Will The Stars Remember My Name?
Haruto woke up early the next morning. He stretched his body and yawned lazily. He opened his eyes once and closed them again. Slowly, he remembered everything that had happened yesterday. He looked at the clock hung up on his wall. '6:00 AM'. He was supposed to leave for school at 7:00 AM... with Shiomi. He wanted to apologize to her. It wasn't her fault and she did her best to protect him. He still wasn't sure what to do with his memories yet but he knew he didn't want to fight with Shiomi over this.
He quickly got up and got ready to leave for school. At 6:59 AM sharp, he stepped out of his house with high hopes to meet Shiomi. He waited... and waited. He then peeked over the wall separating their houses to see Shiomi's shoes gone. She had left early today. Disappointed, Haruto slowly walked to the school. Haruto greeted his friends he met on his way with a big cheerful smile, as if nothing had happened to him.
He walked to his classroom and the first thing he saw was Ryouta sitting on the corner all alone, playing with his pencil. He saw Futaba chatting with her friends in between glancing over at Ryouta. Yes, Haruto had one more person to apologize to before he apologized to Shiomi. He put his bag down and walked up to Ryouta. "Hey, Ryouta."
Ryouta turned towards Haruto and looked at him with his dead eyes.
"I- ...I- uh- wanted to apologize about yesterday."
Ryouta kept his hand on his chin and asked, "Why? Why do you need to apologize? I wasn't involved anyway. Whatever happened was between you and Shiomi. I just sat there and saw the whole thing."
"What? But you-"
Ryouta cut him off by saying, "I'm sorry, you're being all pushy right now. Can you... Like... I don't know, not involve me in your personal fights?"
The entire class was looking at them now. Haruto looked at Ryouta in confusion and tried again, "But, Ryouta, you-"
"Hey, dude. I told you. Don't. Involve. Me." Ryouta had a sour expression on his face.
Their classmates started whispering.
"What's his problem? Haruto is just trying to be friendly."
"Yeah, he's so rude! No wonder why he's always alone!"
"I even saw him walk with Haruto just a few days back. And now, look at him, being so unfriendly!"
"Yeah, Haruto should have just left him alone!"
Haruto looked around in utter dismay and confusion. He slowly crawled back to his seat so that things don't worsen. Futaba witnessed the entire thing go down as she sat there, barely stopping herself from speaking up in Ryouta's defense. She wanted to tell everyone, and especially Haruto, that Ryouta was acting like this intentionally. He was trying to hurt his own image to prevent the popular Haruto's image from falling down. But, if she said something, things would only get worse and if she didn't, the rumors would spread. She couldn't bear to see Ryouta intentionally hurting himself and his chances to have a normal school life just to protect Haruto. Her eyes welled up but she didn't cry. She pinched her hand to stop herself from crying. Ryouta still played with his pencil as if he didn't give a damn about anything, acting like he was nonchalant and insensitive to Haruto.
Haruto, on the other hand, could not understand why Ryouta did so. Maybe what he had done to Shiomi was so bad that even Ryouta couldn't forgive him. Forget Shiomi, he didn't even deserve to apologize to Ryouta. All his hopes to make up with Shiomi were shattered. He couldn't even show his face to her. After all, he had blamed Shiomi for ruining his life. He said the worst thing to his only childhood friend. He sat silently as the other classmates approached him and told him to stay away from Ryouta.
The bell rang and everyone soon scrambled back to their seats. In section D, Shiomi's friend Hanabi came to her as her History period ended and said, "Hey, Shiomi!"
"Hey, so listen, did you and Haruto meet a guy called Ryouta?"
"Oh... Yeah. We did, yeah."
"Apparently, rumors are going around he was being rude to Haruto, who was just trying to be friendly and all. I mean, he was just trying to... I don't know, apologize for something silly as he always does-''
She giggled and continued, "But this Ryouta guy, just shut him away and told him to stay away. He was so rude!~" Shiomi looked at Hana in confusion. She thought, 'But Ryouta would never do that. Why would he-... Oh! Oh... I see. Yes, anybody would get weirded out in his place. Why would he want to get involved? We just approached him out of nowhere, told our backstory, and put him in an awkward situation. Yeah, I'm so stupid! I lied to Haruto and got someone who I had just met involved with our dark history.' She silently nodded to Hana and waited for the next teacher to come.
A few hours later, the recess bell rang, and by now, the entire school knew about the rude and unfriendly Ryouta. Perfect. Just as he had planned. Ryouta took out his lunchbox and looked over at Futaba to see her chatting with her friends. Of course, why would she come to him now? He had told her to stay away, hadn't he? He slowly got up from his seat and went up near the roof of the school.
The roof of the school was always locked, so he sat down on the stairs.
"Ah... Finally some peace and quiet for me." said Ryouta out loud to himself. He opened his lunchbox and started eating.
The stairs near the rooftop held special meaning for Ryouta. He had memories attached with Ryuuji here. He remembered Ryuuji's first day at their school Kusumigaoka High. The first day he attracted a lot of attention and in recess he just wanted to escape his classroom. Too many people were trying to befriend him and his popularity was shooting up each period. During recess, he somehow politely dodged all the offers to have lunch with groups and ended up just outside the school rooftop. He sat on the stairs and had his lunch all by himself. When Ryouta went to visit his classroom, he was surprised as he couldn't find Ryuuji anywhere. He knew that the only quiet place a freshman could imagine to go was the school rooftop. He made his way to Ryuuji and found him there all by himself, slightly shivering. Ryuuji hadn't exactly had a pleasant school life since their parents died. His friends in middle school, started ignoring him in his worst times and his best friend... Well, he was basically abandoned by all those he thought were close to him.
Ryouta knew that after that incident, Ryuuji feared making fake friends and being betrayed. He understood that Ryuuji wasn't comfortable with suddenly getting a lot of attention. But the moment Ryuuji saw Ryouta come up the stairs, he stopped shaking. He tried to pretend he was fine and asked in his usual callous tone, "Hey Ryo, what's up? This school is awesome bro. So many new people..."
Ryouta knew his brother was trying to hide his fear and stay strong, but he could see Ryuuji's fingers slightly trembling. Ryuuji always had put up his happy and cheerful mask to hide his negative emotions. He never showed fear, or sadness to his brother. The last time he had cried was after their parent's funeral and after that Ryuuji always had a smile on his face. He never showed a hint of distress to his brother, and now he was here, again, hiding his fears. Ryouta quietly went by his side and said, "It's okay, Ryu... I'm here with you. What happened back then... It won't happen again. If you want, you can just deny being friends with them. They will move on and get on with their lives."
Ryuuji trembled and stopped himself from shivering by pinching his fingers. For the first time after many years, Ryuuji let down his guard and let himself be embraced by his brother. Ryuuji softly asked, "Hey, Ryo, do you mind if I eat lunch with you here for a few days? The classroom... it's... it's a bit too suffocating for me sometimes. So many... so many people approach me and I... Every time, I... remember what happened back then..." Ryouta said, "It's fine, Ryu, I will be here everyday during lunch. You can escape from there and come here." Ryuuji whispered, "Thank you, nii-chan."
From that day, the two brothers would meet up near the rooftop and Ryuuji would tell Ryouta about his classmates to him, as he was slowly getting familiar with his class. After a week, Ryuuji asked, "Hey Ryo, I haven't met any of your friends. When are you going to introduce me to them?"
Ryouta said, "Ah... Yeah. I don't think I'm really that close with anyone in my class. I'm not part of any club too. So..."
Ryuuji looked at Ryouta and didn't say anything. From the next day, Ryuuji stopped coming to the rooftop and got over his fear of making friends. He told Ryouta that he couldn't meet with him because he had plans with his friends. Ryuuji understood that if he continued to talk with Ryouta during recess, Ryouta's interaction with his classmates would be lesser than it used to be.
He understood how much his brother was sacrificing for both of them. He didn't want Ryouta to distance himself for his sake. The only way he knew that his brother would be happy and satisfied was if he showed his brother that he was able to live the life that Ryouta had given up on. That was the least he could do to respect his sacrifice. And now, he had again given up on something to become the enemy of the entire school, just to protect Haruto, someone he barely even knew.
Ryouta ate his lunch quietly till he heard slow footsteps coming from below. Soon, Ryuuji's smiling face popped from down the stairs. "Hey, hey, Ryo! Mind if I join you?"
Ryouta shrugged as Ryuuji came up the stairs and sat beside him.
"Hello, the most-hated-boy-in-school. How's the lunch I made for you?"
"You've done a good job with these eggs, Ryu. You made your nii-chan proud."
"Nii-chan!? Ha!" Ryuuji snickered then continued, "Thanks, Ryo... So, you decided to make yourself the enemy. That was your decision, wasn't it? Yesterday night, when you said you'll take responsibility?"
Ryouta simply shrugged, "Who knows?"
Ryuuji patted his brother's shoulder and said, "Well, it's your decision, Ryo, I can't make you change it."
"No, you can't... And it's the way things should be. Eventually, Haruto will apologise to Shiomi and they both will make up."
"So that's what you think will happen? Hm. Yeah... I really can't make you change your decision, you seem so sure about it... But Futaba can."
Ryouta looked towards Ryuuji as he continued, "You don't know that girl, Ryo, she..." He chuckled, "She's a storm."
Ryuuji looked back at Ryouta with a smile, "And she will... Blow. You. Away."
Ryouta laughed and said, "I've already taken care of that. She won't be interfering in any way. And the deed is already done, all she did was just look."
Ryuuji got up and started walking down the stairs. He looked back once and said, "If you think a few words from you are gonna stop her... You're wrong, my dear Ryo."
Ryouta looked at him with a dark expression as he winked at him and ran away.