CHAPTER 6: MEMORIES THAT WERE LOCKED AWAY AND FORGOTTEN
She had once just been a girl from Pitter Patter lane who had happened to trip and fall in front of the prince in the market place. He helped her up like any good prince would have and dusted off her shoulders gently. And then time stopped. He watched the mysterious girl smile a beautiful heart warming smile through her tears and he fell in love.
"Thank you Natsume," She grinned. No one in the country had ever called him by his name. They had always feared him and cowered away, apologising for their rudeness and calling him 'your highness' before he could so much as open his mouth. But this girl was refreshing, a defiance of the imaginary rules everyone else here seemed to follow. Unconsciously, he brought his hand up and ran his thumb along her cheek, catching a falling tear. She blinked and her heart pounded in her chest. To him, she looked the epitome of beauty, even in her plain black laced dress which his mother would have gasped at and muttered about it being unworthy of royalty. Her brown locks flowed down her back and stopped in the crook of her arms, her eyes a perfect shade of milk chocolate.
"Mikan!" A voice called from behind them and the moment shattered, the girl's head turning to face a girl around their age. "Hurry up would you!?" From where Mikan's friend was standing, her view of Natsume was obscured by Mikan. She turned back to Natsume.
"So your name is Mikan?" He grinned devilishly and her cheeks darkened a little as she nodded.
"I, uh- I better go," Natsume opened his mouth to tell her that he wanted to see her again when she smiled and his breath hitched in his throat. "Midnight," She stared straight into his orbs of burning fire. "At the meadow beyond Pitter Patter lane." He found himself nodding dumbly as she skipped away towards her friend.
"Hey, woah, Mikan, was that the prince!? How did you manage to talk to someone with such a high standing title!?" He was still in ear-shot when she turned back and winked at him.
"His title isn't what's important Illiya, it's what's in his heart that matters." And with that, she turned her head back towards the lanes. He watched as she disappeared with Illiya down Pitter Patter lane and took a deep breath, his hand pressing gently against his chest to hear his heartbeat. It was erratic. He smiled to himself.
"It's not my title that matters, huh?"
She waited patiently at the riverside in the meadow for him at midnight. She wasn't one to continuously check her watch but she found herself checking it more often than she normally would. Though she stayed as patient as she could all the same. She swept a strand of hair back behind her ear and turned at the crunching of leaves under foot behind her. She smiled up at the figure as he came to a stop beside her and sat down.
"So you do appear when you're called," Mikan giggled as he nudged her shoulder with his.
"Very funny," He couldn't keep the adoring smile off of his lips. "What made you so bold as to call a prince out then?" He'd never really affiliated himself with the title 'prince' in spoken text before but he knew she wouldn't judge him. There was something about her, something just so honest, that made him feel like he'd known her forever. It made him feel like he could trust her with his life. And a prince's trust is something hard to come by here in Howling Hollows.
"Oh, you know, just thought you could do with a little breather from your royal duties with a poor girl from Pitter Patter lane who you've never met before." She shrugged and cast her eyes out at the river. "Indulge me with an answer to this question if you can, but, why exactly did you accept to meet me here. I mean, you're a prince-," He cut her off with a small laugh.
"Weren't you the one who said 'it's what's in his heart that matters'?"
"Well, I suppose so but- you don't even know me." She reasoned, turning her head to face him, resting her cheek on her knees. He mirrored her actions and watched her intently.
"Well, you don't know me either, do you?" She pursed her lips and thought about it.
"I guess you're right." She whispered into the night.
"If there's one thing you'll ever find out about me, it's that I'm always right." He said amusedly.
"Hmm? Are you saying there are going to be more nights like tonight?" She teased as his hand came up to stroke her cheek gently.
"If you'd like that, I think I can find some time to spare for you." She rested her forehead against his.
"Mm," She murmured. "I think I'd like that a lot." Her eyes flickered to his lips briefly and then back up to his eyes and she bit her lip and smiled as he leaned in and pressed his lips against her's. She kissed him back tenderly and cupped his face with her hands. He broke away and looked at her eyes cautiously, afraid that she was going to run off after such a bold movement. But she didn't, she just curled up against his chest instead. He wound his arms around her and kissed her hair. He wasn't sure what he was meant to say in such a unique situation, so when Mikan finally looked up at him, he just opened his mouth slightly and nothing came out. She gave a tinkly little laugh. "Speechless are we Natsume?"
"Well, it's just that I never thought my life would go like this."
"Like what?" She asked and he smiled.
"Perfectly." He looked down at her and she smiled back as her watch struck twelve thirty and chimed at her impatiently. She looked sadly down at her watch and then her eyes travelled back up to his.
"Sorry to break our perfect moment but I have to go," He helped her to her feet and thumbed her cheek lovingly.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" He asked as she pushed up on her feet and gently placed a kiss to his lips.
"Well, I might just happen to live at twenty-three Pitter Patter lane and my front door might just happen to be open all day tomorrow."
"So whenever I can spare a moment-,"
"I'll be waiting," She walked backwards with her hands together behind her back, watching him as she pondered a thought. "Might be better to knock though. Mother might faint if the prince walked into our house and wandered around in search of her daughter." She giggled. He shoved a hand in his pocket and with the other began waving.
"Then I'll see you tomorrow my prince," She teased, grinning as she kept walking backwards. He let out a laugh as she waved in time with him.
"That you shall my princess."
At one o'clock the next day, Natsume began to sneak out of the palace.
"And you'd be going where my boy?" Juri asked, catching her son in the process of opening the back door of the palace. He turned around slowly.
"Um, no where in particular mother. Just out for a walk I suppose."
"You suppose, huh?" Juri put her hand on his shoulder. "Where are you really going Natsume?" She said gently as Natsume caught her eyes.
"Promise you won't tell father?" Juri raised her eyebrows but nodded anyway. Natsume scratched the back of his head. "I'm going to see the girl I love." Juri clapped her hands together.
"Is she from a rich family? Oh where did you meet her my boy!?" Natsume rolled his eyes. He should've known that his mother would make a big deal out of it. But she deserved to know the truth.
"No mother, she isn't rich. She lives down Pitter Patter lane," His mother gasped. Pitter Patter lane was the poorest lane after all. But that meant nothing to him. "And I met her in the market yesterday. She fell over and I helped her up." Juri seemed to set aside the worries that revolved around whether Mikan was rich or not and blinked.
"You met her yesterday you say?" Natsume nodded. "And you're sure that you actually love her? It's not just a little crush?" Natsume sighed and pushed open the back doors fully.
"I love her mother. I've never been more sure about anything in my entire life." And with that he took off down the side of the palace and out into the main city. He made his way casually down Pitter Patter lane, the stares of the poor burning into him on all sides. He stopped in front of twenty-three Pitter Patter lane and looked up at the household in front of him. It was a simple two floor square wood building with a white washed door and four windows facing him. He thought about how Mikan's mother would react but shook it quickly from his head and made his way up to the front door, rapping his knuckles against it three times.
"Coming!" A cherry voice called. He knew it wasn't Mikan's but he could hear rapid footsteps coming down the stairs.
"It's alright mother, I'll get it!" Now that was a voice he'd never forget. "You just go back to whatever you were doing mother." Mikan huffed as she opened the door to Natsume. He smiled up at her and she threw her arms around his neck.
"That was a nice greeting," He laughed as she pulled back.
"Would you like to come in? Mother might be a little over excited at times but she means no harm... I think." He rolled his eyes at the thought of his own mother, taking her hand in his.
"I'm sure I can handle her." With a quick look over her shoulder, Mikan nodded.
"Mother, you might want to sit down for this. Just for a moment that's all." She watched as her mother quirked her eyebrows but sat down nonetheless. Mikan, her heart pounding in her chest, tugged Natsume gently into the house. Her mother blinked for a few moments and the room fell silent. All of a sudden, Mikan's little brother ran down the stairs and shattered the silence.
"Oh wow! The prince is in our house!"
"Go back upstairs Shou," Sakura Lillian said gently and when Shou didn't move she rolled her eyes. "Go on, off you go. Don't be ignoring me now." Shou nodded, unsure of what was going on before him, and went back upstairs. Lillian turned back to her daughter and the prince. "Your highness," She bowed her head and Natsume shook his.
"Really, that title isn't necessary miss." He insisted and Lillian looked at their joined hands and then up at Mikan who let him go and walked over to her mother, kneeling down in front of her.
"I know he's not exactly the type of boy you approve of mother but this is my decision, is it not?" Lillian looked up at her daughter and then to Natsume.
"You're a lucky boy you know, having my girl get on her knees in front of me." She rubbed her face tiredly but smiled anyway. Natsume bowed, something that surprised both Mikan and her mother.
"I know and I promise that I'll never do any wrong by her. You have my royal word." Lillian nodded and smiled up at Mikan, helping her to her feet.
"I hope your happy with your choice honey. Now run along, do what you please."
"Can I show him my bedroom mother?" Mikan asked and Natsume held back a laugh as Lillian's eyes widened.
"I think that might not have sounded like you'd intended Mikan." Mikan thought about it and her face reddened, her hands flailing in front of her.
"No, wait, that's not what it sounded like. I just wanted to show him where I grew up!" Lillian let out a long laugh and hugged her daughter.
"I know what you mean honey. Of course you can. Every man should know the one in which he chases after." Humming to herself, Lillian made her way back into the kitchen and Mikan headed for the stairs.
"Come along then." With a soft smile, Natsume followed her up the staircase.
"Are you really the prince?" Shou popped his head around his door frame and Mikan pushed him back into his room by his shoulders.
"Either stay out of my private life or go help mother. Got that Shou?" She ruffled his hair and knelt down to his level. "If you stuff this up for me with your excessively big mouth, I will never let you live it down." Poking his tongue out at Mikan, Shou disappeared down the stairs. Mikan pushed back up to her full height and turned to Natsume with a breezy smile. His hands found her waist and he grinned.
"So you do have an evil side." He teased.
"Well, I wouldn't call it evil per say. Just threatening."
"That'll teach me to never get on your bad side." She danced a finger up his chest.
"Maybe it will." She giggled as he peppered kisses down her jaw and pressed his forehead against her's.
"Ready to show me your past?" He asked and she pressed a full kiss to his lips.
"As ready as I'll ever be."
It was a tale he could tell off of the back of his palm, something engraved into his memory. He wished so dearly that she could remember all of the special moments they had shared. But she would. All in good time he reminded himself. All in good time.