"For A Moment"
Disclaimer: The situations and all the characters contained within belong to me and only me. NOT YOURS! MINE!
Author's Note: Written for St. Valentines Day, February 14, 2003. For a friend who isn't here to share it with me.
"Where is he?"
Though it was said quietly, and under her breath, the desperation in Kit's voice was obvious. Her eyes darted back and forth across the audience, as if it could pick one person out of the five hundred plus crowd. This was it, Kitsumi's big performance. It was being held in the city auditorium, and it was packed. People whom couldn't find a seat stood along the walls to watch. Somewhere in this mess were even her parents, though Kit didn't care if they were there or not. Her "father" was really just her stepfather, being more interested in his advancement in social status because his step daughter was the center of this social event, and her mother told people that shed' made the dress Kit was wearing, but somehow forgot to mention that Kit was actually her daughter, as if the dress was more important than the girl. The sheer mass of people in front of her took her breath away, squeezed her throat closed and twisted her stomach into a knot.
"Where the hell is he?"
She'd been told all her life that she had a lovely voice, perfect for singing. She'd never really done anything about it, music wasn't her thing, but her music teacher had cajoled her into singing a piece after class, and had nearly fainted when Kit delivered it as flawlessly as if an angel had sung it. Somehow between then and now, Kit had been pulled into doing a public performance and it scared her like nothing else. She had almost no experience singing, but she'd had no luck convincing her teacher that she was just an amateur.
"Damnit, why isn't he here?" Kit stomped her foot, her eyes darting back and forth. "He said he'd be here."
"Kitsumi!" Her music teacher was at the foot of the stage, leaning so far over it that the poor public educator was almost lying on the polished wooden platform. "We should have started five minutes ago! Why didn't you cue the music?"
"He's not here!" Kit spat through her gritted teeth, trying desperately to continue smiling for the restless crowd.
"Who isn't here?"
"Who the heck is Ryo?"
Kit didn't answer. She couldn't sum up who Ryo was in a few words. She couldn't sum him up in a paragraph or a page. To understand who Ryo was, you had to either take him as a whole, with all the details intact, or just know him. The only answer that Kit could think of was "Ryo is Ryo." but that didn't help explain who Ryo was. He'd long beaten into Kit that an answer that doesn't answer usually wasn't worth saying. While Kit didn't fully understand the thought, and usually didn't follow it in practice, it was an example of his thinking, so she kept her response back on the tip of her tongue instead of out in the open air.
Much to the satisfaction of the crowd, and to the utter horror of Kitsumi, her music teacher cued the instrumental half of the music to start. Kitsumi stood, frozen, staring at the audience, and then down at the microphone as if it was some cobra that had reared up and unfurled its hood, its long tail being made out of the members of the audience.
Come on. She closed her eyes and took a breath. The music is already there. I just need to add the words. She opened her eyes and her mouth to begin singing, only to realize that she'd missed her intro by about half a second. The audience grumbled uncomfortably as the music was stopped and restarted back at the beginning. This time, she started too soon and choked on the second word of the song. The third time she didn't start at all, just stared at the audience with her mouth opening and shutting like a fish gasping in the open air. She was panicking and she knew it, though she didn't know how to get out of it. There were too many people. The pressure was too much. Ryo wasn't there and everyone else was. It was all just too much.
Before the music started a fourth time, if it was even going to be started a fourth time, a sound somewhat like an explosion came from the back of the auditorium. Someone had torn the doors open so fast, and with so much strength, that they swung out and slammed against the wall their doorframe was set in. An ounce more strength behind the movement and the large steel doors would have been torn from their hinges.
At first Kit thought it was someone leaving, voicing their displeasure by slamming the doors open since that type of door didn't slam close nearly as dramatically. But as she looked, trying to blink her tear filled vision clear, she saw him. Ryo had come, and he'd done it in such a way as to make sure she knew he was there and could see him. He stood alone in the main walkway between the seats, just a few steps forward from the threshold so he wouldn't be hit by the doors as they swung closed again. His eyes pierced through his dark bangs, lancing across the auditorium to meet her own.
Ryo was there. If she were to run down the isle right now, she knew that he was there either to hold the door open and dash out after her, escaping from this crowd and their disapproving looks, or to drag her kicking and screaming back onto to stage to prove all those disapproving looks wrong. In either case, Ryo was ready for her, ready to do which ever it was that she needed. He didn't really have to do either of them, just that he was there and ready to do either was enough for Kit. She nodded her head and firmly grasped the microphone stand with both hands.
Well, let's have it then. He didn't say it, but Kit knew that's what he meant. He didn't say anything at all, just stood there, arms folded, looking at her. His head was tilted back ever so slightly, an eyebrow raised just a bit.
That was all she needed. With Ryo there, she could do anything, and singing a few songs was absolutely nothing as long as he was there. She was ready to sing, now.
Then, of course, she made her fatal error. She looked away from him and back at the crowd. It all came back to her. The crowd. The song. Her screwing up three times in front of all of them and looking like a total loser. Every fear she'd had in days, all of them, suddenly piled up onto her again, all of it coming at once now. The crowd murmured, some of them snickering, as the song started once again and the same horrified look came over Kit's face. Her eyes desperately scanned back and forth, combing through the crowd, looking for where Ryo had sat down.
He hadn't. He still stood in the center isle, arms folded, eyes on her. Their eyes met once again, and everything, even the music, went silent. Kit panicked, feeling she'd screwed up again, but when she looked back at the audience, she found... nothing. They were gone. Each and every person had vanished. Their was no sound in the auditorium, there was no one in the auditorium. Kit's eyes quickly flittered back to where Ryo had stood, expecting him to have vanished too, but there he stood, alone, looking at her.
As their eyes met again, it was like a perfect moment, if there even are such things. A moment of total clarity within which Kitsumi understood everything about the world around her. This was what Ryo was seeing. For him, no one was there. The crowd wasn't there, had never been there. There was no noise, no babies crying, girls talking, or boys snickering. Nothing. Just an empty room... and her. While she had looked out and saw a mob of people before, all rearing up like some massive wave to come crashing down on her, grinning at her failure, Ryo saw only an empty room, and now Kit was seeing it from his point of view without having to look through his eyes. She was the only one there, the only one who could make a sound. Not even the music was heard in this empty room.
"Oh my..." she whispered to herself. She closed her eyes, trying to gather it all together once more. Even though there was no one there to see the signal, Kitsumi gave it. She couldn't hear the music, but she tapped her foot to the beat in her mind, knowing when to start on the song.
And she sang. The room was empty, no music was playing, and there was no one else there besides her and Ryo, but she still sang. It was perfect, flawless. This song and this frozen moment were only for Ryo and herself, just something for the two of them to share together, something only the two of them could understand.
And she sang. She kept singing, something inside telling her when it was time to start the next song. She did the entire performance, no crowd, no music, no sound other than that of her own voice, and no one to hear it except for the solitary figure of Ryo, still standing in the center isle with his arms folded.
She finished. There was nothing more to sing. She'd done all her songs perfectly. She'd done them all alone and all for Ryo. Once she was done, she stepped back from the microphone stand, tipped her head forward, arms straight out, and bent slightly at the knees. A bow without allowing anyone to look down her dress. When she looked back up, eagerly waiting to see Ryo's response to her performance, it hit her like a wall.
They applauded. People were standing and clapping, stomping their feet. Some were even rushing down the isles to be near the stage. The performance was over and the audience had loved every minute of it. Her parents were on stage, her mother gathering her up in a hug.
"Oh honey! You did wonderful!" Her mother cooed into Kitsumi's ear. "I wasn't so sure at the beginning but you did all the songs! You did it perfect!"
The realization hit her like the wall of applause had hit her a moment ago. The moment hadn't frozen in time, but had kept going. Her eyes searched the milling crowd, most now having gotten up out of their seats and come to the front of the stage, all cheering for her. She searched everywhere, every face, but he wasn't there. He wasn't among the special group of friends and family that had gotten on stage to thank her, he wasn't among the group at the foot of the stage, and he wasn't standing alone in the center isle. It had been like he was everywhere, like he had been her whole world, and now it was like he'd never even been there. For a desperate moment it was like he might not even be real.
"Mom, did Ryo come?"
She'd closed her eyes and he'd been there when she needed him most. Now she'd woken from the dream and he was never there. The crowd had been real, the music had been real, and the performance had been real, but the person it had all been for wasn't.
Ryo wasn't real.
It was later, much later, that Kitsumi actually got to leave. She'd changed out of the dress and into some normal street clothes. She'd sent her parents home ahead of her, telling them that she was going to celebrate the performances success with her friends, while she told her friends that her parents were dragging her home. She discretely escaped through the side exit and walked around the outside to the back of the building. She just wanted to lean against the wall for the moment and be alone, attempt to take in the days events. When she turned the corner, she had already taken two steps past him before she even realized he was there.
Ryo was leaning against the wall, his feet crossed at the ankles, waiting for her. He was staring at the ends of his black Nike's, at the very tips were his big toe might be underneath the fake leather. She hesitated for a moment, at once confused and ecstatic that he really was there. The hesitation passed and she leaned against the wall beside him, copying his pose.
"Did you like the performance?" She didn't know why she cared about his answer, as if she didn't trust the mass of people from before who had been shouting how great she was.
"It was pleasing." His smooth simple voice answered in a perfect contrast to her usually excited, bubbly voice.
"You didn't stay at the end to walk me out the door."
"You looked busy." Ryo still had not looked at her.
"I could of used your rescuing."
"I rescued you enough times for today. Besides," He pushed off the wall, twisted around and placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head, his feet spread over her crossed legs. "It was good for you to hear their praise."
She smiled easily into his face. Being this close together bothered him way more than it bothered her, and Kit knew it. "You still could've stayed."
"I did not have to. I knew where you would be." Ryo started to draw away, his tolerance for someone else being within his personal space having been drained. "I knew where you would go."
Before he got completely away, Kit wrapped her arms around his back and pulled herself away from the wall and to him. She closed her eyes and buried her face in the crook of his neck, breathing him in. He smelled sweet like tobacco, but had a flavor of cinnamon mixed in.
"Thanks," Kit whispered, "for everything, for being real."
"I am as real as you are, Kit." Ryo did not return the hug. He didn't have to. His presence surrounded her, wrapped around her more than his arms ever could.
She hugged him tighter for a moment, and then quickly stepped away. She grinned at him impishly, knowing he hated to be touched and delighting in that he allowed her to touch him anyway. "Ice cream?"
Ryo tilted his head to the side for a moment, glancing behind her where a street lamp had just come on. It was getting dark enough that a passing car had already turned on its headlights. "Yes."
"Good!" She grabbed his hand, tugging him forward and into the light. "Let's go."