Six. Somewhere over the rainbow
#And I never want that to happen again#
It was as if she had lost her remaining senses as well. The sun has probably never shone brighter from a sky that looked as if someone had scattered innumerable delicate feathers across a deep-blue carpet but she couldn't feel any warmth. The air was so full of scents that one could almost feel them, the heavy scent of dry earth weaving into the sweet one of roses in an eternal pattern but she didn't smell anything. A bunch of young birds was chirping in a nest right under the roof, trying to drown each other, the noise of the cicades that sounded like the humming of a generator mixing with the rustling of leaves in the background but she didn't hear.
Even the exquisite melody Yukari was playing on the piano in the living room of the Uchida's right behind her, wrapping everything in a soft embrace, sounded wrong. Hitomi knew that the redhead was playing without making any mistakes, without her fingers stumbling, without pressing the ivory keys for too long, and though it was imperfect like everything else around her.
Usually she felt like hugged by magic when she listened to Yukari's playing but that day, it seemed the magic couldn't reach the place where she had decided to lock herself in. Something was missing. It was the breath that would make everything so much more alive; the one tune in Yukari's melody, the one noise among the whisper of the trees, the one scent that would complete the pattern, the one warmth that not even the sun could provide.
Hitomi knew exactly what was missing but she was too proud to admit, too confused and too afraid.
The last tune of an extract from Tschaikowsky's Four Seasons hovered in the air as if trying to fight the silence that was to come. However it faded slowly, Yukari straightening on her stool and retracting her hands from the piano, the smooth surface sparkling like the sea at night. She turned to look at her friend who was leaning against the frame of the glass door that led out into the garden behind the house, the caramel-coloured curtains swaying softly in a light breeze.
Brushing a red strand out of her face, the young woman rose and headed over to her friend, her skirt rustling quietly with her movements and her bare feet tapping softly over the parquet floor. Hitomi had her arms crossed in front of her chest, her green eyes staring blindly out at the garden. With a sigh, Yukari kneeled down and started to fondle Tiara behind her ears.
"You don't look very enthusiastic," she said quietly and smiled when Tiara raised her head.
"Is there any reason to?" Hitomi replied monotonuously and Yukari softly shook her head.
"Well, looking at the decision you just made," the redhead began and slowly rose from the ground, watching her friend's profile while absently smoothing out her skirt. "I would say yes. Yes, there is a reason to be enthusiastic and excited. You should be pacing up and down, grinning because you will finally do what you always wanted to do and at the same time, worrying because so much will change."
"I only applied for university," she whispered and turned away from Yukari, taking a few hesitant steps into the living room that was flooded with sunlight.
"Yes!" Yukari exclaimed and spread her arms. "Yes, you applied for university! You're going to become a teacher for blind people! You're going to move out! Everything you tried so hard to keep it the way it was, is going to change! And you just stand here as if it doesn't mean anything to you."
"It means a lot to me, Yukari," Hitomi countered and briefly gazed at her friend, only to face the floor again. "Don't you ever doubt that. I really appreciate your help but it's just that...that..." She trailed off and her shoulders sagged visibly.
"Something is still missing, right?" Yukari questioned and glanced at the glass table that was placed in front of the couch, a few sheets of paper covering the tv guide. "The application documents are all done and now they are only waiting to be brought to the post office but it's still not everything you wanted. Something important is missing. Something you need to be happy but you're too afraid to admit it."
"Yukari, I..." Hitomi began but didn't continue, her lips pressed together and Yukari's words reveberating within her skull.
"When was the last time you laughed?" the redhead suddenly asked and Hitomi raised her head, delicate brows knitted in confusion.
"What --?" she attempted to reply but her friend interupted her softly.
"You don't need to answer these questions to me, just answer them to yourself," she offered with a warm smile and watched the curtains dance gracefully with the wind, the light fabric moving as if it was alive. "When was the last time you laughed? When was the last time you forgot to worry? When was the last time you felt happy and secure? When was the last time you felt that you belonged?" Her voice had become quieter with every word and was barely above a whisper when she added, "Just think about it. It might make the next decision easier."
"Which decision?" Hitomi mumbled in reply, trying to ignore her racing heart, and Yukari's brown eyes flashed angrily.
"There is an old saying, Hitomi," she replied, determined, and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "It is about a boy and his sensei. The boy was asking him how he could detach himself from what is binding him to his past. In reply, the sensei went to the trunk of a tree and embraced it, wailing what he could do to make the tree let go of him."
The red-haired woman watched her friend who had different emotions chasing each other across her features. "It's all up to you," she carried on and Hitomi bit her lip. "The harder you try to run away, the sooner your past will catch up with you. Just turn around one last time and end it so that you can continue your way without the fear of being followed."
When Hitomi remained silent, with her wide blind eyes focused on everything but Yukari, she sighed and turned to leave. The delicate noise of a silver wind chime was gracefully floating through the air, the fragile construction dancing in the wind. "Yukari, wait!" Hitomi's hesitant voice stopped her when she was halfway across the living room.
"I don't know what to do," she continued when the redhead didn't reply, her silence indicating that she was only waiting for Hitomi to speak up. "He told me I should stop thinking about him and wished me a nice life before he walked out on me. And I just don't know what to do."
"Van was crazy about you, the last time I saw him, Hitomi," Yukari countered and put her hands on her hips, one delicate brow raised in suspicion. "You cannot just turn off these feelings. What did you do to make him leave?"
"I told him to do so," Hitomi answered truthfully, taking a shaky breath. Why did she suddenly feel as if she couldn't have made any bigger mistake but that?
"What?" the redhead blurted out, a frown crossing her face and an ominous gleam entering her eyes. "Why, for heaven's sake?"
"Did you see the scars on his forearms?" she asked in a voice that was lacking any emotion and Yukari's expression changed as if someone had turned over a page, her brows raised and her mouth half open. "I accused him of taking drugs."
"But that isn't the reason of the scars," Yukari whispered and Hitomi shook her head, Tiara watching both women with attentive eyes.
"No, it isn't," she replied hoarsly and ran a hand over her face.
"I know what you were doing," Yukari then broke the silence after Hitomi's words, her lips curling into the smile of a child who had just found the hidden Christmas gifts in the closet of her parents. "You were searching for an excuse, weren't you? You were searching for a reason to kick him out of your life. And when you thought you had finally found it, you acted on instinct and without thinking of the consequences."
The barking of a dog wavered into the living room and Tiara's ears twitched, her brown eyes however not leaving Hitomi.
It was true. She had wanted to find a reason to be mad at him, to yell at him, to have an excuse to make him leave. She had wanted to find one all the time; all those times he had made her laugh, the times he had made her cry, the times he had made her feel so incredibly special. All this time, she had wanted him to just leave her alone, leave everything and especially her the way it used to be.
He had the ability to change her. She had known it the minute he had appeared on her doorstep, telling her he would kidnap her. And it had scared her like nothing else before.
This was what she had tried so hard to avoid; changes. Her life had just turned back to normal after the betrayal of her former boyfriend when he suddenly decided to burst into her life. Hurricane Van.
He went across the coast, leaving nothing the way it was and pure confusion in his wake. She hadn't asked for it. She couldn't count how often she had thought about what would have been if she hadn't run into him that day. It would have been so much easier. It would have spared her so many sleepless nights. She hadn't asked for someone to affect her that much.
And now that Van was gone, she wanted to return to the normality of him being around her. The normality of him showing up at her door, unanounced. The normality of his crazy ideas and warm laughter, of the uneasy feeling he caused to crawl through her.
She wanted it back. Everything.
"Do you think that I'm the biggest moron on this planet?" she questioned with a sigh and her eyes glinted like emeralds in the sunlight.
"No," Yukari answered with a casual shrug but couldn't hide the smirk that tugged at the corners of her lips. "I think you're the biggest moron in the entire universe and all the parallel universes there are. But I already knew it the day I met you and it doesn't change that I like you."
"Good," Hitomi replied, a grin spreading over her face that was like a sunrise. "That was just what I wanted to hear."
He sat slumped on his chair, his elbows braced against the desk and his hands burried in his raven-black hair, auburn eyes staring down at a book. He had to pore over the heavy tome during the summer break and it was actually quite interesting but somehow he wasn't able to get past this one sentence. He had already read it for twenty times now and still didn't know what it meant for when he reached the end of the sentence he had forgotten what had been written in the beginning. Actually, he couldn't remember what had been written on the last fifteen pages.
With a grunt, he squeezed his eyes shut, the letters beginning to dance a jig on the page because he had been staring far too long at it. Running his hands frustratedly through his hair, he straightened and leaned against the backrest of the chair, eyes glued to the white ceiling.
He could hear the monotonuous clicking of keys from where Dilandau was hammering on the keyboard, sensible red eyes hidden behind sunglasses so to lessen the damaging effect of the screen at least a bit. The music in his headphones was blaring so loud that Van could understand every sreamed word, the noise only interupted when Merle turned a page of the magazine she was leafing through.
"I told you to leave me the hell alone half an hour ago, just to remind you," Van muttered angrily and Millerna raised her gaze from admiring her fresh-painted toe nails, blond curls swaying gently.
"You did?" she replied in surprise and raised her delicate brows. "I didn't hear anything but that usual and incoherent muttering of yours. Did he say something, Merle?"
"Not that I know," she replied and brushed a pink strand out of her face, not even bothering to look up. Lying flat on her stomach on Van's bed, she shifted the lollipop in her mouth and nudged the albino who sat right beside her with her foot. "What do you say, Dilandau?"
Dilandau jumped as if stung by a bee and swirled around with a confused expression on his face, pulling the headphones out of his ears. At once, the volume of the music increased, making all three of them wince. It was way beyond the pain barrier. "Huh?"
Merle smirked. "Did you hear that Van said we should leave him alone?" she repeated sweetly and Dilandau looked up, facing his thoroughly annoyed room mate.
"No," he finally answered. "No, I heard nothing."
"See?!" Merle exclaimed triumphantly, shoving Dilandau back around so he faced the computer again, and Van rolled his eyes. Needless to say that Dilandau had been trying to master the art of making himself turn deaf already half an hour ago.
"Is there nothing else to devote yourselves to but getting on my nerves?" Van questioned darkly and both Millerna and Merle glared at him with simultaneous anger. "Where is Dryden when I need him to pull you off my shoulders, Millerna?"
"He's busy with a practical training in his father's enterprise but I already told you," she growled in reply, trying to strangle him with just her will-power. "And besides, the world does not evolve around you, just to remind you. You have no right to kick us out for we're here to keep Dilandau company and not to pester you. Go somewhere else when you feel disturbed. Nobody's forcing you to stay here."
A look of something Millerna had rarely seen flickered across Van's features when he just stared at her, even Dilandau watching with his pale eyebrows narrowed in worry. Millerna was about to open her mouth when he suddenly spoke up. "You know what?" he said with a stony expression and slammed his book shut, making all of them jerk. "That was the best idea you've ever had!"
He nearly knocked over his chair when he rose and gruffly grabbed his keys, heading for the door without a glance back.
"Van!" Millerna barked and scrambled over his bed, throwing over the small pot of nail paint in the process. A puddle of pink liquid immediately formed on Van's comforter.
"No, you were right," he replied harshly and held out his hand to stop her, violet eyes flashing at him. "I have no right to kick you out. So, when I don't want you to be around me, I'll just leave. Thank you for the advice."
"It's been a week since you last saw her and you've been behaving like a masterpiece of an asshole ever since!" Millerna exclaimed vividly, her fists shaking at her sides. She was hardly able to restrain herself from jumping him and shaking some sense into this stubborn head of his and choking him until he was all blue in the face. "What the hell happened?"
He paused with his hand on the doorknob and wanted to smack himself for just considering to think about telling her. There was nothing to tell. Nothing at all. The topic was finished. She had finished it.
With his eyes averted and without a reply, he turned the knob and pulled open the door. Black strands tumbled into his view when he looked up and he felt his heart sink into the hollows of his knees by the sight that greeted him.
Hitomi had been standing in front of the door to his dorm room for solid twenty minutes, arguing with herself whether to knock or not. She had been just about to finally raise her arm when she had heard the voices. Angry voices. Though she hadn't been able to understand anything at all because disturbing music had been penetrating the wooden door right behind her.
She was frozen to the spot when the door suddenly swung open, her emerald eyes wide and her breathing caught in her throat. She knew it was him. His scent was unique. Like a rainshower.
The silence around them was deafening, even the music from the room across the hallway turned off. But then again, she wouldn't have been able to hear it anyway for her heart was beating so loud that she knew Van could hear it and beat so fast that she thought it would raise the white flag and simply stop working at any second. She would die from heart-attack before she could tell him why she was there.
Her voice was quiet, not more than a whisper, and filled with a desperation that pulled him mercilessly out of his reverie, calling their last encounter painfully to his memory. She had made it clear that she didn't want him in her life.
Closing his eyes so her appearance wouldn't cast a spell over him again, he slammed the door shut.
His situation was quite hopeless. In his room, there was the albino edition of Lex Luther together with Super Girl and Cat Woman, ready to tear him apart. Out in the hallway, blocking his only way of escape, was his cryptonite. Oh joy.
But it wasn't as if he had any right to a say in that matter for Hitomi had already put her stick between the door and the frame.
"Please, listen to me," she continued and he pressed his lips to a thin line. "That you owe me for I was listening to you as well. Please, we need to talk, Van."
"There is nothing to talk about," he replied coldly, his voice strange even to his ears. "I said everything I wanted to say."
"But I didn't," Hitomi countered and leaned against the door. "I don't want you to remember me being a cold-hearted bitch if you remember me at all that is."
He was unable to stop his lips from quirking at her words. She was using his own words against him.
Glancing at his friends out of the corners of his eyes, he caught them turning quickly away from him, the ceiling suddenly highly interesting. His features softened and a faint smile stole across his lips.
"I'm sorry," he whispered in their direction and taking a deep breath, he slid out of the room.
Once outside, he watched the image that had haunted his thoughts and dreams with unreadable eyes. Only this time, it wasn't just a mere shadow of her features, a mere echo of her voice, this time, it was Hitomi in flesh and blood, breathing and squirming right in front of him. She had taken a step backwards, her eyes averted to the ground. Long lashes were hiding them from his view and her delicate fingers were playing nervously with a piece of fabric.
He had tried to deny that he hadn't been thinking of her but had failed miserably. Up to that day he had hoped she would come out of her shell but her words had been way too audible. How he had wished to be deaf that very minute. Maybe he shouldn't have told her. Maybe he shouldn't have went to talk to her at all.
"Let's go for a walk," she finally broke the heavy silence and stuffing his hands casually in the pockets of his pants, Van turned to head down the hallway but a soft hand on his arm made him stop.
He was hardly able to restrain himself from snatching his arm away, the goosebumps spreading across his skin absolutely and totally uncalled-for. Looking at her, he noticed that she was still avoiding to raise her gaze and Van lifted a dark brow in questioning, waiting for her to speak.
Instead of saying something, she just held out the black fabric. She would have laughed if she had been able to see the bewildered expression on his face. "I want you to understand me," she explained and released his arm, unfolding the fabric. "It's a blindfold that I want you to put on."
Van eyed her and then the blindfold suspiciously, before he shrugged and mumbled a short "Fine." He reached for the blindfold but Hitomi hastily retracted her hand, making him frown.
"No," she said quickly. "No, let me do it. You mustn't peek."
She seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if waiting for him to contradict, before she slowly stretched out her hand. "Can I touch your face?" she asked carefully, stopping mere centimeters away from his face.
The question seemed ridiculous but for her it was an intimate gesture and she knew from experience that some people weren't comfortable with it.
Van held his breath when her surprisingly cold fingers touched his chin and traced gently over his flushed cheeks and the bridge of his nose up to his eyebrows. Her fingers were to her what a brush was to a painter, creating a faint image of his features in her mind. But it wasn't a picture made of colours, it was rather a guess made of vague outlines, scents and feelings.
The hint of a smile parted her lips when she stroked unruly strands of his raven-black hair out of his face, his eyes fixed steadfastly on her blind ones. The intense auburn gleam vanished in shadows when Hitomi placed the blindfold over his eyes, tying a knot skillfully at the back of his head.
With a satisfied nod, she traced the fabric once more, before she left the warmth of his skin and held up four fingers in front of his face.
"How many fingers?" she asked and cocked an eyebrow.
Van tilted his head to the side and knitted his brows under the blindfold as if in great thought. "Thirteen," he replied with a casual conviction in his deep voice as if he had just told her that the sky was blue.
Hitomi frowned at him and though he couldn't see it, the shadow of a smile rushed across his features.
Without another word spoken, she reached for his arm and led him down the hallway and down the stairway to the exit of the building. Van's steps were clumsy and hesitant and he stumbled more than once over his own feet, swallowing the curses that lay on his tongue. He unconsciously tightened the grip around Hitomi's arm, the continuous tapping of her stick leading the way.
An intense wave of warmth washed over him as soon as they had passed the doors, his skin prickling lightly. The air was hard to breath, thick with the scent of summer heat.
"Ah, look whom we have here," a familiar voice drawled from beside him, the crunching of stones under feet reaching his ear.
"Yukari?" he questioned and the redhead smiled by the sight of him clinging blindly to Hitomi's arm, head tilted backwards so to peek from under the blindfold. He looked absolutely hilarious.
"Long time no see, right Van?" the young woman replied with a grin and he felt something being pressed in his hands. "I'm just here to introduce you to your guide for today. Tiara, say hello."
A bark and an almost violant tug at his arm were the reply and Van struggled to remain standing on his feet. "What is this all about?" he demanded but Yukari just smiled silently.
"Patience is a virtue," she chirped and Van glared through the fabric that covered his eyes.
"Patience is the art of slowly getting angry," he retorted and Yukari noisily stuck out her tongue at him, before turning to Hitomi with a sly grin on her lips. "Good luck. I gotta go, now. My date is waiting."
"Is it worth asking his name, this time?" Hitomi called out after Yukari's retreating footsteps, biting down a smile.
"Therefore you deserve one hell of a hit!" the redhead yelled over her shoulder and waved her arm threateningly though she knew neither of them could see it. "Amano! His name is Amano!"
Hitomi shook her head and softly tugged at Van's arm, urging him to follow her. "Come on."
It was strange. It was strange not to know where one was going. It was strange not to see the sources of the sounds around him. He felt as if he was swaying from side to side, as if his feet stepped into nothing, as if he was going to fall down a staircase when he made the next step. He was concentrating so hard on the things he couldn't see that he only noticed that they had entered the sidewalks of Fanelia when a truck thundered past him, the wind tearing at his hair and the earth shaking slightly under his feet.
Van wanted to stop and absorb everything around him but stumbled when the ladies pulled him along. The noise of cars roaring along the street mixed with the chatting of people, amused glances following the unusual couple that was, of course, completely oblivious to it. The air was packed with sounds which were alternating as if he was listening to a medley where the songs changed every ten seconds. The only sound he missed was the sound of her voice.
He wished he could see her face. He wanted to read from it what she was thinking, what she was feeling for her eyes were blind not numb. She hadn't said a single word since Yukari had left. She hadn't asked a single question. After all he had told her, she hadn't asked a solitary question.
"You're not saying anything," Hitomi suddenly voiced, making him snap out of his thoughts.
"Why should I?" Van replied casually and carefully walked down some steps. "I told you I had nothing to say. You were the one who wanted to talk. So, talk!"
"You're mad at me," she stated quietly and against his better judgement, Van's lips turned faintly upwards.
"I am?" he countered and raised his brows, his voice a bit more provokingly ironic than he had intended to.
"I stood you up and sent you into no-where," Hitomi explained, guilt nagging at her words and her head bent down.
"That you did. Quite expertly," the young man agreed matter-of-factly, slightly raising his voice when a horde of noisy children giggled and screamed past them. "You made me look like a fool, although I have to admit that Adon is a really nice place. I liked the loneliness and the friendly chicken."
"You're being sarcastic," she muttered and led him swiftly around a corner.
"But I'm not mad at you," he replied and a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "And you know what? I want to. I really want to be mad at you. Gods, you completely messed up my thoughts so that I took one of Millerna's romance novels to my class instead of my psychology book and didn't notice until I had to read out page 124!"
Hitomi bit her lip to stop herself from giggling. "Just laugh," Van snorted. "Everybody else in my class did just that."
"I didn't come to apologize, Van, but to tell you my reason," she said after a moment of hesitation. "I did it because I was afraid. Afraid of trusting you."
They were standing in a buzzing beehive of people who were waiting for a traffic light to change, conversations floating around them like leaves in an autumn storm. When a soft beeping filled their ears, they were swepped across the street with a wave of moving bodies, the clicking of shoes on asphalt a continuous noise.
Hitomi took his silence as a motivation. At least, he wasn't telling her to shut up.
"You see," she continued quietly after they had been washed upon the sidewalk again, the stream of people disappearing like waves on the beach. "Trust is very important for me. It's one of the basics of my world. I trust Yukari when she tells me that I look okay and didn't smear the mascara all over my eyelids once again. I trust Tiara when she leads the way just like you're trusting her right now that she won't lead you into a streetlamp or something like that."
"You said you had been disappointed once," Van said quietly and Hitomi nodded absently.
"Yes," she replied dully, emotions gone from her voice. "I thought it was perfect, I thought he accepted and respected me, I thought he understood, I thought he loved me. I was wrong."
She skook her head and snorted disdainfully. "I felt that something was going on, I felt that he tried to avoid me, drifting more and more away from me. When I confronted him after finding out that he was cheating on me, he told me that I was a burden and that he just didn't break up with me earlier because he pitied me."
Van felt his grip tighten around Tiara's leash, the feeling of rage rushing through him.
A burden! He felt like laughing. Hitomi was anything but that. She was stubborn like a mule and could be annoying beyond sanity but she had rammed both of her feet firmly into the ground, ready to resist everything that was to come. And he knew she had better control over her life than he ever had over his own one.
She had entered his life with the impact of an asteroid, leaving a smouldering crater where his former life had been. If someone had told him that he would do all these crazy things during those hardly three weeks that he would know her, he would have laughed his head off. She had blindingly lightened his life with her ability to cast a smile upon his features.
Days that we share are like treasures
A treasure like fire is to mankind
My hands will try to carry you to heaven
But since I've seen you, you've brought heaven to my mind
"Where are we going?" he questioned softly when she remained silent.
"It's a surprise," she answered with a crooked smile and Van sighed. "I want to show you something."
"Fine," he scoffed and turned his face to her. "But could you, at least, tell me where we are? I feel slightly lost and knowing you, you could be leading me to the edge of a cliff and tell me that I just had to take a step ahead to have my question answered."
A giggle broke from Hitomi's lips that soon erupted into unrestrained laughter, the clear sound echoing into the summer sky. A wistful smile settled on Van's lips.
"You do wrong by me," she huffed but her features betrayed her, her smile slipping into her voice.
"I was just stating the facts," Van replied with a casual shrug. "There is nothing I wouldn't believe you capable of doing and I cherish my life." He paused and turned his head away, what he said next so quiet that it was almost drowned by the noises of the street, "I really do."
Hitomi heard his whisper nevertheless and knew what he had meant. "We just passed by the Museum of Art," she explained in response to his question, changing the way of conversation with her blind gaze fixed on the paved sidewalk. "When we enter a cloud of flower scents within the next steps, we're on the right way."
And as if on cue, a wall that smelled of lilies and roses hit him straight in the face right that moment. It was as if he could feel the scent on his skin, the air thick and his nostrils prickling with the sensation.
"What is this?" Van asked and held his nose high, inhaling deeply.
"Fanelia's biggest flower shop," she answered, allowing the symphony of scents to caress her senses
"How do you know?" he questioned incredulously. "I mean, we were talking for almost the whole time and though you could concentrate on the way?"
"You could say it's in my blood because I've been walking it very often," Hitomi replied with a warm smile, a far-off look entering her eyes. "Did it never happen to you that you were lost in thoughts while walking and reached your destination nevertheless, although you couldn't remember how you got there?"
Yes. Almost everytime when he had been walking home from the bus stop, after school. He would walk the whole way in a daze and look up in surprise when he suddenly found himself in front of his door. His mom would greet him at the door and ruffle his hair, before disappearing in her garden again. He would listen to her hum a song while doing his homeworks.
After the accident and the time in the hospital, he found himself countless times in front of that one light-brown door again. Everything was the same. The tiny door in the fence still squeaked as if it was being tortured everytime it was opened. The façade still needed new paint. His basketball still lay in the flower bed under the kitchen window. Everything was the same but that nobody opened the door when he knocked.
No matter how often he knocked. No matter how hard he knocked.
Neighbours would call his adoptive parents and they would find him at the door, disconcerted and silent, his palms sore and his knuckles bleeding.
His head snapped around at the voice and for a moment his whole body tensed, Hitomi and the blindfold forgotten. Sighing, he shook his head when the memory came crawling back through a turmoil of thoughts. "What's the matter?"
"You're hurting me," she whispered softly and he hastily released her arm when he noticed that he was holding it in a voilent grip, murmuring an apologize.
It had been quite some time since he had last thought about the events that had taken place seven years ago. Seven years and he could feel the scars burn on his forearms as if he had just awoken in hospital.
"Have you ever been to the Museum of Art?" he asked all of a sudden and ran his free hand through his hair, staggering slightly when Tiara pulled him along.
Hitomi blinked in surprise, turning her head in his direction. "Yes," she replied slowly. "Once. Yukari dragged me along. She told me what she saw on the paintings and the sculptures I was allowed to touch. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know," Van shrugged. "I was just wondering for you can't see paintings. It's hard to imagine. I mean, although I can't see right now I can imagine Tiara dragging me because I saw her before. I can imagine the street and the cars speeding past because I saw them before. When I hear people chat in a street café I can imagine it in my mind because I saw it before. The blindfold isn't any comparison to your blindness. Just take reading the menu in a restaurant! So much things that I take for granted aren't a matter of course for you!"
"But this is natural for me," Hitomi countered smiling, reaching for his arm when she turned left, pebbles suddenly crunching under their feet. "This is my world which I'm used to and which I cherish."
"Where are we?" Van quickly threw in, turning his head in every direction at the sudden change of surroundings. A cool breeze was rushing across his skin and a clear, fresh scent hovered in the air, the noise of the cars replaced by soft conversations and the chirping of birds. "I didn't know there was a park near the museum."
"Well, near isn't entirely correct," the green-eyed woman replied and the trace of a smile was visible on her lips. "It's been quite some time since we passed the museum."
Van simply nodded and frowned when the conversation came back to him that he had interupted. "And you really cannot see anything?" he questioned boldly and the hidden smile broke into a wide grin on Hitomi's features. "Even nothing is black, isn't it? There must be something you see. I mean like a wall where you cannot look past. Is it black? White? Yellow?"
"Van," she sighed in surrender. "I'm blind from birth on and never saw a single colour in my entire life! Even if it was pink-green-striped I couldn't tell you."
"So, your wall is pink-green-striped?" the young man kept on and she simply smacked his arm, making him chuckle.
It was peacefully quiet around them, people rarely crossing their way while Hitomi was leading him through a labyrinth it seemed. Once the loud voice of a child wavered from between the trunks of old trees but was immediatelly hushed.
"Can I ask you something?" Van questioned warily after a long silence and Hitomi felt her heartbeat quicken when she reached twenty-four in her thoughts, small stones crunching under their feet. "Why are you doing this? And why did you tell me all that?"
Taking a deep breath, she stopped, forcing Van to a halt as well. "Because I wanted to come to terms with my past," Hitomi answered firmly and took a few, hesitant steps until she stood right in front of him. "I had to consider it finished or it would have haunted me forever. And so must you. It will never work if we don't let the past be past. I'm done. Now, it's your turn."
With her brows knitted determinedly, she reached carefully out to take off his blindfold, his dishevelled hair tickling between her fingers. Ever so slowly, the black fabric slid from his eyes and he quickly closed them when bright sunlight blinded him. With a confused expression, he finally took in his surroundings and Hitomi waited, her heart hammering against her ribs.
Van's auburn gaze darted across the trees that secluded the place like an insurmountable wall, their thick foliage allowing only a few sunbeams to pass through. Straight ways cut the shaded ground in barred patterns, people standing and kneeling occasionally in between the rows.
A wave of goosebumps spread across his skin when he noticed where she had brought him and he turned completely rigid when the realization sunk in of why she had brought him here. Although he had never been at that place he knew exactly where he was.
With the blank expression of a lake that had frozen over, he let go of Tiara's leash and turned around, intending to leave. Immediately.
"Van, wait!" Hitomi exclaimed and blindly reached out, instinctively grabbing the first thing that came in contact with her fingers and what happened to be Van's shirt.
He stopped. "You had no right to bring me here," he stated, quiet and dangerously calm, turning around to seize her with eyes colder than the winters in the northern parts of Gaea. "Who do you think you are?!"
He had barked the last words, his voice void any emotion but Hitomi just squared her shoulders. She had known that he wouldn't fall down on his knees and thank her. She had known he would be angry, had known he would yell. And if it was what he wanted, it was fine with her. "Someone who wants to help you!" she replied firmly and Van gave a hollow laugh.
"Gods, what is it with you?" he questioned angrily and spread his arms. "First, you tell me to stay the hell out of your life and then, you suddenly feel like poking your nose into businesses that shouldn't be the slightest of your interest?"
"Yeah, because you can't handle it yourself!" she replied vividly, becoming unintentionally louder. "Seven years and you're still running away from it! Aren't you tired? Don't you want to end it? Don't you want to finally make your peace?"
"What do you know?" Van spat and Hitomi slightly backed away, the words like a punch in the stomach. Hurt flickered across her eyes but angrily, he simply ignored it.
Even he had his limits. He could accept her straining his patience to an incredible amount, could accept telling her what he considered sufficient but he could not accept her barging into the basement of his past. She had no right to question his doing, to accuse him, to make advices. His past was his past only. It was his private little place to atone.
"A lot!" Hitomi countered, outraged, blind eyes blazing. Her Golden Retriever was sitting at her feet, watching her with pricked ears. "I may not have experienced what you went through but I know what it is like to wonder what would have been if I had done it differently, if I hadn't done it at all, if I had said something else! But you know what? It's absolutely meaningless for you can't make it undone!"
"Do you think I don't know that?" he barked and Hitomi raised her chin, not even blinking an eye at his harsh words. "I know, okay?! I know!"
"Then why do you act as if you don't?" she exclaimed hotly and Van clenched his fists at his sides.
"It's all that easy for you, isn't it?!" he yelled, a flaming red overcoming his narrowed eyes. "I only have to go to the grave of my parents and get over with it, right? And what do you think should I tell them? Mom, dad, I'm sorry to tell you but your youngest son is a goddamn coward who wasn't able to deal with your death?"
"You were young!" Hitomi replied just as loudly and frustrated. "You were scared! Stop reproaching yourself!"
"There is no excuse for what I did!" he shouted, a trace of disbelief in his voice as if he couldn't understand why she was arguing with him about it.
"You simply do not notice that you made yourself a coward by wanting to forget about it all!" she retorted and Van closed his mouth which he had already opened to contradict. "Weren't you? When you don't remember, nobody else will, right? Nobody will be there to reproach you anymore, right? But you know why? Because you're the only one who's reproaching!"
He didn't reply, just stared at her with an unreadable expression on his features. "Why do you only see the death in it all?" she continued, her blind gaze raised. "You were given a second chance, for heaven's sake! You graduated from high school and are now into college. Someday, you'll help pubescent teenagers or their parents in that matter or gods know what! You'll have a family! You've got your whole life ahead but you're about to waste it for you cannot accept what you did! It happened and you cannot change it! And sad but true but you only have the opportunity left to live on!!"
"Why are you doing this?" his whispered words startled her more than his yelling, the sudden change of mood and topic utterly confusing her.
"What?!" she uttered, her eyes losing their firmness and beginning to dart around.
"This," Van stated matter-of-factly and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "You're yelling at me, obviously trying to really annoy me. You're accusing me of lying to myself like that damn psychoanalyst did at the time. Why? What is in it for you?"
She just blinked. "This isn't about me," was the curt reply and Van narrowed his eyes.
"Yes, it is," he countered quietly, a strong breeze rustling through the trees around them. "Time to decide. What do you want, Hitomi?"
What did she want? Something she hadn't known she was waiting for, for a long time. Something she had finally understood during their last encounter. With her wings ripped out, she had been waiting for someone with the strength to lift her up. And when she thought about what made her feel as if she was flying, she could only think of Van; the dolphins, the kiss, his voice suddenly beside her when he was the last one she had expected to meet. Everything led to him.
"What do you want me to answer?" she whispered, her lips barely parting and Van closed his eyes when he felt himself being drawn into a bottomless abyss of ever green.
"That you won't leave me now," he replied just as quietly. "That you'll still be there when I'm finished with this."
"So, you're not going to run away this time?" Hitomi questioned carefully, hope weaved in between her words and by opening his eyes again, Van saw that she struggled to keep her delicate eyebrows from raising in anticipation.
A small smile broke across his features like sunlight twinkling through layers of grey clouds but it vanished immediately when he turned his head away from her. And for the first time, his gaze fell upon the two gravestones right beside the path they were standing on. "What do you connect with white?"
Hitomi frowned briefly, before answering. "Purity and innocence," she said and added with a smile, "And angels. My mom told me that they had white wings, glowing as if they were made of sun. Why do you ask?"
"The gravestones are made of white marble," he replied and the wind carried his words to the top of the trees where they vanished among the soft murmur of the leaves.
It were just two graves among hundreds of other ones, a net of pebble-clad pathways leading past them. The branches of an old weeping willow reached down to the top of the sparkling stones, caressing them tenderly when a light breeze breathed life into them every now and then. The names of his parents and his brother had been chiselled skillfully into the firm surface, the letters twining into an ivy tendril.
"It seems as if all those years have never past," Van spoke into the silence, his auburn eyes focused on something in a different time. "The stone ist still smooth and clean and the flowers look as if they have just been placed there. Do you know who cares for the graves?"
"Your adoptive parents," Hitomi answered gently and felt a light nudge at her leg, reminding her of her dog who had been waiting silently at her side. With an apologetic smile, the young woman ran her hand over Tiara's head and groped for the leash.
"Did you talk to them?" His voice was soft, an incredible contrast to the biting harshness from earlier.
"No, I didn't," she stated. "I spoke with the cemetery attendant. He told me that Mrs. Aston comes here every Saturday...as well as Millerna."
Van released a shaky breath and ran a hand nervously through his hair. They had never told him about it. He had never asked. All this time, his adoptive parents had taken care of something that actually he should have done, only that he had been too much of a coward.
"They will always be proud of you, Van," Hitomi added as if reading his thoughts and he smiled forlornly.
"Where do I start?" he questioned and a sombre glaze overcame his rusty- coloured eyes, his shoulders sagging tiredly as if he had just decided to stay this time; stay and not run away again. "There's just too much."
"What was the last you told them?"
"In the hospital," Van answered and looked guiltily down at his forearms, the white scars so clearly visible against his tanned skin. "I was yelling, telling them that I hated them for leaving me."
Hitomi's eyes softened and her lips quirked faintly. "Then, you should apologize first."
Van's pitch-black hair was swirling around his head when the wind increased, rustling through the poplar trees that reached like candles into the sky. Their white, cotton-like blossoms were sent into the air with every gust of wind and it looked as if it was snowing in the beginning of summer, myriads of blossoms dancing like snowflakes to the ground.
The wind was pressing hard into his back, tearing at his shirt as if urging him to take a step ahead. And that was what he finally did; he stepped to the end of the flowerbed at the foot of the gravestones and began to speak, softly and quietly, his words like scab on a wound that had refused to heal for so long.
The dying sun was flooding the sky with a deep orange and the first shadows of the night appeared from behind the trunks of the trees around them when he felt a soft touch on his arm. He watched Hitomi's fingers gently trace his scars before she entwined them shyly with his ones, until he finally raised his gaze to meet her eyes.
"Someone you loved and lost is here, right?" he whispered softly and Hitomi nodded so faintly that he almost didn't notice.
"My grandmother," she answered and a sad smile parted her lips. "That's why I knew the way so well. I've been here so often to talk to her. And I think she would like to finally get to know you."
Van grinned down at her, studying her very features and imprinting the image in his mind so he would never forget that one moment, her smile for the first time one of trust. "You haven't been wearing your sunglasses lately," he commented after a brief silence and brushed his thumb tenderly over the back of her hand.
"Yeah, because someone told me that I shouldn't hide," she replied quietly and squeezed his hand as if asking for support.
"Must have been a really incredible someone," Van drawled and his eyes were sparkling mischievously, jumping on her little game.
"Yeah, he is," Hitomi whispered and averted her eyes which caught the light of the setting sun, locking it forever in an embrace of pure jade. "And that was only one of the things he changed."
"You should thank him, one day."
"I will," she stated firmly and looked up, her blind eyes fixed unblinkingly on him. "If he grants me a second chance."
The corners of Van's eyes crinkled when a boyish grin spread across his features and he raised her hand slowly to his lips, placing a light kiss on her knuckles. "He would be a fool if he didn't."
I've never seen and there's never been
Anything with the beauty of you
THE ENDMy last thanks:
Kya77: Lol, I hope it was good winks Thanks!!
SabrinaYutsuki: Mwahaha, of course, she feels guilty!! I mean, who wouldn't?! And yes, I'll work on my other stories now!! grins Thank you!!
Namesake: blushs I'm glad you like it!! Thankiez!!
SabineballZ: Aua!! Mensch, arme Hitomi!! Das tut ja schon weh beim Lesen!! 'Ne Tefflon-Pfanne!!! :P Haha, aber diesmal hat er sie stehen lassen!! Jaja!! Irgendwann hat selbst er die Nase voll...trotzdem ist er sie natürlich nicht los wit blöd grins Hoffe dir hat das Ende gefallen. Und doch doch, Hitomi ist von Geburt an blind. Ist nicht so rübergekommen, oder?! sich am Kopf kratz Na jedenfalls, ein riesen Dankeschön für die vielen lieben reviews!!! Hab mich jedesmal wie verrückt gefreut!!! Auf das wir uns in anderen Geschichten wieder lesen zwinker Danke!!!!!
Spirit0: Eeks!!! hides under carpet Sorries!!!! But hey, I'm glad I'm still stuck with you!! :P Would be a whole lot...er...calmer without you grins like mad So yes, the new threat was a whole lot worse than the other one glares My conscience would kill me if I made you kill yourself Oo But I'm glad you liked it and I enjoyed your review so much again!!! Thanks so much for the faithfulness!!!!!!!
snow blossoms: grins like mad I dunno but your reviews always leave me grinning like a fool :P Aye, I hope I could make Hitomi seem a bit less bitchy with this chapter scratchs head It's not like she was doing all that intentionally...really, she did not! I mean, who could send HIM away??!!! sobs I wanna bake myself a guy!!!!!! :P Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!!
Inda: blushs Thank you!! And I hope I could make you fall off your seat this time :P
RavenX: röter anläuft als die röteste Tomate Freut mich, dass du das denkst!! Danke!! Und yep, bin deutsch :P Haha, keine Angst. Abbrechen geht nimmer, da das hier das letzte Kapitel war grins Hoffe es hat dir gefallen!!!
Esca-lover: Lol wipes brow I'm glad Van lost his stalker-face :P And hah, talk about romance-overdose!! I'm on a permanent romance-high Just hope the end wasn't too mushy..bites nails Thanks!!!!!!!!!
fireangel1621: Why are they so stubborn?? Because it's so much more fun that way :P And see, no cliffy this time!! Aren't you just proud of me?! whistles innocently, before dashing off Thankiez!!!!!!!!!!
Bradybunch4529: sweatdrops I'm evil, I know. But look, it's finished now and all questions are answered...well, most of them sweatdrops again Thanks!!!
DesolateAznVamp: Thanks!! And hey, that was fast, okay?! pouts
winged samurai: bows to the floor Look, two wishes fulfilled at once!! I'm almost like Kinder Surprise!!! (DISCLAIMER: I don't own Kinder Surprise!) :P A (Relatively) quick update and they're together!!! :P Thanks!!
kawaii neko: sobs I'm so predictable!!! :P But thanks!!!
iwakura.lain: Lol, seems you're right!! :P Thanks!!
blonde-hitomi: sweatdrops I think your review was cut...I hope it was cut coz only the part with Millerna being a pain in the neck arrived...hope you said you liked it, somewhere later there...gulps Erm...thanks??
SweetRan: Lol, nicht so schlimm mit der Rechtschreibung!! zwinker U can write like thiz and evribodi'll understand u wie wild grins Freut mich, dass ich einen weiteren Leser gewinnen konnte und hoffe du kannst endlich ruhen!!! Danke!!!!!!!!!
Akari Kou: Ja, ich weiß, dass ich hier jede Menge mehr hätte einbauen können, aber ich hatte mir vorgenommen, es bei dieser Länge zu belassen. Hoffe es wirkt nicht abgehackt oder zu schnell oder überstürzt oder so an Nägeln kaut Und nee nee, kein Grund sich zu enschuldigen!! Lol, hoffe das Finale war wenigstens ein bissel furioso!! sich verbeug Vielen Dank!!!!!!!
Kitsune's Girl370: Lol, though I didn't update another story yet, I hope you liked it! Will work on the other ones now! Thanks!!
blubb: Gute Güte!! Gab's die story vorher schonmal?! sich wild umblickt Oder ist alles so selbstverständlich?! hoil :P Aber nee, irgendwie zeigt's ja auch, dass meine Ideen nicht ganz so abwegig sind!! Und hah, sie waren nicht am Grab ihrer Großmutter!! Hah hah!! sich diebisch freut :P JK!! Jaja, ich weiß, ewige Liebe ist was feines verträumt seufz Und du bist so, wenn du keinen Kaffee hattest?! Oo Nach 'nem Kaffee kannst du mich von der Decke kratzen! Und schau, sie hat sein Gesicht wenigstens andeutungsweise abgetastet. Ich hab's nicht eher eingebaut, weil's sehr persönlich ist und sie ihm nun einfach mal nicht vertraut hat. Und das mit dem "Aussehen" ist so 'ne Sache. Ich meine, wir wissen, dass er der Traum meiner schlaflosen Nächte ist, aber hier sollte es nunmal nicht allein darum gehen. Ich wollte zeigen, dass es für manche Menschen weitaus wichtigere Dinge gibt und dass Schönheit soviel mehr umfasst als bloß Äußerlichkeiten. Gott, geht das nur mir so oder klang das grad fürchterlich schmalzig?! Ich geb's auf! Bin hoffnungslos romantisch...erschieß mich einfach!! :P Danke dir für alles und keine Angst, die Piraten segeln sicher bald wieder!!!
Sailor Hope: blushs Thanks a lot!! And I hope this chapter finally made you get over it!! grins like mad
dreamingofflyingaway: blushs hard Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LisSakura: grins Thanks!!!!
Foxfire The Great Demon: blushs Thank you!!
azncopycat: Lol salutes Lesson learned, I think!!! Thanks!!!
Niffer: Aye, I'm so very glad you like it!!! Makes me grin all day!! And hehe, I perfectly know the graduation problem!! Thank you!!
Sereneblaze: Mwahahaha, I often feel like yelling at the charas as well...okay, not in my story coz I make them the way they act cackles evilly But it's all good now, ne?! No need to yell anymore! grins like mad Thankiez!!
Avaris Sky: Hehe, I'm glad you found my lil story here!!! And hey, as if there could be anything but a happy ending!! I mean, mushy romance is practically running through my veins!! shakes head Hope you liked it!!! laughs insanely Bwahahahahahahaha, may you feel very challenged!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks so much!!!!
A/N: Okay, I also want to thank those ones who reviewed earlier chapters and those who read but didn't review!! Thanks so much, people!!! I hope you had as such a good time as I had!! Moreover, a bearish hug for the teddies who know that this is all for them grins like mad (Hey, p-teddy, you know that Van's last sentence is a-aaa-ll for you, don't you?! Damn those pea- brained idiots!!) And last but not least – Ah, I know, you're rolling your eyes right now but I really want to thank one last person – a big Thank You to someone who joined right in the beginning and was a permanent but very welcome pain in the neck ever since coz she had the advantage to be well- placed! Thanks, woman, for being such a great friend and for stating your opinion! You know who you are...at least, I hope so...one never knows coz you're blonde...
shakes head And once again, I can't believe it's over!! I just hope it doesn't seem rushed or abruptly ended or something like this! crosses fingers Hopefully, I'll see you around again!! Thanks for reading and goodbye for now!!