Along The Way (途中で)
Listening to the teacher’s unnoticed announcement, the boys started murmuring like birds chirping in the trees, “is it a boy or a girl?” “I wish it’s a pretty girl…”
On the other hand, the girls were grossed out by the nature of the male species, “aren’t there enough pretty girls here already? Really, you guys are just…”
While everyone was gossiping and whispering among themselves, suddenly the front doors opened again, this time with a gentle slide. The entire room became silent, everyone’s eyes locked at the door, while a boy entered the room.
The boy walked slowly, pressing his legs cautiously as he took each step, making it seem like he was composing himself for a good first impression. He made his way up to the front of the class before turning towards us.
But this new guest didn’t come as a welcome sign to me. As my eyes caught a glimpse of his face, everything I was thinking till now suddenly vanished from my mind. I could hear a sudden screech at the back of my head, a slight yet intolerable sensation. I shook my head desperately.
Some old memories came back to me. Memories, like books with chapters in my mind, deep and horrible; and so I had left them ever on the shelf to gather dust.
“Wait, how can it be? How can it be possible?” I clenched my fists, as I murmured while taking glimpses at the transfer student, as I saw in him the reflection of an old friend of mine.
In my empty mind, I couldn’t think of anything else except for just remembering the past, and the memories tied with that old friend. Even though I had tried so long to forget them, but now it feels like I am being pulled towards them, entangled by those bits of memories. It was when the teacher started to state his introduction that I finally snapped out of it.
“Everyone, he is Akihiko Aki-kun, your new classmate. His father has transferred here very recently, so from today he will be in your class. Be friends with him, okay.”
The teacher placed his arm around Akihiko-kun’s shoulder, giving him a slight push. “Introduce yourself to everyone.”
He stepped back a little. Taking a brief pause, he cleared his throat as he looked forward.
“Hello everyone. I am Akihiko Aki. It’s nice to meet you.” He said in a bold yet gentle tone as he looked around the classroom.
His voice had something special about it, like water in the air, as it quenched our souls. He had brown eyes, that had a mystical shade to it, and long black hair, which were curled to the back. Compared to others of his age, his body was rather well-built.
“Then Akihiko-kun, you can take that sit to the left.” The teacher said, as he pointed to the empty seat at the left column, third from the front.
While he took his seat, I sighed as I realized that he isn’t the someone I used to know. All the tension, those pent-up feelings that had built up inside me suddenly vanished like the winter haze after the fizzy morning rolls by.
After taking his seat, he looked around the classroom again, maybe to get a better view from up close. I tilted my head towards him, trying to get a glance at him from the corner of my eyes, when suddenly I realized that his eyes were pointed right at me.
Our sights crossed paths, and a chill came down from my spine to the tip of my foot. His glare gave a weird sensation, which I couldn’t comprehend at all. I didn’t realize it earlier, maybe because I wasn’t paying attention till now, that his eyes were just like pearls, the ones from the seashells with their ambiguous shine. It felt like they were reflecting my image, beautiful yet frightening in a way, as if he was able to see right through me.
But even after our home room teacher took his leave, we kept staring at each other. Looking at him made me remember a familiar face, a face that had been a part of me long ago. Even though I had forgotten about it, looking at him made me feel like it was real and always there, always a part of me, for sure, forever.
Feeling awkward, I looked away from him quickly.
“What is this feeling, I wonder?”
I looked outside through the window and fixed my eyes at the maple tree, emptying my mind of all the thoughts that were flowing through. A hopeless attempt to get rid of the weird feeling of unease inside me.
As Akihiko-kun was new in the class, I thought that it would take some time for him adjusting here in a classroom yet unknown to him. But as it seems, he performed way over my expectations.
It was obvious from when he walked into the class, that he was a popular type back in his previous school, and he isn’t giving a second thought on performing that role here too. All the girls in the class were fawning over him to get his phone number and social media ID, as if he was some kind of celebrity.
But what caught my eyes is how he can act so friendly all of a sudden to people he has met for the first time. As if this scenario was already played in his mind once, and he is just repeating that play again in front of everyone.
That’s why I hate the popular boys. They have this otherworldly charm which attracts every girl around them, like a magnet attracting its opposite pole. And when you talk to them, they act all innocent, as if it wasn’t even their intention to begin with.
Well, I wasn’t going to give in to his spells so easily, so I stayed on my desk, trying not to give any attention to his existence in the class at all.
Actually, I might have been jealous, jealous for the fact that on my first day as a transfer student, not so many of my classmates approached to befriend me. All I could remember was that, it was only Sakura with whom I would talk or have lunch with together, and it has been like that to this day.
Though, I never had any intention of trying to seek other people's attention. Becoming friends with people whom you never knew before isn’t my speciality. If friendship is a bond of an invisible string, then either I am not a perfect weaver to weave those fabrics of friendship, or I have long-lost my resolve to tend to these invisible bonds.
Because of that, I didn’t make that many of friends to begin with.
“At the end, I guess I am just pathetic?”
I thought with quite a contemplation, as I was idly swinging my legs like the pendulum of a clock. While swimming in the pool of thoughts of my own, a sudden feeling on my shoulder lifted my heart and soul. It was like a gentle touch, which overwhelmed all my senses. I quickly sprang from my seat, startled by the sudden sensation.
“You are Yuki-san, right?”
A gentle voice knocked me from behind, as it soothed my ears with its calmness and a familiarity.
“Did I startle you? I am sorry about that.”
The voice was as warm as early spring, as if a heart beating so steadily to my ears. I turned around, as I saw Akihiko-kun standing right behind me. My eyes caught onto his, as he stared right into my eyes, which had some kind of natural ability of soothing my body and my mind.
“Do you need anything?”
“I am really sorry about that, even though I didn’t mean to scare you.”
His words brought some sepia memories back to me like bright rays of light. He reminded me of someone. A smile.. A touch… like a dream that returned to bring a greater life to my soul. It was the same feeling of familiarity I felt when our eyes first met, as if a testimony to the memories that dwelt in my heart.
“And why are you calling me by my first name?”
“Oh, sorry about that. Should I call you Mizuki-san, then?”
“If you don’t have anything to say, then take your leave.”
I looked away from him, before making myself look even more pathetic.
“But actually, isn’t it you who wants to say something?” His sudden reply ringed a bell in my head, as if a load of words was placed on my heart. They were like small shards of glasses, and each of them were reflecting something I was enticing to ask him.
But when I tried to reach out to those pieces of shards, it was like my fingers were pierced by their sharp edge. Its pain echoed back to my heart. It was like they were there just to be there, while I was stupefied by the sudden loss of words. I just stood there without uttering a word. The only thing I could still feel were the weight of those words in my heart, and the pain, like they are still there.
I tried to compose myself, before letting any other word out from my lips. But before I got the chance, Akihiko-kun had already gone back to his seat.
“I guess he just thought I had something to say…”
I fell straight back on my chair. Well, I was constantly looking at him, so maybe he was just curious to know why. That maybe true, I do have something that is weighing my mind, but I just don’t know how I can ask that to him directly.
And somehow or another, it felt like I had to ask those to him. There was a hole inside me, and the only person who could fill it for me was him. But for that, I would have to wait till recess, which was still four periods away.
“I guess I’ll have to wait…”