Cold Roses

"Before I met him, I had never fallen in love. I had only stepped in it a few times."

Chapter Four

The clouds hung so thick over the night sky that evening, I could barely see a step in front of me as Takuma and I stepped out of the church that had held my mother's wake, ready to be taken to our car. Katsura held tightly onto Takuma's arm, gravitating away from my silent, grey demeanor. I was as dark as the clouds tonight; I hadn't said a word to anyone, and I didn't intend to for the rest of the night.

We were headed to the cemetery to bury Mother next to what would be Takuma's parents, had they ever been found. This, I knew, was what she would have wanted had she still been sane. To be with her best friends until the end of time. I stepped into the limousine, sliding over to make room for Takuma and Katsura, but staying far to the left. I could feel Takuma's uncertainty and Katsura's confusion, and I knew I was hurting both of them... But for some reason, it didn't matter while I felt like this...

I felt Takuma's eyes on me now, and I didn't want to look. I knew what I'd see. Beautiful green eyes laden with sorrow, guilt, and loneliness. He probably felt as if I was abandoning them; and in a way, I was. I couldn't say whether I felt bad about it or not, which I'm sure hurt Takuma... It was likely that he figured I wasn't really sure whether or not I wanted to be with him — several times he had suggested a Blood Bond; but I kept refusing... I saw what Bonds did to Mother, and I didn't want to turn into her on Takuma... That would be absolutely cruel. On the other hand, she had ingested pure blood, which most likely had more to do with it than the Bond itself.

Finally, the feeling wore me down and I turned on Takuma quickly. "What do you want?"

"You haven't said anything to me or Katsura all day."

"I know," I snapped, a little more harshly than intended.

"You're scaring us — both of us." Takuma held our child a little closer. The seven-year-old curled up on the opposite side of Takuma from me, crimson eyes large and frightened. He chewed on his own thumb slightly, watching me intently as if I'd hurt him physically. He was scared.

"Daddy, are you okay?" Katsura's voice was meek from underneath Takuma's jacket, and I barely caught it; but I turned to him then and held out my arms. The prince crawled over, cuddling into my body while I kissed his forehead and stroked his hair.

"I haven't been feeling well since Obaa-sama died," I explained calmly, and Katsura nodded in understanding. "I'm sorry I've been so horrible to both of you."

"We've all been feeling unwell since Obaa-sama died... Can't we all just feel unwell together?" Simple child logic. But I couldn't help it; I had to smile. He looked up at me with those big red eyes, and I broke again, pulling him close before he could see the tears. I knew he sensed them; he was silent for a moment. "Daddy, what's wrong?" I didn't answer and he snuggled into me.

He stayed there until we arrive at the cemetery.


"We meet here today to honour and pay tribute to the life of Shiki Naoko, and to express our love and admiration for her. Also to try to bring some comfort to her family and friends who are here and have been deeply hurt by her sudden death." The minister stood at the head of the open grave, Takuma, Katsura and I standing just with him. The sky was darker than it had been just hours earlier, and I held my son and my lover close so I wouldn't lose them. The minister continued the service as if it were broad daylight; he probably had the whole thing memorized by now. "Today will be remembered for many reasons, but mainly I hope it will be remembered by you all as a very special day; a special day in which you shared some time with others, in order to pay your last respects and to say — mentally and physically — a sad and fond farewell to a wonderful lady; a lady we were all so very privileged to have known. And so, tonight we've put aside our usual nightly activities for a while, and gathered here to give expression to the thoughts and feelings that well up inside us in this time of loss. And also because, in one way or another, Naoko's death affects us all.

"Naoko had a good life; though confined within the walls of her home, she was taken care of by Senri, her hard-working son, whom she loved very much. In this short time, we can't even begin to scratch the surface of Naoko's glory days as an actress, or the peril placed upon her by her late husband, Kuran Rido. But I hope when you leave here tonight that you will have left with a feeling of having taken part in something special, for a very special and unique woman."

It went on like that; the minister's voice a dull droning that matched perfectly with the dank mood that hung in the air. About halfway through the service, the Heavens opened up and it poured rain so hard that we couldn't hear the words of the service. But no one moved. Everyone kept their heads bowed, no one said a word, and the minister continued as if there weren't a cloud in the sky. Further proof to back up my theory. The minister was an old Vampire, aged considerably as if he had lived twice as long as the first Pureblood. And if he were to come out and tell me such thing, I might be inclined to believe him. He was a Common Level Vampire, as I could tell from his scent; but he was still so old...

"Now, I'd like you to take a moment of silence as we all remember Naoko in our own special ways, and those of you who take part in religious practice may offer their own private prayers to her. At this time, we should also offer prayer to Naoko's family who unselfishly devoted themselves to her throughout her whole illness." I almost missed this. I hadn't noticed, but I had tuned out most of the service by now. The people surrounding us — actors, models, my school friends, a few Purebloods — were beginning to get antsy waiting for the end. I didn't blame them; the rain had finally stopped and there was a nice cold breeze out to make everyone sick tonight. Soon, the minister spoke again, cuing the soft melodic and familiar tune of one of Mother's favourite songs... "When we leave here shortly, I hope that, like me, you will leave with a real sense of having shared something special, for a very special woman, taken last week in the hospital by what was identified as a very rare blood poisoning. But for the moment, please remain to listen to a few minutes of Mozart's Moonlight Sonata."

And that was it. It had all gone by too quickly... I decided that I didn't want to stick around for the burial and Takuma led me back to the car, understandingly.

It was another week before I was seen at work or at school again.