There are days when Yachi seems to lose herself.
Today is one of them. Today she wakes up and rolls over groggily to see Kiyoko passed out beside her. The other girl is stretched out neatly with her arms perfectly tucked under her head. Her expression is almost the same as when she’s awake, Yachi thinks to herself. Kiyoko’s eyes don’t flutter, not even minutely, and her lips are dainty and small and open slightly with every puff of air. Even in sleep, Kiyoko is neat and immaculate. Yachi usually props her head on her hand and watches Kiyoko (a little creepily, Kiyoko tells her, calling the action rather Edward Cullen-esque, but Yachi has never seen Twilight so the words are lost on her) until she wakes, marvelling at just how beautiful her girlfriend is. Today, however, feels different. Yachi pulls the covers back and pads out of the room.
Usually she would take a brisk shower, sometimes with Kiyoko (those were not so brisk) and then head into the kitchen to make breakfast. Lately she’s stopped showering on Sundays, and now she goes directly to the kitchen instead. Yachi’s arms are still sluggish with sleep, and it takes her a while to get the coffee machine going. She rests her elbows on the counter in front of it and stares past the stream of the coffee falling into Kiyoko’s favourite mug. It’s orange, with a picture of a volleyball and black comic sans that says i’d hit that! Yachi got it for her for Christmas.
The fuller the mug gets, the emptier she feels. It’s like the coffee is sucking the feeling right out of her. Yachi refocuses on the mug and her stare becomes resentful.
‘Joining passionate people when you aren’t going to give it your all is the rudest thing you could do.’
She knows her mother meant well then, but Yachi finds it physically impossible to keep being cheerful all the time. Days like these are the toll it takes on her, the price she has to pay in order to stay kind and happy and supportive for school and her team.
Yachi realises that the machine has stopped pouring coffee. She brings the mug to the counter and pulls out the sugar jar. Kiyoko doesn’t like milk in her coffee, but her massive sweet tooth means that she requires three sugars. Yachi loves this about her.
‘One,’ Yachi slowly tips a spoon of sugar in, counting aloud.
‘Two,’ Faster, more forcefully this time. She almost misses the mug entirely.
‘Three-’ Yachi stops. One hand, grasping the countertop, is completely white. The other, holding the spoon, is shaking. Yachi looks at the clock; it’s taken her fifteen minutes to make coffee. She pours the rest of the sugar in, mixes it, and moves to the stove.
Soon afterward, a stack of pancakes sits on their tiny dining table next to the coffee. It’s all very quaint, Yachi thinks. Any other day she would bask in the domesticity of running her own household and living with her own girlfriend, like she’d always dreamed.
But it’s obvious that today will not be like that.
Yachi lifts the pan off the stove and carries to the sink. She turns on the hot water tap and begins to scrub. She also begins to think.
It’s not like she doesn’t know. She knows incredibly well that tomorrow will be fine, she will wake up and admire Kiyoko and take a shower and sigh over the domestic atmosphere and smile and feel. She knows that it’s only one bad day in a sea of good days, but that doesn’t stop her from dreading the next. She knows that the real her is cute and lively, and the person she is today is only temporary.
…or is it?
The water is too hot. Yachi forgot to turn on the cold tap.
What if this is who I actually am? What if my cheerful personality is just a façade? What if I never return to being that person?
Her hands are turning red, but Yachi looks at them as if they were the most fascinating thing on earth. Her thoughts are running wild with what if’s and what about’s and screeching with worry and despair but the rest of her feels empty. Her head is a balloon, slowly but surely detaching from her body and floating up, up, up.
She’s suddenly aware of what she must look like now. Her hair is greasy and falls all over her face in clumped strands. Her skin is dry and crusty and the cold air raises goosebumps on her thighs. She is a quivering, blank-eyed, filthy mess. If anyone from Karasuno saw her now, they probably wouldn’t recognize her from the upbeat yet anxious Yachi from school.
Her hands hurt so much. They drop the pan and it falls with a loud clang to the bottom of the sink. Her legs buckle and she slumps on the counter, unable to blink.
She can’t bear the person she is now. Her hands are burnt and yet she can’t remove them from the water. Her legs refuse to stop shaking. It hurts, but she accepts the pain simply because she cannot find the energy to fight. She vaguely registers Kiyoko’s concerned ‘Hitoka?’ but she remains still, letting her thoughts wash over her like the boiling water over her poor, unresponsive hands.
Yachi says the word over and over again, until it has no meaning. Empty is empty! She thinks, and it’s so, so funny. She giggles to herself. Empty sounds like Humpty, she muses in her head, like Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…
She hums the tune, giggling. Kiyoko would laugh. Kiyoko laughs at the stupidest things. She laughs at bad puns. She laughs at crude humour. She laughs at Yachi’s terrible jokes, said only to make Kiyoko laugh, nothing else.
And suddenly Kiyoko is there, reaching over Yachi’s head to turn off the hot water. She isn’t laughing. She’s hooking her arms under Yachi’s armpits and sitting on the cold kitchen floor and pulling her into Kiyoko’s lap. She’s holding her close and pressing her lips to Yachi’s forehead and saying nothing. Yachi’s manic giggling simmers down as she feels tears rolling down her face and splashing onto her red hands. They belong to Kiyoko.
‘Your breakfast is getting cold,’ Yachi’s voice is steadier than it has ever been in her whole life. Kiyoko holds her tighter in response. They say nothing, and the clock ticks and ticks and ticks.
After a while, Yachi lifts her head to Kiyoko’s now dry face and asks her, ‘Who am I, Kiyoko?’
Kiyoko’s voice is the complete opposite to Yachi’s. It’s hoarse and wobbly and feels like a castle slowly crumbling as she says, ‘You’re Yachi.’
Yachi drops her head. It’s not the answer she expected, but it placates her. It reaches up, grabs a hold of the balloon’s string and grounds her.
Kiyoko mumbles Yachi’s name to herself, over and over, like a broken record. ‘Yachi, Yachi, Yachi,’ she whispers into Yachi’s hair. Strangely, it holds its meaning. Yachi still feels empty, but she remembers that she’s not alone. Kiyoko has bad days too, and Yachi is the only one who can soothe her through them. The scent of coffee and pancakes wafts through the air and it’s enough. Yachi is still empty but she can smell them, can smell Kiyoko, can hear Kiyoko still murmuring her name and can feel her breath against Yachi’s hair. Yachi, Yachi, Yachi.
And for today, it’s enough.