I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
Excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe's Annabel Lee
“Hey kiddo!” Jizabel smiled lovingly at his youngest sister for but a brief moment, quickly turning to the oldest boy, “Hazel, did everyone behave?” Hazel gave a half-hearted smile, nodded, and then rushed back towards the house. Jizabel chuckled and chased after him, a procession of children following close behind.
“Jizabeeel! Wait up!” Noriko whined as she sadly attempted to keep pace with him, “JIZABEL!” Jizabel laughed cynically and trotted back to meet her.
“Sorry Nori, I forgot about your 'inability to run'...” Jizabel laughed at her playfully. Nori, gasping for breath, attempted a pout. Jizabel wrapped his arm around her and helped her to the house, all-the-while laughing profusely.
Their house could barely be called a house, it was more of a cabin really. Although whether or not it was a house it was definitely a home. The fireplace was burning brightly in the corner and the wonderful aroma of lilies and homemade bread filled the tiny cabin with life. There was a small stone basin set into the wooden counter directly to the left of the front door. Take two giant steps back from that counter and you'd run into the shabby kitchen table, which at the moment was adorned with beautiful tiger lilies in a lightly painted blue wooden vase. Beyond the table was the living room where an old-fashioned love seat was positioned facing the wall opposite from the kitchen. At the foot of the love seat was a hand-knit purple, green, and black wool rug which the children were constantly falling asleep on.
Upon first entering the house the biggest eye-catcher was the plethora of hand-drawn masterpieces by Rain and Jasper that adorned Noriko's bedroom door, positioned on the back wall next to Jizabel's. Jizabel's door was very plain, no colors, no decorations, none of the warmth that emanated off of Noriko's. More often than not, the children took over Noriko's room, Noriko took over Jizabel's, and Jizabel slept on the love seat.
Jizabel is the stay-at-home father figure of the house. Noriko, being the only one with a job, does the least amount of house work. This day was no different from any other; Jizabel got up early and made breakfast while Noriko got ready for her job at the local diner. After Nori left, Jizabel made the children's breakfast and started their reading lesson; The oldest of the children being ten and the youngest being five, and they still had yet to move beyond a second grade reading level. After they finished their lesson the children were free to do whatever they pleased, while Jizabel finished up the house work. By the time Jizabel finished all his duties, it was about three in the afternoon and Noriko was on her way home. Once she arrived he was expected to have decided what to make for dinner, and have it started.
Jizabel Yagami felt like a prisoner in his own house.
Noriko slumped into the cabin wearing her dirty work uniform. It was a navy blue short-sleeved shirt and black, now faded into gray, long pants. The hat they also made her wear was a black baseball cap with the words “Jay Doe's Diner” written in white across it, which she carelessly tossed onto the love seat.
“Hey...What's for dinner?” She asked as she wiped a stray hair out of her face. Another thing she hated. They made her wear her hair pulled back.
“Chicken Soup” Jizabel sighed. Chicken Soup...again. Chickens were plentiful in Lesteria even in such poverty-stricken a place as Kryona. Well, at least they had their garden.
“Joy.” Nori looked over Jizabel's shoulder and examined the damage. Jizabel was chopping up carrots to add to the soup just next to the basin they called a sink. Nori inhaled deeply, “Do I smell cinnamon sugar bread?!” Jizabel nodded, trying to hide his smile. He knew Noriko loved cinnamon sugar bread. “CINNAMON SUGAR BREAD AND CARROTS IN OUR SOUP?!” Noriko's jaw nearly hit the floor. What could possibly be the occasion? The cinnamon and sugar for the bread cost nearly as much as Nori earned in a month, and she worked two shifts!
“W-where did the money come from Bell...?” Bell...Oh how Jizabel loved it when she called him that.
“I had a visit from an old friend. His name is Viktor, but everyone calls him Sharp-Speaker because he's always been quick and effective in a battle of the words,” Jizabel chuckled, “Well, apparently he's come into some big money. He was passing through and stopped by. When he saw what we had for dinner...well I had no idea really...but he went to the market and showed back up with a bag of sugar that will last us centuries! And the jar of cinnamon—Yes Nori, I said jar of cinnamon...! And the carrots were compliments of his lovely wife Lenore.” Noriko was stunned past words, she just nodded and walked towards the love seat absent-mindedly. Jizabel smiled to himself.
The next day the sun shone through the curtain-less window in Jizabel's room. Noriko stirred from her restless sleep. She hadn't been able to sleep right since that day...
It was seven years ago to this very day. Nori was a family friend of the Yagamis. Jizabel's mother was a beautiful and kind person. His father was strong and wise. Jizabel was sitting in front of the love seat watching his mother knit while his father was working on making the stone basin that now serves as their sink. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and light was glinting off of Mrs. Yagami's hair creating a prismatic effect revealing how truly beautiful she was.
There was a loud bang as the front door was thrown open. A group of men wearing silver and red uniforms stormed in armed with strange weapons. Mrs. Yagami quickly grabbed Jizabel and shoved him under the love seat while pretending to fall to the floor in fear. The men quickly seized Mr. Yagami and surrounded his wife.
“Mister and Misses Yagami, we are the Subliminal Conscious Organization's special forces and we are here to carry out the sentence the Yagami family has earned.”
“What have we done wrong?!” Mrs. Yagami whimpered.
“The Yagami family has committed war crimes against the Subliminal Conscious Organization.”
“What...is our sentence?”
Jizabel peaked out from under the love seat and fought with all his might from screaming as he watched his father fighting off the soldiers with little avail. With in minutes he was slain. He heard his mother's sobs and buried his face in his arm, he could bare no more. There was a pain-filled shriek and then a thud. A moment later, as the heavy sounds of the soldiers' boots faded away, he felt a warm moisture creeping amongst the dirt and flour that covered the floor. Startled, Jizabel opened his eyes and crawled out from underneath the love seat to investigate the source of the liquid. His eyes followed the trail without taking in the rest of the room; He was too afraid to see what had become of his parents. His curiosity got the best of him, for when he found the source of the fluid, he found a sight that would haunt him forever. His beautiful mother, covered in that warm liquid. Her hair was sprawled out around her face, which was covered in scratches and dirt. Laying not five feet from her was the distorted body of his father. One arm seemed to be almost torn in half, while the other was reaching out towards the steak knife he had always put so much faith in. Elissella and Otousuke Yagami were dead, each laying in pools of their own blood.
Noriko shivered at the memory of her best friend's parents' murder. She had only heard of it from Jizabel and the newspaper, for at the time she was at the diner working her first shift.
Reluctantly Noriko threw off the covers and stumbled out of bed. She glanced out the window, noticed that the sun was already up and gasped. She was expected to be at work by the time the sun was just above the trees. She hastily threw on her work clothes and rushed into the kitchen.
“Jizabel, do you have anything I can eat on the way to work? I'm famished and already running late!” gasped Nori as she rushed around the kitchen opening cupboard after cupboard finding nothing but dust bunnies.
“Um, here!” Jizabel handed her a hastily made cinnamon sugar bread and butter sandwich. Noriko grabbed it and flew out the door in a hustle.
By the time she got into town the sun was already brimming the trees. It was a beautiful town, despite the poverty. That day the farmer's market was lining the brightly colored cobble-stone streets. You could see mothers covering their children's ears as they hurried along towards their homes. The store owners had quite a vocabulary when it came to the farmers. The farmers were always placing their tents up in front of the shops, making it very difficult for any customers to enter. There was always a quarrel or two on Farmer's Friday.
In her rush to be to work on time, Noriko payed no attention to the farmers or the shopkeepers who threaten to side-track her. Suddenly the shopkeeper of the Book Boutique collided with Nori in his haste to delivery his armful of literary texts. The pile of books and paperwork came crashing down on it's previously fallen victims.
“Ouch...!” Noriko exclaimed as she rubbed her head. Slowly she opened her eyes and, like an ominous ray of hope taunting her inner desires sat a single sheet of paper glistening in the bright spring light. Nori snatched up the paper and stared, full of longing. It was an advertisement for an upcoming dance. A masquerade open to the public. She could have cried from joy. 'Open to the public' meant free! She turned to the long forgotten shopkeeper and grinned.
“May I keep this?” she inquired while clutching the advertisement as if it were her very own life-line.
“Of-of course ma'am!”
Noriko radiated joy as she rushed towards the diner. When finally she spotted the rotting discolored wooden sign with Jay Doe's Diner engraved on it. She thought she'd never find it in all of this mayhem. Still on a high from her wondrous discovery, she squeezed in between a the farmers' tents and rushed inside.
“WHERE IN LESTERIA HAVE YOU BEEN MS. FUKUMORI?!”
Mr. Yamada was a well-built grumpy old man with stubble on his face and red stains all over his arms, hands, and apron. He had chin-length dish-water brown hair pulled back into a tight ponytail with a bandanna tied around it. He stood at almost six feet tall. Thats a good foot taller than Noriko, which made him seem even more menacing as he loomed over her.
“I uh, I was...um...” Noriko fumbled words to explain in an expectable way that she simply slept in, “I...um...slept in...” Noriko cringed.
“Slept IN?! That's the third time this week Noriko. I can't deal with this any longer. I'll have to cut your pay until you organize your priorities.” Mr. Yamada scolded Noriko and the stalked off mumbling, “Should have been sent to the orphanage....delinquent....useless....” Noriko stood rooted to the spot, speechless. It was bad enough that she only got 20 Kryen per shift, but now she'd have to live off of 1.40 Shymmers a week! And she only got paid every other week.
It would be a long work day.
Jizabel was just lighting the fire place to reheat the previous night's leftover soup when Noriko slumped into the house looking defeated.
“Nori? What's wrong?” Jizabel stared at her, secretly admiring how she could still look like a beautiful porcelain doll when she was exhausted and sweaty.
“I was late for work...again. Yamada cut my pay...” Nori blinked furiously trying to hold back the tears that burned in her eyes, “And these allergies are killing me!” She lied.
“Oh Nori, we all know you don't have allergies. Come here...” He had to fight with all of his might to keep himself from running instead of calmly walking up to embrace her, “It'll be alright Nori. We'll get through it. A bakery has opened up downtown, I could always apply there...” Jizabel gave her a half-smile. Noriko broke out laughing, “Oh Jizabel, you know this town would rather employ little Rain with her disorder than you. And even if you did managed to get a job, you'd get fired the moment your boss tried to give you an order!”
Elizerain, also known as Rain, has Photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is a disorder that makes a person burn immediately upon contact with the sun, or any sort of UV rays. Because of this disorder Rain is extremely pale, and gets teased by other children in the village; They call her a vampire and throw stones and wooden crosses at her. The rich kids sometimes even throw garlic. Whenever this happens Rain pushes her chin out and holds her head up high, despite the tears that stream down her face. Jizabel would always tell her, “One day, Rain, those horrible children will get what they deserve. They're too hateful for their own good. When their hate takes them over, and they become Asuras, you can look at them and simply smile because you'll have a wonderful place reserved for you as a Deva.”
Jizabel was a Mahayana Buddhist, and the Yagami children all thought that he honestly had already become enlightened, and was a Bodhisattva who came to care for them. A Bodhisattva is a person who became enlightened but decided to stay in order to help people, according to Buddhist beliefs. Jizabel, however, disagreed.
Noriko was agnostic. She couldn't care less about what happens when you die. All she cared about was keeping the children healthy and happy. She just zoned out whenever Jizabel went on a Buddhist ramble. Hazel agreed with Noriko, meanwhile Jasper and Rain were with Jizabel.
Noriko began to sob uncontrollably once she was securely locked in Jizabel's arms. She buried her face in his shirt and cried for a good fifteen minutes, as Jizabel stroked her hair. The boys' laughter could be heard coming from the backyard.
“Nori...?” A small hand reached up and tugged at her pants. Noriko sniffled and peaked out of Jizabel's fortress of arms and saw bright green eyes full of worry staring at her.
“Oh Rain, it's alright. I'll....I'll be okay.” Noriko managed to say as Jizabel carefully wiped away her tears and pressed her cheek against his chest. How it hurt to see her in so much pain, “I'm going to go lay down for a bit alright?” Noriko smiled weakly up at Jizabel's beautiful face. He was surprisingly beautiful for a man, even though his cheeks were lined with dirt and he had a scrape on his chin. She laughed quietly and tried to wipe the dirt off of him with her sleeve, only to smear it. He stroked her hair once again and nodded with a half-smile of his own.
Once Nori was fast asleep Jizabel inched his way into her room to get her laundry. He glanced at her as he was carefully collecting clothing. She looked so much younger when she was asleep. Almost as if she was just a normal teenager with no responsibilities. Jizabel was caught in that thought. The two of them with parents, neither having a job, maybe even going to school. Maybe he'd have been able to take her to a school dance or to a play. But then he realized they wouldn't live together or see each other every day and shuddered at the thought. He picked up the last piece of clothing on the wooden floor and a sheet of paper fell out of the pocket.
It was an advertisement for a free masquerade. She hadn't mentioned anything about it, but Noriko wasn't one to take advertisements that she wasn't interested in. He sighed. Jizabel would love to take her, but the masquerade outfits would be hard to explain. Noriko could never know about his connections, or the people whom he advised. The real reason she was able to have the cinnamon sugar bread, and that one lovely Lolita dress he despised. He sighed and took a long look at her face. He didn't get to see her smile often, but when she did, it warmed him throughly and left him almost giddy. “I think I can risk it...” He whispered.