It was a windy autumn afternoon at the University’s main road, where several student clubs were setting up booths and vying for the wanderers’ attention. One such student, a girl with pitch-black bowl-cut hair and a brown leather coat, was casually strolling along, on the lookout for anything that may interest her. She then noticed someone familiar standing in front of the Cosplay Club booth.
A tall girl, with green hair, a matching leaf-like tube top, and a rainbow-coloured transparent petal skirt with ruby heels. She felt intimidated by her figure, but felt comforted upon seeing her serenely smiling face. She wondered if, after all this time, she still recognized her.
“Hi,” she told the girl at the booth. “Are you Lydia Li?”
“Yes,” she responded, her eyes brightening. “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”
She put her finger to her cheek, trying to remember. “The music festival a few years ago, am I correct?”
The bowl-haired girl was excited. “Yes, indeed!”
She sighed dreamily. “I could never forget that day. You were so beautiful in that red dress, and your rendition of Fragments of Memories was so captivating. I wondered if I’d ever see you again, and now here you are!”
“I’m flattered,” Lydia said in a breezy, yet deadpan tone as the girl’s heart raced. “Hmm…what was your name again?”
Her heart sunk. She didn’t remember? “Um, Sa…”
Lydia held up a finger in inspiration. “Wait, Sayaka, right?”
Sayaka gasped, pleased that she even managed to pronounce it correctly. “Yes, Sayaka Akihara!”
“Pleasant surprise seeing you here,” Lydia remarked. “Still working that guitar of yours?”
“Yes,” Sayaka replied. “I just got started in the Music program here. I hope by the time I finish, I’ll be ready to take the world by storm!”
Lydia giggled. “I’m sure you will.”
“What are you taking, Lydie?”
Sayaka was shocked. “Wow, you’re really talented. I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I get that a lot,” Lydia remarked.
She then noticed the boy beside her looking at her impatiently. “Oh, right,” she said. “Sorry, gotta get back to business. Anyway, are you interested in signing up for the Cosplay Club?”
“Um, sure, I guess I could give it a try.”
“Ever had a character you wanted to dress up as?” Lydia asked encouragingly.
Sayaka stared at her nervously. “Um, not really. I don’t know much about fashion.”
“Doesn’t matter. Just come as you are. We’ll come up with a dream outfit together…”
She grabbed a tree branch off the ground and made a swirling motion around Sayaka’s head. She chuckled.
“…and make it a reality,” she finished. “Just give us your name, your phone number, and email so we can contact you about events.”
“Wait, that’s all I have to do?” she asked.
Sayaka smiled. She got out her yellow Sailor Venus pen and signed her contact info on the mailing list.
“You’re all good,” Lydia told her. “See you next week at the Club Social.”
“Will do, Lydia,” Sayaka replied. “See you around.”
As she walked away, she thought, Her skin is so perfect. I wonder how she keeps it like that.
“Hi everyone,” the Club President called out to the crowd of 11 students sitting in front of her. She had long blond hair and was wearing a fancy blue dress, carrying a sword. “How about we do a little icebreaker activity to start? We’ll go around the room saying our name, what we’re studying, and our favourite character.”
Everyone nodded in agreement, though Sayaka looked nervously around the room. The students were mostly girls in frilly skirts and dresses, though she did notice a couple of sharply-dressed boys as well. Compared to everyone else, she felt ordinary and out of place.
“My name’s Genevieve, Gene for short,” the President continued. “I’m in 4th year Philosophy, and my favourite character is Saber from Fate / Zero.”
She then turned to Lydia, whose hair was brown today. She had on a blue dress and flesh-coloured leggings that was one of the outfits Sayaka instantly recognized. “Lydia, 1st year Computer Science, and of course, my one true love, Nausicaa.”
After others gave their introductions, the table turned towards Sayaka. “Um, my names Sayaka. I’m in 1st year Music, and my favourite character…um…”
Everyone eagerly stared at her as she racked her brain. She had a lot of favourites, but didn’t think about a specific character that often. Finally, she blurted out “Revy, from Black Lagoon.”
The others gazed at her intriguingly.
“Nice choice,” Gene chuckled. “Have you ever tried dressing as her?”
“Um, I may have thought about it a few times,” Sayaka admitted, looking at some of the skimpier outfits around her. “But, I never was that comfortable showing that much skin.”
“That’s okay,” Gene replied, smiling reassuringly. “I know our costumes can get pretty wild sometimes, but you can work on whatever makes you feel comfortable.”
Sayaka was relieved to hear that, and the table turned towards the rest of the audience. After they went through everyone, a delivery woman brought several boxes of pizza into the room and everyone’s attention suddenly shifted to the tempting smell wafting around the room.
“Now here’s the real reason we’re here today,” Gene remarked sardonically. “Let’s break for pizza!”
Everyone in the room started rushing to get pizza, though Sayaka patiently waited for others to get up before she joined the end of the line. She listened to the others talk amongst themselves, trying to find an opening to join in. However, she remained silent as she heard the girls in front of her talk about anime she never heard about. She scanned the room for other people she could join, but they were talking about their current cosplay projects, and she didn’t want to look ignorant in front of them.
After much deliberation, she finally arrived to pick up her pizza. She looked over to Lydia, who was currently talking with Gene.
“Thanks for helping us with the website,” Gene told Lydia.
“No problem,” she replied. “I was looking for an opportunity to get some programming exercise in.”
Gene giggled as she made a head-squeezing gesture. “I’m glad it was stimulating for you. The site looks really lovely now.”
Sayaka shivered. She wanted to join them, but hesitated since she didn’t want people think she was only interested in Lydia. Gene then waved at her to come join them, and she happily obliged.
“Hi,” Gene greeted. “Um, Say-AH….”
“Sah-yah-kah,” Lydia interjected.
“Right. So, Sayaka, looking forward to the year?”
“Um, yeah, of course!” she replied.
“Any costume you’re particularly interested in making?”
Sayaka paused, desperately trying to think of something. “Um…” she stuttered. “Not yet. But I would like to learn.”
She stared at the two, blushing in embarrassment. She felt like they were staring right through her.
“That’s what we’re here for!” Gene announced. “What about you, Dia?”
“Well, I thought about going as Nausicaa again,” she explained. “But then I remembered someone else I wanted to go out with this year.”
Gene raised her eyebrows. “You’re cheating on Nausicaa?”
“Oh, no,” Lydia remarked. “Like, this other chick’s hot, but it’s not like I want to, do her or anything. It’s purely platonic. No one will ever replace Nausicaa in her heart.”
Sayaka stared at her, unsure of how to respond to that.
“Well, who is this new girl?” Gene asked.
Lydia pulled out her phone, showing her and Sayaka a picture of a maiden with long, black hair. She had a long blue dress flowing over her chestplate and high-heeled boots, posed in a way that exposed her thighs and back. The other two girls gazed at her in awe. She was indeed as attractive as Lydia said.
“Shanoa, from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia,” Lydia told them. “Been wanting to recreate that outfit for a while.”
“Oh,” Gene responded. “How far along are you?”
“Haven’t done much yet. Classes have been keeping me busy. But it’s getting there, slow and steady.”
“That’s good. Can’t wait to see it.”
Sayaka sighed dreamily, imagining what Lydia would look like in Shanoa’s outfit.
The room started pouring out as the sky turned dark. Sayaka wondered if she too should leave, but felt compelled to stay with Lydia. Gene was returning back to their table after conversing with a few other students.
“Well, I better get home,” Gene told the other two girls. “Hope to see you again next week, Saya.”
“I’ll try to make it,” Sayaka replied. “Bye, Gene!”
“Farewell,” Lydia said.
With Gene’s departure, Sayaka was now alone with Lydia.
“You sure stuck around for a while,” Lydia remarked.
Sayaka stared nervously at her. Was she reading her intentions?
“I’m glad you had fun,” she continued, smiling. She started to walk out of the room, and Sayaka followed. “Coming to the first workshop?”
“Um, I don’t know yet.”
Lydia’s eyebrow raised. “Why?”
Sayaka sighed. “I really appreciate the work you and Gene put into the club. But, I don’t know if I really belong here.”
“What makes you say that?”
“It’s just, everyone seems to know so much more than me. About cosplay, about style, about anime, everything.”
Lydia giggled at her remark. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.
“It’s normal,” Lydia explained. “There were many others there who were just like you; quiet, not saying anything. Gene wanted to make sure no one felt left out, so she was walking around the room to talk to everyone.”
“Yeah, she’s really nice,” Sayaka agreed.
“Trust me, many of the others are just starting out too. But after a few sessions, you’ll get the hang of it. And even if you’re not interested in fashion, you at least know how to make some nice trinkets if you ever get bored.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt to try a workshop. Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Good to hear.”
They arrived at the bus stop, and Sayaka stopped while they stared at each other for a while.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” Lydia asked, with a curious expression on her face.
Sayaka’s heart raced. This was her opportunity, so what was she waiting for? “Do you, um, want to hang out sometime?”
She felt her voice straining to get those words out, but Lydia felt no such worry.
“Sure,” she replied, as Sayaka felt her heart squeeze. “I’m heading over to the East End to meet some friends this Friday for dinner. Would you like to come along?”
Sayaka sighed. She was hoping for a more private meeting, but she should get to know her friends. “I’d love to!” she said.
“How about we meet here at 5 pm?”
“Alright. See you around, Saya.”
“See you, Lydie.”
Without a second glance, Lydia walked away. As Sayaka waited for the bus, she wondered what Lydia was really thinking.
That Friday, Sayaka ran to the bus loop, but she was nowhere to be seen when she arrived. She panicked, hoping she wasn’t too late, but she then checked her watch and realized it was still 4:50. Breathing a sigh of relief, she decided to wait it out.
A long 10 minutes passed, but there was still no sign of Lydia. She was getting worried. Did she change her mind? she wondered. But after 5 more minutes of nerve-wracking anticipation, she finally saw Lydia walking towards the bus stop, chatting with a boy that had brown, fringed-style hair. She waved to her, and she smiled back.
“Hi, Lydia,” Sayaka greeted.
“Oh, hello,” Lydia replied.
The brown-haired boy greeted Sayaka with a handshake. “Hi, I’m Drew.”
“Sayaka,” she replied. “How long have you two known each other?”
Lydia and Drew stared at each other, chuckling. “Two years,” Drew said. “We went to Portlandia Secondary together.”
Sayaka was surprised to hear that name, as Lydia didn’t look like someone from an East End school. She said nothing, but instead pulled out a mirror to check her hair and adjust her braided pigtails. The two were dressed in sailor outfits reminiscent of Japanese school uniforms, with Sayaka’s eyes gravitating towards Lydia’s tiny azure miniskirt. She quickly averted her gaze, hoping no one noticed her staring.
“So, where are we headed to?” she asked.
“I’m staying with my girl Willow over the weekend,” Drew explained.
“Been a while since we last saw her,” Lydia added. “So we owe her as much.”
Sayaka breathed a sigh of relief, glad they weren’t a couple after all. The next bus finally arrived, and when they got on, there were only two empty seats left, and Drew offered the seats to the two girls. Sayaka willingly sat down, hoping Lydia would also join her.
“It’s okay,” Lydia told Drew, who sat down and turned his attention towards Sayaka while she grabbed a support pole and pulled out Persepolis.
“So, what are you studying?” he asked.
“Music,” she said quietly.
“Cool!” he exclaimed. “What instrument do you play?”
“Wow, that’s awesome! We have some spare guitars at Willow’s place, so maybe we could hear you rock out.”
Sayaka stared at him anxiously. “I’m not that good, though.”
“Neither am I!” Drew responded cheerfully. “But if Willow’s willing to put up with it, I know she’ll love to hear from you. Wanna try anyway?”
Sayaka smiled. “Sure. Anyway, what are you studying?”
“Computer Science. I’m in the same class as Dia.”
“How’s it going so far?”
Drew smiled sheepishly. “It’s tough. Little mistakes can really mess you up. Would have pulled an all-nighter trying to finish this week’s assignment if I didn’t have Lydia around to help out.”
“She sounds really smart.”
“She is. The three of us made a video game together, and she programmed most of it. She had a lot of outlandish ideas, though, so I’d like to think Willow and I helped keep the game playable.”
Drew chuckled, remembering the many arguments they had, while Sayaka fell silent. She’s accomplished so much, she thought. But what have I done?
“Hey, are you feeling okay?” Drew asked.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she responded, smiling. “How often do you meet with her?”
“Well, we do share the same room, so every day, I guess.”
Sayaka gasped. “What’s it like, living with her?” she asked.
“It’s all right. We have fun sometimes, but she has a habit of keeping things to herself.”
Sayaka looked up at Lydia, who was still deeply involved with her graphic novel, unperturbed by the moving and shaking bus. Yeah, she could see that.
Willow rushed out to hug Drew as soon as she saw the three of them walk up to her apartment room.
“Drew! It’s so great to see you again!” she cried.
“I’ve missed you,” Drew replied. “Sorry for making you wait.”
“It’s okay. Just, try to come back more often, okay?”
Drew smiled anxiously. “It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’ll do what I can.”
Willow grinned. “Awesome. Is Dia treating you okay over there?”
“Yeah, she’s been a great help.”
She then turned to Lydia. “I’m really glad you decided to stay with him.”
“It’s no big deal,” Lydia replied.
Drew looked back at her. “I promise I’ll pay you back eventually.”
“Look, we’ve been over this,” Lydia told him. “I don’t mind covering for you. Just do your best, and that’s payment enough.”
Sayaka was unsure of what was going on, but was worried. This situation sounded familiar to her. “Wait, what’s going on between them?” she asked Willow.
“Drew’s mom is a gambling addict,” Willow explained. “He’s been trying to support her, but it’s tough for her to break that habit. So many times, she’s blown away what little money they had, even when he needed it to pay for stuff like textbooks. So Lydia agreed to pay for most of his living expenses so he can concentrate on school.”
Sayaka gazed sympathetically at Drew, having been in a similar situation herself.
“What’s your name, anyway?” Willow asked.
She suddenly snapped out of her thoughts. “Sayaka.”
“That’s a nice name,” Willow replied. “We’re cooking elk burgers out in the back. Care to join?”
The four of them walked out to the backyard to greet the rest of the family on the balcony. Mr. Morningstar, a large, jolly man, was already putting together some burgers off the grill along with Rowan when they arrived.
“Wow, sis, you sure brought home a party!” Rowan remarked.
“Good thing we planned ahead,” his dad added, as he addressed Willow. “Thought your boy could use some extra meat, but the more, the merrier!”
Sayaka walked up to greet Willow’s family. “Hi, my name’s Sayaka,” she told him.
“Nice to meet you,” he said, as she shook hands with him and their dad. “I’m Rowan.”
“Make yourself at home,” Mr. Morningstar told her. “There’s plenty of room for everyone!”
They all grabbed their burgers as they sat in a circle, watching each other as they ate.
“So, how’s Atelier Yanagi doing?” Lydia asked Willow.
“Oh, it’s doing just fine!” she replied cheerfully.
Lydia looked unconvinced. “How’s it really doing?”
Willow sighed. Nothing gets past her, does it? “Business is slow,” she admitted. “I’ve been trying to get into as many booths as I can around the city, but haven’t been able to sell too much yet.”
“I see,” Lydia said. “Well, is there any way I can help? With advertising, perhaps?”
“Thanks,” Willow replied. “But you’ve already done enough. I know you’re busy, so I don’t want to give you too much extra work.”
“Oh, it’s no problem for me,” Lydia said. “I know many students who would love to have your geeky styles, so it’s just a matter of getting the word out.”
“I know, and I appreciate your attempts to advertise my store. Just, don’t tire yourself out, okay? From what Drew’s been telling me, it sounds like you’ve got a really busy schedule.”
“Don’t worry, I can manage,” Lydia remarked, though Drew looked unconvinced. They returned to their meal, and after a while, Willow started snuggling up to him. Smiling, he held her as he finished eating his burger. Sayaka smiled as she watched the scene. It was like any worries the two had completely evaporated. She hoped one day, she too would know that affection.
“Say,” Rowan interjected, gesturing at Lydia. “When did you meet Sayaka, anyway?”
Lydia prepared to speak, but she noticed Sayaka gazing at her longingly. “I’ll let her tell the story.”
Sayaka’s heart raced upon hearing those words, and she cleared her throat, excited to relay the story. “We met two years ago at the local music festival. My performance time was coming up, and I was really nervous. While I was looking at the schedule, I looked to my side and saw her, standing right there.”
She sighed dreamily. “She was the most beautiful girl I had ever met. I thought I’d introduce myself to her, but she greeted me first. Turns out she was a long-time pianist at the Festival, and when she realized she was performing after me, she asked if she could see me play my guitar. Of course, I said yes!”
She took a deep breath before continuing. “But I was scared. I hadn’t performed at the festival since I was a child, and I really didn’t want to let down my new friend. But I did. It was a good thing my parents didn’t even come to see me, because midway through my first song, I lost it. I couldn’t remember the chords I was supposed to play. People in the crowd pointed and laughed. It was awful.”
Lydia frowned in concern upon hearing Sayaka struggle to relive that memory.
“I was ready to quit. I never wanted to do this ever again. But then, I heard her calling to me. She walked right up to the stage, and told me to get up and try again. To finish, so that the judges could properly assess my performance. It was harsh, but somehow, comforting. So I blocked out the jeers in my mind, and just focused on doing over the song, all while that beautiful princess watched and cheered me on. I’ll always be grateful to her for saving me during one of my darkest days.”
Lydia felt uncomfortable by those words. Sayaka, looking concerned, asked, “What’s wrong?”
She paused. “I appreciate the sentiment,” she told her. “I’m glad you didn’t quit after all, and I hate seeing people kick others when they’re down. But, there are times in life where no one will be able to save you, no matter how much they try. So I hope you will be ready when that happens.”
Willow and Drew looked at Lydia with concern. They both knew what she was talking about, but Sayaka just stared at her, wondering if she misspoke.
“Please continue,” Lydia added.
Sayaka paused, collecting her thoughts. “In the end, I got a B-, but the judges were surprisingly nice. They didn’t talk much about my breakdown, but instead, they discussed everything else I needed to work on. They even encouraged me to try again next year!
“Later that day, I met up with Lydia again. We talked for a bit, and to my surprise, she told me that she bombed at the music festival once as well!” she continued. The others gasped, while Lydia continued to smile.
“It’s true,” Lydia replied. “Happened when I was 14. At the time, I thought I played everything perfectly. All the notes were in place, the rhythm was precise, and I followed all the directions on the sheet music. My teacher even told me I was the fastest technique learner she ever had, so I was pretty confident. But to my surprise, I ended up with mostly B’s and B-‘s. To say the least, it was hard for me to accept back then.”
“Didn’t you say you had a particularly strict judge that year?” Willow asked.
“Yes. I talked to some of the older performers, and they told me she was really hard to please. She regularly gave out harsh assessments, and not even the most renowned performers in the community were safe. But they respected her, and after I got over myself and actually read her assessments, I understood why. She was right. Even though I was mechanically sound, it was interpretation that I failed at, because I didn’t put any passion or feeling into my performance. Nothing stood out about my music. It was all by-the-numbers. It was then that I realized I needed to change myself.”
“And then you came back the next year to win the whole thing!” Sayaka gleefully concluded.
“Yes, indeed,” Lydia replied. “It all paid off in the end.
“Say,” Drew interjected, looking at Sayaka. “How has your guitar playing been after the festival?”
“I’m still not that good yet,” she said. “But I did try playing at the festival again the next year, and I even got an A.”
“That’s pretty good if you ask me,” Willow remarked. “Would you like to play for us? I think this place could use some after-dinner music.”
“We can lend you one of our guitars,” Rowan offered.
Sayaka nodded. “Sure, I guess. What should I play?” she asked.
“Anything you’d like,” Mr. Morningstar told her. “I’ll get you all set up.”
“Okay everyone,” Sayaka announced to the excited group, standing in the centre of their outdoor sound system with guitar in hand. “The song I’m about to play is from a Japanese idol group…”
Lydia suddenly frowned, and Sayaka froze. Seeing her anxiety and Willow’s disapproving stare, Lydia quickly put on a smile and gestured at her to continue. Sayaka took a deep breath before she continued.
“I know that’s not everyone’s thing, but it’s a song very close to my heart, so I hope you enjoy it too!”
The group eagerly anticipated her performance, though Lydia was secretly dreading the high-pitched bubblegum pop that was to follow. Sayaka took a few breaths, and then strung out a quick succession of booming opening chords. Everyone was taken aback at how unexpectedly loud her guitar and the backing track were, and it became quickly apparent that this was no dance pop song as she rapidly belted out chords to the fast-paced rock tune accompanying the girly Japanese vocals. Her expression changed as well; gone was the shy, quiet girl they had just recently got to know. As soon as the girl in the backing track started screaming out of the high notes of the chorus, Sayaka too shook and bobbed her head in time with the music, with a scowling, aggressive look on her face, as if she was actually singing herself. Upon the reprise of the chorus, Drew started fist-pumping and chanting “Hey!” along with her. The others started to join in, except for Lydia, who merely smiled serenely.
Finally, the aural storm began to subside as Sayaka played the final line. The room fell silent, then erupted in a huge applause. Sayaka was surprised that her performance went so well. She knew she made a few mistakes, but the others didn’t seem to mind. She bowed, almost ready to cry upon seeing their appreciative faces.
“That was great!” Drew exclaimed.
“You could probably teach Jae-Woo here a thing or two,” Willow remarked, as Drew blushed. Lydia was pleased to see her look so confident up there, and Sayaka blushed upon seeing her face.
“Thank you everyone,” Sayaka announced. “The song is called Hontou Honki by BiSH, and they’re definitely not your typical idol singers. I also sing too, but I wasn’t ready today. Sorry.”
Everyone looked at her in admiration. “Will you play for us again?” Willow asked.
“Sure!” Sayaka explained.
“Have you thought about performing at CherryCon?” Drew asked.
“Well,” Sayaka stuttered. “It’s been a while since I last performed in front of a huge crowd. But yes, that’s what I’m aiming for.”
“I’m sure you’ll do great there,” Mr. Morningstar told her, as everyone nodded in agreement. Lydia then looked at her phone, and got up after seeing a text message from her parents.
“It’s been nice seeing you all again,” she told her friends. “But, you know how my parents are.”
“Really?” Willow asked incredulously. “They’re still expecting you to come back early?”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “To them, I’m still their little Li Li,” she remarked.
“That’s too bad,” Willow said. “But I hope you can stay longer next time.”
“So do I.”
“If you’re staying for the night and need an extra bed, just let us know,” Mr. Morningstar told her.
“Thank you,” Lydia replied.
“See you on Sunday,” Drew told her.
Sayaka got up too, to Lydia’s surprise. “I guess I better get going too then! Thanks again everyone!”
“No, thank you!” Rowan said, which made her giggle.
They all exchanged final farewells as Lydia and Sayaka walked out to catch the bus. They were finally alone. As they waited, something came to Sayaka’s mind.
“Wait, Drew’s Korean name is Jae-Woo?” she asked.
“Yes. Park Jae-Woo.”
Sayaka became curious. “What’s your Chinese name, Lydie?”
“That’s a nice name. What does it mean?”
“Xuĕfēn translates to ‘snow fragrance’.”
Sayaka gasped. “How fitting. My name means ‘clear fragrance’.”
She was feeling giddy. “Do you think this means, we’re destined to be together?”
Lydia paused, her expression unchanged. “It’s just a coincidence. We can never tell what the future holds.”
Sayaka was disappointed in her cold response, and said nothing more. The bus arrived, and they sat beside each other, still with nothing to say. Sayaka kept looking longingly at Lydia, but her face seemed frozen in an uncannily serene state. It was an eerily silent trip, and Sayaka wanted to say something, anything. But no words came out. It was only when the bus was approaching her destination that she finally spoke.
“Um, I have to get off soon,” she told Lydia.
Lydia stood up, and looked around. Her eyes widened as she saw the dilapidated surroundings of the region close to the downtown core. “You live here?” she asked.
“Yes, with my grandmother.”
“Oh,” Lydia said. She gazed in astonishment as Sayaka continued.
“My grandfather died recently, just before I started university. Our family wanted her to move out of this region, but she insisted on staying in the place where she was born. So I decided to live with her, so she’d have someone along with her.”
Lydia continued to say nothing, though she looked sympathetic.
“She’s very special to me. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pay for university, that I would have to take out student loans that I wasn’t sure if I could ever pay off, but she told she would use her own retirement funds to help me. I pleaded with her not to do it, but she wouldn’t change her mind.”
Sayaka began to cry. “Because she said that her story was nearly over, but mine was just beginning. Even though my parents refused to let me study music, she said I should be free to pursue my dreams, because if I didn’t, I’d regret it forever.”
She paused, as the bus drew closer to her destination. “She’s done so much for me, and I want to pay her back somehow. Show her that I’m not just some worthless good-for-nothing, that her belief in me won’t be in vain.”
She stopped to wipe away her tears, and was surprised to see Lydia, for the first time, looking concerned. She was still quiet, contemplating what to say. Eventually, she pulled out her cell phone and started texting something. Sayaka stared at her, wondering what she was doing, but a few seconds after she finished, she noticed a text notification in her own phone. She pulled it out, and realized that she had given her phone number and email. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
“Just, call or email me if you need anything,” Lydia told a stunned Sayaka. “Whether it be money, advice, or just someone to talk to, I’ll be here for you. I promise.”
Tears started welling up once again Sayaka suddenly rushed to hug her. Lydia was taken aback, surprised at how strong her grip was, but she felt a warm feeling in her heart as she returned the gesture, patting her head to console her. They held on until the bus slowed down and called out the next stop. Sayaka seemed reluctant to let go, but slowly loosened her arms. She wiped away her tears as she prepared to walk out.
“See you around, Lydia,” she said, waving to her.
“Farewell for now, until we meet again,” Lydia replied.
As she walked away into the darkness, Lydia remained motionless at the door, even as the bus started moving, so she could see her leave. She waited until she was completely out of her field of vision before she returned to take an empty seat, isolated from everyone else, and closed her eyes.