I want to be stronger.
That was what I was thinking that morning, the day after Kaede died. I want to be stronger. I never want to cry again. It was an unreasonable goal, obviously, but I still wanted to try. The first step was taking off the hat. Forcing myself to look people in the eye.
But that morning I sat on my bed, the hat in my hands, begging to be put on. Some kind of emotional attachment drew me to it, which made sense—I'd had this hat for as long as I could remember. I couldn't even remember where I'd gotten it anymore. But something about my attachment felt odd. Like I was forgetting an important detail. Something I shouldn't be forgetting.
I squeezed my eyes shut, grasping desperately at the memories that weren't there. Miraculously, I caught one.
Scissors. Ribbon. Thread. A needle. I was sewing the stripes and star onto my hat. But it wasn't my hat—it was someone else's. A mimicry. Or, no—cosplay?
But that didn't make any sense. I tried to dig deeper, and a voice spoke to me—my own voice, but not quite.
"It's okay to cry," it whispered.
My eyes shot open, and I looked around for the source of the voice, but no one was there.
My gaze fell back onto the hat. I'd forgotten the odd feeling now, and it was replaced by an urge to discard the hat.
So I did. I returned the hat to my closet and headed to breakfast, nervous about how the others would react.
What I didn't know was that by refusing to wear it, I was committing my first act of rebellion against the people who trapped me here. And there would be many more to come.