It was warmer than the usual winter day.
And for Usami, that meant being able to practice her landscape sketching without freezing her fingers off.
She clutched her sketchbook close and left her home with a skip in her step.
It’s been a while since the start of winter break, so she felt that her sketching was getting quite rusty.
And despite her breath forming white puffs from the chilly winter air, the sun was beaming and the heat warmed her cheeks. She smiled at the pleasant sensation.
The only thing that could make this day any better, she thought, would be to bump into…
Usami’s first thought was that her mind was playing tricks again. (This happened quite often) But the warm hand that placed itself so easily and comfortably on her shoulder snapped her back to reality.
“U-uchimaki-kun?!” She felt like she had to say his name, just to be sure.
“What’s up?” He asked.
“Oh me? Well, it was really sunny today.. So I wanted to sketch by the river.”
“Diligent as always. As expected of Usami-san.” She scoffed at that comment. She always felt like it was more criticism than praise.
“And you? Off to buy a new issue or DVD again?”
“Huh? How did you know?”
“You’re so easy to read, Uchimaki-kun!” She laughed, sincerely happy to have bumped into him. Uchimaki eyed her, his expression unreadable.
“Uhm.. Want to join me? We can take turns on my sketchbook..” She shyly proposed, looking downward as her free hand twiddled her hair.
Uchimaki looked like he seriously considered it, before answering quickly. “Sure. Let’s pass by the bookstore first. It’s on the way.”
- - - -
At the bookstore, Uchimaki navigated through the many halls and rows of books and manga like a master tracker.
Usami, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than to look away from his misguided affections.
“LOVE HOROSCOPE 2019, hm?” She surveyed the area first, as if the club president might be in a corner somehow. Once the coast was clear, she picked up the little book and started to browse.
She flipped through the pages that lead to her horoscope. “AQUARIUS love forecast. Push yourself to take the next step by the end of the year. If you don’t, there will be dire consequences.”
Usami seethed and closed the book in a huff.
She had no plans to jeopardize what she and Uchimaki had anytime soon, but she couldn’t help but feel guilty. The horoscope felt like a shot straight to her heart.
Too irked to continue her browsing, Usami decided to look around until she saw a very happy Uchimaki by the cashier.
“Ah! There you are–”
“Usami-san.. Should I get the red or blue keychain? It’s a freebie from the Blue Ray DVD of Love Gun X56 Special Edition–” Usami quickly silenced him, a hand over his lips, as she pointed towards the blue keychain.
- - - -
They walked towards the river. Usami carried a warm can of oolong tea and melon milk along with her sketch kit.
They sat at a spot they felt was the coziest, free of any small rocks or dirt. Uchimaki laid back and brought out a recently his new manga as he enjoyed his melon milk. Usami brought out her sketchbook and allowed her eyes to wander towards a subject that caught her attention.
“Aha!” She found some cute ducklings along with their mother duck, swimming happily along the center of the river.
She grabbed a pencil and made it dance around the paper with ease. And, like magic, lines started to form shapes and shapes started to form.. Well.. Ducks.
Uchimaki, on the other hand, allowed himself to indulge with reading one more panel before looking up to see her progress.
“Oh! You even drew the pattern on their feathers.”
“It’s hard to see from here, so I wasn’t sure about it.”
Ten minutes turned into twenty, then thirty, then forty. By the time Usami was done, the whole river area had been illustrated beautifully– including any rocks, bridges, bystanders and greenery that surrounded their view.
Uchimaki stretched and emptied the last of his milk, before turning towards her.
“Hey, Usami, your oolong tea’s gone cold.”
“Oh! I didn’t notice”
“I can grab a hot one for you–”
“No need. Why don’t you sketch while I get myself new one?”
Uchimaki briefly gazed at the gorgeous landscape sketch before she turned the page into a blank one.
“Be right back!”
She scurried off, quite pleased with herself. Whenever Usami finished a sketch she was proud of, she always felt the most alive.
- - - -
When she returned, Uchimaki had was working on a new bride.
She rolled her eyes and mentally kicked herself.
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, my “serious” sketch? I’m already done with that.”
He flipped the sketchbook and revealed a gorgeous rendition of a wildflower in bloom.
Her eyes widened as she got a close look at it. His lines were delicate, yet precise. You could almost see the yellow pop out from the impeccable black and white shading.
“It’s great! I didn’t even notice that flower there.”
“It sort of stood out to me. Besides, I knew you wouldn’t be happy with just a drawing of my waifu..”
She laughed. “I guess you’re right”
- - - -
The sun started to set. Golden hues streaked across the sky and spilled onto the grass.
Uchimaki checked his phone, eyes wide to find that time seemed to pass incredibly fast today. “Whoa. Sun’s nearly gone!”
“Y-yeah… It’s getting c-cold too”
Usami shivered and suddenly had regrets about leaving her scarf at home.
He noticed and hovered his hand over the orange cashmere scarf wrapped around his neck.
“Wanna borrow mine? I’m fine without it.”
Hoping the darkness would conceal the rush of blood to her face, Usami quickly nodded.
“Please and th-thank you!”
- - - -
They walked back side by side, the street lamps illuminating the sidewalk ever so slightly. Usami felt the cashmere scarf through her fingers, savoring every second.
“So, are you doing anything for the New Year?” It practically killed Usami to ask, but she couldn’t help it.
“My sister’s dragging me along to the Mizukisubaru Shrine. It’s a pain if you ask me.”
“W-we might see you there. The guys and I were thinking to go all together.”
Uchimaki gulped and tried to avoid eye contact. “Uhh I wouldn’t bet on it. It gets pretty crowded, so..”
She narrowed her eyes in curiosity, but thought it best not to pry.
- - - -
By the time Usami arrived home, the stars were out.
They had spent the remainder of their walk with a ping pong discussion on who got to enjoy the kotatsu the longest before school break.
The president won unanimously.
Before they could reach her porch, she secretly took one last whiff off Uchimaki’s scarf.
“Uhm, thanks for walking me home.”
“No problem. And.. Usami-san?”
He pointed towards her neck.
She half-hoped he wanted a kiss, but she knew it was just her imagination acting up for the nth time that day.
With a heavy heart, Usami unwrapped the orange scarf and handed it over. But before he can turn around—
“Thanks. I really enjoyed today.”
He smiled, waved, then left.
- - - -