“Ko-chan, where did you go yesterday evening?” Kuri-chan's voice was all sugary and Kyoko didn't believe one iota of it.
Kyoko sat down on a bench and rested her back against a locker door. Slowly she began to undress. A new pair of stockings and panties wouldn't hurt, and that shower looked more and more like a splendid idea now when she had dragged her tired body here.
“Shower first, chit chat later.” Kyoko answered. She was surprised how irritated her own voice sounded. It did the job though, and with a towel over her shoulder she went for the closest shower stand. Kuri-chan stayed silent.
While a morning shower at school just couldn't compare to home Kyoko still enjoyed it. Stiff limbs softened and she purred with satisfaction at the luxury of shampoo in her hair.
One of her peculiarities she guessed, but she just couldn't help it. Lathing herself with shampoo had always been a time of bliss for her. Maybe because she could pretend to be both blind and deaf without her parents yelling at her for it.
This time it was Kuri-chan who couldn't yell at her, because that was what was waiting, even though Kyoko really couldn't understand why she was going to be yelled at.
Dragging out the shower turned out to be possible for so long and no more, and reluctantly Kyoko turned the shower off and towelled herself down.
In the early morning hours the locker room quickly cooled down despite a cloud of steam promising lingering heat, and she soon found herself putting on her clothes scrutinised by Kuri-chan.
“Where were you last night?” Kuri-chan asked when Kyoko had donned panties and bra and were zipping up her skirt.
Kyoko waited until she started buttoning up her blouse before answering. “Rooftop,” she admitted, “with Yukio.” Because that was the real question, wasn't it?
Kuri-chan stayed silent, dug through her school bag and handed over a few plastic packages. “It's time you started thinking about these,” she said. “I hope it's not too late.”
Kyoko blushed red. She felt the rubbery contents through the plastic cover. “We didn't.” She met Kuri-chan's gaze. “We didn't do it.”
Her friend let out a long sigh. Of anger or relief Kyoko didn't know. Then she felt the hands of her friend on her shoulders.
“Be more careful next time. He's a guy, with the needs of a guy. Sooner or later you'll share your bodies with each other, or you'll break up.”
Break up? Does he hate me?
Those blue eyes met hers. “He's interested, but he'll respect you for some time more, but eventually those needs will become too great.” Kuri-chan took a deep breath before she continued. “Maybe your needs will be stronger than his, but sooner or later you'll have to trust each other enough. OK?”
Fear still dominated her thoughts. “Do you think he dislikes me now?” Kyoko finally asked when she was done pulling her stockings to her knees.
The look she got in return was one of utter contempt. “Do you really see Ulf's best friend as that shallow?” For a moment anger flared to life in Kuri-chan's eyes. “Do you think the man I love would chose his friends so easily?”
It was a scary Kuri-chan, one who reminded her of the chasm that had grown between them since the time they made their differences clear about which methods were acceptable when it came to handle bullying. It was also a more guarded Kuri-chan than Kyoko had ever seen before, one who showed a desperate need to protect her Urufu even from a friend.
“I'm sorry,” Kyoko said. What else could she say.
“Love hurts, you know.”
Kyoko looked at her friend. Did it? The last months ran through her head. Worry, embarrassment, a little anger and a lot of joy and excitement. “No, I disagree. I never felt hurt.”
The door opened and a few students from 6:1 arrived inside. From the looks of them they were about to make the final preparations before the play.
“Funny you should say that. I said the same all those years ago.” Kuri-chan laughed silently to herself and sat straight up leaning her back and head against the locker door. “Maybe a first love doesn't hurt.”
She wore the face of an angel with eyes staring at the ceiling and through it. Kuri-chan was worlds away. Kyoko saw it in her eyes, had seen the expression of what she once took for homesickness many times before.
“Have you been in love before? Before Urufu I mean?”
“Mmm,” came the answer. It wasn't for her benefit. Kyoko guessed her friend spoke with her own memories right now. “Twice.”
“You said it didn't hurt, your first love.”
Kuri-chan smiled, but she never moved her head. Her blue eyes still stared at a landscape of years gone past. “No, not me. I hurt him though. Fourteen, I was fourteen.” Then she returned to the here and now and caught Kyoko's gaze. “An ugly kid with long legs. I think you remember.”
Ah, yes, she looked the same the first time I guess. “Why would that hurt him?”
A grimace played over Kuri-chan's features. “He wasn't very good looking. Strong and fast and very good at football, and he adored me, and I him.”
Kyoko waited for her friend to continue. In the background she heard the other girls giggle as they tried out clothes for the play.
“He was shorter than me. And when I grew beautiful and started modelling he got scared,” Kuri-chan said. “It took years for me to feel confident with my looks though. Always running to photo shoots, always cancelling with him whenever an opportunity opened.” She sighed and stroked her face with both hands. “I had him waiting for me, but I never waited for him. In the end I never gave him a chance to follow me. I hurt him.”
“How?” Kyoko asked when she understood that Kuri-chan was finished.
“I always believed he broke up with me, but in reality I forced him to. I enjoyed being surrounded by beautiful boys too much, and I always thought he'd be there for me anyway.” Her hands slid down from her hair to cover her face. “Damn, that's embarrassing to realise so many years later. And I never apologised to him.”
Kyoko didn't understand those thoughts. Yukio was Yukio through and through. She'd wait for him and she'd ask him to wait for her. Wherein lay the difficulty in that?
“You'll understand one day,” Kuri-chan said as if she had read her thoughts. “Anyway, I'll give you this one. A first love doesn't have to hurt.”
That piqued her interest. “But the second one?”
Kuri-chan grinned and laughed. “Oh that hurt for sure. I was twenty. He cheated on me on a grand scale.” She smiled at Kyoko who only saw sparkling joy in those eyes. “Five on the side, or more likely all six of us girls were his playthings. I've never felt so humiliated in my life.”
She had heard that story before. Never so heartfelt though. “And you never fell in love after that?”
A bubbling laughter was the first answer. “No, not until I met Ulf. I promised myself never to fall in love again, but he made me break that promise.” Once again those eyes strayed elsewhere, but this time they weren't looking into another world.
It was time to change the topic. “Why did you want me here?”
The question had Kuri-chan return to reality. “To give you this.” She dug into her school bag and offered Kyoko a small metal case. “It's a portable make-up set.”
Kyoko turned the box over and opened it. “Yes?”
“You can pull that lever.”
She obeyed and stared as the bottom came away. “Yes?” she asked again.
“You have parents. Parent's never respect the privacy of a teenager in love. That's a false bottom with enough space to hide two of those.”
It took a while for Kyoko to grasp what Kuri-chan meant, but when she did she blushed from her collarbones all the way to her hair.
“This isn't a suggestion. In this case you'll do exactly as told. Get it?” Kuri-chan took both her hands in her. “Ulf's having this talk with Yukio as well. Don't you even dare to take stupid risks!”
“It's not like we're going to do it any time soon,” Kyoko protested.