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You Can't Go Home Again

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"I love you, [name]... but...Why won't the rain clouds go away?" You remembered holding her in your arms. How you thought you were able to make her feel better... And yet...

"[Name], it's time to go home." Your eyes slowly opened as you saw Monika with her hand gently on your shoulder. It was the end of the after-school club hours and everyone was packing up.

"..." The thought of walking home had put you at unease. It was evident yesterday, when you couldn't even walk on the same street that your house was at. Were it not for Monika escorting you home, you might not have made it home. Monika frowned. You both knew the reason why the idea sounded more alien by the day.

"[Name], do you... want to come over to my house? I have Netflix, so we can chill." Monika said. You nodded... Yes... Anywhere but there...

Where you saw...

You shook that out of your mind as you got up and went with Monika.

Monika's house was, simply put, lavish compared to your house. Three stories, a basement, at least two bedrooms and a bathroom per upper floor, and a sleek looking kitchen. It seemed as though, if she was able to, she'd have invited the rest of the club to stay over. Obviously Natsuki would go, given her issues with her father. Yuri might, but while she's tall, dark, and handsome, she was also shy. And then there was...

"[Name]!" Monika caught you as you nearly fell. You had no idea why you felt so faint, but you didn't want to find out. Monika carried you over to the couch and sat you down. "There, feel better?" Monika asked. You nodded as you let your body sink into her plush couch. Monika sat on the opposite end.

"Anything you prefer?" Monika loaded up Netflix on a wide-screen TV that hung on the wall as a series of pictures featuring different movies and shows popped up. You have a Netflix account yourself, but you were always spoiled for choices so you never really binged outside of the occasional anime that's proclaimed to be the best of its season by the masses of Twitter.

"Whatever's good, I guess." You said. There was no excitement in your voice, even as Monika flipped through several intriguing choices on the "Personalized Recommendations", such as a darker and gritter remake of Happy Feet that involve walruses with guns, a romance story between two lion-riding paladins, a famous American sci-fi series that Japan localized by splicing in their own footage (not unlike how America would localize Tokusatsu), and a live action adaptation that, from the shot of a boy visiting a girl on the hospital bed, seems to carry the usual premise of "I'm in love with a terminally ill girl". You whimpered a bit when you saw the last pic, to which Monika noticed.

She skipped a row and entered the "Popular on Netflix" section. "Hey, this looks interesting!" Monika said as she selected the first choice. Its premise had you interested too. A film about a soldier living in peacetime after a war by writing and delivering letters. And hey, if a lot of people liked it on Netflix, then surely you'd enjoy it too.

As Monika hit play, you and her relaxed and watched the film. At first, it didn't seem bad. In fact, it was rather good. The cinematography was top notch and the acting was well done. You even found the lead actress to be attractive.

But, five minutes in, and something... unhinged you.

"I'm sorry, but... where's Major Gilbert?" This was the third or so time the actress had mentioned that. It didn't seem like much, but the obvious tells from her opposite lead actor painted a pretty picture of his status.

By about fifteen minutes, you lost count of how many times the name "Gilbert" or the title of "Major" were uttered. In your head, half the dialogue turned into "Gilbert this, Gilbert that, Gilbert this, Gilbert that..." Right before the movie would transition to the post office where the soldier would be working, that one last Gilbert got you.

"SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!" You screamed, prompting Monika to pause the movie. "WE GET IT! GILBERT'S DEAD! HE'S NOT COMING BACK! YOU DON'T NEED TO SHOVE IT IN OUR FACES!" You were pulled into Monika's arms as your screams turned into cries. "She's gone... She's..." You crumbled in Monika's embrace as she patted the back of your head in an attempt to soothe you. Your cries quieted down as Monika held you tightly.

"You'll get through this... And I'll help you." Monika said. There was a bit of a pause before she spoke up. "If you'd like, you can stay over..." You nodded as she gave you a simple pat on the head before she headed upstairs.

While there were many beds to lay on, you chose to sleep with Monika. It felt childish, admittedly, but you felt safe in Monika's bed. It didn't help that it felt comfortable. What made it all the more alluring was the rare sight of Monika with her hair down... Perhaps she noticed your attraction to the actress and decided to replicate it.

In any case, she let you go to bed with her. In the wee moments before you fell asleep, you spoke up.

"Monika... I... I'm sorry about the outburst. I..."

"That's why you didn't want to go home, right? You're scared to return there." Monika said. You gave a nod. "After what you saw... I can't blame you. In a way, you can't go home again. It won't be the same home, with the same neighbors, or the same mornings... It changed." The way she held you, you were able to use her arm as a pillow and rest your face into her chest. "It takes time to recover from that... But... We'll help you..." She kissed you on the forehead as it took you to slumberland...

Where you soon encountered some little nightmares...