We Are ☆ Star Club!
Even though the weekend had just started and I should be simply lazing around, I was up early. How could I not be? Today was the day of the summer festival, and my whole body was buzzing with excitement. I scraped together the money I had saved up for exactly this day, already imagining what I would buy with it. A day of bliss, fun and food stands, what more could I want?
Arisu, on the other hand, was still groggy. She came down from the shelf she had been sleeping on for the night, yawning and stretching. Sometimes, she behaved more like a cat than Lulu did.
"What are you so excited about?"
She looked at me through half-closed eyes, but her gaze was still intense.
"It's the summer festival today!"
I almost jumped up and down from excitement.
Apparently, my energy was contagious, as she also sounded awake and excited like this. Her eyes sparkled as she came closer.
"Wait, what does that even mean?"
I looked at her for a moment. She could be so funny. My grin grew bigger, and finally, I laughed.
"It means we'll have a good time today. There will be various stalls, we'll eat good food, and at night, watch the fireworks."
Arisu nodded with each word that I said.
"That sounds good! Especially the food part."
Apparently, just thinking about it made her smile. My first reaction was to sigh, but there was a slight smile on my face. I was happy that she loved human food so much. She hadn't eaten any more of my electronics. And apparently, ice cream was enough fuel for her to be high energy every day. I stood up, and could feel the weight of the money inside my purse. Most of it would be spent on food, I was sure.
"Somehow, I knew you would say that," I replied.
It was one of those days where time was different from usual. The day both flew by, and at the same time it took ages to get to the evening. I tried my best to prepare, and even managed to nap a little, so it would be easier to stay awake during the fireworks. Arisu joined me, probably not because of my genius plan, but because she could just sleep whenever she wanted. Not doing anything was nice, especially when there was something to look forward to. I could enjoy my time outside from school, and still have something to do.
School. Just thinking about it made me dread it. The festival would be a perfect way to make some wonderful memories before the summer break ended and we would see each other in the classroom, and not only our club. I got up. Thinking about it didn't do me any good. I should focus on the festival.
And for that, I opened my closet, picking out some cute clothes. Arisu saw what I was doing, and apparently consulted PURIRIN so she could have a new outfit, too. But even after she had changed, in bare seconds, she was looking at PURIRIN while I continued getting ready.
"I've researched what the 'fireworks' are," she finally said.
"Oh? They're pretty, right? I'm sure you'll love them," I replied, trying desperately not to smear the makeup I was putting on.
"But... you're building mini bombs that you shoot into the sky, correct?"
I looked at her and tilted my head. It was a funny way of describing fireworks.
"I guess you could say that. Pretty ones, though."
That was apparently everything she needed to hear. She jumped up and joined me in front of the mirror. While I was fighting my hair, desperately trying to braid it into something cute, she mostly put on more accessories. Her hair flowed excitedly around her, like it was doing a little dance. Was it a reflection of her inner state? I hoped so. I, at least, felt giddy. There would be so much food to try, things to win, and fireworks to see. Even though I didn't have that much money to spend, it would be enough for a memorable evening. But as we met with the other girls, we maybe could share, and, in turn, try out more things. Oh, and there was so much I wanted to try! It was hard for me to even picture all of the opportunities.
I started to daydream, and with that, the afternoon came sooner than I thought. Beforehand, our little club had agreed to meet just before the sun set, so we could both enjoy the colors of the sunset as well as a prime location for the fireworks. Arisu and I went out of the house. My parents were gone already, and it felt weird to be the last one to close the door behind me. Maybe I even felt a little hurt, too, that they didn't even say goodbye. I shook my head, forcing a smile. They probably just wanted some alone time. I was happy to spend the day with my friends, anyway.
Outside, Maria was already waiting, and waved at us. Her bright smile made me forget all of my worries, and I ran towards her.
We hugged, with such a force that we unintentionally did a little spin-dance. It made me laugh, and her, too. I guess we were just so excited for the festival. Arisu hugged her, too, and after we managed to detangle, she linked our arms together.
"Okay, what are we waiting for?"
She started to walk, and guided us through the town towards the festival, held near our big river, far away from the forest and hills. Here, it was usually cool, but tonight the riverside bustled with activity, and the air was warm thanks to the electrical lights,k the food stalls and all of the people enjoying the festival - including us. So many new things to experience, even though I had enjoyed the festival for so many years. For Arisu, on the other hand, it was all new. It looked like she was buzzing with electricity, her hand standing out in all directions, and she had a giant smile on her face.
"Here! Oh, look at that! Hey!"
She pointed out various things, tugging us along through the crowd. She stopped at one of the food stalls, where the air was heavy with sweet and salty aroma, and the people working behind the counter were smiling, even though it had to be very hot in there. They handed out big, soft dumpling to the customers, and I felt my mouth water just watching them.
"Can we eat this?" Arisu asked.
I went up to the counter and got a fresh, steaming dumpling filled with sweet meat and sharp onions. I turned around to Arisu, and she, without asking, bit off more than half of it at once.
She fanned air to her mouth, and I laughed.
"That's what you get."
But I quickly ate the rest, before she could get another bite in. The dumpling was as warm and sweet as the evening itself. But somehow, my hunger only grew, especially as I looked around all of the food stalls, tempting me and my wallet with sweet and savory treats. Being here felt like a dream. We went with the crowd, trying out the food and games. At one point, I held some chocolate-dipped fruits in one hand and an onigiri in the other, watching Arisu try out as many games as my remaining money allowed. She was incredibly skilled - or lucky (and honestly, how could she not be lucky with PURIRIN on her shoulder?) - and soon enough won a huge bear that she carried around while I held our food. Maria had found a plant lottery out of all things and now held a potted mini monstera plant in her arms.
Above us, the sky turned into a firework of colors: orange, purple and pink. It would be dark soon, but I was sure there would be no stars to be seen. The thought didn't bother me as much as it usually would. Instead, I was looking towards the fireworks. It seemed like a perfect evening for it: nice and warm, and no cloud in sight. I turned to the two girls.
"We should look for Erica and Pudding," Maria said, as if she read my thoughts.
"Yes, it's time I think."
I licked some chocolate off my fingers as Maria took out her phone.
"I'll message Erica. Maybe they already found a spot."
The blue light from her display mixes well with the yellow and pink lights from the stalls around us. It only took a few seconds for the twinkling noise of an incoming message.
"Ah, they've already sat down. Let's meet them there."
I nodded, still struggling with eating and walking at the same time, but I managed to follow both Maria and Arisu. It wasn't that difficult - I just had to look out for the giant yellow bear. We went away from the festival itself, but stayed close to the river. The water beside me was cool, and little insects danced over the reflections of the street lamps on the water. The chaos of the festival turned into pleasant background noise while we focused on walking towards the right spot. The sky turned darker and darker with each step that we took, and the air got colder, too. I wasn't cold, but still glad that I could put on my cardigan after I finished the last treat. With all of the food that I ate, I was still warm, but I was sure that once we sat down to enjoy the fireworks, the cold would settle in.
Maria pointed out Erica, who waved at us with strong, energetic moves. We ran the last few steps, and sat down on her picnic blanket. Pudding just ate the last of their snacks, but by now I was so full that I didn't want to eat anything else. Arisu and Maria were the same. While Arisu snuggled against her bear, I made myself comfortable in the middle of the blanket, pulling my knees towards my body. From here, the festival was barely visible, even though the contrast between the dark and the artificial lights was greater now. The river itself was dark, just like the sky above us. Still, there were no clouds.
"So, when are the fireworks going to start?" asked Arisu.
She was playing with the bear, but even so, she sounded a bit bored. Maybe she had already forgotten how cool she found the fireworks this morning. Or maybe, she simply missed the chaos of the festival. Whatever it was, I shrugged, a little smile on my face.
"It'll only take a few more minutes."
I looked around. Others were sitting down around us, also trying to find a good spot. Still, to me it seemed like we had the perfect one. Close to the river but not too close, and big enough that we all could sit without it feeling cramped. But the more people came here, the noisier it became. It didn't bother us much, as we all looked into the sky in silent anticipation.
Then, I heard the squeaking sound of the first firework getting launched into the air.
I looked up, trying to see where it would bloom, and soon enough, there was a golden flower raining down from the sky on the other side of the river. The light glittered on the reflection of the water, and it almost seemed like twice the firework concert.
The light illuminated my friends, and I saw Arisu with a stunned expression on her face.
I understood her, as experiencing the fireworks was completely different from reading about it on the internet. So I tried to hold back a laugh, and simply smiled at her.
"See? It's beautiful, isn't it?"
She slowly nodded.
She didn't blink, as if she forgot how to, or maybe she just didn't want to miss a single moment of it all. The sky was painted with lights of all colors, gold raining from the sky and blooming flowers. I looked both at the show on the sky, but also my friends, illuminated by the lights. I liked looking at them just as much, with the fireworks reflected in their eyes, appreciation of the beauty painted on their faces. My gaze went from them back to the fireworks, and I could not stop smiling.
The river glittered, making an imperfect, but beautiful copy of the sky on its surface. The chatter around us had died down, and the people were watching the spectacle in stunned silence. I was so glad I could experience this day with my friends. What better way to end an already perfect day was there? I smiled.
"I'm so glad we're here together."
I didn't care if they heard me or not. The warm feeling of it all still clung to me, long after the fireworks had stopped and we were heading back home. The breeze was colder now, a promise of fall, soon to come. I welcomed it, after such a wonderful season.