For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.
Chapter One: My Pen Pal Is…
Wammy House had only one purpose; to find a successor for L. You can imagine why Quillsh Wammy, otherwise known as Watari, had this purpose in mind as he built this orphanage. It was for the sole reason that, without L, the world's crime rate would rise drastically. In L's words, there would be a higher than thirteen percent crime rate increase. For that reason, and that reason only, few people have ever met L as L. I am not one of those people. I'm sure I've met L on occasion. Maybe he was the mailman who sometimes came by whose name was Yukihiro, or the person who came to Wammy House that one time to talk about the importance of identity by the name of Matsurai Aoi. I would never know, unless I got better and rose from my position of being sixth in line as the successor of L.
But Watari had some news today that could get my position up. With all the Wammy House children in the large auditorium, he told us, "L has suggested a game for all of you to play." A game to play? I frowned. It didn't sound very much like L, but it was L, so he must've thought of something good. "Each of you will get a "pen pal" whose identity you will not know." My frown deepened. We're going to be writing back and forth to someone we don't know? I didn't like it. But Watari hadn't gotten to the catch yet. "You will have to find out the identity of the person by all means necessary while not giving away yourself. Whoever is the first to find out their partner will get a prize. Your partner can be anyone.
"The first letter will be sent either by you or your partner. You will know when a man comes to your door and knocks three times, followed by him saying "Letter." You must open the door. You will need no address but you will need an envelope. Make sure you don't give away anything and be very careful. One thing you cannot do is follow the man to whoever he takes the letter to. You will use your own means. When you figure out your partner, you get one try and one try only. If you fail to give me the correct answer, you will drop a level. In the real world, there are no second chances."
Now I liked this game. Watari stepped down and the kids chattered excitedly. I didn't want to talk. I had to think. I didn't find the noise distracting, so I was able to think while standing in the middle of a very loud, echoing auditorium, which, I'm guessing, was giving me an advantage against whoever I was partnered with. First, my handwriting would hint at my identity, so I decided to type. Next, whoever I was partnered with may be smart enough to look for fingerprints, so I would use gloves. If I forgot one time, the man who was to take our letters would leave fingerprints and confuse my partner. I would say little. My identity would not be found.
It was three days later that a man with black hair, pale skin and dark circles under eyes, and hunched-over stance knocked at my door three times, followed by "Letter." I opened my door, even though I was very frazzled at this early hour. It was part of the rules. I looked at him, blinking in surprise at his oddity, but said nothing. He handed me a letter with, as expected, bare hands, and I took it. "It's the complete list of rules," he told me, and left. I shut the door and sat down on my bed, opening the envelope and taking out the printed list.
1. You must not give away your identity
2. You must always open your door to the mailman
3. You must always reply
4. You must reply within three days
5. You cannot follow the mailman
6. You cannot ask for your partner's name
7. You will give your answer to Watari or Roger and tell no one else
8. You will not be considered the winner if your partner slips his or her name
9. You may not tell your gender or name
I smiled at the last rule. It was just what I planned on doing. The gender thing would have lowered the amount of people who could be considered your partner greatly and now it was just eliminated. It was a bit unfortunate, but I could live with it. I hoped that my partner was not stupid and let slip his of her name or I would not be able to win. I expected the next letter to come in three days and sure enough, after three more days, the mailman came to my door again by the same three knocks and saying "Letter." I'd wiped my doorknob before leaving to classes and after getting back to my room to make sure I got the mailman's fingerprints to tell the difference from his and my pen pal's. It was a different man, with brown hair and blue eyes and a more normal look to him.
"First letter from your pen pal," he said, holding out the letter to me. He closed the door after I took it and left. Quickly, I reopened the door and found his fingerprints which I memorized and then closed the door again and sat at my desk, staring at the letter. I was glad that this was in the afternoon, when I was more awake. I might miss something if it was earlier. I searched the letter first for fingerprints and found none but the mailman's. I ripped it open and searched the paper (typed, damn it) for fingerprints and once again found none. He or she had the same thoughts as I did. Unfortunate.
Finally I read the letter:
Dear pen pal, (Formal.)
This is giving you an advantage by receiving the first letter. (This person was one of the higher positions, I noted, by the way he or she wrote.) I do not intend to give you any person information, so do not expect anything from me. (Possibly around my position, I thought, since this person didn't use contractions and usually the higher-ups preferred to speak and write this way.) I intend to win. (Cocky. Definitely high position.) I think it would be proper to start by asking, How are you? (This person didn't seem too good with being social. And really, proper? This person definitely was high positioned and wasn't social. That lowered it to about the twenties position-wise. This person was making a lot of slips, so maybe the thirties.) How's the view? (Damn, contraction. That raised the probability to the forties. The view? From my room? Did he or she believe that I would fall for that?) Good luck trying to find my identity. (Oh, cocky again. Too cocky. Back to the thirties for his or her position.)
From, (Formal again. This person isn't sarcastic. Probability still in the thirties.)
Your pen pal (Oh, formal again. Lowers probability to twenty-fives and up.)
I pushed the letter to the side and opened a new Word document on my computer. I stared at the screen for a while, and then exited it. I decided to wait a day, send it on the second day. I assumed that the mailman would appear everyday just in case I wanted to send it. The first day it was the same brown haired and blue eyed man and I told him that I would send it tomorrow. I went to class on that second day, a Thursday, which unfortunately meant that I was with the cocky, high-positioned successors to L. Usually I would think this unfortunate. Today I took at as an opportunity to search for my cocky, high-positioned, formal, rarely contraction-ing pen pal.
We were talking about cases with hidden clues. I already knew about this, but I listened anyway. Anything would help me get better. "Usually you will have to look for something missing," our teacher for today was saying. He stopped in his explanation and pointed to someone who'd raised their hand. I didn't care to look at him or her, really.
"Or something added to the scene." At hearing the question, I became interested and turned my head around. I'd seen him a few times; longish blonde hair, black clothes always, in competition with Near and friends with Matt. His name was Mello, second in line. Four people between our positions. Our eyes met for a quick second, pulled apart when Mello looked away and to the teacher as he spoke again. I felt a bit shaken. His eyes were a brilliant blue that I had never noticed until now. There was no explanation as to why I wanted to look at his eyes again.
"Yes, exactly right," the teacher nodded, mildly impressed. "Hidden messages may also be included in those added objects. For example, a note may be left as something simple as a shopping list that can easily be overlooked." I blocked him out, staring down at my book until the words blurred. I was worried about my sanity. Why did I want to look at Mello again? I kept my eyes down, even though I longed up look up at his brilliant blue eyes again. I was given no homework today but I knew that I would have to write my letter today to my cocky pen pal.
Back in my room, I sat down at my computer with my first letter to the right of me and opened a Word document. I typed.
Dearest pen pal,
I'm sure I have an advantage, thank you for pointing that out. But so you know, I'm not ignorant. Hardly. I don't intend to give you any personal information either. I don't see how you can win when I will win first. There's always second. I'm great. I'm wonderful. Thanks for asking. The view from my room? Beautiful. I love to look out my window every night, staring at the sunset. You should do it sometime. Very pretty. Thanks lots for the luck. I sure as hell needed it!
Your new best friend
No, I wasn't really that stupid. I thought maybe a little pretending would come in handy here. My letter dripped with sarcasm as I'm sure my pen pal would be able to tell. This seems like a letter written by an angry little girl whose position was very low. I thought that, just to play with them, I would be very serious in my next letter, however he or she replied. And the thing with the sunset view? I really did have that view, and I really did look out at it every night. But with his or her impression of my sarcasm, I thought he or she would assume that this too was sarcastic.
I printed it and left it there in the printer, scrounging around my room for gloves and an envelope. I found the gloves and slipped them on, shortly afterward finding an envelope under one of my many piles of stuff lying around. I was a very messy person. My floor was hardly visible. With gloves on, I folded the letter, put it in the envelope, and set it down on the small desk by the door so that when the mailman opened the door and I didn't have my gloves on, he could just take it from there. The bed made its usual squeaky noise when I lay on my back, staring at the ceiling until, seven minutes later, the mailman was there. He opened the door and it was the same brown haired guy. I pointed to the table by the door and he took it from there, nodding.
That night I didn't watch the sunset. For some reason I was very tired and I slept the rest of the day and night away. Since I went to sleep so early, I woke up early at 4:47 AM. I didn't know what to do so I changed, pulled on a light jacket (because it was cold out), and went for a walk just outside the Wammy House building. I shivered at first but then I got used to it and walked to the back garden. Surprisingly, there was someone else there at 4:50 AM. There was barely any sun at all so I could only make out the person's silhouette. It was a boy, maybe my age, with shoulder length hair and skin-tight clothes.
I immediately spun around and was starting to walk back when Mello stopped me. "Wait," he said quietly. But in this silence, except for birds faintly chirping, it was rather loud. I turned slowly around, silver hair whipping around me from a sudden gust of strong wind. I shivered, zipping up my jacket and shoving my hands into my pockets. The shorter stands of hair that I had in front were getting in my face so I had to take my hands out of my pocket to brush them away.
"What?" I replied over the wind. He walked closer to me and I nearly took a step back but I stood where I was. Soon he was close enough that his brilliant blue eyes looked into my orange ones.
"Ever." I blinked. He knew my name?
"What is it?" I repeated.
He shrugged. "Just making sure that's your name," Mello told me. I raised my eyebrows. "I'm guessing I was right. You're sixth in line, aren't you?" I nodded slowly. He wasn't wearing a jacket, I noticed.
"You're not cold?" I wondered, changing the subject from me to him.
Mello looked down at himself as if he just noticed that he was jacketless. "Oh." He looked back up at me and grinned sheepishly. "Guess not. I didn't even notice, come to think of it..." He trailed off, only now noticing that it was cold. He was rather oblivious for L's second choice of a replacement, wasn't he? "You're shivering," he stated.
"Because it's cold," I reminded him, suddenly sneezing. He frowned. "I don't know how you can't tell. And I don't even know why I'm even out here. I'm going in." I turned to leave him but his footsteps were right behind me.
"Why are you out here so early, anyway?" Mello questioned, keeping my pace. Though I'd already said that I didn't know what I was doing, it was strange that he insisted on asking. Might as well indulge him.
"Went to sleep early so I woke up early," I shrugged in reply. "I didn't have anything better to do. My pen pal—" I stopped myself right there. There was a possibility that anyone in this house was my pen pal; even Mello. I had nearly made a huge slip there.
Mello was smiling at me and I frowned back in confusion. "You nearly had a slip there," he told me unnecessarily. "Quick catch."
I wanted to change the subject. My pen pal and my flaws were two not-so-happy subjects. So I snapped, "You never make mistakes?"
He looked taken aback. "Not often," Mello said confidently, despite his surprise.
I snorted in contempt and then abruptly realized how snobby I must sound. I hung my head. "Sorry. I just don't exactly enjoy talking about my flaws," I sighed. "Or my pen pal."
Mello smirked. "I feel the same." He held the door open for me as we re-entered Wammy House and as it turned out, our rooms were down the same hallway.
I had never noticed until now, and I thought it was mere coincidence that my friend Ruby, seventh in line, was just across the hall, but every highly-placed person to succeed L was right by each other. Ivy, the tenth to succeed L, was the last one at the end of the hall. I had honestly never noticed and when Mello saw my incredulous expression at seeing him walk towards the room four doors down from me, he laughed, opening his door.
"You're a poor detective if you didn't notice that, Ever," he told me.
I crossed my arms angrily. "My flaws again?" I hissed in a warning tone. He shrugged, still grinning, and shut the door behind him. I sighed and rolled my eyes, walking into my own room. There on the desk was another letter. My pen pal sure replied quickly.
I opened it, not bothering to check for fingerprints (because I knew he or she was just too smart to slip like that) and laid back on my bed, holding the letter above my head as I read.
Dearest pen pal, (Mocking me? Probability down to thirties again.)
I quite enjoyed your letter. (Sarcastic, but use of "quite" keeps it at thirty.) It's good to know you're not ignorant. This game would be a complete bore if you were. (Thanks. I'll take that as a compliment, mixed in with sarcasm. Thirty-second placed at the most.) Having the advantage probably didn't interest you much, did it? You didn't seem to mind being the underhand. (Sarcasm! Or maybe he was just in a bad mood from my letter that was dripping with sarcasm? I've got to apologize in my next one or this will just be a bicker without any real hints.) Yes, the sunset is quite nice, isn't it? I watch it every night, too. (His whole letter was sarcastic so far. Is this sarcastic too? Now I know how he felt when he read my letter. Fifty-fifty percent chance that he has a sunset view.) You're welcome for the luck. Everyone needs a little luck now and then. (Sarcastic? It doesn't seem as rude as his or her other comments. We'll go with slightly sarcastic. There's a little sincerity in there somewhere.)
From, (Oh, he or she's not returning the "Love" gesture. They've gotten over the sarcasm? Quick. This person made a slip, though. Probability just went up to twenties and higher.)
Your new best friend (Returning my words? Kind, but I can't accept. I already have a best friend, sorry.)
I laughed. Well, this person was interesting, I decided. Maybe I'd really start playing and trick him or her into slipping something else. First, the gender thing was important. Without asking this person "Are you of the male or female population?" I might ask them instead "Why do you think Pikachu is so popular but wasn't the first Pokemon?" because here in Japan, boys loved Pokemon. And I did too, even though I was of the female persuasion rather than male. Maybe this would trick my pen pal?
No, no Pokemon, I decided. Too dangerous. He could either assume that I was, in fact, a boy, or that I was a girl trying to trick him by talking in a way I thought was boyish. So far, I'd been using exact amounts more boyish and girlish words, but maybe this letter I could pretend to make a slip and use one more boyish word than girlish word and this way throw off the balance. If I was a boy, I'd more likely mess up and slip with a boyish word, wouldn't I?
This game was making my head spin. I made a decision that, instead of pretending, I'd be myself, and maybe in just acting as I am, that in itself would trick him or her. Satisfied with this new way of thinking, I went to type my letter, remembering that I had to apologize to get this person's true nature revealed.
I'm sorry, I was being somewhat egotistical. I tend to be overconfident and let my emotions overtake me. Forgive me? This sounds pretty sentimental for a person I've never met. I really wonder what your name is. I'm writing this so off guard, I wonder what I'm slipping just by using one word instead of another. This game L thought up has me so... I don't know. It makes me feel like everything's spinning. It's killing me to figure out who you are.
Instead of ending the letter, I quickly took out the two letters I'd received from my pen pal. I scanned them, searching for something—anything—to give this person away, and then I noticed their writing. Words that usually are reserved for boys scattered the page. I had already started to assume that this person was a boy from the way he or she wrote, but now, looking at his or her word choice... I was almost positive it was a boy. Maybe I sounded like a girl, even with my alternating use of boy's and girl's words. Maybe he's already figured out who I am and is now just toying with me.
I went back to my letter.
I must be sounding like some desperate little kid, and I may as well be, but really, it's eating away at me. The only things I've figured out is that you're a boy and your placement is high, ten and up. (Oh, I wish I had narrowed it that far! But maybe he'd slip and give me something to work with.) Pen pal sounds stupid.
I smiled at my new name. Fruit. I chose it based on an English "joke" that I assumed my pen pal wouldn't guess. My eyes were orange, and in English, orange is also a fruit, therefore, my "name" was Fruit. The answer, if he could figure it out, would be, literally, staring him right in the face. I thought it rather clever. Doing the same procedure as before with gloves (which I now kept near the computer) on, I printed my letter and left it on the small table by the door. Surprisingly, the mailman came right then to collect letters. I opened the door for him and it was the same brown haired, blue eyed mailman. The first one must've been just a one-time thing. He smiled at seeing the gloves I wore.
"Smart," he told me, and left with my letter.
Equations, English, literature. It was Saturday, the day with a room of randomly chosen students from Wammy House put together in a class to learn. I already knew most of this. These classes were dumbed-down for the lower-placed students in the class. Since there were fifty or so students at Wammy's, there was no doubt that there'd be at least a few thirty-placed or lower students in each random-class. I hadn't noticed until I heard a slightly familiar voice unfamiliarly grumbling and swearing that Mello was, in fact, also in my random-class. That meant that the only days I wasn't with him was Monday and Tuesday. And Sunday, but everyone had a day off that day. How was it possible that I didn't notice him for four days a week until just today?
"Mello must've run into Near this morning," someone whispered. I subtly turned my head so that I could hear them better. For someone so high-placed and close to the top here, I didn't know much about them. Although I remained friendly towards the people at Wammy's, I mostly kind of just blended in and only spoke enough to still be considered normal. I didn't listen to gossip, and much less spread it, but I at least knew about the bitter rivalry between the first and second successors of L, Near and Mello.
"Or maybe Near beat him," someone else in their little group suggested.
"Already? And it's only ten in the morning!" another sniggered. I don't know why, but they were starting to annoy me. My heart clenched to hear them making fun of Mello like that and I wondered if Mello really didn't hear them or was just pretending. As I tired to slowly look at Mello, I heard him slam his books down on his table and swear loudly, making me flinch.
"I'm not deaf, bastards!" he yelled at them. "I can fucking hear you!" Mello pulled out his chair and it scraped along the ground in a very obnoxious manner, like nails on a chalk board.
He leaned back in his chair, putting his feet up on the table and crossing his arms. His face was pulled into a scowl and his friend, thirdly placed Matt, sat down beside him, a bit more calmly. Matt didn't sit as rudely as his companion but he sure didn't sit properly, tilting his chair back and keep his balance with one foot on the side of the table. He had a GameBoy in his hand, his trademark item, and was rapidly pressing the buttons in a way that hurt my eyes to keep track of his fingers.
"Matt!" the teacher growled angrily, entering the classroom finally. "GameBoy, away." The redhead glanced shortly up at the teacher, put his foot on the ground and made his chair move up in the correct, upright position. He made no attempt to hide the fact that he still played his GameBoy, although in a different position with his elbows on his knees, back hunched, and head bent down to effectively see what he was doing.
"All right, Pikachu!" he yelled triumphantly, suddenly snapping the GameBoy closed and throwing it on the table as if it didn't cost as much money as it did. I couldn't help but watch in amazement as he slid down his goggles to his eyes and stared back at the teacher intently. "Done," he told her unnecessarily. This earned a few giggles, but the teacher was not amused.
"I don't know how you manage to stay third, Matt," she sighed, rolling her eyes and turning to the board. She began to write but I wasn't looking. My gaze was seemingly still on Matt, but in reality, it was past him, watching Mello snicker and playfully tease Matt. When I noticed Mello's brilliant blue eyes start to wander away from Matt, I quickly averted my gaze to the board, where it should be.
"Ever!" the teacher snapped. I straightened up in attention, scanning the board. 2x multiplied by 7 squared... Easy. The problem above, solved by another student (a problem already solved? how long did I space?), showed that x equals forty-three.
A quick thought flitted through my mind and I answered, "Four thousand, two-hundred fourteen." She blinked.
Usually I would at least pretend to look at notes, leaving my intelligence level seemingly lower to others, but in all honesty, it was just a trick. I was much smarter than I allowed others to see. Math, however, had always been my strong point, ever since I was four when my cousin Jason taught me how to add, subtract, and multiply. For some odd reason, I loved to multiply. Maybe because I got to see that by adding a number over and over again a certain number of times gave you such a big number, and I loved that. When I was still little and at home with my mother and father, I used to think that if I could add myself over and over again, maybe I'd finally be someone worthy of something, rather than just a little child who no one took seriously even though I could do such difficult math problems.
I felt someone watching me but I didn't dare look. This random onslaught of memories was pushing me to a point where I felt like crying. It happened sometimes, and this wasn't as strong as some other times, but just thinking about "back then"... I hated these memories. I was at Wammy's now, a place where I was acknowledged, and I didn't have to worry anymore. Watari saved me, so it was okay. Why did math do this to me? Was it because it was someone from my family taught me this? This wonderful pattern that made small numbers slowly become larger and larger the more you added?
A wall formed in my mind, hard and fast, blocking out everything except the present time, figuring out problems and doing something that meant nothing but curves made by a pencil forming shapes that we recognized and used daily. They're just numbers, Ever. Shapes. They have no meaning. Shapes marked on paper meaning one, and two, and three and four. Multiply them, and you get bigger numbers. Just numbers. There are no memories in multiplying...
I took a deep breath. I hoped no one noticed that dilemma that had just went on in my head right then. My eyes were focused on the teacher's handwriting, making the swirls and odd shapes of the English letters. Ever... I wrote it on the front of my notebook in big, fancy, bubble letters, marking it as mine. I liked the way my name spelled out. I wanted to try my real name, but not here. That would be the worst slip I could make.
Before I knew it, class ended and I was glad my wall blocking the memories was still holding strong. I could last the day, and maybe the next. At least through the night, I hoped, because waking up crying would just be a premonition leading to a bad day. Who wants that? I willed myself to last as I closed the door softly behind me. My room, messy as ever, was comforting. Here, I could cry if my wall crumbled. Out there, I'd have to suffer on my own and last and live with the memories that tortured my very being. Would I last out there? What if my wall was no longer there and we were in the middle of an important progress test and I just started bawling?
Wall, wall, wall. Block it out.
I shut my eyes tightly, sitting on my bed and holding my head. I was getting a very bad, pulsing headache from all these what ifs. Slowly, I opened my eyes and found that, on the usual table, there was a letter. Quick reply, I though. He was eager, my pen pal was. He probably wanted to win as fast as he could. I walked over and ripped open the envelope, reading it while leaning on the door.
Odd choice. But hey, I forgive you. I have my egotistical moments, too. Don't we all? Writing off guard? No shit. You slipped so many things I could write a fucking biography about you. You're a girl, either 13 or 14, placed under four to eight, and you have a mind full of confusion and misery. A shit load of it, and you're just not letting it out. Did I get that right? If I did, vent it! I sure as hell do. My friend says that's not something to be proud of, but hey, emotion gets you far in life. I mean, look at me! Well, you can't really, but anyway... Just to let you know, there's only two people you could be. Ever or Ruby. Ever and Ruby are both a bit quite, but I met Ever a few days ago, and she's actually more social that she would seem. I haven't met Ruby face-to-face (maybe I should, if you're Ruby), but there's a very high possibility that she's Near's pen pal. So, hello Ever! Or, Fruit?
Signed by the winner,
(here was scribbled a gothic-looking cross you might find in a church) Cross
I stared at the paper in horror, mouth agape. He knew me! He knew it was me! What the hell?! From two letters, he knew that I, Ever, was his pen pal! I felt like going on a rampage. How, how, how?! He's met me?
I stopped. My mind settled down quickly when I put a tight lid on my emotions. I pulled my chair out, slightly more roughly than usual, and sat in front of my computer, absently picking up my fingerprint duster and brushed it over the paper. It dropped from my hand and clattered to what was left of the wood floor. Fingerprints! He was careless this time. I had his finger prints.
I went to sleep content with knowing that I had his finger prints. This was very helpful. I had an odd hunch that my pen pal, aka Cross, was Mello. I needed proof, one little piece of evidence to prove that Cross was Mello. In the morning, I thought through a plan. I would disguise myself, follow Mello the entire day and watch to make sure he dropped something with his fingerprints on it. I was desperate, and not only that, but a sore loser as well, and I was determined to at least be second. I wouldn't raise a spot, but if I gave the correct answer, I wouldn't drop a place, would I?
Before I disguised myself, I went to Roger's office and knocked quietly. There was no answer. I knocked more loudly. "Come in!" Roger said. I did, opening the door and stepping in not timidly like I usually did. Roger noticed this odd change in my behavior and climbed down the ladder he was using to grab a book particularly high up slowly.
"Um, Roger... If you answer correctly but you are not the first to answer, will you drop a spot?" I wondered.
"No," he replied in that gruff, old man voice of his. I breathed a sigh of relief. "But you will not rise a spot, either. We've already had two answers, but you can still give your answer."
"And if I don't answer? If I forfeit?" I wondered.
Roger smiled. "Then that wouldn't be giving L a very good opinion of you, would it? You may drop out and not give an answer since we've already had a winner, but when L looks back on this and sees that you dropped out, what will he think?" My eyes widened slightly. "If you get the wrong answer, you will drop down one placement, but if you get it right, you stay in your current position. So isn't it worth it to at least try?"
"Thanks Roger!" I grinned and left his office quickly, running back up the stairs. I bumped into someone in my haste and I nearly fell backwards down the stairs but I was caught by the arm and pulled back onto my feet. "Thanks..." I said breathlessly, my heart beating a thousand miles an hour from the scare I just received. I looked up to see who saved me and it was none other than Mello's best friend, third in line, Matt. He already going back to his handheld and playing away.
"Hn, be careful," he replied, walking past me and down the stairs. Matt was odd, but I didn't mind in the least because he'd just saved me from breaking bones. I smiled and ran up the rest of the way. Closing the door behind me, I slid down and sat on the ground, out of breath. Wammy House had a lot of stairs and my room, along with the other top ten, was on the highest level. Once I'd regained my breath, I scrounged around my room for all the things necessary for my disguise.
A darker silver wig with its length a little longer than the longest of my hair, purple contacts, a black and red-lined leather dress that you'd see a cosplayer wear with the sleeves made of some sort of dark-but-see-through fabric and a crisscrossed string tied in front, leather gloves up to my elbows with buckles near the end of it, fish-net tights and leather boots with buckles. In all, I looked like a cosplayer, not only with the dress that was very short (something I would never wear and I wore this as my disguise for that reason) and leather, but for all of my attire. The gloves especially, but I needed them to pick up anything Mello dropped with his fingerprints on it.
I waited by my door, listening for his door to open, and when I heard it, I turned my attention to the window, waiting for him to appear. Mello was going out to the town, which I knew right away when he turned to the right and not the left. Running down the steps (too much running!) and surprisingly avoiding anyone's stares, I followed Mello's path. I always stayed behind him far enough to seem like I wasn't following him but always close enough to keep him in my view. Either Mello never noticed or he pretended not to. At least, until something strange happened.
The object of my stalking, unsurprisingly, stopped at a sweets store with an outdoor balcony. Of course, the most sweet-addicted member of Wammy House would stop here. There was nothing unusual as he sat outside and waited for a waitress. When she came, I felt a strange pang of jealously as she flirted with him even though she was clearly older. Mello ignored her deftly, to my unexplainable relief, and ordered a slice of triple chocolate moose cake. I couldn't help but smile. Leave to Mello to find the cake most likely to give him the cavity of his life. Idly, I wondered if Mello got cavities, anyway.
Shaking the thought from my mind, I remained hidden in a gift shop across the street, watching inconspicuously from behind a stack of large stuffed animals. Mello was nearly done so I was getting ready to leave when, all of a sudden, a voice sounded form behind me. "Excuse me, miss? I'm going to have to ask you to come with me…" I spun around to face a male worker, glaring at him through my purple contacts and getting a frightened look in return. It was clear that he thought I was stealing.
"As if I would get myself a criminal record," I scoffed, but seeing as he didn't know what I meant, I held my arms out. There were no pockets on my outfit. "See any place I could hide your silly merchandise?"
There was a sharp edge to my tone now. Every second I was turned away from Mello, I could be loosing him. Nervously, although with a brave look in his eyes, he pointed tentatively to my chest. I gave him a sickened look and he shrugged. "Worth a try," he sighed.
"Worth a slap," I muttered, irritated, before stalking out. However, I'd completely forgotten about staying concealed and found myself staring straight at Mello as he paid for the cake. My contact colored eyes widened in shock. Then I remembered I was disguised and knew that my misplaced shock would be suspicious. I quickly covered it with a forced blush, which wasn't altogether hard at all, and looked away as if acting like a schoolgirl with a crush. A cosplaying schoolgirl with a crush. But this meant that I would have to walk away, act like I had some other destination.
Keeping with my improvised plan of crushing girl with another place to be, I risked a glance up at Mello as I passed, aiming for the antique shop a little ways down. With all the luck I'd been having today, I had to go by the sweets shop to get to it. And with all the misfortune I'd been having today, Mello was still staring right at me, clearly intending to walk after me. My heart started racing with nervousness. He was smart enough to know who I was by two letters. He was probably smart enough to know who I was by one glance, even if I did look like some crushing cosplayer. Which, I wasn't.
"You look like someone I know."
He was less than five steps behind me. I gritted my teeth. That's because I am. Even though I wanted to growl at him and tell him off and 'kindly' ask him to stop his teasing, I couldn't dare a turn around. "A lot of guys tell me that. None of them mean it," I retorted, disguising my voice as well. This was familiar territory for me, having gone disguised in voice and body more than once. Self-trained by experience, I was doing rather well.
Until he grabbed my arm and sent a shockwave through my arm. I gasped, not from surprise, and turned around to face him. Not that he gave me much choice. He had a smug smirk on. "Think you're clever, Ever?" Mello asked me rhetorically. "Well, so am I."
"Not as clever as you think," I spat, jerking my arm away from his grasp. I didn't like the way it made me feel for him to be so close. Close enough that I could feel his breath on my face.
"Sure I'm not," he replied slowly, backing away a step when he noticed my contorted expression. I could see the way I looked to him, reflected in the brilliant blue eyes that had first caught my attention. Why had I turned around that day? Why did I have to notice the wonderful way they gleamed with mischief and intelligence in one?
"Oh, back off, Mello! We both know you're my pen pal, and you've already been declared the winner," I snapped angrily, mad at myself that I hadn't won. There was nothing I wanted more than to be L's successor. I always thought that if I was, I would be able to forget everything up until the moment I entered Wammy House, when everything became perfect. On the plus side, I would also be helping innocent people. It worked out for everyone—everyone besides, obviously, those who deserved it more that me.
Suddenly, I wasn't so furious at Mello. He competed against Near day after day, longer than I'd even been here. It was probably frustrating for him to lose to Near, to always be second place. To be ridiculed every time he lost to that boy, so infuriatingly small and smugly clever. I'd been angered by Near's seemingly effortless abilities as well, and tried to imagine that every day, five times as bad, on top of endless teasing.
The anger melted away completely, and I registered this surprisingly quick change in Mello's reflective eyes. One moment, beyond rage at myself and him, and the next, pitying and apologetic. He was unsure what to do about the change, not liking the sorrow in my eyes. "Ever?" Mello muttered. There was nothing else that he could say.
I shook my head, unfamiliar hair wiping my face. I didn't like the wig and I longed to take it off, but some stubborn part of me wanted to stay in disguise, hoping that when I took it off, this swarm of feelings that I felt towards Mello would disappear. The longing, the pity, and the curiosity to know him. It would all go away. I managed to convince myself this, so felt the feelings freely for these few moments.
"Mello, I'm sorry. Even if you're the winner, that gives me no right to lash out like that and—"
Unexpectedly, he heaved a sigh, mixed annoyance with disappointment. "I'm not the winner. There's a reason why the school's not in an uproar, and that's 'cause, once again, the amazing Near has managed to defeat me." Heavy sarcasm was in his tone when he continued, "Big. Whoop." He spoke the last words through clenched teeth, muffling them with undeniable rage. Maybe he hated Near more than I thought.
Suddenly, the disguise wasn't enough. I wanted to let it be me and Mello, without this stupid cosplay-outfit separating us, making us seem like strangers.
That thought struck me hard. Because we are strangers. I didn't know Mello, and he didn't know me. We wrote a letter or two back and forth, so what? We met once in a garden, exchanged a few words, had a couple classes together, but I knew nothing about him besides his allegiances and his place in the House. Nothing besides his name, and not even that. And he knew just as little about me. We were strangers, and there was no reason for the need to comfort him.
The disguise kicked back in. "That would be the day," I commented flatly.
Mello glared at me in disbelief. The reflective surface of his wonderfully blue eyes showed that my expression had changed once more to cold hard indifference. I looked as if my inner conflict had not taken place at all. So my acting abilities had yet to desert me. "Leave me alone," he growled, the fury towards Near replaced by fury and indecision towards me. He couldn't figure me out, I noted smugly, but then again, neither could I. We were even, neither of us knowing what went on with me.
"I could ask the same."
"I didn't want to be stalked."
"It was for my own purpose."
"Everything's for your own purpose! You're toying with me just to see how many reactions you can get by saying these things that don't make sense!"
I stared at him. A few others on the street did too but passed us off as a bickering, strange, cosplaying couple. At least Mello's skin-tight leather clothes matched me a bit. Not that I wanted to match him.
"You think that?" I mumbled quietly to myself. I felt my head droop a bit, my shoulders sag, and the intensity of the fight left me in those very words. Without looking back at him, I turned towards Wammy House. It was Sunday. I had the whole day to sleep away. Sleep sounded very good right about now. This throbbing headache would not do for tomorrow's lessons.
The stupid headache was making me hear voices. There's no way Mello would even be near me after this. I knew what he thought of me. He probably thought my words were true, and some of them were, but all the wrong ones. So I walked back to the orphanage for mentally gifted and dragged myself to Watari and Roger's office. Or at least, it was an office, but neither of theirs. It was just where, if you wanted one of them, they'd usually be there.
Watari was the one to call me in when I knocked. He noticed my atrocious outfit and expression but said nothing. "My pen pal is Mello," I said without a doubt. Though my voice was tired, it was certain.
He nodded. "Correct. Although you ware the fourth to answer, that was very clever. You answered before even the fourth and fifth placed, and you are sixth."
"I know how to count," I sighed drearily, ready to head back out.
"Ever?" Watari called before my hand was on the doorknob.
"Yes?" I replied, not turning around yet.
"I'm mentioning this because you do not seem in the best of moods, Ever," he said slowly. Slower than usual, at least. I turned the slightest bit, letting him know that he had my attention. "There is someone coming here in just a few moments. I'd like you to meet him."
I fully faced Watari now, eyebrows raised. "Why?"
He smiled; something he rarely ever did. "I'm sure you'd like to meet the person you may well someday replace."
My eyes widened.
Watari wants me to meet L?
My friends are in love with this story, so I decided to finally post it. I've been writing it for a while, but I realized that if I keep writing, my interests don't fail. :) So I bring you sтoяyьooк δυστυχία. The first word is storybook in fancy letters and the second word is Greek for misery or misfortune. I post chapter two when I finish chapter three, and three when I finish four, and so on. I'm not so sure about the length because the chapters are so long (about 18 pages on Word), so I'm taking a wild guess of around seven chapters or so, unless I think of something complicated and logical enough to keep a certain person alive. ;)