It was an extravagant exit, to say the least, as the whole family and the staff came out to bid Saya goodnight. Lan rest his hands on the top of the golf cart, looking down at her.
“Wasn't so bad, was it?” He grins crookedly, his hair covering most of his features in the dark, despite the compound's accent lights behind him.
“It was.. an experience.” She admits, breathing in slow now that she's on her way out, she looks up at Lan and exhales, reaching up and pushing his hair back behind his ears as he does himself.
“Your.. family is lovely.” Saya's eyes flick back towards the three standing in the middle of the staff holding their bow towards her, making her uncomfortable with every passing minute that she waited.
“I don't know about Aiko, but your father and Reo are at least.. candid about caring, in their own way.” She bites back a smile as he turns his head away from her when she touches him.
“But you promised me a weekend around Hiroshima, right? Tomorrow?” He nods, his hair coming loose on one side again. Saya resisted the urge to find a hair tie in her clutch.
“I'll come get you tomorrow morning. Is ten okay?” he asks, turning back to her as he stands up to his full height and drops his hands from the top of the cart, she could barely see his face unless she leaned a bit.
“That sounds fine. I told them already, but do tell everyone that they were wonderful hosts,” she says.
He nods, leaning over and talking to Eiji in Japanese as he thumps his foot down on the brake pedal, disengaging the parking brake.
“See you tomorrow,” he murmurs as the cart starts moving, leaving her thumping along the road down towards the street, looking back at him.
Lan's figure stood tall and dark in front of the staff and his family behind him, a monolithic figure, as if left to the smiling, waving people behind him.


  Saya grips the handle beside her with one hand as the two make their way back towards the street, a taxi waiting for her beyond the gate.
“He likes you!” Eiji suddenly declares, both of them still bumping over branches in the lane, jarring Saya up out of her seat for a moment.
“What? Who?” She leans forward slightly, raising her voice over the whine of the cart's battery operated motor.
“Lan! Never brings guests. You the first in a long time!” he shouts out, echoing against the plexiglass windshield, whether it was for his benefit or hers, she couldn't tell.
Saya didn't respond, but looks back at the path they came down again, the figures were long gone, her fingers dig into the handle of the cart a little harder, worrying a little more about him as they approach the gate, alcoholic or not.


  The staff finally raise up as the cart disappears down the hill, starting to shuffle back into the house to start cleaning up.
Aiko and Toshio follow suit afterwards, but Reo stays behind, looking at Lan's unmoving form. His shadow cast by the lights behind him left a large blank space in the foliage beyond. Reo tilts his head slightly, resisting the urge to hold up his fingers in Ls to frame a picture. Photography had been an old hobby of his, long buried.
“C'mon, it's getting late,” he calls to Lan, who doesn't register it at first, taking a moment before turning back towards the house. But Reo's eyes were still on the large shadow behind him, growing larger with each step as he walks towards the lights in between them. It felt..

  intimidating, he thought.


  Lan was bent over, wincing as the rain pelted down on him in his scrubs, his arm over a woman near the age of his mother – unfortunately this one had discovered the attractiveness of crystal meth. She was barely conscious, the fire alarm blaring out from the building in front of them.
She was fading, he could feel it, his other arm looping around her waist as he held her up against him, her hands dropping down to her waist, clutching a pack of cigarettes, the other a lit one, still, he hoisted her up in the rain.
“Rachel. RACHEL. WAKE UP.” He shook the woman he held a bit, her cigarette dropping into the pool of water they all stood in, she slowly roused from her stupor, Lan holding a hand over her forehead as she looked up at the building, sirens wailing.
“Oh,” she uttered, slowly falling limp again and back into the phenobarbital's lethargy they all were roused from, some more than others. Lan enough to keep standing while holding a woman twice his age, squinting up at the building.
Breathing in hard through his nose, Lan looks over at the locked gate of their normal smoking courtyard, all of them on the other side, soaked in their standard issue detox scrubs.
There was no fire, nurses and patients both knew it was some twat trying to light up inside to avoid going out to smoke.
It would be another ten minutes until the fire department arrived to cancel out the alarm.


  Lan pulls in a ragged, drained gasp, back arching as he is torn from his dream. Were it only a dream, it would be forgettable. Memories aren't that forgettable.
He sits up in his bed, looking around, confused for a moment before remembering where he is. The house. His shirt was soaked with sweat, though that was nothing new – part of his disease, and he usually took it in stride. Shuddering, even though it was late summer, he pulls the shirt off and uses it to wipe himself dry, dropping it on the floor as he crawls out of bed.
Sighing, he wipes his eyes with his fingers before reaching into his bag for another shirt, pulling it on as he looks from the window to his watch, shaking it so it wakes up, telling him it's 5:10am.
He knew himself well enough to know that any more sleep wasn't coming, even if he took medication. Instead, he pulls the blanket off the bed and around himself as he pads around his old room, stopping at the bookshelf.
Lan smiles a little at the old titles, and how it was all arranged. On the left were the “hard” sci-fi novels, most with minimalist covers – he found that attracted him more to a book than some flashy already-drawn hero in a suit in an action pose. It also meant that the story was likely more realistic than the others. The book asked of the shopper to look deeper than the title or the graphic on the front. A lot of Asimov, Gibson, Reynolds books used this type of format.
Continuing down the line were the true fantasy books, most by Salvatore. Some Tolkein, and even Robert Jordan when a girlfriend was head over heels with the Wheel of Time. Lan found it too bland and wordy, and never got past 20 pages.
And the manga near the end, with no definable genre whatsoever. Intermingled in the action and thrillers were romance and tragedy. Admittedly more of the latter, Lan had used to like stories that made him cry, in a good way.
Like everything in this room, though, the books were decades old by now, even though when Lan runs his finger along the wood of the shelf it comes up clean. No doubt from word of his arrival, he wondered if they cleaned it this way very often.
Looking out the window, he shakes his head again – not more than ten minutes had passed, and the house was dead calm except for a light breeze blowing through the leaves outside. It would be a few hours before it woke up along with the rest of its inhabitants.
Lan plucks out a random volume of Kare Kano and returns to bed, clicking on the table light as he leans back against the wall, thumbing open to a page in the middle with no real destination in mind – he knew the story front to back anyway.


  Across town, another form of disorientation was happening as Saya's phone vibrates on the bed next to her pillow. She begrudgingly opens one eye, reaching out as she tilts the screen towards her, reading the time: 7:30am.
It took her a moment for her vision to focus on the white sheets and blanket she was under (she preferred pastels herself) until she looks around, remembering herself where she was – a hotel in Hiroshima. Her memories of yesterday and the dinner come flooding back as well. God, that was.. awkward, she thinks.
Her phone buzzes for attention so she cancels the alarm, sliding up a bit on her elbow in the massive bed, the morning sun starting to creep its way into her room through the cracks in the drapes. Saya didn't have to get up this early – in fact, this was sleeping in for her for most days, since the school started earlier – but she wanted time to get ready.
She leans back against the plush headboard, her eyes closing again as she thinks about the start of the day. Just a tourist today, she reminds herself, just you and Lan, and no family, no problems, museums, sightseeing, relax.
Saya rubs her eyes with the palms of her hands and stretches upward languidly, feeling her joints pop a bit as she pushes the covers down off of her, sliding her feet into slippers next to the bed and standing up to start the day.


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About the author


Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

[email protected]

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