Chapter 11: It's Fine if I Only Find a Little Bit of Light
A few weeks had passed since our outing that Friday, and not once had I spoken to Keisuke yet. Every time I went to, either Yusuke or Mitsuharu or one of the other guys would pull me away. I didn't think I could, anyway, not after finding out his secret. I didn't think I could face him.
I had finally asked Hatsune out, with the help of my trusty keypad, and got congratulations from the other guys. Fortunately for me, Hatsune wasn't as forceful as Emiko; she was actually quite pleasant. I enjoyed spend my casual days and nights with her.
"Kitase, you should invite your girlfriend over for dinner sometime," Kei said, smiling.
We were in the kitchen, eating our breakfast. The sun was shining brilliantly through the windows over the small sink and onto our petite dining table, where Imaizumi was reading his morning newspaper.
He snapped it, grabbing my attention, and looked at me curiously. "A girlfriend? What's her name?" he asked, the corners of his lips twitching upwards.
I looked at Kei with mock anger, breaking into a smile once the scowl proved to be too much for my face to handle. "Hatsune," I told him in sign language.
His eyebrows lifted with interest, making me blush. "I'll be home early if you want to bring her over." Imaizumi grinned.
I teasingly stuck my tongue out at him. "I don't know…" I bit my lip. She was, as I've said, very nice, but I didn't know how everything would turn out.
"We haven't met one of your friends yet, Kitase," Kei cut in as he set down a bowl of miso soup in front of me.
I sighed. "Fine…"I propped my chin up with my hand.
Imaizumi reached over and pushed my elbow off the table and threw me a playful, chastising look. "No elbows on the table. It's bad manners, you know."
I finished my soup quickly and rushed off to the subway, promising on my way out the door that I would see about bringing Hatsune home with me.
When I got to the subway, I was startled by someone I hadn't heard from for a while.
I turned around. Keisuke… I waved, a weak response to so many weeks of ignorance. I hadn't talked to him since my first day of school back in October. It was almost the end of November now.
"How've you been?" he asked. He seemed quite timid and cold now, almost as if he was afraid to talk to me.
"I've been all right. It's very overwhelming in a prep school, I discovered. How are you?" I remembered I could use sign language around Keisuke.
"I'm all right, I guess." He shrugged sadly. I didn't like the sad look on his face.
"You don't seem okay."
"Falling out of my friends' graces doesn't exactly make me the happiest person in the universe," he told me dryly.
"But that was weeks ago. Haven't you found any new friends?"
"No. Those bastards spread rumors all over the school. No one comes near me now."
"Rumors?" I thought about what Yusuke had told me. Were they really true or was Yusuke making them up? I decided now was the time to ask. "Does that mean they aren't true?"
"Do you think they are? Does anything Yusuke and Mitsuharu say prove true?" he asked angrily.
I looked at the ground in contemplation. "Everyone tells lies."
"But not everyone's hurt other people."
"I don't think that's true."
"Why?" His eyes were cold, emotionless.
I half wanted Yusuke or Mitsuharu to show up and pull me away from Keisuke.
"Say… say a girl lies about the place where she got her skirt. If she tells another girl a false place, then she'll have hurt that other girl. It's very tame, but it still hurts her."
"Then what about your lie?" His eyes pierced right through me and made me cringe.
"Me? What lie?"
"Your eyes, Okean. Who does it hurt if you change your eye color?" He looked at me victoriously, as if he was positive I had no answer.
I frowned; I didn't even have to think about it. "It hurts my brother."
"That's private. I don't want to tell you."
Keisuke looked hurt, but he nodded. Just then, the subway pulled in. He gave me one final look before walking into the car. I followed him, but he made it impossible for me to sit near him. I sighed. This already seemed like it was going to be a very long day.
Once we reached the school, I jumped out and began to scout for Hatsune. She could call her parents and tell them that she would be coming to my house today. I quickly spotted her amongst a group of girls applying makeup and fixing their hair. It made me smile. I walked up to the girls and tapped Hatsune's shoulder.
She jumped in surprise and turned around. "Okean!" she cried excitedly, pressing our lips together in a quick kiss.
I blushed, hoping she wouldn't act this way around Kei and Imaizumi. Despite how Imaizumi had taken me in and how well I was being treated, he still had a strong dislike for teenagers, especially teenage girls.
I mouthed 'hello' and pulled out my keypad, typing my question in. She glanced at it and smiled.
"I thought you were never going to ask, Okean!" She hugged me tightly while handing me the keypad in the same motion.
"Shouldn't you call your parents?"
"Ah! Yes! I guess I should." She pulled out her cell phone, a device I hadn't seen much since moving to Okinawa. Akuji had owned one, but he usually wasn't on it around me.
Hatsune's phone had a pink cover and wore the DoCoMo symbol, a common phone company in Japan, I'd come to learn. She had a key chain full of miniature anime figures. She flipped open the phone and dialed a number, presumably her own. She had a quick conversation with her parents and then hung up, smiling. "I'm allowed! I'll just ride the subway with you, right?" She watched me closely, smiling.
I nodded in response, wanting to laugh when she hugged me. Then she handed her phone to one of her friends and giggled girlishly.
"Take a picture with me?" she begged. I laughed, sort of, and nodded, letting her pull me tightly to her. I wrapped my arms around her waist and leaned into her, turning towards the camera and smiling. She made a peace sign with one of her hands and placed the other over my hands. The picture was taken, and quickly Hatsune's friends crowded around the phone to gaze at the photo. They all squealed with delight.
"You two are so cute together!" a girl declared.
Hatsune took the phone from her friend and giggled. "Come look, Okean!" she called, holding out the phone toward me.
I obeyed, grinning at the photo.
"This is the twentieth picture taken of us together. You're very photogenic, Okean!" She laughed and closed the phone, putting it in her purse.
The bell rang for classes to begin. I waved goodbye to Hatsune, who was going the opposite direction as I was. As I walked off, I tried to make myself excited for the upcoming events. My girlfriend was coming over! But somehow, a darkness loomed in my heart.
In English class, I noticed Keisuke drifting off into sleep. This was very strange, considering he was an excellent student. Since he sat right on my left side, I reached over and tapped his shoulder to stir him awake. He growled and swatted my hand away, throwing me a dirty look before settling back down into the small fort he created with his arms.
"Hamauzu, pay attention!" the teacher yelled at Keisuke. He groaned very quietly and sat up, rubbing at his eyes. There was a little red mark on his cheek where he had been sleeping on his book. "If you needed to sleep, you shouldn't have come to school!" She frowned. I winced at the trouble he was bound to get into. He caught the upset look on my face and shook his head firmly.
When class ended, I ran up to him. "What's up today? What happened?" I fired my questions at him quickly. He didn't seem in too cheery of a mood, and I wanted to know why.
"Forget about it, Okean. Just let it go," he growled as he made his way past me and out the door.
At the end of the day I met Hatsune outside of the school.
"I'm so excited!" she squealed, wrapping her arms around my waist. We ran toward the subway station with our hands interlocked, Hatsune laughing with some form of happy hysteria that I couldn't say I shared. I wondered why I could not feel the same happiness she obviously felt.
We dashed into an open car and held on to the metal bars above our heads, trying to keep from falling over as the train lurched forward. Her cell phone rang just before we reached the Aoyama station. She wrapped her arm around my waist as she held a conversation on the phone, trying at the same time to keep her balance. She was off a few moments later.
"It was Naoko. She asked for the picture she took of us." Hatsune laughed. "Apparently she wants to show it to a friend of hers that goes to a school in Shinjuku."
My eyes went wide. Even with my hair cut short and my eyes hidden by contacts, I was surely still recognizable. If someone from Shinjuku saw that picture and knew my sister… I would be in severe trouble.
"Aoyama. I repeat, Aoyama," the voice on the subway car speaker announced.
While fighting to hide the loss of color in my face, I took Hatsune's hand and led her out of the car and into the station. Down the large hall I saw Yusuke and Mitsuharu standing at the mouth of the car and talking, but I couldn't see Keisuke anywhere. I feared for him; he wasn't being himself today.
"Is something wrong, Okean?" Hatsune asked, blinking.
I grinned and shook my head, squeezing her hand affectionately to punctuate my answer.
"Oh, hey…" she spoke as we moved across a walkway. We were almost at Spiral, which meant we were almost home. "I brought my regular clothes with me to change into so I can feel more comfortable. Do you mind if I use your bathroom to change?"
I pulled out my keypad and let go of her hand to type in my answer. We took only a few more steps before stopping completely. "You can use my bedroom to change. The bathroom is very small."
"Oh, all right." She smiled and handed the keypad back to me.
After I tucked it safely in my side bag, we resumed walking.
"Aoyama seems very nice," Hatsune commented as we neared my house. I smiled and nodded in agreement, keeping my gaze directed ahead.
Winds blew through the branches of the near barren trees above our heads, making an eerie noise. Hatsune shivered and clung to my arm, which made me smile. We got to my house in several more minutes. To my surprise, Hatsune hadn't commented on anything after Aoyama; the walk had been silent.
When we entered my home, Kei came right out into the hallway, beaming. "Hi! I'm Tsugishima Kei," he greeted cheerily, holding out his hand for her to shake. She kicked off her shoes and took the waiting hand, giggling.
"You look too young to be Okean's father," she commented.
He laughed. "Oh, I'm not his father. I'm a guardian of his," he told her smoothly.
If I had a voice, I would have snorted. He wasn't my guardian, and neither was Imaizumi. I was here purely out of their kindness and if I failed them, I would have to go back to the one place I hated more than anyone else.
"Where's his father?" She set her backpack down and pulled her clothes from the back pouch of it.
"Um… he won't be here tonight." Kei fumbled for a moment.
I realized that we had to be careful about what we told people pertaining to my past. If anyone knew that I had been brought here without the consent of my real guardian, both Kei and Imaizumi could be put in jail. It made me feel even worse about their kindness; their reputations could be completely ruined if I wasn't careful.
"He's a business man?"
"He's… dead." Kei frowned. I could tell he was somewhat uncomfortable speaking for me, but there really wasn't anything either of us could do.
"Oh. I'm terribly sorry." She bowed low and frowned, shaking her head. "I didn't mean…"
"Don't worry about it." Kei smiled. Hatsune shook her head and lowered her eyes to the ground.
I took her hand and led her into the main part of the house, trying to soothe her feelings.
"I really am sorry." She frowned.
I pulled out my keypad and smiled to myself, grateful for her sympathy. "It was a long time ago. Don't worry about it." I told her this through, as always, the electronic device. I wished once more for a voice to help comfort her, to speak for myself. But I didn't deserve a voice. I didn't deserve to be happy.
"If you say so, Okean." She hugged me briefly, her eyes wandering around the apartment with the utmost of curiosity. "This is a very nice home. Where is your room?"
I heard Kei laughing behind us, probably amused at her 'forwardness'. He didn't know she simply wanted to change. I chuckled to myself and led her off to the side down the hallway where my bedroom and the bathroom were located. I opened the door and led her inside the fairly plain room.
Since I had moved into the room, not much had changed. The only thing on the walls was a cloth poster of Yakitate! Japan that Kei had given me (he said Imaizumi wouldn't let him hang it in their room), the bedding hadn't changed in color, and the top of the dresser held only a small lamp and my school things.
"So where do you hide your stack of girly magazines?" Hatsune giggled. I scowled at her.
"I don't collect those kinds of things."
"Really? But you hang out with Yusuke and Mitsuharu… I thought you were that kind of person too."
I shook my head quickly. Were Yusuke and Mitsuharu really that way? They seemed like very average Japanese boys. Should I try to be more like them? Did girls like boys like that?
I turned to leave so Hatsune could change when I heard her giggling. "Okean, you're so innocent." She was blushing. "I'm… kind of glad you aren't like them. Are you a virgin? You are, right?"
Sadly, I had to shake my head. I didn't know if she wanted a bigger answer, but I didn't want to bother using my keypad to try and explain. To my surprise, Hatsune smiled.
"I'm glad! I was hoping I wouldn't have to break you in! It's never really that appealing or fun to have to guide my lover through the routines."
"I'm not very good at it, though…" Apparently when I left Tokyo right before my teenage years, I had missed something very important; sex was a fad now. When I was a child, it hadn't been that way. My parents had done their best to protect me from that knowledge. Even by the time I had graduated high school I didn't have a full understanding of the word.
"That's all right." She dropped her clothes on the floor and kissed me. It made me blush.
I left the room after that, meeting Kei out in the living room. I saw that Hatsune had been carrying a makeup case along with her clothes, so I didn't know how long it would take her to get ready.
"Are you happy with her?" Kei asked me in the quietest of voices. I wondered what made him ask such a question, but I nodded nonetheless.
"She's very nice."
"Is nice enough?"
"Of course," I lied. Kei saw right through it.
"When I see you with her, you don't seem very sure," he told me with a worried look on his face. I shrugged.
"I'm just happy to be with a girl. I worried that maybe my brother had ruined my idea of dating."
"Yes, that had Kazu worried too. He wondered if our relationship would also have an effect on you…" He paused before continuing again. "We haven't, have we?"
"You have, but not in the way that you think," I told him. He looked at me with an unsure smile. I took the keypad back and shook my head with a small smile. "I want a nice relationship like yours. Not necessarily with a man, but I want love. Just like you have."
"Ah." Kei giggled and tapped my nose. "You'll find something like that. I know you will."
We sat in silence for just a moment before Kei brought up something different. "A new Yakitate! Japan manga book is coming out… and word is, it includes a recipe to make one of the breads from the book." He grinned.
"Really!? One of my friends told me that there is a store that sells the bread from the series. I want to try the Mount Fuji shaped bread!" I had to admit, I was becoming as attached to anime as Kei was. Every Wednesday he and I would watch Death Note together and every other Friday we would sit down and watch one or two of Kei's anime DVDs. Occasionally he'd also surprise me after school with a new manga book to fill out a shelf that occupied my room.
But while Kei and I were becoming closer, it seemed that Imaizumi and I were becoming further apart. He was staying at work longer and coming home tired all the time. I could tell that Kei was worried about it. To be honest, I was too. I didn't like to know that my savior was overworked and stressed. I wanted him to be perfectly happy and content.
Before I could think about it any more, Hatsune announced the conclusion of her changing from my bedroom door. "All done!" This was punctuated with a girlish giggle. I turned around and smiled at the homely pink gingham skirt with a white blouse; she looked very pretty.
"Ah, fabulous!" Kei clapped and I joined in as well, impressed. But strangely enough, when she crossed the room and kissed me it felt like she was a small girl. "Kazu will be home very soon."
"A brother?" Hatsune asked in confusion. It made me frown to think of how she would react to Kei's and Imaizumi's relationship. From what I had seen of Yusuke's reaction to Keisuke (even if it was just a rumor), there wasn't much of openness in this society.
"No. He's another one of Kitase's guardians," Kei told her.
Hatsune looked at him strangely and I realized his mistake.
"You don't call him by his first name?" She asked in confusion.
"No… both Kazu and I use his last name."
"Shouldn't you be very close?" So she loved to ask questions.
I could see a small scowl on Kei's face. He was biting at his lip. "Not yet… we're getting there."
"How long have you been here?" Hatsune looked at me with confusion. I held up two fingers. "Two years?" She guessed.
"Two months." Kei corrected. She raised her eyebrows and looked like she was going to say something more, but stopped herself.
"I'm home," a sleepy voice came from over by the doorway. Kei perked up and rushed to the door.
"Kazu, we have a visitor!" I heard him say excitedly. His childish tone made me want to laugh.
"What? Who?" Imaizumi asked.
"Kitase's girlfriend! Are you really that tired that you forgot?" Their voices were closer. I guess Kei was trying to perk Imaizumi up before Hatsune saw him.
"Oh, right. She's here already?"
"Of course. Come out and meet her!" Kei and Imaizumi were in the doorway, gazing toward Hatsune.
"Good afternoon." Imaizumi walked up to her and bowed politely, while Hatsune did the same. "I am Imaizumi Kazuyuki."
"Good afternoon. I'm Matsushima Hatsune." She smiled pleasantly.
"Welcome to our home." He smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling just slightly. As I glanced over his work crumpled suit, I saw the small strands of premature grey in his otherwise dark hair, the stress lines in his forehead, the tiredness in his brown eyes. My protector was wearing down, and I didn't like that.
"I'm very happy to meet you!" Hatsune grinned childishly. "You are the father of Tsugishima?"
"Do I really look that young?" Kei grinned.
Imaizumi simply looked offended. "I'm only thirty. I'm not anyone's father," he said stiffly.
Hatsune giggled. "I didn't mean to offend you. I'm just surprised that two men are taking care of a male teenager, that's all. I don't see any other logical explanation."
"We're gay," Kei told her quite bluntly.
My mouth fell open; I hadn't expected him to tell her! Hatsune seemed just as surprised as I thought she would be, and I shrunk back a bit. How would this make her feel about me? The room was silent for a few moments longer before Hatsune giggled. I couldn't tell if it was an uncertain giggle or a happy giggle. I was very afraid that it would turn out to be the former.
"Shall we eat?" Kei asked, throwing me a quick glance.
I shrugged and took hold of Hatsune's hand, leading her into the small dining room.
She left around nighttime after she and I got in a good two or more hours of studying. I finished my homework up in an hour and came wandering out into the main room to see Imaizumi sitting at the little coffee table, hunched over a stack of papers. It made me smile. I shuffled past him into the kitchen to hunt for a late night snack. Doing homework like that made me ravenously hungry. As I was walking back to my bedroom with a small box of chocolate pocky, I loved the stuff, I heard my name.
"Kitase, would you mind coming here for a few moments?" It was Imaizumi over at the table. I obediently walked over, sitting down on the sofa where I was directed to sit.
"Kei asked me to tell you that he apologizes for scaring your friend this afternoon. He would have told you himself, but he's on a late shift right now," he told me.
I smiled at him. "It's okay. If she decides tomorrow not to talk to me, I won't care."
"Don't you like her?" My rescuer asked with a raised eyebrow.
I shook my head. "No. She's nice, but I… if she wants to stop dating just because my guardians are both boys and are dating, then it's better for me to leave the relationship. I don't want anyone around me that will put you and Kei down over such a trivial thing," I told him. This seemed to make him happy.
"I'm glad you place Kei and I so high on your list, but I don't want the two of us to get in the way of your relationships, okay?" It was very strange to hear all these sentimental things come from his mouth. Was he changing, or was I imagining things?
"It's all right. I'm only dating for the sake of discovering exactly which gender I'm interested in. Speaking of which, Imaizumi, how do you tell if a person is gay?"
"Um… first of all, call me Kazu. You've lived here long enough to use my first name rather than my last. Second, unless you've got some kind of radar or they tell you themselves, it's very difficult to tell if someone is gay or not. Unless, of course, you find them in Shinjuku ni-chome; then it's safe to assume."
"Do you think that you know someone who might be?"
"I don't know. He might be. But I also want to assess myself. I know there are stereotypes of a gay person… feminine, shy, sometimes a strong dislike for girls, perhaps a very girlish voice. If those are true, then I am one too."
Kazu sighed and patted my shoulder. "All I can say is to date some more. It may take a while to figure out, but one day you'll know what gender you prefer the most."
"Can I come to Shinjuku ni-chome someday with you and Kei?"
He looked surprised at my question, but nodded. "Sure, if you want to. Just be careful in the area. You'll likely be with Kei or I constantly, but I know that some of the men there will be all over you." He sighed. "Now, I think it's bedtime for you, Okean."
"Good night." I stood up and walked to my room, leaving Kazu to call the formality back.
Author's Notes: I know it's been a billion years since my last update. I bet most of you were certain that this story was discontinued. However, I'm going through a writing revamp, and I decided to put this all up on the internet. I really don't see the point in letting a finished story sit on my computer when I could stick it on the internet and let people enjoy it. So chapters will slowly trickle onto the site until this story is complete once again. Enjoy!!