New Year's Eve at the Sohma house.
Streamers were draped over every majestic ceiling in shades of gold, blue, pink, and every other hue that you could possibly imagine. They created a sort of canopy-like netting that reminded Kita of being inside of a fort made of blankets. Paper lanterns accented them, giving the room a cozy, soft glow that was offset by the cacophony of voices and music.
Five-year-old Kita gripped her mother's hand tightly as they made their way through the crowd, smiling at relatives who they haven't seen in a year and exchanging hugs and kisses. Kita couldn't remember most of these people and she started to get shy. Up until that point, Kita stayed away from large crowds of people and preferred being alone. She stood as close to her mother as she could and tried to avoid looking at the spectacle that was the annual Sohma New Year's gathering.
She looked over her shoulder and saw the other kids, aged three through six, playing together cheerfully. A part of her wanted to walk over there and join them. A part of her wanted to be accepted by them but she knew she would never be like them. They were all born under a Zodiac curse and she was not. Her mother was though. She had the unfortunate luck to be born under the sign of the tiger. Kita knew that fact didn't qualify her for the other kid's group and that secretly killed her.
"Hello, Mina. You're looking as stunning as ever." said a fifteen-year-old Shigure as he came up to the mother-daughter pair from out of nowhere.
Kita hid behind her mother's legs. She didn't remember this older boy either and he was making her uncomfortable.
Mina laughed at the boy's audacity. "Oh Shigure, you don't need to flatter me like you do so many of the others. I'm a happily married woman and I'm twice your age." Kita peeked out from behind her sanctuary, glaring at him. He was too friendly, intimidatingly so.
"I'm just having fun. You really don't look a day over twenty-two. How is Jiro anyway?" Shigure asked, smiling at Kita and giving her a little wave. She hid behind her mother again.
"He's doing fine. He went out with the boys tonight so Kita and I wouldn't feel bad about leaving him to come here."
In spite of the fact that Jiro is a Sohma, he was not allowed to attend any family gatherings. Back when Mina was twenty-one and Jiro was twenty-six, she had fallen in love with him and they wanted to get married. Since she's bound to the law laid out by the head of the family, she had no choice but to tell him of their plans. The head of the family at that time was secretly harboring feelings for Mina that went beyond the typical relationship of the God and his cursed children and reacted violently, attacking Mina and Jiro. Jiro stood up to him and then fled, eloping with Mina that night. As a result, Jiro was exiled from the family. While Mina's offenses were similar to Jiro's, as a Zodiac member, she could never be thrown out. Kita will never know of the tears her mother shed every New Year's after that. She will never know about how her mom would sometimes come home bloody and bruised from the abuse her God put her through. She won't know about the many times he tried to rape her.
All of her suffering stopped about two years before Kita was born. He passed away and a new baby was anointed with the full extension of the Zodiac curse. In spite of the new leadership, Jiro is still considered to be in exile for his crimes against the Sohma head's predecessor.
But Mina had tried to put this all behind her. She turned around and swooped Kita into her arms. She wanted her daughter to get to know these people. They were family after all and she secretly loved showing off her sweet little girl.
"Hello Kita. Do you remember me?" Shigure asked the timid child. Kita shook her head and Shigure laughed. Mina patted her head tenderly. Little kids are adorable.
Kita didn't like all the interactions. She wanted to get away from everyone and sit somewhere quiet. She felt so out of place.
"Put me down, mama." She said, looking pitifully at Mina.
"Sure, honey." she said, setting her daughter down onto the wood floor. Once Kita's feet hit the ground she started walking quickly away, pushing through the crowd. When someone stood in her way, she slipped through their legs. She had to get away from all the people.
"Don't go to far Kita!" shouted her mother, looking woefully at her. She knew Kita was a curious child and she was a bit afraid that she might wander somewhere that could get her into trouble.
After getting away from the party, Kita found herself in a long, empty hallway. Last New Year's Eve she had explored a lot of the rooms on this side of the estate. They belonged to her mother's friends and their children, some of who had been playing in that group she wished she could join. She walked to the end of the dimly lit hallway and took a left, realizing that she was now near the back of the house. She had never strayed this far from the festivities and she wondered if her mother would get mad at her for drifting so far. She decided that if she got back before her mother got too worried, then there was no harm in looking around here for a little while. All Kita found was a large door with tree-like designs on it, one she had never opened before. She could see a warm glow emanating from inside the room. Someone must be in there. The clasp to the door was right in front of Kita. It called out to her, tempting her to pull it. Cautiously giving in, she pulled back the screen and looked inside.
Standing by a large, glassy window she saw a boy, about seven years old, with moonlight reflecting off his dark hair. He was taller than her but leaner, like he had never eaten a full meal in his life. The boy turned around with his head hung low, his messy hair covering his eyes. He gracefully held his arms behind his back and tilted his head up to look at her. Kita blushed.
"I-I'm sorry. I-I was j-just exploring." she stuttered.
The boy smiled darkly and walked towards her, each step bringing him closer to the darker side of the room, masking him in shadows.
"What is your name?" he asked. His voice, calm and serious, sent chills down Kita's spine. He was a million times more intimidating than Shigure had been and he was closer to her age.
"I-I'm Kita." she said, bowing respectfully. "Who are you?"
The boy laughed dryly. "You do not know who I am?" he asked, not surprised but apparently having never faced someone who didn't instantly recognize him before.
"N-no. I don't think I do." replied Kita. This boy frightened her. She wished her mother would find her. She wanted to continue being with him, just not alone. The boy inched closer to her and pushed his hair away from his face revealing his dark, cold eyes which instantly fixated on Kita's.
"I am Akito, head of the Sohma family."
Kita's yellow-green eyes widened. He's the head of the family. He has power over all of her relatives. She could barely believe it. She had heard the adults casually mention him before but she expected him to be older, bigger, and not hidden away in his room like this.
Akito ran his long, bony fingers through a few strands of her dark, purple-tinted hair.
"You're pretty." he said fondly. "It's funny how your name sounds like mine." Kita smiled at him. Maybe he wasn't so scary after all. And he was cute, cuter than the other boys in her class.
He smiled back at her, stroking her hair softly.
"I'm going to marry you one day." he said, sternly.
Kita tried to remain quiet but couldn't stifle her loud giggle. Boys in school always said that to the girls they liked. They were never being serious, it was just another way to say 'I like you.' No one had ever said it to her before though. It made her feel special.
Akito's eerie smile rapidly dropped into a frown of anger.
"Why are you laughing!" he demanded. Before Kita could think to answer, he slapped her hard across her cheek, sending her falling onto the hard floor.
"I'm not joking!" he yelled at her. "One day you'll be all mine!"
Tears welled up in her eyes as her cheek throbbed with pain. She had never been hit before in her young life. This wasn't the same boy from a few seconds ago who had acted so polite and gentle. He was a monster. He turned evil. She rolled into a quivering ball, sobbing into the sleeve of her kimono.
"Mommy, mommy.." she cried out but her prayers were unanswered as she found herself alone on the floor.
For a long while the only sound in the dark room was her cries. She thought he had left the room until she felt two cold hands on her cheeks lift her up from the floor. The cold hand on her left cheek dulled the pain the slap had caused her and it got numb. She stared into her attacker's steel-colored eyes, seeing no remorse or compassion, just apathy. She started a new rush of tears and soon felt herself pressed against his frail, thin body. He rubbed her back slowly and she felt her tears dry up and her shaking subside. She looked up at him confused. Why was he acting like he had before?
Kita closed her eyes for a second of tranquility but barely calmed down before she felt her lips being pressed against Akito's. She gasped but her startled noise was caught in his throat.
She had never kissed a boy before. She remembered seeing two of her classmates do it on a dare. Their lips had barely touched before they had pulled away and said it was gross. Now that she was experiencing it for herself, she disagreed. It wasn't gross at all. It was just weird. His lips felt dry and chapped against her tear-stained ones. She kind of liked the soothing feeling it gave her, even though before he had held her, he had made her feel anything but relaxed. Did this mean he loved her? Mommy had said that people kiss when they're in love. She didn't know how she felt about this strange boy. One minute she hated him for hurting her and the next she was so grateful that he pacified the pains he had caused.
Their kiss was interrupted as the door to the room slid open. Mina was standing in the doorway with Hatori by her side. She gasped at the scene before her and cupped her hand over her mouth. Her five-year-old daughter was being kissed, for the first time, by a seven-year-old boy. Akito smirked at her.
"Hello Mina. I was just getting to know your daughter." he said complacently, as he gripped the belt on Kita's kimono tightly. She put one hand on the tie of his robe and the other on the boy's chest. Was he still protecting her?
"Akito, could you please let her go?" she said, trying to remain kind and reasonable. Hatori slowly walked around to Akito's side, positive that he wouldn't listen to her request.
"No." he said firmly. "She's mine now. She likes being with me anyway. Don't you, Kita?" he said, looking down at her.
Kita didn't know what to say. She looked from Akito to her mother. She didn't want to choose. Her mother, who was always there for her and would never hurt her and then Akito, who was intriguing and instilled her with emotions she had never felt before and who she also feared would become angry again if she didn't stay with him. She hid her face from both of them and remained silent.
Before she could give an answer, Hatori lunged at Akito, grabbing his arms tightly so he would loosen his grip on Kita's kimono. Akito yelled and kicked at Hatori who held a solid grasp on the skinny, little boy. Free from his clutches, Kita was picked up by her mother and carried out of the room, Akito's screaming still audible from down the hall.
Mina carried Kita into an empty guest room and sat her down on the bed. Kita looked surprisingly void of emotion, while Mina frantically paced around the room.
She stopped pacing and knelt down in front of Kita taking her tiny hands in hers.
"Kita, honey, did that mean boy do anything to you?" asked Mina, who seemed to be tearing up from all the excitement. Her poor daughter.
Kita thought about what happened and how worried her mother would be if she told her about it; his proposal or threat more like it, the painfully slap counteracted by the soothing kiss.