Usually, with the weather being hot as it was, and as relaxing as it may seem with its sights, the two would walk along the trail of the riverbank as they go home. But even Rea wanted to go home early, so they elected to take a shortcut through their neighborhood instead. They crisscrossed the narrow streets and carefully maneuvered sidewalks with the familiarity that comes with living in the area for over ten years. So as these two walked, they casually made conversation and continued to head home. Rather, Rea was doing all the talking, Lilly was mostly quiet during their stroll.
“What’re you reading this time?” Rea chirpped along get Lilly to pep up.
Lilly patted the side of her bag. “Flower and Beardrum, it’s in its third volume already. It’s been pretty good so far, and I’m really liking where the story is going. There’s a lot of energy in the writing, and this particular castle scene I’m on is really good. I’ve been on forums online to talk about the novels, and it’s really fun! So overall I’m loving it a lot!” Lilly bloommed with life as she rambled about her book.
“Eh? I’ll just wait for the manga then.” Arms casually behind her head, Rea unintentionally killed any enthusiasm she just brought out of Lilly. Being used to it, she took it in stride, putting her hand Rea’s shoulder.
“Yah, I suppose you should.”
Lilly was a type of person who wouldn’t talk if she didn’t have to. A fair, blonde girl who always sat quietly by herself may appear a little gloomy to others, when in actuality she would be fine with her own personal silence. It becomes a hurdle to cross for a person like Rea though, especially when one’s mouth runs on an engine. She continued to pry more chatting out of Lilly.
“So, I’ve been thinking of inviting Megumi to come hang out with us this weekend. Since we haven’t really done that yet.” She brought it up as though she was proud of mentioning the idea. But from Megumi telling Lilly to telling Rea, she had no right to claim it as her own.
“Well, whose fault is that? She has yet to be invited anywhere at all by you.” Lilly saw right through Rea’s game, and struck accordingly.
“Ack!” Rea coughed, as Lilly expected. “What about you then? Why haven’t you asked her before?” She pointed an accusing finger back at Lilly, nervously trembling to shift any blame. Lilly doesn’t skip a beat.
“It would mean a lot more coming from you than me, trust me. Are you too dense to know even that?”
Her shouldered slump. Rea dismally sighed, her breath admitting defeat. “Fine… I’ll get too it soon…”
“Get to it now!” Lilly scolded unsympathetically. Rea leaped in alarm from her tone, and instinctively reached for her phone.
Glad to have gotten the upper hand on Rea, Lilly felt her stomach sink suddenly after thinking about Megumi. I haven’t seen or talked to her since gym class. If we do all end up hanging out… I hope it doesn’t get terribly awkward. Of course I won’t bring it up, but I’ll just pretend it never happened. That’s a good idea…
Poke, poke. Lilly felt her arm. “Lilly, I just texted her. Why are you blushing?”
Her free hand flies to cover her face, almost hitting herself in the process. Why does it feel like I’ve been doing that way too much? Her voice is muffled as her hand hides her appearance.
“A-anyways, I’d say I’m proud that you finally got around to it, but you only just now got around to it.” Lilly pushed Rea’s buttons to change subjects. It works.
Her posture slouched in shame for a second time. “I know, I know… I’m such a bad friend!” Her eyes water. Her body begins to shiver. Oops, maybe I pushed that one too hard, Lilly thought.
“Eh, Rea, I was only teasing you, don’t take it so hard!” Her words don’t seem to take effect, the sniffling Rea still appeared troubled. Hiccupping and a shaky voice as symptoms of her woes. Lilly puts her hand on Rea’s shoulder to try and calm her, freezing them both in their tracks. “Rea, Rea!” Her small body rocked back and forth as Lilly tightly gripped the quivering girl’s shoulders.
“Rea, I’m telling you, you’re overreacting! That was a joke!”
Rea rubbed her eyes. Looking back up and facing Lilly, she removed her figurative mask. She flashed a smile and peace sign. “I was just joking too.”
Lilly stepped back, impressed at Rea’s acting. Ah, she got me. She lightly tapped Rea on her back. “Fine then, let’s keep moving.” Rea agreed wholeheartedly.
The return trip was lulling with their quaint neighborhood as a peaceful backdrop. After what was more than an eventful day for both girls, to retreat into their respective homes was something they were looking forward to. But neither of them sought to quicken their pace. Walking slowly, Rea moves closer to Lilly, speaking softly under her breath.
Rea made her move. She hugged Lilly’s right arm snugly, with no intention of letting go. “I wanna hold hands,” Rea says innocently.
Lilly bit her lip. It’s hard to say no to a girl when she’s like that. Even Lilly, whose resolve should be have been hardened over the course of ten years, turns to dust when Rea acts in this way. A solid offence, one that Lilly wasn’t prepared to defend against. On the other hand, she wondered if it even is something one should be defending against in the first place. There was nothing bad about two girls holding hands as they walked. In fact, it was close to stereotypical. Also, to deny Rea this once again on the same day would be torture to her heart. There was no one else around, anyways.
So in response, Lilly stayed silent. Rea took her non-answer as a reluctant “sure”. It was good enough for now.
They turned a corner as their fingers intertwined, Rea taking the lead, and her right hand. Lilly felt Rea’s long and calloused digits, her hold firm yet gentle. As they do so, Lilly thoughts were on Rea during the relay earlier that day. That expression she had while she ran burned into Lilly’s mind. I’ve wanted to talk about it… Hmm… The corner of Lilly’s lips twitch trying to find the right words to bring up. She looked down to see Rea, so content with holding Lilly’s hand, and hugging her arm. But she looks so relaxed now. To bring it up got harder than ever. But as it turns out, Rea had something she wanted to discuss as well.
“Wasn’t there something you still needed to tell me?” In contrast to Lilly, Rea wasted no time to say what was on her mind. Lilly internally groaned. She knew what it was about.
“There isn’t anything to say anymore,” Lilly averted her eyes away from Rea. “I already said it’s not that big of a deal.” Her tone didn’t conceal her crossness. She pushed a long lock of hair behind her left ear.
“That’s not true!” Rea said childishly. Be that as it may, she wasn’t going to let Lilly stay silent any longer. She squeezes Lilly’s hand with intensity. She flinched in pain.
An unfortunate but accustomed buzz began knocking at the door of Lilly mind, like an unwanted neighbor. Low and monotonous. She could hear the worries of the housewife whose home they just passed by. She could sense the little boy who’s excited for his father to return a few houses down. She could sense even the thoughts of Rea, who was patiently waiting for Lilly to say something. Anything. But she knew what she wanted to say. She just didn’t want to.
Walking a few paces more, and then Lilly stopped in place. Pushing that noise out of her head, Lilly opened up.
“What else is there to say? I hate it! I don’t want anything to have to do with it! I hate whenever I feel it in my head and I feel like I’m forcefully intruding on someone else’s thoughts! I feel like I’m more than intruding into someone’s privacy. And it doesn’t make any sense, why this… thing!? Why me?! I just want to be normal, like I was before all of this. When I didn’t bother anyone and nobody bothered me.”
She faces Rea, growing more serious. “I’ve been trying ignore it, and not think about it… But you just…” Her voice trailed off unevenly. There, I said it. Happy, Rea?
Her tongue was sharp, and her words like daggers into the hot air around them. Even Lilly stood startled at her choice words. Rea was no exception. A few blinks before answering.
“I… didn’t know you felt that way about it.” Her hands were cold in Lilly’s grasp, despite the light coat of sweat. Rea faced the blonde. She held her hands up softly. “If it makes you feel any better, I think it’s pretty cool.” Rea spoke softly. “You’re like a superhero.”
Lilly stared at Rea’s wide-eye look of innocence. It can work wonders in calming her down. Letting out a breath of ease, her voice returned to its normally composed nature. “I’m sorry, it’s just that it’s a lot to take in, in a short amount of time.” She poked Rea’s cheek. “I’ll be fine.”
Not a second longer for Rea to flip the switch back to energetic again. With newfound vigor in her step, Rea pulled Lilly along.
“Come on then! Let’s go get a donut somewhere!” Rea cheered.
“I thought you wanted to go home…”
“… oh yeah.”
The heat on this odd day was still substantial, but the sun was finally setting into a twilight, sparking a brilliant burnt orange across the sky. A turn of another corner, a crossing of a street –this particular one was well known for its black cat population- and the girls find themselves in front of Rea’s house. An ordinary house in scale, nothing special. They stood at the gate to her home for a minute. Given the emotionally draining walk they had, Lilly found it hard to leave Rea and head off. Except she was the one who helped me today. Trying to buy time, she slowly made her goodbyes for the day.
“Is your mom home yet?” Lilly asked.
“Um, not yet.”
“Will you be okay?”
“Yeah, it’s nothing new.”
“I see, okay.” Lilly reluctantly back away a few steps. Why am I acting so weird? She was the one worried about me.
Rea picked up on it immediately. “I should be asking if you’ll be okay.” She crossed her arms, her face smug and teasing.
Lilly lighted up. “I should. Thanks.” She stood there a second more to see if Rea would lean in towards her. But she remained leaning on the metal gate instead. Now nervously scratching her arm. “Then, I’ll be here to walk to school with you tomorrow.” Rea noded. Pleased and wanting to conclude this exhausting day, she turned to head back home.
Lilly spun to face a flushed Rea. This was a face she hadn’t seen on her in a while. What could this be? Maybe she’s preparing for something sneaky again. Rea twirled her long red ponytail, inhaling and exhaling cautiously.
Low mumbles emanate from the girl as she searched for actual words to say. Her hand dove into her schoolbag to sift through and look for… something. Lilly watched as Rea uneasily dug deeper into her bag. Heart thumping with every passing second. Huh? What is she trying to find?
As suddenly as she reached into her bag, she stopped. And as suddenly as she did so, she bolted past the gate into her house, waving without looking back. “Never mind! It’s nothing! I’ll see you tomorrow Lilly!” A loud thud followed Rea as she slamemed her front door behind her. Lilly was left alone and confused.
What… was that?
She debated between going after Rea or heading home, but the sting of her sore legs beckoned her to a lazy nap on a couch. That gym class was doing wonders to her body.
“Hah, whatever it is, I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ll talk to her tomorrow anyways.” Without a soul in sight, Lilly still covered her mouth as she yawns. “Ahh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” She shooed herself along to finally conclude a long and restless day. Lilly hoped in all of her heart that another day like this won’t come around for a long time.
Her day spent at home breezed her by. Her father cooked for them both her favorite hamburger steak, although she could have done without his trademark teasing. With homework done and out of the way, she finished her book, placing it back on her shelf. An empty space left by for the next installment that won’t come for another while, Lilly being very disappointed by that fact. In another blink, she was all washed up and ready to sleep. She collapsed onto her bed, letting out a moan of fatigue before instantly snoozing. She had that dream again, but she won’t remember.
She woke up in a frenzy. Like having a dream that you were falling and then feeling that sensation in real life. Lilly jolted up. Upon placing her feet on the floor, she felt something was off. The room was dark, sure, but it wasn’t her room. She looked down. “I didn’t sleep on the couch, did I?” The black leather of the furniture and other trademarks of the room should feel all familiar, because it was. “This… isn’t this Rea’s living room? I don’t remember sleeping over.”
Standing up, Lilly almost lost her balance. Her body felt lighter than she was used to. Whoa, what’s going on? Her body and mind were not yet fully awake. Slowly she thought of her next move. Um, Rea’s room. I’ll go ask what I’m doing here.
Years of sleepovers and just hanging around helped Lilly know the layout of Rea’s house like the back of her hand. She went to Rea’s room with ease, even without light. A flight of stairs later she’s at the door to her room. But she can’t shake that nagging feeling in her head. Of course something isn’t right here. I’ll have to wake up Rea to ask her though. Inhale, exhale.
She twisted the doorknob to enter the room. Adjusted to the dark, she avoided flipping the light switch to hurt her eyes. Lilly stepped into an empty room. Rea’s desk computer, guitar, and textbooks were all present, but their owner wasn’t. Hands on her hips, Lilly’s tired mind tried to run. Where could she be? Wandering eyes catch the messy bed, blankets thrown in disarray, Lilly couldn’t bring herself to not fix it. She was careful not to step on any loose pencils or guitar picks on floor. I need to remind her to clean this up herself! She walked past Rea’s mirror hanging on her closet door. Something caught her eye.
Running to the mirror, every step made her more baffled. The closer she got the less she recognized her image. Her frame was smaller, her proportions like that of a typical middle school girl, with the small bust and hips. The flower-themed pajamas were familiar, but she has never wore them herself. And either it was the still dark room or her drowsy state, but her eyesight was worse than ever. As if she needed glasses.
“Oh my god!”
Her final step put it all into perspective. What she saw kicked her sleep-drowsed mind into high alert. She grabbed the wooden edges of the mirror, pulling it off the door. Examining every corner of her face and features. Brown eyes, a fanged smile, long red hair. Lilly didn’t need light. She could see the reflection perfectly. Even if she couldn’t believe it.
“What the heck is happening to me?”