The smell of powerful disinfectants and chemicals burnt my nose before I could open my eyes to reveal a small, stark white room. A moan escaped my lips as a throbbing pain emitted from my skull. This wasn't good.
Where the hell was I?
There was a small shuffle of clothing and a scrape of a chair across linoleum, which really did nothing to stop the enormous headache I now had. I groaned involuntarily as I sat up. I was in a bed. A hospital bed.
"Oh," a deep, cheery voice exclaimed, "you're finally up!"
I blinked away the grogginess from my eyes, rubbing my sore head while I turned to look at the unknown source of the voice.
Deep, chocolate brown eyes stared back into my own sky blue ones.
"Kai," I squeaked.
My heart started racing for some odd reason, and I couldn't unlock my eyes from his. To say I was startled was an understatement, I was completely freaked out. Why was he here? Why was I here? Where even was here?
"Hey," he stated calmly. "Relax; I can hear you breathing from over here." Kai chuckled nervously, eyeing me as if I'd jump out of the bed at any moment and scratch his eyes out.
How could he tell me to relax? I just woke up in some bright white room which caused my headache to worsen, Kai was with me, and all I could remember was being at home before everything went blank. Nothing.
And that scared me.
I turned away from him and asked, "Where am I?"
My breath hitched as I whipped myself in his direction again. I immediately wished I hadn't, for a wave of nausea hit me like a brick wall. I gripped the side of the bed as it slowly passed, hoping (praying) that I wouldn't throw up all over the place.
"Are you okay, Claire? Geez, you look like you're going to throw up…"
"I'm fine," I said as I cleared my throat. After taking a couple of deep breaths, I sat up straight in the bed and looked at him. "Why am I here?"
Kai gave me a funny look. "Uh…you passed out, Claire."
"I did what?" I practically hissed. I passed out? No, I couldn't have…I didn't pass out. I couldn't remember…
"Yeah, you started screaming bloody murder as soon as I walked through the door. I tried calming you down but you just kept kicking and screaming. I guess you just wore yourself out because you passed out a few minutes later."
"Really?" I asked, my eyes wide. Why would I do that for? It seemed silly, I never freaked out like that before, why would I start now? It was just Kai…
Of course. Why wouldn't I freak out if the one person who brought back my painful memories waltzed into my home right after I remembered that horrible night? It all made sense except for that fact for some reason, Kai was the one who triggered all of this. He probably didn't even know he was doing this to me.
Hell, I didn't even know.
It wasn't like he even remotely looked like my father. What was it about Kai that made it hard for me to be around him? That reminded me of my father and what he put me through?
And then I remembered.
It was a stupid thing to compare the two people with, but I must have done it subconsciously. Kai's bandana, my father's Class Ring. Both purple, such a haunting color.
That was it?
No, of course not. Their eye color. They were the same deep chocolate brown that I remembered.
How dumb of me not to notice something as obvious as that.
But that was all? Those were the two things that made me compare Kai to a…a monster? I wasn't frightened anymore, now I was just plain angry. Angry with myself. How stupid could I get? I believed Kai was someone he wasn't all because of the color of his bandana and his eyes.
That was completely absurd!
"…pretty much been here for a whole day."
"Huh?" I tilted my head towards the tanned traveler with a small confused look on my face. I must have drowned out his voice as I lost myself to my thoughts…
Kai grinned at me. "You weren't listening to me, were you?" I shook my head. He dismissed me with a wave of his hand. "Oh well. Yeah, anyway. You've been out for about a day now."
I sucked in a breath as my eyes widened. "A whole day?" I tore the covers off of me and tried getting out of the uncomfortable hospital bed. "I need to go take care of my farm!"
"Hey," Kai exclaimed, wide-eyed, as he stopped me from falling on my ass as I tried to escape the bounds of my small, sheeted-hospital-makeshift-prison. "Take it easy, Doctor Tim said that you weren't allowed out of this bed for a few more days."
I grimaced and turned away from him. "But my farm…," I knew I sounded whiney, but quite frankly I didn't really care. My animals were going to hate me if I didn't feed them soon, and my crops were going to wither on the vine without any water in this summer heat! Kai and the Doctor would just have to deal with me getting out of this bed a few days early.
"If it means that much to you," he gave me a toothy smile, "I'll go take care of everything on your farm until you get better, okay? It's only farming, how hard can it be?"
I almost smiled at that last statement; almost. "Well, I…I don't really…," I trailed off, biting my lower lip as I contemplated the idea of Kai taking care of my farm for the next few days. I wasn't going to lie, the idea sort of…frightened me.
"Oh, Claire! Come on!"
The way his puppy-dog eyes were pleading was slightly making me uneasy. But how could I refuse him after all that I have blamed him for?
"O-okay…," I stuttered, still unsure but slightly amused.
"Awe-some," Kai grinned, looking rather smug with the fact that he finally got me to cave in to his demands.
Too bad he had no clue as to what he was about to get himself into.
"Hey," Kai said quietly as he sat next to me on the edge of the dock. "Thought I might find you here."
I nodded once, letting him know that I was aware of his presence and wasn't just ignoring him. I didn't bother looking at him either; instead I looked at the small waves crashing up against the posts of the old-looking dock and listened to the seagulls up above.
"Whenever I have the bright idea of farming again, remind me that it sucks."
I let out a very unlady-like snort at that one. "Sure."
"Seriously," he breathed, leaning in close. From the corner of my eye I could see him grinning at me, testing my limits. I also noticed that he wasn't wearing his bandana, which was a first.
I scrunched up my nose as the salty sea breeze brushed past my face. It burnt for a few fleeting moments and then the sensation dispersed just as soon as it arrived. "It doesn't suck, you just need practice."
It was his turn to snort. "You can't make chickens practice to like you. I swear I was scratched about a thousand times. How you deal with the devil spawns is beyond me."
"They are not devil spawns," I complained. "They acted like that towards me in the beginning as well. You just have to show them some compassion and that they can trust you. Just because you treat them as a food source doesn't mean they are not capable of using their brains."
"Well, food source or not, that experience will forever haunt my dreams. I don't even think chickens are capable of compassion," Kai chuckled, deep and husky.
"Perhaps those chickens had to go through some hurtful things in their life and aren't familiar with empathy."
I turned my head to look at him when I didn't receive a reply for a good few minutes. Kai was staring at me with wide eyes and an open mouth. Was it something I said? Did I…
Oh crap, did I really just say that? I was only thinking it; I didn't mean to actually say it! He didn't need to know anything about my past!
Oh shut up, Claire. Just because you say something about chickens having no compassion doesn't necessarily mean you just blurted out your past traumatic experiences to Kai. Give it a break.
I took a deep breath. I was right. Besides, Kai wouldn't be that quick to catch on to anything. But my big mouth got me thinking…
Since I blurted something out like, did that mean I actually wanted to tell him everything that once happened to me? Or was I just over-thinking like I usually did?
Kai, after finally closing his mouth, frowned. "Are you, perhaps, comparing yourself to some frisky chickens, Claire?"
Despite my inner protests, my lips twitched into a small, but sad smile. "Maybe…"
I supposed I had underestimated him.
"Wanna talk about it?" he asked, his tone cheery, yet still serious. How he could pull off two totally different emotions at once still had me flabbergasted. I looked away from him with a grimace as I shook my head.
When he hooked his forefinger underneath my chin, my breath caught and I couldn't breathe. Kai moved my head towards him so that I was looking him straight in the eye. It seemed as though he was searching for something, he was looking into my eyes so intently, so…intimately.
A knot formed in my stomach and I bit my lower lip.
Was I really, truly ready to tell him? Or did I just feel forced to explain everything? Because if I did tell him, he'd probably hate me for the rest of his life… Of course he would…
Or was I blowing things out of proportion like usual?
"I think…," I shrugged my head out of his hands, "I have to tell you something…"
"Well, duh," he grinned, despite me acting as though his touch burned me and moving out of his reach. Nothing I did ever seemed to affect him. Or if it did, he never let on.
"It's…depressing," I advised, almost choking on the last word.
Kai's grin faltered, but the twinkle in his eye refused to disappear. "Yeah, I sort of got the gist of it with the chicken synopsis."
"So, you gonna tell me what's up or not?"
I glared at the pesky traveler. "Kai, if you want me to tell you, you're going to have to be patient."
He held up his hands, defeated, "Fine, fine. I'll be good."
A shaky breath left my partly-opened lips. How was I going to explain all of this to him? Would he stop talking to me all together? Would I care if he ignored me after this? Because I was disheveled, pitiful, broken, and just plain pathetic. No one would want to associate themselves with someone such as myself.
How could I put my past into words without them coming out as a jumble of nonsense? What would he think if he knew what my father did? That he killed my mother, attempted to do the same with me, and then killed himself in the end? That the cause of all of this was alcohol?
And that Kai reminded me of such things?
This was a truly awful thing to tell someone.
I took a deep breath, ready to let it all out. If I didn't get it all out soon and kept it bottled up, I'd probably go insane. Besides, someone told me once that it feels good to get something off of your chest…
"Kai, there is…," I paused, turning to the tanned man sitting next to me, when he took in a sharp breath. He was staring at me with wide, innocent brown eyes and an open mouth.
My brow furrowed as my mouth formed a grim line. "I just said all of that out loud, didn't I?"
He frowned, playing with his sea foam green bracelet on his wrist, eyeing me wearingly. "No…you were just mumbling odd things." Kai closed his eyes and sighed before looking at me again. "You should relax, okay? I'm not gonna bite you or anything."
"Maybe you should relax."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," he laughed, nervous. "I am being a bit uptight right now."
"Tell me about it," I breathed out shakily.
We were still sitting at the edge of the dock with our feet in the water by the time the sun disappeared. I still hadn't told Kai anything yet, and he wasn't pushing for any information. We were just content on sitting there in silence.
I let out an airy sigh, splashing the warm ocean water around with my big toe.
"You remind me of my father."
I turned my head towards him, my ponytail swishing back and forth. "I said that you reminded me of my father."
Kai looked confused. "Uh…is that a good thing?"
I shook my head, deadpanned. "No."
He bit his lip and broke eye contact. "Well damn, thanks for raining down on my happy parade." I visibly flinched and he caught my movement, making him frown slightly. "Sorry…"
"Hmph, don't worry about it."
A few minutes went by before Kai spoke again.
"What was your father like?" His question was hesitant, like he was nervous of the answer.
I took a deep breath, readying myself. This was it; the moment I would tell Kai why I had always avoided him, why I was the way I was.
"Are you ready for this, Kai?"
His brow furrowed. "You should be asking yourself the same question."
But I didn't have to ask myself anything, because right then, looking into his dark chocolate eyes, I saw the real Kai; his kindness and silly humor. I didn't see my father in his eyes, and that was comforting enough.
Kai wasn't my father, he didn't look my father, and he never acted like my father.
Kai was Kai.
So I told him everything. Absolutely everything.
"Kai, we should go swimming!"
The man in question shook his head and grumbled something about spending too much time with women and not enough time with his "buddies".
I laughed at his silliness. "Yeah, Kai, c'mon! Take me swimming again!"
Kai turned around after hearing me yell at him and gave me a smile so large that it practically reached his eyes. I crossed my arms and gave him a small, shy smile.
"Okay, Claire, anything for you."
After telling Kai about my father a few weeks ago, I was slowly coming out of my shell. Of course, he was the one helping me along the way, despite everything that I had put him through. It still surprised me on how Kai could be so loyal and faithful.
I was smiling more often and laughing openly now. I started talking to everyone in town again and even made up with Popuri, who, to my utter astonishment, apologized and accepted our newly developed friendship with open arms.
I knew, though, that I still had a long road ahead of me before I could truly accept what happened all those years ago. But I had Kai to share the ride with, and I had to say, he was a pretty amazing person to be with now that I had opened up a little more.
I grabbed his hand without thinking and he smiled down at me, his eyes twinkling as he squeezed the inside of my palm. And I knew then that I had nothing to worry about.
Because Kai was Kai, and that was all that mattered.