"The existence of forgetting has never been proved. We only know that some things don't come to mind when we want them to."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Ishizuki Mana lay on the roof of her school taking in the image of that immense, blue sky. She allowed the calm to wash over her, as it never failed to do when sky-gazing. It was a beautiful azure, perfect for framing in the space above her desk at home. She had the camera ready and the perfect view...but something was holding her back. She just didn't have the heart to do it.
And this wasn't the first time. All week, it was as if the life had been sucked out of her. Everyone around her had noticed, as well. Even Sensei — who'd begged her to give up that 'foolish hobby' and focus on classes — sensed that something was off. It was as if something was missing in her life. But what could it be?
The passion she'd once had was no longer there. The sky didn't have that same allure to it anymore; it had ceased to beckon her to enjoy its beauty.
Mana just didn't know anymore. She became increasingly quiet and reserved. Sae — as new shift manager at Azur Restaurant — had given her the week off. Despite her foibles, Sae really was a good friend. And according to the undisputed gossip queen, she needed to rest and take her mind off of whatever it was that was bothering her. But that was the problem she had no idea what was troubling her.
School had let out hours ago, and there was Mana... still on the rooftop, neither wanting to stay or go home. Indecisive, she remained where she was. Koyori was probably worrying her little head off by now. (Her onee-chan was never this late.) Or perhaps she was so busy with her new friend that she didn't notice. Not that Mana resented the newcomer in her sister's life. Rather, she was glad Koyori had found someone she could share a bond with, and so quickly too, as if they'd known each other for years. Though that, of course, was impossible, as Aono had moved into town but three months ago. And for one reason or another, the two instantly clicked.
Despite Aono's frequent visits, she couldn't claim to know much about her besides the fact that she seemed to be a very sweet-natured girl who had quite the hand for origami. But there was still something vaguely familiar about her; she had somewhat of a nostalgic air about her that the Ishizuki girl just couldn't put her finger on. But she quickly pushed the thought from her mind. No use in trying to explain the unexplainable.
Now back to the matter at hand. What on Earth had caused her to be so dejected? Sure, the seventeen-year-old wasn't the most upbeat, outgoing kid out there, but she'd never before been so melancholy. Again, she tried to shift her attentions to a new topic. Staring up at the reddening heavens, she was soon swallowed up by the enigma that was the sky...
"Come and get it, Yorito," a girl said cheerfully, her back to the table.
A boy clad in a yellow sweatshirt and jeans came into view. "Mmm, smells good," he commented, taking a seat.
The scene shifted. "
Have a good day at school, Koyori," a girl cried. She and a boy her age waved at the little girl running towards the playground.
Then, side by side, they crossed the street and made their way towards the high school building.
Inside the classroom, students were shuffling in, hurrying to their seats. First period was just about to start...
— Brrrrrrring! —
The bell sounded. A boy with a messy mop of brown for hair raced in.
"Ah, Morimiya-san, glad you could make it. Late as usual, though," a woman at the front of the class stated calmly, scribbling a note down on her attendance sheet.
"But—" the boy began.
"Just have a seat Morimiya-san, or would you like to teach this lesson, hmm?"
The teen sighed in defeat, complying to her demand. From across the room, a girl smiled sympathetically at him. He returned the gesture...
On the school's summit rested that same boy. Hands behind his head, he glanced up at the vault of heaven as if searching for something.
A door opened, but he didn't stir in the slightest. "Yorito," a girl's voice came.
"Yorito," she repeated, this time with urgency. "You'd better get in there before Sensei blows her top."
The one known as 'Yorito' visibly deflated. He got up, not uttering a syllable.
A girl with flowing dark hair spread her arms apart. She leaned forward, braving the wind. She seemed so strong...so fearless... Who was she?
Nighttime, on that same landing. A teenage girl still in her school uniform stood there, staring off into the distance.
Her backside was soon coming into focus. She was trembling from crown to toe. The scene spun and her face, came into view. Costively raising her head, her bangs shifted to the side, and—
Mana sat upright briskly. Confused, she surveyed the surrounding area. "Oh, I'm still on school grounds," she muttered aloud. Seeing the starry night sky, the high school student realized just how late it was. She scrambled to her feet.
A gust of wind blew by. Her face was so...cold. She reached up to touch her cheeks and felt the wet on her fingertips.
"Huh...? Why am I...crying?" she whispered. The droplets were still flowing. "Why won't the tears stop?"
Images of a mop-haired boy flashed in her mind. "What's going on? Who is he? I've never see him before in my life!" Her head shook violently; she was nearing hysterics. Other snapshots from her dream appeared to her.
The boy... The girl... They both seemed so real... Could they be more than just figments from her reverie? And what was that feeling of familiarity about them? It all made sense when one last vision played in her mind...
Drops of salty water welled up in those huge emerald eyes.
Those eyes are—
"...mine." Her voice was no more than a susurration.
Memories of a forgotten time flooded back to her.
The boy in the yellow... "Yorito."
The brave girl... "Matsuri."
Eyes filled with jealousy... "Aono."
A knife plunged into one's chest...
His final words...
And then no more.
A bloodcurdling scream pierced the air.
Ishizuki Mana hummed along to the tune playing on the radio as she strolled down the grocery store aisle. She scanned the aisles for a certain something... Now where could it be? She knew for a fact that they restocked every Saturday, and today was the day. Frustrated, she was about to call for an employee when...
"Aha! There you are."
The recent college graduate then made a beeline for register. She paid for her things and then headed out.
At the park, Mana spotted her usual table and placed her purchases there.
"Yorito... Matsuri..." she whispered. "For you... Wherever you are." And she walked off without so much as a backwards glance.
The objects of interest happened to be two cans of tomato juice. Ever since her memory had miraculously returned, Mana had begun paying a small tribute to her two dear friends — the two forgotten by this world, but never again by her. ("They may not have a place here, but they always will in my heart.")
It had been five years since that fateful day, and she'd stuck to her promised (even with her demanding schedule as a natural photographer; sky photos were her specialty. Go figure). Once a week, rain or shine, she went without fail. And the cans were always — always — gone by the time she made her return trip the following week. Sure, there was a fair chance it was the garbage man doing his job, or some family clearing the table for a picnic, but sometimes Mana liked to believe otherwise...
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
- T.S. Eliot