A/N: This will be a short one, around 4-5 chapters.
Standard Disclaimers Applied
- Quartetto -
Every woman had a dream—different yet all the same.
She dreamt of a future where one day she'd walk down a long aisle dusted with petals from her favourite flower in her favourite colour. Sitting in the rows and rows of benches on either side of that path would be family and friends, ones that she wished to share the most wonderful day in her life with.
When the music would start, she would turn to her male guardian—his eyes filled with unshed tears, unprepared to give her away—and link her arm around his. A fragrant bouquet in her hands, and a long train trailing behind, she would smile brightly, her heart beating a love rhythm. Down that candle lit path, stepping on fresh fallen petals, she would watch the flower girl stumble and the little ring bearer fumble with the pillow.
At the end of the path she would then meet the love of her life—his arm held out for her to hold onto and never let go. Just before her guardian would hand her over, he would whisper a few threats to the groom, demanding him to never make her cry. Then they would laugh and his eyes would gaze at her, so lovingly, so adoringly.
When the priest began his long winding speech, she would steal glances at him under her veil, blushing as his fingers stroke her empty ring finger: a promise that it would soon be occupied by a band of a thousand promises and an eternal love.
Every woman dreamt of that perfect white dress, a dress that was meant to be worn once for that one happy day.
Every woman dreamt, but not all dreams come true.
Kaoru was no different.
On the day that she was supposed to be the happiest woman alive, her heart shattered to pieces. The perfect wedding dress that was supposed to be as white as snow was replaced with a plain black dress—sucking the light out of her being.
The bouquet became a single white carnation; so lonesome and weary in her stone cold hands. If she were to toss it into the air, the wind would carry it away, tearing its petals off as it drifted into the distance. Where an ancient chapel was supposed to stand, there before her was an aging cemetery, so full of gloom that the sun dared not shed its light upon it.
This was supposed to be her wedding day, yet there she was, attending a funeral and mourning the dead.
Isolated from the others, Kaoru stood at the back, clutching onto a single carnation. She didn't bother to socialize with the others; anything they said could not reach her ears, their actions could no longer be seen. Her vivid blue eyes which mirrored a stormy sky were watching the small mourning family; wishing to go over and enter that little bubble. It seemed just like yesterday when she was a part of them, laughing and playing without a care. Those days were long gone. Now the bubble was closed off; she could no longer enter—an outsider had no right to enter.
"You shouldn't be standing here," a voice spoke to her from behind. She lowered her head, understanding that he was right—she shouldn't have shown her face in the first place. "You should be over there, with them. Kenshin needs you right now."
Kaoru looked up to see Sano's comforting face, wishing that she had the strength to do just that. "Do you really think so?" Her voice was low and timid, filled with uncertainty and she despised it.
The tall man only smiled, his hands squeezed her shoulders before guiding her forward. With a little bit of strength and knowing that the man behind her would catch her when she fell, Kaoru strode forward, ignoring the scornful looks and the harsh whispers. Instead of walking down an aisle where people would speak of envy and praises, she walked down a dirt path where only ugliness met her ears. No music was playing, all the sounds around her were morbid, even the pesky wind seemed to howl its contempt at her presence.
It was easy to criticize another; easy to scorn and curse another because of a misfortune; it's especially easy if the one doing the criticizing was just an onlooker. It wasn't simple to ignore such berating words and though Kaoru did not show it, she was aching inside.
After what happened, she dared show her face!
That filthy blood must run in the family!
Kaoru wanted to laugh. It truly was a part of human nature to kick someone who had fallen. People rejoice in another's pain; they don't care how biting their words are, they're just glad that it happened to her and not them.
"Ignore them." Sano's voice was low and unsteady, as if trying to suppress his irritation; his hands on her shoulders became heavy as he stood closer. Once in a while he would throw threatening glances to those unpleasant voices.
Thunders rolled in through the thick gray clouds, such perfect weather for such an occasion. Sano and Kaoru stopped just ten steps away from the mourning family—no one looked up from the tombstone to acknowledge their presence. Kaoru did not dare open her mouth to greet them; she wasn't sure what to say. The mother was silently weeping in her brother's arms, the handkerchief she held could no longer absorb her tears. The uncle stood there with a stone face but the shadows in his eyes and his hollow cheeks told of his grief. The filial son knelt before the tomb, patting the final mound of dirt onto the grave. With one last pat, the son looked up and their gazes met, at that instant a bright flash lit the darkening sky.
Kaoru felt a cold current flow down her spine and back up again, it was a dreadful feeling and she wanted to just run away but Sano's nails sunk into her shoulders, keeping her in place. If she could get through this, then everything should be fine; at least, that's what Sano believed. They watched as the son stood up, dusted the knees of his pants and slowly walked towards them. His crimson red hair looked threatening, like the ends of a fire, flickering out to burn everything that was near. Those once loving violet eyes were now of a dangerous mountain lion eyeing his prey before pouncing in to attack with one merciless snap of his jaws.
If anyone else looked at her that way, she would glare back but when he looked at her that way, she went numb.
Did he truly hate her that much?
Just as fast as the wind picked up, his expression changed. Maybe it was never there in the first place; and it was all in her head. Kenshin would never look at her with such hate, it just wasn't possible. Tightening her hold onto the carnation, Kaoru exhaled lightly, "I know that I'm not welcomed but, I want to pay my last respects to her."
Kenshin shook his head, "I'm glad you came." His voice was warm yet weary, the grim lines and dark shadows beneath his eyes were tales of his stress and sleepless nights.
He held out his hand as Kaoru shakily slid her fingers over his and stepped forward, diminishing the distance between them. Although the weather was cold, his hands were warm; they felt the same as they were weeks ago. Before he could lead her forward, Sano grasped his left shoulder with iron-like fingers.
With a single glare, Sano hissed softly so that Kaoru could not hear, "It's alright to remember the dead, but do not neglect the living. Make her cry and I'll hunt you down."
"I understand," he nodded and turned to Kaoru, their foreheads touching briefly.
From the side, it looked like a sweet conversation took place, yet no words were exchanged. It was as if they could hear one another's thoughts just from that single touch. Reassured, Sano retreated back into the dispersing crowd. The mourners were slowly leaving, the burial was over.
Just three steps away from the tomb, Kaoru's eyes met with Kenshin's mother. The bright violet colour that once bloomed in her eyes have faded to a muddy colour, but beneath all that was a flicker of swelling resentment, the feelings of a mother wanting justice for her dead child. There was no subtlety, no warning in her expression, she was the type of woman who honoured her words—a lioness would not let one off with a warning for harming her cub, she would attack until her rage simmered down or until one was dead.
Swallowing thickly, Kaoru bowed her head in respect, "Mother."
"Please address me formally; I have only one daughter and she's sleeping under that cold mound." Her voice was coarse from all the crying but it was as frigid as the northern wind. "Nii-san, take me home."
With a few short words to Kenshin the two left the cemetery, knowing that Kenshin would soon follow. Who could take such biting words? Kaoru was frozen from shock, but a part of her expected that, and yet she hoped that this was just a phase and that maybe in a few days, a few weeks or a few months, things would change for the better.
"Your mother hates me," breathed Kaoru as she looked to the distance, the shadows of their figures blended into the fog.
Helping her to deny it would do no good; Kenshin's mother was a straightforward person after all, she wore her heart on her sleeve and saw no problem in letting others know her opinion. "Just give her sometime," he consoled.
Nodding absently, Kaoru knelt before the tomb and carefully placed her carnation with the rest beside the tomb. Silence washed over them like calming rain but it was too weak to settle a doubting heart. The newly engraved tombstone stood erect and lifeless like the body beneath it, even if the kanji on the tomb was vibrant and full of vigor. In the coffin beneath the tomb was Kenshin's only sister, older than him by three years but her life was full of promises and a bright future. Himura Akane was an aspiring violinist; with a flick of her wrist, she could create music that stirred the souls. Talent and ambition flowed through her fingers and just as she was making a name for herself, tragedy struck.
In one night, Akane was brutally struck by a speeding car—the driver was apparently steeped in alcohol and other dangerous substances.
Everything was all too sudden that at times it felt surreal. Kaoru sighed and glanced at Kenshin, he was scrutinizing the dark clouds, wondering when it will rain. If a wilted desert could become beautiful after the rain, will this nightmare also end once the rain let up?
"Do you hate me?" asked Kaoru.
There was a short pause before he answered, "No, I don't hate you. It wasn't your fault."
That tangible pause was a second blow to her crumbling heart—if he didn't hate her then why was there a pause; he shouldn't be so hesitant to answer, unless he truly blamed her, even though she was not directly involved, even though she was not at the scene. But just because the driver was her only brother, she was also to blame. She was connected to the murderer by blood; it was only understandable yet unreasonable to hate her also.
Maybe she was over analyzing it and the pause held no meaning.
"These past few days, I missed you. I know you were busy with the funeral but…even if it's just for a few minutes, please come home."
Guilt wiggled its head into his conscience when he saw a solitary tear escape her eye. In a heartbeat he pulled her into his arms and tucked her head under his chin. "I'm sorry…it's just that I……I don't want you to see me like this…" he trailed off. "It hurts."
Kaoru looked up to see his eyes filled with tears but he suddenly looked up, willing them not to fall. She turned and cupped his face, "Kenshin, it's alright to cry, restraining your emotions will only give you gray hair."
Kenshin chuckled a little, "Are you calling me an old man?"
"I'll lend you my shoulder, it may be small but it's strong enough for you."
And finally the rain fell.
A/N: This was inspired by a Thai drama, "Tomorrow, I'll Still Love You." I'm only using the premise: a love torn by murder; everything else will be different--no annoying side characters and all the dramatics.