Third and Final Time
6 weeks passed by at a painfully fast pace.
Usually, the new school year would pass slowly - at least, it did during my first two lives.
Now, though, it goes by too quickly.
A few things had changed during that time, but I was still alone in my class.
I could speak to them about a few mundane things and that was it.
I made a handful of acquaintances at my club, though I don’t know if I’d call us friends yet.
We can talk quite happily about our club, training, classes and what we do outside of school, but not much else.
A few of them said I was quite fashionable or had good taste in clothes and bags, but I just thought it was normal. When I said that, a few of them smiled warmly at me, though I don’t know why.
Did I say something strange perhaps?
Whatever the case, I had a small social life and I was grateful for it.
I shut my bedroom door and collapsed onto the ground, a great, cold weight pulling down on my heart.
My depression grew worse.
I couldn’t let myself exist in this world alone or else I’d suffocate.
I quickly turned on my laptop, put my headphones on and started studying as hard as I could.
Most of it I remembered from my previous lives, but it never hurt to refresh that knowledge every so often, and it helped put my mind on other things.
It wasn’t a pleasant or painful feeling - rather, it was that lack of feeling that I longed for.
It wasn’t warm or cold; it was simply nothing.
Recently, the pain had gotten worse and I’d started a new pattern before going to sleep; first, I would do some yoga, then I would meditate, before finally listening to some relaxing sounds on my headphones.
ASMR, I believe it’s called, helped send me to sleep much quicker and it meant I’d escape my everyday life that much quicker.
When I thought about it like that, I felt even more depressed.
I wasn’t trying to change myself, was I?
No, I was running away from everything because I’d convinced myself that nothing would change in this life.
I’d had setbacks in my two previous lives but kept going, except I couldn’t do it this time.
Why was that?
When I woke up the next day, I repeated my goals for high school three times to myself, and resolved myself once more to attempt them.
Step one to bring that plan to fruition was simple - talk to another classmate.
This, thankfully, would be easier today.
Today, we were meant to sort out our groups for our school’s trip to Kyoto and, naturally, that would mean I’d have 3 days and 2 nights to spend bonding with my classmates.
It was a valuable chance and one that I had fewer opportunities to leap at.
When I went downstairs, I found my parents eating breakfast, smiling happily; out of the corner of my eye, I could see many stacked cardboard boxes in the living room.
Yes, we were moving.
Not out of Tokyo, mind you, just a bit closer to school and into a much bigger and nicer house.
Because I mentioned the winning lottery numbers to my mother in passing.
From my previous two lives, there were some things that always stuck out to me more than others, and a particular lottery from about three months ago was one I always remembered.
The reason was simple - the winning numbers were the one’s my mother always picked.
When I told her to definitely get a ticket for the jackpot prize of 2 billion yen, she wasn’t even surprised.
Instead, she smiled warmly and said, “Sure.”
That week, we won the lottery and, needless to say, my parents were over the moon.
My mother thanked me so much for telling her to play, though I shrugged it off and said it was just a gut feeling I had.
Strange - even after all these years and in this third loop, my mother always accepts whatever I say with a gentle smile.
I used to hate that so much, but now it’s one of my favourite things in the whole world.
My classmates, thankfully, didn’t seem to know my family had won.
I can say that confidently because no one started cosying up to me all of a sudden, trying to be my friend nor did anyone try to bully me for my lunch money.
A small comfort.
“You’re up early. Is everything okay?”
My mother’s soft voice brought me back to reality. I smiled and said, “It’s nothing. What day are the movers coming?”
“Oh, they’ll be coming when you’re on your school trip. Your mother and I can handle the heavy lifting on our own, I assure you.”
That’s not what I was afraid off.
There were a few things different from my past lives in this loop, but this had to be the biggest one to me.
The overwhelming protectiveness I possessed for my parents.
I had lived through their deaths once and ignored their love and affections too much in my second; I had a good relationship with my family for once, and I didn’t want it to shatter.
What if, my mind asked me every night, I go to Kyoto and they get into an accident?
What if someone malicious discovers that they won the lottery and try to rob them?
What if I’ll have to spend my final life without my parents?
I had cried many nights over those questions and, one time, my mother caught me weeping.
I had never seen her look so depressed in my whole life.
She held me, comforted me, rubbed my back and asked me what was wrong - when I didn’t say anything, she just kept holding me and that made me cry even more.
What if that was the last time I’d hug my mother?
I was lucky enough to be able to see them again after their deaths in my first life; this was a blessing and I was always afraid it’d get stolen from me.
Still, I hid my true feelings away deep within me.
I didn’t want to betray their love ever again.
So, I didn’t show my concern to them and never told them how anxious I was every time I went to bed.
This was fine, I told myself.
This was fine.
Once again, I had made one miscalculation about high schoolers.
When it comes to class trips, people don’t discuss these sorts of things on the day it’s officially announced; they discuss it for days or weeks prior.
Groups had formed without my knowledge and I was alone, for now.
Statistically speaking, I had to end up in a group because there was no other choice.
Each group’s limit was 5 people and there were 40 students, so 8 groups in total.
No matter what, I’d either join a group or be assigned to one.
Ideally, I’d want to be in a group of only girls.
The scars he left still hurt and I’ve often struggled to talk to boys my age.
A few did try to talk to me and chat me up, but I was definitely too awkward for them to handle, no doubt about it.
Whatever. It was much better this way.
However, would any of the girl only groups want me?
From what I remember, teenage girls form small groups or clicks pretty quickly and are pretty fragile overall. I’d seen many friendships end over the most trivial of things in my two previous lives, though none of that knowledge would help me in this life.
The butterfly effect is a powerful thing and it had echoed to today quite strongly - the class register had changed dramatically from my other lives, and thus so would the friendship groups.
Worse, our teacher had fully left it up to us students to decide who makes up what groups and I feared that I could end up with Ami’s by default.
I glanced over at their group and noticed that they were two members short, and trying to figure out who to invite.
If no one else joined them, then there’s a chance I could be sorted into that group.
I didn’t want that - Ami and the others would be happier without me there.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt though.
If it hadn’t been for that incident, I would’ve already been in that group, wouldn’t I?
Hahaha, it’s pathetic, isn’t it?
If I hadn’t tried to save Ami that day, I could’ve stayed in that group with my friends.
…I want to go home.
I want to cry.
I want to see my mother.
“Um, Akane…can I ask you something?”
I use all the strength I have to hold back my tears, before looking up at a girl smiling a little awkwardly at me.
She has short-cut brown hair, big hazel eyes and a very cute face.
I struggled to remember her name, but nodded at her question.
“Um…would you like…to join our group for the field trip?”
I don’t know what kind of expression I made, but I yelled much more loudly than I intended to.