you fell in love with. They belong to no one as well, not even me. So just hurry up and go back to Japan already!"
I tore my face away from hers, bolting into my room. I slam the door shut and clumsily lock the door behind me before rolling onto my "bed" which is, in reality, just two mattresses stacked on top of each other. Slipping under one of my thin cotton blankets I stare up at the ceiling, ignoring the blood pounding against my temples.
What new side of Mina was revealed in response to my selfish actions? For some reason I find myself imagining it. Clouded eyes glazed over with grief, broken complexion, her mouth quivering as she fights the need to burst out into tears...
Mina, you shouldn't want a son as disobedient and cruel as I am. I could feel a ghost of a smile tugging against the corners of my lips.
This was my world.
The only world meant for me.
The only world willing to accept my existence.
I knew this was for the best. For the both of us.