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Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, 1981

On the fifteenth day of October, the last of the greenery that remained in Sapporo had vanished, under a thin veil of white. Winter had come quickly in the year, giving the fall leaves little incentive to remain on the branches. The only signs of life left on the street came from the thirteenth unit in the condominium building, were sweet green lilies sprouted in the darkness of Yuriko Osada's kitchen.

The old stove top became home to a small growth of lily flowers, delicate stems curled themselves underneath and around the stove tops, little clusters of petals peeking above the coils. They would have been burnt, if only Yuriko had been able to cook and had bothered to enter the kitchen itself, interaction with the world was so hard at the moment. She was sad, so sad and melancholic. Melancholic enough that she wouldn't have noticed the lily buds spilling out of the corner of the bed, tangled within one another, petals everywhere, an overally sweet perfume. Maybe she would have noticed, just not have cared enough to have done anything, instead simply lying in the leaves, letting the stems curl around her legs. Perhaps that had been what would have needed to have happened, to make her feel something. That had been it. Unable to feel.

Winter coming early had meant shorter days, darker nights, leading to longer hours at work, the standing, the talking, being unable to shout or move when eyes and hands trailed too close. The little orchids in the windowsills, the decorative bamboo, naively gifted by a tourist after being swindled with overpriced sake- maybe even the grass and leaves outside had all seemed to have wilted and decayed. As if Yuriko had led to death and an early winter. Everything had been hard. Everything had been hard, unable to be felt. But to Kyōko Kawaguchi, everything that has befallen Yuriko had not dared to endanger her.

She had been a person who had known herself best. Able to know how to deal with everything that has happened in life and at the hotel, treating the occurence of lilies growing underneath her nightstand as unusual, but could be explained away by plastic flowers or a dropped cutting from the main flower bowl that had managed to find a way to grow. She couldn't find herself removing it. Kyōko had left it, and allowed it to grow across the table legs.

There was snow tonight. Both of them alone, at the front counter, nobody in the lobby, everyone had checked in. No luggage either. Kyōko considered Yuriko a friend, and a close one at that, even if their interactions were quiet and unassuming. It fit Yuriko well, she thought. Nothing going on, just the snow visible outside, leafless branches in the wind. Yuriko spun a pen around in her fingers, catching glances at the clock. Kyōko had reached for the pen, needing to sign documents, she said after, later lying in Yuriko's bed of lilies. Yuriko didn't believe her then, or now, but hands touched hands. The pen fell on the counter. Fingers pulled back from one-another, then both hands got a little closer, then a little more so, then further again until both were interlocked.

Yuriko had felt her hand move closer, as did Kyōko's, breathlessness led to eyes looking at eyes, lips on lips, hands around waists, and at that moment, everything had stopped, the snow settled, the flowers had grown and became no longer wilted, everything had been better, everything was so close, and life was so clearer and with purpose, eyes closed and eyes kept closed, everything still, eyes still.

Eighteen days later, as both Kyōko and Yuriko met over drinks, neither quite looking other in the eye, the lilies in both condominiums wilted and faded. Spring had come early, the next year, the third of March.

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