Five year old Miki notices the shade that came in the form of a curious, chubby classmate. She looks up and sees the new kid who she couldn’t keep her eyes off of this morning when the teacher had introduced him.
Miki blinks and just stares. The new kid, Shia, blinks and just stares.
Miki holds up a bucket and a shovel, “Want to build a sandcastle today?”
Shia’s awkward expression turns into a huge smile. He shouts, “Yes!” and jumps into the sand box.
That day, they built a sandcastle, which they later named, ‘Home.’
Ten year old Miki notices the way Shia stares at the other kids playing soccer. The expression is both happy and sad.
Happy because he loves soccer. Sad because he can’t play.
The team captain thinks Shia is too clumsy and geeky to be any good for the team.
Miki walks up to the team captain one day, “If you give him a chance, I’ll do your homework for a month.”
The team captain thinks about it for five seconds. He agrees.
In the next school year, when Shia wins the team a Championship, the team captain throws a party and loudly thanks Miki.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Shia asks later, when they’re sitting at their special place under the stars.
Miki just shrugs. She picks up some sand and lets it run through her fingers. “Want to build a sandcastle today?”
Shia smiles, “Yes!”
Fifteen year old Miki notices that Shia has changed. He’s no longer that sweet, cheerful friend that Miki met ten years ago.
Shia bathes in the popularity and hangs out with the cool kids. He flirts with pretty girls and is only passing his classes because they want him to help the school win the next soccer championship.
They never talked to each other in those first two years of high school, only making short-lived eye contacts every morning when Shia stood in his popular crowd and Miki walked pass with her new, not-popular friends.
Near the end of their sophomore year, Miki finds out that Junsu and his group had gotten in trouble for beating up Max. Miki visits Shia’s house for the first time in two years to confront him.
“Miki! It’s been so long since you’ve been over!” Shia's sweet mother exclaims. “What happened between you and Shia?”
“Sorry, Auntie. Is he home?” Miki decides to avoid the question.
“He’s upstairs. Go ahead,” she lets Miki in as if it was Miki's own home.
Miki bows politely before running up the stairs. She doesn’t bother to knock, just pushing the door open and being greeted by Shia’s smug expression.
“Look who decided to visit,” Shia mocks.
“Why did you guys do that to Max?” Miki gets to the point before she turns back into a coward.
“Who? That Stick?” Shia insults.
“Look, Max is my friend. If you and your friends are going to bully someone then...no, you guys shouldn’t be bullying anyone at all!”
“That’s the problem!” Shia exclaims. “He’s your friend! What happened to me? I’m your friend too! He laid a good one on me during the fight. I don’t see you caring about this bruise on my face!”
Miki rolls her eyes because the bruise was barely visible. Max, on the other hand, looked like a leopard with purple/blue spots.
“You’re not my friend,” Miki feels the ache as those words left her lips. She couldn’t even meet Shia's eyes. “My friend isn’t someone who would beat up an innocent person like that, isn’t someone who only knows how to smoke and drink, isn’t someone...like you...”
“I’m just growing up and living the life! People need to change, Miki!” Shia tries to convince.
“It just hurts that...you’ve changed for the worse,” Miki murmurs.
“It’s your fault!” Shia suddenly shouts and Miki wonders if she imagined the crack in the boy’s voice. She looks up to see Shia’s slightly moist eyes, “You were always so close to Max! I beat him up because I hate that he replaced me in your life!”
Miki stares in shock. She doesn’t know what to say. She automatically steps forward and pulls Shia into an embrace.
“It’s your fault! You gave up on me! You let go of me and let me sink to this level!” Shia continues to shout against Miki’s soft locks.
“I’m sorry,” Miki whispers.
“Take me back. Take me back and I’ll change.”
Miki nods her head and Shia can feel it without looking. They sit there silently because both are reluctant to end this long-needed hug.
“Shia?” Miki finally breaks the silence.
“Want to go build a sandcastle today?”
Twenty year old Miki notices the sunlight beaming through the window and opens her eyes to find Shia sleeping next to her.
Max and a couple of other friends were still sleeping; their limp bodies spread around the living room like a war scene in a bad movie production.
She sits up just enough so that she can see the empty beer bottles and junk food around her living room. She makes a note to never throw a party like this again. But yesterday was Shia’s birthday so Miki knows there will always be exceptions to this ‘never’.
Miki turns to see Shia smiling up at her.
“Yeah,” she replies lazily.
“You know what I really want to do for my birthday? Something that we haven’t done in awhile.”
“Your birthday was yesterday,” Miki reminds.
Miki laughs and lays back down on the carpet. She tilts her head so that her black curls are kind of touching Shia’s blond hair. “What?”
“Build a sandcastle.”
Miki smiles, “Shia, want to go build a sandcastle today?”
Shia wakes the whole apartment with a loud, “Yes!”
They found a beach near the University to build a sandcastle. It’s not the same as the sand box, but it’s still Miki and Shia.
“Done!” Shia grins happily and pats his hands together to get rid of excess sand.
“That was quick,” Miki murmurs, enjoying the view of Shia’s cheerfulness. Her eyes shift for a moment towards the water and then back at Shia. “Shia, I have a question for you.”
“You’re not going to ask me if I ‘want to build a sandcastle today,’ are you? We’ve already built one,” Shia laughs.
An image of last night's kiss and Max's teasing words flashed through Miki's memory, "Dude, we were playing ‘spin the bottle,’ not ‘French kiss your secret crush.’"
Does Shia even remember the kiss from last night?
Should Miki even ask?
“Well? What’s the question?”
Miki plants her palms in the sand and leans back on her straightened arms, trying to look casual as she stares out at the waves. “Want to...fall in love with me today?”
Miki fights the urge to turn her head towards the man sitting next to her. A part of her wants to see Shia’s reaction, but another part of her didn’t.
“No,” Shia replies.
Miki’s heart smashes into tiny pieces and she leans forward, wrapping her arms around herself. She starts laughing, “I was just...joking, you know? It’s not funny, huh?”
“I can’t fall in love with you today. I already fell in love with you the first time you asked me if I want to build that sandcastle with you, that one that we named ‘Home.’”