“Are you and Honda-san dating?”
Kyo clenches his jaw. He hated this question. It was the kind of question he sometimes gets from girls in other classes for some odd fucking reason. It didn’t bother him when they pull him over to ask him this, and all other permutations of it. He knew that behind them, there was always some ulterior motive. They wanted something from him, and Tohru was somehow a hindrance to that.
It was a fucking pointless question. He wasn’t interested in entertaining these people anyway. He had nothing to give to them. He wanted no part in their shallow fantasies.
But he should have known that someday when someone asks this question, they won’t be thinking of him.
Tachibana is his name.
Some guy from 2-A whose name only pops up in conversations whenever people talk about the tennis team. Apparently, he won a local tournament over the summer and made it to the regular spot at the start of the semester.
They had nothing in common. Even without this interaction, they never would have gotten along. Kyo likes to think this inherent incompatibility of their personalities was the reason why from the moment Tachibana dropped this question in that empty hallway, Kyo suddenly felt off.
“What’s it to you?” He replies, already feeling unexplainably hostile but attempting to keep it at bay. He jabs his fists into his pockets, his thumb scratching into his skin rather deeply.
Tachibana is quick to reply, still wearing a cheery grin. “Relax, man. I was just asking.”
“We’re not dating.” Kyo answers swiftly. His jaw felt tense, his feet, restless.
The words force themselves from his lips, leaving an odd, bitter taste. It was the truth. And yet it felt so completely wrong. He hates the question, but he hates this answer even more. He wasn’t answering just to let curious onlookers know the state of their relationship to satisfy their own shallow curiosity. It was a slap in his own face, to remind him of what he doesn’t have. What he will never have.
“Ah. I see.” Tachibana replies coolly, seemingly unfazed by the unwarranted hostility coming from the person he was talking to.
The conversation should have ended here. From here on out, there was nothing else he can offer—nothing else he wanted to offer—to Tachibana. Or to anyone else for that matter. He wanted to leave, and never have to see this guy’s face again, if that was possible.
“Actually,” Tachibana starts again, this time more carefully. Distant classroom chatter wafts from the open windows spilling into the hallway. But to Kyo’s dismay, the noise wasn’t enough to drown out this next part.
“I was planning to ask her out tomorrow.”
Kyo felt his mouth go dry. He was sweating, like one would after waking up from a bad nightmare. Only, this nightmare was real and it was happening.
“I was wondering if you’d be okay with it.”
And then it came. An unwarranted montage of some, distant but at the same time not-so-far-away future. Tohru building memories together with some other person. A person who will learn how awful she was at swimming, how much she loved her mother. A person who will learn how bad she was at telling lies, and what it took to make her laugh. How a few insensitive words can hurt her, but even the smallest gestures, she will treasure for a lifetime.
It ends in her soft smile directed toward a person she has yet to meet, someone in the future who will build for her a home where she is loved and cared for everyday.
What right did he, of all people, have to take this away from her?
“Do what you want.” He says. He wants to ground to swallow him whole. “I don’t care.”
They were alone in her room, the door wide open because Shigure couldn’t leave them the fuck alone. He could hear the faint sound of the TV in the living room. Shigure was watching some rerun of a sappy Korean drama again. Tohru was hunched her small table, scribbling whatever math problem she busied herself with into her pink notebook.
Whenever she focused on something, she always gave it a hundred and twenty percent. In these moments he finds himself watching her absently; these moments, he can take note of her existence without thinking much of anything else. Just her.
There’s an eyelash on her cheek, he thinks.
She must have been vaguely aware of him. Because the moment he lifts his arm to reach out to her, her shoulders jolt in surprise and she lets out a tiny squeak. In those few seconds of confusion, the tip of her pen accidentally found its way on his wrist.
Tohru stares at it in horror, like she had just wrecked carnage on his arm.
“I-I accidentally wrote on you!! I’m so sorry!!”
Before he could finish, Tohru was grabbing his wrist, pulling it toward her. The gesture startles him. He was suddenly painfully aware of the difference in their size. Her small, nimble hands were holding his much larger arm, fingers rubbing softly where she had written on him.
“No it’s not okay! It’s huge!”
“What do you mean? Let me see-” He attempts to pull his arm from her, gently so as not to overpower her, but her grip on him was surprisingly strong.
“No you can’t look!”
Tohru’s face was completely red. Her small hands were cupped over the spot in his arm she drew on. Somehow this image of her- a little flustered, a little desperate, was enough to get him to give into her completely. Because no matter how much stronger in physical strength he was than her, there’s no request from her that he will never grant.
He sinks into the table and lets her do what she wanted with his arm. There was a limit to how long he can look at her flustered face without dying from embarrassment.
She starts rubbing her thumbs into the inked spot in his arm, a feeble attempt to erase it. He wanted to tell her it was no use, but the feeling of her fingertips on his skin was hypnotic. But she was rubbing too intensely, his skin was starting to feel slightly charred from the friction.
“What are you doing? Rubbing’s just gonna make it...” Kyo rises up again to check. At this point, Tohru had already stopped, and was staring at the casualty, “...spread.”
“Wahh Kyo-kun...it spread...!!?”
He pulls his arm gently from her hands. His skin still felt hot where she had been touching him.
“I-I’m sorry! I wasn’t paying attention and I should’ve let my pen down instead of...!”
“Wow.” A thin, ragged line ran a few inches down the length of his wrist.
“....I-I’m so sorry!!!”
He raises a brow and cracks a smile, “Are you mad at me or something?”
“No no no! I’m not mad I promise!”
“Jeez. And I just took a bath too.”
Tohru looks at him with eyes full of sorrow and regret. She wasn’t going to cry over something like this but she sure looked like she was about to. If anything, she looked like a terrified puppy. Suddenly, he felt awful for teasing her too long. But it can’t be helped. She was difficult to resist when she was flustered.
I was planning to ask her out tomorrow.
Kyo chest felt tight again, but this time for a different reason.
He pushes himself from the table. She was caught momentarily off guard. Her eyes follow him curiously until he plops down on the space beside her. He is aware of the lack of distance between them. That if he leaned just a little bit closer his shoulder would meet hers, his head on hers. Downstairs, Shigure’s evening drama continues drawling on, wandering through the open door, filling the empty spaces of this heavy silence in her room.
“Kyo-kun?” She says. Her voice sends a ticklish feeling travelling from his ear and down to his neck.
“Give me your arm.”
“It’s time for your punishment.”
Tohru lays her arm out on the table obediently. Compared to him, she was pale and skinny. Like a few small actions, by someone who doesn’t know how to treat her kindly, would be enough to break her. It was for this reason, among a thousand, a million other reasons, that it was so difficult—this idea of having to let her go.
But he knows it was going to happen. Some fine, cruel day. She will leave, for some happier future somewhere far away from here. Far away from him.
He couldn’t look at her. He didn’t want her to look at him.
“Close your eyes okay?” He says.
“Kyo-kun, what are you-”
“Just close your eyes.”
He takes her pen. A cheap black ballpoint from the supermarket. He places his free hand on top of hers, as an attempt to lay her arm flat on the table. But he can’t deny how much he liked this feeling, to feel the softness of her small hand curling instinctively around his. Kyo hunches closer to her, and armed with her pen, began his “retaliation.”
Somewhere in the middle of this, Tohru erupts in small giggles. As she laughed, he could feel her cheek pressing lightly against his shoulder, her free hand unconsciously clutching the sleeve of his white shirt. He stops momentarily because it was suddenly way too difficult to think about anything.
“Hey...I...can’t work properly if you’re moving around.”
“I’m sorry.” She says in between giggling. Her small nose digs into his shoulder, “It really tickles.”
It was awful how much slower he worked after that. How much more details he added into his tiny little doodle on her wrist just because he liked the way she clung to him, the sound of her laughter. It was fucking awful.
Will he be able to make you laugh like this?
He forces this nasty feeling back down.
“Done.” He sets her pen down, and lets go of her arm, “You can open your eyes now.”
Kyo looks away quickly, training his eyes instead on her cabinet. His doodle was embarrassing, and even more embarrassing would be to see her reaction. He won’t be able to take it.
“That’s what you get for writing on me.”
He sinks again into the table. He was mumbling at this point. A small part hoping she couldn’t hear what he was saying. His head was about to burst with embarrassment, and he didn’t want her to see.
Tohru stayed quiet for a while. For a while what fills the silence were the ending credits of the evening drama, the main door sliding open, Yuki who just got home saying: you’re watching this again, Shigure, the rustle of the old trees around the house.
When he lifts his head again, his eyes catch the picture frame on her cabinet. Kyoko, smiling down on him, from wherever it was in this universe she was still lingering.
I won’t forgive you.
The next day went by in a blur. He felt detached from everything that was happening. He drifted from one class to another, one conversation to another. He never felt like he was a part of anything. Before he knew it, the sun was already setting. People were packing their things and starting to leave. He vaguely recalls a bunch of guys in his class asking him to join them in some burger joint in the city. But he couldn’t even compel himself to absorb the question asked of him.
All he remembers from this day was Tohru.
Her seat was empty but he knew where she was. A few of their nosy classmates followed her to the rooftop a few minutes ago, and were likely camping out as the rest of this awful confession unfolded. He refused to look at her, even as she, clueless and oblivious like she is, was being pulled out of the classroom rather forcefully by a couple overly excited girls in their class.
It was horrendous how openly people talked about about Tachibana after he showed up outside their classroom. That he was a nice guy, that his family owned a small sushi restaurant somewhere in town, that he had a little sister in grade school he picks up and walks home every day before tennis practice.
And Kyo fucking hates the fact that there’s not even a single thing anyone can hate about that fucking Tachibana.
Because she’s meant to be with people like Tachibana. Normal people who can assure her a normal life.
“Aren’t you coming, Kyon?” The blonde yankee had asked him earlier.
“What a bitch.” Uotani spits back, eyes full of disbelief, “I was just asking. You’re nastier than usual today. Whatever, man. Suit yourself.”
To his relief, yankee disappears, her distant yelling from the hallway puncturing the heavy, heavy atmosphere.
Only the enigmatic Hanajima remained. Kyo was in no mood to be conscious of her like he usually was; much less to entertain whatever the fuck it was she wanted from him. He was well aware he was wearing his heart so carelessly in his sleeve. His heart, bleeding, and messy as fuck. Even without her weird ability, it still would’ve been obvious. At this point he didn’t give a shit if Hanajima noticed.
“Why didn’t you tell him off yesterday? He asked for permission didn’t he?”
Hanajima was waiting for his answer.
“Why is everyone coming to me for this?”
It was a curse that he still remembers the way Kyoko looked the first time he met her all those years ago. Her long fiery hair, her white long sleeves, and her cream slacks. Her piercing laughter that day.
“I told you a thousand times,”
The same way he remembers her lying on the pavement, red liquid spilling down the drain. Her hand outstretched and reaching out to him.
“She has nothing to do with me!”
They return to him. Memories of who he used to be, of his fucked up days in middle school, of the countless number of fights he got into, of the people he hurt with his fists, of coming home with bruises, of his overflowing anger, of his mother and all the people who attended her wake, of Yuki, Akito, and the room inside that large estate he was supposed to be locked in for the rest of his life.
Kyo was not normal. He will never be normal.
And then he hears Hanajima’s long, drawn-out sigh and is a little thankful, because all these wild thoughts stop abruptly. He’s back in the empty classroom. All that’s left is the feeling of complete exhaustion. Like all the energy was sucked out of him. Mirroring what he feels on rainy days, if not an even worse feeling.
He sinks into his table, fighting back this sick, ugly feeling because he has no right to feel it. He trains his ears to the muffled sound of Hanajima’s footsteps as she left.
“Just don’t mess up the classroom.”
When he woke up, the classroom was already dark, save for the lights along the hallway. He had been asleep for god knows how long. His head was aching terribly the way it always does whenever he slept too much or too deeply. By this time, the classroom was completely empty. People, even that rat-faced bastard, have already left.
“You’re finally awake.”
She sat on the seat in front of him. Her things piled neatly on the desk, like she was ready to leave at any time but she chose to stay behind. For a moment, he wonders if he was still dreaming. If this person in front of him was a figment of a dream that lingered in that hazy world between dreaming and reality.
Tohru blinks. She was real, and she was here. In the low light, the pink shade of her cheeks was faint, but he could see it clearly. For a while he forgets everything—the confession in the rooftop, Tachibana, their noisy classmates, the curse, the memories of her mother that return to him with unabashed vengeance.
All he sees is her, the red ribbon in her hair, her quiet laughter, the distant mumble of the evening drama as he wrote on her wrist his most selfish, unspoken wish last night. Just a few of the many memories he will keep of her.
“A-ah, you were sleeping so soundly I didn’t want to wake you up.” She starts, waving her hands as she babbled. “I did my homework while waiting. I don’t have work today either so you don’t have to worry-”
As she talked, something in her wrist caught his eye. Before he was aware of it, he was taking her hand. He runs a thumb over the small blotch on her skin.
“You didn’t wash it off.”
The tiny cat doodle he mindlessly drew into her wrist last night.
All at once, the heaviness in his chest evaporates. He suddenly felt the unexplainable urge to smile and to laugh. To get up and start walking to wherever his feet would take him, and to take her with him. But he holds it in.
“You’re gonna get an infection this way. Hand me your hand sanitizer, I’ll-”
She yanks her hand away from him, and holds it close to her chest. Like it was something she wanted to protect, even if it was just a tiny, childish doodle. “N-no!”
His lips crack into a smile. Tohru was glaring at nothing in front of her. He shouldn’t be spoiling her like this, but he does. He falls into her whims every single time.
“It’s really late,” he chides her. But he wasn’t really angry, “You should’ve gone home with Yuki.”
Tohru was glaring at her legs, refusing to look up at him. He was starting to get slightly worried. Was she mad? Did he make her mad somehow? He opens his lips to say something, but she beats him to it.
“I...didn’t want to go home,” she mumbles in a small voice, “Not without you, Kyo-kun.”
“Okay,” all at once, he gives in. Before he knew it, he was taking the hand she had pressed on her chest all over again. The hand where he had drawn his childish doodle. He brings her toward him, pressing her knuckles gently against his forehead. He closes his eyes, and lets her skin, her warmth, the fingers curling around his palm, chase the bad feelings away. “Okay, I understand.”
Just for now, he thinks, to whoever spirit was writing his destiny, please let me have her, just for now.