I am able to slow my fall and land gracefully on my feet and one hand for balance. I stare up from where I have just seconds ago been. A small step towards conquering my fear of heights. I think I aged the poor beast about ten years. He licks me and scolds me for scaring him.
My walk home is much quicker and eventful today. It's amazing how quick a walk home can be when I am not walking but riding a tiger. People act as if they have never seen that before. Excuse me.
There are no siblings in the front yard. No sprinkler. I can hear Kento inside the house. The front door is closed. I have forgotten how loud big brother is.
Whiteblaze barely fits through the front door. I can hear Kento in the living room, chatting it up with Mom, Dad, and the sibs. Whiteblaze joins them. I go upstairs.
I run into Rowen in the hallway. He is done unpacking his things in the guest room. He looks amazing, glow and heavenly light emitting from his very being. An angelic choir sings overhead as he brushes his hair with his hand. I look like shit and smell like a public school: cheap body spray, apathy, and diet .
Rowen asks how I have been. I lie through my teeth. Things are great. I am great. Great great great. Can't wait for the festival tonight. I cannot comprehend the rest I say to him. My mind is going faster than my mouth and I imagine I sound like a stupefied fangirl who has just met her vampire heartthrob.
Fortunately, Sage emerges from the guest room and saves me from making a bigger idiot of myself. I greet him, trying not to stare. He is handsome, but I fear I will turn to stone if I stare at him for too long. Rowen and Sage walk back down the stairs to entertain the family.
Cye is standing against the other guest room's door. We really have too many guest rooms. Judging by the amused look on his face, he has been standing there for sometime.
"Cye!" I give him a big hug. Cye smells like the beach. Sun and clean water. I don't give people hugs. But Cye is not normal people. Cye is my quiet, honest, respectful, and fair skinned older brother/sister. Cye has been an extended child of the family since Kento first brought Cye home for dinner when they were kids. He being here means some balance to the chaos of the household.
"You got your haircut," he says. "Looks nice." I cut my shoulder length dark brown hair into a hassle free pixie cut last week. I was sick of my hair and what else am I suppose to do during chem. lab besides play with scissors?
Cye asks about school and life as we sip tea in my room. Cye has brought me a bouquet of summer flowers for the empty vase on the table in my room. Now, it looks like life can survive in this dark cave. False promises.
It is one of the few perks of being the eldest daughter of the family: my room. My room is as big as the master bedroom of the household, only there is one occupant. Chun Fa used to share the room with me, but she got her own room last fall. I could entertain company like Cye, Clara, or Whiteblaze since I am such a social butterfly.
Whiteblaze blasts through the door and wedges himself between me and wall. I don't know why Whiteblaze likes me so much. My personality? My aroma of catnip? I have only met the big cat once before. That was the time I first laid eyes on Rowen. Rowen Hashiba. Hmm. Smart. Good looking. Only child. Blue hair. What's not to like?
"You're thinking about Rowen, aren't you?" Cye asks.
It is 5:30pm. The festival starts in about two hours. I am locked away in my room with Whiteblaze. The tiger takes up most of the floor.
I have raided the sewing kit in the attic that was a birthday present from Grandmother in her hopes that I would (with all my education) grow up to be a respectable homemaker. Grandmother could kiss my respectable ass. And so could this stupid costume dress.
I have scissors. I have a spool of thick thread. I have a boost of confidence (not really, but lying to oneself from time to time can be healthy).
"Pray for me, Whiteblaze. I'm going in."
The collar is cut open. The sides are cut open and re-sewn corset style. The side leg opening of the dress is open longer and wider. If I had to wear this stupid thing, it is going to be comfortable. And if my true love is walking around this festival, I better be comfortable to look at.
I am running late for the festival. I ride Whiteblaze up to the main food booth to be sentenced my punishment for the evening.
"What did you do to your dress?" asks Mom.
"Working on getting you grandchildren."
I am to walk around the festival and pass out menus, flyers, and carry out menus for the restaurant. It could be worse, but I am having a hard time imaging something worse than having to pass out stupid pieces of paper to strangers.
"This sucks, Whiteblaze," I say. "I hate festivals and I hate not being able to leave one early." The tiger nods his head and continues to herd me around the festival.
Fortunately, I do not have the menus for long. Having a giant tiger walking besides me draws onlookers, so I just throw the menus onto them. I know there is probably more menus back at the booth that need passing out, but I am not going back there. Mom needs to chill. People know our restaurant. They love our food. Winning for everyone.
I stay on the far side of the festival, avoiding the family booth. I see Mei Ryu and Yun chasing each other through the crowds of people. If they are here, then Kent—
"Rinfi!" exclaims Kento, grabbing me from behind and lifting me off the ground. "Man, have you been hiding! How are ya, lil sis?"
"Let go of me, Kento! I am trying to work."
"Yeah," he laughs, putting me down. "About as much as I am."
The others are there so I say hello again. I make sure to say hello to Ryo since I hadn't yet and I apologize for my constant stealing of Whiteblaze.
"He does what he wants," says Ryo. "And besides, he seems to like you."
"Yep, guess he's the only one," says Kento. I wail him in the shoulder and almost break my hand. "Let's go get something to eat, I'm starving."
"You ate five minutes ago," adds Cye. They all head in the direction of food, leaving me behind to wonder how the five guys haven't killed each other off yet. Those crazy boyfriends.
As they're walking farther and farther away, I can see Rowen turn around and glance back at me.
"How sad is it that that just made my night?" I ask the tiger.
"Roar." Translation: pretty sad.
With about an hour or so before the final ceremony of the festival, I head home. No sibs to watch. The sibs are the festival's problem.
I walk home barefoot because these stupid flats are pinching my toes. My glow-in-the-dark nail polish shines eerily on my toes. I talk to myself and Whiteblaze as I walk home. No one is home. The neighborhood is quiet and peaceful for once.
I'm sitting on the roof again, staring at the few stars. Whiteblaze is sitting under the back tree, rolling the flower petals that have accumulated in the back yard for so reason.
I stay out there on the roof, doing nothing but breathing and staring. Whiteblaze suddenly stands up and stares at an intruder in the backyard.
"Hey, Rinfi," says Rowen from the backyard. "How did you get up there?" I cannot speak. I point to the side of the house where the vines grow.
"Mind if I join you?" he asks. I shake my head. Rowen walks to the side of the house and starts to climb the wall. I know damn well he could just jump up here. I wonder if I could jump up here. I haven't tried that yet. Oh my God, he's coming up here. How do I look? Does my breath smell? Do I smell? How's my hair? Jesus, I smell like the festival.
Rowen sits next to me on the roof. He smells like heaven.
"What are you doing here, Rowen?" I coolly ask.
"I saw you leave by yourself and got a little worried. Cye said you'd appreciate the company." He was worried about me? He saw me leave. He was watching me. He noticed me. I don't even care that Cye is butting into my fantasy love life. Rowen was worried about me. I could take care of myself perfectly fine but who cares?
"And besides," he adds. "I didn't really want to watch Kento eat his body weight in pork noodles."
"He's going for another record?"
"Yep." Rowen stares out into the sky for a minute, not saying anything. I dare not disturb him in his own little beautiful world.
"Hey, Rinfi," he finally says. "Why did you leave the festival early?"
"I like sitting up here," I reply. "I can watch the festival from a reasonable distance and be at peace. The roof is sort of my own little hideaway."
"And Whiteblaze's too," I add. I can see the red and yellow paper lanterns floating in the distance.
"What is that?" asks Rowen.
"It's the final ceremony of the festival. Those lanterns are supposed to be fireflies or something. Brings good luck or peace or whatever," I explain.
"I can see why you'd want to watch it from a distance," he says. He watches the one dollar paper lanterns clutter the sky. I watch him.
"What is it like to be different from everyone and not be able to tell anyone?"
"You know about our armors."
"Let's just say I know and remember everything about you guys. What's it like? I mean, you guys saved the world and no one can appreciate."
Rowen takes a long pause before answering. I lean closer to him, getting anxious to what he might say.
"It's like nothing really. Unexplained and indescribable. My armor is part of my life. It's like that with the others too, including your brother. For better or worse, we're linked to one another."
"I could never ask Kento," I say. "It's an older sibling contract. Kento is suppose to be the face of the family and I'm suppose to work behind the scenes, acting like nothing ever phases me. No questions allowed between the two oldest siblings. Show any uncertainty and the younger ones will eat you alive and take over your bedroom."
"I think that's the most I've ever heard you say in one sitting, Rinfi," laughs Rowen. I know I'm blushing.
I can sense he wants to ask me something, but he doesn't. Perhaps why I am asking him about living with secret powers. I don't know how I would answer that.
"Thanks for keeping me company, Rowen."
"No problem, Rinfi."
We watch the paper fireflies till they fade off too high in the sky to see. Grayish blue clouds move in and the few stars we have to look at disappear. The guys return home and so does the family.
I go to bed with a warm feeling in my body. I close my eyes in hopes of dreams of blue hair and kind words, but for a moment, I sense something else beneath the surface of my desired dreams for the night. I shake the uneasiness away and drift to sleep.