In just a few seconds, I was on the brink of collapse, and what saved me from bawling right then and there was someone calling my name.
Breaking out of my shaken state, I slowly turned to see the cheerfully smiling Kirisaki running towards me. I wondered why she was in such a rush until I noticed that my bag was in her hand.
"You, picked it up for me?" I asked.
"That's right. I noticed your bag was still there after you left so I rushed to give it you. I was looking around at the shoe lockers, and noticed you run back so I followed you."
In the presence of this cute girl who went so far just to give me my bag, I felt like crying in her arms, but I forced myself to look away when I saw that smile. That was a smile far too honest and filled with happiness, for me to pollute it with my sadness.
I pinched myself out of her sight and wore the best natural smile I could before reaching out to take my bag.
"Thank you very much. Looks like I owe you again."
"Fufufu, of course you do."
Once she passed the bag over to me with a smug face, I was even more sure that I couldn't bother her with my issue.
"I'll see you tomorrow," I said as I tried to walk away from her, but then my hand was grabbed.
"Wait, since we're already here, let's walk home together."
I hesitated because I wasn't sure for how long I could suppress my emotions, but spoiling her came too easily to me.
Kirisaki then released my hand to enter the clubroom and get her bag. Apparently, she was the one who asked Arisugawa to stay behind and so once she got her bag, they all left the room together. Not too long ago, I would have been afraid of Arisugawa misunderstanding something since I was walking home with Kirisaki, but now I could barely remember what her expression was like when we said bye to each other. Even so, I didn't want to worry her so I tried to stay sharp while walking with Kirisaki.
She hummed next to me with a smile unburdened by fear or worries, and I found myself comforted by this smile. I was only suppressing my emotions, so they were sure to burst out later, but I could feel the stormy sea of my heart being soothed by her gentle aura.
When the school was well behind us, Kirisaki stopped humming and asked me a question.
"So, are you excited for tomorrow, Haru?"
After we reconciled, Kirisaki made it a habit to use my nickname whenever we were alone, both on and off the phone. However, I could never hear it without hiding my joy behind a grimace.
I replied, "Yeah. I'm really looking forward to it."
"Me too! I just can't wait for it to be tomorrow. I spent last night looking up information about the amusement park we were going to, and it had so many fun attractions. It even has a mascot that..."
Without minding me, she passionately went on and on about how fun our trip tomorrow would be. Of course, I had no problem with her expressing her feelings, but every time she named a good attraction, I subconsciously thought about what it would be like if I went there with Arisugawa, and then I would become depressed from my own imagination.
'I didn't expect for it too be this bad. Or maybe, I'm just fragile, hehe.'
Thanks to her looking ahead the entire time, there were limited chances for her to notice my hidden melancholy. And so, I peacefully parted with the energetic Kirisaki who could look to the future with sparkly eyes.
While I dragged my feet to finish today's schedule, I got home, changed and waited for Ms. Aria by her door. She came home soon after I was done changing, so I wasn't standing there for long though. I expected her to take out her key like usual and open the door, but this time she stopped in place and stared at me.
I looked back at her in confusion, "What is it?"
"Hmm, am I imagining it?" she mumbled.
I was going to ask her what she was talking about, but then she opened the door so I didn't bother. Instead of going in first, she opened the door and waited for me, but that didn't bother me so I took her up on the offer and approached. However, right as I was about to walk past her, she grabbed my hand and pulled me into her bosom.
The first thing I did was resist and pull myself out of the soft, relaxing, bouncy...
Anyways, I pulled myself out of that death trap and shouted at her from an uncomfortably close distance.
"What are you doing?!"
"I really don't know. Maybe someone spiked my coffee?"
"Don't joke with me!"
I tried to push her off me, but her strength was too superior.
"I'm not joking. For some reason, I feel like I should give you a hug."
At that moment, I stopped resisting. The thought to be comforted in her arms became more and more appealing, but I soon made my decision.
I slowly shook my head and responded, "No, I'll be fine."
I'm sure it wasn't very convincing, but I felt the arms around me loosen. I escaped her grasp and looked at her serene expression that touched on the domain of motherhood, though I'm sure she would object to that description.
"I see. I'll save it for another time then. My hugs will always be free."
"Heh, I'll remember that."
I could only drag out a chuckle but it was better than a fake smile.
After that incident, dinner went on like it never happened and I retired to my room.
Finally, it was time to let it out.
I didn't think, I didn't move, I didn't talk.
Like a baby, I did nothing but wail my pain away. And yet no matter how much I cried, I still felt a dull aching pain in my chest.
I cried, and cried, and cried, and cried even when my throat became hoarse. Only when I had no more tears to spill, did I just sit down on the floor and look blankly at my apartment. I would be extremely embarrassed if Ms. Aria heard me through the walls, but that was only a worry for the future. For the me of the present, it was too much trouble figuring out what to do next.
While I sat there without purpose, I finally noticed my vibrating phone that was on the drawer beside me. Since it only vibrated, it wasn't a call but an influx of messages. On a whim, I took up the phone and looked at where I was getting all of these messages from.
It was that hyperactive girl that I could never associate with negativity. She was flooding the group chat with emojis and memes expressing her excitement for tomorrow, but everyone including myself allowed it. I couldn't be sure about the others, but when I imagined that glimmering smile on her face, I couldn't interfere with her fun.
'That's right. Tomorrow's supposed to be a fun day, I can't ruin it because I'm feeling a little down.'
I took a deep breath as I tried to seal my pain away for tomorrow. I might have used Kirisaki as an excuse to ignore my problem, but I hoped that she could forgive me this time.
That night, I was worried that I might have a nightmare, but I had no issue getting up the next day, to a disappointing degree. I was sure that my absence wouldn't cause too much trouble, so I was ready to stay home if I caught a cold or found a good reason not to go, but I wasn't granted such an easy road.
I took my time getting ready and made sure that I was properly prepared as I wanted to be extra careful not to cause any trouble. Usually I would head over to Ms. Aria's to make breakfast, but she already told me not to last night, so it was time to go.
In a plain t-shirt below a checkered shirt and black jeans, I went to the train station. Considering how my head hanged on the way there, it was hard to believe that I had been so excited yesterday. I wouldn't allow myself to act like this on the trip, but in the time before that I planned on satisfying my gloomy side.
When I eventually got to the train station, there was already a suitable train there as if it had been waiting for me. Part of me wished that I missed it, but I couldn't forgive that as a supporter of trains. I picked up my pace and got on the train right before it shut its doors. Fortunately, the car I got in still had seats so I occupied the nearest one and was going to continue feeding my depression, but then I heard a gasp from the seat across from me.
Shocked to hear my name, I flinched and looked at the source of that easily recognizable voice.
Sitting across from me was our club's bundle of cuteness as well as the stern girl who I saw shooing the KKFC away that one time.