Meus Amor et Mea Culpa
Normal – Present
Italics – Flashbacks
Bold – Present time elsewhere
"…I wasn't at the beach this past summer." Amy's words were spoken into the silent room, arousing her friends to look up. Lita had her head propped on the brain's lap and her brown-red curls turned so that she could look up at Amy with a questioning glance. Amy offered her and the others a half-hearted smile before settling her eyes on Rei, who was the only person in the room not to look surprised. "Although, I'm sure you already knew about it."
All heads in the room swung in Rei's direction. The priestess-in-training merely shrugged. "It pays to have a jerk of a father in high places."
That comment earned her a soft smack on her thigh from Mina before the blonde looked over at Amy again. "Amy, what're you talking about?"
They were at Mina's house now after Rei announced that Lita was driving herself deeper into depression over Nicholas Anza's pending wedding ceremony. The girls were gathered in Mina's living room, cakes and sweet treats made by Lita during her dejected period; she had a tendency to bake during moments of sadness. Now, Amy stroked the brunette's hair soothingly, something her mother did when Amy was younger.
"Last summer," Amy began once more. "I wasn't at a relative's house by the beach."
There was another pause in which everyone except Rei looked at her inquiringly. Serena broke the silence.
"Then…where were you?"
A slow, quiet smile crept onto Amy's face. "It was a treatment center in Louisiana for…" Here, Amy's voice faltered and her eyes seemed to glaze over in thought.
"…the unstable." Rei finished when Amy's pause didn't seem to end. Amy glanced up at Rei at that moment but chose not to say anything. Rei tucked a lock behind her hair and continued, looking off in a distance back to what her informant had told her. "It was more of a rehabilitation center that specifically targeted teenagers and their drug and alcoholic habits."
Mina cocked her head to one side. "So you were interning there the whole time?" She broke out a mild half-smile. "Doesn't seem like something you'd need a big secret for."
Amy didn't answer as her eyes remained seated on Rei, who said nothing as if waiting for Amy to fill in the blanks. However, Lita saved her the trouble.
"No," She said softly, reaching up from her place in Amy's lap and touching Amy's cheek lightly. "It wasn't your big secret."
"No." Amy smiled sadly with a far-off look for a moment before nodding. "It's Zach's."
The following day…
"You told them." Amy glanced up at her friend, love interest, pseudo boyfriend, whatever and nodded, feeling only a tinge of shame at not letting Zach know before she said anything to the girls first.
"…I didn't like lying to them." She said truthfully after a while, turning her attention now to the dandelions by her bare feet. A breeze wafted over to her face and she sighed as she looked over the lake that stood before them, its water slowly turning dark as they reflected the gloomy clouds that began to hover. Ever since her confession to her best friends, she had felt as though a weight, a weight that had been on her chest since she left the treatment center, was finally lifted. She snuck a glance back at Zach and saw, as she expected, that he was avoiding her gaze. She bit her bottom lip, an arm reaching out to him. "Zach? I-"
It was when he slapped her hand away from him like an annoying fly that Amy's suspicions were confirmed: He was mad.
"Zach," Her face was pained. "Please don't be upset. I just-"
"'Don't be upset?'" Zach shot at her incredulously. "How the hell do you expect me not be upset?"
"It's fine." Amy insisted, tugging at his arm. "Your secret's safe with the girls, I swear."
"No, Amy." The way he said her name almost made her cry. "It was supposed to be safe with you, like you promised remember?"
Her eyes flashed hard for a moment. "You promised to stay away from me and you didn't keep that one, did you?"
Zach gave her a look of confusion and disbelief. "Are you seriously comparing you dropping my problems to your little friends to me wanting to be with you?"
"You didn't want me." Amy scoffed, suddenly remembering their last meeting at the center and the heated anger she felt against him. She stopped being sweet and a bitter streak began coursing through her veins. "You were just looking for a hookup."
Zach opened his mouth to argue against her but the defiant look in her eyes stopped him and he shut his mouth. Of course she was right; she was Amy, she was always right. But, "You know damn well that that changed over time."
A clap of thunder roared in the distance that was not heard by either teen, whose ears could only hear the pounding of their blood. Amy rolled her eyes, all feelings of shame or apologetic words she had drained from her mind. "Whatever, Zachary."
Zach felt a sting in his chest at hearing her say his first name in such an informal matter, like they weren't close, or even friends…just like their encounter…
Over the summer..."What's her name?" Amy whispered softly, looking at the pale, sedated girl sleeping on the bed.
"Emma." Dr. Grant Chase replied. "Her family checked her in a few weeks ago."
As Dr. Chase continued on with the girl's description, Amy assessed the frail form before her. Emma's hair, at one point, must've been a radiant blonde color. However, years of over-training and swimming in chlorinated pools had managed to take their toll on her abundance of hair, tinting the otherwise fair-haired strands into a pale green hue. Amy titled her head to one side, absently deciding that this child's bone-structure reminded her of someone…
"…she was found floating in her family pool by a servant." Dr. Grant was saying. His bright eyes and quirky lips were buried beneath bushy white facial hair, while his head seemed to shine in all its baldness. This was the man who had watched over her mother during her beginning years as a doctor and was now allowing Amy to shadow him at the clinic. "She had apparently taken an incredible dose of sleeping pills before walking into the water. It was a miracle enough that she was even alive when she was found."
"It was intentional, then." Amy said plainly. Dr. Grant nodded grimly.
"The girl is depressed." He said. "Apparently, she had had a tiff with a boy she was seeing. He had cheated on her or some issue like it and well…" Dr. Grant waved a hand towards the bed.
Amy shook her head sadly. "Weren't her parents home?" She asked.
"Father was at a business meeting." Dr. Grant said, shaking his head slightly. "Mother has been gone for quite some time already."
Amy shivered involuntarily. "Poor girl."
"Not really." Amy turned and found an imperceptible smile on Dr. Grant's face. He caught her look and the grin widened softly. "Her father may find it hard to look on his own child, but her brother…" Dr. Grant's voice trailed off, shaking his in what Amy could only see as admiration.
Suddenly, Dr. Grant's eyes lifted off her to just beyond her shoulder, a beaming expression on his face. "Speak of the devil! Mister Monroe!" He exclaimed approvingly. "How are we doing today?"
As he swept by, Dr. Grant didn't take a moment to notice how Amy's body tensed up immediately at the mere name that triggered a part in her brain. She slowly turned around and felt a huge lump in her throat as she recognized, without a shadow of a doubt, the infamous Zachary Monroe, the local heartthrob of her school…in California…on the other side of the country.
The very vision of Zachary brought back memories of Mina and Beryl's twisted friendship and Amy was realizing how awkward of a position she was suddenly in. To make matters worse, Dr. Grant decided to move aside and when Amy caught Zachary's eye she knew that he, too, recognized her without a shadow of a doubt.
…talk about awkward. And, of course, Dr. Grant just had to keep on going.
"…And this is Miss Amy Mizuno," He was saying, oblivious to the sudden tension that froze the air around them. Zachary's green eyes narrowed at her name and a flicker of something crossed his expression that Amy didn't know how to describe although the term 'hatred' flashed through her mind. In normal circumstances, Amy would've felt the need to make out a small whimper and doge to a corner somewhere. But as the instinct in her arose to do just that, flashing images of Mina being carried in Lita's strong arms, Rei's coat hastily covering Mina's mostly-bare body as Ace made a futile effort to get to his feet, throwing up on the clean carpet of the room of someone's house after Lita gave him the worst whooping of his life.
Indignant rage for one of her dearest friends against people like Beryl, the bitch who drugged Mina, and Ace, the jerk who willingly took advantage of Mina, welled up inside Amy and directed itself against the blonde man in the room who eyed her with suspicion. Zachary opened his mouth to say something towards her when Dr. Grant wasn't paying attention, but when he saw Amy's eyes flicker into an icy cobalt, Zachary decided that whatever he had to say…could wait.
"…And I don't want some nitwit, miss goody-two-shoes running her fucking mouth to the world about my family's business. You got that?!"
The slap stung a lot worse than Zachary expected it to, coming from someone as damn small and meek-looking as the resident brain of his high school. He looked in front of him and saw Amy rubbing her reddened wrist with the same hand she had used to slap him. Zachary hadn't meant to be volatile in any way shape or form when he approached her outside of the clinic and confronted her about his sister and he grabbed her wrist to stop her from leaving when it seemed like she didn't want to listen to him.
"Listen you," Amy hissed, an accusing finger aimed at him. "I have given my word of confidentiality to this clinic and the last thing I need is someone like you coming around and challenging that. My concern here has nothing to do with your precious reputation but rather your sister. If you have a problem with that and your preoccupation is focused on what your little friends back home will say if they find out about your sister and her state, then…" Amy let the possibility hang in the air for a while before she realized just how much the idea repulsed her. The words that came out of her lips were like acid, "Then you truly are as much of a bastard as Beryl and Ace are."
In retrospect, comparing Zachary's insistent for secrecy and the border-line rape Mina almost went through wasn't exactly fair. But as far as Amy was concerned, they were all the same: snobby, selfish, and cruel people who got their kicks from hurting everyone else around them so they could feel better about themselves.
Obviously Zachary felt the same because his frustration sky-rocketed to indignation. "Don't you dare compare me to those two!" He practically boomed. "And don't you dare question my intentions when it comes to Emma. I love my sister." He said, touching his chest with his hand to convey how close he felt to her. "All I'm thinking about now is how, when she gets better she's going to go home and the last thing I need for her to have to go through is idiotic people gossiping about her condition and talking shit behind her back. I've had enough of that happening to me but at least I can handle it. Em? Not so much. So," He gestured to her hand and nodded incoherently. He took a deep, calming breath before saying, in a manner much calmer than it was seconds ago, "I apologize for hurting you in any way but all I need to know now is your reassurance that Emma's business won't be released to the public."
Any biting words Amy had against him dissipated on her tongue as Zach raised his head to her, bombarding her with the most earnest, honest, and defeated expression she ever thought a person could wear.
Looking back at that interaction, Amy would later realize that it was that one look that drew her to Zachary…and it would be that one look that haunted her throughout that one summer…
"Crappy night?" Zach swiveled his head and squinted to find Jaden swaggering over to the bar. Zach then turned back to his drink, idly wondering how the level went down so quickly.
"You could say something like that."
Jaden nodded sagely before slopping down on the seat next to him. It didn't bother the Aino heir to ponder how Zachary was able to acquire said alcoholic beverage without being the legal age. Then again...
Jaden's eyes roamed over Zachary's form now: depressed head, lying atop the wet arm coats of his jacket, half of his face buried, green eyes gazing beyond the empty glass that sat before his equally empty eyes him...staring beyond his reach, searching for something...or someone that he knew he wouldn't see there.
Seeing Zach's state, he couldn't help the smirk. "I'd say I feel sorry for you," Jaden said, ordering a drink of his own with his legal license. "But I need to reserve my pity for myself.
"Be grateful." Zach's head turned towards Jaden's, which faced forward at the amazing array of spirits and ethanol-containing beverages, his mind wondering how he can consume them all while continuing his conversation with Zach. He looked at the shot placed in front of him and smiled into it, hands curling around the cool glass. "You heard me, Zach." He said, lifting it to the light and watching as the rays shone through, highlighting his features with a watery hazel. "Be grateful."
"……" Zach couldn't think of anything intelligent to say so he settled for snorting. "Sorry, buddy." He said unapologetically. "But there isn't much for me to be grateful for…"
"I had to Zach!" Amy protested, getting angrier as she tried to explain herself for the fifth time. "I love them! It was killing me to keep a secret from them!"
"Yeah well what about me, damnit?" Zach demanded, turning his angry gaze on to her. "What about keeping a secret for someone you loved?"
In the silence that followed his words, Zachary Monroe began to realize that he had said the very wrong thing. When she lifted her head so that he could see the icy glaze that covered the surface of her blue eyes, hurting tears swirling beneath their surface, he felt like dying.
"…You know damn well the difference between you and them." She whispered harshly, her voice straining. "I love you and them yet-"
"I know. I know-" He began, trying to make it stop.
"I have yet to hear you say the same to me." She continued as though never once hearing him. "And I continue to love you even though you can't even acknowledge me publicly. Even though you make me wait for you to tell your father about me and even though you refuse to be seen with me alone, I still love you." Amy prodded on, her anger and hurt cumulating by the second. "I love you Zachary, and I have loved you until and beyond it hurting me."
She raised herself to her feet quickly in one motion, and Zach watched her frame be highlighted for a split second by the flash of lightning in the skies behind her. He thought he had never seen so much hate in the eyes of another being as he did at that moment. Twin raindrops fell into his eyesight, blurring his vision as she declared through a sudden booming thunder,
"And I'm through hurting."
He watched her walk away, bare feet slapping wet ground as the cold rain fell against her cheeks where her tears refused to fall.
"She loves you."
Zach looked back over at Jaden, now on his fifth shot. The older man made a toasting motion before throwing his head back, wincing at the burning in his throat.
"It doesn't matter what dumb, asinine, idiotic shit you said or did to her," He said wisely, a slur creeping into his speech. "Because no matter what, she still loves you." A wave of his hand and the bartender was back to pour more into his shot glass again, smiling as he felt Zach's curious eyes on him. "I don't have to know what's going on between you two," Jaden said, motioning for the bartender to pour more into his glass. "All I need to know is you, your dad, Emma, and Amy, to know that you did something really stupid for your underage ass to be sitting in this stool next to." He smiled as his hand curled around the newly-filled glass as he paused his speech. "You see, even if you're here brooding, she still loves your dumb self while she cries on my sister's shoulders. No matter how badly you screw up," He downed the drink and stared at the ceiling of the bar, a pair of royal violet eyes staring down at him in his mind's eyes. He blinked, smiling sadly, whispering bitterly, "She'll still love you." He touched his stubble-clad cheek, thinking Kaidou probably shaved every day.
Jaden wondered, for the millionth time since he'd last since seen the beautiful Rei Hino, what she would say if she saw him at that very moment. He briefly wondered if she'd even give a damn. He figured she probably wouldn't in which case...
His hand felt too heavy to stop the bartender's arm from going away so he simply said,
"Leave the bottle."
"Eavesdropper." Rei's eyebrow went up as Haruka didn't even look up from the book she held in her lap. The younger woman stood at the doorway of Haruka's room, and the blonde looked up at her with a small smirk that reminded Rei far too much of her twin brother. "It's not polite to listen to other people's conversations, Rei, did you know that?"
Her lips were curled at the edges but the dark rims around her reddened teal eyes told Rei a different story.
"You're in love with my brother," Rei remarked, adding, "Did you know that?"
The other woman simply chuckled in the same way Jaden did before saying, "You're in love with mine and everyone knows that."
Rei stiffened a bit and Haruka just shook her head. "Your brother and I had-"
"A one night stand."
"A fling." Haruka corrected because Rei's terminology bothered her. "It was a one time fling, but a fling nonetheless. That is it and nothing more."
"If that's the case, why were you that shaken up?"
"Ah," Haruka breathed mockingly. "An eavesdropper and a spy." She smiled good-naturedly. "Your father should use you to look into his opponents. Of course, I'm sure Kaidou will probably the best incentive for you."
Rei's eyes darkened like Haruka knew they would.
"That's not nice, Haruka." She said in a warning tone.
"Neither is turning down my brother for a lunkhead following your father's footprints." Haruka pointed out, calmly. "Do pray tell what a cute politic zombie has above my handsome brother that makes you think it's okay to hurt him?"
Rei swallowed, wondering whether to tackle the insult or the question first. "Don't call Kaidou that." She defended. "He's a good man-"
"Just like your daddy, then?" Hmm. Jaden was right. Rei's eyes actually did look like fire lived behind them. Haruka snorted, closing the book she held in her hand, and giving Rei a distasteful look. "Don't kid yourself, Rei." She said more softly. "You and I both know that Kaidou is supposed to be taking after your father anyway. Why go after that and reject my brother, your friend for ages?" She looked up at Rei pleadingly, genuinely confused only to find the girl's eyes looking elsewhere, somewhere else, some other time, long ago…
Mina ran in just in time to see Haruka collapsing onto the ground, Seiya barely catching her hysterical, exhausted form before the realization hit her as well. Mina's knees hit the floor as Haruka let out a blood-curdling scream and the younger sister had to clamp a hand over her own mouth to keep her cries in. Lita came up from behind her and embraced her, shushing her cries with soft words, all the while her eyes glittered with panic, unsure of how to comfort one of her dearest friends in the situation.
And Rei stood there. She watched the doctor's lips move and listened to Haruka's screams and Sei's attempts to protect her from her own anguish. When she felt her heart slowly die as she stood there, not knowing what was happening to him, to Jaden, that's when she started running.
She slapped the doctor's shoulder as he tried to stop her from continuing down the hallway of the trauma center. She was breathing heavily now, her vision switching between the hallways of the hospital to the image of the handsome young man that had stolen her heart years ago and was about to leave the earth with it in tow. For probably the first time in her life, Rei Hino was truly, completely and utterly scared down to her very core.
So she ran and ran until she almost ran past his window.
"Better a miniature, better-looking version of my cold father," Rei said shakily, old emotions she had locked away now brimming at her eyes. She blinked angrily as old images resurfaced once again.
She was looking for the golden hair and tanned skin in every window…which is why when she looked upon the bloody mess in Room 578, she couldn't and wouldn't believe it to be him. His hair was still wet with blood, bruises adorned every inch of his broken and battered body. Bandages were everywhere, except his face, where glass shards are been previously removed from and left with stitches upon them. Her lungs ached for breath and her heart begged her to stop looking at the shell of the man she had fallen for yet failed forever to confess to.
Rei Hino fell to her knees by his bedside, crying his name until her brother picked up her shocked form and she watched the horrible image of Jaden's dead body getting smaller as her resolve to love another man, any other man, became stronger…
"…Than an idiot who would sooner get himself killed before taking into consideration everyone close to him that he could hurt!" Rei practically screamed, unable to believe those same memories and feelings she had rid herself of years ago were still living and breathing within her. Her chest ached, her eyes burned, and she felt like she had died all over again just by reliving her most traumatic memory ever.
A little beforehand...
"Wha youse doin'?" Jaden slurred unsteadily, as Zach lifted him out of the bar.
"You're drunk." Zach grunted, squinting through the rain to find Jaden's car.
"No shiz." He hiccupped. "So're yo-u."
"Well, lucky for you," Zach said, "Between you berating me and crying about Rei, I've managed to sober up rather nicely in the last three hours." He fished out Jaden's keys from his pocket and opened the passenger side. "And since I can use words beyond the mono-syllabic, I think I'll be driving tonight." He grinned, shutting the car door with a slam…
"He hates the rain." Amy said quietly as Mina sat next to her by Mina's bedroom window. "His mother died when it rained. Emma tried drowning herself when it rained, too."
Mina and Lita exchanged looks before Mina reached out to Amy again, soothingly touching her pale arm.
"He wouldn't be out in weather like this…" Amy said musingly. "He hates it."
Jaden hiccupped and he tried looking at Zach through one eye. "You- you ain't gunna try drivin' are you?"
Zach laughed a little ironically. "You're drunk. I'm as sober as I can be. And your sisters will kill me if I leave you here."
Jaden waved him away. "Nyoh. Jes lemme stay right here…"
Zach shook his head, grunting as he lifted Jaden into an upright position and buckled his seatbelt for him. "Thanks but no thanks. I'll take my chances on the road."
"I've loved your brother the same way you've loved mine," Haruka said quietly after Rei's outburst. Her hand roamed over the book in her hand; a faded album of years gone by, every page a picture of how the Aino and Hino children grew up together. "Without any rhyme or reason beyond them being the only other souls to understand our own."
The engine revved to life in Zach's hands as he pulled out of the bar and began the trek back to the Aino household.
Mist formed where Amy's mouth spoke, "He used to say the only happy memories he'll ever have of the rain are of me."
"Ken you ev'n drive schtick?" Zach shrugged at Jaden's drunken confusion.
"I'm sure I can manage it." Zach replied, looking at the controls and trying to remember the right way to drive this kind of car
"I died when your brother nearly did, Haruka." Rei said, tears flowing freely now. "I won't take that risk again by falling for him again." She wiped angrily at her tears.
Jaden's head hurt so much. The pouring rain made his stomach churn and Zach's driving felt very nauseating. It also didn't help at there seemed to be a blinding light staring him down-
"Ames, you need to eat something." Lita said, 'tsk'-ing. "You look so pale."
Amy shook her head. "I can't, Lita." She said softly. "I'm worried for him."
Mina smiled reassuringly. "I'm sure he's fine, Amy. You said it yourself, he hates the rain." Mina smiled wider as she gestured to the rainstorm outside that matched the mood of the blue-haired girl. "Surely he wouldn't be out in this weather."
Zach was trying hard to figure out the controls when Jaden realized a little too late that the blinding light was getting bigger until-
"ZACH WATCH OUT!!!!!"
"I can't love a man who's all too willing to die." Rei muttered angrily
"A man doesn't die if there's something left to live for."
"Right." She rolled her eyes. "So what's your excuse for not loving Sei back?"
Tires screeched as Zach made a sharp turn to avoid the incoming car. The other car slammed onto the rear part as Zach turned, ricocheting the car across the slippery road…
"I want to call him." Amy was stopped by Lita reaching out to her.
"You've called enough times for today." She said placating, referring to the four phone calls Amy placed to Zach earlier. "I think he'll call back when he's ready to."
The wheel was out of his control, no matter how hard Zach tried to steer it back the right way. Panic seized every part of his body and stiffened his every limb until the impact finally came…
"Maybe so…" Amy gave in, only slightly disbelieving.
Rei's face flashed before Jaden's eyes right before he saw the tree trunk and realized they were going to hit it. She was beautiful, dressed in her red gown the last night he had seen her, eyes defiant and desperate as she told him, again, "He loves me."
'Sure.' Jaden Aino smiled in the split second it took to hit the huge tree, 'But I loved you first.'
The airbag slammed against Zach's cheek violently, turning his eyes to the driver side window that was slowly shattering in his vision, shards falling away to reveal the falling rain…and a mirage of a pair of pretty blue eyes and a sweet pink smile that never stopped loving him. And Zachary Monroe thought if he had to go, she'd be the sweetest image he could take with him before his world faded to black.
Haruka opened her mouth to reply to Rei when they heard the loud, distinct and solitary ringing of the phone inside the Aino home...
chickay: ...Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaah. About this chapter. This is the result of the impact of multiple encouraging and heart-warming replies I got to my author's appeal and my way of saying 'Thank you' to everyone still out there. You have no idea how wonderful it is to know I'm not alone in slacking off and feeling about it all. I apologize for this chapter's choppiness; I tried to make it all scene-by-scene deal going back and forth between the girls and guys and I don't know how well it worked out for the readers worked fine for me since I know where I'm going with this story. In addition, the morbidness wasn't really intended but more of a result of dsiagreements between myself and my significant other. Go figure: apparently, fights are the best muses a girl can have.