"Naruto…I'm hungry." A blonde girl whined in the back.
The six friends walked together down the neighborhood, somewhat dirtied by an afternoon's worth of playing.
The boy with messy blonde hair, who appeared to be leading the way, scoffed. "Well, my mom's a bad cook, so don't count on getting any good snacks."
"We…we can make cookies when we get there. Together." The petite, black-haired girl pats her hungry friend in reassurance. She gives a gentle smile.
"Yeah. Stop complaining.!" The spiky, black haired boy said in an irritated tone until he bumped into the boy in the front. "What was that for?" He angrily rubs his nose.
The six of them looked up and found themselves speechless.
The blonde girl gasped and hid behind the tallest of the boys—the one with matching dark eyes and spiky hair.
"Wh-what happened here?" The leading boy's blue eyes widen and his legs tremble.
Before them was no longer the house they were familiar with, but an empty lot filled with ashes and broken pieces of what remained. Yellow tape blocked the area off. The red flashing of the ambulance and police surrounded them. Four men carry stretchers past them.
They notice that there were lumps on the stretchers, covered with a cloth as if something terrible was underneath.
"Naruto…don't" The small girl with cloud-eyes and black hair tried to hold her friend back, but he broke away.
"Mom! Dad!" He screamed at the top of his lungs. He fought through the large men and flung the clothes aside, reassuring his nightmare.
His friends look away as the boy screamed and collapsed.
A sweet, light ring chime fills the small apartment as Hinata gently taps a silver tuning fork against a wooden surface. She sits with her legs tucked beneath her on a pillow, before the only area Naruto has kept neat. In front of her are two nicely framed pictures: one of a woman with an energetic grin matching red hair, the other of a man resembling an older version of Naruto.
She claps her hand together, closes her eyes, and bows her head slightly in respect. Then, opening her light-purple eyes, she smiles softly.
"Ne…Naruto?" She spins around and crosses her legs.
"What?" He answers distractedly, keeping his eyes glued on the screen as his fingers are kept busy with a video game controller.
"Didn't you have school today?" She looks at the calendar noticing that it is a Monday.
The cheery theme song of the game drops into a sad tune as the screen glares GAME OVER. Naruto drops his controller, still not bothering to return her glance as he replies:
"Yeah. I don't go anymore."
"I haven't gone in years."
"B-but…you should go!" She persisted and started speaking faster, "What about Ino? Sakura? Sai? Sasuke—
"Hinata. We…we aren't—
Then she smiles excitedly at him with bright eyes, "We should meet them! Let's go see them!"
He looks at her expression and sighs. "Fine. We can go out. But I'm still not going to school."
She nods eagerly.
But when they head towards the door and Hinata stands on her tip-toes, she looks back to find Naruto hesitantly hanging by the sink of the kitchen. She goes ahead and twists the knob to open the door anyway.
"Let's go Naruto!"
He looks away from glow of the evening sky that streams in, as if he is allergic to the outside light. Hinata notices this and reaches out for his hand. Her touch, as if electric, makes him jump and bit.
"Come on!" She smiles and gently pulls him out the room. Then she let's go and runs off down the sidewalk, her head turning to each side. She laughs and giggles in delight, soaking in her surroundings.
"Hey—hold on a sec! Wait!" He runs after her. "Hinata!"
Trying to reach for her sundress to hold her back, he loses his balance and falls on his face. When he looks to the side, he notices several groups of students in high school uniforms staring at him.
"That's him, isn't it?"
"That's right. He doesn't go to school anymore."
"What a loner."
"He was talking to himself."
"What a freak."
He hears their giggles. Their whispers behind hands. Their faces that tell him that he is an outsider. He remembers why he stopped trying to be a part of them years ago.
That's right. Laugh. See if I give a damn.
He stays down on the ground, waiting for them to leave and fuming in his own thoughts.
He stands back up, brushes himself off, and finds himself standing face to face with another student. But this one stands out from the others. His blue eyes widen in surprise.
"In—I mean, Yamanaka!"
She is different. Much different from the girl ten years ago. Her short, platinum blonde hair is now much longer, tied into a meticulous braid. She is much taller. And most noticeably, her thin frame has given way to slight curves.
She looks at him with a raised eyebrow.
"What are you doing?"
"I was…uh, getting some fresh air!" He blurts out clumsily, scratching his head awkwardly.
After all, it has been years since he has really talked to anyone.
She puts a hand on her hip and gives him this look that tells him she does not buy it. "Well, maybe you should try coming to classes sometime. It's been years…"
Naruto finds himself pushed slightly back by Hinata, who rushes over at the sound of her old friend's voice. Now, wedged between the two, Hinata excitedly greets her.
"Ino! You've grown so tall! Is that your uniform? You look so pretty in it! And you're hair! Wah…." Her eyes shine in happiness as she talks.
But Ino doesn't seem to notice. Instead, she flips back her hair and continues to speak.
"…since you've showed up. Hey, are you listening?" She notices Naruto's confused face, mistaking it for a blank expression.
What the hell?
"Hey…Yamanaka. You…you can't see her?"
Hinata slowly stops making hand gestures and babbling. Her hands fall to her side as she realizes what is wrong.
"What are you talking about Uzumaki? See who?"
He sees Hinata's face and something strikes his chest. That smile that got him all worked up was gone. The energy too. Her lower lip was trembling. He knew that look all too well.
Suddenly, he felt angry.
Why can't she see her? Weren't you her friend too?
"Don't screw around Yamanaka. You know what I'm talking about—
"Um. No. I don't." She took a step back from him and started to turn away a bit. "Uh…look. I'll…catch you later, okay?" Breaking into a quick stride, she walks towards a group of girls waving towards her. She doesn't look back.
It's as if she didn't want anyone to know that she was just talking to him—a freak.
Naruto realizes this and snorts slightly at himself. Laughing at his own stupidity.
Right. This isn't the past anymore.
But something inside causes him to spontaneously shout out to her.
"Hinata's back! Well…not, back as in alive…but she's a ghost!"
He notices her pace break to a stop.
Then without a word, she walks off.
Frustrated at himself for having put Hinata in such a situation, he irritably starts, "See, we're not kids anymore. We're not fr—
She's not there.
There is nobody but him.
In the quiet evening-turned-night, Hinata hums to herself. She tries to cheer herself up. After all, it's good enough that she can see her friends again.
She just can't talk to all of them.
With hands clasped together behind her back, she walks across town. Not much has changed.
Over there is the candy shop with the little old lady that they always got free samples from. Naruto liked gummy worms, Sakura liked azuki bean candy, Ino liked chocolate pretzels, Sasuke liked peppermint, Sai liked fruit drops…
And there is the playground they liked to play in sometimes—but only for the huge slide. One time, Naruto and Sasuke dared each other to climb upwards on it…
There is the street where they found the stray kitty. It scratched Ino, so she hated it. But Hinata thought it was adorable…
That is her house.
She smiles, even though it feels a bit forced because she is a bit scared. Taking a deep breath, she swings open the gate and walks in through the open back door.
Now she wants to cry. Because her mom and dad and brother are right there, sitting at the dinner table as they always would at eight-o-clock. Mom's hair is a bit grayer and so is Dad's. Their shoulders sag a big more, like there's some sort of invisible weight over them. But other than that, they still look the same.
And her little sister, Hanabi. She's so tall now, maybe even taller than her. So pretty with her heart-shaped face that has lost chubbiness in the cheeks. She's all grown up.
"I'm home." She calls out.
She knows she can't be heard. But she just wanted to get that feeling again—the one of returning home from school or playing with her friends. For that moment, she closes her eyes and pretends that her mother returns her greeting with some yummy snacks, and her father asks her how her day was…
But that's all pretend.
She opens her eyes again and notices that there are four bowls of rice on the table. Even if there are only three people.
"Mom…you should stop doing this by now…" Her little sister starts. Her voice isn't as baby-ish. It's more serious. Maybe even a bit sad.
"It's been ten years. Hinata's gone. She…she's not coming back, Mom."
Her mother sets her chopstick down and looks lovingly towards the picture containing a small girl with short black hair styled in square bangs. She is staring shyly at the camera, with a slight blush in her cheeks that goes well with her purple yukata.
"Your sister's such an airhead that she probably doesn't realize that she's dead yet."
Oh no. A tear is trickling down her cheek. She tries smiling to fend off the feeling of sadness, but it's no use.
"I know Mom. I know I'm dead."
I hope I'm doing okay with this form of narration. I just realized that I'm not used to having so many characters in a passage. Hopefully the narration is not too confusing…
Well, please review! I'd really like to know what you all think of this!