I do not own Prince of Tennis
Loneliness had been an ever-growing, everlasting, ever lost feeling budding from every pore of his body. Okay – so maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. He wasn't depressed and hunched in his room slitting his wrists; nor was he the loser who sat in the corner with no friends during class. He was simply Ryoma Echizen, tennis prodigy, and a twelve-year old regular.
Oh, wait – make that a lonely Ryoma Echizen, tennis prodigy, and twelve-year old regular.
He wasn't exactly sure when this problem had risen to his attention. Tennis normally kept his mind off of everything else in the world – but for once in his life, tennis didn't seem to be enough.
"Bye, Echizen!" Momoshiro called as they split ways. Ryoma half-waved as he started down his streets towards his shrine-like home. His brows were furrowed and the sunset light reflected sadness in his large golden eyes. It didn't make sense why he felt so lonely, with a growing need for attention. He had friends now, unlike back in America when he had been explicitly anti-social. Momoshiro and Kikumaru both joined him for burgers every day, and from their interactions with him, he knew they were his friends. Heck, even though he didn't act like it, everyone on his whole entire team were his friends!
So then why…
The door clicked as he opened it. "I'm home." He called, slipping off his shoes. Ever since Nanako had left to apply to a university in a different state, the house had an empty atmosphere. Ryoma threw his backpack onto the ground in a heap before strolling into the kitchen.
From the eerie silence and hum of electricity lines, Ryoma knew nobody was home. His mother, Rinko, was probably at work still, doing overtime. She really was stressed lately, to the point where Ryoma was actually getting concerned. He wanted to help out in some way, but he wasn't sure what he could do, so he simply decided to make sure he did chores around the house to lessen Rinko's worries.
Ryoma slid into the kitchen chair. His father was probably at the temple being a lazy ass, reading porn, and pretending to be some innocent monk. Geez. Ryoma was disgusted by the fact that he was related to that man – but then there was tennis. His father was good at tennis, teaching him everything about the sport. Ryoma supposed he should be grateful, but all that formed was a bitter, sour taste in his mouth. Besides tennis, his father and he rarely interacted. Except for maybe a few brusque comments here and there
Since the house was empty, Ryoma got a snack and worked on his English essay. The quietness made it easy to work, but it was uncomfortable; uneasy. Ryoma found himself not working, but staring emotionlessly at the door for someone to walk in.
An hour of drinking Ponta and trying to add something to his essay passed before the creak of the front door was finally heard. Ryoma instantly dropped his pencil. Finally. The unsteady quietness could disappear.
Rinko hastily fumbled inside, holding grocery bags in both hands, her cell phone resting between her shoulder and ear. "Yes, yes, I know…" she sounded irritated.
"Okaa-san," Ryoma said, his voice surprisingly warm. He never thought he would be so happy to his mother – but that was probably because he just hadn't seen her around lately with all the extra shifts she was working.
She nodded at him quickly, before dumping the grocery bags on the table and replying rapidly on the phone. "But ma'am, you have to understand that-"
Ryoma put on his scowl, pretending to work on his English essay, eyes flitting to his mom every so often. A small frown worked its way onto his lips. Couldn't his mother, for once, focus on him instead of her work? It ticked him off consistently.
He watched as she rambled on the phone for a good ten minutes, her brow creasing and the corners of her mouth quirking downwards. "I'm sorry," she said calmly into the phone. "But I can't help you."
With that, she put the phone down and nearly collapsed onto the kitchen chair. "These people," she said in an exasperated voice. "They give me such a hard time."
Ryoma's gold eyes lit up as his mom got off the phone. "Okaa-san-" he started. She interrupted him with a loud yawn.
"I'm going to go take a nap, sweetie." She stretched her arms wearily, not even glancing in his direction. "Do your…homework or something."
With a wave of her hand, she was out of the kitchen and climbing up the stairwell before Ryoma could even blink. The barest trace of tears shone in his eyes, but he held them back, telling himself it was just the dust.
Perhaps he could talk to her tomorrow then.
Ryoma did his homework for a little longer, before eating some more, falling asleep, and playing with Karupin. At around six, just when he was beginning to wonder where dinner was, his father came home.
The former pro tennis player clambered into the house noisily, clad in a monk outfit and dirty socks. He ran his fingers through his hair (the same fingers he probably picked his nose with, Ryoma thought) and chewed on peppermint-flavoured gum. "Hey, kid." He greeted.
Ryoma remained silent.
"Wanna play some tennis, huh?" Nanjiroh grinned, ready to train his son once again.
The answer surprised him.
"Not really." Ryoma said cautiously.
"No tennis?" Nanjiroh raised an eyebrow, before groaning. "Che. How boring!"
"I was thinking," Ryoma sounded uncomfortable, his voice laced with a tiny speck of shyness. "…we could watch a movie or something instead."
Nanjiroh blinked. Then he blinked again, before bursting into laughter, his right hand clutching his stomach in hysterics. "Bwahahahaha! If we're not playing tennis, why would I wanna waste my time watching a movie?" he grabbed a rolled up magazine. "I'm gunna go do some good reading instead."
With that, he hummed his way to the basement, chuckling about the ridiculous prospect of watching a movie over 'reading hot-women magazines'.
Ryoma watched him go in slight disbelief, but his expression quickly changed into a scowl, dropped to a frown, before finally turning into a right out sad face. His fingers clenched and unclenched, trembling as they reached out to grab his pencil.
Back to homework it was.
That night, Ryoma laid awake in bed, the leak in his ceiling making a prominent 'drip drop' noise. His windows were open for fresh air and Karupin was curled up against his arms, yet the boy felt lonelier than ever. Was it so hard for his parents to just stop for a moment and talk to him a little? He wasn't asking for them to spend full hours over him, but maybe even just fifteen minutes. Was that too much to ask?
His hand crept over and stroked Karupin's soft fur, the gentle textile caressing his palms in return. For weeks, he had been wondering why, even with his regular friends, he felt so lonely and empty. Maybe it was exactly this – his parents. They never gave him any attention. The void in his heart seemed to gape open even wider and he pressed his lips into a thin line.
With quiet movements, he stood up and walked towards the window. It was cloudless night with the dark sky flooding with memories and the moon glowing like a white halo in the sky. The stars blinked down at him, almost like they were saying hello.
Feeling a little stupid, Ryoma lifted his hand and half-waved back. He immediately felt pathetic.
Great, I'm so desperate I talk to the stars now…
Suddenly, as Ryoma welled in his own thoughts, he saw a whiz of flashing light soaring across the sky like a rocket. Ryoma's mouth parted. A shooting star.
He hadn't seen one of those since he was five…
"C'mon sweetie, you have to make a wish if you see a shooting star!" Rinko held his hands softly in hers, telling him to close his eyes.
"Che, just don't tell anyone!" his father exclaimed, bending down to meet his eye level and waggling his eyebrows mischievously. "Or it won't come true!"
Ryoma squeezed his eyes shut, blocking out the fond memories. His thoughts roamed madly but he stayed perfectly still, the image of the brilliant streak of light flashing in his mind over and over again.
And with the soft night wind blowing through his hair, he made a wish. A wish filled with hope and youth and the remarkable prosperity of family. And he hoped, with everything he had, that maybe soon, he would stop feeling so lonely.
Thanks for reading! :D