For Refrences: go to Youtube and search Ai Nante by Tegoshi Yuya


Mirrors can be traitorous things. Instead of showing Hiro what he wanted to see, he saw judgment and anger. Instead of the smiles that usually brightened his face, no matter how fake it was, he saw tears. Instead of the beauty people saw in him, he saw the wretchedness the road of lying brought him to. It didn't start out as lying. The realization had struck him like a car, left his soul bleeding and dying a hundred feet away from where he stood. When did he stop believing his own words? He kept the lights turned on, the TV playing loudly to displace the silence inside the house. He kept himself busy so that he could keep the tears that drowned him in his sleep at bay. Sometimes his reflection talked to him. Munè he called it because Munè was the only secret that knew him so well. Telling him things over and over again like a song set on replay.

Still, the laughter kept his friends from suspecting. Still, he played his role among his friends so that they didn't have to worry about him. Still, the Hiro that was always listening kept secrets locked so deep inside his heart, he pretended he didn't suffer from it.

"Hello?"

"Hiro?"

His heart sank. One of the secrets. He held his breath. The other person sighed from the other end. "Where do I begin? I'm an intern, but I don't get paid until my internship is finished. I just need three hundred this time, and I promise to pay you back." Tears threatened to fall. His mouth quivered in an effort to keep his face from breaking down. If he spent all his time crying because she couldn't ask how he was before going straight to business, he'd spend the rest of his life crying. And Hiro would NOT allow himself to be that pitiful.

"Why don't you just ask your boyfriend for the money?"

Exasperation. "I don't have a boyfriend anymore." And Hiro found that hard to believe. He knew her better than that, knew when she was lying, when she thought she wasn't, knew where this was all going to end up….Again. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but nothing came out, and sure enough her voiced rang through the telephone to his ears. "He's in California now, I don't know when he's coming back. Hiro, they're going to evict me if I don't pay them by Monday." And Hiro swallowed. Hard. He forgot to breathe.

He looked at Munè in the mirror, holding up the white cell phone almost against his will, leaning casually against the wall as if the call itself was just so. Tears glittered Munè's eyes, but they didn't fall yet. Judgmental eyes. Eyes that were so dark in the lighting of the mirror they were almost black.

Hiro blinked, quietly took a deep breath. His mind told him no. No more. Not again. Spare the pain. Spare the lies. No…no…

"You can save yourself from all this," his reflection told him. "All you have to do is say, 'No.'"

"Hiro? Are you listening?" Her voice broke, as it always did when she got desperate.

Hiro sighed. He didn't want to hear her voice anymore, didn't want to hear her pleads, and her desperation. "Fine." Disappointment replaced judgment in Munè's eyes and he shook his head. Hiro looked away. Rubbed his forehead, sifted his fingers through his hair in agitation. He'd put himself on automatic when he'd once again signed away his doom. He stopped listening to her gratitude, started regretting his agreement, unable to take it back.

"All you had to do was say no..."

"Oh, I'm fine, Mom. Thanks for asking," he told himself bitterly when he hung up, ignoring Munè, ignoring the sudden ringing of his phone, sliding down the wall until he could hug his knees to his chest. He didn't know if it was her again, didn't care if it wasn't.

Thunder boomed inside Hiro's heart. Once more, the rain fell from the eternally cloudy sky.

***

Seira was a friend of a friend's. Kei was the nice guy out of all his friends. Not to say that all his friends weren't nice, but Kei in particular, was kind to EVERYBODY. And a lot of the time, his friend's big heart got trampled over. No gratitude for Kei but the self gratification of helping someone out if only for a moment. Sometimes Hiro hated Kei for holding his heart upon his sleeve. Sometimes he hated Kei because when he was sad, not only could he stop his tears, but the tears itself seemed to cleanse him…As if baptizing him into another life.

And as sensitive as Kei was, he had never once looked through the Hiro that pretended to laugh wholeheartedly at something funny, who falsified his smile by making it wider than all the rest. Maybe Kei didn't want to see his friend like that, maybe by believing it wasn't so, his friend could trick himself into thinking that Hiro had no care in the world. Hiro half wished Kei could save him…half wished someone would.

If he could explain Seira in one word it would be wildfire. She was the most dangerous kind, couldn't be tamed. Burns ensued when people got too close. Some left with scars, others…healed in time.

When he looked in her eyes, the green reminded him of a cat. In the light, he could see the yellow-orange glare in the shape of a flower in her eyes. In the light, he could sense her studying him, could sense her piecing together something only he knew. In the light, she saw through him too easily. Their eyes met once before they had officially met, and she had smirked at him. A come hither look that dared him to play a game with him, but Hiro shook his head and pretended that she didn't exist while he could. Letting her in would definitely prove fatal for him. Still, throughout the night, he felt her eyes on him. The studying continued. He'd have to keep someone beside him at all times tonight.

Hiro should have left when he still could, he realized, because Kei held her hand when he greeted Hiro. Kei had his hand in hers, all smiles, all laughter, but he often got drunk from the high tension in the atmosphere. Hiro quirked an eyebrow when he saw them.

"You haven't met Seira yet, have you?"

Hiro didn't look at her, refused to look at her. "Can't say that I have. Girlfriend?"

"Not in a million years," she laughed, denied. When his eyes pointed at their hands, she continued, "I'm very… affectionate."

"Is that so?"

"Yep."

***

"Is this how you treat your mother?" Her again. Hiro repressed a shiver, repressed the conflicting emotions of sadness and anger. Anger because he was so desperate for her attention, and the need to feel loved that he had always felt helpless around her. Sadness because he knew he could never get what he wanted from her. He was addicted to that want. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't let go of her. "You could at least give me a hug."

Hiro didn't say anything, just stood up from his seat, walked around the room and hugged his mother across the shoulders from behind when she didn't get up. She squeezed his hand, but that was it before he made his way back.

No words were exchanged. He looked at the menu, she looked uncomfortable. Inside, he silently begged for her not to say anything. This could be enjoyable, he thought, hoped; please let this be enjoyable…

The food tasted like it was tainted with poison after she asked. The money…of course…it had always been about the money. Hiro chewed slowly, looked down to hide the fact that he was getting choked up, and he couldn't so much as chew properly. Tried to hide the anger and the hurt, but it didn't seem to matter. She was oblivious.

One moment, he signaled, and then reached into his wallet for the money. She was still counting, fondling the money when he finally said, "I've got to go, Mom." He needed go get out. The rain threatened to fall again.

"You' haven't finished your food, Hiro."

You haven't touched yours, he wanted to retort, but like everything else, he held it back. "I'm sorry," he didn't make excuses, something he learned to never do when he was reminded of her. "Have Fun." Hiro didn't really mean it. He couldn't when she, in turn, would not either.

Whatever, he thought bitterly, it doesn't matter anymore. As often as he told himself so, somehow it had always mattered to him…

***

Munè greeted him when he got home.

"Welcome back." The words itself were supposed to be comforting. Words that made him feel wanted, appreciated. "Welcome back." Something a family was supposed to say. Real people, not just some damned reflection he'd given a name to because it was the only thing that seemed human enough.

Irritation nearly swallowed him.

"She hates me." When did Hiro become such a girl? Crying over his mother…

"She doesn't hate you."

"Well, she doesn't love me either."

"I don't think she has room past herself for love."

"I hate her."

"You don't."

"I do."

"You can't."

"Of course I can."

Munè sighed. How many times had they walked this road? If he looked back now, he'd find a trail of tears. How many times had Hiro told himself to hate her and then fail? Munè had stopped counting. What did it matter anyway? The water was rising. Everything was closing in on Hiro. Soon it would all become too much. But even if it was so, judgmental eyes softened into understanding. "When you can laugh and spit in her face at the same time, I'll believe it…" Hiro replied with silence, pretending that what his reflection said wasn't real.

***

"Hey come to dinner with us," it was Kei again. Hiro sighed. Was there ever a time when the man wasn't with someone? Probably not. Kei needed people more than he allowed himself to admit.

"Define 'us?'"

"Seira and me."

Hiro tensed. That woman…just the thought of her cat-eyes got under his skin, irritated him. "I think I'll pass tonight."

"Oh come on, Hiro, don't make me beg." Laughter on the other end. It didn't belong to his friend.

"Ask somebody else."

"But I—we love you. We love you, Hiro, and you're just gonna throw us out like that? Like we're nothing. I thought we were friends."

Unperturbed, Hiro replied, "Sucking up is not begging."

"I was hoping it wouldn't come to this, my friend." Hiro rolled his eyes. Kei exaggerated a sigh. "So we'll just make ourselves at home and have dinner there."

That brought snapped his mind to attention. Though his apartment wasn't a mess, was really a shiny, spotless place, he never thought of this place as home. As squeaky clean as it was, Hiro had to admit it was sterile in welcoming people. Maybe it was why he never brought people to his place. All it was a roof over a head. "Don't come." Not a request, but an order. No room for debate.

If Kei was surprised at his friend's defensiveness, he didn't show it. "Too late." Hiro gritted his teeth, could imagine the smile on his friend's face and that woman's green eyes shining with laughter when the trick worked. He heard the sound of car doors closing, heard the happy chatter of people walking up to his door. Kei already hung up. Munè smirked at him, nodded his head towards the door.

"It'll be good for you."

Hiro opened the door while his friend still had his fist raised to knock. The smell of jasmines, a bouquet of lilacs.

"I picked these from my garden," Seira said, her dirty blonde, almost brown hair danced with the wind, "I heard you liked jasmine tea?"

Hiro nodded, stepping aside, allowing them room to enter the genkan(1) "Y-yeah." He took the flowers from Seira, whose cat eyes met his. She smirked at him. Chills ran up his spine.

"I didn't know you were such a narcissist, Hiro, you have mirrors everywhere." Hiro blushed, not wanting to admit that his reflection was the only thing that talked to him when he was alone. That secret had to remain so.

Her eyes bore into him the entire night.

Witch, he thought. He couldn't help it, couldn't help but wonder if people were burned at the stake for merely having creepy eyes in Salem…if so, she would have been executed long before Kei or he had ever met her…he hoped.

"What's wrong?" Seira asked when Kei excused himself to the bathroom. She looked genuinely curious, kind of worried.

"Nothing."

"Okay." And the subject was dropped, but he knew she saw through the lie by the way she eyed him after returning to her meal.

***

Hiro didn't remember his dreams very often. But he remembered the dirt road and the black surroundings and the door. He remembered the sound of waves crashing against each other, remembered looking back and finding a pool of water raging behind him. Thorns pricked at his ankles, icicles began melting, dropping water all around him.

He remembered the black dispersing into night. Clouds rippled ominously overhead, blocking the moon, blocking the sky. Thunder boomed overhead seconds after lightning flashed feet in front of him, scaring him. Soon after raindrops fell angrily from the sky. He remembered he heard crying, and though he didn't know why, he ran to stop the tears.

It was a child he found, a little boy drenched in the slosh the rain created.

He squatted in front of the child, touched the little boy's shoulders to catch the other's attention. "Are you lost?" and Hiro remembered freezing when the little boy looked up. Remembered looking down at himself, cat green eyes staring at him in fear. And when the little boy spoke, it had his mother's voice. "Hiro?"

***

"We're getting married." His mom looked happy. Looked happy sitting there across the table, holding hands with her man. Dark droopy eyes and her clear almond shaped ones stared at each other lovingly. Hiro wanted to vomit.

Go burn in hell, he thought angrily. And while it was true that he loved his mother, couldn't hate her. Her man, Kagai, other the other hand…Hiro blamed Kagai for everything his mother couldn't be to him, blamed Kagai for ruining his life, his family's lives. "Congratulations." He was so numb.

Black eyes stared at him, a cruel smile spread across his lips. Everything about the man was cruel. Cruel, no matter how much his mother told him otherwise. "We want you to be the best man."

No, Yuya thought, never. And his mother's betrayal sank a little deeper into his heart, and the rain poured down a little harder inside. Anger seethed inside him, made him desperately want to hit something, anything, particularly the man sitting in front of him, holding his mother's hand as if—

She doesn't want me, the words sifted through Hiro's mind again, stabbed and sliced at him, cutting, burning, killing him. The final straw was Kagai. Hiro who had been so weak believing that his mother would love him as a mother, be a mother to him, not just when it was convenient. The final threads of his relationship with his mother were breaking. He wondered if he could cut it…if he could break ties with them, would they finally stop haunting him?

"If you marry him," Hiro couldn't help it if his voice quivered. Couldn't help it if he was, once again getting choked up because he still found it difficult to let go. But he wasn't going to let his anger spurred courage go yet. "I won't be your son anymore."

Their smiles faltered. Kagai looked hurt. He had told Hiro once that he'd always wanted a son. Hiro hadn't said anything then, but the only son he was was his father's. Hiro didn't belong to another man's family, would never allow Kagai that illusion. Never. Never in a hundred million years.

His mom wasn't so observant. "Of course you'll be my son."

"No." Hiro took a deep breath, held on to the last remnants of his strength. There would be no reconciliation for them. He wasn't strong enough to hold on when all it did was drown him. This had to be made final. "I don't want you calling me, looking at me, or thinking of me when you marry him. I don't know why I didn't tell you before. I wish you'd just leave me alone."

And Hiro left. Left because he had to cry, to mourn. His mother was gone now…dead even. And his pride would keep him from turning back around and apologizing, would keep him true to his word. For once, he felt…relieved.

Inside, the rain was beginning to let up.

***

Hiro could feel the cat eyes burning a hole into his back, heard the footsteps, the slap of her bare feet against the concrete as she neared him. He imagined her pale skin and tall hourglass figure leaning against the doorframe. "What's wrong?"

Hiro sighed, "I—" he stopped, paused to think about it, "Had to do something I didn't want to do."

"Ending relationships can be hard."

"What makes you think I ended a relationship?"

Seira smiled. A kind, serene smile that was magnified in the moonlight. In the light, she saw through him too easily. "I know," she said quietly, "because Kei said I had the same look when I told my father I hated being his daughter."

Hiro's heard drummed loudly in his ears. He turned to look at her, confusion written all over his face.

For once her eyes didn't remind him so much of a cat than a forest that harbored a wildfire. She smiled at him. This time he didn't mind the feeling of being seen through, and the first rays of morning light managed to seep through the rainclouds.


1 Place by the door people take off/put on their shoes before entering/exiting an apartment.

Ai Nante lyrics and Music Video © Johnny's Entertainment