Chapter 52:

Ch.18 Moving Forwards (3/5)

Sleeping Princess

Now it was lunchtime now, Wednesday, the day we promised to help a certain blueberry find a new club that she’d want to look into. Sophia waited with her arms crossed at the track and field with me.Bookmark here

“Where is she?!”Bookmark here

The shark bit, kicking the dirt on the ground.Bookmark here

“She said that she was helping a teacher with something…”Bookmark here

“Mado-chan! Sophia-san!”Bookmark here

With her spirits high, the blueberry made her way over.Bookmark here

"Ma-chan."Bookmark here

Conway chuckled under her breath. With a sigh, she continued.Bookmark here

“Where should we start?”Bookmark here

“Well, I don’t want to go into another sports team. And I’m not allowed in volleyball anymore.”Bookmark here

She said this with a hint of melancholy.Bookmark here

“Ma-chan…”Bookmark here

“Well, Mae-san…How about we start with all the cultural clubs then. We have, Fine Arts, Tea ceremony, English speaking, Chemistry, Cooking….”Bookmark here

She began to die down as she attempted to remember more.Bookmark here

“Calligraphy, drama, beautician…”Bookmark here

I added in. Then like a light, it clicked to me.Bookmark here

“Ma-chan! Join the beautician club! You can teach me more about cosmetics!”Bookmark here

“Don’t listen to that girly girl, Watanabe-san.”Bookmark here

“Girly girl?! Is that what you think I am?!”Bookmark here

Another nickname for the book of Conway Sophia. Cosmetics make people cute! That doesn’t mean I need a strange nickname!Bookmark here

I tried to pull at Conchi-san’s cheeks, but Mae stepped in front of me. Next time, she won’t be so lucky.Bookmark here

“Hm…I’m not sure any of these will fit me but, I’ll give them a try.”Bookmark here

At her command, we all walked about the rooms. The clubs weren’t active but the ability to walk into most of the clubrooms while they weren’t in a session created a different kind of ambiance.Bookmark here

“Oh, the tea ceremony club’s room is nice.”Bookmark here

Mae gawked at the traditional Japanese layout. It struck a chord in me making me want to seize in place and offer tea. As if walking around in the wrong place was massively disrespectful.Bookmark here

"Wow, so sophisticated!"Bookmark here

Mae-chan chimed before she then frowned her eyebrows.Bookmark here

“Hm, not liking it, Mae-chan?”Bookmark here

“It doesn’t suit me…”Bookmark here

She admitted.Bookmark here

“And even if it did I doubt I’d have the discipline to do all of that. So much for a little reward you know. I need to do something!”Bookmark here

She chuckled. If only that smile would stay forever. So, we went about to the next one. Home cooking was a club Sophia thought out…not as if she was hungry in any way.Bookmark here

“Oh, I could make lots of dishes in here every day!”Bookmark here

Sophia nodded with her nose in the air.Bookmark here

“Oh yes you can, Mae-san.”Bookmark here

“You just want Ma-chan to cook for you.”Bookmark here

“Is that so bad though, Nakagawa-san? Think about not having to bring leftovers to school every day.”Bookmark here

She smiled brightly. She wasn’t wrong but unlike her, my leftovers were made sometimes by the person who…is still spiraling in my heart right now.Bookmark here

“Hehe, I’m no good at cooking though. Ma-chan can vouch for that.”Bookmark here

“Well, you can learn here, Mae-chan.”Bookmark here

She shrugged haphazardly.Bookmark here

“Hm…still doesn’t suit me for sure. I could but then I’d feel like I’d be weighing down the club members.”Bookmark here

She slumped. To be honest I think I knew just what it was that Mae-chan wanted most. So I crossed my arms and looked her in the eyes.Bookmark here

“You still want to do sports, don’t you Mae-chan?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

Sophia nodded and smiled slightly.Bookmark here

“We can see the pain in your eyes, Mae…”Bookmark here

There stood in the empty home cooking room. Mae’s smile briefly faded before ultimately tears cracked down the side of her cheeks. Without saying a word she nodded.Bookmark here

“…But I’m banned from them.”Bookmark here

She confessed the answer we all knew. The one thing she genuinely wanted to do wasn’t allowed by the school. After that incident, despite it happening in middle school, they didn’t want to take a risk of giving her a scholarship. Her record was tarnished the moment that happened. By that, she was seen as nothing more than a delinquent now. Mae wanted to continue doing sports not just for the scholarship but because she’s a competitive person who likes working in a team. These clubs were more or less opposite to how she feels.Bookmark here

“Well…if you want something that you can’t have…”Bookmark here

Sophia crossed her arms and turned back to my childhood friend.Bookmark here

“You even accept that what you did ruin your life or you make amends and see what you can do in order to fix it.”Bookmark here

“I’ve already tried that, Sophia. They were pretty upset at how my career ended and didn’t want me to be affiliated with the athletic departments anymore.”Bookmark here

That was the embodiment of Mae-chan’s choices right now. The “ifs” of what could have happened if she didn’t make the choices she did constantly came about in her. But then that made me think of things a little differently.Bookmark here

“Ma-chan…yes you love sports. I know that better than anyone…”Bookmark here

She turned to me in bewilderment.Bookmark here

“But…was sports as great as you remember it?”Bookmark here

“…What do you mean Ma-chan?”Bookmark here

“Are you sure you’re not…romanticizing it just a little?”Bookmark here

The way Mae explained it to me was that she was put under so much pressure that even her own teammates became her enemy. For the staff here not to even help her, guide her as they should a student who was clearly struggling…Bookmark here

“Would you want to go back to a life that you were in constant stress like that?”Bookmark here

“…But all the days weren’t like that Mado-chan. Things are never so day and night. And that was in middle school...”Bookmark here

I nodded softly.Bookmark here

“Yes I get that but…you haven’t tried any of these clubs yet and you’re already wanted to go back to what you had before…”Bookmark here

I had to ask these questions to help my broken friend piece together her own feelings now.Bookmark here

“Are you sure you just don’t want to run back to what you know instead of move forward? I'm not saying you can't try sports outside of school...but there's so many opportunities here that you're not taking into account.”Bookmark here

“Madoka-san, that was uncalled for.”Bookmark here

I shook my head and put out my finger towards the sky.Bookmark here

“No, I think this is necessary, Sophia-san. Mae-chan, you’re my friend and as my friend, I have to step in and help you see things that you’d otherwise miss.”Bookmark here

Just like my chat with Sophia-san yesterday. I needed to do the same with Mae-chan. I know I can’t push her too hard as she is struggling with depression and that could be associated with her lack of drive…but she in the end has to pull herself out.Bookmark here

“Do you want to change Mae-chan…or would you rather everything go back to the way it was? Where you stressed about not being able to keep up…and eventually secluded yourself away from your friends?”Bookmark here

Her eyes went wide. Here was a question that was swirling within me for a while now but it needed to be expressed to Mae-chan. What was the word "change" in her dictionary? Was it to change outwardly like she had…or internally like she wanted to.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Without a word, she nodded softly.Bookmark here

“…I’ll keep looking.”Bookmark here

Without a hint of playfulness in her tone, Ma-chan agreed to my liking.Bookmark here

“There we go, Mae-chan.”Bookmark here

It was going to be a struggle and I knew it. We all did…but that’s why we were here, to struggle with our friend who wants to piece together her broken life. She wants to move forward but occasionally she’s going to stumble. Sophia-san and I are those holders that she can rely on when she feels weak.Bookmark here

So, we began our journey again, searching all the clubrooms. The music club was intriguing with instruments that even I didn’t know the school had. There was the movie club that had a bunch of dramas. Sophia was more into action and of course, Watanabe Mae had comedy on her top priorities. But this day became less of a grueling task…and more as a light-hearted walkabout with friends. We laughed at enjoyed our time as we went about.Bookmark here

“Fine Arts?”Bookmark here

Sophia-san questioned. This was the club that Mihara-san was a part of. Once we opened the door a certain strange-eyed con met our gaze.Bookmark here

“Oh, why hello!”Bookmark here

In the corner of the room was Mihara-san going about sketching as she had a bowl of rice next to her. She turned and like a firecracker, she shot up from her seat.Bookmark here

“N-Nakagawa-san?! What are you doing here?”Bookmark here

Sophia moaned.Bookmark here

“We’re just checking out the clubrooms.”Bookmark here

“Ah! You want to join you three?”Bookmark here

I waved my hand back and forth.Bookmark here

“Oh no…not us…but she might be interested.”Bookmark here

Mae looked about seeing the art along the wall. With a sincere gaze, she made an effort to look at them all. That’s when she stopped at one in particular…the one on Mihara-san’s desk.Bookmark here

“Oh, what is this?”Bookmark here

“Nooooooooooo, Watanabe-san?!”Bookmark here

“Is that who I think it is, Mihara-san?!”Bookmark here

Mihara-san jumped up and held a hand to her face. Mae lunged back. I had no idea what the heck they were doing but Mae-chan started chuckling. She held her gut to the point that I couldn’t deny that she was…enjoying herself.Bookmark here

“Ah, so you saw her newest project blue-haired?”Bookmark here

“Hm? She’s not drawing red carnations?”Bookmark here

To my surprise…now I wanted to see it.Bookmark here

“Ehhhhhh?! How do you know what I’ve been drawing, Saya-san?!”Bookmark here

“I just have to close my eyes and envision it, Yuko-san”Bookmark here

“Ehhhh?!”Bookmark here

It’s more likely that she just walked past while Mihara-san was busy and took a peek. But to pass it off as someone with an omnipotent eye, I’ll let her have this one even though it’s a lie.Bookmark here

“Well, you get so into drawing anyone can sneak up on you, mouse.”Bookmark here

Sophia-san, likely coming to the same conclusion exposed her for me, however. Saitou-san just chuckled in amusement as if admitting defeat.Bookmark here

“What kind of arts do you guys teach here?”Bookmark here

Saitou-san sat back on her desk and nodded.Bookmark here

“All kinds. We have the club members find one that they like and try and excel in it. Yuko-san here has been doing traditional art for the past few months now.”Bookmark here

Mae looked about…Bookmark here

“How many club members do you have?”Bookmark here

“We have 5 at the moment. So, we have room for 3 more.”Bookmark here

“I told you, we’re not doing it…”Bookmark here

Mae put her finger to her mouth…Bookmark here

“Could you let me come in and watch this afternoon?”Bookmark here

“Oh, certainly! I think you’d enjoy it. The work is mostly on your own but we bring in snacks, talk about gossip, and even have readings and seances occasionally too.”Bookmark here

My head wanted to explode. I wonder if the teachers know what this con had been doing with her club while they are away?Bookmark here

“Hehe, if you don’t mind me coming then I’ll be happy. I even have a secret from Mihara-san that I can’t share.”Bookmark here

Now I really wanted to know what she was drawing over there. She kept eyeing me as she looked back at her work. I…felt a tad uncomfortable if I had to admit it.Bookmark here

“Well, Mae-chan. Lunch is nearly over.”Bookmark here

She nodded sharply.Bookmark here

“Thanks for coming with me guys. If all works out, I’m sure I’ll have a good time meeting new people and even trying something new.”Bookmark here

Conway-san crossed her arms and gave a tender smile.Bookmark here

“There’s no way they wouldn’t love having you Mae-san. You’re a bumbling fool but one who brings about the atmosphere wherever she goes.”Bookmark here

With that Sophia-san then looked at me with a slightly wary gaze.Bookmark here

“Ah, would you like me to check in with Taylor-sensei, Sophia-san?”Bookmark here

“If you wouldn’t mind…”Bookmark here

Bashfully she admitted. So, I took my leave and waved goodbye. Mae-chan and Mihara-san still fought over that secret sketch as I left. I wondered what she could have been sketching still...Bookmark here

Once I got to the nurse's office I peeked in to see a few students with the voluptuous Taylor-sensei. She seemed to be treating a leg injury from a student in the track and field. From this angle her kindness truly shined.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Sensei!”Bookmark here

The girls cried as they rushed out of the room. With a lift of her shoulders, she took a deep breath and continued writing at her desk.Bookmark here

“…Ah, Sensei?”Bookmark here

“Eh?!”Bookmark here

Surprised she shot up to me. It was obvious she was invested in her work.Bookmark here

“Nakagawa-san! It’s so good to see you.”Bookmark here

I looked at her desk and it was full of papers with numbers and all kinds of advanced studies. It made my homework look like child’s play in comparison.Bookmark here

“Are you busy with work, Sensei?”Bookmark here

I questioned clearly knowing the answer. She gazed away slightly.Bookmark here

“Sorry…with school starting their finals and work being hectic I…haven’t had too much time, have I Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Oh…so you’re just busy with normal things?”Bookmark here

“It’s not easy getting into the medical field, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

She giggled to my own calm mind. It seemed as though Sophia-san and my previous worries were unfounded.Bookmark here

“Oh…I know. How about we do this?!”Bookmark here

She then took out her phone. That’s when it occurred to me that we…haven’t exchanged emails despite us being partners, have we?”Bookmark here

“Let’s chat tonight. When is a good time, Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Oh…maybe around 8 pm?”Bookmark here

“Sure, I would love that.”Bookmark here

Sensei's beautiful blonde hair washed over her face. She smiled brightly causing me to warm up. Now looking at her more as…a woman I started to see how attractive she really is. With the foreigner ambiance around her, there’s no way others won’t be attracted to her. I wonder if it is hard for Sophia-san to resist her sometimes? She is in no way unappealing to the eyes. She radiates from the morning to the afternoon with her calming expressions...Bookmark here

What am I doing? Is this me exploring my…sexuality now?Bookmark here

Well anyway, I’ll definitely talk to her about it tonight.Bookmark here

I…have so much to discuss with her, my partner.Bookmark here

Especially about Mari-san…and the chances that she…may still share my feelings.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.