You live your life in the songs you hear
On the rock 'n' roll radio.
Aoko paid no attention to the teacher as she hummed along to the J-pop in her headphones. Instead she doodled grins on her paper: happy grins, secretive grins, angry grins, lonely grins, grins of every kind. No one else in the classroom watched her, which was fine. She didn't watch them, either. It was a sort of agreement: Aoko listened to music and didn't yell or scream, and the teachers and students pretended she didn't exist. Some people thought that it was sad how no one seemed to care about the quiet girl, but she just smiled at them and kept humming. They'd learned from the earlier incidents.
And when a young girl doesn't have any friends
That's a really nice place to go.
On the first day of high school, Aoko ate lunch alone. She sat in a corner of the classroom and listened to music on her headphones—the fourth pair. The first three had been confiscated. She joined the class again when the lunch period was over, but it was with half-lidded eyes.
On the second day of high school, Aoko ate lunch with people that only she could see. The rest of the class watched her corner of the room not so subtly as she interacted with her imaginary friends. Some snickered, some shook their heads in pity, some simply ignored her. Regardless to their murmured remarks, Aoko leaned back into the embrace of a dark-haired boy, visible and tangible only to her.
On the third day of high school, Aoko's lunch was interrupted. Keiko, one of the girls who had been snickering at her antics the previous day, strode up to her and asked if she was trying to get attention because it was a pretty juvenile way of doing so. Aoko didn't look up, though, too engrossed in her music and the smirking comments of a red-haired girl at her side.
Keiko quickly found herself the focus of sniggered conversations across the room. Face burning in humiliation, she snatched Aoko's headphones off her ears and demanded that she listen.
Folks hoping you'd turn out cool
But they had to take you out of school.
Aoko's eyes widened as the redheaded witch and blue-eyed magician disappeared. She looked up at Keiko in horror. Keiko blinked as the girl's attention focused solely on her, but smirked to regain face in the eyes of her classmates. She held the headphones away from Aoko and repeated her first question, expecting an equally juvenile "Give those back!"
Instead, she got a face full of screaming, sobbing, clawing Aoko. Keiko backpedaled frantically to get away from the hysterical girl, but Aoko followed her and ran her nails down the brunette's face, pulling the glasses away and smashing them underfoot. The teacher and other students grabbed Aoko and pulled her away although Keiko was left breathless and severely worse for wear. Aoko managed to recover her headphones again in the skirmish, subsiding as soon as they were replaced over her ears.
Later, when her father picked her up from school, the teacher and students agreed to leave the quiet girl alone in the future. It was an implicit compromise, never voiced, but Aoko silently agreed and kept away from the socialites through the rest of that year and the year after that.
You're a little touched, you know,
The bell rang, just barely audible over the beat in Aoko's ears, pulling her from her thoughts. She put away her notebook and pencil and drifted to her next class to repeat the process. It didn't matter what the class was. It wasn't important, anyway.
At the final bell, Aoko gathered her things and started home. She walked with her face upturned and continued to ignore everyone else with the single exception of buying dinner at a vendor's. The way wasn't long, but it took her through some back streets where she could watch the clouds without the impeding skyscrapers. They weren't that interesting; she only looked because it gave her something to do while the music played.
Aoko quietly let herself into the apartment she shared with her father. He hadn't yet arrived home from the police station. She had seen him in action occasionally but found herself unimpressed.
She headed upstairs to her room.
Lovers appear in your room each night
And they whirl you across the floor.
Akako stood from her bed as Aoko closed the door behind her to give her a welcome-home hug, removing Aoko's book bag as she pulled away. Aoko smiled at her and turned to Kaito, who waved from his reclined position on the floor, white suit brilliant in the afternoon sun. He twisted and flipped onto his feet in the way that only he could. Aoko extended an arm, inviting an embrace that he gladly gave.
Akako knelt on the bed near the headboard. "How was school today?" she asked.
Aoko shrugged out of her jacket and sat cross-legged with her back to Akako, who began brushing her hair. Aoko shook her head in response to the question.
Kaito bounced onto the bed in front of them and grinned sympathetically. "That boring, huh? You want us to come with you tomorrow?"
Aoko smiled at him and ruffled his hair, a silent 'Thanks, but no.' Kaito shrugged easily in response and flopped down so he was lying across Aoko's lap.
They stayed like that for a while, Aoko's headphones providing a tinny backdrop to the scene. Kaito finally sat up and stole Aoko's mp3 player. Before she could even glare at him, he snapped his fingers and the radio turned on. J-pop pulsed through the room, leading Akako to smirk at Kaito.
"Shall we dance?"
Kaito laughed and grabbed one of Aoko's arms while Akako snagged the other. Together, they pulled Aoko off the bed and spun around her room. Akako tugged Aoko away from Kaito and danced with her, causing the magician to pout. He stood back, though, while Aoko and Akako waltzed away. Aoko smiled at Akako as the next upbeat song began and slipped to Kaito, who pulled her into a complex quickstep routine that utilized the walls and ceiling almost as much as the floor. Aoko was beaming by the time he set her down, a fine sheen of sweat glistening across her skin, and she stepped back to catch her breath. Akako approached Kaito, who bowed elegantly and pulled her into a cut-time salsa dance, contrasting with the slower beat of the music. Akako laughed and moved with him while Aoko watched from the bed.
She got up again a few songs later and Akako and Kaito danced around her in an adaptation of the tango. Aoko smiled happily at them as they led her around her room, enjoying the feel of them against her.
But they always seem to fade away
When your daddy taps on the door.
They broke apart in surprise as knocking sounded outside the room. Aoko felt the magician and witch pull away and disappear.
"Angie, girl, are you alright?
Tell the radio goodnight."
"Aoko?" her father called from the other side of the door. He opened it and grimaced at the noise in the room. "Turn that down, would you?"
Aoko obliged and the music dropped to a more manageable level. She tilted her head in question, idly realizing that dark had fallen outside.
"Did you have dinner yet?" he asked. Aoko nodded, so he continued, "Alright. Finish up any homework you've got and go to bed." Aoko looked away but nodded again.
Ginzo Nakamouri hesitated for a moment more at the door before stepping in and giving his daughter a soft kiss on the forehead. "I love you. Good night."
Aoko smiled back at him, and he walked out. He turned off the radio on the way.
Aoko turned, put on her pajamas, fell into bed and curled up on her side.
All alone once more,
The silence from the radio echoed through her room, emphasizing its emptiness. Aoko huddled herself into a tighter ball to fend off the loneliness.
You're a special lady.
Living in a world of make believe
The next morning, Aoko got up and put on her headphones. The J-pop drowned out the twittering birds, and she turned to find Akako rummaging through her closet.
"This one looks nice. What do you think, Kaito?" Akako's skirt twirled as she held up a tank top and skirt combo for his inspection.
Kaito tapped his lip from his seat in the windowsill. "Looks nice, but I don't know if they'll let her wear it at school."
Akako waved a hand negligently. "Oh, those teachers never bother our dear Aoko anymore. She'll be fine." She held the clothes against Aoko's body to gauge their fit. "These'll do."
Aoko smiled at her and took the clothes from her arms. She turned away from the two and headed off to change in the bathroom.
"Don't forget your medicine, Aoko!" he father called from downstairs. The front door slammed shut, sending vibrations through the apartment.
Aoko hummed along with the melody in her ears as she trotted down the stairs to the kitchen. Akako was already sitting on the counter and Kaito had entertained himself by juggling her pills down the drain. Akako giggled and pulled down a bowl and cereal while Aoko gathered the milk and a spoon. Kaito picked up all four, tossed them behind his back, and handed a prepared bowl of cereal to Aoko.
Aoko smiled at them as they chattered to her and each other while she ate. Her heart ached.
Another eight long hours before she could see them again.
Stopping at her house is a neighbor boy
With evil on his mind.
"I just transferred from London Bridge School. My name is Saguru Hakuba."
The detective largely ignored the girls that swooned at his appearance, noting only those who seemed most likely to turn stalker on him. It was an issue he'd dealt with before, usually when he visited his father, so he knew what to look for.
Most notable was the brunette with pigtails and glasses. She looked like she was plotting an ambush while the girl to her left couldn't care less.
The teacher let Saguru choose his seat, so he picked the one that left a messy-haired girl between him and the more fanatical one. To Saguru's mild surprise the girl didn't so much as glance at him as he sat down. And weren't headphones against the school code?
"You shouldn't bother with her," the boy behind him muttered. At the front of the room, the teacher began the lesson. "She's strange; doesn't talk to anyone. Just ignore her."
Saguru leaned back so he could talk with the boy without getting caught out. "Why isn't the teacher taking away the headphones? She can't be paying attention; I can hear the music from here."
"The last time someone took off her headphones, she flipped out. Screaming, kicking, the whole nine yards until she got them back. The teachers figure it's just not worth it to take them away."
Saguru nodded and thanked him for the information before bringing his focus back to the class. The girl's silence had his curiosity piqued, though.
And Saguru was a detective. His curiosity was always satisfied eventually.
'Cause he's been peeking in Angie's room
At night through the window blinds.
Saguru spent the next few weeks discreetly investigating Aoko Nakamouri. All of the students basically repeated the first boy's explanation, and the teachers only cemented it.
"Miss Nakamouri is a special case."
"We don't talk to her. She's so weird."
"You should have seen her when they took away her mp3 player. I've got a couple of beta fish; even when I put them in the same tank, they weren't as scary as she was."
"I feel kind of bad for her. I don't think she's had a friend since first grade, when she started talking about Kid the Phantom Thief."
"She just sits there, all day, listening to music. I tried talking to her once, and she just ignored me."
"Kid the Phantom Thief? Yes, I remember her telling us about him before she went silent. He was an imaginary friend—a thief who dressed in white and returned what he stole. I imagine that it had something to do with her father's job."
"Ah, yes. Inspector Nakamouri. He's in Division II; he works thefts. Doesn't spend enough time at home with her, I'd bet."
"Hey, people are always picking on Aoko. Just leave her alone. She's probably shy."
After a month of subtle questioning, Saguru had a huge load of facts and nothing about what, exactly, afflicted the girl with the headphones. Her relationships with the other students seemed to center on avoidance, so he decided on a more direct approach.
"I see your folks have gone away.
Would you dance with me today?"
Saguru stared up at the Nakamouri's door and shoved down any apprehension. The worst she could do was glare at him and close the door; she never spoke, and Inspector Nakamouri was still at work.
He knocked on the door.
"I'll show you how to have a good time,
Aoko answered it, headphones blaring loud enough for him to hear a meter and a half away. She tilted her head as if asking why he was standing on her stoop.
Saguru coughed lightly into one of his fists. "Miss Nakamouri, I must admit to being curious about your isolation in school. From what I've observed, you do it intentionally. I was hoping you'd explain why?" Only after he said it did he realize how idiotic he must have seemed. Ah, well. At least he'd hopefully get his answers.
Except she only stared at him without blinking, and he started to wonder if she isolated herself because she was slow or heavily autistic. But she nodded at last and stood aside, allowing him in.
Saguru stepped across the threshold and removed his shoes and coat respectfully. "Thank you," he said sincerely. "It's caught my interest, and while I know it's your life and none of my business, I have a bit of an insatiable hunger for answers. I'm a detective, you see."
He didn't really know why he was talking so much. Perhaps it was because she was staring at him with wide blue eyes. Perhaps it was because she wouldn't or couldn't talk, so he felt like he had to fill the silence. Perhaps it was because that tank top was a perfect fit on her. Perhaps it was because he was inserting himself into her life where he didn't really belong and where she didn't really want him.
Regardless, he finally stumbled to a stop and just watched her like she had been doing to him.
When his words halted, she smiled and turned, leading him upstairs. She stood by a door, and he caught a glimpse of pink through the opening. He glanced at her and stepped forward when she motioned for him to do so.
When he walks in the room, he feels confused
Like he walked into a play.
Saguru walked through the doorway and stopped dead. Lying on the bed, a shapely teenage girl with startlingly crimson hair was lounging and reading a novel. On the ceiling, however, a boy in a white tuxedo was mirroring her despite the physical impossibility. Both looked up at him in surprise before stepping to the ground and approaching.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" the girl wondered. She prowled around him, impressive cleavage obvious and eyes holding just a hint of obsessive madness, and he realized that the stalkers had nothing on this one. He suppressed a shiver and turned his gaze to the boy.
He was grinning. His teeth were showing as far back as he could pull his lips, and his eyes glinted in what Saguru hoped was humor. "Seems like Aoko made a friend."
Saguru twitched as both teens crowded his view, peering into his eyes. "Er, hello," he began. "My name is Saguru Hakuba."
The girl straightened. "Akako Koizumi. I'm a witch." She smiled at him, and the brilliance of her hair and eyes lured him in.
The boy dragged his attention away. "I'm Kaito Kuroba, or Kid the Phantom Thief. I'm a magician." He bowed low, and the contrast between red and white was almost blinding.
Then the words sank in. "Kid the Phantom Thief? Aoko's imaginary friend?"
Aoko brushed past him, and he abruptly blushed, realizing that he had forgotten her. Kaito laughed and nodded. "I'm not that imaginary, though, now am I?"
Through it all, the constant drone of J-pop throbbed in his ears and made his skull feel like it was pulsing. Aoko stopped by the radio and turned up the volume a bit, making him focus to understand what the other teens were saying.
And the music's so loud it spins him around
'Till his soul has lost its way.
He blinked a few times to clear his vision; it almost seemed to have blurred. The world swirled with color, nearly making him nauseous. He brought a hand to his temples to fend off the headache, but Akako snatched his wrist on its path and pulled him further into the room. Kaito bowed to Aoko and led her after the pair. Saguru suddenly found his personal space disappearing as the redhead pressed closer.
He blushed and cleared his throat, staring straight ahead. "Excuse me, Miss. I'm afraid I don't dance."
Akako laughed and spun in his arms. "Oh, don't worry about that. We'll teach you. After all, we've got plenty of time."
Plenty of time? Saguru hadn't planned on returning to the Nakamouri household; what was she talking about? He attempted to free himself from her embrace with no results.
Kaito's indigo eyes appeared in front of him, and he looked up to the inverted magician. The pounding music started to move past his ears, beating a constant rhythm of pain behind his eyeballs. Kaito grinned at him and picked him up, flipping him around until he stood on the ceiling.
The detective's mind began gibbering in shock. He still felt the pull of gravity, yet he had to exert no energy to stay up. Then he realized that the pull was centered on Aoko, not the ground. The two girls stood below him and watched the transition from panic to shock.
Saguru's body finally relaxed as his logic gave up.
And as she turns the volume down
He's getting smaller with the sound.
Aoko began to gain a light blue aura that shimmered through his eyelids when he blinked. The music seemed to roar in his head, even though he was aware of it getting softer.
He deliriously thought that it felt like the sound was leaving the room and entering him.
It seems to pull him off the ground.
Toward the radio he's bound,
Never to be found.
Aoko wasn't the only one glowing. There were red tendrils of mist floating around Akako that matched her hair and eyes. When he turned his head, he realized that Kaito seemed to be surrounded by a dark blue smoke. And when he looked at his hand, it was emitting a golden light.
He abruptly noticed that he was falling.
It was a slow descent, made all the more disconcerting when he looked down (up?) and saw the ceiling rushing away at a high velocity. Kaito was right beside him, guiding him with a grip on his arm. Aoko held her hand up to him in invitation. Not seeing any alternative, he took it.
The world turned gold.
The headlines read that a boy disappeared,
And everyone thinks he's died.
"Did you hear? Did you hear? That new kid, Saguru Hakuba, has gone missing!"
"I heard that his dad's got the entire police force looking for him."
Within a week, the entire school knew that the strange British detective had found his way to the Missing Children list. The halls were positively buzzing with gossip and theories on his whereabouts, but he truly had vanished without a trace.
"Maybe he's eloped! Wouldn't that be romantic?"
"Don't be an idiot; they're never going to find him. At least, not alive."
Several people cried out in dismay and turned on the speaker. A girl with pigtails and glasses was among them.
"What do you mean?" Keiko asked.
"Think about it. He's the son of a police commissioner; the only reasons he'd be kidnapped and held this long are for ransom or revenge. And since Police Commissioner Hakuba hasn't received any ransom notices…" he trailed off, allowing the other students to fill in the result.
Keiko turned away and began to sob.
Aoko glanced up for a moment before returning to her sketches of a dancing girl.
Except a crazy girl with a secret lover
Who keeps her satisfied.
"Welcome home, Aoko!" Kaito and Akako chorused. Saguru hung back, still unsure of the new development in his life. Aoko smiled at him, and he realized that he didn't really care. He just wanted the blue-eyed girl to keep smiling.
Aoko took a seat on the bed with Akako brushing her hair and Kaito chattering at her happily. The radio blasted cheerfully in the background. Saguru sat cross-legged at the edge of the bed and simply observed until Aoko looked at him and tilted her head.
The detective took it as it was meant and answered the unspoken question. "You've all got your places already. I haven't figured out mine yet."
Kaito's eyes flashed with mischief. "We've got enough people that we don't have to share dances anymore. I think we should teach him to tango."
Aoko nodded her agreement, stilling any arguments Saguru had. He sighed and allowed Akako to drag him into the middle of the room, teaching him the basic steps while Kaito and Aoko demonstrated to the J-pop from the radio.
He and Kaito switched partners a few times before they finally collapsed into a huge pile on Aoko's bed. Saguru ended with Aoko's head on his chest, perfect for running his fingers through her hair. She nuzzled him appreciatively, so he continued until she was barely awake. Akako and Kaito curled up around them both in a comfortable blanket.
Idly, Saguru wondered how his parents were handling his disappearance. Then he looked down at the other three's barely opened eyes and decided that it didn't matter.
It's so nice to be insane;
No one asks you to explain.
The police had come to the school to investigate.
The teachers and students were suitably impressed to be involved in such a high-profile case and did everything they could to help. After all, most of the female population had a crush on the missing half-Brit.
"Who is that girl, over there?" one policeman asked. He pointed to Aoko Nakamouri, who was sitting at her desk and listening to her mp3 player through the headphones. She had not looked up when the man entered the room a half-hour earlier, nor did she look up when he asked if anyone had any information.
"Oh, her? That's Aoko Nakamouri. She wouldn't know anything about him. She doesn't pay attention to anything but her music. I doubt she even saw him come into the classroom when he transferred."
He looked at the brunette speculatively before nodding and taking a step toward her. The teacher waved her arms frantically and forced him to stop. "She's not exactly all there, and as far as I know, she hasn't spoken a word in almost a decade. She won't know anything about Saguru Hakuba; she probably doesn't even know what day it is. And when we take away her headphones, she tends to scream." The teacher laid pleading eyes on the policeman. "I really don't want to deal with that today. It'll be hard enough to get the kids to focus when you leave."
He hesitated for several moments, but finally acquiesced. "Alright. But if she ever mentions anything helpful, call us immediately."
The teacher snorted as she relaxed. "I told you, she doesn't speak."
Aoko, as usual, ignored them all as she drew a magnifying glass on her paper.
Radio by your side,
They lay comfortably on the floor, pillows and blankets spread out underneath for padding. Aoko's head rested on Saguru's chest, Akako using hers as a pillow. Kaito was haphazardly sprawled across them all and entertained them with vocal impressions of the singers on the radio.
Aoko blinked lazily as Saguru ran his fingers through her hair. It was nice to just relax with the other three.
"Brushing Aoko's hair is my job. You're going to have to paint her nails instead."
"I'm afraid I don't know how."
"That's okay; Kaito can teach you."
"After all, we've got plenty of time," Saguru agreed.
Aoko nestled closer to Saguru and let her eyes drift closed.
You're a special lady.
Living in a world of make believe
This is why I'm not allowed to listen to a song on repeat for 90 miles straight anymore....*grumbles* Song is Angie Baby by Helen Reddy; I strongly suggest it.