Pim. Pom. Pam. Pom.
The lunch bell rings. The teacher's voice drowns in the noise of screeching metals caused by the chairs sliding and the student's yawns and chatters. The organized classroom a few seconds ago is now amidst chaos. Students' chatter grows louder and louder as more of them stand up.
The teacher puts down the chalk and grabs her stuff getting ready to get out herself. Akari sweeps up the textbook and notebook on her desk and gently tucks them under it. She reaches for her lunchbox in her bag that's hanging on the right side of her desk.
"Akari-chan!" Samie shouts as she runs towards Akari's desk carrying her own lunchbox. "Let's go for lunch together."
"Sure, Amayama-san," Akari replies with an excited smile.
"Just call me Samie."
"That's odd." Hayama turns around to them. "This might be the first time I saw you ask someone else other than Oume out for lunch, Samie-chan. In fact, I didn't know you and Akari-chan were close at all."
"We are," Samie smiles at Hayama as she grabs Akari's arm. "Kou-chan will be with us."
"Oh." Hayama eyes Akari. "So you go for lunch with them but not with me, huh, Akari-chan? I see." Akari shies away and looks down.
"Stop teasing her, Hayama-kun," Samie scolds him. "You got plenty of girls to hang out with already. Why don't you ask them instead?"
"Eh? But I wanted to go with Akari-chan," Hayama mocks with a child-like whine.
"In any case, I want you to stop teasing Akari-chan. She's a shy kid." Samie starts walking toward the door pulling Akari with her. "She's also a close friend of mine so I'll beat you up if you make her cry, okay?"
Hayama stays silent but Akari can feel him staring at her with a serious face until they exit the classroom. Once in the hallway, Samie slows down her pace and lets go of Akari's hand. They walk and talk side by side until they reach the Music room.
Samie and Akari enter the music room and see Koutarou, Danzo, and Yoichi getting ready on the floor. They join in and starts eating their lunch.
"When is the competition, by the way, Akari-chan?" Samie asks while she's trying to force a spoonful to Koutarou who is pushing it away. "And where will it be held?"
"Next weekend at the Mawanaga Hall."
Yoichi chokes on his food. Everyone looks at him. He grabs his water bottle and quickly drinks a gulp to free his airways. He puts down the bottle and exhales. "Next weekend?! You didn't tell me it's that soon! I don't think I'm mentally ready for it. I'm getting nervous now."
"N-No! You don't have to be, Shirosaki-san," Akari frantically comforts him. "You're all good as is. There's nothing to prepare on your side."
"This is a competition we're talking about, you know. I'm just a self-taught pianist. I barely play in front of friends!"
"Don't worry, Shirosaki-san. Like I said before, your piece is beautiful and you're the only one who can play it perfectly," Akari cheers him up.
Yoichi silently groans to himself. "If you say so."
"Mawanaga, huh?" Danzo takes a bit of his sandwich and talks while chewing. "Well, at least it's close by. We are going to see it, aren't we, Koutarou?"
"Of course!" Koutarou answers loud and proud. "I'll make sure to set time aside for that weekend. We'll be cheering for you, Akari-chan!" He shrugs a little and lowers his voice to a mocking mumble. "And Yoichi, too, I guess."
"You little...," Yoichi glares at Koutarou as everyone else chuckles.
Akari lets out a laugh while covering her mouth. "Thanks, everyone. I'll do my best."
"Speaking of Mawanaga, I'm suddenly itching to go to MawaLand." Samie turns to Koutarou. "Hey, Kou-chan. Can we go to MawaLand this weekend? Pretty please?"
"Huh?" Koutarou gives her an appalled look. "The amusement park? What are you, a kid?"
"But it's going to be fun! Right, Akari-chan?"
Akari gives Samie a sorry smile. "Uhm. I haven't been to MawaLand yet."
"Really?!" Samie shouts in surprise.
"I've always been absorbed in playing the violin that I never been bothered to hang out with friends before," Akari explains. "I never had friends I'm close enough to hang out with anyway. But I...," her cheeks turn red. "I'd like to join... if you don't mind."
Koutarou's and Danzo's eyes light up in awe as they stare at the adorable, blushing creature right in front of them. They start shouting and acting very excited.
"Alright!" Koutarou acclaims. "Let's go to MawaLand this weekend then! It's gonna be a blast! Right, Danzo my friend?!"
"Damn right, Koutarou my friend!" Danzo replies. "We're gonna have the greatest time, Akari-chan! Wooo! MawaLand, banzai!"
"Yeah! MawaLand, banzai!" Samie joins in and Akari laughs.
Yoichi interrupts the ongoing fun. "Midterm exams are next week, you know. Are you all going to be okay?" He points at Koutarou. "Especially you, Koutarou. You're always the one who barely passes exams."
"Yoichi my friend," Koutarou closes his eyes and speaks in a slow, gentle voice. "There are times when a man has to make sacrifices." He looks at Yoichi with eyes burning with passion. "And this is one of those times, goddamnit! MawaLand here we come!"
"Count me out," Yoichi sighs. "I have to help out at the shop."
Koutarou and Danzo look at him annoyed. Koutarou clicks his tongue. "Did you hear that, Danzo my friend? This guy can't even make time for Akari-chan. What a heartless human being."
"I did hear that, Koutarou my friend. Damn hottie. Mister too-good-for-Akari-chan."
"In any case, I can't go." Yoichi ignores them. "How about you, Kujou-san. Are you going to be okay for midterms?"
"Yes, I will be fine."
"How about the preparations for the competition?"
"Yes. I have registered us already as well. Everything is all set."
"Good for you," Yoichi compliments her.
"Thanks, Shirosaki-kun," Akari smiles.
Danzo blushes and grins. "Akari-chan is so responsible and mature. What a good girl."
"You can say that again. A very goal-oriented girl," Koutarou turns to Samie. "Sacchi, you better stop acting so childish and learn from her."
"What? I'm also goal-oriented! At the age of twenty, I'm going to marry Kou-chan. We'll have two kids: a son and a daughter. And we'll..."
"Some dreams don't come true, Sacchi," Koutarou interrupts.
"That reminds me," Samie looks at Yoichi and Akari. "Aren't you too a bit formal with each other? Why won't you call each other by your first names? We're friends, after all."
Yoichi and Akari look at each other for a few seconds, then look away with their cheeks blushing.
"Come on! Akari-chan, call him Yoichi-kun. And Yoichi-kun, call her Akari-chan." Samie insists with an excited smile. "Come on! Come on!"
"Y-," Akari's cheeks turn redder. "Yoichi-san."
"Good work, Akari-chan! It's your turn, Yoichi-kun," Samie, Koutarou, and Danzo are all snickering.
Yoichi groans and scratches the back of his head. "Come on. Let's go practice already, Akari-san."
"A- Yes." Akari puts away her lunchbox and stands up while trying to contain her smile.
Samie, Koutarou, and Danzo smile at the two adoring their cute, embarrassed faces. "Now, Kou-chan, It's your turn," Samie turns to Koutarou. "Call me wifey."
"Like hell I would!"
"Now that I think about it," Danzo looks at the floor with a confused look on his face. "Am I the only person in this group that doesn't have a partner?" Everyone stares at him. Koutarou gives him an annoyed look while Samie forces a smile.
"Well then," Yoichi breaks the silence. "Let's start, Akari-chan."
"Screw you all!" Danzo clenches his fist. "Just you wait! I'll find myself a fine partner soon!"
Akari and Yoichi proceed to practice their piece until the lunch break ends. Koutarou and Samie listen and clap to them while Danzo sulks in the corner. Akari has become more confident with her revisions even though Yoichi and the rest can't see, or hear, anything wrong with her piece to begin with. After a few reiterations, they take a break and decide to spend the remaining few minutes of lunch break to rest.
Yoichi heaves a satisfied sigh. "I really can never get sick of you playing the violin."
"So beautiful as always, Akari-chan!" Samie claps. "I feel so blessed being able to listen to this every day."
"No kidding. I wish I could hear it again," Koutarou nods in agreement.
"We're practicing again after school. Feel free to come hang out," Yoichi invites everyone.
"I probably can't come later," Danzo says. "Could-You duties."
"It has started, huh?" Koutarou lets out a disgusted groan.
Puzzled, Akari asks, "Could-You duties?"
Samie turns to her to explain. "The teachers, student council, and other students often ask Danzo for help, especially in physically demanding tasks. Danzo-kun is more or less the strongest guy in school, you see. His bloated body may seem like just a lump of fat at first, but a good three-quarter of it is actually muscle. He's a Judo black belter, too."
"Really?" Akari raises her eyebrows. "That's amazing, Danzo-san!"
Danzo rubs the back of his head while slightly bowing down showing a humble and flattered smile.
"Danzo is a much more amazing person than that, you know," Yoichi adds. "Other people don't realize it, though." Koutarou and Samie nod as Yoichi continues. "Mostly because his perversion overshadows his other features," Yoichi smirks at Danzo.
"Bastard! The last part was unnecessary!"
Akari is unsure what Yoichi meant by that, but before she could ask, the bell rings.
"Alright, then. I'll see you after school, Akari-san," Yoichi waves at Akari as he starts walking towards the door.
Everyone heads back to their classrooms. Akari, the last person to exit, shuts the door close with a grin.
The entire school is almost empty when Akari and Yoichi finished their after-school practice. They can hear faint noises from the track and field club as they walk out of the building. "Well then, Yoichi-san. See you tomorrow," Akari waves at Yoichi as they split at the school entrance and walks straight home.
Another day has passed. Another ordinary day.
"I'm home," Akari acclaims upon entering the house. She takes her shoes off and steps onto their wooden floor. After a couple of steps in the hallway, she's between two door openings. To the left is the living room where her brothers are watching TV, and to the right is the dining room and kitchen.
Her young brother notices her and turns around and greets her. "Welcome home, Akari-nee!". Akari waves at him.
Her mother walks out of the kitchen to welcome her as well. "Welcome home, Akari. Supper is almost ready."
"'Kay, Ma. I'll go get changed," Akari answers.
Her mother smiles as she wipes her hand with the apron she's wearing. "Did something good happen?"
"What? Why'd you ask?" Akari becomes a bit agitated.
"Your mood has brightened lately. Always smiling and all. You used to always rush in"
"Smiling? I'm not!"
Her older brother tilts his head back and to the side to look at Akari with a smirky smile. "It's gotta be a guy. Right, Akari?"
"Akari-nee has a boyfriend?" her younger brother asks almost jumping in excitement.
"No, I don't!"
"My, my," her mother touches her cheek and smiles. "Pa would be shocked when he hears about this."
"I'm joking, I'm joking," she laughs and heads back to the kitchen.
"Jeez." Akari's shoulders droop forward as she stares at her mother with an annoyed look. Her brothers continue to tease her and laugh, but she ignores them and heads upstairs.
Upon entering her room, she drops her bag and violin case on the floor. She stands in front of her tall mirror and squeezes her cheeks with both hands. Was I really smiling? She continues to squeeze it repeatedly. Ma said my mood has brightened lately, too. Could it be because I've been hanging out with Samie-san and the rest? Recently, my lunch breaks and after schools have been filled with good times thanks to them. Koutarou-san and Danzo-san even convinced Yoichi-san to perform with me. Yoichi-san... Yoi... She comes back to senses and sees herself in the mirror, smiling.
Her mouth is curled up forming a smile. Her hands are still pressing on her cheeks. She can feel the muscles fighting against it. Oh, I really was smiling, is all that she could think of. She covers her flushed face with her hands and chuckles.