Chapter 8:

Forbidden Garden

Couple That Can't Touch

"It's forbidden to be here outside class," Yasue-sensei said with his left hand placed on his hip and his other hand holding a clipboard. He wasn't happy, but he wasn't angry either.

Narumi stood beside him. I expected her to smile wickedly at us, but she didn't. She even seemed confused. Did she bring him on purpose?

Yasue-sensei looked at Araki-kun and asked, "You're the new student, right?"

"I am," he answered and bowed. "My name is Araki Koji. I'm in class B of the third year."

"I'm sorry we had to meet like this, but you shouldn't look for trouble this early in the year, even if it's your last one."

"I apologize," Araki-kun bowed again.

"It's my fault, Yasue-sensei," Kawahara said. "Kozue Suzuka-san and Araki Koji-san couldn't understand one of the steps for the chemical reaction that was covered in the previous class and it was my idea to come here to demonstrate it."

Kawahara… I didn't know you would do this for us, I thought.

Yasue-sensei's eyes opened wide like mine and said, "I didn't expect that from you, Kawahara-san. Doing stuff like this is dangerous, you shouldn't do it without adult supervision."

"I agree and I apologize," Kawahara bowed.

"Well, it's not like I understand chemistry myself very much," he giggled then immediately composed himself with a cough. "I'm sorry, but I'll have to issue a report. Come to the staffroom after class."

"Understood," Kawahara complied.

"Good," Yasue-sensei smiled. "You should all leave before getting into more trouble."

Kawahara had no expression on her face as she walked out of the laboratory, past Narumi and Yasue-sensei. I needed to do something. Maybe it was the easiest way to avoid the three of us getting reported, but it wasn't her fault at all. It wasn't fair.

Araki gazed at me with his typical serious look. I couldn't get what he was thinking. I rarely did.

Yasue-sensei stepped in and stared at us, waiting for us to get out.

I walked towards the door and Narumi and I stared at each other as I left. Her expression was cold; no hate, no sadness, no happiness, nothing.

What is she planning? I asked myself.

Kawahara waited in the hallway.

"You didn't have to do that, but thank you," I smiled.

She stared at me. Her face stayed the same, but her eyes were bigger than usual.

Araki-kun walked out of the laboratory and I called him, "Araki—"

"Araki-kun!" Narumi interrupted as she stopped him. She grabbed his arm and asked, "Can I talk to you for a second?"

My brows furrowed. I knew she was planning something! I thought.

"Sure, what is it?" Araki replied.

"Oh, but let's do it somewhere private. I don't want people snooping on us," Narumi added and glanced at Kawahara and me.

I opened my mouth, ready to yell at her, but Kawahara put her hand on my shoulder before I could say anything.

"Let's go," she said to me. I looked at her and I calmed down, but not completely.

"Sure," I replied.

We stepped around the corner to take the stairs up, but Kawahara stopped walking behind me.


"Don't you want to listen?" she questioned.

I stood still.

Did she just ask if I wanted to spy on them? I asked myself. However, I didn't hesitate and stepped down the few steps I had walked.

"I didn't expect this suggestion from you," I told Kawahara.

"I know," she smirked and pushed her glasses up her nose a little.

We peeked out of the corner. Narumi and Araki-kun were still there, so we leaned on the wall as much as we could without sticking our heads out.

"Yes, Yasue-sensei," Narumi said. "…Well, I guess I'll have to ask you here. At least they went away."

My heart pounded. Is she really going to ask him out in front of everyone?! I screamed in my head.

"Araki-kun," Narumi tittered and I stopped breathing. "Can we meet today after class?"

I let out a heavy breath and my heartbeat returned to normal. Araki-kun won't fall for it after telling him what happened, I thought.

"Okay. Where?" Araki-kun replied.

About to pop out of the corner and yell, Kawahara shut my mouth with her hand and stopped me.

"That would be bad," Kawahara whispered.

"But what is he doing?!" I yelled back in a whisper.

"That indeed would be bad," a girl said.

Narumi's three friends stood next to us; her gang.

I gulped.

"What are you doing, Su-kun?" the girl asked. "You even dragged Kawahara-san into your personal issues."

"Nothing, Oshiro. We were about to leave," I replied and signaled Kawahara to walk upstairs.

It'll be worse if we stay and say anything else, I thought and followed Kawahara.

"Run while you can, Kozue Suzuka," Oshiro said as we walked away. "We'll see who wins."

We walked all the way upstairs, back to our classroom, and sat down. I planted my face on my desk.

"What does she mean run while I can?" I wondered. "Is she going to kill me or something?"

"I'm not sure, I'm not competent at social interactions," Kawahara responded.

"I know, don't worry," I sighed.

Araki-kun arrived not long after. "Here you are," he said.

For some reason, I didn't even want to look at him, so I kept my face fixed on my desk and didn't say anything.

Why is he here, anyway? I wondered.

"I didn't have anywhere else to go, so I guessed you'd come here after walking upstairs," he added.

Oh, that's why, I thought.

"Are you okay, Kozue?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied, deadpan.

"Araki Koji-san," Kawahara called. "Why did you accept—"

The roaring of my stomach's starvation interrupted her question, followed by a long silence.

I won't be able to stay here much longer, I thought.

"Let's go to the cafeteria," Araki-kun suggested. I had no choice but to agree.

Kawahara took her lunch out of her backpack and we headed to the central building in the superior half of the high school. I approached the counter, which was almost empty since the break was about to end, and bought a bun and a grape-flavored soda. Araki-kun bought two salads after me.

Two salads? Does he eat that much? I wondered. Well, it's not like one salad would make me full.

He then offered me one of them.

I stood still, unsure of how to react. Wasn't I angry at him? Disappointed? Or maybe I was… jealous?

I looked at his face and I felt mine getting warmer, so I snapped out of it.

"Thanks, but both my hands are already occupied," I giggled.

"Oh, you're right," Araki-kun said. "I'll carry it for after you finish."

I smiled and nodded.

We walked to the garden Kawahara and I had spent our break the previous day. I tried to figure out what was happening in my head as I struggled to name all of the mixed emotions I was feeling, but my mind emptied with each bite I took of the bun and every gulp I drank from the soda. The mix of flavors was delicious!

I had already finished both my bun and my soda when we arrived at the garden. It was almost empty, so I sat on the bench, under the shadow of the tree, that was usually occupied by someone else.

Araki-kun gave me the salad and I began devouring it.

Delicious! I shouted in my head, Wait, what if he's trying to tell me I should eat healthier?

I didn't care and kept eating. But Araki-kun sat beside me and my face flushed warmly.

What is wrong with me?! He just sat next to me to eat! I yelled at myself.

The wind kept blowing my hair onto my face and mouth. It also made my ponytail sway back and forth. Meanwhile, Kawahara's thick hair gracefully waved at the height of her waist as she stood by the fence. I wasn't jealous about it, but having wavy hair would be fun!

Now that I think about it, does she like someone? I wondered. Oh, maybe she likes Tarō back. Poor him if she doesn't…

"I'm sorry, Kawahara-san," Araki-kun said, interrupting my thoughts.

"Why?" she asked.

"You won't be able to return to the laboratory because of us."

He was right. Even after what she did for us, I hadn't thought about it since I was too focused on being angry-disappointed-jealous at Araki-kun.

"It was going to happen sooner or later," Kawahara replied. "I will wait a few days and it should be fine."

Well, it's nice she's calm about it, I thought. Oh, I already finished the salad.

I looked at Araki-kun's salad, which was practically intact. I really should control myself.

We stayed silent but, this time, I didn't have anything to do. I sat still, looking at the entrance a good distance behind the canals.

"H-Have you gotten used to the bridges and canals, Araki-kun?" I asked. Why did I stutter?!

"They are rather unique, but they can be a nightmare at first," he answered.

"Right? I've been here more than two years and I'm still getting used to them," I nervously giggled.

Why am I nervous?! I screamed in my head.

"I agree," Kawahara said and pushed her glasses up.

"Kawahara, we owe you one," I said.

"You do," she agreed. She was quite direct…

"By the way, Kawahara-san," Araki-kun said.

"I told you to call me Kawahara," she interrupted, but Araki-kun ignored her and kept talking.

"How do you manage to hide in the laboratory every day if it's forbidden?"

Oh, good question, I thought.

"Natsuhiko-sensei allowed it after I helped Takuto Tarō-kun under the condition of not telling anyone."

"Sorry for ruining it," I apologized.

"I said it's fine. I will return in a few days."

The conversation came to a halt once again. It was time to ask Araki-kun about Narumi and make him believe we didn't spy on them.

"S-So, what did Narumi tell you?" I stuttered and smiled.

Araki-kun finished chewing his food and asked back, "Did you spy on us?"

"Yes…," I immediately answered. There was no point in trying to hide it anymore, he could always see through my eyes.

"At least you're honest," he said. "She wants to meet with me behind the warehouse today after class. That reminds me, can you tell me where the warehouse is?"

"Oh, it's behind the first building, opposite the building where our classroom is," I replied.


"Araki-kun, why did you accept to meet with her after we told you what she did?" I asked, concerned. "What if it's a trap?"

"That's exactly why I accepted."

What? I thought.

"I'll confront her about it. I want to see how she acts with my own eyes," he added.

"Oh, so that's your reasoning," I said. "But what if she tries to do something? Like putting something inside your backpack?"

"That's why I was going to ask the two of you to spy on us. This time with my consent."

"I will!" I happily shouted and tried to stand up with a jump, but my skirt caught on a branch from the bush behind us and pulled me back, making me lose my balance. The salad's container flew away from my hand and fell in the canal. My hands then landed on Araki-kun's shoulders and I sat on Araki-kun's lap.

My face couldn't get hotter. It was the first time I felt such burning. I didn't even want to look at his face.

Water began sliding down my arm. Water? I thought.

I looked at my side; lettuce and tomato rested on my shoulder but even more veggies fell on Araki-kun's chest.

"Ah, I'm really sorry!" I shouted.

"I-It's fine, it was an accident," he said. His expression stayed the same as always, but I could notice a little blush darken his cheeks.

The break ended a few minutes later and we returned to our classrooms, but sleepiness attacked me right after the class started.

Don't tell me we touched when I fell, I thought.

I managed to stay awake for the rest of the classes, but I couldn't bear it anymore when the teacher left after the last class. I couldn't even stand up from my seat.

"I want to stay here and see the swap happen with my own eyes, but I need to head to the staffroom," Kawahara told me after everyone else left. "That also means I can't spy with you."

"Right, I forgot about that," I yawned. "I'm sorry. Good luck."

"I should be the one wishing you good luck. Have a nice afternoon, Kozue Suzuka-san."

"You too…"

My eyes closed on their own before I realized and, not even a second later, I woke up controlling Araki-kun's body. I quickly stood up and got dizzy, so I put my hand on the wall not to fall. I then saw the stairs in front of me.

He fell asleep here?! That's dangerous! I shouted in my head. Anyway, I should wait for him here.

He arrived a minute later and we headed to the warehouse. Araki-kun—controlling my body—hid behind a bush on the corner and I approached Narumi, who was already waiting.

"Araki-kun! You took less time than I expected!" she giggled.

I kept a straight face and she stopped laughing. It really works! I thought. Ah, concentrate, Kozue Suzuka!

"Come on, why so serious?" she smiled and pushed me playfully.

"Narumi, did you put the cigarettes inside Daisuke-san's backpack?"

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