Since a long time ago, I didn’t understand why I was so unhappy. My head was pounding, and my arms, legs, and abdomen all hurt. It was excruciatingly painful.
[—It hurts, please stop!]
Even if I said something like that, there was no stopping it. The taste of blood filled my mouth, tears continued to flow, and I couldn’t control my voice. I was just so scared and in pain.
[You, just stop already! It’s because of you idiots that the project failed…]
My mom tried to intervene, but the man who was my father took out his work-related stress on us by hitting us. My mom and I were both at our limits. Really, at our limits.
Even with everything he did to me, I could survive because of my mom. She protected me, comforted me, and took care of me all along. When I was too scared to go to the bathroom, she would come with me and tell me the story of Momotaro to make me less scared.
She apologized to me many times even though it wasn’t her fault. She was sorry for causing me pain.
[I’m sorry, Moegi. I can’t fulfill my role as a mother because I’m not strong enough.]
But that wasn’t true. My mom was the best mom anyone could have. She even went as far as hiding cameras and listening devices in our home to capture evidence of that man’s wrongdoing and turned it over to the police. Even then, my mom was trembling in fear.
If she got caught, it might not end with just violence. She must have been thinking that. My mom had a weak body, so she probably always had a sense of impending death. Nevertheless, she protected me.
I felt love, warmth, and finally experienced the happiness of a peaceful and ordinary life for the two of us.
But that didn’t last long.
My mom was hospitalized. She had been unwell for a long time, so I worried about her. But I believed my mom would get better.
My mom was hospitalized when I was in the third grade.
Around this time, I was taller than the girls around me, and I was often teased and made fun of by the boys.
[Hey, don’t say that!]
[Yeah, that’s right.]
[You’re on the side of the giants, huh?]
The girls defended me. They protected me in the classroom and outside. I was happy. I had thought I was unlucky, that only the worst would come my way.
And then, during the winter of my fourth grade.
[Mom! There’s a jump rope competition during this winter break!]
[Is that so… Do your best.]
[Yeah. If I do my best, you’ll get better, right?]
[…Yes, I hope so.]
I felt something strange about my mom’s hesitant response. I felt something strange about her thinner arms than before. I felt something strange about her abnormally pale skin. I felt something strange about how fragile my mom seemed, as if she would disappear if she breathed too hard.
But I pretended not to notice, even though I knew deep down. I was scared to acknowledge it, simply because it was terrifying.
I really did understand. That my mom wouldn’t be with me for much longer. But I wanted to believe. That my mom would always be there with me.
I practiced jumping rope diligently, made matching scarves by hand for us because Christmas was coming up, and even worked on a cake for a test run.
If I did all that…
I actually wanted to celebrate on Christmas, but the jump rope competition was on December 26th. So, I thought it would be okay to celebrate everything on that day.
And then, I won first place in the town’s jump rope competition. I held a certificate, a cake, and a scarf as I headed to my mom.
I had a faint hope that she would be happy, maybe even get better.
[Thank you… Moegi… You did your best.]
My mom patted my head. Her hand was warm and comforting, with many wrinkles. I liked the warmth of her hand.
My mom smiled, and I smiled too. We talked a lot that day. About unimportant things, important things, and our plans to go somewhere together with the presents.
That day, after talking a lot, my mom said something at the end.
I nodded in response. That day, when I got back… and the next day, when I received the sudden news and rushed to the hospital… my mom couldn’t speak anymore.
But strangely, I didn’t feel sad. I looked at my mom’s face, listened to the doctor’s explanation, but I didn’t feel anything.
I didn’t feel anything about my mom’s death. That day, we had dinner as usual, watched TV as usual, and went to bed as usual.
I didn’t feel anything. For days and days. I just went on as usual.
Then, the day of the funeral came. Even on that day, I didn’t feel anything. But… the family was allowed to meet her one last time, and we were told we could touch her one last time because after that, she would be cremated.
I casually touched my mom’s cheek. She had a pale face, and her lips were blue, but there was no doubt she was my mom. But she was cold.
It was at that moment that I finally understood my mom had died. When I realized she was no longer in front of me, tears overflowed like a dam bursting.
I had just been unable to accept the truth. I thought my senses were numb, my emotions were messed up, and I had been fooling myself. My mom was always there.
But I couldn’t deceive myself anymore, facing my mom who had turned so cold.
It became cold. Loneliness overwhelmed me. I couldn’t see my mom anymore. Even if I went to her grave, I couldn’t meet her. But I visited often. Every time, I remembered.
My mom’s words, her last words. In school, the boys teased me about my height, but I was still happy because I had friends who stood up for me.
In middle school, I fell in love at first sight, confessed, and started dating, believing I could be happy as my mom had told me. Even in middle school, the boys made fun of my height, but I was still happy.
[Her height is too tall, so it’s kind of weird, but her face is fine. Maybe I can just date for now.]
But it wasn’t like that. I was incredibly sad. At that moment, I learned that the existence of men was evil.
When I became a high school student, I felt like I was getting happier by interacting with various people. However, there was a lingering uneasiness in my heart that never went away.
During those times, I met Karen-chan and became close to her.
Little by little, my heart started to feel more fulfilled.
But then, when I became a sophomore, a strange freshman appeared and took Karen-chan away. I didn’t like it, but I thought if she was happy, it would be okay.
After a while, I found out that he had deceived her just like I had been deceived, and I confronted him.
That’s when I realized my misunderstanding. At first, I thought he was a weird guy, never getting angry, always smiling, and his actions seemed senseless.
Yet, there was warmth somewhere in him. Something familiar.
As I got closer to everyone, I inexplicably found myself drawn to him. I felt love in his everyday actions, even in his abnormal behavior. I felt love in everything about him.
I had already fallen in love with him.
But everyone liked him too, so I thought maybe it would be better not to say anything. However, I couldn’t hold back.
And he said he liked me too.
I was so happy.
I had a dream about my own life after a long time. It began with unhappiness, then I felt love, and I lived desperately in that dream.
[Now entering, the bride and groom.]
I wore a wedding dress and walked with him. I was taller than him, but it didn’t matter. We had a small, intimate ceremony in a church.
The scale of the wedding didn’t matter. It could be small. Such things were trivial.
The ceremony proceeded.
[Now, the bride and groom may exchange their vows…]
[I-I’m embarrassed, so… let’s just kiss on the forehead.]
Mom, thank you for giving birth to me, for raising me. Thank you for protecting me, for giving me love, for following me to the bathroom.
I know everything won’t always be perfect. We might argue, we might misunderstand each other. There won’t always be a straightforward path. We’ll walk down difficult roads too. But I know that every time, he will take my hand. He’ll match his stride with mine. He’ll cry with me, laugh with me. He’s warm, kind, a little clumsy, but incredibly straightforward, and cooler than anyone else.
That’s why I chose him. I leaned in closer to him, and our faces turned red. And then, he… well, it’s embarrassing to kiss on the lips during the ceremony, right?
[—-Mom, I’m going to be happy with this person.]
With that, I woke up. Ugh, what kind of dream was I having? It was so embarrassing that my face felt hot.
Everyone was sleeping beside me.
I’m happy now. Because everyone is here. But I’m going to be even happier in the future. Like in that dream. I’m sure of it.
With that thought, I pulled the covers over myself again and fell back into a happy dream.