The Looking Glass
Chapter 4: Penny for Your Thoughts
Kaoru tried her best to walk steadily to her room, attempting to make her face seem as indifferent as possible. She crossed the long hallway and turned the knob to get inside the chamber the family had given her. Once inside, her façade gave way. She closed the door hastily, leaning against the door, her legs slowly giving out. As she sank to the floor, she willed her heartbeat to calm down. She brought her hand to her forehead and was shocked to feel moisture. Sweat. She didn't know what got into her. Okay. Next time, no limited breathing space.
That morning, Kaoru quietly got into the car. This time she hadn't been late, and she and Kenshin had not spoken since she'd found him waiting for her in the living room. She kept glancing at him, trying to see if she could catch him by surprise and determine what he was feeling. But his face gave nothing away. It was unnerving. Kaoru was fond of activity. Interaction.
"Is something on my face or are you just looking for more things to insult?"
Her face hardened.
"Give me a minute and I'm sure I'll be able to think of something."
He laughed scornfully, glancing at her and then back at the road.
"Take all the time you need, sweetheart. I'm dying for some entertainment."
She shifted her body so that it was facing him.
"You really can't last a minute without picking on someone, can you?"
"Not someone. Just you."
She felt the familiar stirrings of her temper.
"And why is that?" she said with barely concealed anger.
"Do I really need to answer that?"
"I don't ask questions I already know the answers to."
"Then you must not know all whole lotta stuff."
"I know that I'm not hearing anything from you that makes the tiniest bit of sense. I asked you a question. It can't be that hard to answer it properly."
They were now at school and he was slowly parking the car.
"Let's see," he said, turning off the engine and facing her as well, "you insult me and then try humiliating me. That doesn't exactly qualify as friendly behavior."
"And I guess the fact that you provoked me means scratch, right?"
He pulled the key out of the ignition. "Just stay out of my way."
With that, he got out of the car and proceeded to walk away, leaving her there, fuming.
Kaoru was able to get to English with five minutes to spare. Her locker was pretty far away so she had to run to make it before the first bell. She stood outside the door for a few seconds, took a deep breath and entered. Pairs of eyes immediately turned to look at her and she inwardly squirmed. What was it with these people? Haven't they ever seen a new girl before? She headed straight for her seat, focusing on nothing else because she didn't want to have to see who was behind it. She sank down and placed her messenger back on the armchair. She started playing with the strap in an effort to keep her hands occupied. Where was the teacher?
At the back, she heard the sound of giggles and Kenshin's low voice. Giggles again. She rolled her eyes. The wonders of teenage hormones. She was listening in amusement at his attempts to sound smooth and the girl's obvious pleasure when she felt something hit the foot of her chair. She decided to ignore it, but there it was again. She adjusted her position, trying to make it stop. But it didn't. Again and again she felt the slight tapping of someone's foot. She tried coughing a bit. But that didn't work either. Kaoru was beginning to feel irritated. A high-pitched laugh broke her eardrums and the chair gave a rather big thud. Okay. Enough was enough.
She turned annoyed eyes at Kenshin. "I'm sorry, but while I'm very pleased that you're enjoying yourself, could you please control your exuberance and try not to hit the back of my chair. It's giving me a migraine."
He smirked coldly. "Wrong suspect, Sherlock."
She blanked out for a minute. There was that giggle again. A hand was waved in front of her.
"Sorry about that."
Her gaze was redirected to a pretty brunette who had a huge, embarrassed smile on her face.
"I didn't know I was bothering you. I guess my mind was elsewhere." She looked at Kenshin, as if suddenly remembering that he was there, and blushed. His smirk was so wide she swore it almost gobbled up his entire face.
She pointedly ignored him and the feeling of growing humiliation, and smiled kindly at the girl.
"No problem. Didn't think it was you."
"Yeah, 'cause you insist on blaming me for every bad thing that happens," a voice cut in.
She faced him again. "Is it my fault you look like a goon?"
He leaned back. "Goon? Please, you can do better than that."
She glared at him. "When it comes to you I don't need to do better. You fit right in with mediocre."
He threw his hands up. "Kami-sama, all I want is a simply apology, Kaoru. Just one little 'Kenshin I'm sorry for being a judgmental jerk'."
She refused to feel guilty. "You'll get your apology, when I get mine," she retorted.
That was when she realized that they had an audience. Aside from the somewhat shocked girl sitting on Kenshin's armchair, those near them had stopped to openly listen to their conversation as well. Flushing, she faced the board, vowing to keep her mouth shut.
It was lunch and she had decided to spend it at the library. She didn't think she could put up with the stares any longer. She really couldn't understand where all the fascination was coming from. She just thanked her lucky stars that the hallway was empty and she was free to walk leisurely, without having to pretend like she saw no one.
Kaoru was in the process of happily listening to the echoes of her own footsteps when a door suddenly opened and two people emerged from behind it. She slowed down, hoping they wouldn't see her, but she didn't stop walking. As she got nearer and nearer, she saw a familiar outline. Slowly, the image became fuller and she caught a glimpse of silver hair.
It was Enishi. His clothes were a bit disheveled and he was talking to the girl who had followed him out. Their conversation was apparently over because the girl was now walking away and he was turning towards her. His hand was wiping the corner of his mouth when he saw her. Then he stilled.
Her forehead wrinkled in confusion at his reaction. Then something clicked. Kaoru was pretty sure she her face turned into a hundred colors. Something inside her felt the acknowledgement of the tiniest bit of disappointment. But it was quickly drowned out by shame. She struggled to control the rising color in her cheeks when he jogged towards her. She consciously fought the urge to turn back and run. That was not a situation she had wanted to be a witness of.
"Hey there," he greeted.
"Hey," she said, attempting to smile. This was just way too weird.
He stopped when he reached her and fell into step with her.
"Nice to see you again," he said, smiling.
"Yeah, same here," was her lame attempt at a reply.
"Where you headed?"
Awkward silence then followed. And the echoes she had liked so much just a few minutes ago, now only added to the uncomfortable tension. What should I say? Nice to know at least someone's having fun? Or congratulations on getting jiggy with it?
More silent seconds ticked by.
"I guess I completely blew my chance, right?"
She looked at him startled. His hand was at the back of his neck and he was looking down in an almost embarrassed manner.
"What do you mean?"
He looked at her with teasing eyes. "Oh, so that's it. You want to make me squirm some more."
She laughed at his expression. "I honestly don't know what you mean."
He looked at her for a while with a mischievous smile on his face. "Does my making out with another girl bother you?"
Kaoru's face was instantly on fire, her mouth opening and then closing. She stared at him, sure that he wasn't really expecting an answer to that. When he continued looking at her playfully, she realized that he really was. What should I say?
She cleared her throat. "Umm…why does it matter?"
He didn't even hesitate. "Because I was planning to ask you out sometime." She froze.
He stopped walking. "It's okay to blink you know."
She automatically looked away. Was it possible for a body to physically set on fire from humiliation?
"I'm that screwed huh," he said when she didn't respond.
She looked at him, trying to stop blushing.
"No, it's not that," she hugged her books to her chest, "I just don't know how to react," she admitted truthfully.
"I find that surprising."
Her forehead wrinkled. "Why's that?"
He shrugged. "I'm sure someone like you is used to this kind of attention."
She reddened yet again. It wasn't because of what he said, more of how he said it. Like he wasn't aiming to flatter her, just telling the truth.
"Not really," she shifted uncomfortably.
He raised his eyebrow. "How come?"
"I don't know."
He chuckled. "You're really informative, aren't you?"
His amusement made her laugh too. "I try to be." She could feel some of the tension slipping away.
"You're really new at this?" he asked her again.
"Why is that so unbelievable?"
He looked at her impishly, the corners of his mouth tugging upwards. Then he shook his head. "You wouldn't understand."
At that, she just had to roll her eyes. "That made a lot of sense."
He moved in front of her, blocking her view and keeping her from walking forward. "Allow me to educate you then."
Kaoru wished she could shrink into the size of a bug, anything to escape his gaze, because her body felt like there were a thousand ants crawling inside it. He really did have beautiful eyes.
"I think you should leave that to the teachers," she responded, trying to sound dismissive, and walked around him. She heard his footsteps less than a second later.
They stopped in front of the doors of the library. He had walked her there.
"You really don't like me?" Something in her tingled when she heard his voice.
"I think it's kind of early to tell." They were facing each other. Her back was to the door.
"All the more reason to go out," he said, the lighthearted spark in his eyes again.
"You just don't give up, do you?"
"Why settle when others can do that for you?"
She laughed uncomfortably, but then she saw how solemn he was.
"You really are serious," she stated incredulously.
"Dead serious," he stated
She looked at him, took in the way his hair his hair fell across his eyes, and imagined them looking at that other girl, and probably others before her.
"What about the girl?"
He looked surprised. He opened his mouth and then shut it. This continued for at least a few seconds until he brought his hand to his hair and groaned. "Ah man, I knew I wouldn't get away with that," he looked up, "Let's see," she could tell that he was having a really difficult time thinking of what to say, "Well, technically a few minutes ago I still hadn't asked you out, now though it's a different story."
She gave him a look. "Please don't tell me that was the best you could come up with."
He laughed. "And here I was thinking I could lower your guard by making you blush some more."
This time she really did blush.
He shrugged. "Kaoru, what do you want me to say? Girls usually discover I'm looking to get laid after they date me, not the other way around."
When he saw the look on her face, he quickly put his hands up.
"I was joking," he said. There was a pause. "Okay, maybe not entirely. But it's not always like that with me. I mean, I'm not all about that. Or I can be not only about that."
She felt how he was trying to pull her in, took in how he was leaning slightly forward, and tried to blindly reach for the doorknob. "I don't know Enishi, I just don't think I can handle things like that right now."
She saw him look at her hand and he frowned, and a part of her almost wanted to take back what she said.
"I'm not trying to scare you." Her hand went back to her side. She looked at him in embarrassment.
"You're not. I'm just uncomfortable."
He was silent for a while. "Tell you what," he told her, "I'll back down for now. Do that whole getting to know you thing." She inwardly sighed in relief.
"But the offer still stands." He started moving back, still facing her. "That's what's great about being schoolmates. I can't stalk you without appearing to."
He grinned. And she felt her body relax.
The space between them grew bigger. "I guess I'll be seeing you around."
She could still feel his eyes on her when she entered the library.
"You're new right?"
Kaoru looked at the book now on top of her table. Her eyes trailed across a white arm and arrived at an incredibly friendly face. The girl was standing across her and smiling.
"Yeah, I am."
"Can I sit down?"
She nodded. "Sure."
Her new acquaintance practically bounced down, her long braid flying in the air. Her hand shot up and extended towards Kaoru.
"Kaoru," she said, accepting the girl's hand. She was pleasantly surprised to have it shaken vigorously.
She smiled a little at how energetic Misao was. Her face was shining with warmth and she couldn't seem to keep still, shifting from side to side ever so often.
"I'm so glad I met you," she burst out, "I've been wanting to since yesterday. I'm in both your Math and Biology classes. I'm sorry I wasn't able to say hi until now." She laughed and Kaoru found herself liking this girl. "Believe it or not, I was kinda shy at first. Not that you look mean or grouchy or anything like that," she said quickly, giving Kaoru a reassuring look, "It's just that you always had your head down and it's pretty hard trying to make friends with someone who isn't even looking at you. But I'm happy now because at least we've finally said hi to each other. I just love getting to know people. You seem really nice by the way."
Misao took a deep breath, and Kaoru took that time to say something.
"I'm happy to meet you too."
"Have you met anyone else yet? Have you been around?"
She looked absolutely giddy when Kaoru indicated she hadn't.
"I've gotten to know one or two students. But that's about it."
"This is so cool! I could be your guide, introduce you to people, answer your questions. That kinda stuff." She looked at Kaoru who was staring at her in mild bewilderment. "Is anything wrong? Am I freaking you out or something? I'm so sorry, but I'm always like this," she laughed a little nervously, "I can't help it."
"No, of course not," Kaoru assured her. "I'm just a bit surprised. The most I've gotten in this school so far are tight smiles from people in general and stares that want to make my skin crawl from some boys in particular."
Misao giggled. "Boys in heat. Not good."
"Uugh," Kaoru said, scrunching her nose in disgust, "the mental image that just created is so not decent."
The girl across her started laughing and she joined her.
"No, seriously," Misao stated after a while, "It's not that bad here. It just takes some getting used to. I'll help you. You'll be bouncing down the halls in no time."
Kaoru smiled at her. "I doubt that but thanks."
Misao wouldn't have any of her negativity.
"Missy, as far as I'm concerned there are no buts. There's a lot of fun around and I just happen to have the extremely fortunate talent of catching what's around me."
Kaoru still had her doubts but she felt some of her initial nervousness go away because of the smaller girl's enthusiasm. She couldn't help thinking that she'd met her first friend there.
"Okay then, my fate is in your hands."
"Now that's more like it," Misao said happily, grabbing her book and opening it. Kaoru followed her example.
"So I hear you're living with the school golden boy."
Kaoru found herself frowning almost against her will. Why was he always mentioned? Was there some hidden rule that saidhe had to plague her even when he wasn't with her?
"That bad huh," Misao said grinning.
"Aw, just give it a week or two. He kinda grows on you."
She looked at her with startled eyes. "You know him? Personally?"
The girl shrugged. "Yeah, you could say that."
Kaoru was busy trying to connect the cute and friendly girl with the scornful jerk, when her thoughts were interrupted.
"What's the deal with that anyway?"
"What do you mean?"
"The whole living arrangement thing. Are you a cousin or something?"
Kaoru froze. The blankness again. The overwhelming blankness.
She looked up. Misao was staring at her.
"Are you okay?"
She started flipping the pages of her book.
"Yeah, I'm fine." She cleared her throat. "It's just that I'm not with my parents right now. So I'm staying with them for a while. I'm not a relative."
If Misao found her reaction weird, she gave no indication of it; and instead started talking animatedly about the different clubs in the school and teachers with weird haircuts. But she no longer had Kaoru's attention.
Kaoru was looking out the window, trying to block out the extremely loud music coming from the stereo. Buildings and the occasional trees flew past her. All of them seemed to blur and blend inside the mosaic of images and sounds in her mind. Bright colors. Dark ones. Loud noises. Silence. Nothing mattered. She couldn't understand any of them. Couldn't determine one from the other. She could feel her lids growing heavy and she closed them. Her head was turned sideways away from the quiet boy beside her, and was resting on the car seat.
"If you fall asleep, I'm not going to wake you when we get there."
She almost sighed out loud. She was too tired for this.
"Why don't you pay attention to the road," she said wearily, still not opening her eyes.
Amazingly, it shut him up and she had the privilege of enjoying a fight free ride.
She didn't know if she could do this. Most people usually had the luxury of running away from their problems first before they hit them square on the face. She couldn't. If she ran, it ran with her. It was always with her. It seemed to creep into every conversation, every question. A girl needed a break too.
She felt the car slow down to a stop.
"We're here," a voice said gruffly.
Color invaded her eyes. "I thought you weren't going to wake me up," she stated looking at Kenshin.
"You weren't asleep," he replied curtly, reaching backwards for his notebook.
She looked at him and studied the way his mouth was set in a grim line and how his shoulders were tense from the action.
"Why didn't you tell them?"
His head jerked towards her and he stared at her in confusion.
"If I ask you what the hell you mean, will you bite my head off?"
"I just want to know."
"I was aware of that, Kaoru, but like I said, what do you want to know?"
She scowled at him. "Do you have to turn everything into an argument?"
"When you're being this stupid, yes."
She felt her mouth tighten. "Why didn't you tell them I have amnesia?"
Her question was followed by stillness. He stared at her, amber eyes flicking over her face.
"Do you want me to tell them?"
Her gaze met his head on. "No. But that's not what I asked."
His voice didn't hold any of the earlier irritation. It was just somber. "Why did you think I would?"
She couldn't believe he was even asking that. And she replied without thinking.
"You've made it pretty clear from the first moment you met me that you disliked me. I would think that you and your friends would have a jolly good time laughing about it."
His eyes darkened and the amber intensified. She felt herself involuntarily draw back.
"You know, Kaoru, this might come as a shock to you, but I'm not the evil villain you so desperately want to believe I am," and, with that, he opened his door and slid out of the car.
She just sat there.
Hey! Here I am, back from the dead. I'm so sorry for the long silence. I still want to continue this story and I hope you haven't completely forsaken it. I'll try to never take that long updating again.
Anyways, I've revised the past chapters. You may not notice the changes since they aren't that major. I just felt like there was way too much given. I'll insert some of the details I took out in the later chapters. I've also changed the title. I was pretty satisfied with the former one, especially since it came from the song that inspired me to write this, but I had to for personal reasons.
I think I somehow made the earlier chapters just a bit too..I dunno..and too fast..so I'm currently struggling to mellow things out to make the flow seem a bit more natural. I don't know if I'm succeeding, but I'm trying. Despite the pretty toned down scene at the end, Kenshin and Kaoru are far from liking each other. I just don't think it would be that real if they're at each others' throats, shouting at and hating every single minute. I'll reveal more about the characters as the story progresses. Sorry for not having a Kenshin POV here. Maybe in the next chapter.
Goldmund: Did you notice that Kaoru only acts out of character where Kenshin is concerned? This is because, yes, she is scared and lonely, but she also tries very hard to appear strong and steady even more so with Kenshin. He just keeps on provoking and provoking her that she can't help but fight back and act strangely towards him as a defense mechanism. Kaoru, because she has lost her memory, is very vulnerable. Kenshin threatens her the most not only because he makes a conscious effort to be mean to her, but also because he is very much connected to what happened to her. So it is no wonder that she does strange and, sometimes, impulsive things around him in an unconscious attempt to protect herself. As for Kaoru's fake attempt to hit on Kenshin, you'll find that she wasn't as in control as she appeared to be... Anyways, the review was greatly appreciated..it's made me think about certain matters in a different way…I'll be keeping your words in mind when I make the story
To everyone else who reviewed thank you so much. You guys make me so happy. Hehe. I'm sorry I'm not able to give each of you an individual response. That's largely because I want to release this chapter asap. I promise there will be responses in the next chapter. So keep those reviews coming!
Comments? Suggestions? Observations? Or plain rants? It's all good to me. Just tell me what you think 'cause I love hearing from you