I felt the mattress shift under me and opened my eyes. In the dim light I could barely make out the black-on-black shape of Akito walking away. It couldn't have been later than four in the morning.
I didn't think about why Akito was leaving without even a light on. I was sure that the aunties who got us everything we needed would be panicking by the time he was found missing.
I pulled the blankets closed and slept
I woke up in silence, with sunlight lazily filling our bedroom. Slowly, I sat up and folded back the quilt.
Something was different.
That was as far as I got. I stood and found clothes that Akito would like on me and went down the hallway to the bathroom for a shower.
The cold water hit me and I turned the knob counter-clockwise until my skin was nearly scalded and the steam billowed around me. Something was different. The shower was roomier than usual.
Where had Akito gone, so early in the morning?
I sighed and washed my hair. If the aunties hadn't panicked, then he was around somewhere and planning to surprise me. Probably at breakfast, waiting forever and ever for me to wake up and come down to see.
What did he expect? I couldn't wake up before ten if he wasn't around. And I knew for a fact that Akito didn't wake up before nine unless he was feeling ill or an auntie woke him up for a meeting.
…I knew, though. He expected me to be his perfect Rat.
I coughed, and turned the hot water off to get rid of the steam. Hatori had warned me not to take hot showers for any length of time. I settled for tepid.
When I was younger, I had always turned the water all the way to cold and said things like a Shinto priest. I pretended that I was performing a purification ceremony. I was soon to be in the presence of God, after all.
I was no longer a child.
I turned the water all the way to cold, and began to murmur.
When I was done, I shut off the water and stepped out, pulling a towel off the rack. I carefully left my hair wet, though, because Akito liked to have evidence that I was clean. I dressed in the clothes I had gathered and went to the room where Akito and I ate our meals.
Akito wasn't there.
I sat, uneasily, and looked at the meal before me. Half a grapefruit with sugar to put on top, a sort of flavored oatmeal, and the special vitamin C drink that Hatori told me to drink every day.
It was the breakfast I always ate. Akito always had a huge platter of different dishes served, so that he could pick whatever he wanted at the moment…which changed every five seconds.
I ate in silence, and then sat in silence after that.
Akito didn't come through the door.
I went into the room where we spent our mornings playing. Without Akito to demand that we play with this toy or that, I only sat there and stared at all of them before finding my schoolwork to get done.
By the time my work was done, it was time for lunch. I went carefully, trying to keep my face blank and my posture perfect, because Akito would be waiting for me in the dining room this time for sure.
But when I went in, he wasn't there. My face fell and I slouched to the table to eat my salad and half a turkey sandwich.
When it was time for the tutor, I picked up my school things and ran to the tutor's special room. This man was a Sohma, but only vaguely. He didn't know about the Zodiac, just that Akito and I were too ill to go to normal school.
He sat in his room today and smiled up at me when I came in. "Oh, Yuki-kun, it's nice to see you. Where is Akito-san?"
I stopped my hard breathing and arranged the blank face that Akito liked me to wear. "I don't know, Sensei. I thought that he might be here with you."
"No, he's not. Well, he often can't join us, isn't that so?"
I nodded. The days when Akito was sick, he wouldn't come.
Sensei said, "We'll just have our lesson, Yuki-kun. Did you have any questions about the history assignment? Not that I expect you to."
"No, Sensei," I said, and sat, always looking at the door.
It was a long lesson.
I am sitting in the playroom again, writing this, because there's nothing else to do.
Where is Akito? Why hasn't he come?
I can't let myself think that something awful happened because Akito isn't here. He's been ill before, and isolated from me. But, those times, all of the aunties would be worried about him, and I would be worried with them. And he definitely isn't... worse than ill, because then the aunties would be in an uproar.
Where is he?
It's night, now. I was interrupted. Akito just came walking through the door, as though nothing was wrong! He is frustrating, sometimes, because anything he does affects me and I don't think he knows it.
But he came in with such an angelic expression that I stared at him and began to cry. I sat by the window and demanded that he tell me where he was, but I was still crying and he just came and held me and didn't even say.
I'm very tired.
I wish, sometimes, that Akito didn't hold so much power over me... but then, immediately, inequivocably, I don't.