Chapter 3

My father was talking in such a loud way, and my head was still pounding a bit. I couldn't wait for him to get out. I wanted to see her, but I was afraid that if he stuck around to long, she would go. Eventually he exited the room, still mumbling something about me being absent-minded and clumsy. I never thought of it that way, I don't remember ever being clumsy. I don't exactly remember what happened on board of the ship, and it was weird. Even being modest, I knew I was the best swimmer of my district. I was even approached by people about Olympic games, which I declined. For as much as I love swimming, I'd rather keep it a leisure and perfect in arts. But still, me, drowning? That's sounds so unreal.

As soon as the sounds of my father's sure steps fade in the corridor, I hear at the door.

"Come in, please"

I hope this time it's her... And here she is, poking her head through the door frame.

"Hey..." she says, a bit hesitant.

"Hello, you must be Tenoh-san, aren't you?"

"I am... well, since I kind of saved your life, you can call me Haruka."

"Saved my life... You think so? I'm a good swimmer, I wouldn't have drowned."

She laughed, a husky, warm laugh.

"Well, if you'll excuse me, as unconscious as you were, good swimmer or not, you would have probably died."

She was right, I knew it, but it was hard to admit. When water is your element, your home, a place you feel secure, it's hard to admit it could have killed you.

"Do you remember happened on board of that ship?"

"No, not at all. I was just sitting, feet in the water. Looking at the horizon. The party was a bit loud. They were friends of my step-family, no one I knew, but I wanted to come because I'd take opportunity to go at sea, and since I'm no good at maneuvering anything mechanical, boats, cars on my own... I take any opportunity... Well, this time it was probably a mistake. They were all so drunk, weird party, really."

"Hmm... More likely you were bumped into by one of those drunkyards."

"Who knows? I guess we'll never."

"You sound better, Kaioh-san"

"Still got a massive headache, but the voice is better. You can call me Michiru, you know."

"Mi-chi-ru , I like the sound of it."

"How lucky I am."

"Lucky? You drowned, what kind of luck is that?"

"I mean... Lucky I met you. We shall meet again."

"That would be my pleasure. How long will they keep you here?"

"Well... the doctor is my aunt, I wonder how I'll get out of this one."

"Maybe some home-hospitalization thing..."

"Sounds good. Or I could run away."

"You just fell off a boat and nearly drowned to death. That would be reckless. As much as I would like for us to get out and have a drink, you should stay here at least for the night."

Michiru was smiling, and she eventually nodded; she'd stay. I would have been worried if she hadn't. With just that little bit of conversation, I had the impression I had known her my whole life; she seemed to fancy me too, and this smile she was returning me, and those sparkling blue eyes warmed my heart. In that instant, I had the impression nothing mattered anymore, nor time, nor the people outside... nothing but her. That's probably what they call love at first sight. I had the impression that if something were to happen to her, I'd be destroyed. That one refusal on her part would mean a world being torn apart in my very soul. Then I shook my head. How stupid, I wasn't the romantic type.

I suddenly heard the door behind me. I jumped.

"Oh... mother." said Michiru.

A slight smile crossed her face.

"Michiru, you okay?"

The lady was in her late thirties, and in a panic. She was beautiful, though her face was red with crying. Michiru's mother? Impossible, they looked nothing alike, nothing at all.

"I just arrived, your dad told not to come, to get some rest, but I told him I had to see it for myself, that you were alive and well. Oh, Michiru, I'm so sorry. Your brother and I feel so guilty. If our friends hadn't drink that much, someone would have caught sight of you, you could have been saved earlier."

"Don't worry. I'm okay now, it's not your fault."

Michiru's face was so different now, peaceful, and so childlike. She really must like this woman. Though I couldn't picture what they had in common. Then I realized she must be the step-mother she had been talking about.

The woman turned to face me.

"Sorry, I hadn't introduced myself. I am Kaioh Shiori, Michiru's step-mother. You must be Tenoh-san, I can't tell you how grateful I am. Michiru's a daughter to me. I have known her since she was 5."

"She was such a great support when my mother died. I'm so happy my father fell in love with her. We were already so close by then, I wouldn't have accepted anyone else filling for my mother." said Michiru with a weak smile.

I started to feel out of place. I cleared my throat and gave Michiru a paper with my phone number on it, said goodbye and left. This family cocoon was not my thing, it was theirs to share.