My Fair Bunny
Part Four - Never
Mamoru checked his watch. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, detentions or the like, Usagi would be arriving in less than ten minutes. The young man had stationed himself in a booth near the back window. After all of her hard work, the least he could do was give her space to implement her plan. Motoki had stopped by his booth a number of times, exclaiming over how long it had been since Mamoru had been by and trying to make conversation. Mamoru had tried but could barely meet his friends eyes. Finally Motoki had left him to nurse his coffee in peace.
Every time the entrance bell chimed, Mamoru's head whipped around but time passed and Usagi did not arrive. As the minutes dragged on, Mamoru felt himself growing tense. His hands clenched tightly around his mug, trying to draw warmth up into his strangely cold body. He glanced at his watch, her class had been out nearly a half hour. He told himself that he should leave, that he had waited long enough, and yet he did not move.
The bell tinkled. Mamoru turned to look, his persistence- it certainly could not be called patience- was rewarded. Usagi swept in with a little flourish. Suddenly it was clear to him why she had been so late. The blond teenager must have gone home first to change out of her childish school uniform. Now she wore an outfit in pink and black that could have been taken directly from one of her flashy fashion magazines. Mamoru could not help but think she looked out of place amongst the games and decorations of the arcade. Mamoru could not help but think she looked stunning.
Motoki noticed it too. "Usagi!" he exclaimed, "Wow- look at you. Is that a new dress?"
New dress, new shoes, new jewelry... Mamoru thought to himself. Usagi floated over to the counter and took a dainty seat. She crossed her legs and leaned towards him, "Why yes," she replied with a coy smile, "Thank you for noticing."
Motoki smiled, "What can I get you? Banana split? Brownie sundae?"
Usagi put a finger to her chin, making a big show of considering her options. "Actually, I'll just have a glass of water- with lemon."
Water with lemon? Mamoru thought with a frown, Come on, Usako, anyone can see you're dying for some chocolate right now.
"You're the boss," Motoki said, fetching her drink.
Usagi took a tiny sip and then watched him over the rim of her cup. Smiling sweetly, she said, "Motoki? Have you seen the modern art exhibit at the gallery down the street? It's really quite fascinating, you know. The colors were gorgeous and very evocative. I found the emotion of the pieces so moving."
Mamoru rolled his eyes.
"Really?" Motoki said, "I didn't know you liked art, Usagi. Do you visit art galleries often?"
Usagi waved her hand airily and tittered. Mamoru shuddered. "Oh, you know," she replied. "I stop by from time to time, just to see what's new and trendy."
"Hey!" Motoki exclaimed, "Wasn't there some sort of carnival this week, right down by that gallery? You love those things, right? Did you go?"
Usagi blushed but covered it well. She took a long sip of her water- with lemon, Mamoru thought with a snort- and said, "Ah well, I wouldn't have noticed. I outgrew that sort of childish thing ages ago. I would just feel silly..."
Mamoru did not hear the rest. He had gotten to his feet and left, unnoticed by either Motoki or Usagi.
Mamoru glared furiously at the children, families and couples enjoying themselves at the little carnival. Cheerful music blared, cut intermittently by the piercing shrieks of those on the wild rides. The heavenly smells, sweet and savory, of a multitude of special treats drifted on the wind. Bells rang and lights flashed as people won coveted prizes at the booths. The colors, the noises and the atmosphere all laughed at him. She was right. It is a childish and silly thing.
Mamoru turned away from it, ready to leave. He did not know where he would go but he felt a deep urge to just walk away from it all. He did not get the chance. Behind him, chin up and eyes bright with unshed tears, stood Tsukino Usagi.
Puzzled, he opened his mouth to ask her why she was not back at the Crown Game Center, back with Motoki. Before he had a chance, her hand whipped up to point at him accusingly. The tip of her finger, trembling with rage, hovered centimeters from the tip of his nose. "You said you would fix it." Her voice was soft but as she continued it grew louder until she was nearly shouting. "You said you would teach me to be his ideal woman. You said I was ready."
Mamoru watched her thunder at him. He noted the way her hair flared out around her, like a golden tail, lashing in ire. He studied the blue fire that burned bright behind her eyes. He was especially intrigued by the way her face started out pale white and slowly grew a deep, crimson. So caught up was he in the peculiar girl's appearance that it took a moment for his ears to catch up.
"He turned you down." It was not a question.
Furiously, she nodded. With a little sniffle she said, "He told me he was impressed with the new me. Complimented me on how mature and sophisticated I had become in such a short time. He told me it reminded him of Reika. Oh he told me all about Reika. He told me how much he loved her and how, even though they were supposed to be broken up, he would always wait for her."
"I told you she was his ideal woman."
"But I was acting just like her and he still didn't..."
"Of course he didn't. It was a good act Usak- Usagi, but that's all it was. An act. You didn't really change."
Usagi's eyes widened in shock, all color drained from her face. She had expected him to tell her that she needed to practice more, that she was not trying hard enough. Finally she was able to stammer, "Wh-what?"
Mamoru's eyes were masked; unreadable. Slowly, with very precise and careful articulation, Mamoru said, "No matter how much you flirt with him, he will never love you."
They were locked in each other's eyes for an indeterminate amount of time. He saw overwhelming pain in hers, she saw unrelenting truth in his. Blue of the ocean depths warred with blue sparkling fire. At length, like ripping away a piece of her soul, Usagi turned away.
Tsukino Usagi reared back and slapped Chiba Mamoru with all of the strength in her small frame. Mamoru accepted her blow without a flinch.
Her eyes returned to his, challenging.
"He will never love you," he repeated.
The energy drained from her. Defeated, Usagi turned to leave. She did not know where she would go but she felt a deep urge to just walk away from it all. She did not get the chance. A gentle but rock hard grip had caught her wrist. Listlessly she turned back, uncaring what he might have to say to her. She did not expect the sight which met her gaze. Mamoru was tense, his shoulders hunched and his head bent low so that his dark hair shielded his eyes.
"He will never love you, Usako. But I will."
Usagi and Mamoru were curled together in the tiny, pink playhouse behind her home. Somehow the danger of being caught by her overprotective father or her knowing mother did not seem so important anymore. In fact it made it more... interesting. Mamoru was relaxed atop and against a mountain of plush toys. Usagi was relaxed against Mamoru. "You promise?" she asked, for the umpteenth time.
"Promise," he said, wrapping his arms around her petite figure.
"And I don't have to be all sophisticated?" she asked, draping the fingers of one hand around his neck.
"Nope," he said, pulling her close.
"I just have to be myself?" she asked, brushing a strand of silky black hair from his eyes.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said, cradling her close to his body.
She tilted her head up to look him in the eyes. Their noses brushed against each other, their breath mingled. "And that's the way you like me?"
Mamoru shook his head minutely, "No."
Ever so softly he kissed her, just the lightest brush of the lips. She tasted so sweet; she smelled like honey. Her cheeks were flushed pink, her eyes barely open; warmth radiated from her. He teased her lips with another gentle kiss.
"No, Usako. That's the way I love you."