Simple Sweetness

The Very Beginning

Six years ago...

Darien let out a slow breath, absently spinning his cup of coffee. It would be his last one for a long time, as he just started at Cross Roads High School, and thanks to a guest speaker he had chosen a path for his future. His whole life from now on would be over hauled, no more junk food or lazy afternoons on the weekend. If he wanted to achieve his dreams he would have to work extremely hard as well as be committed and single minded in his pursuits or he would never make it. He could do it! He had nothing in his life but his goals anyway.

Summer had just ended and the new fall school year had just begun on a very appealing note for him. The sky above the downtown towers was a sparkling clear blue, the sun beating down on the sidewalk, heating the glass and warming the dark cotton fabric of his t-shirt on his shoulders as he lost himself in fantasies of a bright future.

A sharp knocking sounded against the glass beside his booth, drawing him from his thoughts. Darien lightly brushed some stray dark hair off his eyes as he turned to the sound, finding his best friend Andrew grinning like a fool on the other side of the glass. His face was boyish with soft, playful blue eyes and a head of short, dusty blonde hair.

Darien chuckled, pointing to the empty spot across from him in the red leather booth. Andrew nodded and dashed away down the street for the front doors. This was the hottest hang out for all Cross Roads High's students, a large arcade downtown known as Crown.

He watched the double glass doors slid aside with a hiss, ushering in the lanky form of Andrew. The boy was all legs with a long frame and broad shoulders, wearing baggy jeans held up with a wide black leather belt and untucked white t-shirt with a worn out ironed on image of a flaming basketball in oranges and reds. His best friend had been in love with the game since he was a young kid, finally being able to try out and making it onto the School team.

Andrew slipped into the booth, raising his eyebrows in playful inquiry.

"So what happened to you after assembly man? You skipped the whole day?" Andrew beamed, knowing damn well he had taken off with the lead speaker, an old Russian guy who had been a professional cage fighter in his day. He had come promoting wellness and good health to the school, but in reality he was scouting for fresh meat to train to be the next UFC Champion back in Las Vegas.

"He showed me his gym, and I met the other guys he's training. I'm going to do it, Andrew. I am so pumped, man!" Darien spoke with awe and an intense enthusiasm.

"So whats..." Andrew began, then his gaze drew away from his excited friend to some distant point threw the window further down the street. "Oh, man. Here comes Simple Sweetness." He chuckled, his face twisting from cringing to laughing as he watched the dreamy, clumsy disaster that was the girl known as Simple Sweetness, a nickname given by Darien upon their auspicious first meeting a week ago on the first day of school.

The Cross Roads Elementary was built right next door to the high school housing all the lower grades and also the junior high classes as well. They had been hanging out just off school grounds, lounging against the rosy brick privacy fence that framed the front grounds of both schools, chatting about their twisted weekend and all the drama and stupidity at the last summer beach party.

The final bell was just tolling, the crowds of faceless and nameless students of all ages milling past them like a herd of muttering sheep, heading through the gate and onto school grounds, when one young girl literally danced past him, her individuality and positive aura making her stand out from the throng. While the rest of the girls her age seemed to be in tight jeans and even tighter risque looking shirts that attempted to show off what meager cleavage they might have at the tender age of thirteen, this girl was in a flowing navy skirt that reached just below her upper thighs, accented with a pearl white slip with lace trim that extended the hem line to her knees. She was also wearing a frilly little pearl white blouse that had short puffy sleeves and tiny little bows down the front. Her outfit was so feminine and sweet compared to the little whores in training they saw entering the gates everyday.

She had the oddest hairstyle, her golden blonde hair tied up in twin buns and tails that snapped and swayed along with her hips. Large hot pink over the ear headphones covered the sides of her head, her cute little round cheeks flushed as she twirled and danced to the music only she could hear. Long bangs hung over her eyes on either side of her forehead. She had such small demure features, a cute pointed chin and elegant neck. Her blouse was riding up as she flounced past them with her arms over her head, completely lost to the rhythm, showing off her taut, flat stomach, long slender legs nearly prancing over the cement. On those legs she was wearing quarter length white cotton socks and black leather Mary Janes that clicked upon the pavement as she danced and twirled past them onto school grounds.

Just as she passed him, as if fate had struck her, she opened her eyes, flashing him a small smile with full pouting lips, her wide, innocent blue eyes shimmering with promise.

Darien, having just barely turned sixteen, had never had any girl ever turn his head as she had in under two seconds. She was just so different already, like a fresh breath of clean air. He couldn't help but follow after her, watching from the Elementary's brick gate as she continued her little half walk half dance behind the crowds, heading down the cement walk towards the rose colored brick and grey cement structure of the school. She made it only a few more paces before blindly slamming into one of the black metal anchors to the school's giant billboard set up before the front entrance stairs. She hit with a resounding clang, crumpling to her butt, wailing in pain as she clutched her now bruised face the shrill, ear splitting sound breaking the entrancing spell instantly for Darien.

He and Andrew began to laugh loud and long at her, hunching over their knees, completely overcome by the sheer stupidity of the girl's obliviousness of the sign, her caterwauling over a mere bump only making the situation funnier. They sauntered away behind the brick fence line heading towards the high school next door, not noticing the young girls humiliated cries turn to real tears, her lower lip trembling as she turned quiet, sitting upon on the grass in a pathetic lump, staring mournfully at her hands in her lap.

Darien took note of her now sitting so still and silent in the billboards shadow as he mounted the cement steps of his school next door. He commented to Andrew about it as they both took a moment to stare at her before retreating through the heavy oak doors.

"Simple Sweetness..." Darien had breathed. Andrew smirked, shaking his head as he proceeded Darien inside. That was what she would be called between them for the next couple of weeks.

Andrew continued his play by play as "Simple Sweetness" navigated through her self inflicted obstacle course down the street, her pink earphones firmly in place, half paying attention to the world around her.

"Oh...and she takes out an old lady and her groceries..." Andrew cringed and ducked his head with a frown, feeling for the old woman now laid out on the cement, her apples bouncing towards traffic, as Sweetness scrambled to fetch them all and apologize at the same time. She was once more dressed in a plush blue knee length skirt and white overly fuzzy light sweater, with tight, slender sleeves that showed off her demure arms.

"Ok, she's up, headphones once again firmly in place. And there goes the little newspaper dispenser..." Andrew roared with laughter as Darien smirked beside him, refusing to glance over his shoulder.

"Ok, this time she is keeping the headphones off. Still not paying attention...watching the sky and oh...baby carriage! She twists, does a turn and avoids the collision. Dirty look from mother...and bus bench nails her in the crotch before she can complete the turn." Andrew bowed his head, tears of mirth streaming down his face.

Darien by this point had given up and was laughing without restraint just as the girl in question stumbled into the Arcade. She took a quick glance around, finding no one she knew, and headed over to the front glass counter to get a cup of tokens for the games arena before the front doors.

"So you going to go ask Sweetness her name, or are you just going to stare at her all afternoon?" Andrew lounged back in the bench, sipping a strawberry shake with one arm draped over the back of the bench as he, too, watched the blonde hunching over a fighting console game just beyond the tables of the dining area of the Arcade. She was totally focused, barely blinking with her little tongue sticking out, her fingers punching the buttons while her other hand yanked on the joystick, golden tails swishing back and forth as she sought to overcome all evil within the game.

"I was opting for staring." Darien passed Andrew a meaningful look. He had never been comfortable around girls, avoiding them on principle now. He had a bigger picture to think about and having some girl distracting him with frivolous concerns wasn't in the plan.

"Staring it is then." Andrew shrugged, not really caring too much.

All those glorious thoughts of staying on the straight and narrow, of keeping his head on training, on studying, on his perfect future, went right out the window. When two boys approached her, flanking her on either side of the console. Instantly his hackles were up as she began to bow nervously, blushing and stuttering as the boys began to laugh snidely at her. He was on his feet and in motion, as tears of humiliation were forming in her wide blue eyes. She sought to escape them, ducking her head, about to dart away, only to slam right into his chest.

"Oh... Gomen." She mumbled from the dull yellow linoleum floor, rubbing her forehead ruefully.

"Sorry about that." He cringed in remorse, bending down to gather her up by her hands and help her stand.

The two boys that had bullied her off her game were avidly ignoring them both as Darien shot them heated glares.

She stood nervous and uncertainly before him, her cheeks already glowing from her humiliation earlier and now enduring the intensity of his dark blue eyes. She kept her gaze averted to her feet, playing with her fingernails meekly as her face flushed even more.

"Darien Shields." He offered, hands firm on her small shoulders, ducking his head to the side to meet her clear blue eyes.

"Tsukino, Usa...I mean...Serena Tsukino." She bowed and stumbled out awkwardly, then giggled shyly, placing her hand demurely in front of her mouth.

Darien laughed again at her strange behaviour. She was so odd...yet so damn cute.

He guided her over to a booth so they could talk, getting a thumbs up from Andrew. He responded by giving him the middle finger and a scowl. Andrew merely laughed, taking his leave, knowing his best friend planed on ignoring him anyway.

As soon as she had herself settled comfortably on the leather bench, Darien engaged her in conversation.

"So let me guess, you're Canadian right?" He chuckled, giving her, his most charming smile.

"NO!" She cried in alarm, then quickly began to giggle as she realized it was an attempt at a joke to get her relax.

"Japanese..." She pressed her fingertips into her breast to emphasize her words.

Darien cocked one eyebrow up in disbelief. Blonde hair...blue eyes...Japanese...yeah right.

She then rolled her eyes, giving him a reproachful grimace.

"My dad is Japanese. Mom, American." She offered.

"Cool. So new in town. " He stated, with another smile.

They talked for a long time, forming the first foundations of friendship. He helped her with her English when he could, but mostly she was learning through the music she listened to. Within six months she was pretty fluent, yet the English slang confused her easily. He seemed to be her only friend, hanging out at the arcade together as often as they could. They came to know each others personalities very well, but avoided anything too personal. He found out she was shy around others at first because of the language barrier, but once she warmed up to someone she let them in, showing them her true self in all its fun loving, childish glory. She became like a little sister to Andrew, all sweet and cute, while she began to argue with him like a spitfire. She was stubborn, obstinate, and oblivious to the fact that she was driving him crazy! They would be the best of friends one day, then bitter enemies the next. Either he said something to set her off, which resulted in her storming off and giving him the silent treatment for several days, or she managed to annoy him into saying something cruel or thoughtless, which resulted in the silent treatment for several weeks! Either way their friendship had become an on and off relationship.

As her circle of friends expanded to two other girls, he began to pull away, needing to focus on his own dreams.

Without truly realizing it, their friendship had withered away. By years end it was merely a nod and a smile if they ever passed each other on the street