Disclaimer : See my things? Hah, neither do I. Harlem Beat belongs to the one and only Yuriko Nishiyama!
Today could have been the rainiest day of the season with the heavy storm it is bringing. It was the kind of day you don't want to go outside because you don't want to catch a cold. The kind of day where even the rain fairies wouldn't dare go out to interrupt the dance the lightning men are carrying out.
But even so, one girl didn't care. There she stood, out in the rain, savouring every drop of rain falling down her miserable face. It's not that she didn't care if she caught a cold or not. It's just that, something more important than that had drove her past that phase.
The girl looked up and gazed at the row of houses in front of her, studying each window, each door. Then her eyes darted up to a small apartment between the square houses and buildings. Why here? her mind asked. But her feet didn't pause at the question, instead, it dashed through the puddled street, and led her straight into the flat, stopping only in front of door number 207.
A second later, the knob turned and a boy of sixteen came and opened the door. He looked at the drenched girl in front of him in surprise, "Mizuki!?" blurted the boy, "What happened to you?"
The girl smiled wryly, "Hello, Sawamura. Can I come in?"
"Well, I.." without waiting for an answer, Mizuki walked right in, took off her shoes, and settled down on the newly carpeted floor. She rand a hand through it and looked up at him, "New carpet?" she inquired.
Sawamura closed the door with one hand, "Uh, yeah.. I got that for free from the flat owner. Just got it renovated last week."
Mizuki nodded and looked back down, "That's nice."
Sawamura sat down beside her and waited for her to say something. But she stayed silence, her eyes still glued to his carpeted floor. "Oy," he called, "It's not like you to come over here all by yourself. You wanted something? Or did you just lose Naruse and Kosuke on the way and wanted me to help you find those two goons?"
Her eyes suddenly flickered wickedly, sending a shiver up his spine. "Yes, I do want something. I want beer, Sawamura!"
Sawamura's jaw dropped, "WHAT!?"
Mizuki smiled lop-sidedly, "Yeah, you heard me. Beer. Give me the strongest one you have." Then she ran her fingers down her long, wet hair and added, "Plus, I'll need a towel too."
"Towel, I have. But you don't drink beer," stated Sawamura, his eyes goggling at her in an odd, bewildered way.
She pointed a finger at him and grinned, "Then you'll be the one to give me my first taste of it!"
"No I won't!" he snapped, "Don't you know beer can kill you!?"
"Oh, shut up Fluffy." she snapped right back and stood up.
"No, you shut - er, hang on - Fluffy!?" visions of singing, hopping white rabbits invaded his mind, "Okay, now I've officially lost it."
Mizuki giggled as she opened the refridgerator, pulled out a can of beer, and opened it with one finger, "Look down, stupid."
Sawamura looked down and gasped horridly at the hideous bunny slippers he was wearing. He had won it yesterday from a street basket game against a team of womenly men and never really intended to wear it, if not for the cold weather this stupid storm is bringing.
His face turned crimson immediately - but there was no time to be embarassed! He hastily kicked the slippers loose, staggered forward and swiped the can out of Mizuki's hand before she even took a swig. "Hey!" she exclaimed angrily, making a move to grab it back. "That's mine!"
"No-it-is-not!!" Sawamura clamored, pushing the struggling girl away with one hand, "I never said you could have it! Besides, it's not good for girls."
Mizuki gasped and almost slapped him, "Sexist! You hypocrite! You drink beer yet you said beer can kill!"
"So?" he shrugged modestly, "I've always loved challenges."
"So have I!"
"If you like challenges so much, go jump off a cliff naked or something, geez, anything is better than drinking this vile beverage--"
His sentence was suddenly cut off as she pushed him hard against a wall, and Sawamura gazed at her in shock, not believing that Mizuki, his best friend, a person he had known to be kind, cheerful and hard-headed but not at all violent, could push him back so roughly.
"Don't you dare be sarcastic with me!!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. A flash of guilt suddenly streaked across her face and she held one hand over her mouth, astonished at what she had done herself. "Sawamura, I-I'm sorry - I -" she began, and paused - something seemed to have caught in her throat.
"Or you can have a cup of coffee instead." interjected Sawamura, his face remaning unperturbed, like nothing ever happened as he proceeded to the kitchen, opened the cupboard and pulled out jar of coffee grinds. "Caffein ain't good for you either, but still, way better than beer."
"C-coffee? No. No. I-I don't like coffee." she stammered.
He raised both eyebrows in amusement, "Really?" he mused, pouring water into two mugs, one green, the other white with a little black cat on it, "Interesting. So you're one of those 'diet against coffee' people, eh?"
Mizuki smiled, "No, my mother drinks too much of them." she said, "She's obsessed with coffee. Two cups an hour, drinks off her cup like a famished maniac, says she prefers it injected straight through her vein, and that scares me. Honestly, I think she'd lick the cup bottom when nobody's watching."
"Ah, I see. 'Coffee freak-outs'."
"She did say Starbucks are the best kind, though!" she piped up, the cheeriness in her eyes glowing once more, "With a couple hundred thousand yen per cup, I'll take her word! Other than that, I'm allergic."
Sawamura laughed and took the cups in both hands, "I assure you, this one is better."
"Have a cup," he offered, literally shoving the green mug into her hands.
"It had better be Starbucks…" she glared at him as she took the cup. The cup felt warm through her fingers, but as it touched her lips, it was ice cold. She coughed and spluttered all over. "You bastard! It's freezing!" she hollered, almost dropping the cup in her hands.
Sawamura raised an eyebrow, obviously not impressed by her act of ruining his newly carpeted floor with coffee stains. "Shut up and drink."
"It's frozen, you dolt!" countered Mizuki, ignoring him completely. "I can't believe you gave me iced coffee! Who serves cold coffee on a rainy day like this anyway? Did no one ever teach you about hospitality!?"
"I don't do hospitality, you dimwit." he said cheerfully, "I just crash 'em! Unless it pays you, of course."
Mizuki stared at him, then punched his arm playfully, "That is so typical of you, Sawamura. Look at yourself, your eyes are going green already."
He scowled, "You talk too much. Shut up and drink it before it goes bad."
And she did. The coffee tasted like cold ice as it streamed down her throat at first, but then as she drank some more, the iciness was no more. As the cold in her throat drifted away, amazingly, so did the sorrow in her heart. She smiled at her cup. Never in her life she had thought that a single cup of coffee could make her feel better in any way.
No wonder some people are so touchy about their coffee. Coffee brings them joy! Coffee brings them unholy happiness! Mizuki giggled, for now she understood why some people look like vampires risen from the grave when they hadn't had their morning coffees.
"Coffee is good, eh?" said Sawamura, smiling mischievously. "I told you so!"
She stuck her tongue out at him and smiled, "Hm-mm. I am so into everything caffeinated now. I can already see myself lining up for Starbucks every morning…" she trailed away, and suddenly she looked somber again. "Sawa.."
"My mum said Starbucks uses mostly Javanese coffee." she mused, "It's said to be the best kinds of coffee in the world."
Sawamura raised both his eyebrows, "So? Who cares? I am in no way interested in where the best coffee comes from. I'd rather much have the finished product, thank you. Don't you know that I – " he suddenly stopped talking. He could have sworn he saw Mizuki blush! But at what?
"Well," Mizuki started, her cheeks glowing furiously in a shade of crimson, "Java is in Indonesia. And, you know.. Shu." she shrugged and drained down her whole cup.
"Oh." he said flatly, "I see. The long lost love you never had.." he added, his words dripping with tad sarcasm without even knowing why.
Mizuki however didn't hear that and continued to blush. "I wonder what kind of work Shu is doing over there," she smiled, "Knowing Shu, he might be helping those farmers harvest their goods. He might be picking up coffee beans for all I know."
"Yeah," said Sawamura, "I bet he's teaching those village children how to play basketball as well. Goes around that guy, he does." but Mizuki wasn't even noticing him. She was lost in her own world of thoughts about Shu.
Mizuki stared into her empty mug, "I could be drinking his own hand-picked coffee beans for all I know…"
"Oh, hey." Sawamura interrupted, "Sorry to say this, but that thing you've been drinking – it's not Starbucks. In fact, it's Brazillian coffee grinds, a package from my Dad when he went there last year. It might already be expired, but hey, if it tastes good, it's still good." He grinned at her but, again, she didn't notice him. It seems like every sense system she has isn't tuning in properly. The only thing that's working on her is her brain, and it's running on one thought only : Shu.
"I think.. I need more coffee." she held out her mug, lifted her head and looked at him. "Please?"
Sawamura sighed impatiently, "I think one is enough for you, Mizuki. Too much caffein will keep you awake tonight."
"But I want to keep awake tonight! I don't wanna go to sleep…" she whined, lowering her mug to the floor. She let go of it, crumpled into a ball and hid her face between her knees, "I'm sorry.. I just can't. I can't go to sleep…"
She burst into tears and started to sob furiously, her tears, though unseen to him, streamed down her face like a tumbling waterfall.
Sawamura sat there, looking alarmed. There he was, sitting alone with a girl, who is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, with Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds playing on the background. Terrible clash, by the way. He wished he could be somewhere else right now. He wished he could be someone else right now! How does one comfort a crying girl anyway? He had absolutely no idea.
An odd, sick, squishy sort feeling suddenly developed in his stomach. Miserable butterflies fluttered happily inside. Sawamura wished he could pluck their wings and yank them out of there. But of course, the ever-annoying butterflies inside stomachs doesn't really exist. Damn.
Now, should he wrap his arms around her an cradle her like a child? Urgh, no, simply disgraceful. Or maybe he should – no – he shouldn't do that. But – no, he shouldn't! But, well, she does look like she really really needed it, and – oh! What the heck!
He raised his hand, hesitated for a while, and patted her back awkwardly. The next thing he knew, the innocent 'pat' suddenly became a full embrace. His arms around her, his right hand stroking the softness of her ebony hair, her weeping face in the depths of his shoulder, her slender frame against his.. it was everything he never thought he could do. Everything he never thought he could enjoy doing.
"Damn, I hate this song…" came Mizuki's muffled voice from his shoulder, "Please change it, it's ruining everything."
Sawamura walked over to the stereo and clicked on the radio. As the first notes of the music burned across the room, they both held their breath.
I'm standing on the bridge
I'm waiting in the dark
I thought that you'd be here by now..
"…sappy." muttered Mizuki, very softly, she lifted her head and gazed deep into Sawamura's chestnut eyes. Her dark expression and the dull light in her eyes told him almost everything.
He walked swiftly back to her, sat behind her and leaned on her back so they were sitting back-to-back. After a moment's silence, he opened his mouth, "I suppose you came here to talk about something that has been bothering you lately." He paused. "So then, talk."
She stayed silent.
"You know, if you don't tell me anything, we can just sit here until we stiffen up and die." he said lightly, and her laugh broke out into the air, a surpressed laugh. Then more silence came in between the flowing melody of the radio.
There's nothing but the rain
No footsteps on the ground
I'm listening but there's no sound..
"I don't know why I came here…" Mizuki whispered at last. "I just ran off, trusting my feet and instincts to lead me to a place where I can find solace."
"Did you, though?" asked Sawamura, an unexplained feeling of severe curiousity rummaging his chest.
She smiled at his words, "Unfortunately, I found myself standing in front of your stinking place. But.. solace was here, nevertheless. Thank you."
He paused at her two last words. It had a nice ring in it. He couldn't help but smile.
Mizuki took a deep breath and steadied herself. It was uncanny how violent she had been shaking. Then she opened her mouth and let the words flow before her. "I've been having dreams these days.. weird dreams.." she started, her voice flat and calm. "I was there. Myself, as a seven-year-old…"
She had seen a little girl, much like herself, only younger, about seven. Her black pigtails danced in the sunlight as she smiled widely. One hand was holding a doll, the other was linked to another hand, greater in size. She remembered feeling safe whenever she holds that hand, knowing that it would never let her go, and protect her for he loved her more than life itself.
"I saw my dad there. He had promised to take me out to the park…"
It was her father's hand. Father, always proud and tall. Holding her hand so tight, he would never let it go. He loved her, and she knew it. It was in his eyes, twinkling along with the bronze in it.
"Otousan, can I go to the park?"
"Of course you can,"
"With you, Otousan?"
"Yes, Mizuki. I promise."
And he had smiled then, smilling like he'll always be there for her. He would never leave her, and she had believed it.
"I waited long… but he didn't come. He never came."
He never came. The little girl waited patiently as she sat on a bench, her little legs hung, barely touching the ground. She glanced at the park clock and wondered how long she had been waiting there. She was only seven, and had not yet learned to tell time, but she knew she had waited long. Long enough for the blue sky to tint the air scarlet, and alter into night. Long enough for the chirping birds to fly away and let the crickets play its tune.
The little girl laid back and stared at the night sky, positive that her father would show up any second now. Running to her and waving, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm late.' he would say. And they would hold hands, and together, they will walk into the park.
"Mizuki?" a voice called, and the little girl sat up swiftly, a dreading feeling stuck in her stomach. For that voice was not her father's.
"Okaasan.." she breathed as she turned around.
Her mother was crying.
Please, don't cry. Okaasan, please. Don't cry.
"He won't be coming back, Mizuki."
No. No. Please, don't say anything. Don't cry.
"Yes, he will. He promised to take me to the park."
She shook her head, "No.. he's not coming, dear."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry he's not here. I'm sorry he can't come."
She hugged her, and the little girl felt her trembling. It was then, she knew. He was not coming back. He had let go of her hand, and she had wasted years trying to hold it back.
"Then S-Sakurai showed up…" she suddenly burst into tears again, "I-I.." she sobbed almost hysterically.
Isn't anyone trying to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home?
Sawamura stared blankly into space, not daring to turn around and lay his arms around her. This was one side of Mizuki he had never seen. She was sobbing in a way he would not have thought possible, every bit of the controlled reserve that had kept her so calm throughout this past half hour swept away as if by a flood.
"I like you, Shu…!
"If you accept me, I will wait for you at the dock…
"Until the fireworks start, I will keep on waiting for you!"
"He never came either…" she whispered hoarsely, her breaths still unsteady. "I waited at the dock for s-so long – but he never came for me!!" he felt the cold shiver running up her spine against his. "I don't understand… why is there no one who will wait for me?"
"Why can't they both wait for me?
"Why was I never given the time to make them wait for me?
"Is there anyone out there who will wait for me?
"Or do I have to wait for them, alone, for the rest of my pathetic life!?"
It's a damn cold night, trying to figure out this life
Won't you take me by the hand take me somewhere new?
I don't know who you are, but I…
"If this is a dream, I want to wake up, right now." she muttered airily, "Please, just wake up. Wake up, drink a cup of coffee, and shoot a few hoops with my friends. And this day would never happen… never exist.."
"Do you really want this to never happen?" Sawamura suddenly spoke.
"What do you mean?"
Sawamura turned around to look at her. He didn't even know what he was thinking. Without pausing to let his mind work out what he was doing, he grabbed Mizuki, ran a hand down her face - "Heck it -" - and kissed her on the lips.
Mizuki squeaked in surprise but didn't hesitate. She too, melted into the kiss as she wrapped her arms around his neck, returning his touch. He tasted of cigarette and coffee, but she didn't mind. She smiled as she kissed, overjoyed that someone has actually waited for her. And not just anyone, but someone, she just realised, she had loved unlike any other way she had before. After all, they started out as friends…
I'm with you…
..or am I?
Am I with you?
Are we really more than 'just friends'?
She released herself from the kiss to gasp for air. Suddenly, it felt wrong. The kiss, the touch, everything she is doing right now felt like violating a certain friendship code. Mizuki stared through Sawamura's eyes and saw herself. His eyes were like mahogany, bright mirrors of the soul. But there was something else in it. Something she had been trying to ignore for the last few seconds. She leaned forward to kiss him again, but then something in her mind clamored loudly…
No, it said. No, this is wrong.. no. Just stop this, right now. No. No. NO!!
Their lips just barely brushed each others' when, "NO!" Mizuki blinked hard. It's just that, she didn't say that aloud. Sawamura did.
He had his hands gripped tight on her shoulders, driving her away from him, his eyes darting right through hers, glistening with affection and something else… regret. He hung his head, not bearing to face her.
"I'm sorry, I can't do this." he whispered, both his hands resting on her shoulder, but her eyes were still not looking at her, "It's.. wrong."
Mizuki stared bewilderedly, holding down the urge to smack him, "It's wrong!?" she blurted out, "We just kissed, and it felt great, and all you can say is that it's wrong!? How cliché could you be!?"
"We were friends first - "
"All great relationships started out as friends, Sawamura!" she shouted in exasperation, and he looked away. "Please, for once I felt like I was worth it. I can do more than just play basketball and score in school. Don't take this away from me.."
There was a long silence. When Sawamura spoke, finally, it was in a low voice. "So, is that what I'm about?" his hands slid down her shoulders, and he got to his feet. "Something to make you feel worth it? I kissed you because I wanted to -"
"Then why?" she cut in, standing up as well. "Why stop? You enjoyed it as much as I did, didn't you? Isn't this what you like? Isn't that what you wanted to do?"
"It's exactly what I wanted to do!" Sawamura shouted, "That's why I can't do it!" he spun away from her, and faced the wall. There was a tightness in his chest, something struggling to get out. He felt mad, for not being able to kiss her, because he knew, if he did what he wanted to he could lose a home, and he didn't have much of a home to start with. He had lost a home once, and never planned to lose one again. "I don't trust this," he said, "I don't trust anything, I never did."
"Don't run away again, Masahiro." whispered Mizuki, the calm structure in her voice broke out like a ragged tower. "You always say that when you're mad, and every time, you run away from it. Don't run, not anymore! Look at me, Masahiro! Look at me!"
Sawamura noted, the use of his first name. He supposed it ought to make him feel more gentler towards Mizuki. It didn't. Instead, it raged him even more, anger crashed inside his head like waves thundering through rocks. "You're all the same," he hissed in a half-whisper, and spun around to Mizuki, "You're all the fucking same! You just used me because you couldn't have Shu, how silly of me. I never trusted you, really. Like I said, I never trusted anyone. I've been betrayed once and I'm always careful to not let it happen again. That's why I can't trust anyone - especially you! I never wanted this, happy, school life I was forced into. Yes, you heard me, forced. Now admit it, Mizuki, you hate me now, don't you? Admit it! Admit it! Admit that you -- !"
It happened all of a sudden. Her arms had wrapped tightly around him as if afraid he woul leave if she ever let go. She had held him close like he did before, only now, it was out of desperation.
"I'm sorry--" she whispered in his ear. Sawamura reconsidered to hug her back, but hesitated. He was wise to hesitate, he realised, as she continued, "I'm sorry you're too fucking selfish to see what you could've had. I'm sorry I'm not worth it, as I never was. I'm sorry we couldn't be together, if ever. I'm sorry I'm like this, and you're .. you're just that." she let go of him and turned for the door.
She reached for the handle and opened it. Outside was still raining heavily, but she didn't care. She had grown past the phase of worrying anything about rain. As she slipped outside, she halted, and without turning back, her voice broke out,
"The moment I go out this door, consider nothing happened. Today never existed for me, as should it have never existed for you. You asked me if I really wanted this to never happen, and my answer is no. And yes. We shared what could have been a memorable kiss, Sawamura. It was a dream, a fantastic dream. But that's exactly why I have to wake up and smell the coffee." she tilted her head, vaguely, only so he could see her for a short moment, "My love is gone. Goodbye, Sawamura."
Her face was wet with tears, as it had been through this day. She was right in a way, that this was a dream, a fantastic dream indeed. The problem was that he never wanted to wake up.
The door closed behind her, and Sawamura was left alone. He kicked the wall, and then sat down on the floor, pulling his knees up and resting his head on his arms. As he raised his head, Sawamura stared at the coffee stains on his carpet, the only thing he would reminisce from this day. The dream was over, he realised, and so it was.