Chapter 14: Finding x
Rain looked out of the classroom window absentmindedly. She was staring but not looking.
"Rain, why don't you tell us?" Rain suddenly heard her maths teacher say but she didn't process what was said.
"Rain, what's the answer?" The voice sounded sterner and closer but Rain still continued to look out the window. Rin nudged her and whispered furiously, "Rain, the teacher...!" Rain's mind steered back to what was happening in the classroom rather than out. She assessed the situation at hand as the teacher approached her desk, the distinctive clatter of her high heels irritated Rain as she observed the maths problem on the board.
The teacher walked closer towards her..
x plus y equals...
The teacher was now only inches away from Rain's desk...
Then y equates to that and x equates to...
One more step and the teacher would have been right in front of Rain. Rain could smell the fake scent of flowers...
"Five point five. x equals 5.5," said Rain out loud, the teacher's stone face turning to shock. To her own surprise, Rain sounded rather calm and composed. I've been around Aaron for too long.
The teacher looked back at the board then back at Rain, her face stern once more, "Yes, x is 5.5. Just remember to include the units or else you'll lose the mark." Rain nodded before the teacher turned to go back to the whiteboard, while Rain went back to looking outside the window.
There was someone else in the classroom who wasn't paying any attention to the teacher. Aaron was just as surprised as Rain was when the teacher asked her a question. He was sitting two rows behind Rain. He watched Rain periodically as she stared out the window and then returned to looking at the whiteboard although he wasn't processing what was on it. He was deep in his own thoughts.
Today is Rain's Mum's death anniversary, Aaron thought to himself. That's probably why Rain was so quiet this morning. He looked up at the clock on the wall. This better not be one of those long days...
The school day ended with Rain daydreaming in all her classes. Rain made sure to say goodbye to Rin before searching for Aaron in the yard outside the main school building. They were supposed to go to the Coffee House to look around for clues as where their dads would be having their secret meeting regarding Rain and Aaron's situation. Rain spotted him, leaning against a tree close to the school gates, talking with some of his friends. He looked up at her briefly, made eye contact, before continuing his conversation. Rain walked towards him, responding to the farewells by her friends who passed by, before a figure stood in her path. It was Will and he looked like he had more to say then just 'bye'.
"Hey, Rain," Will greeted, approaching closer.
"Oh, hi. How are you?" Rain said, as if in a hurry.
"I'm great, but-"
"That's great. See you around then!" Rain tried to walk passed him but he grabbed onto her wrist. Out of shock, and some unexplained frustration, she jerked her hands out of his hold. Will stared at her, shocked. Rain realised what she had just done and quickly composed herself, smiling. I'm not as good as Aaron at the whole pokerface thing, huh?
"Will, I'm just a little tired right now and I'm not really into the whole touching thing. But is there something you wanted to ask?" Maybe apologising would have been better than telling him all that? No, what would I apologise for? I didn't do anything wrong. It's not like he can just grab my hand like that- I'm not his girlfriend or anything.
"No, it's just that, we haven't gone out for coffee in a while, so..."
"So?" Rain asked, rather annoyed.
"Um, want to go now? To, Coffee House, that is?" Will asked, cautiously. What's wrong with Rain today?
"What do you think of me, Will?" Rain asked quietly.
"Uh...um... I-I..." Will started, shocked.
"We're friends, right? Friends don't follow a schedule. So what if I went out for coffee with you once or twice? It doesn't mean I have to go out with you every week or something- we're not going out or anything," Rain blurted out, "And I don't think-"
"Rain!" Aaron shouted quickly from behind Will, making everyone around them stare at the trio. Aware of this, Aaron walked to Will's side and said, "Rain, maybe you should go with Will today. It'll be okay- it might relieve all the stress..."
"What stress, Pierce? And aren't we-?" Rain began.
"Will, you should take her. She's just really tired and-" Aaron butted in.
"'Aren't we' what? What was Rain going to say?" Will asked, frowning.
"I'm going to the Coffee House with Aaron," Rain said firmly. Aaron glared at Rain and she glared back.
"Oh, I see. A date?" Will tried to smile.
"What?! No!" Rain and Aaron shouted at Will, synchronised. They glared at each other again.
"We just have some work to do, that's all," Aaron clarified, "But you can come too, if you'd like."
"Aaron, can I talk to you for a second? Please excuse us, Will." Rain grabbed Aaron's arm and walked him away out of Will's range of hearing. Will watched the two, especially Rain's hand on Aaron's arm. He felt very confused. Did I do something wrong? Why is she so annoyed at me?
"Pierce, I've always wanted to kill you. That urge has strengthened right now... What the freakin' hell are you doing?! Why are you inviting Will to come with us?! Aren't we supposed to be looking around the shop today for clues?" Rain asked, furious.
"Rain, on a scale of one to ten, please rate how believable this sounds: Rain and Aaron are going out today. Despite hating each other to death, they go to a coffee shop together just for the 'LOLs', stay for a bit and look around the storage room. They were absolutely up to nothing- just having a good time on a Thursday night." Aaron finished with a glare.
"Is zero an option?" Rain asked, smiling, making Aaron smile too. "Okay, I get the point. You're right, we'd look really suspicious. So you want to make it look like I'm just going out for coffee with Will, right?"
"'Look like' you are? You will be going out with your boyfriend. Just entertain h-"
Rain hit Aaron's arm. "How many times do I have to tell you?! We're not going out! And I don't think we ever will be anytime soon. I'm not into this whole love thing! I never have been!"
"Why not? Isn't he the type of guy all girls like...?"
"I don't know how all girls think like!" Rain shouted, blushing.
"Yeah, I don't doubt that." Aaron smirked, angering Rain.
"The thing I don't get is, how do you know more about girls than I do?" Rain teased.
"Dude, everyone knows more about girls than you do..." Aaron's smirk remained.
"Shut up!" Rain said, smiling, as she continued to punch Aaron. "Why are you so annoying?!"
Trying to protect himself, he caught both of Rain's hands and brought them together. She couldn't be bothered struggling in his hold. Seeing this, Will's frown deepened. There was something about that scene that annoyed him deeply.
Aaron remembered they were still in the school yard and not at 3F. He let go of Rain. "Okay, so we're taking him, right?"
"'Taking him'?" Rain asked, confused. Aaron moved his eyes, signalling towards where Will stood. "Oh, yeah! Will! Yes, we should."
Rain and Aaron walked over to Will. "So, let's go." Aaron said.
"Um, no, that's okay... You guys go ahead," Will put on a smile. Rain suddenly felt really guilty. She hated that feeling.
"Will, Aaron will be working so I'll be bored most of the time. It would be fun if you came! We can taste the chocolate brownies they offer! We might even get a discount. Right, Aaron?" Rain gave Aaron a nudge. Aaron smiled. Rain had been genuine with every word she had just said. She was just that type of person- she said what she really thought because she couldn't stand lying to anyone. She never wanted to use people or lead them on but Aaron feared her genuine care for Will would be misinterpreted as flirting.
"What do you mean by a discount?!" Aaron hit Rain lightly on the head. "You're loaded with money- spend it on things other than chocolate!"Aaron teased. Isn't it obvious that I'm not going to let you pay.
Will was slightly shocked by how openly Aaron talked and teased Rain. Having known him as a close friend for years now, Will knew Aaron wasn't like this with anyone else. He could also see, as per usual, they weren't lying to him about anything so he accepted their invitation.
The three walked towards the Coffee House. Aaron led the way, initially walking faster than Rain and Will in order to give them some privacy to talk. He had other things to think about but he kept getting distracted when the other two laughed. Once they reached the shop, Rain and Will took a seat at a table. Rain grimaced at Aaron when she saw Susan was working there, making Aaron laugh. Susan wasn't too happy either.
"Why do you keep bringing her here?" Susan asked Aaron as she judged how Rain was looking. She begrudgingly admitted to herself that Rain looked beautiful.
Aaron wore his Coffee House apron. "I've only brought her here once before this, Susan. That was three months ago," Aaron said, surprised by how quickly time had gone by since he first started living with Rain.
"Aaron, do you like her?" Susan asked, playing with her apron, avoiding eye contact. Aaron sighed and washed his hands. "I'll go get their order," Aaron chose not to answer.
"Aaron, I can-" But Aaron was gone before she could stop him. He wasn't listening to me anyway. He was too busy thinking about what he should make for her.
"Hey, Aaron. I'd like a coffee please," Will said, smiling at his friend.
"Yes, waiter, I'd also like a coffee," Rain said in a posh accent.
"I suggest you order the black coffee, idiot," Aaron said politely.
"Hey! I mean, it's madam to you!"
"What, 'Dame Hairpin'?"
"Shut up, Dr Sparkles!" Rain gave up on the posh accent and smiled, remembering the day before. After being lost in her memory, she remembered Will was with her and he was very confused.
"Pierce, give me a black coffee then," Rain said decisively. Aaron smirked, making Rain feel worried.
"Oh, and two chocolate brownies please!" Will called out as Aaron walked back to the kitchen. "Hey, Rain. I didn't know you liked such strong coffee." Will said, impressed.
"'Strong coffee?' Wait, what?!" Rain cried out in surprise.
"You do know black coffee is one of the strongest coffees...?" Will laughed, amused.
"Aaron! That son-of-a-coffee-maker!" Rain stood up and charged towards the kitchen.
Aaron was busy making the beverages when Susan walked into the kitchen. He didn't look up from his work as she approached him. It was only when he heard a thud did he look up. Susan was about to fall onto the floor but Aaron grabbed her hand just in time, pulling her up so she could stand.
Rain found the door to the kitchen open. I can't wait to see what's cooking in the kitchen! Although I hate that guy, Aaron's an amazing cook... Rain turned the knob.
"I'm so sorry! I-" Flustered, Susan apologised but soon went a darker shade of red when she noticed Aaron's hold on her arm. Her eyes were transfixed on Aaron's midnight blue ones.
"Don't worry about it. Just be more careful. Susan, I need some more coffee beans. Would you be able too..."
Rain entered the kitchen at that point. Shocked by the scene of Aaron holding Susan's arm, she heard Aaron say, "...go out with-" Aaron turned to look directly at Rain. Rain's whole body tensed, her stomach did a strange turn.
"Oh, I...um, sorry for interrupting!" Rain blurted out, turning sharply on her heels to walk out the door again.
"Rain! Wait! What did you need?!" Aaron called out after Rain but to no avail. Interrupting what?! She had already run out of the kitchen when Aaron ran after her.
Aaron pulled the heavy door open, "RAIN!" He didn't think he'd call out so loudly. To his relief, Rain hadn't walked back to the main seating area yet, and she turned around to face him. Their eyes met in the darkness, and for a while, Aaron was lost in the emerald of Rain's eyes.
"Uh...um, did you need something?" Aaron felt himself blush.
"Do you have any extra sugar packets? I think I'll need a lot of those!" Rain laughed.
Aaron smirked, went back into the kitchen, and brought back with him a handful of sugar packets. He held Rain's hand, placed it on his and turned it over so her palm faced the ceiling above. He placed the packets in her palm and smiled, "Knock yourself out."
"Knowing you, this is probably not even sugar. Probably poison or something..." Rain glared while Aaron's grin widened. "I'll go back to Will then... thanks!" Rain turned to leave but Aaron hadn't let go of her hand. He was staring down at her with shrewd eyes. Shocked and paralysed, Rain let Aaron pull her closer to him.
"What's bothering you, Rain?"
"Nothing!" Rain managed a faint smile, blushing. How does he do this to me every time?!
"Did Will say something to you?" Aaron almost whispered, his voice serious.
"What? No! He didn't do anything!" Rain replied, surprised by Aaron's obvious show of concern.
"Aaron, there really is nothing-!"
"Susan was about to fall so I caught her and then I asked her to go out to get some-"
"I don't need an explanation! It's totally fine if you like Susan-"
"But I don't like her in that way. I never have."
Rain could feel how hot her cheeks had become. But she felt somehow lighter and happier. She took a deep breath.
"I was just a bit shocked to see you like that with someone. And after hearing you say something like you were asking someone out, I was even more surprised. From the years I've known you, you've never seemed into the whole dating thing. So many girls hit on you and you don't even seem to realise!" Rain laughed. I could say the same for you about guys... Aaron thought, smiling.
"Since you're already here, let's check out the store room now. I'll ask Susan to make Will's coffee."
"And what about my coffee?!"
"I expertise in black coffee..."
"... And making sure my life is hell."
"Oh, and that too," Aaron smirked and led Rain back into the kitchen.
They searched the small storage room at the back of the kitchen. A small section of the room had some paperwork but there was nothing special except...
"This symbol..." Rain observed a small symbol at the back of a loose crumpled photograph. The symbol was the familiar picture of the four aces- ace of spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs- arranged in a small square caught Rain's eye. The place where there were was usually an 'A' on the cards was instead replaced with the letters 'R', 'D', 'D' and 'J'.
Aaron looked at the symbol and remembered, "We saw this symbol, yesterday, in that weird room in your house."
Rain nodded. "It's a photo..." She turned it over.
In the photo stood four young men, smart in suits and ties. They all beamed at Rain and Aaron. Rain recognised Aaron's father- a handsome man with the same aura of confidence she saw in Aaron. Aaron recognised Rain's father, his eyes as green as Rain's. The other two men they could not recognise but Rain felt her heartbeat quicken. Both men were tall and lean with dark brown, almost black hair. They both had similar features which were sharp and their light hazel eyes almost shine despite the crinkles in the photograph. There was something about those two that bothered her greatly. She suddenly felt very uneasy.
"I'm guessing those other two are 'D' and 'J' while Dad is 'R' for Ray and your Dad is 'D' for Dane..." Aaron thought out loud.
"But who are 'D' and 'J'?"
"Another question we'll have to find the answer to..." Aaron observed the unclear photo closely. He could tell it had been through a lot over the years. Rain placed the photo carefully in her bag and the two left the store room, closing the door behind them.
Rain observed the dark drink on the table and gulped. Wow, they really picked a good name for this coffee... It really is black!
Will smiled, sipping his coffee. There's never a dull moment when I'm with her...
"You don't have to drink it, you know..." Will said, sympathetically.
"Of course I do! That idiot has challenged me- I'm not going to back down! He'll get the satisfaction if I don't- now that would be a bitter defeat!" Determined, Rain took the first sip. Don't even let it touch your tongue! Just gulp it down! Who cares if I burn my throat! Unfortunately for Rain, the beverage was too hot just to gulp it down. She tasted the dark mixture and after one sip, she looked down at it, shocked. Wait a second...!
Rain, Will and Aaron returned to their apartments before sunset. After they farewelled Will, Rain and Aaron returned to 3F, tired from a day of school. Aaron slumped into one of the couches in the living room, Rain slumping next to him. She lost control of her body and found herself leaning on Aaron's shoulder. She tried to get up but couch wouldn't permit it. After more struggling, Aaron laughed and said, "Just stay like that. You can lean on my shoulder," so Rain did just that.
"Hey, Aaron," Rain broke the silence.
"Hmm?" Aaron was thinking of ways to turn on his gaming console and get his controller without moving Rain too much.
"You're really weird," Rain said. As if reading his mind, she leaned forward and grabbed the various remote controls from the table in front of them. She took Aaron's hand in her own, turned it over so his palm faced the ceiling above. She placed the controls in his palm and smiled, "Knock yourself out." Aaron looked at her, quite shocked and confused.
"I didn't have to use any of the sugar packets you gave me. If I did, dark chocolate would taste a lot like milk chocolate..." Rain relaxed herself, leaning her head on Aaron's shoulder as she closed her eyes.
"Do you like dark chocolate?" Aaron asked, smiling to himself as he set up his PlayBox.
"It's my favourite actually, and you knew that," Rain sank deeper into the gap between Aaron and the couch, "You gave me dark hot chocolate instead of black coffee. Why?"
"You were my guinea pig..." Aaron said as he started a new game on his gaming console.
Rain opened her eyes and tried to sit up, "What? Your guinea pig?" Aaron tried to angle himself away from Rain so that she could sit up more easily.
"I've never made dark chocolate before. You're the first one-" Rain's hand slipped, her desperate attempts to sit up were all in vain. She fell into Aaron's arms. Her head rested on his chest. She could hear him take slow deep breaths. Rain thought she should try and sit up again but she was so comfortable, she didn't want to move. She had the sudden urge to cry and with great struggle, she held it all in. What made things better and worse for her was when Aaron let go of his controller and enveloped her in his arms. He held her close to him, his warm bathing over Rain, and buried his face in her shoulder.
"Hold on for a second, okay?" Aaron said softly into Rain's shoulder. Rain nodded, closing her eyes as Aaron tightened his hold on her. Neither wanted to move from this position. Rain suddenly realised how comfortable she was being like this with Aaron. She had been telling the truth before when she said she hated people touching her. But Aaron was different. They had been through so much together in the three months, and she knew there was so much yet to come that being so close like this didn't feel strange at all.
"Hmm?" Rain felt Aaron say on her shoulder.
"Can I be your guinea pig every time?"
Aaron laughed. "Sure."
"That feels weird!"
"When you laugh!"
Aaron laughed again and Rain began to laugh too as she desperately tried to sit up.
"Hold still for a second! Geez!" Aaron forced Rain back down on his chest, making Rain blush. He then wrapped one of his arms tightly around and used his free hand to push both of them up into a sitting position. Rain finally managed to stand up.
"I'm going to my room. See y-"
"No! Stay with me for a bit!" Aaron cried aloud, suddenly in action.
"What? Why?" Rain was shocked to hear such desperation in his voice.
"Umm... I need someone to co-up with me in this game. Just for one game... please..." Aaron held out a game controller to Rain. Rain took a deep breath and sighed.
"Just admit it- you need my amazing skills to beat this game," Rain smirked as she took the controller and sat back down next to him. Aaron smiled and pressed 'Start' on the screen. Just half an hour...
When that half an hour of intense gaming passed, the door bell rang. Rain stood up, alert.
"Who's come here so late?" Rain asked.
"I think I know.." Aaron walked over to the door. He unlocked it.
Rain's heart stopped. "Aaron, don't-!"
Too late. Someone had grabbed Aaron and pulled him out of the apartment.
"AARON!" Rain ran to the door.
"Oh, hi there, Rain!" A familiar face, with the warmest smile Rain had ever seen, rested on Aaron's shoulder. The person was embracing Aaron. Rain was taken aback to see two cloudy, dark pistachio green eyes staring back at her. Aaron's Dad- Mr Pierce! Excitement filled Rain instantly.
"Mr Carone and Lock, please come in," Rain heard Aaron say. Mr Carone! He means Dad! What's going on here?! Why are they here?!
Mr Carone moved from behind Mr Pierce and stood next to him. A sudden image of the two friends in the old picture Rain and Aaron had found that day came to mind.
"Dad!" Rain couldn't help herself. In one step, she was already in Mr Carone's arms. She had wanted to see him so badly all day that this felt unbelievable.
"Rain," Mr Carone smiled, hugging her back. "Good to see you're okay."
"I'm glad you've come, Dad. Welcome to 3F," Rain smiled. There had been some tension in their relationship recently but with one hug, she felt like that was yesterday's problem.
"If you were wondering, I'm here too!" Lock said cheerfully behind the two fathers. They all laughed and together, Rain and Aaron hugged him as well.
Rain eagerly showed their guests around their apartment, explaining the purpose of each nook and cranny to Mr Pierce's delight. Mr Carone and Mr Pierce commented on how the place was well planned and they ended their tour at the kitchen where Aaron and Lock were arranging dinner. Aaron had asked Lock beforehand what Mr Carone's favourite cuisine was and on Aaron's instructions, Lock had bought Thai takeaway food from a nearby restaurant. They enjoyed dinner together, chatting and laughing, catching up on what had happened in the last three months. After some ice cream, they all rested on the couches in the living room while watching replays of a tennis match on the television. The room became stuffy so for the first time since they lived there, Aaron opened the balcony door to let some fresh air in. Both curious, Aaron signalled Rain to go with him onto the balcony. Rain quietly got up from her couch and walked over to Aaron, so as not to disturb the others, and the two stepped out onto the balcony. But their guests were quick to notice their departure.
"Aaron is quite an extraordinary boy. He's very thoughtful and he does so much for Rain but asks nothing of it," Mr Carone commented, watching the two converse quietly.
"He's changed a lot since he's been living with Rain. He's happy here..." Mr Pierce smiled when he saw Aaron laugh openly. "But Dane, I've always had a question... How could you trust a boy of his age to live with your daughter like this? You only just met him properly this year..."
"But I feel like I've known him for much longer. I just knew I could trust him. He's a lot like you, Ray," Mr Carone smiled. And I wasn't wrong.
Lock smiled to himself and observed the pair on the balcony. Let's just hope the two realise what they really feel for each other...
Rain and Aaron sat on the cold balcony floor. They looked up at the few twinkling stars visible in the suburban sky. There was a light cool breeze that played at their hair, fingertips and toes.
"How did you know? How did you know it was Mum's death anniversary today?" Rain asked, looking up at the sky.
Aaron looked down at his hands. "Sorry, I heard you talking to Lock last night and I heard my name then-"
"Aaron, I've never known how to feel on this day. On this date, Mum died in an accident. I was four. The earliest memory I have is when I was four, and Mum's not in it but..."
Rain looked into Aaron's eyes, her green eyes glowing in the moonlight.
"...But you are, Aaron and I have no idea why."