(A/N: Reminder! Running a sticker giveaway, it’s 100% free! Winner will be selected on Saturday, 5/27, check it out here.)
Louis and Sandy visited the next day, bringing an armload of Studio Ghibli movies along with them.
“Loulou gave me a set for my birthday,” Sandy announced as she showed them off, catching Mitch off guard by the quantity of them. They planned on doing this movie marathon to celebrate, but kept the theme a secret until now.
“Are they all good as Spirited Away?” he asked while examining the various box art, all of which had similar color palettes and character designs. Most of them looked whimsical, although a few seemed more based in reality.
“They’re all great, but-” With a nervous laugh, she plucked away the one that he currently held with two children on its cover. “We’re not doing Grave of the Fireflies.”
Mitch shrugged, unsure of the significance. “Whatever you say.”
Princess Mononoke was selected first. Sandy proceeded to explain how it was the inspiration for her wrestling character, which Mitch understood so much better after watching it. After that, another was loaded up. By the time it ended, they all agreed on a quick break to stretch and place an order for pizza. Once snacks were refilled and bathroom breaks were taken, they tackled My Neighbor Totoro.
Part way through, as the sun set and the room grew dark, Nate slung an arm around Mitch’s shoulders and pulled him in tight. All at once, Mitch melted into his side, wondering if things were finally leading towards where he so desperately wanted to be.
“Hi,” Mitch quietly giggled, a little lightheaded at the gesture.
“Hey,” Nate nuzzled the side of his face lightly with his nose, then turned his attention back to the film.
To Mitch’s delight, the same black fuzzy creatures from Spirited Away appeared in this film as well, and Sandy enabled his excitement as he pointed them out. She stood up and scrambled to get her backpack, and told him to close his eyes and open his hands while she fished through it. Seconds later, she placed something soft onto his palms. “OK, you can look now,” she urged.
He complied with the request, and staring up at him was a huge pair of cartoon white eyes attached to a soft black orb with spindly little arms and legs. It clutched a pink star-shaped bead in its tiny hands, and he gasped at it.
“Happy holidays!” she shouted as he stammered his gratitude at her. “I made that for you after we went to the movies a few months back, ’cause you liked them so much.”
“So you don’t hate me?” he blurted, then flinched because that was a question meant to be asked in private. But Sandy shook her head and grinned at him.
“Nah. You drove to Cambridge and paid for ramen and boba and let me make fun of you. We’re good.”
Then they hugged, which felt as if it was the final piece of atonement. His eyes prickled as the weight lifted and release had at last been granted.
He was so caught up in all of it, the warmth and love shared in that room in that moment and from all the days prior. Caught up in the movie as it resumed, the solid weight of Nate next to him, the reminder on his phone that in a week and a half he’d be on the radio, all of the potential which the future held…
That he didn’t notice the lights in the driveway, or that the front door opened until a rush of cold air swept into the livingroom.
“Pizza?” Louis asked with a concerned glance.
“Hello?” Mitch shakily greeted, checking his phone but saw no missed calls.
“Just me,” Avi’s voice croaked out, sounding as though he hadn’t slept in days. Shutting the door behind him, he looked over at the group and quietly greeted them with a dejected, “Hi guys.”
“What’re you-” Mitch untangled himself from Nate and hurried over to meet him in the foyer, and spoke in a hushed tone. “What’s going on? I thought you weren’t due to come back for at least a few more days.”
“Huh?” Avi blinked a few times, his eyes glazed over, then he shook his head. “Came back early. There was some kind of bug going around home. Everyone’s got it right now so we weren’t exactly spending time together. Didn’t want to risk catching it.”
“Oh,” Mitch nodded, watching Avi take his coat off. “Is there anything I can do? Do you need anything? We’re watching Totoro, if you wanna-“
“I’m good,” Avi declined. “Just gonna go lay down for a while. Probably shouldn’t be around anyone if I might be sick.”
“Sure.” Mitch swallowed hard. “But, if you need anything, you’ll let me know? I have my phone on me.”
“Yeah.” Avi left it at that, and head up the stairs, his luggage in hand and loosely trailing behind him. At a loss of what to do, Mitch stared until Avi disappeared onto the second floor, then begrudgingly returned to the couch. As he resettled, Nate raised and eyebrow at him, and all Mitch could do was shrug.