Will The Stars Remember My Name?
Futaba looked at the round, desperate and dark eyes of the girl standing in front of her. She was fair, a bit darker than Futaba, with beautiful round big eyes which she tried to hide by looking down. She had small lips and thin cheeks. She was a little smaller than Futaba but had much longer hair than her. She was slim, maybe a little too slim, and her figure didn't really stand out. The only thing which stood out about her were her eyes and yet, unfortunately, it was the only thing the girl was extremely conscious about.
Futaba took a moment to process what she had just said.
"I- uh- Let's talk inside?"
The girl suddenly realised what she was doing and withdrew her hand back. She looked away and nodded quietly.
Futaba opened the door and invited the girl inside. She asked her to sit while she prepared some tea for her. The girl looked uncomfortable being there and fidgeted on her seat. She served her the tea and sat down facing the girl
The girl quietly sipped her tea. She was still looking at the floor, unable to meet Futaba's eyes.
"Before we start, can you tell me something about yourself?" asked Futaba politely.
The girl replied with a very meek voice that was barely audible, "My name is Shizu Ishida. I'm a freshman like Ai. I'm in the same class with her and Ryuuji."
Her sentences were short, crisp and to the point.
"Ok Miss Ishida. Now, can you tell me why you asked me to save Ai?"
The girl didn't reply. The ferocity with which she had asked Futaba to save Ai was long gone, leaving behind the timid person in front of Futaba.
"You know, if you don't tell me there's no way I can help."
The girl squirmed a bit and kept her cup of tea on the table. She got up and apologised quietly, "I'm sorry for the trouble I caused. Please forget what I said."
Before Futaba could say anything, Shizu had already got up from her seat and was scurrying towards the door, looking to escape.
"Miss Ishida, please wait! I know you're reluctant to talk about whatever it is you want to talk about but I still want to help her! Can you please come back and sit down so we can talk?"
The girl looked back eerily. One of her dark eyes peeked from her long hair that covered her face. Futaba could sense hostility from her eyes.
"Then would you be willing to break up with Ryuuji for her?"
"What?! How is that related to-"
"Yes or no?"
The girl smiled sadly and whispered, "Just as I thought. Then there's no way for you to save her."
With those words she left the club room leaving Futaba in a jumble of thoughts and unanswered questions.
A voice called out the demure girl walking down the school corridor. The girl stopped, recognising the familiar sweet voice that she had grown fond of over her middle school years. She turned around slowly, trying to smile and look happy as her lips twitched. Her round near-black eyes looked up at her dark brown eyes of the other girl, which resembled the innocent eyes of a baby deer.
The girl who had called her was shorter than Shizu and had beautiful pink hair which were neatly tied into two braids. She wore round glasses which were a little too big for her small face but looked cute. Her tan came out distinctly as the long beautiful sun rays kissed her cheeks softly. Her thin arms which she used to adjust her shirt every now and then, were placed on her hips. She looked at her with pleasant surprise as her lips parted a bit and were gradually turning into a smile.
"Shizu, what're you doing here? School got over a few hours ago!"
Shizu hid her eyes behind her hair again and looked down. She softly spoke, "I was at the library reading a few books."
Ai, who had gotten used to figuring out what Shizu was trying to say in her small voice, smiled and walked up to her. She bent a bit and looked into her eyes from below.
"Shizu how many times have I told you to look up when you talk to people?"
"I- I'm sor-"
"No apologising either!"
Ai giggled at her which discreetly revealed her perfect set of teeth. Shizu smiled warmly at her.
"Let's go home?"
Ai held her hand and together they started walking down the stairs. Ai began her usual chatter as Shizu listened carefully to her, occasionally smiling, giggling and stealing glances at her.
"So Shizu, what did you do after school ended? Were you at the library this entire time?"
"No, I got tired of sitting there for an hour so I left for a walk."
Shizu was an honest girl. She had never lied to anyone in her life. But there were times like these where she twisted the truth to hide her intentions and feelings.
Shizu's voice was small and inaudible to most people because she had stopped speaking properly after a certain incident in her life. She was stuck in a terrible position by a group of bullies in middle school. It was Ai who had swooped in and saved her from those horrible people. Since that day she had lost her voice but found her best friend. When they entered High School, Shizu started to see Ai as something more than a friend. She began to notice how she laughed and how she smiled. She began to long for that sweet look in her eyes and wanted to keep it safe just for herself.
Unfortunately, luck was not on her side. When she realised her love for Ai, it was already too late. The eyes which she wanted to just look at her were now fixed on someone else. When Ai told her about her crush, Shizu's chest tightened and for the first time she felt as hurt as she had felt in middle school.
But this time, it was a different kind of pain. It was a pain she couldn't show to anyone else. It was a pain that could never be healed. It was something she knew she would feel even when they would grow apart. The pain of her first heartbreak.
Before falling in love, it’s like the heart is made up of glass. When you fall in love for the first time, a fire is lit underneath it. For the first time, the icy glass heart feels warmth and starts to crave more of it. It doesn't realise that if the fire gets hotter, it will ultimately crack the glass heart itself.
The sting Shizu felt when her heart cracked was something that she couldn’t share with the closest person in her life Ai. Shizu was not a tough person. Even as a kid, she didn't work hard for anything and would give up easily. She would start crying whenever she failed at something. That's why, Shizu gave up on trying to find happiness for herself. She would cheer Ai on and hide her feelings forever.
Things were supposed to be that way till she saw Ai's problem. She could have never imagined what falling in love would do to Ai. She became a different person altogether. The sweet innocent Ai Tanaka she knew in middle school was no longer how she used to be. She started to hurt herself unintentionally. She would do just the opposite of what she wanted to do in front of him and end up berating herself when she was alone. The next day, she would simply smile and hide the scars on her heart left by self-hatred, self-doubt and intense agony.
The story didn't just end there. What was worse that she had fallen for the most popular guy in the school. Indeed, it was Ryuuji Ito she loved with all her heart. She had fallen in love with the charming, funny, smart and handsome boy who never seemed to let go of an opportunity to flirt. The person who was adored by the girls even though he was known to switch girlfriends every month. The pure and innocent girl had fallen for the mischievous bad boy.
Ai fixed her shirt and pushed her braid back.
"A walk, huh? Where did you go?"
Shizu felt that telling Ai the truth would be for the best. She could hide a lie only for so long till it was exposed.
"I- I went to your club room."
"Huh!? What? Why? Do you want to join too!?"
"No, not really. I just wanted to talk to them I think."
"Was Ryuuji there!? Awhhh man now I really regret doing class president work. Was he reading a book? I've never seen him do that but I saw him yesterday reading one and then-"
Shizu smiled sadly as Ai continued to talk about Ryuuji with excitement, awe and love. Those innocent eyes had wandered away somewhere far from here. She was in a different world altogether, a world where Shizu was not there. A world filled with Ryuuji.
The cracks in her heart slowly rubbed against each other, hurting even more.
"-Aw mann. I should have really gone today."
"Actually, Ryuuji wasn't there. It was just Futaba-senpai. She was just leaving when I came."
Ai had suddenly stopped speaking. Shizu looked at the sad face of her best friend and love. She felt frustrated at herself for being incapable of helping her. She was supposed to support her love for Ryuuji by giving up her own feelings, but she couldn't even help her move forward towards her happiness.
Ai's eyes looked dead as her excited pace had disappeared and was replaced by a gloomy slow walk with each step getting heavier than before. But the worst part was yet to come. At that time, Ai just regretted not being his girlfriend. Shizu knew what would happen to her once she directed her thoughts towards the question 'Why her and not me?' And that would be the beginning of her overthinking and self-doubting cycle.
Shizu couldn't bear to see Ai that way and tried to change the topic to distract her from her negative thoughts, "Hey, there's a new bakery that opened on Mori Street last week. Do you want to have some cake there? I hear they have good crepes too!"
Ai's face lightened a bit as she nodded.
"I'm craving something sweet right now."
Futaba was not a stalker. She was definitely not the kind of girl who would spy on other people. Yet here she was, tailing the two girls, trying to overhear what they're talking about.
Futaba trailed them clandestinely and a bit suspiciously, at least to the other pedestrians. She made sure to be not seen by her targets and occasionally hid behind street lights and trees on the sidewalk.
Futaba wasn't sure why she was hiding or, for that matter, why was she even following the two harmless high school girls. She was walking out of school when by chance she happened to see Ai and Shizu walking together. She was about to turn away and walk the other way to give them their privacy but then she saw the change in Ai's expression. Her bright lively eyes were suddenly blank and dead and her usual smile was replaced by a dark expression. She could see the sudden rainclouds over her and it pricked her. She couldn't see the sweet, feisty girl she had met the day before be so gloomy and lonely. And so, she decided to follow them.
She didn't know what she would overhear but she kept following them. The girls stopped by a bakery and sat down to have some cake. Futaba managed to find herself a seat behind the two girls without giving a hint of her presence.
'Shit, I'm so good at this.' thought Futaba.
She ordered a crepe and a small drink for herself to avoid looking suspicious. Sitting this close to them, she could overhear their entire conversation now.
The two girls were talking about some TV show. Futaba ate her crepe quietly and lost her focus because of the delicious crepe. As she bit into its light crust, chocolate syrup flowed into her mouth and slowly spread on her tongue. She could taste a hint of almond and coffee in it. She closed her eyes and she munched down the crepe feeling ecstatic at every bite. The new bakery really had good crepes.
While she was distracted, the girls had fallen quiet. Slowly, the self-deprecating thoughts were barging into Ai's mind. Her hand slightly shook and her smile wavered as the screaming and shouting in her mind got worse. She wanted to clutch her head and scream out loud in an attempt to eject the negativity from her mind, but she didn't.
Shizu noticed it immediately. She slowly brought her hand forward and held Ai's.
"Ai... Please forget about him."
Futaba snapped back to reality when she heard those words. She slowly leaned backwards trying to hear them clearly.
"Shizu, you know I can't do that. I can't imagine giving up on him. I know he- he's not the best guy out there, but you know what? Even when I act completely the opposite way I want to, he still treats me kindly. He never gets offended by my nasty remarks and is always his usual self. You know, sometimes when I look at him, I can see some sort of deep pain behind those eyes. I feel he's like me, acting completely the opposite way he is. Putting up a front to hide his real self and his real feelings and- and- I really want to know his real side but I- I'm so useless. I can't even greet him properly. I try to say something good but then I end up saying the most hurtful things. I'm just so-"
Ai broke down and hid her tears behind her hands. Shizu tried her best to console her.
Futaba wanted to get up and hug her right that moment but she stopped herself. Just then, Shizu said, "Ai, I know you love Ryuuji a lot but this is just hurting you. This is not how it's supposed to be!"
Futaba stopped eating. Ryuuji? So, this entire time she had been in love with Ryuuji!? She suddenly saw how Ryuuji fit into the description of the boy she was talking about.
"I know Shizu..."
Shizu tried to cheer her up for some time and soon they left. Futaba sat there quietly, deep in thought. She paid for the crepe and left the bakery. It was almost night now. The waning moon was peeking out from behind the gray clouds, as if it was watching curiously what was happening below. The stars filled the night sky and twinkled softly, throwing light on Futaba's face.
As she walked down the path to her home, she saw the familiar park where she had met Ryuuji. She sat down on the same swing she had sat on that day. She knew Ai truly loved Ryuuji because she could also see the pain he hid behind his eyes. Futaba pushed herself forward and started to slowly swing.
'"Is this ok?" She asked herself.
"Is it really ok to be this selfish? Why should Ai suffer because of my wish?"
She shook her head.
"No, Ai would have felt that way even if you were not in between. But... That doesn't change she's hurting."
She looked back at the moon who then quickly hid behind the clouds embarrassed at being caught by Futaba. The light disappeared from her face.
"Is it time?"
Silence. She had no answer to that question. Was it time for her to harvest her efforts? Was it time for her to finally get what she wanted?
Slowly, the moon came out from behind the cloud. It smiled warmly at Futaba and filled her with light. Light that was cold and warm at the same time. She felt the humid breeze blow against her frame. A small raindrop hit her face and dropped down her cheek. The first rain of the summer had arrived.
She smiled to herself and got up to leave for home. She jumped off from the swing and picked up her belongings. She hummed to herself as she skipped to her house.
Futaba had decided... She had decided to be patient. She had decided to be just a bit more selfish.
Ryouta was taking a hot bath when he heard a raindrop fall on the window of his bathroom. He opened his eyes and glanced at it.
"Summer's first rain, huh? I wonder how my summer vacations will be this year."
He closed his eyes once again as the rain started to gain momentum and let out a relaxed sigh. There's nothing like a hot bath after a hard day's work. With closed eyes, he tried to clear his thoughts but there was still something that bugged him.
"Would it be really ok for Hinata to join the club? Can Futaba help him change her?"
He got out of the bath and dried his hair with a towel. He went to his room to get changed. His phone beeped and he picked it up to see a text by Futaba.
"I have Odd Jobs Club's first request - Save Ai Tanaka. Let’s do our best!"
Little did Ryouta know that the text would be the start of his best summer. The following days that were to come would be filled with happiness, joy and fun but also with sadness, heartbreak and misunderstandings.
The summer's first rain in the second year of his high school, just two days before the summer vacations began, is when this story truly starts.
The first summer in which he enjoyed his youth...
And also the last.
~End of Mini Arc: The Start of Something Beautiful~
~Next Arc: The Demons Within Us~
Author's Note: At this point, we have kinda arrived at the midpoint of Volume 1. I'm glad that I have had so many people read my story till now and I just wanted to thank all of you for your support. This arc is kinda small and abrupt but that's because I want to explore both the characters, that is Ai and Hinata in depth, and limiting it to this Arc would not do justice to them. I hope you'll forgive me for that! Also, on the suggestion of another author I have tried to make the chapter a bit more descriptive and longer. Do leave a comment if you can to tell me whether you liked this writing style or were you comfortable with my earlier style. I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section!
PS: Every bit of feedback helps me write better and produce better stuff, so the comments would really be appreciated. Love y'all once again UwU