Here We Are and There We Were
Chapter 1: Shark in the Water
Walking down the street made everything seem surreal. I was getting places. Literally, yes, but my life was on a promising road; which is also a pun. The air was clear and breathing in was a natural high. The smile was understandably placed across my face.
Now, there comes a point in your life when you are so completely involved with the world around that you lose any coherent functioning when presented with the unexpected. And that moment for me was right now. But before I continue, it's probably best if we go back to when things started to explode in my life. By the way, my name is Ichigo Kurosaki.
Telling a story is more of an art than people may think. If it's told too quickly, the point is lost. If it's told too slowly, interest goes out the window. You have to be able to capture every movement, thought, and emotion. Without any of that, everything you want the listener to understand is gone. And you are left alone with the true experience. So as I begin to tell my story, my only hope is to no longer feel the loneliness of an untold tale.
"Are you kidding me?"
"What? You said you'd come over and help me. If you aren't going to help, then you're wasting my time."
"Jesus Christ," I spat out as I threw my shoulder into the dresser and began to force it up the stairs with elegance. Drawers flew open while I ran it into the railing a few times.
"Careful! That's an antique! My grandma is going to haunt the crap out of you, moron!"
Stopping dead on my tracks in the middle of the stairs, I stared down at her with what I could only presume was one of my piercing leers. "Well, why aren't you doing this instead of this moron?"
She scoffed and then rolled up her sleeves. "Fine," she said pointedly as she made her way up the stairs. Rolling my eyes, I held my arm out to prevent her from coming any further. "Stay out of the way," I replied stoically. "You and I both know you can't lift this piece of junk."
"It's not ju-"
"Yeah, yeah. It's a gem. Now tell me where you want it," I grumbled as she followed me up the stairs. It was the beginning of our fourth year in college. Time was flying by like no one would ever believe. Supposedly we were all already adults, but any one of us could show you otherwise. Mary Jane one night; alcohol another. Flashing strangers one magically evening; bull rushing some poor soul the next. Dance parties every day. Yeah, we were adults.
My best friend, the one person who was attached to my hip throughout my entire college career thus far, was Rukia Kuchiki. She was a quick tempered piece of work. Sometimes she could pull out a serious death glare that made you shrink to one-fourth your own size. Other times, her mind was as feeble as a two year old's. Why she dealt with my sarcastic ass so much, I still have no idea.
"Can you hurry up a bit? We have some place to be," she commanded taping her foot with her arms crossed over her chest. Placing the last piece of furniture down on the floor, a stood up and stared incredulously at her.
"Well excuse me for moving your obnoxiously cat hair coated chair. Try a lint brush every once in awhile, will ya?"
"There's no need to be grumpy now. Let's go. Move your butt!" Rolling my eyes behind her, I followed her out the door.
It had been a long summer. One of my best friends at home, Mizuiro, got engaged to his high school sweetheart in early June. They had been dating for seven years at this point, so it was only a matter of time in my opinion. I worked at my father's manufacturing company for those few months. Answering phone calls, filing, mail, etc. It was simple enough. Plus, it got me some hands-on business experience. That works out great for an advertising major, right?
Above everything else, the summer was drama-filled. The reason? Senna; my ex-girlfriend from high school and halfway through college. We broke up two years ago and all of a sudden, after having no contact for two years, she decides to pop up. I'm not a fan of Jack-in-the-box. Never have been. The clown thing creeped the hell out of me. So whenever people decide to hideout for a long period of time and then suddenly jump back into my life, it makes me uneasy. It started off as a random message wishing me a happy birthday. I, of course, replied with a thank you. I didn't want to be rude. Also, I wasn't holding a grudge or anything, so why not?
It was then that I made the mistake. By replying to her, it implied that I wanted to continually talk to her. It led to questions about how our lives were going, how school was, how our families were, etc. I couldn't not answer her. I have a weird conscious for some things. We eventually met up to have coffee and that's when I realized it. She was trying to get back with me. It took me awhile, but when she was directly in my face and leaning in for a kiss, yeah, it was pretty clear. Since turning my head to give her the kiss on the cheek move, I've kept our conversations to a minimum and vague. I didn't know what her game was, whether it was a summer fling or something serious, but I wanted to avoid it. She was the girl that tore my heart in two. A guy has to remember what crazy chick messes him up; otherwise they'll end up full circle.
"Well, look who decided to show up," I heard a familiar voice say as we walked up the steps of my home for the year. "Twenty minutes late. Looks like Renji won the pool."
"You guys seriously took bets on how late we would be?" I asked in annoyance as I stared up to the balcony. Uryuu Ishida, the man I always go to if I need to think in reason. He calms me down whenever I get too frazzled. He has his sarcasm and quick wit that I love to rival with. I met him the first year of college, like most of my housemates. We're closer than ever.
"If it helps, Renji only won because he said you guys were doing the naughty," Uryuu decided to add.
"How would that help?" I exclaimed.
"Ha! In his dreams…" Rukia replied as she walked past me through the entrance. I glared at her back as she disappeared.
"Can you just get in here already? I need my beer pong partner. Let's kick this year off by partying our asses off!"
"To the point where we don't remember kicking it off so we have to do it all over again?" I added with a smirk and a cocked eyebrow.
Uryuu grinned. "This is why we're friends."
Walking into the house, I was welcomed with the image of Renji trying to charm Rukia as he leaned on the counter with his elbow propped up so his chin could rest on his fist.
"You know the invitation's always open," he finished with a grin.
I raised an eyebrow as I passed him in order to get to the fridge. "And what invitation is that?" I asked taking out a beer.
"Oh you know," he began, "the one to my bed."
"As much as you know I'd love to, Renji, I'm going to have to decline," Rukia said in feigned sadness.
"And why's that?" Renji asked with his grin still ever present.
Rukia simply ran her hand roughly through his hair. "It's the red hair," she answered with a broad smile as she took the beer out of my hands and walked off.
"I'll go blonde for ya, babe!" he shouted after her before he let out a chuckle.
I sighed from my stolen beer before getting another one. "You'll never give up, huh?"
"Neither will she," he said in response. Renji Abarai, a blunt redneck who has an overactive libido. If I want the truth, I'll go to this guy. If I want to be a guy and just relax and have a beer, he's the one to go to. Nothing is too serious with him, so you can get things off your mind easily. He'll hit on any walking vagina. Flirting with Rukia is just a habit now; playful banter that they both apparently get a kick out of.
Let me quickly introduce the main posse before we keep going. Living with Rukia were four other girls. Orihime Inoue was the heart and soul of our entire group. She's the most innocent, and often most child-like out of all of us. I'm not saying if anyone else had a problem we wouldn't rush to their aid; it's just seems morally wrong if something happens to her. I guess we're a protective bunch.
Tatsuki Arisawa is the jock. She always has energy to do something. Even drunk, she'll ask people if they want to go for a run. I've wrestled her many times, and I can shamefully say she's beaten me more than I wish she did. She's laid back but makes sure things are done right. On a more personal note, Tatsuki plays for the other team. She always had a little thing for Orihime. Too bad Orihime always had her eyes on men.
Rangiku Matsumoto is the female version of Renji. The only difference is she has a much better sense of fashion. Half the time, Renji didn't even have a shirt on. Seductive and up for a good time, it's a shock the two of them haven't gotten together yet. Although, I think it was a close call one night. She has a fiery spirit.
Momo Hinamori's more of the artist of the group. She has a tender personality, making it rare to ever get into an argument with her. Painting, sketching, even playing the piano; she has a lot of talent there.
In my house, there's of course, me, Uryuu, Renji, but also, Chad and Kaien. Chad is the gentle giant. Like Momo, you'll never get into an argument with this guy. He's a true buddy. Surprisingly more emotional than you'd think of a guy with that much muscle, but there's no judging there.
Kaien's the mysterious one. "Mr. Smooth." He's a people person; knows how to please a crowd. Politician in the making in my opinion. He's cryptic and most of the time knows exactly what you're thinking. It usually makes him very popular with the ladies. He's been with many different girls throughout the years, but he's always had his eye on Rukia. As far as I know, nothing has ever come of it.
Now let's get back to the story. Six games of beer pong and Uryuu and I were still undefeated. Shots were taken randomly throughout that time. Everyone was feeling at least something. Momo and Orihime were more than enough drunk, which makes sense because they're the lightweights.
"Aw, come on, guys! Somebody's gotta beat us!" Uryuu shouted sarcastically as he laughed.
"Uryuu, calm down! It's not their fault we're better than them," I smirked as he slammed his hand against my back and laughed again.
"I'll take you guys out," Kaien interrupted cockily.
"Oh really? Where's your partner?" Uryuu asked as he threw back his beer.
Kaien took a step closer and slid his arm around Rukia's shoulders. "Right here," he answered staring back at us wearing a smug face.
Rukia, slightly confused, looked back and forth between Uryuu and I, and Kaien. Then, she smiled playfully. "Bring it on, losers!"
"Rukia, you do realize you have to throw a ball in this game, right?" I mocked.
She glared. "Don't be an asshole."
I chuckled and raised my hands to show no offense. "Hey, I'm just saying. Remember that time we played football?"
"That's a completely different sport!"
"The hoop is too high!"
"Even playing catch?"
"Shut it, Kurosaki! I swear to god, you are gonna lose so hard!"
"Losers do four shots in a row," Kaien added. Rukia elbowed him and whispered harshly, "Kaien, I can't do that. I'll die."
He smiled slightly. "Don't worry. We'll win."
"We'll see about that," Uryuu threw back.
And lo and behold, they won. The victory dance included a scream from Rukia, who jumped onto Kaien for a tight embrace, which then ended with Kaien planting a deep kiss on her cheek. It was obvious how he felt. I was just curious if she knew.
Anyhow, four shots later and I was gone. I still don't remember the rest of that night. I woke up on my bed as Rukia stood over me with a glass of water and an amused smile on her face. "Morning, sunshine," she greeted with a giggle as her eyes shined down on me. Somehow that shine seemed to make my head hurt.
I moaned as I tried to sit up. "Remind me to never do that again."
"Oh I've heard that before…"
"At least pretend you care enough to humor me," I groaned as I rubbed my temple. Looking down at myself, I noticed I was only wearing my boxers. "Where are my clothes?" I yelled, wincing at the amount of noise I created.
"Uryuu kept shining a flashlight on you and for some reason you thought you were on fire… So here you are."
"Ugh. I'm a dumbass."
"You don't have to tell me that," she replied with a smile. I glared.
"Did I miss anything?"
"Chad chugged five beers straight in under twenty seconds. Orihime fell down the stairs. Tatsuki fell asleep on the toilet. Renji and Rangiku were talking about something completely X-rated. I avoided that conversation. Uryuu, Kaien, Momo played strip poker, which didn't get that far. They tried convincing me to play, but this was when you started taking off your clothes because of the fake fire. So I took you up here because it looked threatening that the boxers were about to come off."
"Oh good God. I'm sorry about that," I said feeling utterly embarrassed.
She chuckled. "It's fine. It was… amusing," she said, finding the word she was looking for.
"Well thanks for taking care of me," I managed to smile, still feeling disgusting.
"Oh you have no idea. You threw up like ten pounds," she exclaimed as she laughed.
I winced. "That would explain the sour milk taste I have in my mouth…"
"Doctor's advice? Take three of these. It'll make you feel better. And drink that entire glass of water with them," Rukia said as she handed me some sort of pain relievers. Oh yeah, she was pre-med. So was Orihime actually.
"Thanks," I said before following her advice. She took a seat on the edge of my bed. "So, Kaien was getting pretty cozy with you last night. Anything?"
Rukia smiled and shook her head. "He's just my friend, Ichigo. I'm not interested." Little did I know who she really was interested in- Ah! I'm ruining the plotline! That was almost a spoiler. Way to go, Ichigo.
Anyway, part of me didn't really believe her. "You sure?"
She raised an eyebrow at me and looked at me with confusion and curiosity. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Anybody you are interested in then?" It wasn't an abnormal conversation. We talked about this kind of thing all the time. We were best friends. We'd give each other advice if necessary.
"No, not at the moment," she answered nonchalantly. "The year hasn't even started yet anyway."
"True," I said laying back down with a sigh. We sat quietly for a moment before I finally spoke again. "Remember what you randomly said to me a few years back? When we were in my car driving back from a late movie? I can't even remember what movie it was… But you said, 'Promise you'll always be honest with me.' And I've always kept that." I sat up to look at her again. I remembered her face looking so surprised. She blinked a few times before responding.
"I'm not lying to you, Ichigo."
I nodded slowly as she stared directly into my eyes with such intensity. "Okay then." I just didn't believe her. She had been acting weird for awhile. When we talked over the summer things seemed off. I wasn't really sure how to approach it.
My phone buzzed on my dresser next to my bed. I leaned up with yet another groan and grabbed. "Ugh."
"Who is it?"
"Senna. Again. 'Hey, what's up?' She's really starting to be relentless."
"That's annoying," Rukia commented. I sighed. Yes, it was annoying. "Just ignore her."
"I try! But something in me caves."
"She hurt you, Ichigo. It shouldn't be that hard," she said sternly.
"I know, but-"
"No 'buts'. Try to think in reason here. I bet everyone would say the same thing."
"I'm trying to think in reason-"
"No, you're not," she said even stronger.
"Okay, okay. I'll ignore her." An awkward silence filled the air.
"Let's just recover for tonight, okay?" I said trying to get rid of the tension in the air.
"The Food Party? Everyone dresses up as their favorite food? Remember?" I was so confused on how she had forgotten. She was so excited to dress up as ice cream.
"Oh yeah! I can't wait!" she shouted as she jumped to her feet and started jumping up and down.
"Please," I whimpered. "Stop shrieking like a pig being tortured." My head was still pounding.
Many of us consulted each other on what we were going to be for the party. And then ideas of how to cheaply create such costume ensued. Apparently I was going to be a carrot. The orange hair gave it away, I suppose. People separated for a bit to get things done. Some had to work, like Kaien who works in the local library or Momo who works in a shoe store downtown. Others just had things to do. We can't always be together. Life isn't one big party. But even if it was, I'd probably go crazy if I was around them twenty-four/seven.
I took a shower, some more medicine to destroy the headache once and for all, and then threw myself onto my bed. In mere seconds, my phone buzzed. I groaned in annoyance. One moment of peace and quiet, that's all I wanted. Taking my phone out of my pocket, I looked at the message.
Ichigo, I miss you.
It was that message that tore more at my chest than the others had. Why was Senna still able to make me feel this way? How cruel is it that it was still possible? She didn't want to try then, why would she try now? Why does she think she can? It was all a bunch of bullshit.
I laid there thinking not knowing how much time was passing. Finally, Rukia came walking through my bedroom door. "What are you doing laying there? We were all meeting at my place remember? When you weren't answering your phone, they sent me over here to get you."
I leaned up on my elbows feeling a little delirious. My thoughts were anywhere but there. "Oh, uh, sorry."
"Well come on! Get up!" she urged.
I frowned as I looked down to my lap. "You know what? I think I'm gonna stay in tonight. I still haven't recovered from last night." I needed an excuse. I wasn't in the partying mood. I needed to be alone.
"Are you kidding me?" she exclaimed. "You were so excited about this party early."
"Yeah, but now I feel like staying in. It's not that big a deal if I don't go." She seemed to get overly upset about my change of plans.
"I can't be vegetable dip with only one vegetable!"
"You've got broccoli; Kaien. You'll be fine," I tried to reason.
"No, it's not the same!"
"I'm not going, Rukia," I said firmly. I had made up my mind.
She suddenly froze into a stoic expression. "Fine. I guess Kaien doesn't need any dip."
"What? So you're not going anymore?"
"No. I'm going home." Her defiance was piercing. It was the kind of response she gave that made my chest balloon up in anxiety as I held back the urge to rip her a new one.
"You can still go without me. It's not that big a deal."
"I don't really want to go anymore. Bye, Ichigo." My name felt wrong coming from her lips. It was bitter. She always needed to get her way, and God forbid she didn't, the whole world suffered. I rolled my eyes as my front door slammed shut. Anger and frustration built up in that instant. What the hell was her problem? Why did she have to be so childish? Why did I let her stupid antics affect me so much?
I let out pent up emotion with a simple exhale and roll of my neck and shoulders to relieve the tension. Sometimes I'll never understand her.
I made my way to my room, threw myself on my bed and prepared for a night of convenient television. Flipping through channels proved more entertaining than anything else. My mind was everywhere. Why was Senna still trying to talk to me? She was never a clinger. She was the exact opposite. That's what the problem with us was in the first place. So why continue to make little cameos in my life two years after the fact? Ripping my heart out back then was enough to remind me of that emotional discomfort every time she liked to step on screen.
Why do it? What's her point? Why does it mess with my head so easily?
My finger continued to press the next channel button without my mind even processing what my eyes were barely able to see. Jesus, just get her out of my thoughts.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. It was rapid and loud. The urgency in it made me jump and make my way to the door in curiosity. I looked at my watch to see 10:47. Opening the door enough for me to see who it was, I squinted in confusion.
"Rukia?" She was shaking and breathing heavily. I quickly shut the door so I could remove the chain and then opened it again. "Hey, what's wrong?" All frustration I had with her from earlier was now gone. What happened before was nothing. I was going to be there for her.
"I think I'm having a panic attack…" she managed to breathe out as she walked into my apartment, brushing past me.
"Wait, what? What's going on?"
She paced in my living room before I began to approach her. My hand reached out to rest on her shoulder, but she cut me off. "Don't come near me," she said sternly.
My confusion just continued to get worse. "Okay…? Then tell me what's wrong."
She then left the living room and made her way into my room. I followed. Concern was running through me. "Rukia. Talk to me."
"I can't," she replied as she shook her head over and over. She then went back into the living room, and I followed her again.
"Why not? We talk about everything! You obviously want to talk about it, otherwise you wouldn't have come here."
"I can't! It's too weird!" Rukia made her way back into my room. It was like a God damn game of tag. I made sure to stand in front of my bedroom door in order to keep her in one room. The chase was over after four or five laps.
"How could it be weird? Nothing you can say will make me think any less of you."
"No, I can't!" she argued weakly as she continued to shake.
"Rukia." Her name came out of my mouth pleadingly. I wanted to help her. I needed to help her. She was so important to me. I had never seen her like this before. And that scared the hell out of me.
"I think I'm starting to feel something…" she admitted without looking at me.
"Okay? You're gonna have to help me out a little more here."
"Ichigo," she whimpered as she let her eyes meet mine. And there it was in those deep violet eyes. I saw it. I felt it.
"How long have you been thinking this?" I questioned softly.
"I just thought of it." Her pacing then continued. And the crying began.
I glared slightly. "You just thought of it. What were you doing when you just thought of it?"
"I was watching 'Dexter'."
"So you were watching a show about a serial killer and you just thought this? That's bullshit. You've been acting weird with me for awhile now."
She kept bringing her hands to her face as she cried more and more. I wanted to hug her, tell her it was fine, but she clearly didn't want me to come near her. I felt useless.
I sat down on my bed as she paced in front of me. "You need to talk. Get your thoughts out of your head. You can't bottle this up inside," I urged. It was true. Staying silent was clearly eating her alive. But aside from that, I really didn't know what to say.
"I don't know. I'm just generally happier whenever you're around. I find myself smiling when you walk into the room."
"That doesn't mean you have feelings for me," I argued gently. "Friends can be happy to see each other. There are different kinds of love."
She didn't respond to that. She just cried more. Her pacing was beginning to get to me. "Can you just sit and calm down a little?" She sat in a chair across from me as her body shook. "Breathe," I begged.
"I… don't know what it is about you. It's different with you. I don't understand it," she explained before standing up and pacing again.
I sighed and tried to break the tension a little. With a smirk, I joked, "It must be my charm…"
Her pacing stopped as she shot me a glare full of daggers. "Not now," she spat bitterly.
I let out a chuckle awkwardly and tried to move away from my comedic attempt. I rubbed the back of my neck uncomfortably. "I don't… understand. Why me?"
"What do you mean 'why me'?" she questioned as she wiped her eyes. She made it sound like what I asked was ridiculous.
"I mean, it would make more sense for Kaien than me."
Her stare seemed incredulous. "Why would I have feelings for Kaien? I talk to you. I'm always with you."
Finally it was all soaking in. It was shocking. She was my best friend. She meant so much to me. What was I supposed to say to her? I didn't care that she may have feelings for me. She was still my Rukia. What could I do?
I stared blankly at the floor. "So… how long have you felt like this?" I questioned again.
"I don't know? Awhile now?" she busted out as she buried her face in her hands and cried. Her pacing grew faster. "Ugh, I just thought about kissing you and it freaked me out!"
My eyes widened and I felt slightly more uncomfortable all of a sudden. "Uh, okay…" Anxiety kicked in. How could I make this okay?
"I… I just want it to go away," she ushered through tears. Some part of that statement hurt; whether it was about not wanting to have feelings for me or the fact that I didn't know how exactly to help her.
"We spend too much time together. We need space," she said karate chopping the air to represent the space concept.
"We have all the same friends. Do you know how hard that's going to be?" I asked with furrowed eyebrows and the hurt starting to spread in my chest.
"This needs to happen. I can't deal with this," she started to demand as if she had control over herself.
I sighed and stared at her for a moment. "If that's truly what you want, I'll give it to you. But I don't believe in that. You don't take breaks in friendships."
"Ichigo," she said so strongly with a look of pleading deep within her eyes. A tear came strolling down her damp cheeks. How could I deny her? I didn't want her to cry anymore. "Okay," I said softly. Silence filled the air as she began to cry quietly. "I guess… I'll see you around then." She nodded as she looked to the floor and then that was it. She left.
And that was when it happened; the most uncontrollable turn of my life.
Chapter one. I've been really getting back into writing lately. It feels good. I hope some of you will stick around and see where I take you. I'll try not to let you down.
For those of you that are familiar with my other stories, you know I use a lot of music to help me out. So give a listen to, "Shark in the Water," by VV Brown. It works for Rukia mostly.