Eh, I wrote a short story that I thought of after recently heading to the beach on New Years. It’ll delay The Castle of Gears‘ chapter posting, but I’ll eventually get that done in a while. So here’s a little distraction.
The sound of the sea was surprisingly loud as it rolled over the sand, the silence, except for the hot wind, putting Akira’s blackened heart in tranquil.
She walked quickly, almost jogging, but still at a pace considered walking. A light trail of footprints followed her from the crowded area of the resort’s beach to a desolate part of the shore. It had been a long time since she had time alone for herself. Having held back enough anger before it exploded at her unreasonable father and pathetic brother, she’d taken control of her body language and left their hotel room until she was only a tiny dot in the eyes of the holiday goers.
But she couldn’t deny that she almost snapped that time. She could have probably tried to attack her father. In return, he might counter-attack, and the next moment, she would end up with the bruises she would have to hide again. Her father wasn’t the nicest guy; the only reason she accompanied him was as luggage, to blend in with his fellow colleagues who were also on the vacation with their own families. To show that their father was also a caring type, not a family tyrant.
There was a reason Hayato, her brother, recently had a mental breakdown after the police suspected that he might have purposely – in their own words – given their grandfather a heart attack that killed him. Hayato wasn’t right in his head anymore these days; he had been the topic of her disagreement with her father earlier before she left.
She didn’t notice that the anger had blinded her sight except for her intention to appear like a dot from the holiday goers that when she slowed herself to a stop, she stumbled over an unnoticed half-buried rock, sending her plummeting to the ground. Instinctively, she lunged out her other foot and stopped herself from planting her face into the sand.
She gasped; she’d been carrying an ancient Polaroid camera, a gift from her grandmother before her death. Like a charm, she feverishly cared for it and took it wherever she went. Had she hit the sand, she could have damaged it.
The Polaroid. Grandma it to her after retiring from her photographer job, the last of all the cameras she used to own. Neither her father nor brother knew it because it was her and Grandma’s secret, carried everywhere in a lunch bag that also carried muffins to cover it because she claimed her appetite was large.
Presently, she noticed her distance from the resort and sat down on the rock. Angling the camera, she aimed it for the horizon of the sea, which connected to the sky. She contemplated taking a photograph but changed her mind; the film she had was a precious amount; she should just continue searching for the things she really wanted photographs of.
Not that it would be easy to find that “something”. People were out of the question.
A figure had begun to follow the shoreline towards where Akira sat, and she eyed it warily, thinking it was either her father or one of his acquaintances. She was wrong; a youth in shorts and a plain black t-shirt, and what looked like a book in one hand, walking at a relaxed pace. A stranger, ignorant of the world – and her troubles.
Relieved, Akira turned away and plopped herself down onto the rock, stretching her legs and kicking off her sandals. She hadn’t put on any sunscreen so her skin was beginning to turn red. She’d rather keep her skin fair, but at the moment, could not get in the mood to get back to her feet to find a shade or go back to fetch the darned sunscreen.
Her brother. If he didn’t back down from their father just now about staying hidden and pretending the weather got to him just so none of the accompanying colleagues learned of his face and name, if he was still the strong-headed, admirable brother she always saw him as, her mood won’t have been this way. Sure, their father had some good sides, she supposed, but most of the time, he was cold to them, and her brother always kowtowed to him. Akira could consider herself less pathetic than Hayato was at this point. That anger in her, seething beyond her teeth, clawing at her chest, up her throat, had no doubt meant she could no longer trust Hayato to be the same strong person she saw him as.
Maybe the incident in which he’d been falsely accused of their grandfather, Grandma’s husband’s death had been the reason Hayato cracked.
“Say, take a portrait picture of me,” said a voice, and Akira looked up to see the youth who had been walking along the shoreline standing in front of her.
Alarmed, she sat up, stunned to realize she didn’t notice him when she’d been high on alert for anyone she knew who might find her. “What?”
“Take a photograph with that camera. You wanted to use it, didn’t you?”
Akira blinked, looked at the Polaroid, then back at him, turning wary. Men were dangerous, and especially to girls like her who are alone.
“You don’t need to give me a scary face,” the stranger chuckled, and he sat down on the sand at an acceptable distance from her. “I’ll give you my name, too: Rin.”
“What do you want the photograph for?”
“It’s just a request. Like I said, you looked like you wanted to use it. Why don’t you, with me as a model. Only, I’d like to request that I have the picture, too. And – a Polaroid, the black and white type of camera? Isn’t that rare these days? We use digital ones these days, don’t we? It’s interesting.”
Akira frowned at him.
“It’ll just be for one piece of film, right?” Rin, the stranger, chuckled.
She noticed that it really was a book that he carried, a book in a foreign language that she couldn’t discern. The sight of the book made her remember how much her brother, too, loved books. He might know the title of the book, maybe even the plot. Rin, as if waiting, flipped open the novel and began to read.
With a sigh, she said, “Fine, I’ll take the photograph. Let me tell you, though, the pictures in the film come out in sepia, not black and white.”
“Oh? I didn’t know that. I assumed that all old pictures would be black and white.”
“No, not all.” Akira got up with the Polaroid, then knelt on the sand in at an angle in front of Rin, who watched her with interest. “Okay, a portrait photograph, right?”
She held the camera up and peered through the lens, shifted the angle of the camera with a frown. In the lens, Rin was still watching her, wearing a faint smile; it felt like their eyes met through the camera, the intensity in their look despite his statue-like stillness. Fingers trembling with excitement, she pushed the shutter. And a second time, this one by accident. Rin didn’t miss it, and his smile widened.
When she finished, she waited impatiently for the photograph and the second one to come out. She hastily handed them to Rin when it was done.
His scrutinizing eyes studying the photograph briefly then he cracked a smile of amusement. “Hey, not bad! We could imagine that I came from the past. Although…why did you take two?”
“An accident?” Akira retorted with a chuckle. “Also, you would look like you came from the past if it wasn’t for your clothing style.”
Rin laughed. “That’s right.” He returned one to her. “Keep that. So we could remember the day that you took the photo of a stranger on a beach.”
“Okay,” Akira looked at the photograph again, then watched as Rin continued on his way, returning to the shoreline and going on after the point she stopped at.
When she studied the photograph, she noted the grayish-brown colors and lines that traced out Rin, whose glance and knowing smile seemed to be looking beyond the rectangle of the photograph. If anyone could look so alive on a sheet of film, it was that guy, she supposed.
She glanced at the holiday goers and noticed a familiar figure among them starting this way. Hayato, her brother. Her anger at him and their father, his weakness and her father’s coldness dissipated. She looked in the direction Rin had gone; he was already really far, a dot himself among flat sand and rocks, book and photograph in either hand, his pace as lax as the wind blew around her.
She’d thought he was at unawares of her thoughts; she must have been wrong. He’d clearly approached her as if he knew she was in a bad mood.
Akira stuffed the Polaroid and Rin’s photograph into her lunch bag, slung it over her shoulder, then walked with a brisk pace back towards those holiday goers where Hayato waited patiently for her.