He simply stood and walked away.
The boisterous noise in the classroom continued after he passed by Chika-chan’s desk. Her gaze fixed on Haruta and her mouth agape. No word came out of her mouth. Too shocked to say or do anything. He didn’t know whether she called after him. For all he knew she stayed in the classroom.
If you want to get rid of me, now’s your chance.
That awful thought crossed his mind as he passed her, and much to his dismay it never really left until a week later.
Haruta walked out of the classroom with his feet unsteady. Sweat began to form on his palms. His bag dangled from his right hand, but he held it firmly enough so it wouldn’t slip from his fingers.
He had to go. He couldn’t stay here any longer.
Haruta tuned out the jeering and giggling noises behind his back and ran through the corridor.
He went downstairs, but almost bumped into a figure after making a turn on the stairway.
Their eyes met. Mikami-sensei blinked at him and looked at his bag.
Shit, I should have taken the other stairway.
This one lead straight to the staff room. Mikami-sensei was supposed to teach sociology class in the next hour.
She tilted her head.
“Class is starting soon. Where are you going?”
Haruta opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He tried not to look at her face, because his expression was about to crumble.
“Are you okay? You don’t look well.”
He wondered how he looked like right now, because Mikami-sensei sounded seriously worried.
“…I’m going home.”
“I can see that. How about taking a rest in the infirmary first?”
At that moment he heard some voices behind her. Mikami-sensei looked back.
A small group of teachers – four or five, he didn’t count – appeared in front of the stairway. Most of them were heading to their respective classes. One of them didn’t. They stopped talking as soon as they saw Haruta and their colleague in the stairway.
He immediately felt Kusakabe-sensei’s gaze on him. He tried not to look at his face.
“Can someone take this boy to the infirmary?” Mikami-sensei said.
Some of the teachers started mumbling.
“Kusakabe-sensei. I believe you’re heading into that direction?” she said.
He didn’t hear any affirmation to her question, but he was sure that he volunteered. Indeed, Kusakabe-sensei was moving towards him.
Haruta clenched his fist and looked away.
Aren’t they’re all just trying to push the responsibility onto him? Sensei was supposed to go to the music room and that wasn’t anywhere in the direction of the infirmary.
Haruta suddenly felt ashamed that he knew Sensei’s schedule so well.
What the hell happened to me?
Mikami-sensei headed to the classroom. The group of teachers dispersed quietly, leaving only Haruta and Kusakabe-sensei in that place.
Kusakabe-sensei waited for him at the end of the stairway. Haruta came down and stopped in front of him.
“I’m fine. I’m healthy.”
“Mikami-sensei wasn’t talking about your health. You need to calm down first.”
Kusakabe-sensei paused and tilted his head to take a better look at Haruta.
He looked away.
“…Shall we go now?” he gently said.
Haruta couldn’t reply.
If it were any other moment he would take advantage of this opportunity. But not now. Not now. He would be a bother to him.
Sensei lowered his voice overhead.
“Did something happen in the classroom?”
His heart started racing. Memories of what happened in there just flooded in.
“I’m sorry, Sensei.”
I’m sorry about the pictures. For everything.
Haruta walked past him and ran out of the school building. He didn’t know if he came after him. He didn’t notice through the tears. Moments later Haruta wished he had taken one last look at his face, but revealing his expression at that moment would definitely reveal too much about him.
He stopped at the main gate, already out of breath, and grabbed the front of his vest.
The pain in his chest wasn’t leaving. Would it leave if he opened up just a little? He wanted to know what it was like.
Haruta walked across the boulevard.
He should have known that this would eventually cost his head. He knew it was wrong, but he didn’t know how to deal with these feelings. The need to know more about him, the need of seeing him every day. The gentle expressions on his face. The black hair over his nape. His broad shoulders. That slight arch in the lower back. Those gentle fingers on the piano. It wasn’t enough to look, but it was all he had. It wasn't like he had any prior experience.
After all, Sensei was his first love.
“Sensei is very worried.”
Aside from Chika-chan’s request, that sentence was what it took to get his ass back to school.
He still had mixed feelings about what she did to convince the class; she had told them he liked a girl and that he took the pictures for Chika-chan’s imaginary female friend.
Haruta didn’t want Kusakabe-sensei to misunderstand.
Despite that Haruta knew he could be at least a little more grateful. The thought of Chika-chan taking the opportunity of banishing him from school and subsequently from Sensei’s presence had haunted him the entire week.
Obviously she hadn’t.
Of course not. Why did he think so little of her?
Yet, while they were still friends, he hated to think her as his savior.
After all, Chika was his rival in love.
The next day he walked into Kusakabe-sensei by chance as he headed to the music room.
Haruta had just come from doing the cleaning duty in the homeroom as a consequence of truancy. Apart from that, everyone in class treated him the same as before.
Likewise, Kusakabe-sensei simply greeted Haruta as if nothing had happened the week ago. Perhaps he behaved like that because a girl from the Biology Club was with him. The girl simply nodded at Haruta when they met.
Kusakabe-sensei was dealing with all kinds of chores relating to the cultural festival. He looked a little stressed, but he still managed a smile as he talked about the resolved damselfish theft.
“Sensei, about what happened last week. I…”
It wasn’t about his truancy. Although he had no idea how much Sensei had heard, Haruta simply had to know whether it was alright to stay.
Kusakabe-sensei gazed calmly at him and said,
“Yes, Homura-san explained the situation to me. Don’t worry about it.”
The weight on his shoulders left him immediately.
It was only later that day Haruta realized there was no way of telling that Sensei believed her words.
He liked to imagine he didn’t.
Honestly, Sensei. You’re too nice.
Haruta tilted his head up and watched the clouds go by.