Chapter 12: Bittersweet Treat
A/N: Long overdue chapter. I know guys, but here it is! I'm just getting adjusted to this new school year, so please expect some delays. I'll try to keep cycling the updates as I go, so be sure to check out the other stories so you won't be bored waiting. ;)
Onto the story, guys!
Namine smiled lightly, shaking her head, "Never mind, Hayner. Now tell me what Olette wanted already."
"She wanted to ask if you could go shopping with her and the girls tomorrow afternoon for costumes. But only if you're up to it, Namine. We don't want to send you to the hospital."
"Okay, but what about you and the guys?"
"We're going separately. It's supposed to be some surprise for both sides – Kairi and Pence's idea," Hayner told her in a mock-serious tone.
Namine nodded before suddenly remembering something, "Hayner?"
"Yeah?" he looked over at her as he grimaced at his foot, "Will you take a look at this thing? I'm probably not going to be able to go anywhere for the next couple days. And it's all your fault too."
"What?" he grumbled back.
Namine wondered if she should tell him about his mask now that she had his attention. Even if he did get mad, his foot would stop him from chasing her around, right?
"You're not going to like this, but… I tossed your mask out the window today. It fell somewhere out on the road, so it's probably totaled by now."
Backing towards the stairs, Namine laughed sheepishly, "Remember when I said it was cursed? It is, and it looked like it was going to hurt me, so I got rid of it. I guess you're just going to have to find something to replace it. Um… I hope that's okay with you."
Namine couldn't have been more wrong about Hayner's foot. Recovering in an instant as he scrambled after her around the house. Slamming the door to her room, Namine called through the wood, "I'll find a way to make it up to you!"
And just as promptly, she tuned out his onslaught of 'how could you's' to focus on her homework.
The next day, Namine was sluggishly getting ready for school when her mother burst into her room. She was in the middle of buttoning up her white school blouse when the sudden thwack of the door against the wall made her jump. Namine shrieked, covering her chest as she sent her a death glare.
"Mom! There's something called knocking before entering!"
Her mother grinned nervously, and Namine was suddenly reminded of Hayner. "Sorry honey, but I just came to tell you that I want you to stay home one more day."
Namine stopped buttoning the buttons she had been fighting with earlier.
"What – why?"
"Because you're still sick," she said simply as she walked over to Namine's bed and picked up her blue t-shirt and sweats. Namine opened her mouth to protest, but her mom waved her off. "Honestly, I don't see why you're pushing yourself. Your face is still flushed."
Not wanting to argue with her, Namine took her pajamas back from her mother. She didn't see why her mom was so concerned. Normally, she just let her take care of herself. Namine watched her suspiciously as she backed towards the door again.
"I'm going to make you some honey milk before I leave for work," she announced cheerily.
"Mom, you really don't have to…" Namine trailed off, watching the luster of her morning smile fade.
She brushed a stray lock of caramel hair from her tired face. Namine blinked, just noticing the increased number of age-lines that she hadn't noticed before. Her mother sighed gently, "I know, sweetie. But I want to. I feel like I haven't really been there for you or your brother recently."
Immediately, she felt guilty. Her mother was trying so hard to juggle work and family, it was no wonder she was exhausted all the time. And there she was mentally complaining about how her mom was relying too much on her rich, faceless aunt.
Her father's disappearance from their lives had caused such a rift in everything. Ever since the accident, Namine felt as if her family had broken apart. While she and Hayner stuck together, she had to wonder if she'd alienated her mother too much. She wondered if her mom ever thought that way too.
Her mother gave her a little wink before disappearing out the door again.
Staring after her a little longer, Namine slowly stepped out of her uniform and slipped back into her old shirt and sweats. As she crawled back into bed, she made a mental note to pay more attention to her mother next time. Maybe ask about her day and such. Parents liked that, didn't they?
She couldn't remember the last time things were completely normal between them. She couldn't even remember the last time she told her mother her feelings about anything, even though her mom tried to get her to open up. But Namine had always been closer to her dad as Hayner was to their mother. When he was gone, she felt even more detached from her.
Not that she didn't love her, but it was just hard being around her without thinking about the loss of her father.
"Honey?" She pushed open the door again and poked her head in. Namine's eyes were closed, but she could feel her gentle gaze as she walked over to the bedside table. Her mom set the steaming mug down and sat down on the bed, the springs groaning quietly under her weight.
What she hadn't anticipated was a cool hand cupping the side of her face. Her eyes opened tiredly, "Mom?"
Namine sat up slowly again, pulling the covers around her. "Why? Why did you want to move us here?"
"I thought you liked it here. Hayner told me you both have made a lot of friends. I'm really happy that you have, especially you, Namine. After…"
"I know," she said, cutting in quietly, "That's not what I mean though."
Her mother gave her a probing look, knowing Namine had more to say but wouldn't say it. There was a moment's pause before the older woman spoke again, "I know you're still hurt and angry deep inside, even if you don't show it all the time. But we all have to cope. It was not your Aunt Yuki and her family that are at fault. Your dad was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
"I don't blame them," Namine felt her eyes grow hot, but she schooled her face into a neutral mask, "Not really."
"I know. But you've been blaming yourself too."
Namine shot her a hard look. "Hayner told you?"
"No, I just know. We all look for people to blame, but in the end, we blame ourselves the most." She patted her knee. "Namine, I know it's tough but at one point, you need to let it go."
Namine's face crumpled a bit, so she turned away, not wanting her mom to see she hit a sore spot. But she must have noticed, because she dropped the issue and continued onto something else.
"Listen," her mother began hesitantly, "Aunt Yuki invited us over for Christmas this year. It sounds like the perfect time to get together as a family. You and Hayner still need to meet your cousins."
Namine wanted to tell her that she didn't want to, but it was a moot point. Her mother was not very strict, but even she would make her go. Besides, she already said she didn't blame them. But if they wanted to see her family so badly, why haven't they visited yet? Namine had a gut feeling that her mother knew but was keeping it under wraps.
Her mom only smiled, picking at Namine's fraying quilt the way Hayner had. "Perhaps you have already met your cousin in school, and didn't know it. We thought the surprise would be worth it."
Namine didn't like surprises, but she managed to fight the frown threatening to darken her aloof expression.
"I still need to tell your brother," she continued to grin a little nervously at her daughter.
"I can tell him for you," Namine said, not looking at her.
"No, it's okay. I have to be the one to tell him." She bit her lip – something that Namine often did. "I'll tell him tonight."
"Don't worry. I think he'll understand…"
She nodded, and patted Namine's knee again. "Speaking of Hayner, he did tell me about this Halloween dance coming up soon. He said you may be going shopping later today with some friends."
"Yeah," Namine mumbled, not really looking forward to it. Thoughts of the dance had her stomach twisting with butterflies and knots.
"I want you to have fun," she told her softly as she stood up again. Namine opened her mouth to say something, but her voice caught in her throat. Why was it so hard to say a simple 'I love you' to her?
"Thanks," Namine coughed awkwardly and pointed to the steaming mug beside her.
There was a moment of silence again, as a sort of wordless communication passed between them. Suddenly, her mom's face lit up like the way it used to when her dad was around.
"I love you, Namine," she smiled before shutting the bedroom door again.
Namine jolted awake, her body drenched in cold sweat. Her breath came in and out choppily, like she had forgotten how to breathe. With huge, uneven gulps of air, she huddled against the wooden bed post.
It was that dream again.
She touched her face where old tears had dried and new ones had spilled, cascading down her burning cheeks and onto her neck. Namine could only replay the terrible sounds, the crazy flash of headlights, two bodies falling, the car screeching away… over and over again in her head.
She could see her father dying, bleeding, and struggling for his life on the hospital bed. She saw his cloudy, blood shot eyes as he watched her standing frozen by the ER doors. She saw the light slip from them as he parted his lips to say something. She heard her screams as she was taken away from him. And she saw the doctors – the doctors who could only shake their heads.
Namine grabbed her pillow, twisting the cotton cover viciously. Digging her face into it, she breathed. Once. Twice, gasping. Squeezing her wild eyes shut, she let a frustrated scream tear its way out, as her fist beat the mattress in agony.
There was no way she could go back to sleep now. She was too scared to see it again. She wasn't brave enough. Feeling sick, she willed herself to gulp down her tears and ignore the ringing in her ears. Her heart continued to beat frantically, as if pumping her blood backwards through her body. She groped for her iPod and looked at the small screen. 4:15 pm.
Get a grip, she scolded herself as she stumbled towards the shower.
She called Olette as she toweled down her hair. They agreed to meet up at the mall. It was in one of the busiest places in town, and was quite far according to the directions. Namine hadn't even been there yet. The quickest way to go was the train, so Olette gave her directions and said they would all meet at the coffee shop near the food court.
Hayner wasn't home, so she left a note. Then she grabbed her coat, bag, and peppermint scarf and was out the door.
What Olette forgot to mention was the fact that there were two different food courts and three different coffee shops. And Namine still needed to get a new phone, so she hadn't the faintest clue where she was supposed to be. After a while of wandering, she had to stagger into the nearest coffee shop to rest. It was a freak chance that she met up with them there.
"Jeez, Namine. What took you so long?" Selphie asked the instant she saw me, "Wow, you still look pretty flushed."
Olette shook her head, "Sorry. I forgot to tell you exactly where we'd be. We come here so often, it just hadn't crossed my mind."
"Don't worry," Namine grinned weakly, "So what are we ordering?"
Kairi pulled her dark red hair back into a ponytail, "I always get their caramel lattes. They're sweet, creamy, and really good."
Olette looked at the menu above the cashier's head, "There's black coffee or espresso if you're not into sweet stuff."
"I think I'll get some juice," Namine shrugged, just wanting to sit down.
Selphie pointed to the other side of the chalkboard menu, "Then get their apple cider. It's too cold to drink something cold. Besides, you're still sick." She squinted at the board, "I'm getting tea this time. Lemon and peppermint… maybe I'll ask them to add some cinnamon too." Olette and Kairi grimaced while her back was turned.
Once they finished ordering, the four of them found a little corner booth in the back of the shop. Namine sat next to Kairi as Olette and Selphie took their seats across from them.
It was nice, just having the four of them all together for once. There were things girls could talk about that guys shouldn't overhear. As they waited for their drinks, Namine took her time observing the subtle touches around the humming coffee shop. Each little corner and table of the room had its own little private space. A tiny light dangled above every table, casting an intimate atmosphere. She stared at the translucent blue shell of the lamp hanging above their table, her vision swimming a bit.
There were little distractions, and music beat in the distance without drowning out the gurgling mini waterfall on the other side of the room. It looked vaguely like a tavern with its wooden walls and cobblestone floor. She could see how it was coffee shop during the day and a lounge bar at night.
Namine made a mental note to come by again, perhaps on her own time to draw or write. The man who ran the shop, seemed nice enough. He was handsome for his age, and the laugh lines on his face reminded her of her father even though they didn't look alike in any other way. The thought made her heart pang a little as she watched him chat familiarly with customers as he took their orders.
She couldn't help but notice that a lot of the customers were middle aged women. If she watched closely enough, Namine could see a few of them giving him appreciative looks. But he must have felt her stare too as he caught her gaze.
Namine flushed and looked away, not wanting to seem rude. Olette asked her a question, but Namine didn't hear it and just nodded her head absently. Before she could wallow in embarrassment, their drinks arrived.
"Hello my lovely regulars. One caramel latte for Kairi, black coffee for Olette, and lemon-peppermint tea for Selphie," the waiter announced as he set down the drinks. "And one apple cider for the young miss I do not know yet," he said as he held Namine's drink before her.
"Thanks, Darragh," Kairi said brightly. She gestured towards Namine, "This is Namine. It's her first time here. Namine, Darragh owns this little shop."
"Pleasure to meet you, Namine," the man spoke warmly.
Namine looked up and barely managed to hide her shock at seeing the man she had been ogling just a moment ago, "Hi. I'm kind of new in town."
Darragh nodded understandingly, "I'll leave you girls alone now. I need to go back to work. Halloween's just around the corner and you know how crazy people get when it rolls around, so take care of yourselves."
"We will!" Selphie chirped as they waved goodbye to him.
"He's nice," Namine mumbled after he left.
Selphie sighed, "If I weren't after Irvine, I think I'd go after him."
Olette shook her head. "He's old enough to be our father, even if he doesn't quite look it."
Kairi shrugged and sipped her caramel latte and winced, "Looks like we've got a while for our drinks to cool."
That sparked another conversation, and before she knew it, any melancholy thoughts about her father melted to the back of her mind. The chatter died down after a while and somehow turned more serious. Kairi was fiddling with her thumbs when Namine looked back at her again. Olette and Selphie were also trained on the redhead, their identical green eyes never wavering.
If Namine were Kairi, she would have felt a little antsy under the attention too. Small wonder why her friend couldn't look up at any of them.
Selphie cleared her throat, "Well?"
"Well what?" Kairi finally muttered, looking at her frothy drink, "Sora's just my best friend."
"We all know it's more than that," Selphie scoffed. She rolled her eyes, drinking her strong tea, "Anyone with eyes can tell."
"Selphie," Olette chided her sister, giving her a warning glance.
Sensing it was a delicate matter, Namine tried harder to come up with something appropriate to say. Finding nothing, she covered herself by taking a gulp of the scalding cider in her hands. She couldn't help but feel uneasy, watching Kairi gnaw her lip. She had always seemed so confident, so relaxed around Sora. Namine, for one, couldn't understand why Kairi suddenly couldn't talk about him.
Namine nudged her gently. "Hey, don't do that. You look like you're going to split your lip."
Kairi snapped out of her dazed reverie as Namine found her chap stick and handed it to her. "Here, use this. And don't worry. I haven't used it in a while."
Smiling, Kairi took the balm from her. "Thanks." When she was done, she gave it back.
Selphie and Olette seemed to have forgotten what they had been talking about and were immersed in some debate about costumes. Namine turned away from them, and spoke quietly again, "Kairi?"
Namine's eyes darted to her hands, fiddling with the lip balm. "Why are you upset?"
Kairi looked like she was about to deny it, but seemed to think better of it after a second. She spun her steaming cup slowly in her hands. Namine's patience was rewarded when she finally spoke up.
"Everyone's just so… so…" Her brow puckered in thought. "You see, everyone keeps pressuring us to get together. Sora is more than a friend to me, but I don't want to mess up our relationship."
"It makes sense," Namine agreed, even though it stung a bit talking to her about him. But if she could make Kairi feel better by talking it out, Namine figured she could set aside her own feelings.
She blinked, realizing something suddenly. It used to hurt a lot more when she thought about Kairi and Sora together. For some reason, it didn't hurt as much now. She still liked him, but she accepted that Kairi's feelings for him stemmed far deeper than hers.
In a way, it was like letting go, slowly but surely.
Kairi continued darkly, "It's expected though. I already messed up enough."
Namine was baffled. "Already?"
"Because…" Kairi's voice grew oddly strained, "Before high school, it was always Sora, Riku, me… and Roxas. As we grew older, it was suddenly like everyone expected me to pair up with one of them. I don't know why I did it, but I tried to meet those expectations."
Namine couldn't stop herself from asking. "You were with Riku and it ended badly?"
"No. I was with Roxas."
Namine came home that night with a shopping bag in tow. She unraveled the scarf from her neck and added her coat to the lump of clothes on her floor. Changing quickly and stumbling out the door again, she padded downstairs for some dinner. The sight she was met with was not dinner on the table, but a plate of Oreos and a carton of milk.
That was when she noticed both her mother and brother were present. Before she could slink away, they saw her and called her over. It reminded her of the day when she and Hayner crowded around some Oreos. The two of them had talked about their first day in school and about Roxas.
Roxas. The first time she met him, Namine would have said she really disliked him. He seemed like such a cold, arrogant prick. Helping him had definitely been the furthest thing from her mind. But just when did that all change?
When Kairi mentioned him today, Namine had the strangest feeling. It made her heart pound and her palms clammy. Of course, she didn't elaborate and Namine didn't want to ask any further. Normally, she would have jumped at the chance, but today she didn't.
Maybe… Maybe she was afraid to know what happened. What if his friends – her friends – were somehow responsible for his death? Was that why no one talked about it?
"Hey Namine. Don't just stand there," Hayner said as he dug in for more cookies.
Namine sat down, glancing at their mother. Hayner didn't seem angry, so she couldn't tell if he already knew about the Christmas party or not.
"Mom told me about the Christmas thing," Hayner added, as if he could read minds.
"Oh. What do you think then?"
He shrugged. "I don't know if I should hug them or punch them when I see them."
"Hayner!" their mother scolded.
"Just kidding," he grinned, though it didn't reach his eyes, "I'll meet them, only because I have to."
"I think you'll like them," their mother said slowly, "The last time I met her husband was at their wedding. From what I recall, he was a very friendly person. Anyway, your Aunt Yuki is really excited to finally see you two again."
"Were they at the funeral? We would have seen them then… if we actually knew who they were," Namine reasoned as she pulverized the Oreo with her fingers.
Hayner looked like he was about to say something, but their mother beat him to it. "You probably did. They were there for a very short time. They had to go find their son since he… didn't show up."
"Some cousin he is," Hayner snorted, "Who the heck is he?"
"Mom said it would be a surprise."
Namine's brother looked at her, but didn't say anything. The slight frown on her face must have told him that she was just as unhappy with the circumstances as he was. He slapped a palm against his forehead and sighed in exasperation. It seemed the family gene that encoded the joy of surprise was never passed down to either of them.
The next day, she woke up feeling much better and indulged herself with a long hot shower. It was finally Friday, which meant a whole weekend of no school. Even though she was out of school while she was sick, Namine could only lie around like a vegetable and do her homework. She vowed never to potato-couch again, though she doubted it would stick. Namine just hoped that the sofa cushion hadn't left impressions on her butt while she had slept away on it.
That was when she realized this Friday night would be the dance. Namine couldn't help but feel a brick of dread drop into the pit of her stomach.
As the school day started, she couldn't help but watch the drama unfold around her. The student body seemed to be buzzing about the costumes and pranks – whatever related to Halloween was all anyone talked about. As usual, she walked from class to class without getting caught up in all the hustle and bustle.
It was harder to fend off her friends' enthusiasm though as their lunch table was consumed by the Halloween bug. Namine didn't mind, as she smiled and laughed along. After talking to Kairi the day before, she couldn't help but feel her gaze always being drawn to her and Sora. It came to the point that she didn't notice when she was staring until she got caught. Namine had to force herself to pay attention elsewhere.
Riku appeared as he normally did, and nothing seemed to change between them either. It hadn't been the first time this week that she wondered whether or not he actually asked her to go to the dance with him. And it wasn't like this dance was the prom, so she didn't understand why it was getting under her skin. If he hadn't reminded her that he would pick her up at seven, Namine would've had further doubts.
However, things were not so simple on her part. Being Riku's date had its draw backs too. His fan club of plastic Barbies wouldn't leave her alone. Most of them cast her long looks under their thick lashes and stuck their painted middle fingers at her when they thought she wasn't looking.
After a while, Namine felt like putting thumbtacks on their seats, just to show them how much a pain in the ass they were being.
Her classes passed by like a blurry mess as she dragged herself from classroom to classroom. Before she knew it, school had ended.
And she hadn't seen Roxas at all. The very thought made her feel as if someone grabbed her heart and gave it a sharp squeeze.
Back at home, Namine flopped down onto her bed. She looked at the watch on her wrist and groaned. The evening wasn't passing any quicker, even though she was hoping for the night to end already. She was just starting up her computer when she heard the kitchen door open and close.
Hayner's first reaction to her appearance at the foot of the stairs was weird. He jumped as if he had just done something wrong.
"I can explain, Namine. I know I've been coming home late, and that you've been covering for me."
Namine gave him a strange look and simply headed for the fridge for something to drink.
"We've been practicing for a gig tonight, since the guys decided to build the band back up again. Ever since Roxas..."
"Hayner, it's not like I'm your scary, over-bearing girlfriend," she stopped him, "You don't need my permission to stay out late. Just make sure you tell mom why."
Hayner tossed his bag down and foraged for some food. "Mom won't understand."
"How do you know?" Namine asked, "Anyway, I'm betting you won't quit the band after just one gig. You're going to have to tell her sooner or later. I can't cover for you all the time."
"All right, all right," he muttered agitatedly as he headed towards the TV.
"So..." She sat down on the other side of the couch as he flipped from channel to channel, "This means I get to hear you sing for real. It won't be the ridiculous songs you warble in the shower, right?"
Hayner looked unamused, "That's right, pest."
"I'll leave if I hear your voice crack," Namine teased him.
Before she could dodge it, a couch pillow smacked her right in the face.
A/N: Please review guys! I know a lot of you are loyal reviewers, but I know I haven't heard from some of you. I always read what you guys say, so feel free to speak out loud to the author.
Also, I highly encourage fanart for this story. If you haven't checked out Bean-Sprout's awesome picture of Namine and Roxas, go check it out. You can find the link in my bio.
Muchos gracias to Chapter 11 reviewers: .Nana Potato. , Meep Forever , VaniVanVan , Hiwiwy , Kit-Kat-Wafer , crystalnami , timekeeper1824 , Akane Naomi , LoveKey , pinktonks , Wint , Lebrezie , AquaFlameElementalist , BlueNobody , jcola0823 , CerberAsta , RoxasxLoverxDarius , angledawn , BlackRoseMuffin , From The Stone Bridge , Dime Store Magic , Angelic Lily Maiden , KasperLassie , Ravey101 , Nears Twin , E Muja EN -KittenThatAteSora- , Meeva , Hero Of The Hazard , akabins , Lydia-hime , Lycoris Calantha , FrozenFire42 , Midnight Raining Down , easterlily16 , VioletCherry , kitty-gurl1 , EggrollPerson , Zlegna120 , KeytoDestiny , SaturnDrops459 , Himig , XxXxOoberRawrxXxX , NightRaven13 , hinataonicha , rikku247 , Oracle's Song , and Iris the Goddess of Rainbows.
Question of the Chapter:
What is the most meaningful thing that anyone has ever said to you? Your favorite quote? It can be words of wisdom or even words of insult, as long as those words are what have affected you most.
The next time you think someone is smarter or better than you, be assured of this: "To a mouse, which has only a mouse's view of the world, it must seem that an eagle can see and know everything. But an eagle doesn't know everything. An eagle only has an eagle's view of the world."