Chapter 12:


Along The Way (途中で)

In front of the school gates, fashioned from rustic bars, along with the hundreds of puddles made from the footsteps of the students who went through this gate, they were like a testimony to all those emotions that had housed inside me yesterday.

I clenched my teeth, as I felt like I was drowning, here again, the cold wash only I can feel. I don't want to get up. I don't want to move at all. At that moment, it took all the strength inside me to make just one step forward.

These emotions are like a cloak I can't simply let fall to the floor, and though I hold it so tight I can't find the warmth I need. Yet it clings. It’s like there are the anchors to my feet, the reason I can't step forward, can’t find the surface or the sunshine, that feeling of soft joy that lives in memories that can't rise within.

I looked at the rooftop, peeking at the blue sky so sweetly amid the sunlight crown, smiling upward at it’s vastness.

My gaze turned to my right hand, which had turned red after clenching it quite tightly and grinned,

“Is it all just a coincidence, or someone teasing me?

The atmosphere in the classroom was like the warmth of the spring among the new green buds, with the intrepid rays of light coming from the large windows. Sakura was standing by my desk, her hands crossed over her chest, and her sight fixated somewhere beyond the windows. From my eyes, she looked just like a doll, enveloped by the golden arching rays, with the depth of hues in her hair is as the finest cathedral choir.

Sakura noticed me entering the room, walking up to my desk with long strides.

“Good morning, Yuki.” Sakura said, as her feet stepped around to the corner of the desk, making space for me to take my seat.

“Good morning, Sakura.”

I sat on the chair. Crossing my legs, I stretched both my arms right above me.

Sakura’s eyes fall on me, her smile taut, and there is a slight tremor in her cheeks,

“So, what happened yesterday.”

“About Akihiko-kun?” Taking a deep breath, I made myself comfortable, “Nothing in particular.”

“What do you mean.” She said, while taking her seat. She turned towards me and leaned forward, a clear sign of curiosity visible in her eyes, “Just let me know what happened.”

“As I said, nothing happened.” I replied, “He didn’t even come to the rooftop.”

“He didn’t come!” Sakura scowled, her voice suddenly raised, grabbing everyone’s attention in the room. She hushed afterwards, noticing everyone’s eyes rolling at her, then continuing in a murmur, “Why did he do that? He is very weird, like I had guessed.”

“Sakura may I ask you something?” I said, as I turned towards her, folding my fingers over my lap.

“Sure, why not.” She placed her arm over the desk, supporting her head. “You can ask anything, so go ahead.”

“I just want to know what you feel about it.” I cleared my throat, seaming to search for the right words, “Like, what do you hold ‘deep inside your heart’?”

“Let me thing, deep inside my heart…”

She took a brief pause, while tapping her finger over her chin and looking around the room. She was totally indulged in deep thoughts right now.

“From when did you start thinking so deeply…” She chuckled, “About things like this?”

“Don’t laugh!” I retorted, as as my cheeks puffed from taking the warm air around my lips, “Just tell me what you think.”

“I guess it’s just a matter of perspective.” Sakura answered, her eyes swaying right into mine, “To me, it’s the place where I hide the wounds and feelings which I am unable to sort out. The wounds from our inner dissatisfaction, anguish, tears, I guess we hide these deep inside our hearts.”

“Wounds, you say…” I bring my gaze up to the sky, seemingly lost in thoughts after hearing her answer, “Can I ask you another thing?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Should someone share what’s deep inside their heart…” I said, as my eyes rolled back at her, “Even if that person want’s to forget them entirely?”

“You know, sharing something which lies deep in your heart is nothing wrong.” She replied in a gentle tone. “Rather, I will say it’s the right approach.”

“The right approach?” I asked with a bit of confusion.

“I mean, if you can’t share something that’s deep in your heart, then what remains is just a burden for you to bear alone. Clinging on to them, or getting over them, you can’t do it alone. Friends, family, it is common for us to share those with them.”

“But what if, hypothetically,” I continued, “They try to erase those wounds, try to forget about those scars deep withi…?”

“You can’t.” Sakura interrupted, “Even after whatever you do, you can’t just forget them, just erase those wounds.”

I licked my lips, as I continued asking,“What do you mean?”

“Everyone of us, we are composed of our weakness, frailty, strength, intelligence, beauty. Each one of us cherishes a certain number of dreams, like we dream for a better world, better lives.”

Sakura seemed different. She closed her eyes, placing her hands gently over her chest, as if she was silently listening to her warm heartbeat, “But we also know that reality isn’t our lot in life. That is why it is precisely in and through these wounds within us that we find salvation in living.”

“That is why we should keep our smiles.”

“But what if…” I muttered, but then hesitated to continue.

“What if?” Sakura said, as she looked at me with her eyes wide opened. “Do you have anything else to say?”

“No-nothing.” I muffed, as I swung by head left and right, “Just talking to myself.”

I peered through the window, “A salvation in living…”

My thoughts dangled around in my head while my eyes fixated at the sky outside, as if I was watching sweet ballerina, giving her performance to empty stalls or crowded house just the same.

By that time, though I didn’t realize when, Akihiko-kun had already arrived in the classroom. I pulled my eyes back into the room and starred right at him, as if my eyes were trained on some light-less phantasm, not unblinking but slowed.

Sakura moved into my line of sight, gently sliding the side of her thumb over my cheek,

“It is better to act and repent, than not to act and regret.”

“What do you mean?” My head tilted upwards towards her face, her eyes sliding into focus.

“If you have something to ask, then you should go on and ask.” her lips formed a pensive grin. “Don’t hold them back, because afterwards they might get heavier to bear.”

I nodded my head without saying anything, having nothing to add to the conversation.

As my eyes were agaze at Akihiko-kun’s direction, I felt something odd about him today, which kept bugging me. Unlike yesterday, he was being rather quiet. Maybe not just quiet, very quiet. His colors were as muted as those around him, allowing him to hide in plain sight. It didn’t seem like him, where every fibre of his being were desiring maximum attention yesterday.

I kept starring blankly at him no matter what was going on in the room. The clock ticked on the wall, faltering on its pace. Sometimes slow, and sometimes fast.

During recess, like yesterday, Hina-san and the others built a fort with their desks around Akihiko-kun’s, and sat down to have their meal together. Akihiko-kun seemed less riant, though he put up a smile throughout the whole time, chating and laughing together.

“He seems to be quite good with his smile.” Sakura said, as I pulled my attention back to myself.

“Does it seem that odd to you?” I blinked at her, “To me, it seems quite natural.”

“Well, it is just a feeling I am not quite sure of myself either.” Sakura crabbed, as let a long breath out, “Like I had said, it might just be my imagination.”

“Actually, I don’t care about that myself either.” I replied grumpily, “I don’t think smiling in front of others is a bad thing.”

“Well, you can never tell if that smile is to make you happy, or to deceive you…” Sakura muttered, as she quickly got up and headed to the cafeteria. I stared at her, while she walked down the corridor, after which I started having my meal.

While having my meal, at times my eyes would roll straight towards Akihiko-kun. My mind was like the vast blue ocean, calm on the surface with so many deep under currents, while I was waiting for the others around Akihiko-kun to move back to their seats.

It was right before recess was about the end, when, like I had thought, Hina-san and her group finally retorted back to their places.

“This is the chance.”

I didn’t waste any more time. I mustered up the strength inside me and slowly walked in front of Akihiko-kun’s desk.

He was putting his lunchbox back into his bag, when I made my way in front his desk. Just as he raised his gaze over towards me, he jumped back on his chair. Hie raised his brows, which made his brown eyes quite visible, though his face held onto the composed expression. His lips were fumbling, as if he was going to say something, but seemed to be hesitating whether he should or not.

I brought my finger over my lips as I made a hissing sound, “Just listen to what I say.”

He just nodded his head. I took a brief pause, clearing my throat,

“Today after class, wait for me at the school gate and don’t dare repeat what you did yesterday.”

He remained quiet for a moment. His face didn’t even have a drop of surprise or anything, just like yesterday, as if he knew it was coming.

“Okay, if you say so.” He looked right into my eyes, as comfortable as the corset of a class choir, and had the same effect on my breathing, relaxed and deep, “I will wait, don’t worry.”

“And don’t you d…” The bell suddenly chimed as if in ballet shoes, the sound twirling through walls and windows.

I didn’t continue the conversation after the bell rang. I turned my gaze at him for a moment, before switching gears and striding back to my seat.

I fell upon my chair, while my head was graced upon the lap of both my arms. It was the feeling of riding a sea boat, one that had faced so many waves with buoyant ease, feeling the sun and letting the wind pass by with its melodic song.

“I wonder what happens today.”