The Secret
by C.M. Lacey

Part One

01.

Her name was Kaori Morishita, and she was a new transfer student to Yumoto High School. Ever since her arrival two weeks ago to Class 1-2, the all the students had been in a buzz of excitement. She was from Tokyo originally, so the aura of a city girl had came with her, but that wasn't the only thing. She was tall, well-formed, and very beautiful. She had long chestnut color hair which stood out in the see of non-dyed hair colors in class. But more than that, she seems extremely nice to everyone. From the moment of her arrival she was surrounded by well-wishers and admirers.
In the middle of this fray was Aito Kohaku. Like those around him, he was curious about the new pretty girl, but unlike everyone else, he had decided not to put any effort in getting to know her. He didn't know why, he just felt like she already had too many admirers and she didn't need another. He had thought this was a very sensible plan, until it seemed Kaori herself started to notice. She often looked at him, as if trying to figure out a mystery. But the more she looked, suddenly the more stubborn Aito got. He was committed now in his apparent apathy and now it seemed he had to carry it out.

If Kaori wondered about his mysterious nature, that was joke. Aito was nothing special, just an average fifteen year old boy. He wasn't bad looking, but he didn't stand out either. He didn't have a fancy haircut and he wasn't particularly great in academics or sports. He was just average. The only mysterious thing about him was that strange decision he had made not to fawn over Kaori.

Things continued the way they were until the end of first day on the third week of her arrival. On that particular day Aito was in an irritated mood. He was late waking up, didn't eat breakfast, and on top of all of that, had forgotten his lunch. To make matters worse he didn't have any money to buy some curry bread from the school cafeteria. His friends, for one reason or another, didn't notice that Aito was lunchless and he didn't have the heart to beg for food. So the whole day went by without him having so much of a bit of toast.

When the school bell rang, and was classes were officially over, Aito wanted to leave as soon as possible. However on this particular day Kaori was standing against the door surrounded by her followers. In no mood for waiting around until they dispersed, Aito snapped at them in an uncharacteristically rude way.

"Back off you vultures, let the girl breathe."

Everyone turned at him in surprise. In fact his outburst came at a surprise to him, but his stomach growled just as he started regret it. No one moved, unfortunately. They all continued to look at him like he lost his mind.

"Get out of the way." Aito shoed them away with his hand. "You're bothering her, and you're bothering me."

A number of students looked offended. "We're not bothering her."

"Move." Aito ignored the girl who complained, and pushed them out of his way.

As he passed between them, he saw that questioning look on Kaori's face, the same one she gave him every time she looked at him. Impulsively he grabbed her arm and tugged her out of the fray with him. When they were in the hallway and few feet away from the mob he let go of her hand.
"If they annoy you, you just tell them to piss off." Aito told her without really looking at her. "See ya."

"Wait!" Kaori called.

But by that point Aito's face felt like it was fire and he was already walking at a brisk jolt away. What had he done? Before he just looked like some anti-social weirdo, now he was a rude jerk. He deeply regretted his actions, but when his stomach growled again, he forgot all about it.

When he reached his shoe locker he was surprised to see his wrapped Bento Box was sitting inside of it. He knew for a fact he didn't bring it with him, so he figured either his Dad or his sister somehow stopped by and brought it over. That would have been nice to know. His stomach roared as he changed shoes and snatched his lunch.

As he walked out of the school grounds, he was tempted to eat the lunch right on the spot. But he knew the lawn by the canal was always a good place, and he had a great place that was near the bridge where he could eat. Not wasting anytime, he started for to his a special area.

He passed a playground where a group of girls were practicing Kendo. He glanced at them half heartedly, and kept moving. They were from his school but from a different Class. Nevertheless the tallest girl among them waved at him and he waved back. Yumoto was a small town and everybody tended to be this friendly even if they didn't know each other.

After a good walk, Aito finally made it to the canal. Locating his Special spot, Aito practically ran for it. He sat down, threw his school bag in front of him, and used it as a table where he slammed his Bento Box on top of it. As he was unwrapping the cloth wrapping around the box he heard footsteps behind him. As he turned he saw an out of breath girl plop down beside him. To his shock it was a rosy cheek Kaori.

"You're so fast… I kept telling you to wait up…"

Aito was stunned. "You followed me?"

Before she could answer, his stomach growled loudly. She looked down at his mid-section and laughed a bit. "Guess you're really hungry."

"Yeah." Aito agreed and turned back to his Bento for the moment. He opened up the plastic container and drooled over the now cold food. It could have been the worst thing ever cooked, he was so hungry it looked like Steak and Lobster. With no consideration for his company, he shoveled an omelet roll into his mouth.

"Good?" She asked in a coy voice.

Aito stuffed some rice in his mouth and nodded to her, unable to speak. He was being rude again. He could only wonder what she must think of him. She just stared at him all the more. Seeing no need to break with tradition, he swallowed his food and grabbed another omelet roll.

"I don't get you." Kaori said after a watching him eat for about two minutes. "You're not like everyone else in town."

Aito, still unable to say anything without dribbling food all over himself gave a noncommittal shrug to that. In reality, he wasn't sure how he could answer her question politely now. Not after two weeks of ignoring her. But the food was running low now, and he was left with no more excuses to avoid her questions.

"Do you hate me?" She asked after she spotted that there was about four grains of rice left in the Bento.

"Not really." Aito shook his head, not looking at her. He placed the lid back on the Bento Box and rewrapped it for something to do. He really felt out of his element now.

"Oh." Kaori still was peering at him. "I don't like it, you know, all the attention. If that's what you think it's not true. I don't want to be super popular or anything. I wasn't popular in Tokyo…"

"I see." Aito placed the Bento in his school bag and now had officially ran of things to do to keep his eyes from meeting hers. Still he looked ahead of him at the canal, feeling lost.

"Am I bugging you?"

"Nope."

"Then why won't you talk to me?"

Fair question. He wondered that himself. She was to pretty for him to be talking to, he had thought, and even if she wasn't he couldn't just act like the last two weeks didn't happen. "I have nothing to say."

"Oh." Kaori repeated. "D-Do you want me to leave you alone?"

"You can stay if you want." Aito lamely said. Why was he prolonging this?

There was along long silence were Kaori had finally stopped staring at him and was looking at the water in the canal. He did the same. This mind was racing but his body remained as still as it had been since he first sat down. He was starting to hate himself now. He was treating this nice girl so rudely for no reason. Yet he couldn't break the cycle.

"You come here a lot?" She asked, breaking his panicked thoughts.

"Sometimes. When I want to get away and think."

"No one else comes here with you?"

"Nope."
"Just me?"

"Looks like."

"Cool." Kaori spoke with a smile on her face. He didn't need to look at her to know she was. "Do you mind if I come here too?"

"Not really."

"Thanks." She said, then he heard her lay down on her back.

This was the first time he looked at her. She had her hands behind her head and was used them like a pillow to keep the back of her head off the grass. Her eyes were looking straight up at the clouds. She looked content. He had often did this when he was alone, so it felt odd seeing someone else do the same thing in his Special Spot.
Then her head turned and for the first time their eyes met. They had caught each others glances in class before, but this was the first time they had really looked at each other. Instead of turning a way like he usually did he stared back at her. She gave him a little smile then returned her gaze to the clouds. Shrugging to himself, he laid down next to her, using his school bag as a pillow.

"It's rough moving to a new town." Kaori started talking as if they were having a conversation before this. "Everyone's been nice, but it's too much. I just want to… breathe."

Aito was starting to understand why she trekked him down. He pulled her away from her fans and told them to allow her to breathe. That must of struck a cord with her.

"You were the only one giving me space. Thanks for that."

"Don't thank me. It literally took no effect from me." Aito found himself saying. Immediately he wanted to bash his head in with a mallet. Why the hell was he saying all this weird stuff to her? Was it nerves because she was so pretty? There were other pretty girls in the school, but he didn't act that way around them. Of course not many of them chased him around town.

Instead of being repulsed by that horrible answer, Kaori laughed. "Well thank you anyway." There was a longer pause as they both watched a particularly fluffy cloud float pass. Then Kaori sighed. "I asked the others about you once. They really didn't have anything interesting to say."

"Probably because I'm not very interesting."

"You're friends were nice, but everyone seemed to want to know about me, even though I was clearly fishing for information." Kaori turned her head and looked at him. "Just who are you anyway?"

"Who are you?" Aito said in a joking manner.

Kaori snickered. "C'mon, tell me. I'm curious."
"There's nothing to tell. I just saw that everyone was crowding you and I thought I'd stay out of it. I'm not really all that interesting beyond that."

"I don't think so." Kaori rolled over on her side, still looking at him. "Have you always been a loner?"
Aito never thought of himself in that way before. At school he had this friend who he talked to, but once class was over he just went home. He didn't have anyone outside of school he talked to, and the ones he did talk to he just considered acquaintances. In reality he just went to class, joked with those who talked with him, went home and played video games. There wasn't anything special about him at all. While that sounded pathetic, it could come off as a mysterious loner to those who didn't know his home life. He wondered if that's the impression he gave off at school.

"I guess I am a loner." Aito finally realized. "But even so, when I'm alone I'm not doing anything interesting."

"Hmm?" Kaori sighed. "Me either. Everyone thinks just because I'm the new girl I'm exciting. But I'm not. I feel really strange having everyone surround me and expect me to be great."

"It's just because you're pretty." Aito blurted without thinking.

Kaori snorted. "I wasn't pretty before all this. In Tokyo I was just one of the crowd."
"You're in a small town now."

"But even so…" Kaori plopped back on her back. "My Mom always told me I need to put more effort into how I look. But when I came here I got attention without even trying. It's a bit overwhelming. Am I really that pretty?"

"You're just fishing for compliments." Aito glanced at her. She had a smile on her face.

"Maybe a bit. I'm not used to being called pretty."

"I'm sure your fan-club will oblige."

"It doesn't mean anything coming from them." Kaori titled her head. "I'm just a fad to them because I'm new."

"I'm sure the guys think differently."

Kaori returned her eyes to the sky. "You think so?"
"I could be wrong." Aito teased again. He realized that somewhere along the line he was feeling extremely comfortable with her. When did that happen? Other than his sister, he never really talked to girls that often and when he did it was usually pretty embarrassing. Yet Kaori, the prettiest girl in his class, was talking to him and he found himself feeling at ease.

"Hey, what's your name anyway?" Kaori asked.
"Aito Kohaku."
"Aito, huh?" Kaori spoke softly. "Let's be friends."