Last Story – A Bouquet For Your Smile – Part 6
Hideo Kobayakawa’s girlfriend, Sana Nakagawa, lived in a simple studio apartment. After receiving Mr. Kobayakawa’s request, Senpai and I decided to meet her.
We’ve been ringing her doorbell several times now, but she hasn’t come out. Either she couldn’t see us through her intercom or she just wasn’t home.
“Maybe she’s not home?” I told Senpai.
My training period would end in a week, so this would be my last case, and I wanted to be directly involved with the client as much as possible, but since Sana seemed to be away, I felt a little dejected.
“Who knows?” Senpai shrugged. Meanwhile, I continued ringing the doorbell several more times.
After a few more tries, I finally gave up, but Senpai suddenly muttered, “Geez.”
Through the peephole, a shadow quickly flashed by.
Senpai didn’t miss the moment and greeted her with a bow. It’s the perfect time to acknowledge that we knew she was there. I felt like Senpai would have been a great salesman.
When she opened the door, she looked apprehensive. Could she have social anxiety?
“Who… are you? What do you want?”
A rather short pretty woman with an egg-shaped face exuding a hint of innocence appeared, looking annoyed with heavy-lidded eyes. She was leaning against the half-opened door, her free hand gripping a can of beer.
Her figure reminded me of Senpai before, and a memory flashed in my mind. That desperate look in his face as he drowned his sorrow in alcohol and that desire to throw everything away. The strong stench of alcohol in the air and his intoxicated face and eyes marked how much alcohol he had drunk.
But her difference from Senpai back then was the disturbing amount of reddish black scars on her wrists that were grotesquely eye-catching. Sana stood before us, looking weak, fragile, and somehow aggressive, with her inebriated aura.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Shindo, Hideo’s friend and a psychiatrist. This is Yuma, my assistant.”
Senpai introduced himself with a false identity. I gave a light bow accordingly.
“A psychiatrist? What’s a psychiatrist doing here? I already have enough medicine. Just leave.”
She shooed us away using the can of beer in her hand. But just as she was about to close the door, she stopped, as if she was struck with something.
“Wait. Did you say you were Hideo’s friend?”
Senpai nodded firmly and answered, “Yes.”
“He passed away so suddenly. We are sorry for your loss.”
“I thought for sure… since you said you were a psychiatrist… I thought someone was unnecessarily meddling again about my alcohol… But you were actually Hideo’s friend… I’m sorry for my rudeness.”
Then she buried her face in her hands and started sobbing.
Senpai tried to take out his handkerchief and after noticing how crumpled it was, having been in his pocket for so long, he looked reluctant before urging to pass it over and said, “Our deepest condolences.”
“What happened to Hideo was so sudden that we are both in shock. But… I should’ve seen it coming, considering his illness. You see, he had consulted with me several times before his death. He had told me, ‘if anything happens to me, please take care of my girlfriend.’ Accidents are terrible. If only they didn’t happen…”
Sana raised her beautiful, tear-streaked face and said, “So you guys came here to save me from this despair. I can’t live without Hideo. Even though I’m like this, you can save me, right?”
Senpai nodded firmly. “Yes, we promised Hideo. I don’t mean to make cheap promises at our first meeting, but Miss Nakagawa—can I call you Sana?—We promise to do our best to help you, Sana.”
Upon hearing Senpai’s soft and gentle words, Sana dropped the can of beer on the floor and covered her face with her hands. She sobbed loudly, as if she didn’t care about her surroundings and eventually crouched down.
Since half of Sana’s body was down, her room came into view. It was narrow and only six tatami-wide. There were lots of unsealed wine and whiskey bottles which seemed to have fallen and stained the floor as well as a large number of empty cans of beer.
But what caught my eyes was—
“Thank you. Thank you. Help me. I—” Sana weakly grabbed Senpai across his chest and collapsed onto him.
“What a relief. I—”
Perhaps she was tired of crying or drinking—or both—but she said in a slur, “I was planning to die today.”
Then she fell back on Senpai’s chest with a thud, seemingly asleep.
Inside Sana’s one-room apartment, there was a rope with a loop hanging at the center.
A few moments later.
I removed the hanging rope and laid a futon for Sana.
As I cleared all the empty bottles of alcohol, I couldn’t help but sigh.
“Emotional outbursts. It’s not just Sana, but this is typical of those with this type of disorder.” Senpai scratched his head as he continued. “A painful experience can lead to self-destructive indulgence to alcohol. It isn’t uncommon.” He said, looking forlorn.
“Normally, you wouldn’t be able to easily say ‘I was planning to die’ to someone you’ve never met. And that’s what’s scary about this illness. You aren’t self-aware. But subconsciously, you know how you’re affecting other people. ‘I can’t bear this pain. Please help me.’—That’s what Sana said, and I think she meant it. But it isn’t the same as saying, ‘If you don’t help me, I will kill myself,’ right? This time, we happened to chance upon the moment she decided to attempt suicide, but in the process, it’s almost turning into a threat to the people involved. It’s like she is putting the control on others, consciously or unconsciously.”
Although Senpai didn’t say it explicitly, I think he was looking at Kyoko through Sana, and I felt a twinge of pain in my heart.
“And in this case, because her boyfriend died, she’s become overwhelmed with grief to the point where she wants to destroy herself… I can understand how she felt… you know, to some extent.”
Senpai didn’t really acknowledge that he had gone through the same. Or more like, he couldn’t. But he had the courage to defend Sana, despite knowing that it might trigger his own pain.
I wanted to think that mourning the dead was important, not just for humans, but also for us as well. I wanted to believe that a person’s value and dignity, regardless of their mental state, do not lose their meaning even after death.
“Yes, that’s right.”
Senpai exhaled loudly and lightly cowered his shoulders as if he understood my feelings. Then he took out a small leather case and gently placed a business card with his phone number and email address on it under Sana’s pillow.
“For now, let’s leave things this way… By the way, apprentice.”
“Apprentice… Um… This person isn’t Kyoko…”
“Yes.” I listened patiently. I was convinced that Senpai was most likely seeing Kyoko in Sana. Just as I saw Senpai in Sana earlier, I think that in Senpai’s mind, Kyoko and Sana had overlapped with each other.
Falling in love and then being forced to part ways in the most painful way. The anguish in Senpai’s face was testament to how much pain and regret he had.
But wasn’t that what “love” was all about? It’s one-sided and self-serving, but regardless of whether it gives you joy or sorrow, you’d still regard the other person as someone irreplaceable.
—But I guess my first love can barely even be considered as first love, so I’m in no position to say anything about it.
“No, never mind.”
Senpai seemed like he wanted to say something, but he looked at Sana’s sleeping face once more, closed his eyes and scratched his head in contemplation.
It seemed like it was necessary to confront his past self, or at least that’s what it looked like to me.
When we came back to the office, Senpai seemed a little drained, but he still managed to speak in a mild tone.
“Apprentice, this time, it’s gonna be a long-term battle. It’s not something you can finish within your training period. But no matter how it turns out, I hope you keep that in mind.”
To be honest, I wanted to see what happens to Mr. Kobayakawa and Ms. Sana right until the end. But I have to brace myself that it might not be possible as I’m just a mere apprentice now. I could tell that Senpai was concerned for me, especially since I become oblivious of everything around me once I get too absorbed in the situation, so he wanted to give me a reminder. Even if I had to pull out of the case midway through, I must have the strength to go through with it.
Seeing my anxious state, Senpai chuckled at me. “Anyway, just make me coffee for now. You’ve spent a lot of time and energy making coffee during your training. You’re kind of an expert instant coffee maker, so to speak.”
“Isn’t there anything else I’m good at?” I replied, a little peeved.
“Is there anything else you’re proud of?” Senpai sneered.
I frowned and pursed my lips.
“Ugh! You should learn to fix that mean streak of yours!” I snapped but Senpai ignored my remark.
“It’s payback. You did a lot of things to me this time.” He scrunched his nose mischievously.
Hearing that made me blush in guilt. Indeed, I poked my nose into Senpai’s business, much to his chagrin. Remembering our encounter at the grave made me want to crawl into a hole in embarrassment.
I was relieved. I was wondering what would happen at one point, but seeing the usual Senpai made me feel at ease.
Whether he knew how I felt or not, Senpai smiled wryly and bluntly said, “Coffee.”
“Yes, yes, I’m on it.”
As I headed to the kitchen, I was struck with a thought.
I wondered if Mr. Sasamine, who had resolved Kyoko’s lingering regret that was similar to Sana’s case, would be able to give me some tips.
In any case, I still needed to tell Mr. Sasamine my plans and the direction I’m headed as an “agent”, even if I don’t end up accepting his offer.
—There’s less than a week left until the end of my training. As I was thinking that it might benefit me to ask Mr. Sasamine to teach me a few things for future reference, I decided to focus on making delicious instant coffee first.