Yuzu had never woken up so slowly. More than halfway through the school day and she still felt like she had just crawled out of bed. Harumin made some sarcastic joke about it when Yuzu slumped into her desk and laid her head down, but she didn’t really register it.
She couldn’t focus on her quiz. The problems slipped away from her because she had better things to think about, like figuring out how she was going to get some sleep that night and if Harumin was going to have to tease her every day about it. Yuzu rattled her pencil between her fingers, stuck on considering all of her other shortcomings rather than the answers she needed, academically or emotionally.
She was getting nowhere fast. She put her pencil down when she realized that she was disturbing everyone’s silence, including Mei’s.
PE wasn’t any better. Yuzu tried preoccupying herself with keeping up with everyone on the track but was already so preoccupied with Mei. She couldn’t even focus on breathing. Only when a few students jogged past her had she realized how her pace had broken, taking shallow breaths and uneven steps. She tried to catch up while trying to find breath to soothe her quickened pulse, her pounding heart, feeling too much like the way Mei had kissed her so many times before.
Mei was somewhere far ahead of her, she was sure. Yuzu at least wanted to avoid being lapped by her and disappointing her further. She inhaled through her nose and exhaled through her mouth, finding her pace again, but her chest still felt empty.
Yuzu had never lingered for so long in the bath.
She found herself drawn toward staring at the ceiling and at the water. Looking upwards, she felt the memory rising, imagined Mei descending, but hesitated to replay the rest in her mind. That was when she turned toward herself in the water, wondering why she was still thinking about it and why she looked so worried.
Was this how shocked she had looked whenever Mei kissed her? But how else was she supposed to have looked… she wondered if Mei always looked that sad when she kissed. Or if that was only with Yuzu.
Yuzu wondered what kind of person Mei was into. Mei had gotten a good feel for her by now—literally, too—and Yuzu figured that she probably wasn’t in the running. Even if it was possible to build up a relationship between them, Yuzu would have to begin anew since she had already burned so many bridges. That doubtlessly left a bad impression on Mei already. It would be a lot harder if Mei continued to resist her so stubbornly. So stubbornly that Yuzu felt more like Mei was resisting her in her entire being rather than the mistakes she had made around her.
Yuzu sighed and leaned forward, drawing her her knees to her chest.
Part of Yuzu wanted to stay in the tub until she shriveled up and withered away. She didn’t feel like there was much point in soaping down since it wouldn’t make a difference to Mei. Maybe that was why she also wanted to clean her skin so deeply that she scrubbed away an entirely different person for her, since she only seemed capable of offending her.
Was this how sad she looked during the day? Yuzu rested her forehead on her arms and looked down into the water at her reflection. Harumin noticed how sad she was, of course. She had a knack for reading her well. But Yuzu felt a little bad by being so mopey all the time and ruining her fun. Harumin never seemed to mind, though… Yuzu didn’t want to look this sad, for her sake, and for Mei’s.
She remembered Harumin telling her not to frown so much or she’d get early wrinkles. But she couldn’t help it. She couldn’t help Mei, or herself for that matter. She couldn’t do anything.
Yuzu knew that was a lie, though. She had done plenty in the way of annoying Mei, and though she had made progress with her, never felt like it amounted to anything more than temporary friendship. She just couldn’t seem to do anything right.
But that was a lie, too. Curling up tighter while her heart wrung itself dry, she knew that she could cry a lot. She at least tried to keep her sobbing quiet so no one heard her.
Yuzu had never dreaded walking into her own room so much.
“Bathroom’s open,” she said to Mei as she entered. Mei sat at her desk facing away, but she nodded, too busy organizing papers into her binder to verbally respond. Yuzu was glad; she didn’t want Mei to see how red her eyes were from bawling them out earlier.
Yuzu sat down on her side of the bed and picked up her phone, opening up a random game to play even though she wasn’t very interested in playing at the moment. She waited patiently for Mei to leave, for some reason, which made her feel even sillier. Mei’s presence was too stifling for her to think or act properly in. Her vocabulary had gone missing. She felt like she didn’t know anything. She didn’t even know if she felt better or worse in Mei’s company, however quiet she was.
“It’s getting late,” she reminded her.
“I’ll go soon.”
Soon was too slow. Yuzu grew restless, imagining having to wait in this bitter silence any longer.
“You know…” But as she asked, Yuzu remembered that she didn’t know anything. She turned toward Mei, who placed the binder into her bag. “Are you mad at me, Mei?”
Mei didn’t retract her hand immediately. It was only a moment before she shook her head, but a noticeable one. She finished zipping up her bag.
Yuzu sighed. She at least knew that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with such terse responses. She parted her lips to explain but Mei turned toward her so she clamped them shut again, reflexively rather than consciously deciding to.
“You haven’t been sleeping well. I feel responsible. And I don’t want you making me late in the morning.”
Yuzu’s mouth opened, but her ‘huh?’ fell out as a whisper. She was less confused by Mei’s response than by the sad way that she said it. The look she wore worried Yuzu. It was hardly different than her usual impassive expression, something very slight, something that Yuzu hated that she couldn’t detect. As badly as she wanted to figure it out, she didn’t have the luxury of staring at such a pretty face for so long.
...Yuzu had never wanted to stare at someone so badly. She had never felt like such a creep before, either. She looked away quickly, down at the floor, feeling very nervous all of a sudden. She wondered if Mei had noticed her eyes. Yuzu picked up her phone and pretended to play her game on it.
“I wouldn’t make you late, I promise. You’ve got enough on your plate as it is, student council prez, so don’t worry about me,” she mumbled, dragging her finger around the screen and watching a long string of orbs pop into points, hoping that she could score some with Mei by being considerate of her responsibilities.
Yuzu thought to glance back but gave up quickly and hunched over her phone, out of Mei’s line of sight. She couldn’t believe the difficulty it took just to think of something to say to her. She heard Mei moving, opening the door and closing it behind her.
Yuzu had never felt this clueless in her life. She laid her phone down and leaned on her legs, looking at her clasped hands.
Was she missing something? Something fundamental about the relationship between sisters, or whatever kind of relationship they had? The kind of relationship she wanted to have with Mei? Something she just didn’t get… would she ever get it? She wondered. Could she ever?
She couldn’t sleep, at least.
Yuzu had thought that by getting in bed early, without Mei next to her while she was still bathing, would make it easier. It was lonely. Different than the cruel kind of lonely way she felt when Mei was next to her with her back turned. This was bitter. Better for her nerves, probably, without Mei’s presence looming behind her, but still just as heavy on her heart.
She turned and buried her face in her pillow, with a groan that quickly gave in to a deep sigh. She hated this. She just wanted to go to sleep.
But Mei was so much more important than sleep to Yuzu. On the nights that Mei had woken and found her tossing and turning like this in the dead of the night, Yuzu just hoped she knew that that was why. But all Mei ever said was to go to sleep. Yuzu wanted to for her, and would have if she could have. However, she found that it was beyond her to quiet her quivering heart. She needed Mei’s help. Yuzu was cursed to imagine a thousand different ways that the scenario could go, being too afraid to ask. She wondered if anyone was capable of calming such a crazy thing like love on their own, especially when it was stuck inside someone else. Her heart was so loud, and she was so afraid that Mei could hear it. It belonged to her. She must have heard it by now. Though it was obvious that she hadn’t heard it or Yuzu’s silent signals for help yet, as Yuzu would have liked to have kept Mei company as she slept, but had yet to feel welcome sharing this bed with her.
Her heart twisted up a little more inside, as did she under the blanket.