Billy curled his lip as his mother scolded him for coming in late last night. She went on about how she’s sick of him coming home drunk or smelling of cigarettes. He rolled his eyes at her and slammed his fist on the counter to get her to stop talking.
“How old am I?” he said, gritting his teeth. “I’m not a child, mom. I don’t need you to scold me every time I’m out late.”
“Billy, I don’t mind the out late,” she said, lowering her gaze. “It’s what you do that bothers me. I know you drink and smoke. Lord knows what else you’re out doing. I just don’t want you to get hurt or get tied into something that’ll be hard to get you out of.”
“I’ll be fine,” Billy said, placing his hands on her shoulders. “Hey, I’m a grown man. I’ll be fine, mom. Just worry about Max.”
His mother nodded with a forced smile. “Try to be home sooner… I don’t want to wait up worrying about you.”
Billy pulled her in for a hug but pushed away quickly, sniffing and rubbing his nose. “Speaking of that, I’ll be coming home late tonight. Around eleven. There’s something I need to do.”
His mom shook her head and shrugged. “Fine… whatever.”
When she walked off, Billy noticed his sister, Max, staring at them from her room. He gave her a look and headed for the door.
“You’re going to make her anxious enough to make her sick,” Max said.
“Mind your own business, Max,” he said, coldly. “I don’t need you on my ass, either.”
Without another word, he pushed open the door and walked down the stairs, popping a cigarette in his mouth, and searched for his lighter. A rumpus across the street drew his attention. Billy sat on the hood of his car, watching as a man accidentally dropped a large piece of furniture off of a moving truck. A nicely dressed man started yelling at him. Billy smirked and puffed out smoke from his cigarette.
“I told you to be careful with that,” the nicely dressed man yelled. “That’s an expensive piece of furniture. It’s worth more than your life!”
“Blake, stop yelling. You’re causing a scene,” a nicely dressed woman called from her car.
After she stepped out, she just stood there, giving a scolding look inside the backseat of the vehicle. The lady crossed her arms and tapped her foot.
“I haven’t all day, Akari,” the lady said, grabbing the handle of the door and opening it violently.
Billy threw his cigarette onto the ground and stomped on it, blowing out smoke and sliding off of the hood of his car when a young lady stepped out of her mother’s car. Her hair, black and straight, moved like soft strands of grass in the wind. She smiled at her mother even though she scolded her.
“Sorry, mom. I was finishing up a drawing,” the girl said wistfully.
“We have to get rid of this moving truck. I don’t want to have it any longer than we need,” the mother said. “Get over there and help unload.”
The girl shrugged and made her way over to the moving truck and disappeared into the back of it. Billy heard a lot of movement and grunting coming from inside as he casually walked across the gravel road.
“Man, this box is heavy,” the girl was saying as she jumped down from the truck. She ended up stepping wrong and nearly fell over after her feet hit the ground.
Billy quickly wrapped his arm around her waist, catching her. Blue eyes fixed on him quickly as she felt his strong arm around her. A sweet smile blossomed on her pretty freckled face. Billy couldn’t break eye contact as he helped her stand up straight.
“Thanks! I can be clumsy sometimes,” she said, an accent detectable in her speech.
“Yeah, no problem,” Billy said slowly, his arm still wrapped around her small waist.
She stepped back and rubbed her ankle. “You must be one of our neighbors. My parents and I just moved here today. I don’t think I’ll be able to help unload the truck now.”
Billy looked from her to the truck and grabbed the box. “Just tell me where it goes and I’ll bring it in for you?”
Her smile was honest and pure as she led him inside of the trailer. Her father was talking on the phone in the kitchen and her mother was sitting on the sofa flipping through a notebook.
“Mom, I sprained my ankle jumping out of the back of the truck… our neighbor has come over to help unload,” she said.
“Yeah, whatever,” her mother responded.
Akari wrinkled her nose and led Billy to where her room would be. “Put the box right there in the corner, please. My stuff has my name on it.”
“Sit. I’ll take care of it,” Billy said, looking at her name on top of the box. “Akari… that’s an interesting name.”
“It’s Japanese. It means light/ brightness,” Akari giggled. “I guess it fits my personality.”
Billy chuckled. “Where are you from? I’m Billy, by the way.”
“I’m from London, but I grew up in Ireland most of my life,” Akari said, taking a seat on some boxes. “My parents started a business together, so we had to move here. I’m not sure if this business will ever become one hundred percent successful. They spend more money on advertising than they do anything else.”
Billy stared at her unconsciously as she spoke. Her accent gives away the land she was born to. It was a slow pace but a playful tune. When it became quiet, Billy noticed she was looking at him, her head tilted to one side. Strands of her crow black hair falling in her face.
Billy cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ll grab your things…”
She smiled sweetly, her nose wrinkling. As Billy was grabbing another box from the truck, he couldn’t help but picture her smiling face. Never has he ever met someone as interesting as Akari. He could feel his heart flutter as he got closer to her room.
“Who are you?” Akari’s father asked as he stepped inside the trailer.
“Billy Hargrove,” he said, setting down the box and shaking his hand. “I saw Akari struggling with a box and came over to help.”
The man nodded, looking over his glasses, and shook Billy’s hand. “Nice of you to help, young man. We need more young men like you to help strangers out. This world would be a better place.”
“Of course, sir,” Billy smiled, rolling his eyes when he turned his back.
When Billy entered Akari’s room, he paused in the doorway. Akari was sitting by the window with a sketch pad and pencil in hand. The way the sunlight hit her face was enchanting. Their gazes met, and she smiled warmly at him.
“I met your father,” Billy said, setting the box down and joining her by the window. “He seems nice…”
Akari chuckled. “He has his moments. My parents couldn’t care less about what I do, honestly. I don’t give them any reason to mistrust me. What about your parents? What are they like?”
Billy sighed and licked his lips. “My dad isn’t in my life anymore. He was abusive. Mom divorced him a long time ago. Now it’s just me, mom, and my little sister, Max.”
Akari laid a soft hand on top of his, her eyes were searching his face. “I’m sorry to hear. No one deserves to go through that.”
The sound of his heart was loud and fast enough for her to hear it if it was any quieter. Billy gulped and stood up to stretch. “It is what it is. I do whatever I want now without him breathing down my neck.”
Akari shrugged and stood. “Even still, I’m sorry you went through that.”
Billy put his hands on his hips and rubbed his nose with a sniff. “Thanks, but I don’t need pity. Listen, I have to get going. See you around.”
The brightness in her blue eyes dimmed a bit after he said this. Billy felt a little guilt tug at his heart when he turned around to leave.
“You can visit anytime,” Billy said, pausing at the door. “It was nice meeting you and welcome to Hawkins.”
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Billy,” Akari said, sliding her hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. “See you around!”
Billy couldn’t help but smile at her. The sweet sound of her voice was lyrical as she perked up and shook his hand warmly. Billy was used to pretty girls, but there was something about Akari that interested him a lot. She seemed pure, and he would feel guilty if he got her involved in his life.
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