I need you all to bear with me, as I have a couple of things to go through before we begin. Are you all sitting comfortably?
Right, first things first: you should know that there are hints, and sometimes detailed descriptions, of severe child abuse throughout the entirety of the story. Furthermore, you will occasionally come up against swearing, suicidal thoughts, sexual references and actions, discrimination and, all in all, nasty things. Don't worry, though. You'll probably come across a lot of silver linings, too.
Oh, and one last thing. I'm currently running through this story, from the beginning chapter, and I'm totally overhauling it. The plot and general content will remain the same. The presentation of said content, however, will be much better by the time I'm finished.
A/N: I have recently popped back to re-write this chapter.
The gym exploded with raucous applause as the messy haired brunette, Tai Yagami, landed squarely upon his feet and gave a small, graceful bow. Judging by the overwhelming uproar, Tai's routine had gone over very well with the spectators.
Floating by on the leftover adrenaline that was pumping through his veins, he grinned, and scanned the crowd for a quick sign of his family. He spotted them in the far right corner of the hall. His little sister, Kari, was sat atop his mother's shoulders, and was waving a large banner about that sported the message "We love you Tai!" He smiled just that little bit wider upon seeing them, and retreated into the changing rooms with one last wave of a smooth, tanned hand.
Today was Tai's last day in his hometown. His family, bar his father, had decided that it was time to finally make the move to Odaiba. Over the past few weeks the plans had come to fruition quickly; and damn, was it exciting.
Tai finished undressing and stuffed his gym clothes into his too-small backpack.
Right now, he could only dream about what would be waiting for him when he got there. Blinking lights in every direction, omelette bars on every corner, new people, new places, new smells, sounds and sights. New everything. Even, he hoped, a new Tai.
He pulled on his everyday khaki shorts and star shouldered T-shirt, and wrapped his goggles around his head.
And whilst he was there, he thought, he might even be able to take up a couple of new interests. Surely, new cities came with new distractions?
"Would all participants please enter the hall to take part in the award ceremony. The results have been finalised."
"That was fast." Tai said to himself, sticking his feet into a pair of fresh socks. He took his shoes in his hand. "I'd better hurry."
When he entered the hall, the other gymnasts were already standing in the centre of the hall. The majority of them were girls, slightly older than Tai was, and most of them were talking together nervously. Tai slipped onto the edge of the group and remained silent. His smile remained firmly on his face.
After another few minutes, a trio of judges got to their feet from behind a desk and called for silence. The centre person, a tall woman with long, black hair, cleared her throat and began reading from a sheet of paper, monotonously. "Three of you young, very fine gymnasts will be receiving medals for your efforts." Tai could have sworn that she was bored. "We would, however, like to express how close the results were. Everyone here should feel proud of what they have produced for us."
She beckoned a hand to her left. The judge on the far end stepped forward holding a bronze medal in his hands, and a wide grin on his face. Time slowed, and he began to reveal a name. It was…a young girl that Tai had never seen before. He sighed, the audience began to clap, and she bounded forward and shook the man's hand. The judge placed the medal around her neck.
The woman with the black hair cleared her throat almost immediately and the applause halted. She beckoned to her right. Standing there was a younger man. He was holding out a silver medal in front of him, and he too had a wide smile on his face – although Tai couldn't help but think that it was forced. The brunette scuffed his feet along the floor beneath him, still not wearing any shoes, and watched as a girl to his left him jumped up and down, screamed in excitement, and ran forward to receive her reward. As before, the two of them shook hands, and the judge placed the medal over the young gymnast's head.
Tai looked down at the floor. This was it: first place, or nothing. The blood in his ears began to pulse, far louder than the centre woman with the black hair and the dull voice. He couldn't fully hear the things that were being mouthed in his direction. Just glimpses of words: "talent", "determination", "against the odds", "inspiration", "proud to present", and "pie" – wait, that couldn't have been right. What did she say? And why was everybody cheering?
"Wha?" He tilted his head.
"TAI! YAGAMI, TAI!"
The boring judge with the black hair and the dull voice and the inability to talk over Tai's ears was now waving him forward, frantically. A toothy grin crept up his face.
The next few hours went by very quietly, mainly because the majority of it was spent sitting in the family car. It was a long journey to their new home in Odaiba. Tai was growing agitated. "Are we there yet, Mom?"
"Do we look like we're there yet, Tai?" Mrs Yagami answered, calmly.
"That's what I thought." She chuckled. "We don't have long left."
"I miss home, Mommy." Kari piped in, quietly.
"I know sweetie."
"And…" Kari began.
"…and I know you miss your friends." Mrs Yagami interrupted. "But you'll make new ones at your new school. Everyone's going to love you."
Kari, it seemed, didn't agree with that reassurance, but was lost for a reply and so stared out of the window to watch the last of the countryside roll past alongside them. A few more minutes went by in silence, until…
"W-what if…" Tai stopped, and shook his head. It was best not to think about that. "Never mind."
Another hour passed by, and the Yagami car finally found itself pulling up in front of a house. Tai's eyes nearly flew out of their sockets when they parked. "This can't be right, Mom."
"Huge, I know."
"How can we afford this?"
"Well, don't think too much of it…" She began, carefully. "…but a family was butchered here about a year ago. And you know how suspicious people are. They think it's haunted. Anyway, no one else would buy it so we got a great deal."
"Wh-wh-wh…what?" Tai panicked, his jaw dropping to his feet.
"Oh, I'm just kidding Tai." Mrs Yagami giggled, overjoyed at the expression on her son's face. "Come on, it looks like the movers have already been inside and dropped our things off. I hope you guys are ready to work!"
They left the car parked beside the pavement and made their way towards their new house. The whole property was bordered by a solid, white fence, and there was a single entry point where a secure, metal gate stood. Mrs Yagami unlocked it and let everybody into the garden.
"Well, welcome to your new home kids." She beamed.
"Wow, we have a balcony!"
"And a porch!"
"And look. The house has two floors! Two." Kari emphasised.
"…we really don't need so much space, Mom."
"No, I guess not." She laughed. "But why not have it anyway?"
They walked up the garden path, onto the porch, and stepped up to the front door. "Here we go guys." Mrs Yagami unlocked it, and slowly led her children forward into a wide, airy entrance hall, which happened to be filled with stacks of cardboard boxes. Tai and Kari moaned simultaneously. "Oh, c'mon. You knew this was coming."
"But, we're all tired from the drive up here!" Tai replied with a whine, shuffling his feet about on the wooden flooring.
"Can't we just go look around first?" Kari pitched in, smiling cutely at her mother. "Please?"
Mrs Yagami sighed. "Oh, alright. I guess you can have a quick look around. But then we really do need to get moving."
"Ok! Thanks Mom."
"And while you're at it, go and pick out your bedrooms!"
They nodded in reply, and sprinted off towards the staircase with smiles on their faces, leaving their mother behind to shake her head.
The pair chose their rooms quickly. Kari took to a cosy bedroom with pale wallpaper and a bright, fluffy carpet, and Tai took to a slightly larger bedroom, which had a door that led out onto the balcony. The subsequent task of unpacking their things and sorting out their rooms, however, didn't go by quite so fast.
Tai collapsed onto his bed from sheer exhaustion, four hours and some take-out food later, and closed his eyes tight. They had managed to get everything into the right bedrooms, though not everything had found a permanent place, and they had sorted out the kitchen for the most part. The other rooms would have to be finished off another day, though.
As Mrs Yagami had said, three pairs of hands just weren't enough to do a job like this in one night.
"Tai, can I come in?"
Tai raised his head at the voice, and looked at his closed bedroom door. "Sure, come on in."
Kari did as she was told and entered the bedroom, shedding light from the hallway onto the darkened room. "The posters are nice." She offered, motioning towards the newly posted soccer posters that lined one of the bedroom walls almost completely.
"Thanks." Tai nodded in agreement. "So what's up?"
"Oh, it's nothing."
"Well, it's just…"
"Spit it out Kari!" Tai laughed, sitting back down on his bed. She did the same.
"Well…I don't know why we're here." She stopped looking down, and raised her head to look into Tai's dark, chocolate brown eyes with her own soft, amber ones. "I know something happened between you, and…well, I don't understand why we're here."
"We're here because of Dad." Tai explained, gently. "He's gonna be out of jail soon, Kari. You know that."
She turned to face her brother. "I know that, but I don't understand why we had to move away. Shouldn't we be there for him when he gets back home?"
Tai sighed, and looked down into his closed hands. They were trembling, slightly. "He…he might be a little angry at us, at first. So it's safest not to let him see us for a while."
"I don't understand, Tai. Why would he be angry?"
"It's hard to explain."
"Oh…" She mumbled, staring down at a blank corner of the bedroom. She was starting to get a bit of a headache. "I miss Dad."
"Me too, sometimes."
"Will we ever see him again?"
"I think so." Tai nodded. "Maybe not for a while though, Kari."
She nodded her head, too, though she didn't really understand what was going on. "Ok."
"Ok." Tai repeated.
Kari gave Tai a small hug, and then got back to her feet. "I'm tired."
"Yeah, me too." Tai laughed. "We should probably get to bed."
"Ok." She walked back towards the door, and smiled. "See you tomorrow Tai."
"Yeah, you too." Tai smiled, absent mindedly running a hand beneath his shirt and along one of the many thin, red scars that resided there. "Sleep tight."
The moon was high in the sky, tonight. A cold wind was rustling throughout the city, a torrent of rain was brushing down menacingly against the Yagami residence, and Tai was strewn out across his bed, asleep, and writhing from side to side.
In his dream, he was eleven once again. His mother had gone shopping, and had taken Kari with her. The sun was out. It was calm. Tai was practicing his one-handed handstands outside in the garden for fun, dressed in his favourite blue hoody, having kicked his last soccer ball into the unknown. Everything was normal, until a frighteningly hoarse heckle sounded from behind him.
Tai ignored the laugh. But the laugh grew louder, and fiercer. Still, Tai kept ignoring it. And still, the laugh kept coming, and growing. "You're such a big gay boy!" The voice eventually sneered. "You look like a fairy, Tai."
Mr Yagami moved across the garden and punched Tai in the arm, playfully, but Tai fell over into a crumpled heap of limbs and messy hair. His eyes flashed angrily. "Fight back!"
"Fight back!" He repeated.
"Unless you're gay?"
Tai shook. "S-so what if I am?" Tai didn't know why, exactly, he had said that. At the time, he wasn't even sure that he knew what being gay was; but he had admitted to being it, nonetheless, and he had faced the consequences for doing so. He couldn't fully remember what happened next, however. Everything went dark.
"It's ok, sweetie. Everything's gonna be ok." A voice assured him when he re-opened his eyes. Mrs Yagami was holding him in her arms, hoping beyond hope that the ambulance would reach them soon. "He won't get you. I promise. He won't get you."
As those words slipped from her mouth a crash sounded from below, and someone bounded up the stairs towards them, screaming profanities as he broke through their barricade in a flash. Mrs Yagami stood up, and her husband whipped her around the face with a bike chain. She, however, had been expecting something of this nature to happen and, as his weapon connected with her head, her baseball bat connected with his ribcage, forcing him onto the floor. And then the sirens sounded. Louder, and louder.
Tai woke up, here; the same as every other time that he had that dream.
He slowly climbed out of bed, wearing just his dinosaur themed pyjamas, and headed out onto his balcony for some fresh air. It was wet, and it was very cold, but it was soothing.
All of a sudden, though, his ears perked up. Somewhere close by, someone was playing a soft little tune out there in the gale. "A…harmonica?" Tai whispered, leaning forward to look around the neighbourhood for the one playing it. Unfortunately, he couldn't see much, and so instead he just sat back and listened intently as the musician played his heart out. "…maybe they've got a lot on their mind, too." He pondered to himself, wondering how such a beautiful song could be lined with such a lonely cry of emotion. Tai couldn't help himself from connecting with the one playing. It almost felt like someone, out there, was truly as lost as he was.