Inside the stillness of the room, the two of us are huddled together still, beneath the moonlight.
"Does Mayu know about your past too?"
Ayase decides to break the silence.
"Not everything. Only that I got into a fight with a bunch of friends and I just didn't want to deal with people anymore."
"While I'm honored to be the first to know, that's extremely vague." She shakes her head, and like Mayu 2.0, pulls something out of thin ear. "Tissue?"
"Sure." I chuckle, before I accept it and blow my nose. "Where did you pull that out from, anyway?"
“Never underestimate a girl’s magical blanket.”
“Really? What’s magical about it?”
“Oh, shut up.”
Having gotten quite used to that kind of back and forth, we both let out a pair of light chuckles.
Within this brief window of silence, I’m suddenly made aware of Ayase's body pressing up against mine. We’ve been constantly moving closer to each other, resulting in our heads being practically inches away…
I somehow need to distract myself, and fast!
With a quick scan for topics, I’m quickly reminded of something I had been meaning to ask since earlier.
So earlier you said about some things staying the same, even if you managed to escape… what was that about?" I turn slightly to her direction, before she sighs, “If you don’t mind of course.”
"So let me translate what you just said…” She clears her throat before continuing… “Because I spilled my guts, hurry up and spill yours too Ayase-san!" She voices dramatically, while I nod.
"Something like that, yeah. But I'm also genuinely curious." I reply, sincerely. She adjusts her body position, before she takes a big breath,
“Promise you won’t laugh?”
“I would never.”
“Pretty sure. ‘Sides I know what will happen in case I do.”
With another exhale, she sits up slightly.
"For almost all my life, I lived with my mum alone, here in Kirihama. My parents divorced when I was little and I barely remember my dad. My mum though, has a sister that she greatly looks up to, or more precisely is extremely jealous of. She's famous, pretty, successful, and a respected businesswoman. Basically she has whatever my mum ever wanted to. But my mum has given up on her dream of catching up to her. She did, when I was born to be exact. But instead of banishing those ambitions of hers, she passed them on to me. She wants to make me the "perfect woman" or lady or whatever. She always said I had the looks so it will be easy for me. She always corrects me if I'm not talking prim and proper. She never allowed me to play out with my friends when I was young. I would always watch them from the window, as they ran around and enjoyed themselves. A privilege I wasn’t allowed to have. She would always say "That's not what a young lady should do!" and forced me back to my room to study. She would scold me if she caught me slouching or if I said something like "darn", even. She always tells me, that "A lady should always smile and be kind to others" and forced me to act that way anywhere.” As I look over, I notice a bitter smile on her lips. The kind of smile that reflects regret. “But as I grew up, and saw the other girls at school, I realized that this is not who I am. Everyone said that I was pretty like a doll, but I just felt like a puppet instead, always hanging from a bunch of strings. And my mum was always the one pulling them, and I would always move, by just a wave of her hand, always dancing along a tune, she and only she was allowed to play. I had realized, I was living someone else’s life, for the past 16 years. I had realized, my mum always wanted a "proper lady" for a daughter, and not me, Ayase. Honestly, I'm tired of playing her little game. That's why I act out when I'm alone. That's why I broke character back in the bathroom too. I would always listen to her, because she is the only family I have ever known. Even if she only needs me just to surpass her sister one day. But since we've been trapped here, I've been thinking. Seeing all of that stuff, death awaiting in every corner and hearing your and Noriko's stories, I've came to ask myself a couple of times "Why do I still keep this up?". Maybe because I don't know who I am or who I should be anymore. My persona and me, are sometimes difficult to differentiate between." With another deep sigh, she sinks back down against the wall. “I just don’t know…”
Naturally, her story was nothing to laugh about. She had her own struggles like everyone else. Her own circumstances. Yet, as a bystander, I thought of offering a piece of my mind to her…
"You are Ayase. You are you. Maybe some things between the real you and your persona overlap, because that was already who you were, before your mum told you so. Maybe you act kind by nature and feel that you're acting that way because of what you’ve been told to do." She eagerly fixes her gaze at me, before I continue. "…What I'm getting at is, just be who you want to be. And the rest will work itself out."
With a start, she sits up, and turns to me with a glimmer in her eye. "So… you think it's fine for me to be myself?"
Our faces suddenly edge closer, but I pay it no mind. Because my mouth is already moving on its own, and my brain works on auto-pilot.
"It's more than fine. I WANT you to be yourself. I want to see the real you, Ayase-san."
And that’s something I wholeheartedly stand by. I want to know everything about this girl in front of me. I didn’t even realize when I had started feeling this way, but… I was in love. Plain and simple. Her presence was enough to stir up a storm within me, and calm down even the deepest, darkest part of my soul at the same time.
Before I know it our faces are merely an inch away. As I gaze inside her sparkling blue eyes, lit only by the moon I feel at home. With, her moist breath tickling my nose, and our hands intertwined, I’m lost in a world of our own. And soon, our lips are pressed up together. I don't remember who leaned forward first, because all I can think about is her. It's a brief innocent thing that only lasts for a second or two before the two of us separate slowly, reluctantly.
"That was..." Her voice is soft, and her lips parted, as she gazes into my eyes.
"Nice?" I try to guess the rest of her sentence, causing her to giggle slightly.
“You have a way with words, you know that.”
She suddenly brings her face closer to mine, and wraps both arms around my neck in a flash. I’m taken aback, yet I feel at peace. Like I just came back home from a long day.
"Once is never enough, right?" With those words acting like the catalyst, she closes the gap between us, and presses her lips against mine for a second time. This time, it lasts longer and it’s more impassioned. After who knows how long, we're both out of breath and finally pull apart.
"Woah..." I exclaim, completely stunned.
“Lips are really soft, huh?”
Wait, did I just say that out loud?
“Wow, talk about a lack of delicacy, dude.”
Turns out I did.
Ayase gives me her signature eye-roll.
“I can’t believe I fell for a guy like you…” She mutters to herself loud enough for me to hear.
And of course, I wouldn’t let something like that pass me by.
“You’ve… fallen, for me?” I repeat, somewhat dumbfounded. In an instant, her cheeks flash red, and her eyes go wide.
“Aghhhhh!” With a silent groan, and a beet-red face, she throws the blanket over her head and assumes the ball position. Meaning, hugging her knees. “Why did I say that out loud?!”
She really thinks I can’t hear her?
Consider this as payback for peeking into my narrations all the time!
“You’re doing it again!”
We make a brief pause, before I clear my throat. I better get this out of the way, if she’s gonna be so embarrassed about it…
I arm myself with all the willpower I can muster, and clear my throat.
“Knock, knock…” I knock against the door. That is the imaginary door. I’m just touching her tent-like blanket.
“You’re supposed to say who’s there.”
A second of silence.
Oh God, I can’t resist.
“Hideki I love you.”
I’ve let my intrusive thoughts win, and said that with the most cutesy voice imaginable. Another second of silence. And then, Ayase bursts out of her confines and lunges at me, with claw like nails.
“That’s it you’re gonna die right here, right now PUNK!”
“Shhhh! Hey, hey calm down!”
I’m being assaulted!?
And not in a good way?!
There’s nothing good in being assaulted!
Okay this is getting out of hand now…
I catch Ayase on top of me, and block her attacks by grabbing hold of her arms. Then, with a firm tone, and after checking to see if the others have woken up, I say…
“I’ve fallen for you too Ayase-san. I… like you.”
I can almost see the error notice on her face, as her head turns on like a light bulb and steam starts arising from her ears.
She withdraws away from me, and sits down on the ground again, avoiding eye-contact.
“That’s… that, then.” She nods to herself, making me raise a brow.
“I mean the feeling is mutual so…”
“Ayase-san. I want to hear you say it.”
When she is in this type of mood, I just can’t help but push her buttons.
“You know what.”
Her face is still red, as she glares at me furiously. Soon, she resigns herself to her fate and looks away, tugging at the ends of her skirt.
“I… I li…” She clears her throat, while I look on eagerly, in silent anticipation.
I have to say, teasing her like this, is the best thing ever. But before I know it, Ayase’s dam bursts and she turns to me in pure rage.
“Oh shut up! I like you too! I like you so much I got all shaken up I couldn’t’ sleep! And yeah, I was scared out of my mind this whole damn time! I’m head over heels for you, is that so damn baaaaad?!”
I instinctively shush her as she turns and shouts at me. The others stir a little, and Mayu murmurs something, but thankfully no one wakes up.
“What’s the matter, can’t handle the truth?”
Ayase’s still fuming for some reason. Somehow, I have this strange urge to laugh right now…
And that’s exactly what I do. I fall back, and hold my sides while I snicker silently.
Ayase whispers in a whiny tone, the likes of which I can only find even funnier and adorable instead of reprimanding.
“Sorry… sorry…” I wipe the tears away from my eyes, as I sit up and look at my… girlfriend. Ayase-san is now my girlfriend.
Wow. Who would have thought?
“What?” Yet the girl in question is still pouty.
“Nothing, just glad we got this sorted.” I smile warmly at her, and that’s enough for her pout to slowly fade.
At that time, I finally arrive at a conclusion. An end-goal.
“What is it?”
"You know... when we get out of here, I think I'll finally talk to my mum. I'll tell her everything, whether she'll believe me or not. And I'll try acting like myself when I'm around others too. I'm done running. I'm done being an anti-social prick with trust issues.” I exhale sharply, and turn to the moon up above. “I hope I can manage though..."
With the same conviction, Ayase follows my gaze and speaks up.
"And I'll talk to MY mum about MY problem. I don't want to be someone else. I want to be me. And if she doesn't love me for that..."
"...She will. I know it."
I turn to look at her, as I speak "But first, let's make sure we get out of here."
"We will." She replies, her voice low. "If you don't make it out of here with me, I swear to God I'm going to kill you, you hear?" Her silly remark makes me chuckle, while my sights are fixed on her dark blue eyes.
Once I had wondered, what laid behind those blue eyes…Frankly, I think I’ll never know exactly. Yet, today was a big step forward towards that. Ayase is complex. Yet I find the challenge to untie that knot, so endearing. I’m utterly captivated by her.
"Deal. We'll both get out of here."
Who knew, that amidst all this chaos, I would find myself, and someone so special along the way.
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