People say that when you have the view from the top, you see more. Well, for Wataru that didn't seem to be the case.
He'd always liked this spot - right at the top of the playground's set of ladders for the kids to climb. Though he wouldn't say he saw more from there. He saw further, but if 'further' meant the distant buildings, trees and even more distant sky, did that mean it was more? Besides, he did tend to miss what was right in front of him. Or rather, like now, about two metres below and to the right - on that blue plastic... animal or something.
Wataru could've sworn he saw a little girl sitting there, but she flitted - like a curious afterimage - out of his sight before he could focus. All he saw was a key ring with a winged bunny she seemed to have left behind.
Wataru had never heard anyone say that apples were interesting.
Probably because they weren't. Apples were not containers of mysteries and wonders of this universe (though Wataru sometimes thought that maybe for hardcore biologists they were all that and more). They were just ordinary... apples.
And yet every time Wataru so much as smelled one, he was teased with vague memories of endless gardens and sunshine. The garden back at his parents' place - homely and familiar as it was - certainly bore no resemblance to the images in Wataru's mind.
Odd that. Odd and interesting and it never failed to make Wataru think there might be something slightly wrong with him.
He munched on the last of the apples he brought with him to work and prepared for the rest of his longer-than-usual shift. The money for the stolen things were not going to miraculously fall into his lap, but even though he was a total failure when it came to any sort of confrontation, he could at least work hard.
It turned out the little girl was real. She told Wataru to keep the winged bunny and in exchange Wataru gave her one of his four remaining mysteries: an apple.
The guitar definitely spoke to him, he just wasn't entirely sure what it was saying.
To that end he bought a self-study book and diligently set to learning the language of violin keys, octaves, breves, quavers and rests. He wasn't half bad at it.
Also, it didn't hurt that the woman from the music shop he got his guitar from, seemed to like him. Wataru liked her too. He might have even hoped for more but as with every relationship in his life, it ended before it even began. For a moment he'd forgotten that he was not only a failure at confrontations but at normal interactions with most people as well.
Why was that, he wasn't sure. So he wasn't outgoing, didn't joke around and rarely smiled, but that wasn't so unusual, was it? He'd also heard 'too gentle' and 'living entirely in his own world'. This was, apparently, not a good thing.
But recently he'd made at least one friend - somehow he and the little girl from the playground bonded over apples, bunnies and Wataru's attempts at his own music. It spun from under his aching fingertips so naturally he was surprised himself. He loved the guitar's language and it seemed to love him in return.
And then it too had to end. One day instead of the little girl, Wataru was visited by an old lady. She gave him an origami bunny - for Wataru clumsily scrawled on its side - and left without a word.
That night Wataru cried for the first time in years.
But well... maybe he needed that cry because the next morning he was calmer. Collected.
He left home at dawn, went to the playground and stood on the set of ladders there for the kids to climb, as high as he could. He waited for the warmth of the first sun rays, the weight of wings on his back unfamiliarly insubstantial, and when the sun finally shone, he smiled.
It was all right. The pain had ended. For some at least. He closed his eyes and let himself think of nothing at all.
He didn't know how long he stood there, but when he opened his eyes, the playground was still empty. He climbed down, letting his mind be dragged back to mundanity of everyday concerns. He just knew that each next day would again look the same, nothing really interrupting the monotony of his existence. The prospect was bleak, to say the least.
Wataru turned, hearing his name.
Behind him stood a man. A foreigner - paler than usual skin, dark hair, dark suit and, when he came closer, the bluest eyes Wataru had ever seen. The most startling thing about him, though (and the one that definitey marked him as out of ordinary there), was a pair of huge grey wings sprouting from his back. They could not be mistaken for anything but real; they moved too gracefully as the man folded them neatly.
Wataru stumbled back in shock. This had never happened to him, he'd never hallucinated in his life so why now? Stress? Overwork? Should he go and see a doctor?
"Are you okay?" The man meanwhile asked, concern clear in his face.
Wataru was not able to go beyond mechanical nodding, but then he finally blurted out:
"What... what are those? The wings?"
Well, of course they were wings but the stupidity of his question was the last of Wataru's concerns right now.
The man brightened.
"Oh, you can see them. Not everything is lost then,"
"Lost?" That was, if possible, even more unnerving.
"You've been here alone for centuries. No wonder you've forgotten."
The man put his finger under Wataru's chin, but there was nothing but gentleness in his eyes. Wataru stayed still.
"Time to remember," the man said and touched his lips to Wataru's.
The shock of the memories flooding back made Wataru gasp, allowing the man's tongue to slip into his mouth. The kiss calmed him, though. The memories settled.
And later - safely hidden from human eyes in Wataru's tiny flat - with careful touches and caresses, Gabriel coaxed the real wings out of Wataru's arching back. Their span was still impressive and the feathers soft as sakura petals and white as the colour of mourning.