"But you said we'd be…together forever!"

Kameko Yamakawa wiped a tear from her cheek as the credits began to roll on the romantic comedy film she had been enjoying. The lights of the theater came back on, and Kameko glanced to her right to see her boyfriend, Akito Edayoshi with his head in his hand, staring at the back of the seat in front of him.

Sighing, Kameko turned to her left, where her best friend Tora Akiyama was sitting. Her head was held up straight, seemingly attentive to the long lists of unreadable names in the film's credits. A closer look revealed however, that her eyes were closed and her mouth slightly opened, unaware of her friend's angry gaze as she slept.

"Tora!" Kameko tapped Tora sharply on the arm.

"Huh? Oh? Is it over already?" Tora looked around wide-eyed at the emptying theater.

"You missed it." Kameko made no attempt to hide the exasperation in her voice.

Tora grinned "Oh thank goodness!" She jumped up from her seat, throwing her arms in the air in a stretch.

Kameko also stood up, pulling Akito by his arm out of his daze. "You're the one who begged to come with." Kameko, still clutching Akito's arm, stomped down the row of seats and up the aisle.

"I wanted to see a movie!" Tora stumbled after her friend. "Not this movie though . . ."

"And what was wrong with this movie?"

The trio were the last people through the double glass doors of the theater, out into the warm early summer night. The lights of the city and the flashing cinema lights cast a golden glow.

"Because," Tora sighed, "I hate romance movies, they're so fake and… I don't know, fake."

"It was a pretty lame movie," Akito interjected.

Kameko dropped his arm, "You too? Then why'd you agree to a movie?"

"The truth is," he paused, "I wanted to see Zombie Ninja Warrior III!"

"Oh! Me too!" exclaimed Tora, hopping excitedly up and down. "The last one ended with such a cliff hanger, with the Chinese vampire Kung Fu lords releasing the golden rock dragon from the zombie ninja's spell. . ."

"And the people of Ruako village trying to kill the zombies . . ."

"Yess . . ."

The two of them both stared emptily into space, contemplating the absurd character's fate. Kameko turned on her heel, her long red hair whipping around her back as she stomped away.

"Hey, wait up Kameko!" Akito ran after her. Tora skipped behind.

"Hey hey hey tomorrow let's do something better."

"Like what?"

"Well," Tora grinned mischievously. "We can go to the BEACH."

"Ok. . ."

"We can go to that spot."

"That spot?"

"Hai, hai. That spot."

"Ohh, that spot."

"That's the one."

"Will it be . . . safe?"

Tora nodded. "It'll be perfectly fine."

Akito looked back and forth between the two girls. "I'm totally lost."

Tora patted his head, "It'll all be perfectly fine my dear, just wait and see."

"I don't even know what you're talking about."

Kameko took his hand and started in the direction of their homes. "Tomorrow we're going to the beach, that one secret spot that's just for us."

Our secret spot.

The afternoon sun was brutal, not a cloud in the sky when Tora arrived at the beach.

She hummed as she marched past the rather sizable Private Property sign and right into the soft white sand. The heavy black boots on her feet left deep prints behind her. Finding the flattest spot, she stomped around in a circle before putting up her ghost-design umbrella. When it was securely in the sand, she whipped out her grim reaper towel, wrapped it around her shoulders and plopped herself down, holding it tightly around her. She pulled her wide brimmed hat over her face wondering where Kameko and Akito could be.

She was not aware that she was being watched. From behind the sizeable Private Property sign a mousy-haired young man's curiosity compelled him to watch the strange actions of the red tankini clad Tora. Unable to get over the fact that the towel should be sat on, he mustered up the courage to traverse the beach, avoiding stepping in the craters left by Tora's boots.

He stopped beside her. She sat with her hat covering her, and she made no sign that she knew he was there. He stood motionless before finally blurting out "What's with the towel?"

"Hmm?" Tora pushed the hat up and brushed her black and hot pink hair from her eyes. She looked up at the stranger and replied, "I don't want to tan."

He looked down disbelievingly at her, and she looked up at him puzzled by his question and the expression on his face.

"Hey," Tora jumped up, her boots sinking into the sand, and pointed an accusing finger at the boy. "How did you find this spot? You can't be here!"

"You're here," the young man retorted.

"This is private property," Tora scoffed, "That I don't own, but so wha-"

"TORA!" A tackle hug from behind made Tora shriek as Kameko threw her arms around Tora's shoulders. The laughing Kameko jumped back, only wearing a bikini. Akito followed behind slowly, carrying a covered basket full of picnic snacks.

Kameko grinned as she spotted the stranger, still standing with a bewildered look on his face.

"Who's your boyfriend?" she asked, still laughing.

"Um, it's Kazuo," the young man started uncertainly but was cut off by Tora.

"He's NOT my boyfriend!"

"Who is he then?" inquired Kameko, poking Kazuo in the shoulder.

Tora threw her arms in the air, her towel still wrapped around her shoulders. "Trespasser! Hai hai!"

"Just like us." Akito gloomily interjected.

"Whose side are you on?" shouted Tora, shaking Akito by the shoulders.

"I was just stating a fact; I didn't realize this was an argument!"

"It is."

"There's nothing to argue about."

"I'm going to go then. . ." Kazuo tentatively turned and walked away.

"Oh, no, no, no, no." Kameko grabbed him by the arm and motioned for Akito to lay down the picnic blanket. She snatched the towel from Tora's shoulders and lay that on the sand also. Setting herself down under the shade of the umbrella, she tugged Kazuo's sleeve as a motion to join her. He sat down as Tora and Akito wandered out towards the water.

"So Kazuo," Kameko began, cracking open a can of soda from the basket, "Tell me about yourself."

"Well. . .um. . .I"

Kameko waved her hand in the air, "Never mind. Let's get to the point. Why approach Tora?"

"I just asked her a question. . ."replied Kazuo. He was beginning to regret the bout of courage that landed him with these people.

"That's it?" Kameko sighed. "It wasn't 'because she's cute and I wanted to ask her out'?"

"No. . ."

Kameko sighed again. "Tora's never had a boyfriend. She's determined to be the lone martyr, putting down everything romantic. Sleeping during my favorite movies. . ." She was standing now, poised with her fists in the air. "Just because there was no one for her in high school. But things are going to change! We're going to be college students!" She turned in her excitement towards her friends, fists in the air. "Isn't that right?" She called out.

"It's not packed enough!" From a few feet away Tora's voice was clearly audible as she and Akito packed a bucket with wet sand. "Now watch." She flipped the bucket upside down fitting it securely in the sand. Akito watched with anticipation as she slowly lifted the bucket straight up.

"Yay!" They both exclaimed, hands in the air as a perfect sand tower was revealed.

"Ah, never mind then," Kameko sat back down.

"I'm going into college this year too." said Kazuo.

"Oh! Really?" Kameko perked up. "You're going to hang out with us this summer then."


Kameko ignored him. "I'm Kameko, and they're Tora, and my boyfriend Akito."

Kazuo turned and watched silently as Tora and Akito worked on their sand castle. By the time they had finished perfecting the towers and turrets, the sun was setting, giving the sand an orange glow.

Kameko looked on with her hands on her hips. "It's um…very beautiful."

Tora grinned, swinging the empty bucket. "Isn't it? Aki and I worked very hard! Hai hai!"

"Look at that sunset," Kazuo remarked. The bright red sun sank behind the waves, casting the sky pink and orange. Tora turned to find Akito and Kameko in a kiss. She rolled her eyes, groaning. The reaction was not unnoticed by Kazuo who turned to watch Tora's expression. To his surprise, she started laughing, a quiet chuckle which crescendoed along with the widening evil grin on her face. She caught him staring out of the corner of her eye. The laughter stopped and she glared, jabbing him in the chin.

"What are you looking at, huh?"

"Um, nothing." Kazuo shifted uneasily. Weird girl.

Tora turned back towards the water. "Come on, let's swim!" She threw her arms up in the air as she hopped towards the incoming waves.

"No way!" Kameko rushed after her. "It's getting late."

"Are you afraid of the darkness?"

"Huh? No."

Tora grinned, her eyes glowing with madness. "This is the best time, when the water demons come out!"

"Is she serious?" Kazuo whispered to Kameko.

Kameko closed her eyes. "I give up! That wasn't even it, I meant that the-"

"Hey, hey, hey." Akito cut her off, just as a light shone down on them from the house above. Car headlights, of someone pulling into the driveway. "The Ishikawas are back."

"Ishikawa?" asked Kazuo.

"They own this property."

"Then we'll make our escape," Tora quickly folded up her beach umbrella, flinging it over her shoulder along with her towel, "under the cover of darkness!" She marched down the beach and began climbing up the rocks piled along the water's edge.

"Tora, wait!" Kameko called after her, but Tora and her umbrella had already dropped out of view.

"Oh!" Kameko groaned, as someone up at the house shouted at them.

"Hey! You there!"

Tora meanwhile, found herself in ice cold ocean water, fallen from the rocks. She tried to swim up, but was weighed down by her boots. She kicked them off disappointedly, as she had also lost her umbrella, towel and hat. Up through the water she went, pulling herself up the rocky coast. Taking several deep breaths, she looked around. She was no longer at the Ishikawa's beach; instead she was standing at the base of a lighthouse.

It was fairly tall; a spiral pattern swirled around the tower to the top, where the light pulsed around and around. Tora gazed up at the top. From the balcony above, a figure stared back at her. Tora blinked. It appeared to be a woman, in a long old-fashioned dress. The light spun back in Tora's direction, forcing her to block her face with her hand. The light went around the other side, and Tora looked back up at the balcony. The woman was gone.

Despite her curiosity, Tora turned and ran back to the road that led into the city. Her apartment wasn't far; she had walked to the beach earlier.

It was a ten minute walk, then up to her second story flat. She entered her number into the digital combination code lock, and went inside.

It was the same mess as usual. She picked up some clothes from the floor, and changed into them, throwing her wet bathing suit in to the bathtub.

The phone rang as she was closing the windows. She was about to answer it, but an empty birdcage caught her attention. From the answering machine came Kameko's voice.

"Hey Tora, as you know, Ishikawa-san is rather uptight about people on her property, so now we're at the police station and yeah. Get your ass down here and fix it."

Frowning, Tora threw on a new pair of black boots and stomped out the door.

Kazuo was the first to notice her as she marched into the waiting area of the police station, where he, Akito and Kameko were sitting, staring at the floor. Tora was grinning, a hand on her hips.

"Come on you bad kids. I bailed you out."

"I can't believe you all got arrested for trespassing on private property." Outside the station Tora stood frowning yet her tone sounded amused.

Kameko scowled at her. "I can't believe how you dress."

"What's wrong with it?" Tora looked down at her attire, a long black button-up dress with a black shawl draped over her shoulders clasped with a spider brooch.

"You would've been arrested too," Akito added, "if you hadn't run away. Some friend."

"Whaa? Don't be mad! I got you out! OOHH!" A black feather floated down onto Tora's shoulder. The other three watched bewildered as she jumped around, waving her arms in the air.

"Stand back," she finally said, waving Kazuo out of her way.

She stuck an arm up in the air. A black shape emerged from the darkness, gliding down and landing on Tora's outstretched arm.

"You know Jack, my pet crow."

"Crow?" gasped Kazuo. Akito and Kameko just nodded.

"Jack, say hello!" sang Tora.

"KAW! Heyro!" squawked Jack.

"It talked?" Kazuo's jaw dropped.

"Crows can be taught to talk! Hai hai!"

"Hai hai KAW!" Jack flapped his wings and took off again as Tora turned on her heel and waved.

"Well kids, this was fun but it's getting late! Bye!"

"Bye!" Kameko called after her. They watched as she disappeared down the street. Akito turned to Kazuo.

"She's a strange girl, huh?"

"Mm-hm." Kazuo agreed.

"But that's why we love her!" interjected Kameko, taking Akito's arm and pulling him off in the same direction that Tora had gone. Kazuo watched as they skipped away.


But that's why we love her.