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Okay…so I promised someone that this would go up yesterday (i.e. 20th May 2017), but…then life happened and it didn’t happen.

SO, here’s the next instalment of the Red Thread. If you’re still interested, go for it! Check out the previous episodes before you pick it up!

Next instalment will be on Thursday 25th May 2017, before I head off to Japan for more inspiration!

Let me know what you think, and if you aren’t already, you can follow me by entering your email address in the left sidebar and on Twitter @tmir92

A massive thank you to everyone who’s supported me so far. It’s been so great to hear positive feedback and criticism likewise.

The Red Thread

Episode 10

Mei

I drove, and drove, and drove, the sound of the engine reverberating and the whistle from the chink in the ever so slightly open window surprisingly calming, my eyes fixed on the empty road ahead of me, my mind conscious of the absolute darkness that trailed behind me reflected in rear-view mirror. My ringtone broke the unlikely harmony of engine and window, and I set it on speakerphone connected to the car.

“Yep,” I answered.

“Mei,” called out Emilia’s quiet, exhausted voice. I didn’t say anything. “Siobhan wanted me to tell you that everything is fine with Tristan. He’s stable.”

“Okay, got it,” I answered back abruptly. “Anything else?” There was a pause, which I had not fully registered, my concentration upon the road before me.

“I really hope that Hiro is okay. Just let me know how he is when you arrive and settle in,” she told me, the sincerity flowing through the speakers. I sighed. I really couldn’t be angry with her. She cared for me more than I could ever be angry with her.

“Thanks Emilia,” I told her solemnly. “Let’s talk when I get back, okay? I guess there’s a lot we need to talk about.” At this, I heard an earnest sound of agreement. “Bye, Em.” I cut the line. I could only forgive her.

 

The view ahead of me closed up – the road unnaturally cut through the chalk mountainside. I felt my heart race. Whatever happened to Tristan, it couldn’t be my concern right now. So why was I so uneasy? The road had been illuminated by the reflection of my car lights against the white chalk of the mountainside, giving it a ghostly shimmer. Like this road, my perspective had to be focused on the one thing that mattered to me right now: Hiro and my family. But that moment when Delilah told me what Tristan had said, my heart pounded and for those few seconds, my mind went blank. The road went on and on, cutting through the mountain seamlessly as if natural, but – and I knew this well – this road would eventually open up again to the vast expanse of the countryside and I would be forced to surrender to the full force of the night sky and its celestial lantern. The road-signs that were only visible upon car-shine would guide me along the highway until I finally reached my destination. But I knew that it would only be a matter of hours before I’d have to retire again, and return back to the disquiet of mine, and Emilia’s, and Yue’s, and Tristan’s world. The thought forced me to breathe in deeply from the sudden tightening of my chest as I drove on. No. Not now.

As I left Hiro’s ward, I sighed, following my parents at a slight distance as they walked ahead in uneasy silence, my father holding onto my mother’s handbag and her various other hospital paraphernalia, whilst she held onto the overnight bag that had been packed in the abruptness of Hiro’s admission back into hospital. The doctors, however, ensured us that Hiro was fine, but that he’d need a couple of days rest before he could go home. I was hardly there a couple of hours – during which my parents went for a cup of coffee as I sat with Hiro – before they started dismissing me back home. I knew that my parents didn’t want me there.

They knew that I now treated Hiro’s condition – and that because of me Hiro saw his own – as something more transparent than in past years. Their only son was stable and in remission now, his survival guaranteed, his future secured, and these spontaneous visits to hospital soon to be cut out of their lives slowly but surely. For them, however, these visits were the only way of wrapping their youngest child in as much as cotton wool as possible: after all, their eldest child was on her way to becoming a doctor, living alone, paying her own rent with the money she had earned herself, and thus, there was very little they could contribute to my life any longer other than guaranteeing their livelihood in their old age by ensuring that I did indeed return to work and receive that handsome salary with which to sustain their lives. But what they didn’t know was that my work had been made more complicated by the sudden lapse of a friend…

‘Friend’ probably wasn’t the word any more…but whatever he was, Tristan had crashed into our lives…my life…without so much as a ‘may I?’ or ‘would it be okay?’ But, if my bond to Tristan was only validated by virtue that Tristan was a friend of Yue, who was a friend of Emilia, who was my best-friend, then did I even need to care about him at all? What compelled me to do anything about it at all?

“He likes you,” Hiro told me as he sat himself up in bed, lowering the volume of his over-the-bed, retractable TV whilst our parents had gone out for coffee.

“What are you talking about?” I denied, sitting back in my seat and folding my arms defensively.

“He told me so,” Hiro said with a huge smile. I sighed.

“So that’s why you were sneaky when you came to visit,” I confirmed. At this, Hiro turned away from me and focused his attention upon the blank wall ahead of him.

“You know he has cancer too, right?” I just murmured affirmatively.

“I found out,” I confirmed.

“And you know, that was the reason why he sent Delilah away that day?”

“But she broke up with him surely?” I asked, slightly confused. Hiro shook his head.

“He didn’t want to pull her into the mess. I guess there’s more to it, but even though he sent away that day, she’s still tied to him intimately. He might have called off the engagement – perhaps? – but…” Hiro sighed. Everything had begun to make sense when she came into hospital in the early hours of the morning.

“He knows he’s gonna die. He’s trying to tie up all the loose ends before he does,” he told me, wisdom exuding from every word he uttered.

“Loose ends, huh? That’s rather honourable of him.”

“Don’t be sarcastic, Onee-chan,” he corrected me. “Can’t you be more compassionate?”

“Hiro, do you know how ridiculous you sound right now?” He went quiet. “He’s tying up loose ends with Delilah and doing whatever with Yue and Emilia, but suddenly likes me. What am I supposed to do about that?” I asked, standing up and pacing back and forth. Hiro lowered his head.

“If you can give him a couple of months, weeks, days of happiness, then would that not be the right thing to do?” he whispered. At this, I sat back down and sighed deeply. Sometimes even the wise were naïve and impractical.

 

My parents quickly dismissed me back home. They knew – though they were occasionally in denial – that Hiro was feeling much better in himself, despite his sudden admission into hospital. But a part of me didn’t want to return; I knew that the moment I stepped over the threshold of my hospital, I would have to face another reality, a cutting one, one that would compel me to question myself, and the idea of destiny.

 

I stood outside the house. By the time I had arrived back, it was almost eight-thirty. Emilia would definitely be home now. I looked up to see Emilia’s room light glowing, and a deja-vu: two people were screaming back and forth at each other, Emilia waving her arms around frantically whilst the other figure – whom I immediately recognised from the build and blond-dyed hair – stood static. Though after a few seconds, I saw him lash back in retort. I sighed. I guess that nothing had been resolved. I approached the front door, and turned the key in the lock. The moment I did, the screaming on the other side of the door subsided and I heard running down the stairs, and upon opening the door, there stood Emilia at the foot of the stairs, whilst Yue stood a couple of steps higher, still red-cheeked.

“Mei, thank God you’re back,” Emilia welcomed me, still breathing heavily, and came forward and hugged me tightly. “How’s Hiro?”

“He’s okay. Doing a lot better than my parents made out,” I reassured her. I looked up to the stairs, and nodded at Yue, who responded in the same way. “How’s Tristan?” I whispered to Emilia. At this, she released me and stood tall, and took my hands.

“He’s stabilised, but needs a couple of days in hospital. It was a mixture of everything: medicines, exhaustion, alcohol, and too many people in the club…”

The club…that evening…I had almost forgotten everything about it. But as the words left Emilia’s lips, and as I crossed gazes with Yue again, I suddenly recollected everything.

“Mei, can we tal…” he began, but I broke my gaze and turned to Emilia.

“Em, I think I should go to sleep. I’m exhausted. I need to get back into working tomorrow,” I told her with an attempted smile. I looked up at Yue. “See you soon, Yue.” And on that, I dropped my bags by the stairs, and went into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“But M…” Yue began again, only to cut off by Emilia.

“Look, just get out,” she told him coldly. “I’m so tired of you now. Mei doesn’t want to talk now, and she’s exhausted. She’s already got enough to deal with,” I heard her say protectively. “The least you can do now is to go and check on Tristan and make sure that he’s okay.” I heard the door open. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” And on that, I heard a sigh, and heavy footfalls on the stairs and then the slamming of the door. The moment the door was shut, I ventured back into the hall and turned to a breathless and red-cheeked Emilia.

“Are you okay?” Although, perhaps I should rephrase the question: “Are you and Yue okay?” I asked hesitantly. “Wow, that sounds weird to say, right?” I tried to laugh it off as a joke. “Homonyms…lol…” I heard her snort in slight laughter, meek and quiet.

“We’re fine. I’m just arguing with him about what happened in the club,” she told me. I sighed. I couldn’t exactly avoid the subject…

“Em…did you and Tristan see…?” She nodded, except a smile soon overcame her face. I wasn’t sure if she was hiding the anger or sincerely trying to console me. Either way: “Shit, I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to. Literally…I mean…I guess I could blame Yue…but it happened before I knew it. I wasn’t trying to lead him on or anything…but…eugh…he was…”

She raised her hand to silence me.

“Don’t worry at all. I’m not…” I had to interrupt her.

“I honestly didn’t mean to make out with someone who you had a history with…”

“History…?” She dropped her head, and lifting her right hand, pressed the temples of her head. “You know, huh? I guess I couldn’t keep it a secret forever,” she admitted.

“I remember you saying once that you had met someone who’d…well…you know the story.” She smiled.

“I guess I didn’t want to admit it for the very shit reason that I now find him really annoying,” she told with a slight laugh. “Oh well…life, right?”

“I am so so sorry,” I told her again.

“Don’t be. I’m more annoyed at that ass for doing that to you, and thinking he could get away with it.”

“But…I mean…you guys…are okay?”

“Mei, babe – me and Yue are fine and will always be fine. Yes we have a history – a long drawn-out, passionate and utterly frustrating history – but that’s over. We’re now just friends and that’s all, so we will be fine,” she told me with a smile, putting her hand on my shoulder. “So don’t worry about me, and definitely lose sleep over him. We’ll patch things up.” But then she stood back and withdrew her smile to ask that one question to which I had no definitive answer: “How are you?”

All I could do was smile back. There was no answer I could give to adequately explain how I felt. Fate. I guess that was all I call it. Fate.

 

When Emilia and I stepped through the automatic doors of the ward, we were given that single look from Dr Yeates and knew that something was wrong. Before we had even taken off our coats, she announced that it would be good to have a flavour of Adult Oncology. I looked at Siobhan, but judging from the evasive glances she gave back, she had already tried to challenge the decision and had long failed. The answer to Dr Yeates’ questions ‘any objections?’ was simply: “None at all.” Siobhan was told to accompany us to the adult ward and show us around, and she did so, but in complete and utter silence, except for the familiar clip-clop of her stilettos, every footfall feeling like a stab to the heart.

“The ward round is in ten minutes. Make sure that you take notes, on everything,” Siobhan ordered, before leaving to quickly collect some materials.

“The ward round to beat all ward rounds,” Em said solemnly. I was fixated on the corridor ahead of us, and seeing the many doors made me anxious and sick to the stomach. Which door was his and what would we see on the other side?

I felt someone grab my hand, and I turned my gaze to Emilia who stood with a smile, looking directly at me.

“Ready?” she asked.

“No,” I answered truthfully, except with a slight, anxious snigger. She returned her gaze back to the corridor.

“That makes two of us. The ward round to beat all ward rounds…”

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