Chapter One – Reflective Meetings

Taiga had never considered herself to be beautiful, in fact she had often viewed herself as quite the opposite, slim to the point of miniscule, chest flat as a barrel, and auburn hair that fell in an unkempt and wavy fashion to the middle of her back. She was short, even for a girl of her age, hitting just over five feet in sneakers, which usually add at least a good half inch on account of the thicker soles most seem to sport, or so she told herself.

But as she stood there in the light of the tiny glass Christmas tree she had positioned on her coffee table, lit from within by a faux candle, throwing off a very realistic flickering luminescence, even she had to admit she looked good. Standing in the mirror before her in the spacious living room of her vast city apartment was a girl she could hardly recognize. But no, not a girl, in this light and the tiny black dress she was sporting, she could very nearly say that she more resembled a woman.

The dress in question was the very same one she had worn nearly a year ago on that very same Christmas Eve she had realized the love she felt for her next door neighbour, turned friend, turned constant companion, and finally, after a forced intervention by her high school friends and classmates; Minori, Ami, and the boy to whom she could grant the credit of meeting the reason for that particular confrontation, Kitamura, who also happened to have been her first high school crush.

Her hair was done up, a feat in an of its self that was rarely attempted due to the confrontational nature it seemed to share with its owner, in a plaited braid that woven around the side of her head in such a fashion as to resemble a waterfall, and terminating behind her in a single ornate braid. The effect was altogether stunning, she had washed and conditioned her normally curvy locks until they literally caught the light and shone with it, and fell straight and limp. Two requirements that inevitably had to be met to initiate the complex hairdo, which would have been like trying to recreate the Mona Lisa with crayons otherwise.

She had not attempted the hair herself of course, she had her best friend Kushieda Minori for that. Taiga had never had a knack for that sort of girly thing, always straight and to the point, in her choice of clothes, hairstyles, even shoes, yes concise and simple was the way to go. Kushieda of course, being the sporty borderline tomboy she was, had never been a genius in the feminine arts either, but she was at least better than Taiga herself, and could work all the way around the small girl's head, instead of having to crane her neck in the mirror, trying to see what went where.

Minori had helped her to prepare for this very special night by getting her into the dress, doing her hair and the little makeup Taiga permitted (A dash of mascara here and a touch of blush there), and helping her pick out some dark lace flats which she insisted completed the outfit, finally exiting with a firm smack on the Palmtop Tiger's back for encouragement. As soon as she was out the door taiga had immediately removed the flats, far more comfortable in the bare feet she was usually accustomed to wearing around her place.

The reason behind all the dressing up on this particular evening was only partly to do with the season, it being Valentines and all. The real reason for her sudden need to look good was that on this day, exactly 2 years ago, Ryuuji had proposed marriage to her after she had pushed him off of a bridge and into a river in a fit of embarrassment.

And now tonight he was coming over, and they were to spend the anniversary of their engagement together for the first time. It would have been the second, had she not run away to live with her mother, and attempt to straighten out her messy family situation for a year shortly after that proposal. Unfortunate as it was, she had missed that first year of her relationship with Ryuuji, and missed it sorely the entire time she had been away. But now she was back, problems solved, and no longer running, she could face him standing tall and proud. Well… as tall and proud as four foot eight would get her.

All that being said, she was still nervous. She had been back for over half a year now, having returned on the day of her fiancé's graduation, she was technically a graduate as well, having had her ceremony a week prior at the school she had transferred into upon moving back in with her mother, she had pulled her grades up and was now sitting in the top percentile. With that status also came the good probability of getting into any college or university she so chose, but she thought it unlikely that she would go, at least for the time being, she had never held much of an interest in higher education. Ryuuji on the other hand was highly intelligent, it was at times hard to perceive through the dangerous, angled profile he had inherited from his father, but it was present nonetheless.

He had never had to try in school, always coasting through class by simply listening, rarely putting as much as a crack or a dent in his books. Much less actually having to hit them with any seriousness. Taiga had worked her ass off in the last year in order to catch up to him, to impress him, and to show him that she too was capable, and that should he so choose to advance his education, she could go along with him. She had vowed to herself on the night of that emotional return that she would never again leave his side, fleeing on a whim.

Her musings were interrupted by the sudden, sharp peal of her telephone, next to her on the vanity containing the mirror into which she had been staring and musing for who knew how long.

'Probably hours at least', she thought to herself as she picked up the phone and saw by the on screen clock that it was now 9:45. Minori had left at around 7:30. She answered with an informal "Hello"

"You almost ready up there?" questioned the masculine voice on the other end of the line, "I've been down here a good 45 minutes, I thought I'd call up and see whether you were simply taking forever, or flat out dead."

The jab was good natured, and the voice filled with sarcastic humour, but that did not stop the blood rushing to the young girl's face.

"If you were so concerned why didn't you come up and see for yourself, stupid dog" she countered weakly, "I'm sure that the second option would have given you a tonne of satisfaction."

"Well them maybe I'll come up now and we'll see if you're right" he replied.

"Fine!" Taiga shouted indignantly into the receiver.

"Fine." Came the reply, the voice of the speaker carrying tones of laughter that could only spring from a well established rapport.

Taiga waited roughly two minutes before hearing the mild rap on the door and a slightly louder "Coming in."

The knob turned and Ryuuji Takasu sidled through, closing the door behind him. He turned around slowly and drew in a sharp breath, as though someone had punched him squarely in the chest. "My god Taiga.." he trailed off, "You look… you look…" he began to gesticulate, obviously at a loss for words .

"Well? I look what?" Taiga smiled.

"A-Amazing," he stuttered, "Absolutely… amazing…"

Author's Note:

This is the start of what will hopefully be a fairly long story that I just had the inspiration to write tonight. It is currently 11:30, so forgive any errors in spelling or grammar that may be present; I simply have to get this up. Please read and review, and tell me what you think. I want to do an apocalypse theme in this, as suggested by the title, as I believe it is the ultimate form of drama, and really draws people together, and brings out both the best, and worst. TELL ME WHAT KIND OF APPOCALYPSE YOU WANT! I personally am leaning towards a good zombie one.