Third and Final Time
I didn’t want to go to school.
I wanted to stay motionless on my bed, waiting for exhaustion to consume me, but I couldn’t do it.
I had to.
If I didn’t, I’d make my parents worry and that would make this pain even worse.
Maybe I’d start to feel numb as the day went on.
Maybe I’d never see him again.
I rushed to the bathroom and threw up again.
Just imagining him makes me like this.
It’s not him - it’s not the one I know.
It’s him before we ever met, before he became my boyfriend, my husband, my-
I rinsed out my mouth and took a few pills to help ease the stabbing pain in my stomach, though it didn’t do as much as I hoped it would.
“Have a good day, Akane.”
I could actually feel tears starting to well when my mum said that to me at the door.
“…You too, mum.”
When I got to the school gates, I found myself unable to move.
Something told me that if I took one more step forward, I’d regret it.
Cowardice - a slowly, all-consuming disgusting feeling that I could feel crawl up my throat.
You can’t let them know.
Just keep it inside, like you’ve always done.
You can do this, Akane.
When I got into the classroom, I put my headphones on and started reading.
I didn’t break my concentration even when one person, no idea who, waved their hand in front of the pages.
I just stayed there in my bubble, tuning reality out, until the time I saw our teacher come into the classroom.
This is fine - it’s just for now.
You’ll calm back down soon enough; just a few more hours until lunch and then you can be with Hinata and the others.
It’ll be fine.
I snuck to the bathroom during third period to take some more medicine. Just some over-the-counter pills I picked up on the way to school, though I struggled to swallow them.
Memories of the day before resurfaced in my mind and then I understood why.
My body was expecting me to vomit it all back up in this place.
Hopefully today wouldn’t be as bad as yesterday.
It couldn’t possibly be, I told myself.
When I walked past the mirror, I stopped and stared into my own eyes.
They were slightly red.
They were cold.
No, they were something else - something worse.
They were vacant.
It was like looking into a blackhole that threatened to swallow me whole.
I slapped my cheeks harshly.
The pain knocked me out of the spiral this time, though I didn’t know if it’d do it again.
I went back to the classroom and spent the rest of the time absentmindedly looking out of the window.
I want to go home.
“Hey, is everything okay, Akane?” Hinata whispered into my ear as we set up our tables for lunch.
“Really?” I nodded and didn’t look at her face. “You aren’t still feeling sick from yesterday?”
For the first time, I didn’t bother trying to talk to my friends at lunch.
It was just us girls again, though I did notice Rei walk by our table a few times more than usual.
He didn’t say anything, just a quick glance, and then he’d move right along.
For some reason, looking up at everyone else made me nauseous.
So, I ate in silence and, once I was done, I did something I’d never done before at school - I started texting my mother.
Unsurprisingly, my mother was confused.
When she asked if everything was okay, I said I was fine and that I just felt like talking to her.
And so, we chatted all through lunch.
At some point, I had zoned out from the rest of my classmates and gotten absorbed in my own little world, though I seem to remember a few times the girls called out to me.
“Is everything okay?”
That was the first thing my mum said when I got home.
“…I’m fine. Really.”
Please, don’t look at me like that.
It hurts me to see you worry about me like that.
I shouldn’t have texted her.
I should’ve just refused to spend lunch with Hinata and the girls or come up with some excuse for why I couldn’t today.
She hugged me.
“Hey, Akane. Did you know? That today’s the first day you’ve ever called me ‘mum’?”
Her grip tightened around me ever so slightly. “You’ve always called me mother, even when you were a little girl, and now.” She rubbed her face against my shoulder. “You changed how you called me, and then started texting me while you were at school. I-I’m worried about you.”
“Why?” She broke away from me a little and showed me a weak smile. “Because you’re my daughter.”
“No, not that. Why…could that tell you something was wrong?”
Her smile became a little bit brighter. “A mother can always tell.”
“M…um.” I sniffed as the dam holding back my emotions crumbled. “I-I…I’m sorry I worried you.”
“Don’t ever apologise for that!” She hugged me again and, this time, I held her back. “It’s a child’s job to worry a parent, and it’s the parent’s job to make them feel loved. Akane, no matter what happened, not matter what you do or where you go from here, I will always love you and be there for you.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but please, lean on your father and I a bit more. Please…don’t suffer alone.”
I spent the night with my parents watching TV in the living room.
We didn’t talk about why I was like this, but they took turns putting their arms around me, making sure I was never alone for too long.
Two little words made me feel so warm inside.
Was this the power of a parent?
I lightly grazed my fingers along my stomach.
Would I have been able to do that for them?
Unfortunately, my parent’s sanctuary wasn’t enough.
A week later and I hadn’t recovered from my initial shock of seeing Ryuuji again.
I still said next to nothing to the girls, I barely did anything but read and listen to music, and I ignored all the texts and calls I got from my friends.
It was painful, but it wouldn’t be as painful as telling them.
“Are you really sure you’re okay?”
“…I’m fine.” I forced myself to smile, though the girls’ expressions told me it wasn’t convincing.
“But you look so pale and you’ve barely-”
The mood turned sour because of me.
Sensing this, Inori took it upon herself to try and lighten the mood.
“Hey, maybe she’s just overwhelmed by all the hot guys that have come over to talk to us lately.”
I heard something snap inside of me.
I don’t know what, but it was something.
Actually, I remembered this feeling, and so did Hinata.
Maybe that’s why she reached out to me, to try and stop me before I exploded.
But she was too late.
“That’s not it.”
“H-hey, Akane. Let’s not do this-”
I batted Hinata’s hand away.
“Do you want to know why I’ve been like this, Inori? Or do you just want to make dumb jokes about my suffering?”
I could see the terror on Inori’s face, but I didn’t care.
I didn’t stop myself.
“You’re right - half right at least. The guys coming over has bothered me; no, that’s not it. That’s not it at all!”
All eyes in our class slowly drifted towards me.
“I’m sorry, Akane, I didn-”
Frustrated, I slammed my fist onto the table and leapt out of my seat. “I don’t see any of those guys like that at all! In fact, I don’t have a crush on a guy. I like a girl right now.” I laughed bitterly and covered my eyes so no one saw my tears. “I’m bi-sexual, Inori, and I struggle to be around guys because my last boyfriend was the biggest piece of shit in the whole world!
“Hey, Inori, do you know what it’s like to love someone from the bottom of your heart and not have them love you back? Do you know how painful it is when that person abandons you because he’s jealous of your ‘talents’? Do you know how suffocating it is to be asked what guys I think are hot when I don’t even want to think about men at all?!”
Oh God, I’m throwing it all away and over nothing.
I wept louder and stopped hiding my face.
Inori - that’s an expression I’ve never seen you make before.
It’s one I could only describe as regret because a strong enough word doesn’t exist.
It’s not your fault, I know that, as does everyone else, but you had to be there at the last moment to ignite the short fuse.
“Hey, Inori, tell me - am I weird for liking girls? Am I weird for not wanting to talk to guys? Am I weird because I like both?”
My knees gave out, though Hinata and Kana managed to grab and support me before I passed out. Slowly, they eased me back into my seat, gave me tissues and slowly rubbed my back, calming me down.
“She likes both?”
“She’s got a crush on a girl?”
I heard a few malicious chuckles from a few boys and some comments that made my skin crawl.
“Does that mean she’d be down for three ways?”
“Oh my god! That’d be so hot.”
I should’ve spoken to someone sooner about all this.
The rumours will spread, just like they did with the Ami incident.
Guys will look at me with lewd expressions.
Girls will stay away from me, asking me not to change with them.
And all because-
I shot up and saw Rei standing across from me, a small smile on his lips.
“I’m bi too, Akane.” He let out an awkward laugh and rubbed the back of his head. “I know what it’s like, you know, to have a crush on the same sex and not want to tell people.”
“Is that true?”
Hayato, Aki and…Ryuuji…were in the doorway, as were a lot of other students from different classes.
I wondered if someone went to get a teacher, or if they were already here.
“How long have you-?”
“Been or known?”
Hayato shrugged his shoulders. “Both?”
“For a few years now,” Rei admitted. “Probably since first year of middle school. I don’t remember when exactly, but, well…” He went a bit red. “I’ve had some crushes on some guys, then on some girls, and then I had some on both once.”
Something changed in the air around those three.
Without saying a word to each other, they all started smiling and then started asking, quite loudly, “Is it me?”
“No way it was you, Aki! It has to have been me, right?! I mean.” Hayato flicked his hair a little. “I’m clearly the most attractive.”
“I can safely say it was not Hayato.”
“What about me?!” Ryuuji joined in.
“You’re not my type.”
“It’s your face.”
Some of the onlookers had started to laugh at their exchange, but something else was happening beneath the surface.
Slowly, they were changing the heavy atmosphere in the classroom.
Were they…doing this for me?
There’s no way Ryuuji would-
“I like girls!”
Something more shocking that Ryuuji coming to my aid occurred.
Confidently, Ami, my old best friend, turned to face our class and put a hand to her chest.
“I’m gay. I’ve never had a crush on a guy before and I never will!” Her expression distorted as she scrunched up her eyes. “…I was always scared to tell people, especially my friends, because I didn’t want them to look at me differently. I was scared they’d reject me, say mean things about me, say I wasn’t normal or that I couldn’t be with them again because I might attack them.”
“Ami, we’d never-”
“I didn’t know that. No matter how much I’d want to believe that’s the truth, I’d never know until I came out to you guys. Honestly.” She lightly scratched her cheek. “I never thought I’d tell you guys, especially because.”
It was subtle, but I spotted it.
For less than a micro-second, Ami had looked my way.
“I didn’t want to lose you guys.”
“You’re very brave, Ami. In fact!” Hinata let go off me, put one foot on her chair and then declared, “I too am gay!”
“We know,” Inori and Kana said in perfect unison.
“Wait, you thought we didn’t know?”
“B-b-b-but I did such a good job at hiding it!”
“Hinata, when you invite us round your house for a sleepover and then spend a good five minutes staring at us after we change into our pyjamas, you aren’t hiding it.”
“Oh, actually, Kana…A-Akane, do you remember on the school trip when we all went to the public baths and she got really flustered?”
“Oh yeah, that did happen.” Kana giggled a little. “You said you were just embarrassed to go in with so many people, but we knew it’s because-”
“Don’t say anymore!”
Hinata put her hands over Kana’s mouth which drew more laughter from the class, and me.
“T-t-then!” Hinata thrust a finger at Inori’s face. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“Because it didn’t matter to us. You’re you, no matter who you like.”
“B-but, wouldn’t you be uncomfortable with hugging or-”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Why?” Inori honestly looked and sounded dumbfounded. “Because we’re friends. There’s nothing wrong with us hugging, holding hands or sleeping in the same bed just because you’re gay. You’re not going to attack me in my sleep, are you?”
“Of course not!”
“Exactly. That’s my point.”
Soon, the commotion in the classroom ended.
The boys who had made crude comments about me were not just shunned, but they were also called to the teacher’s office for a lecture at the end of the day.
In the end, a few teachers had rushed over to our classroom, praising those who came out for our courage and those who supported us.
There were still a few minutes left of lunch and I spent most of them crying tears of joy.
“Thank you, Hinata, Kana, Inori. …I’m sorry about before.”
“I’m sorry too.”
We hugged and I thanked Inori softly once more before we broke away.
“Thank you, Rei and…you guys.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Rei smiled. “I was just doing the right thing.”
“Even then, thank you.”
He nodded, then walked his friends back to their classroom. As they left, Aki, Hayato and Ryuuji all wished me well.
Then, I went to thank the last person I needed to.
“Thank you, Ami.”
It was the first time in a long time that we’d spoken and I hadn’t said anything to her in countless months.
We still didn’t make eye contact and we were no longer friends, but I felt happy to have her stand up for me.
Hey, Ami, do you think, if we hadn’t stopped being friends, we could’ve ended up together?
Because, at that time, I did like you that way.
I just…I just wish we could at least be friends now.
I prayed from the bottom of my heart that today was the first step towards rebuilding that bridge between us.