The tinkle of the door chimes alerted me to the visitor. "Konnichiwa, Shu-ji-san," came a familiar, cheerful voice; a voice that I'd heard almost daily for close-on three years now.

"Ah, Marui-kun, you're early today. Was tennis practice cancelled?" The mellower tone of my father, Shu Kouji, drew a sharp contrast against the brighter pitch of the boy.

"Yes; Mura-buchou needed to go for another checkup. Apparently he has to have one every month until the end of the year." I could almost hear the shrug that he added to the end of the sentence. " Can I have an extra bag of the apple-flavored bubblegum?"

"Of course. Oh dear… we do seem to have run out. Marui-kun, I swear you clear us out each time you come," said my father, chuckling. "Wait a moment while I locate our extra stocks, if you please."

"Sure, Shu-ji-san."

Heavy footfalls traveled across the floor towards where I was seated, hidden behind the partition between the shop and the kitchen, folded up into the corner. Father walked right past me without seeing me, just as I had hoped he would. "Kitari, could you help me find the extra stock of apple-flavored bubblegum? Kitari?"

I shrank down even further, trying to make myself invisible. Why did Father always want me to serve Marui-kun when he came when he knew all too well that we just couldn't get along? And the problem was, he being a very regular guest to our shop, I couldn't just say whatever I wanted.

As always, though, he found me. When he saw my huddled form, he shook his head in exasperation. "Kitari, you do this every time he comes. Why don't you just get used to him?"

I stared up at him defiantly. "I don't ever want to get used to him."


I watched as he left our shop, a small sigh of relief escaping my lips as the chimes tinkled once more. I had survived another of his visits without feeling a strong urge to either punch his head in and use it for growing orchids (not that I'd ever be able to, since I wasn't exactly a martial artist) or to break down and cry. It was quite an accomplishment, and this kind of thing only occurred once out of every four visits.

'I still think you're in denial," a teasing voice from behind informed me.

"Shut up, Kiyou," I said eloquently, walking back into the kitchen, then up the stairs to our living room and the rest of our house above the shop.

"They do say opposites attract, lil' sistah, my brother replied, grinning in a way that did not inspire any confidence. "And you and Marui-kun are nothing if not opposites."

He did have a point. As I passed the window, I caught sight of my vague reflection – pale, sharp facial features, emphasized by my luxuriant, ebony hair, the legacy of my deceased mother.

I was also allergic to sucrose, the type of sugar used in most sweets. How ironic, when I was the confectionery shop's owner's daughter. Perhaps this allergy was what contributed to my almost anorexic appearance; Kiyou, who didn't have it, was much more robust.

Kiyou was a year older than I was, and proud to be part of the exclusive organization known to most as 'high school'. He had the same sharp-featured look as I did, but much more vibrant color-wise – his eyes were sea green where mine were dark; his skin a healthy tan where mine was almost translucently pale. And his greatest love was badminton, something considered cool… I loved to draw and read, both of which were considered un-cool.

Even though I was by rights part of the so-called un-cool crowd, the popularity of my brother forced me to the trailing fringes of the cool group. And the fact that half the school knew Marui Bunta, self-proclaimed tensai of our school's famed tennis team, was a regular customer of my family's confectionery shop… well, it just added the fat to the fire.

The bouncy, bubblegum-blowing redhead with his slightly don't-care attitude commanded a formidable troop of fangirls, all of whom eyed by position with utmost jealousy, all jibing about my unworthiness to have such a close connection to their idol. Truly, if anyone wanted to change places with me, I would have complied, and gladly.

Wait till they find out how irritating he can be, even when he doesn't try.


A/N: Tell me what you think… should I really write this fic, or should I just delete it from FF net:-X