Chapter 11:

Your Friends Will Always Watch Over You

Along The Way (途中で)

The next day, just like we had planned, after coming home from school I changed my clothes, and headed straight for Sakura’s place. In the morning I had already talked about today’s plan to mom before leaving for school, and as expected, she didn’t let my sweet expectations down.

Yui lives close by my place, so we had planned to meet at the bus station earlier during recess today, from where we would take the bus to the station near Sakura’s home, and walk the rest of the path.

When I arrived at the bus stop, I saw Yui sitting on the bench and looking around, her legs dangled by the edge and fingers intertwined between her knees. She waved at me as she noticed me coming her way.

The bus stop exists as a microcosm of every waiting room in the world, take away the walls, the road, the metal benches and it could be any wait for anything anywhere anyplace, alive with the sound of spirited violin.

“So you’ve finally come.” Yui said as our gazes intertwined. By her look and appearance it seemed that she had been eagerly waiting for quite a bit of time for me.

“Why are you so late? Do you know how bored I got sitting here alone.” She grumped, while I took a seat right next to her and leaned over, making myself comfortable.

After taking a slight deep breath and letting it out, I flung my head towards Yui.

“Well, sorry about that.”

Yui is more of a popular type in her class, and always stands out among the other students, both for her appearance and her academic results. Sakura first introduced her to me. She is in class 10-C, while Sakura and I are in 10-A. Her hair is like radiant raspberry, while her eyes are light blue in color.

I haven’t talked to her that much, being in separate classes. But for the most part she seemed very friendly, and it was always fun talking and laughing with her.

After a while our ride rolls in, doors all set to open and inhale us on its platform. I took the window seat to get some fresh air while Yui took the seat to the isle. After the wheels started rolling, we could feel it’s movement along the road, following the curves and greetings of each slope on it’s way. Along with that continued our chatter which was like pushing buttons in our soul elevator.

After we arrived at our stop, we both got off from the bus and started walking towards Sakura’s house. I’ve been to Sakura’s place a few times before, so I remember which path to follow. While on our way, Yui suggested that we should buy something for her, therefore we made a quick stop at a cake shop we found along the way.

After making our purchase, we started walking again as well as enjoyed the fresh air that we get to feel around this part of the city, almost sweet and floral.

After a short while we finally reached at Sakura’s place. It’s a tall 10-story building, eating up the land it took up the sky and headed on up to the clouds. We took the elevator and went up to the fifth floor, and then walked in front of door with the name tag ‘Maekawa Residence’. After that Yui pressed the doorbell.

After a moment the door opened, and we saw Sakura’s mom standing on the other side.

“Oh, it’s Yuki-chan and Yui-chan. How are you two? Sakura told me earlier that her friends are coming over.”

“Thanks for having us today. Um, we brought some cakes on our way, if you would like to have them.”

“Oh my, aren’t these from the bakery near the station? Sakura likes the cakes from that store very much.” As she said that she stepped aside from the entrance to make space for us to enter, “Make yourself at home.”

We handed over the bag to her, took our shoes off and placed them in the shoe shelf, and went inside.

While we were inside, Sakura’s voice hopped out from inside the kitchen. “You two have arrived already. Wait a bit for me, I’ll be done soon.”

We took the liberty to make ourselves comfortable in the dining room, teal with grey wicker chairs and a few plants upon the window-sill.

Soon after Sakura came out from the kitchen, and both our eyes were fixed at Sakura’s apron, her scowl deepening as much as the creases on her brow.

"Beautiful apron, isn't it? Mom made it herself on the sewing machine." Sakura bristled and pushed her shoulders back and steered both of us to the kitchen with a smile that was more of a grimace.

“I was preparing everything in the kitchen.”She said while looking at both of us. “Come, you two can enter now.”

We both went to the kitchen, were Sakura had already prepared and laid down all the ingredients and utensils required for preparing the cookies.

“So shall we get started.” Sakura said as her smile grows of its own accord. Her excitement was clear like a sunshine brightening her eyes and soul.

“Of course. But the fact that I will make the best cookies is still unchanged.” Yui said with her usual confidence, though I doubt if she had it right into her bones to make it.

“Yeah, you can try.” Sakura gave a bold response, as their words crossed each other, a premonition of a storm that was about start bound to the kitchen.

“Yeah, yeah, OK. We get it, so will we start now?” Yui said as she picked up a bowl and started placing all the ingredients in it.

“Yuki, lets also begin. Take this bowl.” She said while she passed a bowl to me, and we started by preparing the dough first.

I picked all the ingredients just like how it said in the recipe book that Sakura brought along. It seemed like such magic at first, taking that flour and butter and eggs and sugar and making something we could eat.

I noticed that while I was still preparing the dough, Yui and Sakura both were done and already started with giving different shapes to the dough.

“The dough gets bigger after you bake them, right?” I asked Sakura, as I couldn’t find it in the recipe book.

“Yes, so be careful with how you cut the dough, because if you make a mistake, then they might not come out the way you wanted them to. Watch me…”

After that she showed me how to cut the dough and make different shapes out of them one by one.

Yet with all the enthusiasm flowing through me, it was a matter of time before it all got washed away. After tasting the bitterness of failure, I looked at both of them, “Why is it so hard to give them the shape just like how I want to?”

“Did you think you could actually do it properly on the first time?” Yui said derisively.

“Well, it’s not impossible, just a little hard to pull off.” Sakura replied.

At the end I could only knead a few heart shaped ones, though how they came out weren’t what I had expected.

After we were all done, Sakura brought out a baking trey from the closet and then placed each of our cookies on the tray. After that she placed the trey in the oven, and let them bake in there with the timer on, while we went to the dining room and took a seat. I'd keep eating the air as the cookies bake, the aroma bringing a hunger to me that I wasn't aware of earlier... or perhaps it's new. I somehow force my feet to stay there, as they try to take me to the kitchen and let my eyes feast on the cookies that are almost ready. I just couldn’t wait when they will come out soft and hot, when they'll be perfection.

After about 8 minutes the timer of the oven went off, and Sakura got up and headed towards the kitchen. As she took the freshly baked cookies out from the oven, it was like we could feast over the aroma coming from the kitchen.

As she came out of the kitchen with the tray in her hand, our eyes fell on the cookies, some were more peanut then flour, while others were dotted with chocolate chip. The surface is crackled as the earth is in late summer, softly golden and awaiting the rain.

After placing the tray on the table, Sakura went back inside and brought coffee for the three of us which she had prepared earlier to have with the cookies.

She passed the mugs to the two of us, and then took her own seat.

“If it was winter, then we could have enjoyed some hot cocoa.”

Yui Muttered.

Listening to her Sakura placed her hand on Yui’s shoulder.“We can just do it in the winter again.”

Sakura clasped her hands while broadening her smile. “So shall we begin.”

As she said that, all three of us picked a cookie from the tray, still warm and crunchy as I could feel it through my fingers.

I took the cookie to my mouth, and took a small bite. They were crunchy, but the taste though, something felt wrong, it kind of tasted a little weird. Afterwards I engulfed the entire cookie in my mouth to get a better understanding of the taste, when I realized that actually the cookies didn’t come out like we had expected.

I laughed a little in disappointment. “Who made these cookies? They are awful!”

All my expectations were shattered from the way they tasted. Even though the aroma, when Sakura brought them out from the oven, was very good, the taste swallowed up every bit of my excitement from it.

Yui engulfed the entire cookie at once, and then took a sip from her coffee mug to wash it down her throat. After that she locked Sakura on a serious gaze,, “You should have learned how to make them properly.” She said, “It’s a total disaster.”

“All three of us worked on them, so don’t look at me.” Sakura spoke back as she took another bite, giving a clear expression of disappointment all over her face.

For a little while all three of us fell silent, when suddenly, the next thing we knew, we broke into laughter. We kept laughing as we kept eating the cookies from the trey, and kept making comments about it’s weird taste.

As the three of us were laughing and enjoying the time, suddenly I felt like tears were going to roll down from my eyes. It was like my greatest treasure of the day, as if for it my inner smile grew so wide that it became like auditory fireworks. I tried my best to hold them from the others, though they weren’t the tears of sorrow, rather of the happiness I felt while laughing with Yui and Sakura. It was a feeling I couldn’t just explain with mere words alone.

I guess I can relate these feelings with what Sakura had told me earlier. I could feel the warmth in my chest, not from the body, from my heart.

Sakura caught hold of me with her gaze, while I was dissolved in my thoughts.

“Whats wrong Yuki? Is something wrong?”

“Oh…”In just a moment I jumped back into reality.“Nothing, I’m fine.”

Yeah, I am fine. And to tell the truth, better than ever. I had finally realized, that whatever may be in the depths of someones heart, feelings and memories like these are things that keep us alive and afresh. To me, memories like these are what I want to hold close to my heart, as mom had said, somewhere close, open to others, rather than somewhere deep, hidden from everything.

These ephemeral time in the most humble moments came to the royalty to halt by the hands of the sweet ticking clock.

“It’s already five.” My eyes bittered, looking at the hands of the clock, “I guess we have to end here for today.”

“Why do we need to go now?” Yui wailed in her childish fashion, as she placed her head on the table, insisting to stay. “I still want to chat with Sakura.”

“We can’t.” I retorted through her wails, as I continued bluntly, almost to myself, “And besides if you go home late then you will be the one who will get scolded.”

“Now, now, Yui. You can come over again whenever you want.” Sakura said while patting her back.

At the end Yui finally got off from her chair, and we were ready to conclude our visit.

“We will take our leave now, thank you again for having us today.” We greeted Sakura’s mom before making our way to the door.

“Come again sometime.” She said with a warm smile. “You two are always welcome at our home whenever you want.”

“Do you want me to walk you guys to the bus stop?” Sakura said while we were putting our shoes on. I tried to turn her down, but Yui was really happy of her proposal, so I remained quiet.

The three of us stride along monotonously, as I kept gazing at the sky above and Yui was fondling over Sakura.

When we were finally by the bus stop, Sakura turned towards me, as her gaze pulled my eyes towards hers. “Um, Yuki, actually…”

A bit of hesitation played over her face. I pulled my voice, giving her a bit of a push.

“Do you have anything to ask? If you want then go ahead.”

“Did you have fun today?” She murmured beneath my ears, as the puffs of air tickled me.

“Yeah, I enjoyed it today.” I didn’t take a moment to give a reply, collecting the words from what my heart wanted. “Thank you for inviting me today.”

Listening to Sakura’s question, my heart felt an unusual ease. I knew I had a friend like her, but I never felt like how I feel right now, a feeling like I was cherished by someone else, someone else who was worrying about me, not someone from my family, but just a friend, a friend I could speak my heart out to.