But Hitomi did not run for the school prestige. Of course, it was fun for awhile to win those matches, but it was only the high feeling before she felt low again. It was the puzzlement of everyone, her mother, her friends, and the general public, why was Hitomi Kanzaki depressed? She had it all; beauty, brains, a good figure, all the things society valued, and yet she couldn't seem to cheer up. Nothing seemed to interest her anymore, not school, her friends, shopping, readings, boys, tarot readings, not even the track team.
"Maybe I don't stay on the track team for Yukari's sake, but for my own." Hitomi thought to herself, as the bus lumbered its way to her side and she got on. She chose a seat near the back, away from everyone, so she could think. People were worried about her; a bright girl like her with an English scholarship, meaning a chance to go to a foreign country, and enough merit to go into professional running, in the Olympics, she was depressed? Why? No one could understand it, making Hitomi feel even more alone. They wouldn't understand anyway.
She wanted to talk to someone, like Yukari, but she had her own life. She and Amano-sempai would get married once they were established in their careers. It didn't seem so long ago that he had placed the ring on her finger, at a party last winter at Hitomi's own house. Hitomi had seen them do it, on her patio overlooking the roofs and trees, late while everyone had been sleeping and she had been putting away dishes. She had cried, of course, but the tears did not last long. Her mother had found her, red eyed and faced, much later. She had called a therapist when Hitomi could not explain the reason for her tears. Hitomi went a few times, but it didn't seem to help. She just couldn't tell what was upsetting her. She didn't feel suicidal, she just had the feeling that... she couldn't feel anymore. Yukari often commented that she laughed less and less every day; if she won a trophy for the school, she took it with a dry 'thank you' , and even when she was sad, she didn't cry.
And now she sat on the bus, wondering over her feelings. 'I feel like if I stop, everything will catch up to me, my guilt at worrying my loved ones, my tears, my problems, everything. And everyone. So I keep moving.' Hitomi had joined the various activities other than track, even things she previously hated, like a sewing club, and things she had never even heard of, like basket weaving. Once one was done, she packed up and headed off to the next activity.
"Slow down, Hitomi!" her mother often said to her. But Hitomi could not stop. Keep going, she often thought. Keep moving, no one will catch me now. If I keep busy, no one will notice anything is wrong. Unfortunately, people did notice that something was wrong. She decided she would go on that scholarship, that way she could do her own thing without everyone there to make a fuss.
Hitomi sat on the bus, pondering her swiftly made decision. He watched over me. I told him I was all right. She thought. But did I believe it myself? Perhaps it was the swift transition from one world to another that caused her depression. Gaea and her people were so beautiful, but she made the decision to come back to this grey planet. That was one of her decisions and it caused her much pain; would this decision to go to America cause as much?
There is nothing for me here, maybe there will be there. She gazed out the window as her reflection spun around with the blur of the motion of the bus. Soon she would reach home, have dinner with her mother, rush over to violin practice, then fencing class, on to swim team and home again, trying to squeeze in time to do her homework.
"Mom?" she called into the house, as she removed her shoes. As she set her bag on the table, she saw a note on the refrigerator. She pulled it off and scanned it quickly.
Hitomi, I'm going to run a little late at the office tonight. Hopefully I'll be back by nine. Supper's in the fridge.
See you, Love Mom
She crumpled up the note and tossed into the bin. Actually, she was glad to have the house to herself, even if it wouldn't be for long, she had to run. Quickly, she grabbed a romaine lettuce and prepared to make a salad. As she stripped the plump, wet leaves, she heard the sound of thunder. Glancing out the window, she saw that large drops were falling to the ground like bullets. Hitomi quickly ran over, shutting the open windows. She finished preparing her salad, quickly eating it.
Softly in the background, the radio was play an old tune, the kind she liked. Its lyrics spoke of partings between lovers. Hitomi listened for awhile but she just didn't want to hear it then. It used to cheer her up when she thought of him, of... Van... but now she couldn't think of him. At first, it was often... in school, at home, at track practice, in the shower,... anywhere, she imagined him, his wings spread wide, wrapping around her, protecting her. Those ages ago, her heart had ached to be with him, even for a moment, but he was too far away and he no longer visited her, not even in her dreams. Why had he abandoned her so suddenly? Not that it mattered. The pains in her heart had vanished as well. She no longer cried at nights for him, but rather she seemed to have lost her feelings for him. At times, she could not even recall his name. To Hitomi, absence did not make the heart grow fonder, but rather made her forget. She would rather have it that way, because she knew that she wouldn't see him again.
But it was so hard to forget. Forget him, her mind always told her, Forget him. You don't love him really. You're just hungry for companionship. Perhaps that was all. Van had never said he had loved her back, so he must have, being King of Fanelia, already married a gorgeous princess, maybe he even had children. Who knows how much time has already passed on Gaea. Hitomi moved her salad around in her bowl, not feeling hungry anymore. But she ate it anyway, not wanting to waste good food. She wondered what Van was having for dinner, and all the people in Fanelia as well. She had left the country while it was being rebuilt, so it was probably very dependant on other countries for food. Hitomi held her head in her hand. That song was making her think about something she would never see again. She had to turn it off. So Hitomi stood up and reached out to turn off the radio, but the song was already over. A news report came on immediately after the song was over. '-A freak thunderstorm has suddenly started up in the Tokyo area, residents are asked to stay inside as lightning has been spotted several times in the last hour-' Hitomi listened as the announcer listed off several cancellations, among them her violin practice, fencing class, and her swimming practice. Hitomi nearly panicked. Now she would have no where to go tonight. Idleness made her edgy. Now what would she do with the rest of the evening? She paced around, cursing the weather for messing up her plans. Then an idea hit her. She would surprise her mother by cleaning up the house! Smiling at her good idea, which would keep her busy and help her mother out, she set to work. She cleaned her dishes, vacuumed all the rooms, mopped the kitchen and bathroom, dusted, put things away, took out the garbage, sorted through magazines and other old things, then finished her homework, until... she could do no more. It was eight-thirty and Hitomi Kanzaki had nothing to do. She lay in her room, staring up at the ceiling. She rolled over on her bed and lay on her stomach, clutching her pillow.
As she did, she felt something underneath. Pulling it out, she found her Tarot Cards! She had given up fortune telling when she came back from Gaea, but she just couldn't bring herself to throw out her cards then. Well, she thought now, I should have. They mostly caused pain and suffering for the people on Gaea. But it wasn't just the cards. It was her own decisions that brought about these fates, not the cards' predictions.
However, Hitomi got out her cards and shuffled them idly in her hands. They were all there; the Tower, the Fool, the King,... the Lover. She stopped on this one, gazing at the figures holding hands. The ends of Hitomi's mouth lifted very slightly as she looked upon the card. Could he see her right now? She wondered. Sometimes... she wished she could see him as well...
Just then, a gust of wind blew the cards out of Hitomi's hand and scattered them around the floor. Hitomi looked over at the window, the curtains flapping wildly in the wind, rain spilling in. She was sure she had closed the window in her room too; how did that happen? Quickly, Hitomi ran over and closed it, with difficulty, and turned back to pick up her scattered cards. She checked to see if they were all there. They all were. Sighing with unexplained relief, she set them under her pillow again when she froze. The Lover Card. She had not seen it. Hitomi fumbled through the deck but it was not there. She checked the floor and when she could not find it, she looked toward the window as the thunder sounded outside. Had her card floated outside? Hitomi stood up and, against her good judgement, opened the window and looked around. The rain soaked her body and the wind breathed wildly in her face. With that and the night sky combined, it was impossible to see. She closed the window. Who cares? It was only a card. But Hitomi was afraid to lose it. The figures inside it represented Van and herself, and she didn't want to forget, ever.
Hitomi got on her raincoat, taking the rest of the deck with her to put away the Lover Card once she found it. She wandered around on the sidewalk, using the nearby streetlight to check around for it. When she finally stood up, she was soaked to the bone, despite her raincoat. The rain mingled with her long awaited tears over her departure from Gaea, and she sobbed, shaking violently from the cold and her restrained emotions. And she couldn't stop. It wasn't just the card. It was her long separation from the planet that had so stitched itself to her heart. How long has it been? Finally Hitomi counted, on her shaky fingers, the months that had gone by since she had been on Gaea. She was shocked when she reached twelve months- one year. One year?! It couldn't have been that long.
Yet it was. She was in Grade 12 now and she dimly remembered celebrating her seventeenth birthday recently. Hitomi leaned against the streetlight. No wonder people knew about how I was acting. She thought. So much time has gone by since I came back.
As she gazed at the sidewalk, she saw a piece of paper float by. The card? She leapt in its direction, falling headfirst into the mud. The card continued to float away as Hitomi got to her feet and chased after it. She ran off the sidewalk, yet she could still see the card even in the dark. That was odd. She ran down the street, under lamps which briefly illuminated the runaway card. Then something really strange happened. The card, carried by the wind, took a sharp turn down the alley directly in front of Hitomi. She stopped; that was not a good sign. An object obtaining a mind of its own, or was it that the wind? Maybe she should just go back home. It was only a card, she thought once again.
No, she really wanted that card back. Her mind made up, she took a step toward the alley. At that very moment, she was overcome with a murderous vision. She saw a man in a dark robe, unsheathing a long rapier from underneath his simple attire, stepping up to a young man, kneeling on an altar. Hitomi's eyes widened in horror as the young man turned around, revealing his unsuspecting face to her.
Van...! she screamed noiselessly. He seemed to hear her, because he looked in her direction. But as he did, the man with the rapier brought his weapon down with such a swing that Van's body was caught upon it, dragged through the air with such violent force that it looked like a scarecrow's. Hitomi's hands flew to her mouth, the tears overflowing uncontrollably as she shook her head, as if clearing the sight out of her mind. However, the vision remained and the hidden man, his work done, cleaned off his blade with the end of this robe. Van lay there on his side, in his own blood, his eyes wide. Hitomi tried to run to him- Van! Van! Oh my god! Van!- but she might as well have been running backward for Van seemed to fade away into the background. She stopped, her hand outstretched toward the disappearing Van, feeling a presence behind her. Turning around, the same man stood behind her, his sword raised over his head. Hitomi screamed, holding her wrists cris-crossed together over her head. Her wrists suffered his full blow and as she was beaten down, she looked behind her and saw Van, horror-stricken, standing on the altar. Van...? How could he be alive after such a brutal slaughter? But she didn't have time to think as the vision went black and a thunderclap brought her back into reality. Gasping for air, she looked around wildly for a sign of Van or the assassin, but she was only on the street in a rainstorm.
What had it all meant? Hitomi clutched her chest, trying to regain her composure. Van. Van was in trouble. Somewhere. For all she knew, it could have happened already. It must have something to do with that card. So Hitomi, taking a deep breath, leapt to the entrance of the alley. Nothing. In spite of herself, Hitomi sighed in relief. She spotted the card next to a trash can. Placing her hand on the lid, she bent over to pick it up. The card was a little muddy, but it was nothing she couldn't clean. As she was about to stand up, she felt something seize her wrist and pull her roughly to her feet.
Hitomi found herself at eye level with a strange man, who was wrapped in a dark cloak as well. The man from the vision? She couldn't be sure. Bravely, she stared him in the face.
"Who are you?" she demanded. "What do you want?" She started struggling in an attempt to get away, screaming for someone to help her. He held her wrist tighter and lifted her high so she look him closely in the face.
"Hitomi!" he exclaimed. She stopped screaming and looked down. He carried no weapon; in fact he only had a pouch which looked like it held only food and water, and a pack with a pad of paper and a writing quill inside it. Hitomi looked at him, her defiant, angry eyes shining in the moonlight
"How do you know my name?" she asked. With his free hand, he pulled down his hood and revealed his face. Hitomi gasped.
Ack! Dryden of all people! Is probably what you're wondering, ne? So, what do you think? Chapter 2 is in the works...!