"Your cousin," Lucy said nervously. "Is your cousin a boy or a girl?" She looked over at him very intently. She had just had the most amazing, wonderful day of her entire life, and it had all been thanks to Kouta. But now she had to face the fact that Kouta was leaving tomorrow. She wouldn't even get to see him again because he was going to a festival with his cousin. And for some reason she was afraid that this cousin was a girl. She wasn't sure why it mattered to her, but it did. She just couldn't stand the idea of Kouta being close to another girl.
Kouta looked at his friend's crimson eyes and was surprised by the fear and intense feelings he saw there. Her sudden intensity scared him. Were girls just like this? Happy and content one moment and fearful the next? Except for his bratty little sister he really didn't spend much time with girls and really didn't get them. But even an eight year old could see the sudden panic on Lucy's face.
Seeing it scared him a little. His immediate instinct was to lie and just tell her that his cousin was a boy, that seemed the safest answer. But some other instinct warned him that a lie was not wise. He opened his mouth and blurted out his answer. "Yuka is a girl."
"Oh… I see," she looked down. Suddenly consumed by feelings of misery and loss.
In her head she heard a voice laughing. Oh how tragic! You're nothing special to him! Did you really think he cared about you?
Shut up! She screamed inside her mind.
What did you expect? He is just a human like all the rest. He could never do anything but betray you.
No! He's different! He's kind and he's nice, he would never do that!
The voice laughed, sounding especially amused. Then why is he taking this other girl to the festival? He doesn't care about you at all.
NO! She clenched her fists and bit back the sudden tears. Why did this hurt so bad? Why did it feel like her heart was tearing apart?
It hurts I know, the voice sympathized. Just kill him and you won't have to suffer anymore.
No, I will never hurt Kouta!
Kouta saw her body shake and he could hear the little sobs escape her even as she tried to smother them. It was only too plain she was upset. He didn't understand why she was upset, but it was clear he had to do something. He had given her the wrong answer and wound up hurting her, he had to make up for that. He reached out and took hold of one of her hands. "Why don't you come with us?"
His touch and the sound of his voice snapped her out of her own thoughts. "Wha… what?"
"Why don't you just come to the festival with me and my cousin?"
"But I thought you said…"
"Forget what I said before." He had told her that she couldn't come with him because he had made a promise to his cousin. That was still true, but he couldn't ignore her hurt feelings. "I know it will be much more fun if you're there, and I'm sure Yuka will be o.k. with it." He took hold of her other hands and looked at her pleadingly. "Please say you'll come."
He wants me to come to the festival with him! Her heart seemed to want to leap out of her chest. All the sorrow and disappointment of just a moment before melted away. She felt her face blush as she smiled back at him. "If… if you really want then I'll go." I knew Kouta liked me! But along with this realization came fear as she considered where her thoughts had been headed before the invitation. How could she even think of doing that to Kouta?! In that moment she made herself a solemn promise. No matter what happened in the future, even if he should hurt her, she would never hurt Kouta, no matter what!
"Kanae, make sure to stay close to me, all right?" She walked a few more steps without hearing an answer. "Kanae?" She turned around to find her little cousin had vanished. She looked about but here was no sign of her. Yuka wasn't worried, this was just a small local festival it was safe enough. Anyway I hope she gets lost, she's such a little brat! Sighing she continued to walk through the festival keeping an eye out for Kouta. They were supposed to have come here together from her house, she had even put on her kimono and gotten dressed up. But he had taken off and promised to meet her here. She was very upset that he had done that. He was leaving tonight and all she wanted was to spend as much time with him as she could.
"Yuka!" She heard a shout and turned towards that direction.
"Kouta?" She saw him and immediately felt glad. But then she noticed there was a little red haired girl standing next to him wearing a white shirt, red skirt, and blue hat. They both had cotton candy and seemed to be walking together. "Kouta where have you been?" She ran over, eager to get close to him. Just as she got near though someone grabbed her ankle and she fell on her face right in front of him. It hurt, and on top of that her nice white kimono was now dirty! She immediately began to cry.
"Your cousin sure is clumsy," the red haired girl said and took a bite of her cotton candy.
"I'm not clumsy!" A weeping Yuka said. "Someone grabbed my leg and tripped me!"
Kouta shook his head a bit as he helped her back up. "No one tripped you Yuka, you fell over your own feet."
"No I didn't! Someone tripped me!" Why was he being mean to her? Couldn't he see she was hurting?
He looked apologetic and took out a handkerchief from a pocket. "O.k., maybe someone did and I didn't see it, come on stop crying." He took the handkerchief and carefully wiped her face. His gentleness was enough to mollify her some and calm her down.
As Kouta was helping his cousin Lucy watched silently. Her very first impression of Yuka was that she was a sweet and needy girl with big adorable brown eyes and a really cute face.
She hated her on sight. If they'd been alone she'd have gladly ripped her apart. But she couldn't do anything that would ruin things with Kouta so she'd satisfied herself with just tripping her.
"But Kouta you promised to come here with just me tonight! You promised!" As soon as Kouta had introduced Lucy and explained that she would be joining them Yuka had become upset. "You're a liar!"
"I only promised that I would go to the festival with you tonight. But I expected Kanae would probably be with us too. I never said we'd be alone. Lucy is my special friend and since this is my last night I want her to be here too."
Yuka tried to argue but she knew she wasn't going to win. Meanwhile Lucy just stood there patiently listening as Kouta defended her. She never said a word but her eyes were locked on Yuka the entire time. The way the strange girl stared at her really scared Yuka. There was something inhuman in the way those red eyes looked at her.
In the end, despite all of her protests Yuka was left with the choice of either sharing this last night with Kouta and Lucy, or of going home by herself. Even being scared of Lucy she decided to stay. For most of the evening she wrapped herself around one of his arms, feeling safest only when she was as close to him as possible. Lucy was satisfied to walk hand in hand with Kouta for most of the evening.
They played a few games and went on a few rides and got some snacks. The two girls barely said a word to one another and it was left to Kouta to try and pay as much attention as he could to each. He really liked his cousin and he really liked his friend, he didn't want either of them to be unhappy.
Just as it was getting late and Kouta was thinking about having to go to the station the three of them passed a stall with something that caught his attention.
"Wow!" He said excitedly and pointed to a shiny toy robot. "A Gundam! It's so cool!"
The man handling the stand smiled down at the excited eight year old. "All you have to do is knock all six cups off the stand with a baseball and you get your choice of prize. But they all have to fall off the stand. It's 500 yen for three tosses."
Kouta quickly began digging through his pockets. He had started the day with plenty of cash from his dad, but most of it had been spent. He pulled out a few coins and counted them up. "Aw, I've only got 350 yen left!" He looked over to his cousin. "Yuka, could you lend me some? Please?"
"I'm sorry Kouta, but I don't have any money with me." Yuka said.
He sighed and took a last look at the Gundam. "Oh well." He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to see Lucy smiling at him.
"Hear Kouta, you can use this." In her hand she held a thick wad of notes. Kouta, Yuka, and even the man running the stall were shocked to see that most of the yen was in 10,000 and 20,000 and 50,000 denominations. This wasn't a little bit of play money like Kouta had been given. Lucy was holding a lot of cash.
"Wow!" Kouta said really impressed. "I've never seen so much money! Where'd you get it?"
I robbed it from all the people I murdered when I took over their houses. Since having to survive on her own she had quickly realized the importance of money. She froze for a second trying to think up a believable lie. I hate lies, but I can't tell him the truth. "My dad gave it to me; he's a really rich corporate executive who flies all over the world!" A rich father, that had seemed like the best and safest lie.
"That is so cool!" Kouta said, accepting her words without question.
Yuka frowned at her. "I don't believe you."
Lucy glared angrily at the annoying girl. Whether it was true or not she couldn't stand being called a liar in front of Kouta. Her vectors reached out in response to her anger. Lucy only just kept them from touching her.
"Don't call Lucy a liar!" Kouta said angrily. "She's my friend and she wouldn't lie about something like that. Apologize to her."
Yuka stuck out her lip and looked upset. "I won't! She is a liar I just know it!"
"Apologize or I won't ever play with you again!" Kouta said.
"But… but…" Yuka was crushed. "How can you take her side Kouta?"
"I'm not taking sides, but you can't call her a liar. Now apologize or I won't forgive you."
Her lip trembling she turned to Lucy and actually gave her a slight bow. "Please forgive me for calling you a liar."
Lucy nodded and managed to sounds sincere when she replied. "It's fine I forgive you." If we were alone right now…
With that settled Kouta took one of the smaller notes from Lucy and gave it to the man. He in turn handed over three baseballs as well as a good bit of change. There were six stands in front of him each with six cups formed in a loose pyramid. Kouta fired away as hard as he could. Each time he would hit and send a bunch of the cups flying, but two or three always managed to stay on the stand. He spent 1,500 yen of Lucy's money and tossed a total of nine baseballs, but each time he failed to knock them all over. He looked at his watch and then looked back up at the Gundam.
"It's getting late I guess we should go," he said.
Lucy took a 500 yen coin and handed it to the man. "Try just one more Kouta; I know you'll definitely get it."
The man accepted the coin and handed Kouta three more baseballs.
"Well, o.k., but these are the last three." He reared back and tossed the first ball as hard as he could. When it left his hand he was sure he'd thrown it a little high. But to his delight it went straight at the middle cup on the bottom row, and this time all six cups flew leaving the table clear. Seeing that he pumped his fist in the air and let loose a shout of joy.
"Yeah Kouta! I knew you could do it!" Lucy cried out. She would have much rather seen him get his prize on his own. But she had no problem giving him a helping hand if he needed it.
Yuka was also happy for him and cheered. But there was something strange with the way Lucy had told him he would get it on his next toss. It was somehow almost supernatural, like she was a witch or something.
Not long after that the three of them had run into Yuka's father who had Kouta's little sister in tow. She was a cute little girl who had a giant plush rabbit. She made an impression on Lucy by sticking her tongue out at her. Yuka's father would be taking Kouta and Kanae directly to the train station where their father would meet them.
As they were leaving the festival Kouta drew Lucy a little ways apart.
"Let me say goodbye to you here, since Yuka will probably get mad if you come with us to the station."
"Ah, well, all right." She looked at him sadly. "So this is really goodbye?" She'd only known him for a couple of weeks. But in that little sliver of time she'd known more happiness than she had in her whole miserable life. He was the one and only person who had ever been truly, genuinely kind to her.
She didn't know exactly what the feelings he caused in her were, but she thought they mighty be love. She really thought she might love him. And now he was leaving her forever.
He smiled at her. "It's only goodbye for now. We'll be back again next summer. Let's meet at our usual place on the first Sunday in June around sunset. Let's make a promise." He held his pinky out to her.
She had never actually made a pinky promise with anyone before, but she'd seen other kids do it. She wrapped her pinky around his. "On the first Sunday of June at sunset I will be at our usual place, I promise."
He smiled at her confidently. "You can't break the promise or you'll get a thousand needles in your eye." He put his arms around her and pulled her into a sudden fierce hug. "We'll definitely play together again next summer."
"Yes, yes we will," she whispered. His hug was wonderful. It made her feel warm and secure. But much too soon it was over. He gave her a last friendly wave and was then running away to catch up to his family. She could only stand there and watch as he left.
I am going to see Kouta again next summer, on the first Sunday in June. For the first time in her life she suddenly had a dream. There was a goal in her life for the very first time. Before this all she had ever concentrated on was surviving from day to day. But now finally she had something she truly wanted and was willing to work towards. I want to be with Kouta.
And as she realized just how important that dream was to her, her wistful smile melted away, she would have to survive for the next eleven months on her own if she was going to keep her promise. I will definitely see Kouta again no matter what it takes. Even if I have to kill a thousand humans to make it happen I will, nothing is going to keep me from being with him!
And inside her mind there was happy laughter.