Today marked the end as well as a new beginning. Looking back on my three years of middle school, I've never really changed.
I started middle school with two friends and ended it with one.
Just when I thought I could change—he left me. It wasn’t like we had a choice in the matter. We were just kids, after all.
When I found out, I slowly counted the days go by before his move, like plucking petals out of a flower one by one.
Since the day we parted, things had returned to how they used to be, to a time where he and I never met.
I'm a selfish person, so I can't help but feel envious. Taiyo-kun is making a lot of friends there in Yokohama, while I'm stuck here, never changing a thing from three years ago. He must have met great people. He always talked to me about them whenever he called.
Whenever he did, I couldn't help but feel my heart ache. I should have been happy for him—so why...?
Taiyo-kun was an idiot.
It felt as if the thread tying us together moved farther and farther away. I could feel the string tugging at my fingers ever so slowly.
I was afraid.
If I pulled back, would it snap?
“Wanna grab a drink, Mitsuki?” asked Haruto-kun.
The reassuring sound of his voice pulled me back from deep thought.
As we sauntered down the concrete road—the beautiful sakura petals surrounding us danced at the mercy of the wind.
These fluttering petals represented the days we’ve been apart.
“Yeah, I'm kinda thirsty right now,” I answered.
Haruto handed me a can of cola.
“Thanks~” I accepted it. Opening the can, I brought it to my lips and sipped.
We were at the park where we three used to play. It was empty today, it seemed. The swings only slightly swayed from the wind. I could distinctly remember the three of us playing there. Taiyo-kun always liked the swings the most, I liked the slides, and Haruto-kun liked the bars.
“So, uh, Mitsuki. Somethin’ bothering you?”
“I was just thinking of Taiyo-kun, that’s all...”
Gulping down the rest of my cola, I threw it inside the trash bin just beside me.
“I miss the days where we would just play here all day,” Haruto-kun said. He approached one of the swings and grasped the chains.
“We’re not kids anymore... We’ll be high schoolers soon.”
“Do you wish things never changed?” I asked.
“Not necessarily. As long as time continues to pass, change is inevitable.”
“Inevitable, huh?” I murmured to myself.
Does that mean that my time is frozen?
I looked up to the clear afternoon sky. Reaching out my hand towards the shimmering sun, the ring on my finger shimmered similarly.
“What’s wrong...” I said as I approached Haruto-kun.
“—with acting like a kid sometimes?”
I sat on the wooden swing. It felt hot.
I heard Haruto-kun’s voice. Then, he joined me as he sat on a swing adjacent to mine.
“Mitsuki, are you gonna continue track?”
“Yeah. After all, it’s the only thing I have left.”
We spent the next half hour or so playing together in that park like little kids.
That’s right—even before Taiyo-kun came into my life. Haruto-kun was always there for me.
Haruto-kun changed my life just as much. Although we were the same age, he was like an older brother to me.
At that moment, we relived our old memories as childhood friends.
All of a sudden, my phone rang.
“A call?” Haruto-kun asked.
The identity of the caller took me by surprise.
I answered the call, putting the phone to my ears.
“H-hello?” I asked in a low voice.
I could barely hear his voice on the other end, yet my face lit up with excitement.
“S-so, what’s up? Why the sudden call?”
“Sudden? Isn’t it yours and Haruto’s graduation today?”
I was so surprised that I completely forgot.
As the call continued, I could feel my heart pound harder.
“Thanks and you too... Isn’t your graduation ceremony a week from now?”
“Yup. I’m still rehearsing my speech.”
“Oh yeah, you’re the Valedictorian, right? You’re really amazing, Taiyo-kun.”
Taiyo-kun was always smart. I couldn’t help but admire him.
“I feel a bit embarrassed... I had a lot of friends here who helped me a ton. It was because of them and especially you that I was able to make it.”
I became silent.
Why me? It wasn’t like I helped him a lot. I only gave him words of support.
I tried to search for what to say next. However, the awkward silence only continued.
“Frankly, I think you’re much more amazing, though... You’re really strong, far stronger than me. Even after all this time, you were never lonely.”
“Unlike me, you have a dream. You’ve already found purpose. You said you wanted to be a professional athlete?”
“You’ve already got your future planned. You’re the amazing one.”
Why do you keep insisting that I’m better than you?
That person didn’t exist. That Mitsuki didn’t exist.
I’m not lonely? To hell with that! I was always lonely. Ever since that day, I’ve been nothing but lonely. I only put up an act whenever I talk with you, yet you never realize it.
I’m strong? I’ve done nothing but rely on you.
I have a dream? A purpose? Even now I was still unsure.
I have my future planned? Don’t kid with me!
I’m amazing? I was anything but amazing.
At that moment, I wanted to barrage him with those words. To tell him that he was wrong. That Mitsuki wasn’t me, I should know it best. I was never that person, not for you, not for Haruto-kun, not for anyone.
I’m lonely. I’m weak. I’m lost. I’m a mess.
Taiyo-kun was an idiot.
I heard him call out my name. What should I say? What was the right thing to say?
“Mitsuki, are you alright?”
A second calling.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?”
A third calling.
It seems that we were both idiots.
A lie was all I could manage. As always, I lied.
I was stupid. I just couldn’t tell him the truth. What? What was I so afraid of?
The call abruptly ended.
I hung up.
I sat back down on the swing, returning the phone to my pocket.
“Did something happen?”
“It’s fine. Let’s go home.”
I stood up and looked at Haruto-kun.
I widened my eyes, I felt something warm graze my cheeks.
“Why are you crying?”
I ran my fingers down my cheeks. I felt something wet.
Haruto-kun suddenly stood up. However, I dropped down and crouched as the tears flowed endlessly.
“Taiyo-kun you... idiot...”
I desperately tried to wipe them off, but they just wouldn’t stop.
“Of course I’m lonely! How could I not be?! How can you not see that?! How can you not notice?!”
Those feelings I couldn’t tell him, shouting with everything I had, I released those pent-up emotions.
“I’m lonely... I feel... so cold... So please...”
Then—an embrace. I was blanketed by gentle warmth.
However, it was not Taiyo-kun.
“It’s alright, Mitsuki... I’ll be here, whatever you have to say—you can tell me, and I’ll listen.”
His words—Haruto-kun’s comforting words only served to fuel my tears. Now, there was no way they could ever stop flowing.
“I love him so much... I love Taiyo-kun so much...”
“Mitsuki, hold out your hand,” Haruto said.
I didn’t know why but I followed.
It was a button from his Gakuran uniform. It was the second button of his uniform—I understood now.
“Let’s go home,” he whispered into my ears.
He helped me stand up. My body still trembled, my voice still stuttered, my emotions still wavered.
I only nodded.