Notes: Aoi belongs to BlackRain105
Sunset. Members arranging their sports equipment in their club rooms. Students filing out of the main gate.
An eraser against the board. Left, right. Left, right.
Sliding door. Krrrrr....
"Kaichou, we're going ahead! Are you sure you're fine alone here?" A female classmate, together with another, looked at her with semi-worried expressions on their faces. "You sure you don't want to go with us shopping?"
Akira turned towards her classmates with a smile painting her face, specks of chalk falling from her brunette head as she nodded. "Yep! Take care on your way home!"
The other classmate shrugged her shoulders, then fished something out of her handbag. "Okay, but if you change your mind, just drop us a call! I'm leaving the catalogue here..." She placed the said item on the nearest desk. "...just in case you decide on something. See you tomorrow, Kaichou!"
"Nn!" She nodded again, and watched as the door slid to its frame, her ears picking the wanning voices of her classmates.
Akira let out another sigh, her face slipping to a tired facade. Her weary eyes landed on the glossy book for good five seconds, then she went back to her business.
Honestly, she was amazed with how her schoolmates could spend so much time with having fun. Yes, she knew very well how to have fun, but there were really just moments when her usually long stamina would reach the brink of absolute depletion—just like now, when everyone suddenly forgot their school duties like keeping aligned desks, clean hallways, and neat blackboards. The patrol by now didn't go well, and when she said it did not go well, it's when everyone's busy doing their own businesses and she was left with everything.
This tiny voice of protest made her feel queasy. She did not like it whenever her tired self would resort to the inner-protest mode, because it was as if she's complaining about a job she wanted. In the first place, this wasn't a job for her, right? It was the kind of commitment she wanted for herself—for everyone.
As soon as she was done clearing the board, she literally had to drag her feet out of the platform then to her bag, and when she was about to leave she noticed the shimmering amber edges of the catalogue. Picking it up, she absentmindedly sifted through the first three pages; then she turned to leave the room, her feet mostly doing the navigation, her eyes pinned on the clothes on the book.
"So everyone's... crazy about these?" She wondered, inching her face closer to the inner spine of the book. "Should I buy something...?" There were colorful dresses, ranging from those ankle-length to mid-thigh length. A comical sweat drop formed on her head while she thought about not having any courage to have them. When she got to the jeans and plain shirt section, though, her eyes brightened a tad. There were also floral blouses, and she immediately thought of buying some for her mother. Wait, if she will look for something for her mother, then she should for her father. The prospect of finding something for herself was easily forgotten.
She pored on the magazine closer, and a smile tugged her lips when she got to the young-male section. "Probably this will suit for Akihi—"
She was too intent on the magazine that she wasn't able to see the person who was speeding by. The catalogue came flying as she landed on the floor. When she looked up, though, it wasn't only the catalogue that flew, but a few more notebooks and colored papers. By that second she wondered if the colors of the book materialized, but she knew that would be too impossible unless if she was in a video game.
There was a familiar groaning in front of her, and when she looked at the owner of the voice, she drew in her breath. "Hayasaka-kun!"
It was as if Aoi had just seen a three-headed monster in front of her. Her shoulders sagged, did she look that horrible?
"Ah, Akira..." He stiffened while trying to smile. He looked around him, hands fumbling for whatever it could reach. He sighed shortly, then as if there were no collision or whatsoever, he casually picked the square, colored papers. "Sorry, I didn't see you there." He pushed a chuckle.
Akira smiled at him with eyebrows scrunched up. "Sorry, too. But more than that..." she stood up, one hand now on the catalogue, the other reaching out to him. "Please avoid running at the hallway. More than that, though, why were you running?"
Aoi stopped for a while, then unconsciously looked at the right side, and said, "...thegatesclose. I mean... the gates might close." And he caught his breath.
She raised a brow. "But it doesn't close until 7PM." She wondered. It was only 4:30 PM and he was in a rush? She might have comprehended it better if he said he's running after an appointment. She looked at him and noticed that he was still as close to immobilized, thus she decided to reach out for his hand and help him to stand up.
Aoi gulped, and he knew there were tints of red on his ears. He quickly bent down while mouthing, 'Thank you', then collected his remaining colored papers and notebooks.
Intent on helping out, Akira also bent down to pick his stuff, an orange, square paper near her foot. She took it, careful not to wrinkle it. "Wow, Hayasaka-kun. Do you do origami—"
"Um, no!" He quickly snatched the paper from her, his sweat breaking through his skin. "These are... my sister's stuff! She accidentally slipped it in my bag and I'm about to deliver it to her. Hahaha!" He hastily stuffed everything in his already opened bag.
It was as if he was hiding something, but was there anything she could do? "Ahh, okay? Good luck on that, though." She watched as he regained his composure, her hand tugging on the strap of her bag. "The gates don't close until 7:00 PM though. So no need to rush, I guess?" Plus, if it's about school time then wouldn't every class end by either 3:00 or 4:00? She placed the hand she used to tug on her bag to his left shoulder. "Just relax, Hayasaka-kun." And she smiled at him.
Aoi stilled again, his lips now a thin line. The redness from his ears spread to his cheeks, and knowing this, he gulped down and looked at his shoes.
He gulped again, and as if pushing down all the embarrassment, the pounding in his chest, and the swirling in his head, he returned the smile to her. "Thanks, Akira."
Not long after, the orange streaks of light mixed with the red strands of Aoi's hair, and Akira's eyes widened at the sight in front of her—his smile, too, bore its own kind of radiant light. Soon, it was her turn to become stockstill.
"Akira?" He tilted his head to the side. "Are you okay?"
He leaned forward and saw the shadows under her eyes, and the yellowish-whitish dust on her cheeks, then to her hair. He reached for his pocket and took out a blue handkerchief. Without further ado, he wiped off the white dirt, careful not to smudge it further. He lightly dusted the ones on her hair, thinking how such tiny things could have the gall to cling on her. What tiny, violating things that could get this close to her when he himself sometimes have the difficulty to do so.
"H-Hey, Akira? You're not moving." He said, his hand hovering on her nose.
Akira looked at the shade of the blue handkerchief, and the proximity of the fabric to her nose. She wondered if the warmth on her cheeks was because of the heat of the setting sun.
"A-ah," She blinked several times, then flashed a conscious smile. She turned her back against him and said, "Thanks... um, sorry?" She giggled at her own incomprehension. Turning her head towards him, she said, "Are you going home?"
Aoi nodded. "Yep." And after a beat, he added, "Are you going somewhere?"
Akira shook her head. "No. I'm going home."
Aoi looked at the left, as if he was doing some inner debate. He licked his lips, his hands curling in his pockets. Then he looked at her again.
Akira tilted her head.
Aoi bit his lower lip, then took a deep breath, and then, pinned his blue eyes to her amber ones.
"Let's go home together?" Finding it sounding weird in his ears, he looked at the right side, then he shuffled his weight to his right foot. "I mean, mind if I walk you home?" His voice broke, and he shifted his weight to his left. He chuckled at his own awkwardness, and resorted to saying, "Just, let me get you home, okay?"
There was a thump in her chest as she stared back at his eyes, and as if involuntarily, her lips moved. "Mm, okay."
Excitement filled his heart. Well, this wasn't the first time he walked her home. There were also other times when he accompanied her, sometimes with made-up reasons such as some questions about the class representative work; sometimes, he just told her he wanted to have some extra walk, or he had to pass by a classmate's house. There were almost no moments when she would decline, and he thought that it must be most probably because of her friendly nature (sometimes he was the one to decline because her brother suddenly shows up in the picture) . He was aware of her feelings for someone else, but it did not stop him from hoping that someday, he would walk her home because of a more, real, and a mutual reason he shared with her.
A few feet away from the door, Aoi glanced at the locker area. Maybe next time. And he felt the folded paper inside his pocket. It was a good thing he did not slide it in his notebook, or else he could have already been caught.
They walked out of the school grounds, the sky giving off dark, orange light.
He grinned, and saw the catalogue that she was holding.
"Is that a clothes catalogue?" He asked.
"A-ah," she blushed. "Yes, a classmate lent it to me. Want to take a look?"
So cute... He almost covered his mouth. He reached for the catalogue and looked at the contents. He flipped through the pages, and eyed one shirt to another, then to Akira, then back to the catalogue.
It stayed like that for a while, so the usual, chit-chatty walk home was unexpectedly quiet. In Akira's case, it was a bit comforting, since her energy's somewhat at the point of extinction.
When they reached the corner to Akira's house, Aoi handed the book back to her.
"Bye, Akira!" He turned his back to her, and before he could run away, he said, "Mm, you look nice with anything you wear, but you're at your best when you're at your brightest!" And with a grin, he left.
Akira looked at him wonderingly, and when she turned to the catalogue, she flipped the pages.
There was an orange paper sticking at a certain page, which featured a sun-bright, yellow dress. It has short, bubble-like sleeves, and its length ran about an inch above the model's knees.
She closed the catalogue, and she got inside their house. Placing the book at the living room's table, she fumbled for her phone and called Kanade, words about buying something streaming out of her mouth in a hushed tone.
Before the line got disconnected, Kanade made a remark on how happy she sounded, and she could only nod at her remark. A smile painted her lips, and before bringing the phone down, she also mentioned the words, "I might also get a blue scarf, too."
As a thank you gift, she told herself. Yep, as a thank you gift.
And she brought the phone down, the smile not leaving her vibrant face.