autumn leaves and chocolate bars
April has nice weather. If you sleep with the windows open you can wake up to a nice spring breeze and the sweet smell of the flowers blooming just beside the building.
Unfortunately, Kaede Akihiko wakes up to a loud phone call from his best friend and neighbor, who yells at him to wake up and start to get ready for school, because he really doesn’t want to be late and ruin his perfect record just because Akihiko was too lazy to get out of bed. And all in one breath. For a reserved introverted teen, Katsuo sure did talk a lot when there were no people around to hear. Well, not that he, of all people, can judge.
He yawns and goes to brush his teeth, talking to Katsuo about the latest manga volume they decided to read together. His dad is still sleeping. Good. He needs some rest.
He takes his medication, grabs a bagel from the fridge and hurries outside, where Katsuo was waiting for him. He was wearing his crimson school uniform, blazer and all, in contrast to Akihiko, who had his blazer laying nice and folded in his backpack.
“Would it kill you to wake up at a normal hour?” Katsuo asks, but Akihiko can see the glint in his sea-green eyes, and can tell he’s not really mad.
“Why would I, when I have you as the best alarm clock?” he asks back innocently, and takes a bite off his bagel. He immediately hates it. Probably has garlic in it.
Katsuo sees the face he makes at the bagel, and sighs. He fumbles in his backpack and gives him a chocolate bar instead. And his favorite kind, no else!
“You know me so well” He smiles and takes it. “Wait, is Kanna not coming with us?”
“Do you really want her to?”
Katsuo’s blond hair is floating around his face by the cool breeze, making him run his hand through it, to get it away from his eyes, and he’s talking about an online physics course he took in the summer, that Akihiko doesn’t hear at all because he’s too busy staring.
He doesn’t stare. Not at all. Why would you even suggest that?
Okay, maybe he does stare. But can he really be blamed? He’s just so,,, Majestic.
Yeah. Majestic is the right word.
“Are you even listening, Aki?” He turns to him, eyebrows raised.
Akihiko chokes and blushes, caught off guard. “Sorry”
Katsuo softly smiles. “What are you thinking about?”
“Is it a girl?”
Now. Here’s the problem. Both of them are males. So no matter how much Akihiko loves this boy, he’s never going to do anything about it. It makes him sad, of course, but he doesn’t want to make Katsuo uncomfortable, or endanger their friendship.
“Nah” he says, and looks upwards to the clear sky.
The school is loud. So loud it’s impossible to hear each other, especially if your attention span is like of a fish with brain damage, and you get distracted by everything that catches your eye, even on 54 mg of medication.
Katsuo and Akihiko take a look at the class boards, and,, yes! They’re in the same class again. It’s a new record. They haven't been separated since second grade, the year Akihiko transferred to Katsuo’s elementary school.
They high five, and suddenly Akihiko sees a feminine hand pushing at Katsuo’s head.
“Hey!” he heaved, turning around to face his little sister.
“Kanna, what the hell?”
“You didn’t respond to me” She pouted, her blue eyes that are so-much-like-Katsuo’s-but-not-quite, squinting with a childish sparkle.
“Did you expect me too? I can barely hear you now”
“Fine. Anyway, I want to go to a karaoke place with my friends later, so I really need you to pick up Kazuto for me” she announced, referring to their younger brother, who was 4 years old, and was in a daycare for most of the day.
“We take turns for a reason, we were planning to go to the new smoothie place-”
“Wait, didn’t I tell you already? I have the first day on my job today” Akihiko cut him off, turning the blond’s attention back at him.
“No. You didn’t”
“It’s,, It’s okay.” A sigh. “Fine. I’ll pick him for you today, but you owe me.”
A blink, and Kanna was nowhere to be seen.
The younger girl was so different from her brother it was surprising they were even related. Katsuo was soft spoken, polite, and had so much patience, especially for Akihiko and his antics. Kanna was loud and assertive, even in her clothing style and speaking patterns. She also somehow manages to get into a new drama every other day. Katsuo knew so much about the latest middle school gossip he could write a book about it.
When they turn away to find their class, they were approached by the football team captain. Well, mostly Akihiko. Both of them are in the club, but Akihiko was more athletic and quick then Katsuo, who huffed and puffed after a few laps around the field. He knows he only joined so Akihiko won’t be alone when he joined, and expressed a few times that he really wasn’t built for games, and was more than happy to sit on the bench and cheer on his teammates.
Akihiko doesn’t understand why Katsuo’s so hard on himself. He might not be the most athletic person in the world, but his grades are so good, and he won so many competitions, and is a really good tutor, kind and patient, even when Akihiko is on the verge of tears, and even though his taste in music is horrendous, when Akihiko asks him to a duet he gladly joins and they sound so good and-
He only wanted to know if the two of them were coming to practice the day after, which of course they are. So Akihiko tells him so. And he leaves.
That’s. That’s it. God, he’s getting worse.
They walk into their class, and he already starts to feel dread.
“Are you okay?” Katsuo asks him.
“I’m fine. Just not thrilled about the fact class actually starts”
“Hey, you’ll be fine. You’re already doing so much better than middle school.”
“I know. I just wish I wouldn’t have to do all this” he gestures towards the entire class. “Honestly, I’m here to make connections. You know how useful it is to know a future CEO of something?”
Katsuo laughs. “How exactly do you expect to do this? Just go to a company, pass all security, and yell ‘Hey, Konoha! I gave you a pencil in high school, give me 30 thousand yen!’ ?”
“Exactly. Nobody can say no to me. I’m adorable!”
“You can say that again”
Akihiko ignores the slight blush that crawls across his cheeks as he laughs harder, and hopes Katsuo didn’t notice it.
“Are you talking about how Kaede is designed to be a sugar baby?” One of their friends, Saito, creeps up behind them.
“Oh my god, Saito, shut up.” Katsuo covers his forehead with his palm, and uses his other hand to punch Saito in the shoulder.
“I’m just telling the truth” Saito shrugs and takes a seat next to them.
Akihiko was happy to see Katsuo so comfortable and happy around people. He can still remember how he was in elementary school.
Suddenly, the heat hits him. He loosens his tie and runs his hand through his own brown locks.
“It’s April. Why is it so hot?” He complains.
“You’re the only one who’s hot, Aki” Katsuo points out. Akihiko looks around, and notices how nobody looks particularly bothered by the heat. He groans and lets his head fall on his arms. Katsuo gently pats his back.
Akihiko turns his head toward him, and smiles. They make eye contact for a couple of seconds, and Akihiko can feel the butterflies go crazy in his stomach, until Katsuo abruptly cuts it.
Their teacher walks in, and everyone hurries to their own seats, and he starts lecturing. The regular ‘We hope you bring pride to our school and behave and yada yada yada’. Akihiko taps his leg, and quietly drums on his table, waiting for the nightmare to finally be over. He has no idea how is he supposed to survive 6 more hours of this.
He does notice some classmates giving him naugsty looks. Especially this one cyan haired girl who was seated diagonally to him. He tries to stop, but It’s no help, cause his hands just start again without him even noticing. He hears the girl audibly scoff. He closes his fists and shoves them between his thighs.
He feels awful.
The rest of the day moves faster. With a gym class in the middle, and their cool literature teacher decided it would be fun to have the class outside. Which it was. Obviously.
He says goodbye to Katsuo as they walk in different directions, Akihiko ready and pumped to start working.
The ice cream shop, ‘Ayami’s Sugar Coated Dreams’, is a cosy place with heaps of different delicious homemade ice cream flavors, and getting free samples is 50% why he even works there. It’s great.
The other 50% is Ayami herself. She’s a woman around her 50’s who ran the shop for years. She has so many stories about old customers, her kids, and the many battles she had with her father to take charge of the shop.
She explains to him what to do with a big smile, while sliding comments about different topics, and she’s able to keep up with Akihiko’s quick mind and genuine curiosity with, well, everything.
He comes home satisfied, with a stomach filled with delicious caramel ice cream Ayami gave him for a good day one.
His dad is in the living room, drinking coffee.
“Hey!” he smiles at him when he notices him coming in. “I didn’t notice you going out this morning”
“Katsu picked me up. You were sleeping.” He smiles back. He kicks off his shoes and runs to sit next to his dad on the couch. He notices that the mug the coffee is in is the mug Akihiko got him for his latest birthday. The one with the ugly bear and the horrible pun. He tries to outdo himself every time, to find even a stupider gift than last time since he was 11. His dad puts all of them in a display cabinet, right next to his plane models collection.
“How was your first day?” he asks.
“Of school, or the job?”
“Well, school was a nightmare, nothing new, but Ayami taught me the trick to stack the ice cream right in the cone, and she told me this awesome story about that time her son accidentally burned his eyebrows off”
“How does that happen?”
“Matches and a lot of determination”
“Please remind me to put the matches far away from you”
It’s a normal afternoon for them. Just talking and enjoying their time together. Only the two of them. It’s been only the two of them since he was six, and he has absolutely no problems with that. He still instinctively reaches for his neck whenever he starts to remember.
“Are you hungry? I can start making dinner.” His dad asks, putting the empty glass of coffee on the small table.
“Nah, I got Ice cream”
“What did you eat today that wasn’t junk food?”
“Ehh-” Akihiko starts, but his dad cuts him off to laugh.
“I’m making omelettes”
If the one and only Kaede Tsuki was known for something, it was his magical omelettes.
Even Kanna, who hates eggs, made an exception for his omelettes. That’s how great they were.
Akihiko’s tired, confused, overwhelmed, and is definitely not expecting for the rest of the school year, but tonight it’s just him, his dad, his amazing omelettes, and a crime mystery TV show. Just relaxing.
They sit and watch the show until at least 11pm, then his dad turns to him.
“Wait, don’t you have homework?”