A thought crossed Midori’s mind, “What if he’s at the oasis again?” she didn’t think about it twice and ran all the way to the woods. She was already breathing with so difficulty but that wouldn’t stop her. Once again, she passed by that cabin, but it wasn’t the moment to feel scared. After running for a while, she started to feel exhausted. Midori had never been athletic. She leaned against a tree and slowly sat down on the ground, trying to calm down her breathing. She takes the water bottle she took along witu her before exiting the mansion.
— Where are you, Atlas?
She looked around, trying to see for a new path to head in, and in the distance, she could notice something she’s never seen before. She squinted her eyes, trying to better identify it, and it seemed to be a tree house. She tilted her head in confusion. She’s never seen that around in all the times she has walked through the woods. It was starting to get dark, and she was far away from the mansion. She didn’t have any other place to take refuge. So, she took her water bottle and stood up from the ground, cleaning her pants as she did so.
She made her way to the tree house, and when she arrived, she noticed that it was taller than she thought.
— Well, I have nothing to lose.
Approaching the stairs, she started to carefully make her way up. The wood was making small quaking noises. Midori gulped down, “I hope this doesn’t break down…” she thought. But that thought was slowly morphing into a reality the more she climbed up. One of the steps broke down and fell to the ground when Midori stepped on it. Midori let out a scream so loud it resonated all over the woods, birds flew away scared. Still firmly standing in the stair; she looked down, seeing how the piece of wood was falling. Her breathing started to quicken. She looked up, noticing how she was almost there. She continued going up, very slowly and with a lot of patience until she reached the house.
The entrance was a small wood plate, which with only a little push could be opened. Once she was inside, she closed the makeshift door. The space was a little small, she couldn’t completely straighten up. There was barely enough space for two people.
The place was decorated with fairy lights. They made the house look completely illuminated, along with the stars in the sky. There was a small window just in front with two cushions to sit in. It was an unusual ambience for Midori. She sat down in one of the cushions and looked out the window, seeing the moon. It was a full moon that night. After a few seconds, she looked back inside the house.
— I don’t know how I will sleep in here…
While looking around, her eyes landed on a photo album. There were two. One green, the other white. She extended her hand to reach out to the green one, it was close enough she didn’t have to get up from where she was. There was nothing in the cover, just the plain color covering it. She swiped her hand over it, trying to dust it off a little bit. She felt how there seemed to be a small letter engraved on the material of it. Brushing the material some more, she deciphered that there was a M in the cover. She frowned at that. It was too much of a coincidence already.
Without thinking about it too much, she opened up the album. Her face couldn’t hide the surprise she felt in that moment. In the first page, there were pictures of her from when she was little, with both of her parents. Midori covered her mouth and tears started to fall down. She took out the picture from the plastic that it was in and looked at it carefully. There was no mistake. Her mind wasn’t playing her a bad joke. It was her first birthday. She started to sob, taking the picture in both hands, bringing it closer to her chest.
— I wish I could go back in time…
She put the picture back to where it originally was and cleaned up her tears. She decided to keep looking at the album. It was full of pictures of her and her parents. Each time she looked at one she laughed a little, remembering the moment they took it. And just then, she found the last picture they took together, just before the accident. She closed her eyes, trying to avoid thinking about that fateful day. She continued to quickly turn the pages so she didn’t have to see it anymore. In many pictures there was Aoi. Midori softly bit her lip. She missed her best friend a lot, it was the only person who understood her in the real world.
At the end of the album, she found a picture of her when show was little. She was next to a small boy. The picture was dirty and she couldn’t see the other person without clarity. She took it out of the plastic and tried to clean it with her wrist but the dirt persisted. She tried to think hard about who could it be, but she wasn’t able to come up with someone.
She closed the album and left it at her side. She extended her arm once again, this time to take the white one. Cleaning up the dust it had in the cover, she slowly brushed her hand over the cover, looking for a small letter on it. As she thought, there was a small A, which made her raise her eyebrows. She imagined it was an album about Atlas. She was truly curious about Atlas’ childhood, but she also felt she would be invading his privacy. Just before she was able to open the album, the house door opens. It was Atlas. Midori looked up. Atlas recognized what Midori had in her arms and quickly sat down next to her, taking the album from her.
Midori’s eyebrows raised in surprise, feeling guilty for taking the album.
— I-I’m sorry… —she said in a low voice—.
— N-no… —he cleared up his throat— Don’t worry. I’m sorry for taking it like that.
— No, no, you don’t have to apologize, I took it without your consent.
Both stayed in silence for a few seconds, but Atlas decided to break it first.
— Do you want to see it?
Midori looked at him and nodded.
Atlas opened up the album and starts to tell her the stories behind the pictures. There were stories of all kinds. There were a few that were funny, as well some that were sad. Sometimes they laughed together. Midori felt happy, sharing stories under the night sky. It was a completely new experience for her, Atlas, too, seemed to be enjoying the moment.
Midori looks up. The moon, the stars and the fairy lights made Atlas look unreal, almost like an angel. Atlas noticed that midori was looking at him and looked back at her, directly in the eyes. Midori couldn’t turn away from his eyes, they were shining like never before. She felt how she started to slowly blush, at the same time when a slight blush was starting to creep up to Atlas’ cheeks. Midori noticed that and started to feel more nervous.
And then, Atlas started to lean slowly closer to her. Her heart was close to bursting. Midori closed her eyes as a reflex. Waited a few seconds, but nothing happened. She opened up her eyes slowly and, as if everything had been an illusion, Atlas wasn’t there anymore.
TO BE CONTINUED.