A goodbye at the gate,” said Hobie. He seemed to be talking partly to himself. “That’s what he would have wanted. The parting glimpse, the death haiku – he wouldn’t have liked to leave without stopping to speak to someone along the way. ‘A teahouse amid the cherry blossoms on the way to death.

Maybe I am fated to always be alone, Tsukuru found himself thinking. People came to him, but in the end they always left. They came, seeking something, but either they couldn’t find it, or were unhappy with what they found (or else they were disappointed or angry), and then they left. One day, without warning, they vanished, with no explanation, no word of farewell. Like a silent hatchet had sliced the ties between them, ties through which warm blood still flowed, along with a quiet pulse.

I’ve never been to a funeral until today. I see dazzling arrangements of red, yellow, and purple flowers with long, green stems. I see a stained-glass window with a white dove, a yellow sun, a blue sky. I see a gold cross, standing tall, shiny, brilliant. And I see black. Black dresses. Black pants. Black shoes. Black bibles. Black is my favorite color. Jackson asked me about it one time.
“Ava, why don’t you like pink? Or yellow? Or blue?

Page and page I let the spell of the story and its world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page. I lay in the bluish half-light with the book on my chest and listened to the murmur of the sleeping city. My eyes began to close, but I resisted. I did not want to lose the story’s spell or bid farewell to its characters yet.

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