He wanted to kiss her so bad. That thought went through his head every single day with no exceptions. Never once did it fail to cross his mind.
The plastic spoon scraped the bottom of the cartoon as Kaito scooped up the last slabs of ice cream. He’d felt up for a bit of variation today and gone for chocolate instead of vanilla. Normally, he told himself a good day always started with some nice high quality vanilla ice cream. But somehow, today felt different.
“Your metabolism must be miraculous.”
He turned in his chair, his heart performing the regular somersault in his chest as he saw her for the first time that morning. She was clad in a pink polka-dotted miniskirt, a white button-up shirt decorated with laces, and a violet cardigan over that. He hadn’t seen those clothes before. They ought to be new ones.
“I mean, it’s only nine in the morning and you’re already eating ice cream?” Rin continued, strolling past him towards the fridge. He couldn’t possibly keep his eyes from following her, observing how her short skirt swayed with the movements of her small hips, flowing around her bare legs. He could already sense his mind drifting off, tempted to enter one of those intriguing fantasies of his. He indulged in them often, both the innocent and the not-so-innocent ones. But there was no way he could help it. After all, he was in love with her. He’d stumbled and fallen headlong into in blind, hopeless, maddening infatuation. This, despite he knew that some might claim he was “too old for her”. But why would age difference matter anyway? They were Vocaloids, artificial beings, more or less, and the closest their bodies came to aging were upgrades.
When he came to think of it, it was the upgrades that had pinned him into this cumbersome position in the first place. When Rin’s formerly juvenile figure had changed into the delicate figure of a young woman, he’d lost his heart to her forever. Of course, he’d always loved her, but it wasn’t until then he felt like he was allowed to fall in love with her. He hadn’t realised it on his own, though. It would probably have taken him a lot longer if Gakupo hadn’t interfered.
“Hey, Kaito”, he’d said one afternoon when they were home alone, watching TV in the living room together. “You’re in love with Rin, aren’t you?”
Stunned by the unexpected and – as it seemed at the time – frankly speaking bizarre statement, Kaito had blurted out his answer on pure reflex.
“No, of course I’m not! Don’t be ridiculous! Why would you even think that?”
“Well, lately you’ve kind of been looking at her the same way you look at ice cream when you’re just about to eat it”, Gakupo answered, the shade of a smug smile sneaking up on his voice. “Sometimes it looks like you’re actually drooling.”
At first, Kaito had thought that Gakupo was obviously just imagining things. But it wasn’t long before his words began to make sense. He’d caught himself involuntarily staring at Rin several times a day after that. Gosh, his eyes were practically glued to her, weren’t they? He’d recalled Gakupo’s quote then.
Naturally, he regarded ice cream as the most delicious treat in the world. He realised that he might be watching Rin in the same fashion because he also wanted to taste her. Those soft-looking lips of her seemed so kissable and alluring, and he reckoned the cavern of her mouth was exquisitely sweet. Her skin looked so smooth and creamy too; it was certainly something he’d take pleasure in savouring. He yearned to place smooches upon every inch of it, feel her quiver beneath the touch of his mouth, hear her moan and…
“Oh no, we’re all out of orange juice!”
Rin’s dismayed cry brought Kaito back to reality. She was still rummaging through the fridge out of desperation, searching frenetically but without any gain. Fortunately, this kept her too busy to take notice of how his face burned with a blatant, scarlet colour as he strained himself to push those indecent thoughts into a dark and distant corner of his mind.
“We’re out of a lot of things. We don’t even have enough fresh food to make lunch today”, said Meiko, who’d just entered the room, causing Kaito to wince because he hadn’t heard her coming. Scary, he thought. She sure was sneaky sometimes.
“Why don’t we just go shopping then?” Rin asked, shutting the refrigerator again.
“That’s easier said then done”, Meiko sighed, shrugging. “I need to head down to the studio so I’m too busy for that. Everyone else in this house seems to be occupied today too as far as I can tell. Except… maybe… you two.”
“Mei-chan, you’re not saying…?” Kaito didn’t need to finish his sentence.
“You know exactly what I’m saying”, she replied, applying an intimidating touch of superiority to her tone. “Neither of you ever do anything to help out in this house. But now, you have a chance to prove that you’re not totally useless.”
“Wait… I have to go shopping with him?” Rin exclaimed with horror, her aspect conveying a rather high level of discontent. Meiko issued her a solemn nod.
“Yep, that’s right. It will be perfect, if you think about it. Kaito can carry the bags and you’ll make sure that idiot doesn’t get lost somewhere. However, you’ll have to take the subway downtown because I need the car.”
To be honest, Kaito felt far from repelled by the idea of going shopping with Rin. He was seldom offered an opportunity to have her to himself, so he would gladly accept any available excuse to travel somewhere with her alone – even if it was to such an unstimulating and tedious place as the supermarket. However, Rin didn’t seem that tempted at all by the same idea.
“But Meiko-nee, I hate the subway!” she whined imploringly. “Can’t we just order some takeaway food for lunch and go shopping later instead? Please?”
“No, we’re having a proper, home-cooked meal today. There’s no discussing that matter”, Meiko answered with steadfast determination, crossing her arms over her chest. “And just in case you’re thinking of refusing, I can offer you the choice of staying here at home and washing everyone’s clothes by hand.”
Rin scowled and emitted a noise that resembled the whimper of a sad dog. But Meiko was as sturdy as ever and wasn’t prevailed to yield. At last, Rin caved in and sagged down, wearing a sulky grimace as she glared over at Kaito.
“You heard her, dummy. Let’s go shopping.”
Moments later, the three of them were gathered in the hallway. Rin was in the process of stepping into her shoes, while Meiko handed Kaito a bundle of bills that she’d ransomed for the occasion. Her brown eyes were grim as they strayed over him and Rin, much like a lieutenant inspecting a pair of lined up soldiers.
“Now listen you two, you better not screw this up”, she growled in her typical brusque manner. “Just go to the supermarket, buy the items I wrote down on the list – no more, no less – and get back here before lunchtime. Is that clear?”
“Roger, roger”, Rin answered bluntly. She was already staying put by the door, impatient to leave and finish the task as fast as feasible.
“Oh, and you should probably bring umbrellas with you. They said on the forecast that it would rain later”, Meiko added as she pulled on her thin, scarlet trench coat, stuffing the car keys into one of the pockets. “I’ll be going too now, but I’ll probably be back here before you are. Bye then!”
With a quick wave and a flick of her short hair, she’d gone out the door and left the hallway silent like a morgue. Kaito realised he must’ve forgotten about that incommodious atmosphere that always occurred whenever he and Rin were on their own. The mood often lightened again after a while, but there was still that awkward silence to begin with. Kaito could hardly bring himself to glance at Rin, fidgeting while he waited for her to take initiative.
“Um… do you think we should get going now?” she wondered quietly, gesturing at the door. Kaito gave her a mute nod, grabbing an umbrella from the stand before followed her outside. Once he’d closed and locked the door behind him, he found Rin looking back at him with a sceptical arch of her eyebrows.
“Really, you’re bringing the umbrella?” she said, somewhat snide in her speech as she pointed up towards the clear blue sky above them.
“W-well, Mei-chan said it was going to rain later”, Kaito stammered, suddenly feeling stupid. Rin rolled her eyes, muttering something about how he must have no intuition of his own, before she turned his back to him and wandered off. Kaito matched her gait, though lingered a few feet away since he secretly loved to admire her from behind. He’d always adored how golden blonde hair swung in that mesmerising fashion when she walked, and he found it especially cute how her ribbon bounced like the ears of a jumping rabbit.
The two of them plodded on that way for a while, Kaito tracking Rin’s footsteps as he bit by bit let his mind stray further away from his body. But then, Rin came to a sudden stop, and Kaito just barely avoided lumbering straight into her.
“Ugh, we’re here”, she grumbled bitterly. “I hate this so much.”
They’d stopped by the stairs that lead underground, people passing them by on either their way up or down. From the looks of it, it wasn’t that crowded, but Rin seemed to be cringing at the very thought of entering the station. She shook her head in dislike, but got it together and ran down the stairway, light on her feet as always. Kaito skipped down after her, although somewhat less gracefully.
They derived their tickets without any issues and tarried at the platform while they awaited the train. Their traveling distance wasn’t very long and they could technically have walked to the supermarket if they’d so wanted. But, it was more practical to take the subway since an extended promenade would probably have worn them out, making it far too tiring to carry the groceries home again.
Their train arrived shortly and Rin seemed relieved that it was rather spacious inside. They settled next to each other, but didn’t converse a whole lot during the trip. Kaito simply couldn’t think of anything clever to say, which was why he decided to keep his mouth shut so that he wouldn’t irk Rin by accident.
Luckily, he managed to prevent himself from stating something dumb or just blankly obvious until they came to their stop. Despite that the ride hadn’t seemed to cause Rin too much displeasure, she made it apparent that she was glad to be on solid ground for the moment.
“Thank God it’s over!” she exclaimed as she hurried out on the platform, flinging her arms high into the air. Kaito joined her side as they exited the station, swinging the umbrella by his hip while they ascended the stairs.
“Remember that you’ll have to ride it once more on the way home, though”, he reminded her dutifully, which wasn’t to her appreciation.
“Don’t be a killjoy”, she snarled, her icy glare piercing through him like the well-honed edge of a sword. He offered her an apologetic smile, but was neglected by the display of her backside facing him. He thereby insured to keep his tongue clenched between two rows of teeth during the remaining walk to the store.
When they had finally reached their goal, they got themselves a cart and began to collect the items from Meiko’s list. Rin instantly headed for the fruit and vegetable section, where she proceeded to load a considerable amount of oranges into their cart. As she bent down to pick them up, Kaito’s eyes were drawn to a specific point at the back of her neck. Her short hair separated there, exposing a bare portion of her skin, and he was momentarily overwhelmed by the urge to push his nose into her nape. The delectable aroma he expected to inhale was all too real in his imagination, causing his mouth to water. However, he was painfully aware of what a reckless and impotent (and for that matter perverse) that kind of act was. It could as well be his death wish.
“Hello? Earth to Kaito! Are you there?”
Kaito jolted as he realised Rin was waving her hand in front of his face. It turned out he’d been staring out in the oblivion for longer than he’d thought. She had already filled their cart with not only oranges, but also bananas, leeks, carrots and eggplants. Kaito frowned and the unnerving sight. He was troubled by the idea that it he was meant to carry all of that, especially since they had only obtained about half of the items on the list.
They continued to wander through the maze of aisles, checking off the items on the list one by one. Rin didn’t speak more than necessary, and Kaito knew well enough to not pressure her to be talkative. When Rin was in the mood for chatting she could be immensely engaged, her sparkling with delight whenever the conversation suited her taste. In those cases, it didn’t matter if Kaito happened to say the wrong thing or space out. Because, once Rin was in her conversational “butter zone”, she would simply laugh it off with a moniker empty of any true offense – such as dummy or goof. But when she wasn’t feeling up to any excessive spieling whatsoever… let’s just say she’d let him know.
“I think we’ve got everything now”, Rin murmured absently, primming as she scanned the list up and down with her eyes. Kaito glanced at the content of the cart, flinching when he suddenly dawned upon a horrid insight.
“But there’s no ice cream in there!” he cried out in alarm.
“Of course there’s not. It would melt before we got home”, Rin explained matter-of-factly. “Meiko-nee said we’ll probably go shopping this weekend again, so you’ll have to make the ice cream you’ve got last until then.”
“But that’s three days! Three days, Rin-chan! That’s like… forever!”
A compassionate smile embellished Rin’s lips and she patted his back.
“I think you’ll survive. In fact, it’ll probably be good for you to cut down on the sugar for a few days”, she said with a soft giggle, which crammed Kaito’s stomach with a fluttery, bubbling sensation. A breezy laughter like that was a sign that Rin was verging towards a more approachable attitude. He chewed anxiously on his lower lip. A risky but inviting idea had popped up in his head.
“Hey, Rin-chan… we still have some time to spare before lunch”, he said hesitantly, assuring that he’d caught her attention so that he wouldn’t have to repeat himself. “What would you say about… stopping by a café, or something?”
Stunned, Rin’s doll-like eyes blinked slowly as she took in his suggestion. She considered it for a very brief moment, before she reached her resolve.
“S-sure… I mean, that’s… fine by me”, she stuttered, her cheeks painted pink as she crumpled up the shopping list in her hands. Kaito wondered whether the same thought that had struck him, might have struck her too. The two of them, going to a café together… it would be almost like a date, wouldn’t it?
A clement sense of abashedness was adrift in the air when they got to the checkout. This time, Rin was the one of them hanging a bit behind, her eyes locked on the floor she helped Kaito lift the groceries onto the counter. They packed two plastic bags, stuffing them to the limit, and Kaito grabbed both before Rin could propose any other arrangement. They were indeed heavy, but it was a petty burden to bear when his heart felt this lightsome. It was virtually bouncing in his chest when he walked out of the supermarket, adding an exuberant spring to his steps. As he strode on, he peered around the street, diligently searching for a café that seemed fittable for his and Rin’s maybe sort of date.
“What do you think about that one?” he asked as he pointed towards a decent-looking café, glancing back at Rin past his shoulder. She fiddled with the hem of her shirt, nodded and scurried up to him. She opened the door for him to pass through first, the tingling sound of a silver bell emerging as they went inside. They got seated at a table near the window and placed their orders. Unsurprisingly, Rin chose a tall glass of orange juice, while Kaito deliberately picked out the largest parfait on the menu. This provided Rin with a second chance to make a comment about his unreasonable ice cream obsession.
“Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if all your internal organs have frostbite at this point”, she said while she folded her arms upon the table, resting her head against them like a pillow. Her gilded hair billowed over her arms with the similarity to a serene creek, glowing beautifully as it captured the warm sunlight. Kaito marvelled at the sight, smitten by the luxurious texture her blonde tendrils appeared to possess, and before he knew it, his hand had plunged straight into them. Once he realised what he was doing, he jerked his hand back with a start, panic-stricken due to relentless scolding he expected to receive. But Rin didn’t even stir as she calmly directed her inquisitive gaze at him.
“What are you doing?” she wondered, without as much as raising her voice. Flustered as he was, Kaito waved his hands and shook his head, the frantic gesture causing his navy blue bangs to whip against his forehead.
“I-I was just… there was s-something in your hair…” he lied quickly. “It… it wasn’t like I touched your hair just because I wanted to.”
“You’re a horrible liar, Kaito”, Rin responded, and amazingly enough, Kaito spotted a gracious grin spreading across her lips. “You can touch my hair if you want to. It felt quite nice, actually. Just don’t tangle it, okay?”
“Oh, o-okay”, Kaito murmured, unsure but not backward enough to deny such a desirable offer. His fingertips verged into the velvety weave first, and then they crept deeper until his fingers were wholly smothered in Rin’s coiffure. He twisted his wrist, curling the golden strays of hair around his fingers while he rejoiced in the gratifying sensation. It was beyond belief how amenable Rin was, allowing him to caress her so fondly in front of the public eye. She crooned and beamed, clearly satisfied by his gentle treatment. The corners of Kaito’s mouth edged upwards as he stared at her with fascination. Right then, right there, he wished for nothing but for that moment to keep lasting forever.
“Here’s your parfait and your orange juice!” the waitress announced cheerfully.
Kaito started back once more, a bright blush immediately surfacing his face as he hurried to disentangle his hand from Rin’s hair.
In comparison, Rin wasn’t perturbed at all, which made the young male submerge in deep wonder. She was normally rather squeamish regarding these sorts of situations, seldom letting herself appear as susceptible to intimacy as she’d been a second ago. But now, she was careless like never before. She’d already straightened up and stuck the straw into her mouth. But before she began sipping her juice, she staunched herself and looked up at Kaito again.
“How come you’re not shoving ice cream into your mouth yet?” she asked, flaunting a mischievous smirk. “It might start melting if you don’t hurry.”
Kaito issued her an odd look. He found himself unable to emplace where Rin’s unexplained humour had sprouted. She seemed to be contracting entertainment out of his disorientation, almost as though she was playing happy-go-lucky with the sole purpose of making him squirm. The thought was a large dose of unease, but it didn’t occur to Kaito as something Rin would do.
He decided to drop his idle train of thought and devoted his attention to the parfait instead. It was an appetising creation with several flavours of ice cream, fresh pieces fruit, biscuits, chocolate syrup, and a massive pile of whipped cream. The edge of his spoon sliced through the mountain of cream and dug up a generous mouthful. The impeccable combination of sweetness, tartness and creaminess was divine, inducing a sapidity that danced upon his taste buds.
“Is it good?” Rin wondered curiously, titling her head to the side. Upon reminding himself that his mouth was occupied by a half-chewed chunk of banana, Kaito merely nodded as reply. He refilled his spoon with another pile of delectability, and then his eyes landed on Rin. He let his eyes drift between her and the spoon a few times, carefully conceiving his next words.
“Uh… w-would you like to have a bite?” he offered, his mouth so dry he was nearly unable to pronounce the words audibly. Rin gave him a hebetudinous stare, as if she couldn’t quite interpret the question. But after a couple of seconds, she comprehended what he’d said, perking as she nodded eagerly.
“Yes please!” she exclaimed, her palms smacking down on the tabletop as she jumped up from her seat. Cerulean eyes glittering with anticipation, she leaned over the table, and Kaito realised – a little too late – that her face was very up close. For an instant, the splendid sparkles in Rin’s orbs had him stupefied, his pupils magnified and his gorge seemed to twist, cutting off his air supply. He felt feeble, almost ready to swoon, as his nose picked up the faint fragrance of citrus from her mouth. He could’ve sworn that his heart writhed from the knowledge that he was just one, light tug from planting her supple lips onto his.
There was no way to curb the trembling of his hand when he extended the spoon towards her mouth. The blood in his veins was pumped towards his face again as she opened wide and engulfed the ice cream upon the tip of the spoon. The spoon slipped out of her mouth, she sat back down, and just like that, it was all over. Kaito’s shoulders went lax out of both relief and disappointment, but he was exulting internally from achieving his own private objective: He had successfully tricked Rin into sharing an indirect kiss with him.
“Eh, e-excuse me. Could we please have your autographs?”
Three young girls in school uniforms had appeared by the table, each of them clutching a small note pad their hands. Kaito was perplexed by their presence, since it was a regular weekday, but didn’t falter to shoot them a benign grin.
“Why of course!” he chimed, chuckling as the girls exchanged excited looks with one another and shuffled closer. “You don’t mind either, do you, Rin-chan?”
As he gazed over at her, Kaito was surprised to discover that Rin seemed to be trapped in a state of awkwardness. Yet, she quelled it to the best of her ability, smiling faintly as she nodded at the girls. Their little group of fans was practically squealing with glee as they laid down their note pads plus two pens upon the table. Kaito and Rin passed the pads between each other until all three of them had their signatures scribbled down upon the white, lined pages.
“Ah, thank you so much!” the girls said with one mouth, grinning from ear to ear as they bowed. The ecstatic smiles they wore were reflected in Kaito’s own face as he waved them off. He didn’t particularly care for the hushed discussion that happened to travel by his ears as they walked out of the café.
“Do you think they’re out on a date?”
“No way! Why would you think that?”
“Because it kind of looked like it. Didn’t it?”
“Well, I hope they’re not. They really don’t fit together.”
“Yeah, you’re right about that…”
The blithesome jingle of the doorbell was heard when they left the building, and a sharp, screeching noise emerged as Rin pushed back her chair and stood up.
“Where are you going?” Kaito asked, but didn’t bother lifting his gaze since the glorious parfait had absorbed all of his focus again.
“Toilet…” Rin muttered under hear breath, marching off without another word.
The time ticked on while Kaito happily munched down his parfait. He dangled his legs under the table as the chilled treat melted upon his tongue, thrilled by the tingling sensation that arose when it slipped down his throat. Before long, the sky outside had adopted a canescent nuance, and the increasing smattering against the window adverted him of the predicted downfall.
Grabbing the last biscuit out of the now empty glass dish, Kaito glanced at the clock hanging upon the wall. It struck him that he and Rin ought to get moving soon, otherwise there was an imminent risk that they’d be running late for lunch.
“She sure is taking a while”, he mumbled to himself, impatiently tapping his fingernails onto the surface of the table. Clomping straight into the girl’s restroom might be the bang on definition of a moronic idea. But, since Kaito had left his cellphone at home, hence unable to try and text Rin, he figured that it was his most relevant choice if he wanted to spare himself from Meiko’s fury.
After paying the bill, in case things didn’t go according to plan, Kaito snuck towards the restrooms in the back. This wasn’t during the café’s busiest hours of the day, so the locale was fairly empty. Thankfully, this meant nobody noticed when he opened up a slim crack in the door to the ladies room and stole a glimpse of the inside. The area where the sinks stood appeared clear of people, so Kaito made the venturesome decision to slip into the room.
The steps of his clunky shoes echoed about the ivory tiles on the walls and floor, alerting everyone in the vicinity of his presence. Once he was approximately standing in the middle of the room, he decided to call out.
“Rin-chan? Are you in here?”
Somewhere within the five stalls in front of him, a stifled gasp erupted.
“What are you doing here you stupid idiot? This restroom is for girls only! Are you really so dumb you think you can just walk in here? Didn’t you see the sign?”
Kaito made his way towards the stall farthest away from the door, just then discovering that it was the only one occupied of the bunch.
“I know, I know it’s a girl’s restroom”, he explained, before she could bombard him with another load of insults and humbling. “I would’ve waited longer, but I really had to tell you that we need to go… like now.”
“Well, you can go without me! I’m not going home with you!” Rin snapped curtly.
“I can’t do that, Rin! Mei-chan would kill me if I came home without you!”
“I don’t care! Just go! Leave! Nobody wants to see me together with you anyway!”
There was an abundance of grief distorting her tone, which made Kaito reach the conclusion that something was definitely wrong. It seemed like what he’d thought had been a flawless “date” up to this point, had somehow been soiled by an unwanted blemish. However, he had no clue where they had gone astray.
“Rin”, he said, speaking softly, attempting to coax out her reasonable side. “Please, don’t be like this. We really need to go, and I can’t leave without you.”
Silence… nothing but complete, absolute silence.
“Please Rin-chan, can’t you come out?”
There were signs suggesting stirring inside the stall, but no more.
“Rin, seriously, I’m begging you. Please—”
The door came crashing towards his face, knocking his nose into total numbness. There was a blurry whirl of blonde hair as Rin bolted by. But for once, Kaito reacted with exceptional swiftness and was on her tail right after the collision. Not three steps into her urgent flight for the door, he caught onto her forearm. She swirled around, emitting a vicious growl as she jerked her arm in an attempt to make him release her from his clutch. But all she managed was to disturb his balance, which made him stumble forwards and topple over her.
The world blackened for a second… and then one of Kaito’s eyes split open. As he’d suspected, he had ended up on all four over Rin. His knees were resting on each of her sides and his left hand had found a landing spot by her shoulder. But his right hand… his right hand had not touched down at the same cold, hard surface. Instead, his palm and fingers were shaped around something soft and warm. Considering the crimson bloom that had flourished upon Rin’s cheeks, he guessed that she’d already grasped the situation a good while before he did.
It was like one of those ridiculously embarrassing scenes from a harem anime, in which the male protagonist had clumsily fallen on top of one of his love interests. And of course, one of his hands had somehow gone right to her chest. That was the precise scenario Kaito had (literally) tripped into, and as soon as he’d realised this, his face rapidly grew redder until it was a perfect match with Rin’s.
“S-sorry!” he cried out, his hand instantly flying off her chest. He was just about to ramble every excuse he could think of, when there was a piercing twinge at the side of his face. He saw his dumbstruck expression mirroring in Rin’s equally startled eyes. Breathless, she gaped at him, shocked by her own actions, before she scrambled onto her feet and rushed out of the restroom.
Kaito felt an intense heat, as though the burning touch of flames was licking his cheek. He lifted his hand to his face, the taste of blood filling his oral cavity as he stroke the flared skin. He must’ve bit himself when she slapped him, he thought vacantly, incapable of connecting his mind with the matter at hand. But after a while, he began to gather his thoughts, clearing his skull from the foggy haze within it. They had to get home. They were going to be late. Rin was still upset. She was out there, all by herself. He had to go get her.
Thus, he sprung into action, leaping off the floor and foundering out through the door. He swooped by the tables in the café, attracting flummoxed stares in his wake as he snatched the umbrella from his previous seating and dashed out in the pouring rain. His gauche hands somehow unfolded the umbrella before he became all too wet and he spun around amidst the raging cloudburst. His eyes darted between many unfamiliar faces of passing people, but he couldn’t catch sight of Rin. She was vanished, vaporized, nowhere to be found. An ominous nausea seized Kaito, the shattering sensation of panic burrowing into his flesh.
Left with no other options, he selected a direction on random and set off. He strode hastily down the street, retaining a steady pace while he frequently cast apprehensive glances around him. He called Rin’s name from time to time, the resonance of his cries growing frailer as his desperation swelled.
After a long march over the flooded pavement, Kaito had just accepted that his search wouldn’t be rewarded if he continued any further. He was about to turn around, when his hopeless gaze suddenly spotted something through the thick curtain of rain. There, on the other side of the street, in the sheltering dusk of a narrow alley, his eyes settled on her. No mistake, it had to be her.
“RIN!” he shouted, throttling across the street without a second thought. A couple of exasperated swears reached him as a cyclist was forced to veer sharply to not collide with him. But the man’s brawling fell on deaf ears, because all Kaito could detect was Rin’s shaken aspect, when she lifted her face from her hands and looked up at him. As he closed in on her, he took notice of the red marks beneath her eyes, which tears had produced on their course down her cheeks. That sight alone was sufficient to make his heart to twang with dismay.
“R-Rin… Rin I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean to, I really didn’t”, he stammered, timorously approaching her. He faced an immense difficulty with speaking to her; his chest felt tight and caused him trouble breathing. He stretched out a cautious hand towards her, sending a quiet request for permission to sooth her. But when she staggered backwards to escape his range – out of disgust, he imagined – he felt his courage budging and wavered at the spot.
“Rin… I know you’re angry, and you have all right to be”, he began, testing a different stance, fighting to preserve the puny remains of his confidence, “but please, listen to me. It was an accident, I swear! I didn’t do it on purpose!”
“I know”, she said, astounding him by staring him directly in the eyes. “I know it was an accident. I’m… I’m not mad at you, Kaito.”
Kaito blinked in bewilderment, impelling himself to step a tiny bit closer.
“But… if you’re not mad… then why are you—?”
“I’m sorry!” Rin interrupted him, fresh teardrops springing free from her eyes as she gazed at him with a mixture of contrition and despair. “I-I didn’t mean to hit you! I just acted on instinct and I didn’t know what I was doing! I’ll never ever let that happen again, I promise! I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”
She buried her face in her hands anew, failing to suppress a brittle whimper that slipped from her mouth. Kaito found it hard to believe both his ears and his eyes. Rin’s mournful sobs contused him on the inside, battering and mishandling his heart until it was contorted beyond recognition. There he’d been, dreading that she’d contemn him and resent him for at least several weeks to come. But he surely hadn’t expected her to be asking for his forgiveness. And yet… she was.
“Please forgive me”, she croaked, the words crumbling as they tumbled from her tremoring lips. “I’ll do anything you want… just please… p-please forgive me.”
“Oh, Rin-chan”, was the only answer Kaito’s benumbed mouth could utter, as he extended his free arm, inviting her into his embrace. Rin hesitated, ogling dubiously at him for a few seconds, before she rushed over and threw herself into his arms. Her hands fumbled over the back of his lab coat, gripping it while she snuggled into his chest and continued to weep. Her clothes were soaked all the way through and she was shuddering badly. Kaito fondled her back with one of his hands, consoling her and warming her simultaneously. His other hand cramped the handle of the umbrella, protecting them from the persistent descent of the rain. Rin kept on whining his name all along, repeatedly pleading for his forgiveness while she clung onto him as if her life depended upon it.
“Rin, it’s fine… really”, Kaito murmured between her desolated wails, although in a rather tame manner, since he wasn’t too keen to let go of her just yet. “You don’t have to cry anymore… I’m not mad at you either.”
“But you should be!” she cried into his chest. “You don’t always have to be so submissive about every single thing! You should get mad too sometimes!”
You should get mad too sometimes. She said it like it was the easiest thing in the world, when it was the exact opposite to him. In fact, when it came to her, he’d let just about everything slide if it were to prevent her from getting hurt. Besides, he wasn’t really the kind of person who got angered easily in the first place.
Sighing, Kaito ran his finger through the wet ravel of Rin’s hair, holding her shivering self tighter to transfer his warmth to her.
“Why does it have to be so hard to love you?” he longed to ask her. “Why do you have to put up such a tough act in front of me, if you’re just going to crumble like this in the end? You’re always pushing me away, but then you leave yourself exposed and let me in again. Don’t you understand how that makes me feel?”
But he couldn’t prompt himself to ask that. He had no clue what response it might lead to, and he was far from certain that he’d appreciate the one served to him. Instead, he chose to brazenly revel in the peerless feeling of squeezing his beloved Rin to his bosom, because he knew it wasn’t something he’d experience again any time soon. After all, once they returned home, everything would go back to normal, and this moment would be swallowed by the forgotten.
Wait a minute… Home. Weren’t they supposed to be home by now?
“Crap!” Kaito yelled, giving Rin a start that drove her out of his arms. “The train! We’re going to miss it! We have to hurry if we’re going to get home on time!”
Without further ado, he grasped her by the wrist and towed her behind him as they scuttered through the rain. It was with husky huffs and scathing throats that they arrived at the train station. But as Kaito had feared, they’d fallen flat on their faces before the finish line. Their train had already left the station, which meant they could do nothing but abide the arrival of the next one.
Rin’s lips were sealed and she didn’t say a word, neither during the wait nor the ride back home. Kaito kept quiet as well, but mostly since he was under the conviction that he was supposed to until she spoke to him.
The rain had ceased when they exited the station, but the sun remained concealed behind gloomy clouds. A cool breeze swirled by and had Rin shivering. With teeth clattering, she wrapped her arms around herself, and Kaito couldn’t crimp the instinct to take off his muffler and give it to her.
“What are you doing?” she peeped, blushing as he adjusted the garment around her neck. Kaito straightened, but couldn’t bear with meeting her gaze.
“You were freezing, weren’t you? Your clothes are all soggy too. I’m trying to make sure you don’t catch a cold”, he muttered, burying his hands in his pockets as he meandered on. Rin caught up to him and they walked side by side for about a minute or so. They were both muted at first, until she broke the ice.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about something”, she said in a peculiar tone, like she was speculating aloud. “They say your heart is supposed to be as big as your clenched fist, and that your brain is supposed to be twice as large, right?”
“Right…” Kaito replied, despite that he’d never heard of that.
“However, I think yours got switched up. I mean, you’re a complete idiot and you’re always too kind for your own good. But… you know what?”
He turned his head to her, his eyes widening as she graced him with such a captivating smile, his heart must’ve performed a double somersault.
“I really don’t dislike that about you!” she cooed, sonorous like a dainty melody.
Everything appeared to have frozen. Agaze, Kaito stood nailed to the ground, dumbfounded by the ravishing sight before him. A courageous beam of sunshine had fought through the dense mass of clouds, striking Rin’s hair and returning its gilt sheen. Her eyes twinkled with the vigour of a thousand stars, lit up in the middle of the day, and that smile of hers could solely be classed as incandescent.
All of a sudden, Kaito couldn’t contain himself. He was ready to reveal everything. He was prepared to spill out all the feelings he’d withheld from her, even if meant tossing himself into a downward spiral of vulnerability and shame.
“Rin!” he exclaimed, speaking unsteadily, his face gaining heat to an insufferable extent. “I… I have something I really need to… to… to tell you!”
Rin cocked her head, looking befuddled but curious, as Kaito’s hands curled into fists and he took a deep, jagged breath to collect his composure. He fixed his fearful gaze on her, his body jittering out of control while the blood inside him surged around at a hysterical rate. Then, he opened his mouth to say it.
“Rin-chan, y-you should know that I… I… lo—!”
Those three, insurmountably significant words had strayed to the very tip of his tongue, when Rin’s expression abruptly went through a drastic change.
“Kaito, look out!” she shouted, just before a huge splash of cold water flushed over him, leaving him stumped. Through the light drizzle that trickled from his hair, he watched Rin pick up a fallen branch by the side of the road and fling it at the car that had splashed the puddle upon him.
“Inconsiderate jerk!” she yelled at the driver, who probably didn’t even hear her, before she spun on her heel and ran back to Kaito. Since realising what turn the events had taken, Kaito was both mortified and frustrated. Not only had he been rudely disrupted in the crucial moment of a love confession, but also been soaked with dirtied rainwater in front of his crush. Oh, the humiliation…
“Kaito, are you okay?” Rin wondered as she came up to him, her slender finger sweeping the dribbling bangs away from his eyes.
“Yeah… It’s just water anyway”, Kaito answered tonelessly, glaring at his feet. Rin’s hand trailed down his left cheek and he flinched; it was still a bit sore. Rin noticed his reaction and stepped back, a shadow of guilt crossing her features.
“Sorry, did that hurt?” she asked with great concern, but since Kaito was too frazzled to provide her with an answer, she became even more consternated. “K-Kaito, I meant what I said before. If there’s anything I can do to make this up to you… please tell me? I’m willing to do anything you ask for!”
“Really, anything?” Kaito said and glanced up, unable to dampen his expectance.
“Yes! Anything at all!”
“Then… I want you to go out with me again.”
A puzzled frown shaped upon Rin’s forehead and she drifted into daze.
“Huh? Why… why would you want to do that?” she wondered.
“B-because I want to spend more time with you”, Kaito explained, well aware that he could be jeopardising everything by going head-on like that. “Listen, I admit that maybe today wasn’t… perfect. But Rin-chan, I really liked hanging out with you… when it was just the two of us. A-and that’s why want to do it again!”
“Kaito, I…” Rin fell quiet for a bit, breaking eye contact with him as she peered elusively about their surroundings. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. You heard those girls at the café, didn’t you? If our fans see us alone together in public, they might misunderstand our… relationship. And you know… I’m not exactly the one they want to see you with in that context.”
Kaito sensed how his levels of frustration took growth once more. Now he finally understood the cause to why Rin had been so upset earlier.
“Why do you think I’d care about that?” he hissed, becoming surprisingly agitated. “You said you’d do whatever I wanted, right? Well, I want to go out with you and I’m not taking no for an answer! Also, I don’t give a crap about what anyone else thinks about it, and neither should you. That’s just unnecessary!”
Breathing a bit coarsely, he kept his unfaltering eyes aimed at Rin’s face. At first, her expression was as good as blank, signifying that he’d caught her off guard by getting so heated. Then, a smile broke upon her lips.
“You got angry”, she giggled, apparently pleased by the fact.
“Yes, because you’re overcomplicating things and I don’t like that!” Kaito proclaimed and pouted at her, since he felt he wasn’t taken seriously.
“Well then, anyway”, Rin continued, forcing herself to keep a straight face, despite the unsubtle amount of amusement in her voice, “since you’re not taking no for an answer, I guess I’ve got no other choice but to say yes.”
Not sparing the expense to act dazzled by her compliance (which he was), Kaito gave her a firm nod, clarifying that he wasn’t planning to back down.
“That’s right”, he told her. He was actually able to maintain a pretty poised appearance, until the inside nostrils began to tingle and made him sneeze violently. Rin let go of another giggle and gave him a dab on the arm.
“Let’s go home and get some dry clothes”, she said, still smiling warmly. She took a gentle grip of Kaito’s sleeve and they crossed the street together.
The rest of the way home was filled by a much more pleasant silence than before. There was just the two of them, walking in peace, no need to talk. Kaito also had time to let his earlier frustration to fade. He told himself that he’d receive another chance. Soon enough, he’d find the perfect occasion to tell Rin how he felt. All he required was to retain his patience and wait until that day came.
Their house soon came into view and Kaito felt a tad saddened when Rin’s grip on his sleeve slipped as they approached it. They stepped up on the porch and opened the door, only to be greeted by the much malcontent face of Meiko.
“There you are!” she said, hands placed upon her hips. “You’re late.”
“We know…” Kaito and Rin murmured guiltily, both avoiding her ferocious glare.
“What happened to you two anyway? You look like a pair of drenched rats. Didn’t I tell you to bring an umbrella? I remember that I explicitly said it would rain.”
“I did bring one…” Kaito replied and held up the umbrella in his hand, dangling it in the air. Meiko snorted and rolled her eyes, unimpressed.
“Well, then clearly neither of you know how to use it”, she answered patronisingly. Her eyes flitted between them, then stopped, and narrowed. Her sudden silence was with no question inauspicious and it gave Kaito chills.
“Uh… is there something wrong, Mei-chan?” he dared to ask, shifting from foot to foot. The growing knot in his stomach implied that whatever was about to come would not be pleasant. Meiko cleared her throat, speaking up with a harsh tone.
“Excuse me… but where are the groceries?”
Kaito’s body went rigid and his heart turned cold. He exchanged a swift glance with Rin, who appeared just as frightened, and looked back at the promise of severe punishment that was written all over Meiko’s aspect.
At that same moment, the two plastic bags he and Rin had packed with groceries, were still sitting at their table in the café downtown.