Sonia tried to read more to Tanaka but found the day’s events too tiring. The words kept swimming across the page, bleeding into the illustrations until neither of them was legible. As much as she hated to, she said good night to Tanaka early. She collected her books before standing up. As she stood, she found herself standing over Tanaka. For an instant, she impulsively felt the need to kiss him. Once again, her thoughts were back in Snow White.
The prince’s kiss woke the princess from her eternal slumber. Would it work for them too? Was their love really real? Almost as suddenly as the impulse to kiss him, tears began to tumble in waves from her eyes. Yet, not a sound escaped her. She stood there, silently crying. Against her better judgment, Sonia leaned into his pod, lining her face up with his.
It would take nothing to kiss him. Sonia was a mere inch away. Tears dribbled down onto his cheeks, giving the illusion that he too was crying. It would take nothing to kiss him, yet the result of the kiss would cost Sonia everything she had left. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t kiss him. Instead, she shifted up to his forehead and gently pressed her lips to his chilled skin. It wasn’t like the kiss in the storybook, but still, somewhere deep down, Sonia hoped it was enough.
When she straightened back up, she couldn’t walk away immediately. She lingered far longer than she should have, watching and hoping for a sign. Unfortunately, one never came. Before she could break down into more tears, a familiar voice broke the deafening silence of the ward.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Her gaze shot up to meet Fuyuhiko’s. He didn’t look as angry as he usually did. If anything, he seemed wholly disinterested, perhaps even uncomfortable. His arms were locked firmly against his chest, creating a barrier between himself and the room. It was also clear he would not be stepping into the room. The tips of his shoes were barely in the doorframe.
A wash of embarrassment warmed Sonia’s face. In a panic, she swiped at her face, trying to dry the tears that lingered. Fuyuhiko rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Don’t bother. I know you were crying. That’s not what I am worried about. What were you doing to him?”
He bobbed his head, motioning in the direction of Tanaka’s pod. Sonia couldn’t help looking at him, hoping something had changed, only to find Tanaka just as she had left him. She did her best to hold back more tears as she met Fuyuhiko’s gaze once more. She wasn’t sure how to respond. Typically, the thought of someone seeing her so vulnerable and intimate would be unbearably embarrassing. She was far past paltry embarrassment, though. Despair clouded every other emotion in a blanket of pain.
Thankfully, Fuyuhiko didn’t wait for a response. He tucked his hands into his pockets and jerked his head back, beckoning her over.
“I’m grabbing a bite before heading back to my room. Come with.”
Just as he didn’t wait for her response initially, he didn’t spare a moment before turning on his heel and stomping out of sight. Sonia stood for a moment longer as silence filtered back into the room. While before she took comfort in the quiet, something inside of her had altered. The silence was her greatest enemy. Before she left the room, she gave Tanaka one more glance, then quickly rushed out of the room after Fuyuhiko.
Surprisingly, he was lingering in the hallway. Once Sonia came around the corner, he muttered,
With that, they walked side-by-side. Once again, Sonia was faced with the all-encompassing silence. The small reprieve of their shoes on the tile was welcome, but the sound was not enough. Almost as if he sensed her discomfort, Fuyuhiko asked again:
“So, you have a habit of kissing vegetables?”
Shocked, Sonia blinked and spluttered.
Fuyuhiko growled while shaking his head.
“I mean comatose, damn.”
A sliver of embarrassment broke through the wall of despair that was slowly building up in her chest. Her cheeks were warming, and she did her best to avoid Fuyuhiko’s gaze as they walked.
“Ah, well, no.”
They were coming up to the cafeteria. While it wasn’t any louder than the rest of the facility, the excitement was beginning to bubble up in Sonia. The prospect of people and sound was something that she desperately needed.
She looked over at Fuyuhiko and found that he wasn’t even looking at her. His mouth started in a tight frown before parting to reveal clenched teeth. Even his eyes, which were usually full of energy and rebellion, were dim. They were dark with an emotion Sonia recognized all too well: utter despair. Through gritted teeth, he asked again:
“Why? Why are you always hovering around those damn coffins?”
Sonia shook her head, clasping her hands in front of her chest as if she were about to pray.
“Coffins? No, they aren’t-“
Before she could finish, his gaze snapped to meet hers, filled instead with a rage unlike any she had ever seen.
“Shut the fuck up. They’re coffins, you hear me? Coffins.”
Sonia had nothing to respond with. She didn’t know what to say. Perhaps there was nothing to say. His words hung in the air between them, and their weight on Sonia was almost unbearable. Particularly, the word ‘coffin.’ How could he think of such a thing when they both were in those same pods? Even more so, how could he believe that when…
Her thoughts trailed off as an image of Peko came to the forefront of her mind. Her arms pressed firmly to her side, long, white silver braids unraveling as her hair outgrew them. Then she remembered his journal, her name scratched across almost every page. Even as he wallowed in despair, calling the pods coffins, deep down, yet he wanted to believe the people in them were still alive.
Despite her better judgment, as they rounded the corner and entered the cafeteria, Sonia muttered:
“You don’t really believe that.”
Though he didn’t say anything in response, he shot her one more glare. This time, Sonia could just make out the tears forming in the corners of his eyes.