Hilo! So this is my first story here ever, but I'm not going to say, "No flames," because that wouldn't do anything. Thank you. Hope you enjoy the first chapter.

"Any great truth can--and eventually will--be expressed as a cliche--a cliche is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea. For instance, my grandmother used to say, 'The black cat is always the last one off the fence.' I have no idea what she meant, but at one time, it was undoubtedly true." -- Solomon Short


She stood next to her bed, sorting out her clothes from her large brown suitcase. She wore a loose white cotton blouse that buttoned up in the front and ruffles at the collar and the ends of the sleeves, black slacks and black flats with a little white bow on top. She had pale skin and dark green hair that lightly caressed her chin and curved up to her thin lips. Of course, the thing that drew my attention most were her red eyes that were nearly covered up by her bangs as she looked down. They were an interesting shade and they were in a dazed state as she thought about something I couldn't possibly guess as to what it was. She hadn't noticed my presence from the doorway yet.

I gently knocked on the door frame to gain her attention. She turned her entire body towards me and looked at my with her tentative red eyes. "Hi," I said cheerfully. "I'm Kozakura Hiroko, but everyone just calls me Hiro. I'm your roommate."

"Oh," she said. Her voice was deeper than I had thought it would be, and she was quiet as she spoke. "Wasenshi Kasumi… I don't have a nickname or anything. I don't particularly care what you call me. It's nice to meet you." She bowed to me in respect.

"You don't have to bow," I said. "I want us to be friends, okay?" I made sure to give her a smile. I wanted my first impression to be that I was friendly so she would be encouraged to open up to me. I wanted her to be comfortable around me.

"Okay," she said, not smiling back. She turned back to the bed and continued to sort out her clothes and put them in the drawers. I could tell that the "road to friendship" was going to be a tough one.

I sat cross-legged on my bed and tried to make conversation with my new roommate, but she wasn't that talkative. She made her answers with as few words as possible. Even when I asked her to elaborate her answers when they were vague. When she got all of her clothes sorted out and packed them in the her drawers she reached into her suitcase and got out her bathroom necessities: a dark purple toothbrush, vanilla-flavored toothpaste, a small red square brush, a full pack of lavender pads, green tea body scrub with a spongy scrubbing pad, and coconut scented shampoo and conditioner. She made a few trips to the bathroom to deposit the items, but she kept the soaps and her brush on her dresser.

She bent down to her suitcase again and got out a couple stacks of books and placed them on her bed to organize. There were at least thirty books on her bed and most of them looked to be over 500 pages long! She moved her brush and soaps so she could place her books on her dresser since we didn't have proper shelves. Then she got out all of the school books and school supplies and packed them in her backpack. When she finished, she looked over and noticed me staring wide-eyed at her now empty suitcase. "What?" She asked.

"Is that a magic suitcase?" I asked. "Cause, like, I saw a ton of clothes being put away and then your bathroom stuff. Then you take out a ton of thick books and now your packing your school supplies. Are you related to Mary Poppins?"

"Um, I'm just really good at organizing," she said with an eyebrow quirked. She looked a little uneasy. "Who's Mary Poppins? Is she an exchange student?" She sat on her bed and looked at me; she looked a little interested, but she was still very distant. This was my chance!

I stared at her. "You don't know who Mary Poppins is?" I asked, perturbed that she didn't watch the movie (even if it's originally from America). I reached into my desk drawer and found the DVD. "It's a character from a movie. My friend in America sent me the DVD and I burned it on a disc. Want to watch it? We can watch it on my laptop."

She shook her head. "No, thank you. Maybe later." She slipped off her shoes and put them under the bed where I spied at least ten more pairs of shoes of different colors and styles. She grabbed the first book off of her drawer and laid on her stomach to read. The book was thin--only less than 200 pages, I guessed--and it looked worn. She crossed her legs and propped herself on her elbows and rested her head on her right hand. When she finished with the page, she turned it over with her left hand.

"What are you reading?" I asked. The silence was getting to me and I wanted to at least make a little more effort in trying to get to know her, even if she didn't want me to.

"We Have Always Lived in The Castle, by Shirley Jackson," she said in a nonchalant tone. "I don't think that you would like it."

She had anticipated my next question and then answered the next.

"It's very morbid and depressing."

"Do you like those kinds of things?" I asked. "I mean, do you like those kinds of books?"

She was hesitant in answering. "Yes. Why?" She asked. I couldn't see past her bangs to those beautiful red eyes that I only had a few seconds to gaze at before. She didn't move her face toward my way again at all.

"I was just interested," I said with a small smile on my lips. I could tell that she was a little insecure. I wondered if something had happened to her. My mom always said that no one was shy or distant without a reason whether they knew it or not. Of course I would never ask her anything like that. "What is it about?" I saw that she was in the middle of the book so she would get the picture of the plot even if it was a slow book, but then again, I could tell that she was very smart.

"Two sisters and an ill uncle who live alone in an old house, hiding away from the ridicule and criticism of the towns people."

"Oh," I said. That is depressing, I thought. I could have just ended it there, but I felt that I was finally getting somewhere. "Could you read an entry for me?" I asked, a little unsure. I had a suspicion that her patience with me was running thin, but I felt that me asking would be worth it.

"'Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?

Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me.

Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?

Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!'"

I was… surprised (I don't think that was the right word to describe it though). I didn't think that it was that morbid, but it did get me a little curious as to what it was really about. "Wow. Think I could read it after you?" I asked.

That got her to look at me. I could barely see her eyes from her bangs. She sat up and move some of her bangs away so she could see me better; I could see her eyes again. "You're serious?" She asked. "Don't get me wrong, you just seem to be the type of person to like fairytales and fantasy rather than, well, this. And I meant to scare you off with that particular passage."

I ignored that last sentence. "Well, I normally do, but it seems kind of interesting," I said. It wasn't a complete lie, but it wasn't the complete truth either. I just wanted to read it so I can get on her good side. So I can get to know her more easily and that way we wouldn't have any arguments. "That rhyme certainly caught my interest though."

"Okay," she said, sighing and tossing me the old and decrepit book. I fumbled, but I caught it in the end. I gave her a questioning look, but she answered my question without having me to even ask. "I've already read it." She grabbed another book, this one was hardcover and about five times thicker, and went to her earlier position to read her new book. "I won't mind if you lose interest in the book and want to return it though."

I had to wonder if she was making fun of me or baiting me. If she was, she certainly knew how to hide it without actually hiding it. "Um, don't you want to take a tour of the school first? You know, so you know your way around?" I asked. I wanted to be polite so she wouldn't have a reason to make fun of me.

"I went to the orientation and took a tour, so I already know my way around." She didn't look up at me again, her tone in her voice never changing or revealing anything. "Thanks for the offer."

"If you went to the orientation, why did you just transfer? It's the second semester."

She didn't answer that question. She didn't move except to turn the page in her book. I figured that she already thought that I was annoying. I knew when people wanted me to leave them alone. Admittedly, even though I knew that, I probably wouldn't leave them alone, but I didn't want to have any problems or arguments, so I did leave her alone that time.

I looked down at the old book in my hands. On the cover the title was in a plain white font and consisted of a girl with black hair looking through a hole in the fence post and her pale arm wrapped around in front of it with some sort of red berry plant being held loosely in her fingertips. It was very creepy and even more so because there were a few tears on the edge of the paperback cover; I almost regretted asking to read it. It was truly an old book. Some of the corners of the book were folded over and the blue-edged pages were worn to a light brown color. I had to be careful with this book in fear that I would wreck it. I noted as I quickly flipped through the book, that some of the passages of the print were highlighted in blue and wondered if that was Kasumi's doing, which was a good possibility. After another minute of observing the condition of the 173 page book I laid back on my bed and started to read.

Luckily, dinner was only a half hour later. The book wasn't so bad so far, if you liked that the main character of the story was a chimerical eighteen year old girl who acted more like a twelve year old who lives in an imaginary world and wanted death upon all--or nearly all--of the people in the village. Of course the villagers weren't happy campers either. There was no real villain--it seemed that anyone could be that including the main character. That was of course only in the first chapter. I'm happy that Kasumi didn't ask me anything about the book, which I did plan on finishing whether I liked it or not.

We went to another building which was the cafeteria. It was a single floor medium sized building with windows all around the walls. Kasumi and I went through the red double-doors and waited in line. There was rice, fresh grilled plain fish, a small salad, and a small biscuit in the line of food for dinner. I punched in my number when I was at the front of the line and was about to leave for a table.

"Excuse me? Kozakura, Hiroko?" The meal lady said. She had short black hair under the hairnet, lightly tanned skin and dark eyes with sharp eyebrows above them. "You need more money," she said through her thin chapped lips.

"B-but, I don't have any, and my father's broke right now," I explained. "Can't you keep a tab or something?"

"Sorry," she said. The apology seemed genuine. "I can't do that. I can lose my job if I let you eat for free. Borrow a dollar from someone and come back."

"Here," Kasumi said, holding up a white plastic card. She swiped the card in the machine and entered a few numbers. She signed her name on the tiny screen at the end of the process. "She should have enough money in her account to last about a month now." She put the card back in her hard wallet and put that in her pocket. She entered her school I.D. for her own dinner and left the line.

The meal lady and I looked at her in astonishment.

"Kasumi-chan?" I said. "What? Why? How?" I didn't know what to ask her.

"You don't have to pay my back," she said simply. She was looking around the large room with tables and students. "May I sit with you?"

"O-of course! Come on. I'll introduce you to my best friends." I was so happy that she opened up a little… Or maybe it's because I'm the only one she knows, I thought. That was slightly unnerving, but only a little.

We sat down at one of the square tables near the windows and the other door. She sat at the corner closest to the window and I sat right next to her. My friends who sat across from us looked at Kasumi, wondering who she was. "Hey guys!" I greeted. "This is Wasenshi Kasumi, my new roommate. Kasumi-chan, this is Noriko Kimi and Toya Sasa."

Kasumistood up and gave a slight bow. "It's a pleasure to be acquainted with you," she said simply, as if it was a routine. She calmly sat down and looked at my friends, waiting for a response.

"Likewise," Sasa said with a small smile on her full lips. She was the logical one with a soft-spoken kindness to it. Her bright green eyes outshone her long, wavy blush pink-violet hair and her skin was a nice peach. She wore a nice tie-dye periwinkle V-neck shirt with a cerulean blue stone hanging loosely by a thin silver chain around her long graceful neck. She also wore a long light lavender skirt that was adorned by a light blue floral print and white buckled shoes that looked like they were made for a porcelain doll.

"Yeah," Kimi said. "Same to you." She had short midnight purple hair that was tousled and golden eyes that glowed against her tanned skin. She wore a red T-shirt that showed off her slight muscled arms and brown cargo shorts that showed off her nicely shaped and muscled calves. She wore black socks with black and white running shoes. She was definitely the tough one in our niche.

There was silence that no one was willing to break. They just want to see if Kasumi is going to say anything, I guessed inwardly. "Saa-chan hosts The Newspaper Club! I was thinking, that maybe you could join since you like to read so much and that they're low on members. I know you would be great!"

She merely looked at me with a piece of lettuce between the ends of her chopsticks. "Um, no thank you. Maybe next year. I'll think about it."

"Well, if you do decide to join, you'll have to provide me a sample of your work to see at what level you can write at," Sasa said. "It's so I know if you would be capable to write a sufficient article without too much tweaking and correcting from the editor." She had a friendly smile on her face. Hopefully Kasumi caught that and would open up more.

"Thank you for letting me know," she said, looking down at her food. Nope.

"Kasumi-chan? Do you like sports?" I asked. Maybe she's more into sports, I thought. I could picture her in tennis or lacrosse, maybe even swimming, but I thought that she would be too shy to wear the bathing-suit even though it was a one-piece.

"Hmm… Not really." She took small bite of her rice and started to pick at the fish. She seemed more shy than bored like she was in our room. It was probably because she was out in the open.

"Well if you had to choose a sport, what would you do?" I could tell that Kimi was a little interested when I asked that. She was the sports girl in our group. She was actually the top player in our school soccer team.

"Cross-country," Kasumi said. She continued to eat quietly. It looked as if she didn't want to put in the effort to put herself out to even two more people. During the rest of dinner, she often stared out of the window. After a while I gave up in getting her to talk more and chatted with my friends, hoping that she would enter the conversation if I left her alone.

However, when Kasumi finished, she left without a word and that's when things started to get confusing.

"Hiro-chan?" Kimi asked, leaning forward. "Don't get too attached to her." She looked serious and not as friendly as she usually looked.

"Why?" I asked.

"Did you notice the clothes she wore? They were too…"

"They were too professional looking," Sasa finished for Kimi, finding the right words. "They looked quite expensive."

"Hiro-chan, please don't get us wrong."

"We just don't want you to get hurt again. Besides, it's plainly obvious that she doesn't want to connect with anyone here."

"So, just leave her alone. Don't waste your time trying to invite her anywhere."

I was so baffled by what they told me. "Okay," I said, still unsure. I quickly finished my dinner and headed back to my room. I took my time so I could think for a little while. I didn't know what they meant at all. What did her clothes have to do with anything? I thought. So maybe she doesn't want to connect with anyone, so what? It doesn't mean that I shouldn't try. I bet we could be really good friends once I get her to open up.

When I reached my room I saw that Kasumiwas lying back against a few propped up pillows reading her book. I noted that she had changed into a long lilac nightgown with a ruffled high-collar. The buttons were the kind of old-styled cloth covered buttons and there were fancy creases on the chest area. It really did look expensivewhen I actually took the time to notice. "Welcome back," she said with no expressive tone to it.

It surprised me that she would say something like that. "Yeah. Thanks." I sat on my bed and remembered about the dinner line. "Oh, and thanks, you know, for paying?"

"It's fine. I told you that you didn't have to pay me back." She still didn't look at me. I was beginning to feel that I was merely a fly on the wall to her.

"But why? I thought that I annoyed you."

She gently closed her book and sat straight up to look at me with her deep garnet eyes. They were soft and were sympathetic. "If you didn't have any money, you were either going to starve or have a debt over your shoulders, so what else was I supposed to do? Don't get me wrong, I just think that that's not a good system for a school to use." She leaned back and looked away with a small blush tinting her defined cheeks. "Plus… I don't know. You certainly like talking, a little too much for my taste and that does make you annoying in my opinion, but you're also nice so I figured that I should help you out a little."

I was so overjoyed, but I didn't know how to express it for once. I wanted to squeal and laugh, but I knew that that would be so irritating for her. I had a wide smile on my face, and a blush painted on my cheeks. She said that I was nice even though she admitted that I was annoying. I couldn't get everything that I hoped for, but it was more than I had anticipated.

Kasumilooked puzzled. She stood up, abandoning her book on the bed and stood right in front of me. "Why are you crying?" Her hand grazed my jaw line and showed a tiny droplet on the end of her finger. "Was it because I said that you were annoying? I really didn't mean for it to be that bad." For the first time since I met her she looked very concerned, apprehensive even.

"Oh, it's fine. I'm just really happy," I said, still smiling. I wiped my face with the back of my hand. "No one really told me that I was nice before." I chuckled.

Her eyes went back to it's cool demeanor, but they still held a speck of concern. "What about your friends? Toya-san and Noriko-san. I'm sure you get plenty of compliments from them. They seemed to really care about you."

"Yeah, they do. They always encourage me to do my best and they protect me from the bullies. They help me with school work and sometimes even help me clean up the classroom even though it's not their day to do it. They are the best of friends that anyone could have and I love them both dearly." Then I thought about what they said at dinner, but I tried to hide it with a smile.

"But…?" Kasumi asked. She sat next to me on the bed and looked at me with a lightly probing gaze. "There's something else, isn't there? I can see it." There was a pause before her eyes widened a little. "I'm sorry. It's not my place to ask such things." She stood up and went to her bed and got under the covers. She turned off her side of the bed lamp a laid down with her back to me. "Good night."

"Yeah, good night." I went to my drawers and got out my cotton pink and black plaid pajamas to change into. I didn't know what to say. Just seeing her looking at me like that, it was almost as if she was slowly pulling out what my friends said to me. I didn't know if I should tell her, but I made up my mind that I wasn't going to let it bother me. It's obvious that Kasumi didn't mean for much when she tried to pry, but she was still a person who showed concern for a person when it mattered. I saw that there was definitely a chance for us to be friends and so that made me all the more happier.

After I got dressed I went to the bathroom to brush my long, straight, powder blue hair, and brush my teeth. I looked up at the mirror and saw that my face was still a bit red and that my dark grey eyes were still glazed over. I scrubbed my face clean and dried it with a white towel that was hung on a hook near the sink. By face was pink from the scrubbing, but it was clean and it didn't feel muddy like it did when I cried, even if it was only a couple of tears. After a few minutes of stalling I came out of the bathroom and got under the covers of my bed. Kasumi still had her back to me so I assumed that she was asleep in which I followed after I turned off my lamp.


Hilo again. Something's up with the spellcheck so I'm going to depend on Word from now on. I know normally it's a bit taboo and even a bit Mary-sueish to include a book, and one that I admit is my favorite, but it does go with the story (the book helped put some inspiration in this story) so I needed to mention and quote a passage from the book. So what do you think? I would really love feedback on this. Oh, as for the quotes, they're just things I like to put before and after chapters. It's sort of like my own little signature along with 'Hilo.'

"Any ordinary favor we do for someone or any compassionate reaching out may seem to be going nowhere at first, but may be planting a seed we can't see right now. Sometimes we need to just do the best we can and then trust in an unfolding we can't design or ordain." -- Sharon Salzberg