It was a bright sunny day when Sakura's world fell apart. The scalding heat gave her no reprieve as she ran from home where her parents were shouting at each other, proclaiming how much they hared one another. She stifled her sobbing with a hand as she knelt under the shade of a tree.
She lay on the ground and continued sobbing silently as the children raced each other and played various games a few meters away from her. The 14-year-old girl managed to calm down after a good half an hour spent crying her eyes out. They were red and puffy as she sniffed and searched her pockets for a tissue.
She cursed quietly when she found none. Sakura sighed and continued sniffing, trying to ignore the ache in her throat, the feeling that her nostrils had been set aflame from all the crying she'd been doing lately, and the unexpectedly strong desire to sink into despair.
She'd never imagined she would be barely starting high school and her parents would wish to get a divorce. The girl knew they had only screamed those words at each other but her father's vindictive promise to leave her mother had rung strong in their apartment.
Sakura had never seen her mother look so distraught and almost ready to plead with her father to stay. Sakura had almost been ready to fall to her knees and beseech the man who raised her to stay as well. Alas, it would have been futile. Every single member of the Haruno family was known for one thing – once they had made up their mind about something, they would pursue it until the very end.
Sakura rubbed her nose and sighed in relief when she had managed to calm down. Her eyes were not as puffy or red anymore as well. She managed a small smile. Perhaps divorce is exactly what both of her parents needed to be happy again someday. As for her… she would find a way to squeeze herself into their new lives if they would let her.
"Sakura!" Naruto yelled as he caught up with her.
He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and squeezed. Sakura smiled at the boisterous boy and then disentangled herself from him despite his protests.
Sasuke stopped walking and merely rolled his eyes at his best friend's childish behavior and complete disregard of people's space.
Sakura chuckled and sent a small smile and a wave Sasuke's way. The dark-haired boy nodded and then narrowed his eyes. Sakura quickly turned away from his watchful gaze.
"So tell me Naruto – how was practice?" She asked.
The blond, as expected, launched into a tirade about how bossy Sasuke had been during the entire football practice and had spent almost half of it terrorizing Naruto by making him run extra laps as the blond had been late for the third time in a row.
Sasuke was unable to get a word in edgewise and thus was unable to enquire about Sakura's surprising redness and puffiness on her face.
The boys walked Sakura to her home where she quickly excused herself and entered the apartment complex. She merely yelled an affirmative about meeting up with the boys tomorrow afternoon.
Sasuke had twisted his ankle. Naruto had proposed that they carry Sasuke home but Sakura was adamant about not moving him anywhere as the boy was still in great pain. She went to the nearby store to get some ice which she wrapped in a towel. She then held the towel next to Sasuke's swollen ankle. Sasuke waved her off in protests that his arms were fine and he could hold the towel himself.
In the meantime, Naruto had called Sasuke's parents who came fairly quickly. Mikoto and Fugaku were extremely worried once they heard about the happenstance yet they were also in the middle of striking a very lucrative deal with a potential client. Fugaku owned a law firm that was doing fairly well yet the list of clients was not long and Fugaku was always looking to expand it.
Itachi had surprised his parents a few minutes earlier with a phone call that he had come home a week earlier than expected. Therefore, Fugaku sent Itachi to fetch Sasuke instead.
"Itachi's coming," Naruto announced making Sasuke wince.
Sakura's brows furrowed at the action. She had not seen Itachi in years and knew that since Sasuke hit puberty the relationship between the two Uchiha brothers had become strained. The fact that Itachi chose to pursue a degree in criminal psychology hundreds of kilometers away did not help either. He rarely came home and it was always for a short period. This year was the first time Itachi was going to spend the entire summer at home since he had turned 16 years of age.
"You could not convince my mother to come, you idiot? It is the least you can do after you tripped me." Sasuke lashed out at Naruto who hurled insults back at the boy.
Sakura pinched the bridge of her nose. She could not believe the two were fighting. She noticed that Sasuke was so caught up in his verbal spat that he ended up dropping the towel. The ice had not melted yet. He could still hold it around his ankle until Itachi came.
When Sasuke tried to get up only to end up stumbling, Naruto caught him and helped sit him down.
"I am sorry," Naruto murmured.
Sakura gasped. Although Naruto was an extremely kind and forgiving person, he rarely allowed Sasuke to drag him around. He also did not put up with Sasuke's childish behavior and rare displays of selfishness. Today, however, Sasuke was going to have to rely on the member of his family he loved yet hated the most. He had also got hurt whilst Naruto tried taking the ball away from him which resulted in Sasuke tripping on some wet grass.
It was not Naruto's fault that Sasuke ended up with a sprained ankle yet Naruto was willing to take responsibility to calm his best friend down. Sasuke knew it. Sakura knew both boys understood the gravity of Naruto's willingness to apologize for something he did not do. The dark-haired boy seemed subdued.
Sakura smiled and walked towards them. She sat down and silently rested the towel with the half-melted ice on Sasuke's ankle. She did not say a word but merely laughed quietly when the two boys started bickering again. She also ignored the fact that Naruto had not let go of Sasuke's hand.
The revving of Itachi's engine as he stopped and parked the car startled the pair into letting go of their hands. Sakura did not comment when both boys looked at her in embarrassment. She pretended to have been looking at her phone all along and seemingly ignored their sighs of relief as well. Their behavior was suspicious yet Sakura was not going to force any confessions out of them. She could have also been reading too much into the situation.
Itachi ran towards them and immediately enquired about Sasuke's health.
"He is fine. He just sprained his ankle." Sakura answered as Itachi was too busy glaring at his brother.
The girl smiled when Itachi spent a good ten seconds scrutinizing his brother and especially his ankle. Once he concluded that his younger sibling was indeed alright, he sighed in relief and knelt, presenting his back to his brother.
Sasuke huffed but climbed upon his brother's back. He even smiled slightly when his brother got up and with a slight grunt carried him to the car. Itachi laid Sasuke down in the back seats and looked back at the two pre-teens with an apologetic look on his face.
"We will leave him in your case, Itachi-san." Sakura raised her voice a bit to make sure that Itachi would hear her.
She then wrapped her hand around Naruto, covering his mouth whilst turning them both around. She dragged the blond for some time until she knew they were a long enough distance away from the Uchiha.
Sakura also heard the faint sound of Itachi's car's motor as the elder brother drove away.
"Why'd you do that?" Naruto asked in obvious confusion.
Sakura chuckled and merely smiled cheekily at him, "I wanted to spend some time away from Mr. Grumpy."
Naruto laughed as he inquired, "Which of the two are you referring to?"
"You will never know." Sakura stuck out her tongue as Naruto protested. She then challenged him to a race to the apartment complex the Haruno family lived in.
Sakura beat Naruto by a second. They were both breathing heavily when Naruto's phone chimed. He opened it, read the incoming message, and smiled apologetically at Sakura, "I am sorry, I have to go."
Sakura frowned and then asked, "Family emergency?"
"Something like that…" Naruto trailed off.
His vague answer was enough to shout the reluctance in letting Sakura know exactly who had sent the text and where he needed to be. Sakura sighed.
"Good night, Naruto. "
"Take care of him for me." She mentally added.
Her smile hid the hurt she felt since her two friends had been blatantly lying to her today. She wondered if she had been lied to before and had simply started noticing it more as of late or not. Perhaps her parents' constant fighting recently had helped sharpen her abilities to observe people and detect lies as well.
Sakura bit her lip to stifle her cries as she locked herself in her room. Her mother had been asleep on the couch that night. The apartment was drowned in darkness and 2 empty wine bottles. Her father's belongings were nowhere to be found.
"So he just left?!" Ino screeched as Sakura told her everything tomorrow.
The two girls were huddled up in Ino's room, watching a romantic comedy movie when Sakura broke down. She recited her worries like a broken record when Ino pulled her into a hug.
"He does not hate you, Sakura." Ino tried to persuade her friend.
"Then why did he leave?! He did not even leave a note, Ino." Sakura replied in between sobs. She wrenched herself away from Ino and fell from the bed.
"He is not picking up his phone either?" Ino asked.
"No," Sakura replied as she slumped down into a fetal position. She looked at her outstretched, empty hand, "He is not even answering my messages. I even tried emailing him at work."
Sakura got up, her glassy eyes boring into worried blue ones.
"Nothing," Sakura uttered with a shrug.
Ino was furious yet she buried her anger into the deep recesses of her heart. Sakura needed comfort and a distraction right now.
"Want to watch a stupid slasher film instead?" She asked.
"Yeah," Sakura muttered in reply.
They had gone through 4 horror movies by the time Ino fell asleep. Sakura watched the scenes on the laptop change as she brought the volume down so that the screams did not wake her friend. After that Sakura got up, went to the bed, and moved Ino so that she could cover her with a blanket. The blond-haired girl loved putting the AC on at very low temperatures. Sakura did not want her to get sick.
She then went downstairs to get a glass of milk with honey. Hopefully, it would help calm her down. She opened her phone to find a message from Naruto.
The bastard is fine. He and Itachi were civil to each other even.
Sakura smiled. She had been worried about the Uchiha brothers yet it appears they could mend their relationship. Sakura's mind then ventured into forbidden territory. She knew Itachi had always been handsome yet the 19-year-old had become even more attractive in the past couple of years.
She had always watched him from afar and the two of them had barely spoken. Although Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke had been friends for quite some time, Sasuke and Naruto had always been closer than Sakura was to either of them. Therefore, Sakura had spent less time in the Uchiha household and had had even less chance of running into the older Uchiha brother than Naruto did.
The small number of chance encounters did not deter her from fantasizing about the elder sibling, feeding her childish crush with even more fervor. Sakura was aware that crushing on Itachi was stupid and she would only end up getting hurt over the unsaid rejection. He would never see her the way she saw him.
Moreover, Itachi had been in a relationship with his current girlfriend Izumi for quite some time. They were also supposedly engaged although this piece of news was never confirmed outright. Sakura sighed. At least her thoughts about her unrequited crush had helped reduce the pain from her father's sudden disappearance.
Sakura could only hope her mother would not drink so much every single night.
Sakura came back home after her sleepover at Ino's to find 5 empty bottles in total in their trashcan. Her mother staggered out of the bathroom. Sakura's fear increased.
"Mom…" She whispered.
"Sssh...not so loud." Her mother whined as she moved to the couch and lied down. Her headache was extremely severe Sakura noted.
The girl only tiptoed to the kitchen to find that their food supply was short. She sighed and went to the cookie jar where they kept their spare grocery money. She sighed. It was almost empty.
Sakura grabbed the leftover 20 dollars and walked out of the apartment she shared with her mother. She walked briskly until she reached the familiar park where she used to for a run every morning. She had completely skipped on this ever since her parents separated. Sakura was aware that her father would need to come out of hiding eventually yet she was unsure of when this was going to happen. Moreover, she was worried about her mother's drinking habit. She could only hope this would not spiral out of control.
Sakura pulled her phone out of her backpack and tried calling her father only to end the call when no answer came. She sighed and growled her frustration out loud. It was still fairly early and Sakura had not spotted anyone near the spot where she had picked to sit. Due to all of this, she yelped in surprise when a smooth baritone said:
"It seems you have picked an interesting hobby during my absence, Sakura-san."
Sakura blinked owlishly at him as she took in his simple gray T-shirt and faded jeans. She noticed his reading glasses and the book he was holding. His long fingers covered the title so she could not make out what it was that he had been so focused on.
She gulped and asked, "How is Sasuke?"
Itachi raised an eyebrow and closed his book. He then got up and went to sit next to her on the bench. Sakura was hyperventilating internally.
"He is fine." Itachi drawled and then added, "However, he is not in a suitable condition to socialize yet."
Sakura snorted and quipped, "Is he ever?"
She then covered her mouth and was about to apologize for insulting his brother when Itachi laughed in return.
She smiled and sighed in relief.
"You do not need to restrict yourself in front of me." Itachi suddenly said making Sakura confused.
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"You do not need to hide your feelings or what you are going through." He elaborated and then looked off into the distance, "I have no right to judge anyone about anything at this point."
A/N: I own nothing.