*A section of an abandoned chapter of a story concept put on hold
Before the War
Early in the morning, before the sun had even risen—
I was standing in front of my parents’ grave.
Even while wearing a coat and a scarf, the air was still chilly enough to make my breath come out as white mist. There was fresh dew clinging to the grass, dripping down into the small pools that had formed when I had washed dirt and dust off the grave. The smoke from the incense I had lit curled into soft spirals, indistinct against the faint fog that had started to settle in.
I laid down a small bouquet of flowers in front of the grave and knelt down so that I was face-to-face with my parents.
“Mom…Dad. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry that I’ve taken so long to visit…it’s been pretty busy lately so I haven’t had the time to come down here as much as I wanted to.”
As usual, the grave responded back with silence. But in my head, I could hear their gentle voices.
It’s fine, it’s fine. You have your own life to take care of…there’s no use in worrying over the dead.
Are you eating well? You look too thin!
“W-well…you know. I’m on a diet…”
What is this girl saying? What kind of diet makes you starve yourself like that!?
“I’m not starving! I’m just restricting my food intake…anyways, it’s not that bad! Besides, it’s a good way to save money to—”
Save money? You’re skipping meals to save money? Don’t you have a part-time job or something? What kind of useless stuff are you spending your money on that you can’t even feed yourself properly?
“I-It’s not like that! I just…you know, saving some on the side just in case…”
Dear, did you hear this girl? She’s become a stingy miser!
Terrible, terrible…youth these days take everything for granted. If you keep on like that, then life will speed past you before you know it!
“I’m doing fine, alright? I’m making sure to enjoy life properly, ok? I just wanted an emergency fund for when bad luck happens…why are you guys getting on my case like this…”
My goodness, this girl! I’m only saying this because I’m worried about you and you’re lashing back at me like this!
No respect at all. Talking under your breath like that, when did you turn into such a hooligan?
“Jeez, that’s not it! Why can’t you guys understand something so simple, huh!?”
I yelled back at the grave while waving my fists in frustration. Of course, this only started another round of grumblings from my parents. Honestly, I even took the time to come all the way up here to visit…
“Anyways!” I said, ending the back-and-forth with a sharp note in my voice. “I came to visit, but I also wanted to ask you guys for some advice. So if you could just listen for a minute…”
Ah, so now she wants to hear what we have to say.
Now, Dear. Don’t be like that. She’s at that age, you know…
Hmph! Well, I suppose I could hear her out. There’s not much else to do when you’re dead.
“So, today I’ve got a bit of a hurdle to cross…” I said, pushing the tips of my index fingers together. “I’m worried that I won’t be able to succeed…but I really want to no matter what.”
Oh my, it’s a boy, isn’t it? Dear, I told you! Definitely at that age!
B-Boy!? Who is this boy!? What kind of no-good rascal are you involved with!?
“What are you talking about!? There’s no boy involved!”
When it comes to things like this, you just have to stop hesitating and push forward! You remember, don’t you Dear? We had feelings for each other through all of high school, but it wasn’t until we were in university that we finally confessed.
Ehem. Well. I-It might’ve happened like that…
Ah…those were happy times. Maybe if we had been a little more straightforward, we would’ve had more time together…
I could hear some sort of embarrassed, strangled mumbling in response to my comment. Really, he just couldn’t be honest with himself! That was Dad for you.
Enough about that! So, you’re going to do something today that you absolutely have to do, but you’re not sure if it’ll work out, right?
“Y-Yeah. That’s about it.”
Hmph. As I thought, you really think of silly things. If it’s something you have to do, then why worry about what happens after? No matter what, you’re going to end up doing it anyways.
“It’s not that simple! If I fail today—”
If you fail, then that’s that. Listen up. “If you do your best, then you’ll have no regrets!” That’s the sort of thing only winners get to say. But it’s undeniable that you’re a loser!
Losers know that you can’t always do your best, even if you try and try. That’s why they worry so much, like you! Well, if you’re worried that much, then do it later! Put it off until you can’t put it off anymore! And then fail! And move onto something you can win at!
“Isn’t that just being a sore loser…?”
Darling, that’s how living is. If people were willing to accept things as they were when they fail, then they wouldn’t be living at all…
There are times where you can’t be shameful. But when it’s something important to you, something you’d risk your life for, then there’s no shame in it at all! That’s who you are. That’s what your life is about!
Following that final word, the wind picked up suddenly, as if the strength of that speech had somehow taken physical form. The feelings behind those words, the meaning that it conveyed, the impact was strong enough to silence everything around me. I sat there, looking back at the grave, stunned at what I had heard.
“…I see. So it doesn’t matter. If it’s something I’m willing to risk my life for, then there’s no point in having fears about it! Yeah, just like Mom said! Stop hesitating and push forward!”
That’s right, darling.
Hmph. Silly girl. You’re still young enough to be that ignorant, huh?
“Jeez, Dad. Can’t you give it a rest, already?” I said, grinning at the grave. “It’s not cute at all, you know?”
A soft voice behind me interrupted my conversation. I turned around and saw a couple standing behind me. From the items in the bags that they were carrying, I could see that they too were on a grave visit.
“Yes! Do you need help with something?” I asked with a pleasant smile. I wondered if I had been being too loud. It was a visit to my own family grave, but I still needed to be careful about disturbing those around me who were also visiting the deceased.
“Uh…” The young woman that had spoken before looked down at me with a hesitant expression. “Excuse me for asking, but…who are you?”
“Ah, my name is Yori. I’m just visiting my parents here,” I said, motioning to the grave. “I’m sorry if I was being too loud…”
“Yes. They died several years ago and I just came by today to have a little chat…”
“…” The couple exchanged worried looks with each other. Then the man cleared his throat and spoke to me, in an almost apologetic tone.
“I’m sorry…but I think you’re at the wrong grave. This is the grave for my wife’s family.”
I turned back to the gravestone that I had been chatting with this entire time. The grave regarded me with silent contemplation.
…Oh my. You’re not Julie.
Yeah…who the hell are you?
And so, in the chill of the morning, with a silence that was almost enough to bring me to tears—
I, once again, was unable to visit my parents’ grave.