I hadn’t really thought it could get any worse. But I guess it did.
Her cheeks were damp again, just as it seemed they always were after she talked to Ren. At least she was gone now.
Akito leaned out the window of her room, letting the wind play with her hair and dry her never-forgotten tears. She loved the wind, loved the way it swirled so lazily through the days, loved the way it took her mind to places she could never be.
But oh, she envied it. Envied the freedom it would always hold over her.
So what if I’m only fifteen? What does it matter?
She leaned out, further, further. Wouldn’t it be nice to be on the “outside”, just for a little while? A smile drifted across Akito’s face at the thought. See what they saw, do what they do, be what they are…
I’ll never be like them. And I’ll never get my chance.
But that stubborn determination was already too strong in Akito’s eyes. She dragged herself back into her rooms and ran to her closet to dig out one of her most precious possessions. She pulled it out, holding it up against her chest. A dress. The only dress she had. She had stolen it from one of Ren’s old trunks. Ren never looked in that trunk anymore, not since she had become a “Sohma”.
I’m going to be a girl today.
You’ll never get away, that pesky little voice whispered in her ear. Never.
Akito ignored it. When she was dressed and ready, she ran back to her open window. Adrenaline surged through her, burning away the tears. With a swift but slightly wobbly motion, Akito leaned out the window, grabbed the rough bark of the tree, and swung herself out with sheer force of will. Jumping to the ground, she looked around. There was no one there. So she ran.
Akito laughed. She actually laughed. Her skin creased and crinkled in ways that she hadn’t known were possible. She stopped abruptly, bringing her hands to her face.
So this is what laughter looks like? What it feels like?
Akito approached the gates at the edges of Sohma property. She couldn’t believe that this was all that had been holding her back. These gates were just a few twisted bars of ornate black metal. What power did metal have over her, anyway? She was held by much more powerful things.
Tentatively, Akito pushed the gate. Her heart leapt into her mouth as she watched it slowly creak open. Akito slipped through the small opening carefully pulling the gate shut behind her.
The outside world seemed so…different…than the inside. Of course she had been on the outside before, but never like this. Never without an escort, without someone there to make sure she held up the impression of what she was supposed to be.
The energy in the air was filling her, mixing with her adrenaline. Akito threw her arms wide, as if she could embrace the entire world within them. Sunlight dappled her face, and she grinned. For a minute, she forgot everything. Her father. Her responsibilities. Her pains. Her regrets. Her future. For just a minute, just one, blissful, minute, she was just…Akito.
She loved it.
And then a footstep broke the silence.
Akito’s eyes flew open and she whirled around, finding herself face to face with her favorite tormentor.
Shigure smiled innocently. “Why, hello, Miss. Are you lost?”
Akito glared at him, the steel back in her eyes. “Tell anyone that I was out and you’ll find yourself discovering exactly how a true dog lives these days.”
Shigure’s smile grew even wider. “No, no, I wouldn’t dream of it.” He stepped closer to Akito, slipping his arm around her waist. She shivered. “It can be our little secret.” Shigure half-led, half-dragged Akito towards the twisted metal gate. He pushed it open, watching as it swung silently out of the way. He gestured to the pristine area spread out before them. “After you.”