I turned page after page of my journal. There were a few entries about my other classmates and friends—and my mother had a whole line of journals dedicated to her—but my happiest memories were of Ryou. At the time, I realised that I must have been quite obsessive over him.
When I came back to school the next day, Ryou was there, and he was pointedly ignoring me. I couldn't exactly blame him, but it certainly made it harder for me to work up the nerve to apologise. All I could bring myself to do was scribble 'What were you going to say to me at west gate that night? - ' on a piece of paper and get Tsubaki to pass it up to him for me.
I watched carefully as the note reached his desk. He took the slip of paper from Tsubaki, but he didn't even read it. He'd already read the situation at hand and had chosen to ignore it.
- x -
I ran into Saeki on the way to gym again that morning—or, more specifically, he saw me and started walking in the opposite direction. I grimaced at the discrepancy in his behaviour, at first figuring that maybe he was just testing my patience, but no: he was legitimately trying to walk away from me.
I ran after him. "What was that about?"
"Hm? Oh, -chan, good morning! I didn't see you there."
"And Gandhi's Christian. What was that all about?"
"Nothing. What can I do for you today?" His smile was radiating passive aggressive rainbows and moonbeams.
I gave a defeated sighed. "Judging from the way you're acting, Ryou probably told you a lot of things."
"Ah, you mean Kisarazu?"
I winced. "Yeah, okay, in retrospect I regret one hundred percent of the things I said to him that night. I can totally understand if you want me to stay away from him, so, you know, I don't bring his self-esteem down into the critical zone—but at least let me apologise to him."
Saeki considered this. "I wasn't planning on getting involved in this, but I'll permit myself to say that it would take quite a unique apology to turn this situation around."
"I realised." I said. "That's why I wanted to ask—"
"Oh, would you listen to that? There's the bell. We should get going, or we'll be late for class."
"The bell hasn't even rung—" But Saeki was already hurrying off down the hall. "Wait, at least tell me what time morning practice starts, so I can talk to Ryou myself!"
"Seven-thirty would be a good time to come!"
"But what time does it actually start?"
I wanted to chase him down the hallway and shake the answer out of him, but I didn't have the time. The bell that signalled the start of the next period rang as the door to Saeki's classroom clattered shut.
Ryou's game of keep-away didn't lighten up as the week drew to a close, so I figured that I could try one last time to confront him and apologise. When the bell for lunch rang on Friday, Ryou was up and out of the classroom before I had the time to pack away my things. Still, I had no doubt in my mind that he was either in a friend's classroom (probably Saeki's) or at the tennis courts.
I decided to chance my luck and go to the tennis courts. I had overhead one of Saeki's conversations on yozakura night, about how they'd come out victorious in the Prefectural Tournament and how they were now training to dominate the Kantou Tournament. I figured that if there was any place Ryou would be killing time during school hours, it would have to be at the courts.
True to my intuition, I found the entirety of the Rokkaku regulars at the court. A few of them were having rallies on the limited number of courts there, and the remaining members were on the sidelines, observing the matches. I was fortunate to find Ryou on the sidelines, though I couldn't anticipate whether he would pointedly ignore me or not.
He didn't turn.
"...So it's Ryou, now, is it?"
"About that..." I braced myself. "Look, I was totally out of line. What I said was rude, insensitive, and completely untrue. I don't hang out with you for no reason—I... think you're plenty interesting."
It was only a pity that Ryou had his back to me. I was curious to see if my words were having even the slightest influence on him, or if they were completely futile.
"Game, set, match to Saeki – Itsuki pair, six games to three!"
My attention wandered to the court, where Saeki and Itsuki were shaking hands with a humbled Bane and a thoughtful David. In my moment of distraction, Ryou took up his tennis racquet and said, "I'm on next."
"...I'll see you in class, right?"
"Maybe? Wait, if that's the case, I have a question for—"
He started walking away.
In my moment of panic, the words fell out of my mouth. "Ryou, do you have a crush on me?"
This time, even with his back to me, I saw his shoulders tense, and I saw his footsteps increase ten-fold as he broke into a run for the furthest court. I almost yelled after him, but the revelation that Tomita's theory was true left me speechless. My brain was in the process of determining the correct course of action when Saeki, who had been sidelined in favour of a cut-throat match between Kentarou and an Itsuki-David pair, came up and interrupted my train of thought.
"-chan, what a pleasant surprise!" He was smiling in his ridiculously flattering way, though I tried not to think about what kind of passive aggressiveness such an expression could be masking. "It's remarkably selfless of you to give up your lunch break in favour of cheering us on. It's not often that we get fellow students supporting us in our tennis-related endeavours."
"Saeki, you're unusually talkative today." I observed. "You know, completely unlike this morning."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Then he changed the subject. "By the display I just witnessed, is it safe to assume that you confronted Ryou about the situation?"
"I did, and he bolted for the opposite side of the court. Not that I'm judging his course of action or anything."
Saeki looked amused. "It can go one of two ways from here. Though, if you're open to share, may I ask exactly how you intend to approach the situation?"
"Are you... asking me if I like Ryou or not?"
"More or less."
"...I haven't figured that out yet." I said. "But I will soon. I'm not going to dish out any more injustices than I already have—or, well, I'll try not to. I'll seek out relationship advice before I come door-knocking again."
"Hm? Who do you plan to go to?"
"Don't worry." I said. "It's probably hard to believe, but I do have friends in other places."
- x -
"So that's what happened." I explained to Tomita. We were sitting across from each other, cross-legged, while his girlfriend was leaning against his back playing a video game; Ueda and Youko were on the court, having an intense one-on-one. "What do you think I should do?"
"So, wait, I'm confused." Tomita said, scratching his head. "Was the situation reconciled or was it not?"
"...You know, I'm started to wonder the same thing myself." I said. "I doubt it was reconciled, though. It's hard to believe that Ryou would simply let it all go. He's probably been building up a bank of passive aggressiveness for this past year or so. I don't blame him, to be honest."
"Hmm... well, you are kind of in a bit of a pickle now." Tomita said. "I have an idea, though. If this Ryou guy is angsting about what the relationship has become, then what if you remind him of the past?"
I considered this. "Go on."
"I mean, you'd have to continue upholding your end of the deal, but if you could show him that things could go back to the way they were, then maybe he'd... well, letting go of the past is one thing, but maybe he'd be able to move on from the, shall we say, passive aggressiveness."
"Okay... I think I can do that." I said. "Do you reckon it'll work?"
"That depends. If you get the opportunity to properly confront him and talk to him about it, maybe it'll be all right." Tomita said. Then he pointed an accusing finger at me. "But in order for this to work—like I said—you have to hold your end of the deal up as well. So I'm saying you should develop your character a little bit."
I sighed. "Alright, I make an earnest effort."
"Good." Tomita said, folding his arms in satisfaction. "I hope to see you a new lady by the end of all this."
- x -
The school festival had already come and gone, so there was no literal way I could instil Ryou with nostalgia. I had to scale things back and take a much simpler approach.
Though it never made much sense to anyone, the Rokakku tennis club room was a little shack on the seaside. It seemed kind of illogical that the club room was so far away from the practice grounds, but given the way the tennis team operated, it might have just been an excuse to spend more time by the sea. Not only that, but it gave me ample opportunity to infiltrate Ryou's locker while the Rokkaku Tennis Team was making an earnest effort to demolish the Kantou Tournament.
True to my intuition, I found Ryou's hat sitting in his locker when I opened it up. Though there were other items of various importances to Ryou in that locker, the only one worth taking with me at this point in time was the hat. The point of this plan wasn't to inconvenience or handicap Ryou, but rather, simply to keep his attention for long enough to be able to interact with it.
Tomita's suggestion that I take Ryou for a trip down memory lane could go one of two ways, and though I could only pray that the situation would resolve, the best I could hope for was that Ryou would agree to hear me out. It would have been hypocritical of me to ask for anything else, given just how much I had put on him this past year—accusations of not listening to me, not being emotive enough, being too blunt with his judgements of the flaws in my personality...
When I got home that evening, I waited until about eight before I called Ryou. I figured I should at least spare him enough time to finish practice, discover his hat had gone missing, figure out who had taken it and why, and then go home on the bus without his beloved cap. In all honesty, I gave him more time than I knew was necessary. I'd come across entries in my journals where I'd documented Ryou's spontaneous calls following after school practice, so I knew for a fact what time after school practice went until. Privately, I'd been savouring the hope that maybe Ryou would give up and just call to ask for his hat back.
He didn't, though. That much was unsurprising; I'd underestimated Ryou's stubbornness.
When I called at eight, he didn't pick up. I'd either called him at an inconvenient time, or he was still working up the courage to bring himself to answer to phone. I tried calling back within the half hour, and it was only after five rings that he decided to pick up his phone.
"Ah, hey, Ryou?" I ventured when he didn't say anything.
"...Did you take my hat?"
"I figured you wouldn't listen to anything I had to say unless I had a legitimate reason to hold your attention, so..."
"I'm hanging up."
"Wait!" I blurted out. "Look, I know I'm in no position to be making excuses or anything, and it's completely up to you to judge me how you will, but all I'm asking is for you to hear me out. I just want to talk. I have some answers for you, and I have some apologies to make, and... I also have some questions for you."
"Let's meet up tomorrow—if you're free." I added hastily. "If you promise to meet up with me, I'll give your hat back to you. Is that alright?"
"Great! Let's go to the usual lunch spot, then."
"Fine." He said plainly.
"Okay. I guess I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"Yeah. Tomorrow." He said. Then he hung up.
Before I went to bed that night, hoping to sleep on the uncomfortable conversation that I had with Ryou, I took his hat to the laundry and was about to throw it in with a load of towels, purely because I wanted to abuse the fabric softener, but my dad caught me in the act of doing so. "Are you trying to wash that cap in the washing machine, -chan?"
"That's not how you wash a cap. If you want it to really sparkle, you have to do it by hand." He said, brandishing a toothbrush and calmly removing the cap from the washing machine. "Still, I didn't realise you were into wearing these things. Is this some popular fad?"
"Ah, no, that's actually not my cap." I said. "It's Ryou's."
He threw the cap back into the washing machine. "I was wrong, -chan. The best way to wash a cap is in the washing machine. Don't go easy on the laundry power, okay?"
He ruffled my hair and calmly walked out of the laundry, leaving the toothbrush on a basin in his wake.
- x -
I had trouble sleeping that night; I was kept up thinking that it was maybe a little premature to call a meeting between myself and Ryou. Yes, I wanted to apologise to him as soon as possible, so that the burden of guilt weighing me down would finally be lifted, but I—of course—wanted to prolong giving him my answer as soon as possible.
It wasn't necessarily that I disliked Ryou. It was true that I'd been quite rude to him for the majority of the year, but my annoyance with him stemmed mostly from the fact that he never seemed to show any interest in choice of conversation. Although I couldn't blame him for being disinterested about my rants on how my mother had offended me this time, perhaps what bothered me most was that he stopped listening to what I had to say.
At first, I wondered why this had never been much of a problem earlier on in our relationship. While reminiscing, I remembered that Ryou and I used to talk quite a lot without having any hiccups in our conversation: we would pass notes in class; our lunch times exchanges (though my memories of this were vague) were generally quite pleasant; rather than dreading his company, I remember enjoying it. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it might have been because I took my problems out on Ryou less. I even admitted it to him: I wrote all of my frustrations in a journal, which taught me how to exercise patience; once Ryou and I grew closer, however, he was willing to lend an ear to my troubles, obviously not thinking that he would become a pet rock onto which I could vent my frustrations.
Whereas I felt that Ryou stopped listening, perhaps Ryou had come to feel that he had stopped being important to me; he had stopped being Ryou and started becoming a generic rock that existed for my venting purposes. I felt a wave of regret that I'd put Ryou through something so emotionally frustrating.
I flopped over. Did I like Ryou? I was certainly quite obsessive over him when we first met, but now, I wasn't quite sure if I felt anything for him or not. It had been too long since we'd had a pleasant conversation, so it wasn't like I could say for certain if I could come to like him. I obviously didn't want to disappoint him, but even I wasn't terrible enough of a person to lie to his face and say, "Yeah, I like you." I felt like that, in not thinking the matter over, I would be doing both Ryou and myself a disservice.
Muttering curses to myself, I scrunched my eyes shut and tried not to think about tomorrow.
- x -
The next day, we had gym right before lunch, so it wasn't as if I could ensure Ryou didn't chicken out at the last moment and decide not to show his face. The only guarantee that he would come to our usual lunch spot was his hat—if he didn't come back for that, I'd lost my shot at having him hear me out.
I would have been lying if I said my head was completely clear on the walk to that lunch spot. My legs were resisting the temptation to turn around and just bolt—even more so when I saw Ryou sitting on our usual bench, waiting patiently and calmly and... uninterestingly. Honestly, the thought of confronting Ryou about the past year was scary. Though I had honestly come with the intention of apologising to Ryou, my brain was starting to go blank, leaving no room for any sort of creative or unique apology.
My feet stopped a meter from Ryou's. He paused before looking up.
"Can I sit?"
He shuffled over to make room for me. I sat down next to him.
"Here's, um, your hat." I said, handing him his cap. I couldn't notice that misty look in his eyes, as though he had never seen it so clean before, before he took it and put it on his head.
"Thanks." He said. "For cleaning it."
"It's fine. It was dirty."
He tucked the cap over his eyes.
I laughed nervously, wondering if this was really the place to be making jokes. "I'm... I'm kidding. I remembered how we met."
That seemed to spark some interest in him. "You do?"
"Yeah. It was raining, and you gave me your hat because I didn't have an umbrella." I said. Ryou slowly pushed back the brim of his cap. "My mom thought it was disgustingly dirty, so she washed and dried it."
"I just hadn't seen it clean for a long time."
"Well, uh, I just thought I should make it known that I remember how we met. And I'm sorry I forgot. I... owe you an apology for a lot of things I've done this year. I know a simple apology isn't enough to fix the friendship that I've so badly destroyed, but—"
"It's fine." He said abruptly.
"...It really isn't, though, is it?"
He looked away. "I haven't been altogether honest with you either."
I coughed pointedly. "Is this to do with what you wanted to say to me at the west gate?"
"...Yes." But he didn't go.
Awkwardly, I cleared my throat. "So, uh, is it true that you like me?"
"...Is that creepy?"
"N-no." I said, a little taken aback by his suggestion. "I'm just kind of surprised. I mean, after the sheer amount of times I've come to you with complaints in place of conversation, I don't really blame you for wanting to like... cut it off or anything."
"It wasn't that I was trying to cut it off." He said. "I was... trying to wait it out. I thought that if I stayed away, it would go away. Then you kept coming back with problems, and I got annoyed that I could never stay five feet away from you for more than a day."
"...Wait, you were trying to avoid me?"
"Wait, but I don't get it." I said. "If you were trying to avoid me, then why did you come to yozakura?"
He paused for a long time. "As keen as I was to avoid you, Sae-san was kind of..."
"Okay, yeah, I get what you're trying to say. I said, sparing Ryou the embarrassment of calling Saeki a natural flirt out loud. "Well, I'm... sorry. For having to put you through this year. Are we, um, cool again?"
An uncomfortable silence followed my words. It wasn't broken until Ryou said, "Why did you try so hard to repair this thing between us?" He asked, noticeably avoiding words like friendship and relationship. "It basically became pointless."
I didn't exactly have a legitimate answer for him, since I couldn't exactly say why I tried so hard to keep the "thing" between us alive. Maybe it was my guilt, having ruined one of the few healthy relationships I had with another human being. Maybe part of me was curious as to how such a crumbling relationship had even started in the first place.
I felt that the answer was a lot simpler than that. "I dunno. Human tenacity, I guess." I said.
Ryou seemed to take that as an acceptable response—either that, or he was too distracted to care what my response actually was. His eyes kept wandering, as though he were too nervous to keep them on a single spot. He opened his mouth to talk several times, but only on his third try did words actually come out. "So..."
"What do you say?"
"Oh, um..." I'd been dreading the moment that Ryou actually demanded a response from me; despite trying to give it some thought last night, I had yet to figure out how I'd wanted to respond to Ryou—even now. I still had no idea how to feel about genuinely feel about him, given our past year together.
My hesitance must have given him the impression that I was trying to be polite about refusing, because he stood up, tucked his cap over his eyes, and mumbled, "Thought so." He started to walk away.
"Hang on, I didn't say anything." I said. He slowed, but didn't stop until I said, "I didn't say no, so just wait a minute."
He stood there with his back to me, awaiting a proper answer.
"It's not that I don't like it. It's just that... given this past year, I feel like we've kinda lost touch." More quietly, I said, "Like, since I kept picking fights with you and all that. I just... need to regain some certainty on... us."
"Yeah, you know, like I can get to know you again from the start." I said. "So that every time I look at you, I don't have to get annoyed and not remember the reason why. That's a habit I'd... really like to get out."
"Yeah." Ryou said.Ryou paused. Slowly, he turned around, and took a few steps towards me. Before I could ask what he was going to do next, he caught me completely off guard.
His lips were very lightly on mine.
I was a little too stunned to be able to respond to a motion like that. I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to feel. In books, the girl's heart is always racing, and she describes the sweetness and warmth of the guys' lips. I'm not sure if anyone's supposed to feel anything like that, but I'm not feeling anything except an opinion change.
Ryou pulled away, and he blinked at me. He was back to being Mr. Apathetic. "How was that?" He asked.
I was in a bit of a daze. "Uh... yeah, we can start there..."
"You know," Saeki said, "it was only just a few months ago that the two of you started going out. How long has it been exactly?"
Before I could try and count my days, Ryou said, "April twenty-eighth."
"How do you know that?" I asked, looking at him incredulously.
He just looked at me. "How do you not know that?"
"Go easy on me." I said. "I?m new to all of this."
"So am I." Ryou said. But he didn?t go on.
"Then, how is it that the two of you exactly met?" Saeki asked. I blinked as he went on, "From what I recall, a few days after April twenty-eighth, I noticed you were hanging around Ryou a lot more comfortably, and when I asked what was going on, he put his arm around your shoulder and said, ?Well, this is what?s going on.? You never told me the full story, though."
How did Saeki remember these kinds of details?
"I have no idea." I said.
Ryou sighed. "Never mind. Just never mind."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Princo & Ribbon
June 25, 2015.
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Ribbon: If you thought RP was supposed to make you uncomfortable then you weren't prepared for this DN HAHAHAHA. I DON'T KNOW, THERE WAS JUST SOMETHING ABOUT THIS DN THAT MADE ME UNCOMFORTABLE THE WHOLE TIME I WAS WRITING IT. Probably because it was so passive aggressive. AND THE JOKES WERE EVEN WORSE THAN RP; I DIDN'T EVEN THINK THAT WAS POSSIBLE TBH. I'm sorry, this was a horrible idea for a DN. I promise the next update will be much, much better.
Princo: I would punch irl and tell Kisarazu to ditch her dumb ass. ...This DN really was a little uncomfortable. (I think it's bc we treated Kisarazu like he's relevant.) JK I LOVE THE KISARAZU TWINS. But really, what the heckle.