Third and Final Time
Four weeks had passed since Hinata became my girlfriend.
On the way home from the pool, we told Inori and Kana who congratulated us, but we asked them to keep it a secret for now.
More accurately, I did, and Hinata just accepted that.
“Why can’t we at least tell Rei?”
“…We can, just…not right now.”
My girlfriend smiled at me and kissed my cheek. “Okay, if that’s what you want.”
So, we kept our relationship a secret from everyone else.
Our classmates might have accepted us, but what would the rest of the school say?
What about our parents?
Hinata’s might be supportive, but I didn’t know if mine would be.
In my two previous lives, my parents thought I was straight.
They had been so supportive of me in all of my lives, yet I was still scared to tell them.
What if this was the one thing they could never support?
What if they called it unnatural or wrong?
I…don’t know if I’d ever be able to take that.
So, in public, we acted the same way we always had, and only unwinding when we were truly alone.
Every week, we had two sleepovers, one round mine and one round Hinata’s.
My parents were surprised, at first, that I had invited a friend around, but I played it off as we just always met up round other people’s houses.
Mum and Dad hit it off with Hinata almost immediately as they shared stories, many of them embarrassing. The worst instance was when my mum started taking out photo albums, including many from when I was very small.
Hinata kept screaming about how cute I was whilst I cringed in the corner, begging my dad to stop my mum.
Sadly, he refused with a gentle smile.
When summer vacation ended, one other thing had changed - we started hanging out with Rei and his friends more.
After talking it through with both Rei and Hinata, I said that I didn’t want to force a wedge between friends or have people make a fuss for me, so they both reluctantly agreed on a trial basis.
I imagine they thought I was pushing myself too hard to change, but I assured them this is what I wanted to do.
No longer would I be bound by the past.
I would make male friends.
So, we decided to test the waters.
Once a week, we would all hang out together after school.
It had to be on days where we weren’t at clubs and, thankfully, the archery club only met up three times a week; that’s why Hinata and I could continue our two weekly sleepovers even once we were back at school.
Everyone’s schedules allowed us to hang out on Thursdays only, which I was okay with.
I wanted to change, but I knew that it wouldn’t just happen with the snap of my fingers.
It’d take time and I’d have to slowly get used to being around boys again.
I had sort of gotten comfortable with Rei, though I preferred to speak to him with one of the girls at my side.
In fact, when our first afterschool hangout began, Hinata never once left my side.
She held my hand and/or arm tightly and refused to let me go.
Rei also kept giving me courteous glances to make sure I was feeling okay, but I couldn’t help feel a bit self-conscious about the whole thing.
I was happy to link arms with my girlfriend but having multiple people constantly looking out for me was really embarrassing, and it made me feel bad.
They were doing so much to make sure I was okay, and I couldn’t offer them much in return.
Well, not that I can talk.
My eyes kept finding themselves on someone the entire time - Ryuuji.
The Ryuuji before me - he wasn’t the one I’d know, a point I had hammered into myself multiple times before, yet it still didn’t sit properly.
After the volleyball game, I vowed to face him properly and that’s just what I’m going to do.
I made sure to share at least a few pleasantries with each of the boys, but I made an extra bit of effort with Ryuuji.
Whenever I saw him laugh or smile, I was reminded of who he used to be.
I was reminded of why I had fallen for him once before.
Of course, I didn’t feel those things in this life - I only loved Hinata and that would never change.
But, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to keep eye contact with Ryuuji.
I barely managed to with Hayato, Aki and Rei, but with Ryuuji it was impossible.
At one point, I felt so anxious that I almost ran away until Hinata held me back.
“Are you okay?”
When I didn’t answer, she asked, “Do you want to take a breather?”
“You guys go on ahead; we’re just going to the toilet.”
In reality, we found a vending machine, bought some drinks and sat on a bench for five minutes.
We didn’t say anything; we just held hands and drank.
Once we were done, we re-joined the group as if nothing had happened.
Rei did whisper to Hinata about something but I didn’t hear what they said.
Instead, I just continued to try and get along with everyone.
We didn’t do anything special that day - we just went to an arcade, window shopped and had a meal in a fast-food restaurant.
Then, we went home.
Though, before we left, Hinata and I snuck off to kiss a few times.
“I really don’t want to go home yet.”
We spent five minutes kissing and hugging in private before finally saying our goodbyes.
After all, tomorrow, we’d be together all day.
Hinata was coming to stay the night at my house after all.
Hinata giggled and snuggled her head against my shoulder. “Nothing.”
“Then why’d you say my name?”
“No reason…I just wanted to.”
“What’s with that?”
Hinata looked up into my eyes and beamed. “I don’t know why, but just saying your name makes me really happy.”
“…You’re an idiot.” I lightly chopped her head. She feigned agony and I kissed her head better.
It was almost midnight and, after hanging out all evening together, we decided to sleep in the same bed, cuddling.
We had slept in the same bed back when we were just friends, but it was the first time we’d ever been this intimate before in private.
It had been Hinata’s first time, though.
I winced a little and held her head against my breast.
It wasn’t mine.
Looking back, I don’t even remember who my first was.
I remember romance novels always described how beautiful and precious sharing your first time with someone was, and I managed to do that in two of my lives.
I just didn’t remember who I gave my first time in my lives to.
Honestly, it depressed me a little.
“…It’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Then, that’s good!”
She tightened her grip around my body and started laughing quietly.
Honestly, why is my girlfriend so cute?
How can being with someone else make me feel-?
“I wish this could last forever.”
“Ah, if only we could stay like this forever, or at least all day.” She shifted against my body to make herself more comfortable. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
I held her more firmly in my arms.
“Yeah, it would.”
Ignore it, Akane.
Ignore the burning agony of that thing.
Ignore it, and it won’t hurt so much.