April 14th, 2004
Storyboard Excerpt: Loyal to No One
Joint Story: Jeri S and Sophia P
Lightning crackled through the sky, briefly lighting it as brightly as if it were noon. Jiro looked at his watch and sighed heavily - it was noon, and this storm system had moved in quite suddenly. So suddenly, in fact, that all of his earlier plans for the afternoon were abruptly cancelled. So, what to do now?
As he sat there thinking, Celeste passed him, not seeing his dark shape in the shadows of the school. His lips twitched into a small grin, and he leaned against the school building, silently counting until five minutes had gone by. Then he moved after her, pulling his jacket around himself, tugging it tightly as he hunched over against the onslaught of rain. Lightning cracked again, temporarily blinding him, and his next step took him into a knee-deep puddle. Jiro flung out his hands, trying to maintain his balance, but the sides were so slick that he tumbled headfirst into the murky water.
The icy cold water gripped him as he struggled to stand, though he still kept slipping. Instead, he lay still for a moment, holding his head up as he took deep, calming breaths before trying again. This time he succeeded, though he shivered in the sudden cold. He was drenched to the bone. Sighing, Jiro made his way forward the few yards to the covered bus stop, collapsing onto the bench with a watery thud.
It was there that Celeste found him as she stepped off the bus ten minutes later, juggling two grocery sacks in her arms. Jiro's eyes were closed, his breath even, and she would have thought him asleep if not for the ragged tattoo of his fingers against his legs as he kept himself warm. "Hey, Jiro!" called Celeste, her voice soft, almost a whisper.
His eyes flew open, staring at her, but he smiled weakly as he struggled to sit up. "Hi, Celeste. Good shopping?"
She sighed, shaking her head in exasperation. Trust him to small talk! "Yes, very good. Did you get lost again? And why are you so wet? You're absolutely sopping!"
"I must have gotten lost, yes," he replied, though it was a blatant lie. He'd been going to see her. "Got turned around, most likely. I've never been good at making my way home at night." There was a long pause where Jiro shifted uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah... well, see, there was this big puddle, and a lightning flash that must have been close by, it was so bright. So, uh... I sort of fell into the puddle."
"Puddle? Ditch is more like it. C'mon, I'll get you dry and warm again. I was just about to go home and make dinner, anyway." The sacks shifted as she made as broad a gesture as possible, indicating he should join her. "Well, come on! Get up, silly!"
Jiro still made no move to stand, though he did rub his eyes. It was only when Celeste kneed his stomach that he gave up and stood. "Need help? I'll carry one of the bags -"
"Nope!" she exclaimed, interrupting him. "The amount of water you're dripping, you'll ruin all the paper stuff for sure!" she laughed, though she silently appreciate his offer. Then why didn't you take it? was the question she asked herself, mentally giving her heart a kick as it jumped a little. Oh, she knew the answer all right, that was for sure. She didn't want to seem incapable.
Jiro, sensing something was wrong, stayed silent for the short walk to Celeste's home. When they reached the outer room, she paused, glancing skeptically at Jiro. At this look, he recoiled slightly, blinking in surprise. "What?"
"You stay here and get rid of those clothes while I put the groceries away. There's a towel behind the shoe rack." She gave him a sweet smile as she moved into the house, leaving him dazed and dripping.
Sighing resignedly, Jiro picked up the towel, setting it within reach as he removed his waterlogged clothes. I can't believe she's making me do this, he thought, grumbling, though he did as she'd asked and was towel-clad by the time Celeste came back out.
"Phaugh! You smell!" she cried, pinching her nose for emphasis. "All right, well... I guess you can use my shower. Come on. I'll get you some dry clothes and put yours in the wash while we're at it."
"Well, it was pretty muddy water. I'm glad I can't smell it, if it's so revolting to you." He followed her into the main room, halting midstep when he saw a black-socked tabby cat glaring at him.
Celeste glanced behind her to see what he was looking at, and then shrugged, smiling. "Don't worry about him. He's probably just waiting for you to get out of sight before he goes out." Without thinking, she grabbed Jiro's hand, dragging him after her to the bathroom. "In you go. Take a shower, please, before you stink up my house!"
Jiro's eyes widened slightly as she released his hand and walked off. Sighing, he slumped forward, meekly complying to her orders. She was a very demanding woman!
Half an hour later, he opened the shower curtain, grabbing for the towel, his eyes wandering around the small, highly decorative bathroom. A soft knock on the door alerted him to Celeste's presence just outside, and he flushed, suddenly feeling very self-conscious.
"Jiro, I have some clean clothes for you. Are you decent enough for me to open the door?" Her voice was partially muffled by the thick door, but he understood her well enough.
"Ah, yes, I am," he muttered, hastily wrapping the towel around his waist.
The door creaked open and Celeste stepped in, holding out a small pile of clothes. "These should be big enough for you." Hastily, she averted her eyes from his lean form, a blush slowly creeping up her neck. "When you're finished, come help me finish cooking dinner. You might as well be useful while you're here." With that she turned, closing the door firmly behind her and leaving one very stunned Jiro holding the offered clothes.
When he joined her in the kitchen a few minutes later, his damp hair wetting the back of the shirt, Celeste couldn't help but notice how well the pants fit him and how tight the shirt was. Maybe she had a larger one? No, of course not. She'd looked, and there wasn't another larger than that. Privately, she rather wanted him to go shirtless, but that would be far too distracting. In fact, he was still very much so.
"Oh, good, you're out. Dishes are in the cabinet by the refrigerator, and silverware is in the drawer right beside you. Set the table." There. That ought to get him away from her while she finished dinner. She didn't want to burn anything.
Jiro sighed but gave her a small smile as he gathered the dishes and silverware, moving out to the dining area so he could set the table, remembering to be careful to place the two pairs of chopsticks on their rests. There were four chairs, so he set places opposite each other, straightening everything until even Celeste couldn't fault his setting. He straightened up, ready to tell Celeste he was done, when the door burst open and Feijin came waltzing in.
"Hey, Celeste! Oooh, what smells so good? Can I stay for dinner?" The youth practically jumped into the dining area.
Jiro groaned softly, wondering what to do, when Celeste poked her head out of the kitchen. "Oh, hi Feijin! Sure, of course you can. Just grab another place setting, will ya? And where are your manners?! Say hello to Jiro, too!"
Feijin whirled around, spotting Jiro, and grinned. "Heya Jiro! Heluva storm out there, isn't it? Looks like you caught the brunt of it, huh?"
"Uh, yeah, I did. The angel of doom found me at the bus stop." Jiro absently plucked the pants, cursing Feijin for walking in. He'd been hoping to have Celeste to himself, at least long enough to talk to her.
To be continued.
Current Mood: bored