It was on the first day of summer vacation that Hitomi Yukimura's life changed. It happened on a Saturday. She woke up feeling warm, and giddy, and just a little bit smug. No summer school for her this year - unlike the poor saps that didn't pass their finals. No more cramming frantically for tests. No teachers. No early nights. No timetables. No stress, for three glorious months. The summer stretched out in front of her, seeming endless and full of possibilities.
Sunlight was streaming in the window, turning the hangings around her bed a beautiful golden colour. She stretched, pushed them aside and eased out of bed slowly.
"Morning sleepy head," a voice said teasingly from behind her. Hitomi turned her head to find her mother standing in the doorway, with a soft smile on her face. It was bad enough to be small, slight, and dark-haired - to look almost exactly like one of the tiny fairies she used to read about when she was a kid - but to have a mother who was tall, blonde, and Alfred Hitchcock's ideal version of a heroine? That was just evil. Hitomi did share one thing in common with her mother; they both had the same eyes; cornflower blue, with very dark lashes.
"Morning Mama," Hitomi answered with a smile, standing and crossing the room to give her a hug.
"This is nice," Mika laughed as her daughter breathed in her scent; her favourite floral perfume and ironed clothes smell. "I can't remember the last time you hugged me."
"A few weeks ago," the teen mumbled into her shoulder, "I was up to my eyeballs studying."
"True," she conceded, running a hand through tousled dark hair, "But you need a dose of hugs a day the same as me. Who'd you hug?"
"Your father of course!" she laughed, pulling away. "Now, Aika called and said she was coming to pick you up soon, so you get dressed and I'll help Papa make breakfast before he burns the house down. Again."
"'Kay," she grinned. Mika shut the door, and Hitomi made a beeline for the bathroom, praying her parents hadn't used up all the hot water. They didn't (for once), so she enjoyed her shower. Deciding she'd have enough time to repaint her nails, Hitomi headed back to her room and plopped in front of her vanity. Grabbing a holder, she placed her hair up into a messy bun before she began systematically removing her old nail polish; a soft grey. Glancing at the bottles of nail polish she had, she plucked up the one she found most appealing at the moment – peach. Neatly, Hitomi put on two coats of the warm colour before she went over it with a quick-drying clear coat. Blowing on her nails, she gingerly took down her hair and ran a brush through it several times till she was sure all the tangles were gone. She tied it back into a ponytail, and then got dressed into a pair of tan-coloured cut-offs, a striped peach cami, and her new flip-flops.
"Hitomi! Breakfast!" Mika shouted. Hitomi wandered into the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table, popping a kink in her shoulder. Something furry rubbed around her ankles.
"Morning Buyo," she grinned, reaching down to scratch the cat behind its ears. Daiki snorted from behind his newspaper.
"I still don't know why we let you name the cat Buyo," he commented, taking a sip of his coffee. Hitomi rolled her eyes.
"I was eleven, papa. And in the middle of my Inuyasha phase," she reminded him as Mika placed her breakfast onto a plate. "Good morning to you too."
"Morning," he said absently, turning the page.
"Dig in," Mika advised, setting the plate in front of her daughter. "Papa and I are going out to a work function tonight - do you want Aika to sleep over?"
"I won't be here. I'm staying at Aika's beach house for a couple of weeks, remember?" Hitomi reminded her mother, taking a sip of orange juice.
"Oh no, I forgot. Will there be adult supervision?" Mika worried, nibbling her lip.
"Wow, mama. Middle-aged much?" Hitomi laughed as she cut into her omelette.
"She'll be fine, Mika," Daiki said unexpectedly, "She's a sensible girl, and she'll call us if there's trouble. Won't you?" he added, eyeballing his daughter.
"Well, all right then." She picked up her purse and keys before looking at her daughter worriedly. "Just promise me you'll call every couple of days."
"Oh, come on mama!" Hitomi groaned as her mother held up a hand.
"Just humour me," she said as Daiki stood and pulled on his jacket, "We worry about you. That's what we're supposed to do."
"Sure, sure," Hitomi mumbled as her mother kissed her cheek, "Bye mama. Bye papa."
"Bye sweetheart," they chorused, before the door clicked shut and Hitomi was alone.
Humming softly, she quickly finished her meal and washed the dishes when she was done, before feeding Buyo and heading back upstairs to pack. After shutting her door, she wandered over to her closet and grabbed her school bag, feeling relieved she'd emptied it out last night as she dumped it on the bed, darting back and forth between the closet and the bed with clothes and accessories, before stretching and sitting back down at her vanity.
Picking up a mascara tube, she applied a quick coat on her lashes before putting some lip balm on. She stuck her tongue out at her reflection as she packed a small make-up bag and added it to her luggage. The bell rang so she ran to answer it, and standing in the porch with a big grin was Aika Kimura.
They'd been friends ever since kindergarden, when the boys had been pulling Hitomi's pigtails and teasing her. In the playground, they ganged up on her like hounds around a fox - until Aika saw what was happening. Even at the age of five, she'd had a mean right hook. She'd exploded into the group, slapping faces, pinching arms and kicking shins until the boys went running. Then she'd turned to Hitomi, her grey eyes bright.
"Want to be friends?"
She'd nodded shyly and the rest, as they say, was history.
"Morning!" she greeted, bobbing her scarlet head at her friend, "You ready to go?"
"Sure, just let me get my bag," Hitomi answered, smiling. Darting back to her room, she hoisted her bag over her shoulders and shut her door before making her way down the hall. Grinning at Aika's 'look', she locked the door and hid the key.
"So, how have you been?" Aika asked, swinging her tote bag carelessly as they walked. "Any news?"
"Nope," Hitomi answered, fanning herself. It was quite humid for mid-morning.
"Nothing interesting what-so-ever has happened?"
"Aside from falling over the cat for the millionth time, no."
"Why am I not surprised?...Anyway, hold that thought," Aika said, reaching into her purse and pulling out a bottle of nail polish, "Look at what I bought! It's a new colour that came out, it's like…wow." Handing it over, she nudged her friend. "You have to wear it sometime."
"It's pretty," Hitomi answered, turning the bottle over to read the name, "Blue my mind. I need to buy a bottle of this."
"You can keep that, I bought two," Aika replied, waving a hand dismissively. "So, today is our day, and I was thinking we could go window shopping and get some groceries before we catch the bus, then we could go swimming when we arrive. What do you think?"
"Sounds like a plan."
"That isn't what I meant."
"Aika, it sounds great."
Giggling, the two linked arms with as they crossed the road. Just then, a car horn blared as it swung out from a side road wildly. There was a squeal of brakes, a scream, and then-