i. It is always empty, it is always quiet.
A single ray of moonlight enters the darkened entryway through the opened door. A body slides in and a hand shuts the door, followed by a click of a lock. There is a faint sound of shoes being taken off and discarded. Socked feet pad the wooden floor.
After twenty one steps, the footsteps stop. A light switch is flicked on, and artificial light from old fluorescent lamp floods the room.
A scowling, tall boy stands in the doorway, schoolbag in hand.
He enters the living room and drops his bag on top of a nearby low table. He switches on the small television. A comedy show shows up on the screen.
He stares unblinkingly at the screen, a haunted look in his eyes. He reaches for the remote, points it towards the screen and is in the middle of changing shows when the host says something and the audience laughs.
The muscles of his strong, tanned forearm clench under his skin, around his bones. For a simple task of pressing a button to change channels, the tension under his skin and around his tight muscles is tremendous. Several seconds pass.
Nearby, there is a sound of a train passing. The second host says something, his partner disagrees and the audience laughs.
The muscles of his forearm relax. He tosses the remote control over a nearby chair and enters the kitchen. The sound of the audience laughing and hosts jeering each other follows him.
ii. The same comedy show, a different television set in a different place or room. The TV screen is larger, wider, a HD television set. The living room is warm and full of furniture. The lights are on.
A girl sits on the middle of the azure-colored sofa. She wears a navy blue uniform with white blouse, blue ribbon around the collar, vest and pleated skirt. She is watching with mild interest which is strange – the TV show, after all, is her favorite. She looks uncharacteristically solemn, her eyes half-lidded. When the audience laughs, she remains quiet, hands on her lap. Looking at her from a distance, she looks like a lifeless, prim and proper doll.
The hosts announce a commercial, the screen changes and a shampoo ad replaces the show. This seems to jolt her out of her trance. Hazel brown eyes blink. Very slowly, the girl looks around, spots her schoolbag and stretched out a hand. After a few moments of rummaging inside, she finds what she is looking for. She retracts her hand: a cell-phone.
For a long time, she stares at it with a passionate look in her eyes. She looks worried, confused and upon closer inspection, there is a distinct look of longing in her eyes.
The comedy show is back, the audience claps and the hosts try to outdo each other by speaking simultaneously.
iii. After a shampoo commercial, the comedy show comes back. The audience claps and the hosts greeted the viewers, talking at the same time.
He is listening from the kitchen, eating his dinner: beef instant ramen and a can of Coke. He has changed from his school uniform to a printed shirt and sweatpants; his bright orange hair is still messy, few locks sticking up and several strands falling down to his eyes.
Like the living room, the kitchen is bare with chrome walls and a fridge which is always empty. A Tiger's Tail stands in the corner. It is mostly ignored – but the houseplant is surprisingly resilient; it continues to grow despite the lack of attention, water and sunlight.
A black flip-phone beside the can of Coke vibrates and a standard message tone fills the stagnant silence.
Frowning, amber eyes heavy-lidded, he lowers his chopsticks. He grabs the device from its place.
You have received one message.
His eyes widen, his body freezes. A dark, unreadable look crosses his face, lingers in his eyes, hardens the rough lines of his face and fades. Jaw clenched, eyes hard, he set the phone down and empties his can of Coke. After which, he crushes it in his hand, the sound of squeaking aluminum breaking the monotonous silence.
He sighs deeply and releases the crushed can. He leans back to his chair, closes his eyes and tips his head back. He stays like that until the comedy shows ends.
iv. She is lying on her bed, wearing a thin tank top and checkered pajamas.
The window is open. Outside, the big, fat moon is alone in the sky. There are no stars, no clouds. Unobstructed by anything, the moon shines and lights up the earth.
With a slight turn of her head, she gazes up to the little strip of sky she can see. It is quiet, a frozen silence, fine like dust.
On her study table, the cell-phone does not ring.
She closes her eyes.
v. He always has the same dream. Actually, it is a sequence of dreams.
He is standing in the middle of field of yellow flowers. He wants to run, to move but an invisible force keeps him immobile. He stands there and he does nothing else.
Then, the scene will change. It is as if a gigantic sponge is absorbing the colors and life of his surroundings. After that, there is infinite darkness, around him, above him. He is standing on a thin glass of clear water.
Every now and then, a ripple will disturb the tranquility. After the seventh ripple, he starts to sink. Like in the previous dream, he is unable to move. Moreover, he is not capable to produce a sound. He sinks very slowly, inch by inch. He opens his mouth, but there is no sound. Finally, he is submerged. He opens his mouth, water fills in and he feels his lungs burn. While he sinks, he struggles, looking up, eyes wide.
A foot appeared followed by another. There is someone standing directly above him. The water is clear but because of the bubbles, the figure's face is undecipherable. He sinks deeply until all he sees is darkness.
When he opens his eyes, he is stretched out on a grass, gazing up to the sky. The sun is setting, casting its wide, russet beams. The beams refract over the surface of the lake, creating an array of rainbow colors. The unobstructed lights and colors are too bright to look at so he looks away. He sees a girl sitting beside his folded knees, watching the sunset. She has long hair and she is facing forward so he could not see her face.
This is his favorite part of the dream.
There is a moan and the scene changes.
He is now in a room, dark and damp. It smells of sweat. The air is hot, heavy and wet. He is on a bed, on top of someone. He is panting hard, his chest heaving, his ribs compressing and expanding. The muscles of his back contract, blunt nails scratching his skin. Breathless, he reaches down to brush the long hair to reveal the face.
This is when Ichigo wakes up.
vi. The alarm clock rings.
There is a knock.
The girl on the bed slowly opens her eyes. She is breathing heavily, pink lips parted, her cheeks red. The person on the other side calls her name again. The door swings open.
"Are you awake?"
"Y-Yes." Her voice is husky from sleep.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." She sits up, her movement is slow and drowsy.
"Okay. Your breakfast is ready."
vii. The bell rings and the class ends. Students flow out while noisily exchanging high fives and comments. The noise continues down the hallways, shoe lockers and outside the building.
There is a small commotion outside the school, at the gate, a nearby person comments. Ichigo walks on, uninterested. The crowd at the gates thickens; there is a loud, rowdy comment about someone's 'nice legs', followed by laughter. A voice asks about the familiar all girls' school uniform.
All girls' school uniform?
viii. Patiently, prudently ignoring the noise surrounding her, Orihime keeps her head down and waits. Boys whistle as they walk past her, staring at her openly. She is uncomfortable, but she is not going to give in to her discomfort and leave. Several girls glance at her curiously, probably wondering what she, a girl from a high class all-girl's school, is doing in a place like a public high school.
She stiffens and looks up timidly. A boy in loose uniform and messy, bleached hair grins at her.
"Whatcha doing here, babe?"
Orihime chooses not to speak. The boy, however, is not discouraged. He steps closer and cautiously, Orihime steps back. Someone from the crowd loudly comments about how nice her legs are. The group laughs; Orihime purses her lips.
"Your uniform – you from that stuck-up all-girl's school?" the person inquires, eyeing her uniform.
Nearby, a boy with dark hair and eye glasses, small notebook in hand, is watching with a frown.
The boy continues to approach her; the dark-haired boy with eyeglasses pushes up his spectacles and makes a step forward, but stops as he spots a bright, orange head.
"You mute or something, babe? Damn, that's too fucking bad." He smirks. "But you're cute and your legs are nice." He grabs her arm, causing Orihime's eyes to widen. "Entertain me for –" A foot comes out of nowhere. It collides with the side of the boy's head, prompting a yell of surprise and pain from the boy. With a loud sickening thud, he hits the ground, a foot planted on the back of his head. The laughter ceases abruptly.
"Who the hell do you think you're messing up with?" Ichigo hisses, looking down to the head he is stepping on with his right foot. His teeth clench, tight, powerful cords of muscles pop out from his neck. The person under his shoe struggles but Ichigo mercilessly grinds his foot harder. "You bastard… That's my sister!"
Then, Ichigo swings his leg forward, giving a strong kick that sends the boy flying off the ground and to the direction of his cronies who step back and let their leader fall on the ground once more. The students watching the spectacle cringe and step back.
Without an expression, Ichigo faces Orihime who is wide-eyed. "How many times did I tell you to stop coming here?"
She blinks and looks up to him. "I…"
Hearing whispers behind him, he turns to the curious onlookers. "What the hell are you all looking at?" he growls. "This is not a zoo! Stop ogling my sister!" He spats and the crowd immediately disperses; after all, this is Kurosaki Ichigo, the boy with abnormal hair, abnormal temper, abnormal strength and abnormal resilience. He isn't even human, people say. However, he is an odd delinquent: a delinquent who makes good grades.
The place soon becomes empty, except for Sado – Ichigo's constant companion, the stony-faced Ichigo himself, the boy with eye-glasses and black hair, and Orihime.
Ichigo visibly cringes as though electrocuted. At this point, he really wants to hate her. With her constantly calling him 'brother', it always reminds him of the things he wants but could and would not have.
"Please… come home," Orihime says in her tremulous voice. Seeing her teary eyes and quivering lips, Ichigo quickly looks away and an invisible wall around him goes up, thickens and traps him inside.
"We talked about this before –"
"We didn't." Orihime interjects softly, but firmly. "You never told me why you left."
"Why do I have to tell you everything?" he snorts with a heavy scowl. When he hears Orihime gasp, he squeezes his eyes shut and curses himself under his breath. "Look, Orihime." It hurts to look at her, especially now that she looks like as though she is about to cry. Ichigo, however, forces himself to continue. "Just stay away from me."
With that, he walks past her. Sado offers a small smile to the girl as he passes by her.
"W-Wait, please!" She stumbles after Ichigo. The tall boy continues on without a backward glance. Sado, on the other hand, cast Orihime a subtle concerned look.
"N-Nii-san, wait – ah!"
Ichigo turns around and his hand thrusts forward, gripping Orihime's wrist to steady her. "Look where you're going," he says quietly, looking at her underneath his lashes.
Teary brown eyes look up to him. "P-Please… I-Ichigo-kun."
The wall crumbles, fine like dust.
Ichigo stares at her openly and swallows slowly, painfully; the sweet echo of his name coming from her lips soothes his frayed nerves, his tense muscles and tortured soul. A cottony haze fogs his brain and senses.
"We're waiting for you. Let's go home-" He is watching the movement of her perfect lips. "Nii-san."
To Ichigo, the last word is a vicious curse. The spell breaks into tiny pieces and Ichigo is fiercely ripped away from his fantasies. Cold, heavy reality comes crashing down on him in like an enormous tidal wave.
"No," Ichigo answers simply, dropping her hand.
"This conversation is boring me," Ichigo drawls flatly. "Go home, leave me alone and stop coming to my school." He could see disappointment shining in her watery, hazel-colored eyes. But Orihime only sighs deeply and gives him a smile.
"I…" She looks straight into his eyes. And Ichigo, as always whenever Orihime looks into his eyes, feels as though she can see his deepest secret, the only thing he wants, the only thing he desires, and he feels violently sick.
His clenched fist trembles.
"Be careful," she says softly, smiles at Sado before turning to go.
ix. That's right. Go. Stay the fuck away from me.
The walking figure of Orihime becomes smaller until she disappears in a corner.
I'm not going to drag you to hell with me.
Forcefully relaxing his fists, Ichigo turns to the opposite direction. "Let's go, Chad," he grunts.