"First love is only a little foolishness and a lot of curiosity." - George Bernard Shaw
It seemed as if, all of a sudden, I didn't have time to myself anymore. A few days after the storm, Masuyo had visited and brought along a few snobby people interested in buying my paintings, drawings, or whatever I had; although all they did was criticize my furniture and the tea that Satsuki had served (luckily she didn't hear that), talk about their rich lives and how fine they were; they didn't even buy anything of mine and swore that they would recommend me to other people. I wouldn't hold my breath to that. Masuyo also reminded me that the new exhibit opening party was coming up, which he hinted that I had to come. Along with a date, which he made it seem mandatory. Whatever.
That guy, Shigure, came once, which he had brought Tohru, some guy with orange hair, and the little girl that hung out with the sandy-haired kid, along with a serious looking teenage girl with short black hair and quite an outfit who marched straight to the punk kid without even a look in my direction. I was torn between staying in my room, away from that guy mostly, and staying down stairs to spend time with Tohru. Luckily, he only wanted to talk with Akito, which she didn't look at all happy with. I was more than shocked when I figured out that Tohru was dating someone, more specifically, the orange-haired kid (the hand-holding and a peck on the cheek was more than an adequate sign for me to figure out), but I didn't say anything. I needed some time to process that information. My cousin had truly grown up, and it only reminded me how much I missed it, and how much I missed Kyoko and Katsuya. I should probably go to their graves soon.
As if all the surprise visits, helping Tsukimoto out cleaning his shop because his front windows were smashed from the storm, working, occasionally babysitting Hinata, and then working on commissions for other people weren't enough, my room isn't even a private place anymore!
The first time it happened, waking up with Akito's head resting on my shoulder the morning after the storm, it freaked me out, but didn't say anything because I thought it would just be one time, which I could understand because that night was stressful. She had seemed surprised as well as embarrassed about it, even after I told her that it was fine because of that night. I was just as surprised on the second time it happened. By the time the fifth morning came around, I was somewhat used to it. It was still uncomfortable because I would have refused if I could, if I had been coherent, but knowing I couldn't refuse even if I was (something about refusing a strained woman just makes me feel guilty), well, I'll just put it that I didn't mind it in a mindful way. It was now officially a straight week this had happened, and it was on the border of it being either absolutely ridiculous or strangely comfortable. I shouldn't hope to wake up to this every morning, but those thoughts still linger in the very back corner of my mind. Having a soft, warm presence next to me at night was something I hadn't thought I missed, but why me? She could call whoever she wanted, or she could choose someone else to comfort her. I am hardly the capable guy of easing whatever shadow she was carrying around.
By then, I had learned to keep a camera in my bedside drawers, just for that kind of morning. I carefully got out of my bed and started taking pictures. She just looked so peaceful, and soft. When she was asleep, her guard was completely down, and she looked more vulnerable. It was something that I had never seen in anyone, and I felt the need to record it, as much of it as I could, so I could replicate it later on canvas or on paper. She even had this alluring expression, sighing softly as she buried the side of her face into the pillow, and parting her lips before her eyes fluttered open.
"What the hell?" I squeaked, bolting up from the bed, dragging the blanket to cover myself from the camera. If I was any louder, someone would have woken up, and I definitely didn't want anyone to wake up to see that I was in Hitsoku's bed. Again. I thought he was an artist, not a photographer! What was he doing with a camera?
Hitsoku faltered and stuttered, trying to find some way to say whatever he was trying to say. "Well, you see, I, um, well, er, how do I say this?"
"I don't care what your reason is, give me the camera." I hold out my arm expectedly. "Now."
"What?" Hitsoku chuckled. "No."
"What do you mean, 'no'? Give me the camera, right now."
"No way am I giving you my camera. Do you know how expensive this is?"
"Then give me the memory card."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because you're a pervert who took pictures of me while I was asleep!"
His face turned bright red, and he didn't deny it, but he did have a retort. "Says the woman who's sneaked into my bed every night for a week now."
"I didn't sneak into your bed! You gave me permission." That was half a lie. Every night, late into the night, I snuck over to his room and woke him up to ask him if I could sleep over, and he did let me, but he continually mistook me for "Umeko."
"I don't remember any of that."
"Because you were too drowsy, now give me the memory card." I started to get out of the bed, and he started rushing to his ladder to the attic. "Oh, no you don't." Unfortunately, I was too slow and he made it to his studio with the door closed, and locked it. "Get back down here, you coward."
Why the hell did he want those pictures? Why wouldn't he just delete them?
Hitsoku's phone rang by his bedside. When it continued to ring, it was obvious that Hitsoku hadn't installed a phone in his studio. I didn't want anyone else to wake up yet, so I took the call, doing my best to mask my irritation. "Hello, Hitsoku-san can't come to the phone right now, but I can take a message."
"Is this Akito-chan?"
"Yes, is this Masuyo-san?"
"Oh, good. I most wanted to talk to you."
When I was sure that Akito had left my room, I came down and immediately locked my door. Just in case. I then saw the note on my bedside table, and groaned. Apparently, the call Akito had taken was from Masuyo, telling me that the party was tonight. I had totally forgotten about it, and had also forgotten to prepare for it. Luckily, I had all day and an address book.
"I didn't know you owned a suit!" Satsuki gushed. Honestly, this was the only suit I owned, and I wore it every time I needed it. I never bothered to buy another one because I almost never wore a suit anyway. "And your tie knot is so fancy! It looks like a bamboo shoot." On a whim I looked up different ways of tying a tie, which was about as easy as folding origami—it took a few tries, but I got it down as neat as I could.
"Thank you. I'm glad you approve," I said, only because I didn't know how else to reply. When there was a knock at my door, I took the chance to excuse myself to answer it. "Ah, Masuyo-san. Welcome." I bowed respectfully to him and his two lovely companions. This guy could talk any woman to hang out with him for the night. They were attractive in their own right too. "So, are we ready to go?"
Masuyo looked around behind me. "Where is Akito-chan?"
"You mean Sohma-san? Why would she come?"
"Because I'm your date tonight," she said from the top of the stairs coming down. I looked to her and my eyes bulged out of their sockets. She wore a dress that new how to hug her body in certain areas, and was loose in other areas to keep a man guessing. It was honestly sexy in a modest fashion.
My face turned red, and I didn't know how to react, until I remembered that I already had a date. "My date? What? But I have a date."
"What?" Akito and Masuyo belted out. "Since when?" Akito was immediately at my side with a furious expression.
"Since a couple hours ago when I called her."
"You called her at the last minute?" Masuyo asked, sounding ashamed.
"Well, when did you decide to become my date? And why?" I asked Akito pointedly. She didn't even ask me.
"When Masuyo-san called this morning, when you ran up in your attic. And you know why." She narrowed her eyes even more when she stated the last sentence.
It was revenge for this morning.
"Well I can't cancel on her at the last minute, since I called her at the last minute."
"That's fine," Masuyo stated with a sly smile. "They'll both be your dates tonight."
"What?" I stated. I may not have been great with women—OK, I was probably terrible with women—but it doesn't take someone savvy to know that taking two women around your arm was a bad idea. Especially when one was already pissed at you. This was going to be a long, long night.
"Isn't it a very curious thing that St. Patrick drove teh snakes out of Ireland an' the English brought in the fleas." - Frank McCourt; Angela's Ashes