Where The Sky Meets The Land
One week was probably enough for Sora to get better, with undergoing monitoring and rehabilitation filled in his daily routine. He called me every night just to whine about his treatment, and he disliked the fact that he had to miss the lessons for the whole week. I could only listen attentively and coax him to not skip the rehab, or he would take more time to recover.
I could imagine him pouting when I didn't back him up, and at some point, I saw a mirage of him sitting beside me. He rested his head on my shoulder as we indulged ourselves in our free time together. It was a distance where we were the closest, and it was a moment when we could pour our heart out.
The bliss we attained just by hanging out was undeniably hypnotizing. Only by one turn, I could sniff his fragrant smooth hair, one of his trait that I favored thus I longed for. Whenever the wind blew against us, I could smell the sweet scent which sedated me, forgetting the strain we have been braving together.
His tender voice always allured me to listen to him whatever I did. I loved watching him telling his story, his experience, and even his childhood memory. He said that he was revealed about his narcolepsy when he was 10, but the symptom was a little different that time. The disorder became clearer as he graduated from middle school.
"It was the sole reason where my unavoidable trust issue began," The recollection of memory when Sora’s mother divulged to me about Sora’s dark past. Auntie Junko leant her back against the chair, thus the wall, throwing her view to the white ceiling atop our head. "He fell asleep during a club activity. He joined basketball back then, and he happened to nod off while they packed up," she paused to catch up her shaky breaths, "A junior was looking for some stuffs when he found them undoing his clothes. From his statement, Sora was already half naked."
That was what Auntie Junko disclosed to me, almost gave me a heart attack last time. I couldn't forget that as simply since it was Sora's history, and it was the main reason that she transferred him to other school. He was bullied for always nodding off during classes, like how he had now. There were even classmates who stole his belonging and money while he was in slumber. The rape trial was the worst. Auntie Junko relied on me as Sora's protector.
I accidentally cut my hand while chopping the onions. How rare of me to daydream while preparing cooking ingredient. It was the day of Sora discharging from the hospital, and I couldn't be happier than acknowledging his freedom. I imagined him jumping up and down upon hearing the news for the first time.
But nothing came up to mind as I thought of giving him a congratulatory present. His hospitalization was an unforeseen event. I didn't really have extra money for this month, not to mention the deteriorating content (money) in my wallet. The balance of my monthly expense was enough only for food.
That was why I would offer him my humble fried rice.
The weather really helped me a lot. The sun didn't scorch me to burn, and the gentle wind dried up my sweat. I could stay fresh by the time I've arrived at the hospital. As if I've been living there, I brought myself to the second floor, and third ward on the left would be Sora's ward.
I was greeted by the cheery Auntie Junko and the eager Sora. Although he still had his bandage on, he acted extremely fine. He gleefully waved at me, signaling me to get closer and sit on the chair. Auntie Junko was cutting apples, which then I figured out its combination with my fried rice was splendid.
"Oh, my! Riku, it smells good!" Auntie Junko beamed in contentment. She sniffed my fried rice real close to her nose.
Sora quickly fetched a spoon and scooped a mouthful of my simple dish. Auntie Junko was provided her own serving, yet she watched Sora eating first. In fact, I was doing the same too.
The longer we observed him eating, the slower his chewing speed was. Eventually, he stopped eating and put down his spoon. We placed our own bento aside when we have just noticed him weeping until he hiccupped.
"Sora, what happened? Does your head hurt?" I asked first, totally forgetting the presence of Auntie Junko beside us in the ward.
"I- I like this, Riku. I don't want this to finish up so soon," Sora sobbed as he held his lunch box. His non-stop rolling tears pictured his reluctance to finish the fried rice.
“It's okay, Sora," I wrapped him in my one arm, hushing him that it would be all right. "You can eat my portion. I still have some in my kitchen though."
The crying Sora melted himself in my arm, lending some of the coldness he has been storing in his body to mine. Yes, the coldness he gathered since he was admitted. He could not communicate with other people freely, and only our virtual chat healed his loneliness. Hopefully, his discharge would warm him back anew.
I skimmed around the ward just to evade from meeting eyes with him when I saw Auntie Junko eating my fried rice greedily. It was my first time seeing her behaving like that, which astonished me because I've never seen her that gluttonous.
"Riku, your cooking is delicious!" Auntie Junko twinkled really brightly, giving me thumb ups. "From whom did you learn to cook? It's just a fried rice, but aside from the smell, it taste superb!"
My blood gushed to my head, caused me to blush almost instantly. I awkwardly smiled, more because of shyness. “I self-taught myself, Auntie.”
Sora continued gulping in my fried rice. Somehow, I felt contented seeing them enjoying my cooking.
Around 2 pm, Sora could finally discharge and return home. I swore that it was one of the days I loved seeing him all smiles and his laughter satisfied my day as well. I was utterly glad. Relieved. Delighted. The happiness was belonged to him. He deserved to be happy after those hellish days he had to brave all these while.
A car has parked right in front of the hospital entrance, which amazed me. I could never know rich people like Sora's family ever existed, and I just happened to befriend the son.
"Mom, I want to go somewhere."
Even Auntie Junko glared at Sora for requesting something unbelievable. If we were alone, I wouldn't let him. It might be different if Auntie Junko was around for that she would accompany us or such.
"Where do you want to go, Sora?" She gently asked though her furrow never ceased. Well, she might want to acknowledge whether Sora's demand was just pure selfish or he really had to find something on his mind.
Then I got the idea. Probably he wanted to celebrate his discharge. I would never let that happen. "Sora, what do you want to buy? I'll go buy it for you, so you don't have to tire yourself."
"I want to window shopping," Sora replied leisurely. "I may find something, depending on the situation."
"It's not convincing, Sora," This time, I didn't think of letting Sora doing whatever he wanted. Just because we were close, that didn't mean I would agree to every of his wishes.
But Sora squinted at me. Annoyed.
I frowned at him in bewilderment. "You just got out from the hospital, Sora. There's no way that your mother will give you the consent."
I glanced at the stiffened Auntie Junko. She was watching us discussing without including her as another party to give opinion. Again, I abandoned her presence. I was nervous because her expression told us all.
"Well, if it's with Riku, I'll let you do so."
Both of us shrieked in different mood. I never guessed Auntie Junko would permit Sora to go out whereas he still had his bandage on his wound. Meanwhile, I froze as if I was just struck by lightning. My protection lost its function.
"Come on, Sora!"
We have arrived in a local mall where citizen used to come over to find stuffs of different kind including market, boutiques, pharmacy, sport equipment, and many more stores filling in the five storeyed building. I rarely stepped my foot here, therefore I was mildly stunned by the culture.
I wasn't used to be in crowds. Sora was the one who released from hospitalization, yet he seemed much finer than I was. This mall could be just like his playground, judging from how he walked around without the necessity to refer to the floor plan first. It would be different in my case though.
"What do you really like, Riku?"
I was merely startled by his unexpected question. My frown didn't portray my confusion that well, as the result his shimmering eyes stared into mine, waiting for my response. I sighed since I've never had such thought during an outing with other person.
"Why did you ask?"
Sora didn't convince me at all. I squinted at him to beg for explanation, but he completely ignored me and walked away, leaving me dumbfounded at the center of the enormous mall. I caught up with him, but still I couldn't decide anything.
"Then, what do you like, Sora?" I counterattacked with another question.
As how I was startled by his question, he seemed like it too. He flinched and averted from looking at me. His blinking eyes remarked his anxiety, which I found it too cute to be seen. I put my hands in my pockets as I waited for his answer.
“I- I- like-“
Our pace was slowed down. I made it so as to tease him. He frantically turned around so that I wouldn’t see his face, yet even from his back view, I could spot his reddish ears. It was so cute that I couldn’t stop myself from teasing him continuously.
“What if we go there, Sora?”
I couldn’t bear watching him restlessly avoiding from meeting gaze with me, therefore I attempted on changing the topic. Detecting a bookstore which coincidentally near us, I tagged him along and entered the shop. The smell of new books wafted into our senses, and I inhaled it deeply. It was utterly mesmerizing and heart soothing, plus it had less customers than common garment stores out there.
I peeped over the switching Sora, from a profoundly troubled timid boy to an extremely fervent bookstore explorer. He swiftly strode through the isles, neglecting me at the entrance as we set our feet inside. He didn’t even hear me calling him though my voice was undeniably low to begin with. I wasn’t mad at his enthusiasm – it was just that I was afraid of something bad might befall on him during my absence.
I walked around looking for him. He wasn’t found in non-fictional sections, hence there was an idea coming to my mind. I quickly swung my feet there and bingo! My prediction was correct. Among surrounding little kids in that section, I saw him sitting comfortably on the floor, encircled by those kids. He was holding a book and telling stuffs about ‘the best book he has read when he was small’ and such. I guessed he was attracting the kids to buy the book he has promoted.
“How can you be so energetic, Sora?”
The kids have dismissed, leaving only Sora sitting on the floor and I standing by the bookshelf. I crossed my arms in puzzlement, but my lips cracked in smiles. The pleasure by witnessing him treating those kids as if they have befriended for a long time was unbearably satisfying. This was a news to me because I’ve never discovered this side of Sora.
“I like kids,” he replied, all grins from ear to ear, “I love it when they are complaisant to adults like us. They are so carefree and they can play a lot,” then he let a long sigh, “I’ve the only son, and I have no close relative that I could play with. Only the maids and Father played with me, but I hope I could play with a lot of kids too.”
That explained how he was during our first meeting on the hill top last time. He liked to play because it has been his wish to enjoy childhood as how other kids, including me, have experienced.
“I like cooking.”
I said while both of us were preoccupied with books in fictional section. I didn’t really see his expression, but I noticed him peeping me over the novel he has picked. I chuckled at his childishness.
“I never tasted a mother’s cooking, and my father doesn’t know how to cook. Since then, I’ve been cooking for myself,” Propping my arms to the bookshelf, I fixated my view on the flustered Sora. “If you ask me what I like, I could say cooking is my passion.”
Sora gradually shifted to me, blushing.