The Crazy Life of Korin: Episode 1 It's a small, small world

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Korin is a mildly obsessive college student with boy problems. While spending the summer in Japan she followed a cute guy she didn't know half way around Tokyo. He didn't appreciate being stalked. She never expected to see him again. But life is funny and it really is a small world.

Submitted: November 05, 2015

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Submitted: November 05, 2015

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The Crazy Life Of Korin

Episode One:

It’s a Small Word After All

 

It was the end of August and summer was by no means winding down. The air was heavy and sticky with heat, even in the auditorium. The late summer heat was oppressive enough that I was certain I could feel it pushing on the walls of the building outside. I sighed heavily, feeling an oppression of another kind. Being back inside the college class room was absolutely the last place I wanted to be. I was thinking of another place, just as hot this time of year, maybe even more so, that was half way around the world…Japan. I’d spent the summer there and I really, really wanted to go back, right this very second if possible. I’d been lectured about culture shock before going, by nearly everyone who had heard about where Alley and I were going to spend the summer, even from people who had never been to Japan and couldn’t even tell the different Asian countries apart, but not one of these people had warned me about culture shock coming back.

Alley and I had returned state side four days ago, and I’d had a head ache for those four days. I exhaled heavily and the chair next to me creaked. I looked over at my best friend, Alley Jenkins. Her sigh echoed mine as she settled into her seat.

 “American’s are so freaking noisy,” she said to me as she pressed at her temples. I would have laughed at the sentiment, because it was very close to what I had just been thinking, but I didn’t have the energy, instead I said, “Sore wa jodan janai yo,” that is no joke, in a voice just loud enough for her to hear. Alley began to massage her temples and I heard her chant to herself, “Two years, just two more years.”

I lacked the motivation to verbalize another agreement. In two years we would both have our bachelor’s degree in hand and would be eligible to teach English in Japan. Neither of us could wait. Around us the other students were talking and laughing and scraping chairs. I sank further into my seat with another sigh and let my eyes close. I did my best in to concentrate on toning the noise out.

Five years ago, neither Alley nor I would have given going to Japan a second thought but then a Japanese exchange student, Hanako Hayashi, had come to our High School. She, Alley and I had gotten on instantly. Hanako had introduced us to her country, her culture, anime, Japanese television dramas, Jpop, Jrock…REAL Japanese food, she was an amazing cook, even the traditional arts, such as kabuki and noh theater. She’d taught us origami which she was very good at, and Alley and I became her avid students. She even started teaching us Japanese before she left, and what between that and weekly Skype meetings after that, Alley and I were getting pretty fair at speaking the language. And now Alley and I had had just gotten back from spending the entire summer in Japan.

I peeled one eye open and peeked over at Alley. She had her elbows rested on the desk and was supporting her chin with her bridged fingers. Her eyes were half closed.

“What do you miss the most?” I asked her.

“The food,” she answered instantly and without even the barest breath of hesitation.

“Gorudon kari, katsu don, daifuku,” I started rattling off random Japanese foods.

“Shut up,” Alley ordered tiredly.

“Onegiri, tsukemono.” The simplest foods had been my favorites.

“I said shut up,”

“Tempura, real ramen…”

“Korin…” there was a growl in Alley’s voice now.

“Green tea ice cream, red bean ice cream,” I sighed the last longingly. Most Americans looked at me a little funny when I started enthusing about my favorite Japanese sweet. They couldn’t fathom a bean that wasn’t a vanilla bean, being made into a tasty ice cream, but it was soo good.

“Ok, stalker girl,” Alley growled.

“Hey!” I protested, “I am not a stalker!”

Alley snorted, “Kakko Ii otoko thinks you are.”

I rolled my eyes, Kakko Ii Otoko was one way to say “great looking guy” in Japanese. I could feel my cheeks getting hot. The one blemish on an otherwise perfect summer was the trip to Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. I had thought, when I had first seen him, from the view that I’d had, from behind and slightly to the right that he looked like my favorite Japanese actor. So I’d followed him…a complete stranger, a complete really good looking stranger… for almost an hour, trying to get a good enough look to see if he really was my favorite actor. He hadn’t been and he had not appreciated, me following him either.

While on the one hand, it was more than a little embarrassing to remember that I’d done such a silly idiotic thing, but at least I did know that he was, in fact, not who I thought he might be. It would have bugged me if I thought, if I had even a crumb of doubt, that I’d actually missed a chance to meet my fave drama star. I might never have gotten over it. Or least that’s what I kept telling myself as an excuse for my behavior.

“Yakisoba, yakitori,” I started chanting again.

“SU-Ta-KA,” Alley sang back in firmly pronounced syllables. Su-ta-ka was the Japanese phonetically rendered English word, stalker.

“Ohagi, dorayaki,”

“You and your red beans,” Alley sighed.

Ohagi and dorayaki were both sweets made with adzuki beans.

“Is it weird,” I asked Alley, “That if someone walked by with takoyaki I’d mug them for it?”

“Yes,” Alley answered immediately. Tako was the Japanese word for ‘octopus’. “And will you please shut-up. My mouth is starting to water.”

I shut it. But only because my tummy was starting to rumble.

We were silent for a minute and then Alley said, “I’d help you though, mug someone for their takoyaki.”

I sighed and then groaned. “We’re going to have to learn how to cook,” I lamented.

“Yep,” Alley agreed.

“Do you think that if we pooled what’s left of our money we could fly Hanako here for a week.”

“Maybe…” Alley drawled in the most animated voice I’d heard her use in four days.

Class began soon after that. For which I was grateful, because the banging of stuff on desks, squeak and rake of chairs and overly loud talking stopped. We had to listen to the professor, but at least he was one person and had a pleasant voice.  The first day of a new class, whatever it was, was always the same. You got the lecture about integrity, which covered cheating and plagiarism. Then you received the rundown on the class learning objectives, assignment schedule, test schedule…yada…yada…yada. My mind drifted off.

Kakko Ii Otoko. It had been early July, Matsuri, festival season in Japan. Alley, Hanako and I had gone to visit Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. As much as I felt really embarrassed about chasing a strange guy, even if he had been a really, really cute strange guy, thinking about Meiji brought about the same sense of contented peace that lay over the shrine grounds. As far as I was concerned, Japan’s Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, were some of the most fantastic places on earth. Hanako had taken Alley and I to a number of different shrines and temples and one and all they’d brought a deep sense of peace, but it wasn’t a lethargic kind of sleepy peace, but the kind of contentment that was invigorating. You felt clear headed and alive. It was though petty stresses couldn’t bother you on temple grounds. But Meiji was special for more than just my encounter with Kakko Ii Otoko.

Stepping through the tori, the soaring shrine gate, felt like stepping out of this world and into another. Every temple or shrine that Alley, Hanako and I had visited had, had that feeling to a certain extent, but that sensation was much stronger at Meiji. Maybe it was that just outside the gate was a bustling city, and maybe it was the long shaded walk up to the actual temple where the shade was dense enough that very little sunlight penetrated to the path that effectively separated Meiji from the very modern city without it’s grounds, but that  sensation of being not on earth as you knew it was intensified at Meiji.

But it was on that tree shrouded path up to the shrine that I first saw him…the guy Alley had dubbed Kakko Ii Otoko. His very white t-shirt was what had caught my eye. In the shade it had stood out starkly. The second thing that I had noticed was the knit cap he had been wearing, which had seemed at odds with the heat. The long lengths of his hair had been bound with a band and had been sticking out of the back of the cap. His height, his build, and his hair had all been similar to the Japanese actor that I had mistaken him for. He was tall and lean, with some width to his shoulders.

I remembered elbowing Alley and pointing him out.

She had giggled and said, “Well, he’s cute from the back.”

We hadn’t been able to see much of his face at that point.

“Yea, but doesn’t he remind you of…”

I hadn’t even been able to finish the sentence.

“Yea, he does,” Alley had immediately agreed, picking up on who I was comparing him to.

“What if it is…?” I had heard myself say.

“Hummm…” Alley had muttered thoughtfully, and then the two of us were moving sideways, to try and get a better look without being obvious about it.

Hanako had belatedly picked up on what was going on and chased after us. Being that it was Matsuri…there were a lot of people and the fact that he was moving fast and purposefully, the best view we’d been able to get was half a profile view. It had been just enough to determine he was young, quiet possibly very handsome and just maybe who we thought he might be.

My memories of the actual shrine itself, are somewhat vague, because I hadn’t been able to take my eyes off of Kakko Ii Otoko. Of one thing I had been reasonably certain, he was near to Hanako, Alley’s and my age. Hanako and Alley were twenty and I would be in September. I thought it possible that maybe he was a year or two older than us but no more than that.

Alley was of the opinion that I crushed way too hard on my favorite drama stars and musicians, and not nearly hard enough on the real boys around me that I could really date. I knew, at least in theory, she had a perfectly valid point but my experiences with the “real” boys that I could actually date hadn’t been great. Thing was my celebrity crushes couldn’t do or say anything shitty to me, because well, I didn’t know them and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I could actually date them, but there again that meant they couldn’t really let me down either, which meant I could go on liking them, and not have my heart smashed to pieces. (And continue watching their shows or listening to their music, and being really happy about the fact that I could do that without any icky bitter feelings.) My crushes… and they were a collection, spanning through my love of Japanese dramas, British dramas, Japanese and American rock and Korean pop would always be there…meaning they could always bring a little happiness into a bad day. Alley didn’t understand that part, she thought they were subbing in for real guys.

I did maintain hope that I might find a “real” guy that was worthwhile. Still I did believe, possibly to my detriment, that most guys could be filed into one of seven different folders. There was the player, the super serious over achiever, the alpha guy, the goof-off, the serious geek, the arrogantly good looking guy, and lastly the rarest, the decent well-rounded guy (and these always had girlfriends or wives.)

I’d had one experience with a guy that belonged in the player file. That had been Bryan in 12th grade. He’d seemed like one of the decent well-rounded guys, but then a lot of them did until you got to know them a little bit.  During my freshman year in college there had been Mathew. He’d been the super serious over achiever. Generally I thought that super serious over achievers, alpha guys, even geeky guys were dateable by girls with the right personalities. Apparently I wasn’t one of those girls with the right personality. I was a solid A/B student but only by dent of much last minute stressing. Korin Procrastinate Veil, should be on my birth certificate instead of Korin Anne Veil. Mathew had come up with some creatively unkind things to say about that. Bryan would get forgiven someday, though I doubted I would say “Hi” to him if I saw him walking down the street. But he at least hadn’t used words as weapons, (just his eyes and hands which he’d put all over other girls while he was my boyfriend). Mathew, if I saw him, I could easily walk up to and punch. I hadn’t been really excited about the idea of dating anybody since Mathew. He’d kind of squashed that out of me. I hadn’t given up, but I hadn’t really jumped back in either.

Truth was, just a quarter side view had been enough for me to determine that Kakko Ii Otoko was not my favorite drama actor but I’d been more than willing to convince myself otherwise for the excuse to follow him. I had made it a game with myself, after Mathew, to try and categorize the guys I met, whether they were sort of friends or, boyfriends of friends or class mates, and I had discovered that I could peg most of them correctly, pretty quickly. I’d gotten Alley in on the game. And we’d have conversations that went something like, “Oh yea, Jallora’s new guy is defiantly an alpha-boy,” as soon as Alpha boy and Jallora were out of ear shot. The vibe, I had gotten off of Kakko Ii Otoko however had been hard to read. I wouldn’t have attempted to put him into any particular file, without spending some significant time with him and I had really wanted to think that he really didn’t fit neatly into any of my categories. For one thing, he had been by himself.  Around Hanako, Alley and I, almost everyone had been in groups. Groups of families or groups of friends. If anyone besides Kakko Ii Otoko had been alone, I didn’t see them. There had been a certain leisure, to the groups of people too, both the tourists and the people who had come to pray at the shrine. You didn’t really hurry when you were sightseeing and you certainly didn’t hurry when you were praying. But Kakko Ii Otoko had been very purposeful. He had not strolled as Hanako, Alley and I had stalked him. I had been so intent on keeping pace that I had lost Hanako and Alley. I had made it to the actual Shrine and to the altar by then, and I had watched, just watched as he had lowered his head.

I had had no idea what he was praying for or about, but I had been able to feel his sincerity, from where I had been, just to his right and some number of feet behind. It had…radiated off of him in his utter stillness as he had prayed. Not one of his muscles had twitched. His head had stayed bowed for a long time, and I remembered wondering if in the intensity of his prayer that he had even remembered to breath. I remembered being awed and made a little breathless by, by… his complete lack of equivocation. I couldn’t imagine everyone around him, at the altar, not being able to feel his whole heartedness. It had been coming off him in…waves that I swear I had been able to see like heat ripples. It had seemed that time had stopped and I remembered thinking that I had never seen or felt anything quite like him before. I had been more than deeply touched by his…diligence. I would not have believed, until I had seen him that any human being, let alone a 21 or 22 year old guy, could feel and not just feel but project such, unabashed, such unapologetic, humble reverence.  And I had remembered wondering very quietly at the back of my mind, because I didn’t want any thought of mine to disturb him, if he was that diligent in everything he did.

I could have moved forward at that time, to get a better look at his face. But I wasn’t Shintoist and I wasn’t about to be so rude as to approach the altar and get in the way of the reverent to get a look at some guy. I knew I was ridiculous but I wasn’t that ridiculous.  And I certainly, certainly had not wanted to disturb Kakko Ii Otoko in anyway. And I had wished for him, that whatever he had been praying for, that his prayers were answered. I had wished that for him with all of my heart, even as I could not imagine any God, not answering such an obviously genuine prayer.

I remembered that I had stopped breathing, when his head had at last come up. It had taken a moment for, my senses to recover from his intensity. I remembered hoping, idly that he would turn my way, to go back the way we had all come, and I hadn’t really shaken off the spell until he had turned, of course, the opposite way, giving me another good view of his back

It was then that I had realized that Hanako and Alley had lost me, or I had lost them, because when they had ran up to me, I had lost Kakko Ii Otoko in the crowd of people.

“Crap…” I had muttered as Alley had begun to chastise me for leaving her and Hanako behind. I had looked around frantically and spotted his ultra, white t-shirt. He had managed, in the span of about three seconds to get quite a ways away and I had taken off after him.

“Korin! You freak!” Alley had shouted after me before giving chase.

I came out of my reflections when Alley poked me in the shoulder.

“Earth to Korin…” she drawled. I looked over at her a little tiredly and a little depressedly. I doubted that I would ever meet a guy like Kakko Ii Otoko had seemed to be. And I took a moment to regret deeply that I would I never get the chance to know if KIO, really was as interesting as he had seemed to be. He had even managed to remain interesting while making it plain, that he thought I was complete crackpot for chasing him. I felt strangely like I had actually lost something, even though I had had absolutely no chance with him to begin with.

Around Alley and I seats were scraping, books were being stuffed into bags and our fellow students were bee-lining for the door.

“Class is over,” Alley said to me.

“Appears to be,” I agreed, trying to put as much enthusiasm as I could muster into my voice, because I didn’t really want Alley to divine my thoughts. I didn’t really want her to mention KIO again.

But she asked, “Back in Japan…were we?” as she handed me a small stack of handouts.

I nodded my head and then asked, as a measure of evasion, “Is it wrong to have dirty fan-tasties, about weird Japanese ice cream flavors?” I asked.

She chuckled and rolled her eyes at my play on words and then replied, “As long as it’s not the mayonnaise flavored ice cream you were thinking about.”

I made a face and shook my head.

“Then its fine,” she said standing up.

“Good,” I enthused.

I grabbed my book bag and Alley and I joined the throng, herding the door.

“Well,” Alley said after we made it out of the classroom and consulting the schedule she pulled out of the uber-cute messenger bag she’d gotten in Japan.

“We have ten minutes to get to the science building,” she informed me.

I made a noise, and hitched the strap of my bag all the way up my shoulder, “Let’s go then,” I said. And we did.

As soon as we got settled into our next class I pulled out my tablet and earphones. I settled my bag so that I could set my tablet in the top of it, and the teacher couldn’t see it, stuck the left ear phone into my ear, and quickly pulled up Youtube. I needed something, anything, to distract me from my thoughts of KIO. So I pulled up videos of my Kpop band, my favorite one, and let the music sink into my left ear, while I didn’t pay attention to the professor or Alley with my right. Hanako had also introduced Alley and I to Korean pop. Alley thought it wasn’t bad but wasn’t as crazy as I was about my favorite artists. I thought the stuff was bloody brilliant, and my favorite Kpop band had the power to lift my spirits, like nobody else I didn’t actually know, could.

I found myself often marveling at the machine behind the works of the Korean pop industry, They really knew how to put together a boy band. Start with a group of ridiculously good looking guys that unlike far too many pop acts, could actually sing ( or at least the guys in the groups I liked could) , and then give them the kind of songs, that you couldn’t stop singing, even when you knew all of about twenty words in Korean. Prior to Hanako introducing me to her favorite Korean pop acts I could not have found a single kind word to say about any boy band of any kind. And I still thought the rest of the world really needed to leave the entire concept of the boy band to the Koreans, because the groups they turned out, the good ones at least, made anything like it from any other country seem like, groups of little boy patsies and that was being as nice as I could be. There was one other word in particular, that came to mind but I wasn’t going to let it manifest in my mind. Instead I let my five favorite Korean hotties sing away my melancholy mood. They were a good reminder that the world was full of possibly interesting guys.

Alley had to poke me at the end of class again. Looking slightly put out, she handed me yet another stack of handouts. With I sigh, I stowed them in my bag and followed Alley out of the class room.

“Well,” Alley said, once again consulting her schedule. “We have 45 minutes until our next class.”

“Starbucks,” I said instantly.

“Yesss,” Alley agreed.

Starbucks was only two blocks from the school. We started walking. The humidity was thick and oppressive, and without my Kpop IV running in my ear, my spirits started to sag. The heat, and the humidity and the walking were way too much like being in Japan. We’d walked a lot in Japan. And Alley and I walked side by side in silence, and my wayward and exasperating mind suddenly wondered what Kakko Ii Otoko was doing just at the moment. It was just past 11am here. Tokyo was fourteen hours ahead, so that meant it was around 2am there. Most likely he was sleeping, And I wondered if he worked or maybe went to college. He was probably sleeping considering it was Tuesday in Japan, but he could be out with friends or … gulp… cuddling with a girlfriend. I didn’t like that thought. But my wretched over active imagination ran with it. They were doing more than cuddling. She was far prettier than me, with a slick of tumbled black hair, and huge dark doe eyes. KIO had her pressed to the bed, and of course the sheets were blood red and satin. Their eyes were locked expressions, heated and intense… her legs were around his hips. I shook my head violently trying to dispel the thought

Korin…” dimly I heard Alley call my name. Dimly I registered the funny catch in her voice, but I was so disturbed by the silly image that my wretched mind had just conjured, that I imagined another image of him, this time wearing his unseasonal hat, black hair tied back beneath it, white t-shirt that fitted his slim form perfectly, paired with dark wash jeans.

“Korin!!!!” Alley had grabbed my arm and was shaking it. The vision was too much to be drawn away from. He was walking toward us, on the sidewalk ahead, in my conjuring, with a blond guy that could be his Caucasian counterpart. They were the same height and build, and the guy’s wavy golden hair was collar length just like KIO’s and tied back under a stocking cap. They looked like yin and yang, the blonde guy was even wearing a dark t-shirt and light pants, the exact opposite of KIO.

“Holy Crap…”I heard Alley mutter wonderingly and then distantly I heard her whisper, “JAYZ… the look like a couple of hot-damned models,” in a breathy tone.

I locked eyes with KIO. In Japan, the chase had ended in a Harajuku shopping center, when KIO had finally gotten tired of me, Alley and Hanako tailing him. I thought I’d lost him around the corner of a display in the shop, but I’d rounded a dividing wall, only to bump into him… literally. I’d bounced off of his chest and stumbled backwards.

“Baka onna,” stupid women, he had muttered in disgust but he had reached out to steady me and I’d looked up into his face. I’d felt myself being wide eyed and dazzled. He was far, far too easy on the eyes and I had stared stupidly unable to even mutter an “I’m sorry.” Nothing like a set of big, gorges, almond shaped dark eyes, to steal a girl’s wits and voice. He’s said something to me then, something that my poor dazzled mind hadn’t been able to process. I had stuttered something like, “Uh….” And then he’d said, “Nihongo wakatenai,” she doesn’t understand Japanese, half to himself.

“Sumimasen,” I had managed to say at that point, “Honto ni Sumimasen.” Sorry, I’m really sorry, I had said.

He’d let go of my shoulders then and I’d remembered keenly the sensation of suddenly feeling, with the removal of the support, like a tall building in an earthquake. I’d continued to stare dumbly at him, as he’d said something else.

“Oi…” he had said then realizing I was uncomprehending, and waved a hand in front of my face.

“Omae no atama daijoubu?” he’d asked. Which was sort of like asking, “Does your mind work right?” The literal translation was, “Is your head okay?” Only his tone hadn’t been concerned or kind at all, it had been annoyed. And then he’d asked me very slowly in Japanese, “Why are you following me?”

“Uh…” I had stuttered feeling my face flush a deep red, “I thought you were someone else,” I’d managed in faltering Japanese.

He’d looked at me in disbelief.

“Sumimasen,” I’d heard myself say again. I’d wanted to erase the clear derision on his beautiful face. He’d shaken his head and turned away then and he’d murmured, under his breath, something that was somewhere along the lines of, “Stupid, creepy, girl.” I’d stared as he’d walked away, feeling a little bit like he’d ripped something out of me and taken it with him, “Iku na,” don’t go, I’d heard myself say softly under my breath, and it registered how pathetic I had sounded. He hadn’t even been nice.

When I was in middle and High School, whether they were celebrities or guys at my school, all the boys I’d had serious crushes on had, had big dark eyes. And it was at that point when KIO’s big, gorges dark eyes widened in horror and disbelief that I realized my “vision” wasn’t a vision at all. I made a perfectly priceless noise. Our eyes stayed locked as we approached each other. I felt my eyes swivel to the side, unable to do anything but maintain shocked eye contact as we passed each other, almost brushing as we did. A chill crawled down my spine, and my head followed my eyeballs around, “Arianai…..” Impossible, I heard myself say.

Holy Crap!” I heard Alley drawl, her tone thick with amusement.

It was unfortunate that I didn’t realize as my head followed my eyes all the way around, I had started walking sideways. And it was doubly unfortunate that my eyeballs weren’t watching where I was going.

“Korin!” I heard Alley exclaim but it was too late. I didn’t see the light pole until it smacked me in the face.

I didn’t think that I was out for very long but I had been out long enough that someone has fetched a plastic baggy full of ice, presumably from the Starbucks Alley and I had been almost made it to. Someone, I noticed as my vision swam back into focus, was kindly holding it to the side of my face that I had crashed into the pole with. That someone had rather spectacular sky-blue eyes and golden tendrils of hair poking out from under his white stocking cap and he was every ounce as perfectly beautiful as KIO.

“Are you all right love?” he asked me in a ridiculously appealing voice, that also happened to be British and  kind and amused at the same time.

I made a noise and tried to close my eyes.

“No, No…” Golden Boy said shaking me gently.

“I think,” I managed to croak, “that my pride is a little damaged.”

GB, hadn’t been expecting that because his blue, blue eyes widened for a moment and then his face broke into the kind of melting smile that could make a girl fall instantly in love with him. He laughed, cocked his head slightly and then he asked me, “Just your pride?”

I groaned, “Maybe my head to,” I admitted.

It wasn’t until then that I realized I was lying flat on the concrete sidewalk and that I was looking up at GB and he was looking down at me. I grabbed the ice bag on my face, holding it in place and started to sit up. GB, looped an arm around my shoulders and helped.

“Thanks,” I said as I winced and willed my poor head to stop spinning.

“O.M.G….Korin!? Are you okay?” It was then that I noticed, Alley looking very pale and wide eyed standing behind G.B.

“Tabun,” I answered. Probably.

“Are you sure?” she asked doubtfully.

“I’m fine,” I croaked, not very convincingly.

“You probably should go get looked at,” Golden Boy threw in his piece.

“No, I’m fine really….” I shook my head which made spots dance in front of my eyes and my stomach roil. I was about to add, ‘Can you help me up,’ when a third voice, one that wasn’t GB’s and certainly wasn’t Alley’s, because it was most defiantly male said, “You idiot. You bounced off the light pole, fell backwards and then bounced off the concrete. You need to go to the emergency room.”

I made a noise. The kind of noise a small frog makes when you step on it, a sort of squashed, high-pitched indrawn wheeze. I focused past Alley, an effort that required me to squinch my face and close one eye. Crouched on the grass of a slim median elbows on his knees and wearing much the same disgusted expression he had turned on me in Japan was Kakko Ii Otoko. I closed my other eye and relaxed my face.

“Amerikajin,” I observed helplessly under my breath.  American. He was American.

“That’s Jun, by the way,” Golden boy introduced, sounding deeply amused.

“Jun Himura and I’m Asher Madison.

Jun and Asher, two perfect sounding names for two really perfect looking boys.

“Fabulous,” I heard myself utter helplessly.

“Alley,” I heard myself whine, “I think you need to take me to the emergency room.”

“On what?” she whined back, suddenly sounding panicked, “The back of my bicycle? I can’t drive your car remember? And you wouldn’t let me even if I could!”

Alley didn’t own a car, and mine was a stick shift.

I groaned and Golden Boy… Asher started to chuckle.

“Well,” Asher said, “I don’t have a car so…. Ah.. Himura… Why don’t you go get yours?”

A string of furious expletives followed Asher’s suggestion.

I made another noise, the kind of noise a small frog makes after it’s been stepped on once but didn’t have the good grace to die so it had to be stepped on again to put it out of its misery.

“Never mind,” I said sounding as damaged as I felt, “Just help me up. I’ll survive.
Alley turned what I assumed was a glare on KIO…Jun. She had to turn all the way around so I didn’t see the look… but I knew Alley.

“Le’me call Jessica she won’t mind taking us,” and she pulled her phone out of her pocket after turning back around.

“I don’t think you need to stand,” G.B. said gently to me. I realized he was supporting most of my weight. I was sort of slumped against him as he sat on the pavement next to me.

 “I’m clogging the sidewalk,” I said reasonably.

“You don’t need to stand until you absolutely have to,” Asher said with unflappable patience.

“You’re the oldest of your siblings aren’t you?” I asked him dryly.

He laughed and I knew my assessment was correct.

“Jessica’s not answering. She’s probably in class,” Alley said with a sigh as she took her phone away from her ear.

“Call a cab then,” I suggested.

“There are taxis in this town?” Alley asked.

“Yep,” I said, “Google, Google. It’ll be cheaper than an ambulance,” I advised sounding, squashed.

Jun started cussing again. “I’ll get my car!” he growled standing up. I managed to focus one eye on him. He had the grace to look faintly alarmed as he met my gaze.

“I’ll be right back,” he said sounding a degree less irritated.

“K. Thank you,” I acknowledged, letting my eyes slide closed as I felt suddenly both nauseated and boneless.

“No, no…” Asher intoned, cupping the side of my face and turning it up so that I was staring into his blue, blue eyes. “You need to stay conscious,” he advised gently.

“Ummm ….” I protested. “But I’d really rather pass out.”

“No,” Asher said firmly.

“Pretty please?” I begged.

“No,” Asher insisted sounding amused.

“So how many younger siblings do you have?” I asked, which set Asher to chuckling again.

“Four younger sisters,” he said.

“Lucky girls,” I said enviously, “I’m an only child.”

“It’s Korin? Right?” Asher asked.

“Yep,” I confirmed.

“Well,” Asher said, “I am not opposed to adopting a few more sisters.”

Defiantly the sweetest guy I’d ever met. I smiled and Asher laughed at my expression.

“Jun’s car isn’t far. So I guess we’d better get you on your feet. I’m going to stand up and you’re not going to fall over.”

“Allrighty.”

Alley took the ice bag from me and Asher had to let go of me to get on his feet and I almost did fall over, but then he was grabbing me by both hands and hauling me to my feet. My stomach heaved and I collapsed against him with a whimper. I clutched at his t-shirt and silently cursed ill-placed light poles and a certain hot dark eyed boy, that didn’t have any business being in the same town as me.

“You know,” I said, more than a little miserably, “They say it’s a small world but now I really believe it.”

Asher who had clearly been informed of the situation chuckled dryly and Alley made a noise of disgust and said, “At least your mental acuity doesn’t seem to be impaired.”

I giggled a little hysterically, “Well, there is that,” I agreed just before an unholy rumble coming from down the street made me groan in pain.

“Please tell me that’s not Ka…” I stopped myself from saying Kakko Ii Otoko, “J-Jun’s car,” I stuttered his name because it was the first time I had said it out loud.

“I’m afraid that it is,” Asher had to speak above the rumble of the car as it pulled up to the curb.

The car was a lovely, lovely black Fire-bird Trans-Am and I’d seen it before. I whimpered and buried my face in Asher’s shoulder. That car lived in the same apartment complex as Alley and I. I had noticed it as soon as Alley and I had returned from Japan, its owner having presumably moved in while me and Alley were away.

“Come on,” Asher said gently misinterpreting my sudden discomposure. He gently maneuvered me toward the malevolently grumbling vehicle.

“You’re going to have to get into the back,” he tossed over his shoulder at Alley.

“Ah-right,” she said staring at the car un-moving. Asher waited for a half dozen seconds and then told her, still patient, “You’re going to have to open the door. If I let go of Korin she’s going to fall over.

Alley batted her baby blue eyes at him… “Ah! Right…sorry,” she said stepping forward, but she wasn’t fast enough, Jun, looking very irritable indeed popped out of the driver’s side and strode around  the long front end of the beautiful Pontiac. It fit him…I thought…that car. He yanked the passenger side door open and looking at Alley significantly, gestured with his eyes at the open door.

“Right,” she said, and grabbing both of our bags she slid into the back seat after fumbling a moment to get the front passenger seat to tilt forward.

“Korin’s going to have to sit in the front,” Asher told Jun, “I don’t think she’s agile enough, at the moment to make it into the back.” This drew a black look from Jun.

“Fine,” he snapped, turning a dark eyed look on first Asher and then me. I tried to make my face as apologetic as possible, but I probably just looked pathetic. So I let my chin drop and took a firmer two handfuls of Asher’s T-shirt. My knees felt rubbery and the left one tried to start to slide out from under me.

“You’re going to have to hold her while I get in,” I heard Asher tell Jun. I made a noise of protest and then looked up at Asher pleadingly. His responding smile was positively devilish.

“I promise he doesn’t bite,” Asher reassured.

I tried to glare at Jun, who was back to frowning irritably at me, but the effort just sent pin-points of pain lancing through the back of my head, so I gave it up. Jun sighed in a long suffering manner and stepped toward Asher and I. I think I pressed myself into Asher, who started laughing at me. I did not want Mr. Jun Himura touching me. I considered Asher the considerably safer person. He was actually nice and he didn’t have big, stupid, gorgeous, dark eyes, the kind of eyes that made me want to forget that Jun was kind of a dick.

“Good grief,” Jun exhaled. I didn’t have to see to know, he had rolled his eyes. I had two death grips on Asher’s poor t-shirt. He was chuckling still. I heard Jun sigh again and then he was prying my left hand free of Asher’s clothing.

I growled and Jun said to Asher as he was working at my fingers, “We are going to be late for class,” which set Asher to laughing.

“No,” Asher corrected, “We are going to be absent from class, probably for the rest of the day.”

It took a second for that to process. I stubbornly hung onto to Asher’s t-shirt, while Jun, cursing in Japanese under his breath, stubbornly worked at my fingers. He had my left hand free, and I was desperately trying to keep the right one anchored.

“Oh no,” I groaned as the implication of Asher’s assessment finally hit me. “We all go to the same school,” I deduced.

“Looks like it,” Jun observed with an insulting lack of enthusiasm. I growled some more, and Jun, now having both of my hands turned me carefully towards him.  My stomach did a summersault. I tried to ignore it and concentrated on the warmth of his skin instead, which was its own sort of mistake, because I really wanted to dive into his arms, an action I’d actually spent a considerable part of my summer fantasizing about. If I hadn’t already believed that God had a sense of humor, I would have now. I’d made a complete idiot of myself following him around a city that was halfway around the world, thinking that I would never see him again, and now here he was, living in my same apartment complex and going to my same school. God was defiantly, defiantly laughing his ass off. 

I managed to look up at Jun despite my heaving stomach and pounding head. Geez, my head swum for half a second, for a reason that had nothing to do with the knock it had taken.

“I’m sorry to be such a pain,” I apologized dejectedly, meaning it sincerely. At the moment I really, really wished he actually were someplace else. Then that way I wouldn’t have run into the light pole, and I could have kept my beautiful delusions about what might have been.  Talk about a lesson in be careful what you wish for.

Jun’s expression softened by one-tenth of one degree, as he took a better grip, which meant snaking an arm around my waist, and encouraging me to take a step toward the still rumbling Firebird. The close proximity with Jun, was not making me feel any better about myself or the situation. So I tried to distract myself from my wretchedness by asking Jun, as I took the final step to the side of his car, “Is this a 2002 Trans-Am WS6?”

I wasn’t looking at him in the face of course, but I felt his surprise. “Ah…yea it is,” both surprise and much begrudged respect were in his tone.

“Like cars do you?”  Asher asked me as he eased past Jun and I and into the back seat next to Alley.

“Almost as much as she likes….”

IF YOU FINISH THAT SENTENCE…”I preempted her before she could say, ‘dark eyed guys’. The effort to raise my voice however sent a wave of nausea crashing over me. I groaned and shaking myself free of Jun’s grasp I braced my hands on the roof of the Special Edition Trans-Am.

“Come on,” Jun encouraged after a couple of seconds to let me breath, “We need to get going,” he was pushing on the small of my back now. 

“Wait,” I begged, “I really don’t want to add throwing up in your car to my accruing list of embarrassments.”

Jun stopped pushing on my back.

“Just gimme a sec,” I said swallowing convulsively and inhaling deeply of the smell of old leather and Armor-all that was wafting out of the open door of the car. It was a comforting scent.

“Hand me that ice,” Jun demanded of Alley. Jun held the ice against my forehead. I breathed slowly in and out.

“I think I’m okay,” I said after a half dozen or more seconds had passed. The ice felt good.

“You sure?” Jun asked dubiously.

“Yea,” I said “Just please drive gently.”

Jun made a noise that was half sigh, half exasperated growl and then he was helping me into the passenger seat of the car. Jun handed me the ice and I held it against my forehead and Jun reached across me to pull the seat belt. After snapping it in place he carefully closed the door. The rumbling of the engine vibrated through the seat and into my head. Normally I loved the sound and feel of eight well-tuned cylinders, but not just at the moment.

‘Dear God,’ I thought pleadingly, ‘Please, please, please don’t let me puke in Jun’s car.’ I whimpered softly and then Jun was sliding into the driver’s seat and then carefully pulling away from the curb. The health of the engine was a little more bearable when the car was in motion, even if the motion of the car itself was making my stomach feel like a Coca-Cola that someone had just shaken violently.

‘Dear God, please, please don’t let me vomit in Jun’s car.’

I breathed deeply and steadily and pressed the ice-pack firmly to my forehead, concentrating on the cold searing my skin. Then Jun hit a pot hole and I made a perfectly indescribable noise as the sudden jar sent stabs of pain through my head which made my stomach role all the more.

“Korin…” Jun drawled my name in alarm. As bad as I felt I could still appreciate the sound of my name coming out of his mouth. It sent goose bumps chasing down my skin…pathetic.

“I’m fine,” I managed to gasp, though I had broken out in a cold sweat. Mind over matter, I thought, and I concentrated on not being sick. My will carried me to the emergency clinic and maybe because he was grateful that I managed not to puke in his car Jun didn’t scowl at me or look disgusted as he helped me out of the car in front of the clinic. He was almost kind enough, that I was almost sorry, that it was Asher and not him that helped me into the little emergency clinic. Almost, but Jun had to go park his car. I watched the Trans-Am pull away and the sigh I exhaled was totally involuntary and set Asher to laughing as he urged me through the automatic sliding, double glass doors and into the waiting area.

Asher found us a seat, while Alley, talked to the receptionist and filled out the necessary paperwork. It would be a few minutes, we were told. We were not the only ones in the waiting area, and apparently heat exhaustion had been a plague for the past week.

Jun joined us soon enough, taking a seat as far away from me as he could. I was sitting on one side of Asher, Alley on the other. I didn’t doubt that Alley had left the seat on my left side open just to give Jun, for my sake, the opportunity to sit there, but he took the chair, on Alley’s other side. I sank into my seat and tried not to feel deflated. I had after all, chased him through Tokyo and then run into a light post staring at him. I am sure he thought I was ridiculous and not a little pathetic. I felt ridiculous and more than a little pathetic.

Asher, whom I was beginning to think was both more sympathetic too and more comfortable with the silly antics of starry-eyed females, leaned out and gave Jun a look that suggested he was being a prat.

“What?” Jun hissed.

Asher shook his head, settled back into his seat and then draped an arm over my shoulders, thereby giving me a comfortable place, his shoulder, to lay my aching head.

“You’ll have to forgive Jun,” Asher said to me, “He’s incomparably stupid sometimes.”

“Nan da yo,” what the… Jun breathed in irritation.

Technically I had known Asher for less than thirty minutes, possibly a little longer depending how long I had actually been out and if one was counting the time from when I’d first lain eyes on him…before I’d hit the light pole, but I already felt completely comfortable with him.

I started to drift off, but Asher kept me from doing so by shaking me gently every minute or so. We waited and occasionally Jun would peer around Alley and Asher and frown at me. After about the third time this happened, I said “You don’t have to wait.” I sounded both weak and irritable at the same time.  “I am sure Alley can find someone who can come pick us up, when I’m done here.”

Jun grumbled something that my head was hurting too much to properly process. I caught his tone though, which was grumpy and put out.

Piqued, I struggled to sit up properly, I leaned forward, preparing to glare at Jun…fortunately, Asher had sense enough to grab my shoulders so that I didn’t fall forehead first into the floor. I pinned Jun with the best glare I could manage in my state, which judging by the unimpressed frown that pulled down his handsome face, wasn’t very effective.

“You do not,” I spoke slowly so that I was sure he understood me, “have to wait here.”

Jun sighed in an exasperated manner. “Yes I do,” he said in a tone I was unable to interpret.

I groaned in annoyance and sat back.

“Is he always so pleasant?” I asked Asher as I resettled in the crook of his arm.

“No, not always,” he answered before tightening his arm around my shoulder and resting his head on top of mine. Like this, I felt utterly safe and protected, which did nothing to abate the sleepiness that was growing ever fiercer. Asher, seemingly sensing my thoughts said… “Don’t even think about closing your eyes.”

And the look Jun awarded his friend on that statement spoke volumes about his disapproval of Asher and I’s quick and easy comfort level. I narrowed my eyes back at him but I don’t think he noticed.

Thankfully it was only another few minutes before I was called to an examining room. Alley and Jun stayed in the waiting room, while Asher supported me. I would not have been able to follow the nurse without his help.

‘Thank You,” I said at one point, “For being so kind,”

Asher only smiled brightly and said gently, “I don’t mind.”

But I didn’t let it go. “It’s nice to know there’s at least one guy in this world that’s not a complete butt-head.” I said this darkly and by that time the nurse was ushering us into a room. Asher helped me onto the paper covered exam table and held my shoulders so that I could stay sitting up. The nurse left us with the promise that the Doctor would be in shortly. Asher peered thoughtfully into my face, as I sat on the edge of the table and he braced my shoulders, so that I wouldn’t fall forward. I think I went cross eyed trying to interpret the look in his blue, blue eyes.

“The disturbing part,” he finally said, “Is that you really meant what you said,” he sounded troubled. “You haven’t been well treated at all, by my sex. I think,” he said with confidence.

I refrained from burdening him with the icky details. My first boyfriend had suffered from being a typical teenage guy, insensitive and thoughtless, but the second had been downright nasty at times. I knew I was ridiculous but Mathew had been creatively cruel at pointing that out to me at every possible opportunity.

Asher ruffled my hair and the doctor opened the door and entered the room.

He clicked his tongue and “tsked” softly over the bump on the back of my head and the flowering bruise on my face. X-rays were taken and I was given two different medicines via I.V. one for pain and another for nausea. The Doctor was pleased that I was able to think clearly and after my head scans were examined, it turned out that I had a mild concussion. I was given an instruction sheet on what I could and could not do and then I was finally and gratefully released to go home.

It was when, Asher was helping me back into Jun’s grumbling black Pontiac beast that I remembered that I was now going to have to explain, that we lived in the same apartment complex. With a sigh Jun, guided the car carefully out of the parking lot.

“So where I am going?” Jun asked me, sounding only slightly huffy.

I swallowed back a sigh, and realized that I was not at all excited that we lived in the same complex, and probably just a few doors from each other.

“Well…” I said. Clearly noting the funny catch in my voice, Jun looked sharply at me, “Ah…” I hedged and then, “The cherry red custom 1976 Vette is mine,” I confessed.

Asher’s burst of laughter from the back seat, half smothered Jun’s explosive curse.

It took a few seconds for both of them to calm down, when they did, Asher leaned forward and peered as far around my seat as his seat belt would let him, “So umm…” he began, “You know a bit about cars…”

“My dad’s a mechanic,” I explained, “He really likes GM products…” I shrugged and then added, “We built my Vette.”

Asher chuckled wickedly, and Jun had a few not very nice things to grumble under his breath.

“So…” Asher drawled clearly, clearly enjoying this development, “What’s it run?”

“Ten point five, in the quarter.”

Asher punched Jun in the shoulder, and I could see Jun’s ears turn red.

“That’s about two seconds faster than your car Jun.”

Jun sucked in a very hard breath, and his jaw clinched. Part of me wanted to feel sorry for Jun, I kinda had messed up his day. But he hadn’t been very nice, so I couldn’t really find it within myself to be really sorry.  And Asher wasn’t done.

“So, do you just build Corvettes, or can you fix them also?”

I cleared my throat before answering, “My dad raised me and my sister so…we spent a lot of time in the garage.”

Asher’s throaty chuckled was positively diabolical.

`“You’re a talented women,” Asher approved.

I could feel Jun being irritated. I could see the tension in his jaw and the color that had come to his face. Asher just kept chuckling.

“Umm…” Alley piped up from the backseat, behind Jun, “I feel like I’m missing something.” Alley wasn’t really into cars, so that meant that she hadn’t noticed Jun’s Tran-Am sitting just a couple spaces over from my car, when we’d left this morning.  “We all live in same apartment complex,” I explained to her.

“Oh...” Alley drawled like she wasn’t really sure that was a good thing.

I was pretty much ready to think that Jun needed to go find a new place to live. I didn’t really want to see him or his shiny black Special Edition Firebird ever again, but seeing as how I really wanted to adopt Asher as the older brother I’d never had, that meant I had to put up with Jun.

Jun didn’t say anything for the rest of the drive. I didn’t either, it was Asher who broke the silence that had descended upon the interior of the Trans-Am, “So which flat?” he asked as Jun eased his car into the parking lot of Section B of The Willow Crossing apartments.

“B6,” Alley replied for me.

Jun groaned and Asher started laughing again. “We’re in B8,” he said.

I just sighed. We were in upstairs apartment’s right across a walkway from one other.

“Wow,” Alley intoned softly as though the entire course of events was just now processing.

“Yea, Wow,” Jun echoed in a dry tone that burned the back of my eyeballs. The nausea, had subsided and the pain meds had kicked in too. So now I could actually feel angry. I felt my face flood with heat. Jun eased the Firebird into the spot I had spotted it in this morning. Sh


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