He was just a child, a ten year old rich kid who had the look of seriousness deep in his lavender eyes. Like at that young age, he had already started searching for something he could not even explain yet. It was the sort of thing that he was hoping that could change the mundane way of living.
It was a bright day as far as he could remember. Bright and boring like everyday had been. Nothing special.
Usami Akihiko was on his way home from an exclusive elementary school in his black, mercedez benz service. He was looking out the window, at the faces of the people on their way home from work and high school students flirting and chatting on the streets. For no reason, the young master told the driver to stop in front of the Marimo Bookstore. A store which by luck and hardwork had started flourishing.
"Akihiko-sama, if you have something to buy, I could just buy it for you," the chauffer offered. A man with the look of kindness which the child appreciated. In the house he was living, everyone had cold eyes.
The boy pushed open the door. "It's fine. I just want to check out some new releases from Marukawa."
"Alright then, I'll park the car and wait for you at the entrance, Akihiko-sama."
Inside the bookstore, people of all ages had gathered. Softly murmuring whether to buy or not, the others silently reading but had no intention of buying. He walked in the less crowded aisle and saw a thick book with bears and ribbons as a design. It looked stupidly fancy so he ignored it. That was when she bumped to a woman. But it was more like it was the woman who bumped to him.
"Ah...I'm sorry, are you okay?" the woman with her sweet voice asked.
Young Akihiko lifted his gaze and took a step backwards, The woman was a little shorter than most grown woman he'd seen. She also had huge green eyes, bright and full of joy. Most of all, the young master couldn't ignore the huge bump on the woman's stomach.
"I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention, I am looking for a book I saw in here last week. Now I'm regretting for not buying it right away..." the woman mumbled a little embarrassed..
Akihiko never did enjoy talking, more so that the woman was a stranger but for some reason, he stayed in that aisle.
"Nee-san, what book are you looking for?" he asked. His face didn't change expressions at all but the woman's smile never faded.
The woman looked up as if in deep thought. "Hmmm, it's a book with a bear and ribbon for a cover, a book for baby names."
"Baby names?" the child repeated, remembering the book he just ignored earlier.
Her beautiful hand started gently caressing her belly. Her pink dress made her look like in a fairytale; sweet and dreamy. "You see, I am really having a hard time picking a name for my baby."
Akihiko gazed at the woman's face. Wondering why she was looking so much happy as if she has fallen deeply in love with something she hasn't seen yet. Was that how a motherly love supposed to be? He didn't know.
"That book, I saw it earlier...I think."
"Really?! Could you show it to me?"
The boy in his dark sailor uniform went back to the part of the aisle where he saw the book and grabbed it. After taking it with him, he extended it to the woman which the other accepted happily,
"Ah...thank you for your kindness! You saved me...walking around like this makes me tired faster than usual. Thank you."
"It's nothing," the boy replied, feeling a bit shy. "I'm going first then."
"Okay. Thank you for your help."
Akihiko turned his back and started taking slow steps away from the woman. He was even surprised to find his lips curling into a smile. Perhaps the liveliness and the cheerfulness of the woman was contagious. Usami was happy he dropped by the bookstore.
And then he heard a thud. The thud of a book and a frightening thud of something else.
He looked back. And saw the woman on the floor, bleeding. He ran towards the woman who looked so much in pain. She looked so scared. But the kid, Usami Akihiko was more scared than she was.
"This is bad...I think...I think..." she muttered with deep, hard breathing. "Ah...my baby..." she cried.
"Nee-san?! You-you're bleeding!" the other people walking had gathered around and called the staff.
The rich kid stood there, looking at how much the woman was suffering. He started to shiver at the pooling blood under her. Despite the many people that had gathered, they had been completely erased by young Akihiko's vision. It was all the woman that mattered. And the baby.
"This is bad!" Usami heard. "The ambulance that was sent was caught in a traffic...Nee-san...please hold on okay?"
"She looked so much in pain..."
"Hey, there are too much blood, is there no one here who could do first aid?!"
Usami found his shaking knees backing off. Step by step he took farther away from the woman who even when she looked in pain, was caressing her stomach lovingly. "We'll be fine...baby...don't worry."
The boy ran. His shoes echoed against the tiles and huffing, he dashed out of the store. He looked so out of it as he looked around. Then he finally saw him. He grabbed the arm of his chauffer waiting by the entrance.
Shock on his face, the older man felt his heart skipped a beat at the face of his master. That was the first time he saw the boy looked like that. "Young master?"
"Help her... Let's bring her to the hospital..." Akihiko whispered, his face for the first time in a picture of utter worry.
Six hours of labor and the young boy the doctors had mistaken for a family of Takahashi Akane was still there waiting. It was even the chauffer who went through the trouble of explaining to the Usami household why the young master was still not in the house. It was because Usami Akihiko wouldn't budge at all. He wanted to see the woman fine and smiling. And he wanted to see the life she had suffered so much for.
"Hello there, Takahashi-san says she wanted to see you...you may come in but don't be too loud. The baby's sleeping," said the nurse with a sweet smile.
Usami then had guessed that perhaps, a baby born into the world could make other people happy. A life form that was as pure as snow. A soul that could bring peace to everyone without even trying.
"Hi?" a weak yet satisfied voice greeted when Akihiko shyly pushed the door open. He didn't come in right away, he just stuck his head in looking nervous. It was after all his first time to hear a woman in labor during the car ride and a first time to see a baby that has just been born. "Come in...come in...don't be shy."
The boy took small steps towards the bed. The closer he got, the higher the speed of his heart went. He just saw the tiniest baby he had ever seen in his life, craddled by her mom. He didn't know how to explain it but there was one thing he was sure of. He was happy to see them both safe and sound.
"How could I ever thank you?" the woman said softly, looking at Akihiko with teary eyes. "If...if you hadn't helped me, I wonder what would have happened...we owe our life to you."
Through his lavender eyes, he could see that in that picture, how happy it looked, there was something wrong. Where was the husband? Where were the relatives who should be overjoyed by this event? Why was this woman alone?
"I'm going to raise my baby alone..." the woman suddenly revealed as if she just saw the confusion in young Akihiko's mind. "I will raise my baby and give all my love."
"I see..." the boy answered, Still not sure what 'alone' for a woman with a baby was.
For some reason, Usami Akihiko felt bad. For the woman and for the baby. Why did she have to give birth alone? But then, young as he was, he was mature enough to conclude that the woman was brave. And she was even more beautiful for delivering an angel.
"I'm sorry...it might be late asking but what should I call our savior?"
The woman took a long look of Akihiko's young face and smiled. "Aki-kun, do you want to carry him?"
Akihiko's eyes grew wide. As if he just heard the most shocking thing. "I...I have never carried a baby in my life!"
"But..." Akihiko stared at the sleeping baby on the woman's bossom. Small, fragile and angelic in a soft white towel, the baby slept. Usami AKihiko knew they were rich than most people. But he knew he just saw a bundle, no money or fortune could afford. "...what if I dropped your...?"
She lifted her other hand and traced the baby's pink cheeks with her finger. "I'm sure you won't..."
After staring at the woman and the baby, young Akihiko reached out. Right after he touched the baby, there was a sudden sweet breeze that blew on young Akihiko's face. The breeze that felt as if it carried little bells he was sure he heard it but it disappeared in an instant. He looked towards the mirror thinking it was from the outside but realized that it was closed. It had been a fleeting feeling that was etched in his young heart. And as soon as he started cradling the baby, he felt the soothing warmth coming from that small life form. It was the kind of comforting weight against his slim arms. He was in awe. Strangely, he was happy and peaceful holding the baby like that.
The baby opened his eyes. Round, green orbs staring back at him. And the baby smiled a toothless smile.
"OH my...look at that...my baby...my baby seemed to like you!"
Usami smiled. That baby, he didn't believe that it was him who saved this precious gift, but if he did then he'd be grateful he experienced that kind of joy.
"Hi? Nice to meet you..." the boy greeted the smiling baby. "Thank you for being born..."
For a moment, the mother and young Akihiko was hypnotized by the chuckle the baby made. Usami tried to poke the pink cheeks with his index finger and the baby suddenly clung to the gold bracelet he was wearing. When he tried to gently pull, the baby wouldn't let go.
"You like this?" Akihiko cooed at the baby. "Okay..." he took the lock off and allowed the baby to sway here and there the gold bracelet. After that he gave the baby back to his mother.
"My my,,,you're so comfortable with him aren't you...remember this okay? He's your savior so don't trouble him... give it back now okay?"
But when the mother tried to get the bracelet the baby started crying.
"It's okay,..I don't really need it anyway..."
The woman looked at Akihiko with a worried smile. The boy, as young as he was gave this sad and lonely feel around him. Like he had matured from the rest of children his age.
"Well then, I'll be going home," Akihiko bowed.
"Aki-kun, I am forever indebted to you. I hope we get to see you in the future and help you the way you did to us...to pay you back..."
Young Akihiko shook his head. "All I wish is for your baby to grow well and healthy. That's enough..."
The footsteps he had as he walked away from the two were heavy. Out of all the people he had met so far, all rich people had the look and smell of money around them. The woman and the baby were different. It was sad to turn back and leave. He even wondered if they would see each other again. Strange that strangers felt more like closer to his heart than what he had at home.
He pulled the door. But the bed creaked and the woman called. "Aki-kun..."
Usami turned his head.
"Give me a name."
"Give me a name..." she repeated smiling.
The boy didn't even think. It just came. "Misaki..." his lips uttered. A name that when said, felt like a breeze carrying a faint song of bells. Beautiful and precious.
Young AKihiko walked into that maze of white walls. It seemed endless. His fast steps slowed down and he turned around. Why was he feeling such a feeling of loss walking away? Like he just left something important? But he carried on, walking into a life those two strangers weren't supposed to be. He walked and walked and before he realized it, everything had turned foggy. Memories had been buried and eighteen years had passed and he was on his way towards the middle of the stage to take an award for a novel that turned out to be a hit.
"This award is dedicated to all of the people who helped me in the process of creating the book. And to the precious readers who had been supporting me ever since," a tall and handsome man smiled on the stage, sending female fans swooning. "Arigatou gozaimashita." Ah I want to sleep...
Until that day, Usami Akihiko's life was boring and full of playing with fire. Not having the least bit of idea, that the precious life he saved would change the meaning of the word 'everything' for him.
"I saw you last night... in that awarding ceremony..." lips luscious under the hypnotic darkness started. "Should a celebrity be visiting a renowed gay bar like this, huh Usami-sensei?"
He rested his back against the softness of the sofa and gulped half the contents of his glass of whiskey. "If this comes out, they'd be needing a re-run of my book," he answered boredly.
Truth be told, it was the kind of bar that most customers were either part of the government, known scholarly people or company presidents. So an unspoken law of 'silence' was being followed by all members and by all staff.
"Always full of confidence I see..." he drinked his wine slowly, purposely letting some slip down his chin, to his glittery neck. "There you go again sensei, that bored look. Shall we go now and have a wild night?"
Usami closed his eyes. "Same as usual. Same and meaningless."
Having sex, drinking, smoking,,,he'd been too absorbed in these things he felt like he had become immune. He sighed and slowly released the tension out of his perfect nose. All these senseless playing and wasting of money to random sex partners, whether a man or a woman, he couldn't even explain how he became like that.
Expert hands started running from the author's broad chest down to his waist. It felt like dancing on his flesh, teasing him. However, as soon as the hand reached below the belt, he held the thin wrist to stop it.
"I am not in the mood tonight."
The man in a tight fitting black leather shirt looked quite shocked. The king who didn't refuse to embrace anyone who came to him in that bar actually said he was in no mood? That was as shocking as seeing the pigs fly.
"I'm going home," Usami Akihiko, a dazzling man at 28 announced to his young companion after standing. "And Suda, the perfume you're wearing..."
"Ah! It's the same as usual, why?"
Behind the dark, golden lights of the bar, Usami knitted his brows. He was sure that this young man had been wearing a perfume that reeked of sweetness. A faint smell that was soothing when the wind carried it. That was why he even became a patron of this guy. Now it just smelled completely awful. Perhaps the boy had sprayed too many. Or perhaps it was all just his busted imagination.
He walked towards the parking lot. The trees making a rustling sound from the wind that passed. Just then, he noticed a shadow of someone. It looked like maybe one of those kids trying to smash into one of the parked cars and take whatever valuables they could find. It was rather rampant despite the CCTVs and security. Kids had become full of guts they didn't care if they were caught or not.
"The kid got taste. That car sure looked expensive," Usami thought as he slowly, soundlessly made his way at the dimmest part of the lot. With a sudden realization, his eyes grew wide. "Fuck, that's my car...Oi!"
He ran towards the boy who was currenty reaching for the windshield. Everything had happened so fast leaving whoever it was with no time to react. Grabbing the teen's hair the silverhaired man slammed the delinquent on the front of his car, face down.
"Oww! Oww! Let go of me!" the boy screamed. "You've got it all wrong!"
"What wrong you brat you were just now about to smash the windshield!"
The boy wearing a suspiciously black jacket flailed his arms in the air, his cheek kissing the smooth surface of Usami's car. "That's why I am telling you you're wrong! I'm just sticking advertisements in the wipers!"
Pressing on the boy's back with his one knee and his one hand on the boy's head, he grabbed what was in the boy's hand. His eyes narrowed at the handwritten words on it and despite it being dark he continued.
"Kaizen Pastries...baking nothing but the best...?" Usami read aloud.
"See? There's no way for me to break the windshield with a paper so let go! You're hurting me you know?!"
Just as fast as he had slammed the boy was as fast as he released him. The boy massaged his cheek and glaring he grabbed the paper from Usami. The boy was perhaps a foot shorter than Usami. Thin and despite the dim lighting, he looked ragged.
"I know people who go here are all rich people meeting other rich people, just because I look suspicious does that mean I am doing something bad," the boy mumbled, massaging then his wrist.
"So he's admitting he's suspicious...that's a first one..." "Oi, do you know what the people going here are doing inside?" Usami asked stepping closer to the boy. "Or this is just a pretense..." Reaching out his long fingers, he ran them from the kid's cheek down his neck. "...to get to me?"
The boy slapped the hand away. "P-pretense? What are you-"
A couple of hard footsteps broke Usami's and the boy's attention. Through the dim parking lot came a strong white, light that was blinding the teen.
"Eh? You again?!" an angry voice shouted. "You really never learn! Oi, someone, turn on the lights at the East side!"
Usami heard a frustrated sigh, At the same time the author felt a stinging pain on his left foot after being stepped on purposely by the teen, the lights flooded the area. It came clear to him the glaring green eyes burning a hole on his face.
"This is all your fault," the boy hissed.
To the author's surprise, instead of running away, the boy ran past him towards the security. Exactly, too much of a coincidence, Usami Akihiko had once felt again that faint breeze blowing to his face. The same from a distant memory, a sort of faint ringing, a sweet sound of bells lingered around him. There goes the author's freaky artistic imagination rendering him motionless on the spot as he watched the boy bow consecutively at the huge man with a heavy working flashlight.
"Stupid!"an angry voice roared. "You're lucky it's me on guard here, otherwise they'd beat you to a pulp! Go advertise somewhere!"
The boy bowed once more and walked away. Usami's gaze followed the teen's back. It was even a surprise to Usami when the boy stopped and turned around. Their eyes met. Bright green eyes searching into clouded lavender orbs. That was when Usami saw a glint of curiosity on the teen's face. But the teen shook his head as if shooing an idea and started running away.
"Sir," a deep voice cut in. Usami was surprised he hadn't noticed the guard approach him. He was all too occupied staring at the going away teen. "Are you okay?"
"Ah, yeah...I'm fine..." Usami replied finally opening his car door. "You know that brat?"
Big, scary faced. The man had the face perfect for a bouncer but that very same face smiled an apologetic smile at the author. "That kid and I are neighbor's. It was actually my fault he learned this place. He don't know this is a bar, just that part that this is a rich people's forgive him this one time Sir, okay?"
The guard turned and walked away, leaving Usami behind. "Just you wait Misaki you dumbass. I'll snap your neck off."
The wind blew, the trees rustled.
"Give me a name."
"Give me a name..."
The fluttering piece of paper that the boy managed to stick into his wipers caught Usami's attention. He grabbed it and clenched it as a foggy memory came back to him.
"What the hell am I doing?" Usami muttered with his cigarette in between his lips.
He was there in a cheap rented car in the middle of broad daylight, eyeing a bread shop. He had stayed awake the night before. Reading and reading the bread's shop name and the address over and over he almost memorized all the creases on it. He wanted to ignore. He really wanted to. But that soothing breeze he was searching within the people he associated himself to that he couldn't find, it came from that boy.
Usami pulled off his dark sunglasses and narrowed his eyes. The sliding wooden doors of the shop opened, revealing an energetic brunette, smiling at the bright spring sky. Putting on the 'open sign' and sweeping the front of the shop, the boy didn't fail to greet anyone who passed by. When there was a customer, the brunette looked so darn happy. What could a few yen do? How long would it go supporting a life? After all the hours, from morning till afternoon, Usami had realized that the breadshop was dying. Pathetic.
He could see two middle schoolers walking down towards his car. He rolled the car window and called out to them.
"Hey, are you hungry?"
The middle schoolers exchanged surprised looks before staring back at the man.
"What the hell...really am I doing?"
Usami watched the teen waive his hands at the middle schoolers happily munching away. At first the teen obviously looked that he thought the kids were kidding. Asking him to give them all the bread on display. But when they handed the crisp and new paper bills, Misaki's face lit up. Grateful that in a long while, all the merchandise had been sold off.
The sun was going low, painting the sky orange. But Usami Akihiko still just stayed in his car. He wondered if the boy noticed, for every once in a while, the brunette would look at his direction, scratching the back of his head.
It went on like that for days. For weeks and before the author realized, he had been looking forward into looking at that breadshop. For a man who did whatever he felt like doing straight away, there was something with that boy that was stopping him approaching him. As if there was a barrier. Perhaps because the brunette seemed the type to be innocent and easy to be hurt. Usami was curious why just looking at that teen could make him feel contented. So there just by looking he he satisfied himself.
"He looked," Usami breathed. His lavender eyes unfocused he lowered them on his lap. Unconsciously his right hand went to his mouth. "What's this..." he whispered as he slowly rested his forehead at the leather surface of the stirring wheel. "Something is wrong with my head..."
That afternoon, Usami Akihiko drove off. Not knowing the green eyes following his speeding off car.
Dancing lights playfully moved its way everywhere. With dark surroundings and a sweet song playing, the mood was set into something sensual. Something the patrons of that bar wanted. And there the silverhaired man sat on one of the high stools of the counter, watching the ice in his glass of wine melt away.
"It's been a while, isn't it? Gotten tired of your little kitten so you're back here?"
Usami didn't bother to move or even look. He didn't even flinch at the hands that started snaking their way on his hest from his back. "You've been cold to me...sensei...why don't we play for tonight?" the sweet voice trained to pleasure men whispered at the back of the author's ears.
"Get your hands off Suda," Usami grumbled.
"What's this? Found a new toy? Is he younger than me? Prettier than me?" Suda questioned, backing off and sitting on the next free stool beside the man. "I've never once dreamt of seeing the day that the Usami Akihiko, would one day look hopelessly inlove."
The man turned his head to Suda, his face a stone. Usami knew it. He had known from the very start he had fallen inlove the moment he felt that breeze on his face, that bells ringing in his ears the night they met in the parking lot. But having it confirmed by someone else made it real. What could a sex fiend who never did mind his partners and their welfare do for an innocent boy like that? He'd only break him and stain him.
"It's strange isn't it?" Suda mumbled looking at his soft hands. "You get so much scared approaching the one you really like...because you're afraid that pursuing them would erase the innocence they have. Specially the likes of us..."
"Don't give me the fucking lines in my latest novel, idiot."
Suda laughed aloud. "Eh but I like that line!" the voice playfully muttered. "Then...giving up?"
The silverhaired man took his glass and gulped the contents down.
"Sensei, you're a writer you know it better than I do. If you have met your fate, there's no way of running from it," Suda smiled. "The fate led you to one another, its fate that would weave the way for you...though I will feel sad when that time comes. You will never come back here...I know it."
Usami stood fom his seat. "Suda, quit your job and be a writer yourself."
The evening was still early. With nothing to do and with nothing to dart his attention to, Usami wandered into the streets, fully hoping that his sunglasses was enough of a way to hide who he was.
"Has it been always like this?" Usami thought.
Everything was all so sparkly before. The night sky, the establishments, they glittered of sensuality and money. But as he walked on the streets, they looked ordinary, unexciting, meaningless. Where did the lights go?
Usami stopped on his tracks and looked at his left. The last time he had been there was perhaps when he helped a woman in labour. He really couldn't remember it much. Many had happened, clouding him, jading him until before he realized it, he had been a successful man outside but a messed up, lonely man inside. Going one after another man or woman, spending money looking for something as the same warmth he had in that place.
"Ah...the lights..." Usami stepped inside the book store Marimo, thinking that the lights didn't disappear. They were all there, it was just that the brunette in that dying breadshop had taken all his attention that everything had become bland.
"That baby...I wonder if he grew healthy..." he mumbled tracing the aisle he first met that pregnant woman. Usami looked at the books for baby names. He had this lingering feeling that the baby and the brunette at the breadshop was one and the same. Thinking that way, Usami had to stiffle a laugh.
"Yeah, interpret it the way you wanted it to be, there's no way of saving you..."
Unfocused, Usami picked up a book and flipped through it. He wasn't seeing the words, he wasn't getting any idea out of it. He was so out of it that he didn't mind the people passing him by. He didn't mind the person who stood beside him.
"You stopped coming..."
Usami just went on flipping.
"You stopped on coming but those middle schoolers kept on buying everything on display every afternoon."
The book fell from his hands to the floor. Just at the same time as Usami moved his eyes to look, was the same time the green eyes moved to look back. And there it went one more time. That breeze. That intoxicating feeling of calmness and soothing feeling like the gap inside him has been filled. Call it hallucination, but that faint ringing in his ears, those little bells was there. Just like when he held that baby eighteen years ago. There was not mistaking it. And Usami had his breath stuck in his throat as soon as the green eyes stared back unfalteringly.
"Mister...have we met before?" the brunette asked.
"We did, in the parking lot," Usami answered cooly.
The teen scratched the skin on top of his nose lightly and moved his eyes towards the books. "Before the parking lot...I mean,"
Two girls giggling about a manga passed by their backs, leaving them in utter silence after.
"How did you know I was coming to the breadshop?" the older man asked. His face looked cool and composed, as if he was never the type to be affected by anything. But deep inside he was soon going down afraid of the short distance between him and that clueless brunette.
The teen frowned at his shoes. "I don't know," the brunette replied. "There...I could hear something...like bells? Don't laugh!" he added. "Just...I...what am I saying?"
From where Usami was standing, he could plainly see the faint red growing deeper into the boy's cheeks to his ears.
"You...should buy one of our breads and try it for yourself...you know..." the brunette continued who looked about to run away.
For a few moments, Usami just looked at the brown hair, at the smaller figure standing before him. That precious gift he had just carried before had grown into someone who could make him lose his control.
"...its fate that would weave the way for you..."
"My name is Usami Akihiko..." said the older man with a smile while extending his right hand.
The boy looked up with a confused look. Staring at the huge hand extended to him, the boy's face lit up. His eyes, his lips, everything in him was bright. Perhaps to others this boy looked plain, but Usami couldn't almost take it it's blinding him.
Wiping his hand on the side of his jeans, the brunette clasped the huge hand. "I'm...Takahashi Misaki...n-nice to meet you..."
"Nice to meet you too," Usami replied. "Did you hear that just now?"
"Eh? You did too? I wonder what's that?! It's strange..." Misaki muttered, looking really amazed.
"I'll go visit your breadshop soon..." Usami said while squeezing lightly on the warm, small hand that perfectly fitted in his. Usami smiled. It wasn't bells ringing. It was the beating of two hearts in harmony. The singing of souls that were connected even before one was born.
The older man released his grip. It was all too early to conclude a never ending love. He knew it. So for that time, he'd wait. He'd wait until the boy before him realize that it wasn't strange bells ringing but his heart responding to its other half. Usami decided to wait and take the time sweetly. There would be no fun if the boy didn't realize it for himself.
The night was still young, they could probably eat somewhere and chat. Before, after a smile, the next place he knew was the bed. That was the first time Usami Akihiko realized how much fun it was to begin at knowing one person. Knowing someone he knew was his fate.
"Now I finally know why..." Usami mumbled as he looked at the face of the innocent boy.
"'Know why' what...?" Misaki asked, moving the bangs that was hitting his eyes with his right hand, a gold bracelet dangling.
Lavender eyes just smiled.
"...Why it never worked with anyone else..."
chapter end notes:
thank you for reading and I hoped you enjoy this one shot^^ please tell me your thoughts.^^