Chapter 7:

Vandalizing That Which Vandalized Your Heart

With Oasis (Vol. 1)

Sharing an umbrella.

A classic act that couples partake in.

Granted, my knowledge of what couples are supposed to do is primarily derived from anime… Anyway, it’s a well-known romantic deed.

Generally, the boy holds the umbrella, being the taller one, and shelters the girl from the rain. If you want to put an extra romantic twist on it, the boy can even sacrifice one of his shoulders, leaving it to get soaked in the rain, in order to keep the girl completely dry. It was only a matter of time before me and Lou partook in this act…

But uh, I certainly didn’t expect our first time sharing an umbrella to be during a mission to vandalize our highschool. I furthermore didn’t expect the umbrella to be shielding us from security cameras instead of the rain. And I definitely didn’t expect the umbrella to be patterned with pink hearts.


An hour and a half prior to sharing an umbrella with Lou for the first time—

According to my phone, it was 10:49 p.m. Sunday evening.

A little over a day had passed since Lou visited my house for the first time.

Me and Lou had been texting on and off the entire day, constantly reminding each other of different details of the plan to make sure we both understood everything, and also ensuring neither of us forgot to bring any necessities.

This used to be my least favorite part of pulling off crimes: having to double, triple, and quadruple check everything in the hours leading up to the crime in order to make sure you didn’t forget anything, be it detail or item. Over the years though, I’ve become desensitized to it. Now, it’s about as irritating to me as breathing.


So maybe my opinion on this aspect of executing misdeeds hasn’t changed, it’s just that my irritation at it no longer stands out.

The plan was for Lou to sneak out of her house and make it to my driveway by 11:00 p.m. Then, she was to text me whenever she got here. Upon receiving the text, I’d leave my house with the keys to my (Mom’s very old and rusted) car, and drive us to Mullburg.

Eleven minutes to go.

Give or take a few depending on if Lou has any trouble.

I made my way down the stairs, dressed in what Lou had designated as our “crime attire” for this vandalism: a black hoodie, a black long-sleeved shirt, black sports pants, old shoes I didn’t use anymore, a blanket featuring images of cartoon characters from shows I watched as a kid that I had wrapped around myself, a black beanie, black gloves, and my only scarf— a green one knitted by Grandma, back when she was still alive. A part of me felt gross using Grandma’s scarf for such purposes as concealing my identity for a crime, but it was my only scarf, and I didn’t wear it outside at all, so it couldn’t be traced back to me.

As for why this was our “crime attire” in particular— it was meant to look relatively inconspicuous while also being practical. Every part of my body was covered except my face, but if I raise the scarf a bit, I can cover everything except my eyes. Granted, my eyes are such a piercing green that they might honestly do me in, but hey, not every plan needs to be airtight.

Speaking of not airtight, if looking inconspicuous was the goal of this attire, then Lou’s plan to have us share an umbrella will completely shatter that image… well, unless it miraculously rains, I guess.

Yes, it was during Lou’s time on my bed yesterday that she came up with the idea of using an umbrella to shield us from security cams. It was a good idea overall, but if someone happened to walk by the road next to that part of the school… GOD we’d stick out like a sore thumb to them. Who walks under an umbrella when it isn’t even raining??

I descended the final step of the stairs, then turned left into the living room. Mom was reading on the couch as usual, except this time her legs took up every cushion. Her hair was up in a bun. Behind her head, a bright orange glow emanated from a lamp atop a coffee table, illuminating the pages of her book and silhouetting her face such that her expression was difficult to discern. For the record, the book she was reading was Ojojojo volume two.

“Hm?” Mom looked up from Ojojojo, then upon noticing me, lay her book on her stomach (in such a way so as to not lose her page). “You look like you’re about to head out.”

“I am,” I replied. “I’m gonna be doing some night driving.”

“Going out at night… I don’t think I need to tell you it’s a school day tomorrow. If you really want to though, just make sure to bring everything I usually tell you to.”

“I brought it all. Hey, can I sit down?” I pointed to the couch cushion closest to me, which was taken up by Mom’s feet and the bottom half of her legs.

“No way, I’m cozy,” she replied.

I sat down anyway.

“AGH! That… ok, it’s stopped hurting now, but OW that hurt at first!”

“I don’t have any sympathy.”

“Well, try having more of it! My poor legs!”

I checked the time again on my phone. 10:55 p.m. Lou would be here any minute.

“Why do you want to go driving at night anyway?” Mom asked.

I looked up at the ceiling. Blank. White. Well… there was some orange at the corner thanks to light from the lamp. “Confidential.”

“Heh?? What could be so confidential about it!? Don’t tell me you’re planning a journey of self discovery, or something?”

I cast her a sidelong glance. “Would you let me go on a journey of self-discovery?”

“Of course.” There was not a moment’s hesitation in Mom’s reply. It was swift, immediate, and confident. “If you need a journey like that, you should be allowed to take one. I went on a journey of self discovery myself once. You were there with me, too.” Her tone of voice began to change… to get more thick, and weighty. I was kinda glad Mom’s expression was obscured. “There’s no way you remember. You were probably less than a year old. I drove out as far as I could and lived in cheap motels for a while. This long ass journey, all across the U.S. I think I finally turned back around in Pennsylvania, or something.”

“Did you discover something about yourself?”

She seemed to think for a second. “Everywhere I went, there were new kinds of people living in new kinds of ways. Or at least, it was all new to me. For them, it was just their regular old lives. But I realized that, well, up to that point I’d seen my life as especially wrought with issues. I saw my circumstances as melancholic in some abnormal way. But seeing all these people, I realized that actually, everyone’s lives are melancholic. But most of them didn’t run away like I did. They kept fighting. So like, I totally recommend running away from your problems for two weeks and then coming back home and continuing the fight.” Mom snickered at her own quasi-sarcastic punchline.

I didn’t really know how to respond to this entire tale. What’s the protocol here? And also, Mom, you say you ran away from your problems… but even on your journey of self discovery, you brought me along, didn’t you?

“Hey, Rocco,” Mom’s tone shifted all of a sudden. “Do you wanna go to the movies with me some time?”

“Not really.”

“Tch! You never go out with me anymore!”

“I guess I grew out of it.”

Mom’s expression finally escaped its silhouette— as she leaned towards me and began to shake me by the shoulders. “Don’t grow out of it! I miss you! It’s hard to even get you to talk to me now!”

“...Yeah.” I stared back up at the ceiling as Mom continued to shake me. The orange glow was beginning to fade… Turning ever paler, to sheer, blinding white.

Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.

—Do you have a complex about being seen as close with your Mom?

I recalled Lou’s words.

The answer is no. That’s not it.

Me and my Mom are closer than most other parent and child relationships out there. But I can’t help but feel like most of it is residual. Like I’m coasting off the bond we formed during our past together. We’re close, and we occasionally talk, but I can’t help but feel like we used to be friends, and I can’t help but feel like we aren’t anymore.

Why? The same reason why I stopped being friends with everyone else.

It was simply boring. And despite my interactions with Lou thus far, I don’t like keeping up appearances when I don’t need to.

I felt a vibration in my pocket. I was afraid at first that Mom felt it too, seeing as I was sitting on her legs, but she had evidently gone back to reading Ojojojo, and was too absorbed in that to notice it. I withdrew my phone from my pocket.

i’m here. That’s what Lou texted me.

i’ll be there soon. I replied.

“Alright, I’ll be leaving, Mom.”

“Okey dokey!” She replied, while waving at me, her face still in her book. “Oh and also… if you go on a journey of self discovery, tell me about it beforehand. Be responsible when running away from your problems.”

“I can’t help but feel like I’m being taught a lot of anti-morals by you right now.”

Mom chuckled at my snide remark.

I stood up (off Mom’s legs) then made for the front door. Meanwhile, Mom was saying stuff like “AHH! OOH! PINS AND NEEDLES! ACK!”. Sorry, Mom. Okay, I’m not actually all that sorry.

And with that— Click! I stepped onto the porch and shut the door behind me.

From the front porch, I immediately spotted a figure leaning against the car I’d drive Lou and I to Mullburg with. I was pretty sure it was Lou, but just to be sure… I walked up to the figure, caught the person in the shine of my flashlight, and sure enough—

She was wearing similar attire to mine. Black leggings, a black long-sleeved shirt, a black hoodie, and oddly enough, a black skirt. I don’t think that’s quite the most practical choice, but so be it. She also wore a beanie, black gloves, and a black scarf, but she didn’t have a blanket with her. She INSISTED during the planning phase that we share a blanket for this. I guess even crime can be romantic with enough creativity… though I suspect I ruined the romantic vibes by choosing a blanket with cartoon characters on it.

By the way, the intention behind using a blanket was to obscure our bodily features. Whether we're male or female, skinny or chubby; we wanted those variables to remain unknowable.

There was something off about Lou though. It was definitely Lou, no doubt about it. But her face… I’m so used to it lighting up with delight every time I enter her line of sight. I’m so used to bubbly excitement and stars in her eyes. Sure, she’s a tad deadpan around other people, but it’s been ages since she’s been that way towards me. And yet…

“Did you bring the spray paint?” she asked in a tone that conveyed no emotion, with eyes that conveyed no emotion, with body language that conveyed no emotion.

It was eerie.

It was actually bizarre.

“Y- Yes,” I replied.

I actually stuttered.

I actually stuttered.

...I thought she'd be so excited for tonight. She's always excited when it comes to crime.

“I brought the umbrella,” she continued. “I can’t think of anything I’m missing. Oh.” Lou donned a look of realization. “I’m acting weird, aren’t I?”

She cleared her throat.

"I'm really sorry about that!" she said. "It wasn't intentional." Then, she leapt onto me and exclaimed “You brought the blankie~!” while hugging me tight around my stomach. “Tee-hee! We’ll share a blankie!” Lou detached herself from me and did a fist pump. “Today’s the best day ever! I can die happy now, since I’m gonna share a blanket with Rocco~! It’s like we’re sleeping together in bed, except it’s all spicy because we’re doing a crime!! Oh, but, ahh…” Lou clutched her face with both her hands. “It’s like, super embarrassing~! We’re basically sleeping together, ahh~!”

It was like a switch had been flipped, and suddenly she was back in Lou mode. What even is this…

No, I’ve seen this before. This shouldn’t even be surprising. It’s like this all the time. When she’s with other people, the switch is off. When she’s with me, the switch is on. The only unusual part is that she’s flipping the switch on and off when she's alone with me.

No, actually… Back in Lou mode? Is she really back in Lou mode right now?

“Huh?” Lou looked confused. “Isn’t this where you say something like ‘you’re such an idiot, Lou!’?” Her voice was oddly floaty and dainty, and— I could be making this up, or hearing wrong, but I thought it sounded more high pitched than usual. Lou hugged me again. “Come on, Rocco~! Give me a response! Karate chop me, or something~!”

“...Just to make sure, yeah? You’re not drunk, right?”

“Huh? No??"

"You're not high either, right?"

 "No? I'm not high. Why would I be high right now~?”

“Because half of what you’re saying has the sort of tone where fansubbers would put a tilde at the end of your sentences, and it’s really weird. Also, you said ‘blankie’ and it made me want to die. Oh, no offense.”

“Heh?” Lou didn’t seem offended, just confused.

“You seem more, I dunno, girlier than usual? No, it’s more like, you’re acting like one of those super feminine characters in anime? I dunno… it’s hard to put into words.

Lou’s face dimmed. “No, you’re right.” And just like that— the flip was switched again. “Come on… let’s get in the car.”

As we both got in the car, I thought something I never had before. I usually brush all this stuff under the rug as the product of the mind of an exceeding eccentric individual. I’m usually dismissive about it. Even more than that, I just don’t like thinking too hard. But…

If Lou can flip a switch on and off, and that switch controls her personality—

Which is the real Lou?

Or actually, let me start with a different question.

How much control does she have over the switch? Which parts of her personality are a mask, and which ones are genuine?

...I'm already tired of thinking about this.

The car ride was odd to say the least. Lou sat shotgun, as usual, but her sitting position was weird. And not weird in Lou’s usual way. She brought her knees up to her chest, then bound her legs tight with her arms, resting her forehead against her knees, and sat like that for the whole car ride, all the while maintaining a pensive expression.

I, meanwhile… didn’t say anything to Lou.

Even in the moment, as I was making the decision, I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice. It might be best to leave her to her own thoughts for now. It might not. Being left alone with her thoughts might be harming her. But it might be such that anything I say will harm her. I frankly wasn’t sure what to do. Well…

I did do one thing to try and cheer her up.

Halfway through the car ride, I poked her cheek and said “This one’s for health and happiness.”

She smiled briefly, but made no audible response.

I parked the car on the side of the road right next to where we were supposed to jump the fence. Directly ahead of us was a streetlight. I made sure to park the car such that it was outside the glow of the streetlight. Leaving our car illuminated in such a way seemed like a bad idea.

“We’re here,” I told Lou. In response, she simply nodded.

Lou fetched her umbrella from the back seat, while I rested my arms on top of the car and leaned forward against the vehicle, taking in the sight of Stoneswan High.

Stoneswan glowed at night. The walls of the school building were lined with lights, such that no part of the walls was unlit. This included— Misted Point. The overhang from where you usually enter the place had a light on it, which lit the entire area we were supposed to be graffiting.

Crap… That’s not good. At least, it’s not good for the mission. But in terms of risk, things just got quite a bit more exciting!

At the very least, the field between the edge of the fence and our destination didn’t have much in the way of lighting. There was the occasional pole here and there, and they did have security cameras on them, and indeed also lights, but they were rather dim— practically nothing compared to the glow of the school. So we had a little bit of luck on our side.

“Let’s make this quick,” I said.

“Yeah,” Lou said, wielding the unopened umbrella.

Jumping the fence wasn’t an issue. Even for an unathletic person like me, and a woefully unathletic person like Lou, it was a short fence. We’re highschoolers in (or at least near) the prime of our physical abilities. There was a little bit of risk, since it was the one part of the mission where we couldn’t shield ourselves with the umbrella, due to needing both hands available when climbing. We weren’t sure whether the security cameras would capture as far as the fence, but still, we needed to make extra sure our scarves covered our faces as we scaled it.

Then, we both huddled under the umbrella together. There was at least something proper about the way we shared an umbrella tonight: being the taller one, I carried the umbrella, and I tried to shield Lou more than myself. I’m the type who doesn’t actually mind getting caught in the act of committing a crime. I don’t want to intentionally get caught, but if I try my best and happen to get caught… It seems like a bit of an exciting adventure to me! I reckon Lou doesn’t feel the same way I do, and furthermore, that Lou would consider such an experience to be traumatizing. So I don’t mind making that sacrifice for her.

…Well, what are the actual chances an exposed shoulder still-covered by a black hoodie will get me caught? Not high, so perhaps being high and mighty about my sacrifice is pretentious.

Lou, meanwhile, held our blanket up with her right hand, while clinging to me with her left.

We crossed the field. Slowly, but surely.

“Hey,” Lou began. “I know I’ve been moody tonight… but I just want you to know that I’m still having a good time. I’m glad we get to share an umbrella and a blanket together. And planning this all out has been a super fun experience. I'm not moody because of anything you did... I just— have a lot on my mind right now, I guess."

“...Just know you can talk to me whenever, about anything,” I replied. “And I’m glad you’re enjoying this mission overall.”

“What do you think you’ll write?”

“Hmmm…” I thought about it for a second. “I don’t really know. My graffiti is generally just generic profanity. Although sometimes I like writing kind, wholesome messages, so that people hesitate when cleaning it up. The thought of someone begrudgingly having to wipe away a message like ‘Have a great day :)’ is kinda amusing to me.” Or at least, it amused my younger self who had just started doing crime.

Lou giggled. “I normally just write whatever spontaneously comes to my mind in the moment.”

“I could tell.”

“But for the school…” Lou’s eyes shone— with the glare of the school’s light. The glow of Stoneswan was reflected in her eyes, orange and piercing— so bright and sharp it felt like it was tearing a hole in me.

Lou never finished her sentence.

With a sigh of relief, Lou dropped our blanket onto the ground. We had made it to Misted Point. We didn’t screw up and drop the blanket or umbrella, or somehow show our faces. And now, we could finally relax a little.

…Well, admittedly, my heart was still beating at a rapid pace. I’m getting pumped up!

We had arrived at about the midpoint of the wall that comprised Misted Point; a good ways away from the security camera, but an ostensibly equal distance away from the overhang. I closed the umbrella, then passed it back to Lou, who took it, then just haphazardly threw it on the ground with the blanket.

I took the cans of spray paint from my hoodie pockets and showed them to Lou. “I brought two colors with me. Red and pink. I can already sorta guess which color you want.”

Lou cast her gaze to the side in an amused sort of way. “I’m predictable when it comes to color preference, aren’t I…”

“Pretty much.”

And so, we spray painted. In the end, I wasn’t able to decide which choice to go with, so I decided to go with the tried and true method of both. One message read ‘I love my teachers :>’ (a blatant lie), and the other read ‘Sex’ (I know, I’m very mature). One polite message, one crass message.

After I finished my graffiti, I turned to Lou to see what she had written.

She hadn’t written anything.

Instead, she was staring at the wall something sharper than daggers, her hands at her sides, the spray paint can held in her right hand. She was clenching the can hard.

“Yo, you good?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she responded quickly.

She thrust her arms in front of her, and aimed the spray paint can directly towards the wall. She was shivering all over, her arms most especially. Her breaths were coming in rapidly. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, at an alarming rate. But what I noticed most of all— were her eyes.

Completely dark. Pitch black. Black as night. Blacker than night. Her pupils are always difficult to discern from her irises, but at that moment, they seemed unified. One. Her eyes were a pitch black vortex, an abyss that sucked you in, that was impossible to escape from. It was hard for me to look away. Even emotionless me— was captivated. I was being dragged to the bottom of an abyss, from which I was sure I would never return.

And then—

She hastily—

Furiously wrote her message.

Her dark eyes reached a shade of black I never thought possible—

And the vortexes filled with shards of pure hatred—

Swirling at impossible speeds—

Cutting all that was sucked in.

With a storm in her eyes—

In large, sloppy font—

‘GO TO HELL!!!’.

In all caps, that was what she wrote.

And then she fell to the ground and cried her eyes out.

She dropped to her knees so very suddenly. One moment she was adding a third exclamation point to her message, and the next, she was kneeling on the ground, trying to stop herself from wailing, the spray paint canister clattering on rocky ground beside her, her hands held over her face, hiding her true facial expression from the world. Like every last drop of her emotional strength had been exhausted with that final punctuation.

Seeing this, I had a lot of questions, for sure. But they were all overshadowed by one realization on my end: Whatever unpleasantness I feel towards highschool, it’s tiddlywinks compared to this.

Well, there was only one thing I could do in this situation.

I walked up to Lou, faced her, then knelt down and hugged her tight against me. Upon feeling my touch, she dropped her hands from her face, and instead cried into my shoulder, while returning my hug.

We stayed like this for some time, with Lou sniffling and hiccuping and sobbing and shaking against me. Especially shaking. It seems like every time Lou gets emotional, she just uncontrollably quivers. I tried to be sturdy, if that makes sense. Some sort of physical and mental support for her. I mean, with how hard she was shaking, I was sure that if I let go of her for even a moment, she’d fall over again, and this time flat on her face.

There was a part of me that didn’t know how to feel about all this. That wondered what I should be feeling. Having spent a majority of the past few years not feeling much aside from boredom, it’s second nature at this point, to think of things in terms of what I should be feeling rather than what I am feeling. But what I did feel— wasn’t sadness nor sympathy nor boredom. Just a slow, solemn sort of feeling, and a desire to help Lou in any way I could.


Both of me and Lou heard it.

We both turned our heads in the direction it was coming from.

"H- HEY!" A voice calling out, louder than Lou’s sobbing even, that seemed to come from just outside the fence surrounding the school. No, to be more specific—

The streetlight I had parked the car next to. Directly below the streetlight, amidst its glow, gazing out at us from behind the fence, was a person. It was hard to make out her features at such a distance. Even my calling her a ‘her’ is really just me guessing based off of the length and color of her hair. Yes, this girl, or person, had not-quite shoulder length hair dyed a dazzling shade of pink.

Her attire though, was too difficult to see for me to give any specifics about.

But I definitely heard what she said next. There’s no way I could be making this up, considering how loud she was about it. “DELINQUENTS! Hey, you delinquents! Come over here!" She waved her hand back and forth to further grab our attention.

Wait... that voice… that tone of voice, too... we have a chance!

I turned back to Lou excitedly. We’ve been caught! And even better yet, this isn’t game over! I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation this risky before, and to think there’s still a chance of escape!

Meanwhile, Lou whipped her head towards mine and regarded me with a frenzied, panicked look in her eyes. “W- w- w- w-” She set her gaze towards the ground, as more tears fell from her face. “We’ve been caught,” she muttered resignedly. “We’ve been caught… We’re done for.”

“No!” I exclaimed. “No we’re not!”

“H- Huh??” Lou looked back up towards me with a shocked expression. “How- How could you possibly say that? There’s a witness! We’re not-”

“That girl’s a child! Didn’t you hear it in her voice? And even from our distance, she looks so short… She's a kid, Lou! And more than that... that kid didn't even sound mad at us! She wanted us to come over to where she was, but she didn't sound accusatory, or angry, or anything like that! Which means… there’s still a chance! We’re on the brink, but there’s still a chance!”

I still felt that solemn feeling for Lou. Hell, it was stronger than ever, seeing her end up so mortified by this mission. The mission she worked so hard on was now going so awry… But even with all that, I couldn’t help but feel excited. And I couldn’t help but have hope— that maybe this mission can still have a good ending!

“But Rocco, she literally yelled at us! It was so loud! Everyone in town probably heard it! And kids are demons, Rocco, she’ll probably rat us out just because she thinks it’s funny or something! We’re toast!”

The girl yelled at us again. “Yo, did you hear me!? Oiiiiii, I want to talk to you guuuuuyyyyyyssssss!"

I met Lou’s eyes, and tried to give impact to my next words. “Listen, Lou, we’re in a sticky situation right now. We need to get across campus and over that fence as quickly as possible. But even if we’re in a tight spot, don’t worry…” I couldn’t stop the excitement from spreading to my face. I smiled. “I’ve been in tight spots before! I’ll get us out of here! Just trust me!”

As efficiently as possible, I grabbed the umbrella off the ground, opened it, then grabbed the blanket in turn and bundled the two of us together. All the while, Lou was saying “Why do you seem so excited about this?? Hell, why are you so optimistic?? Aren’t you supposed to be the pessimist of the two of us!?”

“Grab the blanket,” I commanded.

“A- Alright.”

“Prepare to run!”


And then—

With the umbrella in my left hand, with the blanket held together in Lou’s right hand, with my remaining hand, I grabbed Lou’s, and we sprinted to keep our life on the straight and narrow. Lou, whatever you may think of how this mission turned out, I must say… First, sorry. And second, that this is my idea of fun! Running as fast as you can so you don’t get caught in the middle of your crime, when one slip of the umbrella or blanket could be your undoing? It’s perfect! It’s perfect!

“And it’s even more perfect when you’re with me!”

Oops. Didn’t mean to say that part out loud.

I’m not really sure if Lou heard me though. We were running hard and our footsteps were loud.

Lou… I’ll salvage this night for you!