My breath grew shallow as I ran. I was deaf and blind to the world, ignoring everything but the pounding of my own feet. Rain drops fell from the brooding black clouds blocking off the bright innocent sun. I was just sick of it... sick of everything. I wanted to be anywhere but here.
If you had asked me on a better day, I would have said all I wanted was a small place of sanctuary. Somewhere I wouldn’t feel the burning pain etched into my heart over and over again. But was there really such a place where you could feel protected and safe? Life had taught me, no matter how much I wished and pleaded for such a place to exsist, I would always be disappointed.
The tears came flowing down my cheeks mixing with the rain. My father always turned away when I cried. I always tried to hold them back but I couldn’t ever stop myself. Truly blinded now, I slowly came to a stop.
Ever since I started the Academy I was constantly being bullied about my bloodline. The words now echoed throughout the shell of my mind.
“You’re just like your cousin Neji, thinking you are better than the rest of us!”
“Yeah just because you have a Byakugan you think you have the advantage over anyone else here!”
I wiped my tears away with my sleeve knowing I couldn’t cry about a thing like this or father would be upset about it. I had to prove to him I had to the ability to be strong. Though right now I couldn’t even stop my legs from shaking. I finally opened my eyes wondering what destination my legs took me to. The rain grew stronger and my clothes by now were soaking wet... but it didn’t matter to me anymore.
I was exactly across from the Academy. Seeing it in this weather made it gloomier. Notably my position was next to a mammoth tree with a single swing attached to a low branch. It was a good place to wait out the storm. The tightly clustered boughs kept out the downpour and sheltered me like a loving mother.
I couldn’t help but wonder why out of the numberless places I knew, I came here. My attention wandered a bit, wondering if anyone else knew of this place. I never noticed the swing before but was curious who put it there.
“Maybe...this can my peaceful place,” I muttered under my breath, in this place where only I could be heard. I smiled at the thought of it, seeing already what memories I would make sitting here, observing the world in front of me under a microscope. I sat on the swing while the wood creaked feeling that with any more pressure it would snap, but in truth it made me feel relaxed. I felt I could sit here forever.
“Hey! You, what are you doing?” a voice yelled. I realized a wet figure was
standing 10 meters away from me.
“Sor-sorry I was just sitting here... but I’m sorry if I took your seat,” I said bowing down. I started walking away in the opposite direction as though I didn’t want to cause him any more trouble.
“Wait!” he said. I stopped in my tracks when he grabbed my hand. “Did I scare you or something? I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said letting go of me and placing his hand on his head. I blinked my eyes again wondering if my eyes were damaged. “I’ve never seen you before... What’s your name stranger?”
I gulped a golf ball into my throat. “Hi-Hinata!” I said, barely able to answer his question.
“Oh! Well I’m Nar-”
“Naruto Uzumaki right!” I shouted now realizing I cut him off short. My face turned ruby red with embarrassment.
He started laughing, the opposite reaction I was expecting. “I never knew I was popular,” He said proudly with a grin plastered on his face. I was so amazed by his smile that it took my breath away.
“Sorry again about the swing,” I said, playing with my fingers, a horrible habit of mine.
“Well you didn’t let me finish... I was going to say that we can both sit on it together,” he replied.
“Both...together,” I thought as my mind went into overdrive with excitement from those words. “To...together?” I asked making sure I heard him right.
“Well not unless you don’t...”
“I’d love to!” I yelled surprising both of us, but mostly myself with my outburst. He flashed another famous smile of his and sat on the edge of the seat. He patted the spot where I should sit.
I sat down. In that moment, it seemed a whole other reality settled over me. Everything seemed nicer... the sky had stopped raining, and the clouds had passed, bringing out the billions of stars lighting up the universe with a dazzling view, capturing the eye’s attention. I stole an awkward glance at Naruto.
“For once, I’m not alone,” Naruto whispered, looking towards the stars as if he searching for a hidden answer. I did not speak, knowing my ears were not suppose to hear that.
I wasn’t the only one with the feeling of loneliness, which for a second made me happy. I had the sudden feeling the recent rain had been crying tears of joy rather than sadness for me. “Naruto?” I asked.
“Can you..no sorry...will you be my friend?...I know it might be...”
“I’d love to Hinata-chan,” he said smiling. A smile directed straight to me, which caused me to smile back.
After that, I met Naruto every day at that exact spot: under the tree, on the swing. I had been looking for a sanctuary, but I had found my place of paradise. No... our paradise. We created it together. Sometimes we would even have picnics there. Later, I came to a realization that I was Naruto’s one and only friend, the only one who didn’t look at him with eyes full of hatred, but with happiness and trust.
“Naruto this is dumb!”
“Ha! Do you trust me or not?”
“You already know I do.”
The more I hung around with him, the less I seemed to stutter. Naruto smiled more often, which I liked even more. However, now that I was labeled as his friend, people started to treat me the same way, glaring at me. I was used to it. I had suffered that same ostracization before with my bloodline, but this time I wasn’t alone in this fight. This time, it was me and Naruto against the world.
“Ew!! Why did you bring bugs!”
“To scare you!”
“There’s a lizard too! Awesome!”
“You’re not easy to scare huh?”
“You have to try harder than that!”
I became a partner in crime in his pranks. I objected at first but he convinced me... frighteningly quickly. Every day we could be seen running away from our pursuers, laughing about the crimes we had committed.
“Hey Hinata-chan! Want to paint the hokage monument again?” Naruto asked one day, excited to give that prank another go. It was his favorite. But then something strange happened.
“Why do you hang around with me Hinata-chan?” Naruto asked as his face flipped from playful to serious.
“Because I’m your friend! Duh!” I said quickly.
“Haven’t you heard yet?”
“About what?” I asked, curious to hear this out.
“People say...” he paused to sigh, “I’m a monster...I don’t deserve... someone nice like you,” Naruto said, dropping his gaze to the floor to avoid eye contact.
“You? A monster? I think those people are insane!” I said emphatically.
“But...” he started to protest.
“Look Naruto, do you have a nose?” I said touching his nose.
“Ears?” I continued, pulling his ear.
“Ow! But yes.”
“Hair? Got plenty of that too.”
“Yes of course! I’m not bald!”
“A mouth too?” I spent a moment in mock study. “You look human enough to me. I don’t see any fangs or wings growing... So don’t believe for a single minute that you’re a monster. You’re nothing but Naruto Uzumaki! The most hyperactive knucklehead I know!” I gave him a mischievous grin. “Now you got the brushes right?” He smiled and nodded.
“Hinata... Would it be... okay if I walked you home?” Naruto asked politely.
“Yeah why not,” I responded. A question drifted to the surface of my mind. It had been skulking there since I first met Naruto. He never talked much about his family, or his clan, or pretty much anything personal. I was curious about where he lived and whether he liked living there.
“What is your house like?”
“Oh! Um... I just live in a shabby old apartment... nothing special really.” I could tell he was getting uncomfortable.
“So...Naruto, who are your parents?”
There was a long pause. “I don’t know... I never did.” My eyes widened in amazement hearing that Naruto was a orphan. “Look Hinata... I need to go, but here...” Naruto left a note in my hand and instantly turned around and ran away.
“Naruto!” I yelled, but he was already gone. I crushed the note in frustration and stuffed it into my pocket.
I arrived at my house...alone, replaying the scene a dozen times over. Kicking myself for being so nosy, cursing the flaws I should have seen earlier.
“Hinata.” I heard the moment I entered.
“Yes Ko?” I asked. He was standing across from me. He was like my bodyguard, tutor and butler all wrapped up in one.
“We need to talk about your friend.”
I gritted my teeth together. First I made Naruto upset and now I was going to have a lecture. I felt my anger about to burst open and expose itself.
“You were spying on me weren’t you?!” I snarled, my rage flooding out of me.
“I was only keeping an eye on you to protect you.”
“Protect? Why would I need protecting?” I said getting frustrated already at this conservation.
“You are not permitted to see that boy anymore from now on.”
“That boy is named Naruto... and what is wrong with hanging around with him? Why does everyone look at him with such hatred? Why does everyone, including yourself, think you can control my life?...Why does everyone think he is a...monster?” I said feeling the tears starting to form.
“Hinata, those are all difficult questions to answer. I promise you will understand as you grow up but right now, you are too young.”
“What’s so difficult about it? Maybe it’s just difficult for you to accept that I’m actually happy.”
“Go to your room now Hinata that’s an order,” Ko commanded. He pointed, waiting for me to obey.
“Ko... out of all people... I thought you at least would be happy for me.” I said, having the last word. Ko kneeled down and tried taking my hands to comfort me but I flinched them away giving him no chance.
“Stupid Ko!” I said taking out my anger on a pillow version of him. For once, I held back my tears. I suddenly remembered that note Naruto had given me from before. I took it out, and opened it.
Meet me at our usual spot at 8pm. Don’t be late! No excuses.
I looked straight at my clock with fear that I had missed it. The clock showed 7:55 pm, putting me in a heavy panic. Only 5 minutes... would I make it in time? Would Naruto even show up? Plus... why would he want me to meet him there in the first place?
I shook my head washing away the words. I didn’t have time to think. I had to go there, no matter what, even if it meant disobeying Ko, and escape from this prison I was now caged in. I had one advantage, since I had lived here my whole life I knew every corner and wall like the back of my hand. For once, my small stature was a bonus, making it harder for the guards to notice me.
The main thing I needed to be wary of was Ko. But tonight even he couldn’t catch me. With my determination as my shadow, I slowly and delicately opened the door a crack to see if anyone was walking in the hallways. The coast was clear, so I proceeded with light steps. I was even careful to not take deep breaths. I reached the back door, looked back once, and ran out.
It was already nightfall, which didn’t surprise me; I had wasted a lot of time. I ran with all my strength. Rain fell from the sky. Water pelted every part of my body as if it were targeting me as its only victim. My breath grew more heavy but I refused to stop and rest. I had to meet Naruto. I had to tell him I was sorry for what I had said and about how Ko wouldn’t let me see him anymore. I had to tell him...everything.
My feet skidded out from underneath me causing me to fall on the hard concrete road. I flinched in pain. When I started to rise, my entire body shook. I fell back down as thunder roared against the heavens. I clenched my hands into fists and felt the reassuring crinkle of Naruto’s note still safely held therein.
I stood up again continuing on with more energy than before. My spirits rose when I saw our spot in the distance. I stopped in my tracks and smiled to my fullest. Naruto was there walking back and forth impatiently. “He waited for me this whole time even when it was raining!”
I don’t know why I stood there... he couldn’t see me but, I wanted to remember him this way before I entered the picture. I slowly walked towards him. Though in my blood I wanted to run into his arms, I was able to keep it under control. I went cold as he started walking away. “Wait!?! Why is he walking away? Am I really that late?”
“Naruto!” I yelled with all my might. “Naruto!” I screamed again, knowing the rain rose the noise level. “Naruto!” I kept shouting as I ran towards him calling out his name.
“Shouldn’t you check up on Hinata, Ko?” a guard said looking worried.
Ko simply stood there with a grin on his face. “Would you like some tea as well? You have been on duty for a while,” he said taking a sip of tea.
“But... Sir...” the guard hesitated. He didn’t want Ko to see him as weak but couldn’t deny the allure of the fresh tea.
“Oh... don’t worry I’ll check on her right away,” Ko answered walking down the hallways leaving the guard alone with a steaming cup of now unguarded jasmine tea, which he couldn’t resist drinking.
“Ah that Hinata,” Ko muttered as he arrive at the front entrance of her room, which was surprisingly quiet as he was expecting to find her taking out her anger in some form or another. “Hinata?” he asked as he opened the door. He looked around the room seeing if she was trying to hide from him, but he stopped when he caught sight of something on her bed. There was a folded note lying on her pillow.
“Hm?” he said to himself picking it up. He read the letter twice making sure of what she had written. He lowered his hand realizing he didn’t need the note any longer.
“Ko?” The guard from before stood outside the door frame with a puzzled look on his face. “Where’s Hinata?”
“Don’t be such a worry wart. It seems our little Hinata has been growing up faster than expected.”
“Um..sir? What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing... just speaking to myself out loud. Oh, how did you like the tea?”
“Huh?! What tea?”
I waited there in our spot for Hinata-chan. Shivers crept down my spine. I grew more impatient with every second. Why won’t she come? Did she forget? I paced back and forth wondering what I should do. My brain told me to leave, that she wouldn’t come because it was raining, but my heart disagreed saying to stay as long as I could. I was at a tug of war with myself
My brain won. I slowly started walking away, but with each step my feet grew heavier. A indistinct buzz caught my ear, causing me to stop. I looked around seeing if someone was there, but due to the rain there was a thick fog-like haze obscuring my vision. I shook my head, telling myself I was being stupid and I had set my hopes too high. “Am I just imagining things?”
Yes this time I heard it for sure. “Hinata?” I shouted back desperately looking for her.
“Naruto-kun!” Hinata yelled as she tackled me emerging out of the fog. “Am I too late Naruto-kun?” Hinata said gleefully, hugging me.
I patted her head “No... no you were right on time.”
“Naruto I’m sorry! Please forgive me, I didn’t mean to upset you, I shouldn’t have even mentioned your parents... I should had been more careful and minded my own business!” Hinata blabbed on and on. I don’t know why, but I smiled.
“Yo-you aren’t mad?” she said when she saw me smiling.
“No that was a while ago Hinata, and anyway you were going to find out about my parents sometime,” I answered turning in her arms to be face to face. I smiled. “What does this rain remind you of Hinata?” I said holding my hand out in mid air as a net to catch the raindrops.
Hinata’s eyes widened. I could tell she remembered it clearly like I did. “The day we first became friends,” I answered for her. I took a deep breath. “Hinata, I wanted you to meet me here because...its been 3 months exactly since that day,” I said an embarrassed blush creeping up my face.
“You re-remembered such a thing Naruto?” she asked still surprised.
“Yes...Why wouldn’t I? The day I meet you was the day my life changed.”
“You baka! Why didn’t you tell me that earlier! I would have dressed nicer! I thought we were going to do another one of your pranks!” she yelled.
“I wanted to surprise you... also you look fine like that.”
She stopped talking and smiled. “Well at least you did that part perfectly.” Her face grew serious, “Naruto, I have something to confess.”
“Me too!” I said feeling the same way. Every time I met her deep lavender eyes I could feel my heart skip a beat. “What about this? On the count of 3 we both confess at the same time?” She nodded with a cautious smile.
“I love you Hinata!”
“Ko won’t let me see you anymore!”
We both stared at each other with disbelief, clearly unsure of what to think about anything. My confession had been thrown out into the atmosphere never to come back. I slowly realized that the thing I feared most had just become a reality.
Hinata’s words stung me as it sank in that today was the last day I could spend with her. Why must things...be so messed up? Why does everything have to turn out like this?
“You...You love me...Naruto?” Hinata asked softly. I gulped since my heart was pounding harder than before.
I looked at her as if it were the last time. Her raven hair rippled beautifully bringing out her pale face. “I love you Hinata. It’s true.”
She started to cry! I couldn’t tell if she was crying from being happy or sad but it left me more confused than ever. “Its okay if you don’t...”
“That’s so weird,” she half sobbed.
“What’s weird?” I asked
“The... weird thing is...I fell in love with you the first time I laid eyes on you Naruto. You see...just being with you every day made me the happiest girl in the world.” She smiled through the rain and her tears. “Your smile... it saved me.”
She loves me? She actually loves me back? I was speechless for the first time in my life.
“So Naruto...I... love you too.”
“I’m such a crybaby... Men like me shouldn’t be crying,” I blubbered as tears fell down my flushed red face.
“Hinata...before I met you, I was always alone everywhere I went. Everyone looked at me... the same way, but you were different. When I first saw you sitting on the swing you didn’t look at me like a monster but a regular human being. The more time I spent with you, the more I felt my heart being healed even though it always seemed the damage was too big... You stole my heart with your kindness.”
“Naruto... you know there are things in the way right?” Hinata said shakily.
I knew we would need to address this, but at the same time, it kind of ruined the moment. “Ko right?” I answered, staring into her eyes. It might have just been because I knew Hinata was finally mine, but the universe seemed to shout an answer back to me.
“Everything will turn out fine in the end Hinata. Do you know why?”
“Wh-why?” she asked, trembling at my touch.
“Because,” I said placing my hand on her heart and leading her hand to touch mine. Her heart was beating so quickly but matched my rhythm perfectly, meaning we were both feeling the same thing.
I leaned in towards her face. Seeing it that close, it was more amazing than I could imagine. She blushed hotly, knowing what was coming but leaned closer to me. I put my lips against hers. Something which I wanted to do for a long time but I had waited for the perfect moment... a moment like this.
“Because...As long as our hearts are beating side by side... we’re inseparable.”