Taichi sat on a concrete bench, hunched over as his thumb scrolled through names his glazed eyes weren't reading. It was silent, save the distant sound of conversation and the constant beeping from his phone. The sun was slowly setting, shadows playing on the ground beneath Taichi's feet. He was alone, though if it was by choice he wasn't sure.
A cold wind blew softly, unnoticed by the boy. His body instinctively shuddered, but he made no effort to warm himself. He saw no reason to.
"Sora! Wait up!"
He groaned as the memory began to catch up to him. He began to scroll through his phonebook faster, a single staccato note echoing through the streets. Maybe if it was loud enough, it could down out the sound of her voice.
His hands were shaking now, making it harder to breeze through the numbers. The beeping grew erratic; soon the phone slipped out of his sweaty palms, and he had to bend down to pick it up. Resuming the furious pace, his finger ran through the assortment faster than before, the phone reaching its limit. Soon, no matter how rapidly he pressed the button, the names would pass at the same speed.
"So, Sora? Are you going to the concert with anyone? Not that it matters...Just wondering."
"Damn phone," he growled. "Can't go any faster…"
He didn't want to stop. He didn't want to tempt fate and let the selection die on names he didn't want to see. Names he wasn't so sure he wanted on his phone anymore.
"No, I want to be available in case Yamato's free afterwards."
There was a loud crack as his phone hit the concrete below his feet.
Trembling, Taichi clutched his head as he felt the world begin to spin again. His sense of up and down had been disoriented since the moment he realized that he had lost the only thing he thought would never change on him, no matter what.
He had lost his sky. He had lost his Sora.
"Oh, I see. Yamato, huh?"
"Stop it, stop it," he whispered hoarsely, gripping his head tighter as if a firmer hold on his mind could restore everything back to how it was before. A shooting pain traveled through his skull, and he winced in pain, loosening his grasp.
He looked up at the setting sun, a shining red, the colour of her hair. He felt himself getting dizzy again, and stuck his head in between his knees.
The sky is up, the sky is up. No matter what happens, the sky is up.
The world spun nauseously, and Taichi fought the urge to throw up. Eventually, the churning in his stomach receded and he peeked down at the floor with one eye.
His phone laid screen up, a name brightly enveloped in a green light.
He snatched the phone and sat up so quickly he came lightheaded. He ignored it, his eyes staring at the name glowing back at him.
Mimi Tachikawa? Of all people, why Mimi Tachikawa? He hadn't spoken to her in ages; hell, she didn't even live in the same hemisphere anymore. So why her?
His hand had dialed the number and brought the receiver smoothly to his ear before he realized what he was doing. Wait a minute, was he really calling her?
Well, Taichi thought reasonably, it makes sense, sort of. Mimi wasn't the type of person to ignore a person in need, and the fact that he didn't see her everyday was a plus. He didn't think he could bear her looks of pity.
The phone had rung four times and he was about to hang up when he heard a groggy voice say, "Hello?"
At first, Taichi was confused; this was Mimi's phone, right?
"Hello?" the voice pressed, clearly irritated.
Suddenly, it hit him: she was speaking English.
Of course she would answer her phone in English - she did live in New York, after all. Nevertheless, Taichi was puzzled by the fact that she would answer his phone call in anything other than Japanese - she knew he was horrible at languages.
Mimi, obviously very annoyed by this point, began a long string of harsh sounds, scaring him out of his wits.
"Whoa, whoa, Mimi, calm down, it's me, Taichi," he said quickly, hoping she caught his Japanese.
There was a short pause, then, "Taichi?"
He nodded, and then remembering that she couldn't see him, said, "Yep."
"What are you doing calling me at this hour?" she snapped, evidently unappeased. "It's five in the morning!"
"I-I'm sorry!" he stammered. "It's just…well…"
"What is it?" Mimi asked after a moment. Her voice had changed; it was soft now, concerned.
"Sora?" Her sudden alertness spooked Taichi. How many emotions did this girl go through in the span of two minutes? "Is something wrong? Did something happen to her?"
"No, no, she's okay," he assured Mimi, wondering what he had gotten himself into and if it was too late to just hang up.
"Then what is it?" She sounded curious, and he knew there was no chance of leaving now. She was hooked.
"Sora…I mean…I think Sora likes Yamato," he blurted in a rush. His heartbeat grew so painful he swore it was about to burst out of his chest, and he found himself out of breath. It was as if saying those three words had caused him to run a mile.
The line was silent for a long minute, causing Taichi to think she had hung up on him. Just when he was about to dejectedly end the call, she spoke up.
"Are…are you sure?" she said at last.
"I'm sure," he replied miserably.
He heard her sigh, and he imagined the look of pity on her face. Perfect. Well, at least he couldn't see it.
"Oh Sora," she whispered softly, so softly that Taichi thought briefly that his ears were playing tricks on him. "Yamato, of all people…?"
"Um, Mimi?" he said tentatively.
"Huh?" She sounded as if she hadn't been paying attention.
"Um, are you okay?"
The girl let out a small laugh. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
Taichi couldn't help a chuckle of his own. She had a point.
"Taichi," Mimi continued on briskly, as if she was simply trying to get to the bottom of another silly rumor, "are you sure that she likes Yamato? Ishida Yamato? What if it's just some other blond guy with a similar haircut - "
"It was Ishida, all right, she was waiting outside of his concert with a present for him!" he said loudly, wishing with each word he didn't have to say it himself.
"Maybe it was a Christmas pre - "
God, couldn't she get it through her thick skull? "MIMI! She likes Yamato! That's it! That's all there is to it! Okay? OKAY?"
Losing control over his emotions, he felt his voice crack and had to stop. Guilt seeped through his veins. She didn't deserve that. Mimi hadn't done anything wrong.
Then he heard a sound that made him catch his breath. It was a small cry, barely audible, but he was sure it was real.
He sighed, feeling worse than before. "I'm sorry, Mimi, I didn't mean to yell at you."
"No," she sniffed, "It's not you."
He frowned. "Then what's wrong?"
She gave him a hollow laugh. "Nothing. It's just funny how things turn out, that's all."
All of a sudden, a curious though hit him. "You…you liked Yamato, didn't you?" he asked quietly, wondering if his theory was true or if it was just his despair talking. Misery loved company, after all.
"Probably not as much as you liked Sora," she replied in a bitter voice after a brief pause in which he assumed Mimi had been contemplating how much information to divulge.
A calm silence fell over them, and Taichi soon felt a kind of gratefulness towards his fortune. Maybe when it came to love he had no luck, but at least his recovery call hit the mark.
"Oh Taichi, are you all right?" Mimi whispered worriedly. "I know how much you liked her, and Yamato was your best friend, they both were…"
"Yea, that's why I have to be there for them," he responded, his heart heavy with trepidation, "Though I'm not really looking forward to that."
"I can't believe them," Mimi said suddenly, her tone surprisingly scathing. "I mean, Sora doesn't know about my thoughts on Yamato, but – and no offense – it was obvious that you liked her. How could Yamato even entertain the idea of saying yes to her? And how could she make a move towards Yamato, knowing that he's your best friend? Seriously, what the hell? How could they betray you like that?"
"Well, Yamato technically hasn't done anything yet," said Taichi weakly, trying to fight the emotions Mimi was invoking. He had suppressed them rather successfully for awhile, but she was starting to make it difficult.
"Whatever, you know he will, eventually," she snarled. "He'll worry about you, but once you give them your blessing – which I already know you'll grant – he'll go on ahead, thinking everything's fine."
"Yea, you're probably right," he moaned. He placed his head in his free hand. "But what else am I supposed to do?"
There was a lull in the conversation at this point, and Taichi could hear Mimi tapping her fingers thoughtfully on something through the receiver, her breathing slow and melancholy. He wondered vaguely how much sleep she had gotten before he had decided to call.
"Nothing," she sighed at last in a tired voice. "There's nothing either of us can do, except…"
"Except keep on smiling and pretend everything is all right," Taichi finished for her, his heart falling into his stomach.
As the silence between the two lengthened, Taichi looked up from the vision of concrete he had by now managed to memorize and glanced at the sky. The heavens had turned a soft rose, gradually becoming a deep indigo as his eyes reached the stars. Funny, he thought, how things changed so quickly without warning. He couldn't even recognize his previously bright red sky anymore.
"I think I'll let you go now," Taichi found himself saying. "I've kept you awake long enough."
"I'm sorry I didn't help," Mimi said remorsefully, though the fatigue in her voice was more pronounced than ever.
"Don't worry about it," he assured her. "I feel better now, thanks to you." Which, surprisingly, wasn't a lie; he still had that horribly empty feeling in his chest, but somehow it didn't feel so intense anymore. Knowing that he wasn't going to be the only one forced to smile through the pain lightened the load, if only slightly.
"Yes, Mimi, thank you," he said, unable to keep from smiling. Her earnestness was endearing.
"All right, if you say so," she said doubtfully.
Taichi chuckled softly. "Go to bed, Mimi."
"Good night, Taichi."
There was a soft click, and Taichi turned off his phone. Looking up, he sat silently as the sky turned from dusk into night and the sounds of the concert echoed through the empty boulevard. When the streetlights turned on, he stood up stiffly and slowly made his way back to the tent, determined to act as if nothing had happened. He did bear the crest of courage, after all – if anything, that much hadn't changed.