A/N: I'm normally not a fan of AUs, but when I was in the car Coldplay's Yellow came on and I was struck with an idea.
"Why am I doing this again?"
"Because this is beneficial to your education, and it'll look great on your college applications."
"College isn't for another two years…"
"Naminé, we haven't been saving all these years for nothing, and it's a little too late to be arguing about this."
The blonde huffed in frustration and crossed her arms stubbornly, her pale blues glaring out the window. Her mother shook her head and turned around to face the front.
"Your mother's right, Naminé," Her father added, "And aren't you excited to see your cousin?"
She sighed, relaxing her arms. "Of course I am - I hardly see Kairi." She only saw her cousin once or twice a year, but they frequently kept in touch by email.
"Well, you should be happy then," Her mother said, "You'll be spending the year with her."
The car took a right turn, and the open fields eventually transformed into estates with sizes that rivaled shopping malls. All of them were sealed in with tall gates and brick walls. Naminé pressed her nose against the window, staring up at the intricate manors - McMansions, she thought wryly - with her mouth slightly parted in awe. She knew Kairi was well off, but this?
"What exactly do Uncle and Auntie do?" She asked, her eyes still glued to the passing mansions.
"Oh, they own and manage a company." Her father replied nonchalantly, "Something that has to do with computers, I think?"
"No, no," Her mother interjected, "They make and sell car parts."
"Actually, I think they have something to do with the bank…" Her father trailed off, releasing one hand from the wheel to scratch the back of his head.
"Forget I asked…" Naminé muttered, throwing herself back against her chair and shaking her head. The car wheeled into a long cobblestone driveway that lead to a tall, wrought-iron gate. Kairi's family crest was emblazoned at the top in gold. Beyond the gate sat a large McMansion, probably one of the largest in the entire neighbourhood.
"State your name and purpose, please." A male voice emerged from the side; there was a small intercom nailed to the beige brick wall. Naminé's father rolled down his window and poked his head out to speak to it.
"Jin, Ayame and Naminé Hinomoto," He said plainly, "Naminé's staying with her aunt and uncle for the school year."
"Ah," The person replied almost immediately, "Yes, they have been expecting you. "Come right in."
The gate opened slowly and dramatically, and the car moved forward. The road was lined with tall sakura trees; each branch was mottled with delicate, white-pink blossoms, and some were fluttering onto the bright green grass. Flower beds of different sizes, shapes and kinds were planted all over the place; Naminé wondered if they made some sort of picture if she was able to see it from a birds' eye view. The mansion looked like a restoration of an old Victorian manor; it was covered in large milky beige bricks with, long, thin windows, and the roof had black shingles. The path opened up into a two-way roundabout; there was a large fountain in the centre that reminded her of one of those ancient Roman sculptures. She figured that the second path led to the garage. When her father stopped the car at the front, two men dressed in black tuxedos and matching black bow ties were waiting for them.
"My name is Takai. I'll take your car to the garage for you," One of them said; he looked young, possibly in his late twenties. "Geoffrey here will assist you with your belongings."
Geoffrey looked like he was in his mid-forties; there was a kind, genuine smile on his face. He opened the door for Naminé and her mother and helped them out of the car. "I trust you'll be enjoying your stay, Miss Naminé."
The blonde flushed as Geoffrey and her father circled the car towards the trunk. "I'll try." She mumbled shyly. She felt her mother's hand on her shoulder and she glanced up at her. "Mom…"
"Don't worry, Naminé," Her mother smiled down at her, "I'm pretty sure you'll love it here." She gestured towards the grand Victorian mansion. "How can you not? This looks like it was taken straight out of a fairytale!"
"Right, looks like we've got all of them," Geoffrey spoke up; he was wheeling two of Naminé's bags towards the stone steps, "Let's press on, shall we?"
The shiny, mahogany double doors that lead them into the mansion was twice Naminé's height. Geoffrey pushed one door open and gestured inside, letting Naminé and her mother in first. The blonde thanked him timidly and shuffled inside.
The foyer was even more amazing than the outside; right in front there was a grand marble staircase with black iron banisters. The floors were shiny, marble and polished, and the walls were a soft, delicate yellow. There were expensive looking paintings, sculptures and other forms of art decor everywhere. Above their heads hung an elaborate crystal chandelier.
"Why haven't we been here before?" Naminé asked her mother skeptically.
"Oh, your Uncle and Auntie may be wealthy, but they're very modest." She replied casually, and Naminé raised an eyebrow - the foyer did not look very modest at all.
"Welcome, welcome!" A middle-aged man with thinning hair walked into the foyer from some other room to the side with his arms spread out. His eyes were a pale blue, like Naminé's and her father's. "Jin, brother, so glad to see you! And Ayame, looking lovely as always."
"Ryo," Her father greeted, pulling the man into a one-armed hug, "It's been too long."
"Thank you again for letting us do this," Her mother smiled gratefully, "I know Naminé will love it here."
"No need to be thankful, Ayame - family's always first! Ah, Naminé," Ryo approached the blonde and pressed his large hands on her shoulders, "Are you excited for your new school? You should be - Brighton Academy is known for its exquisite education."
"Is that Naminé?" A woman with billowing auburn hair approached them from behind Ryo; her eyes were kind, like her smile. "Oh, you've grown so big - you're beginning to look a lot like your mother. Beautiful."
Naminé flushed in embarrassment and gripped the hem of her sundress. She really did not know what her Aunt meant by you've grown so big; personally she thought she was puny. "T-thank you, Auntie Midori." She stammered, her gaze stuck to the floor.
"Naminé!" A high, ringing voice echoed through the wide foyer, and the blonde immediately jerked upwards at the mention of her name. Kairi was rushing down the stairs, eager to greet her cousin. She leapt into Naminé's arms and crushed her affectionately with her own. "You're here!" Her voice was muffled against Naminé's hair.
The blonde giggled and pulled away from her favourite cousin, her smile wide. "I'm happy to see you too, Kairi."
"She's been waiting for you," Ryo chuckled, "She wouldn't stop talking about your arrival for weeks. At least now she has some company - she gets so bored at home."
"That's right," Kairi grinned, taking Naminé by the hand, "With you around things here will definitely be more exciting. C'mon, I'll show you to your room!"
"See, Naminé? Things won't be so bad after all." Her mother bent down to pull her into a hug. "Call us whenever you can, but make sure to call after your first day of school!"
"Which is tomorrow," Her father added, and Naminé's nervousness returned. He chuckled and ruffled his daughter's hair. "I know you'll do alright. Keep your head high."
"I know I don't need to say this, but try and behave yourself." Her mother straightened up. "You run along with Kairi now."
Naminé felt the corners of her eyes stinging, and she released Kairi's hand to hug both of her parents. "I'll miss you both."
"We'll miss you too," Her father's hand was gently patting the top of her head. "But we know that this is for the best. You'll do fine." His head turned towards the door. "Well, we best be going now. It'll be a long drive back."
"Leaving so soon?" Ryo sighed and pushed his hands into the pockets of his blazer. "Well, it was nice seeing you both again. Be sure to stop by whenever you can!"
"You know you're always welcome here." Midori smiled.
"Bye Mom, Dad." Naminé sniffled as she reluctantly released her hold on her parents. She returned to Kairi's side. "I'll remember to call." She waved at her parents until they disappeared behind the mahogany door.
"Geoffrey, be sure to bring Naminé's bags to her room as soon as you can," Ryo then turned to face Naminé, who was still staring at the front doors. "And Naminé, you can drive, right?"
Naminé flushed again. "Erm, no," She admitted sheepishly, "I only have my learner's permit."
"Oh, that's alright," Ryo smiled, "Kairi still has her learner's permit too. When you get your license, however, tell me." Naminé was going to ask what he meant by that, but he began to walk back to the room he came from, and Midori moved to follow him. "We'll leave you two alone now, since Kairi seems very eager to show you your room."
The blonde bowed respectfully. "T-thank you for letting me stay, Uncle Ryo and Auntie Midori. I'm very grateful...really, I am."
"Please, Naminé, you know you don't have to do that. You're family." Midori replied softly.
"Oh, stop stalling already!" Kairi grabbed Naminé's hand again and yanked her towards the staircase. Behind them Kairi's parents burst out in laughter.
"Don't break her, Kairi!" Ryo's voice echoed from below as his daughter proceeded to drag the poor blonde up the stairs. Kairi was pulling her cousin down so many doors and hallways; Naminé's head was spinning by the time they reached their destination.
"Your room's right beside mine," Kairi grinned, jerking her thumb over to the adjacent door, "So I won't be too far away." She lightly pushed Naminé forward. "Well, go on - go see your new room!"
The blonde did not understand why Kairi was so excited, but she shrugged it off and reached for the brass handle. When she stepped into her room for the first time, her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.
"Wow," Was the only word she managed to choke out.
Her new room was twice as big as her room back home; the floors were covered with plush white carpet and the walls were painted a soft baby blue. There was a wide window on the opposite wall with a long white couch running along the bottom. Her bed was huge too, with a black iron frame and an overhang with silky white sheets sweeping over the sides and the front; nightstands flanked either side of the bed. A polished wooden desk sat by the other wall, occupied by a shiny, expensive looking computer; a bookshelf sat beside it.
"Bathroom and closet are over there," Kairi nodded over to the white doors on the left. She walked forward, towards the wall with the wide window. "Come here."
Still shocked over the perfection of her new room, Naminé stumbled forward, nearly tripping over her own feet. Kairi was pointing towards a white doorframe.
"I picked everything out myself," The redhead said proudly, "And I made sure this was added too! What are you waiting for? Walk in!"
"Aw, Kairi…" Naminé felt the tears return to her eyes as she walked into the smaller room; the floors here were simple maple paneling, and the walls were a stark white. There was an easel sitting by the small window, and a black drafting table sat against the right wall. There were some empty shelves along the opposite wall, probably for the art supplies sitting on the floor.
"I dunno how you like to organize your supplies, so I kinda left it on the floor for you." Kairi scratched her head, "I didn't want-oof!"
Naminé had launched herself right into Kairi, encircling her arms around her cousin's waist and burying her face into her shoulder. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" She cried happily, "You really didn't have to do any of this - I'm already being enough of a burden by staying here."
"Burden? Is that what you call yourself these days?" Kairi held her cousin out at arms' length. "You're my favourite cousin, Nami - I just want you to be comfortable here. You're not a burden at all."
"I really owe you for this," Naminé mumbled, letting go of Kairi and crouching over her new art supplies, "These are all top quality brands too…"
A shuffling sound was heard from the main room and Kairi turned towards the doorframe. "Oh, Geoffrey just dropped off your stuff. Looks like you've got a lot of unpacking to do - need some help?"
Naminé stood up and smiled, nodding her head. "Yes, that would be nice, thank you."
Both girls went straight to work, unloading Naminé's clothes and putting them in their right places. She surprisingly had a lot of clothes, but she never really wore most of them.
"You didn't have to bring so much, you know - you'll be wearing a school uniform most of the time anyway. Is your favourite colour white?" Kairi held up a white t-shirt and a pair of white capris. "'Cause most of your wardrobe's white."
"White isn't a colour, Kairi." Naminé teased as she approached her walk-in closet with a pile of pale coloured clothing.
"Whatever, you know what I'm trying to say. What is your favourite colour then, if white isn't one?"
"Hm," Naminé absently twirled her finger around a lock of hair as she shoved her clothes into one of the cubby holes, "I think it'd have to be between blue and yellow."
"Blue...I can see that. Yellow, huh?" Said Kairi's voice from outside, "Suits you, I guess." Naminé returned to the main room to see her cousin rifling through more shirts. "So are you gonna miss your old high school?"
"Not really," Naminé replied as she bent over to pick up a few sneakers, "I never really made friends, and you know - first year's always so nerve wracking. I was too concentrated on my schoolwork to socialize."
"Nobody from your elementary? Junior high?"
"Nope," Naminé's lips made a popping sound when she pronounced the second syllable, "But it's never bothered me. The kids at school were kinda weird anyway."
"Ah," Kairi nodded in understanding, "But I'm sure you'll make new friends here, which reminds me; I have to introduce you to my boyfriend!"
The blonde froze, just as she was about to walk back to her closet. "Boyfriend?" She echoed, surprised. She always thought of Kairi as the type who thought she was too good for boys. "You didn't mention that in your last email."
"We've only been going out for a couple months, but I've known him for, like, ever." The redhead grinned, "His name's Sora. You'll see him tomorrow. See, now you have another guaranteed friend - besides me, of course."
"I hope he likes me," Naminé mumbled.
Kairi laughed. "I'm pretty sure he will; I've told him all about you!"
"What's he like?"
"He's very sweet and thoughtful - oh, and caring too!" Kairi's voice sounded very faraway, like she was daydreaming. "A little on the naïve side, though, and maybe a bit of a wimp - I've kicked his butt twice."
The blonde giggled as she pushed her shoes into the shelves. "Doesn't sound like your type, to be honest."
"Oh yeah, totally," Kairi agreed as she walked into the closet, her arms laden with Naminé's clothes, "But that's just the way things work, I guess. What about you? How's your love life?"
"Non-existent," Naminé replied dully, tugging on her hair, "Never really had the time, and like I said, the people back home are kinda weird."
Kairi sighed as she reached for the hangers. "Well, that's obviously going to change."
"W-what?" Naminé spun around to face her cousin, her eyes wide.
"One good thing about Brighton," Kairi leaned in and lowered her voice, though there was really nobody around to hide anything from, "The boys are quite...delectable."
Naminé snorted. "You say that as if they're good enough to eat."
"Would I lie to you?" Kairi laughed, returning to the clothes.
The rest of the afternoon was easy; Kairi was very chatty and cheerful throughout the entire time they stocked up Naminé's closet, and she offered to take the blonde on a tour of the house. There were so many rooms - there was a gym, a mini-theatre, an indoor swimming pool, a library bigger than the public one back home, a tearoom, at least five drawing rooms and around fifteen guest bedrooms. Even after the tour, however, Naminé was sure she was going to get lost tomorrow morning. She was thankful Kairi's room was right beside hers.
Time passed quickly when she had someone to spend it with, and before Naminé knew it, it was time for dinner. The dining room was huge, with a high ceiling, a crystal chandelier, and tall windows lining the walls. The table was long, polished and made of dark wood. The chair Naminé sat in was so comfortable she would have taken a nap in it. The food was amazing too - all gourmet, of course - and was served in five courses. Kairi had to show her what a salad fork looked like.
"I hope you like your room, Naminé," Midori said after sipping from her wine, "Kairi prepared everything."
"Yes, I love it," The blonde smiled, "And the studio...that was a nice surprise. I really don't know how to thank you for all of this."
Besides forgetting to place the napkin on her lap and not really knowing what Kairi meant when she said to work your way in, dinner went smoothly. The girls decided to spend their last summer evening in the mini-theatre, watching television and listening to music. By quarter to midnight they decided it was time to call it a day.
"You'll love school," Kairi promised her as they paused by their respective doors, "Maybe not the schoolwork, but school in general, you will love. I thought it was gonna be full of snobs and shallow girls, but I was proved wrong."
Naminé laughed softly, reaching for the door handle. "I'll take your word on that." She covered her mouth with the back of her hand, suppressing a yawn. "'Night, Kairi. See you in the morning."
"'Night, Nami." The redhead waved once before closing her door.
The long car ride, unpacking, walking all over the mansion and the various eating utensils tired Naminé out; she trudged to her closet, grabbing a pair of plaid short shorts and a pale blue tank top before heading to the bathroom to clean up for bed. The queen sized mattress was impossibly soft; it seemed to sigh under her weight as she clambered onto it. She poked her pillows and realized with glee that they were down.
You'll love school, Kairi's words were repeating themselves in Naminé's head as she pulled the white sheets over herself. She knew Kairi would not lie to her, but for some reason she felt like she leaving a few things out.
Nah, her conscience disagreed, You're probably just nervous 'cause it'll be your first day at a new school with people you've never met.
That was partially true; at least back home she was familiar with everyone, sort of. She shrugged it off, realizing that if she thought about it any more she would not be able to get any sleep, and pressed her flaxen head against the soft pillows. The heaviness of sleep conquered her easily, and Naminé was out in an instant.
Tomorrow would be the day her new life started; hopefully it would be more exciting than her last one.