NB: this story contains spoilers regarding the first, 'best' ending of Kana: Little Sister. Please don't proceed unless you've completed this ending to the game.
'My Sister, My Strength', part 6. This story follows 'Haunted'.
I stand at her door, tracing the letters with my finger. This plaque has been on the door for as long as I can remember, marking a forbidden area where boys aren't supposed to tread. Kana's room was sacrosanct for a very long time, even after that trip to the forest had come and gone, and our parents weren't worried that I'd try to bully her anymore.
Kana's room was her private domain, a safe place she'd retreat to when she was feeling sad or self-conscious. In here, with her bookshelf and her desk and her nightlight, she could lose herself in the pages of some book or another, reading herself away to a better place.
It wasn't that I didn't feel welcome on the rare occasions I was in there with her (and, more often than not, Kana's room would sit empty for months at a time). It's just that it's her space. Kana's space. I sometimes think her fragrance still lingers here; even now, years after she last lived here.
Kana's room is also the place where we first
I pause, cutting myself off mid-thought. I smile to myself, reaching out for the door handle, and walk inside.
Kana's room hasn't changed. The bed is in the corner, neatly made. Her desk stands against the opposite wall, its surface clean and dust-free. The window's opened just a bit, allowing fresh air to circulate inside. It still doesn't feel like anyone lives here, but... but at least it doesn't feel abandoned.
In the months after Kana left, I'd dust in here every day. I'd run my finger over the spines of the books she left behind on her shelf. I'd change the sheets on her bed. I'd... I'd sit in one corner of the room, where I could see everything, and let a ghostly image of Kana inhabit the room. She'd sit at her desk, studying. She'd lie on the bed reading a book. She'd stand there in the middle of the room and reach out to me, smiling.
Of course, if I tried to hold her, if I let myself believe too much in the fantasy I'd created, her image would just evaporate into thin air. And so I wouldn't touch my memory of Kana. I'd just crouch there in the corner, crying, for hours at a time.
It was so hard to come to grips with the fact that she was gone. That she no longer lived here. It had started to feel almost normal with her living at home all the time, eating meals and laughing with the rest of us, being there to greet me with a "Welcome back!" when I'd walk through the front door. The nights we'd lie together, in her bed or mine, just holding each other, or talking into the early hours of the morning. And the nights we spent loving each other behind closed doors.
But she'd left, and I knew I couldn't follow her. It would have... it would have been wrong, no matter how much I wanted to. I walked around with a profound emptiness inside my chest an emptiness that had a strange weight, all of its own. It throbbed inside of me; it gnawed at me each time I looked at a photo of Kana, or caught another hint of her fragrance as I walked past her room, or looked across the dinner table at her empty seat.
Absences. Departures. Holes in my life. Holes that couldn't be filled.
My grades started to suffer. I couldn't concentrate; I couldn't think. Nights in my room in my bed, alone, without Kana there in the next room, without her soft "good night, Bro" were unbearable. The hours would slowly tick past, and I'd lie there sleepless until the approaching dawn touched the curtains, filling my room with its soft light.
I worked past it, eventually. We'd see each other every now and then, which would usually just strengthen my resolve. Kana seemed to be doing her best to move on. She was even dating, it seemed. Words can't describe how much my heart plummeted in my chest the first time I heard her talk about her boyfriend. Hiromi-kun. 'Hiromi-kun' this and 'Hiromi-kun' that.
She could see how much it hurt me. I knew that much. And it hurt her to do it, I could tell. But she kept at it. Maybe she wanted to hurt me. Maybe she hoped it would help me to let her go.
I never did. I relaxed my hold on her, sure. But no-one ever took Kana's place in my heart. No-one.
But even when I was able to breathe again, when I could walk to the train station without feeling as if my feet were weighed down with bricks, I didn't stop maintaining Kana's room. Maybe I was hoping she'd come back, one day. Maybe I just wanted a shrine. Maybe it didn't make any sense at all. Mom and Dad certainly didn't think it did.
A few weeks after Kana had left, they'd tentatively suggested putting Kana's things into storage and closing the room down covering the furniture with drop sheets, boxing the books she hadn't taken with her, mothballing her old clothes. I think my response surprised them.
"It's not as if she's dead!" I yelled at them. "It's not as if she's gone for good! She'll always be a part of this family! She'll... she'll always be a part of me!"
Always, Kana. You still are. You always have been.
I turn around to find Mom standing in the doorway, one hand braced against the door frame. She doesn't look surprised to see me in here.
"Hi, Mom," I say. "What's up? Why're you home so early?"
"I forgot some documents, so I had to come back to get them," she says. "Your father and I have a meeting later this afternoon that's probably going to last into the night. Do you think you could get dinner for yourself?"
"I was... I was thinking of going to Kana's place," I tell her, hesitantly. Over the past few weeks, ever since that afternoon at the bookstore, I've been spending a lot more time with Kana than Mom and Dad are used to. I haven't been home for meals an awful lot but then, neither are they, half the time. I've also spent quite a few nights at Kana's. I've told Mom and Dad that I spent them at a university friend's place, but I don't think they believe me.
You'd think that our parents would be overjoyed to see their two estranged children spending time with each other again. But instead, all I see in Mom's eyes is anxiety and suspicion.
"Again?" is all she says.
"Yes, again," I respond. Why do I feel defensive, all of a sudden? Why does it suddenly seem like she's deliberately blocking the door? "We like spending time together. It's been ages since we've had time to catch up, and the summer break's a great time to do it in."
"What about your other university friends?" Mom asks, pointedly. "Why don't you spend more time with them? What about that girl Hayashi-san?"
"Mom, we broke up ages ago." My tone is patient, but I'm getting more and more bothered by this. What business is it of Mom's how much I see Kana? It's not as if Mom's a shining example when it comes to building bridges with the Todo family's adopted daughter. Someone has to reach out...
I'm not thinking clearly, but I get irrational when it comes to defending Kana. Love isn't a logical thing.
"Then you should find someone else." Mom refuses to let it go. "Taka, you'll be graduating early next year, and then you'll find a job. You won't have time to find someone if you don't start looking n"
"It's none of your business!" I explode, startling even myself. Her eyes go wide, and she takes an involuntary half-step back. Her hand is still on the door jamb, though. The threshold is still closed. "Mom, I can take care of myself. I'm a grown man now. When I find the right person, I'll"
"She's not the right person," Mom says, under her breath.
She looks surprised at my reaction. But how can she have expected me not to hear what she said? For a moment, her brown eyes dart nervously around Kana's room, looking anywhere but at me. Then, reluctantly, she faces me. "Kana's not the right person, Taka."
"I... I don't understand what you mean," I lie. "Not the right person? Not the right person for what?"
"Your father and I..." She moves forward a step again, entering the room. Her hands are clasped tight in front of her. I back away, involuntarily. "We think you're spending too much time with her. Kana made her decision. It was one we've chosen to respect. She decided that she didn't want us in her life"
"That's not it at all!" I'm furious at her. Is that really what she thinks? "How can you still not understand? She left because of... because of..." I pause, horrified at what I was about to say. She left because of me. It was my fault.
Is that really the truth? Is that what really happened?
"Yes?" Mom asks, expectantly. "She left because of...?"
I sigh. "Because of me, Mom. Because I wanted to protect her too much. Because she wanted to grow outside of my shadow. Because sometimes the only way to love something is to let it go."
"Then you made the right decision as well, Taka," she says, sounding relieved. "What your father and I don't understand is why you're suddenly going back to the way you were before..."
"There's nothing wrong with that, is there?" I ask. "We've both grown up a bit. We're not going to fall back into that trap again, not this time not now that she's stronger. She can look after herself."
"That's exactly right!" Mom's eyes light up as she seizes on my point. "She can look after herself. Your father and I... well, we just don't want you getting... too close to her again. Not like it was before not with you thinking more of her than yourself. You don't need her holding you back anymore, Taka. You don't need her clinging to you. You do realise, don't you, that"
"I love her." I don't know why I'm saying this to her. All I know is that I can't stand to hear her talking about Kana like she's some kind of hindrance to me, some kind of parasite. I have to say how I feel.
"We all love her, Taka," Mom says, patiently. "That doesn't mean"
"No, you're not hearing me," I snap. "I love her."
Mom just stares at me, without comprehension. How slow is she?
"As a woman," I say, just to make it perfectly clear. "I love her as a woman."
Her eyes go wide. "Taka..." she breathes, slowly. "Taka, she's your sister!"
"No, she's not. That's just what you told me, my entire life. But she isn't. Our hearts are the same; our blood runs together. But we're not related. She's not my imouto. She's Kana. Kana, the woman I love!"
Mom's hands fly up to cover her mouth. The expression in her eyes is one of sheer horror. Her voice is muffled as she struggles to find words. "Don't..." she chokes, barely coherently. "Taka, don't... Please don't say that..."
"Why not? It's true! I love Kana!" I raise my voice and it rings through the room, resonating back to me as if the house itself, the house where I grew up, is speaking the truth of my words back to me. "My life is hers! She's a part of me, and I'm a part of her. Imouto and oniisan. Taka and Kana! Taka and Kana!"
"Stop," she begs, her nails pressing hard against her cheeks. "Please stop, Taka... You don't know what you're saying..."
"I... am... Kana's!" I roar the words at her. "I belong to her. I've always belonged to her! You lied to us! You and Dad both. You let us believe we were blood! Do you know how much we suffered because of that? Because of you, Kana and I both believed that what we felt was wrong! But it's not!" I pause, suddenly, a feeling of relief washing through me. I've said it. I've said it. "It's not," I repeat, quietly. "I love her, Mom. I love her with all I have."
Tears are flowing down her cheeks, mingling with flecks of blood where her nails have punctured her skin. She stares at me silently, her eyes imploring me to reconsider. When her voice comes, it doesn't sound like my mother. It sounds like someone small and old and frail.
"Don't... Please don't leave us, for her... Bring her back here. We can... we can be a family again. No-one needs to, to know..."
But I don't want to hide anymore.
"Sorry, Mom." She still stands in my way, but she's not an obstacle now. Gently, I put my hand on her shoulder and walk past her. I leave the room without looking back.
"Taka..." She calls my name, pleadingly. But by that time I'm already at the front door. I pull it open, striding out into the bright afternoon light.
I won't step backwards. I won't lie to the world. I love Kana. And I don't care who knows it.
Taka finds himself revisiting the past, in Junctures.