Play Pretend

Urei Sachi

I imagine that yes is the only living thing.

-e.e. cummings

i.

five

There is only one person that Kaoru protects, and that person is Hikaru.

There is nothing weak about his brother, he knows, because he has seen the way Hikaru stands his ground, and he has been on the receiving end of his punches whenever they have a fight (Hikaru believes that the solution to everything is aggression). There is nothing weak in his eyes, which are always lit by a fire that is fanned by life, and there is certainly nothing weak in his gaze, which is sharp and steady and yet irrevocable gentle.

It is like a fine, sleek sword. There are few quite like it.

Hikaru is athletic and strong, despite his frame. He does not naturally move with the refined grace that Kaoru has, because he thinks it is too bothersome to keep up with appearances, but what he lacks in suaveness is ignored in favor of his vibrancy.

For a boy who would rather spend his time with his twin than socialize, it is difficult to imagine how he can do it so well.

Kaoru feels the need to watch over him, because that is what he has always done. It is an unspoken obligation for him, and he does not really mind, because he knows that he is the voice of reason, and there are some things that Hikaru will never understand.

He has never done anything else in his entire life.

They who inspire is most are fortunate, as I am now: but those who feel it most are happier still.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

ii.

seven

Somehow, it doesn't feel right when he touches Hikaru's lips, but he shrugs the feeling away.

Being the two people who understand each other the most, they rarely disagree, but, lately, their petty arguments have increased in number. Sometimes, they're not sure of what they're fighting about anymore, but Hikaru never steps down first.

Kaoru has always been the sensible one, their mother thinks as she watches the boy knock on his twin's door in a manner that is too polite for his own comfort.

What she doesn't know is that it is not sensibility or maturity that urges him to seek reconciliation. It is the blind terror that they could lose what they have and he will be left alone that grips Kaoru's heart tightly.

He has never felt this desperate.

The door opens slowly, as if Hikaru is afraid that it is someone else other than his brother, but there is nothing that betrays this silent fear other than his tight grip on the doorknob.

They stare at each other, neither of them making a move, and Kaoru fights the ice cold fear that patiently caresses his insides, as if telling him that everything would be alright (if not better) if he walked away right now.

He should have listened to it.

Walking away is harder as he grows older, after all.

But he loves his brother enough to force himself to believe that the voice is wrong, so he clears his throat and smiles.

He wonders if he is being selfish, but he checks himself, because this is love, not a game

"Wanna go out and play?"

Hikaru's face softens a little, and he takes his brother's hand into his before dragging him off to steal candy from the kitchen.

As Kaoru wipes the corner of Hikaru's lips stained with chocolate, Hikaru says quietly, "I'm an idiot."

Hikaru never apologizes, so this is the closest he can get to an apology, but Kaoru understands just how difficult it is for Hikaru to recognize his mistakes, much less his own faults and weaknesses, because he has always been the sensible one.

He is seven years old, and it is a wonder to him that he can live with the fear of losing Hikaru, but denial has always been the easiest solution.

That is why when his brother falls asleep, he stares at him and traces the curve of his cheek and the skin that covers Hikaru's eyes, as if etching every tissue and bone into his memory which lasts longer than the moment, as if convincing himself that this – he – would never go away.

He is a fool, but he is a sensible fool.

Nothing happens unless first we dream.

-Carl Sandburg

iii.

ten

Hikaru is far more self-satisfied than Kaoru, and it used to be hard for Kaoru to mimic this arrogance and make it his own, but because he has grown used to it, it comes naturally to him now.

It is Hikaru's pride, Kaoru thinks, that is his weakness. (Somehow, he dares to hope that he is his brother's weakness.)

The first time Hikaru receives a failing mark from a teacher, their father is so angry that he decides to lock him inside a wardrobe as punishment, however illogical it may be. Hikaru shows no outward signs of his fear, but Kaoru feels the tension linger in the air.

like smoke.

Hikaru's eyes are beginning to water. Kaoru pretends not to notice the slight quivering of Hikaru's lips, or the way his eyelashes cover more of his eyes than usual, but it breaks his heart all the same. His fingers flex and fold.

That is why when Hikaru is about to step forward to receive his punishment, Kaoru opens his mouth, the words sounding foreign and hollow to his ears, "I apologize, father."

Hikaru's eyes widen, but he says nothing.

Kaoru feels slightly betrayed.

In the darkness of the wardrobe, Kaoru realizes that it is not the absence of light or space that makes one insane; rather, it is the thoughts that he can allow himself to call forth from the darkest recesses of his mind that violates human sense itself.

He is only ten.

Hikaru opens the wardrobe's door to release him from his prison, like some goddamned prince from a twisted fairytale, but Kaoru is curled up into a ball, crying, deaf to the world.

It is too late.

Such things are not meant to be revealed to children, because they are too young to know the difference between what is real and what is not, and they could never share adult notions to other children.

Even if they did, the other would not understand.

Hikaru holds him for a very long time, and they do not push each other away. Hikaru wants to know what is wrong, and Kaoru wants to tell him, but both of them are afraid that it will destroy what they already have.

Kaoru places flowers before the wardrobe the next morning, and Hikaru doesn't ask. It is like the burial of a lover, a friend, and a secret that can kill, solemn and not-quite happy but not-quite sad.

For Hikaru, Kaoru is offering peace to it.

For Kaoru, he is offering the thoughts that he has conceived, so that he may never remember them again.

And, perhaps, he is offering an apology for any damage he may have done, because in a small, enclosed space, Kaoru can do nothing but blindly scratch the walls with his nails.

Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.

-Albert Camus

iv.

twelve

Twelve years old, and Hikaru lets his eyes wander to girls.

Kaoru isn't sure if he likes the subtle change. He has outgrown the stage wherein boys run away from girls in fear of cooties, but he does not jump eagerly into their arms like some of his classmates do.

Valentines day usually greets them with a considerably large amount of expensive Swiss chocolates from girls their age who like the twins' pretty face and aura of mystery. They leave flowers on their desks and hastily written declarations of admiration; no one is bold enough to say that they love Hikaru or Kaoru, because it is impossible in their eyes to love someone so distant to them, even if they are always within reach.

Hikaru usually throws the notes and the flowers, but his gaze lingers on a bouquet of rosemaries and pansies. He looks at the card attached to it, and Kaoru asks who it is from.

Hikaru is frozen, as if he is considering the weight of whatever he will say, but when Kaoru is so sure that he will tell him, Hikaru purses his lips. "No one important."

He tucks the card into his pocket, and sweeps the bouquet off his desk, as if disturbed.

Kaoru keeps his arms crossed and his manner pleasant, even if curiosity burns his mind.

He wonders who this Ophelia could be.

There is that icy feeling again, but Kaoru does not try to stop it. It is hardly worth the effort to.

So it grows, silently, like cancer.

There is a sort of jealousy which needs very little fire; it is hardly a passion, but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.

-George Eliot

v.

fourteen

He does not outgrow his habit of watching Hikaru sleep. He hardly feels the need to.

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.

-A.A. Milne

vi.

fifteen

Though, sometimes, he leaves the room with a heavy head and a heavier heart, because he can only touch Hikaru that way in his sleep.

If I say to the moment: 'Stay now! You are so beautiful'!


-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

vii.

sixteen

He cannot understand what makes Hikaru so special to him in a way that is not altogether healthy for himself.

There are worse things people have done, he tells himself, and he is not a child anymore to keep believing that this could be solved with ignorance and denial.

He kisses Hikaru for the first time in years, and suddenly it makes his heart grow cold; he realizes that the danger of separation increases with intimacy, but Hikaru kisses back tenderly, as if afraid that Kaoru might break.

It does not matter that Hikaru might not love him as much as he should, or that he is fooling himself into believing that Kaoru is Haruhi. Kaoru doesn't care.

There are some things that need closure, and this is not one of them, because Kaoru has opened more things than he has ever meant to, like Pandora in a room full of boxes.

Hikaru tastes bitter, but Kaoru knows that it is only his guilt that makes the feeling intensify.

It is easier to imagine otherwise, because Hikaru has always been his secret, and Kaoru has always pretended his whole life.

"Hikaru?" He whispers.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

Hikaru does not ask him why, nor does he turn away. He simply stares at Kaoru, as if he understands, and holds him in the middle of the hallway, not making a sound.

That is all he has ever done in his life.

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.

-George Bernard Shaw

viii.

He wonders what it would be like if he grew tired of pretending.

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.

-Walt Whitman

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END

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