Kiyoto wandered around the street. She knew every street, every turn and every shortcut in this area.
6 months 24 days…..
It’s been 6 month and 24 days without anyone beside her, though she felt that it had been years rather than days that had passed.
The little amount of money she had brought with her in the beginning was gone now, spent on keeping her full and clean for maybe about the first week. After that, she starved, spending her days and nights on the dirty streets, begging for money.
Her once long and beautiful dark auburn brown hair was now a mess. Clothes that she had brought with her were all crumpled and torn in different places.
The money that people threw at her was only enough to buy her a small piece of bread each day, and whatever was left she would save up until she could afford a nice shower in the Sento. But to her, even showers were a luxury.
Luckily for her, she was able to locate a shelter for homeless people that provided her with warm meals. Even though she went there often, she never warmed up to the people that volunteered there.
No matter how kind-hearted they seemed to be…
Maybe it was because of her past that she couldn’t trust anyone, scared of the possibility that they had other intentions. Every time she went, she would just do her own business, and leave the place without a word.
Today was just like any other day – wandering around the streets, trying not to get into trouble.
Kiyoto just kept walking and walking, and only realized it was already 6:00PM when she finally spotted a clock on the wall of a building.
With a startled gasp, she started sprinting back to the homeless shelter.
When she finally arrived at the shelter, she found a lady locking the gate.
“Wait!” Kiyoto cried, panting as she leaned over to catch her breath.
A click was heard as the worker turned the key before turning to face the young girl. Her face was full of curiosity, then pity when she saw the messy state that Kiyoto was in.
“May I help you?”
Kiyoto weakly lifted her arm and pointed at the shelter.
“The… the shelter, it’s still open, right?”
Kiyoto had never felt as distressed in her life as when the worker shook her head.
“I’m sorry. You just missed the dinner meals. Come back tomorrow, though. It opens again at—”
Kiyoto screamed. She screamed for her growling stomach, her frustration, her empty pockets, for her empty heart and her pitiful self.
Tears formed and blurred her vision.
While tears ran down her face, she walked away and stumbled upon an area with more people. Like she’d done a million times before and sat at the corner of the street. She took out a broken bowl and placed it down in front of her.
All kinds of people passed by her – rushing businessmen, rich wives, chatty teenagers, loving families, but still, no one paid her any attention.
“Please Sir! Please Madame! Please help me….I’m starving….”
She repeated this sentence for hours and hours and yet no one…no one was willing to give her money. When they saw her, they quickly shifted their eyes as if they’d never laid eyes on her and picked up their speed as they walked past her. Some even gave her a disgusted and dirty looks.
She started to wonder what would happen to her the next day. Every night when she went to sleep, she worried whether she would even wake up to feel the warmth of the sun on her skin.
With each night fall, memories haunted her and chased her like she was a criminal. As if that wasn’t enough, living every day with this guilty feeling inside her was turning her into a monster.
Suddenly, Kiyoto felt drops of water hit her face. The rain began to pick up as more water started pour down until her clothes and her hair were soaked. Even her little bowl contained more water than coins now. People began to rush past her to avoid the rain and soon she was sitting on the street alone.
Her stomach erupted with growls.
‘Why is this happening to me? Why does it have to be me? Why couldn’t I be with my best friends, have a family and have a happy and peaceful life?’
For the past few months she had tried to be strong, but her resolve was breaking. She didn’t know how much long she could continue before it finally breaks down.
Suddenly, the water stopped landing on her, but she knew it was still raining. Puzzled, she looked up and saw a red umbrella above her head. She felt a hand tap her shoulder and by instinct she immediately jumped up and pressed her back against the building wall behind her.
Before her, stood a man with the most captivating eyes she’d ever seen.
The man was tall and well-dressed. He had black hair and hazel eyes that showed gentleness, yet a hint of pity.
“Who is he? Why is he standing there?”
She thought to herself as curiosity overwhelmed her, but she refused to ask him directly. She had always distanced herself from people to protect herself and she did wish that there was someone that she could lean on. But she didn’t know who she could trust and who she couldn’t anymore. The incident that had happened months ago had left a huge impact on her and she still had nightmares about it. She didn’t want to experience it all over again and to prevent that she isolated herself. She couldn’t allow her curiosity to take over and make an exception with this man.
The silence between the two of them seemed to have prolonged for a long time. None of them said a word and none of them made a sound.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud, growling sound from Kiyoto’s stomach.
Kiyoto looked down in embarrassment.
The man put the umbrella beside her and walked into a nearby café
As soon as he disappeared into the café, she thought that he was another typical bypasser who had only found her interesting for a little while.
Not long after, he came out with a cup of hot chocolate and a muffin in a plastic bag, protecting it from the rain.
He placed it in front of her, making her look up at him, confused.
“It’s yours. You’re hungry right?” He said to her.
Kiyoto didn’t budge at first, however, she could no longer resist the temptation when she smelled the sweet scent of the hot chocolate.
She was too hungry…
She grabbed the bag that was placed in front of her and taking the muffin out she bit into it . She didn’t care if she looked unsightly, it wasn’t like she looked attractive in the first place anyway. The guy sat beside her, still holding the umbrella up above them.
What is your name?” He asked.
Satoru turned to face the girl but she remained quiet.
Waiting a few seconds longer, he decided to introduce himself first.
Seeing there was still no response from the girl, Satoru looked around, awkwardly.
When he saw that she was almost done with her muffin and hot chocolate, he said, “Well, from now on if you’re hungry and don’t have any food, you can come to this café. I’ll provide you with food.”
Satoru passed the umbrella to her, but she didn’t accept it. He grabbed her hand and shoved it in her hand. She looked up to face him and they stared at each other for a while.
Sotaru decided to go back to the café and turned around. Before he walked into the café, he turned and looked at her.
“Bye, see you later.”
A week had passed and Satoru still hadn’t seen the girl from that day. Actually, that day hadn’t been the first time he had seen her. She had passed by his café a few times before. Sometimes she looked happy, sometimes sad and sometimes she looked miserable.
He found her expressions funny and entertaining to watch.
But that day, when he saw her again, he found her sitting outside of his café, in the rain. She didn’t run for shelter like everyone else on the street. She just sat there, quietly allowing the rain drops to soak her clothes.
He couldn’t help walking faster and stopping in front of her, holding the umbrella up to block the rain. He felt bad for her. He had always thought that she was different and had wondered why she wandered around the street.
He heard her stomach grumble and went to get food for her. Ever since then, he would walk out to check if she had come to his place. Not that he wished that she was starving, but he just wanted to see her again. That was all. Yet, everyday he left the café with disappointment.
Some of his friends asked him whether he liked the girl, but he told them that he didn’t. He just found her special, there was something about her that made her different from all the other girls, but he didn’t know what it was.
As he was going back to into the café feeling disappointed, a familiar figure appeared and took hold of his sleeve.
He saw that she had her hand on top of her stomach.
“You’re hungry?” He asked.
Kiyoto paused before nodding.
“Come in here! I’ll bring you something to eat!” He said as he pulled her into the café excitedly.