Several voices join the airport at the same time, and it's one of the few occasions in when Kokoro is overwhelmed by the same thing; she has never really suffered from a type of anxiety or anguish like the one that presents itself to her now, while his father takes her by the hand to the boarding gate of an airplane that will soon take off. It's not the first time that the girl of twenty-two years old will travel in her life... This is, possibly, the seventh time she leaves her native country. And it's no longer for vacation, or for a few days: for how things show, it'll be an almost permanent change.
"You look amazingly beautiful here; thank goodness that your aunt Sayo was able to finish the documentation on time." The man who was already close to his fifties, with dark circles under his eyes and several forehead wrinkles, smiled in the only way that he had adapted, unconsciously, during the last months: uncomfortable, really striving to pretend happiness. "And the Okusawa surname suits you: Kokoro Okusawa" he spoke in a low voice. Kokoro just nodded awkwardly, forcing herself to smile equally.
"How will I know who Michelle is when I’m there?" she asked her father, and he made a gesture with his hand, as if it were irrelevant.
"Don’t worry about that! There is no one else besides her, your aunt and I, who know that your name is now Kokoro Okusawa."
The blonde girl nodded again. The boarding gate had finally opened, and several people were coming forward to pass before them, because it seemed they would take their time to finally let go both of them.
"Kokoro... Can I ask you a favor?" spoke in a somewhat more serious tone, the father to his daughter. "I will not be able to contact you if it's not through Michelle. Even so, I want you to know that I'll try to fix all of this... Give me ten months, Kokoro, and I'll come back for you. But, meanwhile, I need you to continue with your life as if none of this was happening".
Those words took the aforementioned girl by surprise, with the vulnerability present in her. Kokoro didn't usually cry, it was as if she had sworn never to do that. And the oaths she made, she also tried to never disrespect nor forget them... But she had resisted like no other in the last months, those being full of threats and bad moments where she had to leave everything she had to offer, even if it was only a little, comfort to his father; therefore, she broke down crying.
"Promise me you're coming back" and shook the man in a big hug, leaving no time for him to clean her tears. "Promise me that we'll live together again, dad."
Kokoro's words were enough for the man to share the same cry along with her: he returned the hug, held her with the strength that only a sore father has when he has a few seconds left with his daughter. She was the light of his eyes, the reason why he stayed alive until today, and seeing her cry was an arrow straight to his heart already hurt by so much pressure, stress, anguish. He would never make Kokoro cry again, nor would let her go through any more suffering.
"I promise you, Kokoron. You promise me you won’t cry even though we're far away, can you? I know it's a little selfish to ask you that... But I would never forgive myself if I ever hurt you in any way, again."
She nodded, still clinging to her father, wishing that for some reason, in that night sky that was present in the outskirts of the airport, a shooting star would hear her prayer: to be able to continue smiling even if life was harsh with her.
She had to get in the plane, the seconds were not going to slow down just because they wanted it, and that's because time was the only thing impossible to recover. A last hug was given before Kokoro safely secured the backpack on his back, and left to the interior of the transport that would take her from Japan to the United States. Many hours of flight awaited her; how would she take advantage of them? At least, she brought everything she needed to distract herself (coloring books, new music to listen, movies to see) and not think about what would happen to her after hours later, when she would step on American soil and begin to live with a complete stranger.
She asked to herself, what would she be like? Kokoro only knew her name, that she lived in the United States... That her father knew her. Nothing more, nothing less, without mentioning that he would be his protector from now on. He had been paid for that.
Inside the plane at last, Kokoro looked through the window of this. When she took off, she felt that the tightening sensation on her stomach was similar to the one her heart maintained as she was moving away.
"Michelle" a serious voice dared to interrupt the other that was vivid, while entering the interior of a traditional Japanese-looking house. "How many times am I going to repeat it, Hagumi?"
"Sorry, Michelle!" The girl who had been scolded, while saying that, looked at the figure of the newly arrived person collapsing on the ground, close to what was a kotatsu. "Tired?"
The girl with red hair always spoke with a humming, excited, sometimes shrilly voice; and that was not the first thing Michelle wanted to hear when it was her turn to arrive at the only cozy place where she could spend quiet moments. She pulled his cell phone out of her pocket with the intention of shutting it down, thinking exactly what to answer Hagumi. "I am... A little."
Another voice a little softer was present in the room. "How many jobs are you having now, Misak-?"
"Michelle!" quickly, she corrected the other, raising the head she had left resting on the kotatsu. She didn't want it to be interpreted as a scolding, but despite her intentions, it was like that: the bluish-haired girl who had appeared in the living room, quickly apologized with concern in his tone, while reverentially slightly before the jet.
"S-sorry! I still have trouble adapting to your new name..." and although two months had gone by, the so-called 'Michelle' denied the apologies as quickly: she owed it to her instead, for being rude, and clarified that she was not upset about it at all; Kanon did not deserve to be treated that way. Just the stress of work and knowing that a tenant would soon be at home were not the vacations she was waiting for after finishing his service as a bodyguard for a well-known businessman across the country. Now she will have to serve the daughter of a businessman, and perhaps, most likely, someone capricious, with whom she couldn't get along no matter how much she wanted to; because that's how most of the girls born to wealthy families were.
The more she thought about it, the worse the headache she had been carrying since the afternoon turned into. She needed a break, and for that very reason she was there: having crossed to the other side of the city, to get to the Japanese neighborhood, to the house of the three cranks (two, she couldn't count Kanon) who lived there and were her friends. Those who always welcomed her with open arms.
Now that she thought about it: where was Kaoru, the third part of 'the three musketeers'? It was with whom she hoped to speak, after all, for a very important favor to ask her with the arrival of 'Kokoro Okusawa'.
She asked to the other girls in the household where is Kaoru, but Hagumi was simply too focused on the preparation of the dinner... And Kanon had not the slightest idea about it. She assumed that the one with purple hair would be submerged in what were her theater classes, which more than once had happened; Kaoru could forget to eat just for reading the writings of Shakespeare, playing whatever role people offered to her while she could have her moment to shine.
"Damn, I needed to talk to her. She is the one who could teach, and better than anyone, English to Tsurumaki."
"Who?" Hagumi shouted from the kitchen.
"Kokoro Tsurumaki... Well, actually, now his name is Kokoro Okusawa."
"Did you marry her and not invite us to your wedding, Michelle?!"
Kanon laughed softly, and the mentioned one could not do more than to form a grimace... Mixture between incompetence and true grace for the joke of her red-haired friend.
"How funny, Hagumi."