Disclaimer: I do not own Hana Yori Dango.

Chapter 1: A Ghost from the Past

Makino Tsukushi couldn't believe her eyes. Sitting just a few feet away from her in the dim bar where she worked was the person she had been looking for for the past two years. She barely spared him a glance when he first entered, thinking he was one of the many stragglers who found their way to the club hoping to unwind with a drink or two after a long day at work. But she did a double-take when she heard his voice, calling out to her fellow bartender to take his order. She never could forget that voice, deep and throaty as it whispered sweet nothings in her ear. The smooth voice that reminded her of how naïve she had once been. She observed him stealthily from where she was, careful not to come out of the shadows lest he look her way and notice her. He had changed slightly over the last couple of years. Oh, he still had the rakish good looks that caught her attention before, but he looked gaunter now, the planes on his face made more pronounced by the dark stubble on his jaw. He looked. . .tired.

"Hey, you're still here?" Tsukushi was shaken out of her reverie by Kazuya, the bartender who took over once she had finished her shift. "I thought you couldn't wait to get home?"

"I couldn't. I just thought I saw someone I knew but I was mistaken," she lied. "Well, I'm off now. G'night." She gave Kazuya a tight-lipped smile before heading off towards the employees' entrance at the side of the club. As she stepped out into the narrow alley, she breathed in the cool night air, thankful to be outside. Since she became aware of his presence that evening, she had felt a strange tightening in her chest, making her feel suffocated despite the spacious confines of the club.

Breathe, Tsukushi.

As she took several deep breaths to compose herself, a plan formed in her mind. She decided to wait for him outside and confront him before he could get away again.

I don't care how long it takes, you bastard. I'm gonna wait here and get my money back.

As Tsukushi crouched down to sit against the cold concrete wall, her mind flew back to the events of two years ago. . .

"Let's get married," he had said out of the blue while they were having a cozy candle-lit dinner in the home they had been sharing for the past few months. After a whirlwind courtship, he had moved into her modest apartment so they could live together.

"But I'm not even out of school yet," she blurted out after almost choking on the wine she had been sipping. "Graduation isn't for another two years."

"Why do you need to graduate? Once we're married, you wouldn't need to work anyway. My job is more than enough to support the both of us."

"You want me to quit school? But I'm only two years away from getting my degree. Surely we could wait 'til I graduate?" Tsukushi's voice was unsure. She didn't want to quit school now that she was so close to graduating. It had been her late parents' dream for her to finish her studies at the university. And it was a dream they made sure she would fulfill, leaving her a tidy sum in the bank even after their untimely death in a car accident. It certainly wasn't a fortune, but it was enough to see her through the rest of her years in college.

"But don't you love me?" he asked in a hurt tone. "I would think that if you loved me, you'd be willing to marry me as soon as I asked you. . ."

"Oh baby, it's not that. It's just that a degree is really important to me. It wasn't just my parents' dream. It's my dream as well. And that's why they left me the money. They wanted to make sure that even after they were gone, I would be able to fulfill my dream."

"Okay babe, how about a compromise? Marry me now but I'll let you continue your studies. We'll wait until you graduate before we start a family. How's that?" His voice was hopeful as he looked at her with an expectant look in his eyes.

"Well. . ." Tsukushi knew her defenses were crumbling as she felt herself melt in his gaze.

"C'mon babe, you know you're gonna love being married to me. And after you graduate, we'll make lots of babies! What do you say, hmmm? Say yes, please say yes. . ."

She couldn't have said no if she tried. Not that she wanted to say no. Here was the man of her dreams before her, pleading for her to marry him. She would be a fool to turn him down. Even after a few months of living together, she still couldn't believe that he wanted to be with her. She was no great beauty and she knew that. But he made her feel like she was the most beautiful, most desirable woman in the world. They had met at a frat party on campus. He was a fresh graduate who attended to be with his old friends who were still in school. She was a wide-eyed sophomore who still couldn't get over the fact that she had already completed one year of college. Their first date was soon followed by another, then another, and before she knew what hit her, they were already living together in the apartment she was renting ever since her parents died.

"Yes. . .yes, I'll marry you!" The wine had started to make her giddy.

"So. . .what do you say we start practicing on how to make those babies, hmmm?" he flashed her a wickedly sexy smile as he pulled her to her feet. The half-eaten dinner was forgotten as he led her into the bedroom.

Tsukushi felt like she was floating on air as she went through the following week making arrangements for their simple wedding. Right after her classes she would attend to the things that needed to be done such as applying for a marriage license, reserving a small function room at one of the nearby restaurants for the reception, and arranging for a priest to perform the rites at the quaint chapel they had chosen. She was so busy that she didn't even question him when he convinced her to transfer all the money in her account into his own bank account. They were getting married anyway, so everything that was hers was his too.

Two days before the scheduled wedding, she came home late after scouring the mall for a suitable white dress to wear for the ceremony. She had expected him to be waiting at home considering the late hour, and so she was surprised to see that the house was dark and no one was around. She tried calling his cell phone but either it was turned off or he wasn't picking up. Still only mildly worried, she went into the bedroom to change into something more comfortable. That was when she saw the closet with its doors flung open. His half of the closet space was devoid of any clothes. Only her clothes remained hanging on the rack. Already afraid of what she was going to find, she went towards the drawers where his folded garments were usually stored. Empty.

Hoping against hope, Tsukushi tried calling his mobile phone again. She lost track of how many hours she stayed up that night, furiously dialing and redialing his mobile number on the phone, refusing to believe what she knew in her heart was true. It was almost dawn when she sank into her bed in despair. He had left her. By now he had probably skipped town and could be anywhere. She let out an anguished cry as she buried her face into the pillows, wishing she could suffocate herself to death. She had been duped. The bastard had stolen all her money, along with her heart. The sun was already up when Tsukushi finally fell into a fitful sleep, her pillow damp from the tears that streaked her face.

She dropped out of school the very next day and set about looking for a job. The economy was in a slump and not many companies were willing to hire an undergraduate. She was lucky enough to find a part-time job as a sales assistant at a downtown clothing store. It required her to come in three times a week and the pay was minimum wage. Calculating the meager resources she had (the only money she had left was the deposit she had placed on the reception venue, which, to her enormous relief, they refunded) and knowing the rent and a fresh wave of bills were about to come due, Tsukushi knew one job was not enough. She was able to find a second job waitressing at a club called Frenzy. It was an evening job, which suited her just fine now that she was no longer in school. She became friendly with the bartender Kazuya, who taught her the tricks of the trade, and being a fast learner, she was soon mixing drinks like an expert. She became a bartender herself, liking the work more than being a waitress. The tips were better and she liked chatting with the patrons, some of whom confided their problems to her while drowning their sorrows in her concoctions. Sometimes she felt like a shrink although she didn't really dispense advice. All they needed was a sympathetic ear. It was all part of a day's work with her, and it kept her mind off her own problems, at least for a while.

Among her favorite regulars were two playboys who were both struggling musicians. Mimasaka Akira and Nishikado Soujiro were different from the others in that they never seemed to have a care in the world. They always teased her and made her laugh with their antics whenever they tried to outdo each other in picking up women. They knew she frowned upon their playboy ways, but she appreciated the respect and affection they showed her. They looked upon her like a kid sister.

==================

Tsukushi checked her watch and was surprised to see that she had been waiting outside the club for an hour already. She peered around the wall she had been leaning on and just then she saw the front doors of the club swing open, the loud music and chatter of conversation from inside reaching her ears. She saw him walk out, and she hurriedly got up from where she was crouching. Just as he was passing by the small alley she was in, her hand shot out to grip him firmly by the wrist. His eyes grew large in surprise as she came out from the shadows to greet him.

"Hello Junpei. Long time no see. It's good to see you again." The cold look in her eyes belied her words of greeting.

********************

A/N: Hi people! I'm back with my second fic, which is yet another AU of HYD, so I apologize if some characters may be OOC. Unlike with my first story which was already ironed out in my mind even before I posted the first chapter, updates for this will take a little longer. I know how I want it to start and end but I'm still figuring out what happens in between, lol. Hopefully I'll be able to update weekly (*fingers crossed*). It's the first time I'm trying to write a sort of angsty story so I hope you'll bear with me. But I don't think it's gonna be that angsty. I'm a very shallow person and I just don't have the depth to write really good heartwrenching angst. Anyways, I talk too much. All I really wanted to say was: PLEASE READ AND REVIEW. Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you! ^_^