Title: Today's Paper
Lesson of Love: Through the tough times, in a changing, depressing world, it's important to know that the one you love is thinking about you and wants to be with you.
Notes: I actually wrote this story on November 18th. Kinda late to be posting it then, huh. But anyway, this story was inspired by the Sunday paper. I flipped through it, getting bummed over all the bad things happening, and then my horoscope told me something that made me go, "Huh?" I didn't react to it the way Arisa did, but it was confusing. The question in my horoscope is exactly the same as in Arisa's. For some reason, that question stuck in my head. It's funny, but in the manga, Arisa's speech bubbles always has a smiling fish next to it. It makes me wonder if she's a Pisces like me... Guess I'll never know!
This is the last story of Fruits Medley: Second Harvest. To all of those that reviewed, I thank you immensely. But this isn't the last of Fruits Medley! I have a lot of stories in mind, so I think I just may do a threequel. There's always more room for fluff and love and all that good stuff. Enjoy this last tale!
Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket. Period.
It was just an ordinary newspaper. One wouldn't give it a second glance if it were crumpled and dirty, riding on the wind's tails across the street. It was a shame that it would only gain more recognition if it were propped up on the shelf of a newspaper stand, prim and perfect, without creases or smudges, but then again, it was in pretty bad shape. The huge floppy pages were all bent up and out of order, as if its previous owner hadn't the time or the energy to make things right with his reading material. Huge greasy fingerprints could be found smudging out certain words like huge grayish-black craters on the face of the moon. The Business section, so far from home in the center of the paper, sadly sulked underneath the the mess of corners and drooping slabs of sections. The only way Uo could even tell it even existed was the small showing of the heading from underneath it all.
It had been a long day at the convenience store, Uo's second job, and business was slow. At a time when people should've been stalking the aisles in need of a late night snack, the place was so empty, she swore a tumbleweed would roll by any minute. There was so much silence pressing in on her, she wanted to scream. While sometimes Uo did enjoy silence, it made her uneasy at times. Silence implied nothingness, and nothingness was so lonely, especially on a Friday night. She should've been out with friends, maybe bowling and laughing her head off, or on a romantic date, but she was stuck on this shift and there was nothing she could do about it. Uo had gotten into a disagreement with another customer. Like tonight, it had been a long, boring day and that upset customer had been the last straw. While Uo did try to keep her cool, calmly explaining that, no, the cheesy poofs weren't on sale this week because that brand had been on sale last week, she never did have much patience for authority. So she said some things she probably shouldn't have, and landed in the hot seat with her boss. Luckily, since it was the holiday season and the store was understaffed, Uo got to keep her job. Ex-Yankee with thinned eyebrows and a huge chip on her shoulder or not, it didn't change the fact that she was needed at the store. But she wasn't going to get cocky about it. She knew she'd have to tread cautiously from now on, or else she might really be tossed out on her rear. Uo really needed this job and she wasn't about to screw this up.
But even though she was trying to make things up to her boss by standing at the counter on her break, it was quite tiresome on her heels as well as on her mind. Uo reached down to rub the sole of her aching foot, grimacing. She hoped business would pick up soon. Otherwise, she was going to scream.
When five minutes of boredom tumbled by, Uo sighed and gave in to the allure of the ratty... thing beside her. It was today's paper, but it wasn't day anymore. Oh, well. Even if it wasn't daytime, it wasn't quite midnight either, so she supposed it didn't count. To be honest, Uo wasn't all that interested in current events, but she decided to give it a shot. Maybe in skimming some articles, she'd learn something new. And since the holidays were approaching, Uo just knew there had to be some feel-good Christmas story about a bunch of orphan siblings being reunited and adopted by a nice family. It would certainly warm her heart and make this day a little less crappy, or at the very least it would be an interesting tale. Either way, Uo was looking for a way to end her boredom, and this newspaper was the remedy. Plus, she didn't have to pay for it! Her spirits lifting just a tiny bit more, Uo reached for the paper, slapped it on the counter, and examined the first page.
As Uo went from the headlines to the rundown of the less important events that happened in the city, Uo's hopeful mood quickly flickered like a sputtering light bulb. Everything in the news was so damn depressing! Even the Travel section had something negative to say. The economy was a mess. Crime was getting worse. Stars were getting busted for serious offenses, then being let off the hook just because they were pretty, rich, famous, and talented. (Okay, so maybe some of them weren't talented, but that was beside the point.)
"The world today," Uo mumbled like an old man, the furrow between her perfectly tweezed eyebrows deepening as her sapphire eyes hopped from one grim article to the next. Not that it would make a difference. No matter where she looked, there was something more gruesome to top the article next to it. Her eyes popped random words into her brain as she flipped through the pages faster, trying to find a good deed, a sob story with a happy ending, something!
Frustrated and just a little bit weary, Uo reached for the Entertainment section. Like soda, chips and cheesy poofs, it was a section of no real substance. Delectable though it was, it wasn't like anything world-shattering occured here. It was a world of lesser-known celebrity gossip, the newest diet fads, and T.V. listings. Sighing, Uo opened the first page. The Table of Contents, shoved in a crude rectangle, caught her attention. A particular heading shone up at her.
Daily Horoscopes--------------------------------------- Pg. 14
Uo wasn't really big on astrology, but what the hey, maybe she'd give it a shot. Shrugging, she flipped to page 14 quickly. No one took these things seriously, and since it was for entertainment, it might be fun. Uo was interested to see if her horoscope was dead-on or not, though she doubted a random person could tell her something useful about the future. When she found the page, she slid her finger over each sign. Past the ram representing Aries, past the female twins of Gemini, farther and farther down until she finally found her sign. Uo leaned in as if trying to soak up some good advice, and began to read.
"'Your significant other isn't there when you need them most. This sets off alarms in your head, but never fear. Although there are rocky times ahead, you'll pull through. Exercise caution in your love life, and you will restore your inner calm. Your third eye is trying to tell you something. Listen closely and get your life in order. Only you can unlock the self-awareness and discovery you so desperately need. A question to ponder: what would make you happy?'"
"What a load of bull!" Uo shouted as she shoved the newspaper away from her. But she couldn't untie the knots coiling in her stomach. She couldn't stop the cold sweat that broke out on her white skin or the way her heart throbbed with worry. Uo did her best to play it off. "What would make me happy indeed," she scoffed, laughing half-heartedly as she rubbed her damp palms over her knees. "Lots of money, that's what! My job sucks! I deserve a raise for all the crap I go through." It was no use. In need of something to do, Uo undid the ponytail her hair was in and combed her fingers through her hair, insisting to herself that her ponytail was too tight and it was giving her a headache, and that was why she felt so bad. But when Uo redid her hair, wrapping the elastic around her hair the same number of times as before, it became as startlingly clear as the non-headache she had.
Uo was worried.
But there was no reason to worry! And it was really stupid, getting so worked up over a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that didn't even make sense. This self-awareness, third eye crap was so ridiculous, it made her want to laugh. Uo didn't have to do any soul searching. She and Kureno were doing just fine, thank you very much. There were no "rocky times" in store for them, because they were happy. Sure, they'd gone though obstacles in the past, but they were stronger because of that. Still, it made Uo wonder what sort of difficulties this psychic chick meant. A break-up? A fight? But it was normal for two people to be at odds with each other from time to time. Would they have a major disagreement, the kind that ends in people screaming things they didn't mean and uncontrollable crying? Maybe their age difference would come up again, and this time they wouldn't be able to handle it. Uo didn't know what she'd do if she lost him. Back then, when he didn't come see her, it tore her up inside. She knew she couldn't go through that sort of pain again. Kureno was too important to lose.
And what's this third eye crap? she asked herself hotly, once again easing into her usual roughness as she made her way around the counter. I don't get that at all. Jeez, don't think about it. It's stupid, okay? Really stupid. I have nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about at--
"Aiyeeeee! What the--?!" Uo looked down at what she'd nearly fell in. Her left leg drank from the dark brown puddle shimmering in the glaring lights while her other leg was bent like a flamingo in response to the unexpected slip hazard. Arms flailed wildly as if trying to take flight, Uo's stunned blue eyes found the paper she'd pushed over the edge just moments before. It had crossed paths with an open bottle of soda she'd forgotten about, so they both ran into each other on the way to the floor. The grungy paper was even more so, with the words and the flat cola running into each other's arms like they were old friends. The Horoscopes were barely legible.
"Huh," Uo sighed as she placed her hand on her hips and daintily stepped out of the puddle to stare down at the paper. "You guys were meant for each other." Uo knew she was crazy for talking to a stack of papers, but she couldn't help it. She felt sort of... victorious watching the work of Madame Whatsherface being eaten by a growing sugary stain. They really were meant for each other, and she knew just where the happy couple could go.
She flung the paper into the trash and dusted her hands.
"Now I gotta clean my shoes," Uo muttered as she inspected the sole of one brand spanking new Christmas snow white sneaker. What a waste of time. Good riddance, she said to herself.
If only she could tell her heart the same.
He wasn't there to pick her up.
When Uo walked out of the convenience store, sore and tired, she expected to see him. Maybe not in front of the store, but they usually ran into each other less than a block later or something. She'd called out her goodnights to her friends and employees, who had somewhat distracted her from the whole horoscope thing, but she still needed him there.
It was dark, the sky was overcast and bruised, almost as lonely and angry as she was. A fierce wind had picked up and she was chilled down to the bone. It would've been nice to walk home with her boyfriend, seeing as she'd been thinking about him all day. It was the worst feeling in the world when, after waiting for ten minutes, she gave up and decided to trudge back home without him.
That jerk, she fumed as she stomped down the empty block. I'll make him pay. But payback wasn't on the agenda for Uo. No matter how angry she was, she mostly felt upset at his absence. She remembered all too vividly the soaked paper in the trash, her daily horoscope telling her she would never be happy with Kureno. Even though it wasn't like it would come true, it still made her want to reach out and hug someone, namely her boyfriend, who was supposed to be there no matter what.
Uo squeezed her eyes shut tight, willing herself not to cry. It was stupid. She was taking something that was supposed to be all fun and games and getting all emotional about it. Weren't the Horoscopes in the Entertainment section? What did that say about her, that she was upset over something that was in the most useless part of the paper to begin with! Just coupons and gossip, all empty-headed silliness. She should've been laughing, but instead she was fighting back tears. It didn't make sense at all, but still...
"I wish you were here," she warbled as she smashed her hand to her forehead, stopping in the middle of the street. She bit down hard on her lower lip as a parade of tears slipped past her guarded eyelids. "Why the heck are you crying, Arisa?" she asked herself, half-laughing as she shook with sadness. "You cry too easily, you know that? That's what Hana always says. If you don't want her to scold you, you better stop crying right now!" But she couldn't. She wasn't thinking about that stupid horoscope. She was thinking about him and how lonely her life was without him. How she didn't know how she could've lived without him. She needed him more than she could've ever realized.
I love him and I can't... lose him.
His arms, strong and warm, slowly wrapped around her. Uo thought she surely had to be hallucinating. She'd probably passed out by now, and the cold was doing weird things to her brain. "Go away, ghosty man," she muttered. "I'll gain consciousness soon, so don't tease me."
But his chin on her shoulder... she felt it so clearly, like the crisp nighttime air on her cheeks. And she could smell him too. She closed her eyes and breathed him in. His scent was so calm and relaxing...
His voice, low and husky, thrilled every cell in her body just as much as his warm, even breath on her ear.
"Sorry I'm late."
And then she woke up from the trance. "S-Sorry?!" Uo yelled hotly, breaking free from his grip and spinning around to face him. Her cloudy breath slapped the late winter air. "What's your excuse?! You always pick me up on time, no matter what!"
Kureno took a step back, hands raised slightly as if bracing himself for an attack or hoping to pull her in again-- Uo wasn't sure which one it was, and she was sure she didn't care. He frowned. "Arisa, I'm sorry, I really am. I was wandering around and I lost track of time--"
Uo crossed her arms huffily. "Hah. Don't give me that. You're such a space cadet!" she shrieked as she smacked his chest. "You're always wandering around! I mean, you coulda at least called or something, let me know you'd be late! I waited ten minutes for you and you didn't even show. Ten minutes! You don't look tired or out of breath, so I guess you just skipped here, taking your sweet time."
"What if something had happened to me?" she asked wildly. "Like if some pervert kidnapped me or something. What would you do then?" Not that she needed much protection. Being an ex-Yankee and all, Uo could more than handle herself.
Kureno's face fell. "If something happened to you, I would--"
"Nothing. Just forget it. If you want to pout and act like you care, fine. At the very least, you could've ran! When you weren't there, I swear I... I wanted to... I felt so alone!" Uo crushed her hands to her tearing up eyes. "You must not even... care about me. Not like I care about you."
Uo wished she could take those words back as soon as she spoke them. She looked into Kureno's pained face and felt a lightningbolt of fear stab through her very soul. Her fingers drifted up to grab her lips, her eyes rounded with shock.
"You must not even... care about me. Not like I care about you."
What's with me today? Uo wondered as tears spilled from her eyes. Why did I say that? Of course he cares about me! After all he's been through, how could I just yell at him like that? Ten minutes is nothing! Imagine how long he's waited for me. I'm always the irrational one, the one who starts arguments, the one who comes back to him, crying and apologizing. He must be so sick of me. After all, I'm just... me. I'm just a child, a spoiled child. And to think, a harmless horoscope started it all. She covered her face with her hands, body leaning towards the ground. I'm really messed up if I base our love on a silly prediction.
"Kureno... I'm sorry," Uo hicupped. "I'm acting like a child and I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I'm just... pissed off and it has nothing to do with you. It's just me."
Kureno grasped the shaking girl to his chest. "Anything that has to do with you has to do with me too."
Uo smiled despite herself. "This is so stupid. Only anime guys say cheesy things like that. But I appreciate it," she added quickly, pulling away and smiling up at him. "Thank you, Kureno. You can dump me if you want," she half-joked. "I deserve it, really." Her insides quivered as she waited for the axe to come down. Uo wouldn't blame him if he did dump her. He should, at the very least, hate her for yelling at him. But she knew he wouldn't hate her. He was too stupid for that. Too wonderfully kind and stupid, just like a certain brown-haired optimist Uo called her friend.
"I wouldn't leave you for anything or anyone in the world," he smiled as he placed a large hand on her head. They started walking down the street. "And there's nothing to be sorry about. I should be sorry. I'm sorry. I'm such a ditz and I'm always wandering around, just like you said. Actually, I was with Haru, and uh... we got lost."
"Haru?!" Uo laughed. The strange black-and-white haired teen had a habit of getting lost, even when going to the bathroom. She'd watched others guide him to his homeroom and other destinations on a daily basis, and she even had to help him find his way once. "That explains it all then, huh." She punched his arm affectionately. "It was nice of you to stick with him."
"We went to visit some relatives, and we needed to pick up our cousin Kisa. It really was no trouble."
"Kisa-san. Tohru told me about her. How old is she again?"
"She must be so cute!" Uo squealed. "You have to introduce me."
Kureno laughed. "Someday, I want you to meet my whole family," he said, making Uo blush. Visions of white wedding dresses swirled around in her head.
"You must really like me, huh," Uo purred.
Kureno stopped and gazed at her so intensely, Uo thought she would melt. "Yes."
Surprised, Uo gaped at him, trying to say something witty. All she came up with was, "Uh..."
He smirked. "Ah, so the mighty Arisa-san is speechless for once. Good. You can read this then." He slowly took piece of paper that was folded once like a card out of his pocket and presented it in front of her face.
"Huh?" Uo accepted the paper. A bold headline in red caught her attention.
"It's a shame that everything in the news nowadays is so depressing," Kureno murmured. "What are you staring at?" he laughed when her stunned eyes locked on his face. "Read," he mouthed.
She went back to the heading. It glittered with sparkles and was covered in stickers. When she looked at him again, he laughed. "Kisa-chan's doing," he explained. "Although I might've applied a sticker here and there."
Uo giggled. She could picture him and his little cousin on the floor, decorating the paper. "How cute," she said before reading.
Kureno Sohma Misses Miss. Arisa Uotani
Misty-eyed, she looked up at him again, but he darted his eyes to the pretend newspaper with a smile. She decided to keep her eyes on the article.
At exactly twelve o'clock this afternoon, Kureno Sohma realized he missed Miss. Arisa Uotani very much. The whole day, he couldn't wait to see her, to hold her and tell her how much he loved her. Seeing as this fellow is so dense, it should not surprise you that he only realized this now. (He is, after all, probably the only 26-year-old in the world who had never been in a convenience store until that tender age.) Arisa is blonde and blue-eyed, with a bad temper and a sweet smile. She's the most important person in the world to Kureno, and he's surprised she's even still with him. He's absent-minded, stupid and foolish. What a strange pair! But Kureno couldn't be happier. The only thing that would make this complete is if he was where she was, smiling and laughing and eating tororosoba.
When she looked up, Kureno smiled bashfully as he shrugged. "It's not the best written thing, but--"
Uo would never find out what the end of that sentence was. She threw her arms around his neck. "Thank you so much. I have the best boyfriend in the world. But I think this article needs an ending." She pulled a pen out of her pocket and used Kureno's arm as support for the newspaper. "It is now approxiately one thirty in the morning and the dopey Kureno-san is reunited with the lovely Arisa-san, the woman he hopes to marry and have kids with one day," she said aloud as her hand moved quickly across the page. She felt her face go warm at the marriage and family part, but she continued on. "The lovely Arisa-san gave Kureno-san a tongue lashing, which he stood there and took, as always. But she realized she was being childish, and begged a million times for his forgiveness. Amazingly enough, he's willing to stick with this strange, crazy girl. Arisa-san feels she's grateful to have such a patient, giving, wonderful man in her life, and she wouldn't change him for the world. She loves him more than he'll ever know. The End!" she squealed happily as she drew a picture of a happy face and wrote both of their names in a huge messy heart.
When Kureno leaned over her shoulder and read what she wrote, he laughed. "I happen to like crazy," he whispered. "And you're not childish at all."
Embarrassed, the blushing Uo changed the subject. "I wonder why you made me a newspaper. That's what it is, right?" This was getting freaky. On the day she freaks out about the paper, he makes her one. One that I'll treasure and keep all my life, Uo gushed on the inside. She mentally told herself to hang it up on her bedroom wall later on.
He nodded. "Because of what you said."
She was confused. "What I said?" Suddenly, the memory hit her. One time, they had been watching T.V. and the news came on. The news anchor recited such events as a house fire, a kidnapping, and a burglary in less than five minutes. Uo had said she didn't watch the news because everything on it would make her cry. "Seriously depressing," she had said.
I have such a wonderful boyfriend, Uo thought as she hugged the paper to her chest. "I remember now. Thank you, Kureno."
And in the middle of this heart-warming moment, a present from the sky had to ruin it all.
Confused, Uo looked up at the sky. "What was that?" she wondered.
Alarm passing over his handsome features, Kureno placed his hand on the back of her head and guided it down to her chest. "Be careful," he warned. He grabbed an umbrella out of his coat pocket, opened it up and shielded both of their heads. "I saw it on the news. It's supposed to--" He stopped mid-sentence when she started laughing. "Arisa?"
"Hail!" she wheezed.
Small chunks of ice fell from the sky. Sharp tapping covered the streets, car hoods, everything the pebbly things fell on top of.
"So this is our rocky times, huh," she giggled. Laughing at the confused look on his face (he was so cute when he was confused), Uo took his hand and squeezed it lovingly. "Let's go home, Kureno."
Hand-in-hand, the couple walked through the hailstorm. In that moment, she realized what would make her happy. The question her horoscope had asked her now made her heart warm.
What would make me happy, Uo thought as she snuggled into Kureno's side, is for the two of us, through rain, wind, sunshine and hail, to always be together.
Uo nudged him in the ribs. "My, my, Kureno-san. Aren't we prepared for the worst."
"I watch the news everyday, no matter how depressing."
That playful nudge turned into a shove. "What a show off!"
A/N: Torotorosoba is sweet yam noodles. In Chapter 50 (Vol. 9), I believe, Kureno and Arisa eat torotorosoba. (And Arisa sang her cute little song about it.) :)