Chapter 4

You know if I leave you now
it doesn't mean that I love you any less
it's just the state I'm in
I can't be good to anyone else like this

"Wait" by Sarah McLachlan, from Fumbling Towards Ecstacy



"And then...I came here. I'm sorry, oniichan, I just couldn't think of where else to go, what to do..." Touya 'shushed' her quietly and drew her into his familiar, protective embrace.

"It's all right Sakura. I'm glad you came to me. You can always come to me." He broke away and looked down at her, meeting her eyes. "No matter what."

She buried her face in his shoulder. "Thank you, oniichan," she said softly, and Touya felt his insides twist at how small and broken her voice sounded.

Yukito, sitting on the other side of her, laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, silently offering his comfort and support. Touya looked up and their eyes met over her head. The silent question in Touya's face was clear: 'What can I do for her?' and the answer was equally, painfully clear, 'Nothing...nothing more than what we are doing.' The dark-haired man's expression was a study in helpless frustration while Yukito's mirrored only pained resignation.

The phone rang, shattering the silence and making all three of them jump. After the first ring, Yukito said quietly, "I'll get it."

Sakura was very still as Yukito picked up the phone. "Hello?...Oh, hello, Tomoyo-chan." Sakura stiffened. "No, no, that's all right...Oh? Yes...yes, she's here. Well...let me ask, hold on please..."

He held his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and said quietly, "She wants to know if it's all right to come over."

Touya could feel Sakura's body shaking violently. "No!" she cried out. "I can't! I...I *can't*!" Touya hadn't seen her so panicked in years, not since she'd been a child and he'd told her about the ghosts he could see.

"Sakura!" he said compellingly, "You don't have to do anything that you don't want to!"

Yukito lifted the phone to his ear again. "I don't think..." he began softly.

Touya waited until she was a little calmer and then, hating himself, he said, "But don't you think you should see her and get this worked out?"

"No!" Sakura exploded. "Don't you understand, oniichan? She said she *loved* me!"

"Sakura, she was *asleep*! She didn't know what she was saying!" Touya almost shouted, desperate to break through Sakura's near-hysteria.

"She was *crying*!"

"Um...I don't think," Yukito began again, then paused. "Tomoyo-chan?"

But Tomoyo-chan had already hung up.

Yukito gently replaced the receiver in it's cradle and turned to the two people on the couch. "Sakura," he said, interrupting them. They turned towards him. "I'm sorry, Sakura, but I think she heard you."

<>

Slowly, carefully, Tomoyo replaced the receiver, even as she heard Yukito's voice saying, "Tomoyo-chan?" on the other end of the line. After a moment, she mechanically picked up the receiver and dialed another number.

"Hello?"

"Li-kun?"

"Tomoyo-chan! She wasn't at her father's..."

"I know. She's at her brother's house."

"She is? Is she all right? Why did she leave so abruptly?"

Tomoyo felt a hundred years old. "Li-kun...it's a long story. She's ok..." Or she will be...I hope... "I'm sorry, I don't have time to explain it all right now," Oh, forgive me, Li Syaoran...

"Did something happen, Tomoyo-chan?"

"No...Yes...But..." she swallowed, willing herself to believe it. "But everything will be all right."

There was silence from the other end, and she could feel Li-kun's worry and curiosity reaching across the phone lines to her. But then he said, "Very well. Call me when you can tell me what's going on, won't you, Tomoyo-chan?"

Tomoyo squeezed her eyes shut. "I'll try, Li-kun." Dear Li-kun. What a disservice I have done you. What a wrong I have done both of you.

She hung up the phone again, and finally allowed herself to think about the words that were still ringing through her head:

"She said she *loved* me!"



Li Syaoran lay back and stared at the ceiling. He was worried...she'd tried to hide it but he'd never heard Tomoyo-chan sound so upset. He trusted her...she'd said that everything would be all right...but he was still worried.

With a sigh, he got up and reached for his sword; the repetitive exercises always helped clear his mind. An ironic smile quirked his lips for a moment...he'd figured on being nervous the day before his wedding, but somehow, this wasn't quite what he'd expected.

He worked at the katas for a long time, but when he'd finished, his mind was in as much turmoil as it had been before. With a frown he made his decision. He'd take a shower, get dressed...and then he would go and see Sakura.



Tomoyo looked around her room and knew with a precise and cold clarity that she had ruined the very friendship she had sought to preserve. A pain shot through her - a physical pang, as if she had been hit by a piano wire cut loose from its moorings.

So, this is what a heart breaking feels like, she thought, and stood up to bathe and dress.

There was nothing after that, no pain, no recrimination, no desire… nothing at all. Like the world outside, she was filled with a cold, dull light. There was enough warmth to keep her alive, but not enough for her to live.

Tomoyo pulled on a dress, and began to pack a small bag. A few changes of clothes, toiletries, she wouldn't need much. At last she sat down as if exhausted, and began to reflexively comb her long hair, watching herself blankly in the mirror.

The motions were soothing, she let her mind wander – into the distant past, her early childhood, when her mother would brush her hair, and talk about the cousin she had loved. Her mother used to always talk about Nadesico when she brushed Tomoyo's hair, telling her how like her Tomoyo was. Tomoyo had come to love this gracious beauty as an aunt long before she met Sakura and had come to love her too….

No. She would not think about that.

Nadesico. The beautiful, sweet girl of 16, who had left her family to marry a man 9 years her elder. Sonomi had never forgiven her, or so Tomoyo had thought for many years.



Tomoyo politely thanked the bodyguard who stood at the car for waiting. The woman smiled and bowed slightly but said nothing. Sliding onto the car seat, Tomoyo barely noticed the door closing, the bodyguard walking around the car, getting behind the wheel and starting the car’s engine. Her mind was miles away or, more accurately, years away...

That day she had been reading in her mother's library and had pulled a book from the shelf. A thin notebook had slipped from its perch next to the book she held, and fell onto the floor. Tomoyo had picked it up meaning to replace it, when she saw that it was written in her mother's hand. A diary?

She couldn't help herself, she began to read the entry:

He’s gone. I'm not surprised. I'm not even sad. I'll miss him I suppose, but we really never suited each other. I was no replacement for the love of his life – too angry, too strong – and he - he could never come close to the one I loved.

Tomoyo looked out the window at the sun dappling the garden. So, her father had left them. She had always supposed that to be the case, but her mother had never said. Tomoyo flipped the pages forward and read an entry at random:

…don't even know how to express my joy! I told Grandfather and thought he might begin to cry! I hope Taro gets the news, he should know that he’ll be a father.

And then, in the next entry:

How do I say this? How do I even begin to express my fears and hopes, and happiness, and sadness? Taro is dead. I can't say I loved him, but he was a good man and now he'll never even see his child. My Gods, what a sadness it is to be an unlovable woman, cursed, as I am. At least I will love this child, as I cannot be loved.

Barely remembering to breathe now, Tomoyo flipped a few pages again and read. Guilt and curiosity warred within her, but curiosity was the stronger:

What a beautiful child! My Gods, look at her! She is beauty itself. When she smiles all my sadness falls from me and I know, I know in my heart that the world is a magnificent place. Taro, Nadesico, Grandmother, Mother and Father, look at this beautiful child and rejoice with me!

Tomoyo stared at the page below her, watching as a single teardrop hit the paper, clinging precariously to the page. Quickly, she took her handkerchief and wiped it away, then dabbed at her eyes. She was so full of emotion she wasn't sure how to feel. Her father – Taro, had died. Her mother hadn't lied, but what a thing it must have been, to marry a man you didn't love, then have him leave you, alone and pregnant. A small bird flew by the window and Tomoyo stared at it for a moment, listening to it call to its mate in a cheerful refrain...

Traffic was slow, the car moved forward steadily. Forward into what future? she wondered. The bodyguards knew her moods well; they did not attempt to engage her in conversation, seeing that she wanted to be silent. Tomoyo was thankful to them for that. And thankful too, that they would be around to care for her mother after she had left.

And where are you going to go? Her inner voice asked softly. Away, she answered it. Away from here. Away from her.



Tomoyo stared out the window, her mind once again slipping back into the past.

She began to close the book, to replace it, when on impulse she turned to the beginning and read once more. The first few pages were commonplace teenage entries, then this:

I told her today. I told her I love her. Gods what a fool I am. She smiled at me, that sweet smile that makes my heart turn over in my chest and said that she loves me too. But I knew that she didn’t mean it the way I did. How can I let her know?

Tomoyo's heart began to chill. How well she knew that feeling! She read the next few pages, filled with similar misgivings, then:

It was an amazing day. No, it was a miraculous day. After school today Nadesico and I were walking home, as always, and it began to rain. We ran to take shelter in a small hut – that old outbuilding from the shrine that isn't there anymore – and we were laughing at how wet we were, you know how it is. But the rain didn’t stop and Nadesico got so cold she began to shiver, so I held her, trying to warm her up. She’s so pale and beautiful, how often I've thought of her as a spirit, only upon this earth for a short while, then gone like a spring day. So I warmed her up and she laid her head on my chest, as we waited for the rain to lessen.

I could hear my heart beating, I was so happy. I laid my head against hers, breathed in her scent and thought that if I died right then I would die happy. I don't know how long we sat like that, but I prayed the rain would never stop.

Then it happened – the rain stopped, and the most beautiful rainbow was visible from where we sat. We stood up to see it better and Nadesico took my hand and jumped in place – she’s always loved rainbows so much. And she threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. I was so happy I didn’t move, just put my arms around her waist and looked at her. She turned to me smiling and leaned forward to kiss me…and I kissed her back. Then the kiss changed, it wasn't a "cousinly" kiss anymore. Her lips were sweet and warm and I felt like I was flying. When she pulled away she smiled at me and took my hands in hers.

"I was thinking about what you said the other day, Sonomi-chan, and I do, I love you too." Her voice was so different I couldn't believe my ears! She did mean it this time – the same way I did. How blessed I am!

Tomoyo looked up once again, taking a deep shuddering breath. How much she wanted to be that blessed, to have Sakura say those words to her. She stared once again at the garden, where the light now was fading, the birdsong changed, more muted, readying for the evening. One last time she turned pages and read:

I would kill myself today but there would be no point. I am no one and nothing and it would make no difference. It would not save the family’s honor – in fact, I need to live to do that. Grandfather told me that now that…she…is gone, I have to carry on the family business. I don't mind, it is better than dying. But, I feel so cold, so lifeless.

For my future self I guess I should write down what happened, so I can never forget, but, it hurts so much I can barely write. I want to die.




The page was hard to read, Tomoyo noticed, tears had blurred the words badly.

She is gone –she left me for, for that man. Oh, this will never do, I need to write it out.

Nadesico met Kinomoto-sensei (how I hate even writing his name!) a few weeks ago, when she fell on him. I wrote about that. It seemed so silly at the time, inconsequential. But she’s been avoiding me recently and one day I spotted her talking to him at the edge of the woods.

Yesterday I made up my mind to speak with her. I miss her, for one thing – we were supposed to spend time together this year. And I'll admit, I was jealous. I love her so much I don't want to share her with anyone.


We were walking home from school, as always when she told me that she was going to marry him.


I can’t…I…




More tears.

I can do this. I have to. I asked her about our love and she smiled at me and said she'd always love me, but I could see that she didn’t mean it, again, the way I do. She loves him… I can tell… and I want to kill him! How I hate the man who is taking my beloved away from me! How I hate her, how could she do this to me? Why can't I die right now?

Tomoyo shut the book, put her face in her hands and sobbed quietly. Her poor mother, so passionate, so in love with her cousin. How bizarre that the same relationship should repeat itself, Sonomi’s daughter in love with Nadesico’s. The irony was cruel and Tomoyo wasn't sure she would ever understand why it had to be that way.

Standing quickly, she returned the diary to its place, and put the book back on the shelf to hide it once again. She walked to the window, and put her hands upon the sill. The last rays of the sun cast a red-gold glow over the treetops and she sighed heavily.

In the car, her head leaning on the window, Tomoyo echoed that sigh from her past. She made a decision that day, a promise to herself that she would never tell Sakura, never make Sakura choose between her and another person. And she had never had cause to regret that decision, until….

Why couldn't Sakura have loved her?

Tomoyo started as the bodyguard called her name.

"Ojou-sama," the woman repeated, "We’re here."

Tomoyo looked around and quailed at the site of Touya's house. But, smoothing her dress across her legs, she thanked the driver politely, and got out as the door was opened for her.

Today she would apologize, and try to mend what she had so carelessly broken.

Tomorrow she would see Sakura married to the man she loved, and tomorrow she would say goodbye.

And the day after...

The day after...she would leave.

Chapter 5

 

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