Chapter 4:

What I Want To Ask

Along The Way (途中で)

There is a kind of waiting that feels like gentle onshore breezes kissing salty stones, not so warm but there is a sense of calm, of nature, of things expected. Then there is the kind that feels like the head of a medieval mace is loose in my guts and my head has taken a beating with a hefty plank of wood. And as I wait for the long four periods to come to an end, it is the latter.

The fourth period felt rather long, as if a day had passed by for the bell to ring. But just when the bell had finally rung, and I was going to get up on my feet, Hina-san and her group, as well as Akira-kun, Ryou-kun and Sakaguchi-kun, gathered around him and joined their desks together. As it seemed, they just came to have lunch with him. On the other hand Akihiko-kun didn’t even budge for a second, as he happily took them on their offer.

Seeing all of them sitting around Akihiko-kun, all the courage I had build up till now got washed away, as if someone poured a bucket of water right on top of me. I was clammed to my seat, minding my own meal. Sometimes I would glance at him as to see if I could get a chance. But I can’t just go and talk to him if there are so many of them there with him, they will just get in my way.

Time went on, but I couldn’t just stir up the courage to go and talk to him. I closed my eyes and drew in a lung full of the air around me, letting the sound of the chirping bird fill my ears instead of the ticking of the clock. I just had to build my heart to take the leap, but even that seems quite impossible now. But right before the recess was about to end, Hina-san and the others had finally went back to their seats.

“Should I go now? No, no, no. What will I even be able to ask him in this short time. Or maybe…”

I could feel the pressure inside of me, not like a tangled knot though, rather a ticking bomb. Out of impulse, I got up from my seat and faced towards Akihiko-kun, my muscles tensed. I shouted towards him, my voice renting the air.

“Akihiko-kun, today after class, meet me on the rooftop, right from the south gate.”

I shouted with a weird ebb and flow in my voice, as if it was a natural rhythm commanded by my emotions.

Though it doesn’t matter right now, because what I said just now seemed like a scene right out from a rom-com manga, and all I could do now was hide like how a child would do. Not wasting any time, I quickly took my seat and pressed my face down on my arms, trying to suppress my shy-spirit from the noises and rancour around me.

“Way to go Yuki!”

I could hear some of the students shouting while few others whispering, though I couldn’t care less about them. I peeked at Akihiko-kun, while he smiled at me gently, which was like a cage, or maybe an ever open door, as it was able to silence the ticking sound of the clock. I could feel in his gaze, how it came from deep inside of him to light his eyes and spread into every part of him. A person smiles with more than their mouth, and I heard it in the light of his eyes, in his still lips, and the way he was relaxed, his face having no signs of surprise or anything, as if he had already anticipated everything.

After that incredible feat I performed in front of everyone, it felt like someone had planted a seed in my soul, and as time went on, it was slowly ripping me apart. I tried to keep my sight to myself, my head pressed hard on my arms that were stead on the desk. A futile attempt to avoid all those gazes directed right at me from all directions, as if I was surrounded by some wild predators in a jungle, all alone by myself. It was like a volcanic frustration balled up inside of me, and I was somehow trying to keep it to myself from exploding.

Sakura was at the cafeteria till now, so she she was blind to everything that had happened by now in her absence. When she was back in the classroom, she might have noticed that the atmosphere in the room had changed, the air felt quite heavier despite how hot the day was. She stood outside the room for a while, entering after the air had passed by and the room had become light again. She took her seat, her legs crossed and arms placed on the table, as she looked around the classroom, trying to evaluate what had happened.

“Did something happen.”

I took a deep breath as I lifted my head up and looked back at her, “I asked Akihiko-kun to come to the rooftop after class today.”

“And what is the reason, may I ask.”

“I don’t know. He looks similar to a friend I knew long ago, that’s why maybe.” I replied. “For some reason I could feel like I have so many things to ask him, even though we have never met before.”

“Somehow, Akihiko-kun seems very weird to me too.” She leaned close to me. “I don’t know why, but how he constantly smiles, it doesn’t seem natural.”

“Well, it didn’t seem anything unnatural to me.”

“It may be just my imagination though.” She looked at Akihiko-kun for a moment before continuing, “Just don’t be deceived by other peoples smiles, a piece of advice from your dear friend.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter to me either way.” I retorted back, placing my head on the desk, “I’ll be done with him after today, so don’t worry.”

For the rest of the periods, I kept wondering of what Sakura was meaning to say. At that time when he smiled at me, not for a moment did it cross my mind that he was just putting up that smile, nor did they seem deceiving to me. Maybe Sakura was after all just imagining those, or maybe, there is a chance that she is right about it all.

But why would he even put up a smile in the first place, or try to deceive someone in the first place? Is he uncomfortable, or scared, that he folded away his true emotions, hiding the truth of his soul from us.

By the end of the last period, I had already lost my attention span and I was fidgeting in my place, my eyes flicking back and forth at the clock. My palms were getting sweaty, as if an ice cube was melting in-between my hands. But just by the time I started feeling that my patience was at its limit, the final bell chimed as it reverberated through the school walls right into my ears. Finally, my soul was gifted for savoring every step of my patience till the arrival right now.

I gathered all the books inside my desk apace, and heftily stuffed them all right into the bag. I strapped the bag on my shoulders, as I walked out of the room into the hallway. There was quite the bustle of students, as they were flowing down the hallway. I pushed through that stream as I was heading the opposite way to the roof. I climbed up to the next floor, where the hallway was supposedly quieter, though the noise from below was still able to echo up to here, sounding like a group of cheese-ball tap dancers performance. The hallway was quite empty, soulless in fact, letting in a bouquet of stray rays of light through the windows that radiated from the small cracks in the stormy sky, while I walked down to the south of the building.

The door to the roof was unlocked, but it didn’t seem that anyone was here yet. I slid the door open, as it made a rustling sound.

The sky was covered with clouds coloured of a palette of real tranquility, and lights oozed through small cracks between those grey shawls, which lichen upon the rooftop bringing patches of cream amid a gentle wave of varieties of hues.

“He isn’t here yet.”

I walked up to the rails, from where I got a clear view of auditorium dome standing like a beach awash with turquoise waves, and the playground, with the tents of peas and beans usual around the summer, softly filtering green light within. And finally the school gate, from where the students who aren’t in any club are exiting the campus.

I placed my bag on the ground and stood against the rails and observed the atmosphere. The weather is quite intriguing right now, though not like the beautiful morning I saw today.

“Why isn’t he here yet?” I looked at my wrist watch, “It’s not ideal for men to make women wait so long.”

Well, its not like its a date or anything, but still it’s not so good.

The clock was ticking loudly, and so was my temper, as if I had swallowed a fire-seed, and it grew inside of me as hot as any dragon has ever flamed. While I tapped my feet on the ground and gazing at the students leaving the campus, suddenly a sight struck my eyes. It was like lighting had struck me, and the smell of thunder and ash wafted to my nose.

Akihiko-kun was exiting the campus through the gates. He was walking casually, as if he has totally forgotten about the meet. My eyes translated to anger, as if they were gathering clouds for a thunderstorm no one has ever witnessed before. I picked up my bag quickly and rushed towards the school gates to catch up to him.

I rushed down the staircase, as my soles felt the earth and gained its own rhythm. As every step I took, my mind was blundered by assorted thoughts, like why he didn’t come to the rooftop? Did he forget, which is quite unlikely, or did he avoided me totally and went his own way, not giving it a second thought that I might be still standing there, waiting for him all alone.

I felt like an idiot, expecting him to come just because I said him to was nothing but ridiculous. Today is the first time we’ve ever met and we don’t even know each other that well. Even I would have second thoughts if someone called me out randomly without any reason at all.

But what is this feeling, I can’t quite understand. I could feel like time had suddenly slowed down, thousands of camera frames per second shown one at a time. In this slow time-bubble the birdsong was louder, coldness was colder and colors were brighter. And the pain, it was more vivid, more than ever, as they make me feel like I am drowning in a sea of emotions, more than my mind could process.

But even after as fast as I ran, as soon as I reached the school gates, he was no where to be seen. He was faster on his feet than I had expected. As my eyes lost sight of him, my vision turned quite peculiar, birds flying slower and the trees have a strange appearance, like they are made of thousands of tiny squares. There was a point where everything stopped, the falling leaves, the scent of the flowers, even the flowing of the wind – yet I kept on walking. I closed my eyes, and a second or two later, everything went back to their own pace.

I didn’t even know which path he took, so that I could follow him. Or does that even matter, because he didn’t even come to the roof, as if it didn’t even matter to him at all. I crumpled on my knees like a puppet released from its strings.