Birthday: Into the Light
"I want you to help me bring Sakura to the world that we live in."
Meiling's words echoed in my mind. I heard Tomoyo’s eager acceptance, and I found myself echoing the sentiment. Tomoyo gave me a puzzled look.
"Eriol-kun, didn't you say this was going to be a difficult and delicate task a few weeks ago? Why the sudden change?" She asked me.
The memories flowed through my mind. Syaoran talking to me, Syaoran defending me, Syaoran reaching out to me… I gave her a small smile.
"Because it's worth it."
No matter how hard I tried to concentrate in class, I couldn’t get my confrontation with Li out of my head.
How did he know about Kaorin? The details of the entire situation were hushed up by the school administration because of the court order. There is no way Li should have known that I had something to do with Kaorin’s expulsion.
I knew that Li never spoke to her in the past four years we’ve been in school together. They weren’t friends and it puzzled me as to why he would defend her so staunchly.
“Kinomoto! Mizuki-sensei requests you to go to her office immediately.”
I stood up and took my bag with me, thankful for Kaho’s impeccable timing. The older woman looked grim when I walked into her office.
“How often do you speak with Amai Jade?”
The question threw me. “Never,” I answered honestly. “Jade never knew the full details behind her sister’s expulsion. She just knows I was involved somehow.”
My stomach twisted uncomfortably and I knew the answer to my own question. That was how Li knew about my involvement with Kaorin’s expulsion. Jade probably didn’t even mean to start the rumor.
Think about it. If my twin sister was suddenly kicked out of school and I know her best friend was involved, I’d assume something as petty as jealousy over social status or a boy was the reason for it. All it takes is one single mindless angry rant and everyone thinks it’s the truth. No one would doubt it.
“Don’t ever find yourself alone, Sakura,” Kaho warned me. “I overheard Jade’s phone conversation with Kaorin this morning. She was foolish enough to answer the phone right under my open window.”
I chuckled bitterly. How like Jade to be so stupid.
“Don’t worry, Kaho,” I said, turning to leave her office to get to my next class. “With Kenji-sensei’s Morality project, I’ve got three solid barriers with me all the time. I can’t even hear myself think with them around.”
I paused at the door. “By the way,” I said. “Nii-chan wants to know if you’re coming to the concert on Saturday.”
The grim look on Kaho’s features was replaced with a pretty smile. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
"So you want me to put a present in her locker?" I asked Tomoyo in disbelief after she filled me in about the Morality project I was supposed to participate in now that I was officially part of their group.
She looked at me and said, "Yes.”
"You're lucky I have a CD that I was going to give Sakura for her birthday in my backpack," I said, thinking it was lucky that something caused me to bring the disc to school.
Tomoyo's amethyst eyes sparkled with delight. "Really? Oh wow, what a stroke of good luck!" she said.
She gave me a pen and a small square of paper. I wrote:
It's your birthday!
Enjoy Hidden Secrets by Sakura Athene.
From Your Secret Friend
I placed the note in the CD cover, opened Sakura's locker, and propped it up against the neat pile of books.
"Whatcha doin'?" a voice suddenly said.
Tomoyo and I screamed and shut Sakura's locker. When we turned around, it turned out to be none other than Eriol, smiling as always.
"Give me a good reason why I should kill you and ship you home in a milk carton." I threatened him, clenching my fist.
"Meiling, would you really do that? I'm your favorite cousin!" Eriol protested. His dramatics were way over the top.
“We’re not cousins.”
His glasses glinted. “Yes, we are. I’ve got the genealogy to prove it. We share a relative named Clow Reed.”
I thought about it for a moment and begrudged him that much. "Okay, you are my favorite cousin since my former favorite is a complete asswipe.”
Eriol smiled broadly. "See, I told-"
"Don't push your luck," I snapped back.
Tomoyo giggled. "You guys are funny."
"Do you like hanging around us Tomoyo? You hang around us more than you do your close friends." Eriol softly asked her.
I looked at both of them in surprise. When we first met, Tomoyo mentioned she was friends with some of Sakura’s old elementary buddies, but I never would have thought they were close. Judging from the easy bond between Tomoyo and Eriol, I assumed they had been good friends for a while.
Tomoyo squirmed under our gaze. "I do like hanging around you guys. Life's more upbeat and enjoyable. There's nothing wrong with Chiharu and the others, it's just that… I don't know. I don't think we're as close and as best of friends as we think we are. It's kind of boring talking about the same thing over and over again," she admitted quietly.
I stared at her in disbelief. "You seriously need to get a life," I told her. “Go out or something.” I perked up. “I know!”
"What?" Eriol asked.
"I have three extra tickets to see the concert at Tomoeda Gardens on Saturday. You want to come?" I asked, bouncing up and down.
"Sure! Who's performing?" Tomoyo asked, the serious atmosphere disappearing.
I walked upstairs to my locker and saw that Meiling, Hiiragizawa, and Daidouji were not too far away. I opened my locker hurriedly and found a CD propped up against my neat pile of books. My eyes widened.
It was none other than a copy of my own record Hidden Secrets.
I tucked the CD into my backpack, grabbed my lunch and joined Meiling and the others.
"Hey guys." I annouced my presence.
"Oh hey, Sakura. Are you busy Saturday? Do you want to see the Sakura Athene concert?" Meiling asked me, waving her chopsticks in the air.
My heart stopped for a moment. I couldn't go to the concert; I was concert!
I smiled weakly. "Sorry, Meiling, but I can't go. My grandfather is having a dinner with an important guest and I have to stay home."
My best friend smiled sadly. "Oh, that's okay. I'll ask Syaoran if he wants to come."
"Are we friends, Kinomoto-san?" Daidouji asked me suddenly. We had arrived under the cherry tree, the same one where this morning’s incident had taken place.
I paused for a moment, taking a bite of my temari sushi. "I guess so. Why?" I asked her cautiously. I didn’t like making friends because the last one I made ruined my entire life.
"May I call you Sakura? You can call me Tomoyo," she answered with a smile.
I studied her, suspicious of her actual intentions, and said nothing. Her smile dropped.
I half-heartedly listened to Hiiragizawa, Daidouji, and Meiling talk about music and their weekend plans. The more I heard, the more I wanted to cancel my concert and hang out with them instead.
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch. We packed up our bentos and headed towards our lockers. We reached mine first, the three of them still chatting as I pulled my afternoon notebooks out of my locker.
"I'll see you later, Meiling, Tomoyo, Eriol." I called over my shoulder as I walked to Morality.
"I'll see you later, Meiling, Tomoyo, Eriol," she called over her shoulder as she walked to Morality ahead of us.
My heart soared. Did that mean we finally earned her trust? Or did it mean that she trusted us enough to be able to call her by her first name?
Either way, I was happy.
"Oh wow, she called you by your first names," Meiling whispered, shocked.
"I can't believe it," Eriol said, his sapphire eyes wide with disbelief.
"We're all friends now!" I exclaimed with joy.
"Yeah, all of us except for one." Eriol pointed out with a cynical glance at me, killing my happy mood.
We looked at each other.
"Li Syaoran." We all sighed and walked to our lockers together.
If it wasn't for Meiling, Sakura wouldn't have opened up as much as she did. If it wasn't for Meiling, a lot of good things today wouldn't have happened, regardless of the morning’s rough start.
I guess after all, Monday's for Meiling.