"His name is Kaede, and I'm sure you two will get well along together." He stood there, in the scratchy new clothes, standing on the doorstep, clutching his mother's hand. When he heard her speak, he was suddenly filled with the urge to look up to her face, see and remember what she looked like. But she was too tall, too far out of his view. Opposite them was another tall woman, with a little girl clutching her skirt. He scowled at her. His mother didn't even try to coax the two of them to go play.
"Do you really have to go away so far, Shizuka?" the mother of the girl's asked his mother.
"Well, it's Koinosuke's job, you see, and we still have to manage the divorce papers. Whatever possessed me to marry him in America, I don't know why, but now it's giving me a terrible headache. I really want to spare Kaede all this." They stepped into the house, and Kaede saw that it was quite like the house they used to live in, big and cold. The little girl was still staring at him.
He wasn't sure what else they talked about, because he didn't care anymore. He was sick of loud voices and he at times, he was quite sick of his mother, too. What he was interested in was this new house and the girl standing opposite him. He wondered why she had green eyes and why her hair color was dark red, unlike his own black locks. He had never met anyone with such hair before.
Her mother and his mother went out to the large gardens of the estate to chat a little while and have tea. The two were great friends in their college days and supported each other in whatever problems they had. Kaede briefly wondered if his mother thought he was a problem, and if that was why she was leaving him here, alone.
"You two go ahead and play, okay, Tsubasa?" the strange woman—her name was Shigeru—was telling the girl with green eyes. She smiled and nodded happily. "Okay mama." Was all she said, and with that, she grabbed Kaede's hand and merrily led the way towards a tall cherry tree. He allowed himself to be dragged along, wondering why he was here, like he had just awakened from a dream that was so lifelike, he was sure it was real…
Finally, when they were away from her mother's view, the girl released Kaede's hand. "Listen here, you." She said imperiously to him, twirling about to face him. "From this day onward, you will be living in my house. Since you are just a guest, you have to do whatever I tell you to do. Do you understand?"
Kaede nodded, his face growing more sullen. He remembered now. His mother brought him along to this house to stay in while she went off to America. He was going to live with a nice lady and her own little girl, this one standing in front of him. And she was a spoiled brat. He hated spoiled brats. These were very strange thoughts for a mere five-year-old, but then again Kaede had an unusual upbringing. For six years he was growing up alone. What did the girl want again?
"Now, climb up that cherry tree!" she ordered, pointing up to the high branches reaching up to the sky. Soft, pink blossoms floated towards them. Oh, Kaede thought. Is it spring already?
Obediently, Kaede removed his shoes and headed towards the base of the tree. The girl was looking at him in a half-frightened, half-excited sort of way. He stopped in his tracks.
"Why do I have to do this?" he asked her.
"Why? Are you scared?" the girl taunted.
The two glared at each other for a moment and at last Kaede turned back to the tree. He had a hard time climbing it at first, but he quickly got the hang of it. Soon he was perched up a high branch, looking over the wide, wide lawns. A breeze passed over him, showering him again with petals. It felt wonderful. He felt free, without any reason to scowl. He breathed deeply. A girlish laughter caught his attention.
"It doesn't look so hard!" the little girl cried, reaching out her short arms out to him. She twirled around as the petals fell on her, her white dress fanning out, making her look like a flower herself. "Mama told me it was dangerous, but it's not, really, isn't it?"
He shook his head.
"I want to go up with you! Please wait for me!" and she climbed up, almost as easily as he did, although it took more time and she had more scrapes on her knees than him. She sat next to him, grinning and twinkling.
"You're pretty cool." The girl said, after a moment of silence. After sizing him up for a moment or two, she extended her hand. "My name's Tsubasa." Kaede stared at it, blinked, and shook the hand. Tsubasa smile widened.
"You smile too much." Kaede said, seeing her face. But in truth he was secretly wondering if she was laughing at him.
"It's just that no one has ever shook my hand before." She said. Then as an afterthought : "They usually pat me on the head."
"Kaede." His mother called to him. He smiled when he saw Tsubasa's mother's eyes grow round with alarm as she saw the two perched up on the tree.
"Tsubasa! What are you—get down this minute, young lady. Get down this very minute!" she cried, reaching out her arms to the little girl. This was the first time he saw her face—kind and warm and rosy. He glanced at his mother, and she was so unlike Tsubasa's mother—pale and delicate and unsmiling. She waited for Kaede to climb down the tree and approach her himself.
She wrapped him around in her perfumed arms and kissed him on his head, and he clung to her, and it seemed to him that his mother didn't want to let him go, really, but it was beyond her strength to change things. It was time for her to go. When he kissed his mother goodbye, his eyes remained dry but he had an uncomfortable feeling in his chest. A small voice told him he would never see her in this way ever again. He almost whispered "Don't go." But somehow he failed to enunciate these simple words. A cold kiss was all she gave him as a token of farewell, and a vague promise of seeing each other soon.
And then she walked out of the door.
Please don't go.
And he felt that life had to start again. There was always a beginning waiting after the ending.
No, really, that's the title of the fic. -_-; I don't own anything from Slam Dunk and yes, I know it may seem to a lot of you guys out there that this is a Mary Sue fic. I will try my best to avoid that being so. I'm not an expert on basketball, and weird as it may sound, I won't be mentioning much of it here O_o even though this is an SD fic. Basically I'm trying to delve on Rukawa's past—it's just he acts so unlike a real person a lot of times and there HAS to be an explanation for that, other than being dropped off by aliens. This is for RC—you know, this is the first time I made a fanfic as a birthday present! Okay, I'll stop rambling now. Onto the next part!
Many children merely forget this part of their lives, and memories turn into unreachable, indecipherable things, way beyond their reach. Perhaps it is because they were too young to remember, or merely because they were growing up, and they decide that that part of their lives was not important, not worth recalling. What highlighted those years were just emotions, and most of the time they were irrational and kicked in if the child needed or wanted anything.
I want a cookie. I want a lolly. I want a kiss. Make me happy.
You kicked me. You took my doll. It's your entire fault. I'm going to cry.
But if a child has a real reason to be unhappy, had a reason to cry, had a reason to remember then it is an unusual childhood indeed.
Shigeru was awakened by several persistent tugs on her nightgown. For a moment, she thought it was Tsubasa, who, only a few months ago, had began sleepwalking and ended up in the garage for some reason and spent most of the night there, fast asleep. But, no, she could feel Tsubasa's silky hair against her chin, her daughter's soft breathing going against her own. She stroked her daughter's head, making sure that she was awake and not dreaming. There was another pull on her nightgown sleeve. She reached over to turn on the lamp standing beside the bed but instead she felt her hand touching something else. She passed it and turned on the lights. The sudden brightness blinded her momentarily, but her eyes quickly adjusted and fell on the figure standing near the bed. It was Kaede, dark-blue eyes blinking against the light of the lamp, small fingers clenching the fabric of her sleeve.
Shigeru smiled sleepily at him. "Kaede. What are you still doing up? Do you want anything?" Kaede didn't answer and just stood there, silent as stone. He looked so much like his mother, Shizuka. That quiet demeanor, those watchful eyes, alert and focused.
"I…" Kaede began but he hesitated, and tried again. "I wet my pajamas." He said this so solemnly that Shigeru almost laughed.
"Oh?" she sat up, gently pulling her arm from the sleeping Tsubasa. "Let's go change then." She took his hand and they walked back to his bedroom. She quickly took a fresh set of sleeping clothes and put them on Kaede. She pulled off all the bedcovers and laid them on a corner, to be taken the next morning by the laundry woman. All the while Kaede watched her, thinking how different it all was at his house. At his house, his mother would have called for the maid to do all these rituals, and went back to sleep. That was what it was like. Then he remembered, that starting today, things were going to change.
She turned to him. "Everything's okay now." She saw that he was staring at her. "Is there anything else you want?" he nodded. She waited, and all the while, Kaede was trying very hard to remember what his own mother looked like. Shigeru held out her hand, and he realized that he had forgotten.
Tsubasa woke up with the ticklish feeling on her nose. Grudgingly, she forced her eyes open and felt a warm ray of sunshine on her cheek. But the ticklish feeling didn't go away. A shock of black hair greeted her eyes. The strange little boy, who just came in yesterday was now fast asleep, in the bed she shared with her mother. He had one arm around her and was hugging her as one hugged a pillow. She shifted away, and the sudden movement woke him up, too. For a moment, the two children just stared at each other. They had forgotten the other's names.
"Where's my mother?!" Tsubasa demanded, as if Kaede had just somehow tied, roasted and ate her mother during his stay. He shrugged and buried his small face into the pillow. She stared at him and wondered if she was ever going to get used to his weird, sullen face.
"Good morning!" Shigure's singsong voice burst in through the door. Her long brown locks were swept up in coiled braids. She was wearing an apron over her office clothes, holding a spatula in one hand and a bowl in another. She frowned ever so slightly. "Why, children, what are you still doing at bed? Get up, get up! Breakfast is ready!"
"I'm awake, but he's not." Tsubasa pronounced triumphantly, pointing at Kaede, a smile creeping across her face.
"Yes, but you're still in your nightgown, which is the same thing." Her mother replied, heading for the door. "Wash your faces and get down as soon as you can! I'm running late." She said, disappearing through the doorway.
Kaede sat up, and pointed a finger at her. "Ha!" he said, mirroring her delight a few minutes earlier. She stuck out her tongue and jumped up the bed. She grabbed a pillow and flung it to his face. It was a direct hit. Sputtering, Kaede took the pillow off his face and threw it back to Tsubasa, who caught it deftly before it made contact with her face. She laughed, bouncing up and down the bed. She loved jumping on the bed. For a fleeting moment, she had wings, and she could fly. Kaede simply scratched his head and looked at her. He had never seen such a happy person before. Suddenly she stopped jumping and sat next to him, her green eyes bright in the sunlight.
"Say, do you know that I have magical powers?" she whispered conspiratorially. He frowned at her.
"Yeah, right." He said, rubbing his eyes to get the gummy things that were always present when one woke up out of the corners.
"Really, I do! You don't believe me?" she pouted, quite adorably. "Okay, then." She lay flat on her back, twirling one dark lock around her finger, her eyes concentrated on the ceiling, as if she were thinking very hard. "I predict that Mama will call us from downstairs, and tell us that we can starve ourselves if we want to, but no one's going to prepare us a late breakfast…whatever that means."
And, on cue, her mother called from downstairs. "Kaede! Tsubasa! You two, hurry up! You can starve yourselves up there, but no one's going to prepare you a late breakfast! Do you hear me?" Kaede gawked at her, and Tsubasa winked.
"And then she'll come up and get us dressed herself, wait and see." She went on, obviously on a roll. And sure enough, after a few minutes, they heard Shigure climbing up the stairs and in a matter of second had whisked them off to get them dressed. While she did, Kaede was still looking at Tsubasa with admiring eyes. She couldn't help herself anymore and laughed at him, for being so gullible. He didn't understand at first, and wondered why she was giggling. It was then he realized that he had been had but he didn't feel slighted at all. Instead, he smiled, and laughed along with her.
They took a walk with Tsubasa's nanny after breakfast, and it would have been boring if the nanny did not have an amusing Irish accent. She talked incessantly, rapidly, her words heavily accented. She talked about the city, of the cars, of the bills she had to pay and so many other things that they did not understand. Perhaps Shigure hired her for that very reason, the ability to talk about anything to anyone, even if the ones listening were mere children. They had a break when Tsubasa's shoelaces came untied, and the Irish nanny had to bend down and loop it up.
And that was when Kaede first saw it.
The sound of the red ball hitting the pavement sounded like a heartbeat, rhythmic and resonant. Kaede watched, enchanted, as the lone player took a few steps backward, forward, to his right, in a dance whose music only heard. The young player's eyes were focused on the space in front of him, an invisible enemy blocking his way to get to the goal. He had control over the ball, as if it were an extension of his own will. Then, he took a step forward, and took flight. He reached out his arm, and slammed the ball into the basket that was hanging overhead. The moment of flight took his breath away, and never would he forget it. One day, he vowed solemnly, one day I'll fly, too. The ball bounced and rolled towards his feet. The player landed. It was all over.
He leaned over and picked up the ball. It was surprisingly heavy and he looked up at the young man. With an effort, he tossed over the ball and the player caught it easily. He smiled at Kaede. "That's a good throw. Maybe you'll be a basketball player someday." He said.
"Kaede-chan?" it was Tsubasa's voice, and she and the nanny were looking at him quizzically. "What are you still doing there? Let's go."
"I was just watching…" he began, but when he turned to point, the basketball player was gone.
"Too young to be having delusions." The nanny muttered. "Then again, my stupid goat of a cousin had it, too. Now come on here, you! We don't have all day!"
"Yes, hurry up, Kaede-chan." Tsubasa echoed. "I'm burning to death here." She pulled her collar a little for emphasis. Kaede nodded and headed back to them. In his mind the scene earlier repeated itself over and over, almost obsessively. He was silent for most of the time, deep in thought.
When they got back to the house, the nanny was carrying groceries, Tsubasa was carrying some candies, and Kaede was carrying a postcard they had retrieved from the mailbox. A letter from his mother. How strange. Wasn't it a little too early? The picture was of a bluebird in flight, contrasting starkly against the green leaves of some unknown tree. He wished he knew how to read script, but he could not, so all he could do was pass pale fingers over his mother's handwriting of that little bit of her on the paper. He wondered how she was doing.
"What's that?" Tsubasa asked, walking in, her mouth full of chocolate. Kaede hastily hid the postcard behind his back, and Tsubasa blinked at him with questioning eyes. She didn't see him flip open the mailbox on the way to the house, as she was too busy counting the bars of chocolate in the package she had. She tried to get a glimpse of what he held behind his back, but whenever she did, he turned around to hide it from her and they ended up going in circles.
"Okay then!" she cried, throwing up her arms in resignation. "Have it your way. I'm going to have some more chocolate." She headed for the door, and Kaede heaved a sigh of relief. As she went nearer the door, she suddenly bolted back to him, and before he could stop her, she had already grabbed the postcard away from him.
"Hey! That's my letter!"
"Let me read it! I'll read it for you! I just learned how to read script." Being slightly taller than Kaede, she quickly evaded his efforts to retrieve the stolen postcard. Holding it up over her head, with some difficulty, she began to read the short note.
So it was not for Kaede after all.
Before she could read on any further, Kaede suddenly charged at her, using his head as a battering ram, and it came in contact with her stomach. The two children toppled onto the floor, and after wrestling savagely for a few minutes, the nanny walked into the room. She yelled something in her native tongue and hurried forward to take the two children apart.
"What are you doing?! What are you doing?!" she screamed. Kaede was still pulling Tsubasa's hair and she was kicking him in retaliation. She got the two at a distance and glared at them. "Why are you two trying to kill each other?" Neither one replied, because, if you think about it, there really is no reason if that was the question. Tsubasa's usually smooth hair was sticking up in several places and Kaede was beginning to feel the effects of a well-placed kick on the knee. Before the nanny could open her mouth to begin her scolding and on how she would "tell them to Ms Shigure" Kaede ran out of the room, the now crumpled postcard still in his hand. The nanny clucked her tongue, and helped Tsubasa to her feet. "Poor young 'un." She said sympathetically, before turning on Tsubasa. Tsubasa wondered why she said that.
"And YOU, young lady," she said in a warning tone, shaking Tsubasa by her shoulders. "You should know better than to bully our guest around! You're lucky that you still have your mommy, while he, he has to stay here with no one, not even his own mother. You should treat him more kindly." Tsubasa opened her mouth to protest that she was not bullying him, but decided that the nanny was correct.
"No more chocolates for today!" the nanny continued.
Here Tsubasa had to protest. "But—"
"Not unless you apologize to Kaede!"
A swell of anger surged within her chest. It was his fault anyway, he was being hardheaded, and she wanted to say. He should've let me read the letter to him. He can't even read! Come to think of it, who cares for that stinky old letter anyway? Why did she have to get along with him? He was only a guest! The injustice of it all.
What would that letter contain? Dear Son, I miss you so much. Don't worry, I'll be there soon…
In fact that was what he wanted to see, if he could only read script writing. He didn't want to stay in that house anymore, with that spoiled brat, with that noisy nanny, in that absurdly big ivory maze they call a house. He wanted to go home, wherever that was. He looked down, his legs dangling from the branch he was sitting on. Was it just yesterday, when his mother stood not very far, watching him and that weird girl? An unnamed fear rose in him. What if his mother never came back? But she had written to him, here it was, clenched in his hand, as if he never wanted to let it go.
Pad. Pad. Footsteps. Someone was running up to the tree. His fingers tensed around the postcard. It was Tsubasa. She stopped a few steps away from the tree trunk, staring up at him. His turbulent blue eyes met her serene green ones. Oh but how deceiving those green eyes were! They were like a cat's, watchful and knowing, not showing anything until the last minute. Neither spoke, and the only voice they heard was the voice of the breeze, passing over the pink cherry blossoms, murmuring indecipherable words of comfort. And all was very still.
Then she found her voice. "I'm—I'm sorry." It was hard to get out, for even though she was young, she was very proud. She clenched her fist, but she knew she was doing the right thing, what was due. The words grew stronger. "I'm sorry…if I tried to take your postcard away from you—when you didn't want me to. Please forgive me." She cast her eyes down, and she saw the fallen blossoms. So many had already fallen, and she wasn't aware of it. She wondered if she was making any sense to that boy, perched up high on the tree.
"Read it." He said, surprising her. She looked up at him, and there he was, reaching out to her. "I'll forgive you…if you read it for me." And he didn't look so rebellious anymore. Instead he looked very sad, but the breeze came again, and the pink shower came again, hiding him from her. She smiled weakly.
"Is it okay for me to climb up?"
"It's your tree, you know."
"Alright then." And so she climbed up and sat beside him. It wasn't so scary to be up in a tree when one is with another person. Kaede was watching her. She settled herself and saw that he was already handing the postcard to her.
"So this means we're friends now?" she asked, a little shyly, looking at the crumpled postcard in his pale hand.
He thought about it. "I guess so. As long as you don't kick me anymore."
"I'll read this if you don't pull my hair anymore." She laughed, smoothing out the piece of paper in her hand. "Is it a deal?"
"Deal." He nodded solemnly, wiping his nose.
She looked at the postcard. There it was again. The flowing penmanship in black ink. The bluebird on the other side. She imagined Kaede's mother purchasing this postcard at the airport, and hurrying up to a stranger to borrow his pen. So she could write to her son, Kaede, missing her desperately in another land. The delicate figure bending down to scribble a note to be sent care of Mrs. Shigeru Yamazaki, her pale hair brushing against her cheek, saying, no, writing, I love you son, and I want to see you again soon. I wish I could give you a hug, but this is all I can afford to give you right now. Please be patient, we will see each other again soon.
I saw this funny little postcard in the airport while exchanging planes. I will send you a fuller account of my trip here in Paris, it's just lovely. Hope you can join me here soon, of course with Tsubasa.
With love for you and my niece,
She read the letter carefully, pronouncing each word silently. Then realization dawned on her. The postcard wasn't for Kaede, not at all. The image of his mother bending over in some airport faded fast from her mind, replaced with Kaede's expectant face. He was looking at her closely, trying to read the letter through her. What did she say, what did she say, he asked silently, urgently.
Tsubasa smiled brightly, looking at him and then back to the postcard. Her eyes would betray her, she was sure of it. "Um…um…" she stammered, not knowing what to say. "Your mother writes that she misses you and wants to see you soon. She's looking forward to that day." She raised her eyes to meet his, and it was almost too cruel to break that innocent hope and joy in his eyes. If she were in his place…she would want to hear those words too. She wanted to say more but no words came out. Kaede took the postcard from her hands, running his hand over the writing, which was not his mother's. And she can only feel sadness for him, and a little for herself, too, for being so weak.
Maaaa…I feel like I've gone off with a bad start. They don't sound like kids at all! I'm really very sorry ;_; I also forgot to mention their ages. Kaede is six here, and Tsubasa is seven. This has a more "flashback" feel to it than the rest of the chapters. Come to think of it, it IS a sort of flashback ^^;. Thanks for reading.
PS: Finally fixed this page.