Sora turned the key in the lock happily, she had just won her tennis match and the adrenalin high was still pumping through her veins. "Hello? I'm home," she called into the dark house. There was no reply. As usual.
She took off her wet jacket and hung it behind the door, flicking on the porch and foyer light as she did. On her way to the bathroom to take a bath, she noticed the light blinking on the answering machine at the end of the hall. She sighed. She sometimes wished she was one of those girls that got five calls every time she went out from admiring boyfriends, but the only calls she ever got were from telemarketers. Oh, and Tai, but he didn't really count, he was just a friend.
She paused and closed her eyes, thinking of his disheveled hair, his deep brown eyes, his charming grin. He had grown up a lot in the last three years but in his heart he was still the same old Tai that she knew and loved. Well, not loved but liked . . . as a friend.
WHAT was wrong with her? He was her best friend, she shouldn't have been thinking about him like that!
She pressed the play button, "You have three messages," informed the annoying little digital voice, followed by her mother's, "Hi honey. I'm sorry I'm not home, I had a chance to pick up a double shift tonight. Good luck working on that little project of yours. I hope you got a good partner. Oh, by the way, there's casserole in the fridge, Mrs, Kamiya brought it over this morning before she went to work. She's such a thoughtful woman. And Tai is such a charming young man. I'll be home around four this morning. Love you. Bye." Sora groaned, her mom was /always/ talking about how talented or nice or athletic or good looking Tai was. It was like she was the leader of his personal fan club. It wasn't like Sora didn't know just how perfect he was anyway. "Message two," spouted the little voice, cutting through her thoughts, "Hi. Sora? Ugh, it's Izzy. I . . . um . . ." She laughed. Izzy was terrible on the phone, he should have definitely stuck to email. Unfortunately, her computer had crashed and since she had asked him to fix it some time this weekend, he knew the only way he could reach her was through the phone. "Oh, yeah. Can you bring the book I lent you back tomorrow? I have to do a book report on it. Thanks. Bye." Sora scribbled down the message so she wouldn't forget. "Message three." Sora swore she was going to strangle the person who recorded those little messages if she met them someday. "Hi, we were just calling to ask if you were interested in purchasing term life insurance. We'll give you a call back later." What did she just say? Stupid telemarketers.
She grabbed a sweatshirt and jeans from her closet and began to run the bath water. It was 5:30 and Tai was coming over around six, so she had just enough time. She slipped into the warm water and let it relax her body. It was so great to have a bath and unwind, especially after a stressful tennis game.
In the last match she had been down forty-love but she came back, and after four aces won the game, set and match. It was a great feeling. Too bad no one was there to see it. Her mom was always at work, but sometimes Tai came and watched her when he wasn't busy.
She remembered the last game he had come to, when she was playing the under seventeen club champion. After Sora had won the first two sets and the rest of the spectators were clapping politely, Tai was jumping up and down, screaming at the top of his lungs to her opponent, "Take that you Anna Kornikova wannabe! Sora's gonna kick your sorry blonde ass all over the court! And she looks better than you in a tennis skirt, too!" Of course, he did get himself removed from the club for the rest of the day and became forever known to the other members as 'Sora's unbalanced friend,' but it was sweet of him.
She got out of the tub, toweled herself dry, then plugged in the blow dryer and began to do her hair. She had just finished getting dressed when the doorbell rang. She opened the front door and found herself standing face to face with a soaked and shivering Tai carrying a small, blue, wrapped bundle close to his chest in one arm and a duffle bag in the other. He was dripping mud on the front porch and smelt strongly of sweat. His hair was plastered to his head. He looked amazing. "Hey, S...Sora," he chattered out, "Nice weather we're having, huh?"
"Oh, you reek and you must be freezing. Come inside, let me get you a towel." She couldn't help but smile a bit, he looked like a little boy - all lost and cold and shivering. She ran to the linen closet and got him a bath sheet. By the time she had returned, he had set down his bag and stripped off the wet jersey but he still held the little bundle close to his chest. He grabbed for the towel and handed the blue package to her carefully.
"Here, hold this for a second." He began to towel himself dry rather aggressively, "You know Sora, you should really look into being a hostess."
"And why's that?"
"Because you're such a natural at greeting people. I mean, think of all the precious gems you've wasted on me alone today. 'You reek' 'You look like shit.' You really know how to make a guy feel special," he answered with such a serious look on his face that she had to laugh.
"I'll remember that."
"Can I use your shower?"
"No," she replied. He looked at her sideways before she continued. "The head's broken, but you can have a bath."
"Cool, I'll be out in a few minutes." He bounded down the hallway with his bag. She picked up the wet shirt off the floor and went downstairs to throw it in the dryer. She wondered how he could have possibly gotten so wet since the whole soccer team had jackets. As she looked down at her hand, she realized that was what the bundle was wrapped in. What was Tai thinking? He had allowed himself to get soaked in fifty degree weather with a cold just so they could do well on some stupid project. That was Tai for you, putting the good of the group before his own personal needs.
"Hey Sora?" came the faint call from upstairs. Wow, she had been down here thinking for almost ten minutes. She put their 'kid' on the sofa as she made her way to the bathroom and stood in the hallway outside the door.
"Do you have any real Tylenol? All I can find is this Tylenol PMS crap . . . oh and these Estrogen pills. Man, I'd hate to be at your house at the wrong time of the month."
She tried not to blush. "Yep, there's some in the kitchen cupboard. Why, is your fever back?"
"No," he replied a little too quickly, "No, I just have a headache."
"Alright, I'll go get you some." By the time she had dug the little red bottle out of the back of the cupboard, Tai had changed and emerged from the bathroom. He was wearing an outfit very similar to her own - a baggy sweatshirt and jeans - and she noticed he was still shivering slightly.
She handed him two pills and he swallowed them dry, not even waiting for a glass of water, the towel still in his hand. From the living room, the shrill sound of a baby crying broke the basic quiet of the house.
Tai followed her to the couch and she picked up the little ball of white fluff (which had somehow gotten suspiciously muddy on the bottom) and held it, rocking it against her chest, "It took me forever to get it to be quiet in Chemistry today."
"Toss it here, I know what to do," Tai exclaimed eagerly, obviously proud of what he thought were his amazing paternal skills.
"Toss it here? Oh yeah, that's making me real happy to hand you over what's supposed to represent a new born child."
He sighed, "You know what I mean. Please gently pass me Taiora so I may quiet her cries."
"Much better." She handed him the fluff and to her surprise, he began to sing to it.
"All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
I like watching the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just pour some tea for two and speak my point of view
But it's not sane, it's not sane
I just want someone to say to me
I'll always be there when you wake
You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I'll have it made
And I don't understand why I sleep all day
And I start to complain that there's no rain
And all I can do is read a book to stay awake
And it rips my life away but it's a great escape
All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
You don't like my point of view 'cause I'm insane
It's not sane . . . it's not sane."
To her surprise, the baby had stopped crying. Tai nodded proudly and smiled, "See, I'm the man." He sat down in one of the armchairs.
"Oh right, it's especially manly to be singing a lullaby." To be quite honest, she thought it seemed to make him even more irresistible. Oh, why was she thinking these things about him now? He was more interested in girls like Carli Walker anyway.
"It's not a lullaby," he replied indignantly, "It's Blind Melon. You're just jealous that I'm better at being a mom than you. Besides . . ." His eyes went wide. He slumped forward in the chair, his head hanging between his knees.
"Tai? Tai, come on, quit fooling around." He didn't move. She got up from the couch and approached him slowly, "Tai, quit it. I know you're just messing with me." Still nothing. "Tai? Tai!"
His head jerked up suddenly and he grinned wickedly at her, grabbing her around the waist and laughing, "Ah Sora, you know me so well."
She didn't know whether to cry with joy that he was okay or smack him. Instead, she just removed his hands from her waist and sat back down on the couch, "Tai, has anyone told you lately that you're an ASS?"
He clamped his hands over his ears. "Sora please, watch the language. My virgin ears."
"Your virgin anything."
He mock-gasped, "Sora! I am shocked and appalled that you think that of me . . . So, what's there to eat?"
"Well, apparently there's a casserole in the fridge."
"It's not my mom's, is it?"
"No, we're not eating that. I've been subjected to that culinary disaster every Wednesday for the last fifteen years of my life. My child will not have to suffer as I did!" He thrust his finger into the air to make his point. She couldn't help but giggle.
"Well, technically, we're just supposed to pretend to feed it."
"I don't care, it's the principle behind it. I'm making us something better. You just set the table," he instructed her, getting up to go to the kitchen.
She stabbed the last piece of pasta with her fork and ate it. It turned out that Tai was a phenomenal cook as well as being a bottomless pit, which she already knew. Tonight, however, he just pushed the rigatoni around his plate uninterestedly. He noticed she was looking at him.
"So, how do you like your supper? It's my special recipe."
She laughed at the open jar of sauce on the kitchen counter, "Tai, if it comes from a jar it doesn't count as a special recipe."
"But it should," he countered teasingly. "After all, I opened the jar, put it in a pot, AND heated it up."
"You still didn't technically make it, though."
"Meh, minor detail." She cleared her dish from the table and was followed by Tai, who scraped the remainder of his meal into the garbage under the sink then put his plate in the dishwasher, "So, what do we have to do now?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean what's left for us to do to be good parents? We've successfully completed the feeding. I don't know about you but, personally, I don't want to fail."
"I don't know, I guess bath and bed."
"Bath? We can't exactly get it wet."
"Sure we can. Weren't you listening? The sensors inside are waterproof."
Sora turned sleepily over on her side and groaned, putting her hands over her ears. It was too early. Why was it crying? She propped herself up on her elbows and squinted into the darkness. Tai lay huddled into a near-fetal position about three feet away and Taiora was between them, screaming loudly.
She turned on the table lamp then picked up the child, gently rocking it to no avail. It continued to cry. Tai mumbled something inaudibly and rolled over. She couldnít help but feel frustrated with him. They were supposed to be partners, how could he possibly leave her to do all the work now? And how could he possibly sleep through all that noise?
"Tai," she nudged him through the side of his sleeping bag, "Tai, get up. Weíre supposed to do this together." He just moaned weakly and pulled the covers up tighter to himself. She noticed now that he was shaking visibly, "Tai?" If he was joking again she would absolutely . . .
But something inside herself told her that he wasnít. She put down the still shrieking doll and moved closer to where he lay, placing her hand on his forehead. It was hot and clammy to the touch, "Tai, come on, wake up for me."
He opened his eyes slightly, squinting. "Sora? Just turn off the light and letís go back to bed, okay? Itís too early to get up, I just want to sleep." His voice was shaky and hoarse. He leaned back and closed his eyes.
"I need you to stay awake for a little bit longer, alright Tai? Iíll be back in a second." She practically ran to the bathroom to get the thermometer from the medicine cabinet. When she had gotten back, he was already asleep again. She put the thermometer in his ear and waited for it to beep, the three seconds taking seemingly forever. She held it up to the light and checked it again, not quite believing the reading. The tiny digital numbers indicated his temperature was 103.8 degrees.
"Tai, wake up. Weíre going to go to the hospital."
He looked at her confusedly. "Why? Are you okay? Did you get hurt?" His eyes were filled with baffled concern. He rubbed his temples, tried to sit up unsteadily, then collapsed back on his pillow with a sigh.
"Yeah, Tai, Iím fine. Come on, get up." She gently unzipped his sleeping bag.
"You go then, Iím just going to stay here and sleep."
"No Tai, youíre coming too." She lifted him up from beneath his arms and placed him on the couch as gently as she could, he was almost more than she could lift. Pulling on her sweatshirt and jeans hastily, she grabbed the keys and her licence from the kitchen counter. It was only 3:30, her mom wasnít home from work yet.
"Sora, I donít want to," he protested feebly as she tugged his shirt over his head, "Besides, what about our project?"
She didnít care about the damn project. "Itís okay. Donít worry about it. Weíre going to go now, okay? Can you get up and walk with me to the garage?"
"No. Sora, please, can I just stay?" He sounded like he was going to cry.
"All I want you to do is walk out to the car, canít you do that for me, Tai?"
"Yeah, for me. Please."
He bit his bottom lip and stood up shakily. She slipped his arm under his and he leaned heavily on her, shuddering with a force that was near violence. She helped him into the passenger seat of her Acura and pealed out of the subdivision, the eerie orange lights reflecting off the wet street and lighting the car with their unnatural glow.
Tai looked ghostly pale and was convulsing uncontrollably, his chattering teeth the only sound that broke the nightís stillness as she raced to the hospital. They were only about two minutes away now. He rocked back and forth, his arms crossed over his chest. "Sora, Iím sorry."
"Thereís nothing to be sorry about."
"But weíre going to fail the project now. Itís my fault."
"Forget about the stupid project, I donít care if I fail. I care about you."
"Yes, I do. Donít you know that? Tai, you mean everything to me. Youíre my best friend, I canít even imagine what my life would be like without you. I donít want to." She pulled into the hospitalís lot and parked the car.
"I, . . . I care about you, too."
Sora sat in Parenting, staring at the empty seat beside her. Tai had been at home for almost a week and class seemed just a little bit lonelier without him. She couldnít help but miss him, even though she did go visit him everyday after school. She yawned and waited for the bell to ring for lunch. She had completed her work fifteen minutes ago and had nothing to do.
Ms. Yokayama cleared her throat and stood up from her desk, "Class, if you want to get your marks from last weekís project, I will be handing them out after class."
Sora grimaced, she hoped they passed. Luckily, when she had came home that night she found her mom had got it to stop crying, but she still wasnít sure it was enough - it had sat alone for at least a half an hour. Maybe it would be better if she didnít find out their mark. As the bell rang and the rest of the class started to filter out the door, Sora packed up her books. The class was empty by the time she had finished. She slipped past the teacherís desk and was almost out the door when Ms. Yokayama spoke, "Ms. Takenouchi, donít you want your and Mr. Kamiyaís mark? It was 93%, the best in the class."
"Yes, out of all the children, yourís cried for the least amount of time - only about an hour and eighteen minutes I believe. Most of the pairs averaged around three hours. Excellent work." Sora didnít know whether to laugh or cry.
Sora pushed the door open to Taiís room gently. Kari had told her to go right in but she didnít want to wake him if he was sleeping. He was propped against his pillows, reading, and gave her a small wave as she entered. "Hey, whatís up?"
"Nothing much. I brought you soup." She held up the thermos. "And homework. Which would you like first"
"Soup now and homework later," he replied grinning, "Much later. The doctor said I probably wonít be able to go back to school until Monday, so Iíll be starting that about Sunday night. At least I donít have homework in gym and parenting. Man, I wonder how we did on that project."
"Actually, I got the mark back today."
"93%. It was the highest in the class."
He started to laugh, "Youíre joking."
"Nope. It mustíve been the Blind Melon."
"Or the lack of my momís casserole." He opened the thermos and began to drink the soup out of the lid. The bottomless pit was back. "Hey, this is actually pretty good."
"Itís my special recipe. Well, maybe Campbellís helped a little."
"Sora, if it comes from a jar it doesn't count as a special recipe."
"It didnít come from a jar," she informed him, smiling. "It came from a can."
Well, there it is. Thanks for reading! ^_^
About Tai Luva -_^, Comics You Know You're Obsessed With . . . Links, E-mail Me!