Everything was expected to go back to normal. Shiho was now able to stand and move as she did before. Physical therapy had lasted a few months and Shiho was promised a new start at another school. It had meant leaving Ann behind but she had taken the news well. Shiho was glad for her friend who was no longer an outcast in Shujin Academy. Now she only had to look after herself and stay strong. It was definitely a challenge.
No one in the new school knew about Shiho's past expect the principal. In the beginning, Shiho had acted reserved towards everyone for some reason. Especially male teachers brought anxiety to her but she always brushed the issue aside. The homeroom teacher insisted her to join an after-school club even though Shiho had felt no motivation to do so. The teacher didn't let go of the topic and had introduced Shiho to join the school's volleyball team. She had refused.
Shiho would have loved to play volleyball again but she just couldn't. The whole idea of volleyball made her sick inside. She was relieved to see that the coach was a woman and not a man with dark hair and a strong build. Still, PE classes were the worst subject of the day for her.
The time flew by and Shiho's condition remained the same. She had no friends to speak to and her family never bought up the incident in their conversations. Ann and Shiho were staying in touch but the friendship wasn't as close. Meeting a few times a month for a cup of coffee and an ice cream was not enough. Shiho was guilty of lying to the other girl about her state. She experienced more nightmares at nights and some places in her school were making her constantly nervous. As if someone was watching her every move at the corridor and waiting to strike. The fear caused Shiho to have panic attacks whenever she was alone in public.
The reason for this was obvious. Shiho had wished to get professional help to go through her abuse yet she was only given rehabilitation for other issues. She didn't know why everyone seemed to shush about the real cause of her suicide attempt. Even her parents had been silent for months. Shiho felt like she needed more than this. She needed someone to speak to. Someone to hear how scared she actually was. But no one was coming to help.
Shiho's mother soon realised her daughter's odd behaviour. The girl's voice lacked enthusiasm and brightness and there were dark bags under her eyes. She ate well but every bite on the food was slow and forced. Shiho wore long-sleeved shirts all the time even though there would be hot outside. One day, the mother sat on the table to have a discussion with her.
"Shiho... Would you please tell me what's wrong? Has something happened in school?" Shiho couldn't open her mouth. The mother frowned at this and tried again:
"You must tell me what's going on. I'm worried about your health. Do we need to call the doctor?"
"Mother... I don't need a doctor...," the girl spoke quietly.
"Then what is it? Please, tell me...," the mother begged.
Several months had passed from that fateful day. This conversation remained Shiho of the time she had to confess the truth to her family in the hospital bed. How heartbreaking it had been to every one. Her mother had been broken for days and her father was unable to say a word. Now Shiho thought she had to experience the same once again.
"I...," she slowly started," I-I'm not over it, mother... I'm still experiencing horrible flashbacks of...of him. Every day in school is like living on the edge... I fear he is somehow there, waiting for me...," Shiho finished the sentence with sobbing.
The mother was startled by the news. She shook her head in disbelief. Shiho hung her head low in shame to hide hear falling tears. A sudden slam on the table made her jump and stare back at her mother.
"Why didn't you say anything earlier?! If you really aren't over it, how come you stayed quiet about it for this long?!" the mother shouted at her.
"B-Because everyone around me told me so! That I'm fine, cured! You, father, the staff...I thought this is it. I wasn't given any other ways to cope with the incident... I was raped in his damn office and others treated it as if I was lying..."
"Kamoshida confessed yet he didn't tell exactly what he had done with you...," the mother hissed through her teeth. Shiho raised her eyebrows at her in confusion. Her mother continued:
"There was no solid proof of that he had...raped you. He confessed himself sexually and physically abusing you in the same ways he had abused other girls and the victims confirmed this. Even if you believe more was done, it isn't registered on his crimes... Besides, you were in a coma for days. You probably have a false memory-"
Shiho had heard enough and left the kitchen before her mother finished. She should have expected this from her. It was understandable to deny but it was hurting Shiho. What happened that day was no false memory. It was haunting her dreams and mind every week. The worst part was her story was not confirmed to be true and she wasn't informed at all. Even Kamoshida hadn't had enough courage to tell everything at the trial.
Before Shiho's bedtime, she made her huge decision. She took out her notebook and wrote down her next week's plan. She was going to arrange a meeting with the police and ask if it was possible to go visit the devil himself in the prison. After finishing, Shiho stayed put and let herself cry every bitter tear she had left. If the plan was possible, she could hopefully face her fear and move on.
The police had promised that Shiho could visit Kamoshida the next Saturday at the visiting hour. She was considered an exception even though she wasn't related to the man. The prison was informed to let her in when she would arrive and they explained the reason. Shiho was not happy, she was absolutely terrified. She had secretly wished of failing but everything had been done smoothly. She didn't tell anything about this at home. This was only about her after all.
When the Saturday rolled in, Shiho was in the bathroom, shaking and holding her sick stomach. She told herself how stupid she had been, what an awful idea it was to visit him. How would he react? What if she would freeze? Shiho closed her eyes and tried to pull herself back together. She had promised to do this for herself and she had survived from worse. She repeated her own mantra in her head as she grabbed the jacket and stepped outside.
The whole trip was difficult and long. The prison was located away from the city for a good reason. Shiho couldn't remember anything of the whole trip and her body moved on auto-pilot towards the gates. She didn't pay the attention to her surroundings or the guard who led her further in. It was like Shiho was walking back to the PE office where she would face the coach again. She was deep in her thoughts that she didn't realise the guard stop. He pointed her to sit on the chair and wait for a while. There was a glass in between the two rooms and an empty chair on the other side. Soon the door was opened and Shiho heard two voices behind the glass, the other was the guard mumbling. Shiho closed her eyes and calmed herself down. When she opened them, Kamoshida was already sitting there, facing her.
Shiho froze up.
"S-Suzui?... Did you come to visit me? I-...," Kamoshida stumbled on his words. Shiho watched the man in front of her: he looked somewhat older. His face was pale, the black hair had fallen flat and the eyes were empty. His posture lacked the usual confidence and intimidation. Kamoshida was not the same person who Shiho had seen the last time. It made her less scared.
"Yes...I needed to."
Kamoshida's body trembled in his seat as he spoke," Suzui-, S-Shiho, I'm so sorry...! I never imagined to see you again! The things I did to you-! They're unforgivable!" he couldn't look back at her. For a moment Shiho doubted the former coach's genuineness. She glared at him.
"It's too late for that... I don't care are you sorry or not, it doesn't change the past."
"Then why are you here...?" Kamoshida asked confused.
"I heard you didn't tell everything to the police... What really happened between us. Did you do it to ease your sentence?"
Kamoshida's shoulder's dropped as he lowered his head in shame. Shiho kept her neutral face on even though she wanted to scream and punch the glass broken between them. The man inhaled with a heavy sigh and opened his mouth to speak:
"It's true... I tried to deny it, Shiho. You were the only student I abused over the line just because I was frustrated that day... Thinking about it now, I don't know what went into me. Ann's rejection was too much for my ego and I had to fix that somehow," Kamoshida rose his head enough to look at Shiho," Then I remembered you..."
Shiho was listening without a reaction.
"It was an impulsive act. I didn't think twice of consequences. When I let you leave, I worked late at school that evening to distract myself. Next morning you didn't even cross my mind until I saw the ambulance and you being taken inside. I knew immediately what you had done. I protected myself by trying to forget you yet the image of you haunted me."
Kamoshida sniffed and Shiho noticed his watery eyes under his hair. She told herself his tears were not for her but himself.
"I admit I was mostly worried of myself than you... Something strange happened though and one day I woke up with this horrible mental pain. Guilt was eating me inside out and I cannot explain how. I needed to confess my crimes in front of everybody the same day. It still bugs me... I was doing my best to not get caught and suddenly I was doing the opposite. Maybe I just snapped, at least that is what my therapist believes," Kamoshida finished his story.
Shiho was silent. The information was a lot to take in. Kamoshida was surprisingly patient and didn't push her to answer right away. It was Shiho's turn to shed a few tears. She was relieved to hear her abuser's pain yet everything angered her as much. Kamoshida's eyes were now full of empathy and sorrow as he watched the girl cry. Shiho saw this and hit her fist against the glass.
"This is all your fault! Your empathy is nothing! You ruined my future, my dreams, my friendship with Ann, my family-!" Shiho breathed in," Y-you ruined me... I am left alone with this memory of you forever..."
She hugged herself in her seat and quieted down. The hit had startled Kamoshida and the guard had come to check the sudden noise. Kamoshida managed to explain to him that everything was fine. Shiho raised her head from her lap a little and stared at her abuser. His face was looking even more miserable.
This man wasn't the same bastard at all, it was quite clear now. She couldn't ever forgive him, but knowing the man was no longer a danger, a part of Shiho was feeling better. There was still one problem though.
"Will you tell them about the rape?" she asked.
"Hard to say, Shiho. I already have my sentence written down but I could start by telling about it at my therapy sessions... Life at the prison might be a better choice than living outside. I can never return the lifestyle I used to have, so I prefer to make this last til I die," Kamoshida answered with a determination which surprised Shiho. It was enough to satisfy her request.
The guard entered again and told them the time was up. He gestured Kamoshida to follow and the former coach glanced at Shiho's way as a farewell. The girl watched him leave and close the door. Then it was her turn to return home.
The trip back home was somewhat relaxing. Shiho gazed the sunset from the train, enjoying the beauty of it for the first time in months. She felt optimistic about the future. There was a lot to be done first, for an example she needed to discuss with her parents about proper mental therapy. She could call for Ann too and explain everything that had happened. Maybe she could join a club after all and try to get some new friends. The Art Club seemed like a good option. Shiho was proud of herself and smiled at her reflection.
She would heal in time if only she allowed it.