Chapter 3 – A Rose for a Rose

It was the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. Of course for a boy his age, he wasn’t sure WHAT was the most beautiful when it came to flowers. Every boy his age would find ANYTHING beautiful, and EVERYTHING looked marvelous in his eyes. He pushed himself on the bike a little closer to the gates and watched in awe at the different varieties of flowers the brick house was surrounded with. The only ones he recognized were the roses and the lilies. The little boy glanced to his right to find a little girl his age sitting on a ceramic bench, watching a woman kneeled down, gardening and humming a tune. The little girl had long blond hair and what seemed to him to be red-purple eyes. She was watching the woman with great admiration and he could tell by the look in her eyes as they glow. To him, they were also quite pretty. He turned his head back towards the girl. He only realized that her hand gripped tightly and even possessively around a basket full of roses and was startled when she suddenly turned to look at him. She gave a smile and he was even more surprised when she stepped down from the bench and approached him, swinging the basket in her hand back and forth. The little boy couldn’t move, frozen by the look in her eyes.

When she was close enough, she grabbed a rose from her basket and offered it to him. “Do you want one?” she asked sweetly, her voice small, yet soft.

The little boy stared at the rose in her tiny hands. Without as so much a question, he took the rose from her and stared at it. He looked back up at the girl but she was already sitting back on the bench, staring with admiration towards the woman gardening.

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What on earth had happened last night? Takashi thought. He ran a block before stopping in front of a house he usually passed for his morning jogs. It was a nice brick house, not usually seen in a Japanese home, but it was still beautiful nonetheless. Tall trees surrounded the sides of the house and the grass was very green. Takashi has always wondered whether anyone lived there, but he usually didn’t give himself a break for far too long or he would lose his edge. He clenched his fists at his sides and started running again.

Forgetting the house again, he began thinking a lot more about Koboshi ever since she came to visit from America. He has always liked her, even though many people thought that he liked Shia. Of course, some parts of it were true, but his heart will always belong to Koboshi. He didn’t really understand his feelings at first, but then he began to realize, as he stood there watching her pour her heart out about Kotarou, that his feelings actually became real.

He stopped again. Yes, he and Kotarou have already renewed their friendship after that whole fiasco about his jealousy towards Kotarou about Koboshi, but….that look on the blond girl’s face from last night hit him a lot more than he knew it would Kotarou. Takashi heard something bang in front of him and it took him a moment to realize that he had punched through a wall very hard that his right knuckle was starting to bleed. He glanced down at his now bleeding hand and winced, only feeling the pain just after he started moving his fist around.

“Ten-chan?”

Takashi looked up and noticed Koboshi standing there, watching him curiously. Great, the one person he wished he didn’t see at this time of emotional distress. “Oh…Uematsu! How’s it going?” He had forgotten about his bleeding hand, but Koboshi had seen it before he could remember.

Koboshi gasped when she noticed this. “Ten-chan! Your hand is bleeding!” She runs to him, grabs something from her bag and takes it out. It was a long, white handkerchief. “Give me your hand.”

Takashi said nothing as he held out his hand to her. He watched as Koboshi gently took it and began wrapping the white handkerchief gently around it. She tied the ends together and looked up at him.

“It’s not too tight, is it?” she asked, worriedly.

Takashi shook his head. “It’s just fine,” he replied, moving his hand around now. He glances back at her. “What are you doing in this part of town?” Takashi just noticed that she was holding some kind of bento box wrapped inside a floral designed blue handkerchief.

Koboshi nodded, frowning and looking down at the bento box in her hand. “My Aunt lives around here and she’s sick. These are for her.” She lifted up the box and showed it to Takashi. “My parents just called me to let me know last night that she’s not feeling well.”

“Oh. A cold?” When she didn’t answer, Takashi knew it was MORE than just a cold. “I’m sorry, I didn’t….” He decided to close his mouth so he wouldn’t say any stupid words to upset her than she already is.

The blond haired girl shook her head and looked up smiling. “No, it’s all right.” It looked as though she was trying to hold back the tears that were always welling up inside of her. Come to think of it, Koboshi’s eyes were still quite red, confirming him that she had cried before she made her way to this part of town. “I made her some of her favorite pastries and I thought I’d stop by right now and give her a visit.”

Takashi nodded. “Oh okay…”

“You can come if you want. I could use some company…” Koboshi walked pass him and made her way towards the brick house in which Takashi was eyeing earlier. He was surprised that once they were near the gate, he glanced at her.

“She lives here?” Takashi asked her. It was no wonder it looked as though no one has lived there forever. Her Aunt must be really sick.

Koboshi nodded. “Yes. It used to be so beautiful.” She opened the gate and walked along the covered cemented steps that led to the steps of the front door. “My Aunt Minako would go outside every morning, even at this hour to start gardening.” She pointed to the weeds that accumulated around the pathway. “Where the weeds are, there used to be a trail of roses and daises along the cemented path. I used to come here every morning as a child to watch her garden. There was always a smile on her and she would sing a beautiful song with her lovely voice. Sometimes I would sit in that bench over there…” She looked to where she thought a ceramic bench would be, but found none. “Oh, I guess her daughter took it out…” There was a disappointed look on her face. “I would sit in that bench over there and listen to her hum a song while she dug a hole for the flower seeds.”

Takashi suddenly remembered that THIS was the house where he first meets her. No wonder he didn’t remember because the house has changed so much that the memories of meeting her in the first place had erased all that. He DID remember this house…now he knew why he would always run by here and watch the house for a moment before continuing on his way.

“Ten-chan?” Koboshi had reached the top of the stairs, about to knock on the door. Takashi looked up and said nothing before joining her at the front steps. “Are you all right?”

Takashi nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He waited for Koboshi to knock on the door before taking a swift glance to where he remembers seeing Koboshi sitting on that bench where she thought it was.

After two more knocks, the door finally opened to reveal a woman in her early twenties with long dark hair looking at them. “Can I help you?” she asked, eyeing Koboshi and then Takashi and then Koboshi again.

Koboshi gave a bow and smiled, showing her the bento box. “Ohayo gozaimasu, Hinari-chan! It’s me Koboshi!”

The woman named Hinari stared at her before giving a wide smile. “Oh my gosh! Neko-Koboshi-chan?”

Koboshi winced at the childhood nickname and grinned, nodding. “Hai!”

Hinari hugged her and stepped aside to allow Koboshi and Takashi some room to go through. Once they were inside, the dark haired woman closed the door behind her. Koboshi and Takashi both took off their shoes and they were led by Hinari to a large room where a large bed was situated. “How is she?” Koboshi whispered as they paused by the door.

The dark haired woman sighed. “She’s sleeping well, but her appetite is slowly fading. The doctor said she has at least a week to last.”

Koboshi nodded, gulping silently to keep her tears from falling. Takashi knew she was doing this, because she’s done this many times before…mostly to keep her tears from showing in front of Kotarou when she was rejected by him.

Hinari glanced at her. “I’m glad you’re here. She’s been asking about you, wondering when you’d come to visit. I didn’t know you were here so I called your parents and told them about what happened and asked about you. They told me where you were and they told me that they were going to call you. I’m glad that you came.”

Koboshi nodded again and handed Hinari the pastries. “I brought her favorite pastries, so in case she wants it…”

The dark haired woman smiled, taking the pastries in her arms. “Thank you very much, Koboshi-chan.” She gave her cousin a hug before pulling away. “Do you want to talk to her? I’m sure she can hear you and is looking forward to hearing your voice.”

The blond girl smiled. “All right.”

Hinari approached the bed, followed by Koboshi, with Takashi not far behind her and touched her mother’s frail hand. “Okasan? Koboshi-chan is here,” she spoke gently. She glanced at Koboshi before stepping aside.

Minako didn’t look too old. From what Takashi could see, she looked to be in her mid forties, but the illness seemed to have aged her a lot more. She was still beautiful, with hazel eyes and auburn hair, which was a complete opposite of what Koboshi looked like. She must be Koboshi’s mother’s sister. Minako turned her head ever so slowly and glanced at Koboshi. She gave a kindly smile, making her look a lot younger. “Koboshi-chan…I’m so glad you’re here. How are you?”

Koboshi sat down on a chair beside the bed and took her Aunt’s hand in hers. “How are you Auntie?” It was an ironic question to ask for Koboshi, but her lips would not stop from saying it.

Minako kept the smile on her face. “Look at you! You have grown into a beautiful young woman!” She lifted up a hand gently and touched Koboshi’s cheek. Slowly, she turned towards Takashi, who stood there awkwardly. “Oh, it’s you…I’m glad you’re here too. It’s been a while, Takashi-kun!”

Surprised, Koboshi glanced at Takashi. “You know her?”

Takashi stared down at the woman, searching through her face for an answer. Minako laughed and her laughter quickly died down with a cough. Concerned, Koboshi squeezed her hand gently. “I don’t blame you for not remembering such a short memory from a four year old boy. You were both too young to remember. His mother and I went to high school together.” She smiled up again at Koboshi. “Koboshi-chan, I want you to look inside that drawer over there.” Minako nodded towards the drawer to her right.

Koboshi did so and opened the first drawer. Inside was a rectangular box. “Go ahead, pick it up and open it,” Minako spoke softly, coughing again. The blond girl followed her instructions and picked up the box and opened it. She blinked. Inside the box was a rose, with its petals rotten and were about to fall off. Around the stem of the rose was her name, which seemed to have been written by a little kid. “My…my name is on it. I-I don’t understand.” She glanced over her shoulder at her Aunt.

Minako smiled at her. “A certain little boy stopped by the next day you gave this to him and asked for you, but you weren’t here at the time. So I told him I would give it to him. He seemed disappointed though that he couldn’t give it to you in person, but even then he gave it to me. I kept forgetting to give it to you, but when I FINALLY remembered, you were already gone for America.”

“But that means this rose has been with you for fourteen years, right?”

The woman laughed. “I apologize for taking so long to give it to you. It must be the brain tumor in me.”

Koboshi stared at the rose, while behind her, Takashi stood awkwardly, watching the rose that his best friend held up to look at the writing closely. He too, saw the writing and he recognized the writing anywhere.

“It must be him,” she whispered, smiling. “I can’t believe he did this. I mean, Kotarou-kun KNEW me before we met in preschool together.” She hugged the rose carefully in her arms and continued to stare down at it. “I can’t believe I didn’t remember!”

Takashi winced. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked away. Even all these years, she STILL thinks of him. “Well I think I better go. I have class this afternoon and I still have to do my homework for a bit. I’ll see you later, Uematsu?”

Koboshi looked up and nodded. “Okay, see you later Ten-chan!” She gave a smile and watched him leave the room, before turning back around to stare at the rose.

Minako watched the door close behind the young man and looked back at Koboshi. It was hard to believe that even for a smart young woman like Koboshi, that she could be blinded from the real thing called, ‘love.’

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Little Takashi thought about the rose that was given to him. It was hidden underneath his bed, but he didn’t know why he was too shy to show it to his mother. “Okasan?” He looked up at his mother, who was chopping up onions for dinner. “What does a red rose mean?”

His mother glanced at him sitting at the dining room table. She stared at him as if it was the oddest question a little boy would ask his mother. “A red rose? Well, it depends who gives you the red rose, but it means ‘love.’ Why, sweetheart? Did someone give you a rose?”

“Oh okay.” Takashi didn’t answer his mother’s question instead he jumped down from the chair and walked inside his room. Love? He always thought that love was what a parent would give to a child. Why then would that girl give him a red rose? Did she think she is his mom or something? She was an odd one, but nevertheless, he grabbed the rose from under the bed and stared at it. He walked over to his desk, grabbed a piece of paper, ripped it so it was small enough to wrap around the stem of the rose. What was her name again? Oh yes…Slowly, he wrote the little girl’s name on it and taped the ends together, attaching it to the stem of the rose. Now, she’ll know that this rose is hers. He didn’t need a rose anyway and besides, he already had a mother. Takashi stuffed the rose in his jacket pocket and ran out of the room.

“Ten-chan? Where are you going?” his mother’s voice echoed from the kitchen.

Takashi paused by the front door. “I’ll be back in time for dinner, I promise!” He opened the door and left, riding his bike back to that brick house where the little girl was.

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