At breakfast the next morning, Hinata sat with me again, and again at supper. I do not know why she chose to sit with me when many other students would be more than willing to share their tables, but maybe, as a kind girl, she had made me her project, trying to turn this rebellious student into a Boy Scout model citizen. But, somehow, I did not mind. It was enjoyable to be with Hinata, even if she only saw me as a problem to solve. She was intelligent, kind, generous, patient, but never dull. She asked me about my life, and I told her about Temari and Kankurou, about my grammar school escapades, even about the stuffed bear that I had been inseparable from as a child. She listened interestedly, and never intruded, until I ventured to ask her about her life. Then, softly but unstutteringly, she began to speak.

I learned that Hinata was the eldest child of two, with a younger sister, Hanabi, in junior high. She was actually from a wealthy family, but, when her grandfather had died, her father had poorly invested his half of the inheritance, and had lost nearly all of it. After entreating his twin brother for help to no avail, he was forced to work for the first time, at a job that he hated and was not good at. He married his childhood sweetheart, but she died shortly after Hanabi's birth, leaving him to raise two daughters alone. Although Hinata was very intelligent, she insisted that Hanabi was so much cleverer than she was, and surpassed her in every way.

What amazed me most about Hinata's stories was how uncomplainingly she told them, careful never to whine to me. But even she could not keep the unhappiness from her voice when she talked about our school. She was, of course, very grateful for the opportunity to attend, but hated coming here. "I-I know I'm getting so much better of an education here than at one of the London schools," she confided. "B-but people here... they look at me like I'm some novelty toy to add to their f-friend collection. Really, the only way I get through life here is knowing th-that I can go home for the weekends." She paused for a moment. "But it's not quite so bad, now."

"And why is that?"

She smiled gently. "Because I have you, Gaara." She hesitated. "I think that you are my f-first real friend."

I half-smiled back at her. "I know that you are."

It was around this time that I began to wonder if I was in love with Hinata. Not true love, of courseā€”I didn't believe in that. But I enjoyed her company and was physically attracted to her. So, by that selfishly human definition, I was in love with her. But I began to wonder if maybe there was something more to what I felt towards her. Of course, since this went against my basic beliefs, the idea only confused me, but nevertheless I persisted with it, tormenting my brain with an illogical, inexplicable phenomenon. I pondered about it during class, staring at her as she worked. I even consulted A Tale of Two Cities, but this gave no answer that coincided with what I was sure was the truth. In the end, I decided that this was simply a large quantity of lust and selfishness, that it was merely the magnitude and intensity of my attraction that convinced me that this was 'something more'. Still I felt compelled to reread my book, imagining myself as Charles Darnay and Hinata as my beautiful Lucie. It was almost confusing to me when Lucie was described as blonde, for I always saw her in my mind as Hinata, dark-haired and lovely.

But Hinata knew nothing of my infatuation with her. I was careful not to mention it, or even hint. I watched in secret, waiting for the opportunity to tell her what I felt. Yet, I did not wish to burden her with my emotions when even I could not explain them.

The weeks slipped by, and, before I knew it, it was Christmas.