21-year-old Rukia Kuchiki is living in the heart of New York and she is just living life, seeings the days pass by. But one day changes her life completely. And she has no idea what or who she will...
How in the hell did I get here?
Why is this happening to me?
Those were my thoughts that were trying to distract me from the grim situation at the time, but my body wouldn’t move. Every muscle in my body was paralyzed with fear, and the fact that I was crying a river didn’t help at all. I was the only person at the scene, because I was the only one who knew about it. I was in a complete state of hysteria and I couldn’t regain my composure no matter how many times I tried. But that was then.
Six months have passed, and even now, I break down whenever I think about it. That same flashback is always playing in my mind, never stopping, and constantly reminding me of the pain and agony I endured. I don’t know how he’s doing, but every time I hear his name, I get shivers down my back, but at the same time, my heart flutters. God, I sound so sentimental, don’t I? Well, it can’t be helped. You would feel the same way if you were me. No…wait…that’s not right. Nobody can feel what I felt that night, with those exact same emotions that flowed through me. Fear; shame; passion; humility; all in one. Nobody could understand how I felt because...well…I…I love that man. Well, loved. You might ask ‘What do you mean?’ or ‘Is he still breathing?’ or even ‘Do you love someone else now?’
To be honest, I haven’t a damned clue, so I really don’t know how to respond to that. I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive or even if he did love me, but I know one thing. Never, in my entire life have I met such an unruly, inconsiderate…caring person like him. Whoa, didn’t mean to darken the mood, folks. It’s just…it’s hard. There’s this saying. It goes: ‘When a lovebird dies, the one left behind…it just gives up living so it can join it’s mate’…but I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I’m still young. Too young to be saying this kind of stuff. It just feels as if a giant, hollow hole replaced hat used to be my heart. He was a big part of my life these past couple of months, and yet, I still remember that genuine scowl of his, the one he wore the first time I laid my eyes on him.
Okay, that’s enough. I feel like I have aged at least 10 years. To make things simple, I’m gonna start all over, from the very beginning, and explain how I got myself into this mess. But remember: I didn’t regret a single second of this entire experience.
It all began on September 23rd, a Wednesday. That was the day that would change my life completely.
In the beginning, it was like any normal day. Wake up, brush my teeth, get dressed, straighten my hair and put on my make-up, find my purse (wherever it was), grab my phone and Ipod, grab a jacket and head out. I lived on the 5th floor. I was always at the very top. There was something about high places that attracted me. I always felt that it was my little sanctuary; as if I could escape the traffic and chaos of today’s society. Even if only for a moment or two.
Anyways, I walk down several flights of the rusty stairs, and I walk to Jushiro’s, a nice, but simple restaurant that a close friend of mine works at. I cross a street or two to get there, but it’s not far from my house. While I’m on the sidewalk, waiting for the light to change, I dig in my purse from my Ipod and I quickly scroll to the piano song I currently had an obsession for and press my thumb down on the play button and hear the medley of facile notes fill my ears as I quickly jog to the other side and into the bustling restaurant, which was quite packed, surprisingly. I was greeted by several workers and waitresses that knew me from before. I walk over to the small bar they had and knocked on the wood, getting the attention of one of the waiters I knew.
He had short, jet black hair that was somehow always spiky. Despite the ominous trio of scratches on the right side of his face, the ‘69’ tattoo on his cheekbone (which was a very stupid thing to get, in my opinion) and the metal strip that stretched from the side of his face to the bridge of his nose, he was actually very comical in person. As he was approaching, I took out my headphones so I could hear what he was saying clearly.
“Good morning, Ms. Kuchiki. He should be right out in a couple of minutes.
“All right then, thank you, Shuhei.”
And with that, I headed to the courtyard (also the back of the restaurant) and went towards one of the iron tables with an open parasol and plant my behind into the (somewhat) soft cushion of the chair, my fingers tapping rhythmically to the piano piece that was now stuck in my head. I glanced around the space that was filled up with the same iron tables, seeing that there weren’t many people present. Aside from a couple necking in the corner and several elderly folks reading the morning paper, I was the only one there. A jaded sigh escaped from my slightly chapped lips as I glanced at my watch, reading ’12:15’. I groaned, guessing that my friend was going to be late again. So, I dug in my purse for my cellphone, lighter, and box of cigarettes, getting prepared ahead of time for the wait. My index finger lightly flipped open the beige box and snatched the next-to-last cigarette and placed it in between the gap of my lips. Without knowing it, the tip of my tongue accidentally touched the dried tobacco that was rolled up and it retreated back into my mouth, bringing its nasty aftertaste with it, which fueled my urge to quit by just an ounce. Right as I was about to light the end of the cigarette, a thick, but nimble hand stole it right between my fingers. My eyes were covered by a pair of hands, which made me a bit nervous, but then I thought for a moment, knowing for certain it could only be him.
“Renji, I know it’s you, so just give up.”
“Nope! You have to listen to my idea!”
“Your idea for what?”
I heard a small, but devious chuckle rumble up from the man’s chest, which could only mean that he was plotting something that he would know I wouldn’t like.
“I’ll let go if you listen.”
I gave up, letting out a sigh, signaling to the tattooed man that I would give him my attention. He took the seat next to me and put the cigarette that he stole in his mouth as he dug in his pockets for a lighter, but I leaned in lit it with mine, my hand covering it, so that the wind wouldn’t blow out the flame. He gave a nod in thanks as he let out a puff, the grey fog starting to float around us. As he started talking, I took the last cigarette and lit it up, pushing the empty box to the side of the table as I listened to his proposition.
“So, Rukia, how are you doing, financial-wise?”
“Since when do you give a shit about people’s money? Are you some kind of financial fairy trying to stop me from maxing out on my credit cards? Ha! Don’t make me laugh!”
“Not that you could.”
I flicked him on the forehead, and right as he opened his mouth to let out a complaint, his cigarette fell out and onto ground, but Renji didn’t waste any time in picking it up and putting it back where it was.
Renji was one of the very few people who I could trust. I have known him since I was about four years old and even now we are still the best of friends. He was always there whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on and vice versa. I preferred to think of him as my ‘brother’ since most of the time, he acted like one. I could tell this guy anything and trust him with any secret, knowing that he wouldn’t speak a word of it to anybody. We’ve been to hell and back and, you know what? We were laughing the whole way. He was one of those people who I would always care for, even if we were mad at each other or in a fight. We always make up and apologize within the next hour or so. It just goes to show you how close we are, but anyways, back to the story.
I braced myself for the most idiotic and absurd thing to ever come out of his mouth.
“My point is, you’re struggling with money and you know you can’t keep on depending on your brother-in-law to keep paying for your bills just because he’s rich and you don’t have a job. I don’t mean to sound like a complete jackass, but it’s kinda pathetic. You’re 22, for crying out loud!”
I closed my eyes as my cigarette burned and I quickly bent it into the ashtray, stomping it repeatedly, causing its embers to fade away gradually.
“All of the things you have said are true, but what do you expect me to do about it?”
I saw a mile-wide grin stretch across the red-haired man’s face, making me feel even more cautious than I did before.
“That’s where I come in. Recently, I took this side job just to make some extra cash, however there are a few catches -- but it’s all worth it in the end. Ask how much I’m getting paid.”
I gave a shrug and he leaned closer towards me, putting his rough hand on my shoulder, his mouth inches away from my ear.
I shot up out of the iron seat, nearly knocking it over as I glared daggers at the man. I pointed my index finger at his nose, poking it as I enunciated each word I yelled.
“You liar! You’re just trying to make me feel bad! Why are you lying?! Nobody can make that much money! I-”
My mouth was covered my Renji’s hand, drawing the attention of the people nearby, staring at us as if we were aliens. The couple that was in the corner broke from their embrace, revealing a bit of their faces.
The woman had long orangeish brown hair that almost ended at her waist, and she wore a bright yellow sundress with a pleated neckline with orange ruffles at the edges. The parasol above the two covered most of her face, but I was able to see that she was giggling a bit. The man next to her wore a white long-sleeved collared shirt with a loose violet tie that fluttered about in the slight gust. I could see black skinny jeans from beneath the table, and I noticed that he had slender, but limber legs. Like the woman, I was unable to see his face, but it was due to the beige cap he was wearing. His auburn short hair stuck out from the edges of the hat, and his color was very similar to the woman’s but it was much more bold, and lighter. An ominous, but non-threatening scowl was on his mouth, making me want to say something to him, but I knew he wasn’t worth my time.
“Pardon my friend, ladies and gents. Please, continue on with your morning.”
‘Pardon’ my ass. I absolutely hated it when he acted like this, and he knew that damn well.
As I continued to resist him and tried to open my mouth to let out a fury of expletives, we exited through the courtyard gate. Renji’s gaze was still on the couple, and I got the feeling that he was staring at the man, rather than the woman. That creeped me out a little, but I quickly shrugged it off.
He still had his hand over my mouth, which was starting to bug me since I couldn’t breathe. I stuck my tongue out at the man’s palm and, as planned, he jerked it away making a huge smirk on my face which stayed there for a couple of minutes. But I didn’t see that he wiped all of the saliva on my hair, and I pinched him on the elbow as payback, because I spent a good amount of time fixing my hair, and it’s very difficult to straighten long, thick hair. I tried to smooth out my hair, but I ended up making it frizzier instead, so I just gave up.
“Ha! That’s what you get for being so digusting! Karma can be a pain in the ass, no?”
“You’re a pain in the ass.”
He jumped in front of me and bent down (since I was about a foot shorter than him) and he gave me one of his ‘innocent’ stares that brought back memories from this movie we watched and cherished when we were younger. His bottom lip started quivering as he stuck it out, and his deep, brown eyes were an extra bonus to the whole pouting look.
“Can you really be that mean to a face like this?”
“Hmmm…” I said, turning my back and putting my index finger on the side of my head, making it seem as if I was deep in thought, (when in fact, I was acting.)
And with that, I pushed him away with my hand in his face, that didn’t work out as I expected as I suddenly remembered that I was half his weight and fell, but he caught me, and he pulled me back up.
“Kar-mah. Gets ya ev’ry time.”
“Shut up, you baka. Karma is a superstition that only the weak-minded believe.”
“Hey, don’t diss karma. It will bite you on the ass and when it does, I’m gonna laugh.”
“Ha! I highly doubt that happening.”
“But….what would you say if I told you the job was-”
A shrill ring interrupted him, making him dig in the back pocket of his grey washed-out jeans voicing a couple of grumbles. He fetched out his crimson Sidekick and with a swift turn, the screen flipped, showing the text message that had arrived. I went behind Renji and jumped over his massive back, which made me feel even more of a midget. Once I had a firm grip on his bulky shoulders, I got a look at the text message he got, which puzzled me.
Date Received: September 23rd, 2009
Time Received: 12:57
Right as I was about to ask Renji what the text message was about, he immediately started walking, at a rather quick and brusque pace, so that I fell off and hit my rump on the concrete sidewalk. Renji quickly pulled me up and dragged me behind him. I put up quite the fight, but Renji won in the end. I had no idea what was going on, or why Renji was acting so strange.
“Renji, what is…”
He didn’t even pay me any attention, which made my blood pressure rise just a bit. He pulled me to the edge of the sidewalk and used that hand to wave in the air as the other hand he used to whistle with two of his fingers, summoning a cab from a nearby lane. Renji opened the passenger’s door, but I was hesitant to go in. Hell, you would be too if you had no idea where you were going. He gave me a slight push towards the taxi, but I slapped his hand away and got in myself. Renji got in and slid next to me, slamming the door shut after him. I turned my head towards the window and crossed my arms over my chest tightly as I stared off into the busy street of Broadway Avenue, ignoring the red-haired man next to me, since he wasn’t going to tell me anything. The cab driver turned around and put his arm on the back of his seat, his mahogany eyes exchanging a blasé greeting with mine for a short second and then stared down at Renji, who was too busy texting to notice him.
I turn my head to get a better view of the driver, but I realized he wasn’t talking to me. He wore a leather cap, a little part of his bangs still showing through. His short blonde hair swished as he moved to scratch his neck, waiting impatiently for Renji to notice what was going on. He let out a groan, trying to get the red-haired man’s attention, but it still didn’t work. I nudged Renji in the ribs, but he swatted me away, which made one of the veins on my forehead pop to life.
“If ya don’t pay me to drive, I’m kicking both of yer asses out.”
Renji’s head snapped up, locking eyes with the blonde.
“Just what the hell is your problem?”
“You not paying me, that’s what. Either you tell me where ta go, or I will kick yer ass outta my car.”
“Fine…how fast can you get to Bennett Street?”
The driver’s mouth must have stretched at least a foot to show all of his teeth in a comical, grin. It seemed as if he did that quite often, since it looked very natural for the blonde to show off all of his teeth in one move.
“Tch, ya kiddin’ me? You seriously think I’m yer average driver, dontcha?”
“You sure don’t act like it.”
“Heh, I could say the same for you, Pineapple.”
“Whatever, just drive.”
And with that, the blonde slammed his foot on the gas and raced towards the middle lane, successfully passing through the yellow traffic left before it turned crimson. I kinda wished that the two would have argued some more because the atmosphere in the car after that was just dead. Not even an unexpected sneeze or uncomfortable cough came out of the two. I let out a sigh or two during the trip, but that went without avail. I hated awkward silences; it always felt like I had done something to screw it up but I was as confused as a chameleon on a pile of Skittles. Why was Renji acting so strange? Why did he just pull up a cab? Who sent him that text and what the hell is ‘zent’? The more I thought about it, I was only left with more questions than answers.
“Good God, y’all are as quite as the dead. What happen? Did you two get in a fight?”
I had no idea who this guy was, but he had no right to be sticking his nose into my business.
“That’s not your place to ask,” I said, glaring a bit at the meddlesome driver.
“It’s not like we did have a fight,” Renji said in a matter-of-factly tone, which, somehow, was so irritating to me at the time, that I just exploded.
“Excuse me? Do you need me to spell it out for you? Out of the fucking blue, you drag me to this cab without saying a goddamned word and you expect me to just, to just sit here like a little innocent shit and say nothing? Oh hell no.”
“Rukia, chill out.”
I froze and gave him the evil eye, which I could see that he soon regretted saying those three words.
“You’re telling me to chill out? Renji, don’t make me flip a shit right here and now.”
“Too late.” The blonde said in a sing-song tone with his eyes peeled to the road as he pulled a sharp turn.
“You, shut up,” I growled, trying so hard to resist myself from strangling that stupid blonde. “And you,” I said to Renji. “Either you tell me what the hell is going on with you or I leave.”
“Rukia, please calm down. I-”
“Blondie, stop the car.”
The car skidded to a stop, halting right at the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and West 163rd. Its motor was still rumbling as I got out of the car and snatched my purse as I got out of the car and swiftly shut the door behind me with my back towards the yellow car as I started to walk away. I heard a door open and slam shut, followed by the angry demand of money from the blonde, but it was only answered by the footsteps that quickly followed me. A cold, rough hand clamped down on my shoulder, which made me freeze in my tracks.
“Rukia, tell me what’s wrong.”
“You know I don’t like secrets.”
“I’ll explain everything later, I-”
I brushed his hand off my shoulder as I shook my head, strands of hair that was tucked behind my ears now flying about.
“No. Tell me now. Tell me why you were acting so strange. Tell me what that text message was about. Tell me why you’re hiding stuff from me, your best friend! Please…just tell me.”
To tell you the truth, I think I overstepped the boundary for being overdramatic, but I just had to calm down, like Renji said. But fellas, here’s a piece of advice: if you see a lady stressed out, whether it be your girlfriend, your boss, or even your mother, never, and mark my words when I say never, ever, ever, tell a woman to calm down. That is about the worst thing you can do. Well, that or telling them that they put on a few. But my point is, just give us some time, and we will calm down…eventually. But I’m getting side-tracked.
Anyways, I was just so confused at the time. I had no idea what the hell was going on, and there I was, confronting my best friend, who I have known for 18 years, about a secret he was hiding. I just hate that feeling; you know, the one you get when you’re left out.
I snapped back to reality as I felt a sudden pain tugging at my hair, only to see that it was the red-haired man with his two fingers holding a strand of my bangs with a bored, uninterested look on his face.
“Quit that!” I said through clenched teeth, the pain of my hair being pulled started to pulsate on my scalp.
“I had to get your attention somehow. You were off staring into the distance and you wouldn’t answer my question.”
“If you wanted to find out what the secret was about.”
I froze and my eyes were wide open, staring in disbelief at the tattooed man before me. Here I was, finally given the opportunity to find out what my best friend had been hiding from me for God knows how long, and I was just standing there, gawking at him. I couldn’t believe my ears.
“W-What did you just say?”
“Let me say it slowly for you since this will be the third time I said this. Do you…or do you not…want to know?”
I was still at a loss for words so I just nodded. He bent down and his mouth was close to my left ear, which in my opinion, was a bit too close. He opened his mouth and said,
“I stole five bucks from your purse.”
I slowly backed up and slapped him on his the cheek in my rage. No words could explain how angry I was. I saw a hand imprint on the right side of his face and stared at it in skepticism, remembering that it had been ages since I hit Renji like that; and that was only when I was really pissed. Like, crazy-PMS-lady pissed. But what really surprised me was that he wasn’t mad. His face, (aside from the reddened part) had an expression that somehow seemed as if he understood me. Like, he didn’t blame me for slapping him (but I could see him occasionally wincing at the pain). I can’t really describe it. He was in agony (emotionally), but smiling. Disappointed, yet calm. It was something that you would have to see to fully understand the nonsense that it sputtering out of my mouth. I looked at Renji for a moment, and felt an immediate pang of guilt, regretting for making such a rash move.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered,
“No, I should be apologizing. I have been hiding the truth from you for a long ass time and I feel really bad about it. Tell you what, we’ll meet up for coffee at my place around six-ish and I’ll tell you everything, kay?”
“See ya then!” He yelled as he ran back into the cab, leaving me standing there on the sidewalk like an abandoned child. The yellow car zoomed off and I could see Renji waving to me from the back window. I waved without much movement in response, plastering on a fake smile so he wouldn’t see my loneliness. It’s funny; I hated being alone but I also hated being crowded. I highly dislike people, so it’s only natural I don’t have much of a fondness for them. Where the distaste originated from, I haven’t a clue. It just popped up out of the blue. I let out a sigh as a swarm of cars zoomed by me, and I was so grateful that I didn’t wear a skirt or dress that day. I started walking the other way back home, staring up at the skyscrapers towering above me and being careful of the busy traffic that was zooming by. I found it a bit ironic that although I had a strong aversion for people, I lived in a city that was just packed. I was broken free of my trance by a loud, buzzing horn blaring from a car that was a foot away from running me over. An angry, elderly man waved his fist in the air as several expletives escaped from his mouth, but I just ignored him. Oh, how I loathe ignorant people like him. I started at the sidewalk ahead of me, and it seemed to stretch on for miles. Several unfamiliar buildings caught my eye as I walked until I suddenly realized—I was lost. I started laughing in disbelief, not believing that I had lost myself, in New York City of all places. I groaned and dug in my purse for my phone, but I couldn’t find it. I opened it wider, thinking that it must have been hiding deep down in the bag, but it wasn’t there.
Oh my fucking god, you have got to be shitting me.
Yes, you would have thought the same thing too if you couldn’t find your phone but the only reason why I flipped out was because I needed to ask Renji for directions.
Wait, I can take a cab! Yes, that’s it!
“Hahaha, yes, that’s it! Now, where’s my…wallet?”
I was just a complete mess that day. I was trying to figure out a secret, I was lost in a maze, my phone was missing, and I didn’t have money for a cab since I left it at home. Isn’t that just lovely? I saw a street performer across the street and stood at the edge of the sidewalk, waiting for the light to turn green and when it did, I quickly walked over to the dark-skinned man in dreadlocks who was pounding on the congas, who received an occasional tip or two when people walked by. I stood by, waiting for him to finish, but it didn’t look like he was going to be done any time soon.
“Uhm, excuse me? Sir?”
He raised both of his hairy eyebrows at me, holding up his index finger and got his golden tinted glasses that were hanging from the round neckline of his loose purple shirt and put them on, opening his eyes a bit as he saw me.
“Hey there, miss. Can I help ya?”
“Yes. Do you know how to get back to Sullivan Street?”
I heard a stifled laugh from the old man who tried to cover it up with his tattooed hand, but it was still very noticeable. Regardless, I still had on my fake smile and pretended as if I hadn’t seen nor heard a thing.
“Child, you lost.”
“Yes, I know, but I need to know how to get back.”
“You plan on walkin’?”
I looked down at the ground as I messed with my braids, trying to avoid his puzzled and unnerving stare.
“Yer soles are gonna be as sore as a bum. Do you know where the hell ya are now?”
“Uh,” I looked to the green sign behind me. “Amsterdam Avenue.”
“Hmph, it seems not. Child, it’s gonna take you at least two hours of walking to get where ya need to be.”
My jaw dropped.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Nope. I suggest ya git walkin’.”
“But how the heck do I get there?”
“Ya go straight ‘til ya see-”
“Can you just write it down? I’ll forget it.”
“Well, why didn’t cha say so before I started talking? Ya could have started walking already.”
“Sir, I’m not in the mood to argue,” I said in a low tone as I fetched a small notepad and a pen, handing it to the man. He took it and set the pad on his knee, holding the blue pen in his right hand and he wrote down the directions, his hand staggering, probably due to old age. I waited for about five minutes or so until he handed it back. I looked in my purse for something that I could give him in thanks, but he waved his index finger, which appeared broken, in my face.
“Ya needn’t be thanking me, child. Just a simple word is ‘nuff.”
“All right then. Thank you sir!” I said as I waved back with the notepad in hand, smiling back. After I had crossed the street, I looked down at the writing, which was a bit smeared, but still legible.
1. Stay on Amsterdam ‘til ya see a fork ‘n the road.
“Dang it, I can barely read his handwriting,” I muttered as I shuffled in between the swarm of people. I seemed to walk forever on the sidewalk that never ended, which start to make me a bit irate. At times like this, I get my Ipod out and switch to one of my favorites to help pass the time. I quickly scroll down the list of songs and tap on it, feeling the vibrations of the song buzz through my ears. It made the situation a bit lighter. I could always count on music to lift my spirits. It was an odd relationship, if you asked me to define it.
2. Go left to Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
I swiftly ran across the street when the light shone green, and the horde behind me crowded the entire crossing. If I hadn’t been holding my purse tightly, someone for sure would have stolen something when I wasn’t looking.
“I stole five bucks from your purse.”
“Damn you, Renji. I could have taken a damn cab if I had five dollars. Well, I could have gotten somewhere.”
“People’re gonna think yer crazy if yer mutterin’ t’ yerself.” A voice said behind me. God, that voice still brings me back. It could make me angry, and soothe me at the same time. It’s been ages since I last heard that tone, which made a flood of emotions to rumble in my heart every time I heard it.
“And who the hell are you?” I asked, turning around, recognizing the man before me. It was the same guy I saw at Jushiro’s that Renji was staring at but he seemed a bit intimidating since he was like, two feet taller than me. But I didn’t see his lady anywhere.
“That don’t matter but I have a feeling yer lookin’ fer this piece a’ junk,” The orange-haired giant said as he got my phone out of the pocket of his jeans. I snatched it from his hand, and flipped it open to call Renji, but it was dead.
“How did you find my phone?”
“Yer stupid self left it on the table at the restaurant and my friend kept naggin’ at me to return it, so, here ya go, my job’s done. Ciao.”
“Whoa, hold up a second there, buddy,” I tugged on his sleeve, holding him back, which made him scowl back at me.
“What the hell’s yer problem?”
“You mind answering a few questions?”
“What are ya, a cop?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Guess not. We’ll walk ‘n’ talk.”
“Okay, uhm, how on Earth did you find me?”
“It was easy. Yer the only one that’s less than five feet.”
“I’m not that short.” I grumbled, crossing my arms over my chest. “What’s with the way you talk?”
“What about it?”
“So is a 4 ft Japanese-lookin’ girl wanderin’ in the middle of the heart ‘a New York, but you don’t see me complainin’ ”
“You’re judgmental, you know that?”
“I ain’t a judge.”
I gave up. It was like trying to communicate with someone who spoke a different tongue.
“What’s your name?”
“Where the hell did that come from?” The man asked with his hands intertwined behind his head.
“Since I’m asking you all of these questions, don’t you think I should at least have your name?”
“Mr. K. And you are…?” He asked, bending over a bit and holding out his hand, which I noticed had three tattooed dots in the shape of a triangle on the webbed part between his thumb and index finger.
“Ya mockin’ me?” He asked, his auburn eyes glaring daggers downwards at me, but I glared back, which made him look the other way.
“No, my last name begins with K as well.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“Yer last name.”
“So, ya are Japanese.”
“I thought you said you already knew. Besides, you can’t tell just by a last name.”
“I said ya looked Japanese. That, plus ya can kinda tell a person’s roots by their last name.”
“Stop trying to act like a smart ass.”
“I’ll prove it. Oi, lady in the red! Git over hur!” The man hollered, waving his hand. I jumped on him to put his hand down, trying not to make a scene, but it wasn’t working every well.
“Put your hand down, you retard! You can’t just call to strangers! You don’t even know her! What if she is a sex-offender or something?!”
“She’s hot as fuck, so if she did do something, it wouldn’t be ‘sidered ‘rape’ because-”
“Okay, you horn dog, I get the picture!” I muttered, getting off the man’s back.
“Heh, ya know what yer problem is?” He chuckled.
“I didn’t even ask nor do I want to know.”
“Yer too uptight. Yer like a violin whose strings are tuned too tight. What is it? Work? Yer boytoy broke up wit’ cha? Yer phone?” The man asked, putting his hands in his pockets.
“None of the above.” I said in a jaded tone.
“What’d I do?”
“Sticking yur, er, your big pointy nose in my business.”
“Numba one, ya said it wrong. Numba two, just my nose is fine as is, so shut yer trap, ya midget and numba three, what happen’ t’ the questionin’?”
“Whatever, like I care about your bad grammar. Oh, I just remembered.”
“Do you have any relation to the man I was sitting beside this morning?” I asked, scanning his face for any flinches that he might make, but his face was as solid as a rock.
“Who, Pineapple? Yeah.”
“What?” I asked eagerly, accidentally tripping on my shoelace and falling into the street, seeing a vehicle heading in my direction. I was yelling in my mind to move, but my legs wouldn’t move. My eyes got big as the truck came closer and I closed them so I wouldn’t see the mess, but I felt a rough hand get my wrist and pull to the sidewalk and I landed against something sturdy, yet moving, but I still had my eyes closed so I had no idea what was going on. I fell over something and opened my eyes, seeing that I was on top of the man. My cheeks flushed a deep red in embarrassment, not believing that situation I was in. The bang that was in the middle of my face brushed over his lips, but it didn’t seem to bother him. I felt my heart beat a hundred miles an hour, wondering to myself if he could feel it. One of his legs was in between mine, but when I moved, I accidentally kneed him in the groin, which made him wince in pain.
“I am so sorry!”
I was only answered by more groans of pain, which drew some attention and dirty glares directed at us.
“Get a room!” One of the people yelled.
The orange-haired man chuckled, scratching the back of his head.
“Ya mind gettin’ off anytime soon?”
“Right,” I said with my hair covering my face so he couldn’t see my embarrassment. He offered both hands (as if I really weigh that much) and I took them both, nearly falling over, but he had a firm grip around my waist so I wouldn’t fall…again. My cheeks were as red as tomatoes and they stayed that way for a long time, which irritated me. I mean, yeah, he was attractive, but I just met him. We proceeded to walk without saying a word, and there was an awkward silence between us. I had no clue what to say.
“Did you bleach your hair?”
Rukia, face it. You’re a hopeless romantic.
“Your hair color. Is it bleached?”
“Nah, it’s my natural hair color.”
“Are you Irish?”
“Then what the heck are you?”
“I’m half ‘n’ half.”
“Of Irish and Scottish?”
“Baka, I just said no to those two.”
“Ah, so you’re Japanese then.”
“Nah, I just felt like saying that word.”
“Why do ya need to know?”
“Because I’m bored.”
“Well, I ain’t tellin’”
“You’re no fun,” I whined, pushing out my bottom lip a bit so he would see me ‘pouting’.
“Hmm, ya prob’ly never heard of the country before.”
“Where is it?” I asked with curiosity.
“Near the Adriatic.”
“It’s a sea in South Western Europe. Go look it up.”
“But what country specifically?”
“Eh, I dun feel like tellin’ a complete stranger all about me. It’d be kinda odd, ne?”
“I suppose,” I said with a shrug. “But so is a Japanese man with orange hair.”
“Half-Japanese, hun.” He corrected me.
“Whatever, you still don’t look Japanese.”
“Which makes it even harder for people to look for me. When they look for the Strawberry, they expect an average-sized Japanese man with rectangular glasses on the bridge of his nose wit’ squinty eyes and short, combed black hair. Well I-”
“Hold up a minute. You referred to yourself as ‘Strawberry’. So, you do know Renji.”
The man was silent, not saying a word as he turned the corner. I had no idea where he was going or even where I was, so I had no choice but to follow him.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?”
He grabbed my shoulders, pulling me closer towards him. He moved one arm over my shoulders while the other was bent in front of me, as if to show me something. The man rested on the edge of my shoulder blade, his mouth hovering right next to my ear lobe.
“You listen t’ me and you listen t’ me good ‘cause I’m only gonna say this once,” He said, pointing his index finger from the hand that was hanging limply over my left shoulder to the three tattooed dots on the hand web between his pointer finger and thumb on his right hand.
“I don’t see anything; I don’t hear anything and, listen caref’lly to this one, hun,” He whispered, his warm breath tingling on the insides of my ear.
“I don’t say shit.”
I could have sworn it was déjà vu all over again. I shook off the man’s grip and turned my back towards him, crossing my arms tightly over my chest. If I looked at him for one more second, I would have probably have strangled him. My mind instantly replayed my freak-out moment at Renji, making me experience the exact emotions I felt before, but at a stronger degree this time. I don’t know what was the cause of my sudden irritability; whether it was the flashback or the orange-haired man’s cocky response, but either way, I was pissed.
“Is it really that secret that you can’t say a thing?” I asked.
He stopped in his tracks, as I walked ahead but I soon stopped as well. I turned back and saw that he had his hands in the pockets of his jeans as he looked straight up at the sky, letting out a deep sigh. He changed his sights to the concrete ground below his feet, scratching the back of his spiky mane with one hand as the other fetched something in his pocket. Cigarettes.
My sudden nicotine urge kicked in and I instantly felt an ache in my gut, being painfully reminded that my morning smoke only consisted of one cigarette instead of the usual five. It’s a wonder that I didn’t have some kind of cancer or health problem, but that’s irrelevant right now.
My eyes were locked onto the light blue carton and as much as I wanted to gain control over my addiction, I couldn’t look away. It was controlling me like a puppet.
The man caught sight of me and put the cigarette in his mouth and lit up its end, his auburn eyes watching me with a slightly interested expression. He closed his eyes as the end of the cigarette illuminated a bright, amber light, and there was something rather innocent about his face then, that slightly eased my current irritability. But the serene moment was broken as he opened his mouth and held the burning cigarette with his right hand, letting the grey fog that was inside his mouth be quickly swept away by the wind. I stared off into the sky, trying to catch whatever trace of the smoke might be left, but I was unsuccessful in my attempt, seeing that the gust had already blew it away but my trance was broken by a constant tapping on my shoulder.
I returned to reality, seeing that towering man staring down at me, offering a cigarette. I swiped it and held it between my lips as I dug in my purse for a lighter, but when I finally found it, I saw that the end was already lit up.
“Yer welcome,” The man grumbled, shaking off a bit of the ash that was clinging onto his cigarette. I scowled away, not wanting to look at him.
“Oh, so now yer pissed?”
“Then what’s buggin’ ya?”
“I just don’t like secrets; especially when it involves my best friend.”
“Oh, that changes things then. I’ll tell ya what’s up with Pineapple.”
My eyes grew wide and my heart was pumping rapidly.
“…Nope,” He said with a fox-like grin as he stuck out his tongue, revealing a tattooed ‘15’. Jeez, could this guy be any creepier? And once again, I returned to my foul mood with only a burning cigarette and a man who acted half his age to comfort me. Fun. But I gathered up my strength and calmed myself down, reminding myself that I needn’t be worked up over the tiniest of things. Even if my blood boiled, I needed to keep my composure.
“Mr.K, please hear me out.”
“Ah, bein’ formal, are we? Sure, I’ll lend ya an ear. Maybe even two, depending on my mood.”
I took a deep breath in and exhaled, trying to loosen up a bit. It was awkward enough that he was staring down at me. I felt as if a thousand eyes were on me and if I made a single mistake, I’d be utterly humiliated.
“That guy with the red hair, Renji, is my best friend. We have been friends since we were little. He’s like a brother to me, but when I find out that he has been hiding a secret from me, I was shocked. But when I questioned you about him, you refused to answer. True, I haven’t a clue who you are nor do I care…but I do know you know something about it and somehow, someway, you have a connection with Renji. All that I ask is that you tell me what he is hiding. Please.”
The man was silent then, avoiding my gaze as we walked down the never-ending, cement plastered path. Several moments had passed and he still hadn’t said a word in response. He bent down and folded his cigarette onto the curb and smushed its embers with his eyes locked onto it as if it might try to run away.
“This Renji…you really care for ‘im a lot, dontcha?”
I nodded in reply since I had no idea what to say but what really was on my mind was where he was leading the conversation.
“You said he was like yer brother. How long have ya known him?”
“Over 18 years.”
“Well, damn. I guess he is like yer brother then.”
“Didn’t I just say that?”
“Yes, but ya seem to be gettin’ worked up ‘gain. I’ll just get straight to it, then. How much do you care for him?”
“What are you getting at? Of course I care for him. I would give my own life for him!”
The auburn-haired man got up from his crouching position and walked towards me, placing his huge hands on my shoulders as he bent down a little, moving his face closer to the left side of my face until I felt something moist, but warm. I was confused because I was trying to figure out what he was doing but my eyes were focused on the zooming airplane above me, but then it just hit me. He kissed me. It was longer than a peck, but shorter than a smooch. My entire face was flushed and as soon as he pulled away, I looked down at the ground and my hair fell in front of me, silhouetting my rosy cheeks.
“Then that’s need to know.”
That voice brought me back to reality, and before I knew it, I heard the screech of worn-out tires near the sidewalk and I saw the man heading for the bright yellow car. He got in and closed the door and through the window, I saw him mouth move as his eyes were directed at the driver, his face now seeming a tad depressed. He glanced at me, his eyes penetrating my very soul that it made my knees buckle a bit. The window nearest to him slid down, and he stuck out his grinning face, as I stood there like a dummy, my hand on the cheek that the man kissed me on.
“’Til next time, Lutko.”
The car sped off, and left me as clueless as ever. I didn’t know what to think. My mind was in the midst of ecstasy and reality. I mean, how would you feel if one minute, you’re mad at your best friend and then the next, you get kissed by an attractive person? Like, what the fuck? I felt as lost as Alice in Wonderland. And what the hell does ‘Lutko’ mean? I had no idea what had just happened, but I didn’t care to find out. I shook off the mental image of the mysterious man and turned on a corner, recognizing a familiar street that was near my neighborhood. The smell of roasting chicken filled my nostrils, getting a growl from my gut in response. I immediately started to salivate, but then the wet taste of tobacco came in contact with my taste buds, making my mouth instinctively drop open in disgust and in turn, wasted a perfectly good cigarette. I didn’t bother to pick it up because I was starving.
My legs sped up, bringing me closer and closer to the all too familiar streets. I couldn’t help but smile. My longing for home was now stronger than ever. Although I had been gone for an hour or two, it felt like weeks, even months since I had this ‘homey’ feeling. The excitement got the better of me and I started to run without thinking, simply letting my instincts control me rather than my consciousness.
I cut through an alley and crossed a street, seeing my home at the very top of a stack of poorly-constructed apartments at the curb of my street with a small store at the bottom. I walked into the building, being greeted by a lethargic male clerk who had his elbows up at the glass counter, giving me a slight nod in acknowledgement.
“Hey, Rukia. How’s it going?”
I walked over to the glass counter and casually leaned on it, looking at the baby blue calendar behind the man, seeing that tomorrow was ‘Rent Day’.
“Hey, Starrk, I haven’t seen you around in a while.”
“Yeah, well, I have to earn a bit extra money.”
“Oh? For what?”
The tall man put a hand through his wavy locks, exhaling a heavy sigh.
“I got myself into some deep shit and if I don’t pay it off soon, I’m gonna have some loan sharks on my tail.”
“Jeez, I’m sorry to hear that. Give me two packs of Malboro Ultra Light, please.”
“Sure thing,” He said, turning around and unlocking the glass case behind him, scanning the rows of cartons. “Uhm, we’re out of that right now. Maybe something else?”
“Damn. Uh, how about Camel Reds?”
“Hmmm,” The man said, crouching down so he could get a better look. “We’re outta stock.”
“Then what the hell do you have?”
The man got up and turned around, giving me a very lethargic, but slightly irritated look through his silver eyes.
“Look, just because I don’t have whatcha want doesn’t give you the right to get bitchy with me.”
“Bitchy? Me? Ha! You have no idea what bitchy is until you get on my bad side, which you’re starting to already. I only smoked two, count ‘em, two goddamn cigarettes this entire day, and I haven’t eaten anything. So, I’d watch your mouth if I were you. We wouldn’t want that tongue of yours to be ripped out, right?”
“Tch, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Do you want to buy something or not?”
“Hell yeah, I wanna buy something. I want my cigarettes!”
“Well, I ain’t got your cigarettes,” The man grumbled as he stretched out his arms, letting out a big yawn as he did so. “You considered about smoking something else?”
“Hell no. That’s like trying to tell a bird to walk instead of fly. You don’t see that it’s really difficult for me to smoke something else that tastes completely different that what I’m used to.”My
“Well, I’m pretty sure that when you need a smoke, it doesn’t matter what the hell you smoke.”
“Not me. I only smoke one particular kind of cigarette from one particular kind of brand.”
“Oh? And what would that be?”
“You idiot, I already told you. I asked you for it and you said you were out.”
“Well, it doesn’t hurt to try something new.”
I gave up. It was like trying to communicate with someone who spoke a different tongue.
“Fine, I’ll take anything,” I mumbled, getting my credit card that I hid in an interior pocket of my handbag, which no one would have guessed where it was stashed.
“All right then,” He said, bending down and grabbing a box. “I think you’ll like this one,” The russet-haired man grinned as he slid the box across to me after scanning its bar code on the bottom. “Not many smoke it, but nevertheless, it’s far better than those others you requested earlier.”
“We’ll just see about that,” I mumbled under my breath, not believing the man’s cocky remark as I made my way towards the stairs, hearing the register close with the first step I took. The constant jingling of my clinquant lavaliere matched with each step I took on the carpeted stairs. There was no light except for the one that came from the store, but I could still see. At the very top was an elevator whose lambent buttons slightly illuminated in the dim space. I got the very last step and pushed the plastic button whose arrow pointed upward, patiently waiting for the shaft to come down. The sound of the rickety elevator came closer and closer until it halted when it reached its destination, opening its creaky, eerie metal doors. I walked in, my eyes carefully examining the small surrounding around me, which had everything from gang signs sprayed in crimson to a couple’s initials carved into poor material that barely managed to cover the two columns of buttons, and half of them didn’t appear to function normally.
As the doors closed shut, I pushed the button right above the one at the very top, waiting for a moment or two for the shaft to make its way up to my floor, but after several clangs and rackets, the elevator stopped, opening its dingy doors to show the barely lit hallway, which was very like a hotel’s, but it wasn’t as clean, but nobody cared. Well, nobody that I knew. I readjusted the leathery strap of my purse so it wouldn’t fall off my shoulder as I made my way towards my door, which was the first one on the left, and the only one that didn’t have any decorations. I preferred to keep things simple and uncomplicated.
I walked up to my door and got my key, slowly turned the lock and let the door swing wide open as the scent of vanilla and lavender teased my nose, instantly making me lose some of the stress that was built up. I was so glad to be home; it felt as if I was in Hell for the past couple of house.
I let out a small squeal as I ran towards my lilac couch and jumped on it, having its giant cushions soften my landing. My face was buried in my favorite pillow, which still had the Febreze that I sprayed this morning still on it, making the smell waft through my nostrils. That was my moment of ecstasy…until my addiction kicked in once again.
A loud groan of irritation was let out and I grabbed my purse by the strap and zipped it open with a single hand, all while having my face gradually sinking into the plushy material of the pillow. My hand dug and dug as if it was looking for a prize. Along the way, the tip of my pointer finer bumped into something sharp, but rounded, but its edge slid right under my nail, which, instinctively, caused a muffled hiss to escape my lips. My fingers searched around some more, feeling some odd and familiar textures until it felt something box-like and glossy. A slight grin formed on my lips as I grabbed it, feeling a bit giddy inside. Oh my god, I needed a cigarette so bad at the time. You may call it an ‘addiction’ but I prefer to think of it more as a requirement for me to function; like, coffee. Most people around the world can’t even get out the door without a cup of Joe. So, is it really that wrong to say that cigarettes are like my coffee? Well, regardless of what you think or say, I won’t care either way.
I got up from my position and fetched my ivory lighter out of my back pocket and quickly ripped off the plastic wrapping around the box and got a cig, getting a bit excited. My fingers trembled a bit as I did so, due to my anxiety and thrill of finally being able to smoke again. Almost instantly, I put it at the edge of my lips and in one swift move, I lit it up and sucked it in for a moment, exhaling the grey smoke as well as some of my tension. I stared out the window to my right, seeing that the traffic had increased tenfold and so did the noise, which, sooner or later, would give me a migraine. I walked over to the window and slid it shut, enjoying the sudden silence. I’m not much of a ‘people person’. I prefer to do things alone, that way, things would flow much smoother and without complications. Believe me, it’s far easier that way. You may think of me as ‘anti-social’ but I just think of it as having a strong dislike for people, but, again, I digress.
So, I turn around with my burning cigarette in my hand and as I take a puff, it just hit me.
This isn’t my cigarette, so…why do I have such a buzz?
I took another hit to confirm, and goddammit, I was right. I didn’t know why but I started liking this one a lot better than the previous kind I smoked.
I walked over to the couch to see what kind of cigarette it was, but when I got there, my eyes were widened so much, that it hurt. The box was the exact, same one that that orange-haired freak had. My mind instantly flashed to the kiss and within seconds, I could feel my cheeks heating up.
“Oh hell no,” were my words as I rushed to the closest mirror to see my face, which was as red as a tomato. My head shook violently with disbelief, but I couldn’t help but place the tips of my fingers on the exact same spot where he kissed me, that moment instantly replaying in my mind, which made me loathe myself a bit.
My thoughts were all over the place, but I quickly shook it off, trying to regain focus of whatever the hell I was doing before. I looked around for anything to take my mind off of the man.
I walked away from the window and started pacing around with my cigarette on the edge of my mouth, trying to figure out what on Earth to do with my spare time now that I was finally alone, but I couldn’t think straight for some reason; and no, it wasn’t because of that freak. It was then that I just noticed that my Ipod was still playing. Something must have accidentally pushed the ‘play’. I groaned as I made my way towards the couch, getting the black music player out of one of the pockets and clicked the home button twice, seeing that one of my favorite piano pieces was playing. That was it! The piano! I felt like an idiot for not thinking of it earlier.
My legs rushed over to the glass table across from my couch and swiftly swiped the ashtray and placed it on the edge of my piano and sat down on the seat, adjusting myself so that the ends of my shirt were out. The beige folder sitting on the stand caught my eye, and I opened it, my fingers flipped through the corners as my eyes quickly scanned through the sheets’ rows of notes. I stopped at a particular piece of music and plucked it out of the folder, carefully placing it on the tray above the keys. I tapped my cigarette on the edge of the ashtray to rid its’ excess ash, and I placed it back in my mouth once I prepared myself (both emotionally and physically) for the piece. My hands lightly landed on the solid ivory keys, instantly feeling the cold sensation that they had. One by one, my fingers started to move, slowly creating the melody that would soon fill my house…and it was just perfect. I was in my own little world and everything that was bothering or irritating me before was now gone. All of my troubles had vanished, just like that. It’s a feeling that some people feel by listening to a particular song, or perhaps they truly love; but for me, it was simply playing music. Although I didn’t consider it something that I would take seriously (profession-wise), I’d like to think that I wasn’t half bad. I never really loved the piano; I just play it at times to unwind. It’s kind of like therapy, in a way. When even Renji can’t cheer me up, I play a melody to calm my nerves. Now, I’m not saying I’m an anti-social freak with behavioral problems and can’t get along with people. Hell no. I just highly dislike how ignorant and judgmental society is today. You go take a walk in the park or around the block and I bet all of my money that you will find at least one person giving an innocent human being a nasty scowl just because of their race, or their appearance, or some other stupid shit like that. It just irks me to no end. So, that’s my main reason for disliking people. But I’ll quit my ranting and continue on with the story.
My fingers were starting to get tired from playing, but I was determined to finish the piece, regardless of the slight soreness I started to feel in my muscles. I just felt like if I quit now, that would totally ruin everything and my mood.
At the very last few notes, I started to lose consciousness and my tempo dramatically slowed, which was the only thing that alerted me of my sudden weariness, and before I knew it, I was knocked out. I don’t know what the hell happened. It just felt like all of energy was suddenly drained. I couldn’t explain it.
The only way that I found out I had been asleep was when I woke up and saw a small puddle of drool on one of the keys. I know. Gross.
I had a dry, disgusting taste in my mouth which nearly made me puke.
“Well, good morning, sunshine. I didn’t know you still snored in your sleep.”
I jumped at the sound of the voice, and accidentally fell over the seat, getting a face plant from the floor.
“Karma. Gets ya everytime.”
I lifted my face off of the ground and gave the red-haired man a cold glare, but it was useless.
“Renji, why are you here?”
“Because I was wondering why you didn’t show up at my house like you said you would.”
I got up from the floor and sat next to the man on the couch, staring down at the ground as he smoked. (yes, I know we smoke a lot.) I mean, I honestly had no clue what to say. My mouth was torn between gossiping to him about the freak on the street or confronting him about what the hell happened earlier.
“So, did you hear?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I tried callin’ you, but it went straight to voicemail.”
And that’s when I started charging my phone before I went to bed every night.
“Yeah, it’s dead,” I said, crossing my legs and laying back in the pillows, staring at the abstract painting that hung over the man’s head. “So, what’s with Baki? Is he coming down for a visit?”
“Uh, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s more like, something happened to him.”
“I don’t think I should be the one telling you this,” He said, scratching his the back of his head, his hair (which was not up in its usual ponytail) hung loose and hid part of his face, which made it hard for me to read his facial expression. Renji got a torn piece of paper from his pocket and wrote down a number, and then handed it to me, pointing to it.
I was hesitant at first, but I decided to do as the man said just so I wouldn’t be even more confused. Renji placed his cell in my palm, giving me a rather urgent look as he did so. I pushed a few buttons and after a moment of two of ringing, someone finally picked up.
“St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, how can I help you?”
My mouth literally dropped. I didn’t know what to say. My eyes darted to Renji for guidance, but all he said (or mouthed, in this case) was ‘speaker’.
I hit the button with my thumb and then cleared my throat, trying to think of something to say.
“Uh, yeah, I was wondering if you can tell me if you have a certain patient named Byakuya Kuchiki.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but I’m not allowed to give away that kind of information.”
“But I’m his sister!”
“Ma’am, why don’t you just visit instead?”
“Because I just found out he’s in the hospital!”
“Then why are you inquiring whether or not he’s here?”
“To be certain.”
“...Tell me your name and I’ll see if it’s in his file.”
“Uh, how do you spell that?”
Renji snatched the phone and quickly spelt it out, not waiting for the woman to catch up.
“All right then, give me a minute.”
I let out a sigh as I set the phone down and slouched back, landing on Renji’s chest.
“I can’t believe this,” I groaned. “Just how many other secrets are you hiding from me, Renji?”
“Slow your roll there, Rukia. You’re making it sound like I planned this shit on purpose. What the fuck is up with you?”
I exhaled loudly from my nostrils, closing my eyes as I rolled them, slightly elbowing Renji in the gut.
“You promised you would tell me. Everything.”
“Indeed I did,” He mumbled, getting another cigarette.
“Spit it out.”
“Ma’am?” The woman asked. I picked up the phone and set it between my ear and shoulder.
“Mr. Kuchiki is sleeping right now. Do you want me to leave a message for him?”
“Uh, yeah, just tell him his sister called.”
“All righty then.”
“Can you tell me why he is in the hospital in the first place?”
“I’m not qualified to answer those questions.”
And with that, I pushed the ‘End’ button with the edge of my thumb, placing it back into the charger on the end of the glass table and leaned back, resting my head on Renji’s shoulder.
“Renji, I’m worried.”
He didn’t say anything in response, but he just slung an arm over my shoulders and pulled me closer, making me feel even more worried. He never acted like this; except when I was going to be an emotional wreck.
“I guess I have no choice then,” He said, intertwining his hand with mine, squeezing it slightly. “I’ll tell ya what happened, but you have to promise me that you’ll stay strong, no matter what you hear.”
I honestly had no clue how to respond to that. If I say yes, I knew I would cry eventually because, hello! My brother is in the hospital for Christ’s sake!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small, bright glowing light a foot above from me, but I wasn’t alarmed. To be honest, I feel some pity for Renji. Even I would hate to tell myself a secret that I was hiding. God knows how I would react.
I squeezed his hand back in response, being careful not to give a really definite answer. He pulled away and placed his hands on his shoulders, which was starting to scare me, because it showed me just how serious he was.
“You can not break down. You just can’t. You have to be like a rock,” Renji mumbled as he got both of my hands together and clamped them with his own, bowing his head down, his lips lightly brushing over them.
“For me. And Byakuya.”
Like a rock? Seriously?
“Jeez, it’s not going to be easy to explain what happened.”
Was it really that bad?”
“Today, around 3, Byakuya got robbed and assaulted by a couple of robbers today at his home and one of them shot him, so he was basically helpless and he couldn’t do a damned thing. They took everything. Even his wallet, which had all of his credit cards and shit. But that makes me wonder how he’s gonna pay for the surgery, but anyways, when I heard the news, my mouth just dropped right then and there. I didn’t know what the hell to say when the hospital called my phone. I just couldn’t believe it.”
I stopped listening after ‘shot’. What on Earth was happening? My brother, shot. The very thought made me shudder with fear. My face was emotionless, but I could feel small, lukewarm, streams slowly trickling down the sides of my face, but I made no attempt to wipe them away. I felt a thumb press down beneath my cheekbone and move to the side, but it was gentle. Even more tears started to fall, and before I knew it, I was crying a flood and a myriad of sobs escaped from my mouth. Fuck ‘staying strong’. I needed a moment, dammit.
I guess Renji must have been telepathic, because he knew that that was the time that I needed a shoulder to cry on. He put his arms around me as I cried onto his chest, and we just stayed like that, for God knows how long. Seconds, minutes, hours, I don’t know. All that I knew at the time was that my brother was in the hospital and I hadn’t a damned a clue about it ‘til my best friend told me. The thought of what Renji was hiding from me before was the farthest thing from my mind. Like, as if it was in another universe, but that didn’t last for long.
Time passed and as my crying gradually stopped, I started to wade into a hynpagogic state, which, somehow, made me feel as if I was high (kind of).
“Rukia, do you want me to spend the night? Just to make sure you’re all right?”
“Hmmm? Oh, sure thing, hun, just make yourself at home,” I said with my eyelids half open. Renji started snapping in front of my face to try to pull me back to reality, but I was off staring into space, escaping the world that I was in.
“You need some sleep.” He said, grabbing a blanket from the nearby couch and covering me with it, but I sat up, refusing to be under slumber’s spell.
“Wait, you didn’t tell me about the thingy with you, and ‘Strawberry’, and zent and-” I yawned, not being able to finish my sentence, but that stupid red-haired baboon of a friend slowly dimmed the lights, which made me have an instant urge to go sleep. I don’t know if I was tired from crying or my hectic day, but I am certain of one thing; I would get Renji to spill about the secret sooner or later.
He took a seat in the leather armchair across from the couch, his eyes on me with his crimson headphones in his ears, but he was starting to get sleepy too, by the looks of it. This was the Renji I knew. Irritable, simple-minded, and lethargic; yup, this was my best friend. I could go on and on prattling about my relationship with him, but I don’t want to bore you.
So, I fell asleep, and then I woke up around 12:30ish, I’m not sure. I was too sleepy at the time to remember the time. All I remember was that it was pitch-black outside and I kept bumping into things because all of the lights were off and I couldn’t see a damned thing.
I stumbled over something (probably my own foot) and hit my head on something hard and my nose bumped into something edgy, which hurt, a lot.
After a moment of grumbling and complaining, I slowly got up, cautious not to fall again. But once I stood up, I saw a soft, lambent light glowering from under my bedroom door. Being careful not to be noticed, I tiptoed to it and put my ear against the door so I could listen onto whoever was mumbling inside.
“I’m guessing you heard…yeah, I was surprised too. Why would they pull a stunt like that? Well, I know, but still…dude, you’re fucked up again, aren’t you? Hahahah, yeah, you’re right. So, how’re things holding up done there? Really? You should record that shit…I told you I wasn’t gonna make it tonight...don’t bullshit me, Ichigo. You know damn well when I can or can’t make it. Fine, whatever, but you’ll have to tell me more about what happened later since I have a certain midget eavesdropping on us. Alright, I’ll call you later. Bye….I know you’re there, Rukia.”
I slowly opened the door, trying to have a stern, yet innocent look on my face, but I couldn’t pull it off. I saw Renji sitting on the edge of my bed, with his cell in one hand while the other was scratching the back of his head, his almond eyes watching me with great intensity. I took a seat next to him, but I avoided meeting his gaze. There was an unusual, but relaxed silence between us, and I didn’t mind one bit. What really bothered me was the explanation that Renji was going to give me.
“So, I’m probably guessing you wanna know what all of that was about, right?”
“Pft, nah,” I said sarcastically. “Absolutely nothing suspicious about that interesting me at all.”
“Well, I suppose I should start explaining.”
“Yeah, that’d help,” I said as I laid down on the bed and put my head on Renji’s lap, staring up at him. You might think there was some kind of coquetry going on between us, but believe me, it was nothing like that.
“So, you know that job I was telling you about at lunch?”
“Uhm, yeah, what about it?”
“Well, I got an idea, but I dunno how you’re gonna take it.”
“We’ll never know if you keep beating around the bush. Out with it, already.”
“Damn, this is going to be hard to explain. Well, when the hospital called me, they told me that is Byakuya doesn’t pay his bill by the end of the month, they’ll kick him out.”
“What?! They can’t do that!”
“Apparently they can. I’m gonna try to help him out some, but you need to get your ass in gear too.”
“And just how am I supposed to do that, Renji? Eh? Is it gonna come flying outta my ass? Hell no! I honestly don’t know what the hell you’re thinkin-”
“Shut up for one minute! Damn, I can’t even finish a goddamned sentence without you interrupting me,” He mumbled, glaring daggers downwards at me. “It’s simple,” Renji said, holding up three fingers.
“Get. A. Job.”
“You said what now?
What on Earth was he thinking? ‘Get a job’, he says. Like he can order me around. But…on the other hand, he does have a point. No way can Byakuya pay off the bills now.
I hate karma.
“So, what’s this job you’re talking about?” I murmured, staring up at the bumpy ceiling above me.
“Ah-ha, so you are interested.”
“Well, I can’t tell you much about it be-”
“Renji scowled at me as he gave me a flick on the back of my head, which made me sit straight up, but my forehead rammed into his jaw, which made both of us wince in pain. But after a moment or two, we were fine.
“Gah, I’ll probably get in the headache in the morning because of that. Anyways, I can’t tell you for certain reasons, but I can say that you will be making a whole lotta money. Now, before you interrupt me again and ask how I know this, I’ll answer it. I work there, but let me clear up a few things. Pay attention as I’m only gonna say this once and only once. First, it’s a night job. Second, your job might and probably will be entirely different to mine, but we’ll still be working for the same man and at the same place. Like, think of Macy’s. They have makeup people, cashiers, and those fat conceited grannies who try to sell you a perfume that smells like ass. Third, what happens there, stays there. Fourth, and the most important one outta them all, “ He said, slightly raising his voice. “Do not, and mark my words when I say do not, ever, ever, make the boss angry. Got it?”
I had so many questions to ask, but I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t know which one to ask first so I just looked at Renji straight in the eye and smiled, confirming that I had ‘got it’.
All of the sudden, I felt a vibration and saw a bright light flashing, seeing that it was Renji’s cell. He stretched back (with me still partially on him) and grabbed the phone, quietly chuckling to himself as he slid it open and read a new text message he received. My mouth was shut as I waited, but it seemed like forever. In case you haven’t noticed, I am very impatient, but I just waited even more and tried to make pictures of the little bumps on the wall above me, but I got bored. I adjusted myself so that I was (kind of) sitting on Renji’s lap and got a peek at the text, which surprised me a bit.
Date Received: September 23rd, 2009
Time Received: 10:57
Is that midget still there?
I snatched the phone and ran out of the room, quickly looking the number for ‘Strawberry’. The sound of running steps got closer and closer, so I sped up my pave. On the phone, I heard someone pick up, which nearly gave me a heart attack.
“Oi midget, ya miss me? It sure seems like it, judging by your breathing.”
I froze in my tracks the second he finished his sentence. No way could it be him.
My hand dropped the phone and just hung there, as I stood there, looking like a fool. Renji finally caught up with me and picked up the phone, putting it between his shoulder and ear as he glared at me.
“Sorry about that, Ichi, some people can’t respect other people’s property!”
I rolled my eyes at him as I took a seat on the black armchair behind me, staring back at the window, seeing several lights illuminate up the heart of New York. It was beautiful. Something about it felt so…surreal. But my moment was shattered as the loud guffaws coming from Renji’s mouth interrupted my thoughts, which slightly agitated me. I couldn’t hear the man on the other line very well due to the heavy music and bass that was blaring from the speaker. All that I knew was that that stupid freak must’ve been talking shit because Renji was over there, laughing his ass off.
“Oi, Ichi, Imma put ya on speaker and tell the little lady what you said.”
Go to hell, Renji.
“Whoa, dammit! That’s too loud! Turn that shit down!”
The man rolled his eyes as he tapped the buttons on the side, letting out a jaded sigh along the way.
“What’sa matter? You gettin’ old? Ya want me ta get cha a pair a’ hearin’ aids, gramma?”
Renji tried to stifle the laughter, but it was still, oh, so very obvious. I ignored that idiot and focused on the one on the phone, snatching it away from Renji (again).
“Listen, you little bitch. I don’t know what the fuck your problem is, but you have no right to treat me like a piece of shit. I have been through hell today and I really don’t need you pushing my buttons. So, just go fuck that slut that was with you and leave me the fuck alone, ‘kay?”
“I would, but dontcha think that’d be rude to do that over the phone? That is, unless you’d wanna join?”
I shot Renji and disgusted look as I threw his phone, and he just chuckled. What the fuck? How the bloody hell could he be laughing at a time like this? For all I know, that could have been some sex-crazed maniac (which I strongly believed at the time) who could have been tracking me down. Hell, it sure seemed like it. It felt like a Twilight Zone moment, no joke.
“Oi, Rukia, you still interested in that job?”
“I have no choice, remember?”
“Well, I think that you can start working tonight. Ichi tells me the boss is in a good mood tonight.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, give me a moment to think this over,” I mumbled, trying to organize my thoughts. The man stood in front of me with his cell covered, but I didn’t know why.
“I have a few questions.”
“Is it near my house?”
“What kind of clothes do I wear?”
“Let’s see what you have then.”
I grabbed him by the wrist and led him to my closet, spreading the two white doors wide open. Renji paced back and forth in front of it as his eyes quickly scanned the mass of clothes that was smushed together in the tight space. He picked out some clothes and threw them on the bed. I was puzzled with a few of his selections, but I just let him do his thing. Clearly (and hopefully) he knew what he was doing.
Renji closed the doors and turned around, eyeballing the clothing that was scattered all over my bed.
“All righty then,” He said, picking out a few clothes and putting them in my arms. “Put them on and we’re outta here. I’ll be in the car waiting, so hurry up.”
With a few grumbles, I kicked him out of the room and shut the door behind him, trying to figure out just how the hell I was supposed to wear this shirt-dress-thing and I had no idea where my head was supposed to go. Once I found the (right) opening, I glanced at the mirror across from me, seeing that I didn’t look half bad. The sweater had a huge turtleneck, but it fanned open in front. It was some kind of silky material, but minus the luster. It was stretchy, but I would have to be careful so I didn’t rip it. It was a solid crimson color, kind of like lipstick. It had short sleeves and it ended right above my knees. The material was really thin and I knew for sure I’d need a jacket when heading out. I put on the solid black leggings Renji laid out and I was a bit impressed that he had a bit of a fashion sense. I got my black boots with the belts out and a black shawl to match out of the closest and turned off the lights as I got my purse, taking my new favorite cigarettes with me and tidied up the house a bit before getting my purse and stepping out. I quickly ran down the stairs, being careful not to get my heel stuck in the holes of the rusty iron stairs. Once I finally reached the ground, I saw Renji’s massive Hummer parked in the alley with its headlights on and it was so bright, that I was blind for a second, but I eventually found my way in. Once I got in, I realized that Renji’s eyes were watching me and after I took a seat and closed the door, I heard a wolf whistle, which made my confidence rise a bit, but at the same time, made my cheeks flush.
“Well, well, well! Someone’s looking spi-cy!”
I gave him a slight nudge on his shoulder, giggling along the way. It’s been a while since I last felt like that.
“Let’s go, then.”
“Sure thing, I just have to pick a friend, okay?” Renji said as he started up the car and changed gears, backing up while turning around to see any traffic.
“Uh, sure,” I mumbled, getting Renji’s Itouch from the dock and going through the songs, picking out one of my favorites and tapped ‘play’. The bass suddenly came to life and scared the hell out of me. My hand went for the dial and spun it the other way. I let out a sigh as I laid back in the seat, finally relieved that the mini-tremors were over. I just noticed then that it was snowing and it was the first of the year. That, and there was a crescent moon in the sky, almost as the same shade as the white flakes. If I was at home, I would have been lying on my couch with a hot cup of coffee with my new favorite cigarette and stare out the balcony, enjoying the view. But, unfortunately, it didn’t go like that.
Renji pulled up at some apartments that weren’t far from mine. He shifted to ‘Neutral’ and stopped the car right in a parking space. He turned off the car and put his hands behind his head, turning his head to look at me.
“I forgot to mention one thing,” He said.
“Whoever you see, like, when you’re working, you pretend as if you didn’t even see them there, you got that?”
Now this time, I was as lost as ever.
“Uh, sure, whatever.”
“Hey, it’s just for your own good. But, if you do happen to screw up-”
“I’ll have your back.”
I didn’t see it then, but Renji truly and honestly meant those words. I was just too lost at the time to understand what he meant.
“No problem, just-”
He was interrupted by a knocking, which made me scream in fright. I thought it was Jason or something. Renji turned on the headlight, seeing that it was…Shuhei?
“Oi, open up, Renji!”
I did so, seeing a shocked look on his face as he saw me.
“Rukia? What are you…doing here?”
“To be honest, I’m not sure myself. Renji, you mind explaining?”
The man just flashed me a grin, which made me think he was hiding, yet, another secret.
“Uh, so where am I supposed to sit?” The black-haired man asked, focusing our attention back to him again. I scooted over in my seat, leaving a huge amount of space that was more than enough for him to sit in. He had an uncertain look on his face, but he took a seat anyways and closed the door shut after him. He wore an ebony/grayish suit with light grey stripes and there was a dark crimson collared shirt underneath and on top, he wore a dark black fedora with a single, short feather tucked on its side. It was as red as blood and it was kinda eerie but somehow, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. He wore some kind of fancy cologne that smelled classy, but not too strong. It was so alluring, that I couldn’t even put it in words.
I tried reaching over him for the seat belt, (I rarely ever ride in a car so I never buckle up) but his chest was too broad for my small arms to reach it. Shuhei got it and buckled over us, (as in reaching directly over my chest) and to my left, I saw Renji giving him the evil eye, but he quickly shrugged it off. It was kind of funny to see Renji get mad, but it made me wonder if he actually did have feelings for me, but I wasn’t thinking that at the time. The thought of where the hell I was going was running through my mind, and the pickup of someone that I knew was making me even more paranoid. What was next? Byakuya didn’t actually get shot?
Once again, Renji started up the car, but somehow, he seemed nervous. It wasn’t like him to wear a frown, which began to make me worry. I nudged him on the arm and was greeted with a confused, but solemn look in his eyes and…I just smiled. It was if I had a split persona. You know what I think happened? I think that I cast my selfishness aside and thought of Renji dealing with all of the drama and I stopped for a moment and began to think if I was in his shoes. I knew I would break down like that. I suppose that in the end, I was worried about him and I wanted to make sure if he was okay.
“Well, shall we get going then?” Renji asked with a grin.
I nodded in response with a slight smile plastered on my face (a bit happy that we were finally leaving) and stared at the roads in front. The first few I was familiar with, but once Renji made a couple of turns, I had no clue where we were.
Being bored to death, I grabbed the Itouch and started to mess around with it, seeing what kind of apps Renji had. I could feel Shuhei looking over my shoulder, (and I guessed that he was) a bit curious as well. I scrolled to the next page and saw a shitload of stupid and idiotic apps, most of them having something to do with nude women or some pointless game that had no end.
Something firm and sturdy gripped my shoulder, when I realized it was Shuhei’s hand holding onto me for support as he reached for the stick of gum that was in the pit in the middle of me and Renji, but when he did, his hand accidentally (I don’t know even to this day if he did this on purpose) brushed against my inner thigh and his face was red as tomatoes. He quickly reached for the gum, ripped off its wrapper, and popped it into his mouth all in one move. I felt a bit of pity for him, but I wasn’t convinced that he was entirely honest because 1, I did see him flirting a lot while working and 2, I didn’t know him that well. I kinda suspected that Shuhei was faking that whole ‘innocent’ shit because of the look Renji gave him earlier, but I shrugged it off. Either way, I was too distracted with trying to find an interesting app.
All of the sudden, a new song started playing and instantly, it drew me in. It began with a soft male voice vocalizing for the first couple of seconds and then the bass and main beat came in, making the hairs of my arms stand up. I couldn’t help but sway to the beat, the voice was so alluring that I began to sing with the chorus without even noticing it but I did notice two heads turning in my direction, and the car swerved, nearly hitting the car in the nearby lane.
“RENJI!!! Keep your eyes on the damn road!” I screeched. That whole incident just a, completely ruined my mood and b, probably made Shuhei think I was a psychopathic maniac. We were all quiet then, and there was only the sounds of the engine and the music playing filling up the empty silence. The chorus came on again and magically, it made my worries vanish.
‘Is you say Daddy’s home, home for me
And I know you’ve been waiting for this love in your day
You know your daddy’s home,
It’s time to play,
So you ain’t got to give my loving away
So all my ladies say hey hey hey daddy
Hey hey hey daddy
So all my ladies say hey hey hey daddy
Hey hey hey daddy’
“He’s right,” Shuhei muttered.
“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.
“If you listen to the song, you’ll see what I mean.”
I did for about a minute or so, but I still didn’t get it. I pulled on Shuhei’s sleeve and shrugged at him, getting an eye roll in response.
“Basically, the singer is giving you some advice. You can get almost any guy’s attention if you go up to them and be like, ‘Hey Daddy’. Try it on Renji.”
“Pft, yeah right. Like that shit’s gonna work on me. I’m ‘keeping my eyes on the damn road’,” He mimicked in a voice that so did not sound like me. So, I decided to get my revenge.
I leaned over the armrest in the middle and lightly put my hands on Renji’s spare arm (Yes, he only drove with one hand) and I successfully got his attention. I leaned in closer as he stopped a red light, his eyes staring me down. I said the magic words and he took back his hand that mine were on and covered his entire mouth with it, making it hard for me to tell whether he was upset or just plain shocked. I just stared at him, but he didn’t look at me. His eyes were on the road, like he said. Something bumped into my elbow and I turned back to where I was, seeing Shuhei hold out his blue slider phone. There was something typed on the screen.
Don’t worry, he’s fine. Chances are, he’s probably a bit horny from hearing you say that so he’s keeping it bottled up.
I took the phone and deleted the text and typed in my response.
Is it because of the dress? Bc he picked that out. And, I have a question.
Maybe. You do look very sexy tonight. And sure.
Thank you, hon;) Uhm, just where the hell are we going?
Shuhei’s jaw dropped the instant he read it and as soon as he was about to reply, Renji’s hand snatched the phone and slammed it shut and then stuck it in his coat pocket and continued driving, without even looking at us. It was as if I was caught texting by the teacher.
“I’d appreciate it if you would address the issue rather then telling your best buddy about it.”
“Well, it’s not her fault you were acting weird.”
Renji cocked his head at Shuhei as he stopped at a red light.
“You’re right…it’s your fault.”
“Renji, you need to chill the fuck out.”
“Fuck off, Shuhei.”
Boo, I actually wanted some shit to happen. Is that so wrong?
Renji drove into a building chocked full of parked cars and just its shadow was at least a mile long. The car made its way into the building, but the gate was open and there was nobody at the checkpoint. I glanced at the clock and read 12:30. I mean, I knew it was late, but come on. They could have at least closed the gate. The car went in and made its way through the vacant parking lots, but as we went up (and I dunno why we did), more and more cars started to appear. I was so lost. When we reached the very top floor, I saw an elevator across from us. There was rust on the edges and it looked broken. Renji turned off the car and got out, not even waiting for me and Shuhei to unbuckle. A few expletives escaped from my mouth as I tried to undo the seat, but it wasn’t cooperating with me.
“Stupid ass belt…”
“Need some help?” Shuhei asked, putting his hand over mine and pushed down on it, successfully loosening the buckle.
“Thanks,” I muttered, gently shaking off his hand (which stayed a little longer than it should have) and climbed over his knees and got out of the car, catching up with Renji along the way, I hooked my arm with his and leaned on his side as we waited for the elevator to come down.
“I’m sorry,” Renji muttered, his eyes still avoiding me.
“For what?” I asked, clinging onto him even tighter this time as he rickety sound of the elevator came closer, which was starting to scare me.
“For being an ass. I know you didn’t mean to do anything like that on purpose, but I took it the wrong way and-”
“How did you see it then?
He was quiet for a moment and right as he opened his mouth, Shuhei swung his arms around the both of us and I could see a look of relief on Renji’s face.
“You think they will let her in?”
“Doubt it, but Strawberry might be able to fix that.”
“I’m right here,” I said monotonously. Shuhei just grinned and ruffled my hair with his hand, as if I was a little kid or something. I mean, I know I’m short, but come on!
“I honestly have a good feeling about this,” Renji grinned. I knew too well that that was not a genuine smile and that he was just trying to not make me worry, which made me do the exact opposite. To tell you the truth, I was trying so hard that night not to let them see I was shaking. I mean, hell, wouldn’t you be too? I was ‘applying’ for a job I had no clue about and it was all to get money for my brother who was in surgery, but here I am, at the very top floor of a parking lot building, waiting on an elevator that has been broken for God knows how long, and I was on the verge of breaking down right then and there, but I had enough self-control not to.
The elevator finally came (surely, but slowly), and opened up its rusty metal doors, revealing small, cramped space inside. The two men walked right in, but I, on the other hand, refused to move. Renji groaned and pulled me in, (it’s not like I could resist; he is twice my size) and then pushed the ‘5’ on the column of buttons. My eyes were on the cracked screen above as the doors closed and as the shaft slowly started to descend. 10, then 9, then 8, and so on; but when it was right to go to 5, Renji slammed the emergency button and the elevator jerked up, making me lose my balance and fall towards Renji, but he caught me by the shoulders. Surprisingly, there wasn’t an ear-splitting siren going off, which made this place even creepier.
All of the sudden, Shuhei went up to the buttons and got out a Swiss Army knife and started loosening the screws on the metal cover. He pried it open, and inside was a bunch of wires and a parade of small blinking lights. To the side were two small pieces of plastic with a small gap in between them. The man then got something out of his pocket and it was some kind of card. It looked like any other card, but it didn’t look like it was for financial purposes.
He slid the card in and somehow, the elevator slowly went up, much smoother than the first go-around. It opened up, showing another elevator across from us. One thing was different about it though; there was a square keypad on its side with numbers 0-9 with some symbols at the bottom row. Shuhei went up and quickly punched in some numbers, making a green light in the screen glow, and was followed by the doors opening, but it was much faster than the other elevator’s. Too fast. Either way, it just screamed suspicious.
Renji grabbed me by the hand and squeezed it, giving me a grin along the way. I didn’t see how he could be smiling at a time like this. I just didn’t get it. No sheer happiness could have been derived from nothing. Was he faking it? Was it possible that he was just as confused as me? I don’t know, even to this day. I honestly don’t.
We walked in and as I took my first steps, the doors whizzed shut, leaving the three of us in complete darkness.
“Lozinka?” A male voice asked, but he sounded so serious, it was scary.
“Držite ga tajna,” Shuhei said, which (somehow) made the lights turn on, showing two armed men aiming at us less than ten feet away. I shrieked and hid behind Renji, who was trying to cover up his laughter, but he failed.
“Very well, you may pass,” The guard on the left said as he moved out of the way, revealing, yet, another door. I continued to eye them as we walked, not understanding why they were so dressed up. I mean, any normal person would be flipping out too if they had an AK cocked at them.
One man was black and one was white, but they both wore that emotionless look on their face. They wore matching indigo suits with a thin crimson tie tucked in between and on top of that, they had black shades on that was so dark, you couldn’t see their eyes.
Renji and Shuhei walked by them with me at the very end, who was hesitant and frightened to go anywhere.
In the midst of my confusion, I felt a cold hand pull me, which made me run into something sturdy, but warm. I had my eyes closed the entire time, so I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
“Hey Rukia. We’re here.”
I looked up, seeing Renji next to me and found myself in a ornate and spacious lobby, the kind that you would find in an hotel. There were people dressed like bellhops too! With the cap and everything! I felt like I was in a dream. I didn’t know how the hell I started in a parking lot and somehow made my way into a fancy room. Like, what the fuck?
There was a lobby desk and sitting near it was a blonde-haired girl with her hair neatly pulled back into a tight bun and she wore a red long-sleeved shirt with gold buttons on the side with black pants below. She got up and made her way towards us, shaking our hands.
“Welcome Mr. Abarai, Mr. Hisagi.”
And then she looked at me.
“And you are…?”
“Have you been to The Rendezvous before?”
“I see. Well, enjoy yourself then.”
And just like that, she was gone. Shuhei scowled at her as she left and entered the doors on the right, with me and Renji close behind. The minute I stepped in, all the music and noise just went silent. Like, as if somebody dropped a bomb or something. All eyes were on me, and not in the good way. I felt like such an outsider, it wasn’t even funny. Everybody, and I mean everybody, just stopped what they were doing. In the crowd (mostly men), I could see people all dressed up in dresses and suits, as if they were in a mafia. Some of them even wore hats and some even had feathers on it. Like, blue, green, purple, all of those bold colors. But no one looked the same.
Suddenly, the crowd slowly started to move and split in two, making way for a person with a grey fedora and a sky blue feather on the side (that was all I could see at the time). And as the people started to make way for the person, I carefully examined the place around me.
To my right, there was a deserted bar, but the shelves were stocked full of tequila and brandy bottles. On the left, there was a poker table and behind it, was a glass door that had roulettes, slot machines, and more. And in the very back was a stage, but not one for plays. Oh hell no. This stage was set rather high and it had two sets of metallic stairs on the ends with no rails and right under the stage were three rectangular jail chambers and the women dancing in it sure didn’t appreciate me coming, judging by the looks on their faces.
“So who the hell are you?”
I jumped and closed my eyes, holding up my arms to shield my face, but they were stopped by a firm hand. I opened my eyes and saw that a man with hair as blue as his feather was towering over me, and his nonchalant stare really didn’t help much. He had cerulean eyes and a couple of his bangs hung in front of his forehead, giving him that ‘edge’. I noticed that there were small, teal pointy marks at the end of each eye and it was kinda tribal-like. That, and he had his ear pierced with two giant diamonds on there.
“Well, are you going to answer my question or not?”
Renji got next to me and placed an arm around me, grinning at the blue-haired man.
“Chill, Blueberry. Don’t you think you should introduce yourself first?”
The man gave Renji a mock smile, and then looked back at me. He took off his hat and placed it over his chest, bowing deeply.
“I am Grimmjow Jeagerjaquez. What about you, chéri?”
A grin came on his lips at the sound of my name, which seemed a bit creepy. That and over 60 pairs of eyes were on me, but people slowly started to disperse, slowly going to whatever the heck they were doing.
“So, what you brings you to The Rendezvous?”
I remember the lobby lady saying something about it, but I thought she was talking about some kind of night club or something. But then it just hit me. This is a club!
“Uhm, no, but just to be on the safe side, where is it?”
“You mean, you have no idea where you are right now?”
“Last time I checked, I was somewhere in New York City, but somebody refused to explain certain things to me. So, long story short, I’m lost as hell.”
The man just chuckled and walked to the deserted bar, motioning to me to come over there with him. I looked back at Renji for guidance, but he disappeared, as did Shuhei.
“So, what’s with you and Pineapple?” Grimmjow asked, taking a seat in a chair with me sitting next to him and facing his direction.
“Oh yeah, most definitely. But why do you call him Pineapple?”
“I’m not so sure myself, but it’s kinda like a codename, in a way. But now it’s my turn to ask a question. How the hell did you stumble all the way down here?”
And so I told him everything there was to tell. About me. About what happened. About the weird stuff that had been happening. Surprisingly, he believed me. He listened to me the whole time while I was blabbing away. I had never opened up to someone so fast. It was so odd. Despite the man’s intimidating appearance, he was quite the gentleman.
“Well, that was quite a story,” Grimmjow chuckled, wiping off some lint on his knees. “So, what are you gonna be?”
“That’s the problem. Renji didn’t tell me shit.”
“Uhm, why don’t you join those ladies up there?” He asked, pointing to the stage. I leaned over to the side and saw several strippers ‘working’. I gave him a discouraging look, since there were no words to describe what I thought of that.
“Heh, I guess not. Well, you don’t look like the type to go into the gambling business either.”
“…Can I ask a question.”
“This whole place…is illegal, isn’t it?”
“…Yes, but I’m pretty sure Renji has at least told you the consequences, right?”
“No, but I wasn’t planning on it. My best friend is in this mess there’s no way in hell I would betray him.”
“You like Pineapple?”
“Ew no! He’s like my brother!”
He just chuckled as he called for a bartender, but no one came. He called again. Nothing. His lips slightly curled into a scowl and then he banged the wood with his fist.
“Goddamit! Where’s the fuckin’ tender?!”
And I thought that my flip-out moments were something. Heh, not compared to this guy.
“He got shot, remember?” A person shouted.
Grimmjow gave a slight eyeroll as he let out a sigh, seeming a bit irritated.
“How the fuck can there be a bar and no bartender? Like what the holy fuck? That doesn’t make any goddamn sense…”
And he kept on ranting and he threw in some French (which I knew because I took it in high school) expletives in there. I really didn’t want my night to be filled with angst and cursing, so I went behind the bar and decided to make the damned drink myself. I got a glass and scanned the shelves and got some Malibu rum along with Tequila Rose strawberry liqueur and some Blue Curacao and last, but not least, some of the Sweet ‘n’ Sour that had been stored from previous use (it isn’t an actual drink, more like a flavor booster). I was careful to add the liqueur last, since I had a thing for sweet stuff being at the very top. However, I still felt like something was missing. I turned around and searched again, but I couldn’t think of anything that would ‘fit’. I crouched down and open the mini-fridge beneath the bar, seeing my ‘extra ingredient’. I popped open the Sprite and added just a splash in the very middle of the drink and then stopped it, putting the can down and passed the glass to Grimmjow, who didn’t look all that happy. He grabbed it and held it in the air for a second, carefully examining the contents of the drink (which I think was a bit too much). I mean, seriously. That guy looked at it as if it was poison or something.
“What’s it called?”
“I dunno. I just made it up.”
“Hmm,” He said, taking a whiff. “Well, it smells fine.”
“Just drink the damn thing.”
“Hey, don’t rush me. It’ll spoil my mood,” He said, shooting me a glare that only lasted a second and then took a sip, and then put the glass down. I waited for some kind of response, but he said nothing and just sat there, staring back at me.
“I’m not gonna lie…this is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had.”
“Really?” I asked with enthusiasm, getting a nod in response from the man as he took another sip.
I just love compliments. They just make my day. Honestly.
“Hey, I got an idea,” Grimmjow said with a toothy grin.
“What if you became a bartender?”
I shot him a look, but he countered it with a look that made me feel kind of intimidated of him once more. It just ruined my mood. Killjoy.
“Are you shitting me?”
“Hell no. We need a connoisseur of drinks. I guarantee you can make your money in no time.”
“I know, but still, I need to talk to whoever is in charge of this place.”
“Well, I’ll go see if he’s here today. Hey, do me a favor and think of a name for that shit. I bet money that people will be asking for it.”
I giggled a bit and nodded, seeing the man get up and walk off, slowly making his way to the door behind the poker table. I let out a sigh once he left. I was all alone, once again. I had no idea where Renji and Shuhei were and to be honest, I didn’t care. I actually wanted to meet people. Yes, I dislike people, but I’m not anti-social. Meeting new people was something I looked forward to.
I stared off into the crowd, seeing all kinds of people here. I noticed that the men weren’t the only ones wearing feathers. There were certain females who wore it as well. Many questions popped into my head at the thought of the odd and unusual feathers, but I thought I’d save that for when I meet with ‘the boss’. I wondered what he/she was like. Judging from what I’d heard, they sounded pretty ominous and temperamental, which then made me have second thoughts about meeting them.
“Yo, midget! Snap out of it!”
My trance was broken the instant that voice passed through my ears. I had no idea what the hell I was doing before, but all I could manage to comprehend was that he was there. He was dressed in the same attire as the people, but he seemed classier. He wore an ebony suit with gold buttons and on top was a black fedora, very much like Grimmjow’s, but this one was more rounded and it had a single, short golden feather rather than a long blue one. He took a seat right across from me and took off his hat, revealing his spiky auburn mane. His eyes were on me as I got a glass and cleaned it with a cloth, trying to find some distraction to keep me from staring at him.
“Yes, can I help you, asshole?”
“Glad ta know ya love me, dollface. I thought ya’d never show up. And what’s this? Yer the new bartender now? Holy fuck, it’s like Christmas all over again.”
“Shut up, you idiot. And no, I’m not the bartender. I was just messing around with the drinks and stuff. But to be honest, I kinda do want to be the bartender.”
“Well, one, it’s kinda fun. For me at least and two, Renji was telling me how people can make a lot of money here so I really have no choice seeing as how I dislike people.”
“There’s two things wrong with yer statement. Numero uno, we don’t go by names here ‘less you want people to find out who ya are. Numero dos, if you dislike people, then why are ya here? This is probably one of the most crowded places in New York. Wait…I know…ya missed me! Ya wanted more of me than just a peck from this afternoon am I right? Or am I right?”
“You are wrong, that’s what you are. And I really didn’t have a choice in coming here. I mean, before, Pineapple was just telling me about this job and something came up where I need the money and it’s just really, really confusing. You wouldn’t get it.”
“No, go ‘head. Talk. I promise I won’t fall asleep.”
“To sum things up, I was unemployed before and I really didn’t go out much, except on certain occasions. And one day, Renji was telling me about this job with a lot of money but he didn’t say what it was. So, he takes me here with our mutual friend, Shuhei-”
“Okay, so he brings The Joker and they just take me to this parking lot and we went on this elevator and then he hit the button and it went whoosh! and there was this keypad thingy and then there were two scary guys who talked in some weird language and Joker talked back to them in it and we walked to this lobby and then I walked here and talked to Blueberry and here I am, talking to you-”
“Right, and that’s pretty much it.”
“…I dunno what the hell you said because I was watching the ladies but I’ll pay attention next time, promise.”
I gave him a scowl and that moment, I thought of the perfect name for the drink Grimmjow wanted me to think of. I started making the drink again, one for me and one for the horn dog across from me and I guess the clinking and clanking must have got his attention because when I looked up, his almond eyes were watching me closely.
And so I did. I slid one drink to him while I poured the last of the Sprite into mine, seeing out of the corner of my eye that he was just staring at the drink. When I was done, he looked up at me and raised his drink, and I tapped it with my own.
And so we drank it down, but I was careful to drink slowly and not all at once, because if I did, I’d have a major headache.
“Mmm! That shit was good! What’d ya put in it?”
“Awh, come on! Ya know ya can tell me!”
“What if we have a deal?” He asked with a sly grin on his face.
“I’ll give ya another kiss if ya tell me the recipe.”
“You’re so childish.” I groaned.
“Quit tryin’ to hide it! I saw yer reaction when I kissed ya! You made such a big deal outta it, I know it!”
“You’re the one who’s making a big deal out of it,” I said emotionlessly.
“Yer no fun. I was actually lookin’ forward ta givin’ ya ‘nother peck or two.”
God, this guy would not shut up. But I had a solution for that. I leaned over and kissed him on the lips, finally shutting him up. I could still taste a bit of the drink on his lips, and lemme tell you,
It was good.
I stayed a little longer than I should have, but I kinda didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to seem sluttish for kissing someone I barely knew. So, I pulled back, seeing a face that was as unyielding as a rock. I couldn’t tell if he was seriously pissed off or he didn’t know what to say.
“I never pictured ya as the ‘bold’ type.”
“Well, you had your answer.”
“Damn straight. Tell ya what, I’ll guarantee ya a job here. No doubt about it.”
“What, just because I kissed you? Thanks, but no thanks. That seems kinda sluttish, ne?”
“Yes, it does, but hun, I’ve kissed countless women.”
“And your point is?”
“Almost any girl can kiss, but no one can make drinks like you can. So, I’d say you pretty much got the job,” He said, getting off the chair and starting to walk away.
He stopped, turning his head in my direction.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Trust me, I know. But ya do need to do one thing though.”
“And what’s that?”
“Think of a name for that drink.”
“I already thought of one.”
“Well, what is it?