Idea adapted from an installment volume #3 of the manga D. N. Angel by Sugisaki Yukiru.
White Silk Ribbon
With little enthusiasm, I pushed against the frosted glass door into the deserted reference section of the library. I tugged my jacket closer to my body at the sudden blast of freezing air, and shook my head. Right then I hated two people with a passion — myself, for volunteering to research for the teacher's impractical English project; and that librarian up at the front counter, who knew full well that she would not have to pay for the air-conditioning bills.
I took an offhand glance at the back of the metal bookshelves. There was nobody else around. Of course, I thought, rather listlessly. Who the hell would choose to stay back in campus on a Friday afternoon, what with Valentine's Day just around the corner? And it wasn't like any couple would have any better place to go than to make out in the school library.
But for the sake of getting into the teacher's good books — and heightening my chances of getting some miraculous bonus marks, while I was at it — I had to sacrifice my weekend.
. . . And probably my chance of getting a date, too.
February the fourteenth is somehow a much-dreaded day for those in school who haven't exactly been paired up yet. And Tetsuya was smart enough to finally have the guts to give a present to his crush just after our last lesson just now — thus leaving me in the lurch, in the abyss of singlehood.
I sighed quietly, and eased myself between the narrow aisles, head turning to scan the plastic stickers along the bases of the shelves, and one finger running along the colourful labels of the Dewey Decimal System.
"Psychology . . ." I murmured, randomly picking a book with a thick black spine and a title in silver: Unveiling the Secrets of the Mind. Perhaps that could let me learn some mind-reading. I'd really like to see what exactly makes the girls tick — or, to be precise, what makes them so hyped up over such a mindless, commercial holiday as Valentine's Day.
And most annoying of all, there were those white silk ribbons that the girls in our school were constantly giggling and dreaming about recently. Hell, even Tetsuya decided to give his girl one too! I rolled my eyes. Why those items would be so popular among those girls I would never understand.
"A token of love," Tetsuya had mused, only days before. "That's what they see it as." I had shut myself up just in time then, before I started any complaints about how overrated a piece of cheap material had become.
I stared at the book in my hand for one good minute, then opened it. The tiny print swam before my eyes, and I had to squint. Mind-reading didn't just require intelligence and extreme dedication — apparently it called for good eyesight too.
But amidst the enveloping stillness my ears caught the tiniest of sounds — the glass door swinging open, and then a faint presence of someone entering this section of the library. I turned my head, and caught nothing but a brief flash of red and black. Just as my fingers pushed the book shut, the person emerged from the bookshelf behind me.
Hotaru raised his eyes slightly at me, and I gave him a friendly smile. He was from my class, and also my lab partner during Biology. And an excellent one he was too — only slightly demented, in my opinion. Watching him calmly slice up any given animal specimen, alive or dead, to determine its anatomy was probably one of the most intriguing things I'd ever seen during those lessons. And each time I would conveniently take a bold peek at his results, and copy it into my own report. Cloning is part of Biology, after all.
He didn't seem to me like the kind who would hang around in libraries, though.
"What are you doing here?" I couldn't help but ask. Then, thinking that sounded a little irritated, added, "Don't tell me you volunteered to take part in that stupid project too?"
He paused in his steps. The daylight that filtered in from the half-drawn blinds of the window fell upon his face, and his green eyes blinked, as if trying to focus. Then he smiled. "I was just about to ask you the same question," he said easily. "Shouldn't you be off with your girlfriend and count down to Valentine's Day or something?"
"Don't remind me," I muttered, eyes reverting to the rows of tomes on the shelves. "I don't even have one."
"Really." From the corner of my eye I watched him pick out a blue hardcover and browse through it. Then he continued, in a smaller voice: "I would've thought none of the girls are good enough for you."
I looked at him in mock confusion. "Do I take that as a compliment or an insult?" Then I sighed, waving my hand dismissively. "Whatever it is, I'm just glad I don't have to deal with any of those stupid ribbons or other mindless gifts like that." I shoved the black book back into its place.
"Mindless?" he repeated, after a few moments of silence. There seemed to be a hint of amusement behind his word. "But really . . . what would you do when you do receive a ribbon like that?"
My finger paused at the spine of another reference book. There was something amiss in his question, but I didn't know what it was. Before I could figure it out, however, I felt a long, cool strip of fabric drape itself on my shoulders, smoothly sliding against the nape of my neck. A tingle glided down my back.
I swallowed hard. White silk ribbon, I realised.
He swivelled me around with surprising ease, as though I were one of those specimens in his tray — dazed, vulnerable, and powerless to the edge of his scalpel, to his every whim and fancy. It unnerved me, but I tried my best to keep composed. "When I receive a ribbon like this?" I asked coolly.
There was no reply, but his hand merely held the two strips of silk together, the ends lightly touching the hem of my shirt, not unlike a necktie.
. . . or a leash.
"When," he agreed quietly. "Not if." And without any warning whatsoever he tugged at the white silk ribbon, pulling me towards him; with another turn he had me riveted against the bookshelf, which shuddered wildly upon impact. I could feel the freezing metal panels through my clothes, numbing my arms and neck and lower back. Tentatively I stared into his eyes: deep, intense, yet scintillating so wildly — the biggest loophole in his disguise, a failure to hide his eagerness beneath all that subtlety.
It occurred to me that I was taking in all this fairly well — the fact that this side of him was emerging, so entirely different from what I had always him as. But it was precisely this part I suddenly found myself interested in: this anticipation, this unpredictability, this realisation that it was me.
Tetsuya would probably have freaked out if he were in my shoes.
I gazed upwards at my unexpected assailant. His hair was glowing a surreal reddish-brown in the half-light, and at last I remembered to focus. What the hell are you doing? I heard a little voice cry inside my head. Probably my conscience. Get away from him, quick! Don't play along with him!
I half-closed my eyes. I did not know if that seemed avoidant or inviting to him, but I had already decided.
. . . Why not?
"But . . . this isn't what I expected." I pretended to fluster. "I thought it would be . . . different."
"Different?" He weaved his fingers in between mine, and gently pushed my arms outwards, along the cold, cold metal of the shelf, my body uncurling in a strange parody of a blossoming flower — and all the while the look of innocent inquisition on his face never ceased. "What's wrong with different?"
Again I closed my eyes, and opened them only a couple of seconds later, this time attempting to lose myself in the glittering depths of his eyes that were so similarly trying to probe into my mind, to seek my hidden desires, to compliment his. Those eyes, those lightly smiling lips, that exquisite face, and above all, that evidently growing ardour of his — tempting, stirring, drawing me closer than ever, but still making a tiny part of me wish he were someone else.
Not that it really mattered much.
Slowly I leaned my head closer to his and, as though teasing, taunting, luring him in, whispered, in the softest voice I could manage: "I meant . . . the location."
I did not know how he defined that last word, or even what it might suggest to him. But his reaction did thrill me much more than any other girl's would — his hands slid from my palms, down my torso, to the small of my back, and at last came to rest in between my shirt and denim jacket. His smile changed then: it became much more reassured, much more voracious than I thought fitted him.
"Then I promise you a better one next time," he murmured. And before I could even wonder about that he had already closed in, reducing the bare space between our lips to nothing, stoking the dying heat within me with a strangely intense flame I never knew he had. I did not flinch, and neither did I resist. Never did I expect that it would be him, but right then it mattered no more.
His hands slowly slid up inside my shirt and up my back, warm against my skin, and I quivered slightly. It was so curiously enticing, the way he held me — gentle as if I were most delicate, yet snug enough for a seemingly secret comfort, somewhere under the rim of my shirt; his proximity was more than enough to reveal that growing pleasure of his as he kept exploring — his hands and his mouth, lingering, caressing, savouring, as though I were a personal belonging of his, and accessible to none but him.
And along with this stupor of mine, I faintly realised, the air-conditioning seemed to have gone haywire — my body felt stifling, but my outstretched arms still felt very much exposed to an unfamiliar cold. Instinctively I drew them in, and curled them tight around his shoulders instead, as though clinging on in desperation and hunger, openly taking in everything he chose to offer me so selflessly. And all that I relished — this forbidden bonding with such an intriguing figure as him, and the surge of indescribable fervour and rapture and pure satisfaction that raged so rapidly along with it.
But eventually I pulled away from him, heart pounding hard against my chest; my lips and face were rapidly cooling, and the room spun without any indication of stopping. I closed my eyes, gasping slightly, dimly aware that I was still clutching him hard by the shoulders. I did not know if the dizziness I felt was because I was too stupid to remember to breathe, too overwhelmed by what happened to, or too engrossed to.
". . . Are you all right?" his voice whispered by my ear. It sounded slightly different — more raw, more concerned, more breathless than mine. I flushed as it dawned on me that he was no longer just my lab partner, and flushed some more as I brazenly wondered what he thought of everything that had happened earlier.
I released my grip on him, rather belatedly. "Fine, I'm fine," I said, trying to keep my breaths steady. "I'm good . . ."
I felt his hands slip away from my waist just then, a rousing sensation burning in their wake, and I had a mind to guide them back in place. But before I even tried, he took my chin on one curled hand, and tilted my head upwards, locking his eyes on mine; and there on his face was a deeply satisfied smile. "You really are," he whispered.
His eyes grew too intense, and I shut mine with yet another growing blush on my cheeks. I neither felt nor heard him say anything more; when I finally decided to take a peek, all I saw were rows and rows of thick volumes on the shelves, and the frosted glass door slowly shutting.
Still somewhat disorientated, I lowered my hand onto the coolness of the white ribbon around my neck.
This, a mindless gift?
I pulled slightly. The whole strip slid smoothly onto my palm, and I closed my fingers around the ribbon before it could fall off.
. . . Or maybe not, I decided at last. Absently I took another book from a shelf, in the hope of having at least some project material for the weekend after all that . . . unexpected distraction.
Unveiling the Secrets of the Mind.
I touched the ribbon to my lips and smiled, running my thumb over the embossed silver words on the black cover. Try unveiling mine, Tetsuya, I thought, as I pulled the door open and strolled into the rest of the empty library, awaiting the arrival of February the fourteenth.