Yagyuu Hiroshi had always loved flowers. When he was young, his mother showed him how to plant and take care of them. He tended to the fragile blossoms painstakingly. His reward was the rich beauty of the petals, made brighter by his rapidly darkening world. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he didn't understand. He would beg his mother to teach him more about the flowers he loved, but she would smile softly at him and say, "Sorry, sweetheart, but I can't today." She would fall asleep right in the middle of talking to him, and he would cry quietly by her bed, knowing somehow that something was very wrong. When she'd wake, she'd scold him for his red-ringed eyes. But she'd never tell him that she would be fine, because children could always sense the truth.
She would write journals for him, trying to transcribe all of the things that she wouldn't live to tell her only son. In the pages were crushed flowers to accent her neat scripture. She passed away on a Thursday morning in the summertime, when the sun was burning off the clouds and cool dawn mist.
Yagyuu couldn't touch her journals. The utter devastation of losing her was too big a burden to bear. They sat in a drawer in his dresser for two years before he picked up the first spiral bound notebook. His mother disliked the fancy leather-covered journals, saying that they were too pretty to write in. He would sit under a shade tree in his backyard and listen to his mother by leafing through her memory. Every spring, his flowers would bloom faithfully, and he would admire them. They would become his new family. He would lose himself in the laborious work of gardening and tennis.
When his eyesight worsened in fourth-grade, he opted for lenses with a special coating. With the reflective surfaces, it was impossible to see his eyes. He was satisfied knowing that even if he cried, no one would be able to tell from his red-ringed eyes.
The death of his mother was heartbreaking to his father, who coped by immersing himself in his work. Yagyuu was often left in an empty, echoing house, eating dinner alone in a gray world. He grew bitter at too young an age, and became almost mute. When he needed to speak, he was concise and extremely polite. His teachers loved him for scoring high marks and behaving. They never noticed how little he spoke. Actually, they didn't really notice him at all. No one did. That is, until Niou.
It was the first day of middle school at Rikkaidai. Yagyuu was sitting calmly at his desk, reading, invisible. Everyone around him was buzzing excitedly with chatter and nerves. Suddenly, his book slammed shut and he looked up sharply, ready chase away the idiot who decided to irritate him.
What he got was a smirk from a silver-haired boy who sat himself on the edge of Yagyuu's desk. "Hey. I'm Niou Masaharu."
The friendliness of a stranger left him mystified. "Yagyuu Hiroshi." His name came unwanted from his lips.
"Yagyuu Hiroshi. Just wanted to see what you were reading." Niou shot him a disarming smile before leaving to take his seat. Yagyuu felt his presence for the rest of the day.
After that day, he and Niou rarely talked. However, they were always aware of where the other was in the room, paying careful attention without interacting. The next year, he and Niou were not in the same class.
But to his surprise, the silver-haired boy was in the tennis club. The greater surprise was hearing the request to play a game.
"You're pretty good." Niou panted. They had just finished a long volley against each other. 4-4. When Yagyuu didn't respond, Niou grew aggravated. "What? Do you hate me so much that you won't even talk to me?"
"I forfeit." Yagyuu said before heading to the locker room. He had to get away.
"What the hell is your problem?" Niou yelled at him before throwing down his racket in frustration. Unwittingly, someone was watching the confrontation from outside the tennis courts.
At lunch the next day, Yagyuu was sitting under the biggest tree on campus. It was deserted; most people clustered on the rooftop or in the classrooms. However, his peace was disturbed by the last person he wanted to see.
"This spot taken?"
"What do you want, Niou Masaharu-san?" Yagyuu's polite manner betrayed no sign of the extreme irritation he was currently feeling.
"I just wanted to talk to you. That illegal?"
"Why do you want to talk to me?"
"Why the hell do you talk like that?"
"Like you're worthless."
"What if I am?"
"I'm going to hit you."
"You're fucking insane."
Silence. Yagyuu had just said more in one minute than he had to anyone else in the past year. How had that happened? His words just poured out.
Niou abruptly swiveled around to get a better look at Yagyuu. When he looked away, Niou grabbed the sides of his head. "Let me see your face."
"Take off your glasses."
"Fine. But one day, you'll let me see your face."
"How are you so certain?"
"I'm not. But you will."
The bell rang.
To Be Continued