A/N - I know it has been a very long time since I posted anything. if I ever do any more stories for this site, they will probably be exclusively for Katawa Shoujo. everything else I've been writing has been entirely original and not suited for fanfiction. in any case, I am sorry for the hiatus.
This is a story I based off a structure I built in Minecraft with Rin in mind. It's a fully functional house, with pressure plates for everything and a general base of appliances you would find in a normal house. The point of it was that it didn't require hands to operate. Just a warning for you all, a great bulk of this is mainly just description. it isn't necessary for the general understanding of the story, but you are free to read it. about 70 lines in is where the 'story' part comes in, if you want to skip the tour.
Special thanks to Eric Alost (Herringway) for helping me finish this and all his support. I owe you one, man. c:
This is told from Hisao's point of view. I hope you all enjoy it. ~LR
It was something to marvel at.
The entrance was extraordinarily large, more than most; at least, more than the ones I`ve seen. I`ve only ever known the cramped living spaces of my old house and the dorms in the school, limited only to the room I was assigned just big enough for a bed, a desk, a small table for my alarm clock and a closet hardly spacious enough to hide in, and the classrooms constantly bustling with multiple students chatting about and filling the stale, stagnant air with busy noises. The house I grew up in was a bit bigger than that, but only just enough for me and my parents. It had a living room, which was also the kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a basement, where a few other appliances were, plus one more bedroom. There was leg room, but only so much.
This house was probably about the normal size a house should be for a family of middle class, exceptionally wealthy, perhaps enough so that one could afford a few things on the side and perhaps a new couch or bedding every once in a while. It was at least two stories, complete with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, basement, two bedrooms, and I was told there was an attic.
We took a step towards the wooden door, which opened for us automatically when Rin placed a foot on something about a few inches away from it. We were both a little dazzled and confused by the sudden movement, but it opened inwards, so I guess there was no reason for panic.
Carefully we stepped through it, and it closed just as quickly behind us, but without the unpleasant "bang" doors normally tend to make when coming in contact with the door stopper.
From the inside, it looked surprisingly homely, the floor and walls made out of polished wood and furnished with multiple wall hangings that ranged from everything from plants to paintings. The landlord who set us up had taken the liberty of putting our things up and around the house. From the corner of my eye I spotted my alarm clock through the window of what I was guessing was my room, and the paintings that decorated the walls of the living room and the other areas I could see were all Rin`s. Despite its size (which I was slowly getting used to), it seemed very cozy and welcoming. There was a space divided between the floor that led to the kitchen, which looked as though it had been set up entirely for Rin. The shelves were all low-lying for easy reach and lined with cooking utensils. There were also two sinks; one taller than the other, which I assumed was for me. There was a stovetop oven with several gears and switches, made to turn on with the push of a button simply by applying pressure to the powered plank on the floor, connected to the electrical appliance. Most of the other things worked that way as well; there was one by the fridge to open the door, one for the deep-freeze and the cabinet up near the counter, one for the sink, and even one for the dishwasher.
In the middle of all the appliances, sitting idly in a corner of the room, was an adjustable chair that could be wheeled around for convenience.
The person who built this house really had thought of everything.
We went on to examine the space in and around the front; there was an area designated for various chairs and recliners with a small coffee table amongst them in an orderly fashion, which was presumably the lounge area. A few feet away was a large window by the side of the house, casting a steady stream of light on another table made out of spruce wood. Lying on top of it was a ceramic pot partially filled with a pencil or two and a small stack of paper. It looked like the perfect place to set up for drawing. There was even a chair and a stepladder for whoever volunteered to be a patron.
By another exceptionally large window was a cable television set on another wooden desk, also powered by the same electrical stepping device. A comfy looking black couch with matching chairs surrounded the area in a perfectly homely fashion. Right across the hall, I could see, was another door, paneled with a whitish material. We went over to investigate.
The door worked the same as the others, and upon stepping inside a very different atmosphere surrounded us. The floor, tiled with quartz and blue lining, was smooth and shiny. The white walls were in what looked to be pristine shape, completely bereft of any sort of wall hanging or accessories. The shelves were empty, save for a neatly stacked supply of toilet paper and pale blue towels. It was quite apparently the bathroom. There were what appeared to be little stairs leading into the bathtub, with buttons one could simply nudge up against to function, along with a regular set of taps for those who had the capacity of working them without difficulty. The shower stall was interesting; there was something that jutted out of the wall in charge of turning the water on and off. There was a similar device on the inside of the stall. All one need do was to make contact with it, and invariably it would power the showerhead inside, creating a constant stream of tempered water. I couldn`t help but get caught up in the moment of all the time and devotion that had gone into the inner workings behind all the wiring for it.
The stall, paneled with glass and porcelain, also had low-lying shelves so one who needed to sit down to use it did not have to knock everything off the upper one, which I also assumed was mine. I made a mental note to set up our things on their designated shelves later.
The toilet had an odd contraption installed into the floor beside it that could be pushed with a foot to flush it. Everything in this house seemed completely idealized and foot-friendly. I began to wonder if the mastermind behind it also lacked a proper set of arms.
We exited the bathroom and decided to explore the bedrooms. The one I had declared would be Rin`s had greenish carpeting and a table with a cup that held a few pens and brushes inside. There was a low closet with special hangers that were easier for people with a distinct lack of arms to use. A few drawers, a bookshelf, a small window here and there. The walls were decked out in paintings, all of which were hers. I noticed a little cubby that was filled with various pens and paints and paper and brushes at her disposal. There was even a place where she could set up her easel at any time she saw fit. The bed, which was placed strategically in the corner of the room, was big enough for two people and looked extremely comfortable. I immediately began to ponder sleeping arrangements and sharing a bed together. That thought, however, probably never even crossed Rin`s mind, as I watched her sit down with a "fwump" on the bedspread. She jounced up and down on it a little, as if to test its comfort level. She got back up and nodded in approval.
Rin seemed perfectly happy with her room and busying herself with whatever she was doing in there, which looked like a peaceful napping session. I let her sleep and wandered to what would clearly be my room. It also had a desk, with a bedside table and a bed about the same size as the one that belonged to my red-haired sweetheart. It also had a bookshelf, lined with a few light novels which bore some familiar titles. I had some windows looking into the outside world, lighting my room with daylight so I didn`t require the use of the halogen lamp sitting idly in a corner. I didn`t have carpeted flooring, but I wasn`t complaining. The hardwood planks were actually quite nice. I still had the feeling I`d be spending more time in Rin`s room, though.
I ventured back out into the spacious living room and approached a staircase I hadn`t noticed before. I soon discovered it led to another room that had a washing machine with a matching dryer. Floor buttons were in a very organized mess around each of them, indicating very specifically what their functions were. Doors, spin cycle, emergency halt, bleach, water temperature… looking at it all was almost making me feel dizzy.
There was also a table surrounded by a few chairs in the corner of the room, which I noticed were hiding another door built into the wall. Curiously, I nudged a chair out of the way and peeked inside.
It was a very small room, almost like a cave. It had a desk with a computer plugged into an electrical outlet near a lamp, much like the one that was in my room upstairs, and a clock hanging up in the corner. A small barren shelf was to my left, and to my right, a small couch-like furnishing. It looked like a computer room of some sort. I wondered for a moment if I could claim it for myself to be a hiding place for me; a sort of secret room. The thought sounded appealing for a moment until I thought about Rin. We both had our own separate rooms, but it might be unfair for me to have two. I decided it would also be a shared room, although small. Perhaps we could set up a one-at-a-time ground rule.
I made my way back upstairs and into the living room again. Seeing no sign of Rin anywhere, I figured she was still in her room and cautiously approached the door. I was about to knock when it occurred to me that she might still be sleeping. I retracted my hand and opened the door as quietly as possible.
She was inside, but not on her bed. She had now migrated to the floor, sitting on a little stool in front of a half-painted canvas. She already had her paints out, and between her toes was gripped a small, slender paintbrush that had been dipped in a pale shade of yellow. I smiled. She looked right at home, surrounded by her art supplies in her cozy carpeted room.
She turned around for a moment, as if to indicate that the simple act of smiling had made a noise loud enough to break her concentration and announce my presence.
She just looked at me, unblinking, unmoving.
"Hello," she said to the bridge of my nose. I just smiled wider and bent down to her level.
"It looks like you`ve made yourself at home," I said, glancing around the already slightly cluttered room. She sort of nodded and turned back to her easel.
"Yes. I think. Things are there. Easy to move. Very easy."
I assumed she meant the things in her cubby, which I agreed was very conveniently built in such a way to make moving things to and from it as easy as she said. I looked back to her painting, and was about to comment on it but immediately stopped myself, her words from long ago echoing in my head. I didn`t know how true it was, or if I ever would, but if she said it was bad luck to comment on works-in-progress, somehow I knew there had to be some truth to it.
I got up and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"I`m going to finish unpacking. Are you staying here?"
I guess that was a stupid question, since I already knew the answer, but she answered it anyway.
"Yes. I will stay here. Don`t know how long. You can go. I will be here."
I gave her a pat that said "alright, suit yourself" and took my leave. The door closed automatically behind me, as if to inadvertently shut me out from her world at that moment. Taking it all in, I sighed a little to myself. It would take some getting used to, but the surrounding atmosphere wasn`t unpleasant. I had a feeling it wouldn`t take too long to settle in.
The light of the afternoon sun came and went, and soon it was evening. I had my face in a rather thick book when I noticed the darkening sky outside was making it harder to see the words on the pages. I flicked on the light switch and laid the book down on my dresser, uncertain of whether or not I would return to it at some point. Right now, though, the only thing on my mind was Rin. I hope she`d noticed the change in lighting, too. Either way, it was too dark to paint properly without some other light source. Maybe she`d already thought about that.
I went up to her door and knocked quietly.
"Rin?" I called out, beckoning her from her resting place. To my relief, the door opened, and I was greeted to a contented if not slightly tired-looking Rin. Her bleary eyes were focused more on the wall behind me rather than my physical presence.
"Hello," she mumbled, lolling her head down to where my feet touched the border between her room and the world behind it. The light in her room was on too, which settled my previous worries and calmed me down extensively.
"You look tired. Are you going to sleep?" I asked, taking note of her unsteady stance and preparing myself if she were to fall.
She was silent for a moment, rolling her eyes around the room and up into the back of her head as though she could see her painting from there.
"… Yes. No. Yes. Maybe. Almost done. Might finish it. … Tomorrow."
This troubled me, and I told her as such.
"Did you want to finish it tonight?" I asked. She didn`t reply, but the yearning look in her eyes told me that she wanted more than anything to finish her nearly finished painting.
"Just a little longer. It`s almost done. Almost…"
This time she remembered to turn her head before looking behind her and gazed solemnly at the easel, as if willpower alone would carry her back to her stool.
I let out a small sigh and held one hand to support her back and the other on her shoulder to steady her.
"I`ll stay with you until you`re finished," I said.
I led her back to her stool and helped her onto it. I was just a little concerned for her, worries of her falling asleep and possibly hitting her head off the floor or completely ruining her lovely almost-finished painting by smudging it by accident buzzing around in my mind. I`d been with her long enough to know that with Rin, virtually anything was possible.
She didn`t react to my touch in any way, but accepted my support as she sat back down and picked up her brush again. I knelt beside her and quietly watched as she made a few more strokes on the parchment, creating lines and figures that somehow tied it all into one image. Her eyelids looked dangerously close to touching, but they remained just barely open enough to grant Rin the sight she needed to complete her painting. The driving force behind her to stay awake was incredible. It looked as though she was pouring every ounce of herself into holding her body upright so she could add just those tiny last few strokes of paint to her canvas. I couldn`t help but be amazed by her as I watched her push herself just that much further to reach her goal.
Luckily it only took a few more minutes, and before she collapsed onto the carpet behind her I caught her just in time, pulling her up and assisting her to her bed. She was as light as a feather.
I pulled the blankets over her and tucked her in, turning off the light and giving her a small kiss on the forehead before I left. Was it me, or did I see a smile there? I guess it didn`t really matter. It was too dark to be able to tell, anyway.
I left her room and closed the door, feeling ready to go to bed myself. I brushed my teeth and retracted into my own room, turning the light off and shuffling into the warm and cozy bedsheets. I rolled to my side and closed my eyes, sleep taking me.
I was greeted to the obnoxious sound of my alarm clock waking me from my otherwise pleasant slumber, beckoning me to the harsh daylight of the morning. The sun was high in the sky, glaring its rays into my eyes as if to further beckon me from sleep. I let out a groan and reached my arm out to turn off the alarm, which had decided to wake me up at… six o' clock!? You`ve got to be kidding me!
I looked to my left and saw that my calendar was marked for the fifteenth. It was a Saturday.
I spitefully pulled the sheets up over my head and squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to return to a peaceful sleep.
Unfortunately, I was already too awake to close my eyes again. I made another groaning sound as I hoisted myself out of my comfy bed and put my clothes on. It felt like it was going to be a long day.
I dragged myself out of my room, veering myself in the direction of Rin`s, but was stopped by a peculiar noise emanating from the kitchen.
I headed in its general direction, concern hitting me unexpectedly hard as I moved towards the source of the movement.
I rounded the corner and twisted myself in the direction of the suspecting appliances. What I saw in the kitchen wasn`t what I was expecting.
Before my tired eyes was my lovely wife, perched precariously on the spinny chair I saw in the hallway yesterday, poking what looked to be a spatula into a sizzling frying pan on the stovetop. I stopped dead in my tracks, just staring at her. Somehow, somewhere, something in the room changed. It was tiny, unnoticeable; for anybody, it would have been impossible to sense it. But it was big enough to catch Rin`s attention, and I watched as she put down the spatula and spun herself around in my direction. She just sat there, staring right at me, saying nothing. I suddenly felt pressure on me to break the silence.
"Uh… hi, Rin," I said, clumsily choking out a response to her silence.
"Hello," she replied dazedly. The words hung stagnantly in the air, hovering over me as we looked at each other in the encompassing silence that had once again filled the room.
"You`re up early," she said after a delayed reaction.
"You`re one to talk," I said, more accusingly than I intended. "It looks like you were up before me."
She thought about this.
"I suppose you`re right. Good observation. But what are you doing here?"
A fine question.
"Well…" I started stumbling over my words again, feeling suddenly very self-conscious. "I heard a noise in the kitchen, so I came to investigate," I said, trying to sound as intelligent as I could in my drowsy state.
No other words were said, so I took the liberty of pushing this very odd conversation forward. I looked in the direction of her pan.
"… Is that bacon?"
An odd smile spread across Rin`s face.
"I was going to surprise you. I wanted to wake you up after I turned the stove off, but I guess that isn`t going to happen now, since you`re already here."
"Believe me, I`m surprised alright," I muttered under my breath.
"If you are going to be here, can you help me? I didn`t bring that plate over but I need it," she said, pointing in the direction of a plastic plate sitting on one of the shelves. I sighed and grabbed it from the corner, taking it over to the counter by the stove. It made me feel uneasy knowing that she had been working near heat for an uncertain amount of time, but it made me feel better to see that she hadn`t hurt herself, and even more so knowing that I was now here to make sure that didn`t happen.
As I carried the plate over, I couldn`t help but notice it seemed foggier than usual. Maybe it was just because I was still tired, but something about the atmosphere was unsettling somehow. I tried to shake it off as I neared the counter.
I was about to place it down when a sudden loud, high-pitched noise burst through the silence. Startled, I flung my hands up, dropping the plate in the process. Rin just about nearly fell off her chair as her spatula fell to the floor. She fumbled with her feet, trying to raise them up to her head. Seeing she was about to tip over, I quickly rushed to her rescue and grabbed her shoulders to steady her. I held my hands over her ears to protect her from the unpleasant sound. I clenched my teeth as it hammered on my eardrums, waking me up completely. I looked around and discovered that there was a device installed on the ceiling in the middle of the room, a small red light blinking urgently as the noise persisted. It was a smoke detector.
Stranded in the middle of the kitchen, my hands clamped firmly over Rin`s ears to protect her from the deafening noise, I was unable to do anything to stop the machine. In a fit of desperation I climbed onto the edge of the chair and grabbed the nearest utensil with my teeth. I was now balancing myself on the arms of Rin`s spinny chair with my hands over her ears and a wooden spoon in my mouth, stretching my neck out as far as it would go, trying desperately to reach the device with the utensil.
"Cuhn on, jush a li`ll closher…" I whispered in a strained voice, wiggling the spoon around trying to get it to hit the button beside the light. I took a shot in the dark and flung my head up, releasing the spoon with nothing but a tiny prayer of faith to catapult it to the obnoxious alarm. Just as I was about to give up hope, by some streak on luck it struck the device squarely in the middle, hitting the button by its handle and falling to the floor with a dull 'clack'. To my utter relief, the noise had finally stopped and the room became silent once again. I carefully lifted my hands from Rin`s head and placed them on the sides of her chair, clambering down to the floor and retrieving the fallen spoon. I picked up the plate as well while I was at it and set them both down on the counter. I swiftly slid the pan off the heat and turned off the element in one fell swoop, and let out a loud, heavy sigh. I maneuvered myself around the chair and looked at Rin.
"Are you okay?" I asked, reaching a hand out to caress her cheek. She looked alarmed and frightened, but visibly relaxed at my touch. She waited a moment before responding.
"… Yes, I am fine."
Her words were tentative, timid; as if her tiny whispers would slash through the air and set off another alarm somewhere.
I held a hand to her mouth, pleading her to stop. I looked at her pathetically, welling up with unease and worry.
"I`m okay, Rin," I breathed, fondling her skin in my palm.
She said nothing, looking down for a moment, gazing emptily at the floorboards. When she looked back at me, her eyes were filled with an overwhelming surge of guilt and sorrow. It looked like she was about to cry.
Entirely surprised by this reaction, I bent down to her level and held her with both hands, asking her what was wrong without asking it.
"I`m sorry…" she whimpered. There was a pain in my heart as her apology rang through my ears, still ringing from the smoke detector. I almost couldn`t bear to see her like this.
"No… no, no, Rin… no… please… don`t apologize," I begged, almost on the verge of tears myself. It wasn`t her fault the alarm went off. It wasn`t her fault any of this happened. Nothing was her fault.
I pulled her in close and hugged her tightly, because I wanted to, I wanted so badly to hold her in my arms and never let go.
"But… you almost… you were going to fall…" she blubbered, but I wasn`t listening. I couldn`t bear to hear her speak anymore. I just wanted her to be here with me, as close to my body as possible.
She shut up and let me hug her, burying herself into my shirt and shifting her weight in such a way that made it seem as though she was hugging me back. The minutes soundlessly ticked away until we finally broke off and looked around the kitchen, which had cleared of the fog. A plate, a spatula, a wooden spoon and a frying pan with eight strips of charred-looking bacon inside occupied the counter, anticipating some sort of action to be taken. Taking the cue, I got up and scraped the blackish-pink slabs of meat onto the plate. Rin turned her head in my direction.
"What are you doing?" she asked. I looked at her and offered a small smile.
"Well, you made breakfast for us. It would be rude to leave it out here to go cold," I said, grabbing two forks from the cutlery drawer.
We both ate in silence, neither of us having the heart nor courage to offer any comments on the hard, blackened meal. We were just thankful to have food, after our hectic episode with the newly discovered smoke detector. The bacon was indeed charred and unsettlingly crunchy, but it was at the very least edible, and filling. I shoveled the rest of it into my mouth, chewed it quickly and swallowed, then took the plates to the sink. Rin followed me to it, watching sadly as I laid them down. I turned around and gave her a questioning look.
She looked away briefly, then back at me. Only then did it occur to me.
"Did you want to help?" I asked, motioning to the dishwasher.
She averted her glance again, looking almost guilty. Wait, was she worried about before?
I came over to her again and put both my hands on her shoulders.
"It was just an accident. It happens all the time, to everyone."
I spoke to her softly, tenderly. She knew I had already forgiven her.
"I don`t have any less faith in you than I did before," I said, looking into her deep, green eyes. It sounded more like a promise; a secret pact that had been made with her, made to last until the very end of the Earth. More than anything, it sounded like a promise to her, for the rest of my days.
She said nothing, but gave me a strange look, one I`ve never seen before; a dark, scared look.
She struggled with her words.
I waited patiently.
She looked at me helplessly, as if the things she wanted to say were written on my face, waiting for her to tell them to me.
"… I… don`t want you to get hurt…" She finally said.
I felt nothing but sorrow as I watched her stand there, shivering as tears welled up in her eyes, her furrowed brow and quivering lip devastating me beyond repair. I couldn`t take it.
"What in the world made you think I`d get hurt?"
My voice sounded broken and unstable, but I didn`t care.
"It wasn`t your fault. Nothing was your fault. You did nothing wrong. I…"
Her eyes were as wide as saucers.
"… I believe in you!" I shouted, tears spilling out from my eyes without my permission. Rin cried some of her own tears too, rolling down her cheeks like tiny rivers into a sea of grey.
Her mouth hung open halfway, frozen in shock like a deer in the headlights. There were no words left.
We both stood there in silence, neither of us having a single clue what was to be done. We just looked at each other, unmoving, as if a single breath would shatter the earth and make the ground fall beneath us.
She squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them again, blinking the tears away and looking completely bewildered and confused as to why.
She shook her head, as if to revert back to another state of mind.
She said again, watching the remaining tears dribble past her nose.
I looked at her helplessly.
"... You wanted to say something?" I ask, even though I`m in no state to do so, still trying to dry my eyes so I can see her properly.
"… I don`t know."
Her answer sounded ironically tentative, as if to say she herself didn`t even know if she didn`t know, or she didn`t know that she didn`t know… something.
I was making a rather miraculous recovery, feeling my lips curl slowly upward into a forgiving expression as the heavy atmosphere around us seemed to lift, dissipating into the pristine light of the early morning.
"Well… that`s okay, right?"
She looked down at her feet, and then left, in no particular direction. A small bird flit by behind the window and I watched as the flickering light danced around in the surface of her green wells, damp from crying and glistening in the sun`s rays.
"… Yeah. That`s okay."
She looked back at me, almost as if it was an afterthought. Her eyelids lowered significantly and she nodded.
And there we stood, mere feet from each other, neither knowing what to do next, waiting for something, anything, to distract us from this moment we had gotten ourselves caught in.
Suddenly, as if to answer our prayers, my alarm clock sounded again from my room, startling us both as we jumped a little at the unexpected noise.
"What the-" I began, dashing to the source. I pressed down hard on the "off" button and examined the device closely.
"What happened?" asked a voice behind me. I looked around and made a very weird smile.
"I hit the snooze button," I replied sheepishly.
It was almost laughable, the events of this morning. Though there was no laughter that filled the room, nor lighthearted gestures for words that could`ve been said, gentle teasing in the form of movement and contact, I still found it funny, so funny, the things that had happened that day.
Long after the moment had passed, I thought back on this odd turn of events and found myself chuckling quietly at the thought of it all.
Rin put the last plate in the dishwasher and happily did the honors, maneuvering her capable feet around the manual buttons instead of the powered plank built for her convenience. I just smiled like an idiot while I watched her work the machinery. I heard a "click" and it emitted a low hum, signifying that it had been successfully operated.
Rin pushed herself backwards on the spinny chair and turned herself around, looking at me the same way she always did.
I had my Rin back.
"Do you want to go watch TV?" I asked, motioning to the couch in the living room.
"Okay," she said. She got out of her chair and followed me to the television set.
We ended up watching a foreign French film about a young waitress pursuing a man with a scrapbook filled with torn-up pictures of strangers that had been put back together in the bindings between the pages. Oddly enough, the waitress girl reminded me a little bit of Rin. Her smooth, black hair had been cropped short, framing each side of her lovely face, the blunt yet subtle way she went about words and conversation, and had little illusions in her mind that made me think very much of the girl sitting next to me. It made me wonder, were we one such couple, if she`d have illusions like that, too.
As we quietly watched on in a scene where the girl was having an apparent internal struggle of some sort, Rin thought this to be the perfect moment to interject.
"I think she should just go tell him," she indolently announced. I turned my head towards her droning voice.
"It`s taking her a long time to find him, the way she`s looking all over and sending weird messages. She should just give him his scrapbook back."
I wasn`t entirely sure how to respond.
I thought about it for a minute, taking the basis of the movie so far into account.
"… Maybe she`s just in love," I said, taking the plunge. I was about to further my theory when I suddenly realized that my mouth was the inevitable culprit that birthed that very sentence. I felt like kicking myself. There was no taking it back now, so I was left to watch the fixed gaze of my red-haired companion turn into what I would assume to be a dismissive gesture or a confused look.
To my surprise, her deep green wells lit up with understanding as she turned back to the TV.
"That makes sense, I think. That would explain some things. People do silly things like that when they are in love, right?"
I gave her a look.
"Are you saying I did silly things when I met you?"
She smiled wryly at me.
"Sometimes you did. One time you lied down on the floor on your back and smoked cigarettes."
"Hey, you did that, too," I said, and we shared a lighthearted chuckle.
"Maybe that`s okay, though. Doing silly things. People do them all the time. I think I do, too. But that`s okay, right?" She looked back at me, her eyes searching. I just smiled and held her closer to me.
"Yeah, that`s okay."
We turned our heads back to the TV and watched the rest of the film.
An hour later saw us getting up from the couch, stretching in unison and returning to our respective rooms for… something. I went into mine to take my afternoon medication and just as quickly walked back out, following Rin to hers. She didn`t object, so I let myself in and sort of half-leaned against her bed. She started poking at a few paints and brushes, scattered about on the floor surrounding her easel which held a half-finished painting. Or whatever the completion was. It looked about halfway done, from my perspective. I wondered if I`d get another seven years' bad luck for determining that possibility.
She sat herself down on her little stool and set to work on a bluish-green area, painted with care and consideration. I couldn`t help but admire her dexterity and determination. Every day she worked tirelessly, creating masterpiece after masterpiece. It was truly a sight to behold. My wild, weird, beautiful wife captured and re-captured my heart with every movement of her slender hips, the steady sway of her frail body, each and every stroke of her brush between those tender toes of hers. She moved me, body and soul.
I helped her mix a few paints, seeing as how I was there. It reminded me of older times, back when we were still in Yamaku. It gave me nostalgia.
After spending some time with Rin, I ventured back out into the bulk of the house. A soft stream of morning light flowed through the window panes, casting gentle rays onto the rustic furniture and hardwood flooring. I decided to do a little more exploring.
I was once again drawn to the smooth white walls of the secluded corner near the living room, and found myself once again gawking at the interior structure of the bathroom. It really was a sight to see.
I suddenly felt the strangest urge inside of me to do something; anything.
Everything was set up so people with all their limbs could function the house too, but I couldn`t help but feel curious to experience it the way Rin would.
I was up for the challenge, I thought.
Quickly looking around me to make sure no one was watching and double checking that the bathroom door was closed behind me, I took off my shirt and pants and walked up towards the innovative device. I put my hands behind my back, tucking my shoulders in to lock them in place, and gingerly nudged myself against the pressure plate beside the stall. I watched as the water began to gush from the showerhead and quickly slow to a gentle trickle. I walked towards the door and it opened right before my nose touched the porcelain holding it in place. Almost awestruck, I continued to the lukewarm stream and sat myself down on the bathmat with a little difficulty. I looked up for a moment and closed my eyes, letting the soothing water run down my face, wetting my hair and the rest of my body.
After I had confirmed that I was fully drenched, I redirected my attention to the task of cleaning myself. The small shelf on the right was lined with shampoo and conditioner, neither of which were mine.
"Shoot," I said out loud, realizing that I had forgotten to grab my things from the other shelf.
With a grunt, I hoisted myself back up and looked at the shelf daringly, mentally trying to plan a way to get my things off of it somehow. None of the ideas I had were semi-possible without them ending in making an abysmal mess of all its contents and knocking most (if not all) of them to the floor in complete disarray. I grimaced, facing the inevitable. I sighed for a moment, looking over the nice, neat arrangement of all my sanitary products, and remorsefully started to dig my head in and around them to knock the ones I needed to the awaiting stall floor.
I finally managed to knock my shampoo off the shelf, along with a great many other things that I did not intend to. I sighed once more and lowered myself back down into a sitting position in the middle of the running water.
Ignoring the rest of the things scattered across the platform, I sifted through the other bottles and zeroed in on the green cylinder with the words "Hisao N." hastily scrawled in permanent marker across a thin line of tape. I dragged my backside across the waterproof mat and reached my foot out towards the bottle. I pulled it closer towards me and fumbled with the cap in between my toes. I tried to put myself in Rin`s state of mind and determine a method of flipping the snap up without the use of fingers. After some deliberating, I put my plan into action and pulled back the snap back with the big toe of my left foot while I held the bottle in place with my right. It slipped out a few times, but I eventually got it to stay put and clicked the snap open.
I also wasted a dollop that splattered all over the mat from the impressive amount of force I was applying to the bottle, but oh well.
I pushed down on the plastic and tried to squeeze some of the oozing pale liquid into a crease I had created in between my curled toes, but ended up clumsily splattering it all over my foot. It was around this point I was beginning to get frustrated. It crossed my mind for a moment, in the haze of fury and aggravation, how miraculous it was that Rin always seemed so calm and content. Then again, I`ve never seen her particularly trying to do what I was trying to do, but I was sure she found it much less convoluted than I was making it out to be.
Much, much less convoluted.
I rubbed my feet together, trying to push myself away from the stream of water so that all my efforts weren`t going to waste. Everything was slippery, making it easier and harder for me at the same time to slide myself backwards. With my feet in a royal viscous mess, now came the crucial step; application.
I did a half-groan, almost a whimper, a woeful plea dreading the uphill battle about to take place. There was no way I`d be able to reach my feet up to my head, let alone lather the stuff into my hair.
No… I couldn`t give up yet. I had to try.
I kept telling myself that. If Rin could do it… well, I guess she could do a lot of things I couldn`t do. But she was still human, right? If Rin could do it, there was a chance, a very small chance, that I just might be able to do it, too.
I leaned my head down as far as it would go, almost to the point where the muscles in my neck became unbearably sore, and tried as hard as I could to lift my feet up over my head. At first it would seem that I could only get one foot up there, and it hardly even reached up to my face. It just hovered in midair, as if to mock me of my inability to maneuver my legs to perform the daunting task I had challenged myself to. I tried again, managing to briefly brush my toe against the crest of my head, but then limply fell to the platform again. The third and fourth attempts ended in failures, and on the fifth I tried using both feet and just about nearly fell over and knocked my head off the wall. I couldn`t balance at all without any of my limbs holding me in place. In a fit of desperation, I leaned myself all the way down to the floor and rubbed my head into the splatter of shampoo I wasted after hitting the bottle stupidly with my other foot. I felt like I was slowly going insane. I tried to get myself back up but the slippery porcelain didn`t seem to want me to. My feet slid all over the mat, which was now just about as covered in shampoo as my feet and ankles were, and slapped violently against the platform every time they fell. I wanted so badly to get up and punch something.
Fearing instant death if I did so, I had to settle with growling loudly and tossing my body around violently from supressed rage. I felt like I was about to lose it.
Suddenly, the sound of a door opening behind me interrupted my anger-induced fit.
"What are you doing?" asked a calm, quiet voice.
I didn`t even need to turn around. I knew exactly who was behind me.
My face flushed a deep crimson as I sat there in mid-rant, one foot planted firmly on the mat and the other pressed against the wall, slowly sliding down the smooth porcelain with the slippery substance still covering every inch of it. I remained frozen in my solemn state of undress, my hands locked behind my back, my wet hair in complete disarray, surrounded by the evidence I had so carelessly left askew, scattered across the platform, the softly falling water plastering my body to the floor accurately highlighting my current emotions.
I heard the soft padding of Rin`s footsteps across the tiled flooring as she approached the shower stall. I hung my head in embarrassment and closed my eyes. I almost couldn`t believe what I was about to say.
"… I wanted to see if I could handle living without any arms, so I tried to take a shower using my feet."
I turned around, slowly, carefully. Rin`s expression was unchanging, except for an odd smile slowly spreading across her face. Her eyes lowered tenderly as she stepped into the shower and sat down behind me. I completely forgot my embarrassment for a moment and redirected my focus on her.
"What are you doing? You`ll get your clothes wet!"
She simply shook her head.
"I have more."
I was about to protest when I realized how dumb it would sound. I had to agree with her on this one.
Rin slid closer to me and wrapped her legs around my torso, as if to hug me.
"It`s not as hard as it looks. I`ll teach you."
I felt almost overwhelmed by her complete ease at my apparent unease. I couldn`t help but smile dumbly as she coaxed me into a (proper) sitting position. She reached for my shampoo again with her foot and flipped the cap like it was nothing. I suddenly felt so stupid, thinking about what a hard time I had with it, making a complete mess of everything as I tossed it around.
She held the cap in her left foot as she squeezed the bottle slowly with her right. I was reminded of my embarrassing display, whacking my foot against it as hard as I could and getting it everywhere. Rin was clearly in a better position to handle it than I was.
She kneaded her toes in and out and raised her legs up to my shoulders.
"Bend down," she said, holding her feet in the air without any hint of difficulty. Feeling just a little ungainly, I awkwardly bent down and closed my eyes. She began to work a lather into my hair, making little circles and massaging my scalp. I was astounded by the dexterous motions of her feet and toes. It was as if she was using a perfectly functional pair of hands. For a moment I had to convince myself that they were still her feet. I felt like I was at a hair salon.
For a brief moment she stopped lathering, and I opened an eye to see if there was any change in her expression.
"Something wrong?" I asked, trying to peer at her over my shoulder.
"I can`t reach the front, Hisao," she said, posing an obstacle. I smiled awkwardly and took the cue, turning myself around so she could wash the rest of my hair.
Squeezing another ounce of shampoo into her feet, she started to lather it into my hair again, being careful not to get it into my eyes, which were avidly dodging her gaze. She finally removed her feet again and held them under the water, subtly saying "I`m done" without saying it. I brought my hands up to my head, realizing that I had them behind my back in the process, and rinsed the shampoo out of my hair, still sitting on the bathmat under the trickling water. I finally had a moment to look back at her and say something.
"That`s really amazing, Rin… you make it look so easy, I couldn`t even hold the bottle right."
That small, rewarding smile she gave me suddenly seemed to make everything worth it.
"It was tricky on my first try, too."
I somehow found that hard to believe.
"Why do I doubt that?" I said, smiling helplessly at her.
Her eyes widened in confusion.
"I don`t know. Do you? I`m sorry if you do, but I don`t think I am a mind reader," she blathered, completely missing the rhetorical tone of the question. I simply grinned at her, hoping she`d get the same "don`t worry about it, it doesn`t matter" look I was going for, and pulled her into a warm hug.
"You know… I feel really awkward, being completely naked while you still have all your clothes on."
She looked at me attentively, but said nothing.
"Do you feel ashamed of your nakedness, Hisao?" she asked, after a moment of silence. I simply shook my head and began to unbutton her shirt. Eventually she took the hint and started to help, wriggling out of her pants. Her drenched clothes finally joined the unsightly pile mine were in and we both sat under the steady stream of warmth, completely naked.
"Should I wash your hair, too?" I asked out of a mix of courtesy and the sudden need to recompense. She gave me a blank look.
"I can do it myself, but you can, if you want."
I know you can, I thought to myself.
I smiled and grabbed her shampoo from the bottom shelf, squeezing a generous amount into my hand. It felt so good to use them again.
I rubbed them together and massaged the substance into her soft, wet hair. It smelled very much like Rin.
It hardly took as long as it would have had I tried to use my feet again, and I helped her rinse it out, too; not so I could revel in the sensation of using my hands again or to feel her hair around my fingers, I just wanted to. She gave me a nod and looked out of the synthetic glass that surrounded the stall, watching the golden afternoon light pouring in from the bathroom window. I realized how much time had passed and quickly stood up. I helped Rin up too and turned the water off without even realizing I did so using the pressure plate instead of the tap by the middle. We got out of the shower and I put the bottles back in their designated places on the shelves before following Rin out of the doorway. I grabbed a towel and helped Rin dry off before drying my own body and we put our clothes back on. Or, at least… I put mine back on. I wrapped the towel around Rin`s shoulders and gathered her wet clothes into my arms. I escorted her to her room and put them in a basket so I could take them to the basement. I found some fresh clothes in her closet and helped her put them on, then took the basket down to the laundry room and tossed its contents in the dryer. When I got back upstairs, I saw Rin sitting in her spinny chair, wheeling around the kitchen. There was a pot on the stove. I had to supress my panic before going up to her.
"What are you doing, Rin?" I asked, poorly disguising the worry in my voice. It didn`t seem like she noticed, in any case.
"I`m making soup," she said with a determined smile. I couldn`t help but smile back.
"Okay," I said, leaving her to it. I knew I could trust her. Besides, there was a smoke detector after all, as we had so recently discovered. If anything did happen, I could come rushing to help. I did keep close though, in the living room adjacent to her. Unless she calls, I won't intervene. I believe in her, after all.