❯ The Best Policy? – One-Shot

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Shuuko was sitting on the floor, having collapsed without warning. As she tried to regain her balance, she felt one of her legs spasm. She’d been having problems walking for some time, but she tried to keep it to herself. Now, it seemed she couldn’t hide it much longer. Just then, she heard Misaki come into the room.

« Mom? » Misaki asked. « Is something wrong? »

« No, » said Shuuko, « I’m fine. » She knew this was a lie. Still, she forced herself onto her feet and hoped Misaki would believe her. As soon as her daughter left, she staggered over to a chair and sat down, barely avoiding falling down again. Finally, she was able to get back up and do what she was going to do earlier.

That night, she lay awake, unable to sleep. She knew she’d have to go to a hospital for whatever her problem was, but that would mean leaving her hometown for a while. Ever since her marriage had fallen apart, Misaki hadn’t seen her father. It wasn’t fair for her to be separated from her mother as well. Still, there was no way around it.

A few days later, Shuuko was about to leave for Tokyo. She was seen off by Misaki, as well as her own parents. When it came time to say goodbye to Misaki, she was about to make her well-rehearsed excuse. Suddenly, though, she just couldn’t do it. She didn’t have the heart to lie to her daughter about why she was leaving.

« Misaki, » said Shuuko, « I’m going to have to go away for a while. I’m having a hard time standing or walking, and I’m going to see if the doctors can make me better. »

Shuuko’s parents were shocked; they hadn’t expected this.

« Mom? » said Misaki. « When will you come home? »

« I don’t know. I’ll be sure to let you know when you can come over to visit. »

« Okay. » Misaki watched her mother get into the car, which then drove off. Misaki tried to keep up a brave front, with little success.

Shuuko didn’t bother looking back as her relatives receded into the distance. She had her own heartbreak to deal with. The whole way to Tokyo, she found herself wondering if it was right for her to be so upfront with Misaki. Finally, she was dropped off at the hospital.

At first there was little success in figuring out what was wrong with her. It seemed that she’d wasted her time coming here. Finally, though, the doctor decided to put her through an MRI. He had a suspicion, but he needed to be certain. It took a few days to get the MRI results. He then went to Shuuko and gave her his diagnosis.

She could hardly believe what she’d just heard. MS wasn’t a condition one normally associated with Japan. Worse yet, the doctor told her it was actually becoming more and more common among the Japanese population. The government was downplaying all this for political reasons. She could sense that he was taking a risk by telling her that. For now, though, she had to focus on her own problems. She called her parents, and then her sister Shouko, and gave them the bad news.

She tried reversing her condition, with no success. Over time, she lost more control over her legs, until finally she was confined to a wheelchair. She cried herself to sleep that night.

Misaki occasionally came to visit. Shuuko dreaded how her daughter would react, but was relieved to see her carrying on as if her mother were still « normal ». These visits were among the few bright spots in her life these days. One day, as she left her room to help relieve her boredom, someone else was coming in.

« Um, » said the man. « Hi. »

She soon learned his name: Ichiro Mihara. Dr. Mihara was a mechanical engineer who’d been brought in to help with a project the hospital was working on. Unable to treat those such as Shuuko through regular means, they were trying to develop prosthetic limbs as a « work-around » of sorts. Dr. Mihara thought she’d be a perfect test subject.

Shuuko decided to participate. She wanted to be well as soon as possible, and she soon found herself working with Mihara. Misaki wouldn’t have as much time to visit, since she was now starting school. It was just as well, since the prosthetics research would take up too much of Shuuko’s time anyway. Still, for the first time in a while she felt good about her life.