Alright, first off, sorry I haven’t posted in ages. I’m really starting to wonder where my time is going *checks under bed*. Anyways, I really lost my train of thought with this story, so I’ll just try something and hope that I can end it well.
“Honestly, Chris,” I pleaded. “Can you stop that?” The two of them were eating in the kitchen when Clay passed by. Chris, as usual, had a stony glare focused right on Clay’s head. “You do know that he doesn’t like me anymore, right?” Somewhere deep down I knew that wasn’t true, but I couldn’t help but feel as if it was. After all, wasn’t it my fault that he’d acted like he did? The pang of remorse that stabbed at my heart was so strong that it was almost a physical sensation. I had to rub above my heart to convince myself that the skin remained unbroken. When my anxiety subsided, I grabbed the plates and placed them in the dishwasher. It was Raimundo’s turn to wash today.
“You know I can’t, Matt”, Chris replied. “I love you, Matt, and I honestly can’t stand the thought of you being with anyone else, let alone some monk you’ve known for a couple weeks.” He walked over to me and took my hand in his as he tried giving me a kind look.
“Fine, but can you at least stop being such a jerk to him?”, I snapped. “He’s a really nice guy if you give him a chance. Please, Chris. For me?” I did my best attempt at puppy-dog eyes while I nuzzled up to his chest. In retrospect, I couldn’t find any other word to describe it other than “skanky” if you consider Clay left the room only moments ago.
“Alright, alright, Matt. I’ll try”, he laughed and slipped his pinkie-ring off. “But I make no promises, you hear me?” He dropped the ring into my palm before he pulled me in closer and kissed the top of my head. What surprised me most was that I really liked it. It confused me because I was sure mere days before that I was totally over him, but my heart said otherwise when it skipped a beat while I just stood there.
I was thinking so hard that I didn’t even notice Kimiko walk in on us. “Oh, um… am I interrupting?”, she asked as I turned in our embrace. Chris held onto me with arms wrapped around my torso. I could tell what she was thinking as she looked at me. The way her eyebrows drooped and her shoulders slumped in told me she was torn between her loyalties to both me and Clay.
“No, no,” Chris assured her. “We weren’t doing anything… yet”, he whispered that last part, causing hot breath to tickle my ear.
When Kim saw that, I could see she was trying her hardest to suppress a look of disgust, but I was eternally grateful that she just let it slide.
“Y’know, Chris, why don’t you go find Raimundo? I’m sure you two could bond a little while I talk with Kimiko here,” I hinted. I knew he could take a hint, but I made it exceptionally obvious for safety.
“Alright, alright”, he repeated. He let go of me and gave me a kiss on the left cheek. “I’ll let you women talk.” If I wasn’t so keen on getting him out of the kitchen, I probably would’ve punched him. Even so, Kimiko had to physically restrain me from throwing a fork at him.
“Matt! Just chill, okay?” she pleaded. Reluctantly, I let the fork drop onto the counter with a clatter. “Okay, so what’s going on, Matt? I thought you two were through.”
I heaved a monumental sigh at the question. Without lookng, I plopped down onto the comfortable padding of one of the kitchen chairs. “I thought so too, Kim. But…”
I glared at her before I continued. “Well, I don’t know. I mean, recently, I’ve been… feeling things,” I looked down as I fingered the rolling design on Chris’s ring.
This time, Kimiko sighed. “Matt,” she started. “I don’t know if you know this, but Clay likes you.” I raised my eyebrow. “I don’t think you understand,” she placed her hands on my shoulders. “He really really likes you. I mean, ever since you came, he’s started whistling during training. He tips his hat to all the monks, he sings in the shower,” Kimiko was really on a roll here. “Hell, he even sleeps without his boots on. What I mean to say is that he was happy with you, and now…”, she took me by the hand and led me over to the threshold of the kitchen. From there, we could see into the courtyard and the gardens. On a bench, Clay sat with his hat tipped downward. His shoulders were slumped over and he was wringing his hands, something I’ve never seen him do before.
“Well, if he does then why do you think he broke up with me?” I asked. Seeing him like that had me starting to tear up. That just seemed to make Kimiko angry.
“Well, what do you expect Matt? That he would just drop everything and thrust his heart at you?”, she spat. “Believe it or not, you’re not the only one with feelings in this world, Matt. He was afriad, Matt. Do you know what it’s like to love someone like he loves you?” I couldn’t help but think of what happened mere days before. My encounter with Clay was more physical than anything else, but I still couldn’t keep myself from hoping it meant something.
That last question struck a chord somewhere deep within me. I really don’t know why, but the thought that Clay still loved me made me sad. I had to admit it to myself and to Kimiko. “I…” I frantically looked for the right words to say “I honestly don’t know what that sort of love feels like,” I blurted as a stray tear found its way down my cheek.
“Do you really think this is fair to Clay?!”, she was getting flared up and her arms swished wildly in the air as she continued to yell at me. “Don’t you feel anything?!”
“It really isn’t fair, is it, Kimiko. Why is it that I can just cast him aside as soon as someone else comes into the picture? Why doesn’t that make him hate me? W-why can’t I feel what he does?” I stuttered as I looked up to see Clay making his way over to us shyly.
“So you think it would be the same? You can’t even imagine the kind of pain you’ve put Clay through!”, she gowled icily as she motioned behind her in Clay’s direction.
“What makes you think that you can just trample all over his love like that?”
“Who do you think you are to just toy with someones emotions?!”
“Kimiko, stop.” She turned around and saw Clay behind her. It was as if someone pushed the off-button on her anger. The fiery emotion was replaced with reverence and remorse.
“Clay… I…”, she started. “I’m sorry”, before she ran off to her room.
Clay then turned to me. I was expecting something along the lines of what happened with Kimiko.”Matt, I heard some of that stuff you said to Kim, and…” he paused. “And I need you to know that I still love you. And I’ll be darned if I don’t do something about it.” He turned around and pulled something out o fhis pocket. I heard the soft jingle of metal and my vision focused in on a stunningly beautiful necklace dangling before me.
“Oh, Clay, I can’t accept this”, I murmured as he offered it up to me. He didn’t listen though, and just closed my hand around it.
“Matt, I reckon this’ll sound a little awkward, but I want this necklace to be a symbol of my feelings for you”, he explained softly. “If’n you don’t want to accept the meaning, that’s fine by me, but I want you to keep it as a reminder of what we’ve shared”, he leaned down and gave me a kiss on the right cheek. “and what could still be.”
What really touched my heart was the fact that he could still harbor feelings for me after what I did to him.
As he walked away, I noticed how he continued to wring his hands. Slowly, I pulled both hands up to my cheeks, as the phantom sensations of both kisses – from Chris and Clay- tingled across my skin. With the ring in my left hand and the necklace in my right, I made my way into the garden.
It was beautiful for the time of year, which was probably the polar opposite of how I would describe my own feelings. Unlike the rest of the week, the temperature was comfortably warm. The gardens were in the peak of their color change, shining deep reds and golds right before the leaves shriveled and fell from the branches. With the thin layer of leaves on the floor, the garden seemed to be transformed into an almost alien environment. I felt like a shroud of silence had descended upon the entire temple, broken only by the occasional chirp from the birds or the rustle of feet on leaves.
When I came to the center, I sat down in front of what looked like an oak tree. Although it wasn’t native to the region, it didn’t surprise me to see it there. It was exactly the kind of thing Master Fung would do to include foreign greenery in the gardens. While I was lost in my musings, I noticed something: the tree that stood before me was actually two tightly intertwined, as if they’d grown together. In the center of the trunk though, I couldn’t tell which was which, and that one section appeared to be connection between the two.
At the foot of the trunk, I found a patch of ground that was encompassed by the roots of the tree; almost like a bowl. I looked down a my open palms and the glint of metal flashed in my eyes as I placed both the necklace and ring inside the dip. It seemed like a safe place to keep them while I wasn’t wearing them. The only thing was that it made me feel a little like a squirrel, what with the hiding valuables (a.k.a. nuts) in trees. I just hoped that I would be able to remember this spot. On the side of the tree, there was a smooth, rounded rock that I picked up and etched out the letters “C” and “M” on with my pocket knife. Now all I had to decide was which “C” would be with this “M”.
Before I could give that any thought, I was jarred back to reality by Dojo’s scream piercing through the silence. Without much thought, I scooped up both the necklace and ring before gently laying the rock over the bowl. With the necklace around my neck and the ring on my finger, I started sprinting towards the temple as fast as I could. It was only when I was half-way there that I realized I probably should’ve just left them there at the tree. If I hadn’t been running, that would’ve been a very appropriate face-palm moment.
After Matt and Chris saw me leave the kitchen, they thought I left right away, but I decided to stick around for a bit. I couldn’t help but be hurt by some of the things Matt said. Did he really think I don’t like him anymore?
With my hat in my hand, I plopped down onto one of the nearby benches. As soon as the hat got back on my head, I started wringing my hands like a dishtowel. Does Matt still like me? I’d take a wild guess that he doesn’t because I really get the feeling that he couldn’t care less.
That thought got me so angry that I nearly started screaming to myself. I even started whispering nasty things under my breath just to make me feel better. It’s silly when I think about it, but it helped at the time. Sometime after I said something about “pickled sheep-bladders”, I heard a commotion from the kitchen. When I glanced up, Kimiko was railing on Matt like I’ve never seen before. From the looks of it, he was about ready to burst into tears. What’s worse was that I’d only take one guess as to what they were talking about.
I couldn’t let that go on, so I started over to the two. This part, I don’t remember too hot. All I could think about at the moment were Matt’s lips. The entire time, I thought to myself, “Get a hold of yourself Bailey”, but it really didn’t do much. From what I recall, one thing led to another and I finally got to giving Matt that necklace. What I do remember was saying something like, “I want you to remember what we’ve shared and what could still be.”
I kissed him on the cheek and he looked reassured and all, but I still had to beat myself up for it afterwards. Bursting into my room, I started pacing around the little space I had.
“What the hell was that, Clay?”, I asked myself out loud. “I reckon he’ll just be falling all over ya’ after that one. Jesus Chris, why do I deserve this?” I was broken from my self-destructive rant when I heard a racket from Dojo. “Must be another Wu,” I thought to myself before I dashed over to the courtyard.
On my way there, though, I saw one of the strangest sights I’ve ever laid eyes on. “Rai, Kimiko, what in tarnation are you two doin’?”, I asked when I saw the two of them hopping towards the direction of Dojo’s hollering.
“Well, somebody“, Kimiko started. I had no doubt of who that ‘somebody’ was. “went and got us stuck in our belts. Really, Rai, how do you do it?” The effect was lessened somewhat by the fact that she was hacking at the colored fabric bound messily to her feet.
“What’re you talking about Kim?”, Rai snapped back. “I didn’t mean to get stuck in my belt. Plus, it wasn’t my brilliant idea to put them on before untangling them. Someone just went and pulled them both up without thinking to make sure they wouldn’t strangle us!”
From the looks of it, their belts were both off at some point, so that could only mean… “Jesus Christ, you two! What the hell were you doing with your pants off together?!”
I turned around and saw Matt trot down to us from the gardens. I noticed something sparkling against his chest too.
“Who had their pants off with who?”, he joked with a sly grin on his face.
“Uh…”, both Kimiko and Rai said in unison.
“Why are you guys just standing here?”, Chris said as he came up from behind everyone. “I think there’s some sort of dying animal in the courtyard. We should probably go check that out.”
That snapped everyone back to their senses, and we dashed towards Dojo’s Sheng Gong Wu induced shrieks. Rai had to hold his pants up though, since he decided to be a gentleman and let Kimiko have both belts.
When we got there, Dojo was writhing on the ground as usual.
“Yo, Dojo”, Rai called. “What’s up this time?”
“Finally! What were you kids doing?”, he glanced at all of us.
All of us just had to turn to Kim and Rai.
“What?”, Rai asked with an attempt at an innocent face.
“Whatever,” Dojo interrupted. “We’ll discuss that later, but this Wu is the Kappa’s Bowl.”
“You mean you interrupted us for sushi?”, Matt asked.
“Not ‘Kappa Roll’, Kappa’s Bowl”, Dojo corrected.
Master Fung emergerd from the shadows. “It gives its user unparalleled strength and balance but only if the bowl is kept full.”
“Just like the legend!”, Kimiko chirped.
“Exactly”, Master Fung. “Dojo will be taking you to Japan for this Shen Gong Wu, young monks,” he turned to Chris. “You may accompany them as well if you’d like.”
I raised an eyebrow to Chris. He didn’t look like the type to go for this whole magical scavenger hunt thing, but he continues to surprise me, if only with how much of a jerk he is.
“Do you think that’s such a good idea Master?”, I asked with a glance at Matt and Chris.
He raised his eyebrow too, but at me this time. “I don’t see why another set of hands could hurt. I’m sure any differences you have will be put aside for the good of this mission.”
Grudgingly I bowed as I got onto Dojo’s back. I doubt this will turn out well.