When Kaori woke up that morning, she stayed in bed for a while, thinking over everything that had happened the previous day. As I expected, being with Matt wasn't any different. It's obvious that I don't love either one of them. But...at least I know now that everything doesn't have to be forced. She turned on her side and smiled, touching Matt's face as he slept. I understand how you feel, Matt. I...I've killed someone too. I...I have. But I've never felt guilty about it, not once.... I felt good about it...like I had been justified. Like I had gotten my revenge for all those years. Though both of our situations were completely different. Mine was justifiable, yours wasn't. But all the same...it was an accident on your part, and I can't blame you after knowing how much you suffered for it. She sighed. I wonder...if either one of us will ever be loved the way we want to be.
Kaori was in the common room when Linda came in looking for her.
“Kaori, Roger wants to see you in his office,” she said.
Ah, Gods...if this is about the accident....what am I supposed to say?!
“I'll see you later, then,” she said to Near, and walked out of the common room and towards Roger's office.
When she knocked on the door, she heard a muffled “Come in” and opened it.
Seeing who was inside waiting, she felt her heart skip a beat. Gods...he must have told L about the other night! Ah, shit! “You...wanted to see me?” she said, looking around. Roger wasn't in the room. It was only L.
“Yes. Please have a seat.” He politely gestured to one of the chairs in front of Roger's desk – where he was sitting.
Kaori nervously sat down. “I suppose you heard about the other night.”
“Yes. I'm just glad that all of you weren't hurt. But I'm not here to talk about that.”
Kaori couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief. “Then what did you want?”
“I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Yes?” she said.
“You are aware that every student must leave the orphanage when he or she turns fifteen, am I correct?” he said.
“...yes. Roger told me that when I first came here.”
“And your fifteenth birthday is approaching.”
“...Yes.” She had been aware of this fact for quite a while, but had refused to think about it.
“Tell me...what do you plan to do when you leave here?”
“I...don't know,” she admitted. “I haven't thought about it.”
“I've been keeping track of your grades here, and notes that the teachers have written about you. I must say, I am quite pleased with what I have seen so far. I've been keeping an eye on everything going on here lately.”
“I've been keeping an eye on you ever since I sent you here. I'm not sure what interested me, but I've been thinking over something for quite a while.”
“And..what would that be?” she asked.
“I was thinking about...adopting you,” he replied.
Kaori was speechless. “Wh-what? B-but why...?”
“You're the first student here that I've had a ...personal connection with. I'm not involved in any of the other students' private affairs. I must say that after taking on your case...I couldn't help but feel obligated to help you in some way. So I sent you here. But I knew you would have no place to go once you turned fifteen, and after thinking about it...I decided that I didn't really have a choice. I want to make sure that you're okay after you leave here. The choice is up to you, and I will give you as much time as you need to think about it.”
Words still wouldn't form in Kaori's head. “L...this is...I can't believe you would even want.....”
“I'll leave the choice up to you,” he replied. “I'm only asking you to consider it.”
“...Alright,” Kaori said. “I can't thank you enough for...”
“You don't have to thank me for it,” L said, smiling. “Just think about it. You don't have to say yes just yet.”
“Right. Thank you, again,” she said.
“You can return to the common room now,” he told her. “That's all I wanted for today.”
She nodded and left the room, her head spinning.
When Mello entered the laundry room later that day, he noticed Kaori at one of the washing machines, dumping in a pile of sheets. She didn't notice him as he came in, and he watched her for a while as she emptied the basket. The laundry detergent was up on a shelf above the machines; it was rather high, and Kaori had to stand on the tips of her feet to even reach it. Mello had to repress a laugh as he remembered watching Near the same way; the boy was just as short as Kaori, and had to practically climb on the dryer just to reach it.
After a couple minutes of this, Mello walked over and picked it up off the shelf. Kaori didn't meet his eyes as she took it from him. “You mean you're actually coming out of your room now?”
“Kaori...I want to apologize for yesterday,” he began.
“I'm not the one you need to apologize to,” she said coldly.
“Yeah, but....” he said.
“Why?” she said softly.
“When you were with me, you didn't force me down or treat me badly...but with Matt, you do.... Why is that? Why do you force yourself on him when you always gave me a choice?”
“He does have a choice,” Mello said with a sigh. “He keeps coming back, even when I hurt him.”
“But why do you do that?! Why don't you treat him like you did me...with respect, at least?!”
“You don't understand...I-I'm...afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” she demanded. “Admitting you actually might love him?”
“...I-I do love him, he knows that...”
“Right. Because you have a fantastic way of showing it.”
“Kaori, you don't get it.... I don't have control over anything! Matt's the only thing in my life that I can dominate. Everything else is of its own will. If I lose Matt, I'll have nothing.... Don't you get it? I can't let him have any control, because...I'm too afraid to let anything else have its own will that might hurt me! How do I know that if I don't keep control over Matt, that he won't take the chance and leave?” Mello slid down against the wall and closed his eyes. “I can't risk that, I...I'll go crazy if he leaves me. And the only way to keep him is to do this.... I don't want to keep hurting him like this, but...”
“You're only being selfish, Mello! What about Matt's feelings?! He loves you!” Kaori cried. “And I know things haven't always been that way between you. There was a time when you treated him right, wasn't there?”
“Yes...there was,” Mello replied.
“Then what happened to that?”
“I don't know...” he said softly. “I really don't.”
“Mello, you don't have to worry about Matt leaving you...he loves you more than anything, which is why he stays – despite the way you're treating him. That -if anything- shows some damn good loyal dedication.”
“His feelings could easily change.”
“You're only trying to convince yourself of that so you'll have an excuse to reign over him! Now if you keep treating him the way you are, then yes – he may decide to leave! But Mello...I know that you care about him. And Matt knows that, deep down. You...you just have to trust him. You can't always have the control over everything,” she said. “Especially people!”
“I know.... I just....” He shook his head. “I'm too afraid to trust him.”
“That's bullshit! Matt's the first person you should be able to trust – that's a complete lie! Can't you just be truthful for once!?”
“What do you mean?! I'm always truthful!”
“No, you aren't! You're nothing but a coward!”
“I know your parents didn't die in a car crash!” she cried. “Matt told me...about you running away, everything!” Kaori shook her head. “Why would you lie to me like that!? Didn't you trust me enough to tell me the truth?”
“I just wanted to forget it, okay?”
“The same way you wanted to forget Matt while you were with me? Is that it?”
Mello was silent.
“You're such a coward,” she said, and turned to stalk out of the room.
“Oh yeah?” he said, making her stop in her tracks. “What about you? You were only using me to, weren't you? To forget whatever you didn't want to remember.”
She turned around and glared at him. “That was different. I never lied to you about anything. And I most certainly didn't lie to myself.” And she promptly walked out of the room.
-End of Chapter 21-