Chapter 1

Two Years Later

It was my second year of college. In high school, I would have never imagined college to be so… refreshing. Why couldn't I start college in freshman year? There were people like me. It makes me smile to think of them. There was Sora, Hana, Ritsu, and of course, Saku. I met Hana and Ritsu in the library, chatting away about an anime episode that I had watched the night before. We all got along right away, and they showed me how great it was to have friends.

When Hana and Sora started dating, it wasn't long before he brought his best friend, Saku into our group as well.

It was great. Saku was the first person I'd ever shared my high school experience to. I confided in him many of the things I wouldn't even tell Hana or Ritsu. He always gave great advice and accepted everything about me. I fell in love with him. I was so happy when he confessed that our feelings were mutual. Our relationship was going on strong and wonderfully, despite our short troubles and small arguments.

I thought life would always shine as brightly… then I saw him again.

Saku and I were at a movie theater, wanting to watch a new animated movie. "Want any candy?" Saku asked, placing a light kiss on the tip of my nose.

I smiled at him warmly. "Yeah," I replied. "Get me…"

"Skittles?" he asked.

I smiled. "Yeah," I told him.

It was when my waist felt the loss of his body heat when he went to go buy candy, and I scanned the area around us. Our eyes met at the same time. There he was, the guy that had lived to make my high school life as torturous as any single man who spent his life on something could achieve his goal. It worked too; I hated every moment of high school.

Mikado seemed kind of surprised to see me at first. He had just entered with the same group of friends he had hung out with in high school. I know I had changed a lot. My old bedhead was gone, replaced by long, wavy, dark brown hair. My glasses weren't round, thick, and cracked any more either. They had rectangular frames and made me look intelligent. My old acne infested skin of my face was now clear and tanned.

He had changed a lot too. His wavy hair was longer, down to his neck. He had a mustache look going on, and he was more muscled than I remembered. Mikado gave me a mischievous smirk that made me shiver before walking to the back of the line farthest from Saku's.

"Are you feeling well?" Saku asked when he returned with drinks, popcorn, and a bag of Skittles. "You look kind of pale. Want to go home?" He followed my line of sight into emptiness. Then he looked at me again with concern.

"I'm fine," I said. My throat felt dry. Saku kissed my forehead, which made me feel better. "What kind of drinks did you get?" I asked as we turned our back to Mikado's gang. He couldn't do anything to me anymore. Saku would protect me. I told myself that, though I knew Saku's physical capabilities were no match against Mikado and his gang.

But Saku's reassuring squeeze on my hand made me feel better, and I leaned into him, taking in a deep breath of his refreshing scent. We walked into the theater and sat in the middle. The front was too close, and the back was where new couples liked to experiment in the dark. We raised the armrest between our seats so I could lean on him as we shared popcorn. "Did something happen?" Saku asked as commercials made the shadows on his face dance. Saku was considered cute by a lot of girls at our school. His dark hair was straight and short, and the way his bangs parted around his eyes was also cute. He wore his expressions on his face, which was his charm, but also his weakness. His figure was fit, but not exactly muscular. I loved the way his eyes lit up when he was excited by something, but now they were worried, kind of scared.

I shook my head. "It was nothing," I told him, wanting to forget about Mikado and focus on enjoying this moment with my amazing boyfriend. I entwined my fingers with his as I hogged his body warmth.

Saku traced the bridge of my nose with his finger. "If anything's bothering you, let me know."

I caught his hand with mine and pulled it away from my face. I took a deep breath, looking at Saku's serious brown eyes in determination. Eyes that tell me he will listen to whatever I say, eyes that tell me he trusts me wholeheartedly. "Saku… Out there… I saw—"

I was suddenly cut short by a loud, echoing 'dong' from the theater speakers, a big logo expanding on the screen. I startled, my eyes automatically scanning for a sign of my tormentor. Suddenly I noticed someone familiar sitting in the row in front of us. I gasped; then clamped my mouth shut, as not to arouse Saku's suspicion. It was obviously a warning for me not to tell Saku anything. Thankfully, my gasp was muffled by the sound of the movie starting, the cheery, happy tune of the opening scene.

This time, instead of relaxing me, Saku's hold on my waist made me feel a dread, knowing that I couldn't confide in my confidant. Soon enough, the movie drew my attention, and my thoughts drifted away from Mikado and instead, to the fact that I was watching a movie with the person I loved.

After the movie, when Saku headed into the bathroom, I was approached by the person I had been trying to avoid. "Taka-hea," Mikado murmured lowly.

"What do you want, Mikado Kenichi?" I scowled. Saku liked to watch the credits, so we had been the last ones out of the theater. Now the lobby was almost empty, save for a few kids taking bathroom breaks. Even the people at the registers had retired to the break room.

Mikado chuckled. "Yeah, nice to see you, too. So, how have you been? Nice boyfriend you've got there." Mikado moved closer, closer than I would have liked, but I wasn't about to take a step back. That would mean him winning.

"Thanks," I said, meeting his eyes. Hana and Ritsu had given me some confidence, and I was thankful for it now. "I see you've still got the same boyfriends. I guess they're nice if you like them." I nodded at his posse.

He suddenly gripped my jaw with his right hand. "You've got some attitude now, Hair," he snapped. His nails were digging into my cheeks so I didn't dare speak.

"Kuro," he said to his friend, the one who had been in the theater with us. "Take out the boyfriend… in the stall."

They moved to act. "No!" I protested. I noticed a flicker of amusement flash in Mikado's eyes. "Don't touch him."

His hand moved away slowly. "Why? Do you love him?"

I didn't answer his mocking tone.

"Well, Hair, I've got an offer for you." He stopped his posse with a raise of his hand.

"What?" I said through my teeth.

Mikado traced his upper lip with his tongue, which disgusted me. "I'll leave you and your boyfriend alone, if you… let's see…" A mischievous gleam came to his eyes. "You have to act like you hate him for a month… and do whatever else I say."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "No way."

He nodded at Kuro.

Kuro and the group started moving into the bathroom again.

"Saku, I'm sorry," I muttered. Then I glared up at Mikado with teary eyes. "I'll do it."

I knew he loved seeing the tears in my eyes. It excited him, but I wouldn't look away. I'll make him regret this, I promised myself. No matter what, he wasn't getting away with this.

Mikado chuckled, wiping my eye with his filthy hand. I swiped it away. He smirked cockily. "Don't tell your boyfriend about this." He motioned for his boys to come back. "Nice seeing you."

I was almost thankful when he went away, but then he stopped. "Oh, and Hair?"

I looked at him with hatred blazing in my eyes. In his hand, he held my phone. My eyes widened in surprise. My phone. My phone with all my pictures, messages, and unsent love notes to Saku was in the hand of my enemy.

"I'll give this back to you at the park, at the bench by the old swings. Noon. Don't be late. And invite your boyfriend." Mikado smirked.

With that, he and his friends left. And Saku finally came out of the bathroom. "Are you okay?" he asked, worried. He wiped my eyes. "What happened?"

I swallowed, knowing that Saku could probably see right through me. "I don't want to talk about it," I mumbled. "Can we just go home?"

"Yeah," Saku said, holding me close. "Let's go."