It was a beautiful day. The birds were singing. The sun was shining. 14-year-old Aerith Gainsborough closed her eyes and took a deep breath, taking in the sweet fragrance of summer. She opened her eyes again; the emerald pools seem to sparkle even more. Aerith grinned to herself and pushed her chestnut-brown hair out of her face from the cool summer breeze. She gazed dreamily into the beautiful sunset.
"Aerith!" a small voice squeaked behind her. She turned around to see a 7-year-old Yuffie Kisaragi running up to her. Yuffie stopped for a moment, panting for breath. Aerith bent down to her level, since Yuffie stood only to her thigh.
"What is it, Yuffie?" Aerith asked softly.
Yuffie puffed up her cheeks and stomped her foot. It was quite cute from Aerith's point of view.
"Hmpft! Squall took my shuriken and he won't give it back to me!" Yuffie raised her hands and rubbed her tear-filled eyes. "He's so mean!"
Aerith smiled at the child and leaned over and hugged her.
"Don't worry, sweetie," she said. "I'll make him give it back to you." When they pulled apart, the tears were replaced with a toothy smile.
Aerith smiled and stood up. "Really."
Just when she was about to turn to leave, Yuffie tugged on Aerith's dress.
"Could you carry me for a while?" Yuffie asked sweetly. "I've been running a lot and my legs hurt a lot too."
Aerith laughed softly at the suggestion, but bent down and gently lifted Yuffie into her arms. Yuffie quickly wrapped her arms around Aerith's neck and hugged her warmly.
"My!" Aerith exclaimed as she started walking. "You're so big now!"
Yuffie giggled "Of course I am! I'm not a baby, ya know!" She hugged her closer, squeezing Aerith's cheek into her own. Aerith smiled gently and gave Yuffie a kiss.
Aerith loved her. She had known Yuffie since she was a baby, looking after her as if she was her own sister. She had promised Yuffie's mother, to fulfill her dying wish to protect Yuffie from harm. Aerith sighed sadly at the thought of Yuffie's mother's last words.
Pleading for her to keep her daughter safe.
Yuffie never knew her mother. She was too young to remember anything, but Aerith did. Mrs Kisaragi took her in when her own parents were killed, and she treated her like her own. She and her husband were her parents. Aerith sighed again, silently.
"Lookie, Aerith!" Yuffie said, grinning and pointing to her teeth. "I lost my first toof yesterday!" she smiled broadly again.
"Daddy says I should put it under my pillow for the toof fairy to come." Yuffie laughed. "But I told him I don't believe in fairies."
Aerith smiled. "You shouldn't do that," Yuffie gave her a confused look. "Because fairies are real." Aerith watched as Yuffie's eyes widened with her childish curiosity.
"Really? Did you ever see one?"
"Then how can you be sure?"
"I just know. If there's magic in the world, there can be anything."
Yuffie still seemed confused, but then something ahead caught her eye.
"Look!" she exclaimed, pointing towards a tree. Aerith looked over, spotting two boys. One of them was seated at the tree trunk. He was facing their direction but because he had his head was lowered he didn't see them. Aerith couldn't help but smile. The boy was a few months younger than her, but due to puberty he was 3 inches taller in the past month. He had blond spiky hair and eyes of blue. He was very handsome, too. Cloud Strife was his name, the one Aerith called hers.
He seemed to be talking to the other boy, Squall Leonhart. He stood in front of Cloud, his back facing the girls. He was also a very good-looking boy. He had dark brown hair, cut jaggedly, and it made him look good.
He was almost 5 years older than Cloud, and was his mentor in the town's sword fighting club. They were the most skilled swordsmen in town, even more than most of the adults, so because of this, Cloud and Squall had become really good friends, and considered each other as their equal.
Yuffie began to beckon Aerith to put her down. Once she did, Yuffie ran over to the boys. Cloud saw her, with Aerith following behind. He shot Aerith a smile before tapping Squall roughly on the side and pointed to little Yuffie. Squall turned around, his grey eyes resting lazily on the little girl.
"You meanie!" Yuffie squeaked. "Give me back my shuriken!" She went over to Squall and stomped hard on his foot. Aerith had to cover her mouth with her hands to hide her smile.
"Ow!" Squall yelled as he pushed Yuffie aside. "I told you before that I'd take it away if you used it on me again, and you did!"
Yuffie angrily puffed up her cheeks again. She stuck out her tongue at him, crossed her arms and turned her back to him. Squall himself just rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Aerith raised an eyebrow at the two and looked over at Cloud. He just shrugged. Aerith walked over to Yuffie and bent down to her level. She pulled her crossed arms apart and held them firmly at her side. Yuffie was a little surprised at the serious look on Aerith's face.
"Now, Yuffie," Aerith said sternly. "Did you use your shuriken on Squall?"
Yuffie frowned and stuck out her lower lip. She tried to turn away, but Aerith gripped her back.
Yuffie blinked a few tears and nodded, not looking at Aerith.
"Yuffie!" Aerith said, a little disappointed. "Why did you do that?"
"He wouldn't play with me," Yuffie sniffed. Aerith sighed and wrapped her arms around the little girl.
"Hey!" Squall said, annoyed. "Why does she always have to hang around with us! Why can't she play with kids her own age?" Cloud stood up and patted Squall on the back, attempting to calm him down a little. Yuffie turned around, angry tears in her eyes.
"They're all babies!" she squeaked. "None of them know how to fight!" She reached for Aerith's dress behind her. "Aerith said I'm allowed to play with anyone I want!"
"Yuffie…" Aerith began softly, but before she could say anything else, Yuffie threw her arms around her neck and hugged her tightly. Aerith almost choked at her strength.
"Yuffie… hey…" Aerith breathed. She pushed Yuffie off and held her firmly.
"Yuffie," she said sternly. "Go apologize to Squall this instant. Then he'll give you back your shuriken." Yuffie stuck out her lower lip again and gave Aerith a do-I-have-to look. Aerith nodded and stood up.
Yuffie sighed and turned around. She walked forward to Squall, her eyes cast down and her hands behind her back. She stopped a few feet in front of him. Yuffie circled the dirt with her foot for a few moments.
"Squall?" Yuffie began, her eyes still down.
"What?" Squall said coolly, crossing his arms. Cloud walked over to Aerith to watch the show.
"I… I'm sorry for using my shuriken on you," Yuffie said, but added quietly "Even though you totally deserved it."
"Yuffie!" Aerith said.
"Okay, okay," Yuffie said, annoyed. She looked up at Squall. "I'm sorry."
Squall simply closed his eyes and tilted his head forward for a moment. Then he bent down and picked up a plastic shuriken.
"My shuriken!" Yuffie yelled happily.
"This piece of junk isn't of any use to me anyway," Squall said coldly as he threw it in front of her. Yuffie ran over to pick it up, and then charged head-first into Squall, knocking the breath out of him.
"Thank you!" Yuffie shouted happily as she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. And without a second glance, she ran off.
Squall was left slightly dazed. Cloud and Aerith burst into laughter.
"See?" Aerith said, walking towards Squall. "I told you she was a good girl." Squall felt around his trousers frantically.
"She took my wallet!" Squall said angrily, looking at the other two. "The brat took my wallet!" He quickly dashed after the little girl.
Aerith couldn't help but laugh. All of the sudden, two hands clapped themselves over her eyes. She let out a soft gasp of surprise, but then smiled.
"Who is it?" she asked, giggling. Cloud muffled a laugh. Aerith placed her hands onto his and felt around at his fingers.
"Hmmm," she said thoughtfully. "Let's see… hands are rough… must be from so much training… they smell like… hmmm… wood chips…" She heard Cloud laugh quietly again. She chuckled. "Alright Cloud, I get it!" She pulled his hands down and spun around to face him. He blushed and stuck his hands into his pockets, looking at the ground. Aerith smiled, clapped her hands behind her back and leaned over at him.
"Cloud…" she said in singsong. Cloud finally looked back up, scratching his head nervously.
"My mom says to ask you if you want to go to the amusement park with me tonight," he told her. Aerith's face lit up.
"The amusement park?" she said excitedly. She grinned. "Really?"
"Yeah," Cloud said. "My mom says we can go around by ourselves this year." He scratched his head nervously again. "It closes tomorrow." He shifted awkwardly. "But… but if you don't want to go—"
"That sounds really fun," Aerith said, smiling. Cloud flushed again a deep red, and that only made Aerith laugh more. She then made a pout and held out her arms to him, pulling him into a tight bear hug. Cloud wrapped his arms around her and embraced her, smiling a little to himself. Then, he saw someone watching them a few feet away. He let go of Aerith.
"Hey Tifa," he said to the figure standing in the shadows. Tifa Lockhart cleared her throat and forced a smile as she approached towards the two.
Tifa was two years younger than Aerith and Cloud. She was the baby of the group, but they had all been best friends ever since they were little. Tifa had a secret crush on Cloud, but the problem was he didn't even notice. Not in the slightest. Things became strange for Tifa when Aerith and Cloud started hanging out together more, but no one noticed, as usual. Tifa lowered her eyes for a moment, then smiled again, a smile with genuine friendliness when she looked at Aerith.
"Um… Mr Kisaragi sent me to find you," she told her.
"Okay then," Aerith said cheerily. She glanced back at Cloud, flashed him a wink and blew a kiss.
"See you there," she said sweetly. Aerith turned around, smiled at Tifa and left. Tifa looked down sadly. Cloud smiled as he watched Aerith walk away. He turned to Tifa, gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder and left.
Tifa took a moment, not wanting to watch him go, feeling sad all the sudden. Cold and alone.
What was she still hoping anyway?
She knew she wasn't anything more than a friend. Tifa closed her eyes and sighed heavily. She raised her arms and hugged herself tightly.
"I'll be okay," Tifa whispered to herself. She shivered slightly, then without another thought, she ran straight home.
"You are not to go on any rides where you need an adult with you, alright? Two kids don't make one adult."
"Yes, Mr Kisaragi," Aerith said. She hopped down from the car, wrapped in her big red jacket. She grinned and ran to Cloud, who was wrapped in an equally big blue jacket. The amusement park a few feet away was bursting with colourful lights and fun music and noises.
Yuffie's father nodded and leaned out the car window at Cloud next to her.
"Don't let anything happen to her, or it'll be on your head," he said, pointing his finger at him. Cloud stiffened and nodded.
"Yes, sir," he said in a firm voice. Aerith giggled a little.
"Alright, then," Mr Kisaragi said, withdrawing back into the car. He held up his phone at Aerith. "Mrs Strife says she'll be here to pick you up. If you want to go home early, just call me, alright? Or give Mrs Strife a call." Aerith beamed at him.
"We'll be okay," Aerith said reassuringly. Mr Kisaragi stared at them for almost a whole minute, as if trying to read their thoughts, but after a while he realized it just didn't work that way. He revved the engine, gave Aerith another quick wave and drove off. Aerith giggled again, clapping her cold hands onto Cloud's. He smiled meekly at her, glancing over his shoulder at the amusement park.
"You ready?" he asked. Aerith nodded enthusiastically.
"More than ever!" she exclaimed. Cloud chuckled and they headed to the counter. Cloud reached up and held out two tickets he had already bought, and they were allowed inside the gates.
The atmosphere was wild. Rides were up for grabs and children were flocking around to get on. Aerith let out an excited squeal, and grabbing Cloud's hand, she rushed over to a carousel. Cloud raised an eyebrow.
"Carousel?" he said, clearly disappointed. "But I wanted to go on the rollercoaster." Aerith smirked. She pointed at the rollercoaster, which was completely flocked.
"I think we should wait a while until it empties out," she suggested. "Meanwhile, we can do something else." She pulled him to the line, and there wasn't much of a line either. Cloud made a face. He looked around, and his eyes caught sight of the bumper cars. He pointed at them to Aerith.
"Can we go on the bumper cars next?" he asked. Aerith beamed and nodded.
"Okay, but I don't really like it much," she said truthfully, crinkling her nose. "I always get thrown all over the place." Cloud smiled sweetly and held her hand.
"I won't let you get thrown around," he said. "I'll be there to save you." Aerith giggled.
"You're really sweet, you know that?" She hugged his arm as the line moved forward, and a man helped them both onto a carousel horse. Aerith sat on a white one while Cloud got a magnificent black stallion.
The lights flashed colourfully and Cloud wrapped the blue jacket more closely around him. He felt Aerith take his hand and looked up to see her almost about to burst with excitement. The music began to play and the ride moved, but Aerith's hand remained interlocked with Cloud's.
A cool breeze flowed through, sending Aerith's red jacket rustling and her chestnut brown hair sailing with it, but that smile didn't change. She glanced at Cloud every now and then with that sunshine grin, and he returned it just as radiantly. Many of the parents were waving to their kids as the ride reached their side, and some of them knew Cloud and Aerith and waved to them as well. Aerith giggled and waved back, urging Cloud to wave as well.
"Come on, Cloud!" she laughed. "Just pretend you're a famous hero and everyone wants to wave at you!"
Cloud enjoyed the carousel ride more than he thought, and he got alot more laughs than he had all day, thanks to Aerith. When it finally stopped, they went back down, still hand in hand, and ran as fast as they could to the bumper cars, making sure they beat the other kids to it.
Cloud proudly chose a blue car that ironically matched his jacket. He waited until Aerith had finished buckling up for both of them, and he stepped on the pedal, speed instantly erupting. Aerith let out a scream and covered her eyes as the bumper car crashed into a red one.
"I don't like this!" she shouted. Cloud just chuckled and eyed a green car, swerved the wheel and skidded straight into it, again almost hurling them both out of the car, if not for the seatbelts.
Aerith kept her face behind her hands for most of the ride, but her screams turned into laughter when Cloud began making smart turns and sudden halts. It was really fun, yet so dangerous if the seatbelt broke.
After that, they went on every other ride in the amusement park. They tried everything, and everything was just as fun as the next. Aerith was stumbling when they got off the rollercoaster, but the grin was still plastered on her face. She threw her arms around Cloud as he helped her steady on her feet, laughing uncontrollably.
"I want to go again!" she exclaimed. "That was so much fun!" Cloud took a bite of his cotton candy and held some out to Aerith, who pulled out a fistful and nibbled at it fondly. She beamed at Cloud. "It was so much fun."
After the rides, they decided to try their luck at a few games. Cloud immediately headed to the cyber-sword fight, and even grabbed the helmet off some poor kid. He flashed Aerith a wink, knowing that she was the only one who knew that he was more than good at this game, and pulled the helmet over his head. He held up his hands as if holding a sword, and Aerith handed the operator some munny. The operator pressed start, and everyone started cheering.
This was way too easy for Cloud. He cyber-slashed and cyber-stabbed whatever the game had to give him, and this impressed the crowd. No one yelled out that his go was too long, and instead stood there and watched until Cloud reached the final stage. They all let out a cheer as he finished the game, much to the operator's surprise, and was handed a big giant teddy bear as a prize, as well as a roar of applause from the crowd. Aerith smiled to herself as the two of them walked away together.
"You are such a show-off," she told him, hugging her new teddy bear. Cloud just shrugged. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the remainder of his munny. There wasn't much left, and it was almost 9 anyway.
They heard a loud "Beep!" and looked ahead to see Mrs Strife's car. She waved to both of them as they approached her.
"Hey there, kids," she said kindly. "Have fun?" Aerith beamed and held up her teddy bear.
"Cloud won this in cyber-duelling," she said proudly. Mrs Strife laughed and looked at a slightly embarrassed Cloud.
"I thought I told you not to take advantage of games like that," she laughed. She opened the door and the two of them hopped in. She tousled her hand through Cloud's spiky hair. "But I'm really proud that you've become so good at sword fighting, just like your father." Cloud tried not to smile as he felt a rush of sadness and pride at the mention of his likeness to his father. Aerith smiled and took his hand as Mrs Strife started the engine and the car zoomed off.
They drove past the amusement park and the two kids gazed in awe at all its wondrous glory. They wanted to stay longer, because the park would move on after tonight, but then again their share of fun and excitement was more than enough to satisfy them both.
Mrs Strife pulled over beside Yuffie's house, where Aerith saw Mr Kisaragi standing at the doorway with a sleeping Yuffie in his arms, waiting for her. Aerith unbuckled her seatbelt.
"Thank you for taking me home, Mrs Strife," she said gratefully. Mrs Strife looked round and smiled at her.
"It's no problem, sweetie," she told her. Aerith grinned. She looked over at Cloud.
"Thanks for the bear," she said, still hugging the teddy bear proudly. "Don't worry, I won't let Yuffie touch it." Cloud nodded, suddenly extremely quiet again. Aerith smirked, knowing why he was this way.
They had been friends for years, but whenever she did something as girly as holding his hand, Cloud couldn't help but blush. Aerith tilted her head to the side, seeing him in that shy stance he often went into. She giggled and planted a long wet kiss on his cheek, taking him by surprise.
"See you in school," Aerith said, giggling. She hopped out of the car and slammed the door shut. Cloud blushed and finally looked back up. Aerith waved again.
"Goodnight, Mrs Strife!" she called out. "Goodnight, Cloud!" Cloud couldn't help but laugh. He leaned out of the window and waved as well.
"Night," Cloud said with a grin. The car drove off as he watched Aerith walk to the front door of the house to Mr Kisaragi. Cloud leaned back on his seat, touched his cheek thoughtfully and sighed. Mrs Strife watched him curiously on the car mirror, and Cloud always knew whenever she was watching him. It often made him feel uncomfortable.
"What?" he asked, feeling a little irritated. Mrs Strife just laughed to herself and looked back at the road, saying nothing.
Cloud leaned back again and stared at the sky, and when he was sure Mrs Strife wasn't looking, he smiled.