Reaching True Feelings

Kaoru stirred in her sleep, the fine line between reality and her dreamlike state still blurred. Cars whizzed by on the street adjacent to her house. Outside, nothing was at a standstill. Outside, activity was brewing. A new day dawned.

But Kaoru possessed no interest in beginning her day at the crack of dawn. Oh how she liked to exaggerate. Her clock merely read 6:45. "Five more minutes," she thought simply, just as any teenager would. Yes. It was a matter of five minutes. Then five minutes more. And more. Right up until you hobbled around the house as though demons of hell were nipping at your feet. Late again.

The demons of hell would have to wait, she proposed. Of course Kaoru never cared for thinking in advance. Her pillow was already pressed against her face in a sad and sorry attempt to mute all existence in one fell swoop.

Her mother appreciated the effort, a listless half smile pasted on her lips as she entered the room. To flick the light switch or not flick the light switch? That was the question, indeed. "Kaoru…" she began in a low tone, "now we went over this, dear."

The teen squirmed in her blankets, groaning in protest. "Leemelooooone," came the whiny response from within her quilted stronghold.

"Not when it comes to your first day of school." Her hand crept toward the light source in question. Next came that terribly malicious sound. Click. Yes. Kamiya Kaoru, a senior in high school. It did have a nice ring to it. Now if she could only emerge from her room…

"Fantastic. The one thing that deprives me from sleep is the one thing I can't stand," Kaoru seethed.

A sardonic eye roll was the only retort her mother could come up with. "Still… I can't believe you're finally going to be a senior. I know this is corny but it really does seem like yesterday when you were still dressed in diapers. It's making me feel older. And pretty soon we'll be talking about wedding preparation, huh?"

"I think it's too early for this conversation. I'm barely conscious," she groaned, arms stretched as a great yawn ruptured through her throat. "And as for marriage, I haven't even had a boyfriend, nor do I intend on entertaining the thought. Why bother in high school? They're all still trying to find themselves."

"It's with an attitude like that that's going to prevent you from finding the real joys in life. You don't need to come up with an excuse for everything you know," her mother said as she walked out of Kaoru's room and into the kitchen. Kaoru sat up in bed for a few moments, psyching herself up to actually roll out of bed and slog into the bathroom. The running subzero water from the sink slowly began to revitalize the cranky youth. She hurriedly splashed her face and proceeded to carry out her morning routine. Brush, brush, clothe, awaken. Oh yes, she was a slave to it all.

Kaoru knew she was running late and while any normal person would be more than frantic in order to make up for lost time, she wasn't sure she minded that much. As far as she was concerned, school could wait for her. It wasn't necessarily a place she had longed to return to. In fact, she was certain she could think of at least twenty other places she'd rather be. The past two years hadn't necessarily treated her kindly. Returning to school for her third and final year seemed like another grueling chore. Just another hurdle to leap over for the sake of leaping. Same shit, different year.

The house was quiet aside from Kaoru stirring about along with the quiet hum of the kettle in the kitchen. It had been just her and her mother living under one roof ever since her father had passed away a number of years ago. While it was nice to have company from time to time, she and her mother weren't particularly close. Whether it had to do with her mother fleeing the scene on a regular basis due to business, Kaoru wasn't entirely certain. She slipped a modest white blouse over her head. It was lonely no matter which way she sliced it. Her light pink skirt fell right at the knee, showing off her slender legs. Did she always feel so lonely? School certainly hadn't made her feel welcome. Her hair was secured in place with a matching pink ribbon. She was the picture of pastel radiance.

"This is a change," she thought as she performed an awkward half-twirl in front of her mirror, "I never used to wear stuff like this." The pièce de résistance were the white sandals that adorned her tiny feet in a fresh, stylish way. Change was good. She was certainly hoping for some of it to come her way. Facing the day would be one way to find out for sure. If she could ever manage to get out the front door.

"I'm going, mom," she called out as she poked her head into the kitchen. Her mother merely smiled and nodded, admiring the outfit Kaoru had so gracefully pulled off. Feminine clothes had always befit her but years prior she had turned her nose up at them or avoided them like some sort of flesh-eating plague. Yet today her complexion shone, exuding a certain confidence her mother had never noticed or detected before. It was refreshingly new.

She wasn't the kind of girl who would compromise function over fashion, even though her sandals might have suggested otherwise. Her mile walk to school would have been a pain, quite literally, if she chose to wear heels or some other restricting, bone-crushing shoe on her first day of school. But no, the walk was something she never minded, even though her destination was never a personal favorite of hers. Walks to school let her mind come to rest. Her body was in constant, repetitive motion. It was a simple way of moving and being.

Her mind had been on autopilot for so long that she failed to realize that there was a faint hum of a car's motor nearby. Had the car been following her? How long had that been going on? Kaoru's mind snapped to in an instant and her swinging strides gradually slowed themselves until she came to a halt. The car followed suit, having already approached Kaoru on the right. She eyed the glossy red convertible, looking the driver up and down. "Look, I don't know what you're selling, if you're even selling anything, what you want, but I'm not interested," she stated matter-of-factly as she crossed her arms over her chest.

Her eyes continued to survey the man behind the wheel. What came off as a shock to Kaoru was that he looked…beautiful. Handsome may have been too manly an adjective to assign to him upon first glance. Certainly beautiful, she pondered. Of course this did not discredit his level of attractiveness in the slightest. He had the brightest head of hair she had ever seen. It wasn't often she'd seen a color red that loud or intense. "I wonder if it's real or dyed," she thought skeptically. But that wasn't what took her aback the most. His eyes. They were a deep shade of purple. Both striking features were pulled together nicely through his flawless pale skin.

"I'm sorry miss…that is not my intention," he said slightly apologetically, "actually I'm a teacher and I've been assigned to teach at a school nearby. I'm afraid to admit this but I seem to have forgotten if the school is in this direction." His eyes never left hers. God he was beautiful, she thought again to herself like a broken record.

"Ah um, yes. Yes. It's uh, up the hill and then you bear uh, left," she stammered. His warm smile was a catalyst for her heart to spasm several times. Spasm and do handstands. And back handsprings. She had never encountered a stranger so good-looking that words quite literally escaped her.

"If you're a student, I'd be happy to give you a ride. It'd save time, that it would."

"N-no," Kaoru politely declined. She felt as though her close-mouthed smile would collapse on her at any moment. "Walking isn't a bother. But thank you." Her hands were clammy. More smiling. A slight bow.

He nodded curtly and waved as he continued to drive onward. "How weird was that," she whispered to herself. She quickly regained composure now that the attractive teacher was out of sight and out of mind…for a while anyway. She was certain she'd see him again on school grounds. A strange part of her had even hoped that he was a professor for third year students so that she might see him again on a regular basis.

Her legs continued to carry her. Perhaps she should have accepted his offer for a ride but it was too late now. Nothing would have become of it anyway. Right? She shook her head. Now wasn't the time to be enthralled with someone, let alone a stranger and her superior no less. She had her priorities in order. At least she was sure she did.

By the time she reached the school gate, swarms of people were meeting and greeting. They were the same old crowds, the same cliques and all. Kaoru felt her lips curl downward as she pretended not to notice. She walked by the embracing, socializing, and laughing, making her way toward the auditorium. Everyone would be ushered there soon enough so as long as she was ahead of the crowds, that was good enough for her. She was already feeling the anxiety of classes beginning and reality setting in. Hoards of people did not calm her stress, they only fed the beast.

She stopped to check her wristwatch. 7:45. It was earlier than she had anticipated. "Looks like I have time to kill after all," she muttered. The teen spun on her heels and made her way through the empty halls. There were no other students roaming about but in a matter of about thirty minutes, all of that would change. In the meantime though, the faculty could most likely be found behind their desks, preparing themselves for yet another year of the same old. As Kaoru walked passed a classroom she took note of one professor practically injecting caffeine into his body by means of chugging one extra-large cup of coffee. Her nose wrinkled in disgust as a fat drop of the hot beverage rolled down the man's chin. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Anything to jolt someone out of their lethargic stupor. Back to the grind.

Kaoru sat in the courtyard, adjacent to a small clearing that led to the school's gymnasium. It was quiet and undisturbed, hardly a hotspot for local teens. She let her thoughts wander here and there for a solid chunk of time before deciding to relocate once again. Her eyes leered at every classroom she passed by, careful at the same time not to make eye contact with any of the professors. She hadn't liked to dabble in small talk nor did she care to.

She passed room after room. And then there was classroom 3-C.

His red hair was unmistakable. So was that face. Those eyes. There was that beautiful man.

Kaoru's heart stopped for a moment as she took cover behind the door jamb. Honestly she hadn't expected to see him so soon after she'd given him directions. Still, she was hoping to have caught a glimpse of him all the same. "I wonder if he ever took up modeling before finally settling on becoming a teacher," she thought. Her eyes remained extremely attentive. Red bangs hid away the large majority of his face as he sat behind a desk rubbing his temples. His shoulders slouched forward in an unprofessional manner. Lazing on the job. It fascinated her.

He must have been tense. Nervous and tense and God knows what else. His shoulders rocked to and fro in small circles as though he were trying to alleviate pain and stress. Those deep purple eyes were closed and his head rolled back to expose his Adam's apple. He took low, shallow breaths. Definitely sensual.

A few moments passed, the silence was ruptured by a soft moan. His right arm crossed over his chest as he began to massage his left shoulder. She studied the way his fingers moved. Never had she believed that watching a man's hand at work would make her feel differently. It was as though a warm surge pulsed through her body. Gently. In waves. If she could stay watching him forever, she probably would have.

The only thing that pried Kaoru away from her voyeurism was the time. 8:15. She was a student with obligations. Class. Homework. The usual. For a moment she seemed to forget she was studying a teacher. Better stick to studying math.

The auditorium was now flooded with the majority of the student body. The increased volume had only made Kaoru wince. As she made her way down the aisle she did her level best to avoid looking at anyone. Crowds had always made her uncomfortable. It always felt as though she were being watched, even if in reality she wasn't. The aisle sloped downward at a rather tedious angle, forcing her to take smaller steps. She felt a snag in her step and barely managed to save herself from falling.

The culprit? A boy with a smile that could rival that of the Cheshire Cat. It felt as though she was well acquainted with that smile and had been for eternity and beyond. Oh how she hated him, "G'morning, Youko. Nice attempt. Best leave me alone though, I'm not in the mood."

He had bright chestnut colored eyes that shone of whimsy and mischief. He merely lazed back in his seat and grunted, "Oh come on, I'm just messin' with ya. I never really thought you'd trip over my foot. No one ever falls for stuff like that!"

The spirited girl shrugged him off and walked down the aisle only to sit closer toward the front and at the end of her row. She folded her arms and the waiting game began. A superintendent generally handed out schedules in the auditorium to all students. Luckily this process was done according to class so the wait was much less difficult to bear.

"You look like a statue, Kaoru," came a voice from her left. A tall, curvaceous female approached her and smirked. She looked several years older than your basic average high school senior. Most would consider this to be a blessing. "You haven't been around all summer. What happened to you?" The girl flipped her cascading, jet-black hair off her shoulders.

"Megumi," Kaoru smiled. She rose from her seat to give her best friend a hug. "I know, I've been kinda M.I.A., I'm sorry. I don't really know where the summer went!"

The two girls engaged in idle chit chat and before long, said chit chat had paved the way to juicier, more intense gossip. It took no time at all, really. They assumed their positions as giggling girlish partners in crime.

"Interesting lot ya got there, Kaoru," Youko commented, hovering over Kaoru's shoulder as they both looked over her schedule. "Got quite a few classes with me! Lucky you!"

"Yeah real lucky," Kaoru retorted. She suddenly griped, "I don't have a single class with you, Megumi! Figures…"

"Well when do you have global? I have it fifth."

"Third. Hm, what do I have fifth though…" Kaoru muttered as her finger skimmed down the paper. It came to a halt when she recognized the room 3-C on her schedule. A slow realization came to mind. It clicked. She would see that red-headed man again after all. As her teacher. Her superior. She knew she would have to try with all her might to suppress her most unusual thoughts.

He was an English teacher. "Mr. Himura," Kaoru mouthed inaudibly as she read his name. Once, twice, several times. Himura Kenshin. Her finger rested right below "3-C" all the while.

Author's Note: Here I am, pretty much 8 years later...rewriting this thing. I sort of have an attachment to this story and I want to salvage it as much as I can by giving it the face-lift it needs. Changed Laura to Megumi. I figure it'd make more sense to have an actual character from RK as Kaoru's close friend instead of a random chick I made up years and years ago. Anyway I feel much happier with this rendition. I'll be uploading more slowly. To those of you who are still reading this, I hope you enjoyed :)

Son Christine