Somehow, I fell in Love With My School's Biggest Gal!
“Hurry up! Hurry up!” Aki complained, jumping up and down impatiently as she waited for Sora to put his bag in one of the lockers.
“I’m coming, I’m coming! Cool it!” He snapped back, setting the combination on the lock.
The two were meeting Ichigo, Rina, and Mitsu-San at the city pool to get ready for an up-coming swim test in gym class. The pool was always deader than dead on Wednesdays, so they’d have it all to themselves.
“Okay! Lets go!” Aki cheerfully grabbed his arm as soon as he was done.
“U-u-u-u-u-u-u-uuh!” Sora stuttered
Aki looked hot in her form-fitting blue school-issue swimsuit! ‘Boobs!’ He thought as Aki’s chest bounced gratuitously with each move she made. ‘C-calm down! It’s not nice to think perverted things about anyone! Besides, it’s not her fault that she has a big chest and curves! You can’t choose your body or your biological make-up! She’s probably had enough gross guys leering at her already for a lifetime! She doesn’t need her friends doing it, too!’
“I-I like your hair, Aki-San.” He said to calm himself and refocus his attention. He meant it, too. She’d put her hair up into two long twin-tails with navy scrunchies, and it made her look young and cute.
“Really? She beamed, playfully putting her thumb on the side of her mouth and smiling playfully. “Grandma says that I look immature with my hair like this. ‘A young lady wears her hair up in a ponytail or not at all’, she says.”
“No, I think that she’s wrong.” Sora said as they walked down the winding path that led to the pool. “It’s really cute that way. You should wear it like that more often.”
“Th-thanks.” Aki blushed shyly. Sora gave her a wide grin.
“Hey, love-birds! What took you so dang long?” Ichigo screamed from her spot by the pool gate.
“Shut up, idiot!” Sora yelled back at her. All Ichigo ever seemed to do was tease him and Aki about being in love. From how he saw it, though, she seemed to do it because she knew it would piss him off and only half-heartedly believed what came out of her mouth.
“Aki-Chaaaaaan!” Rina yelled excitedly, jumping into the air and waving her arms wildly. “Sora-Chaaaaaaan!”
Mitsu-San sat quietly on a bench reading a book.
“Hey, guys! We’re here! No thanks to this guy!” Aki jabbed at his arm. “For a guy who just had to change into swim shorts, he sure takes forever to get ready!”
“Oh, shut it, person who took twenty years to get all her stuff together to leave!” Sora shot back. “Do you know how awkward it was sitting on your porch waiting?”
“I told you that you could come in, you know!”
“well, maybe I didn’t want to awkwardly sit and have your grandma interrogate me and wonder if we're dating, you dummy!”
“But we’re best friends, so you’ll have to met her at some point! I already met your dad, you know! So it's only fair-!”
“…Could you two please quit arguing like an old couple, please? It’s so annoying.” Mitsu-San asked from her bench, not bothering to look up.
Sora sweated. “Y-yeah, Mitsu-San…sorry about that…” He appoligized.
“Well, you snails, shall we get goin’? The water’s calling!” Ichigo asked, throwing her arm around Aki’s shoulders.
“Yeah! Let’s go!” “Well, finally!” Mitsu-San exclaimed, putting her book away and standing up. “I was ready to go get in without you all!”
Sora blinked. “You…like swimming, Mitsu-San?” He asked.
“Yes! I love swimming! It’s my favorite sport! I like gym class, but swimming is my favorite! I'm going to try out to the swim team once I'm in 7th grade! Would you believe that they have a foolish grade-level requirement on some of the sports? ” Mitsu-San ranted, with something like a slight smile on her face.
As the group continued down the winding hill to the pool after passing through the gate, Sora mulled over his surprise. Mitsu-San was usually so calm and reserved; this is the first time that he saw her so excited. ‘Heh! I supposed everyone has something that makes them happy, even people like Mitsu-San!’
“Why are there so many steps?” Whined Rina as the group made their way down the steps. The city pool was situated at the bottom of a small hill overlooking the sea and the shoreline of the opposite side of Akiharra City. The changing areas were at the top of the hill, then you had to travel down the hill and pass through the gate surrounding the area. Then, you had to continue down the winding path cut into the side of the hills. It was a strange arrangement, but it had a beautiful view.
“Oh, cut the crap, Rina!” Ichigo rolled her eyes. “If you hate it now, you are not going to like it when we have come up later!”
“Hey, hey! Calm down, guys! We’re nearly to the bottom!” Aki intervened, smoothing things over.
“Yay!” Rina cheered as they all reached the end of the steps and stepped onto the pool deck.
“Woah!” The group stared in awe at the beauty of the view from the hills. The sun sparkled perfectly across the sea and reflected across the surfaces of the buildings across the bay. The trees were green and perfect and even the chlorinated water of the large pool looked beautiful and inviting.
“The pool!” The four girls jumped in joy, their eyes swelling to the size of plates. Sora sweated awkwardly behind them.
“uhh…you guys are far too excited over a boring public pool!”
“Shut up and stop killing the moment!” The girls screamed in furry back at him.
“Sor-ry!” Sora put his hands up in defeat, rolling his eyes.
“First one in gets to buy ice cream!” Ichigo laughed, shooting off towards the pool.
“Uhh…You do know that you just said that you’re buying, right?” Mitsu-San called after her in confusion. Turning red, Ichigo skidded to a stop and swiveled around.
“Oh shut-up! You know what I mean! He who loses is the one who buys!” She turned, laughing, as she resumed her sprint. “And it’s not gonna be me!” “
"H-h-hey! I don’t have much money with me, Ichigo-Chan!” Aki protested, chasing her friend.
“You snooze, you lose! Get there quick, and you’ll be off the hook!”
“I’m going to beat you!” Rina sing-songed as she skipped off.
With the discipline of a runner, Mitsu-San took off after the others, surprising Sora with how fast she was.
Suddenly, he realized that he was the one who would be paying and shot across the pool deck.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Ichigo screamed like she was being murdered, launching herself into the water in an epic cannonball that drenched her four friends.
“You moron!” Mitsu-San snapped, wringing out her long braid.
“Aww! Chill out!” Ichigo flashed her friend a pair of cheesy peace signs. “You’re going to get wet anyway, you know! What’s the difference?”
Sora stood with his hands on his knees, panting hard. He wasn’t used to running so much! He didn’t even put in that sort of effort in gym class! Well, getting dragged and shoved around was quickly becoming a normal thing with his friends!
“Hey, Sora, you lost!” Aki giggled. “Guess you’re buying us all ice cream after this!” Sora groaned loudly.
“Are you all getting in or not?” Mistsu-San asked. While everyone else was occupied with arguing, she had went to the aluminum ladder and was sitting on the top rung, up to her knees in the water.
“Coming, Mitsu-San!” Aki called cheerfully as she sat on the side of the pool and gradually lowered herself in. Rina jumped in but, unlike Ichigo, she barely made a splash because she was so tiny. It was like the water just gently absorbed her. Sora didn’t want to make a fool out of himself, so he took a page from Mitsu-san’s book and just used the ladder.
“BWWAAAAAA!” Ichigo screamed, popping up from under the water and grabbing Sora. His heart jumped up into his throat.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Sora panicked. “Jesus, Ichigo! Just knock it off already! God, you’re going to kill me one of these days!”
“Hahahah! You should have seen the look on your face!” Ichigo collapsed into hysterics.
“Okay, so are we ‘gonna get started?” Aki suggested.
Sora gave an inward groan. He’d tried to put the fact that this was an athletic practice situation and not just swimming for fun with friends out of his mind. But it was now unavoidable.
“Yeah…let’s get this over with.” He deadpanned.
“Bring it on!” Ichigo threatened.
“Yes.” Mitsu-San replied seriously as she tightened the hair tie around her braid.
“Yep!” Rina chirped.
“Okay, everyone pick a lane!” the five all chose one of the lanes etched into the tile at the bottom of the pool.
“So, how are we doing this?” Mitsu-San asked.
“Hmmm…Let’s warm up first. Pick whichever stroke you want. The winner is the first person to swim to the opposite end and back.” Aki decided.
“But why only one lap?” Ichigo asked, flipping her wet hair over her shoulder. “That doesn’t sound like that much of a challenge. Bor-ring!”
“It’s a warm up, Ichigo-Chan.” Aki rolled her eyes as she stretched her arms above her head. “It’s not supposed to be an actually challenge. It’s like an appetizer.”
“Okay, everyone, let’s get ready!” Ichigo said, taking her position.
Sora quickly panicked and took a starting position. He supposed he was just going to go with a classic breast stroke. He honestly couldn’t remember all the strokes they were supposed to know for the test. He hated gym class, so he never really paid attention to what was going on in it. “3,2,1,Go!” Aki screamed. All five shot off.
‘Okay. Keep your breath steady. Keep your pace constant. Don’t waste all your energy until the end.' Sora instructed himself.
“Haha! You snooze, you lose, sucker!” Ichigo snarked as she casually back-stroked past him on his left. Sora glanced to his right and saw Mitsu-San passing him, her butterfly-stroke calm and steady.
On the other side of Ichigo, Rina was dog-paddling. She was making great progress for someone who was using a fake stroke meant for children who could barely swim. Still, her movements were choppy, and it was clear that, even with as much energy as she had, she lacked endurance.
Next to her, Aki was swimming as hard as she could, her butterfly stroke fast, yet steady and consistent. Sora was surprised that she was so athletic. She seemed more like a social person than an athlete or an academic.
As Sora swam hard, now in. 4th place, he had a sudden flash of the memory of a bunch of the boys gawking and leering at her as she ran laps. The school made all the girls wear bloomer gym-shorts and the boys tight track-style shorts. Pretty much any standard school uniform was tight and clingy on Aki’s chest and short in the waist, so you could imagine the attention it attacked. All the boys either crudely heckled her and stared at her in transfixion, or couldn’t even look at or talk to her out of embarrassment. Most of the girls treated her like a bimbo out to steal all the boys away from them or avoided her because her curves and breast size made them feel self-conscious. He himself had sat with his three mocking friends, refusing to even look at her because he was ashamed to look at a girl who was so shameless.
He supposed that this was just another way that she had been unfairly labeled and shoved into a box. No one saw her abilities; no one recognized her talents and interests. She was treated as though she was just her blond hair, tight clothes, and boob size. Other than the other three girls, no one had really ever actually saw Aki. No one saw her as Aki Asagi, they all just saw her as the top gal of Akiharra City Middle School. They didn't see her otaku interests, he energy and excitement for life, or her love for sweets; she was defined by her body, even though she had no control over it and wasn't trying to seduce anyone or draw attention to herself.
Sora returned to his starting point just after Ichigo and Mitsu-San, who had arrived at exactly the same time, behind Aki. Rina lagged a few feet behind him.
“Urg!” Ichigo glared at Mistu-San as she floated in the water. “I’m the athletic and lively rock-girl of our group! You’re the smart and perfect young-lady-type! How come we keep tying every time laps are involved? You’re taking my place and it’s not fair!”
Mitsu-San smirked. “Well, I am the perfect-student-type, after all! That includes surpassing everyone in physical education class! Which start student doesn’t run track? It’s the oldest trick in the book for making yourself look cool and successful!”
“I win! I win!” Aki jumped up and down in the water.
“Urgh, you’re splashing water in my eyes, Aki-Chan!” Ichigo complained. “You need to chill out! ”
Aki playfully smirked. “Oh sorry! …That I only got your eyes!” She violently splashed the water, causing a virtual tidal-wave to knock Rina over and drenching Ichigo even further.
“Oh, it’s on!” Ichigo screamed as the two began splashing hard. Rina awkwardly paddled out of the way of their fight.
“Oh, dear. Those two idiots are at it again.” Mitsu-San casually complained, adjusting her goggles. She brought swim goggles and a swim cap, going the whole way with her school swim outfit. She didn’t seem angry, though, just cheerfully tranquil, the closest thing to happy that the girl could get.
Sora smiled to himself, glad that his friends had managed to make physical activity fun.
* * *
“Hey! Hey! Hit it over here!” Ichigo happily waved her arms and legs in the air from her perch on the diving board. She, Aki, and Rina had made a large triangle across the pool and were hitting a volley-ball around. Mitsu-San was laying out on a lounge chair with her eyes closed, but awake, listening to an audio book through her earbuds. Sora was sitting on the edge of the pool with his feet in the water watching the three hit the ball around.
He leaned back and looked at the slowly setting sun. Surprisingly, he had truly enjoyed himself. He hadn’t thought that he would have fun swimming laps, but they’d managed to make a competition out of it. He had consistently come in third or fourth. He’d been unable to beat Aki or Mitsu-San, but Ichigo wasn’t super consistent; she’d just barely come in first just as she barely managed to come in fourth. Rina had mostly been last, but she still seemed to have enjoyed herself. He wondered if Rina was just not athletic or if she had some sort of health problem?
Despite supposedly being a training session for gym class, swimming laps had been just as lively a contest as his and Aki’s dance battle on the day they met. There had been a lot of playful taunts, shoving, wrestling, and splashing. Even Mitsu-San seemed fuller of life and less dour! If only actual gym class was this fun and carefree! And he managed to place 3rd or 4th in class! He definitely was not destined to become an Olympic athlete!
“Incoming!” Ichigo screamed, bouncing up off the diving board to set the ball back to Aki. “Oh, fudge!” She panicked, having leaned forward too far to lad back on the diving board; missing the ball and falling head first into the pool. “
BWAHA!” Aki and Rina doubled over in laughter.
“Shut up, you damn jerks!” Ichigo popped out of the water and pointed at them accusingly. Sora covered his chuckle with his hand.
Suddenly, watching an angry Ichigo screaming and thrashing around reminded Sora of his childhood with Ryo, En-Kun, and Mirho.
* * *
“Yay! Lets go!” Eight-year-old Mirho, Ryo, and En all ran forward towards the pool while Sora hovered hesitantly by the fence.
“Sora-Kun?” Ryo paused and turned around, looking questioningly at Sora. “Are you okay? Aren’t you coming?”
“Ummm…” Sora stared at the ground, curling and uncurling his toes. “I-I can’t really swim well.” He said softly. “I’m-I’m scared of drowning. And…if I don’t…swim well...or get in...” he looked at the other two boys as they took jumping positions at the side of the pool.
“They’d make fun of me ‘cause I’m such a bad swimmer.”
“Oh, for the love of all stupidity!” Ryo rolled his eyes and marched back to Sora. Roughly grabbing his friend’s hand, he looked him in the eyes.
“So what if they make fun of you? They’re only two people!” He started dragging Sora towards the pool. “They don’t own you and they can’t make you be someone you’re not. You can’t swim, big deal! It’s not the end of the world!”
“But-I-!” Sora sputtered.
“Oh, shut up!” Ryo snarled. “Quit worrying! You’re my best friend! I won’t let anyone bully you! I won’t let them laugh at you! Just do your best and have fun, Okay?” Ryo turned and gave Sora a wide, happy grin.
“That’s why we’re here! Enjoying yourself isn’t a competition to see who can do better, you know!"
* * *
Sora half-heartedly shoved his change in the vending machine slot.
“You’re my best friend! I won’t let anyone bully you! I won’t let them laugh at you! Just do your best and have fun, okay?”
“I don’t have any interest in talking to someone who’s willing to abandon his friends just to get into some skank’s pants…. I honestly thought I knew you better than that…Please! Just shut up and go away!”
‘Ryo-Kun…why? You promised…not believe any lies they told about me…to not bully me or laugh at me. So… why? Why did you turn your back on me? Why did you choose them over me? Why didn’t you at least listen to my story? Eight years of friendship…calling me your best friend…did you really not trust me at all in all that time? I thought I knew you better than that, Ryo. I though…you knew me better, too.’ Sora thought sadly as his fingers drifted over the option buttons.
After what Ryo had done to protect Aki and him the other day, Sora had been left utterly confused by his former friend’s actions. He still felt betrayed by Ryo for how he had turned on him so easily, just because he befriended a girl! Yet at the same time, he couldn’t understand why Ryo had saved them. Was his friend’s conscious still functioning? It seemed to be, as he had specifically said that he found it repulsive to attack innocent people, even if he didn’t particularly like them. He still didn’t understand how, after seeming to betray him and chose the other two boys over him, Ryo could then turn right back around and chose him over them. Well, not that it mattered. It likely wasn’t going to change the fact that he was a social outcast, unwanted by his childhood friends.
“Sora-Chan?” Rina blinked up at him.
“Uhh…” He stared blankly down at her for a moment.
“Aren’t you going to pick something?” She asked pointing at the vending machine.
“O-oh! Yeah! Sorry I spaced out like that!” He apologized embarrassedly. He glanced at the options. He’d decided to buy ice-cream from novelty ice-treat machine. It fit the mood and the options looked good, but he had no clue what to chose.
“Gwaaaa!” Rina drooled longingly at the machine. He followed her gaze.
“Neapolitan, chocolate-dipped ice-cream bar with strawberry slices set in the dip?” He smiled down at the younger girl.
“You want that, Rina-Chan?”
She nodded rapidly. Aki padded over to them. “What are you guys up to?” She bent with her hands on her knees and studied the lower menu options. “Getting ice-cream?”
“Uh-yeah.” Sora fumbled, pressing C6. As he bent to retrieve the treat, Aki studied the options.
“Mmm, these look really good!” She licked her lips.
Sora retrieved the ice-cream from the hatch. Grabbing it by the stick, he pulled the wrapper off and held it out or, rather, down, to Rina.
“Here you go, Rina-Chan. This is yours.”
“Really?” Her eyes went wide.
“Yeah. Go ahead, it’s yours.”
“Yay!” Rina giggled, accepting the treat with the glee and demeanor of a toddler.
“That was really nice of you, Sora-Kun!” Aki smiled at him. Sora flushed at the compliment.
“I-it’s nothing!” He turned quickly to the machine and loaded more coins. “What do you want, Aki-Chan?”
“Me?” She pointed at herself.
“Yeah, you!” He confirmed.
“Really? Are you sure? I mean, I have my own money!” Aki protested.
“Yeah! I’m good on money right now and it’s just something I want to do for you guys. Besides, I lost, right? You did say that I had to buy everyone ice-cream.”
“I wasn’t being serious! You don’t actually have to do it!” She protested.
“I want to. Come on, let me be nice for once! What do you want?” He insisted.
“Well…I think this looks good.” She pointed at the cool mint-chip ice-cream bar with chocolate crumbles at it's bottom.
“Okay B2 it is. Hey, Ichigo! Mitsu-San!” He yelled over his shoulder. “What ice-cream do you guys like?”
“Oh, geez, Ichigo!” Sora panicked as she popped up behind his and Aki’s shoulders out of nowhere, pondering her options.
“I’ll take the flaming Chili-mango ice-cream cup with the sweet-and-spicy-covered spoon!” Ichigo said enthusiastically , quickly making up her mind.
“Ugh. You sure have weird tastes, Ichigo.” Sora blanched.
“Mitsu-San, you want anything?” Sora asked as the serious girl approached
“Yes. I’ll just have a regular chocolate-dipped vanilla cone.”
“Oh, come one, Mitsu-San!” Ichigo threw her arm around the other girl’s shoulders. “Don’t be so boring!” “
I like what I like, alright? It’s what I want, so please quit it already.” Mitsu demanded in exasperation.
Sora browsed the options, finally setting on green tea soft-serve in a waffle cone. He knew that it was going to be a knock-off of soft-serve, since it was pre-made and frozen, but he favored matcha flavors and it sounded pretty refreshing right now.
They had all unwrapped their ice creams and were starting to eat them when Aki suddenly said “Hey, we should take a picture!” She said, whipping out her cellphone.
“W-haaaa!” Sora cried as the girls all squished in.
"Stand next to me, Sora!” Aki said, reaching out and looping her arm around his shoulder.
"O-okay, Aki-Chan.” Sora agree hesitantly, looping his arm around her shoulders. A shy grin came across his face. He really was lucky! This was kind of awkward, but fun, too! So, this is what he had missed out during all his years of being socially isolated.
Finally everyone was in position. Aki was somehow holding her phone in selfie-mode above the group while also having her ice-cream in the same hand.
Her other arm was around Sora. He held his ice-cream with his right hand and had his left around Aki’s shoulders. The two cheerfully pressed their heads together. In front of them, Rina held her ice cream with both hands. Her mouth was around the treat, sucking on in, but her big, joyful eyes smiled gently at the camera in place of her mouth. Ichigo held her ice cream cup at chest-level with one hand, while her hand holding the spoon was to her forehead in a playful salute. She had her tongue stuck out and one eye closed in a cheeky expression. Mitsu-San stood behind them, as calm and cool as ever. Her left side was facing the camera. She held her cone in her left hand, her right hand engaged in her habitual action of pushing her glasses up with her middle and pointer fingers.
“I love it, it’s so cute!” Aki squealed in joy as they all huddled around the phone to see how it turned out. Sora really liked it. Aki was right, it was cute! It fit their group’s collective and individual personalities perfectly!
“Hey, are you guys alright with me posting this on twitter?” Aki asked. Everyone nodded or voiced their consent. “ Okay. It’s uploaded!” Aki announced victoriously as she finished tapping on her phone.
Sora smiled to himself as they all wandered back to gather up their things. This was a really amazing day with his friends! Actually, he was glad Aki had posted the picture online. When he got home, he was going to print out a physical copy to put on his desk as a happy reminder of his friends and all the good things that had been happening in his life lately.
* * *
*Sora Kusagi just posted*
Ryo, laying on his side on his bed with his phone-arm sticking out, scrolled up.
*Amazing day with some amazing friends! So grateful to have meet them all!*
Ryo, his eyes tired and swollen stared at the picture. His sight zeroed in on Sora and Aki Asagi. The two looked really happy with their arms around each other and their faces pressed close to each other. They looked…comfortable, sure of themselves. Confident, not just in their relationship and trust of each other, but their own actions and bearing.
Ryo let the phone slip through his fingers and fall to the floor. Sora looked really happy, like Ryo had never seen before. His smile was a mile wide, a stark contrast to the passive boy he was used to. And his friend’s eyes…they sparkled. Well, not literally, but there was something there, something highly expressive. Ryo could tell that Sora was full of joy and life. He looked...alive, like he was living with a purpose.
It felt like someone was shoving a sharp icicle under his ribs.
‘I’m glad…that you don’t feel any guilt about how you live your life, Sora-Kun. That you aren’t scared to change.’ Ryo thought, curling up tightly into the fetal position, clutching his pillow to his chest.
‘You have good friends now. You look happy. I’m…I’m glad for you. Neither of you look permanently hurt. Assagi-San doesn't seem scared or scarred by the beating she had suffered. The other girls seem pretty nice, too. Nothing like En-Kun and Mirho.’ His eyes fluttered close.
‘Amazing friends, huh?’ He breathed deeply. 'I'm glad, but...now you have something that I'll never be able to have.'
‘It…was worth it...fighting for you two...it's the one thing I’ll never regret. But now…I’m alone. There’s no one here for me. I’m glad you got away from them. I wish…that I’d been able to do that. But it’s too late. Now, all I can do is sit alone in the dark and carry this guilt that will never disappear. Everyone thinks I'm so fearless...but I'm really not. I'm the idiot, not you, Sora. Being alone now...after how I treated you and what I did to Assagi-San...I don't deserve to have friends. I deserve to feel like this.' He drifted off to sleep.
‘You were right. I was stupid. So, so, unforgivably stupid.’