Feeling exhausted, I sat down on the warm, wooden bench. Wiping my sweaty face with a towel, I looked at the figures of my clubmates running in the sand.
I'm just not as good as I used to be anymore. Even an hour of practice makes me want to die. My throat felt dry, but I didn't have any water to hydrate myself.
An orange tint painted the large sand fields from the sunset above. I looked up and watched the descent of the sun as it slowly began to disappear.
I lost count, but I probably spent a good couple of minutes just staring off into the sky.
I should go wash my face.
With that plan in mind, I got ready to stand up.
That's when I felt a sudden cold in my shoulder. I spotted a shadow in the sand, prompting me to shift my gaze to the owner of it.
“Mitsuki-san, good work out there.”
It was one of my clubmates and good friend, Kanzaki Haruto.
“Oh, it's just you, Haruto-kun. You scared me there.”
He had a can of cola in both of his hands, one of them was pressed upon my shoulder.
“Also 'good work'? It really wasn't.”
“Compared to your prime, maybe not, but you're slowly recovering after your injury. Anyway, here.”
He urged me to take the can. I gratefully accepted it and sat back down.
I opened the can, then brought it to my lips and sipped.
“Have you been doing alright?” He asked me.
“What do you mean?”
I was lost about what he meant by that question.
“I mean, you know. After Taiyo moved out and all, are you doing okay?”
Ah, so that was what he was worried about that?
“Yeah. I've been okay so far.”
That was both right and wrong at the same time. Truthfully, ever since we were separated, I just couldn't sleep. However, apart from that and Taiyo-kun's absence, things weren't any different from before. I think. I don't know.
I just felt empty. Knowing that he wouldn't be here for us to walk home together from school. For him to visit our house every morning and walk to school. For us to eat lunch together. For him to cheer me on during practice.
Despite that, I'm not lonely.
My fingers gently brushed the ring that Taiyo-kun gave me.
“Is that so? If you're okay then, that's fine,” he said.
I gulped down the rest of my cola and got up.
“Leaving now? Don't wanna continue practice?”
“Nope. Even if I did, I don't think I'd be welcome.”
I lowered my face so as to not meet Haruto-kun's gaze.
“How so? Are you still worrying about that?”
I nodded slightly. I could hear Haruto-kun sigh in response.
“Weren't we over that already?”
“I don't think my senpais are, though… I mean, if it was me, I wouldn't either,” I said in a pained voice.
“Imagine if a first-year was chosen over you for the competition, that alone was embarrassing enough but to have that first-year, on the day of the regional competition, get injured and get last place… How would you feel?”
After having your chance be stolen from you by someone else, and that someone failing miserably in the end. If I were in their shoes, I would feel frustrated too…
“That wasn’t your fault Mitsuki.”
He tried to comfort me, but I couldn't accept his words. They just couldn't get through to me.
“I was overjoyed to know I was chosen, and I was similarly distraught when I made a fool of myself in front of so many people…”
“Sorry, Haruto-kun, for dampening the mood. This was months ago. I’m just an idiot for not knowing when to move on.”
I pursed my lips. I felt like my heart was about to crumble as I recalled those painful memories.
If only Taiyo-kun was here. If only he could wrap me in a warm embrace and whisper to my ear that it was going to be fine. Maybe, maybe it would’ve lessened the pain.
“Mitsuki. Do you still love track?”
Huh? What kind of question was that?
Confused, I looked straight at Haruto-kun. He had a serious expression as he asked that question.
There was only one answer I could give.
“Of course. I still love track a lot.”
“Will you continue track in High School?”
I choked on my words. My confidence faltered, and I didn’t know what to say.
“Frankly… I’m not sure. I have to focus on studying too for college. I don’t know if I would have time for track.”
I have never considered that before. And now that I had to think about it, I was unsure.
“Mitsuki, please continue track.”
I know I couldn’t give a confident answer right now. It was probably useless to ponder over it now. There are still two years before that point.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
“I see. Do you want me to walk you home?”
“You don’t have to. I’ll be fine by myself.”
I’ve always relied on Taiyo-kun on most things. It was like I couldn’t live without him. I was just a selfish person. I want to move away from that and be more independent. This is the first step towards that goal.
“Got it. Take care.”
After a brief farewell, I went home for the day.
“I’m home...” I said as I closed the door behind me.
I removed my shoes and went upstairs.
“Welcome home, Mitsuki,” my mom said. I didn’t reply and headed straight to my room.
I swung the door open, went inside then slammed it shut. I laid my bag on the floor as I yawned.
My room wasn’t anything special. It was standard: A single bed, study desk, kotatsu, and a closet. Not many things apart from my stuffed animal collection.
I felt so weak that I could collapse in bed the first second I lay down.
Not even bothering to change my clothes, I fell into my comfy bed. My face was buried into the many pillows and stuffed animals I had.
I just wanted to sleep and rest.
If I closed my eyes, I was certain I’d fall asleep immediately. All those nights I couldn’t sleep, the effects are showing now. I feel like my sleep schedule has been turned upside down.
Then I remembered something.
I lazily got up and went to my desk.
A single envelope was there. It was the letter that Taiyo-kun sent me a couple days ago. That reminds me, I haven’t even begun writing a reply.
What should I even say? I didn’t know.
I was too busy thinking of the contents rather than actually writing it.
I’ll do it later.
That’s what I told myself.
That’s what I told myself for the last few days.
Just as I was about to head back to bed to take a nap.
I hesitated for a moment.
I don’t want to worry Taiyo-kun.
I have to stop being so selfish.
Turning around, I returned to my desk. I gripped the envelope in my hand. The remaining light from the sunset seeped inside the windows, causing the ring in my other hand to shimmer.
That’s when I decided to do it.
I sat in my chair and began to write my letter.