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Have I Died?

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Sonoda Gin gathers fruit at her local grocery store just off the east coast of Japan. She hums a soft tune to herself as she adds several plump peaches and a few crimson cherries to her basket. After paying the cashier, she leaves the store with a huge smile on her face. Her bag of fruit swings above cobble stoned streets as she makes her way through the city.

This is her first day off in weeks. Nothing is going to ruin it. Not even that huge blister that’s starting to swell on the back of her heel. Why? Because her fiancé, Kasamatsu, waits for her at their spot underneath the cherry tree. It was there just two years ago that she first spotted him. He was running late for a job interview and came dashing around the corner. His broad chest slammed into Sonoda and sent her strawberry smoothie flying out of her thin hands.

“I’m so sorry,” he said.

Sonoda glanced down at her new white trainers, now covered in bits of strawberry gunk.

“It’s fine,” she shook her head and smiled at him.

He ran the back of his hand over his sweaty forehead, “Do you know where I could find this place?” he shows her an address scrawled in blue ink across the back page of a bus timetable.

Sonoda knew the location well, she passed the building on her way to work every morning. It was some kind of computer company, perhaps specialising in software development or something. So Sonoda, being the helpful person she was, offered him directions. The only problem was that she gave him directions to a nearby pet store instead. Whether it was a mistake or not is still a matter up for debate.

This misinformation led to an intriguing conversation twenty minutes later. Upon spotting the same girl who mislead him and caused him to miss his interview, Kasamatsu thought it appropriate to give her a taste of his mind. But when he lay his eyes on her for the second time, he caught something he must have missed before.

It wasn’t long before the two fell madly in love with each other. The following year, Kasamatsu knelt down on one knee and presented Sonoda with the biggest diamond ring she had ever seen.

She glances at the ring on her finger, remembering the moment with fondness in her heart.

Heat from the blazing sun beckons a pink glow to roast on the apples of her cheeks. A stream of direct sunlight blinds her. She shuts her eyes and lets the light dance on her lids, casting flares of red and gold that paint Kasamatsu’s face. His pinkish lips, although merging into the buttery hue of his chin, smiles back at her.

She hasn’t laid eyes on the real Kasamatsu in over four weeks. He has been in Italy with his family. Sonoda always wanted to go herself and Kasamatsu’s mother was even kind enough to invite her along. However, the invitation was declined. Sonoda’s father had fallen ill and she needed to stay home and take care of him. She spent the last few weeks tending to his every need. Some days were good, others weren’t.

Her aunt came to the house this morning to give Sonoda a day off from dressing and feeding her father. She couldn’t believe her luck. Kasamatsu had just returned from Europe this morning and she was dying to hear all about his trip. Today she could push thoughts of her ill father to the back of her mind and focus all of her attention on Kasamatsu.

Just for today.

The soles of her strappy sandals slap hard and fast against the pavement. The bag of fruit sways at her side as she half walks, half skips towards the cherry tree. It wasn’t far. Just a few more buildings to pass and then there it would be.

And there he would be.

Thoughts of Kasamatsu and their upcoming wedding floods Sonoda’s mind.

What kind of neckline should her wedding dress have? She was fond of the sweetheart neckline. But perhaps a higher neckline would be more suitable for her thin frame? And then there’s shoes to think about…

Busy with thoughts about wedding dresses, shoes, cakes and venues, Sonoda doesn’t notice the family of four running past her. Each of them with tears streaming down their faces. Nor does she catch the disarray drum of beating footsteps clambering up behind her.

It isn’t until a by-passer knocks into her right shoulder that she is brought back to reality. The runner tosses her arm upwards. Cherries and peaches are thrown into the air before landing scattered about the pavement. One of the peaches (a particularly juicy one) rolls off the edge of the curb and is crushed by a weighty man carrying his screeching son on his shoulders.

A stampede of frightened pedestrians run towards her. They scramble together like a herd of wild buffalo. One frightened woman clutches her new born against her chest. The child is wrapped in a white cotton blanket.

A loud series of thunderous clatters escapes from deep in the city. A flutter, not the good kind, arises in Sonoda’s stomach and her ribcage twists around her lungs like clutching chains.

The noise echoes and is soon accompanied by huge rolling waves of murky water. They crash into a block of flats at the end of the street. The building shatters like a house of playing cards. People scream. They fall into the waves and are swept away too fast for Sonoda’s eyes to keep up with them.

An instant shot of adrenaline courses through her veins. Forgotten muscles in her legs tighten and she runs. Her heart pulsates in her chest. She cannot scream like the others. Her throat refuses to loosen enough to let any sound pass through at all.

She keeps her sight straight ahead. She does not think of the waves nor the falling buildings around her. Instead, she thinks of Kasamatsu’s face. Holding his hand and finding comfort in his profound embrace.

That would be a sweet death, she thinks. I’d be lucky then.

Gritting her teeth, she pushes her legs to go faster. She skips past the other screaming runners and dodges their abandoned cars. She leaps over dropped handbags and broken toys. She begins to think that she will escape this. They both will. Kasamatsu and her. Both of them together.

The cherry tree is in full bloom but he isn’t here. He isn’t here and the waves are coming.

She brings her hands to her mouth and calls out for him, “Kasamatsu,” she cries. “Kasamatsu!”

Has he run off and left her?

“Kasamatsu!”

It’s too late.

The rolling waves sweep her away with fragments of pink cherry blossoms.

She dies fast, cold and alone.

5 years later

 

A taxi man picks up his next passenger outside a local café. The passenger is a young man in his early twenties called Henry. He wears grey skinny jeans and a red checked shirt. He takes a seat next to the driver and asks to be left off at the Ishinomaki station. The driver nods and starts the engine.

A photograph of a pretty Japanese woman next to the steering wheel grabs the young man’s attention. She smiles in the photo with her dark hair hanging in loose curls about her shoulders.

“Is that your daughter?” Henry asks, perhaps hoping to get in good with her father while he can.

The driver shakes his head, “My fiancé.”

The young man widens his eyes at this revelation. She looks a lot younger than him.

“You’re a lucky man,” he replies, “She’s very beautiful.”

“She’s dead.”

Henry apologies and offers his deepest sympathies.

The driver seems unshaken by it. “It’s okay.”

“Do you mind if I ask what happened to her?”

“The 2011 tsunami claimed her life,” he replies.

Henry shakes his head, “That’s awful. I’m sorry.”

The driver doesn’t respond. He keeps his eyes on the road and his mind on the job at hand.

“I’m Henry, I’m here travelling with my girlfriend,” he says in a meek attempt to start a conversation with one of the locals. “I’m meeting her at the station.”

The driver nods. “Kasamatsu,” he says, accepting Henry’s handshake across the gear stick.

After a few minutes of silence, Henry decides to break the tension.

“Where you and your finance engaged for long?”

“Just a year,” Kasamatsu replies.

Henry nods. He’s tempted to ask more but he bites his tongue and says nothing.

Kasamatsu seems to pick up on his interest though and answers Henry’s unspoken questions before he has a chance to ask them.

“On the day she died we had arranged to meet at the spot where I proposed. But I was running late,” Kasamatsu explains, his voice is steady at first but he loses touch of it before he can finish his sentence. Henry listens intently. “I tried to get to her,” he says. “But I was too late.”

“I’m sure she knew you would have been there if you could.”

Kasamatsu nods, appreciative of the boys attempt to comfort him. They exchange small chat for the remainder of the journey. Kasamatsu recommends a few restaurants and places to visit during Henry’s visit while he jots them down on his notepad. He scribbles little stars with a ball point pen next to the ones he thinks his girlfriend will like best.

When they reach the station, Henry offers his condolences once again before stepping out of the taxi.

“Thanks for the lift,” he says. “Keep the change.”

Kasamatsu thanks him and is about to reverse the car but notices Henry lingers by the curb.

He rolls down the window. “Don’t keep her waiting,” he smiles.

“I won’t,” Henry winks back, before running up to a blonde girl holding a pink and white polka dot suitcase. He gives her a kiss on the cheek and turns to wave goodbye to Kasamatsu.

He returns the boys gesture and starts up the engine.

Just when he is about to drive off, someone thumps on the roof of the taxi. The back door of the car opens and a woman dressed in a blue coat gets inside. She shuffles herself over to the middle seat.

Kasamatsu glances at the mirror when he speaks, “Where to?”

“Minamiyama District.”

Upon hearing the mention of the dishevelled Minamiyama, Kasamatsu looks at the woman in the mirror. She has her hood up, casting dark shadows across her face. He can tell that she is young, perhaps in her late twenties.

“The area is empty and quiet. Do you still want to go?”

Silence.

When the woman finally replies, her voice trembles.

“Have I died?” she asks.

Kasamatsu turns his head to answer her, but the passenger seat is empty.

“Sonoda?”

End

Bio: Sabrinthia is a copywriter based in Northern Ireland. She specialises in writing blog posts and SEO articles for businesses online. She is also the founder of The Content Assassin (www.thecontentassassin.com) and is forever trying to write her first novel.

 

Thanks,

Sabrinthia

 

 

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