Birthday: Syaoran Thursday
As I trudged home after school, the realization hit me.
Tomorrow, I had to give a gift to Kinomoto.
What was I supposed to give her? Unlike the rest of my groupmates, I didn’t spend much time around her outside of class. I hated giving gifts with no thought to the person receiving them but my pride refused to pick up my cell phone and call Eriol or Meiling for help.
This was something I had to do on my own.
What do I know about her? She plays the piano as well as Eriol does, if her Chopin was anything to go by. Toshi-sensei desperately wants her to play for Seijuu’s girls’ soccer team and Tanazaki-sensei claims Kinomoto held out on her during gymnastics.
She is Meiling’s best friend. She doesn’t like talking about herself but she sees all the things about a person other people overlook. Kinomoto knows how to play the guitar and her singing voice is a haunting mezzo-soprano I can’t get out of my head. I’m willing to bet that if she smiled more, Kinomoto Sakura would be dazzling.
If you could give me a second look, why can’t you do the same for her?
I'm looking, Eriol, but my second glance was clouded by whispers.
She got Amai Kaorin expelled. She’s sleeping around with university students. Her family hates her because she killed her mother. She sells out all her friends to get better grades and climb the social ladder. Kinomoto Sakura is a monster.
Rumors are seductive. Teenagers are selective. We believe what we want to simply because it suits us. After making the connection between Kinomoto and Meiling, I wanted to believe she was a monster, so I treated her like one. The word kaijuu is on everyone’s lips.
I paused in front of a local craft goods store. No, not everyone. Daidouji, Eriol, and Meiling all call her Sakura. They don’t see a monster—they see lonely human being.
One by one, the whispers fall silent, and my initial impressions return. Kinomoto Sakura is musically-gifted and athletically inclined. She sees every thing about a person and is Meiling’s best friend. If she smiled, she would be dazzling.
I can’t deny I’m interested in her secrets. It’s the same thing that drew me to Eriol all those years ago across the park soccer field.
Say something! Anything! Don’t just stare at me.
I’m interested in her.
She’s not like every other girl. Girls soak up fashion and celebrity magazines like People and dream of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Girls have friends to go out afterschool for lattes and crepes with. Girls wear sparkling jewelry and makeup to hide their insecurities.
Every girl in school entered that contest to win backstage passes for Sakura Athene’s concert on Saturday. Eriol, Takashi, and I entered too as a joke and to give them to our girl friends if we won them. I never saw Kinomoto near the entry box.
Daidouji, when she doesn’t have club activities, is always going out afterschool, whether it’s with Mihara and the rest of that group, with her fellow club members, or with us.
Even Daidouji and Meiling wear makeup to hide fatigue and accessorize to put a stamp of individuality on our otherwise restricting uniforms.
Kinomoto Sakura doesn’t. She blends into the background, completely unforgettable except for her piercing emerald green eyes.
-In Kaho’s Office-
"Back?" I whispered, terrified. "What do you mean by back?"
Kaho sighed. "The restraining order placed by the police on your father's order has been lifted. It expires after a year. Apparently, the new police policy that went into effect six months ago covers that restraining order. Your father was never informed and never reapplied for a continuation. I'm sorry, Sakura, but you’re going to have to be more careful now that Amai Kaorin can attack you in all ways except physically without the threat of jail hanging over her head," She explained to me.
I slumped down on the couch. No, no, no, this was not happening! This all just some terrible nightmare I have while sleeping in Chemistry. Yes, when I wake up, I'll get in trouble with Oyamada-sensei and..
No. This is not a dream. This is reality.
I was back in my nightmare again. This time, it was so much worse.
Quickly and quietly, I found myself at the school at seven in the morning. Finding Kinomoto's locker, I slipped the gold colored box inside and left a note with it. Shutting the metal door, I made my way out of the building and proceeded to the nearest cafe, hoping for a decent breakfast.
At 7:30, I returned back to school. Almost everybody was there, anxiously waiting for Amai Jade to arrive at school and draw the names of the winners of yesterday's contest.
The dark haired girl pushed her way through the crowd, struggling to get to the PA booth. I knew it had to be Amai. The indignant screams and protests as she pushed clear a path for herself was a clear sign. The PA crackled overhead.
"All right! Ladies and Gentlemen, in my hands, I have the box full of contestants who will win backstage passes to Saturday's concert! Winner number one is-" Amai stuck her hand in the box and drew out a name.
"-Daidouji Tomoyo! Tomoyo-chan, you just won a backstage pass. You are so lucky, my friend!" Daidouji looked like she was in a state of shock as Meiling pushed her towards the PA booth.
"Our next winner is-" Many students crossed their fingers while Amai-san drew another name.
"-Rae Meiling! C'mere girl, you just won one fabulous prize!" Meiling bounced up and down excitedly, elated that she won the contest, before shoving her way through the crowd to join Tomoyo outside the PA booth.
"Cross your fingers, Seijuu, 'cause our third winner is-" The unmistakable crinkling of paper was heard over the microphone.
"-Hiiragizawa Eriol! Lucky guy, maybe Sakura Athene will give you a kiss!" Amai joked over the intercom. Eriol made his way up to the front to join Daidouji and Meiling.
"Okay folks! Give me a drum roll for our fourth and final winner." Many students laughed because Amai played the sound of a beating drum over the PA. "Our lucky student is-" I could hear the many kids whispering, "Oh please, let it be me.”
"-Li Syaoran! Aw, I envy you so much, Li-san. You always end up with the good stuff in life. Can we trade lives?"
Is that right? Did Amai just call my name? Dazed, I walked towards the PA booth. Meiling laughed at my shocked expression and Eriol threw an arm over my shoulders.
“We won!” Daidouji said. “I can’t believe it!”
I won. And I get to meet Sakura Athene. Plus, I have a free ticket to her concert.
Suddenly, my day just got brighter.
-Later that day-
At around lunchtime, I opened my locker to put my books away. Suddenly, my hand hit something hard at the back of my locker. Curious, I drew the item out and stared at it.
I won’t lie; I was a little disappointed to find my locker empty this morning. This must have been pushed to the back when I shoved my chemistry textbook inside after class.
It was a gold box tied with a pink ribbon and had a note attached. I read the note first.
Happy Birthday, Sakura-san.
I hope you like
this last and final gift.
Look on the bright side—tomorrow you're seventeen!
From: Your Secret Friend
I untied the ribbon and opened the box, wondering what was inside. Upon seeing the gift, I gasped in shock.
It was a delicate silver charm bracelet, reminiscent of the one my mother wore until she died. There was a different colored Austrian crystal in the center of each tiny cherry blossom. The colors ranged from the white to the lightest pink possible.
"Oh wow, what a gift, Sakura-chan," Meiling said in awe behind me. That caught the attention of nearby Eriol.
"Your secret friend has really outdone themselves this time," Eriol commented. Tomoyo wandered towards us, probably wondering why a crowd had gathered around my locker. My bracelet had attracted the attention of everyone in the area.
"Oh how kawaii, Sakura-chan! Your secret friend has some fashion sense after all!" Tomoyo cried in excitement. “Oh my gosh, is that a Watanuki?”
“Watanuki? Who is that?” Meiling asked.
Tomoyo was aghast. “Surely you know Watanuki jewelry. They designed and crafted the Imperial Princess’s engagement ring and the kanzashii she wore during her wedding.”
Meiling shook her head. “Tomoyo-chan, I'm Chinese.”
"Is that yours, Kinomoto?" Li asked, also taking notice of the silver jewelry.
"Yeah… I wonder who's sending me all these gifts? No one’s ever cared about my birthday before…” I trailed off, still shocked by the appearance of another gift to take real notice of who I'm talking to.
I put the bracelet on my wrist. Grabbing my lunch, I headed outside with Tomoyo and Meiling to eat under the cherry tree.
Meiling, Syaoran and I headed to the Li cousins’ apartment building after school. Meiling was chatting our ears off about the surprise party Tomoyo was planning for Sakura tomorrow night and Syaoran listened politely.
"Why did you give her that bracelet?" I finally got to ask him when Meiling paused to take a breath. He had given Sakura-san the nicest gift, but he was also the one who she had the most issues with.
"Yeah, why did you? It's been bugging me all day." Meiling added. How weird. I bet that if we called Tomoyo-san right now, she would have said the exact same thing about the bracelet.
We stopped walking, turning around to face him and watched him for his reaction. Syaoran sighed.
"Weren’t you guys the ones threatening me to participate to uphold your grades?” Syaoran’s gaze rested on me in particular. I didn’t flinch.
“At least I made the effort to actually befriend her and give her a gift that meant some thing.” I rose to the challenge in his eyes. “What reason do you have? She clearly liked it since she put it on during lunch.”
“Does it really matter?” Syaoran asked with a sigh. “If you must know, I saw it when I was passing by that shop—“ he pointed to a store across the street “—and thought of Kinomoto. It’s not a big deal.” He shook his head and continued onwards.
Meiling and I shared a look. "Hey, I think my cousin is falling for my tomodachi. Don't you agree, Eriol?" Meiling commented slyly. I nodded in response, a small smirk gracing my lips.
Syaoran grew heated over that silly comment. "I’m not falling for her, Meiling. Just drop all your stupid fantasies! It's never going to happen!"
Meiling and I smiled and gave each other a high five. Whatever Syaoran said, all the signs pointed to denial. After all, normal people who aren’t falling in love with Kinomoto Sakura don’t grow irritated at an obviously stupid remark.
Or maybe it is just Syaoran being Syaoran.
Like always when I got home, I checked the mail. There was another manila envelope addressed to me and I ripped it open.
A similarly defaced Tomoeda Talks interview fell out but the message at the end was different.
Are you listening? Can you hear me screaming out your name? ‘Cause every thing has changed, Kinomoto Sakura, since that day.
The perversion of my own lyrics made me shiver. I crumpled it up before Toya could see and locked the door behind me.
Kaho didn't lie when she told me that Kaorin is back in action. She just didn't tell me that it could be worse than before.
Amai Kaorin will not stop until she gets what she wants.
She wants me gone.