A Puppeteer's Heart Strings

Silence

They had agreed to meet the morning before school.

Natsume wanted to talk about the situation immediately, but Mikan had hastily escaped after confirming that the tattoo was on his arm, after ordering him to meet her near the usual tree at seven thirty.

She did not wait to hear his reply, but she knew he would come. She was sure that he was just as curious as she was.

For the umpteenth time that week, she stroked the heart on her wrist. Once a shocking ordeal, it was starting to become ridiculous, but at the same time, eerie. The time she had had to deliberate the chances of a love curse allowed her to tell herself that something was certainly off. Mikan was usually an easily trusting girl, but what she had found out the day before did not exactly line up with the school gossip she had heard.

"There's a myth in this school that when a blue heart appears on your wrist you've been cursed to fall in love with the person with the same tattoo within six days."

"He likes her."

Mikan struggled to believe anything that came her way, as she hurried to school. Her deliberations came in the form of troubled thoughts, refusing to pause for a second.

This is all too surreal. I still don't even know if this curse is real! But if it isn't, what kind of stupid prank is this? The stupid heart, my stupid heart… and Natsume! Likes me? He can't like me! He's been teasing me for so long! That's impossible. I'd usually trust Hotaru, but this…

As she tried to force herself to dismiss what she had heard, she felt something clench in her chest. It was a foreign feeling which made her pause in her steps, finger the collar of her shirt, and with great effort, swallow. The thought of Hotaru lying, surprisingly, did not make her angry – rather, it was a sense of sadness which consumed her.

This isn't right. I thought I didn't like him. I can't like him…

The heart captured her attention once again.

Stupid heart.

She was not too sure about which heart she was referring to.

Mikan recalled it all.

She recalled her thoughts during the week, constantly returning to Natsume when they could. She recalled her previous need to annoy him, even before the curse, and how he returned the apparent animosity with the same vigour. Her awareness of Natsume's other side, his discreetly considerate one, the afternoon before the curse started, as well as the day at the hospital. The drawing of her in green pencil, which seemed to highlight the features which she had disregarded as ordinary, and which she later realised that it was how he saw her.

Mikan recalled it all at once. She was still waiting under the Sakura tree, the place which helped her clear her thoughts, away from the usual frenzy of reality, and while waiting for Natsume to arrive, she came to the long awaited realisation.

I probably do like him. In some screwed up, twisted way, I do.

She had always expected that her realisation of liking someone would come as a major turning point in her life, like a battering ram. But she surprisingly felt a sense of acceptance, one which even she thought was strange, considering her former tendencies to be impossibly romantic.

But she was still confused about a lot of things – whether Hotaru was as good a judge of character as she claimed to be, whether the curse was true, and how these two ideas seemed to conflict.

If Natsume does like me, and has for a while, then what about the curse? Would it work if he actually liked me before the six days started?

The Sakura tree brought out her contemplative side, which usually remained absent when she was away from it.

"Polka."

Mikan flinched at the sound of her nickname, and from her seat at the bottom of the tree, turned to look at him.

"Y-You came. But you're late." She commented, slightly bitter, as she turned her head back in order to hide her face.

"But I'm here. That's what you wanted." He sounded slightly annoyed.

"I guess so."

She felt her face reddening, and immediately leaned her forehead on her knees, effectively hiding it. She could hear him sitting right next to her, and her consciousness of his proximity skyrocketed. Okay, calm down, calm thyself, breathe, inhale, exhale, don't overreact... damn it, that's exactly what I'm doing.

They remained in silence for a few minutes. It was the time of day when students would start to arrive, the fence creaking open as the diligent would enter the dead quiet grounds, ready to start their duties far earlier than everyone else. Mikan felt a yawn coming, as she had not had enough sleep that night. Her mind was consumed by the thought of her meeting with Natsume.

Which, at that moment, was not progressing, and she felt terrible.

"So..."

Natsume scoffed at her attempt to start a conversation, to which she lifted her head and scowled at him. However, that resulted in her having to look again, and her head returned to the safe confines of her knees.

"We're going to have to talk about this sooner or later."

"I know, Natsume."

"Then why aren't you talking? Usually you'd bring it up as soon as possible. We could've talked about this yesterday, rather than waking up dead early to."

Mikan looked up again, noticing the dark bags underneath his eyes.

"Sorry." She bit her lip. "I just didn't know how to talk about it. That's why I delayed."

"Do you know how to talk about it now?"

Mikan finally found the courage to look at him directly as she breathed, "No. I honestly don't."

"Do you know anything about it?" He pushed on.

"No! I don't know anything!" She burst out, in a fit of exclamations. "It's just... so confusing, I don't know where I stand in this, I don't know what I think of it, it's... scary. Scary not knowing anything, believing that it's all impossible, that there are no such thing as curses, but yet it seems too real, and..." ...maybe I want it to be real.

Mikan stopped herself before blurting the last part out, hoping that Natsume did not catch on. Unfortunately, luck was never a friend.

"And what?"

"Nothing."

"You were going to say something."

"No I wasn't."

"You were."

"Nope."

"Yep."

"Natsume!" She groaned, sending him a pleading look.

Natsume huffed in amusement. "Fine. Your loss."

The shrill of the bell was faint, but loud enough to interrupt their conversation. Mikan cursed under her breath, glancing at her watch.

"It's eight already?"

"Says the woman who didn't want to talk until now."

"But you were late!"

"Touche."

The brunette stood up, brushing the grass off her skirt. "We do need to talk about it, though."

"Why not now? Still delaying?"

"I-" She paused mid-speech, realising that she had indeed delayed for so long, but she was not sure why she could not bring the topic up. It took immense effort for her to push up the sleeve of her cardigan, to reveal the tattoo.

"Fine. We're talking about it. What do you know?"

She had expected him to reply with an I don't know, or a response which would lead to nothing, considering the situation was still rather vague to her. However, the bluntness of his answer allowed all of her deliberations, concerns and possible changes of thought to come crashing down.

"I know that it's entirely false. And I have proof."

...maybe I want it to be real.


A/N: I updated. Finally.