Synopsis: The first thing I noticed about her was her scent. (I know - such a very lame synopsis.)
Author's Note: I originally intended to just add this as another drabble to my drabble collection 'Scattered Daydreams', but then decided what the heck, and have created it as its own story. In all honesty I'm not exactly sure where this is going. I know what I want to write for the next second part, but after that it's up in the air. For all I know, there might only be just one more chapter. I'll just have to see. But, I hope those who read find it enjoyable. Feedback is always, always, always welcomed!
This is in Kenshin's POV.
Breach of Faith
The first thing I noticed about her was her scent. It was subtle, barely noticeable, yet intriguingly distinct. A touch of spice mingled with a hint of orange blossom, and most importantly the natural permeation of her skin.
I was on my way out of the Quick Mart when I first noticed her, and at the doorway I hesitated. I should have kept moving, ignored her - go home. But, my feet refused to move, and despite my better judgment, I slowly looked over my shoulder.
Before her, I've never looked at someone and actually felt a physical reaction toward them. I'm not saying my mouth gaped open, or my heart stopped, or I was so overcome that I dropped to the floor to lay prostrate before her. Something in me shifted; I felt unbalanced, off-kilter, my thoughts garbled into a confusing conglomeration of questions. It wasn't comforting.
Eyes narrowing, I studied her, committing her image to memory. Long black hair, deep blue eyes, pale skin. It was the carefree expression on her face as she talked to her friend that transformed her features, making her more captivating, more absorbing, more human.
I snorted in disgust, turned and shoved through the door and into the cold night. More human. Therein lay the dilemma. I've lived a long life. Not necessarily a fulfilled life, but a long one nonetheless. Well, that's sort of an understatement. Having been born in the year 1785, I'd have to say I've had an unnaturally long life. Being vampire is not a life choice that I made consciously when I was thirty. When someone offers you an out when you're bleeding to death from a mortal sword wound and you're light-headed from blood-loss, it's hard to think coherently. Hard to weigh the pros and cons of something that until that moment was a mere fantasy. I merely nodded to live. Instead, I got an eternal non-life, a hell I interpret as a way to redeem myself for past grievances. And there are certainly plenty of those.
I'm jaded, cynical, a drifter through my own existence. I'm only "friends" with a handful of people, and even at that, I only see them maybe once a decade. It's a lonely way to survive, but I welcome the bleak solitude.
I didn't like these sensations this strange girl arose in me. With a frustrated sigh, I dropped my bag of groceries on a bench and sat down beside it. I hadn't travelled far; the brightly lit store was just a block away - tantalizingly close. The cool breeze was stimulating, and I leaned forward as it brushed past my face. It wasn't distracting enough to wipe the girl from my mind; nothing could be quite so powerful. And, really, this was probably the dumbest place to sit for an introspective moment. To avoid her, I should have walked at least another block or two, and then plopped down on a rickety bench. But then again, subconsciously, I knew I was lucky to have gotten as far as I had.
When she walked by several minutes later accompanied by her friend, I watched from my position on the bench with my forearms resting on my thighs, bangs hooding my gaze. It was like a breath of fresh air to see a person so unhindered, so undisturbed by the harshness the world has to offer. As she laughed, I closed my eyes to savor the sound - so pure, so lyrical. My common sense was unraveling like a loose spool of yarn, and my will to resist was crumbling under the slowly building expectation that weighed on my chest.
I covered my face with my hands and groaned, knowing and dreading what step I was planning to take. She was already several blocks away by now, yet her scent still lingered in the air, alluring, beckoning, exotic.
Before I was aware of what I was doing, I was walking the path she had walked only moments before, my steps unhurried and soundless. Her destination wasn't far, merely several blocks away. I watched from a distance as she bid farewell to her friend and then walked inside the pet store. When I entered she was nowhere to be seen, so I meandered down an aisle filled with dog shampoo and acted as if I were perusing the different formulations. A low rumble of voices and the steps of people as they browsed filled the crowded store; however, I recognized her step amongst all the noise. She stopped at the end of the aisle, and then headed toward me, eventually coming to a stop at my side.
"Are you finding everything okay?"
I turned my gaze to her inquiring one, taking in the pleasant smile on her lips, and the wisps of hair that had escaped her ponytail, resting against the skin of her cheek. She wore a shirt with the pet store's name 'Pets 4 You' on the front, in addition to a name tag with 'Kaoru' in bold black print.
"No. I'm fine," I replied with a slight shake of my head. I cleared my throat. "Thank you, though."
"If you decide you need assistance, I'll be right around the corner."
I nodded and watched as she headed back down the aisle, disappearing from view. I stood there for a moment, my lips set in a contemplative frown. I hated being unsure about things. I had always taken steps to avoid confusion, never tackling situations that I was unprepared for. It made me uneasy. I stepped to the end of the aisle and over the dog products, I watched as she helped a middle-aged woman retrieve a hefty container of cat litter from the shelf and place it into the woman's cart. She grinned at something the woman said, and pointed over to their left at some unknown product. With a wave of her hand, she led the woman away.
I didn't want to appear like some shady scruff skulking in alleyways, hiding in shadows and dark corners, dodging her every step, and eventually scaring the shit out of her with my unwieldy ways. In all honesty, being secretive and elusive seemed redundant; I'd spent my entire life blending into the background, pretending I didn't exist. People always spoke about how one should step out of their element. Spontaneity had always seemed like a waste of time to me, but now as I thought of how Kaoru had interacted with that customer, I knew an occasion such as this would never present itself again. There was something intoxicating about her: the way she moved, how she spoke, her mere presence had my senses aflame like nothing I had ever experienced before.
I ran a hand through my bangs in frustration and walked toward the doorway. I'd spent enough time acting like a stalker. As I neared the door, a colorful sign caught my eye and my steps slowed until I came to a gradual halt. Impulsively, I leaned down and slowly pulled an application from a large stack, folded it and shoved it into my pocket. As I walked away from the store, I reasoned that it'd only be temporary. A day, a week, a month. I'd get her out of my system and then move on - like always.
Acquiring a job at the pet store had either been the worst or best idea I had had in long time. While I had definitely had ulterior motives for the job, I hadn't expected to really contribute or learn anything, but I surprised myself. When the one teaching you has you looking forward to her presence like a kid would for Halloween candy, it's easy to get caught up in the explanations, and the subject matter that she finds so interesting.
However, I had never realized how stupid people were until I started working at the pet store. In hindsight, I guess it was ignorant of me to think people all had a certain level of common sense, but unfortunately…they don't. Seriously, though, who in the world looks at a sign that says "Our live plants will grow in you" and automatically believes that if they stick their hand into the water of the aquatic plant tank, that the plants will attach onto your arm and start growing on you? Am I overreacting? It's okay when kids look at the sign, squeal, and run for their mother. However, when a thirty year old man with a potbelly and overgrown beard turns to me and asks that question, his expression deadly serious, I always have to wonder what the world is coming to.
The kicker, however, is what people say about the male hamsters. I know some pet stores can't sex their animals worth a crap (Kaoru told me that), but if you have doubts on whether the animal is a male or female, look at the sign first. If still in doubt, it's okay to ask, but please don't be one of those people to say 'Oh, look. Babies!' or 'Is that hamster pregnant?', because I'll just have to inform you that those bulges you see are testicles, not babies or a pregnant belly. Yes, they are that big.
Despite my initial reservations, I've found that interacting with people again isn't as big as a downside as I has always advocated. I do have my limits - due to some obnoxious attitudes, I have walked completely away from people, my reasoning being I'm too old for their ridiculous trouble. However, the major downside is that my schedule rarely coincides with Kaoru's. In a way, it helps so that I don't become desensitized towards her, which in all honesty probably wouldn't happen anyways, but I like deluding myself.
She thinks I have a cat. In one conversation (she did most of the talking) I told her I owned one of the fuzzy monsters. It seemed silly that I would have sought out a job at a pet store without having any inclination towards liking/owning an animal. A cat popped first into head. Heaven-forbid if she asked to see it.
I've been told by the other employees that I come off as bit elusive, intimidating, stand-offish - it's an image I've perpetuated over decades, so their criticism wasn't a surprise in the least. And there's no way I plan on changing into a bubbly, vivacious sales clerk that blows people away with his friendly attitude. I'd bite someone first. Hard. However, I have tried to tone down my stoic regard. And on some occasions, I don't feel quite as different as I know I am. She laughed at me the other day when a fish jumped out of the fish net, and I scurried to rescue it from the floor, fumbling about like deranged idiot. Eventually, I did finally manage to get my fingers on the slimy sucker and deposit it back into the tank. It swam around dazed for several minutes, but recovered. I think the last time someone laughed at me was when I was ten years old. My mother always did know how to find amusement in any situation. However, that fiasco was a week ago, and today nothing quite as stirring has occurred.
It's Thursday, the slowest day during the week due to people having already shopped during the week, or having plans to mob the store over the weekend. I watched from a distance as Kaoru rang up people at the cash register. She's slowly becoming an addiction, working her way under my skin, making me wish I was a different person - from a different time, a different place. Most importantly, she's made me wish for my humanity even more than before to where it's almost a painful ache. I know I have to move on soon, leave the city for a new one, carve out an existence separate from this one. My solitude awaits me. I can feel the darkness creeping towards me, waiting to enfold me once again when I leave this oasis of sensation, of budding emotion and anticipation. Too much feeling can be noxious for me, give me expectations that are unfounded and unattainable. The sooner I remove myself from the store, from these feelings, from Kaoru, the better I'll be. I'll be balanced again.
But, I can't help myself. I'll stay for a little while longer. Only a little bit longer.
After I clocked out when my shift ended, I grabbed a small bag of cat food and headed to the cash register.
Kaoru grabbed the bag and zipped it over the price scanner. "Heading home?"
She smiled as she put the cat food into a plastic shopping bag. "You'll have to let me see your cat sometime. Maybe I'll bring my dog, too. There's this great animal park nearby, not even five blocks away. I went there last week with my friend Misao."
"I'll have to think about it," I replied, the corner of my mouth curling the faintest amount.
"You do that," she said as I paid for the food and then took the bag from her outstretched hands. "See you later, Kenshin."
Her suggestion was something I'd never be able to follow through with, not only because I didn't even have a cat, but most importantly, getting too close to her would be a mistake. I had already dived in deeper than I should have. However, as I walked away from her, I suddenly had the ridiculous urge to get a cat.