It’s Just Pretend – Chapter Five
by Dreams in Pink
|← Chapter Four|
Shortly before eleven Mamoru pulled into the parking lot of the autumn festival. Pumpkins sitting on large bales of hay decorated the front entrance, and the staff were all dressed in costumes. The clear blue sky, and crisp October air were perfect for the day’s activities.
“I’ll drop you off here, park the car, and meet you at the gate, okay?” Mamoru suggested, quickly realizing that the nearest parking spot was a good hike away.
“Okay,” Usagi agreed, opening the door, “Hey, Mamoru?”
“Thanks for doing this,” she smiled shyly before hopping out. As soon as he had pulled away, Usagi closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Determined not to get caught in her lie, she marched towards the gate.
“Usagi! Over here!” Minako shouted, waving frantically, as three pairs of eyes excitedly searched for ‘the boyfriend’. “So, where is he?” The blonde asked impatiently, a slight frown crossing her lips.
“He’s coming. He just went to park,” Usagi explained, as a ball of anxiety began to well inside her.
“So he is older,” Umino stated, like a detective who had just found a clue.
“Did you guys get your tickets yet?” Usagi tried desperately to change the subject.
“Not yet,” Naru replied, keeping a keen eye on every man that passed their group, waiting for one to stop.
“Makoto’s coming, right?” she continued, prolonging the inevitable.
“She should be here any minute,” Minako answered.
“At least tell us his name,” Naru begged, furrowing her brow at every passerby.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” Makoto came running up to the group. Usagi was grateful for the interruption. “So, where is he?”
“He’s – ”
“Isn’t that Mamoru?” the honey blonde asked, taking notice of the tall man approaching them from a distance.
“It is.” Usagi swallowed nervously; would they believe them?
“Hey Mamoru!” Minako waved, “I didn’t know you were coming to the autumn festival today, too!”
“So I guess Usa didn’t tell you?” He said casually, stopping to drape his arm around her shoulders. The petite blonde looked up at him, and blushed.
“Tell us wh- ” Minako started, until she realized the statement the couple was making. The group took a moment to process the information, eyes darting between the two in disbelief.
“Oh my god,” Naru whispered, hitting Umino in the chest with the back of her hand.
“I knew it,” Minako cheered – it was about time they got together.
“I thought you couldn’t stand each other…” Makoto said, her brows knit in confusion.
“We couldn’t at first,” Usagi started, looking to Mamoru for help.
“But… we got past that,” he finished, glancing at her for approval.
“Well you know what they say,” Umino said, holding up a finger as if to make his point, “there’s a fine line between love and hate.” The new couple exchanged an awkward smile, and the rest of the group nodded in agreement.
“Sooo, how did it happen?” Minako asked. Even though she was delighted by the news, her instinct told her that something wasn’t quite right.
“We have all day for stories. Why don’t we get our tickets and at least start making our way through the festival?” Mamoru suggested, much to the relief of the blonde at his side. Unfortunately, his evasion tactic was cut short as they stood in line waiting to pay the entrance fee.
“We’re ready for that story now,” Makoto urged; the pair gulping nervously.
“Well….” Usagi began, nothing coming to mind.
“We just kept running into each other,” Mamoru figured it was best to start with something true, “and… ” he paused, hoping for some inspiration.
“… and one day, when we bumped into each other, he apologized for always being so mean to me,” the girl continued – it wasn’t totally untrue.
“I was always mean to her because I didn’t know how else to get her to talk to me,” Mamoru explained, being more honest than he had originally intended. “So, I took a chance and asked her out.”
“And I said yes,” Usagi glanced at the tall man and grinned. Minako raised an eyebrow; it seemed plausible enough.
“Why keep it a secret?” Makoto wondered, still a bit hurt from Usagi’s lie.
“My dad doesn’t want me dating guys from school. Can you imagine what he’d say about a university boy?” Usagi explained, not even daring to imagine her father’s reaction.
“But you know we wouldn’t have told anyone,” the brunette uttered, a little skeptical. Usagi had never been one for secrets, and despite the explanation, it just didn’t add up.
“University, huh,” Umino’s squinted, as he looked him over suspiciously. “So how old are you, exactly?”
“Eighteen,” Mamoru answered, startled by the boy’s questioning.
“Oh,” Umino shrugged, disappointed – the age difference wasn’t big enough to create high school scandal.
The group broke up into quiet conversations of two, as they slowly marched toward the ticket booth. Umino and Naru chattered away, transported into their tiny world for two, while Usagi and Mamoru stood awkwardly in the middle making polite conversation.
“Something is up,” Minako mouthed to the brunette, slyly pointing at the new couple.
“I know!” Makoto agreed, not allowing any sound to escape her lips.
“Do you think they’re really together?” she wondered, holding up both index fingers and interlocking them to get her point across. Makoto shrugged, shaking her head. Both girls turned their attention back to Usagi and Mamoru, who were now purchasing their tickets.
“So, where are we heading first?” Mamoru wondered, putting two ticket stubs and a map into his pocket.
“Sweet potatoes!” Usagi cheered, smelling their sweet fragrance waft through the air.
“The corn maze?” Makoto suggested, her finger trailing down the list of attractions written on her ticket.
“Ooh, there’s a haunted house,” Minako announced, pointing to a nearby sign.
“Chestnuts!” Usagi cried, watching as a small boy walked past her, eating from a striped bag.
“We could visit the petting farm,” Naru proposed, looking over Umino’s shoulder at the layout of the grounds. “And they have pumpkin carving,” she noted.
“Pumpkin pie!” The pigtailed blonde said, licking her lips.
“There’s an agricultural museum, with historical tools from the harvest”. Umino’s idea drew a groan from the crowd.
“No,” his girlfriend replied immediately, shaking her head.
“KETTLE CORN!” Usagi clapped, eyes wide with excitement. “Do they have candy apples?” she asked, eagerly pulling the map from Mamoru’s back pocket. “They do!” she squealed, a giant grin plastered across her face.
“My god Usa, we just ate breakfast,” Mamoru said, watching her with disbelief. How much could one tiny girl eat?
“Yeah like two hours ago,” she whimpered, her smile rapidly turning into a pout.
“They went for breakfast together, interesting,” Minako whispered, cocking an eyebrow as she peered at the couple from behind her map.
“And he called her Usa,” Makoto added.
“Well, the corn maze is the closest, and then the petting farm,” Minako stated, trying to decide the best plan of action, “so let’s start there, and work our way around?”
“Sounds good to me,” Naru agreed, the others nodding in unison.
The group approached the maze, joining the back of the line. A scarecrow guarded the entrance, only allowing a certain number of people in at a time. Usagi smiled appreciatively at the costume, wondering to herself how itchy it would be to have hay stuffed into your sleeves. Mamoru watched her from the corner of his eye, noticing the subtle twitch of her lips as she became lost in thought.
“See how they’re not holding hands?” Minako noted to her brunette partner in crime.
“Couples don’t always have to hold hands.” Makoto replied, feeling a small twinge of guilt for doubting her friend.
“Usagi loves holding hands and linking arms,” the blonde retaliated, “she holds hands with us.” Makoto weighed the comment with a slight frown. “They’re not even touching,” Minako huffed; she was going to get to the bottom of this.
When they had made it to the front of the line, the scarecrow began to outline the rules. “Now we only let a maximum of twelve people in at a time, in groups of two or three,” he stated, as the eager participants began to pair themselves off. “You have twenty minutes to make it out of the corn maze,” he held up a timer and a megaphone. “The first team out is the winner. The only rule we have is no trying to cut down the stocks,” he joked, earning giggles from waiting customers. “But anything else is fair game. Any questions?” With no one needing further information, the scarecrow began to prepare the parties: Minako and Makoto, Umino and Naru, Usagi and Mamoru, plus an older couple, and a mother with her two young children.
As they lined up ready to go, Makoto looked at Usagi with a mischievous glint in her eye, “last one out does the other’s school cleaning duties for a month,” she challenged, knowing full well that the blonde despised cleaning their homeroom.
“It’s on,” Usagi agreed, holding out her hand for the brunette to shake.
“All right, on your mark, get set, go!” The scarecrow yelled, shooting off a starting pistol. The teams took off, each pushing to get into the maze first. They stayed together for the first few twists and turns, but soon had separated.
“Come on,” Makoto urged, grabbing her partner by the arm as she had started to slow down. “Keep running!”
“Ouch, ease up!” Minako whined, “it’s just a game!”
Makoto stopped dead in her tracks, and turned around to glare at the blonde. “If we lose, you get half of Usagi’s cleaning duties.” Minako swallowed, nodding cautiously; despite her mild nature, Makoto was scary when she was competing. “This way,” she ordered, jogging down the path.
Naru and Umino were fairing slightly better than the two girls, and had progressed into the center of the maze. Umino paused, and licked his finger, holding it to the air.
“If my calculations are correct, we need to start heading south, which should be this way,” he pointed.
“God I’m glad you’re smart,” Naru beamed, pecking him on the cheek. The boy blushed shyly, and lead the way.
“Mamoru, we are totally lost,” Usagi panted, stopping to catch her breath. They had been sprinting through the rows of corn for what seemed like an eternity, and every turn looked like the last.
“Okay we went in, then up, then left…” he thought aloud, moving his finger along an invisible map. “We just need to go down, and left,” he concluded.
“Great, which way is down and left?” Usagi asked, looking at the fork diving their path.
“I… don’t know,” Mamoru admitted.
Usagi’s chin dipped to her chest as she shook her head. She jumped as high as she could, in an attempt to see over the tops of the stocks. “No luck,” she muttered. “Can you see over if you jump?” she wondered, hoping that Mamoru’s height would be an advantage.
The man sprung into the air. “Almost,” he said, before trying again. “I can’t get a good enough view.”
Usagi blew the bangs from her eyes; there had to be a way. She tapped at her lip, trying desperately to think of a solution. “Bend down,” she ordered.
“Come here, and kneel down, and I’ll climb on your shoulders,” she commanded, pointing beside her.
“Usagi… I don’t know if that’s the best –” Mamoru started apprehensively.
“I am not losing to Makoto, so let’s go Chiba,” she snapped, stomping her foot. Playing the obedient boyfriend, Mamoru knelt as she had asked. As she was climbing onto his shoulders she realized the gravity of her decision; maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea in a short skirt.
“Are you ready?” Mamoru asked, his hands firmly placed on the bottom of her thighs. Usagi involuntarily gasped at his warmth, trying her hardest to ignore the sensation.
“Yep,” she breathed. “Don’t drop me, okay?” she pleaded, chewing her lip. Mamoru stood to his full height, Usagi steadied herself with a hand planted on his head, while she used the other to shield her eyes from the sun.
“Can you see the exit?” He looked upwards as he talked to her, his hair ticking her leg. He could smell the fragrant scent of soap, and exhaled slowly to quell his nerves. His lips ached to taste the sweetness of her skin, but he did everything is his power to suppress all desires.
“Turn around?” she requested, drawing Mamoru from his thoughts. “Stop! There!” she yelled, pointing wildly. Now knowing the correct direction, Mamoru knelt and Usagi clambered off, a pinkish hue staining her cheeks. Not wasting any time Usagi grabbed his hand, “let’s go.”
It wasn’t long before they could see the exit in the distance. Sprinting to the end, they finished the maze.
“Usagi! Mamoru!” Naru called, waving at them from a nearby bench.
The couple trotted over, as the blonde searched for any sign of the other party. “How about Makoto and Minako?” she asked eagerly.
“No sign of them yet,” Umino shrugged.
“We did it!” Usagi cheered, “we beat Makoto!” The young sprite leapt excitedly, throwing her arms around Mamoru’s neck for a celebratory hug.
“Dammit!” Makoto cursed, skidding around the corner to find that the enemy had already won.
“Aww,” Minako cooed, watching the pair hug. “I mean, no, no, it’s awful and horrible,” she corrected, as Makoto shot her a piercing glare.
“At least those children and old people didn’t beat us…” Makoto muttered, tightening her ponytail.
“Looks like I won’t be doing any cleaning duties for the next month,” Usagi gloated, bounding over to her friends with Naru in tow as Mamoru joined Umino on the bench.
“You got lucky. How did you guys get out so fast?” the brunette asked, disappointed.
“Umino has an amazing sense of direction,” Naru explained, throwing a smile in the boy’s direction.
“I got up on Mamoru’s shoulders to see the exit,” Usagi replied proudly; it definitely had been an awesome plan.
“You got up on Mamoru’s shoulders?” Minako repeated, an amused grin stealing her features.
“Wearing that?” She pointed specifically to Usagi’s skirt.
“And still made it out before us?” She asked, brows raised. Makoto and Naru shook their heads, slight smiles gracing their lips.
“Minako!” Usagi hissed, finally catching on to her friend’s insinuation as her face flushed crimson. “He’s not like that!”
“So you mean you two haven’t…”
“Minako!” the brunette interjected, shaking her head vehemently.
“Kissed! I meant kissed!” she cried defensively. A quiet chorus of oohs escaped into the air, as three pairs of eyes turned to Usagi expectantly.
“I don’t kiss and tell,” she stated resolutely, the shake of her head causing her golden pigtails to sway.
“That means no,” Minako translated knowingly.
“It does not mean no.” The blonde crossed her arms over her chest in annoyance.
“So that means yes?” Naru quipped, fully enjoying her friend’s discomfort.
From the distance, Mamoru could see that Usagi was quickly growing agitated. Her shoulders were rigid, and her brow crinkled. “We should join them,” he suggested to Umino, who nodded in agreement.
“Okay, okay,” Minako conceded, “how long have you guys been together?”
“Two… weeks,” Usagi stammered, looking over her shoulder for Mamoru.
Minako narrowed her eyes, “I’m sure you guys have kissed,” she concluded, watching the heat rise to Usagi’s cheeks.
“Should we head over to the petting farm?” Mamoru said, as both boyfriends reached the girls.
The group headed off, and were pleasantly surprised at the small lineup. Inside the petting farm they oohed and awed at an array of animals, from rabbits and chickens, to ponies and alpacas. Mamoru leaned against the side of the barn, grinning as he watched Usagi flit from one animal to the next, whispering in their ears and patting their furry heads. She was always so fully of energy, and reveled in the smallest of things.
“Animals not your thing?” Minako wondered, joining him at the side.
“I don’t dislike them,” he replied honestly, his attention still focused on the petite blonde.
“It’s about time you two got together, you know” she stated offhandedly, studying Mamoru’s reaction.
“Mmhmm. So, how long have you and Usagi been dating?” she asked slyly.
“Uh,” Mamoru paused, searching for an answer. What seemed plausible? “About a month, I guess.”
“Oh, nice,” Minako answered, her lips curving upwards with victory.
When everyone had had their fill of the farm, they went straight for the haunted house. In charge of the attraction was a zombie, with open, bloody wounds. Usagi cringed at the sight, and inadvertently moved closer to Mamoru. As the queue progressed towards to the entrance, Usagi grew more and more nervous. Both Umino and Naru were excited, and they heatedly discussed what horrors they could possibly find inside. Minako and Makoto were in the front, engrossed in their whispers as the blonde shared her newly found information and corresponding theory regarding Usagi’s new relationship.
“We allow parties of two to five people,” the zombie announced, and a wicked grin came over Minako.
“Mamoru….” Usagi hesitated, “I don’t know if this is a good idea.” She looked up at him, eyes wavering with uncertainty as she bit her lip.
“No!” she insisted. “Kind of…” she dropped her gaze, waiting for the insult.
“Nothing inside is actually real, okay? Just hold my hand, and if you get scared, close your eyes,” Mamoru said, taking her hand in his. Usagi looked at him, and her face softened.
“Okay,” she nodded, taking a deep breath in preparation. They inched closer to the entrance, and soon enough Minako, Makoto, Umino and Naru were heading in.
“Sorry, you two are going to have to wait a minute,” the employee stated, placing an arm in front of Usagi. “We only allow a maximum number of five per group.”
“We’ll see you guys on the other side!” Minako winked, waving triumphantly.
“Nothing inside is real. Nothing inside is real,” Usagi chanted under her breath, her small fingers squeezing Mamoru’s hand.
The coupled started towards the large wooden door, and Mamoru opened it cautiously. He went in first, as Usagi trailed closely behind, never letting go of his hand. They inched forwards in the darkness, lead only by a tiny light at the end of the hallway. Eerie pictures lined the walls, and Usagi could swear that the subjects inside moved as they passed.
THUD. Usagi shrieked as a frame fell from the wall, crashing to the ground. She heard footsteps behind her, but refused to turn around. She could feel hot breath on the back of her neck, and her hairs stood on end. Ever so slowly she turned her head, screaming and leaping with fright when she came face to face with a pale woman, her hair disheveled and night gown torn. Usagi grabbed on to Mamoru’s arm, hugging it tightly to her chest.
“Mamoru…” she uttered, her voice trembling.
“They’re not real, and they can’t touch you,” he said soothingly.
They came to a child’s room, littered with porcelain dolls and shattered dreams. In the corner a raggedy clown sat in a chair, rhythmically rocking back and forth. Its head jerked up, and it stood to its feet, charging towards the couple. Usagi clenched her eyes shut, blocking the attack and relying on Mamoru to lead her away.
“We’re out,” he whispered, as they approached the next bedroom. A large, four poster bed sat in the middle, and lace curtains hung against the window. A gust of wind blew past, causing the curtains to flutter. Suddenly, an arm shot out from under the bed. Usagi jumped from her skin, running to the opposite side of the room. Unalarmed, Mamoru simply stepped over it.
BANG. The closet door crashed open, the noise alone sending the scared girl straight back into Mamoru’s arms. She wrapped herself around his torso, burying her head in his shirt. He could feel her heart pounding against her ribcage. Mamoru shook his head, grateful for the darkness concealing his smile.
“Back in a hallway,” he stated, and Usagi eased her grip. Mamoru protectively wrapped his arm around her shoulders, as she reached up and clutched his hand. “Are you okay? We can take the emergency exit out if you want,” he offered.
“No, I’m finishing this,” she declared, knowing that ducking out early would only give her friends something to make fun of her about.
“Okay.” Mamoru had to admit that he admired her determination.
The sound of rain echoed through the hallway, which was lined with windows. Lightning flashed, and Usagi inhaled sharply, eyes peeled for any movement. A streak of white flashed by the window, and Usagi jumped to her right, pushing Mamoru into the wall.
“Sorry,” she whispered sheepishly.
The hallway grew narrow, and Usagi felt as if the walls were closing in on her. Bloody limbs hung from the ceiling, and she ducked behind her hero as he battled their way through.
They finally came upon a kitchen that was covered in filth. Dirty dishes sat piled in the sink, and the floor was dotted in mould. In the center of the room was a family lying lifelessly around a table, their jaunt faces barely able to contain their rotting flesh. Chunks of hair and skin were missing from their scalps, and their fingers were worn to the bone. Usagi felt physically sick at the scene, her face twisting with disgust.
The back door burst open, and a man in a white mask came plowing through, revving his chainsaw and laughing manically. Seeing Usagi’s fear he made a beeline for her, getting right in her face. The girl wailed, clinging on to Mamoru’s back, with her hands squeezing his waist, her eyes tightly closed.
Mamoru pushed ahead, and before long Usagi could feel the sunlight hitting her cheek. She felt dizzy with relief, let Mamoru go, and stood there trying to control her breathing.
“We made it,” Mamoru cheered, unable to keep the grin off his face.
“I am never doing that again,” she breathed, her brow beaded with sweat.
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“Were we not in the same haunted house?” Mamoru chuckled and pulled her towards him, rubbing her back in an attempt to get her to relax.
“Let’s go find your friends,” he suggested, planting a small kiss on the top of her head. Usagi begrudgingly agreed, thoroughly enjoying this new side of Mamoru.
|← Chapter Four|