When nothing else is left, we can only try once more.
Standing on the curb of the airport's passenger pick-up area, she watched the driver load her things into the trunk. There was only one suitcase and a small carry-on bag, miscellaneous things she had lived off of during the past year.
She allowed her gaze to wander a little, eyes noting all the things that should be familiar but it only seemed to make their strangeness all the more glaring. Two years since she had last set foot in Japan. Somehow, it felt much longer, and yet altogether too soon.
Something drew her attention back to the driver then, and she stared at him blankly at first, taking in the strange look he was giving her.
Blinking, she found herself staring at the car door before turning back to the man who was holding it open for her. Her lips parting, she hesitated and shook her head slightly to ground herself. Finally, with a faint nod of gratitude, she climbed into the backseat of the car and sighed. Ishida was a name she had to get used to from now on.
Leaning back against the hard leather, she took a deep calming breath and let her eyes drift shut as the car pulled away from the curb. She wasn't sure how long she had been sitting there unmoving, but eventually a bump on the ride jolted her eyelids open to the backside of the front seat. They had arrived in the city, she knew.
Outside the window, trees and buildings blurred together like a fast-forwarded movie. Yet, she remembered the scenery in such detail that she had to wonder if anything had changed at all. It was as though someone had pushed a pause button two years ago and forgot to hit play again.
If only Japan had changed beyond recognition. Perhaps, then, she could have believed it was possible to start over.
Why had she not fought harder against coming back to a place that had ruined her life so thoroughly?
Instead, here she sat counting turns even as her chest tightened painfully at the sight of increasingly familiar structures.
Left. Right. Right again - breath hitching - there. There.
It glared at her with its looming brick walls, until the walls bled into an entrance, and the entrance became a swarm of people - all of them pressing and yelling, as disorienting as the flashes from cameras that kept snapping like they had a life of their own. Then they, too, turned into a set of gray eyes staring straight back at her identical ones, with blood streaking down a pale face - the colors so vivid it made her jerk backwards, blinking rapidly.
Eyes stinging and heart pounding, she dug her nails into her arm and wrenched her gaze away from the window. It was only a trick of light. There was nobody there. Just an empty school entrance mocking in its silence at this time of the year.
She looked down and tried to pull herself together, fixing her eyes on the piece of paper lying open on her lap like it was her lifeline.
Dear Miss Ishida Nao,
We are pleased to hear that you will be joining us at Eitoku Gakuen for our upcoming school year. Enclosed, you will find a booklet detailing the school's code of conduct and a list of things you will need for your classes. We would also like to remind you to fill out the following forms...
And in another time, another place - one way or another - her life would have to start over somehow.