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.
She looked at her phone and saw the time.
She muttered quietly under her breath, "Please come fast."
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."
As soon as she heard Shizu knock on her door, she burst it open and embraced her.
"Shizu, I- I was so scared. I'm glad you're here!"
Flustered, Shizu stammered, "It- It's alright A- Ai, I'm he- 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.
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.
"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."
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.
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-"
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.
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.
"Shizu... I don't understand... What do you mean your way?"
"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.
"No, don't do that Shizu. You always do that! I know it's something important, so please, tell me."
"I- I- I can't, Ai."
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!"
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.
And this time, Ai held her.
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..."
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.
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.
She was just about to say something when she saw Ai looking down, a bit sad.
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-"
"No! I want to!"
Ai was taken aback at her sudden outburst.
"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..."
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,
"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."
"Wha-? Are you-"
"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."
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.
She walked towards the door as Ai watched her go, unable to speak or move her legs.
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."
With those words, Shizu left the room.
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!"
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.
Futaba said in her sarcastic happy tone, "Oh my! Hello Mr. Perfect, please have a seat, have a seat!"
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.
Ryuuji sighed, "Futaba, can we talk after dinner? I have something important to tell you."
"Oh?" She said in a high pitched tone, "You have something important to tell-"
"Please, I'm serious."
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.
"Fine, we'll talk after dinner then."
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.
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.
"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."
Ryuuji chuckled softly as Futaba inspected the small dinosaur figurines kept on the table on the right.
"That's Ryouta's table by the way."
"No way! I thought this was yours!"
"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."
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.
Ryuuji sat on the ground, cross-legged and scratched the back of his head.
"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."
"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?"
"Yeah, I- I was actually angry at myself."
"Because I- I-"
Ryuuji clicked his tongue in frustration as the words failed to come out of his mouth.
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.
Ryuuji looked at the roof as he came to a decision.
'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.
"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-"
"Wha-? But I-"
Ryuuji turned his face away and looked at the floor.
"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."
Futaba heard him mutter something underneath his breath.
"What? I didn't get that."
She leaned in closer as Ryuuji turned towards her and slowly whispered in her ear,
"Futaba Sakamoto, I have fallen for you."
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.
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.
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.
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.
She sighed, used to the violence and yelling, and closed the door behind her.