Chapter One

Takeout and Eggplants

Nao Kiroki pounds on my door at precisely seven o'clock on Friday evening, and yells in a singsong voice, "Satsu-kun! I have takeout! Open the door."

I groan and get off of the couch to answer the door. Nao steps in and hands me the paper bags in her arms.

"It's freezing out there!" she announces, rather stating the obvious, though. Snowflakes are clustered in her unnaturally white-blonde hair and her blue-tinged lips contrast brilliantly with her rosy cheeks and nose.

She takes the bags back from me and I follow her over to the couch where she proceeds to spread out a variety of random foods on the coffee table. I sigh and sit down beside her.

"So, your parents are gone again?" I ask her.

"Yeah, for a month this time. So it's just Ryou and me in the apartment now. But he's mean as a snake lately and anyway, he's a big boy, he can fend for himself. Besides, I'd much rather eat with you than him…"

"I'm touched."

"You can say that like you hate it, but you know you love it when I'm here. Your life would be so boring otherwise." She says matter-of-factly. But she's right. Ever since Dad died and Mom walked out, I've been by myself. I nod and we continue to eat in silence.

"Wanna watch me prank the people below us?" I ask her when we're clearing all of the trash from the living room.

"How?"

"With an eggplant." I say casually as I walk to the kitchen to retrieve the wonderful vegetable.

"Okay." She says simply. That's just how Nao is. She'll go along with just about anything and enjoy it. "How do you know this will work?" she asks me as we walk out onto my twelfth-story balcony.

"I tested it." I said proudly. "By dropping it onto my balcony from the Hyashi's balcony over us."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, really magnificent pattern it makes against the glass door, too."

We dangle the eggplant over the edge and give it a push towards the side of the building as we let it drop and wait—

SPLAT!!! The eggplant misses the balcony below us by inches and hits the street far below. We gaze with appreciation at the eggplant guts and then duck down and crawl back inside the apartment as people start to look up from the sidewalk, searching for the source of what we can only hope an innocent Jesus-happy spectator will consider God's answer to world hunger. Maybe that's a little too much to hope for. People like that are only around when you don't need them.

"So," I say as if nothing has happened, "are you staying the night then?"

"I was planning on it."

"Right. Well, help me pull out the sleeper sofa." I say. Nao spends the night a lot when her parents are out of town.

"So, Satsu…" she begins, "how're things going with Ataru?"

"They're not. We broke up a couple of days ago." I answer her and then because she continues to look puzzled, I add, "He was just in it for the sex."

Nao turns bright red and says, "Oh, so you two were—"

"No. That was apparently the problem."

She hesitates for a moment and then says, "Hey Satsu… You know you're my best guy friend…"

"I'm your best friend, period."

"Yeah. So…"

"So… what?"

She looks at me strangely for a second as she helps me put the sheets on the mattress. "Nothing." She says finally.