posted by Sugisaki_Maria
I took a last glance of my own reflection on an engraved gold gilded mirror on the wall, took a deep breath and gave myself a wide smile.
‘I have to be confident! Even though I’ll stand out without the uniform, just give them a smile, be nice and polite. I’m sure it’ll workout somehow…’ I mumbled while put the thoughts into my brain.
“Yooosshhh!” With a slight slap on the cheeks I tried to remind myself of my determination.
“Sugisaki Maria is now ready to go! Okaasan, Otousan, Sorata-chan, Kasuga-chan, and Pii-chan too, iitekimasu!” after looking at a family picture and a penguin doll, I left my room in a hurry.
It was late at night. When I could no longer hear any sounds besides my breath and the clock’s ticking on my nightstand. I was lying on my bed, holding my penguin doll while occasionally lifted it up and stared at it. It looked back at me, but said nothing. I tried not to think about anything.
‘Maybe a bit of fresh air will do me good…’ I thought.
“Let’s take a stroll, Pii-chan.” I grabbed a long thin coat and opened the door quietly. The hallway was dim and empty. I tiptoed to the dorm’s entrance while holding Pii-chan tightly. Even though I’ve been here for a week, I’ve just noticed that the entrance door was so grand and huge. I reached for the handle. It won’t budge.
‘Great, a week has passed yet nobody told me about the curfew and I’ll be so dead if anyone busted me sneaking around in the middle of the night. I’ll call it a miserable first attempt.’
I tiptoed back to my room, let out a sigh when I saw the wide window behind the curtain just on the wall right beside my bed. I climbed my bed and open the window lock quietly. It snapped open easily.
I looked left and right to make sure there are no night guards patrolling. Luckily, my room was on the first floor, so I just let Pii-chan out first and with a little leap from my bed I was out safe and sound.
Soon, I began my night-stroll while remembering every way I took so I won’t get lost. The night air is surprisingly cool it refreshed my mind. I took a careful look on everything I saw. The buildings, fountains, gardens, statues, all within my range of sight are so incredibly luxurious and beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like those in my life. I kept strolling until I found a pond with the size of a swimming pool laid in front of me. I knew it’s a pond because there were beautiful water lilies floating nicely on the surface of the water. The rest, it definitely looked like a pool. Even the water was crystal clear, not dirty like most ponds I knew.
‘Wow…this school surely doesn’t know how to save money, it’s obvious that they only know how to spend it…’
I grinned while observing the reflection of the moon on the water. The pond had straight step-stones to the other side. I opened my arms to keep my balance, still holding Pii-chan in one of my hands and took a step to the nearest stone, sending water ripples around the spot where I stood.
Still on the same night, a tall, quiet, strong-like, dark-haired guy entered the 3rd music room in the upper part of the high school building. He was looking for something and finally found what he sought lying behind a couch. A pink bunny.
‘I’d better get going. Mitsukuni cannot sleep without Usa-chan.’ he thought like he always did.
He intended to went straight to the door, but ended up lingering a bit. Enjoying the silence that he never knew this room could give, because it always so noisy in daytime. He was walking around when he noticed somebody was walking on the pond’s step-stones from the music room’s long and wide window. Besides it was weird that somebody was walking around in this late hour, something kept him from walking away. Telling him to observe a little longer. It was a girl, probably a bit younger than him, but definitely a high school student too because the junior high and elementary had their own separate territory. He noticed that she was holding a penguin doll, which made him looked at the pink bunny he himself was holding. He remembered accompanying Mitsukuni playing on the pond’s stone-steps and that the tenth stone was loose which made Mitsukuni tripped and made himself all wet. He quickly looked at the girl who was on the fifth step and instantly found himself running like crazy downstairs, heading to the pond.
‘Tip-tap, tip-tap, …’ I took one step after another while humming one of my favorite anime soundtracks. I liked anime a lot, but I guess I’m not an otaku. While I was jumping a little to the next step stone, I heard someone running toward the pond from behind.
‘Is it a guard?!’ I panicked, don’t know what to do because I’m in the middle of a pond. I turned around to see whether it’s really a guard, when my feet tripped from the narrow stone step.
Luckily the pond was only a calf-deep. I sat in the water, soaking wet, and found that a tall, expressionless guy, also soaking wet, was sitting in front of me. He held Pii-chan in one hand, apparently succeeding in saving my penguin from falling to the water. A pink bunny was floating on the water beside him.
‘He definitely failed to save that one…’ I thought.
He looked a bit shocked to see the bunny dripping wet, as if that somebody was going to scold him for not taking care of it. Then he caught me still staring at him in awkwardness. He reached out his hand, giving Pii-chan to me.
“Yours.” he said.
I kept quiet for a second, uncertain how to react.
“Thank you for saving my penguin.” I said awkwardly.
“No. I was going to catch you, but it’s too late, so…”
“It’s alright, really. I appreciate your intention. Better save him than saving no one, eh?” I laughed a little while holding Pii-chan in one hand. He smiled just a bit, grabbed his dripping wet bunny and was about to stand.
“Ah, you’ll catch a cold in this breezy night.”
“I should get going.”
“At least let me dry the bunny and your shirt as my gratitude. I live in the dorm, so it’s near and won’t take a long time.” There was silence for a while and then he nodded. He helped me stand and we both walking out of the pond, heading to my dorm. Occasionally I would glance right and left to make sure there was no one, but he seemed calm and not worried at all. We finally arrived in front of my window and I lifted it up slowly.
“The entrance is locked, so we should go this way, sorry…” I grinned at him and started to climbed in.
“Is it really Ok?” he said.
“U-huh, as long as there is no guard around.” I was now sitting on my bed, lifted the window higher so he would fit to come in.
He was beginning to climbed, when there was a thin light behind him and a rustling noise.
‘A guard!!’ I started to panic, when he jumped in, closed the window, drew the curtain close and landed on top of me in one motion.
‘Wow, great reflex.’ I thought.
We kept quiet and stayed still for a moment. Lit by the moonlight, I could see the shadow of the guard rushing around behind the curtain. He smelled of cool air and water. The pond’s water. His heart beat fast, surely what he just did consumed quite an energy. We laid still, still soaking wet, until he suddenly backed away with a face as red as a boiled shrimp.
“I, I’m sorry.” he apologized clumsily. All of his coolness before seemed to fade away at once. I laughed, not too loud, afraid of waking my neighbors up. He smiled awkwardly and finally laughed too. We both laughed for quite some time that night. My first laughter in this whole week, and it felt so good.
We both got down from the bed which definitely has become wet now.
“You could use the bathroom, but I’m sorry I don’t have any spare shirt. At least the one that fits you.”
I pointed the bathroom while taking off my coat. It’s heavy with water. He kept silence for a while, seems that he’s observing me.
“You need it more than I do.”
“I can do it here just fine. If you don’t mind.” he started to unbutton his shirt then paused to look at me.
“Um...alright then. I’m sorry I cannot turn on the light. I’m afraid it’ll attract unwanted visitors, but I’ll light the fireplace.” I walked and stooped in front of the hearth, adding some firewood.
“Oh, and I have a hair dryer here. It’ll speed up the process.” I searched one in my closet, gave it to him and left for the bathroom.
I put on a sleeping gown after taking a shower. Feeling so refreshed to be able to get rid the smell of the pond from my hair. Still rubbing my hair with a towel, I went out. He was sitting on the carpet, drying his bunny doll with my hair dryer, his wet shirt lying in front of the fireplace. I looked at him for a moment. He had brownish white complexion and a well-built body; probably an athlete. I came closer and sat next to him. He looked at me for a while, then back to his work without saying a word. Apparently just attracted by the sweet scent of soap and shampoo. I pulled Pii-chan from the bed and played him with my fingers a bit. Some minutes passed with just the sounds of our breaths, the clock, the dryer and the cracks of burning firewood. Until he broke the silence.
“What were you doing in the middle of the night?”
“Just taking a night stroll.” I answered, still playing the penguin. There was a long silence.
“It has only been a week, yet I...”
“It helps keeping me strong.” I stared at Pii-chan in my hand. He kept quiet, as if waiting for me to spit everything out. I felt my eyes burning a little bit.
“I got a scholarship. I cannot even afford the uniform, you know. Came here with just a brain, a hope and a determination.” he turned off the dryer. There was a pause.
“They said, ‘why don’t you wear your uniform?’ I told them that I cannot afford them. It’s no use lying. Some walked away before I had the chance to say that I got a scholarship. Some gave unnecessary sympathy. Some just stared and simply didn’t care. At first I thought it would be easy and I’ll get used to whatever treatment I received in no time. God I was wrong. It turns out that I’m not as strong as I think, as my family thinks. But every time I lay on my bed, I remember that my being here is a blessing that I should cherish. That I also carry the hope of my family and that even though I’m alone, I have to be strong and keep moving on.” the penguin in my hand is no more than a shade of black, white and yellow now. I felt something blocking my throat and my eyesight was blurred.
“Let it out.” he said.
“I have a shoulder. If you want.”
At first I held back, but the pain kept welling in and I couldn’t hold it anymore. I sat still, letting the tears running down my cheeks. Then, a wide, warm palm reached out and gently drew my head to his shoulder. Just a second and I already sobbing like a baby. Feeling his cold skin against my cheek.
Another hour has passed as the clock struck three. We both sat in silence, with me still leaning on his shoulder. I let out a sigh, sat straight and wiped the remaining tears with my hand.
“I’m feeling much better now! Besides, I forgot that I’m not completely alone because I have Pii-chan with me.” I let out a smile while holding the penguin in front of me.
“Whenever I feel lonely I always talk to him. It makes me feel better, although he never said a word.”
“Oh, and moreover, I have you here now.” I looked at him and smile. He looked back at me with an expression that I couldn’t guess. I looked back at Pii-chan and began toying him again.
“But it’s really alright if you don’t want to be my friend. I understand how hard...”
“...it will be embarrassing to befriend a girl who doesn’t have anything...”
“...I can even pretend to be a stranger when we meet again, but I’m not going to hate you or something like that. Besides, you have done more than enough-”
My fingers stop moving, as if couldn’t believe what my ears have just heard. I turned my head. He was looking at me seriously.
“You’re not fooling me, right?”
He’s not answering, but kept looking straight into my eyes. A shiver of happiness and relieve ran through my body. I felt that I have regained my hope back. And it moved me to stand on my knees and put my arms around his neck. Kept whispering ‘thank you’ over and over again. When I finally let go, I knew that he was blushing, although he struggled hard to hide it.
“Thank you for being a light when my strength alone fails to find a way out.”
I smiled, and couldn’t hide my joy, I reached for Pii-chan and the pink bunny which was now nearly dry.
“What’s her name?”
I played them both.
“Pii-chan, now you have a new friend. Her name is Usa-chan and she’s a cute pink bunny. You have to be nice to her and be her good friend, ok? You two should get along well.”
The girl kept playing with the dolls for quite a long time. Even though he doesn’t speak much, he likes to watch the girl. Observes her, treasures her beautiful smile in his memory. He felt a strange sensation in his stomach, along with a weird feeling in his chest. With his hand, he felt his own heartbeat beating fast like when he was in the dojo, training kendo. But he was not tired at all. He felt a sense of peace and warmth. He looked at the girl again and felt that he wants to meet her every day, hear her voice, see her smile. Make her smile. Although he wasn’t sure how. He wanted to protect the girl liked he had protected Mitsukuni since he was little, but there was something different.
The girl was still enjoying herself, holding both the penguin and the bunny face to face, saying something like ‘My favorite food is salmon, what’s yours?’ He couldn’t hold to smile a little, while observing her long black slightly-wet hair still smelled of shampoo, her white skin with a bit of sunburn in hands and shoulders, her big eyes, sometimes sad but now sparkling, her eyelashes, nose, cheeks and pink reddish lips. He looked away and tried hard not to blush.
“Hey, don’t you think... you shouldn’t let a stranger come into you room...especially at night?”
He spoke reluctantly while kept looking away.
“Don’t you afraid that...”
“Even though I don’t belong to the upper class like you, that doesn’t make me a fool. Of course I wouldn’t open wide my window and let anyone comes in. I can take care of myself.”
The girl talked while kept playing the dolls, but then she suddenly stopped and looked at him.
“It’s just...something telling me that a guy who’s holding a pink bunny cannot be a bad guy.”
She let out her sweet smile. For a moment, he was staggered and didn’t know what drove him to reach out and touch her cheek. He looked deep into her eyes, moving his face closer, feeling the wet tip of her hair tickled his fingers. Then, it’s peppermint toothpaste. She seemed astonished for a second, but then reciprocated. Still looking at each other’s eyes, they both felt awkward. When she smiled and broke the silence.
“Until I’m old, I’m sure that I would never forget the day when I kissed a man whose name I don’t even know.”
He smiled and laughed a little, so did she.
“Takashi. Morinozuka Takashi. Third grade.”
She let out a wide smile, took his hand and shook it.
“Well, Takashi-senpai, I’m Sugisaki Maria. Nice to meet you.”