Chapter 29:


Will The Stars Remember My Name?

Ai tapped her fingers on the table restlessly. She closed her eyes and waited patiently for the familiar sound of her front door opening. Bookmark here

Nothing.Bookmark here

She looked at her phone and saw the time. Bookmark here

6.30 pm. Bookmark here

She muttered quietly under her breath, "Please come fast."Bookmark here

Just then she heard the front door of her house opening as her mother greeted someone and ushered inside. She heard soft footsteps climb the stairs and a familiar voice say, "It's alright Mrs. Tanaka! We'll be fine without drinks."Bookmark here

As soon as she heard Shizu knock on her door, she burst it open and embraced her. Bookmark here

"Shizu, I- I was so scared. I'm glad you're here!" Bookmark here

Flustered, Shizu stammered, "It- It's alright A- Ai, I'm he- here."Bookmark here

They entered her room as Ai closed the door behind her. Shizu kept her bag on the floor and they sat down on her bed. Ai recounted what had happened earlier in the afternoon between Ryuuji and Ryouta. She told her about her conversation with Ryouta and how the two brothers had ended up in a scuffle.Bookmark here

She was crying and speaking at the same time which made it hard for Shizu to understand her properly. Nevertheless, she listened patiently and somehow understood what Ai was saying.Bookmark here

"And- and then, I just stood there helplessly as I watched them go crazy. He hit him and then he hit him back and they both just- just kept hitting each other while I sat there uselessly! If it wasn't for Futaba and Hinata senpai, I'm sure one of them would have had to go to the hospital."Bookmark here

She cried quietly in Shizu's arms as Shizu listened without uttering a word. Shizu stayed quiet for some time, deep in thought. She realised something important that moment. Just like how Ai was in love with Ryuuji but always hid her feelings from him and ended up getting hurt, she herself went through the exact same thing. She hid her feelings for Ai and watched her get hurt over and over. Just like Ai said she was useless, Shizu was no better. All she did was watch Ai hurt herself as she didn't even try to stop it. And it hurt. It hurt so bad Shizu wanted to cry her eyes out every time she saw Ai. But Shizu was much stronger than she looked, she was much more capable of holding her feelings and her pain than Ai. Unlike Ai, she didn't have anyone by her side to listen to what she felt, to cry with her, to hug her and to tell her everything would be alright. She was utterly, utterly lonely and yet, it didn’t break her.Bookmark here

Without realising what she was saying, she inadvertently spoke out her thoughts, "Why can't you just stop looking his way and look at m-"Bookmark here

She slapped her hands on her mouth to stop the words that had escaped out of her lips. The words that had always been on her tongue, yet had never slipped out. Shizu cursed herself in her mind, afraid to hear Ai’s response. Bookmark here

Bleary eyed, Ai turned towards Shizu as she stared at the pink haired girl with absolute horror and shock. She didn't want it to be let out this way. She didn't want her feelings to come in between their friendship. And most of all, she didn't want to lose her this soon. All she could do was curse herself as Ai blinked in confusion. Bookmark here

"Shizu... I don't understand... What do you mean your way?"Bookmark here

"I- It's nothing. Forget it," said Shizu as she breathed a sigh of relief. She was glad Ai couldn’t hear her words. Yet she still felt sad about hiding her feelings from her and was afraid that if she didn’t say it now, she could never confess to Ai.Bookmark here

"No, don't do that Shizu. You always do that! I know it's something important, so please, tell me."Bookmark here

"I- I- I can't, Ai."Bookmark here

Ai took a deep breath and wiped her tears. Then, she began, "Shizu, you know, sometimes I feel so bad that you have to listen to all my crap and see me hurt myself again and again. Yeah, I know I do that and for some reason I can't stop it. I just can't! But you know there is something else that hurts me too. It's you Shizu. I feel bad that you never tell me about your problems, about your life, about the good and bad and everything that happens to you. I feel like I force you in a one-sided friendship. I hate that, and I don't want that. You finally said something about yourself, and now you- you are just telling me to forget it? I can't do that Shizu, as your friend, I can't let it go. I won’t let it go!"Bookmark here

Shizu tried to shake her head to deny it but in a matter of time the tears she had been holding back all this time burst forth like a hot spring from underneath the ground. Hot tears dripped from her eyes to her chin and fell on her green skirt. She tried to wipe them away, but it seemed like all the times she had held back her tears were now finally pouring out like an endless stream of river. Bookmark here

And this time, Ai held her.Bookmark here

She patted Shizu's head, and comforted her with a smile on her face. Somewhere, in her mind, she could hear the words, "See? Maybe you're not that useless..."Bookmark here

Ai was glad she could hear those words at least once even if it was immediately drowned out by the other angry noises in her head. She smiled to herself and continued to pat Shizu's head. Bookmark here

After a while, Shizu stopped crying and prepared herself for the confession she was about to make. Her eyes were red and swollen from earlier and the lump in her throat was slowly dissolving away. Her hands trembled ever so slightly as she clasped them together to hide it. She took deep breaths and finally turned towards Ai.Bookmark here

She was just about to say something when she saw Ai looking down, a bit sad. Bookmark here

Ai said in a low tone, "Shizu I'm sorry if I forced you to do this. You don't have to tell me if you don't want-"Bookmark here

"No! I want to!"Bookmark here

Ai was taken aback at her sudden outburst. Bookmark here

"I have to tell you now Ai. I've been holding it back for so long and after what you told me today, I- I- feel like I have to. I love being friends with you Ai, I really do. And I've been hiding things from you, hiding what I feel from you..."Bookmark here

And then suddenly her nervous mind went calm. She was at peace with herself now that she was convinced that what she was doing was right. Her thoughts and her body came in sync as she felt silence encompass her. She found herself staring at the pair of round and innocent deer eyes of Ai. She felt her lips part and her voice come out,Bookmark here

"Ai, I like you. Not just as friends, but the same way you like Ryuuji. I have feelings for you which I have been hiding from you for a long time."Bookmark here

"Wha-? Are you-"Bookmark here

"I don't know. I've never felt this way for someone before. I don't know if it's just girls I like or if I like both boys and girls. I just know that I like you Ai. And whether you're a girl or a boy doesn't really matter to me."Bookmark here

For a few minutes, there was nothing but the sound of Ai's wall clock slowly ticking. Then, Shizu got up and picked her bag. Bookmark here

She walked towards the door as Ai watched her go, unable to speak or move her legs. Bookmark here

She looked back one last time before leaving and said, "I don't want an answer Ai. I know what you feel for Ryuuji and I know I can never be with you. Right now, all I wanted was to just let these feelings out. I'm happy you listened to them Ai. I really am. I hope we can be friends tomorrow."Bookmark here

With those words, Shizu left the room.Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

Ryuuji stared at Futaba sitting on the dining table at Hinata's house. He slapped his forehead and muttered to himself under his breath, "Nice promise you made to yourself stupid!"Bookmark here

Hinata hid her smirk as she waited for Futaba to react to Ryuuji's eviction by her brother. She had already told her the details over the phone and had invited her for a sleepover to which Futaba had immediately agreed. Bookmark here

Futaba said in her sarcastic happy tone, "Oh my! Hello Mr. Perfect, please have a seat, have a seat!"Bookmark here

Ryuuji winced at the words ‘Mr. Perfect’ but nevertheless followed the orders of his "girlfriend." He sat down in front of her as the maids served them dinner. Ryuuji saw Futaba take up one of her chopsticks and stab the hot sizzling hamburger patty with it as she stared at him with a forceful angry smile. Bookmark here

Ryuuji sighed, "Futaba, can we talk after dinner? I have something important to tell you."Bookmark here

"Oh?" She said in a high pitched tone, "You have something important to tell-"Bookmark here

"Please, I'm serious."Bookmark here

She stopped her taunting, taken aback by his serious tone. She held her chopsticks properly and started eating in a mannered way. She squinted her eyes at him wondering what it was that he had suddenly turned serious about. Hinata was surprised too. Ryuuji had been just fine before he went to his room. She wondered if something happened to him while he was in there.Bookmark here

"Fine, we'll talk after dinner then."Bookmark here

She turned towards Hinata and started chatting with her while Ryuuji ate in silence, deep in thought. Soon they finished their dinner and Hinata asked Iori to prepare a room for Futaba. She said goodnight to both of them and went back to her room a bit disappointed that she didn’t get to see any drama between the couple. Futaba went with Ryuuji to his room while Iori prepared a room for Futaba out of the endless spare rooms in the Ichinose Mansion.Bookmark here

Futaba entered Ryuuji's room and saw the huge bed in the center with soft and silky red quilts and maroon curtains that hung from the top of the bed. It looked nothing less than a royal bed. There were two tables on each side of the room with very small chairs, chairs meant for middle school kids. The two tables were quite different from each other, with completely different toys and stickers on them. Bookmark here

"This room-"Bookmark here

"Me and my brother used to live here for a while when we were in middle school. We had this room and Mr. Ichinose insisted to let it stay this way. Something about keeping memories of his best friend's sons in his house."Bookmark here

Ryuuji chuckled softly as Futaba inspected the small dinosaur figurines kept on the table on the right.Bookmark here

"That's Ryouta's table by the way."Bookmark here

"No way! I thought this was yours!"Bookmark here

"As a kid I was more into anime and stuff, so I had different kinds of figurines. Though Ryouta liked this particular show a lot after I introduced it to him. What was it again? 9 Idol Stars? I don't remember that well."Bookmark here

Futaba kept down the figurine and sat on the bed. She crossed her arms, and faced Ryuuji with a serious look while hiding the absolute pleasure of sitting on the softest bed she had ever sat on.Bookmark here

Ryuuji sat on the ground, cross-legged and scratched the back of his head. Bookmark here

"I- I'm sorry for what happened today. I wasn't calm and I kinda lost my shit and went wild. I know I must have looked so bad at the time. I'm sorry you had to see that."Bookmark here

"Well, yeah. You really did go wild. You should have seen your face... But if you want you can tell me why you were so angry that you actually hit your brother? Were you angry at Ryouta or someone else for something?"Bookmark here

"Yeah, I- I was actually angry at myself."Bookmark here

"What? Why?"Bookmark here

"Because I- I-"Bookmark here

Ryuuji clicked his tongue in frustration as the words failed to come out of his mouth. Bookmark here

Futaba, quite unwillingly, left the bed and sat beside Ryuuji. She tapped his back to encourage him and waited for him to let it out. Bookmark here

Ryuuji looked at the roof as he came to a decision. Bookmark here

'Ahhhh... Shit. There I go again. I can never be honest, can I? Lying to people around me again. Honestly, I'm the most fucked up person in this world. Yeah, go ahead and break your promise with yourself, you lousy son of a bitch,' he cursed himself. Bookmark here

"I was angry at myself because I haven't been able to help Ryouta at all. I know I asked your help to kind of help him come back but honestly, I do nothing but sit around and-"Bookmark here

"Stop."Bookmark here

"Wha-? But I-"Bookmark here

"You're lying."Bookmark here

Ryuuji turned his face away and looked at the floor. Bookmark here

"I've known you for some time now Ryuuji... I can tell when you're lying. Tell me, what is it? The truth this time."Bookmark here

Futaba heard him mutter something underneath his breath. Bookmark here

"What? I didn't get that."Bookmark here

She leaned in closer as Ryuuji turned towards her and slowly whispered in her ear, Bookmark here

"Futaba Sakamoto, I have fallen for you."Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

Shizu looked at the twinkling stars in the sky as she walked back home. She felt her steps lighter than before and her usual slow walk had a skip to it. She hadn't felt like this in a long, long time. The feeling of not having a burden on your shoulder, the feeling of being free. Bookmark here

She replayed her conversation with Ai in her head again and again and every time she reminisced her words: "Ai, I like you," she would feel giddy inside and would uncontrollably happily giggle her heart out. Bookmark here

How long had it been since she felt like this? How long had it been since she was allowed to be this happy? She was glad she was finally able to say her heart out and wondered if Ai would feel the same if she did that with Ryuuji. She was truly at peace with herself now even if it meant losing Ai. She was pretty sure she would cry the entire night on being rejected but at that moment, she was just happy. And she deserved it. Bookmark here

The sounds of commotion grew as she opened the front gate of her house. She looked at her noisy house and smiled. With her head held high, she walked to her front door and opened it. Just as she opened it, a wine glass flew across from the other side of her house and shattered right next to her as it hit the wall with a loud crash. She instinctively closed her eyes and brought up the back of her hands to protect her face from the broken shards of glass. She wiped her sleeves and carefully stepped inside her house avoiding the jagged broken pieces of glass on the floor.Bookmark here

She sighed, used to the violence and yelling, and closed the door behind her. Bookmark here

"I'm home!"Bookmark here

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