Ugh.

Hi?

Look, I'm so sorry for the long wait.

There's a reason and its so completely STUPID of me, but its so something I'd do that I'm embarrassed to admit it, but here it is whether you care or not.

(Please don't care)

I had 8 pages typed out, and then this monster virus hit my computer and it like completely crashed.

I could hardly remember any of what I wrote, so I just kinda danced around my thoughts for the next few months, but nothing fit.

Then last month I finally got a new computer.

But then God, (Skip this part, skip this part, skip this part) three days ago I was doing a project and I needed my moms flash drive and…ugh it was saved on there okay?

But under a name I would never have expected to save a chapter under.

Gosh I'm SO SORRY.

Read, okay?

And um, don't hate me?

ALSO FROM THIS POINT FORWARD IM CHANGING NATAKI TO KARIN.

Like I'm going to go back and change all the Natakis to Karin.

Um okay now.

Here's the long waited (and hopefully anticipated) chapter.

X

If someone had told me fifteen minutes previously that in a quarter's time I'd see my seemingly dead mother again, I'd probably have pushed that moron into the nearest brick wall for even suggesting something so hurtful.

Because this is my mother. She didn't care about me, she only grudgingly agreed to call me every two months, she never visits and on those few rare occasions when she remembered major holidays, she sent me exorbitantly expensive gifts to fill the void of a

missing mom.

The next thing I knew, I was engulfed in an awkward hug. And here's the weirdest part, my anger just sort of…disappeared.

Like it was there one second, fresh and fierce, and the next, as I felt the warmth from my mom, it wasn't there anymore. And it was replaced not by shock or skepticism, but by relief. And then my arms were around her skinny middle. She sobbed into my shoulder and I felt even myself begin to sniffle.

Did kids get to feel this all the time? The rapid and immediate comfort of a mother's embrace?

And then, after what felt like eternities, we separated. She was very red in the face, it did nothing to decrease her beauty, and I felt proud to have such a pretty mom.

Weird, huh?

She was still griping my shoulders tightly when she turned to face my dad.

"I need to talk to my daughter," she said in a throaty whisper, "alone."

But he snorted, averting his eyes, "Anything you want to tell her, you can tell me."

She seemed to have a small debate in her head before speaking.

"It's girl talk."

I guess that's all he needed to explode. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Guess who gave her the talk and boys," his face tinged even redder and I wondered if it was from anger…or something else?

"I told her all that stuff about womanhood, a talk that a man should never have to have with a girl, much less his daughter. You wanna talk to her about "girl stuff"? By all means let me join in too, I've had just about as much experience in the subject as any woman."

I suppose if his face was not so determined and scary, what he just said could have been pretty funny. But I knew I had to get him to leave. No matter how much I loved him, I finally had a mommy and I wanted to be alone with her.

"It's okay," I muttered, the comfort of my mom's hug still seeping through my being, "I can talk to her alone."

He gaped at me for as couple seconds, obviously not able to look into my mom's triumphant face. Then he closed his eyes and debated with himself, putting on the same

'looking-for-the-right-words' face as my mother.

Then, coming to a conclusion, he walked over, detangled me easily from my mom and put his lips very near my head. "Don't agree to anything," he whispered into my forehead, "I'll go completely insane if I loose you too."

Then he turned to the woman who looked miraculously like me, "It's our house, if she wants you to leave, you leave." And although his tone was terribly biting, it was also brittle and I noticed in his eyes that he missed her as much as I did.

Maybe even more.

Then he trudged like a robot past the front door and into the driveway. I heard the car engine roar to life quite a while after that and I was momentarily confused: what had held him up?

But then I noticed her staring and all other thoughts slipped from my pink head.

How different she looked after so many years. I saw the creases beside her eyes, they were wrinkles. I didn't remember her having wrinkles, but I suppose time is the kinda thing that does that to you. Her smile was wide, my smile, I realized.

Finally she spoke in a teasing tone "No tattoos?"

And that, believe it or not, was the moment when I realized how totally stupid I had been. A tattoo? What the hell, man, what was I trying to prove? To who? God, just thinking about it made my eyebrows furrow. Where did I even get the ridiculous idea?

"None," I finally agreed, willing myself to forget that tragic and immature phase in my life.

"Good,"

And it was around then that my mind started working again.

What was she doing here?

When I asked her this, she looked at my gravely and said

"I missed you so much, you couldn't possibly know—"

"Oh, I think I do know!" I interrupted fiercely, "Since I've been basically motherless for more than half my life!"

And Walla, the anger is back.

"I know, Sakura," she all but moaned, "And I'm so sorry for that, but look, I'm here now."

"For what?"

She bit her pink bottom lip

"Is it really so impossible for me to just be here to visit you?"

"Yes."

She nodded, apparently hurt.

So maybe I hadn't meant for it to come out so blunt, but I couldn't have false hope, no matter how little I'd known her, I could bet anything she didn't fly halfway across the world just for me.

There was no way she came here for a good reason like she missed me, or she wondered how I'd been getting along without her, nope, not my mother.

"Okay," she finally said "I actually am here for something."

And although I'd known so all along, it didn't stop the words from hurting any less.

"Sit down, Sakura."

I obeyed, feeling lightheaded and wondering like crazy what in the world was great enough for her to actually fly back home.

And that's when the true impact of the word hit me. Was this her home? Not anymore, no, but it was once upon a time, right? There was a time when she came from work—dead tired—and just fell asleep on the coach—on her coach—at the time this house was as much hers as it is mine now. Back when she grudgingly cooked lunches and dinner, the apparent misery on her face enough to make me cry right there at the table. What about this town? Its obviously not her home anymore. She abandoned it—just as she had abandoned me.

But then she sat herself directly across from me, taking my hands in hers; I gripped them back, wanting something to hold my anxiety to.

"I…Sakura, I am here because—let's… ugh…" she closed her eyes for a long minute before opening them again and giving me a pleading look. "Before I tell you anything, you need to promise to keep your mouth closed, okay? No talking till I'm done."

I nodded, I didn't much like the idea, but my curiosity was greater than my retort at the moment.

"You are my daughter, my only daughter," I raised my eyebrows but kept my mouth firmly closed.

"You know I recently got re-married," she continued, brushing back some pink hair from my forehead "but…the thing is…" she stopped talking again and closed her eyes

"Let's start over. I thought after getting married I could have another child and when he or she was old enough, I'd marry the child off to Mr. Kazah-san who is expecting a daughter in three months and has a two-year-old son. Mr. Kazah-san is an extremely stubborn man who refuses to even let me think about joining ranks with him unless I arrange a marriage between his child and mine about sixteen years from now, because more than anything, he wants grandchildren.

"But I could never let you marry a man fifteen years younger than you, and Mr. Kazah-san only has one child and a daughter in waiting."

After hearing that, I was breathing again.

"So the only reasonable and acceptable thing to do would be to have another child, right? Right. But…but Sakura, I can't have kids anymore."

And once again the breathing stopped.

She's not that old, is she? I opened my mouth whilst noticing the wrinkle lines I hadn't before realized were on her face.

"I'm not done yet. No talking till I finish, remember?"

She cleared her throat.

"For mommy reasons that I shall not be sharing with you, children were out of the question. And with a very heavy heart, I had to deny Mr. Kazah-san."

She stood up then, in all her Yes-I-had-a-child-but-that-does-not-stop-me-from-being-super-model-skinny glory and brushed her skirt with the back of her hand.

"But just recently I met this other man. A company owner who is not as amazing, but to my requirements, who's in no rush to get his son married, but would like it if his child married my heir."

She stood right in front of my face and placed her long, graceful hands on each shoulder

"I'm not asking you to actually marry this guy, Sakura, but if you did, oh, if you did, it'd be wonderful. I could move back here, Sakura, I could see you all the time. I know I may have not been world's best mom over the last few years, but this could really give me a chance to be. It would be just like old times. We'd be a family again. I could make up for all those mother/daughter times I missed.

"Wouldn't you like that, Sakura? Wouldn't you like to be a family again? I…I don't know how much you know this, but I love you. I love you so very much."

I'm not exactly positive what it was, maybe that deep kind face, maybe the fact that the only possible thing that could get her to move back here with me was a business deal, or perhaps that conversation I had in my mind earlier about where exactly her home was, but I shot up then, and I said nothing—even though I knew I could—she was definitely finished.

I just pushed past her and out the door. I knew I couldn't stay on the porch (if you could even call it that…) very long because I had no doubt she'd come chasing after me, so I was just about to rocket off in the completely different direction when I heard the shuffling of leaves: someone was behind me.

I whipped around just in time to see Sasuke ducking out of the shadows.

Realization time once again, kiddies: He stayed. He had been waiting all that time. He actually stayed outside the door…for me.

Knowing I couldn't possibly produce a smile, I grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze, hoping it would suffice, and then rocketed off in the opposite direction.

And you know what?

He stayed right behind me the whole time.

I didn't know where I was leading him, but a right, two lefts, one half circle, and a corner later, we'd wound up outside a produce store.

I was sad and confused and you know, a little disoriented from my odd choice in direction, and I just went right in.

Sasuke was there with me too, which is maybe kind of why I'd chosen more of a public place. No repeats of the Sasuke-make-out for me, please.

X

"And she's all sweet and calm and beautiful and all expecting me to marry this guy I don't even know. I mean it hardly matters that she hasn't seen me in years, 'cause God forbid, if she came to check up on me, she might miss a bloody day of work!"

Sasuke and I sat on the shiny floor next to a small crate of beets, our backs rested against the pale wall and every once in a while, his knee would brush mine.

It would be just like old times…

And on top of all that, I have her 'effing voice running through my head like a broken record.

"Sasuke-kun, I can't believe her. It's like I hardly matt—matt—matter…" and that is when, embarrassingly enough, my voice cracks.

I turned my face away from his quickly, so he didn't see me in all my pathetic-ness.

I don't know how much you know this, but I love you…

"Sakura…"

I love you so much….

I sniffle a little to answer him and he gives me this sorta exasperated sigh and touches my shoulder.

What. A. Cheater.

He knew I can't help it when he touches me. He knew I got these weird vibrations (I will not say 'electricity', dammit, too cliché even for me) every time he touched me that just made me look at him. It's a reflex I can't help it.

So I did, I looked up at him.

…And his face was just…I dunno, comforting. And his shoulder was there all broad and lonesome…so I decided to lay my head on it. And he just decided to lean his head on mine a little. So while all this comforting, and sniffling, and leaning, and over use of the word 'and'-ing was going through my head, I realized something else.

(I know, I'm even brilliant when I'm having an emotional break-down)

"Sasuke-kun…"

"Hmm…"

"Why…um, I mean thanks," I smiled shyly at him "for waiting outside for me."

He nodded and looked away.

Deciding I'd been pathetic enough for one night, I wordlessly stood up, brushing the dirt off my knees. I held my hand out to Sasuke. He stared at it for a second before grabbing it.

When he'd gotten up, our bodies were so close…if I had just lifted my head slightly…if he had just lowered his…

Bad thoughts…wrong thoughts…shameful thoughts…

"I need to get home," I finally told him

He didn't say anything. I gave his hand a squeeze, totally ready to move on.

Wouldn't you like that, Sakura? Wouldn't you like to be a family again?

Or not, I guess.

I felt the little power I had left leave my legs. I leaned my head against Sasuke's shoulder, my body against his. I entwined out fingers. With his free hand he gripped the curve of my waist. It felt so good, so familiar…I gave his hand another squeeze, I nuzzled his neck.

I came to my senses then, and I backed away from him, tripping slightly over the little baskets that orderly lined the floor. My hand still held his, my waist still warmed by his touch.

"Thanks for being here, Sasuke-kun,"

I shifted so that his hand left my small curve. And then I (very reluctantly) released his hand.

We stood facing each other and I suddenly had the hugest urge ever to just grab him and kiss him and more…so much more. I wanted to be with him so bad, my stomach began hurting.

Because I knew I couldn't.

There's was no way in Hell I could possibly end up with Sasuke anymore.

I was going to throw up, I just knew it.

But I came to a decision quick: I would not do that in front of Sasuke-kun.

Instead I turned my heel and slipped ungracefully down the aisle until I shot out the door.

I heard the woman who owned the little shop shout something, but I ignored her and turned into the dark corner.

I got sick all over the wall.

My throat ached in the worse way and I gagged breathlessly over and over until I felt the sickness rushing up again, and I decorated the wall even further.

I gasped uneasily several times before I felt someone sweep my sweaty hair off my face and a cool hand press gently against the back of my neck. Surprisingly, I felt my breathing ease up considerably and even though I was half dead, I knew it was Sasuke.

I wished it wasn't. I probably looked so terrible.

After what felt like hours, I finally pushed his hands away from my hair and straightened myself out. His hand left my neck; too, instead he gripped my shoulder to help me steady.

"Sakura, you look terrible."

And here—no matter how much I am ashamed of it—I will admit that I stared crying like a little baby. Because on top of it all, on top of having Gaara practically hate me, Karin having Sasuke, my mother coming back just for her business and having my father not trust me, was the horrible, horrible fact that Sasuke-kun thought I looked terrible.

He certainly looked alarmed, his deep, onyx eyes widened and he grabbed both my shoulders so I wouldn't fall backwards, slam my head on the concrete wall and like…die.

"Just… just let me g-go, Sasuke-kun." I hiccupped, trying to step away from him.

Instead, he pulled one of my arms over his shoulder and gripped my waist securely. My legs, unfortunately, chose this moment to collapse and he had to use his other arm, too.

Sasuke opened his mouth to say something, but he closed it again… maybe he was worried I'd start wailing even louder. Either way, he just pressed his lips together steadied me once again.

I tried to walk, really, I did, but I had just emptied my body of all the food I'd eaten today (very minimal) and cried my little eyes out. I was weak, I was vulnerable. I had to have Sasuke-kun hold me all the way home.

The fact that he was unbelievably warm, safe, and gave me amazing butterflies had nothing to do with it.

Ok, maybe it had a little to do with it.

But the fact is, I could hardly enjoy this.

Because like, I really, really didn't want to go home. The thought of seeing her again so soon was nauseating… but I couldn't really speak—I couldn't tell Sasuke-kun not to take me home.

And that is exactly why home is the exact place I wound up.

He gently released me then—as if I was the kind of porcelain doll he so feared breaking—and led me to the door I wanted away from. I didn't put up a fight, though, because I didn't have the energy and because part of me knew I'd have to face her and her selfish ways sooner or later.

But what do you know—God is fair sometimes.

Turns out my mom had gone…and in her place stood the very lovely Ino.

And that's how I wound up laying facedown on my sickeningly pink bed, a bag of chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (more than half empty by this time) by my side and a large, finished mug of hot chocolate in my sticky hand, dramatically and spontaneously reciting ridiculous poetry about love and loss.

And making Ino truly uncomfortable—there was a lot of that.

"Love can not fill the thickened lung with air, nor clean the blood, or set to the fractured bone, yet many a man is making friends with death, even as I speak, for lack of love

alone."

"Ugh…you're really upset, huh?

"LISTEN TO ME! His name suggests he has a soul, but where he hides it is a mystery! I can not believe I fell so hard for someone with a heart of lead. His smile is like the moonlight, beautiful and magical, and his eyes ridiculously striking—with a fire that could melt the night…"

"Sakura, I think you shouldn't have had so much chocolate…"

"I can't help it, Ino! I needed the comfort only chocolate could provide…"

I turned over so I was facing my ceiling and thought a couple things over.

Firstly, I wondered where exactly my mother was going with this, because obviously, I am not marrying this guy. Second of all, I thought briefly about my father—and how he would react—if I did marry this man. Where would he be without me? And C, I speculated about Sasuke-kun and his marrying Karin.

"Ino, you know what I want to know?"

"How you're going to manage to loose all that weight you just put on before its warm enough to swim?"

"Besides that."

"What?"

"I wanna know why on earth Sasuke-kun is planning to get married so early. I mean a wedding—holy matrimony—is a life time commitment. Who wants to be bonded so strongly at such an early age? We're not even out of school!"

Ino nodded sympathetically and plopped down next to me. She reached into the cookie bag, pulled out three and shoved them whole into her mouth.

I did not mention she was on a diet.

"I guess I know what you mean," she said after a mighty swallow, "but sometimes people make these kinds of decisions for reasons beyond our comprehension. You know what I'm saying? Like maybe he actually has a good reason."

"Maybe."

"Maybe.""But probably not." "You're being a little close minded."

"Hmm…close minded, but smart. I shouldn't get my hopes up. I'll be crushed if it's not the truth."

There was very little talking after that. We polished off the last of the cookies together and we just lay beside each other. I remember how it was a little uncomfortable, but a lot nice, because I had my best friend there with me.

X

Yah, well the nice feeling didn't last very long.

Like, you know how I'm Sakura and nothing fair ever comes my way?

Well, of course it couldn't be easy, of course my mother couldn't just take my dramatic 'no' and be off, back to her perfect life.

That's why I'm hiding out at Skye's office.

"Well maybe…"

"Maybe nothing! She is a terrible mother with frivolous needs and bad split ends!"

Skye says nothing. I chew on my hair.

"I understand why you're so upset, but perhaps you just need to give her another chance. You said yourself you haven't seen her in years. Wouldn't you like to hang out with her again? Even if you do decline her offer?"The truth?

Yes I did. I wanted to be with her so bad it hurt, but I couldn't face her. My mother's voice had been running through my had relentlessly since she first spoke to me.

"And I'm not your mother or anything, but if I was, I really think that maybe I would love it if you talked to me again."

"After all you've--ah, she's done?"

"Yes."

I thought about it for a moment before saying in a strayed voice

"She came back so I could marry some guy I don't know. She came back for her business."

"But she did come back."

I nodded before realizing Skye couldn't see me.

"She did."

We were silent, I focused my gaze on the design of the curtain separating us.

Then, all at once, the curtain ruffled unexpectedly and I gasped is surprise.

Was she coming out?

I could imagine my face, eyes wide and unbelieving, hands gripping the pocket of my messenger bag, half standing.

Skye engulfed me in a hug that was surprisingly not awkward in one bit, (seeing as I've never seen her in my life before) she was several inches taller than me and my head was pressed against her pink hair.

She moved back from me and I was so startled by the color of her eyes, such an intense mix of green and orange they had to be contacts, they just had to be, that I didn't notice her chuckling that beautiful laugh of hers.

"Yah, and you thought you looked like a freak."

X

It's a very empowering feeling, to tell the truth, when you have the knowledge that someone's just like you.

Its like you hold back and just keep certain things hidden 'cause there's no way in Hell that this person knows what you go through, but then you discover that um...yes, yes she does.

Because ha, ha!

She has pink hair and greener eyes.

"Are you going to go home now?"

I smile at her, a real smile that I'm oddly glad she can see and say that I am.

"I'm proud," she confesses.

And it must be in the way that her pink lips curve slightly and how her hand is squeezing my arm that I realize I am too.

X

I'm going to go home, like really, I am.

Its just that at the moment I felt really nice standing outside the office I'd once detested and I'd really like it if maybe this feeling stayed a bit longer.

So I took out my cell phone and dialed the number which I deleted and replaced so many times over but am completely unable to forget.

On the second ring, there was an answer.

"Hello?"

Amazing. Just his voice alone sends my heart…well, whatever. I won't get poetic on you.

"Hi, Sasuke. I um, well, I just wanted you to know that I'm good. That is, better. And I wanted to say thank you. A lot."

He was quiet and the only way I even knew he was still there was the soft breathing on the other end.

Man, feeling like an idiot is like a flipping hobby for me, lately!

"Of course," he finally replied. "anytime."

And even though obviously, anytime didn't actually mean anytime, it felt really nice to hear him say it.

"Okay, Sasuke-kun." I smiled despite myself "Well, I should go now,"

"Mhmm."

"Bye."

"Mhmm."

And maybe I was just imagining it, but I could have sworn he waited for a few seconds before hanging up, maybe just to see if I'd say anything else, maybe just to hear me breathe.

And that alone made me so happy, I skipped all the way home.

X

I'm home now, and the weird thing is that I expected someone to like, be here. But no one is.

This makes me feel only slightly unwanted and sensitive cause hello, I just suffered emotional trauma like, yesterday.

Where's the sympathy? Where's the love? Where's my mother groveling for forgiveness and promising me I don't have to marry that guy I don't know and getting back with my dad and divorcing her current husband and making me happy with my life?

I mean, God, where are the parents?

And as if I had just hit a cue, my father walked in bickering in an absurdly loud tone to someone behind him.

My mother.

"I realize that," he was saying although the furrow in his brow clearly stated that no, he didn't "but its not really your decision is it? I mean in most cultures the father decides who his daughter is going to marry anyway, not to mention that, hi? Were not in the 1800s anymore."

Sometimes my father is so incredibly like me I feel the need to beam at him.

But I don't at the moment because he wouldn't have seen me anyway, he's so busy arguing with my mother.

The familiarity of it all was enough to choke me up.

"Oh, please, Tazuku, you act like I'm forcing the girl into it. I'm merely offering, okay? She can decline, but I just think she shouldn't. I mean, this boy is a gem. Perfectly polite, obedient and well, a bit quiet, but most boys are at her age.

My dad rolled his eyes and looked at my mother sternly, still not noticing my presence.

(which, admittedly, I didn't exactly mind. I wanted to know what was going on.)

"And he looks just like that boy. The one Sakura was interested in back in the day? The adorable dark haired one?"

"Sasuke?"

"Yes! That was him. Quite a catch, he was, but I'm telling you, Sakura would love Sai. If only she'd let me introduce them!"

My father opened his mouth to reply when he noticed me standing in the middle of the room and he just sort of stood there, looking quite comical with one finger raised in the air and mouth slightly open.

Then my mother looks at me too and I see her face turn from annoyed to sheepish she walks over to me.

"Well…hello again, sweets."

I smiled.

Half cause I'm kinda-not-exactly-pissed she's here and half cause I remember her calling me sweets when I was little and worried about what was going to come next in a movie or book or just life in general.

(Its going to be alright, sweets. Mommy's here and there's really nothing to worry about now, is there?)

"Hi."

"I just wanted to say," she started, all business, and no mother, "that I apologize for my inappropriate behavior the night before. I am so incredibly sorry if I made you angry and uncomfortable. I never wish to be responsible for that again."

Well, what are you expected to say to that?

"Oh, well…um, yes. I appreciate that. And you're…forgiven."

My mother smiled then and pushed some hair off my face.

"We'd been wondering where you'd gotten off to, but I told your father not to worry, that you'd be okay. And now look, I was right!"

I nodded, though hesitantly, and looked where my dad stood.

Except my view of him was cut off because dear mother stood directly in front of me.

"Now, Sakura, can we please, please, please talk about this?"

And I decided that maybe we should.

Maybe I should stop being so immature and selfish and just listen to her. Just hear her out, you know?

Everyone deserves, if nothing else, a chance to be heard out.

X

Tada?

Whatever, sorry for the long wait.

My promise to you, next chapter will be SO much faster.

And to all those who waited all that time for this?

You're A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

saim