Chapter 2:

The Girl in the White Dress

Blooming Love at Summer Falls

“Ahh!” Kano exclaimed, as he quickly rolled off the girl’s lap. Bookmark here

THUD! He gritted his teeth as he fell onto the hard ground, pain shooting through the back of his head. He laid on the ground for a few moments, the pain temporarily immobilizing him. His heart, which was once calm and undisturbed, was now beating out of his chest.Bookmark here

What the hell happened to me? Kano thought to himself.Bookmark here

After waiting for some of the pain to subside, Kano slowly began to pick himself up. Using a nearby tree for support, he eventually made his way onto his feet. His legs trembled as he stood up, most likely weak and fatigued from his earlier trek through the forest. Bookmark here

Oh, that’s right. I had almost forgotten. Kano thought to himself, as he remembered the fight with his mother. Bookmark here

With the help of the tree, Kano finally got his legs to stop trembling. Although they were still tired, he could now take a few steps without collapsing. Satisfied, he took a few deep breaths, his heart rate slowly going back to normal. Looking up from the ground, his gaze once again met with the girl’s. He realized that, in the midst of his pain, he had completely forgotten about her. Bookmark here

Kano quickly took a few steps back, determined to distance himself from the stranger. Turning his attention from himself to the girl, he saw that her content smile had disappeared. She was now frowning, her face full of worry. Bookmark here

“Are you alright?” the mysterious girl asked. Bookmark here

“I-I think so.” Kano stammered, his cheeks beginning to burn as his face turned red in embarrassment. Bookmark here

Although several minutes had passed by since he had gotten off her lap, the girl’s gaze had remained fixed on him. She was still sitting on the ground, her hands placed gently on her thighs and her legs together. The same legs that had once formed the soft pillow in which he had laid his head on. Bookmark here

That’s the first time I’ve ever laid on a girl’s lap!Bookmark here

With the bright moonlight shining down on them, Kano realized that this was the first time that he had gotten a good look at the girl. Although he had been close to her before, his panicked state had prevented him from absorbing any information about her appearance. Bookmark here

With his thoughts no longer racing, Kano examined the girl. He saw that she had long black hair, which ran past her shoulders and ended at the middle of her back. Although he was a few feet away from her, he could almost feel the silky material as it gracefully fluttered in the gentle fall breeze. Bookmark here

Although it was October, she was wearing a white summer dress, which had thin straps and ended at her knees. Like her hair, it too flowed in the wind. Completing her outfit was a small pair of white flats, shoes that seemed to perfectly match her outfit. Bookmark here

Turning his gaze from the girl’s outfit to her face, his heart began to race. Like a magnet, he was instantly drawn to her brilliant blue eyes. Out of her entire appearance, they stood out the most. They closely resembled the ocean: blue, sparkling, and seemingly endless. Their majestic gaze produced a warm and cozy feeling in Kano’s heart, a reaction similar to the one he had experienced when he had first visited the beach with his family. Bookmark here

Forcing himself to look away from her eyes, Kano moved his attention to her skin. The girl had oddly pale but flawless skin, which appeared to glow in the moon’s gleaming rays. He noted how the moonlight eloquently complimented her entire appearance, not just her skin. The moonlight highlighted her white dress and shoes and brought out the deep contrast between her light skin and her jet-black hair. It was almost as if Mother Nature herself was blessing the girl. Bookmark here

She’s beautiful. Kano thought, sighing as he began to think about his own appearance. Bookmark here

Although the students in his class remind him constantly, Kano already knew that he was unattractive. With his dirt-colored eyes and messy black hair, he was unpopular with the girls at his school. Standing at sixty-nine inches tall, his average height and skinny frame made him stand out, and not in a good way. His thin build, which lacked the same muscle that his male classmates had, made him a poor candidate for sports teams. This, as well as the sullen frown on his face, made him one of the least appealing students at his high school. Bookmark here

Not everyone can be blessed with good genetics. he thought as he continued to study the girl. Bookmark here

Mesmerized by her angelic appearance, Kano was oblivious to the fact he had been staring at the girl for minutes. Unfortunately for him, she had noticed. Bookmark here

“Like what you see?” The girl cheekily said, a mischievous smile spreading across her face as she stood up. Bookmark here

“W-what are you talking about?” Kano stammered as a darker shade of red overcame his cheeks. Bookmark here

“Oh, nothing… I guess it is normal for boys our age to have those types of thoughts.” Bookmark here

“W-what?! I-I was not thinking about that!” he exclaimed, the girl giggling as she watched him squirm. Bookmark here

“Are you sure? You have been staring at me for the past ten minutes.”Bookmark here

“I, um…” Kano started, words failing to come to his mouth.Bookmark here

“What else would you be thinking about?” she asked.Bookmark here

“I-I must’ve spaced out!” he insisted, desperately trying to prove his innocence. Bookmark here

“Are you sure you weren’t thinking about something else?”Bookmark here

“I’m telling you; I was not thinking about that!”Bookmark here

“Alright. I’ll believe you.”Bookmark here

Kano sighed in relief. Lowering his head, he turned his gaze to the ground. Staring intently at each grass strand, he could feel his cheeks continue to burn. He knew that his face was still dark red, the blushing a tragic result of his embarrassment. As if laying on a girl’s lap had not flustered him enough, he had been caught staring at her. Bookmark here

Why do bad things always happen to me?Bookmark here

Kano continued looking at the ground, waiting for the burning in his cheeks to go away. His heart began to quicken, however, as the girl started to walk towards him. With each step that she took, he could hear the grass crunching under her feet. After pausing for a moment longer, he looked up to see that the girl had gotten a lot closer to him. Once a few feet away, she was now less than an arm’s length away from him. Bookmark here

“I’m just messing with you. Anyways, let me introduce myself. My name is Akako.” she said, a bright smile etched on her face.Bookmark here

“What’s your first name?”Bookmark here

“That is my first name. I don’t have a last name.”Bookmark here

Puzzled, Kano looked at her in confusion. He had never heard of someone without a last name. Bookmark here

“You don’t have a last name?” he asked. Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“Oh,” Kano said, before pausing. “What should I call you then?”Bookmark here

“Call me Akako.”Bookmark here

What!? Kano thought to himself.Bookmark here

Except for his family, he had never called someone by their first name. Although he was in high school, he had no friends or close acquaintances. Similarly, as a child, he had never really gotten close to any of his classmates or neighbors. Bookmark here

Kano paused for a few moments, not sure if he could do it. Bookmark here

“Alright, Akako-san.” he eventually said, his cheeks becoming flushed once again.Bookmark here

“No ‘-san’. Just Akako.” the girl sternly said.Bookmark here

“Um…” he began, before his voice faded. He watched as she crossed her arms, undoubtedly upset with his hesitance. Bookmark here

“Is there a problem?” she replied. Bookmark here

“No, but…” Bookmark here

“Then say it.”Bookmark here

“Fine… A-Akako.” Kano mumbled. Bookmark here

He watched as Akako lowered her head, her cheeks becoming red as she blushed. Although her head was down, Kano could see a small smile spread across her face. Bookmark here

“Well?” Akako said, turning her attention back to Kano. Bookmark here

“What?” he said, confused.Bookmark here

“What’s your name?”Bookmark here

“Oh, sorry. My name is Tamaki Kano.” Kano said before giving her a slight bow. Bookmark here

“Kano…” Akako began, pausing as she let his name sink in. “What a wonderful name.” Bookmark here

“Kano-san.” he corrected her. Bookmark here

“Okay, Kano,” she replied, ignoring his request. Bookmark here

“Don’t forget the ‘-san’.” Bookmark here

“Whatever you say, Kano.” Bookmark here

Kano sighed. He knew that no matter what he said to her, she was not going to change her mind.Bookmark here

“Fine,” Kano said, admitting defeat to the stubborn girl. He watched her in confusion as she began to stroke her chin, almost as if a deep thought had suddenly caught her attention. Bookmark here

“Hmm… Maybe instead of calling you Kano, I should call you Creeper.” Akako said, a mischievous smile returning to her face. Bookmark here

“Wait, what!? I thought you were going to call me Kano!” he exclaimed.Bookmark here

“I was, but I think Creeper is more fitting for you,” she explained.Bookmark here

“Hold on, is this about the thing that happened earlier? I thought we already agreed that I was simply zoning out!” Kano insisted.Bookmark here

“That’s definitely what you said, but that’s not what I saw,” she said, winking. Bookmark here

“I’m telling you, I’m innoc-” Kano started before he fell to his knees.Bookmark here

Clutching his head, Kano groaned as a sharp pain shot through the back of his head. Although he had felt a slight ache in his head ever since he had woken up, the pain had suddenly become excruciating. Bookmark here

“Kano! Are you okay?” Akako said, her eyebrows now raised and her eyes wide. Her playful smirk had disappeared. Bookmark here

“I’m fine.” Kano hissed, knowing that she would see through his lie.Bookmark here

Moving his hand closer to the site of the pain, his eyes widened as he suddenly felt a wet, sticky substance coating his hair. Horrified, he slowly removed his hand from his head and brought it towards his face. Observing his hand, he let out a moan. Although his hand had only been on the spot for seconds, a thick layer of blood had coated it. Bookmark here

“Oh, no…” Kano moaned, the site of his blood making his stomach churn. Bookmark here

“Kano, you’re bleeding!” Akako exclaimed as she ran to his side. Bookmark here

“It’s okay, it’s just a little bit of blood. I must’ve scrapped my head off a tree branch earlier.” he insisted. Bookmark here

“Blood is gushing out of your head! That doesn’t come from a little scratch!” she said, reaching for his head. Bookmark here

“I’m telling you, I’m fine,” he assured her, gently swatting her hand away. Bookmark here

“Kano, I’m serious. Please, let me help you.” Bookmark here

Looking up from his blood-stained hand, Kano saw that Akako’s smile had disappeared. Instead, she was now frowning. Her eyes, which were once lit up and glistening, were now full of worry. Bookmark here

I guess I don’t have a choice. The nearby hospital is too far, and I can’t exactly see the back of my head. Bookmark here

“Okay, fine.” Bookmark here

“Let’s get you taken care of.”Bookmark here

After instructing him to remain seated, Kano watched as Akako made her way towards a nearby tree. He scratched his head as she carefully selected and collected several big leaves. Setting the big leaves down, he looked at her in bewilderment as she dropped to her hands and knees and began to sift through the grass. Bookmark here

What is she looking for? Kano wondered.Bookmark here

He watched as she grabbed a handful of thin weeds. After inspecting them in her hand for a few moments, she eventually made her way back to Kano. Bookmark here

“What are those for?” Kano asked, puzzled by her selection of items.Bookmark here

“Since we don’t have any band-aids here, I’m going to make you a headband out of leaves and weeds,” Akako explained, as she sat down in front of him.Bookmark here

“You can do that? How?” Bookmark here

“You’ll see,” she replied as she grabbed a few strands of grass. Bookmark here

“Oh, okay,” he said, watching as she began to weave the strands together. Bookmark here

Kano’s eyes widened as he watched her construct the headband. He was shocked to see how skilled she was with the delicate material, her hands steady as she weaved the strands of grass together. Although she was young, it looked like she had been doing it for years. His gaze moved up to her face, where he was surprised to see that she was relaxed, her face showing no signs of frustration. Bookmark here

“Wow, you look like a professional.” Kano praised, staring at her nimble fingers as they continued to work.Bookmark here

“You really think so?” Akako asked, her eyes stilled focused on her hands.Bookmark here

“Of course! Do you do this often?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I make headbands all the time. Instead of using large leaves, however, I usually use flowers. It’s one of my favorite pastimes, even though I don’t have anyone to wear them.” Bookmark here

Favorite pastime? Kano thought to himself.Bookmark here

“I just realized, other than your name, I don’t know anything about you,” he said, now wanting to know more about the mysterious girl sitting in front of him. Bookmark here

“You’re right. We did only meet each other just a little bit ago, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to get to know each other a little better.” She said, her eyes still glued to her hands. “What would you like to know then?”Bookmark here

“Hmm… I didn’t think that far ahead.” Kano admitted, pausing as he thought of a question. “How about your age?”Bookmark here

“I’m 16.”Bookmark here

“Really?” Kano said, tilting his head. “You don’t look like your 16. You look a little younger, like 15.” This resulted in a giggle from Akako.Bookmark here

“I get that a lot. Anyways, how about you? How old are you?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Oh, I’m also 16. My birthday was a few weeks ago.”Bookmark here

“What a coincidence! We’re the same age.” She said, smiling. “It must be fate.”Bookmark here

That’s strange, Kano thought to himself. With her appearance, I figured I would have seen her at school before. Bookmark here

“We’re the same age, but I’ve never seen you at school before. Do you go to Matsubara Senior High School?”Bookmark here

“I used to.” She answered flatly, her smile disappearing.Bookmark here

“You used to? Did you drop out?” Kano asked, watching her as she continued to focus on the headband. Bookmark here

“Yes, something like that,” she answered, a frown appearing on her face. Bookmark here

Did I say something wrong? he pondered to himself.Bookmark here

“I don’t blame you. The teachers and students at the school are terrible. I was actually thinking of dropping out mys-” Kano began, stopping as Akako’s lips began to quiver. He was surprised to see that, although her gaze remained on the headband, her hands had stopped moving.Bookmark here

I should probably change the subject. Bookmark here

“Anyways, you mentioned that you like to make these in your free time,” he said, gesturing to the unfinished headband. “What else do you like to do?” Bookmark here

“I love to be outside. Nothing makes me happier than walking through the forest, playing in a pond, and sitting on the edge of a cliff. My favorite thing to do in my free time, however, is to work with flowers. I enjoy making headbands and forming bouquets.” she explained, her hands once again moving as her smile reappeared.Bookmark here

“You have an excellent taste in hobbies,” Kano concluded.Bookmark here

“Thanks. How about you? What do you like to do in your free time?”Bookmark here

“Oddly enough, I also enjoy being outside. There’s a trail that begins in my backyard, so I often find myself walking through the woods. I love looking at the tall, verdant trees as well as the colorful patches of flowers that cover the forest ground. I love hearing the scurrying of the small animals as they run through the bushes. After all the hours I’ve spent here, I’ve come to consider this place my home.” He explained, smiling as he recalled all the positive memories he had made there.Bookmark here

“Really? How long have you been coming here?” she asked, her hands still working hard on the headband.Bookmark here

“I’ve been coming here ever since I was younger. In elementary school, I never really had friends. So, every afternoon, I would spend all my free time exploring the forest. One day, after finding an unmarked trail, I accidentally came across this place. After seeing how beautiful and peaceful it was, I decided that I would do everything I could to find my way back here. I’ve been coming here ever since. It’s a great place to escape from the stress going on at home and school. Without it, I don’t know how I would’ve survived.”Bookmark here

“Wow, this place holds a lot of meaning to you, doesn’t it?”Bookmark here

“Yes, more than you could imagine.” he replied. Bookmark here

Unsure of what to say next, Kano turned his attention from Akako to his surroundings. He surveyed the tree line, his eyes eventually making their way to the opening of the woods. It was the same spot in which he had woken up earlier. Bookmark here

I wonder if she knows what happened to me earlier.Bookmark here

“Hey Akako?” he asked, his gaze once again returning to her.Bookmark here

“Yes?”Bookmark here

“Earlier tonight, were you already here when I first arrived?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I believe so.”Bookmark here

“Did you happen to see why I passed out?”Bookmark here

“I didn’t see you fall, but I saw you laying on the ground unconscious. I tried to wake you up, but I couldn’t.” she explained. Bookmark here

Fall? I never mentioned anything about falling. Bookmark here

“Wait, I never said anything about fa-” Kano began, stopping as Akako suddenly jumped to her feet. Bookmark here

“Here you go! It’s finally finished!” she exclaimed, excitedly shoving the finished headband towards his face. Bookmark here

Standing up, Kano carefully grabbed the headband from her hands. He was relieved to finally have something to cover the gash on the back of his head. As he began to lift it toward his head, however, he hesitated. Taking a moment to study it, Kano saw that the headband looked magnificent. The weaving between the giant leaves and the thin weeds was flawless, almost as if it had been done by a machine. He slowly rotated it in his hands, curious to see what the other sides of it looked like. He was surprised to see that, in addition to the leaves and weeds she had gathered earlier, Akako had added red tulips to it. Bookmark here

“Wow, this looks beautiful!” Kano said, as he put the headband on.Bookmark here

“Oh, t-thank you.” she stuttered, her cheeks becoming flushed. Bookmark here

After adjusting the headband and making sure it covered his wound, Kano turned to Akako. Bookmark here

“I just realized, I never asked you where you live. Do you live nearby? I’m assuming you do since you were able to find this place.” Bookmark here

Kano watched as she lowered her head, her eyes falling to the ground. Her demeanor had once again changed. Confused, he realized that she had done the same thing earlier. When he had talked about his problems at school, she had become quiet. Bookmark here

“Kind of,” she mumbled. Bookmark here

“What do you mean, ‘kind of’?”Bookmark here

“I use to live around here,” she replied, her head still bowed. Bookmark here

“Oh, really? Where did you move to?”Bookmark here

“I didn’t move anywhere.”Bookmark here

Kano paused.Bookmark here

“Wait, you just said that you use to live here. Do you still live here?” he asked. Bookmark here

“Not anymore.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean then?”Bookmark here

“It’s a little complicated.”Bookmark here

“It can’t be that complicated,” he assured her. Bookmark here

“Trust me, you wouldn’t understand.”Bookmark here

“Try me.” Bookmark here

“Are you sure?” she asked, raising her head. Bookmark here

“Yes, I’m sure.” he insisted. Bookmark here

“Okay then.” Bookmark here

Kano froze, realizing how invasive he was being.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry into your personal life. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to tell me.” Akako shook her head.Bookmark here

“It’s fine. I was eventually going to tell you anyway. The truth is…” Akako began, stopping as she hesitated.Bookmark here

“What?” Kano asked, his interest now piqued. Bookmark here

“The truth is… I’m dead.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.