The right song at the right time can change your life.
Look Upon Your Self-Appointed Guardian
Silence, silence, and more silence; only broken by the occasional sneeze, cough or intercom announcement. Several hours of it had come close to driving her mad; not only the silence of the waiting room, but the silence from the hospital staff. It seemed no one had answers or even rumors. That or they were simply unwilling to tell her. The room had become stuffy; not only from her closed up frustration, but her heavily layered disguise: A Thick grey cloth trench coat that came down to her knees along with black leg stockings and leather boot heels. A pair of large sunglasses covered her eyes and she kept her hair in a bun so it contrasted her regular look. It must have been working since nobody had recognized her despite the incident being all over the news.
Just as Minoko's felt as though she was about to snap, As though on que, a doctor finally approached her: He was a man in his forties with small eyes, a square head and hair that had turned grey long ago. With the care the man took in how he addressed her; she was certain her manager had informed him of who she was. "My name is doctor Inai, I am the assigned physician to mister Testsugai Hoto". The doctor extended his had in greeting and Minoko took it as she spoke; her grip tighter than usual due to her lingering frustration. "How is his condition doctor?" Dr Inai paused at her question; perhaps he had been expecting an exchange of names or formalities? Maybe her tone had caught him off guard? After the long wait for news though, Minoko was in no such mood for anything but information.
"Mister Testsugai is currently stable, though we have had to place him into a medically induced coma until his back can heal properly; but as for any plans on his future treatment and recovery from the accident... I'm afraid we need to see how he will heal after the surgery to determine that". The doctors words lingered a moment. Then a sigh escaped from the lips of the young women. Some of the lingering emotions left with it, and in a small way, Minoko felt better then she had just a few minutes ago. "I see" was all she said in response. She was happy to hear he was stable at the very least. "May I have his room number then doctor; I'd like to see him".
The doctor seemed a bit uncomfortable at her request. "I'm sorry miss...but...visiting hours for non-family members are long over". It was then that Minoko noticed that the sun had already set outside. Still, she had already waited three days, and didn't plan to wait anymore. She decided to act the part she had played over the past five years, a spoiled celebrity that gets what she wants. "Is that so" was all she said as she lowered the sunglasses on her face so she could stare down the doctor. It was a gaze that any being would cower under; Filled with the radiating scorn of a powerful women. Anybody could tell from Dr Inai's face that his mind raced with every possible way this women could tear his and his place of work apart with a few well-placed phone calls.
It took only a few moments for the doctor to sigh and began writing something on his clip board. He grabbed the piece of paper and handed it to Minoko. "This pass will give you access to the ICU. Just give it to the front desk staff there and tell them who you're looking for". Minoko pushed her sunglasses back up, and with a smile that dripped with smugness; she took the pass from the doctor with a kind "thank you" as she walked past him. She didn't like using her position like this, but she couldn't deny it was helpful.
Minoko's shoes clacked against the hard floors of the hospital, creating an audible echo in the quiet halls of the hospitals ICU. The nurses at the front desk had told her that Tetsugai was in room one-fifty-six on the second floor of the ICU. As her feet drew her closer to her destination; a feeling of dread fell over her. The whole place made her feel uncomfortable and only brought up bad memories. The quietness due to the hour didn't help. The whole thing only added to the emotional weight she had been feeling. It was getting past ten PM by the time she finally made her way to Tetsugai's room.
The lights were off, and with the exception of the soft glow from the life support equipment it was dark in the room. The curtain to Tetsugai's bed had been drawn, and all Minoko could see from the entrance was the end of said bed. Behind that curtain was the person she had wanted to see for days. Yet it was only at this moment she realized her own trepidation at seeing the man again. A flash of his face came into her mind, along with the image of that face on life support. The whole thing made her feel sick.
Still, this knot in her heart made of shame and regret hadn't subsided. She had felt it since she saw the ambulance take his broken body away from the stage those three days ago. The ambulance she was too stunned to ride in and probably couldn't have if she wanted to. She could only watch as the person that had saved her life at possibly the cost of their own had rode away to their fate, alone. The person whose name she hadn't even known, even though he had worked for her for two years. She had to learn his name by asking around among the stage staff. It was because of this she had come here as soon as she had a free moment. She knew she couldn't thank him until he woke up, but she felt she had to at least see him. It was all she could do for now.
Her trepidation remained, but still she pushed back the curtain with a gentle hand. What greeted her was not the shattered body that had been in her mind, but a sleeping man. Most of the injures had been to his back, and besides a few lacerations from broken glass on his face; one would wonder why he was in the ICU if they didn't know any better. Even in the dark of the room though, Minoko noticed the bracing on the bed that kept Tetsugai from shifting in his sleep. Along with the beds design that contored perfectly to his body. His back had to be kept perfectly still and supported while he slept through the pain of recovery. What news she did get during her three day wait had told her his back was broken, and that there was a chance he might not walk again. With that and the update from the doctor in mind, seeing him sleep so peacefully made her feel like she was witnessing a terrible cover up of some sort. Like a mother telling their child that there dog had simply "ran away".
Minoko took a seat next to the sleeping man. There were a million questions she wanted to ask him at that moment; A whole list of why's whose and what's that had raddled in her mind everyday she had waited. Somehow, she had felt that coming here would make the feeling in her heart dissipate, but now that she was finally here it only got worse. It made her wonder what it would take to loss this feeling of guilt.
Still, even if she had to wait some more, with the end of her tour along with the accident, she had several weeks off to recover before her schedule filled back up with song recordings, commercial appearances and photo shoots. She looked down at the broken man next to her. "You even got me a few days off work. I'd have thanked you for even that much you know". her hand gripped tightly around the arm rest of her chair. "It's almost like you're trying to make me feel even worse about all of this". The words filled with the emotion of the past few days flowed out without her thinking. They almost sounded venomous, and she found herself feeling bad after even uttering them; though her company obviously had nothing to say in return, she couldn't help but half-laugh at her little outburst.
She looked closer at Tetsugai. He had a strong face with sharp lines to his jaw and cheeks. The kind that made him look like he worked in the physical profession he did. He had little facial hair with the exception of the stubble that had grown over the days since the accident. His hair was short and black, and his head was rectangular in shape. He was plain looking by every definition of the word if she was honest with herself. There is no standard look for people that save others she surmised.
It was then, while Minoko was leaned close to Tesugai that a voice came from the entrance. "Oh my, another visitor?" . Minoko jumped in her seat at the sudden break in silence, and turned as though spoken to by a ghost. "Oh...im sorry, did I scare you?" The women spoke quietly as though she was trying not to wake Tetsugai up. She was older, maybe in her mid-forties, with dark brown hair that came past her shoulders, and a face that was slightly skinny. She made her way into the room, purse in hand, before Minoko could respond to her query.
"Oh no, im ok". Minoko finally said after a few moments of recouping her composure. Her face was still pale though, and with a slight laugh the women responded. "if you say so dear" as she took the seat placed against the far wall of the room. Minoko Wondered why the women chose to sit so far from the bed, but then realized why her own seat was so close to Tetsugai's bed. "Oh, im sorry, did I take your seat" Minoko said as she started to get up. "no no sit please" the women said with arms that gestured to Minoko to not worry. Minoko took the seat with a reluctant "thank you" before falling silent.
She found it hard to look the women in the eyes. She was probably Tetsugai's mother. The idea of sitting in the same room as her after what happened made Minoko feel like some kind of monster. Her son almost died protecting her, and here she sat; the reason for this women's worries and distress, perfectly fine. It was enough to make Minoko want to beg for forgiveness on her hands and knees at that very moment
As for the women, she settled herself into her seat. Putting down her purse and focusing on Minoko. "Would you happen to be a friend of Tetsugai's from work?" the women asked in curiosity. Minoko perked up at the question, answering almost to quickly. "Yes...well...I mean... I guess you could say that, Im actually... his boss... in a way". Minoko found herself trailing off. She felt it strange to affirm any relationship with Tetsugai given she didn't even know he existed until three days ago.
"I see" was all the women said in return as she turned her gaze to Tetsugai. A look of lingering worry lay plainly on the women's face. Her eyes showed a sign of redness from crying, along with tiredness from staying up for days on end. It was clear the past few day's had been extremely difficult for her. It made Minoko want to reach out and comfort her in whatever way she could. She decided to atleast introduce herself and maybe distract the women with conversation.
"My name is..." Minoko caught herself as she was about to speak her name. She was uncertain how she, what she could only assume was Testsugai's mother, would react to meeting the person he had injured himself over. As she pondered this, the women, without even looking towards Minoko spoke."Your Minoko Haiuko correct?"
The women's deduction surprised Minoko; she attempted to respond, but her words caught in her throat. She felt like all she could do was look away "You have a pretty good disguise, but your hair color is still the same as from the pictures I saw on the news. Besides...I don't think stage hands get paid enough to afford the designer brands you're wearing". The women said this with a bemused confidence that made Minoko feel like a child that was playing hide and seek by hiding behind a curtain with their feet sticking out.
Minoko looked down at the ground with a dejected smile "I guess I've been found out" Minoko said as she removed her sunglasses. "What about you miss? Are you Tetsugai's mother?" The women seemed surprised at the accusation and then laughed at Minoko's question. "I would hope not, I'm only forty one after all". The women placed her right hand on her chest. "I'm his aunt Minami, Minami Yami, it's nice to meet you". Minami moved across the room enough to offer Minoka her hand. Minoko accepted it and shook. "It's nice to meet you". Minami smiled in the kind of warm way only a women of her age could. Though, when her gaze turned to Tetsugai, her face changed from a smile to a more somber form as she continued speaking.
"Though, you're not exactly wrong when you called me his mother. I guess you could say I am for all intents and purposes. I've been taking care of him since my sister passed when he was... oh, about nine I'd say". Minami continued to look at Tetsugai as she continued to speak. "His father left before he was born you see. I haven't seen him since. As for my sister, she was always sickly since we were young. I remember having to yell at her to stay out of the snow and rain so she wouldn't end up in bed for a month from a cold". She would always just say to me "If I don't have fun ill get sick from boredom anyway". She was always stubborn like that".
Minami laughed at the memories of her sister. It was a bitter sweet laughter. The kind one only did when remembering better times. The room grew quiet as Minami took a pause before continuing, her face becoming more serious. "She caught Pneumonia not long after the new year. No matter what the doctors did she didn't seem to get any better. She made me swear to take care of Tetsugai for her if anything happened to her when he was born, and, here we are..." Minami sighed "It's hard to believe it's been over fifteen years". She said the last bit while wiping a tear from her eye. The memories were obviously still painful after all these years. "I'm sorry" was all Minoko could say. "Thank you" said Minami with a smile before turning her eye's back to Tetsugai.
"The last few days have been tough if I'm honest. It's almost like watching my sister all over again; still...now that Tetsugai is stable, I've been much more at ease". Minami put on the air of a women that was much more collected then she actually was, but Minoko could see the remains of the worry that had no doubt shook her to the core the past few days. Minoko was uncertain of what to say, and the room began to dwell in silence once again.
The scene she found herself in seemed overly familiar, and it made Minoko feel less then comfortable. She felt like she had to say something, but before she could though Minami broke the silence. "I guess I'm being a bit capricious. Sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. It's been a rough few days and I guess having someone to talk to just made me want to let off a bit of steam".,
The room grew silent again for a moment, then Minoko spoke. "Is it alright if I do the same then?" Minami looked surprised at Minokos words. Still though, she understood what she meant. Minami grabbed her chair and moved it next to Minokos. "I'm all ears" was all she said. Minoko half smiled at the older women's kind gesture. She was kind- Minoko thought as her face became more serious. She ringed her hands as she struggled to let the words flow. The things she has wanted to say since the accident. It was then that she felt the warmth of a hand on hers. When she looked up, only the warm smile of Minami greeted her. She felt like she was going to cry. It was then that the words came.
"Ive actually... never spoken to Tetsugai before; I didn't even know his name until the day of the accident". Minoko's words flowed out as if someone else had taken over her body. She felt like all the words she had been keeping inside her were trying to spill forth. "Then, out of nowhere, when im right in the middle of a performance, I hear someone shout my name. At first I thought it was my manager. Then I see this guy running at me full speed". Minoko turned to Tetsugai as she spoke. "My first thought is one of my fans got on stage. It wouldn't be the first time, but it still caught me off guard.". The words flowed fully now, even as part of Minoko's mind tried to pull back.
"That's when I noticed the audience pointing up, I saw the light and...Everything slowed down; As though I'd put life on slow-motion". Her face began to distort as she held back her tears. "I felt him slam into me as he shoved me out of the way. I'll never forget the face he had. He was smiling, smiling! Here he was, with a two hundred pound piece of stage equipment about to fall on him and he is smiling!" Her free hand grip hard at her skirt in frustration as two streams of tears began to fall along Minoko's cheeks. "I felt so helpless, I couldn't even speak. I just watched it happen. I just watched everything happen; when they were getting the light off of him, when the ambulance came. I barely moved a muscle at all during all of it". She looked at Minami with a face flooded in tears as she continued to speak. "He saved me... and I couldn't help him. It's my fault he's like this!"
Minoko looked down, barely able to speak as the crying fit began to take over. The only words escaping her mouth being "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry". It was then that she felt arms wrap around her. Minami held the crying girl to her chest as though on instinct. "Go on, let it out". As though her body had been waiting for permission, Minoka's tears flowed free. She wailed as she gripped tight onto Minami, letting her emotions free for the first time in days. Minami simply held onto her as she let the girl break free of the grip that guilt had had on her heart all this time.
It took a while, but soon Minoka's tears began to dry up. When Minami noticed this she spoke. "Tetsugai did this on his own accord. I'm uncertain exactly why, but I know he was smiling because he was happy he saved you. You have nothing to apologize for". Minami petted the young girls head as she spoke. "I'm not angry at you, if anything I'm angry at him for making me worry so much". Minami pulled away from the girl to wipe away her tears. "So stop crying already, and just tell him thank you when he wakes up. I'm certain that's all he wants".
Minoko nodded at Minami's words. The tears still came but Minoko's mood lightened. "I'm sorry Minami" she said one last time. "You can't help how you feel; now, how about we go get something to eat. It will be nice to have company for a change".