My breath billowed out of my mouth in puffs of steam visible in the frosty winter air, as my legs carried me to a place I've been many times before. My pockets were empty, as I owned nothing and my coat and shoes were worn and fraying. My pants had multicoloured patches sewn precariously onto them and my shirt was too short to cover my entire torso properly. Only a fool would walk around in this bitter cold, and with such inappropriate clothing for the current weather conditions at that. But I had a purpose for this unseemly trip, and I was going to finish it no matter what. As I walked down the familiar path, I waved to some people I had become acquainted with since I was a child, like the old lady who lived with her grandson, and the single father with more dogs than children. My heart sank a little deeper in my chest with the reminder of what I was about to do. I did it quite often, mind you, but I never quite got used to the overwhelming feeling of guilt that arrived after commiting the deed. This is something I have to do, I reminded myself, in order to keep my guilty conscience in check. I finally crossed the road and stood in front of the small town flower shop, an inspiration to all. The flowers sold here were quite exotic, with many variety, and they were all beautiful. With my heart burrowing lower and lower, and fear creeping up my back, I slowly walked inside the shop.
The small bell above the door jingled, and even though the sound was not loud, it echoed across the small room, alerting my presence and making me cringe. I hesitantly peaked into the back room where I was expecting a young man about my age to come out like he always did when I came here, but there was not a peep. I sighed in relief. This meant he was out somewhere, and less danger for me. I scanned the shop and found some beautiful lilacs. I slowly took a single flower from the bouquet. I turned to leave, then hesitated again. One more wouldn't hurt... Would it? I reached out my hand to a blue forget me not, taking one and slipping it into my hand. A petite white daisy was just calling my name, but I shook my head and started walking towards the door. I had done enough harm, there was no need to deepen my crime. As I walked out the door and into the cold air, I felt someone's arms wrap tightly around my waist and pull me flush against a chest.
"Aha! I finally caught you!" Someone declared proudly behind me, and I distinguished that his voice was that of the young flower keeper, before I screamed loudly.
I screamed, then started violently sobbing.
"Woah!" The flower shop owner exclaimed, surprised, and quickly let go of me. As soon as he did I sank to the ground, the flowers on the snowy floor forgotten, and began to sob into my hands, becoming a blubbering mess.
"I'm sorry!" I spluttered. "I- I didn't mean to, I just don't have any money, and I couldn't give them nothing-"
"Hey." The young man behind him said, his voice taking on a much softer tone than he used before. "It's okay. It's not that big of a deal, you only ever took one or two anyway. No need to cry about it."
I sniffed, looking up at the man who was now crouched in front of me, his hand on my shoulder and a sympathetic look on his face.
"You-you won't arrest me?"
"No, I won't, as long as you don't do it again. I'm sure we can work out an alternative way for you to get some flowers."
"Thank you so much!" I shrieked, launching myself at the man and crying into his shoulder. He awkwardly chuckled then placed his hand on my back, gently rubbed it to calm me down.
"There there. Don't cry."
After a few moments, I got up slowly and wiped my face, the man getting up and offering me a hand.
"How about this." The man said. I'll give you an entire bouquet of flowers to give to your girlfriend, if you let me meet her. The girl better be worth all this trouble."
I looked at him through watery eyes and a runny nose. "Girl...friend?"
"Yeah, you stole all those flowers everyday for her, right? Now I can finally get to meet the cause of all this. Come inside, I'll prepare a bouquet for you and then we'll leave."
I nodded, offering a warbled "thanks you" and followed the man inside.
"My name is Hide in case you were wondering." Hide said, as he bustled around the cozy flower shop picking up different kinds of flowers to make a bouquet. "You're name is Kaneki, right? After you came in here a few times and left without buying anything, I started getting a bit suspicious and asked some friends if anyone knew who you were. I found out that you're friendly with quite a few people. Apparently you're going to the local college, and have been living in this town your whole life, correct? I just moved here a few months ago myself, so I wouldn't know. Anyway, after having some theories as to what you were doing, I decided to confront you, and that day happened to be today."
Hide handed me the finished flower bouquet, giving me a blinding grin that I reluctantly returned. After looking at the bouquet, I was surprised to see that most of the flowers were my favourites. Hide noticed me staring at them and grinned again.
"I stared paying attention to which ones were going missing." He explained, as I smiled. Hide grabbed my hand and dragged me out the door and onto the street, the bell of the flower shop jingling behind us.
"Let us go met your girlfriend!" Hide declared. I opened my mouth to say something, but was quickly cut off.
"Lead the way, Kankei!"
I just sighed and nodded, taking the lead and decided not to say anything. He would figure it out soon enough anyway.
The roads were mostly empty, though it was still daytime: probably due to the bone chilling cold, and the pair walked along in silence.
"So, where are we going?" Hide finally asks, breaking the silence. My smile had a sad undertone to it as I turned to him and said "you'll see."
When we got to our destination, Hide was more than a bit confused. He was staring, wondering if this place was really an ideal spot for meeting a girl.
"A graveyard?" He deadpanned. "Really? Couldn't you have chosen a ... I don't know... Brighter place to meet your girlfriend?"
I giggled at Hide's obliviousness and stepped into the graveyard with the bouquet of flowers neatly in his hand. I walked down the rows of gravestones with practiced familiarity, stopping in front of a particular set of them. As I kneeled down in front of the gravestones to place the flowers, Hide's eyes widened and filled with unshed tears, his hand flying to his mouth.
"Kaneki, I am so sor-"
"No." I cut him off, smiling through my tears. "I'm sorry you didn't get to meet my non existent girlfriend. What you did for me meant a lot. But you did get to meet some other people very important to me. Hide, meet my family." I said, gesturing to the gravestones of my parents with a flourish. "I hope they are deserving of your shop's beautiful flowers."