Autumn brings the brightest leaves, falling from the trees in the yard. Karren isn't tasked with clearing them up, but it brings her joy, regardless, as she and Matsumae rake them into large piles.
From out here in the yard, Karren can see Shuu's bedroom. The lights are on and every so often when she sneaks a glance, she can see him standing by the windows. He's so far above her and yet so close; if she reached her hand out to him, she wonders if he could see the gesture.
Knowing that he's watching always makes her heart race.
The winter chill keeps everyone inside. Long gone are the relaxed afternoons out in the gazebo, admiring the flower garden. Everything is blanketed in a thin sheet of snow, silencing the roses Karren adores.
Shuu plays music more often in winter, always goading his cousin into playing with him. The songs they play make her eyes water but she is turned away from her beloved. He can't see her eyes.
It's better this way, she thinks.
The thought that their days full of music and laughter might end someday leaves her chest tight, her throat thick with words left unspoken.
In spring, Shuu helps Karren paint. Out in the garden where the flowers finally bloom once more, he holds her hand. He guides her movement along the canvas, his fingers long and thin.
Music is where Shuu excels but he has a knack for art, as well. Karren doesn't tell him about the painting tutor who visited her family home every week as a child; once his hands touched hers, she was lost. The truth escaped her.
"Beautiful," Shuu says once he's stepped away. "Magnifique."
Karren almost shakes her head.
No, she thinks. Only when you're beside me.
With summer comes a brief engagement; so short, Karren barely has time to wrap her head around the idea that Shuu will no longer be hers.
But he was never mine, was he?
The woman is a distant relative — a second or third cousin — and she is beautiful. Her lavender hair is long and she keeps it bound in a thick braid along her back.
Shuu slinks up to Karren, his hand cupping her cheek. She leans into the touch, closing her eyes to will away the tears.
"Dearest Kanae," he says. "Will you be my best man?"