A/N: Hi everybody! I hope this drabble finds you well! I was sitting out on my balcony with the laptop because it is a beautiful day, and I kind of just felt like writing, so here is what I came up with. I don't expect it to make as much sense to other people as it does to me, but I wanted to post it up on the chance that people might like to give me some feedback. Concrit welcome! It's a bit of a quick and dirty fic, no beta-ing. In any case, I do hope you enjoy, and thanks for clicking!
Warnings: Mention of suicide. OOCness. AU.
She stretches her leg out through the bars of her balcony railing, letting the sun stroke her pale skin, letting her muscles sigh with relaxing tension, letting her ankle bone crack with satisfaction. It's April, and the air is just beginning to make that transition between hot and cold. There are patches of snow on her neighbours yards below, all mixed in with half-dead grass and mud, garbage from Octobers ago. Below her, the city is alive again. People walk with their headphones in. Cars drive. A man zooms by on a motorcycle without a jacket should he fall. A woman in orange overalls and flyaway hair bends to inspect her comatose garden. An old man with a bent back hoists himself up a ladder to begin the spring cleaning of his outside windows. She's in her boxers, but she doesn't care. This is the first opportunity she's had to sit on her balcony since summer last. It's been a cold winter.
She glances over. There are other balconies above, below and around her. Her apartment is on a middle floor. To her left sits someone else. A neighbour,
but not one she recognizes or she has ever seen in the hallways before. She watches him for something to do, her eyes squinting against the familiar but forgotten strength of the sun. He's young. Maybe a few years older than her. Maybe twenty-five to her nineteen. He's sitting on a white plastic chair that's been spray painted blue, the evidence of the act splashed on the walls behind him. He's got a computer in his lap, a small notebook that looks in substantially better shape than her own laptop inside. He's wearing brand names, a striped green hoodie and light blue jeans despite the warm weather. She feels technologically and fashionably duped as she watches him. He's concentrating hard.
Eventually, he notices. He looks up, and she can see his face. He's pale, like her, but she suspects from the colour of his hair that it has more to do with natural skin tone than being out of the sun for so long. She can't tell the colour of his eyes but she can see that they're light; and shifty. The boy wears the expression of someone who doesn't like to look at other people for too long. But he's curious. She can tell by the way his lips are slightly parted. 'Why are you looking at me?'
She smiles and turns away politely, though by now his judgement of her courtesy is probably well in the negative ranks.
She has a staring problem, and it doesn't always bother people, but sometimes and usually it does. She goes back to watching the people below, smiling while a young girl dressed in pink runs and jumps along the sidewalk, her father chasing and trying to catch her before she veers off on to the busy street. But she has an awareness of him now. It's hard not to look back and see if he's still sitting there.
"Nice day, huh?"
His voice surprises her. She looks back over to him but he isn't looking back. He's typing away on his laptop as he was before, as if he hadn't spoken, but she knows he did. Maybe he was good at dividing his attention between two tasks.
"Gorgeous," she replies, stretching both legs out in front of her again, looking at her sock. It's white and black striped, and brown on the bottom although they didn't come that way. "I was thinking of going for a jog."
If he finds this a strange comment to say to someone she doesn't know and who doesn't care, he doesn't let it show. "So why don't you?" he inquires, reaching a hand up to rub at his neck. "Good day for it."
"Well, there's a problem," she informs him. "I don't jog."
She thinks he smiles. It's hard to tell from the distance between them. "That doesn't mean you can't start. You know how to jog. Everyone does."
"One of my legs is prosthetic. It makes it difficult."
This makes him look up to check, and she smiles at the flicker of embarrassment that comes over his features. "Well," he says without pause,
not even clearing his throat or offering an apology. She likes that. "Terry Fox did it."
She laughs appreciatively, pushing her bangs off her forehead because they suddenly feel sticky. She's not sure it's fair to compare herself to Terry Fox. An amazing man versus a normal girl, the prosthetic leg the only similarity between them. "Sure. But he had a good cause."
"You don't have a cause?"
"Haven't decided on one yet."
"You could have more than one."
"The thing is, I don't like to discriminate. Who am I to choose cancer and children in Africa over something else?"
He's quiet about that, brow furrowing at the computer screen for a moment. She waits for him to work out whatever has gone wrong in the cyber world. She notices that he has twitching fingers on his left hand. They tap lightly on the keyboard, nervous. "You could have..." he begins distractedly. "I mean, you could jog every day. And every day, you'll jog for a different cause. Eventually, you'll hit them all."
She disagrees. She stands up out of her own white plastic chair and walks to the railing facing him, crossing her arms against it. It's easier to talk to him this way. "There'll be new causes every day. For everything that's solved, something else goes wrong. It's the balance of our world."
He lifts his head, eyes meeting hers. She finally decides that they are green, vibrant in contrast to his pale face. He's still struggling to keep his eyes on her, but the corner of his small lips twitch up a fraction. "So don't stop jogging."
She can't exactly argue with such beautiful logic.
"What are you working on?" she asks instead, leaning up a little to see if she can get a look at his computer screen. The sunlight makes the screen impossible to see from her angle. "One big, long email?"
"Ah, no," he says, tilting the screen down a little as if preventing her from seeing it. It's like he feels like she's reading over his shoulder, only she isn't nearly close enough. She averts her eyes anyway. "A paper. Just an essay."
"Oh, you're a student." She nods, tapping her fingers against the railing. "I took a year off for work, but hopefully next year...where are you studying?"
The floor of the balcony is still cool beneath her foot, not yet warmed from months of being burried under ice and snow. She wiggles her toes against it,
waiting patiently in the silence. She doesn't feel awkward. There's something about him. But he isn't speaking. Isn't even giving any indication that he heard.
"What are you studying?" she tries instead, and this time she gets a response.
"I'm graduating this year," he says, and she can hear the relief in his voice. He reaches up to brush some hair out of his eyes as he continues typing.
"Cool," she murmurs, although that hadn't been what she had asked either. She lets it slide, and the boy continues on with his typing in silence.
She settles back down into the chair, stretching her arms high above her until her spine cracks. The day is settling in to late afternoon, the sun bright just beyond the outline of tall high rises. The people walking are less and the cars are more. There is a long line of them at the stop light. The gardener has gone inside but the window washer is still out. She watches him and thinks of offering to help him clean tomorrow. The sound of the boy's typing fingers are almost as smooth sounding as a steady gust of wind. She could get used to now.
"Do you mind..." he says softly after a moment, and the typing stops. "Do you mind if I ask what happened to your leg?"
She looks over at him and smiles. "You asked already. What would happen if I did mind?"
He grins, a one-sided flash of teeth. She thinks he's handsome and a little weird. Her favourite kind of person, at least the last part. "I'd apologize and we'd be awkward for awhile. I guess."
"Is it really worth the risk? What are you going to do with the information?"
"Too late now," he points out, shrugging his shoulders. "I'm just curious. You don't have to tell me."
"I was born without it," she tells him, leaning back in the chair so that her back is straight. She isn't ashamed. She just likes to test people about it. "Not much I could do about that."
"Has it ruined your quality of life much?"
"I wouldn't say so," she replied, tilting her neck just to look at him from the corner of her eyes. He was looking at her full-on, giving her the attention this kind of discussion usually deserved. The subject could never be completely casual. "Not the things that matter. I'm normal."
He nods, and she watches him run his thumb up and down the space bar thoughtfully. "I've never met someone with a prosthesis before."
She laughs. "Really? Am I everything you expected me to be?"
"More," he tells her, and she might have thought he was kidding around except when he looked at her then...she knew. "Did you give up your leg for a sixth sense?"
She feels the world come to a sudden halt with realization, and then resume with it in mind. Why it's so hard for him to keep his eyes on hers. Why he can't answer questions. Why she would never be allowed to see what's on his computer. "I'm Yuffie," she murmurs softly.
"Riku," he returns. It's perfect for him.
"Yuffie!" Her roommate is suddenly at the balcony door, her hair all wrapped up in a towel and a stick of eyeliner in her hand. "Who the heck are you babbling to?"
"I--" Yuffie looks at her, then glances back. In Riku's place is an empty balcony, a white plastic chair that's been spray painted blue tipped over on it's side,
one leg broken. "I was talking to Mrs. Provos...you know our neighbour with the crossed eyes? She just went inside."
"Oh," Selphie leans out of the door, in her bra and panties and even more uncaring about it than Yuffie. "Can you believe she even moved back in? I'd sell the damn place."
"Why?" Yuffie frowned as she stood, confused. "It's been empty for ages."
"They say..." Selphie paused to lower her voice. "Well, she told me that the last guy she was renting it to killed himself. Didn't show up at his graduation.
No one knew where he was. His parents knocked away on the door, called his phone a million times. Mrs. Provos had to come all the way to back from Vermont because she's the only one with a spare key. He overdosed on sleeping pills, apparently. I don't know. She said it was suicide. That he was too pressured from school, and.
she's not going to rent to any students again." Selphie laughed. "She'll probably make the next tenant take a friggin psychological test before she agrees to hand the apartment over."
Yuffie breaths the warm April air a little more deeply, her eyes straying back to that empty balcony. The image is still fresh in her mind. The gorgeous clothes. His pale face and the nervous twitch of his fingers. I'm graduating this year. "He didn't seem--" Don't stop jogging.
"Aw, shit, Yuf," Selphie teases, leaning forward to poke her friend in the head. "You seeing ghosts again? Stop spacing out on me. You know I hate it. Anyway,
isn't that creepy? That guy killed himself, and now she's like sleeping there. He's probably a spirit wandering around. Breaking dishes when she's nowhere near the kitchen. That'd freak me out waaay too much."
"Nah," Yuffie runs a hand through her hair, then turns to gesture Selphie inside with a grin, so she could get through the door. "He's probably doomed to write essays for the rest of eternity. Punishment for killing himself right before graduation."
"I don't get it," Selphie said, as Yuffie closed the screen door behind her. "Depression's a funny thing."
Yuffie sat down on her bed, thinking of what she had just seen, thinking of his grin and the way he talked. Thinking of the way he had told her to keep going until everything was right. Because he couldn't. Because he hadn't. "Yeah," she murmured. "It is."
Please tell me all your thoughts, if you have some! Maybe I should do a series of Yuffie seeing spirits. I'm not sure. This was a good excercise for me, and I enjoy writing it. Thanks for reading!