Takanori, a rising musician in Tokyo's rock scene, interrupts a stranger's suicide attempt one night and soon finds himself captivated by the strange girl with eyes that burn like a slow wildfire and cut like glass when they locked with his own.
It starts like this - Takanori is out for a walk late at night, walking past the railroad crossing near his apartment, when he sees a girl standing in the center of the tracks. She turns to face him for a second and their eyes meet but she doesn't move, standing silent and still as the sound of the train grows louder, signaling its approach.
“Hey!!” he shouts, heart jumping to somewhere around the middle his throat when she turns away from him once again. The train grows closer, rattling against the tracks as it continues its run, but the girl shows no intention of moving out of its way. Takanori wonders in the back of his mind what happened to this poor soul that she can't find a reason to continue living, but he can see the headlight of the train now, creeping in from the corner of his vision, so he runs to the side of the track and before he can think of what he's doing, he's reaching out and grabbing her by the hand.
The sound is almost deafening now, the train only meters away, and he pulls her towards him almost frantically as he steps away from the tracks. She crashes into his chest with only a second to spare before the train rushes by, and Takanori wraps a protective arm around her almost instinctively. She shakes in his hold, almost violently, as countless cars rush past and lets out a sob into his shoulder. He reaches a hand up and strokes her hair, slowing his breath after the rush of adrenaline has worn off. They stay like that a few minutes longer, shocked into stillness by thirty seconds that will change the two strangers' lives forever, though neither know it yet.
“Are you okay??” He asks, but no answer comes.
Takanori chews his lip for a moment before wrapping a hand around her wrist (“come with me,” he whispers) and starts walking, leading her back to his place. She doesn't protest or fight against his grasp, and merely follows a few steps behind, something Takanori thinks odd. Weren't girls usually taught to never go anywhere alone with a man they didn't know? - Was this girl crazy? Or did she just not care anymore? - but he shrugs it off and keeps walking, unconsciously increasing his speed, something he doesn't notice until he turns around to talk to the girl and she is nearly tripping over her steps to keep up with him. Sorry, he whispers, stopping for a moment so she can catch up before starting again, slower this time. Their eyes meet for a moment and chills run through Takanori's body. Those eyes.
“It's not much farther from here, just a few more blocks,” he whispers, turning to face forward again. It's after midnight now and they are the only ones on the road, dyed a sickly orange colour by the few streetlights lining the way.
A few minutes later they stand outside a large apartment building, several stories high, and Takanori starts going up the stairs, taking care not to lose his balance.
The girl seems cautious and a bit suspicious when they come to a stop outside the door to his apartment(“we're here,” he whispers, looking slightly embarrassed when he realizes he's still holding her wrist and letting go a moment later, digging around in his pocket before producing a set of keys), but he assures her he won't try anything, and that he can sleep on the couch – he just wants to talk and get her to calm down a bit.
They toe off their shoes and head into the living room, the girl staying a few steps behind as they enter the space. Takanori sits down, smiling a bit when the mystery girl curls up on the other end of the sofa, tucking her legs up beside her. Minutes pass as they sit in an uncomfortable silence, Takanori trying to ease conversation out of her but failing to get more than a shake of the head in reply. Her eyes are dark and hollow, rimmed red from crying earlier and lined with impossibly black eyeliner that extends past the edges of her eyelids into two perfectly symmetrical points. A bruise sits just on the edge of her left eye socket, right above the cheekbone, and another on the outer corner of her mouth, right next to a dark scab that stains her bottom lip, but, god, she's beautiful.
Eventually the girl starts nodding off, and Takanori picks her up, feeling how tiny and bony she is in his arms, and sets her down in the bed, careful not to wake her as he pulls the covers up around her. She looks peaceful, he thinks, a stark contrast from the condition she was in when he pulled her off the train tracks earlier in the night, and something in him is completely and utterly fascinated.
He doesn't feel tired, accustomed to late nights and unsure he'd be able to sleep after the night's events even if he tried, so when he returns to the living room he watches late night TV and reads about trivial things he'll never need to know on the internet. He's halfway through a page about the rise of California's citrus industry at the turn of the 20th century when he hears a whimper come from the bedroom. He stills for a moment when the apartment grows quiet once more, thinking he might have just imagined it, but then there is a groan and the sound of someone turning in the sheets so he gets up to investigate.
When he walks into the bedroom he sees the girl tossing and turning, her grip tightening on the sheets as she lets out another whimper, breath increasing and choking a bit as her brows furrow in an expression of distress.
Takanori kneels beside the bed, placing one hand over hers and giving it a light squeeze as he brushes a strand of hair out of her eyes.
“Hey. It's alright,” he whispers, and after a minute her breathing begins to slow again, and soon she is back to sleep like nothing ever happened.
Takanori rests his head on the mattress for just a moment, but soon his eyes are getting heavy and 'just a moment' turns into a whole minute, and one turns into ten, and soon he too is asleep, still holding her hand.
The mysterious girl from the train tracks wakes up a few hours later and the first thing she sees when she opens her eyes is Takanori's head resting beside her. She's taken aback for a moment and pulls her hand out of his grasp, the movement causing him to stir awake as well.
“I should go,” she whispers, and before Takanori has found the words to tell her no, please stay she is gone, stepping into her shoes hastily and heading out the front door. He runs after her as she walks down the hall, hair disheveled and still blinking the sleep out of his eyes. His voice is hoarse and his lips dry when he asks if she wants a ride back home, offering to drive her, and he hopes she'll say yes, feeling ever so slightly dejected when she shakes her head. “No thank you,” she replies, “I can walk.”
Takanori stands in the hall outside his apartment and watches her go, not turning to go back inside until she's started down the stairs heading to the ground level of the building.
He can't stop thinking about her, this mystery girl, wondering where she came from and what her story is. Takanori doesn't believe in love at first sight, and doesn't know much about fate either, but he's always been a bit of a romantic and for a moment he wonders if the the other end of his red thread connects with hers in any way. He hopes so. He hopes that her red thread and his tangle together even if only for a moment longer so he can breathe in her scent and trace patterns into her skin with his fingertips and feel her melt into his chest again.
But he doesn't know the slightest thing about her, not even her name, so he finds himself just a bit frustrated as he shuffles back to bed, tangling himself in the sheets that until a few minutes earlier were wrapped around a strange girl with eyes that burn like a slow wildfire and cut like glass when they locked with his own. The sheets where she laid smell faintly of oranges and wild violets and Takanori finds himself gravitating towards that side of the bed as he drifts off to sleep.
He sleeps the rest of the day, not waking until afternoon but finding it doesn't really matter anyway since he's off work and didn't make plans with anyone. When he finally rolls out of bed just after 5pm it's to the faint tapping of rain against the window and growls of hunger stirring in the pit of his stomach.
He walks to the kitchen, staring dumbly into the cabinets and refrigerator as if looking at nothing long enough will cause something to magically appear. But five minutes pass and he feels uninspired by anything he finds so he calls a small restaurant he frequents a few blocks away and orders the special of the day and enough side dishes that they could be a meal in themselves, and asks for delivery, not finding the will power to leave his cave and go out in the rain.
His food arrives twenty minutes later and he thanks the delivery man earnestly for making the drive despite the weather before closing the door and retreating back to the living room. He sits on the floor while he eats, taking a bite of this or that between clicks and scrolls as he flounders around the internet, making his daily rounds to the various social networking sites he uses but finding nothing of interest.
For a moment he toys with the idea of searching for the mystery girl – she said she could walk home so she must live nearby, he remembers – but in this city of high rise apartment buildings and cheap motels, “nearby” could really be anywhere. So he gives up before he even gets started, not knowing where to begin, and instead opens a new word document, hoping to get some new lyrics down before tomorrow's meeting to plan the band's new single.
He closes his mouth around another bite of food, spiciness making his lips burn and tingle ever so slightly, when her eyes flash in his mind again, cutting into his psyche like a pair of daggers. He sighs, leaning back until he's flat on the floor and wondering how someone he knows absolutely nothing about could burrow themselves so deep into his consciousness in such a short amount of time.
It's fifteen minutes before he rises again, running a hand through his hair as he tries to push the events of last night from his memory and return to his food, now cold from neglect. But no matter how he tries he can't seem to get the girl out of his mind and frustration grips him again.
If only I had found out her name, he thinks, a pang of regret shooting though his chest.
He closes his laptop a few minutes later, abandoning all hope of concentration, and sighs to himself.
When he's eaten past the point of fullness and put the leftovers in the fridge, he curls up on the sofa and turns on the TV. The show is terrible, some low budget drama with B-rate actors and shoddy camerawork, but it makes for alright background noise as he stares at the wall, losing himself in thought once more.
It's just past midnight when he forces himself into the bedroom, hoping to sleep early so he can make it in to work on time tomorrow. It takes a while, but after minutes that feel like hours he finally finds his eyelids growing heavier and heavier until soon they refuse to open.
He's awoken the next morning by a call from his manager, warning Takanori that they had a meeting in an hour and a half and, now that the band has been signed to an indies label, he had better be on time. "Yeah, yeah," he sighs, pushing the covers back and stepping out of bed. "I get it."
He's out the door forty-five minutes later, showered and dressed and fed on last night's leftovers. When he arrives at the office thirty minutes later he is greeted by his high school friends turned band members, sitting in their green room talking about something he couldn't bring himself to pay attention to and sipping at styrofoam cups of coffee so strong it could peel the paint off the walls.
A few minutes later the manager walks in, announcing with no great interest that they've been assigned a new staff member to help manage the band's affairs now that their fanbase has grown and the music is a way to pay bills and not just a hobby. She's introduced as Yumi and when Takanori looks up he has to do a double take, because standing next to the manager and giving a small self introduction is the girl from the train tracks.
✡to be continued✡