This is just a one-shot I wrote out of boredom because I wanted to try something new. Something different from my other stories.
Something completely and utterly crazy.
And, yeah, the title is really kind of misleading :) But it's a part of it!
Warning: It kind of runs about a bunch of different genres, so don't say I didn't warn you! And slight OOC.
Inspiration: The movie 27 Dresses. It's not really at all like it, but I liked the idea of a guy writing an article on some random girl and finding a little more to her than meets the eye. Except the girl's story is totally different. Totally very.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gakuen Alice. I never had, never will, and sadly, I don't think that's gonna change. :(
Anyways, enjoy! :D
The Black Cat
The grass around me seemed to burn as I walked up to the door of the house, my teeth grinding in anger. To say my mood was foul would be an understatement—I was just plain pissed.
Pissed at my job. Pissed at my boss. Pissed at that damn Hotaru Imai for deciding to send me to the edge of the country just to get information on a story I didn't even understand. She may have been the best editor our newspaper has ever had, and she could damn well make money better than anyone I've ever met in my life (and trust me, I've met a lot of people).
But I disagreed immensely with her decision to send me, the best writer she probably ever had (considering my stories always get the best reviews), to the other side of Japan just to interview a woman no one heard about before.
It was stupid. It was selfish. It was a waste of time. And it was just plain getting on my nerves.
It had always occurred to me that Imai hated me—guess this should be enough to prove it.
As I stood on the porch of the small house, I looked around. It was what a reporter was trained to do, so it was what I did.
It was a simple, modern house with colourful trims and apparently good handiwork. The way the garden was perfectly flowered and decorated showed that the residents probably liked to be outside, and the railing was painted a dusty white. As I knocked on the door, the dark wood made a deep noise, telling me it was of real hardwood.
Maybe this woman would be just like the other people I've interviewed. Her taste only matched those of all the celebrities I've met before.
Imai told me few things about this woman before I left. I came here to this small secluded, town knowing only this: that her name was Mikan Sakura, and that I was to learn everything I could about her story in however much time I needed (though Imai had made it pretty clear that the longer I stayed, the more she'd start cutting from my paycheck).
Yeah, so much learned (sarcastic tone implied).
I mean, how could I even be sure she wasn't a psycho freak? Or a mad killer? Or some kind of evil genius? Did Imai really want to get rid of me that easily so she'd send me off to this woman's home without even primary knowledge?
Damn that evil bitc—
Ugh. I'm not even aloud to swear at her in my head because she has some freaky way of knowing.
There's no doubt she's gonna try to hit me with that crazy contraption of hers—that Baka Gun. Trust me, it may just shoot out air, but on full power it can throw someone out the window and they'll be miles away before anyone can even blink an eye.
I'm an eye witness.
Yome never saw it coming.
There was just one more thing I knew about this Mikan Sakura, that the crazy editor failed to tell me: she meant something to Imai. Who could tell? It was really hard for me to see it (so I'm positive no one else noticed), but I could see in the way she threatened me not to hurt the girl—no, it was not the same as other times—that Hotaru Imai had some sort of soft spot for this particular female.
Just great. (If you can't pick up on sarcastic comments by now, you must be really stupid.)
There was a click of the lock as it turned and the door opened in front of me, revealing a woman with dark brown hair standing in the doorway. I couldn't even call her a woman though; she looked so much like a little girl. Her body was petite, her hair wavy and silky smooth. She had the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen, and as she said, "Can I help you?" I swear her voice was higher than a regular girl's and had that ring to it like that of a child's.
"I need to speak to Mikan Sakura," I instructed, studying the girl in front of me with curious eyes. Maybe she was the daughter of the woman I was supposed to talk to?
But the girl shocked me by grinning and pointing to herself as she proclaimed, "That's me! How can I help you, mister…?"
"Hyuuga. Natsume Hyuuga." I winced at how James Bond that sounded.
Her smile stayed on though. "What can I do for you, Hyuuga?"
"My boss told me to interview you for our newspaper," I told her almost bitterly.
Hearing the resentment in my voice, she raised her eyebrows. "I'm guessing you don't want to be here?"
She laughed and stepped out of the doorway so there was enough room for me to fit through. "Come on in, Hyuuga. We'll talk about it inside."
Well, she didn't seem like the psychopath I thought her to be, so I went in, paused so she could close the door and followed her as she scurried past small rooms connected to the hallway. By the time we came into the kitchen, I was thinking that she either had some sort of professional decorator, or she just knew her stuff on how to make such a small house look so good.
Sakura gestured to a chair which I took, not before noting that she was at least a head shorter than me. I flopped down, setting my clipboard (yes, because Imai just had to make it mandatory to not only bring a recorder, but a video camera and a clipboard too) on the table and switched on the recording devices our editor had somehow created. As she walked up to the oven, I asked, "Hey, how old are you?"
"Hm?" The girl had a plate between her lips as she juggled putting on oven mitts while opening the oven door with her foot. It was amusing to watch as the tiny girl pulled out a tray full of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and set it on the counter top, and she almost fell over in the process. Twice.
"How old are you?" I repeated.
"I'm twenty-one," she chirped, pulling off the mitts and using a spatula to move the cookies off the tray and onto the plate. I fought the urge to laugh at her. Turning her head, I saw her furrow her eyebrows at me. "What?" she asked defensively.
My answer was simple. "You don't look twenty-one."
She rolled her eyes. "Haha, Hyuuga. Well, I am, and I have the birth certificate to prove it." Before I could ask her to do so, she continued with, "How about you, mister I-know-everything? How much experience have you got over me?"
I smirked. "Two years. I'm twenty-three, you idiot."
"Huh, well you don't look your age either." Her answer only made me think of her as a child even more.
I decided to let her have it anyway. "So, what's so special about you? Why would my boss send me all the way to your small town if you don't seem any different from all the other people I've written about?"
Sakura stayed quiet at my questions. She set the plate of cookies down on the table in front of me and took one for herself (I couldn't help it either—it was a five hour car ride to get here without a single stop, and the smell of chocolate was invading my personal space. How the heck did she know chocolate chip was my favourite?), nibbling on the edges. I was about to ask her again but then she said, "I have a son."
I raised my eyebrows, daring her to expand.
She did. "His name is Youichi, and he's the smartest boy in the world," she conversed, the tone in her voice showing herself to be utterly proud. "He's only three right now, turning four in April, but he talks to me just like anybody else. I swear his brain is twice the size a normal child's, and his attitude is sort of distant, but…" She paused, then looked up to smile brightly at me. "He's the best thing I've got."
Her eyes were wide; I'm pretty sure I've noticed them before. If I ever just looked at her without really seeing, there's no doubt I would've thought she was just a naïve little girl with no problems in the world. But now I could see the pain and fatigue that played behind hidden brown.
She wasn't a girl you could just glance at.
In many more ways than one.
"Is that him?" I asked, pulling my gaze away from her and looking on the one wall, where a picture frame hung high with a little boy with silver hair and green eyes. He looked like a ghost, in my opinion, with the same kinds of clouds his mother had, except he didn't smile. I didn't doubt she was telling the truth about his intelligence—anyone would be able to see it.
"Yes. That was taken about two months ago. Cute, huh?"
I didn't bother to answer. Instead, I just turned back to the girl sitting across from me, bags under her eyes and chided, "Where is he now?"
"Oh, he's at my cousin Anna's house," said Sakura, twirling a piece of brown hair through her fingers absentmindedly. "She runs a bakery in town and always loves to babysit her nephew, and Anna and her twin Nonoko get along great with You-chan."
My first thought was What kind of nickname is that for a boy? My second thought I spoke aloud. "So you just throw him with your cousins whenever you don't want to watch him?"
"No!" She looked insulted that I would even think such a thing. "Of course not! My best friend just said that she was visiting today and that I had to have him out of the house when she came down. I didn't know why, but I never question her. Besides, it's been a while since You-chan has seen his only aunts."
I still wasn't convinced with this girl. Even though she was mildly beautiful and had a smile that could blast a guy out the window just as fast as Imai's Baka Gun, I still crossed my arms and glared at Sakura. "You seem like just another single mother who got knocked up in high school to me. What could possibly make you so special that my editor would send me to write up a story on you?"
Anger flashed in her eyes for a split second before a different emotion took over. I didn't get a clear look; she turned away quickly and hurried up to the counter as if to clean nonexistent crumbs. But I could see that this subject was a little touchy for her.
This was where a reporter had to have a hard spine.
"What's different about you from every other girl who had gotten stupid and pregnant before they even went to college? What makes you any more special from all of those other girls?" I pressed.
Sakura gripped the edge of the countertop with an intensity that made me think it might break.
"Why am I here, Sakura, wasting time talking to you if you won't even answer?"
Abruptly, she spun around and snapped, "Well, I never asked you to come here in the first place."
Then she fled the room as quickly as humanly possible. Even thought I knew I was hurting her, I did what a reporter did.
I followed her.
When I walked into the living room, she didn't even turn to look at me. Her gaze was occupied by the glass on the window and the small drops that had started to fall on them, her legs curled up to her chest. I moved as quietly as I could to stand beside her, and it was only then that she looked up. Her deep brown eyes were no longer angry but… sad. Sad like I've never seen before. Sad like someone had died. Sad like a person going through more pain than they let on.
Then she blinked and the emotion was mostly gone. Or hidden. I didn't have time to think about it, because she whispered, "It was my boyfriend."
Taking the seat on the couch beside her, I stayed silent as she continued.
"He was my high school sweetheart—the guy I thought I was going to marry. He was perfect and everything was perfect, so I just didn't think…" Sakura's eyes drifted back to the window as she shuddered. Was she cold? Was remembering hard for her? Was it my fault?
How the hell should I know?
She reached her fingers out to touch the glass beside her, feeling the smooth surface under her pale hands. "When I found out, he promised me that he would always be there for me, helping me take care of the baby and everything. He said that everything was going to be fine, and for a while it was. We moved here as soon as we graduated—his parents didn't mind, mine were already dead since I was a child, and my Jii-chan always wanted great-grandchildren…"
My whole body shivered at the sound of her weak laugh. It sent ripples down my spine to hear such a broken sound in a way that was meant for happiness. Nothing about it was right, but I could only watch her.
While she talked, her gaze never left the rain that started to pour outside. "He got accepted into university. Alice University to be precise, the school for geniuses." Her smile was faint but there, and I wanted to ask her how she could possibly smile at all, but I kept my mouth shut.
I knew that school—I went there for three years before I was discovered by the Black Cat newspaper for my reporting skills, and was immediately recruited. I tried to remember a guy that might've been the one she was talking about, but realized that I probably wouldn't. He was two years younger and that school was freaking big.
I let her talk on.
"I was accepted too—" I blinked at her declaration, utterly shocked "—but I didn't go. The baby was coming, and I didn't want to raise it under half circumstances, so I declined the academy's offer. He went, though. He said that he was going to finish school so he could support us. Everything was going good for him and he was being offered for many different positions. It was good for him."
It was the first time I felt obligated to speak. "And for you?"
She just smiled. "He was sent off to work away from home, so I hardly ever got to see him. But he sent back money every month, enough to pay off everything we needed here for You-chan. His business was doing well, so I accepted it because at that time I didn't know…" Sakura paused, seeming to choose her words carefully. I waited.
"But he wasn't as committed as I was. He didn't want this serious relationship, and since he was away all the time I never guessed that… he went away with another woman. The checks stopped coming and I had to go out to find a job to support us. It wasn't all that bad. Even though Anna and Nonoko are my only family, they still help me watch You-chan when I'm at work."
Seeing my questioning gaze, she clarified, "I'm an interior designer. It's fun to decorate things and gardening is easy for me. It's actually always something I've always wanted to do, and even though I didn't get my degree, there were still people willing to hire me because of my skill." The thought made her smile, and as I looked around the house, I didn't doubt any of the scouts' eyes for talent.
"What happened to him?" I intrigued.
I raised an eyebrow.
She sighed in defeat. "He's still around. He's actually everywhere and is still doing very well." Getting up, Sakura strode over to the ledge over the fireplace and picked up a picture. "This is him. The blond right there. You might…"
I went to study the photo in the small frame and my eyes narrowed as I looked over the bright blue eyes and pure blond hair. His arm was around a tiny brunette, and they were smiling brightly at each other, but that wasn't what caught my eye. "He looks like someone I know."
"Everyone knows him."
My eyes widened. No way. It couldn't have been…
"His name is Ruka Nogi."
"Holy shit!" My shout was so loud that it made the girl in front of me flinch away, but I didn't lower my voice. "Your boyfriend—"
"—and the guy who got you pregnant during high school is one of the most popular inventors of our generation? Ruka Nogi of Nogi Corporations? Damn, I interviewed his father personally!"
"Why is that a bad thing?" she questioned.
"Why?" I repeated. "Well, for one, he treated you like crap—which reminds me. Why didn't you tell anybody?"
Sakura opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. When she spoke her voice was quiet. "I couldn't."
"You couldn't? Why the hell not? You could've got alimony, money, support, and lots of dirt piled up on that bastard's reputation! Why didn't you tell anybody?"
"That's why," she stressed, looking back to me. "I didn't want to make anything worse for him. I was doing totally fine, so why I should need to bring him down is just... I couldn't. I couldn't do that to him. He may have left me, but it's not entirely his fault."
"How is it not his fault?" I exploded. I didn't get this girl; he left her with his child and didn't bother to send any explanations, and she could've gotten a heck of a lot of support from everyone around the world, yet she chose to keep quiet? "I've met that guy before—he's nothing but a spoiled brat who thinks he owns the planet when he had never faced a single problem in his life. Don't you read the Black Cat? I did an article in their on his father, and even that man said, and I quote, 'My son hasn't been through anything worth mentioning before. He brought up this company successfully completely on luck.'"
"He wasn't always like that," Sakura insisted.
"Really?" I said flippantly."'Cause the last time I heard, he was dating that Luna Koizumi bitch from another company just to raise ratings." Something dawned on me as I saw her bite down on her lip at my words. "Holy—she's the one, right? She's the one he cheated on you with."
Tentatively, she admitted, "Yes."
"He's more of a bastard than I thought," I mused darkly. "So why do you not say anything? He left you for this stupid princess to help his company, he knocked you up and doesn't send so much as a postcard, and yet you still think that he doesn't deserve to be put down?"
Her eyes flashed. "Hyuuga, you don't understand. I don't want that. He may have left me, but I'm doing fine, You-chan's growing good, and if he's happy the way he is, who am I to ruin that?" She gave another messed up laugh. "Wouldn't that make me the same person Koizumi-san is?"
"No." That was my answer, but even as I said it, I could feel myself wondering that maybe she knew a little more than I did.
"Hyuuga, I can't bring someone else down just because life is hard for me. I won't do that to him, and I won't do that to anyone else."
This time it was me who gave a weird laugh. She must be contagious, making me feel guilty. Even Imai has failed to make me regret any of the outcomes from the harsher varieties of my stories. Delectably, I observed, "You're strange, Sakura."
"Call me Mikan," she said, "and I'll call you Natsume. Okay?"
"Fine," I grumbled, but as I played her name in my mind, I couldn't help but think it felt right.
"You-chan goes to school next year. He'll be the best student any teacher has ever had."
"I won't doubt it."
She laughed, but this time, her voice wasn't muffled or pained or weak. It was a true sound and I swear the weather outside decided that to be the exact moment to stop. Mikan waved her hand as if to follow her back to the kitchen, and when I did, she already had another cookie in hand. "Is there anything else you want to know, Natsume?"
"Do you want this story to get out? You said you didn't want to bring him down, but I was sent here to get a story and I got one, but I'm giving you the chance to tell me not to publish it." I winced inwardly at the very likeliness of Imai killing me for this.
Mikaan looked at me. "It's your choice. I don't want you to get in trouble on my behalf."
That was just so her. It's sad to know I almost suspected as much.
"There's just one more thing, then," I said to her as I took another cookie from the plate.
"What is it?"
"Why did you bake cookies today? You also sent Youichi away and I'm pretty sure you didn't know I was coming."
"Oh, that. Well, Hotaru told me she was coming over soon, and she said that I should bake chocolate chip cookies before she came." She put a finger on her chin as if pondering something. "It's strange though, because Hotaru never liked sweets, so I guess it wouldn't be bad if I ate them all with you."
I stopped. "Wait. Hotaru as in Hotaru Imai?"
"Yeah! Do you know her?"
"Well, sort of, considering that she's my boss."
Mikan gaped. "You work for the Black Cat? She never told me a reporter was coming from her newspaper!"
"Apparently she did."
"Oh." The girl giggled. "I guess Hotaru's not coming over today after all."
"Hn," was all I said.
"Hey, Natsume, do you want to stay for dinner? Since You-chan's back at Anna and Nonoko's, it'd be nice if I could have someone else keeping me company."
"Thanks, Natsume! I'll get it ready right away!"
"Do you even know how to cook?"
She gave me an insulted look. "I'm a single mother and you just ate all my cookies like there was no tomorrow. What do you think?"
My stomach growled an answer. Damn my constant appetite.
Giggling again, she cheered, "We're having pasta tonight!"
What kind of mother wears a polka dotted apron?
Hotaru Imai was flipping through papers on her desk when she got a knock on the door. Her violet eyes barely left the sheets as she called out, "Come in," and the door swept open.
The secretary of the Black Cat came in quietly up to the glass desk, his shoes light against the plush carpet. He set a few packages and envelopes on the scary woman's desk and said, "Your mail's here, Imai-san."
She nodded. "Leave now, Tobita."
Yuu was only so glad to follow her orders.
As soon as her office door closed, she went through the pile. There were checks and notices and bills and the amount of profits they had made in the past week, but only one package really caught her attention.
It was from Natsume Hyuuga.
"He's late," she muttered under her breath as she tore open the thick manila envelope. Inside were some papers regarding a vacation leave, the recording devices she had sent with the man, and an article was neatly typed up in the pile. But the first thing she read was the letter on top:
I'm not going to be back to the company for one month. I've never taken any vacation before, so my days should still be left.
No, I'm not quitting. I'm just taking a break. So don't you dare replace me or I swear I'll burn you when I get back.
Go ahead and deduct from my paycheck for that. It felt good to say so.
You're such a sadistic crazy woman—
You know what? Ignore that. I don't feel like getting shot with some random air missile today.
Anyways, your article on Mikan Sakura is also in this envelope, as well as all the papers that should cover when I'm gone.
You can pass this story onto someone else, if you want. Chances are, the things I wrote about aren't what you want to hear.
If you're asking where I'm staying, don't bother. I'm not going to tell you no matter how much you try to blackmail me.
Trust me, this time it won't work—dammit! That stupid idiot girl—fine, Mikan, there, you happy?—says hi.
Why'd you send me to her?
Right now she's chatting annoyingly in my ear, and she just won't stop.
If it weren't for you, she'd be thrown out the window.
No, I did not hurt her. You can't kill me for that…yet. But don't think I'm not tempted to, because, believe me, I don't know how you can stand her.
I blame you, Imai. You're the one who got me into this mess. And when I get back I—
Hotaru! Hotaru, it's me, Mikan! I miss you a lot and Natsu,me jus,t keeps tryi,ing to take the pe,n away so bl,obs of ink a,re—
Damn. This is what I get for writing it in pen. Once again, I blame you.
And once again, I don't feel like dying today.
I'm going to end this letter right here before things get messier, so bye. I'll see you in thirty days.
Oh, and…thanks. I guess. For her.
P.S. Hotaaaruuuu! It's Mikan! Natsume doesn't know I'm sneaking this in, so don't tell him! :)
I miss you, and when we decide to have a real wedding instead of this drive though chapel, will you help organize it?
Thanks so much! I love you, Hotaru! You're the best friend ever.
When Hotaru put down the letter, her face was amused. Not shocked, but like she was expecting an interesting year to follow up and soon.
Maybe it's true on what people say:
Hotaru Imai can see the future.
Or was it that she makes it? Who knows? She's the psychic, not me.
Days later, when the new week's newspaper comes out, everyone picks up the cover with interest. It sells like a bomb as soon as they see the headline plastered across the front page of the Black Cat, with Natsume Hyuuga's name written not where the author's is supposed to be, but all throughout the article.
Because when you read this strangely written story, even though you get the perspective of all the people inside it except mine, just know this:
The person who wrote it was named Kokoro Yome.
If I'm not alive to see next month, you know who did it.
Oh, and Sumire Shouda? Yeah, well you can ask people what I think of you, but I'd just like to say you're a crazy perm-haired girl but I'd regret it if I don't get to tell you myself that I had a crush on you since I spilled juice on your shirt in elementary school, and you screamed out my eardrums.
There. Maybe Natsume will have enough sympathy for me and I can meet his newly announced wife.
Ruka, man, don't hold a grudge. You were bound to get caught sooner or later.
And hopefully Hotaru will make enough money from this that she won't get bored and kill me herself.
Now you know the suspects.
Pray I'm alive to hear the reviews.
It's a little suckish, but I'd like to hear your thoughts! :)