Jurina tries her best to smile at the photographer, despite not being in the mood for it. She's doing a photoshoot with Rena and has to - like always - act like they are close. She used to love it before when she arrived in SKE and was just a kid. She would tease Rena and try to hug and kiss her every time she had a chance. However, she was now seventeen and things had changed. She couldn't stand being close to her anymore. When did their relationship change so much?
Jurina never really understood why management decided to make them work together. They had nothing in common. Jurina was lively when Rena was shy. Jurina craved for physical contact when Rena loathed it. At first, Rena's reactions amused her when she tried to a avoid a kiss or a hug. It became a game for her as well as a challenge, and she took every given opportunity to try and surprise her into a hug.
It rarely worked. Rena usually saw it coming and dodged at the last minute. Jurina really tried to bond with the girl. Of course, there was a six years gap between them, but she admired Rena. Rena was a workaholic, always focused on her work. Jurina learned a lot from just looking at her. Despite her best efforts, Rena always rejected her and Jurina came to the conclusion that they would never really be friends.
Jurina always believed that Rena didn't like physical contact, that's why she couldn't believe her eyes when she saw Rena hug Airi a few months ago. Even worth, she would let the girl hug her in return. That's when something changed in Jurina. Before that, she never really thought twice about Rena's rejections. Now, it was a different story. She took it personally and felt hurt.
Three months had passed since that day and the aching had not faded. She didn't really know why it bothered her so much, after all, they were not really friends. However, she couldn't stand watching Rena and Airi interact together and avoided them as much as possible. She would stay as professional as usual during shootings and interviews, but the teasing towards Rena had stopped. In fact, she would avoid eye contact and always have a fake smile on her face. Working with Rena was becoming more and more difficult, but she couldn't do anything about it.
The photoshoot is becoming more and more painful. Rena is acting like her usual safe, while Jurina is hoping time could pass more quickly. When the photographer announces the end, Jurina sighs in relief, thanking him before going straight to the dressing room. After such a tiring day, she only wishes for one thing: to go home and sleep.
Rena enters the room a few minutes later, and they both get change in silence. The door opens a while later on Airi who smiles at both of them.
Jurina turns around and welcomes her with a polite smile, while Rena hugs Airi as she approaches.
"What are you doing here?" Rena asks, surprised to see her.
"I knew you had a photoshoot late today, and I thought maybe we could eat dinner together," Airi suggests, a hopeful smile on her lips.
"Of course," Rena answers.
Jurina watches them interact from afar before averting her eyes, annoyed by the sudden pang in her chest. When she's finally in her own clothes she quickly gathers her things and makes her way to the door, after saying goodbye. As Rena meets her eyes she finds her smile a bit fake but doesn't think too much of it, thinking the younger girl may be just tired. Once the young ace is gone Rena comes out of her musing as Airi calls her name, before narrating her day at the girl's demand.
Jurina is about to take a cab to go home when her phone rings. Quickly grabbing the device from her bag, her mouth tugs into a smile at the view of the caller ID.
"Hi Jurina. Is your photoshoot over?"
"Yes it is. I was about to go home. Why?"
"Are you free? Yuki is cooking tonight, and she asked me to invite you home."
Jurina hesitates. She is really tired, and craves for a good night sleep. Just as she's about to decline she watches Rena and Airi leaving the photography studio, Airi's left hand attached to Rena's arm. They are talking while walking down the street, probably heading to the restaurant and don't notice Jurina, too engrossed in their conversation. Meanwhile, Mayu is still patiently waiting for Jurina's answer, that comes shortly after that.
"Yes, I'll be there soon."
Yuki and Mayu have been sharing an apartment for six months now. They quickly became friends in AKB, and now spent a lot of time together. When Yuki had asked Mayu to move in with her, she had quickly answered yes. Jurina had been to their apartment a few times now, as Mayu was her best friend. At first, she didn't really speak with Yuki as she didn't know much about her, but it didn't take too long before she started to enjoy her company. Mayu and Yuki were really different but, somehow, that didn't prevent them from being very close. Jurina really envied their relationship. She sometimes wished her relationship with Rena could have followed the same path.
The girl is lost in thoughts when the apartment's door suddenly opens. She is greeted by Mayu's smile, who urges her to come in. A pleasant smell immediately reaches Jurina's nostrils, and she smiles in amusement when she manages to guess what Yuki is cooking. Yuki, wearing an apron, waves at her from the kitchen, and Mayu invites Jurina to sit down at the dinner table.
"I see Yuki is cooking your favorite dish," Jurina affirms.
"Yes, well..." Mayu's voice trails off, averting slightly her gaze shyly, before changing the subject with a barely contained eagerness, "how did your photoshoot with Rena go?"
Jurina's smile immediately falters. She agreed to have dinner with her two friends to forget about Rena, not wanting to stay alone at home as her parents were away, but was already reminded of her.
"Did something happen?" Mayu asks, noticing Jurina's sudden change of mood.
"No, nothing. It went smoothly, as always," Jurina replies swiftly, averting her questioning eyes.
"You know you can't lie to me. I'm the cyborg girl, not you," Mayu grumbles, annoyed at her younger friend's behavior.
A sudden laugh diverts their attention and both girls turn to look at Yuki who's now bringing the food.
"It's true. Mayu is good at hiding her emotions. Not you," Yuki chides, setting a plate of chicken on the table.
"I'm just tired," Jurina sighs, grabbing her chopsticks and starting to put food on her plate at Yuki's invitation.
As silence progressively fills the room Jurina looks up curiously, noticing that her friends are staring at her and not eating. Obviously, they are expecting a better explanation, and she exhales deeply, placing her chopsticks on her plate.
"I don't know how to act around her anymore," Jurina admits.
Yuki raises a confused eyebrow before starting to eat, while Mayu continues to stare at her. Jurina avoids her best friend's scrutinizing as best she can, feeling a bit ashamed of what she just admitted. She didn't really mean to utter those words, but as the uneasy feeling has been nagging her for a while now, she can't help but feel a bit relieved to finally have it off her chest. At her declaration the room stays silent anew and Jurina resumes eating, starting to believe her words won't get any response.
"What do you mean?" Mayu asks, absently bringing food to her mouth.
"Our relationship has changed a lot lately. We used to get along and spend a lot of time together but now, not so much," Jurina answers.
"Well, you always work together. It's normal sometimes to want some space," Yuki explains, "plus, you both are really different."
"You both are too. It doesn't prevent you from being close," Jurina retorts.
Yuki and Mayu turn to each other and share a brief shy smile, before avoiding Jurina's eyes and focusing on their food. Jurina raises a curious eyebrow at their sudden odd behavior, failing to find an explanation to it, her features contorting in surprise when Yuki starts to fidget in her seat, and Mayu clears her throat nervously. Her words obviously triggered this whole strange scene she's witnessing, but she has no idea why. Her eyes then stay on Mayu as she expects her to give an explanation, but none leaves her lips.
"I wouldn't be too worried about it. I'm sure you'll reconnect soon," Mayu affirms, her steady gaze back on the younger girl.
"I wouldn't count on it with Airi in the way," Jurina shakes her head, before widening her eyes when she realizes what she just said. She never intended to let that name leave her lips. It seems her weariness is playing tricks on her.
"Airi, what about her?" Yuki frowns, all trace of her previous uneasiness forgotten.
Jurina closes her eyes and sighs, realizing what she just got herself into. It seems it wasn't such a good idea to confide in her friends, after all. Plus, she wouldn't even know how to explain this uneasy feeling she has been having for a while.
"I'm sorry, but can we just drop the subject?" Jurina pleads.
Mayu looks at her carefully, pondering if she should insist or not. Obviously, something is really bothering her younger friend, otherwise she would never have mentioned it. Just as Mayu is about to open her mouth to question her she feels a gentle hand on her shoulder and she tilts her head to Yuki curiously, watching her as she slowly shakes her head. It's almost as if Yuki managed to read her mind, and disagreed with her prying.
"Fine, you're off the hook for tonight," Mayu says, half regretting backing away, "instead, you'll have to listen to how boring our day was."
Jurina chuckles at Mayu's dramatic tone, not missing the way Yuki rolls her eyes in amusement. Mayu starts her narration of the day and Jurina progressively relaxes as her mind gets freed from worried thoughts.
If you enjoy reading my fictions, don't hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment! I love to hear people's thoughts, their favorite moments & scenes, their intuitions, guesses etc. I enjoy writing, but it's still something I do on my free time and I spend a great amount of time & work on each chapter. That's why positive feedback/comments/encouragements are welcomed and give me motivation to keep on!
The next day, when Jurina arrives for dancing practice with the SKE group, she's in a good mood. She had a good night sleep thanks to the nice evening she had with her two friends, and greets her teammates with a sincere smile. She's a bit surprised to see so few people in the room, and goes to sit next Akane.
"Hi Jurina! Do you know why we're only ten today?"
"I have no idea. I was about to ask you the same thing. The coach didn't say anything?"
"No, she was waiting for everyone to arrive. Even Airin is not here today."
Akane seems disappointed to not see her friend but Jurina chooses to stay quiet, annoyed by the pang she suddenly feels in her chest as the girl's mention immediately reminds her of her distant relationship with Rena.
She then sees the vocal coach approaching her and giving her a paper. Just one glance at it and she frowns, noticing that it's a new song. Their next concert is in two months and they already have a lot of work to do. Another song means extra work, what they clearly don't need. Even worse, going through the lyrics she discovers that it's a duet with... Rena. It's been a long time since her last one with her, but now is really not the right time for that. Management clearly is not on her side.
"Sorry Jurina, but you'll have to learn it pretty fast. It will be included in the next concert."
Jurina nods in agreement, taking a peek at Rena who's also reading the sheet. The latter approaches when she finishes going through it.
"It seems we'll have a lot of work to do together. I'm counting on you!"
Rena gives her a painful smile, more dreading the dancing session than anything else. Singing comes naturally to her, but she's not good at sports. She'll probably have a hard time with the choreography.
The vocal coach then leaves the room, and the dancing coach asks the girls to come closer. Only eight girls will accompany them on the song, and mostly in the background. Talk about adding pressure. All eyes will be on them.
At the end of the week, they are still working on the dance moves. Jurina, who's always loved dancing, pretty much knows the choreography by heart. She still has a few details to master, but she's quite satisfied with herself. A few girls in the background are still having problems with a few moves, and Jurina helps them the best she can. She knows not everyone is as good as she is at dancing, and gives advice from time to time. After all, even if she loves dancing and it comes more naturally to her, she still works a lot to better herself. That's something she learned from the workaholic Rena.
Speaking of which, the girl is clearly behind the others. It doesn't really surprise Jurina as it's not the first time she witnesses such a thing. She sees her doing her best, as always, but she gets a bit worried about the schedule. They still have the song to practice, and the concert is quickly approaching.
The following week, Jurina works on the song with her vocal coach. Her singing still has flaws and she has to work hard to improve it. Moreover, she's having difficulty learning the lyrics. They sound too close to the situation she's living with Rena. The song is about two people who suddenly grow apart, until one of them leaves to another country. It's a really sad song, and even if it's about a boy and a girl, she can relate to it. For now she's working on her own with the vocal coach while Rena is still practicing the choreography, but she can't imagine how she'll act when they'll have to sing it together.
It's late when Jurina gathers her things to leave. The vocal coach left an hour ago but Jurina chose to stay a bit longer, willing to continue working on the song. Now her voice is a bit hoarse, and she knows it's time to stop. She's about to leave when she suddenly hears music from the dancing room and she approaches, surprised someone is still here. She was convinced everybody had already left.
Pushing the door, her eyes immediately fall on Rena who's still practicing the moves. She watches her for a while, proud to see how much she has improved. She now seems to know the choreography very well. However, just as she's about to close the door and leave, a sharp noise distracts her and she turns around, her eyes widening in surprise as she sees Rena on the floor.
It's obvious the older girl missed a step and fell, as a plaintive sound leaves her lips while she rubs her back. As fast as she fell she's already back on her feet, and starting the music from the start again.
Jurina briefly ponders suggesting Rena to stop her training session for the day, as she's obviously very tired, before thinking against it. Her words won't have much an effect on her. Rena is a workaholic, and will probably stay until she masters all the moves perfectly.
A faint sigh leaves Jurina's lips as she watches her moving in rhythm with the music again, before slowly closing the door. She's about to leave when an idea suddenly pops up in her head and she halts. There's one person who may be able to make Rena change her mind.
She checks the time first, not willing to disturb the girl. Knowing she's not asleep yet, she gets her phone out of her bag and dials a number. A surprised girl answers a few seconds later, sounding a bit tired.
"Hello, Airi. I hope I'm not bothering you," Jurina asks hesitantly.
"Not at all, I was reading," Airi answers.
"I'm sorry to call you so late, but it's about Rena," Jurina affirms.
"Rena?" Airi's voice pitches up in curiosity.
"She's been working all day long on the choreography, and she's still at it. I'm afraid she'll overwork herself if she continues. Can you give her a call? I know she won't listen to me," Jurina explains.
"Of course. Thank you for telling me."
"And please, don't tell her I called you," Jurina pleads.
"Okay... as you wish," Airi answers. She finds the girl's request a bit odd, but chooses not to say anything.
"Thank you Airi," Jurina sighs in relief, "goodnight."
Jurina hangs up and doesn't wait long before hearing Rena's phone ringing. Even if the older girl is very tired her voice still pitches up as she answers her phone, and Jurina guesses she's talking to Airi. A few seconds later, she knows Rena has agreed to the girl's request and she sighs in relief, before leaving the place and heading home. Another long day awaits her.
The next day when Jurina arrives, she immediately looks for Akane. They have been training a lot together lately, Jurina helping the other girl with her moves and talking to her during breaks. She finds it strange that they never really talked together before that, as they have much more in common than she thought. The girl sometimes looks sad, and Jurina can't help but want to cheer her up.
This morning, as she spots Akane in the room, her sad expression doesn't go unnoticed. Jurina quickly goes to her side, and catches a glimpse of the picture she's looking at on her phone. It's one of Airi and her.
"Hi Akane," Jurina says, immediately hugging her and kissing her on the cheek.
"Jurina! You scared me!" Akane's voice pitches up in surprise, quickly closing the phone.
"You seemed lost in your thoughts. Something's wrong?"
"No, I'm just tired."
Jurina knows this lie all too well. She has used it many times herself and can't help but smile, before thinking about the picture she just saw.
"You had a fight with Airi?"
Akane looks at her in surprise, and Jurina points at her phone.
"I saw you looking at the picture."
"No, we didn't. I just.... miss her."
Jurina knows how good friends they are and nods.
"When was the last time you saw her?"
"Three days ago."
Jurina wants to laugh, but restrains herself when she sees how sad Akane really is. She then grabs her arms, prompting the older girl to look at her.
"I can be your friend while she's not here."
"Are you trying to comfort me?" Akane asks, dumbstruck.
"I am. Is it working?"
Akane nods and they both share a laugh.
"Thank you, Jurina. I needed that."
"No problem, and I was serious."
"I can be your friend if you want to."
Akane looks at Jurina carefully, wondering if she's making fun of her, but there's no sign of mischief in her eyes. It looks kind of odd to her, as everyone is used to Jurina's pranks and jokes. She thinks seriously about her proposition, remembering the fun times they have been spending together lately. She has to admit that when she was with her, she didn't think too much about Airi. She then turns to Jurina, who has been waiting for her answer expectantly.
"Sure!" Akane exclaims, a soft chuckle escaping her lips when Jurina immediately moves forward to hug her.
Jurina is fidgeting in the recording studio, waiting for the staff and Rena to arrive. She is reading the lyrics of the song again and again, but some words just can't get in her head. The recording will begin shortly and she's far from prepared. A few minutes later the staff enters and Jurina greets them with a polite smile, trying her best to get rid of her apprehension. Rena follows just behind and both girls share a quick smile, before the older Matsui goes to take a seat next to her on the sofa. The staff is still preparing the room while Jurina tries to focus on the lyrics that are troubling her so much. Her attention gets distracted from the words when she suddenly feels a soft touch on her hand, and she curiously tilts her head to Rena.
"Everything's going to be fine," Rena affirms, her fingers lightly squeezing Jurina's hand in a comforting gesture.
Rena also has the lyrics sheet on her lap but is not looking at it, and Jurina guesses she probably knows the lyrics by heart. Jurina weakly nods at her words, before getting back to the lyrics and repeating them anew in her head. She's trying her best to concentrate, but it's hard when Rena's hand is still resting on hers and being awfully distracting.
The recording doesn't go well. Rena does her part perfectly, but Jurina just can't get it right. She's angry with herself when she has to start a verse for the fourth time. What's happening to her? She's wasting everyone's time. As she sings the lyrics again she avoids Rena's eyes, guessing she probably would only find disappointment in them.
"That's enough for today, we'll continue tomorrow," a staff member declares when she fails again at her fourth tentative.
Jurina immediately takes a peek at the clock on the wall, noticing it's only 4PM. She wants to argue she can still go on, but also knows it's not a good idea. Her voice is really starting to get hoarse. She sighs dejectedly, staring at the problematic lyrics. She's never had such a hard time memorizing a song.
Jurina goes to gather her things, feeling a bit down. Her day started so well, that she hated going home feeling unsatisfied. Why on earth her relationship with Rena was making her act this way? Lost in her musing, she turns around when she hears the older Matsui calling her name.
"Don't worry about it. You're probably just tired. It happens to me too," Rena says, a comforting smile on her lips.
Jurina replicates the gesture a bit awkwardly, trying hard to not retort that it's not true. As much as Rena sometimes has difficulty memorizing choreographies, she never fails to recite the lyrics perfectly.
Rena steps out of the room soon after, leaving Jurina with her troubled thoughts. Just as Jurina is about to depart as well her phone rings and she halts, a smile moving to her lips as she reads the text she just received.
"Hoping my new friend did well today during the recording session. See you tomorrow! Churi."
When Rena wakes up this morning, she has a bad headache, a sore throat and is coughing way too much. She tries to get up but feels dizzy, and her feverish body fails her. Her eyes widen slightly as she suddenly recognizes these signs, and a groan leaves her lips in annoyance.
She can't be sick, not today. She has to finish recording the new song. People are expecting her. Jurina didn't do so well yesterday, and even if it surprised her to see the girl so nervous, she wants to be here to support her.
Rena takes a peek at her alarm clock and notices she still has an hour until the beginning of the recording. She turns towards her bed and lies down, her eyes immediately shutting as sleepiness takes hold of her. "I'll just rest a few more minutes," she mumbles to herself and before she realizes it, she's already fast asleep.
It's the ringing that wakes her up. Rena opens her eyes with difficulty and looks for the annoying sound, lifting herself up to catch her phone on the bedside table. A name flashes and she slowly opens the device. At the girl's voice on the other side, she quickly discovers that her headache has not disappeared. It's even worse. Her voice is weaker than she expected when she answers.
"Rena? What are you doing? It’s 10 AM!"
At first, Rena's foggy mind refuses to register her friend's words, before they progressively sink. That's right. She was supposed to meet Airi before going to the recording studio. Taking a peek at the alarm clock she immediately widens her eyes in horror when she realizes the girl is right and she overslept. This new discovery prompts her to quickly get out of bed but forgetting her current weak state she stumbles, a thumb echoing in the room as she ends up on the floor.
"Rena? Are you okay? What was that noise?"
Rena tries to answer but her phone slips from her grasp as she falls, preventing her from giving any explanation. Her digits caress her forehead as her headache intensifies, and a desperate groan leaves her lips as she sits up and lays her back to the side of the bed. Her eyes unconsciously close again, and she fails to hear the sound of her front door opening. Rena is drifting off when a soft knock on her bedroom door prompts her to slowly open her eyes.
"I’m sorry for coming uninvited but… Rena! What are you doing on the floor?" Airi asks, trying to come closer.
Airi's footsteps distract Rena who looks up, before raising her hand when she sees her approaching.
"Don't!" Rena exclaims, trying her best to get up, in vain, "I'm sick!"
Airi immediately halts at the girl's alarming tone, before a soft sigh leaves her lips. A quick look at her friend is enough to tell her that, indeed, Rena is awfully sick. It's a very rare sight as the older Matsui takes really good care of her health. Airi takes a step forward to help Rena get up, but her action doesn't go unnoticed.
"No Airin!" Rena protests, her eyes back on her.
"Fine, but you need to see a doctor," Airi sighs, frustration washing her at her friend's refusal to cooperate.
"I can't. I have to go to the recording studio," Rena retorts, her voice full of determination contrasting with her current weak state.
Airi watches her a few seconds and ponders her options, before taking her phone out of her pocket and dialing a number.
"What are you doing?" Rena asks, surprised.
"I'm calling the doctor," Airi replies.
"No, you're not," Rena protests.
Airi listens as the girl's protest continues for a few seconds but ignores it, making an appointment when a masculine voice answers on the phone. She knows Rena is not approving her decision when she sees her waving her hand at her, but she still calls the recording studio a minute later to inform them of the girl's sickness.
"I can't believe you did that," Rena mutters, staring at her when she hangs up.
"It's for your own good. Now go back to bed," Airi says.
"You're not my friend anymore," Rena replies, averting her gaze in annoyance.
Airi's eyes widen slightly at her friend's harsh words, before understanding it's only the sickness speaking, and she doesn't really mean it. She then follows Rena's movements as she clumsily gets back into bed a minute later.
"How did you get in my apartment anyway?" Rena asks, her words muffled as she buries her head in her pillow.
"You gave me a spare key. Remember?" Airi answers gently, but her words don't seem to have much an effect as Rena barely reacts.
Airi sits on a chair while watching the girl who's dozing off. Her protectiveness towards Rena emerges as she watches her friend in such a weak state, a small smile inadvertently moving to her lips. Even sick, Rena is still beautiful.
The doctor arrives an hour later and examines the poor sick girl. Unfortunately, it seems she caught a very bad cold, and she has to stay at home until the end of the week to rest. Rena tries to protest, arguing that she has work to do, but the doctor refuses to hear any of it. He has been her doctor for years now, and is quite used to the girl's tenacity. He usually gives her pills and tells her to rest, knowing full well she won't listen and go to work anyway. However, as she sees her in such a weak state, he chooses to insist greatly.
"Don’t worry doctor, I’ll make sure she stays in bed," Airi assures, getting an annoyed look from Rena in return.
The doctor leaves shortly after and Airi goes to buy medicine. When she comes back a while later Rena is still laying in bed, trying hard not to fall asleep.
"Go away. You have work to do," Rena mumbles.
"I will, once I make sure you took your pills," Airi answers.
Opening her eyes, Rena watches as Airi places two white pills and a glass of water near her bed. She clumsily sits up, before extending her arm to take the medicine.
"Promise me you'll stay in bed," Airi says, shooting Rena a hopeful look. She knows the older Matsui can be quite stubborn when she wants to, but she really hopes her current weak state will prompt her to do the right thing.
Rena nods weakly when she's done taking the medicine, before silently laying back into bed. Airi releases a small sigh of relief, watching her friend as she's now closing her eyes anew. She knows it won't take long before she falls back to sleep. Airi takes a peek at the time and suddenly realizes she's going to be late for her photoshoot if she doesn't leave now. She casts a last worried look at Rena, before turning on her heels and heading towards the door.
Airi halts at Rena's words, before glancing at her over her shoulder.
"Any time," Airi smiles, briefly meeting Rena's eyes, "I'll be back later."
Friday arrives, and Jurina has now finished recording her parts of the song. Without Rena around, it was easier to focus on her work and her memory didn’t fail her this time when she sang the lyrics. She got a bit worried when she learned about Rena’s sickness. She had sent a message to Airi knowing the girl was taking care of her, and felt relieved to know it was just a bad cold. She may be herself sometimes careless, Rena was much worse.
She left the recording room with a smile on her face, looking forward to the week end. When she heard music from the dancing room, she stopped, the situation feeling familiar. It was 7 PM, and everyone had already left. She approached the door curiously and was surprised to see Rena dancing. Jurina frowned. What was she doing here? Wasn’t she supposed to be at home resting? She sighed, looking at the girl repeating the choreography of the new song. This time, she didn’t back up, and pushed the door.
Rena jumps in surprise when she sees her reflection in the mirror and she quickly turns around, the action making her almost trip. Jurina approaches and stops the music, watching Rena who's trying to catch her breath. She's also sweating profusely, from exercise or sickness, it's hard to tell.
"What are you doing here?" Rena asks, looking behind Jurina, half expecting to see someone else coming in.
"I should be asking you the same thing. Weren't you supposed to be back on Monday?" Jurina asks, worried.
As Rena averts her gaze Jurina knows she just got her answer, and she has to muster all her willpower to not let her anger show.
"I was feeling better and didn't want to waste anymore time," Rena explains, her eyes now back on her, "I heard the recording went well."
Jurina knows the girl is trying to change the subject, but she is not about to fall in Rena's trap.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Jurina asks, her features contorting worriedly as she notices how much the girl is sweating, and she takes a few steps forward.
"Don't worry. I'm fine," Rena replies swiftly.
Jurina stares at her for a minute, pondering her words and trying to decipher Rena's expression to see if she's lying. The action doesn't go unnoticed, and Rena extends her hand.
"I promise," Rena nods, taking Jurina's hand and rubbing it gently. The gesture seems to work on the younger girl as her features soon relax.
The dancing room's door suddenly creaks and both girls turn around, noticing Churi who's looking at them questioningly from the doorstep. Jurina immediately remembers that she has plans with her friend and turns on her heels, swiftly approaching her.
"I'm sorry! Have you been waiting for me?" Jurina asks, worried.
"No, I've just arrived," Churi replies, smiling in amusement when Jurina releases a small sigh of relief, "I'll wait for you outside."
Churi diverts her attention to the older Matsui and waves at her in recognition, before taking a step back and leaving both girls alone.
"Don't stay too late," Jurina says, turning to Rena again.
Rena's eyes widen slightly at her scolding tone, not used to hearing it. It's usually the other way round. Her mouth tugs into a small smile as she joins the younger girl and places her hand on her shoulder.
"Go on. Akane is waiting for you."
Jurina watches her a few more seconds, hesitant, before nodding and turning on her heels. Rena follows her movements as she opens the door, shooting her a small reassuring smile when Jurina turns around to glance at her. When the girl is gone Rena feels her chest slightly warming up, moved by Jurina's caring attitude.
Churi is talking a lot and clinging to Jurina tightly. They're making their way to the cinema, and Jurina can't help but notice how happy Churi looks. She doesn't really mind their closeness and pats the girl's head from time to time when she says something funny. The action always makes Churi blush, and Jurina can't help but laugh in amusement at her reaction.
The room is filled with people when they get to their seat. The movie is about to start and Jurina finally relaxes when she sits in her comfy chair. They've opted for a comedy as it's the best way to forget about their stressful week. Jurina has a box full of popcorn in her left hand and starts to eat some, while absently watching the advertisement on the screen. Churi is commenting a really stupid one when their fingers suddenly meet as the older girl tries to take some popcorn. At this action, Jurina turns around in surprise, before smiling in amusement at Churi's small blush. When the last advertisement is over the room goes dark and Jurina focuses on the screen again, missing Churi's sudden discomfort.
The movie is really funny and Jurina laughs a lot. So engrossed in the movie, she doesn't notice how Churi is awfully quiet by her side. The older girl hasn't even tried to take some popcorn since the last incident. When Jurina turns to her once during the movie they share a brief smile, but because of the dark, Jurina fails to see the shyness in her friend's one.
Jurina is really enjoying herself when she suddenly feels a weight on her shoulder. Startled, she tilts her head to the side, watching as Churi's head is now resting on it. She's about to divert her attention to the screen when she feels a hand into hers. Her eyes widen slightly in surprise, and she lowers her gaze to watch their joined hands. She can't help but notice that Churi's hand is slightly trembling inside hers and she squeezes it a bit, failing to understand why the older girl is acting so nervous around her. Her attention gets back to the screen as she focuses on the movie again, not missing the way Churi's trembling hand progressively relaxes a few minutes later.
When the movie is over a while later they leave the cinema and head home, both sharing their experience of the comedy they just saw. Jurina can't help but notice that Churi is suddenly very talkative but she doesn't mind, listening in amusement as the older girl narrates cheerfully her favorites moments.
Churi is now awfully quiet as they arrive at the train station. The night is getting a bit chilly and Jurina tightens her scarf around her neck, a faint plaintive sound leaving her lips as the cold wind hits her face. Tilting her head to her companion she notices her shivering and moves forward, stretching her hand to pull the zipper of her coat all the way up. Churi watches her silently, before nodding when the young girl gently scolds her.
Their eyes meet briefly before Churi looks away, Jurina not missing her friend's slight discomfort. She frowns at her attitude, failing to understand where it's coming from, before stepping aside to wait for the train to arrive. They don't have to wait long before it enters the station and Churi takes a step forward while Jurina stays back, as she's taking the next one. Jurina watches Churi's back, her mouth tugging into a smile as she thinks about the nice evening they spent together. They really should do this more often.
"See you on Monday," Jurina exclaims when the doors open.
Jurina watches her as she takes a step forward to enter the carriage, before frowning when Churi turns on her heels and moves towards her. Jurina's eyes widen when she feels a sudden soft kiss on her cheek and she freezes, staring back at the girl who's avoiding her gaze and retreating swiftly to the train. Words stay stuck in her mouth as she tries to catch a glimpse of the older girl to understand the meaning of her action, but Churi is now moving in the carriage and taking a seat, her back turned to her. The doors close and Jurina lifts her hand to her cheek, intrigued. She may be used to kissing and hugging her fellow members, this kiss felt different. Very different.
Rena is waiting in front of a shopping store for her friend to arrive. She knows she's a bit early but she can't help it: she hates being late. The girl looks around, surprised to see so many people. She doesn't come here often - being more of an indoor person - and usually spends her week end at home relaxing, reading a book or watching TV. She really doesn't go out much often. Checking the time on her phone, she knows her friend should be here anytime soon. A voice suddenly calls her name, and she smiles when she sees a cheerful girl coming towards her.
"Hello Airin," Rena exclaims, watching her as she swiftly approaches, before kissing her on the cheek.
"Hi Rena!" Airi answers, slightly out of breath, before reciprocating the gesture, "Sorry for keeping you waiting."
"Not at all, I've just arrived," Rena waves her hand at her, a small reassuring smile on her lips.
It's a lie, but she can't help it. She doesn't want her friend to feel bad, especially when she's the one who has the bad habit to arrive way too early.
"Where do you want to go?" Rena asks, even if she already knows the answer. Airi has been eying a book shop for a few seconds now.
"You don't mind?" Airi asks tentatively, pointing at it.
"Not at all," Rena replies swiftly, an amused smile on her lips. Her best friend can be so predictable sometimes.
While Airi goes straight to the manga section, Rena looks at a few cooking books. After going through three she chooses one to buy, eager to try some new recipes. She then goes to look for Airi, who's busy in the manga section. The older Matsui smiles when she sees the girl holding five of them.
"So many?" Rena teases.
"There are new interesting titles this month," Airi replies, avoiding her best friend's gaze in embarrassment.
"I don't mind," Rena chuckles, amused by her sudden unexpected discomfort, "I like how passionate you are."
When they're finished buying the books, they go to a few shopping stores. Rena mostly follows the other girl, as she doesn't want to spend too much money today, not to mention she's not really into fashion. When they get in the fourth store, Rena silently follows Airi, frowning at her friend's odd behavior. Airi seems to be looking for something as her eyes wander around the store with interest, but she doesn't try anything on. The older Matsui is about to question her when she spots a nice red scarf on a shelf.
The weather is getting a bit chilly lately, and her recent sickness tells her she definitely needs something warmer. Rena's fingers caress the fabric, appreciating the soft sensation under her skin, before pondering buying it. As she notices the expensive price her eyes widen slightly in surprise. She promised herself to not spend too much money today, and she already bought a quite expensive book. She watches the scarf a few more seconds, still a bit hesitant, before shaking her head. She must resist the temptation. Taking a step back she looks around, before noticing Airi by her side. Lost in her musing, she didn't hear her friend approaching.
"It's 4 PM. Do you want to go to a café? It's my treat," Airi offers.
"Okay," Rena replies.
Both girls arrive at a café a few minutes later and are about to enter when Airi suddenly stops at the doorstep.
"I forgot to buy something," Airi admits, slightly averting her eyes.
"Oh?" Rena's voice pitches up in surprise. They already went through five stores without buying anything. What could she have forgotten? She starts to follow her as Airi retreats, and almost bumps into her when the girl suddenly turns around.
"You don't have to come with me," Airi says, waving her hand at her, "I won't be long."
"Okay," Rena frowns, finding her friend's behavior a bit odd, "I'll find us a table then."
Rena has been reading her cooking book for the past five minutes when Airi erupts in the café and takes a seat opposite her. Rena looks up, immediately noticing the shopping bag in her hand. Her mouth tugs into a smile as she guesses her friend has finally found what she's been looking for all afternoon. Just as she's about to question her about it Airi places the bag behind her chair, out of view. Rena frowns at the gesture but doesn't think too much of it, and chooses not to pry.
"Mayu, just choose one."
Jurina sighs for the third time, watching her friend taking a CD and putting it back on the shelf. She's been doing it for quite some time now and even if Jurina is accustomed to her friend's antics, she's not amused about it today. And not very patient.
When Mayu had sent her a text this morning asking her if she wanted to go to Shibuya, she had gladly accepted, expecting a fun afternoon with her best friend. She also wanted to take her mind off Churi, after the awkward thing that happened the evening before. She had messaged the girl to know if she was available on the week end, but she had only received a short reply, stating she was busy. Somehow, she believed Churi was embarrassed about what had happened at the train station, and Jurina wanted to clear things up between them as fast as possible. She had sent her another message during lunch, but hadn't received any reply yet. Churi's attitude was unsettling, and it was starting to make her grumpy.
Mayu casts a look at Jurina who's busy staring at her phone. She's noticed how her friend was in a bad mood today, but didn't pay too much attention to it until now. Jurina's exasperated tone doesn't go unnoticed and she frowns, before turning back to the shelf. She continues to hesitate between three anime CD, not willing to buy them all. The choice is really hard and she decides to go through the tracklist again. She's currently reading the tracklist of the second one when Jurina decides to manifest her annoyance with another loud sigh. This time Mayu chooses to not ignore it and she turns around, crossing her arms over her chest.
"What's up with you today?"
"Just make up your mind. We've been here for hours."
Mayu rolls her eyes at Jurina's exaggeration, before looking back and forth between the girl and her phone. Jurina is currently energetically typing a message, and Mayu feels her annoyance building up inside her as she's being ignored. When it seems the young girl is not going to look at her she swiftly grabs the phone from her hand, examining it with curiosity.
"Who are you texting anyway?" Mayu grumbles, ignoring Jurina's protests, "You haven't stopped looking at your phone the whole afternoon!"
Jurina tries to take it back but Mayu's swift movements and keen eyes enable her to dodge Jurina's hand each time it approaches.
"Since when are you friend with Akane?" Mayu asks, widening her eyes in surprise as she goes through her last messages, "That's a lot of texts!"
"Stop it Mayu, give it back!" Jurina exclaims, exhaling deeply in exasperation when all her attempts to retrieve the device fail.
The shorter girl can sense Jurina is getting really mad, and even if she enjoys teasing her friend, she doesn't want to go too far.
"Here, take it," she mutters, not amused anymore.
As Mayu stretches her hand Jurina quickly grabs the phone, taking a quick look at it as to make sure Mayu didn't do anything, before sliding it in her pocket. Mayu guesses by her friend's strange attitude that something is bothering her and is about to question her when she suddenly notices two familiar faces in her peripheral vision.
"Oh, it's Rena and Airi!" Mayu exclaims.
Jurina quickly turns around at her words, her features slightly decomposing as she watches the two friends' arrival in the shop.
"We should go and say hi," Mayu suggests and starts to move forward before halting when she feels a hand on her arm.
"I prefer if we spend the afternoon just the two of us," Jurina murmurs, avoiding her gaze.
Mayu frowns at her friend's odd request. Jurina has been grumpy all afternoon, and now she's suddenly acting all nervous when she's merely suggesting to go and speak with two familiar members. Mayu opens her mouth to question her, before thinking against it at the sight of Jurina's discomfort.
"Fine, you can let go of my arm," Mayu relents, taking a quick peek at the two SKE members who haven't noticed them, before gazing at Jurina, "You're hurting me."
"I'm sorry," Jurina murmurs, releasing her grip.
"You're really weird today," Mayu states, a frustrated sigh leaving her lips as she witnesses Jurina's embarrassment. She doesn't know what's going through her head, but one thing is for sure: she's definitely not going to let Jurina off the hook.
They are now sitting in a crowded café. Mayu is really enjoying her cake and coffee, but not the same can be said about Jurina. She has barely touched hers, and her tea is getting cold. The younger girl isn't looking at her phone anymore, but not talking much anyway. Mayu receives a text from Yuki asking her how her afternoon with Jurina is going, and Mayu ponders if she should answer truthfully. She doesn't want to be seen as a bad friend, but really, Jurina is not making things easy. She had asked her what was going on, but she had stubbornly stayed quiet. She kind of wished Yuki was here, she was better with these kinds of things. She would probably be able to get the truth out of her. Now Mayu has decided to ignore the other girl's odd behavior, and enjoy her cake. If she didn't want to talk about it, then fine.
The entrance door suddenly opens and Jurina absently looks up, widening her eyes when she recognizes the girl coming in. She's aware this café is pretty popular around here, but still, what were the odds of meeting Rena again? Jurina makes a small noise of discomfort and at the sound Mayu looks up from her cake, following her gaze, before rolling her eyes.
"Don't tell me you want us to leave? I haven't finished my cake yet," Mayu grumbles.
Jurina watches Rena who's taking a seat in a corner of the café, before turning to Mayu who's gazing at with hopeful eyes.
"No, everything's fine," Jurina replies, a faint smile on her lips.
Everything is not fine, especially not when she sees Airi arriving a few minutes later and joining the older Matsui at her table, but she decides to ignore them. She doesn't know why she's always acting this way when she sees them together. It's getting a bit ridiculous if she has to admit. Even if she doesn't speak with Airi much she seems a really nice girl, so why does her relationship with Rena bother her so much?
Jurina diverts her attention to observe Mayu who's enjoying her cake. She suddenly feels bad for the way she's been treating her the whole afternoon. She wanted to confide in her best friend, but her mouth refused to produce words. She didn't even know how to explain a situation she herself didn't understand. A soft sigh leaves her lips as she wonders what's the problem with her when her phone suddenly rings, alerting her she just received a message.
I'm sorry for not answering sooner. Something has been bothering me lately and I didn't feel like going out. We'll talk about it on Monday. Everything's fine. I promise.
Jurina smiles as she reads the text, relief washing her at her friend's reassuring words. Turning around, she notices Mayu's curious gaze on her and she puts her phone away, her attention now fully on her. Jurina's mouth curves up in amusement as she mischievously approaches her fork to Mayu's cake, swiftly taking the last bit before her friend can react. Mayu releases a helpless cry as she watches Jurina making a pleased sound as the cake disappears in her mouth.
"Here, you can have some of mine," Jurina chuckles, pushing her own cake towards her.
Mayu pouts, looking at the empty space where her cake previously was, before taking a big piece of Jurina's.
"Hey!" Jurina protests.
"It's really good Jurina, thank you," Mayu exclaims, a mischievous smile on her lips as she purposely makes an exaggerated happy sound.
Jurina doesn't have the heart to complain as she witnesses her friend's cheerfulness, and she takes a sip of her tea, giggling softly when Mayu continues to munch on the cake.
"I'm sorry for today," Jurina murmurs a while later.
"Yeah, I'm too good of a friend," Mayu nods.
"Get over yourself," Jurina laughs, patting the other girl's head in amusement.
Mayu feigns annoyance at the girl's gesture, but there's a subtle smile at the corner of her mouth.
Jurina slowly sits on the bed, looking pensively out of the window, a sad expression in her eyes. She suddenly feels the bed shifting as someone sits next to her, and a small weight on her shoulder a few seconds later. Turning her attention from the window to discover its origin, she watches Rena who has laid her head on her shoulder and is closing her eyes, a faint sigh escaping her lips.
"Okay, cut!" The director yells, and Jurina relaxes while the older girl moves away and gets up from the bed.
It's Monday morning, and they're shooting the videoclip of their new song. As it's a duet, Jurina and Rena have most of their scenes together, the other girls being more in the background. For now, it's just the two of them, the other girls not needed for this scene. They've just finished a bedroom scene and are now heading towards their next shooting location.
Jurina doesn't wait any time to get on the bus that's waiting for them. She didn't sleep well Sunday night and unfortunately, the shooting started quite early. As she knows it's a two hours ride, she hopes to catch some sleep. A small yawn leaves her lips as she takes place near a window, trying to make herself comfortable in the chair. Her eyes are already starting to close on their own, and even if she usually has difficulty resting when she travels, she knows it's just a matter of seconds before she falls asleep. Her body is starting to relax when she catches a small noise next to her and she sleepily opens her eyelids, witnessing Churi who's taking a seat next to her. As they look at each other Jurina absently nods, failing to reciprocate the smile she's receiving. She wants to say something and welcome the girl properly, but her eyes are closing again without her consent.
When she wakes up, the first thing she hears is the music softly playing on the radio. It takes her a few seconds to recognize one of Ayumi Hamasaki's most famous songs, Trauma, and she sleepily opens her eyes, immediately noticing they are still on the road. After stretching for a few seconds she tilts her head to her right, watching Churi who's listening to music. As the older girl senses some movement next to her she looks up from her book, taking her earbuds out and smiling at the view of her young friend.
"Good morning, Jurina. Did you sleep well?"
"Not too bad," Jurina mumbles, before leaning over and laying her head on Churi's shoulder.
"Hey!" Churi protests, shaking Jurina's arm a little, "Don't go back to sleep."
"How long have I been asleep?" Jurina asks, not moving an inch.
"More than enough," Churi answers, a defeated sigh leaving her lips as she notices her action is not having any effect, "We'll arrive in twenty minutes."
Jurina absently nods, appreciating the comfort of Churi's shoulder for now, before straightening up and releasing a yawn a while later.
"I envy you. I can never sleep on the bus," Churi admits.
"Me neither. I guess I was really tired," Jurina murmurs.
"Didn't sleep well?" Churi asks, tilting her head in curiosity to the girl who's now looking out of the window.
After this small exchange both girls stay quiet, Jurina absently watching the scenery unfolding in front of her eyes, while Churi listens to more music. Jurina's eyes widen slightly as she catches a glimpse of the sea. If only the weather wasn't so bad, she would enjoy the view much more. Unfortunately, it's awfully windy and cold today, and the young girl can't help but dread the scenes they have to shoot outdoors. She's so lost in her own thoughts that it takes her a few seconds to notice Churi is speaking to her again.
"I wanted to talk to you about what happened Friday night."
As Jurina progressively registers her friend's words she turns around, immediately locking eyes with Churi. The older girl holds her gaze a few seconds before looking away, her fingers twisting nervously her earbuds. Jurina watches her expectantly, guessing she's about to give her an explanation for her odd behavior at the train station. As time goes by Jurina widens her eyes slightly, wondering why her friend is having such a hard time letting it out.
"What is it?" Jurina asks, placing her hand over Churi's one to try and ease her nervousness.
Churi's attention gets back on her and she stops playing with her earbuds, a faint smile on her lips as she finally opens her mouth.
"I'm sorry if I surprised you at the train station. The thing is, I've grown accustomed to you and I think a lot about you," Churi explains, momentarily looking away and taking an unconscious deep breath, before locking eyes with her again, "I really like you, Jurina."
Churi carefully watches Jurina's reaction, and her body slowly relaxes when she sees her cheerfully nodding, the gesture prompting her to continue.
"At first, I thought you were just fooling around with me like with the other members," Churi explains, remembering all the times she witnessed Jurina stealing kisses from other girls, "but now I know it's not true."
Jurina doesn't miss the expectant look and she guesses her friend is wishing for some sort of confirmation.
"I like you too Churi," Jurina affirms, squeezing the hand inside hers, "You're my friend, and I'm glad you feel the same way."
Jurina's mouth tugs into an amused expression as she watches Churi's broad smile, and she leaves her hand to pat her head.
"You shouldn't have left like that," Jurina chides, shaking her head in disbelief.
"I'm sorry," Churi replies, blushing slightly as she remembers her awkward behavior. She really made a fool out of herself, "I kissed you out of the blue, and felt bad about it."
"Why? You didn't do anything wrong," Jurina frowns.
"I didn't know how you would take it," Churi admits.
"I don't mind if I know what it means, but you were avoiding my gaze and it got me worried," Jurina explains.
"I know," Churi murmurs, her mouth tugging in amusement as a sudden memory emerges in her head, "I got all your messages."
"Hey!" Jurina elbows her, frowning at her friend's change of mood, "you were nervous just a few minutes ago, and now you're making fun of me."
"Sorry," Churi chuckles.
"What are you listening to?" Jurina asks, grabbing an earbud and placing it in her ear, suddenly very eager to change the subject.
The older girl can't help but smile as she catches Jurina's small pout before she leans over to lay her head on her shoulder. Churi places the other earbud in her ear, her index sliding on her IPod until stopping on the name of her favorite band, Every Little Thing. Her eyes soon drift close as she relaxes to the soft music of Water(s).
Jurina is sitting on a bench, watching the SKE members that are biking on the road not far away. They're pretending to have fun, smiling and laughing. The cameras are on them and they know they have to do their best, even if it's freezing. Why do they have to shoot outdoors scenes in school uniforms? It's winter!
Jurina shakes her head in disagreement, shivering a little despite her warm coat. She has a few scenes to shoot with Rena later, and she takes a look at the script again. The first one is not really complicated, the two Matsui have to talk and smile while walking on the beach. Very easy. What's bothering her is the second one, and most of all the last sentence on the sheet. They have to kiss.
Jurina turns to look at Rena who's standing not far away and reading the script. They haven't talked about it, and Jurina wonders how it will turn out. She sees Rena going to the director, asking questions. Maybe she's trying to get out of it? Honestly, she would be glad if she found a way. She doesn't want to witness her painful expression again. She saw it too often and got rejected too many times. She still remembers vividly the shooting of the Kataomoi Finally videoclip. She had to kiss Rena in the neck, but the girl couldn't stop fidgeting. She thought she would never see the end of it.
As Jurina takes a peek at the script again, it hits her it doesn't say where they have to kiss. She ponders asking the director, but refrains. Maybe a kiss on the cheek will do. At least she hopes.
The other girls have finished filming their scenes and it's time for lunch. They only have thirty minutes to eat as there are still many scenes to shoot. Jurina doesn't enjoy her break that much, bothered by a knot in her stomach as she dreads what's to come.
The sand is cold under her feet and waves are crushing violently against the beach, not to mention the grey clouds in the sky. Jurina shivers and tries to warm herself up, almost wishing it could rain. At least, this awful day would be over.
A staff member approaches and she knows it's time to shoot the next scene. She reluctantly removes her coat and watches as Rena does the same. The sooner it will be over, the better. Jurina briefly shuts her eyes as she reviews the script in her head a last time, before opening them again when the director announces the beginning of the shooting.
After walking and chatting endlessly on the beach like they're enjoying themselves, both girls sigh in relief when they hear "cut". The scene is finally over. Onto the next one. It's already 4 PM. Jurina sits on the bench for the last scene of the day. It's the one she's been dreading the most. She turns to Rena who's focused, as always. She doesn't see an hint of nervousness on her face, and it surprises her a little, knowing what they're about to do.
They act the scene quite well until the final moment comes. Jurina leans over, aiming for Rena's cheek, and closes her eyes as her lips touch Rena's skin. She's quite surprised when Rena doesn't mess things up and everything goes fine. She believes that means it's over for today, but she knows something is wrong when she sees the director approaching.
"I'm sorry Jurina, but you have to kiss Rena."
Jurina immediately frowns. Didn't she just do that? The director notices her confusion and apologizes before explaining.
"It wasn't specified in the script, but you have to kiss her on the lips."
The director doesn't wait for her reaction and swiftly goes back behind the camera. Jurina swallows a lump as she realizes she has been right from the start. Of course the director would not be satisfied with only a chaste kiss on the cheek. What was she thinking? Tilting her head to Rena, she immediately knows by the look on her face that she's going to relieve the Kataomoi Finally's nightmare.
"Let's get over with it," Jurina exclaims, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, getting a small silent nod in reply.
What happens next really surprises the younger girl. She expected Rena to be difficult, but she's not. In fact, it's the contrary. She's the one who can't kiss Rena. Each time she gets close to her lips, she stops at the last moment and withdraws. Now it's her third tentative, and she still can't do it. Jurina sighs, wondering what's wrong with her. She hears the director giving them a five minutes break and she leans over, hiding her head in her hands in embarrassment.
Rena stays quiet on the bench, her eyes slightly widened as she watches the younger girl by her side. She finds it strange that Jurina is acting shy for a kissing scene. That's definitely a first. Usually she's the one to push her away when she tries to steal a kiss between takes.
Now that she thinks about it, it's been a long time since Jurina hasn't tried anything. There hasn't been any hug or kiss for months. Is she doing it for her sake? She complained about her attitude many times in the past. What if Jurina had finally decided to listen and stop? Rena moves her hand to let it rest on Jurina's, noticing that it's shaking. The cold is probably not helping.
"You can kiss me, Jurina. I won't get mad. The director wants a kiss, so we have to do it. I know you're hesitating for my sake, but we can't get out of it," Rena murmurs.
A staff member approaches them, asking them if they're ready. Jurina weakly nods, not entirely convinced. Rena is now acting quite confident beside her and Jurina wishes she could feel the same way. They take their coats off, ready to do the take again. The wind blows Jurina's face, mixing up her carefully brushed hair. It's been happening way too many times today. Jurina is combing her hair with her hands, annoyed, when she sees Rena extending her hand to brush a lock of hair out of her eyes.
"It will be fine," Rena says, retreating it a few seconds later, a comforting smile on her lips.
The cameras are now rolling. Jurina knows she can't fail again. Everyone has been working hard all day long despite the bad weather. Another day of shooting awaits them tomorrow and they all want to go back to the hotel to rest.
Jurina closes her eyes and moves forward. She's now confident she'll make it. The fourth time will be the one. Despite her assurance, nothing changes. She still can't do it. When she's about to withdraw again, she feels a soft pair of lips on hers. She doesn't have time to register what just happened when she hears the director shouting "cut". Her eyes shot open and she stares in surprise at Rena's retreating form. Did she just kiss her? She turns around to the director, expecting him to ask for a retake. The script specified Jurina had to kiss Rena. Not the other way round. The man in his thirties approaches them, obviously satisfied considering the broad smile on his lips.
"Perfect, girls! That's all for today!"
Staff members quickly bring them their coats and both welcome the warmth. Rena is getting up when she tilts her head in curiosity to Jurina who hasn't said a word, immediately noticing the shock plastered on her face.
"What? You couldn't do it, so I helped," Rena chuckles, extending her hand to Jurina, "come on, let's go to the hotel."
Jurina nods and accepts the offered hand, before they part as Rena walks towards the bus. Jurina quietly follows, soon joined by Churi. She hears her friend talking, but she doesn't really listen, lost in thoughts. Her mind is still on what happened a few minutes before. It was just a small peck, but Rena's kiss had really surprised her. When she's on the bus heading to the hotel, she's still thinking about it. She also wonders why her heart is beating so fast.
The songs used in this chapter are:
"Trauma" by Ayumi Hamasaki.
"Water(s)" by Every Little Thing.
Two weeks have passed since the shooting of the videoclip, and Jurina still hasn't forgotten what happened that day. She has tried to find a reasonable explanation to what she was feeling, but even if many crossed her mind, she still came back to that conclusion. The one she didn't like at all. She had to admit that everything made sense now. Why she was feeling uneasy next to Rena, why she didn't like seeing her with Airi...
She didn't know what to do with it. But most of all, she kept asking herself again and again: why did it have to be Rena? She tried to bury this feeling, thinking it would go away, but as days went by, nothing changed. She still felt jealous when she saw Airi and Rena together. She hated that she was always thinking about Rena, even when she wasn't in the room.
She knew it had to stop fast. She then tried to keep her mind always occupied, to not think about the girl. She spent more time with Churi and never stayed alone at home on the week end. She was doing everything she possibly could to forget about Rena. It didn't work. How could it when she saw her almost every day?
She hated how she was so powerless. She liked to have control over her life, but her body and mind were not responding the way they should. After weeks of trying every method possible, she understood that she couldn't do anything about it. She was foolishly in love with Rena.
Jurina is staying in a hotel for the shooting of the season 4 of Majisuka Gakuen. As it's a sequel to season 2, Jurina gets to play again the girl who wants to be at the top, Center.
Laying in bed and staring absently at the ceiling, Jurina diverts her attention to the alarm clock, pleased to see the time: 8 AM. Another quiet and peaceful night. She didn't wake up once, but she knows she sleeps better when she's not alone. She can hear people walking and chatting in the corridor and she figures she'll soon have to get up.
There is a light snoring next to her, and she looks at the girl she is sharing the bed with. Churi has her head turned in her direction, her arm resting on Jurina's stomach. She looks so calm and relaxed that Jurina doesn't have the heart to wake her up. There's still some time anyway.
Jurina quietly gets out of the bed and goes to the bathroom, her clothes in one hand. When she gets out a while later, she takes out a sheet out of her suitcase and sits on a chair near the window. She wants to read the script again before the cameras are on her. A few minutes later, she hears Churi stretching and yawning. She raises her eyes and smiles at the girl's sleepy face.
"I can't believe you're already up," a tired Churi mumbles, pulling the sheets to cover her eyes, bothered by the daylight.
Jurina quickly gets up and goes towards her, amused. "You can't go back to sleep. It's already 8.30 AM."
She tries to pull the sheet, but the girl holds on tight before finally giving up to Jurina's strong hands, sighing.
"Fine, fine. If you have so much energy in the morning, go for a run."
Jurina laughs at Churi's grumpy remark. The girl slowly gets out of bed and aims for the bathroom, while Jurina looks at the script in her hand. She knows the role perfectly, as she has already played it. The previous days were quite fun, but today, she has physical scenes. She remembers how challenging they were last time, and how she was exhausted at the end. She's focused on the paper when she hears Churi coming out of the bathroom, an annoyed tone in her voice.
"I don't even know why I'm in this. I barely have ten lines."
Churi goes to her script and shows it to Jurina who laughs.
"It's true. Would you prefer to play my part?"
"Absolutely not. Center is a bit crazy and has too many fights scenes."
Jurina chuckles. Her friend is so ill-tempered in the morning. Well, she knows she'll back to her usual joyful self in an hour. Once she had breakfast.
She's right. Churi is chatting cheerfully with her on their way to the school building. They part quickly, not having scenes to shoot together. Jurina goes to the dressing room to put on her usual school outfit, and smiles at Mayu who's wearing her famous grey hoodie. Jurina is having fighting scenes in the afternoon, but for now, it's time for a fun scene with her best friend.
Mayu is chewing her gum in the class room, waiting for the staff to get prepared. She sees Yuki sitting in a corner, and she smiles at her, only receiving a weak one. The older girl has been acting weird all morning, and she perfectly knows why.
Jurina suddenly comes in and sits next to Mayu, a huge grin on her face. The shorter girl tries to ignore it, knowing why her friend is so cheerful this morning. She's been nagging her about it all week since she received the script, not failing to make allusions to it here and then.
"Would you stop it," Mayu says when she hears her friend chuckling. She doesn't need to look at Yuki to know she's staring at them.
"It's going to be so fun," Jurina comments, ignoring purposely Mayu's irritation.
"It's just a kiss, Jurina. Calm down."
"It's about time. They should have done it before."
In season 2, Center and Nezumi's relationship was quite complicated but in the end, the mouse accepted Center's friendship. Now, their relationship has evolved quite a bit, and they share their first kiss in the third episode of season 4. Jurina is quite excited about it. First because she loves Nezumi and Center's relationship, and second because she can't wait to see Mayu all flustered. It's no news that the girl tolerates her affection to a certain level, and never lets her kiss her on the lips. When she sees Yuki in the room, she waves at her, completely oblivious of the girl's stare on her.
Mayu briefly glances at Yuki and sighs at the angry glare she's receiving. As if she could do anything about it. She can't help it if there's a kiss written in the script. She can't help it either if her girlfriend gets jealous every time she has to kiss someone else. Especially when that someone is acting a bit too cheerfully about it. That kid. She really deserves her kissing monster title.
Mayu looks at the crew that's setting the cameras around them. She still has a few minutes until the beginning of the scene, and she gets up to walk towards Yuki. She's not sure it's a good idea, but she has to try.
"Yuki, maybe you should wait outside."
"Why that?" Yuki's tone is a bit harsh, and Mayu avoids her gaze.
"You don't have to be here."
"I don't mind," Yuki answers, crossing her arms over her chest.
Mayu knows there's no point in continuing this conversation and goes back to sit next to Jurina. If only Yuki wasn't so secretive about their relationship, she could have told Jurina who wouldn't be acting now like she's looking forward to the kiss.
"Please don't do anything funny."
"Like what?" Jurina teases, getting her face close to her friend.
"You know what I mean," Mayu groans, pushing her away gently, "I love you Jurina, but one day you'll end up offending someone if you're not careful."
Jurina laughs, not fully grasping what she means. The director approaches them, and both girls immediately focus their attention on him. The scene is about to start.
Mayu can almost feel Yuki shooting daggers at her when their lips touch, and she unconsciously trembles a little. However, she's quite relieved when the director shouts "cut" and the scene is wrapped up in one take. Quite frankly, she expected Jurina to mess up things on purpose to do the kiss again, but she didn't. She acted professionally during the whole thing, and Mayu mentally thanks the girl.
The staff takes a fifteen minutes break and Mayu gets up to leave. She has another scene to shoot later outdoors, but for now, she has to go to the bathroom to freshen up. She hears footsteps behind her and knows Yuki is following her. She can only imagine the discussion that is sure to happen.
Jurina stays in the room, wanting to repeat the moves of the next scene that will be physically very challenging. It's not her first fight scene, but this one is longer and more complicated. As she doesn't have a stunt double, she does it all herself and it's quite tiring. She knows her moves have to be very precise if she doesn't want to hurt her partner. She also has to be quick enough to dodge the blow, while still making it look like it's real.
After a few minutes of punches in the air and moves, she goes to sit back and read the script again. She repeats the dialogues out loud and plays the choreography in her head again. She's all set up for Center and Gekikara's big fight.
Rena, dressed as Gekikara, is heading towards her next shooting location. She doesn't mind playing the crazy girl, as she usually plays nice characters, but she always has to spend a lot of time in makeup. She has fake blood on her face and on her hands, and she's careful not to touch anything on her way to the classroom. She knows she's a bit early, but she needs some time to get in character. She slows her footsteps when she hears someone reciting lines out loud, and she quickly recognizes Jurina's voice. She takes a few steps forward, looking at the girl who's now laying back in her chair and closing her eyes. She hasn't noticed her and Rena is about to get in the room to suggest Jurina to rehearse the scene together when she stops dead in her tracks at the girl's words.
"If only this all WMatsui nonsense could end, they would stop pairing us at every occasion."
Rena stares at her in shock, not believing what she just heard. Did she really say that? It was only a murmur, maybe she misunderstood her. No, she didn't. Jurina really did say those words. She wants to question the girl about it, but her feet stay stuck on the ground, her body refusing to move. She's still processing the words when she sees Jurina slowly opening her eyes and looking at her in surprise. She can sense Jurina is wondering if she heard her, as she's quickly straightening up in her seat. Rena is debating whether she should talk about it, before deciding against it. She's about to shoot a very stressful scene, and has to stay focused.
She lets out a forced smile and goes to sit not far from the girl, closing her eyes to concentrate. She knows the girl is glancing at her, but she doesn't pay attention. There's an awkward silence in the room, as none of them speak. A few minutes later, staff members come in the room and Rena sighs silently, relieved.
Rena lifts her fits, chuckling crazily. She sees Jurina approaching, and avoids easily the blow. The girl quickly turns around, staring at her angrily. The fight between Center and Gekikara has begun.
Rena quickly notices something is wrong with the other girl. She saw her practicing the choreography over and over, so there's no doubt she knows it by heart. However, her timing is sometimes a bit off. She doesn't dodge her punches as quickly as she should and her moves are somehow slow. Rena tries to adapt, but it's getting harder and harder as the minutes go by. She expects the director to say something, but he doesn't. Is she the only one noticing?
There's a five minutes break, and Rena tries to approach Jurina to ask her if everything is fine, but the girl is busy talking to her fighting coach. When the fight starts again, Rena is quite relieved to notice her partner's moves are now faster and more précised. Gekikara fights back with everything she has, matching Center's rhythm. Rena is sweating profusely, but doesn't hold back. She wants the fight to look good on screen. Between her crazy antics and her fighting moves, she has a lot to do, but doesn't want to disappoint. She wants the fight to be as real as possible.
It's now the turning point of the scene. Center may be a very good fighter, Gekikara is still better. Rena prepares to give the final blow. The one that will put an end to their fight. Her fist quickly approaches Jurina's right cheek and they stare angrily at each other. A mattress is behind Jurina to soften her fall and she prepares herself for the blow. Rena lets out a crazy shout and sees too late a moment of hesitation in Jurina's eyes. Rena's fist hits Jurina's cheek who doesn't dodge in time and falls hard on the mattress. The director shouts "cut" and Rena stares in shock at the girl who's holding her cheek in pain. Staff members quickly gather around her, while the older Matsui tries to understand what just happened. She kneels by her side, worried, and stretches her hand to help her sit up.
"I'm so sorry. Are you alright?"
Jurina doesn't answer and avoids her gaze, furious. She refuses her help and takes the hand of a staff member instead. Someone quickly brings some ice and Jurina grimaces at the cold sensation on her cheek. Rena is taken aback by her attitude, not grasping why she's angry at her. She didn't do anything wrong. She's the one who didn't dodge in time. Jurina finally gets up and turns to the director.
"Do we need to do it again?"
"No, the fall was perfect."
Jurina nods and thanks the crew. She still has a few scenes to shoot outdoors today, and swiftly leaves the room, not looking once at Rena.
It's 5 PM when Jurina enters her hotel and takes the elevator. She's exhausted and can't wait to take a nice shower to relax. Her cheek still hurts a little, and she knows she'll have a bruise tomorrow. She sighs, remembering her cold attitude towards Rena a few hours ago. The girl had apologized, but she had brushed it off. Rena probably now thought she was angry at her when really, she was just angry at herself for being so reckless.
The elevator stops at her floor and she walks in the corridor, key in hand. She stops in front of her room and is about to get in when she hears another door opening and footsteps. Turning around, she sees Rena looking at her nervously.
"Jurina, do you have a minute?"
The younger Matsui hesitates, not really in the mood for another confrontation with the girl, not to mention she's feeling really tired after such a long day of shooting. She finally nods at Rena's hopeful eyes, curious about what she has to say. Rena smiles, and Jurina follows her to her room.
She's not surprised to see how clean and neat it is. After all, the girl likes order. She remembers how they sometimes fought when they still shared hotel rooms. Jurina was quite messy and used to leave her clothes everywhere, and Rena would scold her about it. She was still a kid then and would sulk, not talking to her for hours. Now Jurina takes better care of her things, and she knows it's partially due to Rena's past remarks.
Rena closes the door behind her and motions her to sit on the bed, but Jurina aims for the chair instead. Rena takes place on the bed and stretches her hand to touch her cheek, but the other girl leans back at the gesture.
"I'm sorry about what happened," Rena sighs, feeling a small pang in her chest at the younger girl's reaction.
Jurina is avoiding her gaze and the older girl wishes she could get in her head to know what she's thinking. She can't read her at all, and is taken aback by her odd behavior. She's not sure anymore it's the best moment to broach the subject. Jurina is being very distant with her and she can sense she's not going to be very talkative. However, now it's too late. She brought her to her room and has to go through with it.
"I wanted to talk to you about something. I heard what you said in the class room. That you wished that WMatsui didn't exist anymore."
Jurina raises her eyes in surprise, before sighing.
"So you did. I wasn't sure."
"What did you mean by that?"
Jurina fidgets in her seat, not liking the direction of this conversation. She's clearly not ready to confide in her and wishes she could find a good lie to tell. Unfortunately, after a few seconds of reflection, none comes to mind. The room is awkwardly silent for a few minutes, before Rena speaks up again.
"Did I do something wrong?"
Jurina knows the girl is confused, even if she's not looking at her. She can sense it in her voice. She wishes she could tell it's not her fault, that she's the one not in her right mind. One thing would lead to another, and soon she'll be forced to talk about her feelings. However, she wasn't about to let that happen. Nothing good could come out of it.
"I was tired. I don't know why I said that."
That's a terrible lie, and she knows Rena is not buying it.
"Jurina, you can talk to me. I'm not going to get mad. I just need to know why you said that."
"I told you, I was just tired!"
Maybe it's the weariness speaking, or maybe she doesn't like how this conversation is going round in circles, but she didn't mean to raise her voice and be so harsh. However, this triggers something in Rena who answers on the same tone.
"Oh come on, don't be such a kid! Tell me what's the problem! Imagine if a staff member had heard you and it got out. What would people think?"
Both girls are now staring at each other and Jurina gets up, angry.
"Really? That's what's bothering you the most? And why do you care anyway? It's not like you wanted to be associated with me!"
"Why would I when you act in such a childish way!"
"Well, I'm sorry for that! Maybe they should have paired you with Airi, not me!"
"Why are you talking about her? She has nothing to do with this!"
Jurina grits her teeth, knowing this conversation is getting nowhere. She knows it has to stop right now, before she says something she could regret. Her whole body is trembling and Rena is looking at her furiously. She lets out an annoyed sound and walks to the door, before releasing an exasperated shout.
"I can't do this anymore!"
She hears Rena getting up, but doesn't wait to hear what she has to say. She quickly opens the door and gets out, slamming it behind her. She immediately regrets her impulsive action and leans against the door, trying to calm down. She can't believe what just happened. Their fights never got so ugly. She closes her eyes, listening to her racing heart. She knows she should apologize to Rena, but her pride gets in the way. She's not ready for that yet.
A door suddenly opens in the corridor and she turns to see Churi looking at her nervously, prompting her to hide her head in her hands in embarrassment.
Churi nods slowly and Jurina grimaces. The whole floor probably did. She straightens up and walks to her, surprised to see she's putting her coat on.
"I think we should go for a walk."
Jurina nods and follows silently the girl out of the building. It's not so cold with her coat on and maybe she needs the extra fresh air to cool off anyway. They sit down on a bench and absently watch children playing on a swing. Jurina enjoys the calm, thankful the girl next to her is not trying to question her. She slowly leans her head on her shoulder, feeling more peaceful. She doesn't know how long they stayed like that without talking, but Churi never once tried to pry. Jurina is the one to break the silence after a while.
"It was pretty awful. I don't know what got into me."
"You were tired, and she punched you a few hours ago. It probably didn't help."
Jurina notices how Churi is trying to make light of the situation and she smiles, before shaking her head and straightening up, more serious.
"I should apologize to her," Jurina affirms, getting up.
"Maybe not tonight. Let her sleep on it," Churi suggests, quickly grabbing her hand before she can move.
Jurina ponders her words a few seconds before realizing she's right, and taking a seat next to her again. They stay in a comfortable silence for a little while longer. When the sun is down and the air gets a bit chilly, they make their way back to the hotel, Jurina feeling more appeased.
Rena stares at the girl's retreating form and winces when she hears the door slamming. Her whole body is shaking and her fists tighten in anger. She moves forward, her fingers clutching the doorknob. She doesn't want their conversation to end like that and she starts to turn the handle, before stopping. It's probably not a good idea. Jurina was pretty furious when she left, and she's not really appeased herself. Another talk would probably lead to more shouting. Rena sighs defeated and turns on her heels to go to the bathroom.
Tears are threatening to fall down, and she quickly turns the water on, splashing the cold liquid on her face. She stares at her reflection in the mirror, annoyed that their fight has affected her so much. She looks like a mess. She stays a while like that, listening to her racing heart and going through their conversation again and again. They sometimes fought, but it was always about trivial things. A few hours later, they would be back to their usual selves, as if nothing happened.
Somehow, Rena senses this argument will not be solved in one day. It did come out of nowhere and Jurina looked pretty pissed. Her outburst really surprised her and instead of keeping her calm, she let her irritation slip out. It clearly didn't help. She didn't recognize the younger Matsui at all. It was like another person in front of her. Her words and reaction didn't make sense.
Rena leaves the bathroom to go sit near the window. She ponders reading a book to clear her head, but knows it won't work. She absently watches bystanders passing in front of the hotel and children playing on a swing. Her mind goes back to Jurina, wondering when they started to drift apart. Is it really the end of WMatsui?
She remembers clearly the day the staff announced her she would be paired with the younger girl. She was a cute and cheerful kid, always willing to do her best, and clinging to her at every occasion. She didn't really mind the proximity at first, but then Jurina started to be a bit more bolder and she had to fix limits. She knew the girl didn't like her new rules and at first, she didn't even listen. Rena would let it slip sometimes, but couldn't help scolding her when she went too far. Of course, she never did it in front of the others but in the privacy of their hotel room. After all, Rena was a private person.
Rena was not the only one targeted. Other members were, and Jurina's flirtatious side emerged during her teenage years. However, things had changed a lot lately. Rena noticed how the girl was distancing herself from her, and she had let it happen. Jurina was getting more and more popular, and she didn't want to get in the way. Jurina was almost an adult, and didn't need her guidance anymore. She wanted to let her spread her wings, and become the star she was sure to become.
She didn't mind the distance at first. She was still keeping an eye on her from afar, always caring, even if she never showed it. That was a major difference between them. Jurina easily expressed her feelings, when she kept them to herself. You always knew what Jurina had in mind, when Rena was harder to decipher.
That's why Rena had been surprised when she couldn't read the girl at all during their fight. Jurina used to be an open book to her, but not anymore and that bothered her a lot. Reflecting upon these past few months, she wonders if she hasn't made a mistake by letting the distance grow between them. They were starting to act as strangers and she couldn't let that happen. Despite everything Jurina had put her through during all these years with her childish behavior, she still cared deeply about her.
Rena sighs, wondering how she's going to fix things between them. Jurina's words had really hurt her, but she was not ready to let WMatsui die. She was not going to give up without a fight.
Rena blinks when she sees Jurina and Churi sitting on a bench outside of the hotel. She notices their closeness, not really surprised. They have been spending a lot of time together lately. For a minute, she wonders if Jurina is confiding in Churi. She kind of envies the older girl. She was the one Jurina would turn to before. She used to know everything she had on her mind. Not anymore.
Maybe she should have a talk with Churi before confronting Jurina again. A few months ago, she would have found the idea pretty stupid. She never needed someone else's advice to speak with Jurina. Now, seeing how much the younger Matsui had changed, she was not sure how to handle her anymore. She surely didn't want to fight with her again. It was too painful.
Rena turns to look at the alarm clock: it's 6 PM. Airi will be there at any moment. She gets up from her chair and goes to read the script of tomorrow's episode. Fortunately, she doesn't have any scenes to shoot with Jurina. It's not that she wants to avoid her, but she needs a plan before speaking to her again. She wants to do things right, and not make anymore mistake. She's still bothered by the fact she couldn't stay calm and lost her temper during their fight.
The sun is already down, and Rena feels a bit sleepy. Today's shooting was tiring, and after her fight with Jurina, she has no energy left. She decides to lay down a few minutes on her bed, while waiting for her roommate to arrive. She's more calm now and feels her body relaxing. She struggles to keep her eyes open, and soon the script slips from her hand, her eyelids progressively closing.
Airi is standing outside her hotel room, busy trying to get her key out of her pocket while trying not to drop the food in her right hand. She bought some takeaway for Rena and her, but right now, her hands are a bit full. When she hears the elevator's doors opening she turns, and sighs in relief at the familiar face. She really needs the help.
"Hi Jurina! Could you please..."
Airi doesn't have time to finish that Jurina quickly catches the food before it falls on the floor.
"Thank you! You're a lifesaver!"
Jurina nods, while Airi starts to turn the key in the lock, before suddenly stopping.
"Oh no. I forgot something."
She turns to Jurina, embarrassed.
"Would you mind putting these inside?"
Jurina doesn't have time to answer that Airi is already rushing to the elevator. The younger girl looks dumbfounded at the retreating form, then at the food in her hands. This is not happening. She stares a few seconds at the door, not willing to confront again the girl inside. Maybe she could just leave the food at the door? Airi will probably be back soon. Jurina sighs at the stupid idea.
She knocks lightly and waits for an answer. When none comes after a few seconds, she repeats the action and says softly, "It's Jurina. Can I come in?"
Still no answer. Either the girl hasn't heard her - which is unlikely after the second time - either she doesn't want to talk to her. Jurina would totally understand after their previous fight, but she can't wait in the hallway for ages. Making up her mind, she turns the key in the knob and slowly pushes the door. She half expects a mad Rena to appear in front of her and throw her out, but nothing happens. Jurina carefully progresses in the dark room, surprised by the silence. When she eyes the table, she places the bags of food on it, and turns around to leave when she sees a body on the bed.
Surprised, Jurina backs away and almost hits the chair behind her. She narrows her eyes to make sure Rena is really sleeping, and relaxes at the girl's closed eyelids. The room is so quiet that Jurina doesn't dare making a move, afraid to wake up the other girl. She stares for a few minutes, before finally approaching when she notices the piece of paper falling from Rena's right hand. After taking it and putting it on the table, she pulls the eider down on the other girl, careful not to wake her up in the process. She's now so close she can hear her soft breathing and she leans a little to brush a lock of hair out of her eyes. Jurina knows she's playing with fire, as the older girl is known to be a light sleeper. She could wake up at anytime and ask her to leave swiftly. The younger Matsui still pushes her luck and softly kisses her on the forehead, before murmuring a sad "I'm sorry". She contemplates the beautiful girl a few more minutes knowing she probably won't have such another opportunity again soon, before slowly retreating out of the room.
When she steps in the hallway, she sees Airi and Churi chatting near the elevator. It's been a long time since she hasn't seen them together, and Jurina wonders if they've worked out their differences. They used to be very good friends, but lately Jurina has noticed how Churi was distancing herself from her friend.
Jurina walks to her room and is about to get in when she hears quick footsteps and Churi waving a bag of food at her, a smile on her face.
"I hope you're hungry!"
Jurina nods at her cheerful friend, and slightly turns around when she hears Airi thanking her. Jurina smiles awkwardly, following the girl's retreating form. Maybe they could get along if she wasn't so stupidly jealous of her closeness to Rena.
When Airi gets in the room, she's surprised by the obscurity. She expected Rena to be here as they made plans to have dinner together. She's about to get her phone out to check her messages when she hears someone yawning and she jumps, startled.
"Rena! You scared me! What are you doing in the dark?"
Airi switches the light on, while Rena slowly sits on the bed.
"I'm sorry. Did I wake you up?"
Rena shakes her head, and moves to the food on the table, still a bit sleepy. Airi takes her coat off and stares at her friend who's peeking inside the bags. A small frown appears on her face and she turns to Airi.
"Is that all?"
Airi moves forward with a serious face, carefully hiding a plastic bag behind her back.
"Yes. Were you expecting something else?"
Rena hides her disappointment and starts to get the food out of the bags. Airi, restraining herself from chuckling, watches the girl who's trying hard not to say anything. Rena turns around when she sees Airi waving a bag at her, and swiftly grabs it. Her eyes lighten up at the view of two melon pan, and Airi can't hold her laughter anymore.
"Stop teasing me."
"I'm sorry, but it's too easy."
Airi quickly avoids a slap on the arm and takes a seat at the table. When the food is all set, both girls start to eat, Rena satisfying her grumbling stomach with some salad and bread, while Airi enjoys some takoyaki. Airi does most of the talking, Rena being lost in thoughts. Something has been nagging her for a while now, and she finally asks.
"Did you run into Jurina tonight?"
"Yes I did. She helped me carry the bags. Why?"
Rena stops eating for a few seconds and Airi notices her troubled face. She's about to ask what's on her mind when Rena shakes her head, smiling.
Airi, not entirely convinced, opens her mouth to speak before changing her mind. If Rena doesn't want to say anything, she's not going to pry.
They finish eating dinner and soon get ready to go to bed. Airi is already starting to drift off to sleep when Rena is still in the bathroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She slowly touches her forehead, before frowning a little. At first, she was sure her imagination was playing tricks on her, but now she knows it wasn't the case. Jurina was in this room and did kiss her, after saying these three words. If only she had been fully awake...
Rena moves to the bedroom, taking a peek on her way at Airi who's now sleeping, before sitting on her own bed. What had affected her the most was not what Jurina had murmured, but the regretful tone in which she had said it. It appeased her a little to know the younger Matsui was not really mad at her and even if she knew they still needed to have a serious talk, that simple fact was enough to ease her mind for now.
Rena puts her pajamas on and gets under the sheets, a bit angry at herself for taking a nap earlier. Now, she's fully awake and staring at the ceiling, her mind drifting to her missed conversation with Jurina. Tomorrow, she'll have to find a moment to talk to Churi about the girl. The sooner she knows what the problem is, the sooner she can find a solution to it. Hearing Jurina's latest words still make her hopeful that it's not too late to mend their relationship.
It's the final clap of season 4. Jurina and a few other SKE members are celebrating the end of the shooting at the restaurant, but the girl is not really in the mood. These last days have been quite hectic and between her tight schedule and the long days of shooting, she didn't have time to talk to Rena. Now the older Matsui is gone, having work to do with Nogizaka46, and Jurina is left to contemplate her plate, barely eating her food. She still feels terribly bad about the way she talked to her the other day, and not even the joyful Churi sitting next to her can cheer her up.
She sighs for the tenth time, not listening to the conversations around her and checking the time every five minutes. She finally chuckles mentally, finding her situation quite ironic. When Rena is around her, she avoids her at all costs, but when she's not here, she misses her badly. What a girl full of contradictions.
When a laughter erupts, Jurina stands up, not feeling at her place. Everyone is chilling out and having fun, except her. She quickly excuses herself, getting a few surprised looks on her way out of the restaurant. She welcomes the fresh air with gratitude after the heavy warmth of the restaurant. Just as she's about to call a cab, she feels a hand circling her right arm, and a worried Churi looks at her.
"Hey. Why are you leaving so early?"
Jurina is about to answer when Churi interrupts her.
"And don't tell me you are tired. You're not."
The younger Matsui chuckles at the girl who's rolling her eyes. After a few seconds of silence, Churi tightens her hold on Jurina, more serious.
"It's about Rena, isn't it? You wish you could have talked to her before she left?"
Jurina is taken aback by her friend's perceptiveness.
"I have no secrets for you, do I?" she jokes, and Churi shakes her head a little.
"Of course you do, but I can sense Rena is a sensitive subject nowadays."
Jurina is at a loss for words. After that day outside of the hotel, she never talked about their fight to Churi again, or mentioned the girl altogether. Churi seeing how confused the girl is, interrupts her train of thoughts, an amused smile on her lips.
"Plus, you talk during your sleep."
"And one name comes up every night."
Jurina is now averting her gaze, really embarrassed. She tries to disentangle herself from Churi, but the girl is holding tight.
"You want to know which one?"
Jurina makes a noise of discomfort, trying to hide her face with her free hand. Now Churi is laughing, and the young Matsui wishes she could be anywhere else but here.
"I can't believe I'm seeing you so nervous. That's a first."
"Stop teasing me."
"And even blushing a little."
Churi stops laughing and moves forward, gently kissing the girl on the cheek.
"I do like this new side of yours."
Jurina turns to Churi and they both lock eyes for a minute. The younger girl suddenly feels very emotional and hugs her warmly.
"I'm so grateful to have such a friend."
Churi is taken aback by Jurina's sincere words and after reflecting upon them, affectionately pats her head. Each day she spends with the girl, she discovers new things about her, and learns to like her more and more. She's not just a childish and funny girl, she's also sensitive and caring, and she loves that about her.
They stay like this for a while, not speaking and just enjoying each other's presence and warmth. Finally, Churi reluctantly disentangles herself from Jurina and motions to the restaurant.
"Do you want to go back inside?"
"I really don't, but go on. I'll call a cab to go to the hotel."
Churi shakes her head, and slips her hand into hers.
"Then the hotel it is."
When Rena is back at work with the SKE group, it's to rehearse their next concert. It's already been a month since her fight with Jurina, and the older Matsui looks forward to seeing the girl when she arrives this Friday afternoon at the Nagoya Dome. It's already 2 PM, and a few girls are trying costumes in the dressing room. When Rena comes in, she's a bit disappointed to not find the younger Matsui. Sure it's still early, but she kind of hoped to catch her before the beginning of the rehearsal to have a talk with her. She spots Churi who's busy reading a sheet in a corner of the room, and goes to sit next to her. The girl sensing movement next to her raises her eyes, surprised.
"Hello Rena! It's been a long time."
"Hi Akane. Yes, these last few weeks have been hectic."
"I can't imagine being in a concurrent group. I don't know how you do it."
Rena nods but doesn't say anything, never one to complain. Of course, she would sometimes prefer a lighter schedule, the trips back and forth between Tokyo and Nagoya quite tiring, but she can't really do anything about it. What can she say? She loves her work: it's what makes her get up every morning with a smile on her face.
The concert's tracklist is laying on the table in front of her and she goes through it, while taking her coat off. Another tiring three hours gig awaits them.
"By the way, you're quite early today," Churi remarks.
"Well, you know me. I always need more time to rehearse."
Churi chuckles at Rena's embarrassed smile. The older Matsui then turns to her in surprise.
"What are you doing here so early? You're one of the best dancers."
Churi waves her hand, embarrassed by the compliment.
"I'm not, but thank you. Speaking of early, Jurina was the first one to arrive," Churi winces.
"Jurina is here?"
Rena looks around, surprised she missed her. Churi follows her gaze and sighs.
"Already on stage."
"Really?" Rena's voice pitches up in shock.
"I planned to arrive later, but I felt bad leaving her to rehearse alone. She's been acting strange lately."
Churi notices Rena's confused gaze on her, and she stops what she's doing. She didn't mean to voice this last part out loud, but maybe it's time to confide in someone. Especially when she senses the older Matsui is in a way responsible for Jurina's current mood swings. She knew her friend felt bad about her fight with Rena, but somehow, she believed there was more to it that she wasn't telling her.
"Could you please talk to her when you have a minute?" Churi asks, admitting her helplessness.
Rena notices Churi's worried look and nods. At first, she was planning to talk to the girl about Jurina, but seeing how she seemed to be as clueless as her, she knew she had to go straight to the source.
Jurina, wearing a large tee-shirt and sweatpants, is rehearsing one of the song's choreography. The concert is due in six hours, and she wants everything to be perfect for tonight. Between the 30 songs, the MCs and all the costumes she has to wear, she has a lot of things to think about and right now, her mind is exploding. Being Center may be fun at first, but in reality, it's much more complicated than that. She can feel the weight of her responsibilities on her shoulders as everyone is expecting a lot from her. The will to not disappoint is higher day after day. As the light is almost always on her, she knows she can't afford to make any mistake.
Her voice is a bit hoarse when she starts to sing, but she's not really worried about it. It's always like that at first. A bottle of water is standing at her feet and she kneels to take a sip. Her eyes scan the area of empty chairs, and she can't help but by amazed by the view. It's not the first time the group is performing in this stadium, but Jurina still feels very small on the stage. And she knows it will be worse once the dome will be full of people.
However, no matter how many seats there are, whether she's performing in the SKE theater in front of 300 people or in a large venue in front of 40 000 people, every concert is important to her. Her goal is always the same: to give her best and make an impact.
Her vision blurs a little for a minute, but the girl doesn't pay much attention to it. Maybe it's just the tension building up. Leaving the water aside, she gets up and continues doing vocal exercises. Some technicians are starting to adjust the light on the stage and Jurina closes her eyes to focus. Even if the amount of work to do is sometimes overwhelming, she'll be ready on time, as always.
An hour later, all the SKE members are now rehearsing the concert on stage. Last adjustments are made to their costumes, the choreographies are repeated again until they are fully mastered, and technicians check that everything is working properly, from the lights to the moving stages and sets.
Rena is currently trying a pink dress on when Jurina comes in the dressing room. The older Matsui turns to her, noticing how much she's sweating. She shoots her a surprised look, while the girl changes into her Blue Rose outfit. After her conversation with Churi an hour ago, Rena had gone to look for the girl and had found her rehearsing vigorously on stage. She knew it was best to postpone their talk after the concert. After all, she had waited a whole month for it, she could wait a few more hours.
Now, seeing the girl so exhausted even though the concert hasn't even began, worried her. She was clearly overdoing herself, and Rena even wondered if she had eaten properly today. It would not be the first time the girl skipped meals. She wants to go to her, but staff members are working on her dress, and she can't really move. Their eyes suddenly meet, and Rena notices how the young girl looks so pale. Clearly, something is wrong. She's about to ask when Jurina averts her gaze and turns her back to her to sit down and put her black boots on. As soon as it's done, she's already out of the room and heading to the stage again, leaving a concerned Rena behind.
As soon as she's free, Rena follows Jurina's footsteps. After seeing her in such a weak state, she can't get out of her head the feeling that something is wrong. Unconsciously, she starts to speed up a little in the corridor leading to the stage, getting a few surprised looks on her way. Not paying attention to it, she takes the last turn, and sees Jurina at the top of the large stairs. She's starting to get down the stairs, her microphone in hand, and Rena can't help but notice how unsteady she is. This situation has a lingering sense of déjà vu, but the older Matsui can't manage to put her finger on it.
Jurina starts to sing and Rena grips the barrier, not liking one bit what she's seeing. She ponders whether to go and talk to the girl, but hesitates. Maybe it's just her imagination and Jurina is just tired. Rena doesn't want to make a fool of herself by interrupting her for no reason. She tries to shake the bad feeling she's having, but when Jurina almost misses a step, she knows she's right to be afraid. She can't stand here doing nothing. If Jurina falls, it's from fifteen stairs.
Rena takes the small stairs that lead to the stage ones, and looks at Jurina's back. The girl hasn't noticed her presence and Rena shouts her name, in vain, the music covering her voice. Jurina is continuing her descent and Rena follows, finally reaching her. The younger girl stops to sing when she feels a hand on her shoulder, and turns surprised to Rena.
"Rena, what are you doing here?"
"What's going on, Jurina? Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Why?"
The younger girl suddenly feels dizzy and everything starts spinning around her. Rena grips her right arm firmly, and tries to get a look at the girl whose head is now buried in her hands.
"You need to rest, Jurina. If you keep on, you won't last the whole concert. Have you eaten today?"
Jurina tries to wave her hand to reassure the girl, but it only makes her steps more unsteady.
"I'm fine," she says in a confident voice. Despite it, Rena can sense the uneasiness behind it and she tightens her hold.
"Please Jurina, let's go downstairs."
Jurina raises her eyes in surprise at the girl's begging tone and finally complies. Both girls slowly get down the stairs, Rena noticing how unbalanced Jurina is. When their feet finally touch the stage, Jurina turns to Rena, a weak smile on her lips.
"See? Everything's fine. You worry too much."
Rena reluctantly lets go of Jurina's arm, watching the girl carefully, not entirely convinced by her words. Just as she's about to question her again, the younger girl suddenly closes her eyes and collapses. Rena quickly moves forward and barely has time to catch her before she hits the floor. She stares in shock at the girl in her arms who's not reacting anymore, and cries for help.
When Jurina opens her eyes again, she's laying in a bed in a small dark room. Her head is spinning madly, and she groans, putting her hands on each side, trying to make it stop. She sits up with difficulty, wondering what she's doing here. Progressively gaining her senses back, she turns her head to the alarm-clock on her left, and lets out a shocked sound at the time: it's 10 PM. She should be on stage right now. Panicking, she starts to get out of bed when the door opens and a woman in a white blouse appears.
"What are you doing? You can't get out of bed."
The woman scolding her quickly approaches and Jurina finally understands where she is.
"Why am I at the hospital?"
"You don't remember?"
Jurina shakes her head and stares at the nurse who's taking her pulse. The last thing she remembers, she was on stage rehearsing for the SKE concert. What happened next? It's all just a blur, and the girl decides to retrace her day.
She didn't sleep that well and woke up early. So stressed out about the SKE concert, she couldn't eat at all, and directly aimed for the Nagoya Dome. She rehearsed all morning and ate a very light lunch, not wanting to stop too long. She had a lot on her mind that day, and also a lot of work to do. She vaguely remembers answering to Churi's text, and telling her she was already in rehearsal. If she has to admit, she hasn't been feeling well for a few days now, and the pressure of the concert was just the icing on the cake. Jurina fast forwards her day, before seeing and hearing a worried Rena. Then it clicks. She stares wide-eyed at the nurse who is giving her an injection.
The woman slowly nods and Jurina lays her head back on the pillow, defeated.
"I missed the whole concert."
"You should more worry about your health."
Jurina turns to the nurse, about to retort that she worked very hard all day long to be ready for the concert, but the woman is already turning on her heels and heading towards the door.
"You should rest. You're not going anywhere anytime soon."
Jurina is about to ask why when she suddenly feels sleepy and her eyelids start to close. She tries to fight it, but her body relaxes and she quickly falls in a slumber.
When she wakes up again, Jurina slowly opens her eyes, half expecting the room to spin again. However, it's not the case anymore, and the girl sighs in relief. When she turns to look at the time, she notices two bouquet of flowers on the small table. Sitting up, she stretches her hand when she sees small cards attached to them. While the first one, a bouquet of lilies, is from Mayu and Yuki, the second, a bouquet of tulips, is from Churi. Even if she's touched by her friend's attention, she frowns a little. She only collapsed, and it was just yesterday, so why sending flowers as if she had badly injured herself?
The door suddenly opens and she immediately recognizes the nurse.
"Hello Jurina. How are you feeling today?"
The nurse nods and goes to check on the girl, who's staring again at the flowers. The woman notices it and smiles.
"Your friends have been coming everyday to see you."
"Every day? How long have I been here?"
"What?" Jurina's voice pitches up in shock, "I don't remember."
"You've been dozing off most of the time."
Jurina feels tired, and her eyelids are starting to close again.
"Why am I so sleepy?"
"We gave you something to help you sleep. You'll be back to normal in a few hours."
"I don't want to sleep again," Jurina mumbles in annoyance, and the nurse smiles at the girl's stubbornness. When she turns to look at her, Jurina is already sound asleep.
The 28 year old short-haired girl watches Jurina who's sleeping peacefully. When she heard the news about the young Matsui, she had rushed to the hospital, only receiving the order to come back later, the girl being in observation and not allowed to receive visits. Now, four days later, she was sitting near her bed, caressing slowly the girl's hand, and waiting for her to wake up. Despite the fact that she knew the girl was not seriously injured, it still worried her to see her in such a weak state.
The sun is starting to get down, and the girl ponders if it's best to come back tomorrow. Apparently, the young Matsui has no intention to wake up anytime soon. She's about to get up when she feels someone squeezing her hand and she turns to see Jurina slowly opening her eyes.
"You're finally waking up, sleepyhead," she says in amusement.
Jurina stares wide-eyed when she recognizes her and quickly tries to sit up.
"Take it easy. I'm not going anyway," the older girl chuckles.
"What are you doing here?"
Mariko rolls her eyes and Jurina nods.
"Right, you heard."
"Of course I did. I couldn't believe it when they told me you fainted. What about our promise? You said it would never happen again. You were supposed to take better care of yourself."
Jurina averts her eyes at Mariko's scolding tone, feeling a bit ashamed.
"I know. I'm sorry."
Both girls stay quiet for a while, before Mariko gently rubs her hand.
"At least, you didn't injure yourself this time, but you need to take it easy."
Jurina laughs, surprising the other girl.
"I don't see how I can do that. My schedule is getting worse and worse. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I can't really slow down."
"There's always a way. Ask for a few days off."
Jurina doesn't say anything and sighs a little. Mariko looks at her carefully, wondering if it's the best time to ask her what's been bugging her for a while now.
"How is it going on with Rena?"
Jurina turns to her in surprise, not grasping the meaning of the question.
"Fine. Why?" she answers slowly, hesitant.
"Are you really telling me the truth?"
Mariko's piercing eyes unsettle her. It's almost as if they could see right through her. Jurina stays quiet for a while, avoiding her questioning gaze. She always had such a good relationship with the older girl. When she had a problem or any doubt, she would be the one she would turn to. Now that she had graduated, she saw her less than before, and it had pained her to lose such a trusty friend and confident. Of course, they still saw each other from time to time, but it was not the same without her anymore.
Jurina finally shakes her head, and Mariko sighs.
"I knew it. You have feelings for her."
Jurina turns dumbstruck to the older girl, who's slowly nodding.
"I never said that," Jurina stutters, losing her composure. How can the older girl draw such a conclusion? She's about to deny it again - in a more convincing way this time - but Mariko interrupts her.
"I always knew you had a crush on her. People always believed you were just fooling around, but somehow, I sensed there was more to it."
Jurina can't believe what she's hearing, but doesn't try to contradict the girl.
"You never said anything."
"No, because you were just a kid then, and I thought it would go away, but it has gotten worse, hasn't it?"
Jurina carefully thinks about her words and decides to be fully honest with her. No more beating around the bushes.
"I honestly wasn't aware of it then. As you said, I was just a child who was having fun. I only started to think about it really recently."
"I think you should tell her."
Jurina frowns and shakes her head.
"What's the point? She doesn't see me the same way."
"You don't know that."
"I'm pretty sure."
Mariko groans at Jurina's stubbornness and raises her voice.
"You can't keep on like that. I'm sure it's killing you inside, and look where you are? Don't tell me it's just because of work. I won't believe it!"
Jurina is taken aback by Mariko's irritation and sighs, defeated.
Both girls then turn around when someone knocks at the door, and Jurina's eyes widen at the view of the older Matsui who's slightly bowing.
"I'm sorry to interrupt. I didn't know there was already someone here. I'll come back later."
Rena is retreating when Mariko quickly gets up.
"It's fine, I was about to leave."
The older girl turns to Jurina and reaches over to kiss her on the cheek, slipping a few words in her ear in a very serious tone, "You have to tell her".
Jurina nods at Mariko who's now smiling and ruffling her hair like nothing happened. Mariko turns to Rena and moves to her, waving on her way at Jurina.
"I'm counting on you Rena to take good care of Jurina."
Rena nods, not seeing the amused look Mariko is shooting at Jurina. When the older girl is gone, both Matsui lock eyes, and Jurina lets out a soft sigh, mentally preparing herself for the following conversation.
Rena smiles a little and moves forward to sit near the bed, where Mariko previously was. Her eyes scan Jurina's body, looking worriedly for any injury.
"I'm fine. I just collapsed," Jurina jokes, getting a scolding look from Rena in return.
The girl gets up and stretches her hand to pull the cover, not fully believing the girl.
"I promise, I'm not injured," Jurina quickly says, grasping Rena's wrist. The girl stops her movement and for a few seconds seems to ponder Jurina's words carefully, before sitting back in her chair. Jurina is about to retract her hand when Rena swiftly grabs it.
"You scared me."
The sudden action surprises Jurina, who then notices Rena's pained eyes.
"I know, I'm sorry. And I apologize for the fight. I didn't mean what I said. You have to believe me Rena, you did nothing wrong."
The older Matsui smiles at the girl's heartwarming words and intertwines their fingers together.
"I don't know what's happening between us lately, but I don't want you to hide anything from me anymore. You used to tell me when something was bothering you. What's going on?"
Mariko's words echo in Jurina's head, and the girl knows where this conversation is leading to. Of course she's scared, but it's not like she can go anyway. She's stuck in bed, facing a very decided Rena, who's holding her hand as if she's expecting her to try and flee at anytime.
A few minutes pass without any of them saying anything, Jurina carefully choosing her words and Rena patiently waiting beside her. The younger Matsui knows it's time to be honest: she can't hide behind her fear anymore. Of course, there's the risk of rejection. In fact, Jurina is pretty sure that's what's going to happen. She can almost imagine Rena's shocked face, not speaking for a while at first, before saying, in a sorry tone, that she can't return her feelings. It would lead to months of awkwardness between them, before, hopefully, Jurina would get over her heartbreak and everything would be back to normal.
That's clearly not the best outcome, but it's a possibility. A big one. Despite knowing that, Jurina can't help but listen to that tiny voice inside her telling her there's still a chance. The girl raises her eyes, decided. She's going to tell the truth. Just as she's about to open her mouth, Rena speaks, and her next words shatter the last shred hope she still had.
"Jurina, it breaks my heart to see you like that. You know you're like a little sister to me."
Rena's words were meant to be comforting, but the older Matsui doesn't see the devastating impact they have on the other girl. Jurina nods slightly, realizing she knew all along what the girl was going to say.
"I know," she answers. Her voice is weak, and she struggles to not tremble, "I'm feeling a bit tired, Rena. Could we talk about it another time?"
She knows there won't be another time, but tries to sound as convincing as possible. She holds Rena's gaze as much as possible, trying hard not to show her emotions. When the girl doesn't make a move, she thinks she has failed to convince her. However, Rena finally gets up and moves forward to kiss her on the forehead. When she backs away, she smiles a little.
"Please take care of yourself. We'll talk again soon."
Jurina follows the girl's retreating form, and fakes a smile when she turns around a last time to wave at her. When she's off, the young Matsui grasps the sheet under her tightly, and a few tears start to fall.
Mayu slowly opens her eyelids and rubs the sleep out of her eyes. It's 9 AM in the morning, and even if she doesn't need to get up so early on a Saturday morning, she's not one to usually stay lazily in bed. She tilts her head to Yuki who's still sleeping by her side, pondering if she should wait a bit before getting up, when her stomach suddenly starts to grumble. She has her answer.
Carefully slipping out of bed, her feet lead her out of the bedroom and towards the kitchen. When she takes a peek at the living room, she jumps at the view of the body on her couch. She stops to try and calm her racing heart, watching the young girl who's turning in her sleep. She almost had forgotten what happened last night. When the beating of her heart is back to normal, she makes her way to the kitchen and is about to make breakfast when she hears her bedroom's door creaking and sees a sleepy Yuki approaching her. They share a smile and the older girl sits down, slightly turned to observe the girl who's still sleeping.
"What is she doing here?" Yuki asks, her voice a bit hoarse.
"She came by yesterday, you don't remember?" Mayu answers in confusion.
Yuki turns to her girlfriend and rolls her eyes.
"I know that. I mean, why is she here? When I arrived yesterday, she was already sleeping."
Mayu, who's pouring orange juice in two glasses, shrugs, and the gesture makes Yuki frown.
"Your best friend knocks at your door at 10 PM and you don't ask her why?"
Mayu sits down and starts to sip her orange juice, before shaking her head.
"You should have seen her yesterday. She was a mess, and could barely put two words together. Even if I had asked, I doubt she would have given me a coherent answer."
They stay quiet for a while, before Mayu shoots a sad look at the sleeping form.
"I've never seen her like that. First she faints in rehearsal, and now she looks like she's totally heartbroken."
"What do you mean? Did she say something?" Yuki asks in surprise.
"No, she didn't need to. I know what a heartbreak looks like," Mayu sighs, before noticing the confused look on the older girl.
"Remember when I confessed to you? I wasn't really happy about your rejection," the younger girl explains a bit sarcastically.
"I didn't... it caught me by surprise!" Yuki stutters defensively.
"The outcome was still the same," Mayu chuckles, amused by the girl's uneasiness.
Yuki stretches her hand and quickly intertwines their fingers together.
"I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry about it, it's long forgotten," the younger girl smiles, squeezing her hand in return.
When both girls hear a noise from the living room, they turn to see Jurina sitting on the couch and staring at them in surprise.
"You guys are together?"
Yuki, embarrassed, quickly turns away to hide her head in her hands, whereas Mayu smiles, amused by her girlfriend's reaction.
"At least, now she knows," she chuckles, getting a scolding slap on her arm and a glare from Yuki in return.
Jurina wide-eyed slowly gets up and goes to them, while Yuki quickly moves to open the fridge.
"What do you want to eat, Jurina?" she asks, her head buried in the fridge to avoid her gaze.
Mayu tries to hold her laughter the best she can, while Jurina shoots her a confused look. She wants to sympathize with her girlfriend's awkwardness, but she's too relieved the truth is finally out. Hiding the secret from Jurina was becoming each day harder and harder, especially when the girl was always so curious about everything.
"Whatever you're having is fine," Jurina answers, still locking eyes with her best friend.
Yuki quickly nods and gets some eggs out, while Mayu shakes her head at her girlfriend's behavior.
"Yes, we are," Mayu slowly answers, knowing Yuki is not going to say much.
"I can't believe I didn't see anything!"
"I guess we're good at keeping secrets."
Jurina nods, staring lost in thoughts at the glass of orange juice now in front of her, before something clicks in her mind and she quickly raises her eyes.
"So that's why you were acting all nervous during the kiss!"
Mayu grimaces and doesn't need to turn to her girlfriend to imagine the look on her face. She still remembers vividly their talk after this famous scene. It was not a pleasant one. Now is time to change the subject, for everyone's sake.
"What about you? What's happening to you lately?"
Now it's Jurina's turn to be awfully quiet, and even Yuki who's cooking turns to look at her. Mayu never was a patient girl, and even if Jurina is her best friend and she loves her, her patience has limits. When a few minutes pass and the girl still hasn't said anything, Mayu knows she has to take things in hand.
"So, who is it?"
Yuki, who's now serving omelets, stares at her in shock, somehow still not accustomed to her girlfriend's bluntness. She's about to say something, when Mayu quickly continues.
"I know you're heartbroken, don't even try to deny it. It's written all over your face. So tell me. Who is it?"
Jurina stares at the omelet in her plate and starts to eat, even if she suddenly doesn't feel very hungry. She knows Mayu is looking at her and waiting for an answer, and knows by her tone she won't give up before she gets one. She may be herself very stubborn, her best friend is even worse.
"I can't tell you. It's someone you know."
Yuki who's now sitting near Jurina looks at her in surprise, before frowning a little.
"A guy we know? Who can it be?"
Mayu who's staring at Jurina notices her uneasiness and she smiles a little.
"It's not a guy."
"What?" Yuki stops eating at Mayu's words and turns to Jurina, waiting for a confirmation.
The younger girl nods and sets her fork down on her plate to look at Mayu.
"If I tell you, you'll start acting awkward around her and she'll notice something."
"So it's someone you're close too?" Mayu guesses, starting to like this game. She puts her finger under her chin, thinking carefully, before making an excited sound. "I know. It's Akane!"
Jurina quickly shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
"Not at all. Why would you think that?"
"Don't look at me like that. I saw all the messages you were sending each other when we went out to Shibuya."
Jurina nods a little, admitting she has a valid point and it could make sense in a way.
"Churi and I are close, but it's not her."
Mayu and Yuki stay quiet for a while, both thinking hard about who it can be, before Yuki gives up and continues to eat, totally clueless. Her girlfriend has always been good at guessing games, not her.
Mayu lets out an annoyed sound and starts to eat as well when no name comes in mind. The room stays quiet for a while, and Jurina continues to eat, relaxing a little, thinking her friend has decided to drop the subject. She was wrong. Mayu suddenly sets her fork down noisily, and Jurina raises her eyes in surprise.
"Don't tell me..."
Jurina unconsciously shivers, sensing Mayu has discovered the truth. Yuki has also stopped to eat, and both are staring at the girl who's now smiling a little.
"It's Rena, isn't it?"
Jurina sighs and doesn't even think about denying it. She knows her best friend all too well. She would see through her lie straight away. Yuki lets out a shocked sound, while Mayu can't stop smiling, quite pleased with herself.
"I should have seen it coming. So, what happened? Did she reject you?"
"In a sense, yes."
"What do you mean by that? Did you confess or not?"
"It doesn't matter. It was over before it ever began."
Yuki who was quiet until now turns confused to the girl.
"I don't understand, Jurina. If you haven't told her, then you have to."
"She told me - more than once - that she sees me as her little sister."
"We sometimes say stupid things. When Mayu confessed to me, I got afraid and rejected her. I'm not into Rena's head, but you still have to try. You never know."
Jurina sighs and shakes her head. She knows her friends are trying to give her hope, but Rena's words are too deep anchored in her head. She raises her eyes and smiles a little, still thankful her friends are doing their best to cheer her up.
"I already had my heart broken once a few days ago, I won't take another chance. I've been thinking a lot about it lately. I'm giving up on her."
Mayu starts to open her mouth to object, but refrains at Jurina's decided look. Turning to Yuki, she notices her hesitation as well. They share a glance and Mayu shakes her head at her, before sadly watching Jurina who's lowering her eyes and continuing to eat. She was thankful Yuki returned her feelings in the end, but she knows not anyone can have their happy ending. All she can do now is respect her best friend's wishes, and help her overcome her pain.
At Rena's apartment, Airi is busy reading a manga on the couch while Rena is trying a recipe from her new cooking book.
When Airi had called the girl this morning to suggest her to go out, Rena had politely declined, inviting her instead at her apartment for lunch. The promise of a chocolate cake had sealed the deal, as Airi could never say no to the girl's cooking. Now Airi was laying on the couch, engrossed in her book, taking a peek now and then at Rena who's busy in the kitchen. She had offered her help but the older Matsui had refused, telling her to relax in the living room.
Airi is now in the middle of her second manga and glancing at her watch, she wonders why Rena is taking so long. She remembers the girl saying it wouldn't take more than 30 minutes, and it's already been more than an hour. Airi lays her book down on her lap, staring at Rena who's been sighing louder and louder for a few minutes now. It can't be she's having difficulty following the recipe - Rena is a very good cook. Airi slowly sits up and frowns at the girl's odd behavior. Now that she's watching her more carefully, she notices how she's eying her phone quite frequently. She's actually paying more attention to it than to the recipe itself.
Putting her book aside, Airi walks to the kitchen and leans against the counter, following Rena's frantic movements and frowning at the devastating state of the kitchen. There's flour everywhere - even on the girl's face - and the cake doesn't look so good. For the first time, she's not so eager to try Rena's cooking.
"Rena, do you need some help?" she asks hesitantly, only seeing the girl waving at her while stirring a suspect mixture in a bowl.
Airi is about to go back on the couch when she catches Rena glancing at her phone again.
"Are you expecting a call?"
Rena raises her eyes in confusion.
"You can't stop looking at your phone."
Rena suddenly stops what she's doing and turns to the device.
"I've been texting Jurina, but she's not answering."
Rena continues to stir, and Airi notices how the girl seems really bothered by it.
"Maybe she's busy."
"Right. I've already sent her four messages. How busy can she be?"
Now Rena is clearly irritated, and Airi frowns.
"You know Jurina. She'll answer when she's ready."
"Why can't she answer straight away like everyone else?"
Airi chuckles at the girl's statement.
"Not everyone is as perfect as you."
Rena rolls her eyes at Airi's teasing, and motions to the bowl in front of her.
"If you're not nice, you won't get any."
"Well, I'm not so sure I want to taste that cake anymore."
Airi prepares herself for the slap that's about to follow, and easily avoids it when it comes, laughing profusely.
"You're so predictable, Rena."
The older Matsui shoots her an annoyed look, before getting back to her cooking. A few minutes pass by without any of them saying anything, before Airi speaks up again.
"Why are you texting her so much anyway? Did something happen?"
"No, I just wanted to check up on her. She's only been out of the hospital two days ago."
"I'm sure she's fine. She's probably with Churi and hasn't checked her phone yet."
"Akane? Why do you think that?"
"They've been spending a lot of time together. I barely see Churi anymore," Airi smiles, but Rena can see a bit of sadness behind it, "I actually wonder if there's something going on between them," Airi chuckles.
"What do you mean by that?" Rena raises her eyes in surprise.
"Well, you know."
"No, I don't."
Airi sighs at Rena's confused look, before rolling her eyes.
"I think they're dating."
Both girls lock eyes for a few seconds, before Rena starts to laugh profusely.
"Airin, you're so funny!"
Airi watches in surprise Rena who's holding her stomach with one hand and tapping her arm with the other. She didn't expect such a reaction from the other girl. When she starts to calm down, their eyes meet again, and Rena notices Airi's seriousness.
"You're joking, right?"
Airi shakes her head and Rena stares at her, wide-eyed.
"Jurina and Akane? You can't be serious!"
"Why not? Don't they seem close to you?"
"Well yes, but..." Rena stutters, before avoiding her eyes, thinking thoroughly. Now that she mentions it, they have been getting closer and closer lately, and her mind goes back to the scene she witnessed from her hotel room during the shooting of the season 4 of Majisuka Gakuen. She had taken it as a token of good friendship, but what if there was something more?
Airi, noticing how Rena seems really bothered by what she said, quickly waves her hand.
"I'm not sure of anything. I'm just voicing a thought out loud."
Rena nods, before lowering her eyes to the bowl again. She frowns at the strange color, before smiling a little, embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, Airin. I know I promised you a cake, but I think it's best if we don't eat it. I'll go buy one at the bakery."
Airi starts to chuckle and Rena soon joins her, wiping some flour off her hands.
When Jurina goes home on Sunday it's already quite late, and the girl dreads facing the emptiness of her house, her parents being away for a few days. Despite the cold evening she walks slowly, not in a hurry to arrive. She smiles a little when she thinks about the nice week end she just spent with Mayu and Yuki. When she had knocked on her best friend's door Friday evening, she was not in a good state of mind. Rena's words had really hurt her, and she knew she couldn't stay alone at home. These last two days had really helped her clear her head, and she was happy with the decision she had made. It wasn't an easy one, but she knew it was the only way to forget about Rena.
Taking her phone out of her bag, she notices all the missed calls and messages. She had switched off her phone Friday night, not really in the mood for any chatting. There are a few from her parents, Churi and Rena. She stops to read these last ones, really surprised.
She sighs at the concerned messages from Rena, not really sure how she's going to reply to them. Turning to her street, she raises her eyes and spots someone waiting in front of her house. She wasn't expecting anyone, was she?
The phone still in hand, she recognizes Churi who's knocking on her door. The girl suddenly turns and stares worriedly at her.
"Where were you Jurina? I've been waiting for ages!"
Jurina looks at her in surprise, and the girl motions to her phone.
"Didn't you receive my text?"
The younger girl quickly goes through Churi's messages and sighs when she spots the one she's talking about.
"I'm really sorry. I switched my phone off on Friday," she admits, receiving a glare in return.
She quickly grabs her keys and moves to the door, swiftly pushing it to let the other girl in.
"Your parents are not here?" Churi asks, after scanning the place and taking her coat off.
Jurina shakes her head, avoiding the girl's gaze, still feeling very guilty. Churi notices it and gently grabs her arm.
"I'm not mad at you. I was just worried," she smiles and Jurina nods, sighing in relief.
"Do you want to drink something?" Jurina asks, entering the kitchen and opening the fridge.
"Green tea, please."
Churi sits down in the kitchen, watching the girl and noticing how she's still wearing the clothes she had on Friday.
"Where were you all weekend?"
"I was at Mayu's," Jurina answers swiftly, putting the kettle on before turning around to lean against the counter and look at her friend. She sees her eying her clothes, and knows she must look awful. However, the girl doesn't say a thing about it.
"Why did you switch your phone off?"
That's a tougher question to answer and Jurina averts her eyes.
"I wasn't feeling so well. I'm sorry I missed your messages."
When the kettle makes a sharp noise, Jurina turns around again and starts to pour the water into two cups. Both girls then sip their tea in silence, Jurina staring blankly in front of her, while Churi watches her carefully. She notices how she seems quite rested and it relieves her a little, even if she can't stop thinking about what happened during rehearsal. She's been spending so much time with her lately, how come she didn't notice anything? She should have been here for her and see how much she was under pressure. Thankfully, Rena was here and had avoided an accident, but Churi can't help but think it should have been her. What kind of friend is she if she can't recognize the signs of someone in distraught? Especially someone she cares so much about. She suddenly feels a hand on hers, and sees a worried Jurina looking at her.
"Are you okay?"
Churi chuckles at the irony of the situation.
"I'm fine. I'm the one who should be asking you that."
"I'm better. I actually feel quite rested after staying so long at the hospital."
Churi rolls her eyes at Jurina's amused smile and slaps her arm playfully.
"You shouldn't be joking about that. You scared everyone."
"I know, and I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
"It better not. Be sure I'm going to keep an eye on you from now on."
Jurina chuckles at her friend's seriousness.
"I'm counting on you."
When Jurina's cup is empty, she gets up and moves to the living room.
"What do you want to do? I have games, or we can watch TV."
"I don't mind."
Jurina nods and bends down to take the PlayStation 3 that's laying on a shelf. When she stands up again, she feels two arms circling her waist from behind, and a head resting on her shoulder. She turns slightly in surprise, while the girl tightens her grip.
"Don't you dare scaring me like that anymore."
Jurina stretches her arms to lay the console on the table in front of her and, slowly disentangling herself from the girl to face her, she notices her pained eyes. She leans forward to kiss Churi's forehead gently, before smiling a little.
Churi nods, averting her eyes a moment, before looking at her again very seriously.
"You better keep your promise. You don't know how much you mean to me."
Jurina is momentarily taken aback by her words, before Churi slowly leans to kiss her on the lips. She doesn't know why the kiss startles her so much - after all, she's used to kissing herself her fellow members - but the younger Matsui still stares dumbstruck at Churi who's now looking at her shyly. The older girl then flashes her an amused smile and moves forward to the game console, grabbing it before heading to the television. Jurina silently follows her every moves, wondering why this kiss seems awfully similar to the one she gave her at the train station a while ago.
Rena is waiting in the dressing room and looking at the program of tonight's episode. Her day started early with a radio interview, followed by a few live shows, and now it's time for the weekly SKE TV show. An usual busy schedule in the life of Rena Matsui, and she yawns a little, kind of hoping the day could already be over. Sitting in a dark corner of the room, she starts to close her eyes, hoping to take a light nap before the beginning of the recording. She's about to drift off when she hears a distant familiar energetic voice. The door soon opens, and the older Matsui opens her eyelids to see Jurina chatting and clinging to Ryoha. Rena smiles, amused by the shy girl who lets Jurina kissing her on the cheek now and then, even if she obviously feels uncomfortable about it. Some people can avoid Jurina's kisses and some can't. Ryoha belongs to this last category.
Rena goes back to the sheet in her hand, knowing it's now going to be impossible to rest with the lively Jurina around her. She takes a peek from time to time to the girl, wondering if everything is really back to normal. After Jurina's stay at the hospital, there were a few weeks of awkwardness between them, Rena even noticing how the younger girl was avoiding her a little. Now, things were a bit better, but Rena still felt some uneasiness in Jurina's eyes when they talked. It bothered her to not know the reason behind it, but she was relieved that the distance between them was decreasing day after day, and they were not acting as strangers like a few months ago anymore. It was not perfect, but it was better than nothing.
When a laughter erupts in the room, Rena - who was lost in thoughts - raises her eyes and frowns at Jurina's flirty attitude. The girl is trying to steal another kiss from Ryoha - this time on the lips - and the older Matsui can't help but find the situation a bit disturbing. A few months ago, she would have rolled her eyes at the girl's silliness, but now, she feels ill-at-ease witnessing this scene. After her conversation with Airi about Jurina and Churi's possible romantic relationship, she had unconsciously watched them more often than usual, her curiosity getting the best of her. Airi was right about one thing: they were really close, however the nature of their relationship still remained an enigma.
The door opens again and Rena who hasn't stopped eying the flirtatious Jurina suddenly feels someone tapping her shoulder. She raises her eyes to see a smiling Airi looking at her, then at Jurina who's laughing loudly.
"I see some things never change," she chuckles, taking her coat off and sitting near Rena.
The older Matsui nods, observing Ryoha who's now pushing Jurina away.
"I think you were wrong about the dating thing," Rena states, before feeling Airi nudging her elbow.
"I'm not so sure."
Rena follows Airi's gaze on Akane who's just entered the room, and notices her intense stare on Jurina.
"There's some jealousy in the air," Airi murmurs playfully.
"We shouldn't be spying on them," Rena retorts, and swiftly goes back to reading her sheet.
"Oh come on, don't tell me you're not a bit curious."
Rena mentally slaps herself for the lie, and fights to not take a peek at the two girls. Airi chuckles, obviously not believing her.
"Oh, she's going to talk to her," Airi's voice pitches up in excitation.
"Stop it, it's none of our business," Rena scolds her.
"Do you think she's angry?"
This time, Rena raises her eyes to see Akane and Jurina talking, but they're too far to hear anything. When she hears Airi chuckling again, she turns around and shoots her an annoyed look, before slapping her arm.
"And you're curious."
Rena doesn't try to deny it anymore, laying the sheet on her lap. She wasn't really reading it anyway.
"Why don't you ask Jurina about it?" Airi suggests seriously.
"Are you crazy?" Rena exclaims, wide-eyed.
"Because it's none of my business."
"You're not fun," Airi sighs disappointedly, still staring at the two distant girls.
"And why don't you ask Akane? She's your friend, isn't she?" Rena asks playfully before noticing how Airi is averting her gaze.
"I've told you before. We're not that close anymore," Airi answers slowly and Rena notices the pain in her eyes.
Airi waves her hand before chuckling.
"It seems everything's alright between them."
Rena glances at Jurina and Akane who are now hugging, before turning back to Airi. Despite the girl's cheerfulness, she can sense the sadness behind it and wonders why Akane has distanced herself so much from her best friend. Is it because of her recent closeness to Jurina or is there another reason? Rena had questioned Airi a few times about it, but the girl had each time shaken her head, totally clueless.
Jurina moans at the hand that's caressing her hair. Her head is resting on Churi's lap and apart from the faint sound of the television, Churi's house is quiet and peaceful. The soothing gesture appeases her and with her eyes closed, she knows she could almost fall asleep. Only the soft voice of the other girl prevents her from drifting off and Jurina smiles happily, not moving an inch on the couch. She wouldn't mind staying in that comfortable place the whole evening.
Churi, who's watching an anime, lowers her eyes and smiles at the younger girl's reaction. Curled in her lap, she looks like a happy little puppy, making a faint sound from time to time. She knows they soon will have to get up to go to bed - it's getting late - but for now she lets the girl enjoy her peaceful rest. If she has to be honest, she doesn't mind herself the closeness, and has to refrain herself to not kiss the young girl's forehead.
When Churi giggles at a funny scene and moves a little, Jurina groans and opens her eyelids. Her eyes meet Churi's who shakes her head at the girl's reaction.
"You soon will have to get up anyway, Jurina."
"I don't want to."
Churi smiles at Jurina's childish behavior, before switching the TV off.
"Okay, it's already midnight. Let's go to bed." Jurina reluctantly sits up and shoots her a disapproving look when Churi makes a move to get up.
"I'm not tired."
"Of course, you always go to bed at 1 AM."
Jurina looks at her in surprise, wondering how she knows her sleeping habits.
"You always send me texts before going to sleep."
"That you never reply to."
"Of course, I'm sleeping," Churi giggles, before heading to the bedroom.
"It's because you're old. You have no stamina," Jurina murmurs before entering the bedroom and meeting Churi's scolding eyes.
"I heard that."
Jurina smiles sheepishly, catching the pillow the girl is throwing at her.
"If you're not nice, you'll sleep on the couch," Churi warns her and Jurina quickly apologizes, even if it doesn't seem very convincing.
Churi rolls her eyes when Jurina quickly puts her pajamas on and gets into bed, pulling the sheet and holding onto it tightly, a mischievous smile on her face.
"You're such a kid sometimes," Churi chuckles, entering the bathroom.
"You're the one to talk."
The older girl cocks her head through the door.
"What do you mean by that?"
"You were the one acting all jealous when you saw me kissing Ryoha."
"I wasn't jealous," answers a frowning Churi, before noticing Jurina's amusement.
"Right. So I must have imagined that angry stare."
Churi taps her feet in frustration and puts her hands on her waist, annoyed by Jurina's cocky smile.
"If you keep contradicting me, you'll definitely sleep on the couch."
Churi disappears again in the bathroom, and Jurina laughs, amused by the girl's behavior.
"It's fine, I don't mind it. You're cute when you're jealous!" she exclaims loudly, only receiving an angry glare a few minutes later when Churi gets out of the bathroom.
"You're impossible sometimes, you know that?" Churi sighs, switching the light off and getting under the sheet, feeling Jurina's head on her shoulder a few seconds later.
Both girls then stay silent for a while, Churi listening to Jurina's soft breathing and thinking about her previous words.
"I really don't mind what you do with other girls," she murmurs softly, feeling Jurina's hand on her stomach intertwining their fingers together.
"I know. I was just messing with you."
"A few months ago, I wouldn't have been able to make the difference, but now I know when you're just joking around and when you're serious."
Jurina opens her eyes and moves forward to kiss her cheek.
"Thank you. It means a lot to me."
Churi smiles in return, squeezing her hand tightly while Jurina starts to close her eyelids again. After that, sleep soon claims her and she falls in a slumber.
Jurina is gazing at the sea when she feels a hand on her shoulder. She turns to see Rena looking at her and she quickly intertwines their fingers together, smiling. However, her joy doesn't last as she hears the older Matsui's words. A few tears start to fall on Jurina's face and Rena shoots her a pained look before turning on her heels. Jurina shouts her name, but the girl distances herself, until she's no more than a shadow.
Jurina quickly opens her eyes to stare at the ceiling. She's sweating profusely and her body is trembling. Again the same dream. She has been having it for a few weeks now, and even if there are a few minor differences from time to time, it's always the same scenario.
She didn't know Rena's words would impact her so much. She had promised herself to get over her, but things didn't go quite as planned. This dream just refused to go away. She sits up in bed, listening to her racing heart and annoyed at how powerless she is. She wanted to stick to her decision, but it was hard when the girl kept haunting her nights. And not in a pleasant way. When will it finally stop? Jurina sighs, before noticing the girl beside her moving and looking at her.
"Are you okay?" Churi asks sleepily, raising her head a little.
"I'm fine. I'm sorry I woke you up."
"It's Rena again?"
Jurina nods, knowing she has the bad habit to murmur her name in her sleep. Apparently, since the shooting of Majisuka Gakuen 4, it has happened quite often. Churi pats the space between them, closing her eyes again.
"Lay down. It will pass."
Jurina complies and pulls the cover, before feeling Churi's arm circling her waist. She turns guiltily to her closed eyelids, hating disturbing her sleep. Again. The beating of her heart slows progressively and she tries to clear her head, knowing it's the only way to go back to sleep. When she's finally physically and mentally exhausted, her eyelids close on their own.
Jurina rubs her hands together, trying to warm herself up. Despite her gloves and her wooly hat she trembles, hating the cold. It's now the second shop, and she takes a peek inside through the window. She sighs loudly, wondering if she's finally going to find what she's looking for. Pushing the door, her eyes scan the room full of books and she goes straight to the manga section, stopping to stare defeated at all the choices. Picking one book, she puts it back to choose another one, repeating the same process again and again. If it was a present for Mayu, she would know right away what to take, but she has no idea what Churi likes. And her birthday is in three days. Great. Jurina mentally slaps herself for not paying more attention to the girl's book collection. If she had, she wouldn't be standing here looking like a total idiot who doesn't know what she wants.
Turning around, she notices the DVD section not far away and ponders buying an anime instead, before rolling her eyes. It wouldn't make a difference. Each time Churi watches an anime at home, she doesn't pay much attention to it. What can she say? They don't have the same tastes and the younger Matsui is not really an otaku. A third solution appears when she eyes the CD section and she moves forward swiftly, not noticing in time a girl arriving from her right. Both girls bump into each other and Jurina quickly apologizes, before staring wide-eyed at the familiar face. Rena rubs her head at the contact, before smiling in surprise.
"Jurina! Hi! What are you doing here?"
"Hi. I'm here to buy a present for Churi. But I don't really know what to choose," she admits defeated, before hearing the girl chuckling.
"It's unusual to see you in this corner."
"Yes, I'm a bit lost," Jurina smiles, before noticing the books in the girl's hand.
"And you, what are you doing here?"
"Same as you. Buying a birthday present. For Airin."
"Isn't that in two weeks?" Jurina frowns.
"Yes, but I didn't have a lot of days off lately and I hate to postpone things. I don't understand people who always wait for the last minute."
Rena, realizing what she just said, waves her hand, embarrassed.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean that for you. Some people are good at it, I'm not," Rena quickly says, averting her eyes.
"It's okay. No need to apologize," Jurina chuckles, finding the girl's discomfort quite cute, before mentally slapping herself. She's supposed to get over the girl, not falling in love all over again.
A few seconds pass without any of them saying anything, before Rena speaks again, motioning to the books in her hand.
"I don't know what to buy Airin. I chose a few manga, but I'm not sure what she already has. Plus, she tends to buy everything she likes, so it's hard to surprise her."
Jurina nods, knowing the feeling, before spotting a familiar DVD and grabbing it swiftly.
"At least I know what you like," she states, turning to handle the DVD to a curious Rena. The older Matsui takes it and their fingers touch briefly, Jurina's heart fluttering instantly.
"I love Gundam," Rena smiles widely, caressing the cover like a precious object.
Jurina watches the girl's reaction in amusement before admiring her beautiful features. She's about to move her hand to brush a lock of hair out of her eyes when she halts suddenly, realizing what she was about to do. She shouldn't be having such thoughts anymore.
"I don't think I'll find what I'm looking for here," Jurina says and Rena puts the DVD back on the shelf to look at her.
"I wish I could help you, but I don't know Akane very much."
"I obviously don't know her much more if I can't find a present," she sighs dejectedly, before feeling a hand grabbing hers.
"Don't worry, you'll find one. And anyway, I'm sure she'll like it if it comes from you," Rena comforts her and Jurina can't help but squeeze her hand in return, moved by the girl's kindness.
She knows by the sound of her now racing heart that she should put some distance between them, but her feet stay stuck on the ground and she admires Rena's smile a little while, before slowly disentangling herself.
"Thank you, Rena," she murmurs, averting her gaze a few seconds before going back to her. "I think I'm going to buy a scarf or something like that. As long as it's green, she should love it," Jurina teases, making Rena chuckle beside her.
The younger Matsui then takes a step back, more serious.
"I'm going now. See you on Monday."
"Yes, take care Jurina."
Both girls exchange a smile and Rena's eyes follow Jurina's retreating form until she's out of the store.
When Jurina steps out she turns to the window, watching the older Matsui who's now waiting in line at the checkout. Their eyes meet briefly and Rena waves at her, smiling a little. The younger girl quickly mimics the act, kind of glad there's not too much awkwardness between them anymore.
After celebrating her birthday with her family and her close friends - including Jurina - Churi has invited a few members of the SKE group at the restaurant. Now it's time for dessert and she's smiling eagerly at the strawberry cake in front of her. Breathing out, she blows out all the candles and everyone starts clapping.
The dinner had started quite nicely, everyone having fun and Churi joking around with everyone, even with Rena and Airi. Now, a few drinks of alcohol later, Jurina was eying her friend worriedly, wondering why her behavior had changed all of a sudden an hour ago. It had happened just after Churi had asked to talk to Airi privately. When they had come back from the restroom a while later, Jurina had immediately noticed something was wrong. Airi was avoiding Churi's gaze and the latter was not so cheerful anymore. That's when she had started to drink alcohol, and the situation had gotten worse.
Everyone was enjoying themselves and not paying much attention to the slightly more cheerful Churi. It just looked like she was having a lot of fun. Jurina was awfully quiet now, not knowing what to do. She didn't want to cause a scene, but she couldn't let Churi drink so much. Things could end quite badly.
An hour later, half the table has already left to go home. Jurina had suggested Churi to do the same, but the girl had brushed it off, claiming it was too early. Now Jurina was coming back from the restroom and watching Churi, wondering how this evening was going to end. Just as she's about to sit down again, she sees Rena getting up from the table and approaching her, worried.
"Is something wrong with Akane?"
"I don't know. She's been drinking for a while now."
"I think she should go home."
"I tried, but she doesn't want to listen to me."
"I'll help you."
Jurina follows the older Matsui who approaches Churi and murmurs something in her ear. Despite not hearing what she says, Jurina knows the girl's words don't have much an impact on her, as Churi just waves her hand and continues to drink. Rena then turns towards the last SKE members still at the table.
"I'm sorry, but it's getting quite late. I think we should go home."
The girls look at her in surprise but no one objects and everyone starts to leave, only a now annoyed Churi left at the table. Rena turns to Jurina with pleading eyes and the girl quickly approaches, helping Churi put her coat on.
"Why did you ask them to leave?" Churi asks in annoyance, having difficulty not to stumble.
"I'll call a cab," Jurina murmurs, getting her phone out of her bag and dialing a number.
A few minutes later, Rena and Jurina are helping the drunk girl to get in the car and almost manage when Churi turns to point an accusing finger at the older Matsui.
"You! I don't know what you've done to her!"
Rena stares dumbstruck at Churi who's now motioning to Jurina.
"Whatever it is, just make up already! You know she always says your name in her sleep? I'm fed up of hearing it!"
After her short tirade, Churi finally sits in the backseat of the cab like nothing happened and Jurina avoids Rena's surprised gaze on her.
"Thank you for your help," she stutters, before closing the door and giving the address to the driver.
She knows Rena is staring at her through the window, but she turns to Churi instead, looking at the girl who's now dozing off, her eyes half closed.
When they get to Churi's, the house is dark and the girl's parents already asleep. Jurina sighs in relief, carefully leading the girl to her bedroom. She helps her take her coat off, but knows she won't manage to go much further, given the girl's drunken state. Jurina goes to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen and when she comes back, Churi is curled on the bed, clutching the cover tightly. The younger Matsui sits down next to her, surprised to see tears falling from the girl's face.
"I'm so stupid," Churi sobs and Jurina gently caresses her hair to soothe her.
"Have some water."
Churi slowly sits up to take the glass and drinks it swiftly, before laying down again. After sending a message to her parents to tell them she's sleeping at Churi's, Jurina gets in bed and moves closer to the girl who's still crying profusely. She wants to ask her what happened that made her drink so much, but knows it's best to wait tomorrow morning when the girl will have a clear head. After a few minutes the sobbing stops, and Jurina feels the body against her slowly relaxing.
"I'm sorry about what I said," Churi stutters.
"It's okay, don't worry about it. Go to sleep," Jurina answers softly, caressing her arm before squeezing her hand lightly.
Churi nods slightly and closes her eyes, sniffing a bit. The weariness finally gets to them, and they fall asleep soon after.
Jurina is in the dressing room wearing a black suit and adjusting her tie in the mirror. Her next photoshoot is in five minutes, and she groans when she fails to make the knot again. A chuckle erupts next to her and Rena approaches her.
"Let me help you."
Jurina turns to the girl who's wearing a white dress and with who she's doing a photoshoot. It's been more than two months since their last one together, and the theme of the day is black and white. Rena's expert hands quickly manage to make the knot perfectly and Jurina sighs in relief when she looks at the result in the mirror.
"I don't understand how you still can't make a proper knot. You should be used to it with Darkness," Rena shakes her head in amusement.
"I never do it, someone helps me," Jurina admits, at what Rena rolls her eyes.
A staff member suddenly appears in the room and warns them the photoshoot is about to start.
Apparently the theme of the day is also newlyweds, and Jurina mentally rolls her eyes each time she hears the photographer saying "closer". She's trying to act as professional as possible while still maintaining a reasonable distance. A few years ago, she would have clung to Rena immediately without thinking, but now things were different. She was not a kid anymore and most of all, she had feelings to keep in check and someone to get over with. Which was still a bit problematic, judging by the way her heart had started to flutter when she had seen her in this beautiful white dress.
When the photographer makes again a sign for them to get closer, Jurina wants to groan, but still manages to keep a fake smile on her face. She's moving a bit to Rena's side when she feels the girl's hand on her waist drawing her to her and whispering in her ear, while still looking at the camera.
"Jurina, stop being so nervous or this photoshoot will never end."
The younger girl gulps in surprise at the girl's sudden action, before finding the situation quite ironic. A while ago, the roles would have reversed and she would have been the one to try and relax the nervous Rena. Oh well. She didn't mind the change so much.
An hour later, it's finally over and both girl join the dressing room. Jurina is undoing her tie when she notices Rena watching her in the mirror and rolling her eyes at the girl's clumsy attempt. Jurina sighs defeated and turns to the girl who quickly undoes her tie, a small smile on her lips.
"What's happening to you? I've never seen you so nervous during a photoshoot," Rena asks once it's done.
"I don't know," Jurina replies in a small voice and averting her eyes, before taking her jacket off.
"It looked like you were afraid of touching me," Rena states and Jurina stops what she's doing to turn at the girl's saddened tone. "You also did the same thing during the shooting of the new videoclip."
Jurina doesn't know what to say and observes silently Rena who's now sighing.
"You don't have to keep your distances so much. It's a bit strange coming from you," Rena admits before grabbing her hand and rubbing it gently. "Promise me you won't do it anymore?"
"Okay..." is the only thing Jurina can reply to Rena's pleading eyes, getting a broad smile in return.
Rena goes back to undressing and Jurina does the same before Rena turns slightly to her again with questioning eyes.
"Does this have something to do with what Akane said at the restaurant?"
Jurina's eyes widen at the girl's words, not expecting to hear about that again. Since this little incident, Jurina had prepared an explanation in her head in case she was questioned about it, but Rena had never asked and the younger Matsui had almost all forgotten about it until now. Caught off guard, Jurina who was unbuttoning her white shirt stills her movement a few seconds, before getting back to the task as nonchalantly as possible.
"I don't know why she said that, but let's not forget she was drunk," she turns to Rena, sending her a playful smile. Her voice doesn't falter once and Jurina who's now looking at her reflection in the mirror nervously waits for Rena's answer.
"Okay...," Rena hesitantly replies a few seconds later.
Jurina notices the doubt in her voice, but relaxes when she doesn't insist.
Silence then engulfs them as they finish to undress, and they're now sitting down to remove their light makeup when Rena turns again to Jurina.
"About Akane. Do you know what's happening between Airin and her? They're not talking anymore."
Jurina sighs dejectedly at Rena and shakes her head.
"No. I'm sure it has something to do with what happened at the restaurant, but she refuses to talk about it."
"Same with Airin."
"I don't like seeing Churi so sad, but I don't know what to do."
"I think I have an idea. What if we set up a meeting?"
"A meeting? We?" Jurina's voice pitches up in surprise.
"Yes. I may need your help," Rena replies nervously.
Jurina finds it a bit odd that Rena is trying to meddle in the two friends' relationship, but the curiosity gets the best of her.
"What is it?"
"Airin's birthday is in a few days. She has invited me to have lunch with her, and then we're supposed to go see the Christmas' decorations in the city center. What if Akane were to make an appearance?"
"I'm sorry, I don't follow," Jurina murmurs, puzzled.
"You could bring Akane at the same place and they could accidentally meet," Rena explains.
"Oh," Jurina's eyes suddenly brighten and Rena smiles.
"So, what do you think?" Rena asks.
Jurina thinks about it for a few seconds, before nodding.
"If it can help them reconcile, then I'm in."
"Well, I don't know if it will work, be we have to try. I don't like seeing Airin so sad."
"And I Churi. Then it's a deal," Jurina exclaims, stretching her hand in a formal way.
Rena rolls her eyes at the action and shakes it in a swift movement. She then turns to the mirror to finish removing her makeup, Jurina mimicking her actions. When Rena has finished, she gets up and puts her coat on, before heading to the door. Grabbing the handle, she halts to turn to the girl.
"I'll send you a text with all the info."
Rena smiles at Jurina's playful tone and watches her a few seconds as she's adjusting her hair in the mirror, suddenly realizing how much she missed their complicity. When Jurina notices she's still not gone she turns in surprise and Rena waves at her, before finally leaving the room.
Airi's smile broadens when her gift is unwrapped and she discovers the manga.
"I hope you don't already have it," Rena asks, and Airi quickly shakes her head.
"No, I don't. I was actually planning on buying it," the girl answers, and the older Matsui sighs in relief.
"I also brought you these," Rena handles a box and Airi peeks inside.
"You made macaroons?" she asks dumbfounded.
"Yes. I wanted to make your favorites for your birthday."
"Thank you very much, Rena."
Airi quickly goes to put the box in the kitchen, while Rena takes a look around her, noticing how the house is quiet and the table is already set up for two in the dining room.
"You're sure you didn't want to invite more people?" she asks when Airi comes back and invites her to sit.
"Why? Afraid to get bored?" Airi asks playfully, and Rena chuckles while sitting down.
"With you? Never. I just thought you would like to throw a party for your birthday."
"No, I just wanted to spend a quiet afternoon with you," Airi shakes her head, and Rena blushes slightly at the girl's words.
The lunch goes on smoothly, both girls chatting eagerly about their favorite subjects and the group now and then. Rena always finds it so easy to talk to the girl: they have so much in common. When it's time for dessert, the older Matsui checks the time while Airi is in the kitchen, not forgetting about her little arrangement with Jurina.
Rena raises her eyes in surprise when Airi comes back with the macaroons she baked.
"You don't want to keep them for yourself?" she asks, but Airi shakes her head.
"You made quite a lot and I want to enjoy them with you."
Rena smiles at Airi's words, noticing again how the girl is acting all nervous around her. It's a bit odd, but she doesn't say a thing, tasting the macaroons with apprehension, and sighing in relief when they actually are good. She still remembers vividly the last time she promised Airi a chocolate cake and she had ended at the bakery instead. Thankfully, she can still cook.
Both girls are now walking in the city center of Nagoya and Rena's eyes brighten at the beautiful sight in front of her. The older Matsui may not like cold and winter, she loves this period of the year when the streets are enlightened by beautiful decorations, coming in various shapes, sizes and colors. Right now, with her mouth agape, she's not the 23 year old Rena, but a little kid in a candy store looking all around her, trying not to miss anything. When she spots mechanical pink bears behind the window of a shop, she quickly grabs Airi's arm and motions it to her. The girl nods, trying hard not to chuckle at the girl's enthusiasm as they approach the store to take a better look at it.
While Rena watches the animated bears in awe, Airi glances discreetly at her, sighing at how beautiful she is. It never stops to amaze her how cute the girl always looks no matter what she does, even when she's acting unexpectedly childish like right now. She had admired Rena from the start and couldn't be more happy with how close they were now. Or could she? A small voice in her head had been nagging her for a while now, prompting her to be more honest with herself. She didn't see her as a friend. Not anymore. When did her feelings start to change? She wasn't sure, but the more time she spent with the girl, the more she knew she had to say something. The aching in her heart would not stop until words were finally out.
She was nervous about what she was about to say, and had rehearsed her monologue in her head all morning. Was this the right time? Maybe not. Was she ready? Absolutely not. There was no easy way to do this.
Inhaling deeply, she slowly grabs Rena's hand and pulls it a little to catch the girl's attention.
"I have something to tell you," Airi says in a confident voice, and Rena turns with a smile, before noticing her nervousness. The older Matsui's intense stare unsettles Airi who avoids her gaze a few seconds, feeling her confidence slipping away instantly. She was not naive, she knew it would be hard, and that's why she had prepared her speech in her head.
When Airi doesn't say anything, Rena takes a look at her watch, her eyes widening when she notices the time. She had given rendezvous to Jurina in front of a bakery not far from here, and she should be there at any minute. Turning to Airi, she waits a few seconds expectantly, and takes a chance when the girl doesn't say anything.
"Airin, there's this bakery I would like to check. Do you mind?" she asks hesitantly, noticing how the girl is lost in thoughts.
When Airi nods, Rena sighs in relief and leads her to the meeting point. When the shop appears in the distance, her eyes scan the area looking for Jurina and Akane, but it looks like the girls have not arrived yet. They are halfway when Rena suddenly feels her hand being pulled, and she turns in surprise to Airi.
"I'm sorry, but I have something important to tell you."
"Okay, I'm listening," Rena answers patiently, before noting how Airi is quiet again. Now she's really worried. It's not like Airi to be so lost for words.
"What is it? Did something happen?"
Airi notices Rena's concerned look and immediately feels bad about it. She can't beat around the bushes anymore.
"I really like you Rena, you know that?"
"Of course I do, I like you too," Rena smiles, relaxing a bit.
"We've been friends for a while now, and I've been thinking a lot about it recently. I want more," Airi states confidently and Rena just nods, Airi taking it as a sign to continue.
"What I'm saying is, I don't want us to be just friends."
"We're not, we're best friends," Rena smiles widely, and Airi understands the girl is not going to make things easy for her.
"What I mean is, I have feelings for you, Rena."
Both girls then lock eyes for a while, and Airi immediately observes Rena's confused look, her mouth opening as to say something before closing again. When it happens for the third time, Airi speaks up again.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"I'm sorry, I'm not sure I'm following."
Airi knows she might regret her next action later, but she doesn't see any other option. She wants to make her intentions clear, and Rena seems annoyingly totally clueless.
Gathering her courage, she slowly pulls the girl towards her, and when Rena doesn't try to push her, she moves forward and kisses her on the lips.
Jurina is eying Churi by her side, while checking the time now and then. When she had suggested her to go and see the Christmas' decorations, the girl had reluctantly agreed, not really in the mood. Now Churi was staring blankly in front of her, not paying attention to anything in particular, and Jurina was really hoping this whole thing was not a bad idea.
Since her birthday, Churi had lost her joyfulness, and not even the cheerful Jurina had managed to change a thing. She had accepted Rena's idea hoping it would help, but now seeing her friend so moody was making her doubt the plan was going to work. Unfortunately, it was too late to go backwards.
The meeting point is now almost in view, when Churi grabs Jurina's arm and turns to her with pleading eyes.
"Could we please go home? I'm getting tired."
Jurina winces at her words, embarrassed. It's the third time the girl has mentioned her desire to leave, and the younger Matsui is running out of excuses.
"There's just that other shop I want to see, and then we can go," she says swiftly, seeing Churi nodding reluctantly.
Jurina sighs internally when she finally spots the bakery and she quickly looks for Rena. When she doesn't see her in front of the shop she scans the crowd before finally catching her and Airi. She's smiling in relief when she suddenly stops walking at the scene she's witnessing. Churi who's noticed her action turns to her in confusion, before following her gaze to the two girls who are kissing.
Not believing her eyes, Jurina's first reaction is to double-check she's not confusing them with someone else, but when Airi withdraws from the kiss and Rena comes into view, the younger girl knows her sight is not playing tricks on her. Feeling a sharp pang in her heart, she grimaces in pain, closing her eyes a few seconds before setting them again on the couple. It's not a pleasant view, but maybe that's what she needed to get definitely over Rena.
Lost in her thoughts, she turns when she feels Churi gripping her arm tightly, and notices the pain in her eyes. The girl is also observing the couple and Jurina's eyes widen when she sees tears rolling down her cheeks. Churi suddenly turns to her and embraces her swiftly, Jurina lost for words when she feels the girl crying on her shoulder. Putting her own pain aside, she responds to the girl's embrace and listens to the girl's soft sobbing, while trying to understand what's happening.
Softly caressing the girl's back to soothe her, the crying progressively slows down and Jurina takes the opportunity to question her.
"Churi? What is it?" she asks, concerned, but Churi stays quiet a few more seconds before disentangling herself and staring at her.
Jurina, taken aback by the suffering in her eyes, instinctively moves her hand to wipe a tear before caressing her cheek in a comforting gesture. She's about to reformulate her question when Churi suddenly moves forward and their lips meet. Jurina is about to push her away when Churi quickly backs away and Jurina stares at her, dumbstruck, trying to understand the meaning of this kiss. When Churi moves forward again Jurina lets her, despite knowing this is all wrong.
When Airi backs away from the kiss, she opens her eyes to see Rena staring at her in shock. She has to admit that she kind of expected this reaction from the girl. Airi averts her eyes a few seconds, before getting back to Rena.
"Do you understand now?" she asks in a small voice, only seeing Rena nodding in silence.
Airi patiently waits for Rena to process what just happened, before speaking up again.
"I'm sorry if I took you by surprise," she says now feeling really awful, before Rena gently grabs her hand.
"It's okay, Airin. I'm not mad," she tries to reassure her, despite the stupefaction still evident on her face.
Airi sighs in relief, before noticing the girl's nervousness.
"I'm sorry Airin, but I don't know what to say," Rena stutters, and Airi quickly waves her hand.
"You don't have to say anything. I just couldn't keep it to myself anymore."
"I'm glad you were honest," Rena replies, despite the uneasiness in her eyes, "I wish I could give you an answer, but I'm feeling a bit confused right now."
Rena suddenly rubs Airi's hand a little, a small smile appearing on her face.
"But I promise I won't let you in the dark. Can you just be a bit patient?"
"Take all the time you need."
Of course Airi would prefer an answer right away, but she knows it's best not to push the girl tonight if she wants a positive outcome to her confession. If Rena needs time to think, then she'll let her have it.
In an attempt to lighten the suddenly heavy atmosphere, Airi turns around and looks for the bakery Rena mentioned a few minutes before, before spotting it.
"The bakery is over there," she notes, and Rena widens her eyes, instantly remembering the plan.
They move forward to the shop before Airi notices two familiar faces.
"Isn't that Jurina and Churi?" she asks, and Rena follows her gaze.
For the second time this evening, the older Matsui is at a loss for words, and she stares in surprise at the two girls who are kissing.
"You wanted your proof, here you have it," Airi giggles and Rena nods silently, feeling a small pang in her heart.
When she finally looks away, she grabs Airi's hand and intertwines their fingers together.
"It's getting late, maybe we should go home."
"You didn't want to buy something at the bakery?" Airi asks in confusion, and Rena slowly shakes her head.
"It's fine. I'll do it another time."
Despite finding the girl's change of heart awkward Airi doesn't insist and, relishing the girl's warm hand inside hers, nods.
"Okay, let's go."
The inside of the cab is awfully quiet when Jurina and Churi decide to go back home. After that second kiss, Churi had asked to leave and Jurina had quickly complied, the initial plan all forgotten. Now she was looking through the window, trying to process what just happened and why she didn't push the girl the second time. Churi had given no explanation and stayed quiet the whole time, and when Jurina had tried to ask, the words just couldn't come out.
Churi's unexpected behavior added to the scene she had witnessed made that evening a whole lot confusing, and Jurina mentally slaps herself when she remembers she was supposed to meet Rena in front of the bakery. Getting her phone out of her bag, she types a short message to the girl, hoping she's still not waiting. A few seconds later the reply comes, and she sighs in relief when she reads that the two girls have left. Closing her phone, she glances again at Churi whose head is laying against the window, and Jurina sighs worriedly.
When the car stops in front of Churi's house a while later, Jurina is about to give her address to the driver when Churi turns to her with pleading eyes.
"Stay with me tonight? Please?"
Jurina ponders the girl's words, hesitant, before nodding. The pain is still evident on Churi's face, and Jurina feels bad leaving her alone when her parents are away.
The younger Matsui slowly follows the girl into her house, feeling somehow a bit nervous. They eat a light dinner, Churi not being very talkative and Jurina still lost in thoughts. The younger girl knows she should be more brave and confront her right now, but she's not in a right state of mind herself.
As expected, sleep doesn't come at all. Jurina has her back turned to Churi's and by all the sighing she hears from the other girl, she knows she's not the only one having trouble sleeping. Moving on her back again, she's staring absently at the ceiling when she suddenly feels movement in the bed and sees Churi approaching her. She turns slightly, expecting the girl to speak but Churi stays quiet, moving closer instead until they are just inches apart. Jurina is about to open her mouth to say something when she feels Churi's lips on hers and a hand caressing her stomach. Surprise seizes her again and she doesn't react when the girl moves on top of her. She unconsciously opens her mouth and the kiss quickly deepens, Churi's right hand moving underneath her shirt while the second one caresses her hair.
A voice inside Jurina's head screams at how wrong this is and that she should stop the girl right now. Despite hearing it loud and clear, she swiftly pushes it aside, getting lost in the intensity of the kiss. She recognizes the despair in it, as she's feeling it herself. When Churi's right hand is more bold and starts to lift up her shirt, Jurina suddenly realizes what's going on and breaks the kiss.
"Churi, we can't do that," she says quickly, but the older girl ignores her and kisses her again, this time more desperately.
Digits begin to climb upwards under her shirt and Jurina swiftly grabs the girl's wrist before they can touch her chest, while she uses her other hand to push the girl away.
"Stop it, Churi," she pleads and the older girl retreats quickly at Jurina's frightened look.
"I'm sorry," she stutters, realizing in shock what she was doing.
Jurina's eyes follow her as she gets out of bed and moves backwards until her back hits the wall, sliding against it until she's sitting on the floor, her head buried in her hands. When she starts to cry, Jurina slowly gets out of bed and kneels in front of her.
"I'm so sorry, Jurina. I'm so sorry," Churi repeats between her sobs and Jurina stretches her hands to grab her arms.
"It's okay, it's okay."
When Churi starts to cry profusely, Jurina moves forward to embrace her, and the older girl - after a moment of hesitation - lets her, watering her right shoulder immediately.
"Tell me what's going on," Jurina murmurs, slowly caressing the girl's hair to soothe her.
The gesture seems to work on Churi as the crying progressively subsides until it stops a few minutes later.
"It's about Airi, isn't it? What happened at the restaurant?" Jurina asks, hoping the girl will finally confide in her.
Feeling a small nod on her shoulder, she pushes the girl a little to look at her, pained to see the despair in the girl's eyes.
"What did you talk about?" Jurina pushes, and Churi slowly raises her eyes to her.
"I told her I had feelings for her."
"And she rejected you," Jurina guesses, only receiving another small nod in reply.
Churi quickly wipes her tears, avoiding the girl's look after her confession.
"I know it hurts, and I'm here for you. But not like that...," Jurina continues slowly, catching Churi's attention again.
"How can you be so nice to me after what I've done?" Churi asks bewildered.
"Because I love you, Churi. And you stopped when I asked you to. It's all that matters to me," Jurina explains, a faint smile on her lips.
"I don't deserve your friendship," Churi shakes her head in disbelief.
"Don't say that. We all have our own way to cope with pain and you had to let it out."
"But not like that."
"Don't think about it anymore. It's over now."
Jurina gets up and pulls the girl, motioning to the bed.
"Let's go back to sleep."
Jurina starts to get under the sheets when she notices the girl hasn't moved an inch.
"Would you prefer if I slept on the couch?" Jurina suggests.
"I'm not going to touch you, I promise," Churi quickly shakes her head, feeling awful again.
"I know that. I was asking in case you preferred some space for tonight," Jurina smiles, trying to catch a glimpse of the girl's who's averting her eyes.
"No, I don't want to be alone," Churi murmurs.
"Then it's settled," Jurina lightly pats the space beside her and Churi slowly gets into bed, keeping a good distance between them and turning her back to the younger girl.
When Jurina slowly approaches and encircles her waist from behind Churi flinches, before progressively relaxing. She knows she's going to feel bad about what she did for the next following days, but for now she relishes the girl's unexpected tender gesture and closes her eyes to sleep.
It's already been three months since the release of the new SKE single, and it's still a big hit. One thing is for sure: people love it, and tonight is no exception. Jurina's face brightens up as she listens to the audience's cheers and clapping. It's the end of the concert and she tries to catch her breath, her eyes wandering around the SKE theater in joy, before bowing to the public.
Girls are chatting excitedly on their way to the dressing room but the younger Matsui barely listens, exhausted. She slumps into the first chair she finds, wiping the sweat off her forehead and trying to calm her beating heart. She may love her new duet with Rena as much as the audience, it's still a very energetic song and right now, she has no fuel left. The room is now filled with laughter and chatting and Jurina closes her eyes to relax, a satisfied smile on her lips. Soon the place becomes quieter as the girls start to change and the younger Matsui feels her body relaxing, her eyelids becoming heavier and heavier until her breathing progressively slows down.
It's the pulling that wakes her up. At first, she feels a small push on her arm and hears a distant worried voice. Then the shaking becomes more energetic and the voice clearer. That's when she sleepily opens her eyelids, only to see an angry Rena hovering over her.
"Don't you dare do that to me again!" The older Matsui is now almost screaming and Jurina widens her eyes at the girl who's slightly trembling.
"What's going on?" she asks in a small frightened voice, before noticing how everyone is staring at her.
"You weren't responding, Jurina. I thought you fainted again!" Rena hisses in panic, and Jurina straightens up in her seat, progressively gaining her senses back.
"No, I guess I just fell asleep," the younger Matsui murmurs, having no memory of drifting off.
All eyes are still set on her and she quickly turns around to wave a reassuring hand at the other members.
"Don't worry, I'm fine. Just took a small nap," she smiles, seeing a few girls rolling their eyes at her, and the chatting resumes like nothing happened. Yawning a little, she turns to the mirror again, only to see the older Matsui sitting down and staring at her in disbelief.
"You were... sleeping?"
"Yes, I'm sorry if I worried you," Jurina answers carefully, and Rena turns around, hiding her embarrassed face in her hands.
"I'm so sorry," the older Matsui stutters sheepishly and Jurina reaches over to grab her arm.
"It's okay. And I needed to wake up anyway," she tries to reassure the poor girl, only receiving a weak nod in return, "I don't know how you can be so energetic after such a day though. You were shaking me so hard, I wouldn't have been able to sleep even if I was on sleeping pills."
At those words, Rena progressively lowers her hands and turns at Jurina's playful tone.
"You scared me, idiot," the older Matsui scolds her immediately, before stretching her arm to grab the girl's hand that's laying on the table and rubbing it gently. When she hears Jurina's soft chuckle, her mouth tugs into a smile.
"You're incorrigible, you know that?" she exclaims, tucking a strand of hair behind the younger girl's ear, Jurina's eyes softening at the tender gesture.
When the door to the dressing room opens, Rena notices Churi in the mirror and swiftly backs away from Jurina, avoiding her eyes nervously.
"I'm leaving now. See you tomorrow," she stammers, putting her coat on and getting up from her chair.
Jurina nods silently in confusion, observing the girl who's now turning on her heels in a hurry and heading out of the room, her eyes lowered to the ground. When Jurina finally spots Churi she smiles widely, only receiving a confused look in return.
"What's happening with Rena? She's been ignoring me for days now," Churi asks bewildered.
"Really?" Jurina raises a curious eyebrow at her friend.
"Don't tell me you haven't noticed," Churi continues, occupying Rena's previous spot.
Jurina simply shakes her head and both girls get change in silence - both lost in their own thoughts - before the younger Matsui turns seriously to Churi, Rena's odd behavior all forgotten.
"So tonight, my place or yours?"
Churi immediately stiffens at the girl's words, before shaking her head.
"I can't tonight. I have plans."
"Really?" Jurina frowns, carefully watching the girl who simply nods in returns, emotionless.
"That's strange. You said the same thing yesterday and the day before."
Churi doesn't say a thing and Jurina moves forward to grab her arm, skeptic.
"Are you avoiding me?"
"Of course not."
This time Churi turns around in surprise, immediately noticing Jurina's pained eyes.
"Is this about what happened the other night? I told you it was all forgotten."
"Well, maybe I haven't," Churi replies guiltily, avoiding Jurina's stare.
When she feels the girl gripping her arm tightly she softly yanks it away before getting up and turning to the girl with pleading eyes.
"Please leave it alone, Jurina."
"Absolutely not," the younger Matsui stubbornly answers, swiftly embracing the other girl who flinches.
"Jurina..." Churi winces, trying to disentangle herself the best she can.
"I know you're still feeling guilty about it, but you have to get over it," Jurina stresses, tightening her grip when Churi tries to push her away more fiercely.
When her second attempt fails Churi exhales deeply, wrapping her hands around the younger girl's waist.
"You won't take no for an answer, will you?" she states, receiving a small nod in reply.
"Fine. You won," she finally admits defeated, leaning her head on the girl's shoulder, her body relaxing when Jurina's digits softly caress her hair.
At the sound of the door opening she slowly raises her eyes and notices Rena watching them from afar, before approaching when her presence has been acknowledged.
"I'm sorry. I forgot my bag," she says nervously, motioning to the object hidden under the table opposite Churi's chair.
Both girls step aside, Churi staring curiously at Rena who's now kneeling to grab it, before swiftly heading out of the room again.
"What did I tell you? No eye contact," Churi turns to Jurina in surprise, only receiving a small shrug in return.
"You're over thinking," Jurina rolls her eyes, before grabbing her hand and looking at her expectantly.
"So, my place?" the younger Matsui asks with hopeful eyes, getting back to the point.
"Yes, fine," Churi relents, stifling a laugh at Jurina's victorious smile. She could never say no to such a face anyway.
The hallway is quiet when Jurina steps out of the elevator and stretches her arm to softly knock on the door. Faint sounds can be heard from inside and she waits patiently, before noticing Churi's odd behavior who's nervously fiddling with her bag beside her.
"Why are you fidgeting?"
The older girl lets out a sigh, her digits halting their frantic movements and gripping the strap tightly.
"I've never been to Mayu's apartment before," she murmurs, averting her eyes to look at the welcome mat at her feet.
"And why are you whispering?" Jurina now asks clearly amused, receiving a scolding look in return.
"Don't make fun of me. It's intimidating to be here," her voice trails off, raising again her eyes at the closed door.
"Everything's going to be fine. I know she may seem a bit cold at first, but she's a nice girl," Jurina reassures her, squeezing her hand a little.
The door suddenly opens on Mayu who smiles at Churi before raising an eyebrow at Jurina.
Churi flinches at her dangerous stare, while Jurina simply waves her hand in amusement.
"Hi Mayu," the younger Matsui moves forward to kiss her cheek, getting an annoyed groan in return.
A cheerful Yuki appears a few seconds later behind Mayu, quickly hugging both guests before inviting them to come in.
The apartment is buzzing with chatter and light music, and the newcomers wave at Aika Ota and Haruka Shimazaki who are decorating a small Christmas tree in the living room.
While Jurina and Churi have their backs turned and are busy hanging their coats in the hall, Mayu's eyes notice Jurina's bag that's laying near the door and she scoots closer, trying to take a discreet peek inside. However her little act is quickly discovered, and Jurina swiftly takes it away from the wandering hands.
"What is in the large box?" Mayu asks with pleading eyes, trying to get her hands on it, receiving a disapproving look in return at her second attempt.
"It's your Christmas present," Jurina answers, pulling away the bag that Mayu is now gripping tightly.
"I can't have a clue?" Mayu pushes in a small hopeful voice that's clearly not working on Jurina who shakes her head in amusement.
Before Mayu can continue her questioning any further, an embarrassed Yuki quickly approaches and grips her arm firmly.
"Stop bothering Jurina and come and help me in the kitchen," she pulls her girlfriend away, before Mayu finally relents and follows her reluctantly.
"I never saw her so childish," Churi exclaims once they are out of reach, and Jurina chuckles at the girl's surprise.
"Yes, she always behaves like a little kid around Christmas."
"It's quite a relief actually. I think I prefer this side of her."
They both share a laugh, before joining the girls who are chatting around the Christmas tree.
Jurina carefully takes the small yellow bauble out of the box and hangs it near a purple star. The decorating is going quite smoothly and there is now almost no space left on the tree, despite Churi's best efforts to find a spot for a huge green bauble. A soft humming can be heard in the small apartment, and the younger Matsui smiles at Yuki who's hanging lightning decorations in the living room, steadying herself on a chair, while moving her body in rhythm with the song. Meanwhile, Mayu is setting the presents at the bottom of the tree, her fingers touching a bit too much the biggest ones, clearly trying to guess what's inside. Jurina can't help but shake her head at the younger girl's behavior, before letting out a happy sigh. That's why she loves spending this time of the year with them. They are full of Christmas spirit.
Jurina is kneeling down to hang a white bear figure when someone rings at the door, and she sees from the corner of her eye Yuki carefully climbing down from her chair and going to open. Just as she's about to hang a last item on the tree, she halts her movement in surprise at the familiar voices coming from the hallway, and tilts her head when Churi tugs on her sleeve. The distraught expression on the girl's face is all she needs to know she heard correctly.
"Did you know they would be here?" she stutters and Jurina now turns around to watch Rena and Airi who are taking their coats off while chatting with Yuki.
"No, I didn't," she muses, before eying Mayu skeptically who's waving at the two guests cheerfully.
Jurina can sense a shift in the air as Churi's face progressively decomposes and she squeezes her hand in a comforting gesture.
"I'm sorry. Mayu didn't tell me she invited them. Are you alright?" she asks worriedly at the girl who's now shaking her head.
"I'm not, but I will be. And it's not like I can do anything about it," Churi chuckles nervously, before turning to the two girls who are now making their way to the living room.
Jurina greets the two newcomers with a smile, while Churi simply waves at them ill at ease, moving next to the sofa and burying her head in a suddenly very interesting magazine. Silence engulfs the three girls as none of them say anything, before Airi excuses herself and moves to speak to Haruka, after a lingering look at Churi's back.
"Hi Jurina," Rena smiles weakly, moving forward to the younger girl, "Mayu didn't tell me you both would be there," she grimaces, before noticing Jurina's surprise. "Airin told me yesterday what happened at the restaurant. If only I had known what it was all about..." Rena's voice trails off, glancing back and forth between Akane and Airi.
"I know. Mayu took me by surprise as well."
Both girls stay silent for a while, before Jurina kneels down to the box previously full of baubles to handle one small red one to the older Matsui.
"Here. It's the last one. See if you can find a spot somewhere," she motions to the Christmas tree.
Rena takes it carefully between her fingers and turns to the tree, frowning at how over decorated it is.
"Yes, sorry. I think we got overboard," Jurina chuckles and Rena shakes her head in disbelief, before placing the object between the yellow bauble and the purple star.
Mayu is taking some snacks out of the fridge when she notices the younger Matsui entering the kitchen and leaning against the counter, her arms crossed over her chest. She doesn't need to look at the girl to know she's staring at her but she chooses to ignore her, instead carefully setting food on a plate, and taking a few glasses out of a cupboard a few minutes later. The silent treatment she receives doesn't last however, as Jurina speaks up in barely contained frustration.
"Why did you invite them?"
"Who?" Mayu asks nonchalantly, and Jurina's voice rises up in annoyance.
"You know very well who. Rena and Airi. You told me it was a friendly gathering."
"I did. And that's why they are here. I invited Rena, and she asked if Airi could come as well," Mayu continues, still ignoring purposely her best friend's stare.
"Rena is not your friend!" the younger Matsui stresses, and Mayu turns to her in surprise.
"What makes you say that?" she asks innocently, and Jurina raises an irritated eyebrow at her.
"Oh come on, Mayu. Don't play dumb with me. I specifically told you not to do anything about it and you went against my wishes. Why?"
"What's bothering you anyway? I thought you were over her," Mayu shoots her an amused smile and Jurina shakes her head in disbelief.
"I am over her, but it's not always about me," she sighs in frustration, before noticing her best friend's curious gaze on her.
"Who is it about, then?"
The words almost slip from her lips but she refrains herself at the last minute, remembering the promise she made to Churi a while ago. She was not going to spill the beans about her feelings for Airi, despite how persistent Mayu could be.
When Yuki suddenly comes in the kitchen, Jurina lets out a resigned sigh, before turning on her heels and moving to the living room. Mayu follows her retreating form before noticing her girlfriend's scolding look.
"Mayu, why did you invite them?" she gasps once Jurina is far enough not to catch their conversation.
"Not a good idea?" the younger girl cringes, averting her eyes sheepishly.
"I'm not so sure. Jurina and Churi didn't look so happy about it," Yuki sighs in frustration, before noticing the confused look on her girlfriend's face. "Let's hope this evening doesn't turn into a complete disaster," she adds painfully, before grabbing the plate of food and slowly heading into the living room again.
Rena opens her small eyelids, her body stiffening when she notices she's not sleeping in her own bed. Confused, her eyes begin to adjust to the darkness surrounding her, and she progressively relaxes at the view of the girls sleeping in the living room, now remembering where she is. She tilts her head to Airi who's laying on the futon beside her, before her eyes slowly scan the room. There's an empty space next to Akane and Rena frowns, until a small noise catches her attention and she turns to the kitchen. Sitting up, she faintly distinguishes a silhouette moving near the sink and she gets up, the curiosity getting the best of her.
Jurina drinks the glass in one swift movement, her eyes staring pensively out of the window. So lost in thoughts she doesn't hear the girl's footsteps, and she jumps at Rena's voice.
Jurina turns to the girl in surprise and tries to calm her beating heart, before noticing how sleepy she looks.
"Did I wake you up?"
"No. You know I'm a light sleeper."
The older Matsui pulls a chair and slowly sits down, watching Jurina who's pouring water in her glass for the second time and drinking it swiftly.
"You know you're going to spend the rest of the night going to the toilet."
"I don't care. I'm thirsty."
Rena sighs at Jurina's stubbornness, and rolls her eyes when she sees her filling another glass. She follows her movements as she finally places the glass in the sink and sits down her back to the wall, facing the small white window. Her eyelids progressively start to close and Rena breaks the silence.
"You should go back to bed. You're tired."
Jurina, not moving an inch, nods absently, before hearing a small yelp beside her. Opening her eyes again, she watches Rena staring outside, mouth agape, before getting up to move closer to the window.
"It's snowing," her voice pitches up in barely contained excitation, and Jurina's mouth tugs into a smile at the view of the girl who's sticking her face to the window glass, watching in awe the snow coming down in large flakes.
"Between Mayu and you, I don't know who loves Christmas the most."
"I love snow. It's so calm and beautiful."
"Yes. A bit like you."
Rena turns in surprise at the girl's musing, before feeling her cheeks coloring at the younger girl's sincere smile. Thankfully, the dark is doing a good job at hiding her flustered face.
The whole room watches in silence Mayu who unwraps her present frenetically, her eyes lightening up immediately at the view of the 7 inches anime figure.
"Mikasa Ackerman! Thank you Jurina!"
The younger Matsui smiles when Mayu kisses her on the cheek swiftly, before getting back to the object, looking at it from every angle.
"Jurina, you shouldn't have. You know we don't have any place left," Yuki speaks up, embarrassed.
"I'll find one," Mayu says cheerfully, waving her hand nonchalantly.
"I have no doubt about it," Yuki cringes, before shooting a disapproving look at Jurina who suppresses a chuckle.
Mayu suddenly gets up and her eyes scan the room, alarming Yuki immediately.
"Where should I put it?" she muses, before moving forward when she spots a place.
"Wait, Mayu!" Yuki quickly says, watching in horror the girl trying to fit the object on a shelf, moving a few books away in the process.
All eyes are now set on them as the pair moves to the bedroom and the discussion heats up, and Churi nudges Jurina's elbow playfully.
"You're looking for trouble."
"I know. Yuki is going to hate me."
All girls share a small laugh and continue to exchange gifts, before Airi turns shyly to the older Matsui, a present in her left hand.
"Here. It's for you."
Rena carefully unwraps the paper, before smiling at the view of a beautiful red scarf. Her fingers caress the soft fabric, before realization hits her and she turns in surprise to the girl.
"That's the scarf I saw in Shibuya."
"You went back to buy it while I was waiting at the café!"
Rena quickly moves forward to embrace the girl, a broad smile on her lips.
"Thank you so much. I can't believe I didn't notice anything."
"Well, you were pretty much engrossed in your cooking book."
Rena rolls her eyes at Airi's playful tone, before everyone raises their eyes when Mayu and Yuki enter the living room again, and the latter cheerfully claps into her hands.
"Who wants to go outside?"
The streets are abundantly covered in snow, and Jurina kneels in the white grass in front of the building, gathering as much snow as she can, trying to form a circular uniform base. She releases a defeated sigh when the result doesn't please her enough, before hearing a small chuckle behind her back.
"Are you really going to build a snowman?"
"Of course. And you're going to help me."
Churi smiles at the girl's wink and shakes her head in disbelief. Just as she's about to relent, she stiffens when she hears an hesitant voice calling her.
"Churi, can I talk to you?"
Jurina tilts her head to Airi and Rena who are slowly approaching, before noticing Churi's mortified look. When the girl chooses to ignore Airi's question, the younger Matsui grabs her arm.
"Go on, Churi."
"Jurina..." she winces, shaking her head in discomfort when the girl inches closer.
Churi sighs defeated when the girl softly pushes her away and finally turns around to Airi who's looking at her expectantly. They stare at each other, Churi pondering her options a few seconds before slowly following the girl.
Jurina is watching the girls who are now sitting on a bench not far away, before noticing Rena who's standing near the door, gazing at them curiously.
"Will you give me a hand?"
Rena turns in surprise to the younger Matsui who's gathering snow in her hands again, and smiles.
Jurina stands up and rubs her hands, a satisfied grin on her face, admiring the beautiful tall snowman in front of her. Her eyes scan the floor for small branches and she moves forward when she spots a few ones near a tree, only frowning when she comes back and notices three big buttons on the snowman's face. Tilting her head to Rena's side, she spots her watching the two girls who are still talking on the bench, a worried look on her face.
"Rena, why does my snowman looks like an alien?"
The older Matsui quickly turns in confusion, before widening her eyes when she realizes what she just did.
"I'm sorry," she stutters, quickly retrieving the useless third button and sliding it in her pocket.
"Stop eavesdropping. It's not like we can hear anything from here anyway."
"I know," Rena swiftly answers, before groaning and pushing the girl's arm when she starts to chuckle.
The gesture takes Jurina by surprise who loses her balance and falls on the snowy slippery grass, staring in disbelief at Rena.
"I'm sorry. Are you alright?"
The older Matsui quickly moves forward in shock, stretching her hand to help the other girl get up. Jurina looks at the offered hand curiously, before a playful smile moves to her face and she starts to gather snow in her hands.
"Jurina. What are you doing?" Rena asks hesitantly, taking a cautious step back when a snowball starts to form in her left palm.
"You're going to pay for that," the younger girl points out, slowly getting up.
"Don't do that, Jurina. I'm serious."
Just as she's about to protest again, Jurina stretches her arm and the snowball hits Rena's shoulder. The girl stares in shock at Jurina's unapologetic smile, before swiftly rubbing the ice off her coat.
"You deserved it," Jurina shrugs nonchalantly, before turning and sticking the small branches at each side of the snowman, satisfied with the result. When she suddenly feels a snowball hitting her back she turns in surprise, only to see Rena forming another one in her hand.
"What? You really thought I would let it go?"
"You want to play that game? You know you're going to lose," Jurina raises an eyebrow, taking a few steps back and kneeling to gather some snow.
"Don't be so sure of yourself. You don't know what I'm capable of."
"Okay. Bring it on."
Jurina who's sitting on the grass turns her head to the poor breathless Rena.
"Told you I would win."
Rena simply waves her hand at her, too exhausted to say anything.
"You should exercise more."
Jurina chuckles at the girl's erratic voice, before noticing Churi and Airi getting up from the bench and moving towards them.
"Looks like you two had a lot of fun," Churi smiles, stretching her hand to help Jurina getting up, while Airi offers hers to Rena.
"Well, you know me. I never refuse a good challenge," Jurina smiles broadly, before glancing seriously back and forth between Airi and Churi.
"We're fine," Churi answers her unvoiced question, turning slightly to Airi who nods in approval.
The door to the building suddenly opens, and the four girls turn to Yuki who's smiling at them.
"Anyone interested in a hot chocolate?"
The dressing room is empty when Mayu comes in and the girl sighs in relief, sitting down in the first chair next to her and letting her bag slide at her feet. She isn't in the mood to talk to anyone right now. Her eyes notice clothes on coat-hangers and she stops at the view of a black dress, knowing that's what she's going to wear for her AKB photoshoot. Turning her attention to her bag at her feet, she quickly grabs her phone and sighs defeated when her last message hasn't received a reply yet. The door suddenly opens but she doesn't pay attention to it, instead typing energetically on the device. She's halfway through her text when she suddenly hears a cheerful voice behind her and feels two hands pulling at her hair.
"You're so cute. I missed your bunches."
The shorter girl raises her eyes in surprise before spotting Jurina's broad grin.
"Don't touch them. It took me hours to do them."
Jurina who's playing with the girl's hair stops her movement when she perceives an hint of annoyance in her voice, and tilts her head to get a look at what she's doing. When she notices that she's sending a message to Yuki she backs away - not willing to pry - and moves forward to the coat-hanger to grab the red jacket and the blue jeans she's going to wear for her photoshoot with the older girl. She's starting to get change when Mayu - who's still looking at her phone - suddenly breaks the silence.
"I hate this new photographer. Just when it took me years to get rid of my bunches, he asks me to have them again. Now fans are going to ask me to keep them," Mayu mutters in frustration.
Jurina nods absently, before noticing how the girl is sighing loudly and gripping her phone tightly.
"You're awfully grumpy today. What is it?"
"Yuki has been giving me the cold shoulder since Christmas," Mayu murmurs in a small pained voice, and Jurina raises a surprised eyebrow.
"She's angry at me for inviting Rena behind her back."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Both girls then stay quiet for a while, before Mayu leaves her phone aside, and turns seriously to Jurina.
"I'm really sorry for inviting Rena. I shouldn't have done that. Are you still angry at me?"
Jurina quickly shakes her head, a small smile on her lips.
"At first I was, but not anymore. It ended better than I expected."
"Really? Did something happen between Rena and you?"
Jurina rolls her eyes when Mayu's voice pitches up in excitation.
"No, it's not about that."
Mayu furrows her eyebrows expectantly, before sighing when Jurina doesn't elaborate.
"You're annoying when you're cryptic."
Jurina chuckles when the girl sends her a cold stare.
"Well, I have to be. Look what happened the last time I confided in you."
Mayu sighs deeply and gets up to grab the black dress, before starting to get change. Both girls put on their new clothes in silence, before the young Matsui turns to the mirror to take a better look at her clothes when she's done, quite pleased with what she's wearing. Her fingers graze the soft red leather, and a small smile forms on her lips. For once, it's actually something she could wear in real life.
"Anyway, Rena and Airi are together now," Jurina says nonchalantly, while now adjusting her hair in the mirror.
This revelation catches Mayu by surprise who halts her movements and turns dumbfounded to Jurina.
"What? How do you know?"
"I saw them kissing a while ago."
Mayu stares agape at her friend, before shooting her an embarrassed look.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"Don't be. I don't know her much, but Airi seems like a nice girl."
Jurina pauses and Mayu watches her patiently, sensing the girl has more to say about it.
"You know I used to dream about Rena almost every night?" the younger Matsui chuckles nervously, and Mayu notices how the girl is averting her eyes. "Since I saw them kissing, I don't anymore. It's almost like it triggered something in me," the younger Matsui continues and Mayu moves forward, grabbing softly her hand and looking at her seriously.
"You really don't love Rena anymore?"
Jurina smiles at her friend's question, and nods.
"Of course I do. As a friend."
Mayu slowly drops her hand and goes back to dressing, before murmuring.
"You know, you're being awfully mature about this whole situation."
Jurina chuckles at her friend's surprise, before shaking her head.
"I don't think so, but thank you. I'm trying, though."
When the younger Matsui notices Mayu who's struggling with the zipper of her dress she moves forward to help her, before speaking up again when it's done and they're facing each other.
"I'll go and talk to Yuki if you like."
Mayu watches Jurina in surprise before her mouth tugs into a smile, moved by her best friend's suggestion.
"You don't have to."
"I know, but I want to."
When a staff member suddenly knocks and warns them the photoshoot is about to start, both girls move to the door before Jurina turns to Mayu, a huge grin on her face.
"Do you want some advice? You should keep your bunches when you go home tonight. I'm sure she'll love them."
Mayu rolls her eyes at the girl's playful wink, before opening the door in one swift movement.
Rena's gloved fingers grip firmly the collar of her black trench-coat, shuddering a little at the cold breeze. She's thankful her red scarf is keeping her warm enough, as she doesn't want to get sick just before New Year's Eve. If only her best friend didn't insist so much on going to the cinema tonight, she would be enjoying a nice book in her cozy bed. She almost had refused the girl's invitation, before finally relenting to her pleading eyes. What can she say? Somehow, her determination always falters when it comes to Airi.
Her feet now move a bit faster when she spots the cinema, eager to get rid of the cold. She waves her hand when she eyes Airi and swiftly crosses the street to join her, before sighing in relief when they step in the cinema.
Now the whole thing doesn't seem such a bad idea anymore as she inhales deeply, enjoying the warmth and taking her scarf off before sliding in her pocket. Airi's stare on her scarf doesn't go unnoticed, and Rena smiles when her best friend's mouth curves into a pleased expression at the view of her Christmas present.
"I hope this movie is good," Rena teases, while rubbing her hands to shake the cold off.
"Don't worry. You'll love it."
Rena nods at the girl's enthusiasm and moves to the counter to take her ticket, when she suddenly feels Airi grabbing her arm.
"Wait. We still have to wait for the others."
The older Matsui turns to her in confusion, and Airi shoots her a surprised look.
"You didn't receive my text?"
"No. Which one?"
"I was telling you I invited Churi and Jurina as well. You didn't reply, so I thought you were okay with it," Airi's voice trails off, and Rena lowers her head to her bag and rummages through it before finding and grabbing her phone.
Silence engulfs them as Rena goes through her messages, before Airi speaks up again hesitantly.
"I'm sorry. I should have called to check with you."
Rena puts the device back in her bag, before raising her eyes at the girl again, a small smile on her lips.
"Don't apologize. I don't mind."
Both girls then wait patiently in a corner of the cinema, Airi laying her back to the wall and reading a magazine, while Rena absently watches outside through the transparent big doors of the cinema, before turning back to the girl.
"I'm glad Akane and you are back to being friends."
Airi raises her eyes at the girl's words, a small smile on her lips.
"I wouldn't say we're friends yet. It's still a bit awkward from time to time, but we're getting there."
"I was surprised when you stepped it on Christmas to talk to her."
"Well, I knew I had to do something. I wanted to give Churi some space, but I couldn't let the distance grow between us. Once it starts, there's no turning back. I wasn't about to let that happen," Airi states, before burying her head in the magazine again and flipping a page.
Rena nods and turns to the door again to watch absently people walking in the streets, before her mouth tugs into a smile. "I'm sure Jurina will mend her broken heart."
Airi raises her eyes in surprise. "They are not together."
At those words, Rena swiftly turns to the girl in confusion. "What?"
"I thought you knew."
"What are you talking about? We saw them kissing the other day."
"I know, and I asked Churi about it. It was a misunderstanding. They are not a couple."
Rena's eyes widen at the girl's revelation, before Airi starts to chuckle.
"And you want to know the funny thing? They also believed we were an item."
Rena watches curiously the girl who's now averting her eyes nervously, until all of a sudden what happened that evening submerges her memory. "Oh. They saw us," Rena nods.
There's a slight tension in the air as both girls avoid each other's eyes, before Rena gets distracted by a pounding on the door, and she tilts her head to see Jurina and Akane smiling at them.
"Sorry for keeping you waiting," Jurina says while pushing the door and trying to catch her breath - kissing Rena and Airi on the cheek - before noticing how Rena is staring at her.
"Is something wrong?" she asks bewildered, only seeing the girl shaking her head and smiling awkwardly, before following Airi who's moving to the counter.
When Rena discovers they're going to watch a Japanese animated movie, she can't help but wonder why Jurina has accepted to come. It's no news that the girl is not really into that kind of things and she tilts her head to the girl who's sitting next to her, playing a game on her phone, while waiting for Akane and Airi to come back with the popcorn.
"What did Akane tell you to convince you to come?" she asks in a teasing voice, and Jurina's mouth tugs into a smile.
"I know I'm not an otaku like you three, but it doesn't prevent me from enjoying an animated movie now and then," she answers on the same tone, raising her eyes to the older Matsui.
"Right. The last time we watched one together, you fell asleep half through it."
"When was that? Three years ago?" Jurina rolls her eyes, before lowering her eyes to her phone again, "Don't worry, it won't happen tonight. I didn't pay 1500 yens to take a nap."
Rena chuckles at the girl who's shaking her head in amusement, before turning her attention to the advertisement now on the screen and absently watching people filling progressively the room.
Airi's previous words flow her mind and she turns to the girl again, watching her as she's typing a message. She doesn't know why it's bothering her so much, but she feels the need to set things straight.
"I don't know if Akane told you, but Airi and I aren't together."
Jurina who's reading thoroughly the message she's about to send to Yuki suddenly raises her eyes in surprise.
"What? No, she didn't tell me."
"Apparently, there was a misunderstanding that evening. We saw each other kissing, and draw the wrong conclusions."
"Okay," Jurina simply says before lowering her eyes to her phone again.
Rena watches her as she continues to type on the device, feeling a bit disappointed at her lack of reaction. She then turns to the screen in confusion, wondering why Jurina's attitude is bothering her so much. What kind of reaction was she expecting anyway?
Rena watches from the side Airi and Akane finishing their radio show, quite pleased to notice the two girls seem to be getting along again. A small smile forms onto her lips when she hears Airi telling a joke and both girls start to laugh profusely. In the end, they didn't need anyone's help to reconcile. They managed it quite well on their own.
Rena glances at the time and her smile fades away when she knows the show is about to end. In a few minutes, she's going to have dinner with Airi, and she dreads the confrontation. Tonight she's going to answer Airi's question, and she feels a knot in her stomach just thinking about it. Airi has been patiently waiting for it since her birthday, not once trying to broach the subject, and Rena knew she couldn't drag it any longer. It wasn't fair to the girl.
When the show goes off the air, she sees both girls exchanging last words before Airi turns to wave at her. Rena quickly replicates the gesture, a nervous smile on her lips, before the girl approaches her.
"I'll go and grab my things and then we can go."
Rena nods at the girl who swiftly disappears, before reflecting upon her relationship with Airi.
They knew each other for years now, and Rena couldn't wish for a better friend. They were very alike in many ways, and had a lot in common. Rena was thankful she managed to find such a person in the group. Even if she was surrounded by hundreds of girls, not one understood the real Rena like her. There was only one Airi.
When Airi is back she follows her quietly out of the building, listening to the girl's excited narration of her day. She nods now and then when Airi turns to her, too stressed out to say anything. When the girl stops in front of a restaurant and asks for Rena's opinion, the older Matsui nods in agreement and the two friends settle in a quiet corner.
Rena is quite grateful when the menu arrives, as she can use it to hide her nervousness behind it. Despite looking at the menu, her mind keeps drifting to what she's about to say, and she sighs internally. This is going to be harder than she thought.
After reading the menu for the third time and still having no idea of what she's going to choose, she raises her eyes defeated to Airi, only seeing her watching her curiously.
"Rena, are you alright?"
The older Matsui swiftly nods before burying her head in the menu again, immediately cursing herself for the small lie. She was not fine. Her stomach was hurting her so much right now she wasn't sure she could eat anything tonight anyway. When the waiter comes to take their order she chooses the same as Airi without thinking, getting a surprise look in return. Once the young man is gone, Rena locks eyes with the girl in front of her, trying to ignore her now racing heart.
"Airin, I have something to tell you."
Her voice sounds weaker than she planned, and her hands move under the table to wipe the sweat on her pants, trying hard not to look away from Airi's worried eyes.
When she starts to open her mouth again, words surprisingly don't come out. She feels them on her lips and tries to push them out, but they just won't leave her lips. Frustration finally hits her and she frowns at her own attitude. It's not like she doesn't know what to say. She made up her mind a few days ago now. Quite frankly, the answer had been here from the start. She just refused to see it. She just looked away from the truth, despite how obvious it was.
"You know I love you deeply, right?" Rena finally manages to say after gathering her courage.
"Of course, I do," Airi answers in a small confused voice, not grasping what's going on with the girl whose left hand is now playing nervously with the napkin.
"I know you've been very patient with me these last two weeks, and I thank you for that."
Airi's eyes suddenly widen at the girl's words, now understanding where this conversation is leading to. Anticipation builds at the bottom of her stomach and she watches carefully the girl who's now slightly averting her eyes, silence engulfing them anew. When Rena stays silent a little too long, Airi stretches her hand to grab the one that's now shredding apart the white paper napkin.
"Whatever you answer is, just say it. I can take it," she tries to comfort the other girl despite her own uneasiness.
"I'm sorry Airin, but I can't return your feelings."
Airi slowly nods and retracts her hand, now averting the older Matsui's gaze whose eyes start to redden.
The conversation gets interrupted when the waiter comes back with two plates, and Airi stares at the takoyaki in front of her.
She grabs her chopsticks in her half trembling hands and starts to eat, while Rena tries to restrain her budding tears from falling.
"I'm so sorry, Airin."
"It's fine. I kind of expected this answer anyway," the other girl smiles painfully, tasting the food in her mouth before raising her eyes at Rena's sudden distraught voice.
"Please don't hate me."
"I could never hate you," Airi answers in surprise, now noticing a few silent tears flowing from the other girl's face.
"I don't want to lose you. You're my best friend, and I would be lost without you," the older Matsui admits in a small choking voice.
Airi slowly gets up and moves forward to stand at Rena's side, softly pulling her to wrap her hands around her neck.
"Stop crying. You're not going to lose me. Ever," Airi murmurs to the girl who's now crying in her chest, gripping firmly Airi's waist, "I'm not saying it's not going to be a bit awkward at first between us, but I won't distance myself from you. I value your friendship more than anything else in the world."
Rena shuts her eyes at the girl's caring words, not really sure she's deserving them right now. They stay quiet while Airi strokes her hair to soothe her and Rena feels her crying progressively subsiding, disentangling herself when it finally stops a while later.
She knows she must look awful right now and she wipes off the last remnant tears on her face, watching from the corner of her eye Airi retreating to go back to her seat. Rena then looks down at her own takoyaki, wondering why on earth she ordered that, before reluctantly starting to eat the small meatballs. The food tastes a bit salty and she curses her previous tears, stealing a glance now and then at Airi who's quietly eating. The pain is still written all over her face, and Rena can't help but feel terribly guilty. How could she hurt her best friend like that?
For a second, she selfishly wishes she would never have confessed to her. She didn't want their relationship to change, and despite Airi's comforting words, she feared it would after her rejection. She wouldn't bear seeing the girl distancing herself from her. Her heart wouldn't handle it.
"I know what you're thinking, Rena. Stop it," Airi suddenly speaks up in a slight frustrated voice, and the older Matsui's eyes widen, "I told you before. It won't change anything between us," Airi continues slowly, and Rena nods, still a bit unsure. "I just need time to process this."
Rena nods weakly, and stares at her food again.
Airi then notices Rena's chopsticks playing absently with her meatballs and a small smile forms on her lips.
"You don't have to eat them if you don't want to. I know you don't like takoyaki."
"You can have them."
Rena stretches her plate to Airi who grabs it, caressing softly the older Matsui's knuckles in the process. A shy smile forms on Rena's lips at the girl's comforting gesture and she hesitantly intertwines their fingers together, squeezing them to try and stop the slight tremble of their both hands.
Rena pulls her rolling suitcase in a hurry, watching in terror the train that's about to depart. It's unusual for her to be late, but her mind was elsewhere all day, and she was one of the last to leave the radio station. Truth to be told, she wasn't herself since she rejected Airi's feelings. The guilt just refused to leave her. Now the platform is almost empty, and the older girl stops when she finally spots her door, releasing a sigh in relief and trying to catch her breath.
Climbing the three small stairs, she places her hand on her racing heart, before turning her head to the carriage full of SKE members. Gripping tightly the handle of her suitcase again, she moves forward - tilting her head right and left - looking for an empty space to rest her exhausted body. She probably shouldn't have run so much. Airi and Akane suddenly come in view on her right and Rena's feet slow down, feeling a small pain in her heart as she watches her best friend chatting with Akane. The girl notices her presence and shoots her a small smile in acknowledgment which Rena replicates a bit awkwardly, before speeding up again.
She's halfway through the carriage when her eyes catch a glimpse of an empty seat on her left, and she knows she's going to take it, her hurting feet refusing to go any further. She halts her suitcase and releases a sigh in relief, before Jurina who's sitting near the window comes into full view. The younger girl is pressing frenetically the buttons on her phone, obviously engrossed in a game. It takes her a few seconds to notice the girl's presence and when she finally does, she raises her eyes to the panting girl.
"Hi. Can I sit here?"
Jurina smiles in surprise at the sound of the girl's erratic voice, before nodding.
Rena gathers her last strength to place the suitcase on the luggage rack, before collapsing in her seat and putting her bag at her feet. When the beating of her heart finally goes back to normal, she glances at her watch. The train will soon depart. She arrived right on time. A laugh suddenly reaches her and she tilts her head to Airi and Akane who are laughing profusely. Pushing her guilt aside a second, her mouth tugs into a small smile at the view of the two girls.
"It's nice to see them getting along, isn't it?" she murmurs, before turning to her traveling companion when she doesn't get a response. "Jurina?"
At the lack of reaction, Rena moves closer to the girl who's now turned to the window, her head resting heavily against the right side of the seat. The older Matsui frowns at her closed eyelids. She knows Jurina isn't sleeping enough lately, the bags under her eyes are a clear evidence of it. A part of her wants to get mad at her for it, but the anger doesn't reach her eyes at the view of the peaceful sleeping girl. Suddenly noticing her phone that's slipping out of her left hand, she reaches over and carefully takes it to lay it on the tray in front of the younger girl. Her eyes then get back to the girl and linger on her a little while, admiring her beautiful features and listening to her soft breathing. When the younger girl's black jacket that's covering her chest starts to slip Rena carefully grabs it, pulling it to cover the girl's shoulders again.
The older Matsui then retreats back and tries to get comfortable in her seat, leaning over to her bag and grabbing a manga. Her digits brush the soft cover and Scipion's blond hair, mesmerized by the quality of the drawing. Opening the book, she starts to read the first pages, before feeling her eyelids progressively closing without her consent. After fighting it a few times she finally relents and puts the book in front of her, after placing a bookmark inside. The train starts to slowly move forward and Rena looks out of the window, watching as the city buildings progressively disappear and the countryside comes into view. Her eyelids start to close again, and the swaying of the train is all she needs to put her definitely to sleep.
When she wakes up, it's already dark outside and Rena straightens up in her seat, noticing how the carriage is now really quiet, everyone dozing off here and there. Tilting her head to Jurina, she notices the girl typing a message on her phone, while stifling a yawn.
"You shouldn't go to bed so late. I don't like seeing you so tired," Rena murmurs in a small concerned voice.
Jurina's digits halt their movements at the girl's sudden voice, before getting back in action.
"Always the caring older sister," the younger Matsui mumbles, before leaving her phone aside and staring out the window pensively. Rena's eyes widen at the girl's words, hearing a hint of bitterness in it.
"I'm saying that as a friend," she corrects, getting a weak nod in reply.
Rena shoots her a confused look before getting back to her book, her fingers flipping a page in frustration at the girl's attitude. Why did she get the impression that she didn't believe her one bit?
It's already late when Jurina walks in the hallway of the hotel, followed by the quiet footsteps of Churi. When she spots her room she stops her blue rolling suitcase and gets the key out of her pocket, pushing the door a few seconds later. Her fingers quickly switch the light on and she moves forward, only surprised when she notices that the other girl is not following her. She turns in confusion to Churi who's waiting at the doorstep, her eyes glancing at Jurina nervously.
"Churi, what is it?"
"I totally forgot to tell you, but Airin asked me if we could share a room for tonight. Do you mind?"
The younger Matsui widens her eyes, and a few seconds pass before she finally speaks up again.
"Of course not."
Churi shoots her a concerned look, before Jurina swiftly waves her hand.
"I'm sorry, you just took me by surprise."
Jurina moves forward to squeeze the girl's arm reassuringly, and Churi watches the girl carefully to assess if she's telling the truth, before nodding at the girl's sincere smile.
"I'll see if someone else is available to share the room with me."
Jurina watches Churi curiously as the girl's voice trails off, before hearing footsteps in the hallway and seeing the older Matsui suddenly appearing behind Churi's back. When the girl notices her presence she moves aside, shooting a small smile at Jurina.
"I thought maybe Rena and you could share a room."
Jurina watches in surprise the older Matsui who's looking at her expectantly, before Churi raises her hand to wave at her and leave.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
Jurina stares at the empty space bewildered, the light footsteps of Churi and the rolling noise of her suitcase on the carpet ringing in her head as the girl progressively moves away, until she hears the sharp noise of a door opening and closing. When Rena clears her throat, her attention gets back to her, and she watches the older girl who's clutching the handle of her suitcase nervously.
"Do you mind?" she asks in a small hesitant voice, and Jurina knows her silence must have given the girl a bad impression.
"Of course not. Come in."
Jurina stares at Rena as she takes a few steps forward, closing carefully the door behind her, before stopping her suitcase near the closest bed and taking her coat off. When Rena notices that the younger Matsui hasn't moved an inch, she tilts her head to her curiously.
"Are you sure you don't mind me staying here?"
Jurina's strange attitude unsettles her and she watches her as she waves her hand, a small smile on her lips.
"Not at all."
Rena's eyes linger on the girl as Jurina moves to the dresser to put her coat on a hanger, before approaching the bed near the window and sitting on it to open her suitcase. Despite her best efforts to play it cool, her nervousness doesn't go unnoticed, and Rena follows the girl's movements, wondering what's wrong with her. Sure, it's been a while since they shared a room, but they used to do it plenty of time when she was a kid. Why was she suddenly acting like it was the first time?
When she hears her phone buzzing, she finally looks away from Jurina to turn her attention to her bag, rummaging through it before grabbing the white device. She smiles at Airi's message, before sitting on her bed, her thoughts now on her best friend. When Airi had asked her early on if she was okay with switching rooms, she had agreed, although not naive about the girl's reasons. She knew it wasn't only because she wanted to spend more time with Akane. It was also because she needed some space. From her. Since her rejection, Airi had kept her word: she did not try to distance herself from her during the day, and there was not too much awkwardness between them. However, it was a different matter when it came to sharing rooms. That still proved to be a bit problematic.
An hour later, Rena is laying in bed, flipping a page of her manga, her reading glasses resting on her nose. It was actually really good, and she was pretty much engrossed in it - admiring Hannibal Barca's genius mind and tactical moves - until she suddenly hears a girl screaming on the television. Raising her eyes to the movie Jurina is watching, she frowns a little, before tilting her head at the girl's small shriek. She knew it was a bad idea the minute the younger Matsui switched the television on to watch this scary movie, but had stayed quiet nonetheless, despite knowing full well what was going to happen. Now Jurina was gripping her sheets tightly - fear written all over her face - and Rena lets out a small sigh, lowering her eyes to her book again. She's halfway through it when she starts to feel sleepy, her eyelids closing on their own without her consent. Stifling a yawn, she turns at Jurina's surprised voice.
"I'm sorry, you should have told me you wanted to sleep."
"It's okay, you can finish your movie."
Rena waves a reassuring hand, going back to her book immediately. However, her vision starts to blur and she shakes her head, her eyes narrowing, trying to fight to sleep the best she can. The girl's actions prove to be vain, as the book slips from her hands and her eyes progressively close a few minutes later.
When she wakes up again, she feels someone tugging at her glasses and she slowly opens her eyelids to see the younger Matsui hovering over her.
When she notices the girl is awake, Jurina shoots her an embarrassed look, before carefully placing the small black glasses on the bedside table.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up. I was afraid you would break your glasses," she explains nervously, and Rena's mouth tugs into a small smile, moved by the girl's attention.
"Thank you, Jurina."
The younger Matsui retreats back and Rena places her manga on the table, before tilting her head to the black screen and going back to the girl.
"The movie is over?"
"Yes. Sorry for keeping you awake."
Rena watches as Jurina averts her eyes, and she lets out a small chuckle.
"What's happening with you? Why are you apologizing so much? I told you it was okay."
Jurina nods weakly and Rena leans over to grab the girl's hand softly, while trying to catch the girl's eyes.
"Come on. It's getting late. Let's go to bed."
Rena lets go of her hand after a light reassuring squeeze, and her eyes follow the younger girl who's now moving to her bed and getting under the sheets, before switching the light off. Rena tries to adjust to the dark as she moves her pillow and lays her head on it, looking at the younger girl who's pulling the bedcover on her. Their eyes meet briefly and Rena smiles sleepily at the girl's head who's now half buried under the cover.
Rena starts to close her eyes, knowing sleep will soon claim her, until she hears a soft reply a few seconds later.
When the older Matsui slowly opens her eyes again, she knows by her heavy eyelids that it's way too early to be awake. She tilts her head to the alarm clock on her bedside table, frowning at the flashing red letters. It's 3 AM. The girl mentally curses herself, wondering why she suddenly awoke in the middle of the night. She's about to close her eyes again when a small whimpering catches her attention and she turns to Jurina who's tossing and turning in her bed. Rena watches her in confusion as the girl continues her strange behavior, the whimpering intensifying second after second, before it hits her. She's having a nightmare.
The older Matsui follows her movements a while, before realizing it's not about to end anytime soon. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she slowly gets out of bed and sits on the side, watching worriedly the girl's frantic movements.
"Jurina?" Rena calls in a small hesitant voice, that unfortunately doesn't reach the sleeping girl.
The older girl ponders her options carefully before getting up and approaching the girl. She repeats her name a little louder this time, frustrated when she still doesn't get a reaction.
She knows her next action may be a bit dangerous - as it's never a good idea to wake up someone who's having a nightmare - but she still goes for it and leans over to lightly shake the girl's arm. She carefully retreats back, expecting the girl to wake up this time, but groans when her action has no effect. She moves forward again and her fingers grip the younger girl's arm a bit more tightly, releasing a small sigh when the girl suddenly opens her eyes. She's retreating back again when Jurina swiftly sits up, her hands pushing in her daze Rena away. The action takes the girl by surprise, and she hits her back against the bedside table, letting a pained sound out. Her fingers start to rub her hurting back, while Jurina stares at her in shock.
"This was a bad idea."
Jurina slowly gets out of bed, taking a few unsteady steps towards the girl.
"I'm so sorry. Are you alright?"
Rena tries to wave a reassuring hand, but her wince says otherwise.
"I guess this is payback for the punch I gave you during Majisuka Gakuen 4," she murmurs in a small teasing voice, but Jurina doesn't catch it.
"No, I didn't do it intentionally. I'm really sorry."
Rena stops rubbing her back and raises her eyes in surprise, before chuckling at Jurina's petrified look.
"I was joking. I know you didn't do it on purpose, silly."
Jurina nods weakly and sits on the bed, watching guiltily the girl who's now taking place next to her.
"So, what was your nightmare about?"
"I was in a white small room, and there were snakes that were coming at me and they..."
"Okay, I get it," Rena cuts off Jurina's stammering, releasing a frustrated sigh, "I knew you shouldn't have watched that movie yesterday. Why do you always want to watch scary movies? You know they give you nightmares."
"I know, but I can't help it. I love them," Jurina admits in a small sheepish voice.
Rena watches the girl who's trembling and sweating and she gets up, moving to the bathroom before coming back with a glass of water in her hand.
"Here, have some water."
Jurina takes the glass in her shaking hands and raises it to her lips, before lowering it and placing it on the bedside table, a small frown on her face.
"I shouldn't, or I'll spend the rest of the night going to the toilet."
Rena's eyes widen, before her mouth tugs into a smile.
"I can't believe you listened to what I said."
"What do you mean? I always do," Jurina answers in confusion.
"Let's go back to bed," Rena says, squeezing her still trembling hand, moved by the girl's words.
Jurina nods and awkwardly gets under the sheets, her left hand immediately squeezing her pillow. The girl's distraught state doesn't go unnoticed, and Rena - after a minute of reflection - turns to her bed to take her pillow, before grabbing Jurina's bedcover.
"Okay, move over."
Jurina stares in confusion at the older girl, who pushes her arm lightly.
"I'm sleeping with you."
Jurina's jaw immediately drops in surprise, and she waves her hand.
"Rena, you don't have to do that. I'm not a kid anymore."
"I know you're not."
Both girls stare at each other for a while, before Rena lets out an irritated sigh when Jurina doesn't move an inch.
"Why are you being so difficult? Don't you share a bed with Akane all the time?"
"Yes, but..." Jurina's voice trails off, and Rena pulls the bed sheet.
"Come on, move over. I need to sleep and you do too."
Jurina finally relents at Rena's insistent voice, grabbing her pillow and scooting over to let the girl in. The younger Matsui stares at the ceiling while the older girl adjusts herself in the bed next to her. Her heart is still racing because of her previous nightmare and she lets out a small sigh, trying to clear her mind to slow its frantic beating. Rena somehow seems to notice the girl's struggle and scoots closer, circling her waist with her right arm. She feels Jurina's body tensing up at the gesture and tries to comfort her, misreading her uneasiness.
"Try to relax. Don't think about it anymore."
Jurina nods and closes her eyelids, before feeling a light and constant tap on her stomach. She doesn't need to open her eyes to know what Rena is doing. When she was a kid and used to have nightmares, the older girl would always soothe her with this comforting gesture. Somehow, it always worked and put her to sleep soon after. Tonight is no exception, and Jurina listens to Rena's soft breathing, before feeling her own body relaxing and drifting off.
Jurina swiftly turns at the corner of the street, while being careful not to fall in the snowy slippery streets of Tokyo. Since Christmas, the temperature hasn't risen at all, making it impossible for the snow to melt. Even worse, ice has started to appear, making it tricky not to slip. The girl knows she can't afford to fall - an accident is not an option right now - but she still hurries up, knowing she is late. Her host places high value on punctuality.
She exhales deeply in relief when she finally makes it to the entrance of the building and thoroughly wipes her long black boots on the mat, pushing the door a few seconds later. Once she's in the elevator she removes her wooly hat and scarf, before her gloved fingers knock on the familiar door a few minutes later.
Her mouth tugs into a smile when it opens and her best friend comes into view.
"Hi Jurina," Mayu says, before lowering her eyes to her watch and frowning, "you're late."
"Oh come on, I'm thirty minutes late," Jurina retorts, shaking her head in disbelief.
Both girls stare at each other for a few seconds - Mayu crossing her arms over her chest in determination - and Jurina starts to wonder how long she's going to make her wait outside, before Yuki comes into view.
"Let Jurina in," she chides, moving past Mayu to hug Jurina and kiss her on the cheek, "I'm sorry, don't mind her."
Mayu does as she's told, and Jurina rolls her eyes at the girl who's tapping her feet on the carpet, a disapproving look on her face.
"Here, it's for you," the younger Matsui raises the bag in her left hand to her, and Mayu's eyes immediately lighten up.
"What is it?" Her voice pitches up, and her fingers slide into the small blue plastic bag, before opening a box and grabbing a small keychain.
"The photoshoot didn't finish on time and I knew I would be a bit late, so I stopped on my way here to buy this," Jurina explains to the girl who's turning the keychain between her thumb and her index, admiring the small fighting Mikasa.
"It's fine, I understand," Mayu waves her free hand to the girl, her anger suddenly all forgotten.
Jurina's eyes follow in amusement the girl who's now moving to the living room and hanging the keychain to her backpack, before hearing a soft chuckle beside her.
"I'm impressed. You always know how to handle her," Yuki points out, stretching her hands to take the girl's coat.
"Years of practice," Jurina jokes and the two girls exchange an amused smile, before Jurina removes her coat and heads to the bathroom.
When Mayu comes back from the living room, she notices Yuki who's setting four plates on the table, and she raises a curious eyebrow.
"Are we expecting someone else?" she asks, taking in the process the glasses the girl is handling to her.
"Yes. Rena should be here anytime soon. She texted me she would be late," Yuki replies, turning her back to her to open a cupboard.
"What? You've invited Rena?" Mayu's voice pitches up in shock, setting down the glasses on the kitchen table, and moving closer to the girl. "Why would you do that?" she whispers in panic, taking a peek behind her back to make sure Jurina is not listening.
"Did I forget to mention it?" Yuki asks once she's facing her again with a bottle of water in her hand, and Mayu raises an eyebrow at the girl's unfazed tone.
"You didn't say anything, but that's not the point. Jurina is going to be furious," the shorter girl hisses, emphasizing on the last word.
"Oh, you mean like the last time you invited Rena without telling anyone?" Yuki continues, grabbing the glasses with her free hand and moving to the living room.
Mayu watches the girl who's setting the table nonchalantly, before Jurina pops out of the bathroom and glares at Mayu.
"Mayu, you've invited Rena again?" she moves forward, and Mayu unconsciously takes a step back at the girl's angry look.
"I didn't do it, I swear!" she stutters, her eyes searching Yuki for support, who unfortunately for her decides to stay quiet.
A painful silence engulfs the three girls as none of them speak, before Yuki and Jurina suddenly burst into laughter.
"Of my God, Mayu! You should see the look on your face!" Jurina chuckles.
"That was so funny," Yuki confirms, moving forward to play with the shorter girl's bunches.
"What is going on?" Mayu asks, staring at the two giggling girls in incomprehension.
"I knew Rena was coming," Jurina states.
"Yes. I asked her beforehand if she was okay with it, not like a certain someone I know," Yuki continues, before moving to the kitchen again.
Mayu watches in surprise Jurina who's nodding, trying hard to stop laughing.
"Okay, I get it. This is payback for Christmas," Mayu sighs when she understands she has been played. "But still. I don't understand why you would invite Rena for New Year's Eve," the girl follows Yuki into the kitchen.
"Actually, Rena and I have spoken quite a lot since Christmas," Yuki answers, turning around to look at her girlfriend, "She's a funny girl."
"Really? I didn't know you two got on well together. And funny is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Rena," Mayu's voice trails off, tilting her head to Jurina.
"She has an odd sense of humor, but she can be funny," the younger Matsui confirms, smiling at Mayu's astonishment.
"She's a really nice girl. She even did a lemon cake to thank us for inviting her for Christmas," Yuki adds, nodding at Jurina's affirmation.
"Really?" Mayu frowns.
"Yes. We finished it two days ago. I even told you it was from her," Yuki answers.
"I don't remember," Mayu murmurs.
"Of course not, you were too busy playing that 'Bravely something' game of yours to listen," Yuki rolls her eyes. "Anyway, I knew she was alone for New Year's Eve, and I thought it would be nice to invite her."
"Bravely Default," Mayu corrects, before turning to Jurina, still a bit doubtful about her girlfriend's plans. "And you're really okay with this?"
"I don't mind," Jurina nods.
The conversation is interrupted when someone knocks at the door, and Yuki moves forward to open while Jurina nudges Mayu's elbow playfully.
"By the way, I'm surprised to see you with your bunches today. I thought you hated them."
"Well, I followed your advice and in the end, you were right. It worked," Mayu murmurs, before continuing, now making a pained face. "The problem is, Yuki loved seeing me with bunches so much, that she asked me to keep them for the whole week."
"Oh. Sorry," Jurina chuckles.
Both girls then turn around when they hear light footsteps in the kitchen, and move forward to welcome a smiling Rena.
Mayu ticks another item off the shopping list, her eyes lingering on the food already in her shopping cart, before inhaling deeply when she reads the next one: soba. She tilts her head to Yuki who's hesitating between two kinds of mushrooms, while humming the Ayumi Hamasaki's song, Heaven, that's currently playing on the radio of the store.
She's in a really good mood, and Mayu already hates herself for what she's about to do. Her fingers grip the paper in her hand nervously, repeating in her head the words she is going to say, before turning to the girl, a confident smile on her face.
"Yuki, I was thinking, maybe I could cook tonight."
Yuki turns at the sound of her voice and - after finally opting for one kind of mushrooms - moves to her, and drops them in the shopping cart.
"Why?" she asks, leaning forward to take a peek at the list, before watching Mayu curiously.
"Well, you always cook, so I thought I could do it for a change," the shorter girl answers, trying her best to stay nonchalant.
Yuki nods in confusion and is about to move away, when she suddenly halts and turns.
"Mayu, are you complaining about my cooking?"
"Of course not," the girl swiftly answers, but her face starts to decompose at Yuki's suspicious expression.
The older girl scoots closer - her eyes never leaving Mayu's - before stopping when they're only inches apart.
"Mayu... tell me the truth," Yuki growls, crossing her arms over her chest, "what's wrong with my cooking?"
"It's just that you always put too much... salt in everything," Mayu stutters, now avoiding Yuki's piercing eyes. She purposely avoids to mention the fact that she also tends to overcook the food.
"That's it? Too much salt? You never said anything!" Yuki's voice pitches up in shock, before grabbing a packet of soba on the shelf and shoving it in the shopping cart.
Mayu gulps at the girl's frantic action and lowers her eyes to the poor packet of soba that's just landed on top of the mushrooms, grimacing at Yuki's choice. She then lets out a small defeated sigh, knowing she did exactly what she was trying to avoid: making her girlfriend angry.
"I can't believe it! Anyway, it's just soba. I'll do it," Yuki continues, waving her hand.
"Okay..." Mayu murmurs, watching from the corner of her eye Yuki who's shaking her head and distancing herself.
The shorter girl internally curses herself for broaching the subject and pushes the shopping cart, ill-at-ease, following the angry girl. Jurina suddenly appears at the end of the vegetable section, and looks at them curiously.
"Are you alright? We can hear you right at the end of the store," she whispers.
Yuki tilts her head to her, before noticing Rena popping up behind the young Matsui and watching them worriedly.
"We're fine. Just a little cooking disagreement," Yuki mutters, and Mayu shudders when the older girl stares at her coldly.
"Yes, don't mind us," the younger girl adds, a fake smile on her face that she knows is not fooling anyone.
Jurina nods and disappears again, looking at her shopping list, before aiming for the sweets section. At the view of the familiar yellow packaging her eyes lighten up and she swiftly grabs one packet of Puré lemon gums, before adding another one in her shopping basket.
"I can't believe we just witnessed that. I hope everything's fine," Rena suddenly speaks up, and Jurina turns to the girl who was following her quietly until now.
"I wouldn't worry about that," Jurina shakes her head, lowering her eyes to her shopping basket pensively, before stretching her arm to grab two other packets of gums.
"It almost looked like a couple's quarrel," the older Matsui murmurs, a small amused smile on her lips.
At those words, Jurina's hand freezes as she's about to take another packet, and the action doesn't go unnoticed.
"What is it?" Rena asks, raising a curious eyebrow at the girl's sudden odd behavior.
"Nothing," Jurina answers swiftly, grabbing the packet of gums as nonchalantly as possible.
Rena watches carefully the girl who's now averting her eyes ill-at-ease, before letting out a shock sound at the view of the shopping basket's content.
"Jurina, what are all these?" she gasps, her index pointing at the five yellow packets.
"It's for Mayu. She loves them," the younger girl answers.
"Really?" Rena scoffs.
Both girls stare at each other for a while, before Rena rolls her eyes.
"Oh come on, I've known you for years. You're the one who loves Puré gums," the older Matsui chuckles.
Jurina's eyes widen like a deer caught in the headlights, before gazing at the shopping list again and clearing her throat, internally cursing Rena's perceptiveness.
"Okay, only one item left and we're done," she notes, ignoring the older Matsui's previous statement.
Rena shakes her head in disbelief, and watches in amusement the younger girl who's moving away. She jogs to catch up the girl who's distancing herself from her swiftly, and grips Jurina's right arm when she's finally at her side, making her stop.
"Wait," she says, taking three packets of gums from the shopping basket, "I'll put these back. That's too much sugar for you," she chides, before trotting back to the sweets' section.
Jurina's eyes follow the girl who's putting them back on the shelf, letting out a small growl in disapproval, and waits for the girl who's making her way back to her, a satisfied smile on her lips.
"I hate you," she mumbles once she's within reach.
"You know it's for your own good," she smiles, patting lightly the girl's shoulder.
Rena then notices a white closed paper bag in the shopping basket, and she looks up curiously.
"What's in the white paper bag?" she inquires.
"Melon pan. I took them while you were busy in the manga section," Jurina answers.
"Oh," the older Matsui murmurs, and her digits softly grab the bag, trying to catch a glimpse of the bread through it.
"Do you want to eat one?" Jurina asks after a few seconds, trying hard not to laugh at the girl's behavior.
"No, that's fine. I'll wait till we're at Mayu's," Rena waves at her, her eyes still not leaving the bag in her hand.
Jurina nods and expects the older Matsui to put the bag back in the shopping basket, but rolls her eyes when the girl is still staring at it a minute later.
"Go on, open it. I know you can't wait to have one," she sighs.
Rena turns to her in surprise, swiftly putting the bag in the shopping basket.
"You make me sound like an addict. I like them, but I don't need to eat melon pan all the time," she rolls her eyes, sounding slightly offended.
Jurina watches the girl's retreating back, and an idea suddenly pops up in her head.
"You're right, I'm sorry. I'll put them back," Jurina nods, reaching over to grab the bag, before feeling Rena's hand on hers.
"Okay, I admit it. I'm addicted to melon pan. Happy?" Rena groans at the younger Matsui's mischievous smile.
"Oh yes," Jurina chuckles, lowering the bag in the shopping basket again.
Jurina, Rena and Mayu are sitting in the living room and watching the singing contest on the television, debating whose team is going to win tonight. While the younger Matsui is rooting for the white one, Rena is absolutely convinced the red one is going to win. Mayu who's stuck in the middle groans when the argument starts to heat up between them, and gets up when she's had enough, moving away from the two bickering girls.
"They are impossible," she mutters to Yuki once she's in the kitchen, and watches the older girl who's laying the food on the counter, getting ready to start dinner.
"They are watching the kohaku?" Yuki inquires, grabbing a knife and starting to prepare the mushrooms for the soup.
"Oh, yes," Mayu cringes, before staring with intensity at the packet of soba on the counter.
The action doesn't go unnoticed and Yuki stops what she's doing to look at her.
"You really want to prepare the soba, do you?" she sighs.
"Well, if you don't mind," Mayu's voice trails off, trying not to sound too hopeful to not offend the girl again.
"Okay, go on," Yuki finally relents, her knife getting back in action.
Mayu lets out a small squeak in delight at the girl's approval and leans over to kiss her cheek, Yuki's mouth instantly curving into a smile at the gesture.
Mayu blows the hot soup in her spoon, before taking a tentative sip. She knows Yuki is watching her on the other side of the table, and she tries not to look too happy when the liquid touches her tongue. She takes a curious peek at Rena and Jurina who are eating quietly, noticing the look of surprise on Jurina's face.
"So, how is it?" Yuki inquires, glancing at the two Matsui.
"It's really good," Jurina exclaims, taking another spoonful of her soup to prove her point.
"It is," Rena confirms, before starting to eat the soba, "you're a really good cook, Yuki."
There's a small silence in the room as Yuki observes the happy faces of her two guests, before turning to Mayu who's eating her soba, sending her a shy smile when their eyes meet.
"Thank you, but Mayu did most of the cooking," Yuki replies, sighing deeply, "I only prepared the mushrooms."
"Oh, so that's why..." Jurina starts, before noticing how Mayu is glaring at her, "they are so good," she finishes lamely, lowering her eyes in embarrassment to her soup again.
The four girls are standing in front of the television, watching expectantly the man who's approaching the Joya bell, before ringing it when it's finally midnight.
"Happy New Year, Mayuyu!" Yuki exclaims, turning to hug her tightly and kissing her on the cheek soundly.
"Happy New Year, Yukirin," the shorter girl answers, responding to her embrace and patting her girlfriend's head in amusement.
Jurina smiles at the exchange, before tilting her head to Rena. She doesn't know why she's suddenly feeling so shy as their eyes meet, but she stares at the older girl for a few seconds, pondering whether she should hug her or not. Her internal debate doesn't seem to reach an end, and she hesitantly takes a step forward, finally opting for a chaste kiss on the cheek.
"Happy New Year, Rena," she smiles, retreating back, before seeing the older Matsui moving forward.
"Happy New Year, Jurina," Rena answers, slowly wrapping her hands around the girl's neck.
Jurina freezes at the girl's unexpected action, and it takes her a few seconds to relax and encircle her waist. She doesn't know how long they stayed this way, but Rena doesn't once tried to move away. Jurina internally curses herself as she's starting to relish a bit too much the girl's body against hers, before raising her eyes and meeting Mayu's. There's a small amused smile at the corner of her lips, and Jurina doesn't want to know what's crossing her mind right now.
"So, what do we do now?" Mayu finally asks, and Jurina takes it as an opportunity to disentangle herself from Rena, avoiding her best friend's gaze.
"We can go to the temple," Yuki suggests.
"Do we really have to? It's freezing outside, and I don't want to wait for hours," Mayu mutters, her attention now fully on Yuki.
"We barely waited 30 minutes last time," Yuki rolls her eyes, before turning to Jurina and Rena, "What do you want to do?"
"I don't mind staying here," the younger Matsui answers, trying hard not to laugh at Mayu's pleading look.
"I'm fine with it," Rena confirms, smiling when Mayu sighs deeply in relief.
"Okay. Who's up for a board game then?" Yuki asks, before moving to a shelf when the three girls nod in approval.
While Yuki lays the game on the table of the living room, Jurina goes to the bathroom, only to bump into Mayu when she gets out a few minutes later. The younger Matsui watches curiously her best friend who's staring at her intensely.
"What is it?" Jurina asks, when the girl doesn't make a move to let her pass.
"You lied," Mayu states, now crossing her arms over her chest.
"Rena. You still have feelings for her."
Jurina's eyes widen at the girl's words, and she tilts her head in fear to the living room, before letting out a small sigh in relief when Yuki and Rena are still focused on the board game.
"Mayu," Jurina moves forward, stopping when they are only inches apart, "don't start."
"Oh come on. You may have fooled Yuki and Rena, but I can see right through you," Mayu scoffs, lightly tapping the girl's chest with her index.
"I am over her," the younger Matsui groans, trying her best to sound convincing, but knows she has failed when her best friend's mouth curves into a smile.
"Yes, yes. I heard that before," Mayu chuckles, before shaking her head in disbelief and moving to the living room.
Jurina exhales deeply in irritation at the girl's behavior, watching her as she's now sitting next Yuki and grabbing cards nonchalantly.
"Are you coming?" Yuki asks, when she notices the girl who hasn't moved from the bathroom's doorstep.
"Yes, sorry," Jurina swiftly answers, trying to ignore Mayu's sly grin as she goes to sit next Rena.
The younger Matsui's phone suddenly starts to buzz, and the girl grabs the device from her pocket, before smiling at the message she just received.
"It's Churi, she's wishing us a happy New Year," she states, raising her phone to let the girls see the picture accompanying the text.
"Airi and Akane are so cute in kimonos," Yuki exclaims, before nudging Mayu's elbow, "See? We should have gone to the temple too."
"Next year, I promise," Mayu answers, before lowering her gaze to the board game, eager to change the subject, "Let's start?"
Rena is tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable on the small sofa. Her eyes briefly meet the alarm clock on the living room's table, and she sighs, knowing it's way past her bedtime. Usually, she's already sound asleep at 2 AM, but she can make an exception. Her eyes shut again tightly, the girl trying desperately to find the sleep that's not coming. She's really trying to relax, but her mind gets constantly distracted by this noise she's been hearing for quite a while now, preventing her from drifting off. She frowns when it becomes even louder and she finally straightens up on the sofa, tilting her head to the sleeping body on the floor.
"Jurina, your teeth are chattering," she murmurs, trying to catch a glimpse of the girl who's laying on a futon.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think the temperature would drop so much," Jurina answers, trying hard to stop her body from shivering.
"Do you want to switch places? You can sleep on the couch if you like," Rena suggests.
"No, I'm fine," the younger girl answers, gripping the bedcover tightly and pulling it to cover her head.
Rena lays back on the sofa again, staring absently at the ceiling. Her heavy eyelids finally close again and the older Matsui knows sleep is about to claim her, when the picture of a shaking Jurina suddenly pops up in her head. She tries to clear her mind, but the image won't disappear, and her fingers grip her bedcover, pushing it away to sit on the sofa.
The older Matsui stares at Jurina, noticing how the girl is trying hard not to make too much noise. Her mouth tugs into a small smile at the girl's kind thought, and her feet meet the carpet in determination, kneeling a few seconds later near the sleeping form.
"Jurina, go and sleep on the couch," she repeats, lightly patting her shoulder.
"No, I'm fine, really," Jurina answers after tilting her head to her in surprise.
Rena groans at the girl's stubbornness, and catches the hand the girl is waving at her reassuringly.
"You're freezing!" she gasps when her fingers meet the cold palm, and she encircles her hands around it to warm it up.
Jurina straightens up at the girl's action, Rena's hands immediately grabbing her other palm when it comes into view. The younger Matsui stays quiet while the older girl gently rubs her hands, feeling her fingers progressively warming up.
"Thank you. I'm already feeling better," she smiles a few minutes later, retreating her hands.
Rena nods and Jurina lays back on her pillow, seeing the girl moving back to the sofa. She's about to drift off when she suddenly hears a soft noise near her head, and widens her eyes when she sees another pillow on the futon, and Rena laying on her back.
"No," the girl cuts off, pulling the bedcover on her body, "I don't want to hear a word."
Jurina stares at the older girl who's making herself comfortable, her eyes already closed.
"You're really stubborn," she mutters.
"You're the one to talk. You were freezing and didn't say anything," Rena replies.
Jurina sighs defeated and silence engulfs them anew, before the older Matsui opens her eyelids when she feels the girl still shivering next to her a few minutes later.
"Come here," she murmurs, pulling the girl's arm softly and laying on her side to face her.
Jurina finally relents a few seconds later and scoots closer, knowing by the girl's decided look that she's not going to take no for an answer. Rena's right arm swiftly makes its way around her back and starts rubbing it gently, while her left palm grabs Jurina's hand that's laying by her side, still a bit cold. Right now, the older Matsui would give anything to get into Jurina's head, confused by the nervousness she's seeing in her eyes.
"Are you alright?" she asks, only receiving a small nod in reply, before Jurina starts to close her eyelids.
Rena watches her carefully for a few minutes, trying to understand what's going on, before feeling her own body relaxing and sleep claiming her. Jurina opens her eyes again when she notices Rena's hold on her hand diminishing and she slowly retracts it, knowing the girl is finally asleep. She hears her heart hammering inside her chest and Mayu's words immediately fill her mind, admitting she's not completely wrong. It's getting harder and harder to keep the promise she made to herself, especially when Rena is acting this way. She raises her eyes to the sleeping form and without thinking leans over, lightly kissing the girl's forehead.
"Please stop being so nice to me," she whispers after retreating back, laying her head on her pillow and listening to her heart that's stubbornly refusing to calm down. She knows she has to try harder if she wants to stick to her decision. Her eyes close again and she sighs, knowing deep down how challenging it's going to be. Exhaustion finally gets to her a while later and she drifts off, missing the older Matsui who's now staring at her in surprise - full awake - trying to understand both Jurina's words, and the meaning of her own racing heart. Confusion washes her when no explanation comes to mind, but her palm slides a few minutes later beneath Jurina's hand, intertwining their fingers together.
Mayu opens her bedroom's door and aims for the kitchen, taking a peek on her way at the living room, and stopping when she notices the two girls entangled on the futon. Her mouth curves into a smile at the view, before hearing light footsteps behind her, and feeling two arms around her neck.
"What are you doing? It's 9 AM," Yuki whispers, laying her head on the girl's shoulder and stifling a yawn.
"I was hungry," she answers, tilting her head to the older girl, "you should go back to bed, you're still tired," she suggests, before looking again at the two Matsui.
"Okay," Yuki murmurs, following Mayu's gaze, "they are too cute together. It's a shame, really."
"I'm pretty sure Jurina is still not over her," Mayu confesses, before continuing, "it's just frustrating that I can't read Rena at all."
"Why do you think that?" Yuki asks, now fully awake.
"I know my best friend, and Rena is her first love. You don't forget it easily," she sighs.
"I hope you're not going to play the matchmaker again," Yuki scolds her, "Remember what happened the last time you tried."
"I know, and I'm not going to do anything, don't worry," she assures, "I just sometimes wish Jurina wasn't so stubborn."
"Why do you think it's her first love?"
"Did you not see the way she was looking at her? She clearly reminds me of myself," her voice trails off, before seeing Yuki facing her and wrapping her arms around her neck again.
"I love you Mayuyu," she whispers, pulling the girl to her and pressing her lips against hers.
"What was that for?" the shorter girl asks in surprise when Yuki retreats back.
"Do I need a reason to kiss my beautiful girlfriend?" she inquires, closing the distance to connect their lips again.
The kiss starts to intensify and Mayu wraps her hands around the girl's waist, really getting into it, before a sound catches their attention and they tilt their head to the living room.
A now fully awake Rena is watching them, her mouth agape, and Yuki immediately buries her face in Mayu's neck.
"Not again," she groans, feeling Mayu's body shaking in amusement against her, "Do you think she heard us?"
"Probably not, but she definitely saw us," she whispers, "I think we should continue this in the bedroom," she continues, before waving shyly at the older Matsui.
"Good idea," Yuki answers, disentangling herself from Mayu and entering the bedroom, making sure not to meet the witness's eyes.
When Mayu closes the door behind them she lets out a small chuckle, watching the girl who's sitting in bed, her hands covering her face in embarrassment.
"What are we going to tell her?" she asks, when Mayu slides beneath the sheets and scoots closer.
"I don't think we need to explain anything, it was pretty clear," Mayu replies, trying to contain her laughter the best she can.
Yuki nods, before averting her girlfriend's gaze.
"I'm sorry for getting angry at you earlier. You were right, I put too much salt in everything," she confirms.
"It's okay, don't think about it anymore," Mayu replies, leaning over, "where were we anyway?"
Yuki raises her eyes at Mayu's seductive tone and smiles, pulling the girl closer.
It has finally melted. Snow has now entirely disappeared from the streets of Nagoya. Rena doesn't know why, but snow always had a peaceful effect on her, easing her mind instantly from troubled thoughts. That's why she can't help the disappointment out of her eyes as she watches the landscape moving fast in front of her, void of this white and beautiful substance she loves so much.
This morning, the inside of the train is quiet as most of the SKE members are resting, trying to catch as much sleep as possible before the concert. Rena took a nap as soon as she stepped in the train and now she is fully awake, watching absently the buildings of Nagoya coming into view as they are approaching their final destination.
Her attention gets back to her manga, one that is supposed to be funny according to Airi, and that she had borrowed from the girl just before New Year's Eve. The older Matsui is known to be a fast reader, and she had planned to give it back a week ago, but despite her best efforts, she still hasn't moved past the first five pages. An occasional smile would move to her lips now and then, but the book doesn't have the relaxing effect it should have. Her digits pause on the sixth page as she starts to lose focus again, and she places the bookmark inside, knowing it's useless to insist.
She curiously tilts her head to Airi who's sitting by her side to see what's she's doing, only to meet her closed eyelids. Rena notices a half opened manga in her hand and softly pulls it away from the girl's grasp, before marking the page. She must have been really exhausted to fall asleep right in the middle of the latest volume of her current favorite manga, Sprite.
A small sigh leaves Rena's lips as she watches her best friend peacefully sleeping, wondering if everything is really going to be okay between them. Airi has been spending a lot of time with Akane lately, and she doesn't see her as much as she used to. A part of her is glad that they finally managed to reconcile, but another one deeply misses her best friend.
A soft groan distracts her musing and she turns her attention to the two girls sitting on the other side of the table opposite her. A half asleep Jurina is trying to make herself comfortable in her chair, a few groans escaping her lips when she fails to find a suitable sleeping position. On her left Akane is listening to music, her index sliding on her iPod, obviously not finding what she's looking for as her frown keeps deepening minute after minute. When Jurina's head suddenly ends up on Akane's shoulder the girl tilts her head in surprise, before a small smile forms on her lips at the view of the sleeping girl. Rena watches as Akane slightly moves on her right to make the girl's position more comfortable, until their eyes suddenly meet and the older Matsui averts her gaze to the window again.
She quickly frowns at her own attitude, wondering why she feels the need to look away. Again. She knows she's been having this strange behavior for a few weeks now, and always when it involved Akane and Jurina. What prompted her to do that? She has no idea, and it unnerves the older Matsui that she's doing it each time she sees Akane and Jurina acting intimately, whether it's a simple kiss on the cheek or a hug. It doesn't make sense at all for her to behave this way, but that's another mystery that she can't manage to solve. Along with those cryptic words Jurina uttered during New Year's Eve.
She had a few times tried to ask Jurina what she meant by that, but the question had never left her lips during their conversations. At the third tentative, she had given up the idea of asking. Maybe she is over thinking and it means nothing. It was very late that night, and the younger girl probably doesn't even remember uttering those words.
Rena's heart skips a beat when a voice suddenly interrupts her musing and she lets out a small sound out in surprise, before tilting her head to her right and meeting Airi's sleepy eyes.
"The manga. You don't like it?"
Rena lowers her gaze to her manga again, before nodding.
"I don't know why, but I can't manage to finish it," she admits, a small defeated sigh escaping her lips.
Airi - straightening up in her seat - covers her mouth with her palm and lets out a small yawn, her gaze following Rena's fingers that are brushing the cover absently. She then raises her eyes to the girl, noticing her troubled features, and watches her as her frown deepens and she releases another almost inaudible sigh out.
"Is something troubling you lately?"
Rena's digits halt their movement on the manga and she tilts her head in surprise.
"Why do you think that?"
"I don't know. You sometimes seem... lost in thoughts."
Silence engulfs them as Rena stays quiet, and Airi really wonders what can be going on in the girl's head. She used to tell her pretty much everything, even her doubts and problems, but Rena had been a bit distant lately. Airi knows it's partly her fault: she has been spending more time with Akane and less with Rena. Even if it's hard for her to admit it, she has been doing it intentionally. At first, she had tried not to distance herself from the girl, but that had proven to be more difficult than she thought. Each time she talks to the older Matsui, she feels this small pang in her heart that reminds her of that day when the girl rejected her feelings, and it just refuses to go away, despite how much she tries to move on.
It really bothers her that she is not able to keep the promise she made to Rena that day. She misses their complicity, and she knows by the look in her eyes that she does too. Her mind is trying to get over her heartbreak, but her body is still aching at the view of the girl. Her only wish is that time will ease the pain, as it is out of the question to distance herself from the girl anymore than she is already doing. Rena and her have a unique bond that she cherishes more than anything, and she is not going to throw that away.
Airi's fingers hesitantly move to rest on Rena's right hand, squeezing it when she feels it trembling slightly under her. A shy smile forms on the older Matsui's lips that Airi quickly reciprocates.
"You know you can tell me everything."
Airi watches expectantly Rena who seems to be pondering her words, her mouth opening and closing a few times, before releasing a frustrated sigh when her lips refuse to produce an explanation to her messy thoughts.
"You don't have to say anything."
"I'm sorry. I wished I could."
"It's okay. I'll be there when you're ready."
Rena suddenly gets distracted when the train starts to slow down and she averts her eyes to the window, before lowering her gaze to her watch. Ten more minutes before their arrival. She's kind of eager to arrive as she wants a distraction from all that unnecessary over thinking, and she knows the showcase's preparation is going to be a good one.
Airi's voice suddenly trails off, and Rena tilts her head to her again.
"I'll share the hotel room with you."
Rena is momentarily taken aback by the girl's words, before feeling her heart warming up at Airi's shy but sincere smile. She knows the girl is doing her best to reduce the distance between them - despite her still obvious uneasiness - and it makes her hopeful their friendship is not lost after all.
It's now the fourth song, and even if they have only performed for twenty minutes, Jurina can't wait to leave the stage. It's quite cold outside and because it has rained during the night, the floor is still a bit wet. The staff obviously did its best to dry it, but the younger Matsui felt her feet slightly slipping a few times since the beginning of the showcase. She's trying to stay focused on the performance, but she can't shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen.
The first notes of Kiss Datte Hidarikiki start and everything is going smoothly, the audience singing and cheering along with it. The song now reaches its end and Jurina prepares herself for the final move, grabbing Rena's hand and making her spin as usual. That's when she feels her boots slipping on the floor and she starts to lose her balance. Before she can do anything about it it's already too late, and as she gets closer to Rena, her lips don't end up quite where they are supposed to.
She can feel Rena's body tensing up and her right hand squeezing her costume as their lips touch. Jurina freezes. This is not happening. She wants to slightly retreat back to correct her mistake but she knows she can't, as it's going to look awkward. Rena and her have an agreement: they are not supposed to kiss for real, but right now, she has to maintain the illusion that it is all part of the choreography. Her mind keeps telling her to stay professional, when she wants nothing more than to move away from the girl.
Jurina wonders if her behavior somehow betrayed her thoughts, as she feels Rena tightening her grip on her shoulder, the gesture keeping her effectively in place. Rena Matsui. Always acting as professional as usual, despite her obvious own uneasiness. She can't really blame her though. If there's one thing that this business taught them, it's to stay professional at all costs.
Seconds seem like hours as she impatiently waits for the next song to start. This is when she wishes time could pass more quickly. She can feel Rena's erratic breath on her, and she has to maintain all the willpower she has to keep her eyes shut and prevent her hands from shaking anymore than they already are.
She never has been happier in her life to hear the first notes of Kareha no Station. Her hands swiftly slip away from the girl's embrace, and she makes sure not to meet Rena's eyes as her feet bring her hastily backstage.
As the SKE members make their way to the dressing room, Jurina's heart is racing with guilt. She knows Rena is going to be mad at her. Of course, it's not her fault if she lost her balance for a second, but she has the feeling she's going to have to be very convincing if she wants Rena to believe her. Blame it on her 'kissing monster' title that just refuses to leave her.
Jurina lets out a frustrated sigh as she enters the room to change costume. Grabbing first the white shirt then the reddish skirt and vest on the coat hanger, she starts to remove her clothes, muttering under her breath when her fingers can't keep shaking. The incident keeps playing in her head over and over, making it hard for her to concentrate on the task in hands. She finally manages to get rid of her blue costume and slips into her skirt, before fumbling with the buttons of her shirt. She raises her gaze to check herself in the mirror - groaning when she misses a button - before her eyes suddenly meet Churi's. There's an amused smile at the corner of her lips, and Jurina raises a curious eyebrow.
"What is it?"
"I can't believe you kissed Rena."
Jurina's fingers suddenly halt their movement as she's finishing buttoning the collar, and her jaw drops.
"You saw it?"
"Of course I did. Don't forget I'm behind you during the performance."
Both girls stay quiet and Jurina's digits clumsily go back in motion, before a small chuckle erupts near her ear.
"You really couldn't help yourself, could you?"
Jurina stares in shock at the girl who's now fully dressed and smirking.
"I didn't do it on purpose. I slipped and lost my balance."
"So that's your excuse? You can do better."
"It's the truth!"
Jurina knows she has raised her voice when everyone starts turning to look at her. A groan leaves her lips at Churi's behavior and she turns her back to avoid her gaze, and hastily put her vest on.
"You're cute when you're flustered."
She knows her tone is a bit harsh, but she can't deal with Churi's teasing right now. Her heart is still pounding from the kiss, and she knows she has to calm down if she wants to be able to perform the next song. Churi's reminder of the incident is not helping in any way.
A staff member suddenly comes in and the countdown for the next song begins. Jurina exhales deeply as she adjusts her mic and follows the members out of the room. As she's waiting in line near the stage she takes a peek at Rena who's finishing her ballad, noticing the composed attitude of the girl as the lyrics leave her lips. Oh how Jurina wishes she could be as calm as her right now. As the music comes to an end, the younger Matsui releases a defeated sigh and shuts her eyes, trying to clear her head and focus on the choreography of Kataomoi Finally.
Jurina lifts her left fist for the third time, but her knuckles stop a few inches from the hotel door, refusing to meet the wooden fabric. Again. She releases a defeated sigh as her hand drops slowly by her side, and a groan escapes her lips. She knows she's dreading her conversation with Rena, but she can't drag it any longer. After the concert, she had tried to explain herself in the dressing room, without success. When she had intended to talk to Rena words had refused to leave her lips, and in the end, she had cowardly stayed quiet.
For a second, she ponders going back to the room she's sharing with Churi and giving up for the evening. Her feet almost back away at the thought, before she exhales deeply and raises her hand in renewed determination. She is never going to be able to sleep if she doesn't apologize first.
She almost sighs in relief when she finally manages to knock. She can hear some noise coming from inside the room and she swallows a lump, recognizing the familiar footsteps. The door opens slightly a few seconds later and a bare-footed Rena pops out her head, one hand holding the door while the other is keeping in place a towel over her wet hair.
"I'm sorry, you're busy. I'll come back later."
Jurina is already turning on her heels when she hears the door opening wide behind her.
"No, it's fine. Come in."
Jurina gazes at the girl again and ponders the invitation a few seconds, before finally nodding when Rena raises a curious eyebrow.
As Rena steps aside Jurina moves forward, briefly scanning the room before turning to the girl when the door is closed.
"Airi is not here?"
"She had something to discuss with Masana. Do you mind if I finish drying my hair?"
Jurina shakes her head and Rena swiftly disappears in the bathroom. Jurina stands awkwardly in the middle of the room, before deciding to sit on the closest bed when she starts fidgeting. A high-pitched noise reaches her and she tilts her head to the half-open door of the bathroom, watching as the older Matsui carefully brushes her long black hair with one hand, while moving the hair dryer with the other. She knows she shouldn't be staring, but she can't help herself, until she suddenly meets Rena's eyes in the mirror and averts her gaze.
The next minutes seem an eternity as Jurina impatiently waits for the girl to finish, using the time to repeat in her head the words she's about to say. When the sound of the hair dryer finally fades Jurina looks up, her eyes following Rena as she exits the bathroom and moves to sit next to her.
"Did you want to talk about something?"
Jurina swallows a lump as she momentarily averts her gaze, her eyes falling on the blue carpet at her feet, before raising them again with determination.
"About Kiss Datte Hidarikiki, I'm sorry I kissed you. I know you probably won't believe me, but I lost my balance for a second, and I... "
Jurina suddenly stops talking when she realizes she's stuttering like a kid. She's supposed to sound convincing, and she's doing quite the opposite. She raises her eyes hesitantly to the older girl, and what she finds in her eyes unsettles her. She expects her to be mad, maybe even shouting at her a little, but none of this happens.
Jurina notes a slight uneasiness in the girl's voice, but no sound of anger. More surprising, there's a small shy smile on her lips, and Jurina's eyes widen, not knowing what to make of the girl's reaction.
A few seconds pass without any of them anything, and Jurina tilts her head to the door, pondering leaving to get away from that awkward silence. Just as she's about to get up, she feels a hand on hers, and she turns to Rena in surprise.
"Don't think about it anymore."
Her words are soft and caring, and Jurina's heart starts hammering in her chest when she feels fingers squeezing hers. She tries her best to keep her feelings in check, but Rena's gentle smile is not helping. She knows her hand is shuddering under Rena's palm, and for a second, she wonders if she's not also feeling Rena's fingers trembling slightly. Before she can assess it any more the older Matsui has retreated her hand, and Jurina follows her movements as Rena gets up from the bed.
"It's getting late. I think we should call it a day."
Jurina nods and lifts herself up from the mattress, watching as Rena moves to the chair and reaches for her bag. Jurina frowns as the girl's fingers rummage through it frenetically, before diverting her attention to the door and moving towards it.
The younger Matsui looks back in confusion as she hears a hint of nervousness in her voice, before slowly grabbing the handle and heading out.
When Jurina enters her room, Churi is laying in bed and watching the television. The older girl immediately turns her attention to her, and her fingers swiftly grab the remote control to mute the sound when she notices her troubled features.
"So, what did she say?"
Jurina briefly glances at the animated characters on the screen and releases a heavy sigh, before moving to their bed and laying on her side. She stares absently at the ceiling before covering her eyes with her palm, Rena's words flowing her mind again. Lost in thoughts, she suddenly feels the mattress shifting and a hand gently caressing her right arm.
"No. She said it was okay."
"Well, that's a good thing, no?"
Both girls stay quiet for a while, before Jurina feels Churi tugging at her fingers and she removes her hand, her eyes meeting Churi's worried look.
"What is it?"
"I thought she would be mad, but she took it unexpectedly well."
Both girls stare at each other for a while, Churi trying to understand the younger girl's uneasiness, before Jurina finally lifts her body and gets up to remove her clothes, her fingers then grabbing her pajamas on the chair to get ready to go to bed.
"Why is it bothering you so much?"
Churi switches the television off before getting back to the girl, frowning at her behavior. The girl is acting really strange, and she stares at her as she gets into bed and buries her head in her pillow.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
A muffled sound leaves Jurina's lips and Churi releases a small sigh, knowing she's not going to get anything more from her tonight.
Jurina watches her reflection in the large mirror of the dancing room as her hands form circles in the air and her legs move in rhythm with the song. Just as she's about to spin around her feet don't end up quite where they are supposed to and she stops immediately. It's always the same step that causes a problem and she sighs, her fingers ruffling her hair in frustration.
She stares at herself and tries to catch her breath. She arrived quite early this morning to rehearse the choreography, and she's kind of glad to be alone in the dancing room, as she doesn't want anyone to witness her current inefficiency.
She suddenly turns on her heels and her index swiftly stops the energetic music that's echoing loudly in the room. She gazes furiously at the black device for a few seconds, muttering under her breath, before lifting her hand to wipe the sweat off her forehead. She has to participate in a huge AKB concert in a week, and of course, that's precisely when management has decided to release a new song.
Bending down, she grabs the bottle of water that's laying near her bag, and she takes a mouthful of it, appreciating the feel of the liquid against her dehydrated throat. When her thirst has finally been quenched she lowers it and exhales deeply in satisfaction. Reflecting upon her mistake she repeats the moves in her head again, trying to understand what she's doing wrong. After putting the water aside she hits the CD player's button, and turns to the mirror in renewed determination.
Her feet are in perfect synchronization as the songs starts again, but she can't help but be concerned as the second chorus approaches. She spins around again, and a smile grazes her lips when she manages to do the move correctly this time. However, her joy doesn't last, and she winces at the sudden sharp pain in her left ankle. She freezes at the unexpected turn of events and hesitantly tries to move, before grimacing in pain.
Her eyes widen in horror and she lowers her gaze to the culprit, before clumsily hoping to the nearest chair and slumping on it. A few whimpers escape her lips as she tries desperately not to let her left feet touch the ground, and she ponders her options for a few seconds, before releasing a defeated sigh.
She bends down to grab her bag at her feet when the door suddenly opens on Masana who looks at her, surprised to see her writhing in pain.
"Jurina? What happened?"
Jurina who's sitting on the side of her hospital's bed observes the bandage that's wrapped around her left ankle, wondering what on heart she did to deserve that. Just when she finally managed to master the new AKB's choreography, her body had to fail her. Fate was playing a cruel game on her. She was sure of that.
The younger Matsui raises her eyes and stares at the bottle of water that's standing on a small table unfortunately out of reach and she slowly lifts herself up, clumsily trying to hop towards it.
"Trying to flee again?"
Jurina tilts her head in surprise at the feminine voice, and her eyes widen at the view of the familiar nurse who's standing at her bedroom's doorstep. It's the same one who took care of her when she fainted before the Nagoya Dome concert.
Jurina slowly gets back into bed as she sees the nurse approaching and she lifts her index, pointing at the needed object.
"I was thirsty," Jurina explains, leaning her head against the headboard and pulling the bedcover over her when she knows her request has been understood.
The woman nods and moves forward, pouring water in a glass, before stretching her hand and offering it to the younger Matsui.
"Thank you," Jurina says and brings the glass to her lips, taking little sips, before giving it back once it's empty.
Jurina watches as the nurse puts it back on the table and checks up on her, before asking the question that has been nagging her all morning. "Do you know when I'll be out?"
The woman raises her eyes at her words, and her disapproving look unsettles Jurina.
"You can't wait to get out of here, can you?" the woman notes, before continuing, "You'll have to wait for the doctor. He'll be the one to tell you the results of your blood test and x-ray."
Jurina nods, feeling a bit disappointed with the vague answer. She almost had forgotten that the doctor also requested to do a blood test. Apparently, she looked a bit weak when she arrived at the hospital.
"I'm done here. You should have some rest. You look tired, and the doctor won't be here until a couple of hours," the nurse suggests, already turning on her heels.
Jurina watches her as she leaves the bedroom and closes the door behind her, and she exhales deeply when silence engulfs her anew. The nurse's words flow her mind but she stubbornly refuses to sleep at first, before feeling her eyelids getting heavier and heavier as the minutes go by. When she knows fighting her weariness is useless she leans forward a little to grab the pillow behind her back and lays down, staring absently at the ceiling for a few minutes, before finally closing her eyes.
Rena sighs in relief when her eyes finally catch Jurina's room number. When she heard what happened to the younger girl she had rushed to the hospital as soon as she could, her heart pounding hard in her chest at the news. Her concern for the girl probably explained why she had absent-mindedly listened to the front-desk woman, got out of the elevator at the wrong floor a few seconds later, and took a few bad turns on her way here.
As her heart finally slows down, she lifts her hand and knocks. She patiently waits for an answer, and turns the doorknob when none comes a few seconds later.
Rena slowly pushes the door and takes a peek inside the white room, immediately noticing the sleeping girl. Her steps lead her to the bed and she stops when she's finally at Jurina's side, watching as a constant breath leaves her lips. As she takes a step back her legs meet a chair and she turns around in surprise before choosing to sit down, her handbag sliding at her side. Her eyes spot Jurina's left hand and she stretches her fingers to take it, her thumb caressing it gently.
"What did you do again?"
A small sigh escapes her mouth as her question stays unanswered, and her eyes linger on the girl's tired features, before falling on her lips. The Kiss Datte Hidarikiki incident suddenly flashes in her mind and she freezes, wondering why on earth she's thinking about that right now.
To be honest, she's been remembering this short moment way too much lately. She doesn't even know how she managed to stay so calm after the performance. The kiss couldn't stop playing in her head when she sang Kareha no Station.
Rena averts her eyes sheepishly, but her gaze falls back on the girl's lips a few seconds later, the memory of the kiss still vivid. When she just can't look away she takes a drastic decision and shuts her eyes, exhaling deeply.
"What's wrong with me?"
Unintentionally, her hand squeezes a little harder Jurina's, and a small sound escapes the younger girl's lips as she slowly wakes up. Jurina's eyes widen when she notices Rena who's sitting near her bed, eyes closed, and she momentarily wonders if she's fallen asleep.
The older Matsui quickly opens her eyes at the sound of her voice and a smile moves to her lips, before she raises an eyebrow in concern.
"Jurina! Are you alright?"
The younger girl nods sleepily, stifling a small yawn, before lowering her gaze to their joined hands. Rena notices the action and squeezes the girl's hand softly, before setting her eyes on her again.
"What happened? Did you faint again?"
Jurina waves her free hand at the scolding look she's receiving, and swiftly defends herself.
"No. It's my ankle. I have to wait for the doctor to know if it's broken or not."
As to prove her point she moves the bedcover aside, and Rena stares at the large bandage.
"Let's hope not."
"Yes, I don't want to miss another concert."
"Jurina, your health is more important than anything else."
Jurina is about to answer when there's a sudden knock on the door, and both girls tilt their heads in surprise.
"Hello Miss Matsui, I'm Doctor Shimazu."
A short dark-haired man enters and approaches, stretching his hand to Jurina who shakes it. When he notices Rena who's now standing up and moving aside, he turns to her curiously.
"Are you a member of the family?"
"No, I'm... a friend."
Rena frowns at her slight moment of hesitation, before widening her eyes when the doctor is still gazing at her.
"Do I need to leave?"
"No, it's fine."
The doctor shoots her a small smile, before getting back to the injured girl.
"I have good news. Your ankle is not broken, it's just a sprain. It should be healed in a few days."
"Thank you doctor."
"However, your blood result is not so good. You're obviously overdoing yourself. I advise you to rest for a week."
"When can I leave?"
The doctor arches an eyebrow at the girl's sudden question, obviously not caring much about his recommendation.
"You just have a few papers to sign and you're good to go. Do you have any question?"
"No, I'm fine."
The doctor nods and shoots her a small smile, before making his way out.
"Two days at home and I'll be back on my feet in no time."
Jurina smiles in amusement, quite pleased with her little pun, before raising her eyes to the clock on the wall, now eager to leave this aseptic room. A small gasp erupts beside her and she tilts her head to the older girl who's staring at her in disbelief.
"Two days? The doctor said you needed to rest for a week!"
"It's just a sprained ankle, Rena. You don't have to worry so much."
"Well, I still do. I care about you."
Jurina listens to the girl's words but chooses not to answer, laying her head against her pillow and closing her eyes instead. How she wishes the girl would stop acting this way. It's making it way harder for her to move on. A small sigh escapes her lips, and she can't help the bitterness out of her voice as she speaks up again.
"I know, like an older sister."
"Why do you keep saying that?"
Jurina's eyes widen at the girl's sudden outburst and she stares at Rena in surprise, taken aback by the angry look she's giving her. She averts her eyes nervously, wondering why the older girl is acting this way when she's saying nothing but the truth.
"That's what you said last time."
"What do you mean?"
"When I fainted on stage before the Nagoya Dome concert and ended up at the hospital, you told me I was like a little sister to you."
Jurina can almost see the gears turning in Rena's head as the girl answers, confusion evident in her voice.
"I... don't remember."
Jurina nods and exhales deeply.
"I figured," she pauses, before speaking up again, "Unfortunately, I do."
Rena is momentarily speechless as she notices the girl's sadness, and she wishes she could remember those words that not only unnerve her, but also seem to affect the younger girl. Silence engulfs them as none of them say anything, before Rena speaks up again in determination.
"Well, I wish you would stop believing that."
"Because it's not true."
Jurina doesn't know want to make of Rena's words and she looks at her carefully, trying to decrypt her expression. The older girl averts her eyes nervously at the girl's scrutinizing and Jurina watches as Rena's mouth opens and closes a few times, as if she's trying to say something, but is struggling to find the right words.
A soft knock on the door suddenly breaks the silence and both girls tilt their head, watching as a smiling Akane enters the room.
Churi looks back and forth between them, somehow sensing the awkward tension.
"Did I interrupt something?"
"Not at all, I was about to leave."
Jurina frowns at Rena's obvious lie and almost wishes Churi wouldn't have interrupted her. Now she's left to wonder what the girl was trying so desperately to say, and she watches in confusion as Rena gets up from the chair, her eyes meeting shyly Churi's for a second, before stepping back to let the girl pass.
"You," Churi says, pointing an accusing finger at Jurina, "I don't know if I want to hug you or slap you."
"I don't think it's very appropriate to hit an injured girl."
Churi rolls her eyes at the girl's cheeky tone and moves forward, wrapping her hands around her neck. Jurina slips hers around her waist and smiles, her eyes closing when she feels Churi's digits gently caressing her hair.
As she opens them again she notices Rena who's still standing by the chair, and she frowns at the older girl who's fidgeting and looking anywhere but at the two friends. When Churi retreats from the embrace she follows Jurina's gaze, and tilts her head curiously to Rena. Noticing that both girls' attention is now on her, the older Matsui speaks up again in a small hesitant voice.
"Can I do something to help you? Is someone coming to pick you up?"
"No, it's fine. Churi already volunteered."
Jurina hears a hint of disappointment in her tone and she arches an eyebrow, puzzled, as Rena slowly nods and turns on her heels. When she's at the doorstep she halts a few seconds, before turning and locking eyes with Akane.
"Please take good care of Jurina."
Rena's mouth tugs into a faint smile at the swift answer and she briefly glances a last time at Jurina, before heading out and carefully closing the door behind her. The younger Matsui stares at the closed door for a few seconds, wondering where Rena's odd behavior is coming from.
"So, are you ready to go home?"
Jurina tilts her head as Churi suddenly interrupts her musing and she nods, a small smile grazing her lips.
"Yes, let's go."
Rena, now standing not far from the entrance of the hospital, shuts her eyes in displeasure as the cold wind hits her hard. She shudders and swiftly hides her nose in her warm scarf, while her hands slide in her pockets. Looking around her, she scans the street in the hope of finding the taxi she ordered a few minutes ago, before releasing a defeated sigh when it hasn't arrived yet.
Her phone suddenly starts buzzing and she rummages through her bag, before grabbing the white device.
"Hi! I was calling to know if you wanted to go to the cinema tonight."
There's a slight pause, and Airi momentarily wonders if the girl is still on the other side of the line, before Rena speaks up again.
"I prefer not, I have to wake up early tomorrow morning. Can we go another time?"
Rena suddenly gets distracted when she hears familiar voices and she raises her eyes, spotting Jurina and Churi who are leaving the hospital and moving towards a taxi.
"Are you alright?"
Her attention gets back to the phone when she hears Airi's voice, and her eyes still follow the two friends as she answers.
"I don't know, you seem a bit... off."
Rena releases a small sigh at Airi's perceptiveness. Apparently, even on the phone, her troubled mind doesn't go unnoticed.
"I'm feeling a bit tired. Can we talk another time?"
She knows she's not saying the complete truth, but she doesn't feel like confiding in the girl right now. She's not even sure she would know what to say to explain her current troubled state. She should be happy Jurina has such a dear friend to take care of her, so why does it bother her so much when she sees them together?
Jurina flips through the pages of her book, before putting it down when she reaches the end. She gazes at the magazines scattered on the living room's table, before exhaling deeply. It's already the fourth day of her forced convalescence, and she pretty much went through every book and game she has. She had watched the television a bit during the afternoon, but had pretty quickly got bored of the old movies and silly programs.
She lowers her gaze to look angrily at her bandaged ankle responsible for her current state, before sighing when she knows staring at it is not going to change anything. Carefully laying down on the sofa, she stares pensively at the ceiling, before closing her eyes. She's living a nightmare.
At a sudden knock on the door she lifts herself up in surprise, wondering who could be visiting at this time of the day. It's already 7 PM, and her parents are currently away and won't be back until tomorrow morning. She hops off carefully to grab the crutches against the wall and makes her way to the entrance, before opening the door. A smiling Churi is standing on her doorstep, and Jurina widens her eyes in surprise.
"Churi? What are you doing here?"
"I knew you were alone, so I came to see you."
Jurina steps aside as the older girl moves forward, removes her coat and hangs it in the hall.
"How did you know?"
"I texted your mother to know how you were doing, and she told me you were alone tonight."
"You could have texted me."
"I did. You didn't reply."
Jurina frowns at the girl's words, before remembering putting her phone on charger an hour ago. Churi suddenly moves to the kitchen and looks around, before turning again to the younger girl.
"So, what do you want to eat tonight?"
"You're really serious."
"Of course I am."
Jurina watches carefully her friend, pondering her options, before releasing a defeated sigh when she knows at her persistent look that she's not going to be able to change her mind.
"There's minced beef in the fridge."
"Great! Then minced beef and spaghetti it is. Go and sit down. It will soon be ready."
Jurina watches as Churi puts an apron on, opens the fridge and grabs a plate inside, before closing the door again. When the older girl notices from the corner of her eye Jurina who hasn't moved an inch, she turns in surprise, before pointing her index to the sofa.
"Come on, go and rest."
Jurina rolls her eyes at the girl's commanding tone and nods, grabbing her crutches and moving to the living room, before sitting in front of the television. Her digits grab the remote control and she absently flicks through the channels, before stopping at a music one. Her eyes follow absent-mindedly the beginning of the Every Little Thing 2000' concert before she hears a soft noise behind her and she tilts her head in curiosity. She smiles in amusement at Churi who's preparing dinner, while humming and moving her left hand in rhythm with Pray. Jurina progressively feels her heart warming up at the view of the cheerful girl, in the end thankful not to spend the evening alone.
Both girls are now watching a comedy on the sofa and Jurina suddenly chuckles and claps into her hands at a funny scene.
"Stop wriggling so much. You're going to hurt yourself."
Jurina's smile disappears immediately, and she growls at Churi's disapproving tone.
"Sometimes, you sound just like Rena."
Churi raises an eyebrow, before getting lost in her musing. There is something that has been nagging her for a while now, and the mention of the older Matsui is all she needs to voice her thoughts out loud.
"I've been wondering why Rena is always acting weird around me."
"I told you, you're over thinking."
"I know you did, but I'm not so sure. I don't understand how you can't see it."
Churi pauses and watches Jurina whose attention is still on the screen.
"It's the way she acts when we're together. I think she's jealous."
Jurina tilts her head at Churi's sudden words, and she stares at her in surprise.
"Jealous? Of who?"
"That's ridiculous. Rena is the most selfless person I know."
Churi chuckles at Jurina's statement, and the younger girl frowns at her reaction.
"What are you saying? That she's a robot with no feelings?"
"Of course not. She cares about a lot of people, and she loves Airi."
"She loves her as a friend. They're not dating."
"I know. She told me."
Churi's mouth tugs into a smile and a soft laugh escapes her lips, surprising Jurina.
"Nothing. I just find it curious that she found it necessary to inform you. Come to think of it, she wasn't mad about the kiss. Maybe she... enjoyed it."
Jurina's eyes widen at her statement, before she cocks an eyebrow in amusement.
Churi stares in surprise at the younger girl who's now chuckling and shaking her head in disbelief. When Jurina finally calms down she leans her head on Churi's shoulder, and releases a sigh.
"Thank you Churi. I was starting to depress for being cooped up at home for so long. I really needed to have a laugh."
Churi is about to retort that she's being very serious but refrains at the last minute, somehow sensing the girl is not going to believe her, no matter what she says. She frowns at Jurina's attitude and diverts her attention to the screen again, watching absent-mindedly the funny fighting scene that's unfolding in front of her. For a second, she wonders if she hasn't been imagining Rena's odd behavior. After all, if Jurina isn't seeing anything, maybe it's all in her head? The recent strange events flow her mind and after reviewing them one by one, she can't help but shake the feeling that she's not wrong. Her friend may seem oblivious to what's happening under her nose, one thing is for sure: Rena has been acting very differently lately.
Rena closes her apartment's front door with one hand, while the other goes through her mail, her attention drawn to a large white envelope from her manager. Curiosity gets the best of her and her fingers start to open it, when a noise suddenly disrupts the quietness of her living room. As she looks up in surprise, she notices drops of water beating against the window, and she stares outside in astonishment. The sky had started to darken just after her 5 PM television interview, but she had not thought too much of it, the weather forecast promising a day without rain.
The girl sets the few envelopes on the coffee table and moves to the window, watching as people run in the street to take shelter. Apparently, she is not the only one who got fooled by the wrong prediction. Lightning suddenly strikes and she jumps, before sighing in frustration. She is supposed to go to the cinema with Airi tonight, and this unexpected turn of events does not please her at all. She considers calling the girl to cancel their rendezvous and swiftly moves to grab her phone, hoping she's not already on her way here.
As she takes a look at her phone she notices an unread message and she opens it, sighing when she discovers Airi left her house thirty minutes ago. Rena lays the white device down, knowing it's now too late to cancel. A knock diverts her attention and she turns on her heels, fearing what she's going to see on the other side. If she didn't see the rain coming, Airi probably didn't either. As she opens, her eyes fall on her best friend who's indeed soaked from head to toe.
"I shouldn't have trusted Yuki. She's a really bad weather girl," Airi winces, her fingers clumsily attempting to brush her entangled hair.
"Come in," Rena says, opening the door wider before stepping aside.
Airi moves forward, grimacing when her drenched coat starts to drip on the red carpet.
"Give it to me, I'll put it in the bathroom to dry," Rena offers, stretching her hand to catch the girl's coat.
She then swiftly disappears, before coming back with a clean towel.
Rena watches as Airi dries herself the best she can, before looking back at the window when lightning strikes again.
"We should postpone the cinema. It doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon," Airi suggests, giving the towel back to Rena once she's done.
"Have a seat. We'll stay inside for tonight," Rena motions to the sofa, before moving to the bathroom again.
Airi does as she's told, staring outside and sighing loudly at the pouring rain.
"What do you want to drink?" Rena asks when she's back and now moving to the kitchen.
"Water is fine. I'm not really thirsty," she answers, feeling a bit down. She was really looking forward to the third Hunger Games movie.
"We'll go and see it next week," Rena promises, noticing the disappointment in her voice, and offering her friend a glass of water.
Rena sits near Airi and gives her an encouraging smile, getting a small nod in return. As she pushes her mail aside to set her own glass of orange juice on the table, the half opened envelope accidentally falls on the floor. Airi swiftly leans down to pick it up and her eyes catch the first letters of the magazine that's inside.
"Is that the latest BUBKA?" she asks, and Rena tilts her head curiously, before nodding in recognition.
"Ah, yes. My manager always sends me the magazines I'm in. You can open it."
Airi's fingers carefully finish to open the large envelop, her eyes widening at the view of the two Matsui on the cover.
"Isn't that the photoshoot you did with Jurina a while ago?" she asks, moving it closer to take a better look at them.
"It is," Rena answers, her eyes falling immediately on the younger girl who's wearing a black suit.
"This white dress really looks good on you," Airi compliments, before flipping through the pages in curiosity.
Rena nods absently and watches expectantly as Airi's fingers pass the first pages, before finally stopping on the pictures of their photoshoot. On the third one, Jurina is leaning her head on Rena's shoulder, while the older Matsui has her hand around her waist. There's a shy smile on Jurina's lips, and Rena immediately remembers their small exchange. The younger girl was really nervous that day, despite Rena's attempt to calm her down. You could see Jurina had managed to compose herself on the last pictures, but her nervousness was definitely showing on the third one.
"You both are really photogenic. I'm a bit jealous," Airi teases, setting the magazine down and taking a few sips of her glass of water.
"Really?" Rena tilts her head in surprise, before lowering her eyes to the magazine, "I don't think I am. Jurina has always been the photogenic one."
Airi nods, watching as Rena's eyes linger a little more on the pictures and a smile moves to her lips.
"I remember the photoshoot as if it was yesterday. Jurina has always loved doing them, but she was unusually nervous that day and I had to soothe her. Do you believe it?" she exclaims, shaking her head in amusement.
"Really? That doesn't look like Jurina," Airi muses, lowering her gaze to the magazine, "the newlyweds theme was also a good idea. You look like a real couple."
Airi tilts her head curiously when her remark is met with silence, immediately noticing how the other girl is averting her eyes and fidgeting in her seat. A few seconds pass before Rena leans over and slowly closes the magazine.
"What do you want to eat?" Rena asks, now getting up.
"Anything is fine," Airi replies.
Airi arches an eyebrow at Rena's sudden odd behavior and watches her as she moves to the kitchen and opens the fridge, before silently starting making dinner. Airi leans against the sofa and turns her attention to the magazine again, wondering what prompted her friend to change the subject so abruptly.
Two hours later, rain has miraculously stopped falling, and the two friends have finally decided to stick to their original plans. As Airi goes to the bathroom, Rena puts her coat on to get ready to go to the cinema. Moving to the living room to get her bag, her eyes fall on the BUBKA magazine that's laying on the coffee table, and she stops to look at the younger girl on the cover.
Sliding her bag on her shoulder, her feet unconsciously lead her to the sofa and she sits down, taking the magazine and flipping through the pages. As the photoshoot comes into view she takes a look at each picture again, before stopping on the third one. A smile moves to her lips as she stares at it, somehow hypnotized by Jurina's shy expression. She's so lost in thoughts that she doesn't hear the bathroom's door opening and Airi approaching.
Rena tilts her head in surprise at the girl's voice.
Airi watches curiously as Rena awkwardly sets the magazine down and swiftly gets up, averting her eyes as if she got caught doing something bad.
Jurina is gazing at the sea when she feels a hand on her shoulder. She turns around to see Rena looking at her and she quickly intertwines their fingers together, smiling. There's a broad smile on Rena's lips as the older girl moves forward, her hand squeezing the nervous one. Jurina's eyes widen when she suddenly feels a pair of lips on hers, and she looks in surprise at the girl who's pulling away from the kiss. "You shouldn't be afraid of kissing me." Jurina stares speechless at the smiling girl and nods shyly, before seeing Rena leaning over again.
When Jurina opens her eyes, she's not gazing at the girl of her dreams, but at her bedroom's ceiling. A groan leaves her lips as she understands what just happened and she buries her head in her pillow, annoyed. "Not again," she mutters, squeezing it in frustration. She had stopped dreaming about Rena a few months now, until the girl has started haunting her nights again a week ago. Even if the setting of her dreams is still the same, there is a now slight difference. She is not dreaming about the girl's rejection anymore. Jurina perfectly knows what has triggered those dreams again: her clumsiness during the Kiss Datte Hidarikiki performance and Rena's unusual response to it.
The younger girl lifts herself up to check the time on her alarm clock, and sighs when she realizes it's only 8 AM. She knows she should try to get some sleep as it's still a bit early and she lays down, shutting her eyes and trying to relax. Unfortunately, Rena's kiss keeps playing in her head again and again. "Okay," she growls, slowly sitting up and resting her head against the headboard. She's now fully awake and, unfortunately, nothing is going to change that. Her feet meet the floor as she finally decides to get dressed, and she moves to her dresser when she hears a sleepy voice behind her.
"Who were you kissing?"
Jurina freezes at the question and turns around, staring at Churi who's sitting up and yawning. In her daze, she completely forgot about the other girl in her bed.
"What?" Jurina asks.
"You always forget that you talk in your sleep. Plus, you were making strange noises," Churi explains, chuckling when Jurina's eyes widen.
Jurina feels her heart beating fast at this new piece of information and she tries to compose herself, thankful the room is still dark enough to hide her discomfort. Ignoring the question, she turns around to rummage through her drawer, looking for her blue tracksuit. Now fully awake Churi observes her, amused by her obvious uneasiness, and decides to push her a little more.
"I hope it wasn't Rena," she teases.
Churi waits for the girl's reply, expecting her to get angry and tell her to stop being silly, but none of it happens. Churi's smile falters as she notices the girl's fingers stopping their frantic action, and hearing a small sigh a few seconds later. She watches as Jurina slowly pushes the drawer and moves to the bathroom, not meeting her eyes once, before closing the door behind her.
"Jurina?" she calls, before hearing a shuffling noise and guessing the girl is starting to get undressed.
Churi stares at the closed door, surprised by the girl's strange behavior. She patiently waits for her to get out, but frowns when fifteen minutes have passed and she's still in there. It's really unusual for her to take so long. After deciding to see what's going on she gets out of bed and makes her way to the bathroom.
"Jurina. Can I come in?" she demands, knocking softly.
Her request stays unanswered and she slowly pushes the door, her eyes falling on the girl who's huddled up on the floor, her head buried in her hands.
"Are you alright?" she asks in a small concerned voice, kneeling down next to the girl who's now looking back at her in surprise.
"I'm sorry I took so long. The bathroom is all yours," Jurina stutters.
Churi watches as she quickly gets up on her feet and leaves.
"No. It's fine," she answers, following the girl who's opening the dresser, "did I imagine it, or you also mentioned Rena in your sleep? I thought this thing was over."
"It's not what you think."
"What do you mean, it's not what I..."
Churi stops when she realizes what Jurina is implying. She only meant the 'kissing Rena thing' as a joke, but apparently, it's more serious than she thought.
"Wait," she murmurs, now gripping Jurina's arm and pulling it to force her to face her, "you were kissing Rena in your dream?"
"It's not what you think," Jurina repeats, averting her eyes and trying to move away from the girl's grasp.
Churi finally relents and lets the girl go, watching her as she zips her tracksuit all the way up.
"So this is what's all about?" she exclaims, disbelief in her voice, "you have feelings for her?"
"I don't want to talk about it," Jurina stresses.
"How long has it been going on? Why didn't you say anything?" Churi gasps out, ignoring the cold stare she's receiving.
"Well, you didn't talk about your feelings for Airi either, did you? You had to get drunk to let it out," Jurina answers.
Churi knows by her friend's sarcasm that she's not really happy about the direction of the conversation but she still continues, not willing to drop the subject.
"What are you going to do about it?" she asks, ignoring her remark and grasping her arm again.
"Nothing," Jurina hisses, yanking it away, "leave it alone."
Churi's jaw drops at the girl's answer, watching her as she's now moving towards the bedroom's door.
"Where are you going?" she asks when Jurina's fingers grab the door handle.
Churi stares in astonishment at the girl who swiftly exits, hearing the front door opening and closing a few seconds later. A defeated sigh leaves her lips as silence engulfs her, and she shakes her head in annoyance at Jurina's stubborn behavior.
Jurina leans her head against the backseat of the taxi, watching as the scenery unfolds in front of her. Even if it's already 9 PM, the streets of Tokyo are still crowded and very animated. As the taxi stops at a red light, she observes absently a very agitated group of friends who are crossing. The three girls are chatting so loudly Jurina can catch their whole conversation and she frowns, wondering how they can be so energetic. She can barely keep her own eyes opened after such an exhausting day. The light finally turns green and Jurina yawns, fighting to keep her heavy eyelids from closing.
Ten minutes later, the taxi drops her off in front of the hotel she's staying at, and she makes her way in with difficulty, shaking her head to try and stay awake a little longer. As the front-desk woman gives her room key and informs her the other occupant has already arrived Jurina nods absently, hoping Churi is not going to broach a certain subject again. The older girl has mentioned Rena a few times last week, and she is not in the mood tonight for another round. If she didn't know it before, now she does. Churi is a really persistent girl.
When her hotel room comes into view Jurina releases a sigh in relief, already viewing herself in her nice and cozy bed. As she pushes the door, she freezes when she notices the girl who's sitting on a chair and reading.
"Rena?" she stutters, blinking a few times to make sure her sight is not deceiving her.
"Good evening Jurina," the older girl smiles, lowering her book to gaze at her.
"I'm sorry, I think I have the wrong room," Jurina declares, raising the key in her hand to check the tag attached to it.
"What do you mean?" Rena asks, putting her book aside and getting up.
"I'm supposed to share the room with Churi," Jurina explains, frowning when she realizes she has the right room number.
"She asked to switch rooms," Rena answers, taking a step forward.
"What?" Jurina's voice pitches up, wondering why on earth her friend would do that, until it hits her.
"You didn't know?" Rena asks, confused by the girl's surprise.
"No," Jurina mutters, letting her arm fall by her side and gripping the key tightly, "she forgot to mention it."
There's an awkward silence as the two girls stare at each other, Jurina pondering her options on one hand, and Rena wondering why the girl is still standing in the middle of the room on the other.
"I can't do this," Jurina murmurs.
"I can't stay here with you."
Jurina suddenly turns on her heels, already feeling ashamed of what she admitted. She knows Rena will ask an explanation for her behavior soon or later, but it will have to wait. She needs a good night sleep before the AKB concert, and she's never going to be able to have it if she shares a room with Rena. She didn't sleep so well the last time it happened.
"Why do you want to leave?"
Jurina stills at Rena's words and tilts her head, watching as the girl takes an hesitant step forward.
"I'll inform Airi about the change of plans," Jurina says, ignoring her question, before turning to grab the door handle again.
"No, I want to know what's going on!" Rena stresses, quickly gripping Jurina's arm to prevent her from leaving.
Jurina looks back in surprise at the girl's action, her fingers leaving the door handle when she understands she's not going to be able to get out of the situation easily. Her left hand releases her suitcase and she stares defeated at her feet, trying to find the right words to get out of Rena's questioning. When she feels a caress on her cheek she raises her eyes in surprise, meeting Rena's pleading look instantly.
"Talk to me."
Jurina unconsciously shuts her eyes at the soft touch, starting to relish it, before taking a step back.
"Please don't do that."
"Being so nice to me."
Rena looks back in shock at the girl's words, before remembering hearing something similar.
"You said the same thing during New Year's Eve. What does it mean?" she inquires.
Rena starts to move forward to reduce the distance but Jurina raises her hand in the air to stop her, a pained expression on her face. Despite being frustrated by the girl's behavior Rena doesn't push and patiently waits for her answer, that unfortunately never comes.
"Jurina, please answer me!" she exclaims, now really bothered by the girl's silence.
"I'm trying to move on!" Jurina hisses, before exhaling in frustration when she realizes what she just said. She didn't mean to voice that thought out loud.
"Move on from what?" Rena asks gently, despite being clearly disturbed by the girl's sudden outburst.
Jurina groans at Rena's persistence and sits down on the bed behind her, leaning over and hiding her face in her hands in embarrassment. The conversation pretty quickly escalated, and she has no idea how she's going to manage to get out of it. She hears her heart beating fast and tries to calm down, not willing to fight with Rena again. She still remembers vividly their confrontation during the shooting of Majisuka Gakuen 4. Even if she knows Rena forgave her, she still can't forget her horrible behavior. The mattress suddenly starts shifting as Rena quietly goes to sit next to her, and Jurina raises her eyes when she feels a hand resting on hers.
"Please don't be like that. You promised you would stop being so distant," Rena murmurs, intertwining their fingers together.
Jurina nods at the girl's words, indeed remembering making such a promise. Maybe she shouldn't have agreed after all.
"Is there... something you want to tell me?" Rena pushes, trying to catch a glimpse of the girl who's now averting her eyes, ill-at-ease.
Jurina swallows a lump at the girl's question. She feels the words on her lips, desperately asking to be released. The emotional part of her wants to finally let it out: Let's get over with it!, it screams at her.
"Rena..." she starts, feeling the older girl giving her hand a light squeeze in encouragement, "I...", she continues, before a sudden scene flashes in her mind and she stops.
She sees herself at the hospital, crying after hearing Rena's words. The ones that hurt her so much. That's when she remembers why she decided to stay quiet and try to move on. Rena will never share her feelings.
"I'm sorry," she whispers, shutting her eyes in frustration when she realizes she almost confessed. That's something she promised herself she would never do.
She slowly lifts herself up and starts moving towards her suitcase when she feels Rena's hand still holding hers tightly.
"Please let me go," she murmurs, refusing to meet the older girl's eyes. Somehow, she knows her resolution would falter if she did.
When Rena still hasn't released her hand she pulls softly, sighing when the older girl still refuses to meet her demand. She tilts her head slightly, and for a second wonders if she's not seeing a tear rolling down Rena's cheek. Her hand suddenly gets freed before she can really assess it, and she shakily grabs her suitcase, before making her way out.
Jurina exhales deeply when her feet meet the blue carpet of the hallway. She can hear her heart racing and she tries to calm down, despite her recent discussion with Rena playing in her head again and again. As she releases her grip on her suitcase she lifts a shaking hand to her cheek, wiping off a tear that managed to leave her eyes despite her best efforts to not let her emotions out. She doesn’t cry often, but her latest stressful conversation with Rena coupled with her weariness had taken its toll.
Suddenly aware of her current distraught state she quickly looks up, afraid people may have witnessed it, before sighing in relief when no one is around. She doesn’t know what she would have done if a member had seen her like that. She’s the ace of SKE, and always had the image of a strong confident girl. She’s not supposed to be crying over a girl in the middle of a hotel hallway.
Tilting her head to the closed door behind her, her heart sinks at the thought of the older Matsui. If she couldn’t help letting her emotions out, she can only imagine how Rena must be feeling. It’s common knowledge that she’s a sensitive girl, and Jurina is now pretty sure she didn’t imagine this tear on her cheek. How is she supposed to face her after that?
Gripping her suitcase, she slowly moves forward in the hallway, her steps getting heavier and heavier as she can’t stop thinking about what she almost confessed. She knows her resolution might have faltered if the older girl had continued to insist. Thankfully, that didn’t happened. She doesn’t want their relationship to be more awkward than it already promises to be.
When her eyes catch the right room number she stops and lifts her arm to knock. She’s glad her hand is not shaking anymore, but she mutters under her breath when her heart still hasn’t slowed down as much as she wishes. She catches quick footsteps and tries to clear her head, now focusing on the older girl on the other side. She wants to stay calm, but she can feel her anger building up in anticipation.
"Jurina!" Airi exclaims, opening the door slightly and widening her eyes at the view of the younger girl.
"Airi. Hi," Jurina says, feeling her irritation faltering at the sight of the unexpected appearance, "can I come in?" she demands, a tentative smile moving to her lips.
"Sure," Airi answers, stepping aside to let her pass. When she closes the door and turns around, she notices Jurina who’s now scanning the room.
"Where’s Churi?" Jurina asks, feeling her anger surfacing again just at the mention of the girl’s name.
"In the bathroom," Airi answers, motioning to the closed door, before watching as Jurina doesn’t move an inch and stares at the door intensely, as if the action itself could prompt it to open, "What’s going on?" she asks, surprised by her strange behavior and sudden irruption.
"I’m sorry but… would you mind switching room?" Jurina asks, averting her eyes nervously. She knows her demand must sound very strange to the girl.
"What? But I thought you wanted to stay with Rena tonight?" she answers, surprised by this new unexpected turn of events. Seeing the girl with her suitcase unsettles her, and her thoughts immediately go to Rena, wondering if something happened between them that prompted the younger girl to leave.
The bathroom’s door suddenly opens and Churi comes out, her eyes falling on Jurina.
"Jurina! What are you doing here?" Churi frowns, closing the door behind her and taking a step forward.
"What do you think?" Jurina answers, gripping her suitcase tightly and gritting her teeth in annoyance.
Airi watches the exchange between the two friends, puzzled when it starts to look like a staring contest. If she had to vote, Jurina would definitely be the winner, as she doesn’t look happy in the slightest. There’s an awkward tension in the room as silence progressively fills the air and Airi clears her throat as to try to dissipate it, frowning when her little action doesn’t perturb the girls one bit.
"What is going on?" she finally asks, looking back and forth between them in frustration.
"Yes, explain her, Churi. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say," Jurina mutters. She knows her anger is really starting to show but she still tries to contain it the best she can, not willing to let a third party witness it.
"Jurina," Churi sighs, shaking her head in disbelief at the girl’s behavior.
When it becomes clear she’s not going to get any more information, Airi enters the bathroom and gathers her things, before going back to the bedroom and kneeling to fill her suitcase before closing it. When it’s done, she looks up to gaze at the two girls who are still standing in the middle of the room, half hoping for one on them to give her an explanation. When she understands she’s not going to get one she gets up and moves to the door, grabbing her coat on her way.
"You obviously have things to discuss. I’ll leave you to it," she murmurs, tilting her head at the girls as she speaks. It really bothers her to see them acting this way, especially when she knows how good friends they have become, but she can’t really do anything about it.
"I’m really sorry about that," Churi suddenly speaks up, turning to her and grimacing when she realizes how strange the whole situation might look to her friend, "See you tomorrow."
"It’s fine," Airi says, briefly glancing at Jurina who’s averting her eyes, before smiling at Churi, "Goodnight."
Churi follows the girl’s retreating form, before turning to Jurina and watching her as she’s moving to her bed and setting her suitcase on the ground to open it.
"I can’t believe you did that," she exclaims, following Jurina’s movements as she’s grabbing her pajamas.
"You’re the one to talk," Jurina growls, now getting up and staring at her, "thanks to you, I made a fool of myself back there."
"What happened? Why did you leave?" Churi asks, crossing her arms over her chest, frustrated things didn’t go accordingly to her plan.
"Why did you do this, Churi?" Jurina hisses, throwing her pajamas on the bed, "Why do everyone keep sticking their nose in my business? First Mayu, then you!"
"Mayu knows too?" Churi asks, surprised by this new piece of information and ignoring the girl’s abrupt action.
"That’s not the point. I told you to leave it alone, but you had to go against my wishes!" Jurina exclaims, before exhaling deeply in exasperation.
Churi watches as the girl then moves to the bathroom, her toothbrush in one hand and her pajamas in the other, purposely slamming the door behind her.
"I was just trying to help," Churi murmurs, feeling regret filling her chest as she realizes how much her actions made her friend mad. That’s clearly not something she expected, and even less wished for.
She sighs when no reply comes and slowly starts to get undressed, before putting her pajamas on. When it’s done, she gets under the sheets and waits patiently for Jurina to come out, despite hearing the minutes ticking in her head. It’s already 10 PM, and as a long exhausting day awaits them tomorrow, they’ll soon have to go to bed. They can’t keep arguing for hours, but it’s out of the question to go to sleep before solving the problem.
"I didn’t ask for your help," Jurina retorts when she comes out of the bathroom a few minutes later, her eyes falling on Churi’s worried ones.
The older girl notices that despite her harsh words, her tone has considerably softened, and it relieves her to know her friend is slowly calming down.
"I realize it now. I shouldn’t have put you in that situation," she admits, getting a nod in reply, "However, I still think you should tell her," she insists, still believing her friend is missing an opportunity.
"You confessed to Airi, and what good did it do to you? She rejected you!" Jurina blurts out, feeling her anger surfacing again at the girl’s persistence.
"You’re right," Churi murmurs, averting her gaze at the girl’s words, "maybe I’m not fit to give love advice after all," she chuckles nervously.
At the girl’s sudden change of attitude Jurina winces, realizing what she just said. She knows she has gone too far, and she internally curses herself for mentioning that. Her anger, on top of her tiredness, were bringing out the worst in her.
"I’m sorry," Jurina whispers, now feeling terrible as she sees how her friend’s features are contorting in pain, "I shouldn’t have said that."
"Don’t be. She did reject me, but I don’t regret anything. My feelings for her were eating me alive. I couldn’t keep them to myself any longer, and even if it took time, we are friends again," Churi replies, trying to ease the girl’s guiltiness with a small comforting smile, despite the uneasiness filling her chest at the little reminder.
"I think it’s best if we stop here. It’s getting late, and I don’t want to say anything I could regret. I’ve already done enough," Jurina states. She watches Churi expectantly, waiting for her approval, before sighing in relief when she gets a silent nod in return.
When Jurina gets under the sheets Churi switches the light off, before laying on her back and closing her eyes. She can hear her friend sighing loudly by her side and she tilts her head, noticing how she’s staring pensively at the ceiling.
"I was finally moving on. I wasn’t dreaming about her anymore. There wasn’t any awkwardness between us. I really thought we could become friends," Jurina murmurs.
"What changed?" Churi asks.
"She did. She suddenly started acting differently towards me, and I knew my feelings were surfacing again. I was angry with myself for falling for her caring and gentle attitude," Jurina answers, before continuing, "I pushed her away tonight and I’m sure she must be confused. And hurt. Somehow, I have the feeling our relationship is never going to be the same anymore."
"Maybe it’s not too late to mend things," Churi says, trying her best to sound hopeful.
"What if I don’t want to? What if that’s exactly what needed to be done?" Jurina replies.
"What do you mean?" Churi asks, confused.
"I want to move on, and maybe now I’ll finally be able to," Jurina finishes, before feeling Churi scooting closer and gently leaning her head on her shoulder. "I’m still mad at you," she declares, her attention now fully on the older girl. Despite her harsh words, her anger has considerably toned down.
"I know," Churi replies, moving tentative fingers to Jurina’s stomach and squeezing the ones that are laying on it. She waits for Jurina’s reaction, half expecting her to yank her hand away, but a smile moves to her lips when the younger girl intertwines their fingers a few seconds later.
As Airi pushes the door, she’s surprised to see the room plunged into darkness. She waits a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to it, and frowns when she notices her friend leaning against the headboard of her bed, obviously still not sleeping. Leaving her suitcase aside she moves forward and goes to sit next to her, surprised to see her staring into space.
"What happened? Did you two have a fight?" she inquires, hoping to finally have an explanation to Jurina’s strange request.
"Not really," Rena answers, raising her eyes to meet Airi’s.
"Why did she ask to switch rooms?" Airi continues, now clearly confused.
"I wish I knew," Rena chuckles bitterly, feeling tears building up again just at the mention of the girl.
"Okay. I don’t understand," Airi admits. She watches Rena a few more seconds, pondering if she should push her a little more, before thinking against it when it looks like she’s not going to get anything more from her.
Airi lifts herself up from the mattress and moves to open her suitcase, getting a few things out and entering the bathroom a few minutes later. She can feel a yawn threatening to leave her lips as she finally gets under the sheets, and she tilts her head to Rena, noticing how she still hasn’t moved an inch from her sitting position.
"Rena?" she calls, surprised by the girl’s odd behavior.
"She was trying to leave and I wanted to know why. She was distancing herself again and I couldn’t let that happen," Rena murmurs, her eyes meeting Airi’s on the other side of the room, "I so desperately wanted to know what was going on, that I’m afraid I went too far."
"Why do you think that?" Airi asks, not missing the sadness in the girl’s tone.
"She pushed me away," Rena whispers, feeling her voice breaking just at the simple admission.
"I didn’t speak much with her tonight, but she looked very tired," Airi comments, trying to ease her friend’s worries, "I’m sure she’ll explain her behavior tomorrow."
"No. I think… I may have lost her," Rena answers, now feeling a tear rolling down her cheek, and noticing how her voice is getting weaker and weaker as she speaks.
"Don’t say that. You’re the WMatsui. You’re bound to stay together," Airi teases in an attempt to cheer the girl up.
"I’m not sure she ever wanted to get stuck with me," Rena smiles faintly, remembering Jurina’s words during the shooting of Majisuka Gakuen 4, before catching Airi who’s stifling a yawn, “I’m sorry, you probably want to sleep.”
"It’s fine, and I told you before. I’m always here for you whenever you feel the need to confide in someone," Airi smiles.
"Thank you," Rena replies, moved by the girl’s words and feeling her chest lightening up at the thought of having such a dear and understanding friend, until she remembers the concert that awaits them, "I think we should go to sleep."
"It’s best if we don’t want to faint on stage," Airi teases.
"Yes, we wouldn’t want that," Rena answers, her lips curving up in amusement, realizing how her best friend’s words have unexpectedly managed to put a smile on her face.
The restaurant room is quiet this morning as most of the members are still dozing off while taking their breakfast. When Yuki who’s sitting next Mayu notices the young girl who just arrived she waves at her, receiving a small smile in acknowledgment when their eyes meet.
"You look awful," Mayu exclaims casually, observing the SKE member who’s taking a seat by her side.
"Thank you, Mayu. I’m glad I can always count on your bluntness first thing in the morning," Jurina glares at her, before stretching her hand to grab the food in front of her.
"Someone got out of the wrong side of the bed," Mayu mutters, sipping her glass of orange juice.
"Mayu!" Yuki hisses and slaps her arm in annoyance, before looking at Jurina, "Didn’t sleep well?" she asks, concern filling her voice at the sight of the girl’s tired features.
"Not really, but don’t worry. I’ll be in top form after a cup of coffee," Jurina replies, pouring the designated liquid in her mug.
"You know you’re too young to drink that," Mayu chides, ignoring Yuki’s disapproving groan on her left.
"I know, you already mentioned it dozens of times," Jurina sighs, "Trust me, I would prefer to do without it, but I don’t have much of a choice today," she finishes, bringing the hot liquid to her lips.
"We still have time until the beginning of rehearsal, and the concert is in more than ten hours. It leaves plenty of time to get ready," Yuki comments, sending her friend a small reassuring smile.
Jurina nods absently before scanning the room in curiosity, noticing how a lot of members are already present, despite the fact it’s only 9 AM. A familiar face catches her attention and she gazes at Rena, not missing the sadness in her eyes, before sheepishly looking away. Last night’s conversation starts filling her mind and she releases a defeated sigh, wondering how she’s going to manage to go through the day.
Yuki glances at the sheet in her hand, her eyes following the lyrics of the song she’s going to rehearse in a few minutes. She hasn’t performed it for a while, and she’s glad to be singing it with Rena again, as their relationship has progressed a lot since Christmas. Much to her surprise, they got on well pretty fast, and she feels a bit sad at the idea that it took them so long to finally get to know each other.
She looks up to watch Mayu who’s rehearsing the River’s steps with Rie and Sae, smiling at how serious the girl looks when she’s so focused. As their eyes suddenly meet in the mirror Mayu sends a playful wink and Yuki smiles, hiding her amusement in her sheet at her girlfriend’s flirty attitude. Even if Mayu always works hard during rehearsal, she always finds a moment to show her affection, making Yuki’s heart flutter each time it happens. She may look cold to others, it’s never the case when it comes to her. Yuki diverts her attention when she hears the dancing room’s door opening, and smiles at the girl who’s looking at her.
"Hi Rena!" she exclaims, waving at her as she approaches.
"Good morning Yuki," Rena answers, a bit annoyed by her own hoarse voice. She really thought her two cups of coffee would help her get rid of her tiredness.
"Ready to rehearse Tonari no Banana?” Yuki inquires, frowning when she notices the girl’s tired features. Apparently, Jurina is not the only one who had trouble sleeping.
"Yes," Rena answers, stifling a small yawn before taking a look at the sheet.
"I was thinking, maybe we could do something during the performance? Fans really liked the ‘wink’ thing!" Yuki exclaims, watching the older Matsui in expectation.
"Really?" Rena raises an eyebrow, still a bit doubtful about the joke’s success, "what do you suggest?"
"Let me think about it," Yuki answers, "I’ll definitely come up with something funny."
"Okay," Rena chuckles, amused by the girl’s enthusiasm.
"Before we start to rehearse, I wanted to talk to you about something," Yuki murmurs, getting closer to the girl to make sure the other members can’t catch their conversation.
"Yes? What is it?" Rena asks in surprise, not missing Yuki’s sudden odd behavior.
"About what you saw during New Year’s Eve…" Yuki’s voice trails off, feeling ashamed at the memory of having been caught in such a situation in front of the girl.
"We don’t have to talk about it," Rena answers swiftly when she notices the hesitation in the girl’s voice.
"I want to," Yuki assures, now full of determination, "I know you’ve been avoiding the subject for weeks now and I want to make sure it’s not going to be a problem," she finishes, watching the older Matsui in apprehension.
"I wasn’t really trying to avoid the subject, I just didn’t know what to say," Rena admits, averting her eyes slightly in embarrassment, "I never noticed anything unusual between Mayu and you, and it really took me by surprise."
"I understand. After all, we are being very careful in public," Yuki nods.
"When did you realize she was more than a friend?" Rena asks, curious to know how it all started, and still a bit bothered by the fact she didn’t see anything. She always believed to be very observant.
"That’s a good question," Yuki answers, a bit surprised by the unusual blunt question, before thinking thoroughly, "Maybe when I started thinking way too much about her?" she chuckles, glancing at Mayu who’s drinking water and talking to the other members.
"I see," Rena smiles, following Yuki’s eyes on Mayu.
"It’s hard to say, but it’s probably a combination of many things. You care and get concerned for the person more than usual, and of course, your heart can’t stop fluttering when you look at her and when she touches you," Yuki murmurs, lifting her hand to the designated organ, "You just feel differently."
"Okay," Rena murmurs, wondering why Yuki’s words are ringing true to her ears.
"When she confessed the first time, I rejected her," Yuki whispers, sadness filling her heart just at the memory of Mayu’s pained eyes.
"Really? Why? You didn’t feel the same way?" Rena asks, surprised by this new piece of information.
"I did, but I was afraid of change. I treasured this beautiful friendship we had, and I thought it would be enough. I was wrong," Yuki answers, her mouth tugging into a smile at the memory of what happened next, "Does it answer your question?" she asks, noticing how the older Matsui seems lost in thoughts.
"Yes, thank you for sharing," Rena smiles.
"Don’t thank me. We’re friends," Yuki replies, before noticing the surprise in Rena’s eyes, "I mean, I think we are. We talk to each other quite often and I like you. Or am I going too fast?" she stammers, wondering if she has misinterpreted their relationship.
"No, you’re right. We are," Rena chuckles, amused by the girl’s sudden uneasiness.
"Thank God. I don’t know what I would have done if you said no," Yuki’s voice pitches up, releasing a deep sigh in relief.
"I’m sorry," Rena waves her hand in apology, before starting to laugh, "you’re really funny, Yuki."
"Thanks, I guess?" Yuki smiles, amused by the girl’s reaction, "Should we go and rehearse Tonari no Banana?” she suggests, noticing how Mayu and the other members are now leaving the room, leaving both girls alone.
"Yes," Rena answers, swiftly wiping the tears off her cheeks, "I’m ready," she assures, moving closer to the mirror.
"Okay," Yuki nods and prepares the CD player, the joyful music soon filling the air.
"Hello, Tokyo Dome," Jurina whispers as she stands at the front of the main stage of the baseball stadium. Her eyes scan the vast area of empty seats that will be filled with people in three hours, absently taking the microphone a staff member is giving her. Last time she set foot in a stadium it was in Nagoya, and she unfortunately wasn't able to perform since she fainted just before the beginning of the concert. Saying that she was frustrated missing it is an understatement. She was furious with herself for neglecting her health, forcing her to lay in bed when she could have been on stage enjoying herself.
As she didn't sleep so well last night she had small eyes when she woke up, and had done her best to contain her grumpiness all morning. When she made her way out of the hotel restaurant, she really wondered how she would be able to get through the day successfully. Thankfully, the effect of the coffee had finally done its job an hour later, and she is now more than eager to face the three-hours concert.
She isn't about to miss such an important event again. As it is an AKB concert, she has the opportunity to share the stage with people she doesn't sing with very often - friends who are dear to her heart - and she wants to make sure this evening stays engraved in her memory. As she's still gazing at the empty stadium she hears familiar footsteps approaching, and a loud voice suddenly interrupts her thoughts.
Jurina turns around to look at Mayu who's moving to the front stage and briefly shaking her head in disapproval at the younger girl, before lowering her eyes to the sheet in her hand. Lyrics leave her lips for a few seconds, before she sets the paper at her feet and takes the microphone off the stand in front of her.
"Ready?" Jurina inquires, amused by her best friend's serious attitude.
"Yes," the older girl assures, turning briefly to nod at a staff member, before locking eyes with Jurina, "let's do this."
The music of Temodemo no Namida fills the air during 3:35 min, the two members rehearsing the choreography and the song they both know well, as they already performed it a few times before. As the song comes to an end Jurina turns to her friend, satisfied, only to notice that Mayu is frowning at her.
"What is it?" she asks, surprised by the scolding look she's receiving, as she's pretty sure she didn't miss a step nor messed up the lyrics.
"The wink you give me after Konna ni suki demo," Mayu replies in annoyance, tapping her index on the sheet that's back in her hand, "It's not part of the choreography."
"Really?" Jurina arches an eyebrow, trying to hide her amusement as best she can, "What a shame."
"Jurina," Mayu growls at her friend's playfulness, "I'm glad you're finally awake, but it's not a funny song. You can't do that."
"Okay," Jurina answers, a soft chuckle escaping her lips, before realizing what Mayu just said, "so does it mean I could have winked at you if it was not a sad song?"
"Absolutely not," Mayu snorts, skeptically eying the younger girl who's moving closer, a mischievous smile on her lips.
"I'm so happy we're doing a duet," Jurina says, ignoring the girl's blunt reply, "it's been a while," she sighs, embracing the girl from behind and resting her chin on her shoulder, her eyes gazing at the rows of empty seats pensively.
"Jurina," Mayu exclaims, her body tensing up at the girl's unexpected action before quickly relaxing, "It has indeed," she whispers, enjoying - though she would never admit it - the girl's attention.
Their last duet suddenly flashes in Mayu's head and a small smile moves to her lips at the memory. Unfortunately, as Jurina now spends most of her time with the SKE group, they can't see each other as much as they used to a few years ago, and she feels a bit nostalgic of the good old days. She sometimes misses all the time they managed to spend together during the shooting of Majisuka Gakuen 2.
All of a sudden, she feels lips on her cheek and she comes out of her musing, tilting her head to stare at the girl who's grinning widely, clearly proud to have been able to steal a kiss from her pensive friend.
"Do you want to sing it a second time?" Jurina demands when she retreats back, trying hard not to laugh at the disapproving look she's getting.
"No, I think we're fine. Just remember to stick to the choreography," Mayu waves her index at her.
"I promise!" Jurina nods.
Mayu watches as Jurina leaves the main stage, and a groan leaves her lips when the girl turns around a last time to wink at her cheekily.
Yuka Nakanishi has a vague idea when this whole unfortunate thing started. It may have something to do with that day she casually suggested the dancing coach to make changes to one of their songs' choreography, and the woman immediately agreed to them. Now, each time the group has to rehearse a new concert they sometimes try to add a bit of originality to their choreographies, and her fellow members always turn to her, somehow expecting her to pull a brilliant idea out of her hat. Maybe she should had stuck to helping the younger members with their moves, and not opened her big mouth that day after all.
"The NMB girls will sing Teppen Tottande!, and then it's our turn with Kiss Datte Hidarikiki," the boyish girl comments, looking at the sheet in her hand, "maybe we can do something a bit different?"
You can almost hear a pin drop as the ten SKE members on stage are now suddenly very quiet, and the 25 year old girl sighs at her own question, knowing full well she's not going to get any help today again. She thinks thoroughly, and almost curses herself for suggesting such a thing as no idea comes to mind, when Jurina's voice breaks the silence.
"What if two other people do the final spin? It's always Rena and I, but we can change," the younger girl offers, not missing the subtle sound of surprise coming from the older Matsui on her left.
Yuka looks up at the ace's words, locking eyes with the confident girl instantly. She's a bit surprised by her suggestion but also can't help but feel relieved, as she was really running out of ideas.
"Jurina," Churi gasps, not believing her ears, knowing full well why her younger friend is suggesting such a thing, "that's not..."
"Do you want to do it with Rena, Churi?" Jurina cuts her off, "it wouldn't be the first time."
Despite Jurina's nonchalant tone, Churi can't help but notice the slight warning behind her words, effectively stopping any retort from leaving her lips.
"It's not a bad idea, but fans are still attached to WMatsui doing it," Yuka answers, before nodding as she gets a sudden idea, "maybe Rena could spin Jurina for a change?"
The older Matsui who's staring into space and still processing what Jurina said suddenly notices that all eyes are now set on her, and she tilts her head to Yuka who's waiting expectantly for her reply.
"Why not," she answers with a small nod, trying her best to compose herself despite her uneasiness. She's not stupid. She knows Jurina only suggested this adjustment to try and get out of an intimate situation with her.
When she feels a sudden pang in her heart she sighs, wishing Jurina could stop having such an effect on her. The younger girl has been avoiding her all day, and her words are a clear sign she's not about to stop her little game anytime soon. Saying that Jurina's actions are bothering her would be the understatement of the year.
"Okay, let's rehearse the song then," Yuka states, clapping into her hands, prompting the members to move to their respective places in an instant.
The rehearsal goes on smoothly until the last ten seconds when Rena makes the final spin, and her lips end up very far away from Jurina's. Of course, they are not supposed to kiss for real, but they still have to maintain the illusion of it. Somehow, Rena senses it's going to be hard to do the trick when Jurina purposely turns her head away way more than required.
Yuka, who has been checking the choreography from aside, raises a surprised eyebrow at the strange scene that has just unfolded in front of her. It's not unusual to witness Rena acting this way to make sure Jurina's lips don't inadvertently end up on hers. She did it a lot at first when the younger girl used to love trying to steal a kiss during their first performances of the song. But seeing the 'kissing monster' desperately trying to avoid a kiss? That's definitely a first.
"Do we need to rehearse the song again?" Yuka asks the two Matsui, immediately noticing that they are avoiding each other's eyes. Their uneasiness startles her but the short-haired girl still chooses to insist, as she's not one to stop rehearsing a choreography until it's fully mastered.
"No, it's okay," Rena answers, guessing by Jurina's behavior it's not going to change a thing anyway, "I'll manage fine."
"As you wish," Yuka says, not missing the small sigh of relief from Jurina. She doesn't know what's going on with these two, but it's really starting to disturb her, "the next song we need to rehearse is Oki Doki."
"Do I need to rehearse that?" Jurina asks, moving forward to take a doubtful peek at the sheet.
"You're right. You're not on Oki Doki as you're doing a duet with Mayu just after," Yuka nods, looking up, "you don't have any SKE songs to rehearse anymore. You're free to go."
"Okay," Jurina says, "then I'll leave you to it," she finishes, briefly waving at the members, before exiting the stage.
Rena follows Jurina's retreating form until she's out of view, wondering if her fight to reduce the distance between them proved to be in vain. Jurina clearly wants to impose it again, and the older Matsui is not sure anything she says or does will change anything. Does she even has the strength to continue fighting for their relationship? As much as it pains her to admit it, maybe Jurina was right that day. Maybe it's really the end of WMatsui.
Airi lays down on the floor, shutting her eyes and placing her hand over her now racing heart. Oki Doki is a really tiring song to dance, and she always feels some apprehension when she knows they have to perform it, as she fears the immediate lack of energy that follows. Thankfully, as it's an AKB concert tonight, the SKE members don't perform too many songs. That's a small consolation.
Tilting her head to her right, she watches Churi who's sitting by her side and gazing at the now dark stadium. She knows her friend always loved that song, but it always impresses her when she manages to get through the choreography without breaking a sweat. How does she manage such an exploit? That's a mystery she still hasn't unraveled.
"I don't know how you can always be so energetic on that song," Airi comments, still trying hard to catch her breath.
"I can't help it. I love it," Churi smiles, her breathing so constant you wouldn't believe she just danced during almost five minutes.
Airi sits up and watches as the other SKE members leave the stage. She grasps the bottle of water in front of her and takes a sip, her eyes then wandering around the still empty stadium. Her thoughts then drift to Rena, and she frowns as she remembers what happened during the Kiss Datte Hidarikiki rehearsal.
"Is it me, or Jurina is having an odd behavior today?" Airi asks, immediately noticing how Churi freezes at her question.
Silence engulfs them as Churi chooses to stay quiet for a while, and Airi really believes her question is going to stay unanswered until Churi speaks up.
"She's clearly avoiding Rena," Airi comments, before remembering what happened last night, "Why did she ask to switch rooms if she didn't want to stay with Rena in the first place?" she asks, hoping to finally get an explanation to the ace's strange behavior.
"It's not her fault. I'm the one who asked to switch rooms," Churi replies, a small sigh leaving her lips at her terrible idea.
"Why did you do that?" Airi gasps, not believing the girl's action. Obviously, Jurina did not want to share a room with the older Matsui that night, so why did she pull such a stunt?
"I... messed up," Churi whispers, remembering the painful confrontation with the younger SKE member that followed Airi's departure. That's not something she ever wants to go through again.
"Sometimes, I just don't get Jurina. She made Rena pretty upset, and it's not the first time. I know she's your friend, but what is wrong with her?" Airi hisses. She knows her irritation is really showing but she can't help it as Rena's pained expression flows her mind.
"Don't be so hard on her. She's not in her right mind," Churi protests.
"So you know something. What is it?" Airi asks, surprised by the angry stare she's getting.
Churi's gaze progressively softens as she notices her friend's clueless look. A part of her really wants to confide in her, but another knows she just can't.
"I'm sorry. Jurina was already mad enough at me yesterday. If she learns that I betrayed her confidence...", Churi sighs, already imagining the girl's wrath if a single word inadvertently escaped her lips.
"I don't understand," Airi protests, clearly frustrated to be kept in the dark.
"Airin, please. Don't insist," Churi pleads.
"Fine," Airi sighs, ruffling her hair in frustration at Churi's refusal to cooperate.
Both girls suddenly divert their attention to the stadium when they hear small droplets of water falling.
"That was not planned," Airi states, bothered by this unexpected turn of events. She can't help but dread the three-hours concert, knowing full well nothing ever goes as planned when bad weather is involved. She still remembers vividly the last time they had to sing under the rain. It's not her best memory.
The 28 year old girl releases a small sigh of relief as she spots the backstage entrance. There was a bit of traffic when she left her apartment, and for a minute, she really wondered if she would make it in time. Glancing at her watch, she notices she still has half an hour until the beginning of the concert, and she pushes the door once the guards have checked her identity.
As soon as she steps in, a few heads turn around to look at her. Conversations stop on her way and the younger members nod respectfully at her, whereas the older ones greet her. It's really unusual to see the stylish short-haired girl at a AKB concert - as she's not a member of the group anymore - and she can't help but smile in amusement at all the surprised looks she gets.
Her phone suddenly rings and she pauses, curiously rummaging through her handbag. She lets out a small chuckle as she reads the short text she just received, immediately replying to it. According to all the exclamation marks in it, someone is really eager to see her. She can't really blame the younger girl. It's already been more than three months since she saw her favorite SKE member, and she's part of the reason why she decided to participate in this event, even if it's just for one song. As much as she loves modeling, she sometimes misses her fellow AKB members.
As she pushes the dressing room's door she waves at a few members in the corridor, before stepping in the empty room and spotting the familiar Plastic no Kuchibiru outfit that's waiting for her. Taking her coat off and leaving her bag aside, her fingers graze the costume a few seconds later, her mouth instantly tugging into a small smile. Lost in her musing, she doesn't hear footsteps quickly approaching behind her, and jumps when she feels someone encircling her waist. As slender long fingers come into view and a head leans against her back she relaxes, knowing full well who the affectionate girl is.
"Jurina," she exclaims, squeezing the hands that are tightening around her waist, "how are you?"
"I'm fine," the SKE member replies, a smile moving to her lips as she relishes the older girl's presence, "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Mariko murmurs, disentangling herself from the embrace to face the girl and caress her cheek, "you're sure you can go through a three-hours concert?" she asks, gazing worriedly at her ankle.
"Yes, it's fully healed," Jurina insists, shutting her eyes as she enjoys the soft touch, before raising an amused eyebrow, "do you have a spy in SKE? I don't remember mentioning my small injury to you."
"Pretty much the whole country knows it when you take a week break," Mariko answers, chuckling when her friend rolls her eyes, "I read it on Rena's Google+. Jurina this, Jurina that. This girl likes you a lot."
"Really?" Jurina exclaims. She knows the older Matsui updates her blog a lot, but as she doesn't check it very often, Mariko's words surprise her. Does she really mention her that much?
"I'm glad you told her," Mariko murmurs, proud her younger friend has followed her advice. She really wasn't sure she would, knowing how unsure she was feeling about a confession.
"What?" Jurina asks, puzzled, until realization hits her and she averts her eyes sheepishly.
"Wait... You haven't told her you how you feel?" Mariko gasps.
"I tried!" Jurina exclaims, before pausing when she realizes her voice inadvertently pitched up in frustration. She tries to compose herself and waits until she knows she's more calm to continue, "When you left, I was going to tell her..." her voice trails off, sighing when the scene flashes in her head. It's already been three months, but she still remembers this moment as if it was yesterday. And it still hurts as much.
"And?" Mariko pushes.
"Just as I was about to confess, she told me I was like a little sister to her," Jurina replies, feeling her own voice breaking at the admission.
"Jurina," Mariko murmurs, gently wrapping her arms around the girl's waist and tightening her embrace when she feels the slight tremble of the body against her.
"I know you were trying to help, and I don't blame you for trying," Jurina continues, leaning her head against the girl's shoulder, trying to get as much comfort as she can, as the painful reality leave her lips, "but that's all I'll ever be to her."
"I'm sorry..." Mariko's voice trails off, suddenly feeling a bit guilty for giving the girl false hopes. Somehow, she really believed Jurina had a chance. Did she really misinterpret Rena's attitude?
The heavy moment suddenly gets interrupted when Sae suddenly barges in a few minutes later, her eyes wandering around the room as if she's searching for something, until they fall on the two girls.
"It's pouring hard," she warns, a grimace moving to her lips, "brace yourselves, this concert is going to be a nightmare," she grumbles, before exiting the room, sighing in frustration as she obviously hasn't found what she was desperately looking for.
"Thank you, Mariko," Jurina says, a playful smile moving to her lips as she retreats back from the older girl's embrace, "you had to bring us the rain."
"I did no such thing," Mariko chuckles, slapping the cheeky girl's arm, before ruffling her hair in amusement, glad to see the light back in her eyes, "come on, we have a concert to attend."
When Rena woke up this morning, she promised herself to forget about her complicated relationship with Jurina for one day. That wasn't too much to ask, was it? Apparently yes, as she hasn't stopped thinking about the girl all day. Not even for one minute. The younger girl's distant behavior should have helped her focus on the concert's preparations, but it had made things worse. The Kiss Datte Hidarikiki suggestion had been the icing on the cake.
Just after the Oki Doki performance, a staff member had asked Rena to tell Jurina she was needed on stage for a last minute sound check, and she had agreed to share the information if she ever encountered the younger girl on her path. She had looked for her for a bit, before giving up when she was nowhere to be found.
Now, as she knows the concert will soon begin, she makes her way to the dressing room to get dressed for the first concert's song, River. She wants to convince herself she's finally going to be able to let her worries aside to fully focus on the concert. Her fingers are about to turn the door handle when she hears Jurina's voice on the other side and she pauses. As she listens a bit, she finally recognizes the other girl she's speaking with and she smiles, imagining how ecstatic the younger SKE member must be to be seeing Mariko.
Rena slowly releases the door handle, now hesitating to come in. Somehow, she feels Jurina's smile would falter immediately if she entered the room, and she doesn't want to interrupt such a happy reunion. As she ponders coming back in a few minutes, she can't help but catch a bit of their conversation, and she widens her eyes at Mariko's sudden outburst.
What is she talking about?
She starts feeling dizzy as Jurina's retort follows immediately. Hospital. Little sister. Why do her words sound so familiar? Her heart starts racing as the younger girl's words flow through her. She just got the missing piece of the puzzle. Now she finally knows why Jurina has been behaving oddly all these months and desperately trying to distant herself from her. That day, at the hospital, she had deeply hurt the younger girl just as she was about to say something very important.
As Jurina pronounces her last words, Rena can't help but shake her head in disapproval. She clumsily takes a step back and leans against the wall behind her, knowing she has heard enough. She listens to her heart that's hammering so much inside her chest it's starting to really hurt, until her breathing suddenly hitches as realization hits her. A lonely tear soon grazes her cheek and she immediately shuts her eyes, in a mix of frustration and sadness, until a faint whisper leaves her lips, "You're wrong, Jurina."
Rena was a lonely and introvert girl. She never talked much, and always tried to stay away from over-enthusiastic girls and childish activities. To some, she seemed a bit cold. To others, a girl in her own little world. Somehow, she always believed it was that particular distance that helped her see things others didn't. When a fellow member was going through a rough time, she was here to listen. When a new girl was struggling to fit in, she tried to help with encouraging words. Sometimes, she cursed her shy behavior for preventing her to do more. However, one thing was sure: she never stopped caring for her fellow members, even if she didn't always show it openly like others.
Really few people were close enough to Rena to pretend to know the real her. There was Airi, the only member she shared everything with, and her best friend in the world. And there was Jurina. The seventeen year old girl who shared the same surname.
Six years. She had spent six years alongside the young member. She had seen her growing in front of her eyes, from the cheerful and cute little kid, to the energetic and confident teenager. After all that time, she took pride in thinking she knew her by heart, that nothing she would do or say could surprise her anymore. This incident during the shooting of Majisuka Gakuen 4 had proved her wrong.
For the first time, Rena discovered she didn't know the girl as much as she thought. Jurina had changed. She was trying to distance herself from her, something she had never done before. Why? The more she saw the girl acting this way, the more she tried to fight against it. It's as if this new unusual behavior had triggered something within the older Matsui. She just knew she couldn't let that happen, despite the reason remaining unclear at the time.
And then, there was Akane. Rena had witnessed in front of her eyes how these two people - who didn't speak much before - had grown closer day by day, until their relationship blossomed into something really strong. Jurina wasn't acting like her usual self with her. It was common knowledge she loved to fool around with other members, especially the younger ones as Ryoha, but there was something different with Akane. There was a deep affectionate bond between them that had unexpectedly provoked that knot in Rena's stomach on Airi's birthday, when she saw Jurina and Akane kissing. An uneasy and unknown feeling that resurfaced each time she saw them together and just refused to leave her, despite how much she tried to fight against it.
Now, after hearing Jurina's words, everything suddenly made sense. In the blink of an eye, she could understand both Jurina's behavior and her own. She felt frustrated, annoyed and stupid. She always believed to be very observant but it obviously wasn't true, as she had missed out everything. What happened to her? Why didn't she see what was going on right under her nose? How could she be so blind?
A small smile had finally grazed her lips as she finally had the answer to her questions. She felt relieved and for a second happy, until last night's conversation emerged in her head and realization hit her. I'm trying to move on! Jurina had exclaimed. Rena didn't understand what she meant by that at the time, but now it was crystal clear. Jurina was so convinced she saw her as a little sister that she was burying her true feelings and letting her go.
"What am I going to do?" Rena whispers, staring wide-eyed at the dressing room's door in front of her. Despair suddenly takes hold of her as she's afraid she may have been a bit too late in realizing the truth. Is it already over? Has she lost her for good? She is trying to stay hopeful, but Jurina's recent behavior is not helping. On the contrary, it is telling her something she doesn't like one bit: her blindness may have cost her everything.
A noise suddenly catches Rena's attention and she tilts her head to her left, watching as a fast-approaching Sae makes her way in the quiet hallway. Wiping off her silent tears, Rena pushes herself from the wall and tries to compose herself, despite her heart still aching at the idea of what she may have lost.
The twenty four year old girl is at the dressing room in no time and she halts, catching her breath a bit, before turning her attention to Rena who's standing next to the door.
"Hi Rena. We're really unfortunate today. The concert will start in twenty minutes, and it's bucketing down."
"Really?" Rena exclaims. She had noticed small droplets of water when she left the stage a few minutes ago, but she truly believed it wouldn't escalate more than that.
"Yes. Let's hope it won't last," the tomboy mutters, ruffling her hair in frustration.
"You seem bothered by something else," Rena states, somehow guessing by the older girl's body language that there's more to it.
"I can't manage to find my phone. I was sure it was in my bag, but...," Sae's voice trails off, before a familiar face flashes in her mind and a small smile grazes her lips, "if Yuko was still here, I would believe she was playing a prank on me."
"You miss her," Rena affirms, noticing how Sae's voice suddenly softened at the mention of the girl.
"I do. Sometimes, I wonder what I'm still doing here," Sae sighs, leaning against the wall and averting her eyes. It's already been eight months since her friend's graduation, but she still feels a void in her heart due to the girl's absence. "There are people who shine so brightly, you just can't take your eyes off them. I believe Yuko was one of them. She was the light of AKB, and a bit mine as well."
"I understand," Rena nods, a faint smile moving to her lips, "more than you think."
Sae tilts her head to gaze at Rena, surprised by the enigmatic words. She's about to question her when she suddenly remembers why she came here, and she swiftly moves away from the wall.
"Anyway, I wanted to check if I didn't leave it in the dressing room," she says, motioning to the closed door and ready to grab the handle, before curiously turning to Rena, "you're not coming?"
"In... a minute."
Sae notices the hesitation in the girl's voice but chooses not to insist, instead shooting her a small smile and eagerly entering the dressing room. Rena exhales deeply as she ponders following the girl's steps, until she catches from the corner of her eyes a new wave of members approaching at the end of the hallway. A few seconds later Sae is already out and gone, and Rena stares pensively at the door, until she jumps when she hears a familiar voice calling her.
"Rena! Ready for River?"
Rena turns around to gaze at a smiling Yuki and she nods, following the group of members who's entering the dressing room to get prepared for the first song of the evening.
Mayu Watanabe moves forward and expectantly waits for the staff member's signal, before approaching her lips to the mic.
"Mayu Watanabe speaking. Thank you for coming to the AKB48 Tokyo Dome 2015 concert. The concert will start in a few minutes. I hope you'll have a great evening. Let's do our best despite the unfortunate bad weather!"
The young girl takes a step back when she's done with the announcement, her lips twitching in annoyance as she hears the rain pouring hard in the stadium, the audience's cheers barely covering up the sound.
"Mayu, why did you say that. It's just rain, how bad can it be?" Yuki says, rolling her eyes at the girl's unexpected last words.
"I hate rain. It always messes my bangs," Mayu retorts.
"I admire your optimism, Yuki, but last time it rained, I almost tripped on stage," Jurina chimes in, remembering all too well the recent Kiss Datte Hidarikiki incident. She surely doesn't want such a thing to happen again, especially not on that song.
"You girls are so alike. No wonder why you're best friends," Yuki murmurs, shaking her head in disbelief at the girls' negativity.
"It's a shame it was too late to cancel the whole thing," Mayu sighs.
A staff member suddenly warns them the concert is about to begin and the girls move forward, the stage soon coming into view. Jurina takes a peek behind her at the members who are waiting in line, her eyes soon falling on Rena who's busy adjusting her in-ears. As if she could feel someone staring at her Rena suddenly looks up and briefly meets Jurina's eyes, before the younger girl diverts her attention to the stage again. A small sigh escapes Jurina's lips as she tries to focus on the concert, worry washing her as she watches the rain pouring hard outside.
"Don't worry, I'm sure everything will be fine," a smiling Yuki tries to comfort her as if she could read her mind and Jurina returns the gesture, despite the uneasiness filling her chest.
The audience suddenly gets quiet as the short video presentation gets projected on the main screen. Jurina can feel the tension building up inside her as she hears the seconds ticking in her head. In two minutes the video will be over, and the music of River will resonate in the stadium.
Twenty minutes. She never had so much time to change into a new outfit. Mayu takes the pink dress from the coat-hanger and starts to get ready for Temo demo no Namida, stealing glances now and then at Jurina who's putting on her costume by her side. Mayu may be the most popular member in AKB and get pretty much everything she wants, that dark blue suit is still out of reach for her tonight. Unfortunately, she often wears very childish clothes when she performs a solo or duets on stage, and she sometimes wishes the wardrobe department would stop seeing her as the perfect little girl. Why can't she wear more masculine clothes like Jurina? That's not something she's really proud of, but right now, she's really envying her best friend.
"Why are you the one playing the role of the boy?" Mayu mutters, finally voicing out loud her annoyance.
"Maybe because I look good in a suit?" Jurina suggests, an amused smile grazing her lips as she buttons her shirt, checking herself in the mirror.
"Right. And all those danso I've done count for nothing," Mayu groans, crossing her arms over her chest in disagreement.
"Don't be jealous, I'm sure your time will come," Jurina chuckles, now tilting her head to observe her, "And you're so cute with bunches."
"Sometimes, I think you're worse than Yuki. Your obsession with my bunches is becoming a bit disturbing," Mayu comments, before taking a step back when Jurina tries to grasp one of them.
Both girls' attention gets distracted when the dressing room's door suddenly opens and members enter, Yuki and Rena among them. As Yuki spots the two friends she swiftly approaches, her eyes roaming over the now fully dressed Mayu.
"Mayu," she murmurs, her fingers grazing her pink dress in appreciation, before caressing her bunches and kissing her nose, "you're beautiful."
Mayu momentarily stays speechless as she watches the older girl, not expecting the display of affection and kind words. It's not unusual to see Yuki being affectionate towards her in front of other members, but as they have an agreement to keep a low profile in public, it never exceeds the simple hug or kiss on the cheek. This is clearly more intimate.
"Thank you," Mayu says after a while, before noticing that Jurina is grinning at her, and she clears her throat, her attention back on Yuki, "Coming to get dressed?"
"Well, yes," Yuki answers, taking a step back and turning to Rena who's been standing behind her and watching them the whole time, "Our duet is just after yours."
After that, Yuki and Rena go and get changed a bit further away, while Jurina finishes buttoning her shirt, stealing glances now and then at the two girls who are engrossed in a conversation.
"Stop looking at her and focus on what you're doing."
"I'm not..." Jurina starts, before noticing Mayu's smirk, and rolling her eyes at the girl's behavior, "I don't even know why I bother to reply."
"Me neither. Especially when you know I'm right," Mayu retorts, "Anyway, what's happening between you two? You've been avoiding her all day. I thought you guys were doing great."
"Are we really going to have that conversation now?" Jurina stresses, not believing Mayu is bringing up such a subject, "and why do you think that anyway?"
"You seemed close during New Year's Eve. I saw you two sleeping together," Mayu murmurs, a mischievous smile on her lips.
"You saw that?" Jurina exclaims in surprise, before sighing, "Things have changed since. Trust me, that's never going to happen again."
Mayu watches her friend carefully, expecting her to elaborate, and releases a sigh when it doesn't happen.
"Your knot is crooked," she comments, raising an eyebrow at Jurina's awful work.
"Really?" Jurina exclaims, clumsily fumbling with the knot, and exhaling deeply in frustration when she messes it up a second time.
"Stop the carnage," Mayu says, rolling her eyes at her best friend's omnipotence, "I'll do it."
Mayu swiftly undoes the tie and starts to carefully do it again, before halting midway. Jurina lowers her eyes and immediately frowns at her action.
"What is it?"
"I can't do it," Mayu answers, turning to Rena who's busy zipping Yuki's dress, "Rena? Can you please help Jurina when you're done? I can't manage to tie her knot properly."
Rena looks up at Mayu's request in surprise, immediately noticing how Jurina is averting her gaze nervously, while Mayu embodies calm itself.
A smile grazes Mayu's lips as she turns around to look at Jurina, trying hard not to laugh at the scolding look she's receiving.
"Mayu," Jurina hisses, getting close to the girl to make sure Rena can't catch what she says, "What are you doing? You promised you wouldn't meddle anymore."
"Did I?" the shorter girl answers, widening her eyes in surprise, "I don't remember."
Mayu can almost feel Jurina shooting daggers at her as she turns around and moves to the door, her mouth tugging into a smirk as she grabs the handle and makes her way out.
Jurina stays still for a few seconds as she stares speechless at the closed door, not believing her best friend pulled such a stunt. Again. Her fingers get back in action as she desperately tries to make the knot, but her agitation coupled with her inability to make a proper one only make things worse. A defeated sigh leaves her lips as she stares at herself in the mirror and at her horrible work. At the sound of a soft chuckle she tilts her head, watching as Rena approaches her fingers to the object of Jurina's nightmare.
"You've reached a new level here, Jurina," Rena murmurs, her digits carefully undoing the tie, while trying hard not to laugh more than she already is.
Rena's expert hands do their magic while Jurina releases a small sigh, half in annoyance at her own omnipotence, and half in relief at the welcomed help. Jurina sees an hairbrush that's laying on a table and she decides to stare at it, not willing to let her gaze fall on the older girl in front of her. As time goes by, Jurina can't help but notice that Rena is really taking her time. Usually, it would be over in five seconds, but almost thirty seconds have passed and she still hasn't finished. Slightly looking down, she watches the hands that are moving slower than usual, confirming what she's been thinking. A bit surprised by the girl's behavior she diverts her attention from her moving hands to look at her. Her current nervousness contrasts with Rena's focused and calm expression. As her eyes fall on her lips she notices how Rena's previous amused smile has transformed into something else, almost as if she's enjoying performing such a simple act as tying a knot. Rena's hands suddenly stop from moving and she diverts her attention from the tie to look at Jurina's costume, her hand lightly caressing her left shoulder before taking a step back.
"There. You're perfect."
Jurina comes out of her musing and she tilts her head to the mirror to check her tie, admiring Rena's impeccable work. As she turns around to thank Rena her shy smile unsettles her, and words stay stuck in her mouth when the older girl turns on her heels.
Yuki watches as the two friends perform Temo demo no namida on stage under a still heavy rain. She knows her girlfriend must be screaming internally as the rain messes up her hair that she took so long to brush and prepare for today's concert. The shorter girl has always been a bit obsessed with her hair, especially her precious bangs, but isn't the case of most of the girls in the group anyway? To idols, appearances are everything. Some take great pride in having a perfect makeup, others work hard on their hairstyle. Yuki would lie if she said these things weren't important to her, but she didn't believe to be as obsessed with it as some of the members were. She never understood those who stayed hours in front of the mirror when their perfect hair would be disheveled during the performance anyway.
Diverting her attention to Jurina, she can't help but be impressed by how good-looking she is in that dark blue suit. Ever since she was a kid, she always had a boyish side, and this costume truly brings out that aspect. The whole idea behind this duet was to make the audience believe they were seeing a couple on stage, and Yuki has to admit the illusion is perfect. With Jurina's blue masculine costume and Mayu's pink feminine dress, they really complete each other.
Lost in her musing, she almost forgot she was not alone, and she tilts her head to Rena who's watching the performance by her side. Yuki's eyes widen as she observes a sudden sparkle in her friend's eyes. The older Matsui is glued on the performance and something tells Yuki it's not Mayu she's truly watching. Mayu's words uttered during New Year's Eve suddenly resurface and she can't help but disagree. Rena may indeed be hard to read most of the time, her affection for the young SKE member is anything by subtle. She knows she shouldn't be prying, especially when she reprimanded Mayu for trying to meddle in Jurina's affairs, but as she watches Rena's intense expression, she can't help the words from leaving her lips.
"Jurina is really handsome in this dark blue suit, isn't she?"
Rena, momentarily taken aback by Yuki's comments tilts her head to look at her, before nodding.
Silence engulfs the two friends as they silently follow the performance, until Yuki turns around to Rena again.
"What is she to you?"
"Jurina. I know you two are close but, I always wondered... how do you see her? As a little sister? As a friend?"
Rena's whole body stills and her smile falters at Yuki's unexpected and bold question. It's true that Yuki and her have become closer since Christmas, but her relationship with Jurina has never been mentioned once during their conversations. She can feel Yuki staring at her and expectantly waiting for a reply but she chooses to remain quiet for a while, truly thinking about Yuki's words. A few months ago, her response would have been evident, now it was clear she couldn't say the same thing. So much had happened in a few months but above all, she had changed. She didn't look at Jurina the way she used to.
"No. She's much more than that."
A sigh of relief escapes Yuki's lips at Rena's reply. Now she doesn't feel so guilty for prying as she realizes her intuition has been right.
"Well, make sure you tell her, okay? We often take people for granted and forget to tell them how much they really mean to us."
Rena turns to look at Yuki, a small smile grazing her lips at her friend's advice.
Kiss Datte Hidarikiki has always been one of the SKE's songs Rena dreads the most to perform. Of course, there are more challenging songs like the very tiring Oki Doki, but she always feels a slight apprehension when she discovers this particular one is on the tracklist. She always wondered what crossed the director's mind when he decided to add that kiss at the end of the videoclip. It came out of nowhere and made no sense whatsoever, but no one dared to contradict him. If someone had asked for her opinion, she would immediately have disagreed. Unfortunately, no one ever bothered to ask for it, and so she had no choice but to deal with that unexpected decision.
She still remembers vividly the first time they were taught the kiss would be added to the performance's choreography. Whereas she was mentally cursing the choreographer for her terrible idea, Jurina was smiling like an idiot as if she had been promised a whole day in a candy store. Rena immediately knew this song would be a nightmare to perform.
Despite how many times they rehearsed it, they always managed to mess up the last ten seconds. Jurina's lips never ended where they were supposed to: on her cheek, a few inches from her lips, near her ear... it was all over the place. Jurina even managed to steal a kiss a few times, but Rena's immediate wrath had taught her it was definitely a bad idea, and she had cautiously decided to not retaliate. Until a month ago.
At first, Rena believed it was seeing how Jurina was truly remorseful about it that prevented her to get mad at her. Now, she was not so sure it was the only reason, especially when she couldn't stop reliving the kiss in her head days after the incident occurred, and kept staring at the younger girl's lips at the hospital. In fact, for the first time, she did not mind the kiss. Quite the contrary.
Rena comes out of her musing as a staff member warns the ten SKE members the performance on the main stage is about to end and it's going to be their turn. She lifts her gaze to watch the girls who are energetically dancing on Teppen Tottande!, before following the staff member who's leading them to the secondary stage, built for the occasion at the end of the stadium. When it comes into view a small sigh of relief leaves her lips as she notices that it's not raining anymore.
The light is still on Sayaka and the other NMB members when Rena gets on stage with her fellow SKE members. The audience is still watching the main stage's performance as she takes position by Jurina's side and she slightly turns to look at her. Jurina is adjusting her mic, with a seriousness that never stops to amaze her. Even if Jurina loves to fool around at every given opportunity, may it be when she flirts with other girls in the dressing room or when she tells jokes during MC's and television programs, there's no one more focused than her when it comes to performances. It's as if she has a switch that enables her to change mood in an instant.
Teppen Tottande! finally comes to an end, and the light is now on them as the first notes of Kiss Datte Hidarikiki resonate. This is it. The last SKE performance of the day has begun. Even if it has stopped raining, the floor is still awfully slippery, and Rena has to muster all her willpower to not let her worry show every time her feet miss their right spot. It's quite subtle and she knows the audience probably hasn't noticed anything - her smile is impeccable after all - but she's still eager for the performance to finish.
The song suddenly seems incredibly long as she tries to focus on the lyrics and not on her insanely slippery boots. She almost wants to sigh in relief when she hears the last notes. Finally. Her nightmare is over. Her hand catches Jurina's for the infamous last moment of the choreography and their eyes briefly meet, Rena not missing the slight apprehension in Jurina's. The spin is perfect and Rena places her hand at the back of Jurina's head, slightly turning it before approaching her lips from their target.
She knows the illusion is perfect as she immediately feels the girl's breath on her. Their lips are just few inches apart and Rena has to restrain herself from closing that small distance.
It's not like it would be the first time they kissed on stage. Despite Rena's best efforts, the mischievous young girl has - a few rare times - managed to have it her way. She even stole her precious first kiss.
However, now it's different. As much as she feels the need to prove the young ace that she is wrong, that she certainly doesn't see her as a little sister, she knows it's neither the time nor the place for such a display of affection. If they have to kiss, she doesn't want to use a choreography as an excuse. She wants it to happen because they both really want it.
The focus switches from the SKE members to the main stage as Bird suddenly starts, and Jurina swiftly retreats back, Rena feeling a pang in her chest as the younger girl avoids eye contact. The older Matsui silently follows the members who are swiftly descending the stairs, suddenly wondering how on earth she's going to manage to express her feelings to a girl who's been avoiding her all day long and who, apparently, has no intention on stopping.
She's in the middle of the stairs when she suddenly feels her feet losing their adherence and she misses a step. After a three-hours concert free from any incident, it seems the rain has finally decided to play tricks on her. Her hand desperately tries to grip something to stop her imminent fall, but there's unfortunately no ramp to catch. Just as she's about to plunge she feels a strong hand on her arm, effectively stabilizing her. She exhales in relief as she regains balance, knowing she just avoided an accident. Who knows how bad she could have hurt herself? Just as she's about to turn around to thank her savior, a familiar face quickly comes into view.
"Are you alright?"
Rena's eyes widen at the sight of the young ace who's still gripping her arm and looking at her intensely.
"Yes. Thank you, Jurina."
Jurina slowly retracts her hand, not before visually checking the girl for any potential injury.
When Jurina releases a small sigh of relief, Rena's heart immediately warms up. Jurina has been giving her the cold shoulder all day long, and the true show of concern she just witnessed in her eyes tells her it may not be too late, after all. That's it, she made her decision. After the concert, she's going to have a talk with her. A very serious one.
Churi is brushing her teeth when she hears the first knock. Halting, she stares at her reflection in the mirror in surprise, before immediately resuming, somehow believing the intruder will be patient enough to let her finish. She can't be more wrong. A second knock comes merely two seconds later, followed by another third determined one. Whoever is on the other side of the door is really desperate to come in which is a bit strange, considering she isn't expecting anyone tonight.
"I'm coming!" she grumbles, rinsing her mouth in a hurry and quickly moving to the door. Whoever it may be better have a good excuse to be disturbing her in her daily routine.
Churi's features contort in surprise as she notices the girl on the other side. Rena is the last person she expected to be knocking on her hotel room's door, especially at such a time of the day. To top it all, she's looking at her straight in the eyes, and not averting her gaze as she's been doing for months now. This evening couldn't be more strange.
"Hi Akane. Is Jurina here?"
"Jurina?" Churi says, raising an eyebrow at the curious request, "No, she already left for Nagoya."
"She left?" Rena's voice pitches up. Weren't the SKE members supposed to leave tomorrow morning?
"Yes. She has an interview tomorrow first thing in the morning, and had to leave beforehand."
"Oh," Rena murmurs, frustrated she wasn't aware of that. Now she has to wait a whole week to speak with Jurina, as she unfortunately has to stay in Tokyo for Nogizaka46 related work, "I see."
Churi immediately notices Rena's disappointment. She knows Jurina has been avoiding her all day long and even acted a bit cold towards her a few times, so it surprises her that Rena would want to speak with her. What is she suddenly so desperate to tell her?
"It may not be too late to catch her. She left a minute ago to take a taxi."
Churi almost wants to laugh as Rena's eyes light up immediately. She never saw someone's expression change so fast. Rena abruptly turns on her heels and starts moving fast towards the elevator, before she suddenly halts and makes her way back to the door.
"Thank you, Akane."
The smile she gives her is so genuine, that Akane can't help but return it. She doesn't know what suddenly got into her, but she really prefers this Rena to the one who's been avoiding her for months.
Rena tries to catch her breath as her eyes scan the dark street in front of the hotel. As she suddenly sees the row of taxis at the end of the street she moves forward, until she feels small droplets of water wetting her face. It had stopped raining an hour ago, but apparently, it was only a short respite. Rena briefly ponders going back to the hotel to fetch an umbrella, before thinking against it. She really wants to speak with Jurina before she leaves, and she's not going to let that unexpected turn of events distract her from her objective.
That's when she spots a familiar silhouette. That's her, Rena muses, unconsciously speeding up as she sees the girl getting in a taxi. She mentally curses her non-athletic body as her feet don't seem to be moving fast enough, and realization hits her as the car starts to turn. She's never going to be able to make it in time.
A faint whisper leaves her lips as she halts and watches the taxi driving away. The rain is now pouring harder than it was a few minutes before but she ignores it, staring helplessly at the car that's taking away the object of her affection.
The way back to her hotel room has never been so long. As each step Rena takes, her feet keep getting heavier and heavier, and she constantly has to fight back tears from falling at the memory of her missed encounter with Jurina. She really wanted to talk to her before she left, but she had failed miserably. Was it a sign that it wasn't supposed to happen? She really hoped not. A week can seem pretty short, but she knows a lot can happen in such an amount of time. She's also very aware that the more she delays her conversation with Jurina, the more she takes the risk of being too late.
Clumsily opening the door, she switches the light on - guessing Airi is still not here - and enters the bathroom, leaving her coat to dry on the side of the bath, before grabbing the hairdryer. A few minutes later she goes and sit on the side of her bed, her fingers absently rummaging through her bag as she grabs her IPod. Laying against the headboard she shuts her eyes, listening to her favorite band, Dreams come True. She really wants to get her mind off the younger girl for the evening, as she knows she'll never be able to sleep otherwise. She's so focused on the music that she doesn't hear the door opening fifteen minutes later, and she jumps when a hand touches her shoulder.
"Airin!" Rena shrieks, staring in shock at the girl, and placing her palm over her beating heart.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"It's... okay," Rena waves a reassuring hand and attempts a smile, that unfortunately doesn't quite reach her lips.
Airi makes her way around the bed and goes to sit near her friend, a small sigh escaping her lips as her sore body comes in contact with the soft mattress.
"What are you listening to?" Airi asks.
Rena takes out her right earpiece and gives it to her, the music of Love Love Love soon filling Airi's ear.
"This song is so depressing," Airi comments.
"I love it. Why do you think that?" Rena inquires.
"She should have the courage to tell him how she feels," Airi replies.
Rena turns to look at her, watching as Airi raises the pillow behind her head to try and get more comfortable.
"I know," Rena murmurs, now staring absently at the ceiling while sadness fills her chest as the lyrics ring so close to home, "I was going to tell her."
"Tell who what?"
Rena's breathing hitches when she realizes she unconsciously voiced that last part out loud and she nibbles on her lower lip, pondering sharing with her best friend to what realization she finally came today, when Airi interrupts her musing.
"So it's true. You have feelings for Jurina."
Rena tilts her head and stares speechless at her, noticing how calm the girl looks despite her bold statement. Taking her earpiece out she stops the music, before opening her mouth when she finally regains a bit of composure.
"How... do you know?"
"You both have been acting really strange for a while now, and I knew something was going on. I just couldn't pinpoint exactly what," Airi explains, noticing how Rena is watching her intently, "And then there was last night's incident, and Churi's desperate wish to protect Jurina's secret. I just had to connect the dots to understand Jurina had feelings for you, and that it probably wasn't one-sided."
"Okay," Rena trails off, surprised her best friend was able to come to such a realization so fast, when it took her so long to admit it.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Airi asks, her tone rising slightly in frustration, "I thought we shared everything."
"Maybe because I was not aware of it until today?" Rena chuckles bitterly, before remembering Jurina's behavior, "Jurina had feelings for me for months, and she never said anything! Can you believe it?"
"Actually I can," Airi whispers, "it's hard to confess, especially when you don't know how the other person is going to respond."
"I'm sorry," Rena answers, lifting her hand to softly caress Airi's shoulder as she suddenly remembers her best friend's bold confession, and her rejection to it. She still sometimes feels terrible about it.
"Why are you apologizing?" Airi exclaims, widening her eyes in surprise.
"I know I hurt you deeply that day," Rena murmurs, tilting her gaze to the side in shame.
"Don't think about it anymore," Airi answers, catching the hand that's leaving her shoulder, and giving it a light squeeze, before asking, "Anyway, when are you going to talk to her?"
"I was about to when she already left," Rena responds, feeling a pang in her chest at the reminder of her missed encounter with the girl.
"Okay," Airi answers, before frowning, "What do you mean 'left?' I saw her a few minutes ago."
"In the hallway. I saw Churi entering her room with a bag of food, and caught a glimpse of Jurina when she closed the door."
Rena stares at Airi in incomprehension, not believing what she's hearing. Akane said Jurina was leaving for Nagoya tonight, and she's pretty sure she saw the younger girl take that taxi. Is it possible that, in her daze, she mistook her for someone else? Rena is still processing this new piece of information when she feels a light push on her arm.
"What are you waiting for?" Airi asks, a small encouraging smile on her lips, "go and talk to her."
Jurina exhales deeply for the third time, really annoyed by the change of plans. She was half through her way to the station when she received the notice that her train got cancelled. She would have taken the next one if it was possible but unfortunately, it was the last one for the day. Now, she has to leave for Nagoya tomorrow morning with the other SKE members and delay her interview. On one hand, she's a bit relieved to spend the night in the comfy bed of her hotel room. If there's one thing she hates, it's sleeping on the train. On the other hand, this unexpected turn of events really bothers her. She takes pride in being a very professional person, and she knows her absence is going to cause many problems.
Jurina lifts her gaze from her suitcase as she hears a knock on the door. She slowly gets up, thinking it's probably Churi who's coming back with the drinks she forgot, then it hits her the other girl has a key, and therefore would never knock.
Saying that she's surprised to see the older Matsui on the other side would be an understatement. The girl is slightly breathless, as if she's been running, and she's staring at her intensely.
"Jurina, can I come in?"
The young ace raises an eyebrow at the odd request, wondering why on earth the girl would want to talk to her at such a time. What is so important that it can't wait tomorrow morning?
Jurina knows by the tone of her voice that her lack of enthusiasm is probably showing, but she immediately disregards this small fact, stepping aside to let the girl pass, before closing the door.
"I'm sorry to be intruding at such a time, but I know you're leaving tomorrow morning, and I have to stay in Tokyo for a week."
Jurina turns around to the girl and expectantly waits for her to talk, before frowning when no words come out of her mouth. Wasn't she eager to speak with her just a minute ago? Why is she staring at her without saying anything?
"Can't it wait next week?"
Jurina's eyes widen at the abrupt answer. Rena's awkward behavior is starting to unsettle her, and she doesn't like the sudden tension between them as silence progressively fills the room.
"I'm going to unpack my suitcase."
Jurina moves towards the blue item that's laying at the foot of her bed and she kneels on the floor, pulling the zipper to open it. As she starts to take some clothes out she takes a peek behind her back to watch what the other girl is doing, before noticing that she's flipping through the pages of the BUBKA magazine that was laying on the table near the television.
"It's Churi's copy," Jurina comments, her attention back on her suitcase as she takes her pajamas out, "My manager sent me the magazine at home, but I haven't opened it."
Rena lifts her gaze in surprise at the girl's statement. Usually, Jurina would immediately take a look at her photoshoot as soon as she received the magazine from her manager. The younger girl always took great pride in her work, and she liked to check the pictures for any potential mistake on her behalf, in order to correct them next time. Something is telling her Jurina's reluctance to take a look at this particular one has something to do with her presence on the pictures.
"You should. It's a beautiful photoshoot. I particularly like the third picture," Rena murmurs, staring again at the picture of the two of them clad in newlyweds clothes.
"I think Churi is my n°1 fan. She buys everything I'm in," Jurina answers, ignoring the older girl's suggestion. She's not really sure she's ever going to take a look at it anyway. This photoshoot brings back memories she would prefer to stay buried.
At the mention of Jurina's roommate, Rena closes the magazine and puts it aside, disturbed by the sudden knot in her stomach. Even if Airi told her Jurina and Akane aren't a couple, she still keeps wondering if that's really the truth.
"Are Akane and you just... friends?"
Jurina stills at the awkward question. She didn't know what to expect when Rena asked to speak with her a few minutes ago, but certainly not to be questioned about the nature of her relationship with Churi. It also bothers her a bit what she's implying. Why would she believe that there's more to it? And why would she ask her such a thing? Rena never meddles in people's relationships. Never.
"We're friends. Really good friends."
Jurina resumes emptying her suitcase, before stopping when she hears a small sigh of relief behind her back. The conversation is making no sense whatsoever and Rena is behaving more and more awkwardly. Jurina has to restrain herself from asking the girl to get straight to the point to finally get out of this strange situation.
"Okay. You're sure there's nothing you want to tell me?"
Rena notices that she now has Jurina's full attention as the younger girl gets up and turns to look at her, her toilet bag in hand. She can see confusion written all over her face, but a part of her really hopes Jurina will manage to understand where she's getting at on her own. Unfortunately, it's not the case, and Rena releases a small sigh when Jurina chooses to stay quiet.
"Jurina, I heard what you said to Mariko in the dressing room."
Jurina frowns at Rena's words. She spoke twice to Mariko today: before, and after the concert. In both cases, it was in the dressing room. What moment is she referring to? Moreover, she doesn't remember seeing Rena in the room at any of those two occurrences.
"I don't understand what you're talking about."
She's about to question Rena further when she suddenly remembers the conversation she had with the short-haired girl before the concert. Her features start to decompose as she really hopes the older Matsui did not eavesdrop that particular moment.
"What... did you hear exactly?"
She can't help her voice from shaking as she locks eyes with Rena. The air has suddenly become way more heavier, and she can hear her heart beating faster in apprehension.
"I know you have feelings for me."
Jurina's breathing hitches at Rena's affirmation and steady gaze. She can feel her toilet bag slipping through her fingers, but she is too late to react as it hits the ground with a thumb. She diverts her attention to the floor at the noise, her head starting to spin as silence engulfs them anew. This is not happening. Rena did not utter those words right now. Think fast, Jurina. She wants to come up with a clever retort, stating that she heard wrong, but as she looks up at the girl, she knows she'll immediately see through her lies. It's not like she can say anything convincing in her current distraught state, anyway.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
This time, Jurina manages to regain a bit of composure. As much as she can't deny anything anymore - it's obviously too late for that - she can still answer Rena's question. It's actually a pretty easy one.
"Why would I? I'm just a little sister to you."
Jurina knows her voice sounds a bit harsh, but she can't help it as Rena's words flow her mind again. She cried so much at the hospital. She didn't believe it was humanly possible to shed so many tears.
She notices Rena's surprise but chooses to ignore it, bending down to catch the fallen object instead, before moving to the bathroom. As she settles it near the sink she leans her back to the wall, shutting her eyes in frustration at the unexpected turn their conversation took.
"I can't stand hearing that anymore."
Jurina opens her eyes at Rena's declaration, not missing the way her voice suddenly broke. She waits a few seconds, expecting the girl to elaborate, before hearing a soft muffled sound. Leaning over and tilting her head in curiosity, she widens her eyes as she sees Rena covering her mouth with her palm, tears flowing her cheeks. Putting aside her own discomfort, Jurina gets out of the bathroom and approaches the girl whose eyes are now closed, before gently wiping off her tears with her thumb.
"Why... are you crying?"
The sight before her takes her by complete surprise, and she really wonders what prompted the older girl to start to cry. Shouldn't it be the other way round? Shouldn't she be the one crying over her discovered secret? Just as she's about to question her, Rena suddenly opens her watering eyes and moves forward, immediately wrapping her arms around Jurina's neck.
"I have feelings for you too."
For the second time that evening, Jurina's breathing hitches in shock. Did she hear correctly? Did Rena really just say that? No, her hearing must be playing tricks on her. Since she was a kid, Rena always saw her as a little sister. She repeated it enough times to let the whole country know about it. Maybe things have changed a bit lately and she now considers her as a friend, but that's all. Just as she's about to ask Rena to repeat what she said, in order to confirm she didn't really utter those things, Rena's muffled words put an halt to any conviction she had.
"Did you hear me, Jurina? I don't think of you as a little sister, nor a friend. I have feelings for you."
Jurina freezes as Rena's statement sinks in her mind, and she stares speechless at the girl who's disentangling herself and looking back at her in apprehension. Rena's crying has now entirely stopped, her puffy eyes and moistened cheeks the only sign of her previous distraught state.
"Please say something."
Jurina really wants to give a reply to Rena's bold confession, but she's still too stunned to say anything and the words just refuse to leave her lips. She doesn't know how long they stayed like that just staring at each other but Rena suddenly averts her eyes and nods, a small defeated sigh escaping her mouth.
Jurina watches in confusion the girl who's now turning on her heels and moving towards the door. As Rena grabs the handle to leave Jurina finally understands what's going on and she swiftly reduces the distance, immediately embracing the girl's waist from behind.
"Wait. Don't leave..."
Jurina feels the body against her tensing up and she wonders for a second if a request will be denied, before Rena's hands come to join hers at the front. As she hears the girl sobbing starting again Jurina shuts her eyes in frustration, hating to be the reason of the girl's tears. She strengthens her grip around Rena's waist, trying to convey as much comfort as possible, mentally making herself the promise to never let the girl she loves so much cry because of her anymore.
Jurina opens her eyes and tilts her head to the side, only to meet an empty space where there should be a sleeping form. Her eyes widen as she tries to understand what it means. Didn't Rena stay with her yesterday? Didn't they fall asleep together? She blinks a few times in confusion, until the reality progressively hits her. She imagined the whole thing. Rena's confession never occurred. It's just another dream.
Jurina screams and shuts her eyes, hitting her left fist against the mattress in frustration. Hasn't she suffered enough? Why did Rena have to haunt her nights again? When is she finally going to be able to get over her? She knows tears are threatening to fall as her dream is starting to turn into a nightmare. She really believed to be a strong person, that she could stick to her renewed resolution. Apparently, she was wrong.
Quick footsteps suddenly catch her attention and she tilts her head to her left in surprise, watching as the bathroom's door opens and a worried Rena approaches.
Jurina blinks twice at the girl with wet hair that's moving forward and sitting by her side on the edge of her bed. She surely looks and talks like Rena, but it can't be her. Somehow, it seems her torment has not ended as she knows she's still dreaming. Jurina slowly sits up, looking at the girl in curiosity. Her dream has taken quite an unusual turn, and the setting is definitely not the same. Where's the beach? Why can't she feel the soft wind against her skin? What a strange dream, Jurina muses.
In her dreams, it's always Rena who kisses her. Somehow, it still hasn't happened, and this Rena is looking at her as if she's expecting something from her. Maybe she's supposed to kiss her this time for the dream to end? Jurina leans over, staring at the girl who's not making a single move. She notices a slight surprise in her eyes as their lips are just inches apart, but decides to still go for it. It's just a dream anyway. There will be not consequences whatsoever if she decides to succumb to her desires.
Jurina closes her eyes and presses her lips against Rena's, her heart skipping a beat at the soft sensation. As she relishes it, she really expects the dream to end anytime soon. It usually does just after the kiss. When it still hasn't happened, Jurina ponders retreating back, before deciding against it. She doesn't know when such an opportunity will present itself again, and she may as well make good use of it. As she continues kissing the girl of her dreams she suddenly feels a hand at the back of her head, and the lips responding to her kiss. Now, that's really awkward. Usually, she would wake up just after the kiss and even then, it never went so far. When the object of her affection makes a small moan Jurina raises an eyebrow, finding this dream suddenly really strange. And a bit too real.
Pulling away, she frowns when she notices the girl has not disappeared. She's still very present, and even looking back at her with a shy smile. Okay, that's enough. Wake up, Jurina. She can hear the seconds ticking in her head as she expectantly waits for the dream to end and the beautiful face in front of her to fade. It doesn't happen. Jurina's eyes widen as she gazes at the other girl, before backing away in realization.
"What is it?" Rena asks, surprised and a bit disturbed by the girl's sudden odd behavior.
"I thought... " Jurina starts, trying to process what just happened. Wait. She's not dreaming. This is real. Which means... Rena did indeed return her feelings after the concert, and that kiss a few seconds ago.
"What?" Rena pushes, watching in confusion Jurina who's looking away guiltily. It's clearly not the same girl who boldly kissed her just now.
"...I imagined everything," Jurina finishes lamely, this time turning to gaze at her in slight apprehension, "I thought it was just another dream."
Rena stares at the younger girl in bewilderment. Another? How many times Jurina has envisioned this moment? How many mornings did she wake up only to realize it was just a flicker of her imagination?
"No, I'm here," Rena murmurs, hugging the girl in front of her, "This is real."
Jurina immediately returns the embrace, exhaling deeply in relief as she feels the soft fingers caressing her hair in a comforting gesture. Time slowly goes by as none of them tries to move away, until Rena gently disentangles herself to look at the younger girl.
"It's still a bit early. Why don't you get back to sleep?"
As she receives a small nod in reply Rena gets up and starts moving to the bathroom, before feeling a hand gripping hers tightly. She turns around in surprise, immediately noticing the slight apprehension in Jurina's eyes.
"I'm just going to dry my hair."
Jurina's hold on her hand diminishes and Rena shoots her small smile, before entering the bathroom. Rena's fingers grasp the hairdryer with one hand and her comb in the other, looking at her reflection in the mirror while her hair progressively starts to dry. She sometimes wishes she could have shorter hair, as the drying process always seems to drag on for hours. However, the idea always fades when it's finally over. She never believed to be a very good looking-girl, but she's somewhat proud of her long dark hair.
Stepping out of the bathroom, her eyes fall on the sleeping form and she approaches, carefully joining the girl under the sheet to not wake her up. As she lays on her side to face the sleeping girl, two eyes suddenly look back at her, and she yelps in surprise.
"You startled me! I thought you were sleeping!"
"I don't think I can fall asleep after that dream anyway."
"But it wasn't," Rena replies, grasping Jurina's hand that's laying between them and squeezing it, "everything happened. Even that kiss", Rena continues, raising an amused eyebrow at Jurina's sudden shy expression. "It's funny how you can so easily kiss me in your dreams, but are afraid of touching me when I'm just in front of you in flesh and bone."
Rena starts to chuckle as Jurina sheepishly avoids eye contact, not believing the sight in front of her. It's really unusual to see the always confident SKE member acting all flustered.
Rena's laughter progressively diminishes and she leans over, Jurina's eyes immediately back on her.
"I don't mind a shy Jurina."
Jurina's mouth tugs into a small smile at Rena's words, before closing her eyes as she relishes the feeling of Rena's lips on hers.
Rena who's been watching the younger girl frenetically adding clothes to her suitcase for a few minutes now, tilts her head in curiosity at the sudden knock on the door. Getting up from the bed she goes to open, discovering a smiling Akane behind the door.
"Good morning, Akane."
Jurina's head lifts up at the familiar voice, waving a hand in recognition.
"Hi Churi! I'll be there in a minute!"
"Need help?" Churi asks, watching the younger girl who's sitting on her suitcase and desperately trying to pull the zipper.
"I know how to close a suitcase," Jurina groans, sounding a bit annoyed by what the girl is implying.
"If you say so," Churi answers, sharing a knowing look with Rena, and trying hard not to chuckle at the sight of the girl who's struggling to close the blue rectangular item.
"See!" Jurina exclaims, getting up from the floor and motioning to the now closed suitcase, "it was a piece of cake."
"That's great," Churi rolls her eyes at Jurina's smug expression, "now hurry up, we're going to be late."
Jurina briefly glances at her watch, indeed noticing that her older friend is right. Gripping her suitcase handle she swiftly moves to the door, turning to the dresser on her way out.
"I'm sorry I'm late," Jurina apologizes, putting her coat on in a hurry.
"Yes, yes," Churi answers, stealing a glance at Rena who's standing by Jurina's side before looking back at her friend, "I don't want to know why."
"It's not what you think," Jurina stresses, knowing perfectly well what she's implying.
"Please spare me the details," Churi waves her hand at her, before opening the door and stepping outside.
Rena's mouth tugs into an amused smile as she follows the two friend's banter, not missing Jurina's cute flustered expression.
Jurina watches in frustration Churi who's ignoring her and moving to the elevator, before she turns to the older Matsui who's standing at the doorstep. As she locks eyes with her she suddenly realizes she's not going to be able to see her for a whole week, and she now wishes she didn't have to leave so fast. They just found each other. Why do they already have to part?
"It will pass quickly," Rena says, guessing by Jurina's sudden frightened expression that she's dreading their time apart.
"Yes," Jurina answers, trying to sound convincing, even though she knows by the tone of her voice that she's not fooling her one bit.
Rena moves forward and embraces the younger girl, trying to comfort her as much as she can despite her own uneasiness. Between them, she doesn't know who's going to dread the separation the most. She may sound very calm on the exterior, her heart hasn't stop beating fast in apprehension since Jurina started packing her suitcase.
Jurina pulls away from the hug as she hears Churi calling her name from the elevator, and she contemplates Rena's beautiful face a few more seconds, before taking a step back.
Rena watches the younger girl who's about to depart, before swiftly catching her hand and leaning over, leaving a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Just to make sure you don't forget about me."
Jurina shakes her head in amusement at Rena's words, before squeezing the hand that's still holding hers tightly.
"You're all I'm going to think about."
Rena's heart flutters at the girl's words and she follows her retreating form, responding to her gesture when she steps in the elevator and turns to wave at her. The doors progressively close on the girl she's come to adore so much and a smile grazes her lips as she listens to the sound of her racing heartbeat.
The songs used in this chapter are:
"River" by AKB48.
"Temodemo no namida" by AKB48.
"Oki Doki" by SKE48.
"Teppen Tottande!" by NMB48.
"Kiss Datte Hidarikiki" by SKE48.
"Bird" by AKB48.
"Love Love Love" by Dreams come True.
If you enjoy reading my fictions, don't hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment! I love to hear people's thoughts, their favorite moments & scenes, their intuitions, guesses etc. I enjoy writing, but it's still something I do on my free time and I spend a great amount of time & work on each chapter. That's why positive feedback/comments/encouragements are welcomed and give me motivation to keep on!