A/N: Thanks to Punkispurple and Crayoneater for reviewing! But I also saw a few spelling mistakes I put in there. I didn't have enough time to go over the whole thing, since I was so sleepy. I'll revise that. Hopefully, this chapter won't have any more mistakes. And, beware, there will be humor, since I am practically insane and can't help but add stuff like that. Cheers, -Midnight

Heartaches

Chapter 1

Illusions.

Illusions are something planted in the mind so cleverly that the person is able to see it although it isn't real. It is like a belief, something that is true but something that you so rarely saw through because you didn't want the whole truth.

Illusions were, simply, something that you made to cover up the truth that you didn't want to know.

I, Hagashikuni Seki, lived an illusion. My story begins in my room, my second-floor window, and the large oak tree that spreads its now red leaves in graceful welcome to my troubled mind. My mind is troubled for two reasons: my low self-esteem, and my fighting parents. And the only thing, in my opinion, that soothes my brain is the peace of nature that hangs outside my window.

I love nature. I think of it as a simple beauty that has enchanted many like me, and I can watch a bird nest for three hours if it allows me to do so.

But enough with the poetry. The story must be told, for if it isn't, I will forget it forever.

The first thing that happened was that the note came fluttering in through my window.

"But the note was stupid," Emiko argued the next day. She had pulled her hair back into a face-stretching ponytail before we had set off for school. "No one would want to…like, harm you, right, Seki? I mean, you haven't done anything bad or stupid, have you?"

I looked at her as if she was crazy and replied, "You know as well as I do that I never do anything stupid. Intentionally, that is. I mean, I haven't taken any of my father's drugs or alcohol, have I?" I was really irritated with her attitude. It seemed like she was blaming me for the note. Like I had to anything with it…besides the fact I was the one who had gotten it.

"Of course not," she shot back. "But I was worried. I was just trying to consider all the possibilities that someone may have sent you a threatening note." She sent a glance at me. "Have I been missing something in your life, Seki-chan?"

"No," I said, beginning to feel that my irritation was slowly feeding into my short-circuited temper. "Well, besides the fact that my parents have started arguing about my college again."

"Well, that's no reason to send you that note," she said airily.

I stared at her, my temper rearing its ugly head again. "Excuse me, Emiko, but I was thinking that maybe it might not be important for you, but to me, it means a whole lot of things!" I don't get her sometimes. On other days, she seems like such a caring friend, and the others, she's just a bubbling airhead. What was the point of telling her this anyway?

Because I thought she'd understand. Because she was the only one I could confide anything in. But look how it turned out. It was like she didn't even care about me being in danger…or was it just me?

Emiko looked at me. "I'm sorry, Seki, but I've been busy. I've had had a lot on my mind."

"Like what?" I demanded loudly, and, as I admit now, rather foolishly. But at the time, I wanted to pick a fight…with my best friend. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. And I was so eager what had occupied my friend's mind that seemed to have replaced my problems.

She flushed. "Um, a guy's asked me out and his name's Akamatsu Kan. We have a date tomorrow night, so I was thinking about him, that's all."

I stopped walking and stared at her, practically seething in anger. I admit, it was selfish, but I did so wanted Emiko's attention. She was the only one in the whole world who even thought about me, and now she got her mind occupied by some other guy. It made my blood boil.

"So, you're going to take a boyfriend over your best friend any day?" I fumed. "I'm more important than this Akamatsu?"

"Sumimasen, Seki," Emiko apologized, looking alarmed. "It's not like that at all! Of course you're more important, it's just that…that…" She stopped, unable to find the words.

"That what?" I practically snarled. My temper had broken the surface, because of what, I didn't know. Perhaps it was because of:

a) All the stress that's been in my life lately

b) My parents fighting and arguing

c) Emiko's stupid boyfriend

d) The dumb note

…Or: e) all of the above. For whatever reason, I snapped. Emiko looked helplessly trapped as I advanced on her, seeing red, pink, and scarlet…or all the colors of the rainbow. It seemed like I was about to hit her, but Emiko blurted out something that made me stop. "That I have a life, Seki!" she burst out. "I have a right to live, and I see that you have to stop living through me like this. You are an independent-minded woman, so act like one!"

It slapped me in the face.

My own illusion had turned on me and shattered into a million pieces of truth.

I'm not saying that I'm mental, but I'm clear-minded, smart, intelligent, all the right stuff. But at the time, I was forced to spend my time so much in solitude that I did indeed start to live in the ways of a mentally retarded person, and many did regard me as crazy. I had become reclusive, barely eating three meals a day, and had a poor excuse for a life. That was the bare, solid truth, and I had been running away from it for five years, ever since I was thirteen.

And now, the cold reality hit me. I was living a lie, and I needed to face the consequences. And the pain. Alone. I froze, standing, watching my friend hurry away from me. My only friend in the world. She was running away. But she had done me a big favor in hitting me around the head with the baseball bat of truth. I just didn't appreciate it at the time.

I went to school, as usual. Emiko was in homeroom with me, but she was keeping a determinedly straight face as she stared towards the front, avoiding my eyes. Jesus, my own best friend was ignoring me. How worse can life get? I sat there, miserably, sketching the outlines of an anime face, then penciling in the eyebrows and eyes.

The rest of the day was terrible, although it was a blur. I walked, alone, from class to class, people jostling me and going about their happy, busy lives. I was nothing but a wallflower to them. Frustrating, isn't it, when you're treated like you're a part of the wall behind them?

I was grateful when the bell rang, and I skidded outside after picking up my things at my locker. I was eager to get home once again, wallow in my sorrow, and muse over the events of the day. Call me crazy – you're crazy, Seki! – but I wanted nothing more than to dwell on my bad memories…including today's. I ran around the corner, pushing people aside, my mind striving for that open doorway.

But I immediately halted when I bumped – or crashed, or whatever – into what felt like a male body. Instantly, there was a commotion. Books and papers – mostly mine and his – scattered. Voices yelled profanities at us. Someone shoved me hard in the back, and I stumbled forward, feeling like a rag doll in the mob. Then a pair of strong arms encircled me and yanked me upright, almost jerking my head off in the process. Fortunately, it didn't fall off. It just felt like my brains had suffered a major earthquake. No big deal, right?

I glared up to tell off the super macho who had pulled me…and let loose a string of curse words. I didn't mean to say such dirty language, but it was, again, the mounting pressure that caused me to. "You complete asshole!" I yelled. I yanked out of his grip, almost breaking my arm in the process, but I didn't care. All I cared about was dissing off this guy so completely that he would go home with his tail between his legs.

Unfortunately, the look of gentle amusement on his face signaled that my plan wasn't really working. It was only then that I noticed how cute he was. Now, I don't normally describe boys as cute, but this one was a total hottie! His hair was fair and soft, reaching to curl around his shoulders. His fringe was long, two strands gathering at each temple to shade his baby-blue eyes. He looked like an angel!

The only difference was, of course, that angels didn't go around wearing sneakers and typical schoolboy fashioned clothes. Or at least, pertaining to the fact that angels usually went around wearing white dress robes.

Although I was practically hypnotized by his eyes, that didn't stop the cursing that erupted from my mouth. "You f*cking pig!" I yelled. "Can't you at least have the decency to pull me up more gently?"

"Of course I did," he said, his voice soft and melodic. "I just didn't. I didn't find it absolutely necessary."

"Not absolutely necessary, huh? Well, I'll show you what's necessary…" I raised a fist, meaning to hit him, but a cough broke our argument. I glanced to my left – he to his right – and gave a start. Emiko was staring at both of us with an incredulous look on her face. Or rather, she was avoiding my eyes and staring at him.

"What are you two doing?" she asked bitterly. She turned to me, a look of contempt on her face. "Already picking a fight with my boyfriend, are you?"

My jaw hit the floor with a thunk. The hunk was her new boyfriend? I lowered my fist and looked at them. "So, you're the Akamatsu Kan Emiko's been talking about?" I asked, trying not to look interested. I was already wondering what Akamatsu-san had found in Emiko. And, since Emiko was, by that time, low in my books, I was very interested in the answer.

"Hai," he nodded. He was grinning. "And you're the best friend that's put Emiko into such a bad mood this morning?"

"Yes, I am." I stuck out my chin and glared at both of them. "She's the best friend who totally ruined my whole day."

Emiko glowered at me. "Well, if you stop being such an insensitive ass, then maybe I'll communicate better!"

"If you stop being so bitchy," I growled, "maybe I'll want you back!"

"Hello, the world does not, like, revolve around you, Seki!" She threw up her hands. "It's not a question of you wanting me back or not but a question of do we both want it!"

Again, the truth slapped me. But I ignored its warning words, spun on my heel, and marched out, not looking back at Akamatsu Kan or Emiko.

My thoughts lingered for a long time on that event, as I sat working on my homework: trigonometry, history, and literature. But I dwelled even more on my swelling problems. When the nights before had been filled with screams and yells of arguments, they were now filled with crashes of physical violence.

It was okaasan who was hurt the most. In the mornings, when she toasted the bread and pressed down on the waffles, her arms and face were bruised. It made me feel pity for her, but I stayed quiet as I ate, unable to say anything that was comfortable for both her and me.

My father was a worse case than before. He was increasingly on edge, and although his marijuana seemed to mellow him out a bit, it made him more dangerous. Also, his drinking habits had worsened, and I often found myself avoiding him whenever he was home. There was always a ninety percent chance that he was drunk and dangerous.

Emiko had not phoned me ever since that 'incident', and I didn't phone her. The resentment between us was silent, but it was still there. It never showed, but it was still present in our brief encounters in the hallways. A look would pass between us and contempt would show in every glance. But I had a stubborn streak a mile long, and both our prides were on the line. I certainly wasn't going to give up my pride, although I knew I was, in fact, wrong.

Akamatsu Kan was another matter. When I went to walk the dog, Barney, I met him. When I went shopping, I bumped into him. He was always there, for some reason or another. And, every time I ran into him, the more increasingly difficult it was to get his innocently cute face out of my mind. I was attracted to him, no doubt, but I was forcing myself to ignore him, simply because he was my best friend's boyfriend, because I loathed my best friend, and because I couldn't just steal her boyfriend away from her.

I daydreamed about him, though, fantasizing about little, pleasant rendezvous we would have, and sketched his face at least two times a day.

I certainly didn't expect that something would happen, in two days' time, which would take my mind completely off Akamatsu Kan…for the time being.

"I want a bloody pizza!" I shouted into the phone.

Saturday nights were such a bore. As usual, I had no date. I was the loser, the loner in school, and, as a result, I had no boyfriend, no mates, and, for now, no friends. Pleasant situation, isn't it? And I was being moody tonight. Alone. My parents had both gone off their separate ways: Mom, to work, and Dad, perhaps, to another bar. Neither of them would be back after midnight.

The pizza guy stammered a yes into the phone, and I hung up, and then flopped back onto the couch, forcing my eyes to focus on the rerun of LXG onscreen. The pizza dudes were seriously hearing-impaired, I decided lazily. I had been yelling my order for the last three minutes and they had asked me to repeat it a dozen times. It was a wonder I had held in my short-circuited temper while shouting 'A damn cheese pizza, you idiots!' at least more than ten times.

Or maybe hadn't held it in, since I had sort of exploded the last time.

Barney bounded into the living room, sniffed at the couch, and cocked his leg against it. I wrinkled my nose at the black Labrador and tossed him a Cheez Ball. He caught it in his mouth and crunched noisily. I knew that it was unhealthy to feed him anything other than dog food, but hey, the dog just peed against my dad's sitting post. He just might deserve it if my dad came home drunk again.

"C'mere, you fluffy dog," I said softly, holding out my hand. His nose touched the joint where my pinkie joined with my hand, its cold wetness somehow comforting. It was nice to know that at least the dog liked you.

I sat there, stroking Barney's head as he lounged on the couch, brown eyes closed and paws held up in an expression of contentment. Emiko liked Barney a lot. She was planning to major in veterinary medicine in college, and had already studied a great deal of animals. She was, in fact, the one who had said that I shouldn't feed Barney scraps under the table. But I knew she occasionally slipped him a piece of meat. I sighed. Well, Barney wasn't going to be feeding out of her hand any time soon, 'cause Emiko wasn't my best friend anymore.

The doorbell rang, and I sat up, surprised. Barney cocked his ear and sniffed at the covering of the couch, but otherwise stayed with his belly to the ceiling. I yawned and scratched my waist through the fabric of my shirt, calling as the bell rang persistently, "I'm coming!"

I took my time.

After all, the pizza dudes deserved it. I padded down the hall and paused with my hand on the doorknob, fingers curling around the key. A smell was drifting through the door…a faint smell of cigarettes and cologne. I smirked. So, delivery boys had taken up smoking, had they? I pulled open the door and extended a hand for the pizza.

"Hi, is this –" I stopped and stared. For the second time that day, my jaw hit the floor. Except that the floor was the hard ridge of the threshold. Ouch. The next thing I recalled was the sidewalk jumping up to slap me in the face. Double ouch.

Author's note: Due to extreme pressure of SATs, the next week will be tough to use for writing.