One thousand paper cranes
You sat on a bed in a sterile white room. You watched as the rain fell in heavy waves. Little rain drops slid down the window next to the bed. Everything looked grey.
You clenched your fists, wrinkling the blanket underneath. You had been here for three weeks. It had been raining for the past four days. Almost as if the sky was mourning.
"Come on ________-chan!" Your best friend, Yuki held out the bowl of soup. "You have to eat something!"
You shook your head, not taking your eyes off the rain outside. "I'm not hungry."
You heard her sigh and felt bad. You shouldn't take your frustration out on her. Watching the silvery rain, you heard her walk out. She would come back tomorrow and the day after that. However long it took for you to die here.
A sharp pain shot through your head and a wave of dizziness hit. The leukemia wasn't getting any better. Your mother had said 'Things have to get worse before they get better.' You found it hard to believe.
"______-san?" You looked over at the nurse who had come in. "Would you like to watch the rain at the big window?" You allowed a small smile crossed your lips. Asami understood your feelings better than the others.
Helping you into a wheelchair, Asami draped a woolen blanket around your shoulders. Wheeling you down the hall she chattered aimlessly about the doings of other patients. You listened with only half an ear.
Parking you in front of the window, she bide you goodbye and then hurried back down the hallway.
You sat in silence, smiling slightly at the soft patter of rain on the window pane. Another nurse wheeled someone else next to you. You didn't look, there was no point.
It was silent for a few moments longer. Then a small rustle came from your right. Ignoring it you continued staring out the window. When the rustling continued you frowned. You really wanted to sit in silence.
You tried your best to ignore it, but to no avail. Twisting to the right, you frowned at the boy next to you.
He was about your size and pale as snow. His short black hair hung limply around his face. He stared back with dull dark brown eyes.
You blushed slightly, them remembered why you had turned.
In his hands he held a purple paper crane, on his lap sat three others and several pieces of colorful paper.
"What are you doing?" You tone wasn't as sharp as you would have liked it to be.
He blinked slowly, then lifted up the crane.
"Paper cranes? Why?" You were genuinely curious now.
"For long life." His voice was barely a whisper.
He held it out towards you. You gently picked it up, studying the purple paper. "Like the story of the crane?" You gave it back, "If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant their wish and make them well again."
He nodded, picking up another piece of paper. You watched as his thin fingers folded the paper expertly.
He reached over and placed the bright red crane in your lap. "One down." He whispered, reaching out with his other hand and placing a few sheets of paper on your lap. You clumsily folded one into a shaky crane. He gave you a small smile, then went back to his own.
"How many have you folded?" You asked, folding a green and gold sheet.
"Eight hundred and nine." his whisper was barely audible. You gave him a large smile,
"Then your almost done!"
He gave you that small smile again. "Almost."
For the next hour the two of you folded cranes. Nurses brought you new paper anytime you ran out. A pile of at least twenty sat on your lap. The red one he had given you was carefully tucked in the front pocket of your sweatshirt.
"Dinner time ______-chan!" Asami grabbed the handles of your wheelchair.
"See you tomorrow." You smiled at the boy as you were wheeled away. He smiled back, still folding the paper into cranes.
It was half way through a dinner that you realized that you had forgotten to ask his name. You would have to ask him tomorrow.
Over the next couple of days, you and he grew to be good friends. He told you that his name was Kiku Honda.He too had leukemia. He was an orphan, his only living relative an older brother who was always away for business.
It was kinda sad, he was always alone, waiting for someone, anyone to visit him. Yet you had a stream of visitors that you always ignored.
"How many today Kiku?" You were sitting next to his bed, he had been to sick that week to leave his bed.
"Nine hundred." He balanced a green crane on the tip of his index finger. You clapped your hands, "Only a hundred more!" He nodded, smiling slightly.
"How many do you have?"
"Only Fifty-two." You grinned, holding up the red one he had given you. He nodded, his fingers busy making another. He didn't even have to look to see what his fingers were doing.
You both lapsed into a comfortable silence.
You flexed your fingers, they felt slightly cramped. You wondered how Kiku could make so many cranes with out stopping.
"What do you want to do before you die?" the question was barely a whisper, yet in the small room, you felt like it would have been better if he had shouted it.
"I dunno......I never really though about it." Your voice was as soft as his. Setting the crane down, you glanced up at him. He had paused on the making of his cranes and was watching you. His dull brown eyes searching yours.
"What do you want to do?" You played with the wing of a crane.
He stared down at the small pile of cranes on his lap. "See America." Kiku's head bowed, his hair falling forward, "But I can't." You watched silently as tears fell onto the cranes, dampening their wings.
Kiku raised his head, "Look at us. We're walking time bombs. One day we'll be here and the next...." His voice was choked.
You stared down at your lap, "We're not really like that....are we?" Your voice was so small you doubted he could hear your question.
He shook his head and shrugged, "I don't know. I don't know anything anymore."
You nodded, silently folding another crane
Three days later you were back at the window where you had first met Kiku. It was raining again. He sat next to you, folding cranes again.
His wheel chair and yours were so close that the arms were touching.
His voice startled you. Glancing over you watched as he tilted his head towards the crane and whispered something.
"What?" You blinked not quiet understanding.
"This is my one thousandth crane." He held the turquoise bird as if it were made of glass.
"I made a wish."
You nodded, curious to know what he wished for.
"I wished that we would both get better." His normally dull eyes seemed bright and alive with hope. Grinning you nodded, "So we can both go to America!"
He smiled. It wasn't that small, guarded smile he was always giving. It was a big, happy, real smile.
This time it was you who was folding paper cranes, while Kiku watched the rain out the window.
"_______-san." Kiku's voice startled you. His hand wrapped itself around yours. It surprised you slightly to see that his hand was bigger. It felt like a polished stone, smooth and cool. Surprised you looked over at him.
His face had a rosy tinge to it. He leaned forward and placed his lips against yours. It was no more then a gentle touch, like that of butterfly wings brushing your lips.
Blushing you stared down at your lap. His hand tightened around yours. Smiling you gently squeezed his hand.
The both of you sat there, holding hands.
The nurses bustled past, smiling and whispering to each other. It was amazing to see love blooming in a place of sickness and despair.
Over the next few days, you noticed that Kiku was getting worse. It was little things that alerted you. The way his hands shook slightly and how he grimaced in pain when he thought you weren't looking. When you asked if you was okay, He would give you that tight guarded smile.
It made your heart hurt.
A week later the weather was bright and cherry, the patients were able to visit the hospital gardens.
You sat next to Kiku on a stone bench. He had become thinner, his face was gaunt and his eyes were lifeless. Your hand was wrapped around his. It shook within your grasp, feeling like it was covered in paper instead of skin. You could feel every bone and joint.
Pulling away you pulled a square of red paper out of your pocket. Swiftly your fingers assembled a paper crane. It looked like the one Kiku had given you the first time you met him.
It was the one thousandth one you had made. Cupping your hands, you whispered a wish into them.
"Please let Kiku get better."
Reaching you you placed it on his lap "Its my One Thousandth crane Kiku." He nodded slowly, gently picking it up with a trembling hand.
You felt like crying.
"Maybe the gods will hear your wish." His voice was so small, barely making it past his chapped lips.
You hoped they did.
They obviously hadn't.
You sat next to Kiku's bed, trying not to cry. He lay immobile, his hand wrapped tightly around yours. The machine next to his bed made whooshing sound as it pumped oxygen into his lungs.
"Bury me with them." His voice startled you. Looking up, you gave him a shaky smile.
"Bury me with my cranes." He lifted his other hand slowly and gestured at the wall above his bed.
You lips trembled, "You'll get better! One day you'll tell your grandchildren about the cranes."
He smiled, "Will you be the grandmother?" You nodded, blushing. "Yes."
His eyes went back to his cranes, "We'll hang them in the living room. My cranes and yours." You squeezed his hand. "Yes."
The room was silent except for the sounds of the machine.
"_______?" Kiku tightened his grip on your hand. "I'm glad I met you." Tears dripped onto your lap.
"I'm glad I met you too Kiku."
"Will you go to America for me?"
"Yes" Your voice cracked.
He nodded slightly, his face as stoic as ever.
You sat there, holding his hand. The machine next to you began beeping wildly. Kiku's grip loosened, his hand slowly losing the warmth of life.
Nurses bustled in, shouting orders. You didn't hear any of it. Asami tried to pull you away. you refused to let go of his hand. But slowly, the nurses were able to pry your hand off. Your fingers reached out and quickly placed the bright red crane you had wished on into his hand.
You made sure Kiku got his wish. There were only two people at his funeral. You and his older brother Yao. Neither of you spoke as you watched his casket full of paper cranes was buried.
"Thank you." Yao broke the silence, his eyes never leaving the casket. "I didn't want him to die alone."
You nodded, there was no need for words.
It was thanks to Kiku you had the will and strength to live. You had promised to go to America for him. The leukemia had vanished, your doctors were puzzled, deeming it a complete miracle.
You looked out the window of the bus. You had arrived in America. You had visited every major city and hiked through all the famous forest, now you were going to see the great lakes.
Out the window a shape caught your eye. A large crane with a patch of bright red on its chest was flying close to the bus. Its dark brown eye meet yours for a second, then the great bird flew off.
You smiled, reaching a hand inside your coat and touching the bright red paper crane that rested there.