- Hiro -
Hiro wandered around her neighborhood aimlessly, shivering from the chilly night air. She sighed and watched as her breath created a miniature cloud in front of her that quickly dissipated. Her shoulders slumped as she continued her trek to who knows where. She spotted the library and decided to head on over, but just as she took a step in that direction, the librarian walked out and locked the door behind her.
“Hello Hiro!” the librarian called.
“Good evening,” she replied, waving her hand.
She shook her head and lied, “No not yet, was just stopping by the grocery to get something for my mom.”
“Okay, you take care then, alright? See you tomorrow!”
“Yes ma’am,” she answered, bowing her head.
She stood there and watched as the librarian walked away. She pursed her lips and turned around to walk back in the direction she just went. She noticed a small children’s park on the other side of the street and decided to go over. To her surprise, there were actually people there at this late hour of the evening.
A small child and her father inhabited the playground and pretended to rule over it as a small boy and his mother climbed up the steps of the makeshift castle. She trudged over to the swing set and planted herself into one of them, observing as the family playfully fought against each other.
She looked away as the little girl pointed in her direction. She imitated the swinging action for a while until when she glanced back, the family was gone. She sighed to herself and tilted her head up toward the sky and gazed at the stars that blinked and winked at her, mocking the mood she sank herself into.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps behind her, then the sound of someone breathing heavily. She stiffened and turned her head slowly, looking over at the being behind her. She nearly fell out of her swing in surprise when she saw that it was the President who had appeared behind her.
“So this is where you went,” he huffed, bending over to try to catch his breath.
She got off the swing and crept toward him as though she was unsure and whispered as she went, “Is that really you President?”
He looked up and smiled, “Yeah, it’s me.”
“What are you doing out here?” she asked, incredulously.
“I could ask you the same thing,” he answered, straightening himself. “I came to bring you back.”
“But your father,” she started. “Won’t he be angry?”
“My mother persuaded him to let you stay,” he told her, walking over to her side. “‘As long as you stay out of his way’ is what he said.”
“Oh,” she pouted.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, tilting his head in concern.
“I seem so unwanted lately, that’s all,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Don’t say that, I’m here,” he exclaimed, pointing to himself. “My mom and I will be here for you.”
“For people I don’t really know, you guys sure are kindhearted,” she told him, smiling.
He chuckled. “During your stay with us, we can get to know each other more.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, shifting from one leg to another.
“Aren’t you cold? Wait, what am I saying,” he corrected himself, slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand. “Of course you are!”
“Not really,” she responded, shrugging her shoulders. “Hey! What’re you doing?”
She started to back away as Kei took off his jacket and offered it to her.
“I can’t President, that’s yours!”
“Just take it,” he told her, walking up to and taking her hand.
She recoiled at his touch and cried aloud, “I’m not cold!”
She turned around and attempted to walk away when she felt his hand pull her back. She spun abruptly and bumped into his chest. She looked up in surprise and saw his face loom closely to hers.
“I just touched your hand and it is like an icicle. Just wear it,” he told her, taking his jacket and wrapping it around her shoulders.
She stood there, frozen by the closeness in which she stood with Kei. She looked up again and saw that he returned her look. Her heart began to beat rapidly in her chest. She felt her cheeks warm up and pushed him away from her. She turned around and crouched down to the floor, burying her head into the crook of her folded arms.
“Hiro? Are you okay?” he inquired, picking up the jacket that fell when she had spun around.
He placed it on her shoulders again and knelt beside her, patting her back as he did. She mumbled to herself to sooth her beating heart and looked at him through the corner of her eye when her cheeks had stopped heating up.
“I’m fine, sorry for the trouble,” she whispered, standing up slowly.
She offered him a hand and he took it. She pulled him up and stood alongside him as he dusted himself off. As she waited for him, she pulled his jacket on correctly.
“Let’s go home,” he told her, leading the way like he always did.
She followed him and relished in the warmth that the jacket gave her.
Suddenly a thought occurred to her and she burst aloud, “Aren’t you cold?”
“I’ll survive,” he answered, nonchalantly. “Besides, you were out in the cold longer than I was.”
She covered her mouth with her hands and blew on them to warm them up. She rushed forward and placed her hands on his cold cheeks. Startled, he stopped in mid-step and stared at her in surprise.
“It warmed your cheeks, right?” she asked, happily.
He stared at her, his eyes wide in awe. They stood there frozen in place as his brain tried to slowly comprehend what she was doing. He looked up at the sky as his face heated up, which began to steam in the cold night air.
He grabbed her hand and dragged her behind him, yelling, “Let’s just go home, where it’s nice and warm!”
“Huh?” she wondered, struggling to keep up with his speed.
They arrived at the front steps breathless. Kei lifted his arms to knock on the door, but it opened before he could even touch the wood.
“Are you two alright?” his mother questioned, herding them both inside.
The pair stepped inside, took their shoes off, and stood there shivering. Kei’s mother pushed the both of them into the kitchen and propped them both beside the stove. She tossed a pot filled with water onto the stove, cranked the lever to maximum heat and left the room. She returned before any of them could’ve uttered a word. She draped them both with thick comforters so that they both looked like mini teepees.
They thanked her and sank to the floor in the comfort of the blanket. Together, they sighed contented and was handed a mug of hastily made hot chocolate.
As they sipped quietly, Kei’s mother announced, “He’s asleep right now. Hiro, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but could you share a room with Kei?”
“I don’t mind,” she responded, shivering.
“Oh, it’s getting late. You two head to the room now. I’ve already made the beds. No, no,” she cooed, waving her flustered hands like a busy mother hen. “Finish your drinks here! There we go! Go to your rooms now, and don’t forget the comforters too!”
The two of them nodded their heads mutely and followed her orders. Kei shuffled to his room with Hiro right at his heels. He pushed the door open with his elbow and entered the room with her following behind. There was a pile of sheets and blankets on the floor, signifying that this was the second bed.
“I’ll sleep on the floor,” he offered.
Hiro refused immediately and said, “I’m already intruding upon your house, let me take the floor.”
Before he could open his mouth and refute, she hurled herself onto the pile of sheets and buried herself amongst them, closing her eyes. She heard him sigh and listened as he turned off the light and crawled into his own bed.
“Goodnight Hiro,” he whispered loudly so that she could hear him.
“Good night, President,” she returned, feeling the fatigues of the day pull her into a slumber.
Kei opened his eyes slowly and blinked repeatedly for his eyes to adjust to the light of the dawning morning. He heard a voice speak harshly to another voice and realized that it was his parents arguing with each other. He quickly got out of bed and with every step he took to the door, the volume of the argument seemed to rise. He closed the door quietly and turned around to check on Hiro.
She had sat up in the pile of blankets and pillows and was rubbing her eyes with a hand. He rushed over to her and covered her ears as the sound of thundering and roaring voices bypassed the barrier of his door. The momentum of his movement accidently knocked him over and on top of her. He was bent over her as she opened her sleepy eyes and stared at him.
“What,” she began to say, but Kei quickly covered her tired eyes with a hand and whispered soothingly into her ears, miraculously causing her to fall back asleep.
He lay down beside her and covered her ears with both his hands so that she could continue sleeping without the disturbance of his parent’s very loud conversation. He stared at her for a moment before he realized how close he was to her. He shook his head slowly as his face burned with embarrassment.
“What am I doing,” he muttered under his breath.
He was forced to look at Hiro’s face, it being the only thing he could look at because of the position he was in. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to look away. His shoulders began to stiffen and ache, so he returned to staring at her sleeping face. His heart hammered in his chest as he watched her body rise and fall as she breathed.
He groaned abruptly and loudly as he pulled his hands from her ear, not caring whether she woke up or not. As he leaped onto his bed and hid beneath his covers, he realized that the screaming and yelling had finally ended. He held his breath as the door to his room opened.
“Sorry to wake you,” a voice whispered.
It was so soft that he couldn’t discern whether it was his mother that spoke or his step-father. He lifted the covers just as the door closed.
“It couldn’t have been him anyways, he hates me,” Kei murmured to himself, lying back down.
He lay there for a while, but just couldn’t fall back asleep. He crawled out of bed and opened the door silently, closing it softly behind him. He tiptoed to the kitchen and saw his mother sitting at the table, massaging her forehead.
“He left?” Kei called to his mother.
She looked up in surprise.
“Yeah,” she answered, nodding her head. “Sorry, did we wake you?”
His mother sighed profoundly and started to get up but sank back down in despair. He rushed over to her side and rubbed her back in concern.
“You look so,” he started, but bit his lip to hold back some tears.
“Tired? Exhausted?” she finished. “There are so many negative words that could finish your sentence, honey.”
“Is there anything I could do to help, mom?”
“Wake up Hiro as I make breakfast, that is all,” she told him, forcing herself to stand up.
“Okay,” he complied watching her stagger over to the stove. “Don’t overexert yourself though, mom.”
“I got it!” she reassured him, waving him off.
He nodded his head in understanding and retreated back into his room. He walked stealthily over to the sleeping body on the floor and nudged her gently with his foot. He sat down on the side of his bed and watched as he poked her with his big toe. She moaned and rolled onto her other side, rubbing her eyes as she turned. She opened an eye and looked at him over her shoulder.
“Good morning, President,” she yawned, stretching her arms out.
“Good morning,” he replied, lying back on his bed.
“Is it time for breakfast?” she asked, drowsily.
“About to be,” he told her. “Hurry and get out of bed.”
She flipped onto her stomach and wriggled a bit before she obliged and got out of bed. She stood there and examined Kei as he pretended to fall back to sleep.
“Hey!” she exclaimed. “You can’t tell me to wake up if you’re going to go back to doze!”
She walked over and dragged his body onto the floor. His thumped against the floor and yelped in surprise, his eyelids fluttering open.
“What was that for?” he exclaimed.
She knelt beside him and poked him hard in the rib. She kept at it until he was finally fed up with it and grabbed her hands. He rolled on top of her and took her down with his arms, taking revenge for himself.
“Stop!” she screamed in defeat, laughing until she began to cry. “Stop, I give up!”
He stopped and stared at her squirming beneath him. He began to lean in closer but stopped himself and sat back away from her. She sat up as well and stared at him, still giggling.
He smiled at her and said, “Come on, breakfast should be ready now.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “Now we’re both wide awake now, huh?”
He nodded his head and stood up, pulling her up as well. Together, they made their way to the kitchen, sniffing in the intoxicating aroma as they went. They stepped into the room and were met with a grand display of plates stacked high with eggs, bacon, toast, sausage, and all the other breakfast delicacies.
“Come and eat you two,” his mother gestured.
They sat down gratefully and dug into the plates that were set in front of them. As they chewed and continued to stuff themselves, Hiro realized that she had to go to work soon.
She swallowed her food before venturing, “Ma’am? Is there something I could borrow to change into?”
The mother looked up and pondered, “Why, what for? There’s no school today, right? It’s the weekend.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But I need to go to work. I feel a bit strange if I went to work in my school uniform.”
“Ah, I see what you mean,” the response came, as well as a quick examination. “Finish eating and then I’ll take you to my room and you can try on all the clothes in my closet. I’m a sort of fashion person.”
“Ah, it’s fine. I only need a simple outfit,” she started to say.
“No way!” she proclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. “A girl like you needs to be girly every once in a while so that guys will pick you up!”
“Uh,” the poor girl dragged out, blushing slightly. “I don’t want to. I don’t like being girly.”
“Enough of this shyness, come with me!” the mother cried out, slamming her bowl onto the table and standing up abruptly.
She walked over to Hiro, grabbed her arm, and half pushed half dragged her into the master bedroom. She closed the door behind her and shoved Hiro into the walk-in closet. The girl stared in amazement at the assorted and highly decorative outfits all around her.
“Pick one and try it on,” the mother demanded, placing her hands on her hips in a defiant stance. “Or I will choose one. And if I do, it’s going to be something girly and definitely pink.”
The girl paled as the words ‘girly’ and ‘pink’ popped out of the mother’s mouth. She hurriedly scanned through the piles and piles of clothes. Her shoulders sank in despair as everything she saw was of feminine quality.
“Don’t you have anything more,” she hesitated. “Boyish?”
“Oh,” the mother started. “Wrong closet, follow me.”
She retreated from the closet and opened up another one that resided right beside the first. Inside this one were racks and boxes full of even more clothes. Hiro’s head began to spin with all the clothes that lay beckoning to her.
“I really should donate some of my clothes to the poor,” the mother sighed. “But I just can’t bear to part with them, brings back so many fond memories. Well? Go on, see if you can find something you like in here.”
Hiro obliged and walked over to one stack and picked up the first piece of clothing. It was a light blue hoodie with its sleeves shortened to shoulder length. She held it one hand as she fished around another column of towering clothes to find suitable pants for the attire. She spotted a pair of trousers that came down to her thighs. She picked it up and looped a belt through the belt loops, then added it to her other attire. She looked around her and dug her hand into a random pile a pulled out a dark blue spaghetti strap.
She turned to Kei’s mother and asked, “Where can I change?”
“Just change here,” she told her. “I’ll leave to give you some privacy. And to choose more accessories if that’s what you wish.”
Hiro watched as the mother left and closed the closet door behind her. She took off her school uniform and folded it neatly, laying it on a chair in front of her. She slipped on the trousers, then the spaghetti strap, pausing then to examine herself in the mirror that leaned against the wall to her side. She pulled on the hoodie, adjusted it, then buckled the belt to complete her outfit.
She nodded to herself in the mirror, approving her looks. She opened the closet door and stepped out. Kei’s mother and Kei himself stood waiting for her. Their eyes opened in surprise as they eyed her sudden transformation.
“Is this good enough for you?” she asked, looking at Kei’s mother pointedly.
“Yes,” she nodded her head and clapped her hands in excitement. “It has a stylish and unique look.”
“Looks good,” Kei agreed.
“Thanks,” she giggled, smiling broadly.
“Where are you working at?” the mother bubbled, following Hiro closely as Hiro walked to the front door and picked up her sling bag.
“Well, I guess working is sort of the wrong term, but I volunteer at the library,” she answered, pulling the bag over her head. “I assist the librarian in sorting out the new and returned books every weekend.”
“Oh? For some reason I’m not surprised you work there,” the mother commented, pursing her lips in thought.
“Can I come with you?” Kei asked, pushing his hands into his pockets as he shifted from one leg to the other in his nervousness.
“Sure,” she nodded her head. “As long as you can help out, you’re free to come any time you want.”
He smiled and returned, “I’ll be in your care then.”
She laughed and said, “Let’s get going.”
They bid their farewells to the mother and went off toward the library. The whole journey was silent until they arrived at the entrance. The tiny bell above the door jingled as she opened the door.
The librarian looked up from her perch at the desk and smiled in delight.
“Good morning, Hiro!” she greeted.
“Good morning,” Hiro returned, strolling toward her.
She leaned against the desk and listened as the librarian told her in surprise, “You brought a guest.”
“Yeah, the President wanted to help me out,” she answered, glancing over her shoulders.
“Oh, in that case, I’ll leave you two to do book stacking duty,” the librarian told them, pointing to a cart piled high with books galore.
“President, go on ahead and start before me, I want to talk to her for a bit,” Hiro said, nudging Kei forward.
As he walked toward the cart, the two of them leaned toward each other and whispered.
“Is that your boyfriend?” the older one asked, nosily.
The younger rolled her eyes, anticipating the question.
“No,” she responded. “He’s just someone I work with at school for the Student Council.”
“Are you sure about that? You two look really close,” the librarian commented, eyeing Kei with her head tilted to the side.
“I’m sure,” Hiro answered, sighing.
“What made you bring him?” the librarian asked. “Where’s your mother?”
“She ditched me for a business trip and locked me out,” the shrewd response came. “I’m staying at his house for now until my mom comes flouncing back.”
“What, you’re living with a boy?” she asked, covering her mouth as she gasped in shock. “Such indecency, is he living with his parents?”
“Why would I alone live with a guy I am starting to get to know?” Hiro asked, incredulous.
“Oh, I don’t know. He is quite a good looking young man though,” the comment came, reminding Hiro that her mother had said the very same thing.
“He is,” she admitted, biting her bottom lip in embarrassment.
“Oh? Interested in the boy?”
“Not really,” she moped, placing her arm on the counter and laying her chin in her hand.
“Go for it,” the librarian nudged.
“I want to get to know him more before anything happens,” Hiro debated.
“Well, whatever happens, I’m rooting for you,” the older women smiled gently at her as she whispered these words of encouragement.
“Thanks,” Hiro replied, pushing herself away from the counter. “I’ll go get to work then.”
The librarian smiled at her and watched as she sulked away into one of the aisles of books. Hiro walked over to the cart of books and took out a few. She read the titles and placed them where they belonged. For a while, the books were placed in the middle level, but as every book was being replaced, the level began to rise. As she neared the end of the stack, she had to tip toe to reach the very top shelf where the remaining books lived.
She picked up a book from the stack beside her and stood on the tips of her toes to reach the very top. Due to her somewhat short stature, the book barely grazed the shelf before it slipped through her fingers. She caught it quickly before it could hit the floor. She tried again, but this time, she gave a small hop and successfully lodged it into its spot, but it still wasn’t enough to push it in all the way.
She jumped again and this time used the tips of her fingers to push it into place. Kei watched her with mild amusement as she reached for another book, one that resided in the top shelf as well. As she struggled to put the book in its rightful place, he crept up beside her.
She stared at the looming books in front of her face in surprise as his body pressed closely against her. His hand lay atop the hand she used to give herself an extra boost when she jumped, whereas his other hand had reached for the book in hers and placed it in its right spot. He lowered his hand and stopped halfway, staring at the back of her head.
“Thanks,” Hiro whispered, her heart beating so fast that she thought he could hear it.
She slipped her hand from underneath his and clasped them together toward her chest, as though to calm her overwhelming heart. He rested his hand on either side of her and continued to gaze at her shoulder length hair.
He suddenly wrapped his arms around her, interrupting her. He held her tightly and brought her close to him. He leaned his head close to hers, causing her to freeze. He brought his head close to hers and tilted it so that his lips brushed against her ear.
Her eyes opened wide in surprise as the tip of his nose appeared in her peripheral line of view. She turned around and faced him, much to Kei’s surprise. She closed her eyes and shoved him away from her. He held on to her shoulders, though, taking her down with him. They landed in a heap of bodies and books. Loose pages from some of the older books fluttered atop them, littering the floor with sheaves of paper.
She lay atop him, their faces inches from each other’s. His arms were wrapped around her to shield her from the book impacts. She squirmed to be released from his hold, but he didn’t budge. He brought his face in close to hers, caressing her cheek with one hand.
As he leaned in for a kiss, she closed her eyes tightly and whispered, “Stop!”
She felt his hands stiffened and peeked an eye open to watch as his eyes stared back at her face. He withdrew his hands and scooted away from her. They sat side by side in silence.
“I’m sorry,” Kei whispered, burying his head in his hands. “I let my feelings take control of me.”
“Feelings,” Hiro echoed.
“When I first met you, I thought you were beautiful, the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. The more time we spent together because of the Student Council, I found that you were an intelligent girl and did everything you could to let the people beside you laugh and smile,” he murmured, reminiscing. “I began to fall for you even before I could realize it myself,” he paused and brushed his hair aside in frustration as he struggled to find the words he wanted to say.
“This week, I saw you more than I ever thought I would. With you constantly by my side, my feelings for you got stronger,” he continued, looking up at her.
She returned his stares blankly as she tried to register his words and to understand her own feelings.
“Hiro,” he began in all seriousness. “Will you be my-”
“W-wait!” she interrupted, holding her hands up. “Wait, please, this is too sudden.”
He closed his mouth and looked away, disheartened.
“I knew that this would happen and yet I tried anyways. I’m sorry for rushing things,” he sighed.
But Hiro was in shock. She stood up quickly and backed away from him.
“Hiro?” he asked, standing up as well. “Where are you going?”
She shook her head ferociously, whirled around and fled from the library. She ran blindly down the street, not caring where her legs took her. She ran on pushing past people, not bothering to apologize to them. She darted toward the busiest section of the outlet and stopped right at the center fountain. She slumped onto the edge and sat there gulping in air.
As she calmed herself down, her phone began to jingle its ring tone.
She flipped open her phone, wiped the sweat off her forehead and answered, “Hello?”
“Is this Hiro?” a voice asked, hurriedly.
“Yes, this is-”
“I’m sorry for interrupting anything, but this is kind of urgent. Akari is in the hospital with an unstable condition. I felt it better if there was someone close to her by her side. I found your contact because you were the only number in her phone list. Please come! This is really urgent!” the voice rushed all in one breathe.
Hiro paused for only a moment but whirled around without hesitation toward the nearest hospital she could think of.
“Which hospital?” she panted, pushing past people again.
The voice spoke, “Westfield Skyward Hospital, down-”
“I know where it is,” she snapped. “I’m coming, hold on.”
“Thank you,” the voice whispered.
“No problem, anything for a friend,” Hiro responded as she ducked her head down and rushed toward her destination.