"Every word feels like a shooting star
I'm at the edge of my emotions
Watching the shadows burning in the dark."
- 'Terrified' by Katherine McPhee -
“I’ll go find him,” I stated firmly before slinging my bag over my shoulder and taking off, ignoring their protests. I would meet up with them later. Anyway, Shu going missing wasn’t their fault - it was mine. I shouldn’t have said that the other day. Thinking about it afterwards, he was right. What did I know about his life? The both of us were only teammates and nothing more.
‘He doesn’t remember you,’ a voice whispered in my mind.
True, that. A sigh escaped me as I took a moment gather myself, memories flashing through my mind. Fragments of laughter and fun and joy, all the good times when we were younger.
Most usually assume that Brett was my best friend, and while that was true now…
Shu had been my very first friend, before everything changed. Our parents had been good friends, and the visits to each other’s house had been constant. Shu and I always did everything together and we often got into trouble. Or, well, he got us into trouble and I tried to keep us out of it. Though sometimes it was the other way round…or we just dove into trouble head-first. Without meaning to.
Oh who am I kidding? We went after it. Sometimes.
He had also been my protector from other kids, as they always bullied me about my “freakish” appearance – my silver white hair in particular. It had eventually become a running joke among our parents that he was a – well, my knight. As we grew up, he also taught me to stand up for myself, to not bother about those who didn’t know me.
But it all changed when mom died.
It had been a normal day, just like any other. Both of them had gone into work, and I was in class listening to the teacher when there was a knock on the door. The door slid open then, revealing the principal’s secretary.
A few minutes later, I sat in the principal’s office, wide-eyed.
“Y-you’re lying,” the words escaped me before I could stop them. “You’re lying! Mom can’t be dead! She can’t be! She can’t!” I screamed before breaking down into sobs, barely feeling my dad’s arms wrap around me.
She had been killed by a drunk driver on her way back home. The culprit had been arrested, of course – but it had been done. It would never bring her back.
Dad changed, retreating into himself after that – becoming colder and more distant. He even barely spoke to me – if he did, it was short and to the point and nothing of consequence. He took care of me, true, but otherwise, our relationship had fallen apart. Even now, our relationship was distant at best.
Shu was a great comfort then. He didn’t quite know what to do, but he was there. Never letting me be alone, just tagging along in silence most of the time and just being…there. And that was enough.
Everything changed again when one day, dad came home and declared that we’d be moving.
Which, I didn’t know back then, meant “dropping me off at my aunt’s, making her my guardian, and taking off elsewhere”. My aunt hadn’t known the extent of the situation back then. When she had found out, she hadn’t been pleased to say the least. She had been utterly furious with dad.
A few months after that, I’d met Brett and a few others. A few years passed, and then my first encounter after a long time with Shu had been in the halls of St.Caila’s. I didn’t know what brought him here, but I did expect to catch up with him and everything, but he…he’d changed.
He was more jaded. More cynical. It was barely noticeable, but it was there.
And also, he didn’t remember.
It had hurt, to see the lack of recognition and him treating me like everybody else. It still did.
Shaking my head to rid myself of the thoughts, I took a deep breath and glanced at the sky. I frowned. It was late afternoon now.
I started running again.
With any luck, my guess would be right.
A scowl made itself known on the blonde’s face as he glared at the tree in front of him and kicked a pebble into the running stream. Deep down, he knew he shouldn’t have stormed off but he was just –
Fed up and tired of it all.
What good was soccer anyway? Why did he even still play? Hell, why did they play? What were they playing for? Soccer was just another thing to waste time on, another game to play and to win. Playing for the sake of the world? The Galaxy League? Yeah, right.
He kicked another pebble into the stream.
The edge of his anger tapering off, the male flopped himself down onto the grass, folding his arms over his head as he stared at the gradually darkening sky.
Her name flashed through his mind.
She unsettled him, always keeping him off-track and off-guard. Always knowing how to push his buttons without trying despite his façade that everyone else bought, knowing how to read between the lines. It was as if she was a puzzle piece that refused to fit in, refused to blend into the background. She knew how to read him, read his moods and it was utterly baffling and frustrating and –
In a way, he admitted to himself, she scared him.
He hadn’t ever met anyone like her before. Most usually got tired of his devil-may-care persona and gave up after awhile, preferring not to deal with him. Some fawned over him, but that wasn’t the actual him. Noa, on the other hand, despite her impulsive nature and somewhat forceful personality was just there and just cared.
A part of him whispered that she was familiar and he knew her, but that was impossible, wasn’t it?
His eyes snapped towards the sound of the voice.
Just his luck.
Noa stood in front of him, her ponytail disheveled and sports attire rumpled. Sweat dotted her skin and she looked as if she had been running for quite some time, her bag loosely slung by her side.
“What do you want?” he snapped reflexively, ignoring the twinge of guilt that passed by at the flash of hurt in her eyes.
But still she stood tall, her back straight and shoulders squared firm as she looked at him in the eyes and spoke.
“I wanted to apologize,” quietly said Noa.
Whatever he had been expecting, it wasn’t that.
Blinking in surprise, Shu took a moment to really look at her.
She looked tired, as if a thousand burdens weighed down on her shoulders. There were signs of dark circles beginning to show under her eyes, and… his lips thinning into a frown, the thought crossed his mind - was she thinner? Thinking back, as the frown fully made itself known on his face - when was the last time she took some time off for herself?
Noa, he realized, to him, had always been the fiery, unflappable captain – full of ambition and always willing to go the extra mile. Driven and determined, strong-willed and stubborn, yet taking the time out to take care of others – something which he found himself envying sometimes – she was, no doubt, a living contradiction.
But somehow, it seemed, he had forgotten that she was human, too.
With a sigh, he gestured for her to sit beside him.
A smile broke out across her face as she stepped forward, and upon reaching the spot, dropped her bag onto the grass before sitting herself cross-legged.
For a moment, none of them spoke.
“I am sorry, you know,” Noa said suddenly as she turned to look at him. “It’s just..with the whole Galaxy League and everything, it’s been a lot of pressure.”
“It’s fine,” he said, feeling slightly out of place. People didn’t apologize to him. It just never happened. “I shouldn’t have lashed out either.”
A small chuckle escaped her, “I guess we’re even, then.” She smiled wryly. “Funny how we’ve changed, eh?”
Her eyes widened as she clapped her hand over her mouth, realizing what she’d said.
When her last words were processed by his mind, Shu blinked again.
I wanted to bang my head against the nearest trunk.
Way to go, idiot.
Somewhere, out there, someone was laughing at my misery.
I slowly dragged my eyes up to see his puzzled expression and sighed. Seems like the cat was out of the bag. While I had been planning for this conversation, why did it have to be now?
Still, he deserved to know the truth.
Noa took a deep breath.
“When we were kids,” she started slowly. “We were best friends.”
“Our parents were close, and we always hung out together,” continued the girl. “We always drove our parents crazy – either constantly getting into trouble, or, if not, finding trouble.” An amused smile. “You protected me from bullies, standing up for me and getting back at those who made fun of me.”
A memory, long-forgotten, flashed into his mind.
“Get away from her, you bully!” a small, blonde-haired boy shouted at a taller one, glaring as he put his friend behind him protectively.
“But she’s freaky!” protested the slightly taller child indignantly, pulling a face. “Look at her hair!” he gestured wildly at the peeking girl who ducked behind Shu, clutching at his shirt uncertainly.
Shu glared at him and clenched his fists, about to punch him when there was a small tug on his shirt. He turned to look at Noa and saw her shake her head.
“No, don’t,” she said. “You’ll get into trouble. J-just…leave it. Please?”
He stared at her for a moment before sighing. She was right – his parents wouldn’t be happy with him either. He would find another way to do get back at him for Noa.
“But it all changed when Mom died,” her smile turned sad, wistful. “Dad changed. He became more bitter, and kept leaving me alone in the house. We stopped visiting your place, and we just.. became distant from everyone. He refused to let me talk to people. And one day…” She trailed off.
“One day, he just picked me up and said that we were moving. Where, I didn’t know. He just dropped me off here at my aunt’s, made her my guardian and took off. I didn’t know how to find you, so I could explain. How could I, when I didn’t know where I was in the first place? When I didn’t even know what happened?”
When he had found the house empty and her gone. He had begged his parents, pestered them with questions and kept asking, “Why?
And they couldn’t answer him because they didn’t know, and it had torn their hearts apart.
“I tried to find you some time later, but you’d moved,” she said, fiddling with the grass, not looking at him. “And when it came to high school, and you were here – I’d planned to talk to you, but…”
“But…” she swallowed the lump in her throat.
“I didn’t remember,” he finished her sentence for her.
Noa nodded, and a silence stretched out between them.
Shu closed his eyes and counted mentally from one to ten as he composed himself and organized his thoughts as best as he could.
One – if her father ever appeared, he would take great pleasure in punching the man. Literally.
Two – it explained a lot, like how and why she knew how to read him well since they’d been as thick as thieves.
Three – he really, really wanted to punch the man.
“Do you hate me?”
That question snapped him out of his thoughts as his eyes flew open and he looked at her incredulously.
“Why would I?”
Noa shrugged uncertainly, “I thought you’d be mad. For keeping things from you and all.”
“It was because of your father that you had to,” he pointed out. “And because of him that all of…whatever it is happened. I’m mad – but not at you.”
“I really want to punch his face,” he muttered.
“No punching,” was her immediate reply.
The next day…
“What the hell?” choked Wayne as he stopped abruptly and stared at the sight in front of him.
“Wayne, why did you - ” began Brett and stopped short when he caught sight of it.
Shu had returned – well, that wasn’t really a surprise. Their captain was one-of-a-kind, after all. But what made him choke was the fact that…well…
“Oh, you’re all here,” Noa’s voice greeted them as she looked up from her notebook and was seemingly oblivious to their reactions. She also looked more relaxed, noted Wayne idly. “Give me a minute.”
“Shu, wake up.” The white-haired female lightly nudged the blonde who had been peacefully napping on her lap.
There was a brief mutter of complaint before blue eyes flickered open lazily and Shu let out a yawn.
“I’m up, I’m up,” he said before shifting his gaze towards the rest of the team. Seeing their expressions, he raised an eyebrow.
Sage was the first to respond as he whistled, waggling his eyebrows, “Something must have happened yesterday.”
Noa flushed in embarrassment while Shu muttered something intelligible under his breath and narrowed his eyes onto the male, promising revenge.
“Anyway,” coughed Noa. “Back to practice…”
Unconsciously, as she spoke, her hand slipped into his – something which the rest of the team noticed and attempted to hide their expressions.
She knew that there would be questions, but it would be worth it.
He was worth it.
The two of them had spent the rest of yesterday talking about things and just generally catching up on what they’d missed out on each other’s lives over the years. It’d been awkward, at first, but it had taken them very little time to slip back in sync.
They didn’t know where this would go, whatever it was – but they’d figure it out together. There was no way that they’d let anything or anyone separate them again.
She squeezed his hand lightly.
I can’t believe I found you.
After a moment, he returned it.