I read the poem Natsuki has given to me.
Wow. Her poem is… cute? She claims that it’s not, though… what should I say about it? I look up at Natsuki, who twist my poem around. She notices my gaze and straightens up.
“Well? Isn’t it the best poem you’ve read?” she asks, being clearly proud of herself. I scratch the back of my head.
“It’s, um… it’s different. The text is simple and easy to read”, I try to come up with something positive, but Natsuki doesn’t seem impressed. She pouts her lips.
“You totally missed the point, didn’t you?” she mutters and stares at my poem again. “Your poem isn’t bad either.”
Was that a compliment? I guess in Natsuki’s case, it was. She handles the poem back to me.
“With some practise, you could become as good a poet as I am”, Natsuki smirks and takes back her own poem. I sigh and answer with a smile. Natsuki seems pretty confident today, even though yesterday she was so ashamed by the chance of Monika reading her poem out loud.
Maybe it’s that. Maybe the reason is, she wasn’t prepared for anyone seeing the poem. Unlike today , I think and seek for the next girl to read up my poem. It turns out being Sayori. She reads my poem and giggles.
“..what?” her laughter annoys me for some reason. Sayori looks at me and startles.
“Eh, nothing really. Your poem is just.. well, it’s cute. Did you..” Sayori hesitates. “Eh, never mind. I like it. You’re better in writing than I expected. Are you sure you haven’t been hiding this skill from me? Ehehe…”
I feel like Sayori sees through me, but I say nothing. She’s my best friend, has been since we were kids, so it’s probably just normal for her to see through me. I mean, I see through most of her stupid ideas, too…
“Just don’t say it out loud”, I sigh and stare at Sayori’s poem. “You’re better in this than I am. Have you written poems before, too?”
I meet Sayori’s eyes. She looks a bit uneasy.
“Eh, not really”, she shrugs. “I mean, sometimes yes. Maybe once or twice. But I never tried so hard before today…”
“Okay everyone!” Monika claps her hands. “I think we have shared the poems with everyone, now, so we could start talking about the school festival.”
The words school festival make me feel anxious, but the girls have some really good ideas about it. Monika and Sayori have been planning it already, and Natsuki and Yuri seem to pick up their tracks pretty well and add some of their own ideas in, too. To be honest, I had been afraid it would turn out dull, since literature isn’t the most popular thing among young people, but listening to everyone I feel better about it.
“This will be so great!” Sayori is really excited about the school festival. “Everyone will be so amazed by our club.”
“I hope they are not too eager about it, though”, Natsuki comments. “I don’t want this to become some major club where half of the school sits ruining the atmosphere.”
I look at Natsuki. She waves a paper in her hand, until Monika grabs the paper and laughs at Natsuki’s “anti-social appearance”. Natsuki wrinkles her nose and lets out a “hmph” noise, turning her face away from Monika. I smile a little. Natsuki claims not being cute, but can you say she’s not ? Her eyes meet mine.
“Let’s call it a day”, Monika gathers the papers to her bag. “Let’s share the tasks on friday. And don’t forget to write another poem for tomorrow! We’ll need to practise both writing and reciting, if we want to impress everyone next week!”
I sigh and stand up. Even though the arrangements for the festival sound good, I have my doubts. Especially on my part of the poem reciting. I’m no poet, and even less a performer.
For my luck - or horror maybe, I can’t really tell - we really practice reciting in the club. Sayori giggles while performing her poem, and Natsuki seems embarrassed as well. Yuri and Monika are better with it, though Yuri seems shy about performing. Natsuki sits next to me, arms crossed and mumbles something like, “I don’t like it when everyone stares at me”. I hide a smile. Performing in front of a group of people kind of requires everyone looking at the performer. It would be rude not to.
I don’t say that to Natsuki, though. I’m afraid she would get mad at me and I have kind of grown used to our manga reading moments in the club. I don’t want to break that small connection I feel we have created while reading Parfait girls side by side.
The week feels longer than usually, but still somehow not long enough. Friday comes eventually, and Monika starts to organize the assignments for the school festival. We’re supposed to get everything ready during weekend, so everyone needs to know exactly what to do.
I’ll have to admit, at the moment I can’t focus on festival arrangements. Sayori is not here and that makes me slightly worried. Monika said that she’s sick and I should probably trust that, but Sayori has felt a bit distant lately. I wonder if it’s because of me hanging out with Natsuki so much, but why wouldn’t Sayori tell me if that felt bad for her? She has always been so open and talkative, so staying quiet would seem a bit odd.
“Who would you help?” I realize that Monika is talking to me. “Natsuki with the cupcakes or Yuri with the decorations?”
I look Monika in the eyes. I think she noticed me dozing off and repeated the alternatives on purpose. I hesitate.
“I… I could help Natsuki with the cupcakes”, I finally answer. I can see a slight bit of happiness in Natsuki’s eyes, but she hides it behind her usual smirk.
“Well then, it is decided”, she nods. After the club Natsuki demands to change numbers with me and sets the place to be at my home on sunday. I save her number with a cute pink kitten icon. On my way home, I get a message from Natsuki, listing a whole lot of equipment I need to buy for baking. I sigh and save the list to my phone. Buying everything will probably take a lot of time in the grocery store.
Sunday comes and sunday goes. Baking with Natsuki is really fun. Even though she pretends to be such a badass, she’s really cute. Her outfit, her way of making fun of me.. I kind of like that. She is a lot more relaxed while we’re just the two of us, and she openly makes fun of me and acts more playful than at school. Natsuki even tried to put some icing to my face after she got some on herself, but I won that round and survived clean. I’m a bit embarrassed about licking the icing off her finger when we started fooling around, but on the other hand, seeing her blush makes it worth it. We almost burnt the cupcakes because of that though…
What would’ve happened, if the cupcakes hadn’t been in danger? I think about it. The moment when I licked Natsuki’s finger clean felt odd. Like electricity going through my whole body. And even after we were done, I’m pretty sure Natsuki was about to kiss me outside, but Sayori cut us off. I remember the look on Sayori’s face. And Natsuki’s too. They both were embarrassed, in different ways. Natsuki ran off pretty quickly and Sayori stayed with me, telling me that she’s happy for me, crying how it hurts and how she doesn’t understand anything about her own feelings anymore. It was hard convincing her that I really care about her.
“Sayori… you’ll always be my dearest friend.” That’s what I said, since it’s true. She’s my best friend, has always been and will always be. I’ll do my best to give her a reason to smile everyday, whatever it takes. Though on sunday I didn’t quite succeed, since Sayori started crying even more and finally ran off, leaving me alone on the street.
I walk towards school alone, carrying all the cupcakes on my own. I had hoped that Natsuki would come help me, or that Sayori would be awake early this morning, but I got no help from the girls. I’m afraid that I will trip and all the beautiful cupcakes will get ruined, but somehow I manage to get everything to the club room in one piece.
Monika is the first one there. Nothing less from the club president, I guess. She greets me with a happy smile, and then notices that I came in alone.
“Oh, you didn’t wake Sayori up?” Monika asks, lightly surprised. I look at her, a bit confused, but feeling a bit of regret as well.
“No, I didn’t”, I admit. “Should I have?”
“Well, I think you sort of left her hanging yesterday”, Monika laughs, “so it would’ve been just right to wake her up and take her to school with you. I’m not sure if she’ll show up on her own.”
How does she know? I wonder, but come to the conclusion that it was because of Monika and Sayori being friends after all. Sayori probably cried her heart out to Monika last night. Shit. I should’ve been wiser. There has to be a way I could comfort Sayori…
I take a look at the clock. It’s pretty early, so I still have time before the festival starts.
“I’ll go get Sayori”, I say, rushing out of the door. “When Natsuki shows up, tell her I brought the cupcakes!”
I run out of the school building and straight to Sayori’s home. The closer I get to the house, the worse I feel about it. Sayori doesn’t open the door for me, so I walk in myself and knock on her room’s door. No answer there, either. I sigh. I can’t believe that I’m actually walking in to wake Sayori up. I gently open the door.
Sayori hangs from the ceiling. I’m shocked. I fall on my knees and stare at Sayori’s dead body, not believing my eyes. I can’t believe it, I don’t want to believe it. I promised her to keep her safe. But I failed. I failed in the worst way you can fail your best friend.
Screw this! Screw the festival! I just lost my best friend , I think, my eyes filled with tears, when I get a message to my phone. First I don’t want to answer it. I feel like half of me just died. It’s an empty, painful feeling in my chest. I don’t know what to do. With shaky hands I take my phone out of my pocket and see that the message is from Monika. She wants to be informed about Sayori’s situation, but I don’t have the energy to answer her right away.
I have no idea of how or when I got out of Sayori’s house, who took care of Sayori’s body and informed the club that neither of us would be there. I just know that for a few days I haven’t been to school. Nor picked up my phone. Has it been a week already? Both Monika and Natsuki have tried to message me, Natsuki even called a few times. Monika gave up after a few messages, but Natsuki still keeps on sending me several messages daily.
But what can I answer her? I feel guilty. For Natsuki’s sake and Sayori’s. I feel like I betrayed Sayori, and now it feels like I’m taking distance to Natsuki as well. It can’t be good, but honestly I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m just trying to clear my thoughts by playing video games again.
I hear a knock on my door. Quietly I tell them to come in and pause my game. I expect to see my mother who asks if I need something from the store or my father who brings me some clean clothes, but instead it’s Natsuki who walks in. She enters the room and closes the door without a word. Natsuki looks around and then sits next to me on the floor. She looks at me and hands out a pile of papers.
“I brought your homework”, she says when I take the papers. It’s odd, since usually it’s the class representative who takes care of bringing the homework for the sick and absent people. “I wanted to see how you’re doing.”
I look at Natsuki. She’s wearing her school uniform, so I bet she came here straight after classes. I have no idea what time it is. I put the papers aside and thank Natsuki for bringing them to me.
Natsuki pouts her lips.
“You haven’t answered my messages”, she complains. I look away. I don’t have any excuses for that, nor an actual reason. I don’t know how to respond to that. After a short moment of silence, Natsuki starts looking around again.
“Your room is pretty clean”, she states, changing the subject. “You have many mangas, though. And games.”
“I like cleaning my room”, I say, “and usually I close that closet, when I have someone visiting me. I didn’t expect you coming over.”
“I decided to surprise you”, Natsuki looks at me and smirks. “Since you didn’t answer me, I got worried. It’s been so quiet in the literature club, since both Sayori and you are gone. The air feels heavy there. I don’t really like it.”
“Did you skip the club meeting for me?” I feel confused. Natsuki seems to blush a little and she crosses her arms.
“Well, maybe”, she mumbles. “If you don’t like it, just say it. I’ll leave, if it makes you feel better.”
I smile. Natsuki sees that and looks at me. It’s the first time since Sayori’s death that I truly smile. It’s not a wide smile, but it’s an honest smile anyway.
“Thank you for coming. I appreciate it.”
Natsuki blushes a bit more and looks away.
“Nah, it’s nothing”, she bites her lower lip. “Just something… a friend would do, I guess.”
I gently take Natsuki’s hand.
“You are kind”, I say when Natsuki looks at me again. She smiles.
“Well, at least for the ones that are nice to me”, she shrugs. “I have no reason to be mad at you anyway.”
“You would”, I look the other way. “I haven’t answered you. Neither you nor Monika. I didn’t know what to say.”
Natsuki pouts her lips again.
“What has Monika messaged you about?” she asks.
“Basically the same as you. Not so much, though. She sent me a few messages asking if I’m alright and if I’ll come back to school anytime soon”, I answer. Natsuki has an odd expression on her face.
“Well, anyway, you got your homework”, Natsuki takes her hand off mine and stands up. “I’d best go home, or my dad will get mad at me again. See you at the club.”
Natsuki leaves quickly. I feel like I said something wrong again, but I just can’t figure out what. I sigh and look at the calendar on my wall. I think I should try going to school again tomorrow.
The school day passes slowly. It feels like walking in a fog. Teachers smile warmly and the other students give me their notes to copy for classes. I’ve never been popular, and I never thought so many would help me in a situation like this. Even though I feel kind of embarrassed by all the attention, it feels good to know how much people care.
If only they’d known how to help Sayori as well , I think, bitter all of a sudden. It’s so wrong that everyone keeps telling me that everything’s going to be alright, when it truly was Sayori who needed that more than anyone.
I walk into the club room quietly. The three other girls are sitting there, and Monika seems to try and keep up a conversation about some poet. Natsuki’s shout shuts her up.
“Oh, you really came back to school”, Natsuki looks at me surprised. Monika looks delighted and even Yuri gives me a small smile when she sees me.
“I’m glad you’re back”, Monika smiles warmly at me. “Sit down! We have a seat for you.”
Monika points at a chair next to Natsuki. Natsuki is pouting her lips again, and I can’t help but think if she’s mad at me about something. I sit down and listen to Monika’s speech about a poet who wrote a haiku every morning and a longer poem every evening for 25 years. In the corner of my eye I see Natsuki peeking at me, curious about my attendance. But when I try to look back, she turns her eyes away and makes sure our eyes won’t meet during the club meeting.
After the meeting I run after Natsuki and stop her before she gets out of the building.
“Natsuki”, I call for her and grab gently her by shoulder to make her turn around and look at me. “Hey, is everything okay? You left quite quickly yesterday, and I…”
“I really needed to go home”, Natsuki answers shortly. “And I need to go home now, too.”
“Are you mad at me?”
“No, dummy, I’m not”, she smirks. “I might be a little bit jealous, but not mad.”
“Jealous? For what?” I don’t get it. Why would Natsuki be jealous? And for who? She blushes.
“Never mind that”, Natsuki quickly looks away to hide her embarrassment. “I really need to go now, so we’ll see again tomorrow.”
“Okay, bye then”, I wave my hand even though Natsuki doesn’t even look at my direction. I still feel like she’s mad at me about something, but I don’t bother figuring it out. I hope Natsuki tells me sooner or later, because reading her is really hard.
Back at home, I sit down to do my homework. I have lots of work to do, and I’ve dropped behind on every subject, so getting everything done will take some time. I work for solid three hours, when suddenly the doorbell rings. There’s no one else home, so I’ll have to go downstairs to see what it is about. I need a break anyway , I think stretching my arms and open the front door.
Natsuki sprints to hug me and I almost fall on the floor. Confused as ever, I look at her the best I can.
“Nat-- are you.. crying?” I mumble. Natsuki shivers.
“Dad’s mad at me”, she whispers. “I can’t be at home today.”
I pat her head.
“Let’s go to my room”, I suggest. Natsuki nods against my chest and walks past me. I close the door and follow her to my room. Natsuki sits on my bed, arms around her legs and looks at me over her knees. Her eyes are all red from crying. I sit next to her.
“What happened?” I ask, afraid that she wouldn’t tell me. Half true. Natsuki mumbles the answer so quietly, that I barely hear her. She says something about her dad being mad at her and punishing her for being disobedient.
“Your dad doesn’t sound a great man”, I sigh. Natsuki shakes her head.
“He loves me”, Natsuki states, but looks really uncomfortable saying it out loud. “He wants me… to grow up perfect.”
I wonder what that means. Natsuki looks at me.
“Don’t tell anyone, okay?” she begs. “I don’t want anyone else to know about it. I trust in you. I you fail my trust, I will punch you in the face.”
“I won’t tell anyone”, I promise. Natsuki smiles.
“Good. Not even Monika.”
“Why would I tell Monika about something you trusted me with?”
Natsuki makes a hmph and pouts her lips.
“I hope you’re not too close with her”, Natsuki says. “Or Yuri. I don’t want to share you with anyone else.”
I slowly shake my head.
“No, I won’t tell them anything”, I repeat. “They are just friends. And I don’t want to make you feel bad about it.”
“That’s good to hear”, Natsuki relaxes a little. She smiles at me.
“Do you want to watch something?” I suggest. I feel like I need something relaxing right now. Natsuki shrugs.
“Sure, I want to see your anime collection”, she smirks and goes to see the closet I have my animes in. “You have quite many good animes here!” Natsuki takes out a box and looks at me over her shoulder. “Can we watch this?”
I see the box in her hand and nod. I stand up to help with the DVD-player.
“I can handle this”, I say and take the box from Natsuki. Our hands touch a little bit, and I feel my heart miss a beat. When I get the disc in I sit back on my bed and Natsuki sits next to me.
“How do eagles fly so high?” Natsuki asks suddenly.
“What?” I don’t understand. “What was that about?”
“Eagles”, Natsuki looks up at me. “They are flesh and bone like us, but instead of hair they have feathers, and they fly but we don’t. Why don’t people have such a skill, to fly freely?”
I have no idea where she got that question from. I shrug.
“I don’t know. Maybe mother nature wanted us to keep out feet on ground”, I answer, and smirk. “Little did she know, though. We have airplanes and helicopters to fly among the birds.”
“It’s different, though”, Natsuki turns her eyes back to the TV. “We are not free to fly like eagles are. I’d like to be an eagle. To just fly away, bye bye everyone down there.”
Natsuki leans on my shoulder and I feel my heart beat faster. It’s weird and makes me feel dizzy. The scent of Natsuki’s hair fills my lungs and it gets harder to breathe. I feel like falling, and suddenly I lay on my bed, Natsuki on top of my chest.
“Natsuki..” I whisper. Natsuki looks at me, but doesn’t get further away from me. Our faces are really close. So close that our noses almost touch. Natsuki stares me right in the eyes and I take a deep breath. I have already forgotten, why I called her name.
“I like you”, Natsuki says quietly. “I don’t want to share you with anyone else. Do you promise to be with me? Just me.”
I feel Natsuki squeeze my hand. I hear my heartbeat in my ears.
“I love you, Natsuki”, I whisper. Our lips touch gently. It’s my first kiss ever, but it feels really good. My whole body relaxes, and I can feel Natsuki’s heartbeat now as well. Her skin is really soft and I let my hands feel the softness of her arms. When Natsuki backs off a little, I breathe in again. Did I even breathe during that kiss? I wonder, since breathing has never felt so good. Though I liked the kiss, and stopping makes me want more.
“The you’ll be mine”, she states and boops on my nose. “Just mine.”
“Yes”, I answer. “I’m all yours now.”
Natsuki pats my chest.
“Good”, she smirks and leans closer to kiss me again. We miss some parts of the current episode playing on TV screen, but neither of us really cares. Watching anime laying on my bed with Natsuki in my arms is everything beyond my dreams. A nerd like me would never imagine having such a cute girl tell she likes me.
Natsuki falls asleep at some point. She is so cute when she’s asleep, but I can’t of course say that out loud to her. I don’t have the heart to wake her up. I bury my face in Natsuki’s hair and smile. Right now, life is good again.
A whistle in the playground,
a whisper in my headphones
The bouncy melody
of a marshmallow fantasy
I feel like skipping a heartbeat
like bubbles in strawberry milk -