An Odd Old Book
"Stay calm," Ino said, her voice quiet but tone serious. Sakura took a few calming breaths of air. "Good, now just lean against the wall, like this." She leaned back against the brick wall of the library, her arms propped up slightly and giving her a bit of a pose.
Sakura gave Ino a baffled look. "Huh? Why?"
"Just do it!" the blonde woman whispered enthusiastically. "Now, look at me, and we'll pretend to have a conversation. When he comes by, stop talking, glance at him with a curious look like this, and then look away with a smile. Like you're shy, get it?"
"Yeah, I got it," Sakura nodded. "So… what do we talk about?"
"Anything, just go – talk!"
"Err…" A thought hit her. "You know, Ino… we used to be the best of friends."
"We are the best of friends."
"No, I mean… well, yeah, we are now, but when we were little, we were, too. Then we both had a crush on Sasuke, and… Basically what I'm saying is I'm glad we've worked past all-"
"Here he comes!" Ino interrupted quickly. She looked at Sakura and started blabbing on about her score in their latest college exam, Sakura nodding her head every so often as she spoke.
Sasuke, tall, black hair, wealthy family, cool attitude, Uchiha slowly walked past, apparently having some sort of heated discussion with Naruto Uzumaki, the blonde idiot slash Sakura's friend. Sasuke had an annoyed look on his face. Ino and Sakura kept to the plan regardless and looked at him curiously. To their shock and dismay, Sasuke didn't even glance at them.
Sakura looked at Ino questioningly, wondering what they could have done wrong. Ino bit her bottom lip in frustration. "Men," she said irritably. "They're too wrapped up in themselves to notice two beautiful women trying to get their attention!"
Slightly nervously, Sakura asked, "Maybe that wasn't the way to get his attention, Ino?" She didn't want to make Ino even more mad than the blonde already was, especially since Sakura had worked so hard to get their friendship back that they had lost during the majority of their freshman year of high school.
"Then what?!" Ino nearly yelled. She covered her mouth with her hand upon realization of what she had done. Lowering her gaze, she said, "I'm sorry, Sakura. I just got mad and couldn't control my temper."
"It's okay," Sakura replied. "Let's just… do something else." They started walking along the outer wall of the library, headed to the front door. "You know… maybe it's just out of our control."
"What is?" Ino asked, curious. She had expected Sakura to change the subject.
"Sasuke," the pink haired woman said. "We've been chasing him around since junior high school, and he still treats us like we don't exist. Sure, he's really attractive, but it couldn't have been more than a simple crush? All these years and we still don't know him – we're not even on speaking terms."
Ino wrapped her left arm around Sakura's shoulders. "Hey, hey, none of that. That sounds like Sakura's I'm-giving-up tone – don't do that! We'll get him."
Sakura smiled, shaking her head once, "One of us might get him in a blue moon, but in all honesty, I think by this point I'm okay if that blue moon never comes."
"No way!" Ino beamed. "I refuse to give up until I see a piggy fly!" Both college classmates then giggled their way into the library, only to get a stern look from the librarian, immediately shutting them up. "So, we looking for books for our assignment?" Ino asked in a partial whisper.
"Yeah," Sakura nodded. "I also want to get something to read over the weekend."
"Why read when you can go out?" Ino teased. "Come on, Sakura, we're twenty-one – let's live a little before we become boring old hags!"
"Shhh!" the librarian scolded.
"Sorry, Chiyo!" Sakura said smiling. When Chiyo turned away, Ino gave her a rude hand gesture.
"She's only nice to you because you work for her grandson," Ino grumbled. "Anyway, enough about that, let's plan something for this weekend! Like you going out for once."
Sakura rolled her eyes – Ino always was the party animal. "Hey, I go out sometimes, I just have a busy weekend this time. I've got work, this assignment – I won't have time. I'm getting a book for some light reading before I go to bed."
"Light reading? Like a short story or something?"
"Maybe," Sakura said. "I'm pretty picky with books, though. If they don't have an interesting cover or title, I usually don't even look at it. Unfortunately."
"I hate reading," Ino sighed. "It gives me a headache. I only read if I have to."
Sakura chuckled, "You've always been like that."
Ino suddenly got an idea. "Hey, I know! We'll compromise, how about that? You can read your dumb little book tonight, and then tomorrow you'll come with me and Hinata to Temari's club!"
The Chiyo glared at her, "SHHH!"
"Oh, shove off," Ino said, glaring right back. To Sakura's relief, the librarian had returned to working on the computer and had not heard her. Ino turned back to Sakura. "I don't mean to sound so pushy, it's just… we never do anything together anymore. Since college started, we only see each other in class."
Sakura felt a twinge of guilt. She had been so focused on getting her degree and becoming a doctor, she hadn't realized she had been neglecting her friends. "I'm sorry," she said honestly. "I really am." She sighed, "Okay, fine. Saturday night – I'll meet you at your house and we'll go to Elixur and hang with the girls, okay?"
"Promise?" Ino grinned, holding up her pinky finger.
Sakura rolled her eyes, smiling despite herself. She locked her pinky with Ino's, "I promise. Pinky swear," she said in a teasing tone.
Ino grinned, "Right on. Okay, so, medical books first and then your short story thing?"
Sakura thought for a moment, "I'm going to get a novel quickly first. I'll meet you there – won't take long."
"'Kay," Ino replied, wandering off.
Sakura slowly walked towards the fiction section, her sea foam green eyes wandering through the shelves. "Picky, picky, picky," she sighed, looking for something not too large with an interesting title.
She slowly turned around, seeing the librarian looking at her with an inquisitive expression. Her hands were behind her back. "Yes?" she asked with a smile.
"Looking for a book?" Chiyo asked politely.
"Yeah, just some light reading for the weekend. Something to read before going to bed – reading tends to make me sleepy, after all."
Chiyo nodded in understanding. "If I may suggest…"
"Oh, please do," Sakura laughed. "I have such a hard time picking books, and I have to meet my friend in another section for some books to help with our homework."
The old woman revealed her hands – she was holding a very old, very large book. "I… I really have to recommend this."
Sakura looked at the book with a slight frown. It was hard cover, worn and slightly tattered – it would take her a very long time to read it. "I'm sorry, but um… could you suggest something a bit shorter? I really only needed some light reading. I don't have much time for reading during the weekdays, so I would have a hard time finishing it."
"Oh, don't worry," Chiyo assured with a bit of a laugh – it was as if she rarely used it and therefore was unused to laughing. "You won't be able to put this one down – I guarantee it."
Furrowing her eyebrows in confusion, Sakura took the book from Chiyo's grasp and examined the front. In gold letters, the maroon book read: A Third Chance. "What's it about?" she asked curiously.
"It's… a love story," Chiyo said evasively.
Sakura looked at her worriedly. "Does it have a happy ending I hope? I'm still not over Romeo and Juliet – that was just so sad…"
"Hmm… well… the ending is up to you, Sakura."
The younger woman tilted her head to the side. "Up to me? How?"
Sakura thought for a moment and then nodded, "Oh, it's one of those 'eye of the beholder' things. Like, an opinion – some may think it has a sad ending, and others believe it has a happy ending, right?" Without waiting for a reply, she asked, "Are you sure you don't mind me checking this out? It looks very old."
"It is, but I don't mind," Chiyo told her, smiling. "I know you'll take good care of it."
"I will," Sakura replied, smiling back at her. "Thank you. I'm going to go find Ino now." Chiyo nodded and returned to her computer. Sakura gave the book another curious look. It was really heavy. She hoped she'd be able to finish this before its due date so she wouldn't disappoint Chiyo.
Oh, right, Ino, she remembered. Walking towards the reference section, she caught sight of her best friend and joined her. "Hey," Sakura greeted.
"Heya – whoa…" Ino's eyes widened at the sight of the old book. "What is that?"
"Chiyo recommended it – said I'd really enjoy it," Sakura explained. "It's some sort of love story."
"If that's what you mean by light reading, I'd hate to see what you'd call heavy reading…" Ino said, still looking at the book. It made her brain hurt just by looking at it; she didn't have to start reading it.
Sakura chuckled, "No, this is heavy reading. But she suggested it, and I didn't want to be rude, you know?" Ino nodded, half in understanding, half in sympathy. "So, find anything worthwhile?"
"Yeah, I think these will be fine for the assignment." The blonde handed Sakura a copy and took one for herself. It was full of medical terms and procedures. "I think it's just what the doctor ordered, really. Literally," she added grinning.
"Yeah, yeah; okay, let's go check out."
As they started walking back towards Chiyo's desk, Ino asked, "You're heading to work after this, right?"
"That's right," Sakura nodded. "I still have a half an hour before I have to be there, but it's no problem. I can get a head start on this book before my shift starts."
"Ask Sasori out for me again!"
Sakura immediately clamped her hand over Ino's mouth, "Shh! My God, that's his grandmother over there, Ino! And no, I'm not going to ask my boss out for you!" Thoroughly embarrassed, Sakura glared at Ino silently while they checked out.
"It's nothing to be embarrassed about," Ino scoffed as they walked out the front door.
"What about Sasuke?" Sakura countered.
"You said it yourself – it's not happening. I figure, best to move on now while the getting's good, eh?" Ino then began laughing, her hands on her hips and looking as if she considered herself the world's latest genius.
Sakura smiled slightly, "I wish I had your confidence…"
"What?" Ino asked, having not heard her.
"Nothing!" Sakura giggled. "Heading to Vollenden?" Volldenden was the beauty salon and spa that Ino owned and managed. Hinata helped her found it and was an employee.
Ino nodded, "Yep – poor Hinata can't run the place without me, after all."
Sakura grinned, "Yeah, time for the Great Ino to save the day!"
"Right on! Later," she laughed, heading to her car.
Sakura sat down in the cushiony seat of her yellow '89 Mustang – sure it wasn't the most attractive, sporty model, but she was slowly moving up in the world at her own pace – and started the engine. After pulling out of the parking lot, she headed towards Akatsuki Studios, where she worked as Sasori's, or world famous artist Akasuna no Sasori's, receptionist.
"Morning!" she joked as she walked through the front door, carefully shutting it behind her. Glass door, several windows, white painted walls – it was a typical art studio with not-so-typical famous works, each with an exorbitant price tag.
Sasori was at the computer, actually playing Solitaire. He minimized the screen, looking at Sakura with a raised eyebrow. "Morning?" It was 11:45.
"Technically still morning, yes," Sakura teased. She gave a dramatic gasp, "Oh my gosh! My legendary boss is actually not doing work for once? Holy Solitaire, Batman!"
Sasori rolled his eyes, standing up and brushing a few strands of his messy red hair out of his eyes. "Have a good day, I take it?"
"Yes, actually," Sakura nodded, still grinning. She walked towards the desk, her usual 'base of operations' as she sometimes called it. "I've got an assignment to do, but as always, Ino exaggerates and makes it seem a lot worse than it is. I'll be able to finish it in an hour and then it's the weekend! Oh, and Chiyo recommended this book to me – have you read it?" She struggled with balancing her things and holding the big book towards him.
He looked at the cover, opening it to the front page with a quizzical expression. "No, but… it's rather old, don't you think? Doesn't she have a newer copy she could have given you?"
"You know, I didn't even think to ask – she just handed this to me and said I'd enjoy it, so the thought never crossed my mind," Sakura replied. "It's really heavy, and it'll probably take me ages to read, but hey, it must be good. She really wanted me to read it."
Sasori closed the front cover and returned his gaze to her, a slight grin on his face. "Good luck with that."
"Gee thanks," Sakura giggled. "I'll be able to do it… eventually."
"Right. In the meantime, you can answer the phone when it rings while I-" a sudden, loud crash came from the second floor, "…go see what Deidara broke this time."
Sakura couldn't hold in her laughter. "Go easy on him! And don't work too hard, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," he replied, walking up the single set of stairs.
When Sakura heard the door open and close, she sat down at the desk, looking over the day's files. To her surprise, she didn't have any extra work that day, other than her normal duty of covering the phone and scheduling meetings if necessary. Leaving her with two options – work on her homework assignment while she waited for the phone to ring, or read Chiyo's weird old book while she waited for the phone to ring.
Procrastinating wasn't in her nature – Sakura was, admittedly, a goody-goody who did whatever her instructors asked, pulling off nothing but good grades. Ino's words rang through her mind at that moment.
"What's the point of living if you don't break the rules every so often? Come on… it'll be fun."
Granted, she was trying to get Sakura to skip class when she said that, but that was major rule-breaking to her. She had to take baby steps. First step being procrastinating. That thought in mind, Sakura hesitantly opened the large book to the first page. It was the title repeated. Then a blank page, then the first chapter began.