"A Binge Drinking Situation"
For her very first year as a university student, Kaoru ended up renting a two-bedroom apartment alone. If the young bright-eyed woman had known that she will end up being the only one to pay for the not-so-cheap flat, she would have at least tried to convince her older brother to let her crash at his place until she found a roommate. However, when Misao ditched her friend after a month of co-renting the mentioned flat to take a gap year, that ship had already sailed.
Admittedly, Kaoru was a bit mad at her friend for this betrayal, but they were still on good terms. The young bright-eyed woman loved receiving photos of interesting and beautiful places Misao would visit during her backpacking trip around the world. Those pictures would show up in her mail around once a week, and Kaoru, acting as if she was a proud mother, would stick the said photographs on the fridge.
The only times Kaoru was truly mad at her best friend for leaving like that, was during those particularly hard days at work.
As she couldn't afford to pay for the apartment while working only one part-time job the young woman got two, and well... Both of them were at retail. Those kinds of jobs give you grey hair long before due time and the bright-eyed female was starting to feel as if she will soon need to start dyeing her hair to hide them.
Another thing that caused the young woman great distress during her first year as a university student, was the simple fact that she had to see her brother's face. A lot.
The rooster-head just had to decide to take a gap year for the third time, after seeing Misao so happily taking off. Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered to the dark-haired woman that much, as she knew perfectly well what a free spirit her older brother was, if he wouldn't have constantly come to her flat in search of company.
"It's just this once." He would start as soon as his younger sister would open the door. "Kenshin's at work and I'm about to go insane looking at the crackling ceiling of our apartment."
No matter how much Kaoru loathed the older man loitering around in her flat, it wasn't like she didn't appreciate Sano's visits either, as she herself quite disliked being alone for long periods of time. And hence, the dark-haired woman would let him in every time.
Though it did take her only five minutes to start regretting the said action.
During that first year, she would mostly see Sanosuke's redhead roommate only in passing. Usually, as he left for work, while Kaoru hypocritically was loitering around their apartment, as being in her own flat she had deemed to be too lonely, or when she delivered a drunk Sano home.
The latter one, however, happened very rarely and the young female could even count those times using the fingers on only one of her hands.
"Do I seem that much of a monster that I would like my job?" Kenshin answered her with a question, one of those nights.
Kaoru had asked the redhead if he enjoyed working as they were standing near a bus stop and waiting for the last bus of the night.
No matter how much the dark-haired woman refused, insisting that she would be fine on her own, Kenshin made it an honour thing to walk her to the bus stop and wait for the bus along with her, whenever she ended up bringing Sano back late at night. Probably, because most of the time she would no longer be sober herself.
Usually, the bus would come in a matter of minutes, however, for some reason, tonight it was taking an especially long time. So, Kaoru decided to make some small talk, to, in turn, make the time go by faster.
The older man had been laughing as he said those words, but the young woman beside him could clearly see the tiredness on his face.
"That bad?" The bright-eyed female returned the smile.
"Well, they use me more as an errand boy rather than an actual lawyer, but what can I do." He played with his fire-red long hair while answering. The man before Kaoru was no longer laughing, but a child-like smile still remained on his lips. "And how's it going for you?"
"About to start rocking grey hair."
The two of them continued to talk about everything and nothing at the same time until Kaoru noticed a neon number flashing in the distance.
"Well, that's me. You can finally go back and get some rest!" The young woman giggled while stretching her hands above her head and trying to stop herself from yawning.
"You too." The red-haired man whispered, amused at the apparent sleepiness in her voice, as he watched his best friend's sister get on the bus.
Time flew by quickly and when four seasons had changed Misao came back from her year-long trip.
Finally, Kaoru could quit both of her jobs and find another, more enjoyable one. As a result, the young woman started working as a waitress at one of the many small restaurants in the old town.
Most days there were slow, with only a few customers sitting down at her tables. The pay was a bit lesser than at either of her previous jobs, but the young university student liked it there. At least, she no longer felt the need to check her head for any grey hairs every evening.
Misao, however, did not come back alone. With her was a handsome tall stone-faced foreigner by the name Aoshi, with whom she claimed to be in love. Kaoru could never quite read the man by her best friend's side, but from time to time she would notice a spark of adoration in his otherwise usually ice-cold blue eyes.
The two love birds had spent the whole summer together, in the same flat Kaoru and Misao co-rented, often making the blue-eyed woman feel like a third wheel and even resulting in her walking in on scenes she never wanted to see.
Due to this, the dark-haired female spent many nights that summer sleeping on the sofa in Sanosuke and Kenshin's apartment. Amid one of those nights when she sought refuge in the men's flat, the young university student found out that her brother's redhead roommate had a girlfriend.
The woman's name was Megumi. She was a beautiful dark-haired woman, who carried herself with confidence and maybe even had a slight air of superiority around her. Megumi also was only a few years younger than Kenshin and was currently having her internship at the hospital few blocks away.
Kaoru felt a slight pang of pain in her chest at this new-found information. Only then did she realise that she might've had a crush on the older man.
However, a while later she was no longer as sure that her feelings could be classified as even that.
The young bright-eyed woman thought, that she had been more in love with the idea of him than the person himself. And even if it wasn't so, she made it her truth. That way, it was a lot easier to get over the heartbreak. After all, if she only fancied the idea of this gentle, polite and funny man, without a doubt when she will truly fall for someone, those feelings will easily be overshadowed.
Hence, it didn't take long for the young university student to start dating another.
The man was a funny and warm person, an art student to boot and only a year older than herself. In all honesty, Kaoru didn't start going out with the art student because she felt particularly attracted to him. Actually, it was more of a need to change something in her life and he just happened to ask her out at the right time.
Admittedly, the bright-eyed woman did feel guilty from time to time and if it was any other person, she probably wouldn't have had the heart to proceed with this course of action. Mostly why she did end up going through with it, though, was because she was almost sure that the young artist's feelings towards her weren't that genuine either.
And also, it was incredibly easy being with the art student. He had the gift of making her laugh and would paint the most beautiful portraits of her, saying she was his one and only muse. The young female loved how those words, whispered by her boyfriend, rang in her ears, even if they were greatly exaggerated.
Sometimes, the man would profess his love to her, catching her off guard. Those times, Kaoru lied to her partner, saying that she loved him too. The young dark-haired woman simply didn't want to hurt his feelings, when he was so gentle with her.
Even after many years, when they had gone their separate ways long ago and the only memory left of the art student she once called her boyfriend was a portrait of her, which he painted during those days she spent at his apartment, Kaoru wasn't so sure if he had ever been to her anything more than a friend with benefits.
With Kaoru living in this comfortable relationship, the seasons changed once again. Aoshi had to finish his trip and return home, leaving Misao sad and bitter due to the distance between them. Sanosuke had changed several girlfriends and now, once again, was single, while Kenshin and Megumi preserved. Just like Kaoru and her art student.
When the leaves started changing their colour, and some of them had even fallen already, the small group consisting of the six of them, decided to spend their evening drinking together. Well, actually that wasn't the initial plan. At first, it was supposed to be only a dinner with friends, but it just ended up turning into this binge drinking situation.
That night, Misao drank because she was lost and didn't quite know what to do with her life from then on. Quite frankly, she expected her trip to help her find a peace of mind, however, that never happened. And, of course, she also drank due to the fact that she and her lover were separated by thousands of kilometers.
Sanosuke drank because he fancied the young doctor, whom his best friend and roommate called his girlfriend, and because, being the loyal friend he was, he had promised himself to never breathe a word about it to anyone. And he kept it. Except for this one moment of weakness, when he called Kaoru in the middle of the night, telling his younger sister everything. Simply because he needed to tell someone.
Kenshin drank not only to keep his best friend company, but also because the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, which visited him every autumn, was crushing him particularly hard that night.
Megumi drank due to reasons unknown to anyone else. After all, with the only exception of Kenshin, no one in the small group was close enough to the female to share secrets with her. And even if the red-haired man tried to guess, he didn't share his thoughts about the woman, who hardly made any sense to him anymore, with anyone.
Kaoru drank due to the inexpressible feeling of inferiority which had haunted her for the last few weeks, and which had intensified sitting there, only few people away from the beautiful and sophisticated female doctor to whom, at least in her mind, she couldn't even begin to compare to.
Her art student drank because of the strange atmosphere looming over the rest of the group. Because of the looks the redhead and his girlfriend would occasionally exchange and the feeling that he simply didn't belong there.
Later that night, Megumi admitted the reason for her sadness. With the exception of Kaoru's art student, nobody heard her, and the young artist had already been far too drunk to comprehend the meaning of her words, resulting in them being lost forever.
Just before the young doctor decided to talk, Sanosuke and Misao went out for a second round, after being turned down by the rest of the group countless times.
With both souls of the party gone, Kaoru's art student turned on the TV, causing his girlfriend to wake up from her nap. No matter how much the young woman wanted to stomp her feet angrily after being woken up so abruptly, she made no fuss at all, as she was far too tired to act on her fury's behalf, and just left the living room and continued to sleep, only now in her brother's bed.
Kenshin was completely unable to find the peace of mind he so craved, and the TV going off in the background messed up his thoughts even more. No longer being able to stand the noise, the red-haired man decided to leave the flat and wander around the dark streets and alleyways, before returning home and coming to a conclusion that he should take a nap himself.
When he opened the door to his room, the redhead noticed a petite figure of his best friend's younger sister sleeping on his bed, completely oblivious to the man standing only few meters away from her. The short man gently nudged her, trying to wake the young woman up. However, it took him a lot more than that to do it. He hadn't known that Kaoru was such a heavy sleeper.
As she woke up, the blue-eyed female felt the heat rising up her cheeks, quickly realising her mistake. She wanted to bolt from the room due to the overwhelming feeling of embarrassment swallowing her up, but Kenshin only laughed, saying that there's no need to feel ashamed. After all, the doors to his and Sano's rooms were not only right next to each other, but also identical.
A light conversation began between these two, reminiscing about the hot summer nights and days which they didn't get to spend together. Soon Kaoru started ranting about something, but Kenshin wasn't able to hear her voice, too immersed in the way the young woman's skin glowed in the streetlights shining through the window of his room.
They moved to sit closer, as the redhead claimed that it was difficult for him to make out her quiet voice due to the television blasting at full sound in the living room.
However, Kenshin wasn't the only one to feel braver under the veil of night, with alcohol flowing in his veins. Kaoru became a lot bolder too. She decided to allow herself that, preparing to use the excuse of being drunk if needed.
Once the two of them were sitting close enough, the young woman started fluttering her eyes more and controlling her laugh, just enough so that it would sound seductive.
The flame in the bright-eyed female's heart, which had already been burning low, was rekindled again.
And then, Kenshin kissed her. With absolutely no regard to their respective partners sitting in the other room and the possible consequences of his action.
It was a passionate, but short-lived kiss. The kind which makes you go weak in the knees from the overwhelming feelings of joy and need, but which you start regretting almost instantly.
"I'm sorry, but it's late." Were the very first words to leave Kaoru's mouth after she sobered up due to the shock of his action. "I should leave."
No longer feeling as flirty, she suddenly became very painfully aware of the cute art student and the pretty doctor watching TV together just behind a thin wall.