It was so early that the hall was still unmopped, judging from the slight sheen of dust on the pearly gray floor.
Daidouji Tomoyo looked at her watch.
It was way too early for anything.
Nevertheless, she drew out her white shoes from her shoe locker, placed her own patent leather school shoes inside, and closed the door shut. The smart rap of metal rang out in the silence. Heaving a sigh, she bent down, took her satchel, and started to make her way to her classroom. 2-B, Tomoeda Junior High School. As usual, she would be the very first to arrive. The friendly old janitor already knew her, and when he was too preoccupied with his work to chat with her on the steps, he usually let her wander around the still-empty corridors streaked with the early morning sun. She often went up to the quiet rooftop where she would run to the edge, hold on to the rusty railing and gaze down at the disheveled students sleepily trudging to school, heads still filled with the previous night's dreams.
Tomoyo stopped in her tracks, in front of a small room that had the sign "Unauthorized People Keep Out" dangling precariously from the doorknob. The door was slightly ajar. She peeked in. The janitor was nowhere to be seen.
That meant that she could go ahead and use the music room.
As if the thought had suddenly pushed a button that made her spring to life, Tomoyo started running, shoes squeaking down the hallway, up the stairs, past the teachers' room, until she reached a cream-painted door. Pale fingers eagerly fished in her pocket for a key. She was lucky that the choral club moderator had entrusted her with the spare. She usually spent so much time in the music room; sometimes using up most of her practice time just sitting by the window and dreaming off into space, until somebody would pop in the door and tell her to go home. It was her little getaway, a small quiet nook where she could be alone and not be reminded of certain things.
Certain things like...
Her heart sank unbidden at the thought, but she impatiently shoved it aside and concentrated on her pocket.
Fingers brushed cold metal. Found it!
Suddenly there was a faint clink coming from inside. Tomoyo blinked and pressed her ear against the door. There it was again. Few more experimental clinks, then a pause. Then, a soft, lingering ballad.
Somebody was playing the piano.
Tomoyo blinked again, tucked the key back in her pocket, and noticed for the first time that the door was open. Who in the world could enter the music room other than her and the janitor? She slowly drew back the door and peeked inside.
The playing stopped.
A boy sat at the grand piano, pale fingers resting on the ivory keys. He turned around in his seat to look at her, and as he did so, the morning sun streaming from the open door flashed in his glasses. He squinted and took them off. Dark hair fell over dark blue eyes --- blank at first, then softening in recognition. He then smiled, like he always did.
"Good morning, Daidouji-san."
"Good morning," Tomoyo politely replied, "Hiiragizawa-kun."
A CCS fanfic by Sakura
Standard disclaimers apply.
New edited version thanks to Oneesama. *huggles*
"The door was open." Hiiragizawa Eriol smiled by way of explanation. "So I came in."
Tomoyo did not know what to say in response to that, so she just nodded silently.
From the open window drifted in faint sounds of a ball being tossed around, shouts, a whistle. Soccer team practice. That meant more people were coming soon. The trees took on a more brilliant shade of green as the sun rose higher in the light blue sky. Tomoyo remained standing by the door, immobile, as Eriol touched a key and pressed slowly. The soft solitary note wafted out into the silence.
Finally he stood up, closed the oak cover over the keyboard, and motioned for her to have a seat. "I'm sorry for disturbing your morning practice like this."
Tomoyo quickly shook her head. "It's all right. I apologize for coming in while you were playing."
It was his turn to shake his. "I don't mind; I shouldn't be using the music room at this hour anyway."
"Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Not at all."
If the situation took place at another time, Tomoyo would've smiled, even laughed, with amusement at the way they skirted around each other with their politeness. I'm sorry. Excuse me. I beg your pardon. She and Eriol had it down pat, this language of strangers.
"It's odd to see you in school this early," she remarked in an attempt to make small talk. He unobtrusively ran a hand through his dark hair. Her eyes were drawn to his fingers. Pale flesh against black. So engrossed was she in them that she barely heard him reply. "Yes, I find it pretty unusual myself."
In the distance, a whistle blew.
She cleared her throat, distracted by the sound.
He blinked at her as if to say, What now? She was still frozen by the door, stiffly silent, waiting for him to speak up. Her violet gaze was on him. Your turn. So be it. He decided to play along.
"So, why are you in school so early, Daidouji-san?"
She blinked, as if surprised by his question. "W-Well, I don't know. I always come to school at this hour."
The whistle blew again. Time's up. Game over.
"I'd better be going now. I'll see you in class then." He smiled, moving past her. She made no move to stop him, although the polite smile plastered on her face registered something of the old friendly Tomoyo protesting, No please stay for a moment longer, after all it's been a while since we last talked even though we've known each other for years—
His shoulder accidentally brushed against hers as he went out the door, and Tomoyo instinctively raised a hand to the spot, as if to brush him away.
The art teacher was hollering above the din. "Pair up with the person seated behind you and sketch each other's faces. I want them in by the end of the class!" A collective groan rose as everybody started jumping up from their seats and calling out for their partners.
Tomoyo drew out her pencil and pretended to absorb herself in sharpening it while her quick violet eye was already on the light-brown haired girl sitting beside her.
She stretched her arms upward, giving a little yawn, then bounced up and eagerly rapped the desk of the boy seated behind her, a chestnut-brown haired fiery amber-eyed boy who was digging frantically in his bag for his sketchbook. "Syaoran-kun, hurry up! We only have until this period to finish the sketch, you know."
"Give me a second," Li Syaoran hastily said, sifting through his notebooks.
"Ting!" Sakura sang playfully, "your time is up!"
Syaoran pretended to heave an exasperated sigh. "Fine, TWO seconds then."
Rap rap rap went the textbooks in his satchel.
She suddenly sobered. "Pencil?"
His reply was muffled. "Check."
She walked over to his side and bent down so she was looking into his bag as well, poking a finger experimentally here and there. "Did you leave it behind? I can give you paper if you want. I have lots."
"It's all right," he murmured, tenderly, then more triumphantly, "Found it!"
She beamed. "Great, let's go!"
Tomoyo hastily looked away, feeling as if she had intruded on a private moment. She started busying herself with brushing off the shavings from the lap of her skirt.
"Tomoyo-chan," Sakura called out, gaily. "Tomoyo-chan!"
Tomoyo snapped her head up with a ready smile for her best friend.
"Syaoran-kun and I will be at the schoolyard. Where will you two be sketching?"
"Eh?" She blinked in surprise.
"We might just stay here in the classroom," came a calm reply. She turned around to see Eriol smiling up at them. His gaze then shifted to her briefly, before turning back to Sakura. He knew. He must've seen her watching them all this time. Her cheeks burned at the realization.
"Okay. See you later!" Sakura smiled, and as soon as they left, the room suddenly fell completely silent.
He cleared his throat. "It looks like everyone's outside save for us."
Tomoyo stood up to shift her seat around so she was facing him. They had to do draw each other's faces, that much she knew.
"Are you sure you want to stay here?" he asked.
Squeak! went her chair as she turned it about. She sat down and opened her sketchbook.
"Are you sure you want to stay here?" he asked again, more gently this time.
"Yes." A twinge of pity --- for him? for herself? --- settled itself in the pit of her stomach. "Yes, here will be just fine."
And she did not dare turn away from him again.
Penance for having completely forgotten that he was there behind her all this time.
Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who met a lion-like creature who called himself Cerberus. He gave her the task of capturing cards --- Clow Cards, they were called --- scattered throughout the sleepy town of Tomoeda. The girl, blessed with magic, pursued these cards with all her might, sealing them one by one. The only other person who knew of this mission was the girl's best friend, who saw everything as a magical shoujo anime come to life. The best friend loved the idea so much that she'd make frilly costumes herself and film the girl running around and weaving spells in them. The best friend loved the girl, period --- not because she was her best friend, not because she put up with wearing the costumes and being followed by the customary camera lens --- but because she was herself and that was reason enough to love her deeply. Madly.
But we digress.
One day a boy with fierce eyes and unruly hair appeared. He had flown in from a distant country, intent on capturing the Clow Cards himself. He had a long shining sword on his back and hatred in his amber eyes. Don't get in my way, he roughly ordered the girl. From that point on the girl had found herself a rival, and things would've gone on like that --- fairly uncomplicated --- if it weren't for a number of things, like a gentle smile, a forgotten dream, a boy waking up one day and realizing that he was helplessly in love. The best friend knew. She watched the boy stammer and blush in front of the girl, deciphered the puzzle, and decided to intervene. She deftly gave the strings of Fate a soft, slight twist, waited a little more, and watched the girl open her eyes and fall in love with the boy.
After the task of capturing cards had finally come to an end, the boy went back to his homeland and stayed there for some time, but the girl waited for him patiently, until the time came that he was made to come back and return he did, embracing her under a shower of cherry blossoms, promising that they will be together forever.
And here the story ends.
Nobody questions the best friend's plight --- her costumes, her camera, her heart; nobody asks if she is happy, if she gets rewarded for her act of kindness, if she finally finds herself loved in return.
Like everyone else in the fairy tale, she lives happily ever after.
She has no choice but to do so.
"Has it been a month since Li-kun came back from Hong Kong?" Eriol asked out of the blue, patiently working his pencil over the sketchbook angled against the edge of his desk.
"A month and a half," Tomoyo responded instantly, absently drawing a circle on the paper. The beginnings of a face. She had been sitting in front of him for some time without drawing anything at all, and a quick glance at her watch told her she had to start soon or else.
"Sakura-san looks very happy." His hand worked over the sketch slowly, precisely, as if he knew exactly where to place the lines, the curves, the shadows. Here goes the delicate chin, the wisp of hair against the pale cheek, the somber violet eyes, the unmoving lips. If she were crying then, would he know where to place the tears?
"Sakura-chan loves Li-kun," Tomoyo pointed out, but they both knew it wasn't necessary. Bending over her sketchbook, she drew two circles for eyes and two bigger circles for glasses. Then a wide smiling mouth. Eriol was easy to draw. Even if you didn't get the features right; just as long as you had the smile, it was Eriol.
"Sakura-san, she---" he hesitated, "---does look happy. Happier than she'd ever been before."
"Hmmm," she vaguely commented, widening the smile a little with her pencil.
He then said something like, Please look up so I can see your face again but she was too engrossed with the smile to comply, so it startled her when a gentle hand suddenly cupped her chin and nudged her head up; it startled her to suddenly find herself staring into dark blue depths that were Eriol's eyes, drifting here and there, drinking in each detail.
"I'm happy for Sakura-san," he continued the conversation rather absently, all the while his dark blue gaze slowly tracing the outline of her face. She couldn't tell from his voice if he really meant it or not.
"I'm happy for her too," Tomoyo blurted out, raising her chin a notch higher. Something briefly flickered in his eyes as they traveled from the side of her face down to the curve of her chin, then to his sketch. His hand finally released her, and she ducked her head back to her sketchbook.
"We all are," he conceded, tracing a line here and there. "Happy for her, I mean."
Her pencil returned to the smile, now wide and teasing like a Cheshire cat's. Somehow it didn't look like Eriol anymore. It seemed to taunt her, this wide cruelly grinning mouth. She quickly tore off the sheet and crumpled it into a ball.
"Here you are, Daidouji-san."
She looked up and saw the sketch he finished.
It was her, all right; perfect down to the last detail.
The picture of infinite sadness.