"I want that one."
"The orange one? But didn't you say you wanted grape?"
"I did, but now I want the orange one."
"Jeez, you're so wishy-washy. Mister, one orange pop and one strawberry, please."
"Here ya go, miss. That'll be 300 yen."
"Pay up, kiddo."
"What? I thought you were treating me!?"
"I was... but I forgot my wallet."
"And you call yourself the adult," Livi muttered, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the necessary change.
"Sorry, sorry, I'll treat you next time, promise."
"What a reliable little brother," the clerk said, smiling down at Livi as he stood up on his tiptoes to place the coins on the counter. "Thank you for your business."
"I'm not her brother," Livi said grumpily, accepting his ice cream from Nike as they walked out of the store.
"Oh, why not? I've always wanted a little brother or sister!" she said cheerfully. She unwrapped her pop and bit off a sizeable chunk. "Oooh, that hits the spot! It's so damn hot today."
"Ugh, doesn't it hurt your teeth to bite it like that?"
"Nah, feels good," she said. "When you're an adult you'll get what I mean." She ruffled his hair.
Man, kicking a guy when he's down...
He stared at his sneakers as he ate, annoyed.
What's it gonna take for her to stop seeing me as a little kid?
"I wish it would rain," she said suddenly. Nike often blurted her thoughts out like that.
"It'll get humid though."
"Oh, that's true. Ew, humidity is awful. Fine, I wish it got cold and windy and then it would rain!"
She took another bite of her popsicle and chewed pensively.
"Well, at least I get to see you over the summer. All my friends from school got to go on vacation but nooo I had to stay for summer school..."
"It's your own fault for failing math. And English."
"Sh-shut up, what would a kid know about the difficulties of high school anyway?!"
"Nike, I did your homework for you twice this week..."
"Th-that's only because I was working, okay? I couldn't concentrate and it was easy homework anyway!"
"If you say so," he shrugged and turned the usual corner on the way home.
"Oh, look!" She suddenly ran off and glued herself to one of the window displays on the street. "They've got that new RPG! It's sold out everywhere else!"
"What, that one?" Livi asked, licking his pop calmly. "I've got that one. Mom bought it for me when it came out, but it wasn't really that fun."
"What?! You have it?! Really?!"
Hold on, is this a chance?!
"Oh uh, yeah! Wanna come over and play it?" he asked in a rush. Oh my God, please say yes, please please please say yes...!
"YES, PLEASE LET ME COME OVER, SENPAI," she said, taking his shoulders and looking like she'd just won the lottery.
"S-sure, let's go to my house."
YES, THANK YOU GOD, BUDDHA, WHOEVER IS OUT THERE. NIKE IS COMING TO MY HOUSE!
Oh... shit... she's coming to my... CRAP.
"Oh ah, wait, hold on. Can you come tomorrow instead? I have to um, do some cleaning and uh yeah," he stuttered. If she sees all my toys and comics lying around I'll never get her to look at me as more than some bratty neighborhood kid!
"Aw, okay... I'll drop by after school, then. See ya tomorrow, Livi!"
She gave his head a friendly pat and skipped off down her street.
"Mom, a friend is coming over later, is that okay?"
"Oh, a friend? Of course, dear. I haven't seen any of your friends all summer," Sheila said. "Is that why you've been cleaning all day?"
He blushed and stared at his plate.
"Ho ho! Someone you like, is it?" she teased, pointing her fork at him. "C'mon, you can tell your mom. Are they cute? A friend from school? A boy, a girl? Ohhh, Livi's first crush, I need to find a camera," she said suddenly, rising from the table.
"Mom, no! You'll embarrass me!"
"Oh, don't be so silly, I just want something to put in the scrapbook..."
"Oh fine, fine. Spoil your mama's fun." She pouted and twirled spaghetti around her fork.
The doorbell rang.
"I'll get it," he said hastily. Sheila chuckled as he dashed down the hall.
He checked his shirt to make sure he hadn't stained it with tomato sauce and pulled the door open.
"Hey, Livi!" She was beaming at him. "I hope I'm not intruding."
"He-hello, no you're fine. Come in."
"Thanks," she politely took off her shoes. "Is it fine if I leave them here with my bag?"
"Oh, yeah, go ahead."
"Oh, who's this, Livi?"
Sheila stood in the doorway, her expression temporarily surprised. Obviously she had been expecting a 6th grader, not an almost full grown woman.
"Hello, you must be Livi's mother. I'm Nike." The tall girl bowed respectfully. "I've been under your son's care; he's always helping me out."
"Oh my, you're so pretty, Nike-chan! Well well..." Sheila gave Livi a knowing smile. Livi looked away pointedly.
"Oh! Thank you..." Nike looked embarrassed and Livi wanted to tell his mother off for making her uncomfortable. He didn't.
"Um, yeah, so, let's go play in my room, Nike..."
"I'll bring you two something to drink, is lemonade okay?"
"Yes, thank you so much!"
"Hey, that's cheating!"
"No it isn't! It's called tactical strategy."
"It isn't strategy if you're trying to disconnect my controller, you idiot!"
"Sure it is! Anything's fair in love and war, you know."
Livi had learned two things about Nike so far during this visit. Firstly, she thought nothing of being in a boy's room (he cursed his age again), and secondly, she was notoriously competitive. After being soundly defeated several times in a row, she started to physically impair Livi's ability to win. So far, she had "accidentally" blocked his view by sitting in front of him while he was lying stomach down on the bed, paused the game and gone to the bathroom for a long enough time that he forgot what he'd been doing, and was now trying to sabotage his controller by wrapping the cord around her ankle and giving it a tug every time he got too close to winning.
She wasn't even pretending anymore.
All's fair, you say? In that case...
He leaned over and kissed the side of her mouth without a second thought.
She dropped her controller.
"Ha! Take that, you cheater!"
He turned to grin victoriously at her but her whole body was frozen in shock.
The consequence of what he'd done hit him.
Oh... oh my gods, I kissed her...
I KISSED HER AND I DIDN'T EVEN ENJOY IT WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
I'm going to jail.
Someone call the police and send me to jail, I am a PUBLIC MENACE I CAN'T BELIEVE I KISSED A CHILD.
No, she thought, trying to clear her head. You didn't kiss him, he kissed you so he's going to jail!
Wait, that's not how it works, is it...
She absentmindedly touched her lips.
Things had been awkward after The Incident.™ She suddenly found that she had to hurry home or she'd risk forgetting to do her homework, and Livi seemed equally eager to see her go. She avoided his mother's eyes when she bid her farewells.
Oh my God she's going to kill me if she finds out...! I'VE DEFILED A CHILD! SOMEONE PLEASE LOCK ME UP!
Nike groaned and turned over in her bed, hugging her pillow to her chest.
That was my first kiss too... And my last, because I WILL NEVER GET OUT OF JAIL AFTER THIS.
Farewell, sisters. Farewell, house. This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me.
She shut her eyes tightly.
But... if that's so... why am I still thinking about it?!
It must be trauma. Yeah, definitely trauma. I need a therapist.
"She's never going to talk to me again," he wailed into his pillow.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, why did you do that...?!
"Livi, you okay in there?" Sheila called, knocking on the door.
No, I'll never be okay again...!
"I'm coming in, okay?" She didn't wait for his response. She opened the door and sat on the edge of his bed. "What happened? Did you fight with your friend?"
"I don't wanna talk about it."
"Ah, hmmm." She stroked his hair gently. "She's really cute, you know."
"And nice too, not many high school girls are interested in hanging out with little devils like you," she said, tickling him.
"Ah, no, stop!" he laughed.
"I see why you have a crush on her. Heck, I think I have a crush on her, she's adorable. Nike-chan, was it?"
"Y-yeah... but she only sees me as a kid," he admitted reluctantly.
"Well you are a kid, Livi."
"I know, but... what if she gets a boyfriend? How am I supposed to compete?"
"Well, I'm not her, so I couldn't say. But you know..." she said, lying down next to him. "It probably helps if you're honest with her. You might be a kid now, but you won't be forever. If she knows that, maybe she'll start thinking of you more seriously."
"I don't think she's ever gonna talk to me again," he mumbled into his pillow.
"Ah... I know that tone. You did something to upset her, didn't you?"
"Well, first thing to do is apologize. She's a nice girl so I bet she's feeling guilty about whatever you did. Talk to her."
"But what if she hates me now?"
"Then you give her some space and try again later. If you care about her, you have to make her know that. So be nice, say sorry, and be honest, okay?"
"Okay, I'll try... Thanks, mom."
"No problem," she said, stretching her arms and yawning. "Well, don't tease her too much, will you? My life is complete if I get to brag about having such a cute daughter-in-law in the future, so I hope you don't scare her away." She sat up and winked.
"Haha, just saying. I know she's a bit older than you and you're probably intimidated, but let me tell you a secret, Livi. Love has no age limits." She stopped to consider something. "Though, I do have to add that though love is ageless, the law isn't, so don't send that poor girl to jail, okay? I know you're mature enough to understand."
"Just something to keep in mind," she shrugged and closed the door behind her.
She almost ran away when she bumped into him on the riverbed the next day. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, so she wanted to clean up some trash before the rain washed it away. Unfortunately, she found Livi there; evidently he'd had the same idea.
Oh no, is the police here?! I gotta go before they see me and arrest me...!
Oh no oh no oh no...
She made a run for it and promptly tripped over a rock.
"Hey, are you okay?!"
"Yeah, I'm..." he offered her his hand and she froze mid-sentence.
"Uhm, I wanted to... you know..." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ki- I mean... what I did was..."
She couldn't help it, she laughed.
"Oh no, I'm sorry!" she said, trying to hold in a giggle. "It's just, haha! You look all bashful and cute, not at all like usual!"
"Sorry, sorry," she said, wiping away a tear. "Oh, I've been overthinking this. You were just trying to get revenge for all the crap I was pulling, right? I bet you didn't even think about it. I'm an idiot, getting all self conscious over something so silly."
For some reason, he turned redder.
"Well, uh, uhm..."
"Ack, dammit... Fine. Promise you won't laugh!"
"Laugh? At what...?"
He looked like he was working up the courage to say something when a sudden crack of thunder caught them off guard.
"Oh, shoot, it's going to rain," she muttered. "C'mon, let's get indoors before we get wet."
She started to walk off toward a nearby cafe, but a tug at her sleeve made her turn around.
Livi was looking at the ground, and his face was flushed. He had a firm grip on her blazer and she thought she heard him murmur something, though she couldn't make out the words.
"Sorry? I can't hear," she said.
"Ugh, you're gonna make me repeat it?!" He looked thoroughly flustered. "I said... I said I like you, okay!?"
The point flew right over her head.
"I like you too," she said, thinking that it wouldn't do to let him catch a cold. "You're a nice kid, it's fun hanging out with you."
"Argh, I knew you were gonna say that, but it still hurts," he grimaced.
"Huh? You okay?"
"Look, you idiot, I like you! As in, a lot! More than just a friend!"
She felt her face flush immediately.
Holy crap I really am going to jail; mom, dad, please forgive me...! I have SEDUCED A CHILD, I HAVE SINNED.
"What are you saying?! I'm way older than you!"
He let go of her sleeve and shoved his hands in his pockets.
"I know that..."
"Then quit joking around..."
"I'm not joking!" he said angrily. "I can't help the way I feel, okay? Just because I'm a kid, you keep looking down on me! I have feelings too!"
"I'm not looking down on you," she said, rubbing her temple. She was starting to get a headache. "Look, Livi. You probably just think you feel like this because it's new and you're still so young. But you'll find someone your own age you'll really like later, okay?"
"See?! You think my feelings don't mean anything just because I'm not all grown up. You're patronizing me!"
"That... is a big word..."
"Yeah, and I know plenty more; so quit treating me like a child!"
He was very upset, she could tell. He probably didn't want her to see, but his eyes were tearing up and he looked like he was seriously regretting what he'd said.
I didn't mean to make him feel like that... No, don't cry...
There was an uncomfortable feeling in her chest. Without meaning to, she crouched down next to him and kissed his forehead.
I just, to a child...
"Oh my god, please call the police," she said immediately. What am I doing?!
He was frozen in shock.
"Y-you... but you..."
She wanted to melt into the ground.
"I DIDN'T MEAN TO! I just couldn't stand seeing you looking so sad and I dunno what came over me, my body moved on its own and my heart was all painful and and..." she stared at him blankly for a second.
Oh my God, I like him too... NO NO, THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. NOPE, NUH UH.
Livi seemed to have grasped what was going through her mind.
"You... you feel the same?! For real?!"
"NO, no no no no no, you're wrong!" she denied fervently. "I just maybe thought you were cute and I wanted to hug you and make you stop cryi- NO I MEAN, ARGH!"
She buried her face in her hands.
"I'm going to jail, I can't believe I'm getting all serious over a kid..."
He was quiet.
"Nike... I got some good advice yesterday..."
"What, was it a plan for how to send a teenage girl to prison? Because it's working."
"No, not quite, though... to be honest something like that came up. Anyway, you know, I'm little now, but I'm not going to be forever..."
"Well yeah, I'm going to middle school next year, and then before you know it I'll be in high school and I won't be a kid anymore."
"So, I wanna ask something... if that's okay."
"If... if you still feel like this when I start high school... will you go out with me?"
She wasn't aware she could get as embarrassed as she did, but clearly she had been wrong.
"B... but, what if you don't like me anymore, by then?" she whispered. She was loathe to admit it but the thought of him changing his mind was painful.
"Then we'll talk then," he shrugged. "But I can tell you right now that I don't think that's going to change."
"You... are you really just an elementary school kid?!"
"Ugh, fine, you win. If, by the time you turn fifteen, you still like me and I still like you, we can go out. But," she lifted a finger to stop him from interrupting. "For now, we're just friends, got it? I seriously don't want to have to miss my only chance because I'm stuck in prison."
"Only chance? You have a lot to learn if you think I'm gonna give you up so easily," he grinned.
Smooth little bastard. What have I gotten myself into...?
He offered his hand and this time, she took it.
"It's raining," he observed as a raindrop hit her squarely on the nose.
"Ah, crap, come on! We gotta get indoors or your mom will kill me!"
"Then hurry up, let's go!" He pulled her along by the hand, laughing as the rain began to fall in earnest.
I'm probably going to regret this, but somehow... I feel really happy.
His hand was warm, and so was the rain.