Hi all. Surprise! A new story! I know I've just started writing Akai Ito, but it seems that the idea for this story won't leave me alone. So I had to start it. Chapters for this will be a bit longer than usual, and on top of everything else going on I may end up only updating this story once every 2 weeks or so, but we'll see.
It's a Sere/Dar romance. This chapter's a little angsty but the overall feel of the story will hopefully end up being more of a light-hearted romantic drama with some comedy woven through here and there. Enjoy!
Title: Summer Rain
Author: Crystal Saturn
Chapter: 1- Murphy's Law: Instance #1
"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong"
It is strange how the weather sometimes seems to reflect the mood of an occasion. Today was not one of those days. It was too sunny, too warm, and the sky was far too blue for a funeral. Golden beams of sunlight kissed Serena's rosy, tear-stained cheeks. She had been strong through most of the funeral service and shed only a number of silent tears. The shock of it all was still so painfully evident. She wanted to let herself cry, but knew that if she did, she would never stop. Ironically, she thought, this was neither the time nor the place to show her weakness. She wouldn't allow herself to mourn right now. No, she needed to be strong. She needed to be there to hold and comfort her brother and her mother.
'Tsukino, Kenji. A loving husband, father and friend.' The tombstone read, white letters etched into dark grey marble. Serena closed her eyes as she held up her incense sticks and bowed in silent prayer. She placed the three smouldering sticks at the base of her father's tomb stone and joined her distraught mother, holding her tightly as she wept out loud. This week had been the hardest for her. Ikuko-mama was the linchpin personality of the family. She held the family together and was the pivotal, central foundation of the family. But she herself, relied so heavily on her husband to support her and every decision she made. He was her rock. The father of her children, the provider for the family, and most importantly, he was her best friend.
In the blink of an eye, that all changed. Now he was gone from their lives forever. A tragic accident. He was taking photos and reporting on the opening day of a new primary school and child care centre. It was such a happy event, the highlight of his week. But it all turned sour when a gang of thieves botched up an attempted daylight robbery of a nearby high security bank. The police had arrived before the thieves could make their escape. Shots were fired and panicked parents dove to the ground, shielding their children from the violence. Of all the shots and rounds fired between the law enforcement officers and robbers, only one bullet managed to ricochet across a stone wall and strike an innocent victim. One bullet. One stray bullet. It wasn't meant to happen like this. He was reporting such a happy event.
But fate works in the most mysterious ways.
"I'm so sorry for your loss, Aunty Ikuko." A gentle hand rested on her quivering shoulders. "And I'm sorry mama couldn't make it today. She's preparing a room for your and Sammy's arrival. She sends her condolences."
"Thank you, Andrew." Ikuko turned to embrace her nephew tightly. "And thank you for offering to host Serena in your apartment too." The tall blonde university student nodded in understanding. The two-storey house she was living in now was far too large and expensive for the three of them to live in; especially considering Ikuko was a housewife, and now a single mother. She now had to enter the workforce to help support her children and pay for the necessities of life such as food and school fees. Her sister, Andrew's mother, insisted that they all stayed with her. This was a lovely gesture and just what Ikuko needed to get back on her feet after such a devastating loss. The only problem though, was that her sister lived in Akita, four hours away from Tokyo by train. This meant completely uprooting the family and moving them to a different part of the country. As much as Ikuko wanted to keep the rest of her family together, she knew it simply wasn't possible. Serena's high school entrance exams were a few weeks away, and she knew it was important for Serena to continue to have consistency in her life, as well as the chance of a good education. Serena would have to stay in Tokyo for now.
Andrew rent-shared a moderately spacious three bedroom apartment where he and one of his college friends lived. For two months now, since late October, the third bedroom had remained unoccupied due to a lack of suitable applicants. Another friend of Andrews had lived in that room, but recently decided to move out and live with their partner. As soon as Andrew had heard of the news of his uncle's death, and the predicament Serena was in, he offered to take her in so she could finish her schooling here. Serena was like a little sister to him. He watched out for her every opportunity he could, so when the situation arose, he didn't hesitate at all to offer his assistance in any way he could.
It was decided that the sooner Serena could move in and settle back into some sort of familiarity and routine, the better. She needed to try to focus on her high school entrance exams which took place in about a month's time. There was now a lot of added pressure for her to do well, to make her mother proud. It's what her father would have wanted, too.
Serena already had many of her belongings packed into boxes, ready to take over to her cousin, Andrew's apartment. She would return to her house for the last time tonight to help her mother pack up the last of their belongings. Serena didn't want to leave. She grew up in that house. There were so many memories, many of them pleasant. The memory of her father lived on in that house, in every corridor and every room. These were memories that she could never replace. Memories that would one day fade away no matter how desperately she tried to relive and remember them. She didn't want to forget him, and she wasn't ready to leave her childhood home behind, but she knew she had no choice. Serena choked back tears. There was too much change happening too fast. Within the span of a week, her happy family had been ripped apart, and she didn't know when she would see her mother again.
Andrew pulled Serena in for a tight hug. He knew she was trying her best to stay strong, but he also knew that she must have been terrified. Her father had just passed away, her mother and younger brother were moving away to a different part of the country, and Serena was being left behind to pick up the pieces of her broken life, alone. He wanted to be there for her. He wanted to show her that he cared and would support her every step of the way, but his words didn't seem to be enough, and he didn't know how else to comfort the distraught teenage girl. Serena attempted to stifle some more quiet sobs as she leant her head against Andrews's chest.
"You can cry if you want." Andrew whispered gently, so only Serena could hear. "It's OK, you know. You don't have to be strong right now." Serena pulled away slowly and shook her head, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand.
"I have to be strong for mama and Sammy. I can't let them see that I'm scared to stay, or that I'm too upset about papa. They'll worry about me when they leave. I have to be strong, even though I'm alone." The innocence of her words and the strength of her voice struck a chord within Andrew, and he blinked back tears of his own.
"You're not alone, 'Rena. I promise I'll look after you. If you need anything, at any time, you know you can ask me. We'll make it through this, one day at a time. You'll be fine Serena." Andrew attempted a weak smile. Serena searched her cousin's eyes and for a moment, her expression of doubt eased. She nodded slowly, feeling many of her doubts begin to ease and subside little by little. "I'll come by the house later tonight ok?"
"Thank you, Andy." Serena managed to smile through her tears, before she turned away to comfort her grieving mother once again.
Andrew pulled into the Tsukino residence driveway. There were a number of marked boxes and suitcases out on the lawn. Black ink drawn bunny rabbits distinguished some boxes from others. Andrew approached the front door of the family home slowly. The sound of weeping voices could be heard coming from just inside the house.
"Please don't inconvenience your cousin Andrew, and treat him with respect at all times." Ikuko's teary voice could be heard among Serena's own sobs. "Don't forget to do your chores and help out around the apartment as much as you can. Do whatever Andrew asks you to do and please try to stay out of trouble Serena."
"Yes mama." Serena sniffled as she nodded her head tearfully.
"And please study hard. Do your best on your high school entrance exams. Make your papa and I proud. You're a big girl now, Serena. It's time you started taking things more seriously OK?" Ikuko embraced her only daughter tightly as she noticed Andrew's shadow lurking about the doorway.
"Yes mama, I will mama." Serena added once again.
"I understand Andrew also lives with one of his college friends. Try not to disrupt Andrew's friend or annoy him with your childish shrills, or do anything else that would put your cousin in an awkward position." The sting of Ikuko's motherly scolds was somewhat diminished as she wiped her cascading tears away mournfully and continued to clutch as her only daughter tightly.
"That shouldn't be a problem." Andrew interjected quietly. "He's hardly ever at the apartment, and when he is, he spends most of his time being boring and reading in his room."
"Come on," Ikuko urged, tugging her daughter's elbow slightly as she turned to her nephew and smiled through her tears. "Andrew is here, we mustn't keep him waiting. I'm sure he's a very busy man."
"No, not at all!" Andrew shook his head strongly as he peered into the house. "Please, take your time. I'll start loading things into the car. Bunny rabbit boxes right, 'Rena?" The tall blonde man looked over at his younger cousin. She nodded quietly.
"Thank you, Andrew." Ikuko lifted up one of Serena's packed bags, ready to take it to the car.
"Please," Andrew reached to take the bag from his aunt. "I can do this. It's no trouble at all. I'm more than happy to have Serena with me. She'll keep me out of trouble." He chuckled as he attempted to reassure Ikuko. Her gaze softened slightly and a small, grateful smile graced her lips.
"I hope she doesn't cause any trouble for you."
"Mama..." Serena urged quietly, lowering her head in embarrassment.
"Not at all. Serena's a good kid. I promise I'll look after her." Andrew lifted a hand up in the air, reinforcing his oath.
"If you ever need anything-" Ikuko began once again.
"If anything happens, we'll call you. I'll make sure 'Rena calls you every week or so. We'll let you know when the house and furniture is sold at auction. We'll keep in touch." Andrew interrupted. He didn't want his aunty to worry about financial burdens at such a time. She was leaving her only daughter, and her home behind. Ikuko smiled weakly once again and nodded in understanding. She turned to her daughter and embraced her tightly once more as Andrew began to load the boxes of belongings into his car.
"I love you my little Usagi. I'm so proud of the young lady you're becoming. Please stay safe." She kissed her daughter's forehead as tears began to fall from her eyes once more. She clutched onto Serena, desperately dreading the time when she would have to let go.
"I'll miss you so much, mama. I'll think of you every day. I love you too." Serena chewed on her lower lip, trying once again to be strong. She didn't want to ruin the tender moment by bursting into tears and wailing like a newborn baby, so the two of them stood for a few moments longer, quietly holding each other. Eventually Andrew finished loading all of Serena's belongings into his car. He solemnly approached the mother and daughter embracing in the driveway. Sammy peered out of the house as he finished wrapping some of his things, and joined his family.
"A-are you going now?" Sammy inquired timidly. "Can't you come with us?"
"Sammy, Serena has to finish school here. This is a very important year for her." Ikuko hastily wiped her tears away and gently pulled Sammy closer.
"I'll try to visit on holidays." Serena reassured as she reached over and ruffled her little brother's sandy blonde hair. "You look after mama, OK Sammy? You're the man of the family now. Be a good boy and help out mama whenever you can. I'll bring you lots of treats when I visit."
"I will." Sammy hesitated for a moment before flinging his arms around his older sister. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Sam. I'll miss you both." Serena forced a smile. "I have to go now. Have a safe trip tomorrow. Let me know when you arrive in Akita." She pulled her family in for one last quick hug before slowly walking to Andrew's car.
"Have a safe trip Aunty Ikuko, you too Sammy. Aunty Ikuko, please tell mama I said 'hello' and that I'll call her this weekend, on New Year's day." Andrew watched as the dark haired woman nodded and smiled through her tears. She reached her arms out to hug her nephew quickly and watched as Serena climbed into the passenger seat of the car and buckled herself in.
"I love you both." Serena called out as Andrew made his way to the driver's seat and started the engine.
"Ready?" He glanced over at his younger cousin and she nodded, taking in one last look at her childhood home, and the remnants of her family, waving at her from the driveway.
Serena let out a deep sigh as Andrew turned the corner.
"I'm surprised." He confessed quietly. "I know I'd be in tears by now. You've gone through so much just today. I can't imagine how you must be feeling."
"I feel kind of numb." Serena absentmindedly watched as trees and houses blurred by. "I guess I'm not quite ready to cry yet." Andrew turned at another set of lights and pulled into an underground car park. He rolled into his allocated apartment car spot and clicked the hand break into place.
"Well, if and when you decide you're ready to talk about things, you know you can always come to me, right?"
"I know." Serena smiled gratefully as she unbuckled her seat belt. "Thank you for looking out for me."
"It's no problem, 'Rena." Andrew shut the driver side door and strolled over to the boot of his car, unlocking it and yanking it in an upward motion. "I'm glad to have you here, and I want you to feel comfortable." He added as he began to unload some of Serena's boxes from the back of his car. "Hmm, this may take a couple trips. How about you help me carry some of these heavier boxes, then when we get up to the apartment you can check out your new room, start unpacking some things and get settled in. I'll bring the rest up for you."
"Are you sure? I can bring my things up-"
"No no. I'm more than happy to take your things up for you, and besides, my flatmate should be back from work soon. He'll help bring some things up too if need be. You just take it easy, rest a little and try to settle in." Andrew shut the boot of his car and lifted a number of boxes in his arms before shuffling toward the elevator.
"Dude, what's with all this stuff? I thought you said your cousin was fifteen." As predicted, Andrew's roommate pulled into the car park just as Andrew was on his second round of fetching Serena's belongings. True to his word, Andrew put him straight to work, handing him bags of clothing and boxes of belongings to carry up. His deep voice grunted as he heaved a stack of brown cardboard boxes through the apartment door and placed them by the hallway. "There are rabbits doodled on these boxes. What is she, four years old?"
Serena heard the unfamiliar voice from her new bedroom and cautiously stepped down the hallway to meet her new apartment buddy. Her heart beat anxiously within her chest as she heard the condescending tone in his voice. It made her wince. She wanted to make a good first impression. After all, his room was right across from hers and they would be living together in the same apartment for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately though, it didn't seem to be going well so far.
"Look at this, it's a God-damn stuffed rabbit."
Serena peeked around the corner to see the tall dark haired man pulling out her favourite plush toy out of one of her bags. It was her first toy bunny. Her father had given it to her the day that she was born.
"Don't touch that." A mixture of sadness and anger arose in her voice. "That's from my father." She added as she felt her irritation from his actions and his tone, begin to build up within her. How dare he go through her possessions? He didn't even know her and yet he was mocking her already? What a jerk. Serena clenched her jaw tightly and watched as the two men turned around to face her.
"Dumpling head?" His blue eyes widened with surprise and he turned to Andrew for confirmation.
"You..." Serena's brows furrowed as she squinted her eyes, recognising that smug, self satisfied look in an instant. It was him.
. . .
So... How's the first chapter so far eh? Keeping it all pretty ambiguous for now. Please read and review!