Fall was such an interesting time of year. Nature fought a civil war, warmth and sunshine versus coolness and snow, battling against each other on whether or not to kill its own creation. Even though the results were the same every year, life put up a good fight. Winter is bound to win at the end of each year, but at the beginning of each year, Spring always bounces back with an overwhelming supply of color and rebirth.
Fall was also where an individual could witness nature’s decay at every corner. It was funny how so many people admired the arrangements of yellow, orange, and red. Really, they are just admiring the rotting corpses of trees as they release their death throes out for the world to see before succumbing to the chilly, heartless winds of Winter.
At least, Mikasa saw it that way.
Leaving her college campus, she looked above her to see the colorful collection of leaves withering away from tree branches. There was a long path leading to the school parking garage, trees planted at every square along the sidewalk. Even though the yellow, orange, and red were masking nature’s decay, she still took the time to appreciate the color schemes. It still was a beautiful sight to see, and every crunch Mikasa caused when stepping on scattered leaves felt soothing.
She looked adjacent to her, seeing a bobbing head of blonde hair and a pair of sapphire eyes. The contrast of colors compared to the fading background of trees stuck out like a sore thumb.
Mikasa cleared her throat, adjusting her slipping messenger bag over her shoulder. “It’s gonna be fun seeing your place for once, Armin.”
Sapphire eyes flashed to meet his friend’s and a shy smile crept its way onto Armin’s lips. “I figured it was about time we hang out off campus. We’ve studied in your dorm so much I figured Sasha hates us by now.”
She put her hand up to cover her mouth and laughed softly, shrugging. “She did mention how much it pissed her off that we ate her goldfish.”
“Oh, come on!” Armin smirked, releasing eye contact and looking straight ahead. “If she didn’t smoke so much pot, we wouldn’t have much food to raid in the first place.”
“You know how her munchies get, though.”
The two friends laughed loudly, imagining their colleague taking a draft from her wax pen, running to the cabinet, the mini fridge, and back to the cabinet again. Five minutes into a draft and she was already swallowing whole bags of Doritos.
Mikasa and Armin would often tease Sasha as she sat on her bed and ate, intensely watching Planet Earth. One time she watched footage of rain and couldn’t stop shouting, “What the fuck?! That’s so beautiful!” Armin and Mikasa would be sitting on the opposite side of the room, laughing their asses off to every astonished noise Sasha would make.
“Since it’s just her this afternoon, you might have to go grocery shopping. I wouldn’t be surprised if she demolished the entire kitchen.”
“Including the cabinets?” Mikasa smirked.
Armin didn’t hesitate. “Most definitely.”
They continued walking, discussing a trip to Home Depot and budgeting for just in case Sasha’s hunger did cause her to eat the kitchen. Mikasa mentioned how she had left over pasta in the fridge, and she was praying to God that Sasha didn’t eat it yet. Eventually they reached the parking garage, and Armin took out his keys, unlocking a very beat up Saturn.
Getting in and buckling up, Mikasa smiled. “Nice ride.”
Armin popped into the driver’s seat, put on his seatbelt, and turned his keys to start the car. “Gramps gave it to me.” He smiled, plugging the AUX cord into his phone and resuming a Fleetwood Mac song he was previously listening to.
Pulling out of the parking lot, Mikasa leaned back in her seat and clutched her seatbelt with both of her hands. She was smiling. She loved being in Armin’s company, and he reminded her of honey and the summer time.
“I can’t wait to meet your dog.” She said, watching as the car left their campus and got onto a busy road.
She could hear Armin’s smile through his voice. “Oh, right! You’re gonna love him. He is quite big though, so be prepared.”
She thought for a moment. “His name’s Oden, right?”
“Sure is!” Armin started to ramble. He always did whenever he was excited about something. Frankly, hearing her good friend ramble on about his dog made her so happy. “My roommate and I rescued him from the pound, and since he’s so big and intimidating, I’m sure countless people chose to walk right by him. My roommate was so obsessed with Oden, though, and I’m glad we picked him! The guy is a total sweetheart. He comes off as scary at first but the second he meets you, all he wants is cuddles and pets!”
Mikasa laughed. “Well I’m excited to meet him.” She paused and hesitated. “I didn’t know you had a roommate.”
“Oh, right.” Armin grunted when a car in front of him cut him off. He sighed and continued to talk. “You might get to meet him too, depending on how late you stay. He gets off of work around five.”
“Does he have a name other than, ‘My Roommate?’” Mikasa laughed.
Armin paused for a second, and waited to yield before responding. She didn’t expect him to be such a cautious driver. Usually, Mikasa was the one driving. “Eren.”
“I’ve never heard you talk about him before.”
Armin shrugged. “He’s a really cool dude. I’ve known him since high school. He’s such a natural part of my life at this point that I don’t constantly feel the need to brag about him, y’know?”
“I see what you mean.”
Mikasa stared out the window and pondered for a bit. She didn’t know anybody from high school still. Ever since she accepted her diploma and graduated, her focus was to just keep pushing forward. She wanted to build her life from the ground up, and connections to her past just seemed to hold her back.
At least that’s what she continues to tell herself. She chooses to stay strong and say she’s the one who pulled away, when really all of her friends seemed to cut ties and leave Mikasa in the dust. She pushes the thoughts down, though. How could she maintain those friendships to begin with when she was the one who moved halfway across the country?
She lets out a deep sigh, placing her hand on her forehead. Armin noticed.
She closed her eyes, smiling softly at her friend’s caring attention. “Ye-up.”
The car came to a stop, and Mikasa didn’t realize how close Armin lived to the school. She looked up to see at least six stories of an apartment complex. She blinked at the sight, wondering which floor Armin’s outside life rested on.
He was already out of the car in the time it took her to take in her surroundings, and she noticed her car door open as he gestured for her to step out. Setting her hand down from her head, she exited the passenger side, and he gently patted her on the head. “Don’t worry. We’ve got plenty of medicine inside.”
Nodding her head with a smile, she wrapped her messenger bag around her shoulder and followed her friend up some stairs.
“We’re on the fourth floor.” She heard him say. “And I’m not sure how much of a mess the place is.”
She laughed slightly. “‘Sall good. You constantly see Sasha’s wrappers everywhere, so I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Armin looked back to flash her a smile, and they made it up to the fourth flight. She followed him down a corridor until he stopped in front of the third door from the staircase. He took out his keys and wrestled with the handle.
“The lock on this door is shit.” He grunted, eventually opening it up.
Mikasa followed him inside, and her dark eyes widened at the sight in front of her.
The walls were painted an olive green, and random pieces of art scattered throughout the room. Some portraits were on the ground, while others hung on the walls. White windows with white curtains allowed sunshine to pour into the room, leaving rays of sunshine to touch everything in it. The kitchen was overflowing with colorful dishes. Each plate, cup, and bowl was a different color than the one next to it.
A gray couch sat in the living room, and there were two bookcases overflowing with plethoras of books. A desk sat in corner of the living room with an older computer on it, also covered with books and paperwork.
“Dammit, Eren.” Armin mumbled, headed over to the window. “He left it open and now all the air is out of the house.”
Mikasa smiled, walking over to the living room to take a seat on the couch, immediately noticing the soft cushions.
Armin spun around after closing the window, and lifted his arms, replicating some sort of confident, crucifixion pose. He beamed a large smile, proudly showing off his home. “Welcome to mi casa, Mikasa!”
Mikasa rolled her eyes at the overused joke. “Good one.”
He took a seat next to her, pointing at a door directly in front of them. “That’s my room.”
Mikasa nodded her head, pointing to a door closest to the entrance and near the kitchen. “I’m guessing that’s your roommates?”
“Yes ma’am! There’s a bathroom connecting the two if you need it.”
Mikasa smiled, and then paused. “Where’s your dog?”
“Oh!” Armin popped up, running to Eren’s door. “Prepare yourself.” He smiled, swung the door open, and out came running a huge, gray dog with floppy ears.
He ran up to Mikasa, sitting in front of her and smelling her knees as she sat on the couch. He licked her kneecap a few times, and then proudly looked at her with hope in his eyes. She smiled, and pet behind his ears, noticing as they flopped with every movement. His tail was wagging like crazy.
Armin laughed, closing the door and walked over to his dog to pet him as well. “Mikasa, this is Oden. Oden, this is Mikasa.”
“Hello Oden!” She smiled, cupping the happy dog’s face in her hands. “You’re quite a handsome boy, aren’t you?” He returned the compliment by giving her a huge kiss on her cheek, causing Mikasa to squeeze her eyes shut and laugh. “Gross.”
Armin stood up and walked to the kitchen to get himself a drink, Oden prancing behind his owner. He held up a bright red cup and raised an eyebrow at Mikasa, silently asking if she wanted a drink. She nodded her head, and he started to fill the cup with water. “He loves Eren more than me, so we keep him in his room when both of us are out. Don’t want him eating all of the books.”
“That’s so sweet.” She smiled as she watched the pitbull pant with happiness.
Armin walked over, handing Mikasa her bright red cup and an Advil. She smiled, taking the medicine and cup from his hands. Usually, she would just pop pills dry with no problem, but she knew Armin would lecture her if she did. So instead, she placed the pill on her tongue and took a big gulp of the water.
“Hopefully the medicine helps with that head of yours.”
She smiled, looking at the olive green and piles of books surrounding her. This place reminded her of a hug. It reminded her of a home. Not an apartment, not of a house. It felt like a home. “I’m already feeling better.”
The duo settled on the ground of the living room. When Sasha wasn’t causing a ruckus, their study sessions were typically quiet and consisted of soothing music quietly playing in the background. The friends were very comfortable with each other’s presence, and they respected each other’s studying enough to know to stay quiet.
There was a coffee table in front of the couch that Armin leaned his back against, their school books and papers sprawled across the floor. He explained that Oden needed a place to play, so Eren suggested they keep the space as open as possible. Mikasa didn’t mind it, considering she was able to comfortably lay on her stomach as she studied.
Oden sprawled out on the floor next to Armin, who would pet his side as he read his economics book. Mikasa had her laptop out and furrowed her eyebrows, focussing on her business notes. She hoped with all of her heart that if she studied hard enough, she might be able to open her own flower shop one day.
Armin was in the same business class with Mikasa. That’s how they met. He was studying hard to transfer to Stanford. Mikasa could see it. She could see him opening an acceptance letter and shouting out a “Yippee!” He truly deserved it. She’s known Armin for three years now, and she hasn’t met a single person who cared more about education and a future than he did.
She looked at the time, seeing it was after five o’ clock. “Oh, shoot. We have class in forty minutes.” Feeling her stomach grumble, Mikasa placed a hand over it. She really hoped Sasha didn’t eat her left overs.
Armin looked up from his book and his eyebrows raised. His mouth took the shape of a small o. “Oh, yeah. It’s Thursday, huh? Did you copy the notes that were posted online?”
Mikasa smirked and proudly held up the piece of paper she was currently writing on. “You’re looking at them.”
Armin returned the smile, holding up a paper he was writing on, too. “Same here, dude.”
The two laughed and placed their sheets down, when suddenly the front door slammed open. A voice shouted, “I need my fucking dog!”
Oden seemed to respond to the voice, and ran over to the figure standing in the door way. It fell to the floor on its back, letting the dog lick its face ruthlessly.
“Dad thinks he can just overwork me and not pay me for the overtime? Does he realize I’ve got bills to pay? I haven’t had a good cheeseburger in two weeks since bills are more important than fast food, apparently.” There was a long sigh. “Oh, Oden, buddy. You’re the only one who cares, aren’t you?”
The figure stood up, and Mikasa watched it wander into the kitchen, grabbing a blue cup and filling it with tap water. The figure was a man, and a very tall one at that. His hair was a dark brown, tied into a messy bun. Small strands of hair fell out of the bun, and more fell out when he closed his eyes and downed the water quickly.
He slammed the cup into the sink, causing both Mikasa and the cup to jump. “Plus, I got fucking mustard all over my uniform and he expects me to just ‘buy a new one.’ Fuck you, Grisha!”
“Don’t curse Grisha out! He’s a good guy.” Armin stood up, walking over to the angry man.
Louder, he yelled. “Fuck you, Grisha!”
Armin giggled, and the figure opened his eyes, revealing an endless pool of emerald for Mikasa to see. They locked eyes, and Mikasa smiled awkwardly.
The emerald pools widened, and a hint of red flashed across his cheeks. “Oh, my god.”
“You’re the king of first impressions.” Armin laughed louder, punching the arm of the man next to him. “Eren, this is Mikasa. Mikasa, this is Eren.”
Mikasa stood up and walked over to the kitchen, reaching over the counter to shake hands with the blushing figure. She could get a closer look at him now.
His skin was tanned and covered in sweat, obviously from working in some sort of kitchen all day. He was wearing a white button up (clearly stained with mustard) and black pants. His dirty shoes were left at the entrance of the door, and she took note of the numerous holes in his socks. As for his face, he had strong features such as his nose, his jaw, and the Adam’s apple on his neck. His eyes, however, held infinite depth.
His eyes felt completely independent from his features, yet somehow, they tied his physique perfectly together.
He cracked a half smile, clearly embarrassed. Shaking her hand firmly, he mumbled, “Uh, hi. Grisha is a nice guy. Sorry for my loud rant.”
Mikasa giggled, causing Eren’s half smile to grow into a full one. “It’s okay. Mustard ruining your uniform seems like it’d be worth yelling over.”
Armin rolled his eyes, and Eren looked at him, quietly communicating with an expression on his face Mikasa couldn’t see. Armin seemed to understand. “We go to school together. We have the same major, actually!”
Eren nodded his head, his emerald pools making their way back to Mikasa. He was staring intently at her, causing her to look away at some random corner. “I see.”
Armin continued. “We actually have class at six, so we’ll be out here in a second.”
Eren winked, smirking. “Great. That just means Oden and I get some alone time.”
“Dude, gross.” Armin whined, and Mikasa laughed again.
She had such a hard time talking to strangers. It was easier to just contribute her presence and laughs to a conversation rather than actually talking into it. Small talk was something she despised, and creating new relationships was something she constantly shied away from.
But Armin was her friend, and he so willingly accepted Sasha into his life. It was only fair that she did the same for him.
Eren let out a long sigh, picking up the cup he threw earlier, giving the inanimate object some sort of apologetic look. He gently placed it upwards. “I need to shower and take my shirt to the laundromat. Do you need me to take anything for you, Armin?”
He shook his head. “I just went yesterday.”
Eren furrowed his eyebrows, slightly ticked. Jeez, this guy was like a fire constantly set ablaze. Did everything make him mad? “Y’know we could save money if we mixed our loads.”
Armin put his hands up in defense. “Hey, you were at work and I had no pants.”
Eren rolled his eyes, turning to a cupboard to look for something to eat. Mikasa laughed to herself. The relationship between these two was nothing like the relationship between Sasha and her. They were like brothers who love-hated each other. The oceans that filled Armin’s eyes matched perfectly with the forests of Eren’s, and together they made Earth.
“I’m gonna take a piss!” Armin smiled, spinning around and headed towards his room.
That’s when it was just Mikasa and Eren. His back was facing her, and she watched as his fingers danced across different snack options. A quick image of the pasta in her dorm flashed in her brain. She really hoped Sasha didn’t eat it yet.
Suddenly, she froze, not knowing what to do. She hated this. She hated small talk. She hated meeting new people. She hated-
“He’s so funny.” Eren seemed to read her thoughts, taking the lead in conversation. He pulled out a rice cake from the cupboard and shoved a bite in his mouth, lazily chewing. Crumbs fell everywhere as he continued to talk. “Thometimeth, I fink Arfminths a wobot.”
Mikasa cocked her head at Eren. A smirk dug into her lips as she rested her elbows on the countertop, leaning against it. “Pardon?”
He swallowed the bite and wiped the crumbs off of his mouth. “Sometimes I think Armin is a robot. But then says stuff like ‘I’m gonna take a piss’ and I remember he’s not.”
She laughed, completely confused by what was being said to her. She laughed at the way he raised his voice when mimicking Armin, and she laughed at what could possibly be going through Eren’s brain. “And you think this because…”
“Oh, I’ve had this theory since sophomore year of high school. Plus, A.I. is book smart, but not common sense smart.” He took another bite of the rice cake, and started to mumble more. “Fffat’s why fe wob’t mif-”
Mikasa laughed loudly, holding her hand to her chest. “I can’t understand a word you’re saying when you’re chewing, Eren.”
He nodded his head, smiling with his chipmunk cheeks. He took a few seconds to chew and swallow again. “That’s why he won’t mix our laundry for the laundromat.”
The girl scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Yeah, okay.”
He shrugged, taking another bite of the rice cake. His arms were raised up. “I’m jwusth sthaying.”
Mikasa shook her head, and heard footsteps come from behind her. She turned around, seeing Armin with a disgusted look on his face. “Dude!” He walked over and took the rice cake out of his friend’s hand.
Eren looked utterly defeated. “Whaf the fwuck-”
“You’re gonna choke and die-”
Armin paused, noticing how Eren mimicked his talking with a hand. Armin smirked, hitting his friend’s arm. The two of them laughed and Eren smiled, facing Mikasa. “He also has a hell of a punch, so he has to have a robot’s arm.”
Armin rolled his eyes, scoffing. “Did he tell you that he thinks-“
“That he knows.” Eren corrected. The two friends stared hard at each other with evil smirks.
“I’ll hit you again.”
Mikasa sat there, laughing so hard that she couldn’t breathe. She put her hand flat on her chest, trying to pace her breathing and calm herself down. “Oh, oh my, Jesus.” She smiled, brushing some hairs that fell out of her ponytail behind her ear. “How have you guys not killed each other yet?”
Eren leaned close, his voice low. “You can’t kill a ro- ow!”
Armin had punched his stomach.
“Oh, you little-!”
She heard laughter fill the room as the two friends chased each other, their dog following them since he didn’t know what to do in the shadow of his owners. Eren went to punch Armin back, but he quickly grabbed his text books and dodged before a hit could be made. Forest eyes tripped and fell hard into the ground, an excited dog instantly jumping up on top of its owner and licking his face obsessively.
The ocean prevailed with a mocking, “Oh, you little!” Armin trotted his way to the front door, and he looked at Mikasa. “Let’s go, girl.”
She smiled, standing up from leaning against the kitchen counter. “It was nice meeting you, Eren.” She knelt down to the excited dog who licked her face again. She squeezed her eyes and wiped the slobber off with the sleeve of her sweater. “It was nice meeting you too, Oden.”
Armin and Mikasa headed out the door, but Eren got up and ran to stop them before they left. He leaned against the doorway, arms crossed at his chest, just slightly covering the mustard stains. “Mikasa, right?”
She looked into the pools of his eyes, noticing the glimmer they had in the light. Even in a dark corridor, they still were like two beacons. “Yes, sir.”
He smirked, causing her eyes to widen. He had a nice smile, a really fucking nice one, actually. “It was nice meeting you.”
She smiled, looking down at her feet. She didn’t know what to do, and she didn’t know why she felt so small in front of him. She stayed quiet for a second before she felt Armin’s hand grab her arm and yank her away from Eren’s shadow. The two started walking without looking behind them.
“It was nice meeting you.” Armin mimicked, smirking.
“Oh, shut up!” She laughed.
They drove to college, sat through business class, and eventually parted ways. Armin drove to his apartment in his beat up car while Mikasa started walking towards her dorm. She wondered what Armin would go home to, a thought she’d never had before. Would he walk into Eren playing with Oden on the ground? Would he and Eren treat themselves with cheeseburgers Eren was complaining about? Whatever it was, she hoped the two of them had a good night.
She opened the door of her room, and Sasha’s head popped up from her bed.
“Hey, stranger.” She lazily smiled, obviously stoned.
“Please don’t tell me you ate my left overs.” Mikasa walked over to their fridge. “I’ve been waiting for them all day.”
She heard Sasha laugh quietly. The room smelled like cannabis, and Planet Earth was on Sasha’s laptop. “I was super close to it, but then I remembered how much I love you.”
Mikasa smiled, taking out her left over pasta and placing it in the microwave. “I love you too, Munchie.”
“Hey!” Her voice squealed. “Stop callin’ me that!”
Mikasa smiled, and the two friends continued to their own activities. Sasha cursed under her breath at her documentaries, while Mikasa ate her left over pasta. It didn’t heat up perfectly, some noodles were made hard while others were too soft. She still ate it all since there wasn’t much left in the cupboard to eat other than Sasha’s snacks. Mikasa yawned, rubbing her eyes and placed her dishes in the sink once finishing her pasta. It was only nine o’ clock, but she was ready to clock out. She had a class early in the morning, anyways.
After surveying cupboard snacks and landing on some goldfish, she walked over to Sasha, putting her hand out. Red eyes widened, both with concern and with excitement. “Taking a hit?”
Mikasa shrugged. “It’s helped me sleep these past couple of nights.”
The stoner laughed. “Sweetheart, at this rate you’re gonna fuck up your lungs like me.”
The pen was placed in her hand, and she took a long drag, feeling the smoke burn her throat until she couldn’t take it anymore. It tasted and smelt so bad, but she didn’t mind the after effects. Coughing, she handed the pen back to Sasha and took several sips of water to ease the burn in her lungs.
Suddenly the world went groggy and slow. She climbed in bed, and listened intently to the sounds of animals from Sasha’s laptop. She’d randomly laugh at different noises she thought sounded funny, or she’d make faces out of different patterns on the ceiling. It wasn’t long until all of the goldfish were eaten. Man, Mikasa smiled to herself. Goldfish are the best when stoned.
Eventually, she found herself sinking slowly into pools of emerald, until they occupied her mind for what felt like eternity. Even when she eventually came down from the high, she felt like she was sinking into those pools. Sinking, sinking, sinking…
Until she fell asleep.