“No give her back! I want Onee-chan. NEE-CHAN, NEE-CHAN!”
“Are you okay?”
Shizuo stood up, shoulders rolled over casually as he peered at you from behind his shades.
You stopped staring outside the restaurant windows and sighed, “Yeah…”
He arched an eyebrow.
You chuckled, “No, I am not fine”
“Guess you’re gonna tell me, huh?”
“You came to me” You retorted and gestured at the vacant seat in front of you.
“Hey, Simon, can I get my usual?’ He yelled as he sat down. Shizuo pulled off his shades and placed them in his breast pocket.
He had a fine jaw and a strong nose, but you always preferred androgynous features similar to Izaya’s.
“What’s your story?” Shizuo asked, leaning on his elbows.
You tilted your head.
“What?” He grunted.
You burst out laughing, “I’m sorry. It’s just that you seemed to not like me and now here you are eating with me like we’re on a date”
He looked away.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that… but if it’s okay with you, I’d like to share my problem now”
You took his silence as the green light and began telling him about your current issue.
“I have a brother, a baby brother and I really, really love him, but for reasons I will not state we got separated for years and now that I’m back he’s angry with me”
“Why is he angry?”
“He… In the fifteen past years that we were apart we almost never talked and now that I’m back he’s pouring out all his rage on me and demanded that I explain myself for everything that happened up ‘til now but I can’t because I just can’t for reasons I cannot expand on and then, he got even more angry and we got into a fight and he left the house before I could calm him down and he hasn’t returned since then and now here I am pouring my heart out to a complete stranger!” You took a big gulp of breath after that.
Shizuo rubbed his chin in deep thought.
“…Hm… you look really familiar…”
“Were you even paying attention?” Your cheeks were red and puffing out.
“Yeah, but…” He shrugged, “The way I see it, you just need to talk to him”
Simon came with the orders.
“Really? You don’t think I should give him space?”
“Space? You were separated for fifteen years and you’re gonna give him space? Even I’m not that stupid”
“You know, you’re a pretty straightforward guy. I like you”
He almost snapped the chopsticks in half, “…Shit”
“Wow. I’m guessing you’re no ladies’ man, are ya?” You chuckled and asked Simon for another pair.
“Now that I’m done with my own obvious-solution problems, share some of your personal trivia, Shizuo”
He spat out the maki he just put in his mouth and began to choke.
Out of reflex you muttered “Oh, my Lord!” in English.
“Does everything surprise you?” You gently pushed his glass closer to him.
“I… you… urgh! …called me ‘Shizuo’” He struggled between coughs.
“Yes, that’s your name, isn’t it? Oh, wait… force of habit. Back in America people called each other by their first names most of the time”
He nodded, gulping down the water.
You reached for your chopsticks “So, do you have a brother? Sister?”
You tiptoed into the dining room where five-year-old Izaya was doing his homework. His backpack lay on the table next to his Cantonese workbook and mathematics textbook.
You snuck up behind him, raised your hands with fingers curled.
“I can feel your breathing” He said with a giggle.
“Aw!” You pretended to moan before attacking his sides with tickles, “You’re being unfair”
“You’re being a bad sport” He stuck out his tongue.
You pinched his nose before nipping on his cute, just-the-right-amount-of-fat arms.
“What ‘cha up to, baby brother?”
“Our teacher asked us to write about what we want to be in the future”
“Oh? How’s it going so far?”
“I’m doing great, I think. Do you mind checking it for me, Nee-chan?”
“Do I mind? Are you kidding?” You exclaimed, feeling your heart squeeze at how those big eyes looked up at you. You pulled a seat and gently took the piece of paper from him, “Let me see”
“‘What I Want to Be: My Sister’s H…” Your could feel your eyes bulge out, “…Husband’?”
You glanced down at Izaya who had his hands on his knees, waiting patiently for you.
You put down the paper.
“Was it that bad?”
“No, no, but Izaya when they ask you about what you want to be when you’re older you’re supposed to write something like doctor o-or you know, teacher, or policeman…”
He tilted his head, “But the teacher said we could be anything we wanted to be”
“Y-yes, but—“And I wanna be Onee-chan’s husband!” He proclaimed wide-grinned as he flung himself at you, almost knocking you off the chair.
“Now, Izaya, why would you want to marry me?”
“Why? Shouldn’t it be obvious? Mom said that when I marry, it should be to a very special girl who I really, really like. You’re a special girl, Onee-chan, and I don’t just like you—I love you!” He declared proudly.
You chuckled at his innocence.
“But I like strong men, you know”
He bit his lower lip, threatening to cry, but quickly swallowed the whimper back down his throat as he said, “Then I’ll become the strongest man ever so I can stay by your side forever!”
“Of course you will”
You laughed before brushing his bangs to the side and then giving him a soft kiss on the forehead, “I’ll prepare dinner, you just wait and finish your homework, all right?”
“You didn’t have to board the train with me, you know”
Shizuo had escorted you to the station and the streets of Shinjuku. You were well aware of your major flaw and so happily accepted the offer the moment he finished talking.
“I don’t mind, besides, it’s twice as dangerous for you to be walking all alone at night. You give off this vibe”
“What kind of vibe?”
He shrugged, “I dunno. Something like, a scent that attracts dogs and rats”
“That wasn’t offensive at all” You teased.
He bowed his head, trying to hide his red cheeks.
“I was just joking, loosen up, you virgin!” What was supposed to be a playful smack on the shoulder swung too fast, too strong and you gasped.
“Ow!” You exclaimed, holding your aching hand to your chest.
“Are you okay?” He stopped walking when you did.
“What are you made of? OW—DON’T TOUCH ME!” You shouted in surprise when he accidentally squeezed your wrist.
He jumped back, “S-sorry”
“…My fault. Let’s just keep walking”
Shizuo quietly nodded, silently trailing a few inches behind you.
However, he began to notice something.
“Don’t tell me…” His teeth gritted tightly when you reached the apartment building.
“You live here?” He asked.
“Temporarily. With my brother—” You noticed how his shoulders went tense, “Something wrong?”
“Just some bad memories and a face I really hope I don’t see now”
You brushed it off, “All right then”
“Hey, want to come upstairs? I brought lots of apple pies with me and I’m the only one with a sweet tooth in my family so there’s no way I can finish them all before they go bad”
“I-I don’t know, I think I should just go home now” He rubbed the nape of his neck, looking away.
“Now, Shizuo, the least you could do is accept my offer, after all you did sprain my wrist”
He rolled his eyes.
“Come on, my sisters already left and I doubt my baby bro is home yet. It sounds silly coming from me but I’m not used to being alone anymore. Just last night I was having hotpot with my three favorite people” You looked down, softly kicking the tiled floor, “I don’t think I’m ready to eat dinner alone again.”
Shizuo sighed in defeat.
“Yay! It’s settled then” Without thinking, you grabbed him by the arm with your good hand and tugged him inside one of the elevators.
“No way, you’re related to a celebrity?” You held the glass of milk tightly. Shizuo loosened up when you served the sweets and of course, fresh milk.
He nodded, “I won’t say who, but yes, I am”
“Wow…” You pushed a lock of hair behind your ear, “What’s that like?”
He shrugged. He shrugged a lot.
“I don’t know what you want to hear”
“For starters,” you gently lifted your bandaged arm onto the table “do you get stalked by paparazzi?”
He tried not to bend the silverware between his fingers as he forced out a chuckle, “People don’t usually see the connection unless they dig into our family history… or when a flea decides to meddle” He grunted the last phrase in a low tone before resuming normally, “I’m all right with it, I don’t want anyone finding out about his relationship with me. It could ruin his career”
“Aw, that’s so sweet, but how can you possibly ruin his career?”
He put down the fork, “Guys like me… I’m bad luck. I’m a magnet for all sorts of trouble and people who do nothing but cause trouble. I’m surprised we’re talking like this: like you’re not afraid of me at all”
You stared at the pie, laughing inwardly at how a big man could have such a cute love for sugary things, “Shizu… um, Heiwajima-kun, I’ve been here for two days but I can’t say I haven’t heard about your rep. But I met you before the rumors reached my ears…
“I’m bad with directions but I know that with people you can never be too sure” You poured milk into his glass.
You smiled at him, “So don’t sell yourself short”
He stared at, unsure of what to say. Temperature rising, he got up and almost sent his seat flying to the wall.
“Thanks for the meal but i-it’s getting late and I don’t want your neighbors getting the wrong idea”
You snickered, “Quite the gentleman, aren’t you? But okay, I’ve kept you here long enough. I’ll show you to the door”
You led him into the living room, but time seemed to have stopped.
Shizuo felt his blood pressure rise.
You couldn’t hide your relief.
You stared at the locket, the photo more specifically. You were thirteen, Izaya was seven, you held Mairu in your arms and Izaya had Kururi.
‘Sorry, guys’, You touched the crispy piece of photo paper. ‘Your big sister is a nitwit.’
Despite all the people you asked and all the turns you took, you were sure you were only walking in squares and circles. At some point the heel of your right boot snapped and you had to sit down to rest your legs. When you checked your watch, it was already nine in the evening.
“Oh, dammit” you wiped a tear, but grinned at the family portrait “Don’t worry, I’ll find a way out of this problem and we’ll be having hotpot together in no time”
But as your luck would have it, rain started to pour. You pulled on your hoodie and squeezed your bag to your chest. It was going to be a long night.
As your eyes drooped over due to exhaustion and lack of sleep, you could faintly hear the neighing of a horse.
“Good morning” Shinra’s face was hovering over yours.
“Shinra? Oh, great, don’t tell me I was dreaming” You groaned, rolling over your bed.
“Hm? What are you talking about?”
“I dreamt that I finally returned to Japan”
Shinra chuckled, “You are in Japan!”
It took a moment before you processed what he said and your eyes widened. It wasn’t your bed, it was a futon. You shot up into sitting position, Shinra backed up just in time before your heads would collide. He didn’t have the greatest grade in agility and fell backwards. Fortunately for him, a woman wearing a black riding suit caught him.
“W-w-where am I? Oh my god, what time is it?” You lifted your wrist but your watch wasn’t there. Thinking that Shinra must’ve taken it off when he set you down, you found your purse by the feet of the futon and dragged it onto your lap.
“No, no, no, no” You slammed your hand onto the side of your head. It was ten o’clock in the morning.
“Calm down, Name-senpai!” Shinra raised his hands, kneeling beside you.
“I got to…I got to—ah…” Your nose hurt “Ah—ACHOO!”
The rider held out a box of tissues. You nodded with a thank you and blew into a square.
“Now, senpai, I need you to take a deep breath and calm down” Shinra said. He smiled and gestured at the rider, who still hasn’t taken her helmet off, “This is Celty. She’s my roommate and future wi—ow!” He gasped when she delivered a punch to his gut.
He laughed, but held his stomach as he continued to speak “She found you asleep on a bench while on her way home and brought you here”
“Celty, I’ve told you this already but, this is Name, she’s one of the surgeons I’ve worked with in the past. You know, back in America”
You held out a hand “Nice to meet you, Celty, thank you. Both of you”
She took out her phone after shaking hands and began typing “It’s nice to meet you, too, but if you don’t mind me asking, what were you doing on a bench in the rain?”
You thought that she must’ve been either deaf or mute and really shy to keep her helmet on, so you didn’t ask any questions. You laughed, scratching your chin “You see I got lost and my phone was stolen so I couldn’t call for help”
“Is it your first time in Ikebukuro?”
“She’s lived here before, but senpai has a poor sense of direction” Shinra stated with a chuckle.
“But it’s been over ten years, what made you come back?”
You grinned weakly “I had a… life-changing experience and it made me realize I should come and be with my family more often”
You shook your head.
Celty’s phone rang and she excused herself. Shinra stood up and brushed imaginary dust off his pants, “Enough of that, you should rest now”
“Thanks, Shinra” You hid under the elephant-printed blanket while he slid the door close.
When you opened your eyes two hours later, your throat was dry. With a dizzy head, you got up and exited the guest room.
Shinra was standing by the fridge, peering inside with furrowed brows.
“Is everything okay?” You asked, your voice squeaking from you having just woke up.
“Oh, finally awake, I see” He closed the fridge “I just realized I need to start grocery shopping again”
“Okay, so what’s the problem? I could hear your sighing from here”
“I want to wait for Celty but this job may take a while”
“Celty’s a transporter”
“A transporter? She delivers stuff?”
He grinned, “Something like that”
“I’ll come with you if you want”
He raised his head in thought “I could use the extra pair of hands… but are you all right? Has your fever gone down?”
You brushed his concern off with a wave, “I’m fine. Let’s go”
Your mind was at ease when you stepped out of the apartment, at least with Shinra you could walk and walk without worrying about whether or not you could return home safely. “Home”, at the moment, was Shinra’s place.
“How’s Ikebukuro so far?” Shinra asked as you two strolled inside a café for lunch.
“Large, unfamiliar, scary”
He laughed and you sighed.
“You never talked much about your time here when you and I were working together”
“I didn’t talk about a lot of things back then” You recalled your second time living in America. You talked about a lot of things. You talked about the weather in Boston, you the traffic in New York, who was dating who in L.A., but you never mentioned Japan, only when you were asked where you were from. You’d answer, “Tokyo” and that was all. You didn’t expand more on the subject, mainly because it would surely lead to questions like “Who’re your parents?” or “Do you have siblings?” or “What made you leave?”
You found a table and volunteered to order.
“What do you want? It’s on me” You carried money for emergencies all the time. This wasn’t an emergency but you figured you could splurge a little.
“I’ll just have a coffee and a mont blanc”
You nodded and went to the counter.
Back at your table, Shinra was playing with his phone when he heard the bell ring and found Shizuo with Tom and Vorona. He beamed and waved “Shizuo!”
“Shinra, it’s rare seeing you in a place like this” They walked over to him.
“I’m about as human as you, I get hungry, too. Although I don’t share the same obsessive childish taste for all things sweet”
Shizuo gave him a blank look and Shinra immediately bowed down “I’m deeply sorry”
“Ah” He straightened his spine “Why not sit with us? The more the merrier”
“‘Us’? Celty’s here?”
“No, actually, I’m with a former co-worker”
You came back holding a tray with Shinra’s order and yours, a mug of warm milk and two slices of cheesecake.
Tom was the first to spot you “Hey, it’s you”
“You’re from yesterday, right? Fancy meeting you here”
“Tom, you know her?” Shizuo whispered.
Tom sighed, “She’s the girl you rescued yesterday”
You smiled “It’s nice seeing you again”
“Oh, right. Hi” Shizuo nodded at you, but didn’t meet your eyes. You were offended by his rudeness, but kept your smile.
“Don’t mind him, he always forgets people” Shinra said, taking the tray from you.
You sat down, “I’m assuming you’re good friends?”
“You could call our relationship that” Shinra chuckled before proceeding to properly introduce you to Shizuo and the other two.
“Small world” You said, cutting the cheesecake.
“I’m going to go order now, you two just stay put” Tom said.
Shizuo took three vacant chairs from the table next to yours and set them down for him and his companions.
“So… Vorona, right?” You tried to start conversation, you hated small talk with strangers but you had a feeling that you’d be seeing more of her and everybody else. This city was always smaller than one would imagine.
“Yes” Was all she replied, staring at her hands on the table with a bored expression.
“You’re from Russia then?”
She looked up, obviously surprised, but said nothing.
You snorted and coughed “To be called ‘Vorona’ is—is that your first name?”
She narrowed her eyes. You were beginning to feel bad for asking the question, but you were curious and honestly, her coldness and Shizuo’s inability to even look at you were getting on your nerves.
She opened her mouth and asked in her native tongue “Do you speak Russian? Are you Russian? Who are you? I ask for an immediate answer”
“You speak like a robot, you know. But to answer your questions: yes, no, and Shinra just introduced us to each other”
Shinra glanced over to you “Senpai, I didn’t realize you spoke Russian”
“The topic never came up”
You then asked Vorona, “You didn’t answer my question”
Vorona’s eyes were sharp and icy and angry, you felt a sense of victory in your chest.
She crossed her arms and looked out the window “If it is all right with you, I will withdraw from answering that or any other question concerning me and my personal life”
“What did you ask her?” Shinra whispered.
You shrugged “It’s between two ladies”
“That’s not fair!”
“That’s pretty impressive” You and Shinra turned to Shizuo. Even Vorona appeared surprised when he spoke up.
He bowed his head before you could see stare at his face, “Knowing Russian I mean”
Vorona uncrossed her arms, silently gasping.
“Nothing to it really. It was a requirement for my brother’s kindergarten to learn at least three languages before graduating. We studied together so he wouldn’t get frustrated”
“Brother?” Shinra asked.
“That’s right. I guess I didn’t tell you about him, did I? He’s six years younger than me and his name is—”
Shinra opened his phone. He sighed.
“It’s a patient. We need to go home now” He slid off the booth, fingers curled into the handles of the plastic bags containing groceries “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to show you around, Name-senpai”
“I thought you grew up here?” Tom asked.
“I did but it’s been a while and a lot has changed so I no longer know my way around”
“You never do” You glared at Shinra and he laughed.
“We gotta go now, see you around” Shinra said.
“It was meeting you” You bowed your head slightly before following Shinra outside.
There was a man on the couch and even with just the back of his head, you knew who it was.
Shinra and Celty—who was standing across the couch with crossed arms—twisted their heads to you. The looks on their faces silently asking “You know him?”
Izaya’s shoulders stiffened and he stood up to face you, “On—Aneki!” You couldn’t believe it.
The other two shifted their attention to Izaya, this time, Shinra loudly asked: “ANEKI?”
“Oh, you’re wearing the jacket I bought you!”
For the first time in their lives, Shinra and Celty have seen what it was like for another human to cuddle Izaya Orihara. Cuddle was a sugar-coating. In reality, you were squeezing him and rubbing your head in his chest, but the most damning thing was that he wasn’t doing anything to stop you. He just stood there, not really denying or accepting your affections. He was stunned.
You looked up at him, trying your best to contain your tears “And what’s with ‘aneki’, huh? Whatever happened to ‘onee-chan’?”
“ONEE-CHAN?” Shinra’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his skull. Celty’s knees were buckling, but she shook her head and took out her phone.
“Izaya Orihara is your brother?”
You nodded, “I’m also an Orihara. Didn’t Shinra tell you?”
She turned to Shinra who raised his hands in defense, “I knew her last name was Orihara, but I thought it was coincidence! Besides I just found out about her having a brother just a few minutes ago”
“A-aneki, wait” Izaya wrestled out of your hold and clasped his fingers down your shoulders, “What are you doing here?”
You explained everything that happened so far, glad that Izaya didn’t make fun of you for doing something as stupid as getting lost. All the time you had his arm hooked with yours.
“But what are you doing here, Izaya?” You asked, not really letting go of his arm even as you two sat down and Celty served tea.
“I knew Shinra since high school, we’ve been keeping in touch since”
“I see, but why are you here right now?”
He looked away.
“I come here often” He paused “And I wanted to ask Celty to help me find you”
You blinked. A smile crept to your face and you leaned in to kiss his cheek.
“Aneki!” He wiped the part your lips touch with the back of his fist.
“This is a… a really rare sight” Shinra tapped his fingers together.
“By the way Shinra, didn’t you say you had a patient—“Thanks for taking care of my sister” Izaya reached into his jacket “Aneki, why don’t you go get your things?”
You nodded and jogged inside the guest room
Once you were out of sight, he handed Celty an inch-thick brown envelope “That’s for your hard work” He gazed at Shinra “Both of you”
“Okay, I’m ready!” You called and Izaya removed the dark glint in his smile before helping you with your luggage.
As Izaya grabbed the door knob, you smile at Celty and Shinra. “Thank you so much for taking care of me. I owe you both” You bowed and then left with your brother.
“No problem…” Shinra nodded.
A good while after the click of the door closing, he and Celty stared at the envelope that contained enough cash to buy three solid gold rings with genuine diamonds.
They both knew what the money was for. Whether or not half of it was for looking after you, they were positive what the other half was: “Don’t tell”
My name is Matthew Williams. I’m the thirty-two-year-old half-brother of Alfred Jones, who has been missing for over five years. He packed up all his things and vanished.
The text below is a letter we found in his and his wife’s bedroom. It is the only clue we have of what may have happened to Alfred.
[The letter was found on his wife’s desk, the only piece of furniture that Jones reportedly kept clean without rearranging the objects on top]
We met at a Fourth-of-July party back in college. In your flowing sundress and with that smile, it didn’t matter if I was sober or half-drunk, to me you were the prettiest girl in the room.
If you asked me for one reason why I love you, I’d give you two more and I wouldn’t even have to think about it. I’d tell you it wouldn’t matter because for every bad thing that came with you were a thousand good things.
And then every once and a while, something pushes one of us down—from random pangs of jealousy to a bad day at work—or we’d get on each other’s nerves.
You would cry. You were such a crybaby and you never apologized first. But darling, I love that about you, the rarity of your “I Love You’s” and “I’m sorry’s” just made them all the more sincere.
I’d hold you close and dance with you all night because you’re my Evangeline, my Anarkali and Penelope.
You might not have been a guy or that good at sports, but you were my best friend. You kicked my ass at video games and kissed me so I would stop pouting.
And though it always took you hours to style your hair before every date, it was always worth it to see you so happy. I remember the first time we went shopping together: I fell asleep while you tried on that skirt in ten different colors.
Do you remember that time when I went downstairs for a glass of water and you scared the living Hell out of me? I thought you were a slime monster, but you told me it was just a facemask for “hydration”. I think I almost died back then.
I’d take every soul-ripping facemask and every painful hour of waiting in the ladies’ section to have you back in my arms. I’d pull you close and tell you over and over again that you’re the prettiest thing in all of God’s creation.
I don’t know if you can see me, but I’m crying. I miss you so much.
I’m crying now, Name.
I love you.