Afterglow: Of Spirits & Apparitions
Chapter 3: The Not So Good Beginning
In my mind, I flipped over my desk to cause a distraction and then booked it fast. However…I managed some restraint by saying: "Uh…er…"
"—Welcome everyone to English Literature. Please refer to the first page of your syllabus."
I gave a little shrug, gesticulating that there was no way, no how that I could carry on a conversation while the teacher spoke. No, that's far too disrespectful Who do you take me for? Too bad. So sad.
I wriggle in my seat, adjusting my abhorrently red uniform, making sure my black socks are all the way over my knees—just in case my sweating profusely had made them slip.
Using my stealth, I pulled a hand through my hair, moving it over to make a curtain on my right side to shield me from that sly devil. Despite my best efforts, I could still feel his gaze on me every ten minutes or so. Another thing that plagued me was the fact that I'd have to get by him if I wanted to move to the next class.
I turn my head slightly to sneak a glance and he's not watching me this time. He's facing forward, pen in one hand, the other supporting his chin.
He seemed so focused. So calm, almost friendly. Maybe he's not so bad.
Minamino's eyes speared over at me again and I dropped my gaze, returning back to the syllabus.
The day could not end fast enough.
I eased out of the door of my last class; thankful Watanabe pulled him aside to personally tell him how awesome he is.
I couldn't complain though, Minamino's being every teacher's pet proved to be to my benefit.
I skirted down the hall and burst out of the front entrance, jumpy as an inmate making a break for it.
"Aurora!" Karin called, cupping her hands over her mouth. "Do you want to go to the mall?"
"I have to get home! My cousin is waiting on me. Tomorrow is good though!" I throw up my hand, not waiting for an answer. The gates waited just ahead, bobbing up and down as I ran.
Suddenly, I saw only red and collided right into it. I stilled knowing full well who it was before I managed to look up. I watched enough scary movies to know how all this was about to go down. I sighed, noticing for the first time he'd had his hands securing my shoulders. The grip was loose, but there was no escaping. Of course, I could hit him and run but…that would probably just add to my troubles.
"Excuse me…would you mind joining me for a walk?" his voice was pleasant, but I wasn't stupid, I could hear the insistence hidden behind the pageantry. My eyes flickered to his and I felt the overwhelming need to hold my breath. I swallowed, ignoring the whole head and a half of height he had on me.
"Why not?" I say, removing his hands from my shoulders like I was doing him a favor, "Let's just try to keep our hands to ourselves why don't we?"
His eyes told me that they held no grudges, that it was mistake, but…eyes lie. "Of course." He then added, "Forgive me, I just didn't want you to fall."
"I wasn't going to fall." I said, warningly.
He leveled me with a mirthful gaze, "My mistake, I shouldn't have made the assumption." He gestured forward, one arm pointing down the street, directing me away from traffic.
He was so strange, a knight for hire. "Where are we going exactly?"
Banryuu has his arms crossed behind Minamino, his eyes inspecting him closely. He looks at me: shakes his head no. "You shouldn't follow strangers, Princess. I hardly think your mother nor your father would approve. And what of Kyoko?"
I pause. I consider Banryuu's words and weigh them in my hands. They make complete sense. Of course, they do.
So, naturally, I walk forward, and jerk my head forward, "Come on. Wasn't this your idea?"
The corner of Minamino's lip flicks upward, his eyes taking on this curious expression. I feel this sudden strangeness between us, like we'd walked right into a tub of butter. He doesn't seem the least be perturbed though.
"I hope you know what you're doing," Banryuu says irritably, "If he tries anything funny, you have permission to hurt him."
I burst out laughing.
"Yes?" Minamino gives me a look of concern, "I'm sorry?"
"Nothing," I say, ignoring his eyes, "You wouldn't get the joke."
Let my mom tell it, I never need permission.
Minamino's stride was leisure, even if there was this fragrant heaviness sewed into his aura. I didn't think anyone could look so pleased to be near the person who wronged them. He did though, effortlessly. It was annoying. Just as annoying as the cool breeze and the sun shining brightly over head. It ran perpendicular to the soured, weirdness I was feeling about this whole encounter. It felt staged, odd. And I had no idea why.
"So," I began, toeing my shoe into the sidewalk. "I should probably apologize?"
He paused, turning to face me, "Are you asking me?"
I crossed my arms, finding the ground to be a bit more appealing.
I looked up, my eyes narrowed, "How do you know my name?"
He tilted his head to the left, "Perhaps because we share every class?"
I scoffed, "No we don't."
His voice was soft, true understanding, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but, yes, actually, we do."
"Uh, no, actually we don't," I told him shifting to one side. "I would have noticed you."
His interest piqued. "Would you?"
"Yeah," I back up a few steps, to give him a good look, my lips soured into a line. "You have all this going on. You're hard to miss."
His eyes wrinkle when he laughs, his fingers holding up his chin. "Well, despite what you believe. We do share every class. That's why I thought you had locked me on the roof, I assumed I had offended you somehow."
"Not me personally, just my senses."
He blinks, once, and then twice. Something flashed behind his eyes, narrowing slightly. "Your senses? How so?"
"If you could have seen yourself, you would have done the same thing."
I threw a hand up, "That's what I said, isn't it? Why do you keep repeating everything I say?"
Minamino's chuckle was deep, hearty. His accompanying smile made me want to smile too. "I'm attempting to come to terms with it, I suppose."
It was my turn to laugh out loud. "Okay, look. I'm sorry. I just do things sometimes. I looked at you—all pretty and shiny and it made me so mad—"
Minamino sunk his head into his hand, his shoulders shaking.
I hit his shoulder. "I'm serious."
Still, more shoulder jumping. I rolled my eyes. "I am sorry though. You didn't actually offend me. I just can't help myself. It's a fatal flaw of mine."
He teased. "How ominous."
Being teased by him wasn't so bad, I grinned, "I apologize and thank you…for not taking it personally even if it seemed super personal."
He seemed to measure me for a moment, his eyes glowing slightly as he took me in. "You're welcome, although I would be very grateful if you would join me for coffee."
"Oh yeah?" I leaned forward, giving him the same look he'd given me. Not sure if I managed it though. I probably resembled a lion about to eat a gazelle than whatever he was doing, you know, summoning rainbows and what not? "You must be a masochist."
"No, Princess I believe that title belongs to you," Banryuu said snidely. But I ignored him. It didn't matter what he said; I got myself a laugh and I wanted to keep it.
Minamino, now dubbed Shuichi, and I had a lot in common. Both of us took our academics very seriously and both had awesome families.
"You live with your cousin?" He asked me as he leaned over the table, his fingers steepled together, one of the many poses of his I would come to memorize.
I snorted, "No. She lives with me. My parents pay for the apartment and everything else we need."
"They aren't here in Japan with you?" By the sound of his voice, he found it especially odd.
I shook my head, fiddling with my fork. "They couldn't come."
"Why not?" he asked and then added sheepishly, "If you don't mind my asking?"
I sighed, answering quickly, "My dad's work, besides, they thought it would be the best place for me, all things considered."
My nose wrinkled, I reached over and bopped his hands, "You sure ask a lot of questions."
"Forgive me, I'm curious about you."
My heart did something weird so suddenly I dropped my fork. "Why?"
"You're not like anyone else."
My bullshit radar just went off, "Okay, first of all, I am just like everyone. So, don't try that with me. Except maybe in the looks department—" I paused, thought my words over.
Shuichi's eyebrows rose.
"Hey! I was not patting myself on the back just then, I meant that I'm not completely Japanese—obviously. Shoot, Shuichi give me a break."
He insisted on innocence. "I didn't say anything."
"You didn't have to. I know that look." I say, "You're judging me."
"Not at all." He mused.
"You're such a liar, Shuichi."
"And you are fascinating, Aurora."
It was strange this feeling, like he was dressing me up for dinner—to serve me along side the cranberry and roasted potatoes.
I swallowed, my eyes returning to my coffee cake. All this eye avoidance was starting to piss me off. I had to even us out somehow. "Anyway, I hope this isn't your idea of a date."
His eyes got this wicked gleam in them, "And if it is?"
That gave me the warrant I needed. "Then I'll have to embarrass you."
His laugh somehow surpassed the feeling of getting a trophy. I assume anyway, I never got one. "Why is that?"
Damn him and all his questions.
"Because I'm not allowed to date until I'm sixteen. So you're a year too early and it's way too soon." I bump the table with my fist, "Plus, didn't we just meet?"
"Fair points, but rest assured, this is not a date. I was rather hoping that we could be friends?"
I gesture around me, "This is how you treat your friends? Invite them for coffee and put them in the quiet corner of a café all snug and warm?"
"Or…you just have no idea how to do this whole friend thing and you need some help." I clapped my hands together, "Count your lucky stars because Aurora Allyn is here and she needs a job."
Never one to back down, he continued with, "I see. So what will you accept for wages?"
"Umm," I leaned back in my seat, really milking it. "Cake: once a week. And …I get to hit you whenever the mood strikes."
"Why would you want to hit me?"
Who wouldn't want to hit you? You're blinding me. "Because I need to teach you a lesson about being a hazard." I tell him earnestly, not reviewing my words before I hit send, "I hit you enough…you'll learn."
Again, always the patient one, he stared at me. And again, always the clever one, I picked up what he was putting down. I replayed what I just said and yep, I probably shouldn't have said it.
"Really, Princess," Banryuu rolled his eyes, "That's really quite enough flirting for one day."
I jumped in my seat, cutting my eyes over my shoulder, completely mortified. "I'M NOT—!"
"Excuse me?" Shuichi asked, leaning over the table with a worried expression.
I waved him off, "sorry, just communicating with my inner self. I do that. You should do it too. Good for the health and all that." I turn to Banryuu, "Now, hush, Self." I turn back to Shuichi, brushing the invisible dust from my shoulders. "all better."
"Are you positive?" there was not an ounce of concern in his voice, only lilting amusement. I didn't mind.
"Absolutely." I raise my hand in the air to flag someone down, "More cake?"
"You're late." My cousin greeted me at the door, her dark hair braided over her shoulder.
"You're homeless." I greeted my cousin back with a grin. "Why all the questions?"
Kyoko wore a loose gray sweatshirt over leggings and fluffy pink socks. This was her dressing up. "I didn't ask a question." She said, and then turned taking four steps up and into the sitting area, "Never be an actress, Aurora. You'll starve."
I laugh. She's not wrong. "What's for dinner?"
Kyoko sunk down into the recliner by the fireplace. "Takeout, purchased by mer."
"It's moi, Kyoko." I correct her poor French, dropping my bag on the coffee table before I dropped onto the plush couch. I didn't even speak French and I knew that word. "Didn't you live in France for like a month?"
"I lived with some cousins. We spoke Japanese." She told me flippantly, "Not my fault."
Kissing my bracelet, I released Banryuu who excused himself to go gather our food and bring it back to our lazy asses. "Hydra sleep?"
"Yeah, and pissed you didn't take him."
"He hates being locked away." I say, "So does Nike. Where is she?"
"Thought so." I slump onto my side, "School was good, thanks for asking."
As if remembering, Kyoko chucked her pillow at me, to get my attention. "Did that boy call the cops on you? The pretty one?"
It hit me in the face, but whatever. "Nope."
"I knew he wouldn't. You Americans are so dramatic."
I sat up, "I locked him on a roof."
"Yes. I know. You did that. You made that choice." She said and then pointed her foot at me, "Tell me why again."
"You wouldn't understand." I snuggle into the pillow.
"Probably not." She conceded. Not one to kick a dead horse. "Did you apologize?"
I sighed in relief, "yeah, and he was really cool about it."
She closed her eyes, "Good. Imagine having to tell your Mom." She shuddered, "Anyway, did he tell you how he escaped?"
I paused. "…no, actually."
Her eyes opened, "For sure…you locked it…right?"
"Right. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to go back."
She snorted, but agreed, almost saying, yeah, me neither. "Maybe the other windows were unlocked?"
"Yeah," I say trying to think back. Something was off about him, something I couldn't put my finger on. I couldn't deny that, but there was no point hanging on to it. "Maybe."
Shuichi Minamino was one popular kid. It's true, he didn't seem to actually have any friends, preferring to stay away from most people, but everyone knew him. And every girl in the entire school seemed to have some weird crush on him. And every single girl in the school seemed to know that he was very off limits. If they didn't, they learned quick.
"Here he comes," Momo adjusted bangs, and flared out her skirt.
Tohru sat straighter in her seat, as Shuichi walked through the classroom door. "Good morning, Minamino." She greeted him with a pleasant smile, her cool tone clashing with the red glow in her cheeks. It gave her away, but Shuichi wasn't one to let on.
Shuichi spotted us,and instead of finding his seat in the first row, he came two rows back to us. "Morning, Fushimi. How are you?"
"I'm doing well." She said, and then kicked me under the table. "Have you met Aurora?" Introducing me to people was one of Tohru's favorite things, she took her duty seriously as Class Rep.
He set his charm on me, somehow slightly different from when we spoke yesterday. It was almost plastic. "Yes, actually. She and I share most of our classes."
It was brief, but Tohru's smile flickered. "Oh, really? You didn't tell me that."
"Slipped my mind," I say.
Shuichi covered one side of his mouth as he spoke to Tohru, like he was sharing a secret, like I couldn't hear every word. "Apparently, I'm very easy for her to ignore."
I stomped my foot, "I never said that—I said…I said," what did I say?
"No worries, Aurora. I'm not offended." He said with a smirk I only seemed to see but with a sweetness everyone loved to notice, "We are friends now, aren't we?"
With that, he turned and left me with a silently seething Tohru and my teeth grinding together. Tohru could barely crank up the nicety to look at me without burning me I alive, I thought. And he did it on purpose.
"What the hell was that?" I kindly asked Shuichi at his locker after class.
He was slow to turn away from the thing, taking his time, as if my venom was an everyday occurrence and should be handled as such. The Jerk. "Hello, Aurora. It's good to see you again."
I rolled my eyes. "What are you doing? Trying to get me killed?"
"Not at all," he replied, happily, reasonable in all things. "I just thought—"
"Don't you bullshit me. You know exactly what you did. You put me on Tohru's hitlist. Took me all period to dig myself out of that grave you kicked me in."
"Is that why you were whispering so furiously?" He asked me, and I almost slapped him. He knew. I know he did. But why?
I bared my teeth. "Say what?"
I could tell just by his eyes that he was trying his hardest to hold back a smile. Finally, after two minutes straight of my gaze burning him to pieces, he gave in with a chuckle. "Fine. You've caught me. I meant no harm in it. I only meant to put us on an even playing field." He told me, "You did lock me out side, did you not?"
I reared back, "I apologized."
"Well, then. I apologize as well." He said, giving me a pat on the shoulder, "Now then, join me for lunch?"
What the hell? He throws me under the bus and then tries to square us? Ha! I doubt it, pretty boy. I really do.
I brush his hand off my shoulder and give us distance, "You wish, you backstabber."
Once I turn, I hear him laughing as I walk away. Even seething, I had to admit: he had a nice laugh. It sounded rare, genuine, something you had to journey to the centre of the earth to get.
"Hey, Shuichi!" I wave him over gaily as Tohru, Momo, and Karin and I wait outside the gates. I see some hesitation, so I continue loudly, "I told Tohru what you said to me the other day, you know, about wanting to visit that coffee shop with the chocolate cakes? She said she'll take you whenever. I told her that you're free right now."
There's a flicker behind his evergreen gaze, but he comes to me like a sad little fish. I do my part by reeling him in, apparently, he needs the help. I gesture to Tohru. "Tohru knows the place like the back of her hand. You'll like this. Remember you were telling me how you admired Tohru's knowledge? Remember? Go on, Shuichi. Let her know." I hit his arm, shoving him forward.
"Of course." He said, and then turned to me, pleasantly, as if I hadn't put my arm in it. "Why don't you join us, Aurora? You love chocolate cake."
"You're right—and I appreciate the invite—but I have to call my parents."
Shuichi tilted his head to the left, "Aren't they in a different time zone?"
"I meant my grandparents," I bonked myself on the head. "they love getting calls—"
Shuichi gestured over to Tohru, "Surely we could wait—"
"Then I have to run some errands for my cousin and cook, it's a lot and I couldn't hold you guys up. In fact, Momo, Karin, you guys should go too. Shuichi was just telling me that he had nothing to do and he just loves your company. Didn't you, Shuichi?"
His eyes, for the first time, actually cut over to me. Like he drew a katana and sliced through an apple. Maybe they couldn't tell, but sweet little Shuichi? Oh, he was pissed.
"Really?" Tohru asked, her dark eyes suspicious. "We've never hung out before."
Shuichi started, "Well—"
Fast as fast, I cut in, "That's because he's been so busy. But, this year he said he's going to have way more time. I promise you that."
Tohru looked at me, her eyes like steel "You sure know a lot about him, Aurora." Tohru wasn't dumb, but…she'd take what she could get, if I could deliver.
"Not really, I'm just nosey, you know how much I love to talk. Poor guy, I wouldn't shut up until he told me everything!" I shook my head, "anyway, I have to run home to get to that phone." I took off and threw a hand over my shoulder, before he could get a word pass his lying lips. "enjoy!"
A/N: I wasn't completely satisfied with this chapter, but it works I suppose.
As always, I changed to summary. It's a pattern, I always make a summary and then change it along with the second chapter.
DamagedForestSpirit: Thank you! I try not to take it too seriously or I'll drive myself crazy lol