“Hey, Ano,” Yuna said somewhat absentmindedly, turning to me. Classes had ended, and it was just the two of us left in the classroom chatting. “This is kind of a weird question, but… have you ever thought about what it would be like to date a girl?”
I could feel my face slowly starting to heat up. Yuna, could you have asked me a more embarrassing question? “Uh, that’s a kinda strange thing for you to ask me, Yuna! I didn’t think you were into that kind of thing…” I was deflecting her question, but it was a weird thing for her to ask. Yuna Toomi, suddenly very interested in love between girls? It wasn’t the image I had of her in my head at all.
Yuna looked vaguely self-conscious and even blushed a little. “Well, do you remember Youka, that girl we helped with her concert at the festival? Apparently after the song was over she, um, kissed a girl on stage. I was thinking, you know, those kinds of people go to this school too… Sorry, Ano, I’m just rambling a little bit. You don’t have to listen to me.”
I’d been way too embarrassed to really process what was going on during the time we’d been on stage at the festival, but by this point it was hard not to have heard about the kiss. Getting kissed on stage in front of that many people was honestly kind of incredibly romantic, if also the kind of thing that would make my heart explode from embarrassment if it ever happened to me. But what interested me most about this situation was that Yuna had actually gone out of her way to help two girls hook up--it felt like a side of her I hadn’t seen before and I was really curious about it. “Um, is that girl… Youka… a friend of yours?” I asked, trying to pry a little without being too obvious.
“Ah… we went to middle school together. I had, uh, helped her with a couple of things before this. So I guess we’re friends?” Yuna looked vaguely uncomfortable, then straightened up a bit as if remembering something. “Oh, Ano, I forgot to say sorry for getting you caught up in that… I really didn’t expect that we’d get put up on stage together in those outfits.”
“Oh, it’s fine!” I assured her, feeling my ears heat up as I remembered myself standing on the stage in skimpy devil girl cosplay. “I was the one who suggested it, after all…” She’d dodged the question, but I really didn’t want to push any harder if Yuna didn’t want to tell me about it. Still, though, I...
Yuna looked a bit relieved as she smiled back at me. “I wouldn’t want to think I was inconveniencing you too much, Ano. It’s always been nice to have someone to talk to like this.”
I… want to get closer to her.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I’ve gotta go cook dinner… I’ll see you tomorrow, Ano.”
She got up from her desk and gathered her bag, and I could see my opportunity slipping away. I had to say something, or…
“Um!” I stammered, choking on what I was about to say. It was kind of pathetic, the way I couldn’t even get any words to come out, but it got Yuna’s attention. She stopped and gave me a bit of a curious look.
“Um,” I said again, and then stopped to clear my throat and breathe. Calm down, Ano. You can do this. “Y-you don’t have to worry about inconveniencing me, Yuna. In fact, I wish you’d inconvenience me more! I… want to be someone you can rely on. I know you can’t tell me everything, but if there’s something bothering you, even if it’s silly, you can tell me about it. I’ll listen.”
Yuna looked surprised and a little embarrassed, and then did something I’d never seen her do before: she hugged me. I felt her warmth mix with the blood rushing to my head and was immediately incredibly thankful that we were the only ones still in the classroom. I didn’t really have any experience with friends being touchy-feely like this, and it had happened so suddenly, that I couldn’t even come up with anything to do with my arms. They just lay at my side awkwardly as I stood there and let myself be hugged, feeling like a stupid idiot.
Then, as she let go, she placed her hands on my shoulders, her face only a couple of inches from mine, and whispered, her voice huskier than usual, “Ano, you’re really making me wanna kiss you right now.”
Uh… what? A flash of heat passed through my body, leaving me feeling like an overstimulated electrical circuit about to fizzle out. No way, she’s not really going to do it, right? The mood’s been a little weird from the start, but this is taking it too far, Yuna! But at the same time, she’s kind of really hot when she’s acting like this, isn’t she? Wait, do I… want her to kiss me? As I hesitated, though, the moment passed and she pulled away.
For a fleeting second after Yuna let go, I wanted to jump back into her arms and feel her hot breath on my face again, the sensation of her lips on mine--Geez, what am I thinking! There’s nothing between us. Nothing at all. It’s just that the mood’s gotten a little weird because Yuna brought up girls kissing earlier. And then things got a little bit heartfelt. But that’s all it is. I’ll look up and then she’ll say “Just kidding!” and it’ll all be normal tomorrow.
Then I noticed Yuna’s face in front of me. She was bright red and breathing heavily, and seemed to be avoiding eye contact with me. I tried to say something but was still too shaken to speak, so we just stood there for a minute, a hot embarrassment coloring the air between us. Then Yuna turned and hurried out of the classroom, saying nothing, clattering into a desk but refusing to let that stop her. I stood there silently, listening to my pumping heart and her footsteps in the hall until both subsided.
It’ll all be normal tomorrow.
Everything had sounded better in my head. Last night I had imagined how my conversation with Ano would play out, and I’d felt pretty confident that I could just say sorry, laugh it off, and everything would all be back to normal. But as the moment had come closer and closer, I’d found myself getting more and more nervous, until here I was the next morning, waiting outside the classroom, dreading going in and having to face Ano again. What was I so scared of? If what had happened yesterday really wasn’t a big deal, there would be no reason for me to be worried about talking to her, right?
But some part of me felt like it was a big deal. Because I knew, no matter how much I wanted to deny it, that I hadn’t told her I wanted to kiss her just as a joke. In that moment, I’d been thinking about me and Ano, standing on that stage, kissing in front of an audience of people. She’d said she would listen to anything I said, and rather than being appreciative of her friendship like a normal person, I’d felt somehow possessive. Like I’d wanted her to say that kind of thing only to me, to look only at me, to show that cute embarrassed face she’d made after I told her I wanted to kiss her--
An unwelcome thought had wormed its way into my brain. Yuna, are you sure you don’t have a crush on Ano? It wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to admit about myself, but how else could I reconcile these feelings? Like, people normally didn’t want to kiss people they were just friends with, right? And I couldn’t really play it off as something that was just a momentary impulse if I was still embarrassed about it long after the moment had passed.
Plus, well, me asking her about dating girls wasn’t entirely out of nowhere. Yesterday Megumi had told me she’d seen Aki and Youka kissing in the school bathrooms, which was the kind of thing I’d heard about before, but this time it felt different. Instead of thinking about girls kissing as a little weird and uncomfortable, I’d found it kind of… enticing. Like somewhere deep down, I wanted nothing more than to find some cute girl and push her down, kiss her, hold her close to me and never let go. Was that really who I was? Someone who liked girls and had a huge crush on her best friend?
It was a lot to take in, but what I knew for certain was that I couldn’t handle talking to Ano right now. It felt wrong to ditch class, especially for a reason as dumb as this, and running away from Ano made me feel like a coward, but I just needed a little bit of time to clear my head. Looking around the hallway with a mixture of guilt and trepidation, I headed up to the roof.
The ghosts certainly weren’t the people I wanted to see right now, but fortunately both Sachi and Megumi seemed to be otherwise occupied. I sat on the bench and took a couple deep breaths, my lungs filling with the chill October air. Being up here made me feel a little bit calmer, but my thoughts were no more settled. Did I… want Ano to be my girlfriend? What would that even mean? Like, going on dates, hanging out, sharing everything with each other… it honestly sounded really nice. An image floated in my head like something out of a flowery shoujo manga: the two of us sitting in a sunny cafe, sharing a parfait and laughing, me reaching out to wipe a bit of cream off of her cheek.
But a part of me couldn’t help but feel like that was nothing more than idle daydreaming. Would Ano even reciprocate my feelings? What would she really think if she found out I was the kind of person who liked girls? Would she think it was gross that I had a crush on her? And even if we started dating, wouldn’t things just be a lot more complicated since we were both girls? We probably couldn’t tell our parents, and I don’t really know what other people would think about us. Even knowing that other people at this school had found happiness in relationships with women, I just wasn’t sure I could do it. It all came back to that. Even if being with Ano would really make me happy, was it worth everything else that came with it?
I sighed and laid back on the bench. Why does everything have to be so complicated? Still, I didn’t really think I was going to get any closer to the answers by sitting up here on the roof when I should be in class. I’d just try to act normal around Ano until I’d really figured out my feelings, that’s all. It was okay to just let things stay where they were for a while, wasn’t it?
Ever since I was little, people had doted on me, calling me a princess, saying how pretty my hair was, how cute I was, and lately, how big my chest was. So I was used to people paying a lot of attention to me, even as I found that kind of thing really embarrassing a lot of the time. And in some ways my relationship with Yuna was like that. She’d help me out when I forgot my textbooks, or cook for me when I was at her house, or just generally look out for me, so you could say that she was doting on me just like all the others. But honestly I thought that she was just that way with everyone. It wasn’t her who was always obsessing and worrying about me.
It was the other way around.
When I’d first met her, she’d seemed so distant and reserved that I thought she just didn’t like me very much. But I’d realized over time that there was probably something else there. Like, even a person who wasn’t super sociable wouldn’t eat lunch alone on the roof every day, would they? I hadn’t pushed her about it because I’d wanted to give her space, but the closer we got the more I worried about her, the more it hurt me to think that she was in pain and had no one to talk to, the more I really wanted to see her smile.
And now, ever since that incident in the classroom, she’d been avoiding me. I could tell that something was bothering her, was weighing heavy on her mind, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was. She wouldn’t even give me a chance to ask her about it. It made me feel kind of useless--could I really do anything more than just worry about her from afar? Could I really be the person who could help her smile? I sighed. Yuna...
“Something up, Ano? Sighing isn’t really like you.” Nena looked up at me a little sleepily and I jumped a little. I’d almost forgotten she was there.
“Uh… well…” I tried unsuccessfully to make myself look cheerful again. Thinking about it, Nena and Yuna did know each other, didn’t they? I didn’t really want to drag other people into our business, but I was genuinely worried about Yuna. “Nena… is it okay if I talk to you about something?”
She gave me a tired look, as though she was incredibly exhausted with the everyday drama of people’s lives and wanted nothing more than to sleep through lunch. But I knew she’d give me the time of day. Well, I was pretty sure, at least.
“You see, the thing is… Yuna’s kind of, you know, been avoiding me, and I’m not sure if I did something to make her upset with me or what. She just sort of brushes me off and runs away whenever I try to talk to her, and it’s made me kind of worried… not just about me, but about her too. You know, last year she didn’t really talk to anyone and just ate lunch alone on the roof all the time, and she’s gotten better this year, but she’s still the kind of person who never reaches out to others when she needs them. And a lot of the time I don’t want to intrude on people’s privacy if they have things they don’t want to say, but this time it involves me and I just really worry she’s going through something hard and I want to be there for her, even just a little, and…” I trailed off. “You know, that kind of thing. I--Yuna’s my best friend. I just want her to be happy. I want things to be back to normal.”
Nena stifled a yawn and looked at me, inscrutable as always. “God, you two are a lot more trouble than I expected when I met you. You really care about her, though, huh?”
“Well, yeah…” I mean, it’s true, but saying it outright is kinda…
“Then I think both of you are going to have to talk things out. Nothing’s going to change if you just keep waiting for change to happen.”
“I… just don’t know how to find the right opportunity. I’m not really good at that kind of thing. It’s kind of nerve-wracking.”
“I mean, from what you said, it really seems like Yuna should be the one to talk to you. Like, you’re the one who’s always doing all the worrying about her, right? Doesn’t she owe it to you?”
“I guess you could see it that way, but I don’t think she’ll talk to me. That’s kind of the problem.” I sighed again. “Well, if you could tell her I’m worried about her if you see her…”
Nena seemed a little concerned, like there was something she was leaving unsaid, but she just nodded her head and went back to sleep.
What did I really want from Yuna? Was I happy just chasing after her and hoping she could find her own happiness? Or did I want her to chase after me too? I suddenly remembered the way she’d looked that day in the classroom… when she’d said she wanted to kiss me. I’d said I was tired of being everyone’s princess, but if Yuna were to say I was her princess, wouldn’t that be kind of… nice?
Oh god, what am I thinking? Yuna and me, in that kind of relationship? Why do I have to think such embarrassing things… I put my head down on my desk in an attempt to hide how red my face was. Nothing about this was going to be as easy as I wanted it to be, was it?
It was after school, seven days after I’d first hugged Ano in our classroom, and I was making my way out of the building, lost in thought. Despite thinking about everything for almost a week, I still felt no closer to finding my answer. My mind was trapped in a haze of stupid fantasies and painful worries, and I wanted nothing more than to forget all of it so I could go back to normal. But I couldn’t come to a resolution. If I took the “safe” option and just tried to forget about my crush, could I really ignore these feelings? Or on the other side, if I confessed to Ano, could I really accept everything that went with dating another girl? I was stuck in between with no end in sight and no idea of how to make the decision easier.
As I descended the stairs to the first floor, I heard Nena’s voice call out to me from across the hall. “Yuna,” she said, giving me a languid wave. “You got a second?”
I contemplated just brushing her off, but I didn’t exactly have a real reason to do so. Maybe she just needed some notes from me after sleeping through class… not that I’d been paying enough attention recently to help her with that. As I walked over to her, I thought I spied something sharp under her usually sleepy expression, which should have tipped me off as to what was about to come next. “What’s up?”
She fixed her gaze on me. “There’s something going on between you and Ano, isn’t there?”
I felt the blood drain from my face and a sickening feeling start to spread in the pit of my stomach. Does she know what’s going on? No, it can’t be. There’s no way anyone could have guessed. But why would she ask about us, then? I tried my best to downplay the situation. “Uhh… I guess we haven’t been talking a lot recently, but I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal. You don’t have to worry about it.”
“Hmm… not a big deal, huh? That’s not what Ano seems to think.”
There was an awkward pause while I tried to think about what to say, which Nena took as an opportunity to continue. “Yuna, she literally asked me to come talk to you because you’re avoiding her. I don’t know what’s going on, but you’ve got to talk to her and clear the air.”
Ano had… asked Nena to talk to me? “Is… she mad?”
Nena sighed. “I sure would be, in her situation, but mostly she’s just worried about you. Look, I honestly don’t really care why you’re avoiding her. It’s none of my business. But Ano’s my friend too and I really don’t want to watch her worry herself to death over whatever the hell it is you’ve got going on.”
Was I really making the people around me worry? I’d been so caught up in my own head I hadn’t really even realized. But even given that knowledge… “I don’t know what to say to her,” I said, looking at the floor.
“Look, Yuna.” Nena softened her tone a little. “This isn’t the first time Ano’s told me she’s worried about you. When I first met you, I thought you really had everything together. But you don’t, do you? You’re just really good at pretending you do. The problem is that it’s really obvious when you’re worrying about something--and yet you never tell anyone about your problems.”
I looked around the hallway uncomfortably, continuing to avoid meeting Nena’s gaze. The worst part was that I knew she had a point. I’d always been too caught up in my own problems to really think about what other people were feeling. But isn’t this a little harsh…?
Nena either hadn’t noticed or was ignoring my discomfort as she continued. “So people who care about you, like Ano, are forced to watch you suffer without knowing what’s going on or being able to help you at all. When your friend’s in trouble, you don’t want them to act like nothing’s wrong, you want them to trust in you enough to tell you about their worries. And then maybe you can take a little bit of that load off of them.”
I felt suddenly incredibly guilty. What had Ano and Hina thought about me over the past couple of years? I’d been too scared to tell them anything, scared of opening myself up and spilling my secrets. Now here I was, after I thought everything had gotten better, making all of my friends worry, making them think I didn’t trust them enough to confide in them. I felt a sob rising in my throat. Honestly, crying in public at something like this… it really was pathetic.
“Ah, now I’ve done it,” I heard Nena say. “Yuna, are you okay? I’m sorry, I went too far.”
“No, it’s--it’s--” I couldn’t really get the words out, so I just sat down by the wall and buried my face in my sleeve, trying to get myself to stop sobbing long enough to form a coherent response. I felt Nena tug gently on my arm. “Come on, let’s get you to somewhere a little quieter.”
“Y-yeah,” I said, not really feeling capable of mounting any resistance. I stood up and rummaged through my bag for some tissues, blew my nose vigorously, and followed behind her. Nena slid open a couple of doors on our way before finally finding an empty classroom and gesturing me inside, at which point I collapsed into a desk, feeling like a puppet with its strings cut. Nena grabbed a chair and sat in it backwards so she could face me. “Are you really okay, Yuna? I didn’t mean to push you that hard.”
I sniffled again and nodded. “Um, it’s fine. You were right, anyway…”
“Anyway, man, I feel kinda bad. Ano says she just wants to see you happy and I make you cry… but still, if you don’t mind that it’s me, I’ll listen to whatever it is you have to say.”
In this situation I felt strangely calm, as though I’d already spilled enough of myself out that a little more didn’t matter. “Nena, I… Ano… I really think I love her.”
Nena looked kind of taken aback. “Huh. That’s, uh, not what I would have guessed was going on at all.”
“Do you… do you think that’s weird?”
Nena sighed a little and looked me straight on. “No, of course I don’t think it’s weird. Look, Yuna, this is what I mean when I say you should trust in your friends a little more. I get why you’d be worried about this kind of thing, but we have literally talked about me helping Umi and Sasa get together. It’s nothing I have a problem with, and I don’t think it’s something any of your friends who really care about you are going to have a problem with either.”
“You’re right, but I’m just… really scared, Nena. I don’t want to be rejected or be hurt or suffer because I like girls. I feel like sometimes, it might be better to just not feel anything at all…”
“I mean, I’m not going to say you’re wrong to think that. I’ve been hurt before too, and when that happened I wanted nothing more than to retreat into myself and sleep through all my problems. I can’t promise that nothing will be painful for you. But… I think everything’s going to be okay, Yuna.”
“You can’t know that,” I said, biting my lip to keep from crying again. “You don’t get what it’s like to feel like this, to… to…” My voice trailed off.
“I know. I don’t get that feeling. But Yuna, there are happy girl-girl couples at this school, including my best friends. You can’t only think of the negatives and ignore that that possibility is there for you too.”
The relationship Umi and Sasa had… could Ano and I really be like that? “But nothing will happen if I don’t have the courage to go and make it happen, right? That’s what you mean?”
“Well, more or less.”
“If… if she turns me down, can I come talk to you again?”
I tried my best to smile, even though I was sure it looked awfully tortured, and said, “Uh, well, thanks for everything, Nena. I’m feeling a little bit better, so I should get going…”
“It’s past time for me to take a nap, too. But… good luck, Yuna. I mean it.”
As I walked out the door of the classroom, I turned around one last time and looked at Nena. “Nena, do you think you’ll find that kind of happiness too, someday?”
“Hmm?” She cocked her head and gave me an unreadable expression, then smiled slightly and said, “Don’t worry about me, Yuna. I have my own kind of happiness.” I wasn’t sure whether she was telling the truth or deflecting me from asking any further questions. And with that, I headed back home, my face blotchy and red from crying, my steps slow and plodding, but my mind clearer than it had been in weeks.
I jumped a little when my phone buzzed in my pocket, and was forced to clamp a hand over my mouth to muffle my surprise at who the text was from. Yuna… wanted to meet me after school so we could talk? Geez, the way she framed it… it makes it sound like there’s something really important going on. You could at least have a little more tact and tell me everything’s okay first, couldn’t you?
If it really was something important… it made me feel a little nervous, for sure, but I also felt kind of happy. This is what I wanted, isn’t it? For her to confide in me. I’m sure it’s hard for Yuna, so she’s just a little stiff because she hasn’t done it a whole lot.
Just to make sure, though, I nudged Nena, who was sleeping on the desk next to me. “Nena, did you, uh, happen to hear anything about what’s going on with Yuna at all? She texted me to tell me that she wants to talk to me after school, but I don’t know what she’s going to say…”
Nena stirred sleepily and rubbed her eyes. “What? I don’t know what she’s going to tell you. You’re going to have to hear it for yourself.”
“But, Nena! Oh, geez, I’m going to worry about this all day. What if it’s bad?”
“It’s not going to be bad.” She looked a little thoughtful. “It might be a little surprising, though…”
“Wait, you know? You know what it is? Tell me, Nena!”
“I can’t! Yuna’s got to be the one. Just, you know, be prepared.”
I glared at her, but she really didn’t seem like she was going to tell me anything. But still, surprising? What could Yuna say to me that would qualify? Well, I mean, the last time we talked she said she wanted to kiss me. That was pretty surprising. But it’s not like that meant she was really into me or anything, right? Still, what if she did confess…
God, I’m really such an idiot. I keep thinking stupid stuff like this. There’s no way that’s going to happen. She’s just going to say whatever she has to say and then we’ll be back to normal.
Despite trying to calm myself down, I still felt apprehensive. I couldn’t shake the feeling, justified or not, that something was going to happen when I talked to Yuna. Are things really going to be okay?
After classes ended, I made my way down to the classroom where Yuna had asked to meet me, where she was… not there. I sighed, slumping down in my chair, and made an attempt at relaxing once more. It’s fine. Everything is fine. Yuna’s your best friend, right? There’s no reason to feel awkward or embarrassed around her. The words rang kind of hollow in my head.
After an excruciatingly long couple of minutes, the door finally opened and Yuna poked her head in, giving me an awkward wave and stepping in once she saw that I was there. She was hiding something behind her back, but even as I craned my neck I couldn’t quite see what it was. Yeah, something’s definitely up here. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest as I waited for her to say something.
“Hey, Ano. Sorry for being late. I just had to go grab something before I came here,” she said, blushing a little bit.
“Oh, it’s fine, it’s fine!” I replied, masking my nervousness. “So what’d you want to talk about?”
“Well, first, I just wanted to say sorry. I know I made you worry, and I promise it wasn’t your fault or anything. I just kind of had some things I needed to work through.” She hesitated a little bit here and took a deep breath. “The truth is, last week I realized something about myself, and it made me kind of scared and kind of nervous, and it still does, but…”
She slowly brought the item she’d been hiding behind her back into view. “I love you, Ano,” she said, holding a single pink rose out to me.
What. WHAT. This--this can’t-- I grabbed the flower numbly and stared at her, barely comprehending what was going on around me. Yuna was blushing heavily, but she took another deep breath and carried on. “If you’re okay with it, Ano, it would make me really happy if you would be my girlfriend. I--you don’t have to give me an answer immediately, or even say yes. I just wanted to let you know how I felt, and that I’m, well, this kind of person. The kind who likes girls.”
W-What was I supposed to say to something like this? My face felt so hot I was sure steam was coming out of my ears. The reason Yuna hadn’t been talking to me was that she… felt this way about me? I wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or terrified. To think that she would--to someone like me--oh, i could feel myself getting kind of lightheaded. I wanted to say something just to let Yuna know that I’d heard her, but my tongue was a lead weight in my mouth I couldn’t figure out how to produce words with.
“Wait, Ano, are you okay? You look a little bit sick…” Yuna’s voice had shifted to the kind of responsible concern I was more used to hearing from her, like when I hadn’t done my homework or she was talking to Hina about proper nutrition. It was kind of cowardly, but I wondered if I could use this as an excuse to get away from the situation without hurting Yuna’s feelings. “Um, I think it’ll probably be fine if I just go the infirmary to rest for a bit… sorry about this, Yuna.”
“Oh, of course! I’m sorry for pushing all of this on you when you’re not feeling well.” She looked so genuinely concerned I felt a twist of pain in my heart. Oh, Yuna… someone like you deserves better than me. Then I ran off without a word, face still burning with shame and embarrassment.
I really wasn’t sick, but I went to the infirmary anyway because I wanted someplace where it would be quiet and calm and I could stop feeling so worked up over Yuna confessing to me and oh my god I still couldn’t believe she’d actually told me she loved me. “Ano, it would make me really happy if you would be my girlfriend…” what was I supposed to make of my best friend saying that to me? Like, wow, Yuna, wasn’t that kind of really forward? Just springing that on a girl with no warning? If it had been someone else, I could have disregarded it, but you…
As it turned out, I couldn’t be entirely alone with my thoughts in the infirmary. As I walked in, Kiri poked her head out from around a corner and waved at me. “Ano! What’s up?”
“Kiri? What are you doing here?”
She scratched her head and laughed a little sheepishly. “Well, Tsukuyo’s got a bit of a fever, so I’m here waiting with her until she wakes up. Oh, but she doesn’t really want people to worry about her, so don’t tell anyone I told you that…”
At another time I might have teased her about how close the two of them were, but I wasn’t quite feeling up to it at the moment.
“Are you feeling all right, Ano? You don’t seem as cheerful as you usually do.”
“Oh, um, I’m fine!” I said, trying to deflect her worry about me. On second thought, wait, why had I said that? If I had said I was sick it probably would have been a lot more convincing...
“Hmm…” Predictably, Kiri seemed unconvinced. “Well, if you want to rest or something I’ll try not to bother you.” I let out a mental sigh of relief that I’d picked such a convenient excuse, then felt a little guilty again.
But as I walked over to one of the beds, something caught Kiri’s attention. “Whoa, Ano, that’s a pretty flower! Are you gonna give it to someone?”
I looked down at the rose in my hand. Oh. Right. I had forgotten I was carrying it, and thinking of the reason why I was carrying it made me blush a little bit again. “Um, actually… actually…” I was a little too embarrassed to get the words out, but Kiri seemed to get what I had meant. “Wait, you’re saying someone gave it to you? That’s so cute! So romantic! Aww, I wish someone would give me a flower! So wait, who was it?”
“Um, well…” This was kind of a bad situation, wasn’t it? If I hadn’t run into Kiri, I could’ve gotten out of this without having to talk to anyone. Could I just run back out and pretend I’d never come in here?
But wait, wouldn’t that just be running away from my problems? I hadn’t answered Yuna properly, and I was thinking about blowing off Kiri like it was nothing… was I just worrying them like I’d told Yuna I didn’t want her to do anymore? But I’m not like them, right? I get so embarrassed I can’t handle this kind of thing. I can’t help being shy, right?
“Ano, are you really okay? Sorry if I asked something I shouldn’t have. Sometimes I just, you know, get so excited when it comes to cuties like you.”
I realized I’d been standing there looking kind of paralyzed. “Oh, um, sorry…” I took a deep breath and then it all just kind of spilled out. “Um, well, the truth is someone confessed to me…”
Kiri let out a squeal. “Oh my gosh, Ano! A girl? Was she cute?”
“Mhm, it’s a girl. Well, she’s someone I know, too.”
A look of excitement spread across Kiri’s face. “Ooh, I love this stuff! Wait, did you give her a response? What are you gonna do?”
“Uhh… no… well… it’s kinda…” I sat down on the edge of a bed in front of Kiri, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. But there was no way out from here.
“Well… I think it’s a real hard thing for someone to confess.” Kiri suddenly seemed to become more serious, as though she’d sensed my mood. “It takes a lot of courage to do something like that, and even if you don’t return their feelings, you should definitely treat them with respect and give them a real answer.”
“What if I… don’t know if I return their feelings or not?”
Kiri looked at me seriously. She was usually so goofy and cheerful I didn’t notice, but wow, she had at least ten centimeters on me! It was a little scary. “Do you love this person? Like, would you like to date her? Is she special to you in that kind of way?”
“I… I haven’t really ever thought about dating a girl like that…”
“When you read yuri manga, you don’t ever imagine doing those kinds of things yourself? Like, hugging your cute girlfriend, or going on a date together, or kissing, stuff like that?”
Kiri’s words made me blush a little, because I had definitely thought some embarrassing things about myself and Yuna before. “Isn’t that just, like, a fantasy, though? Like I didn’t think it would really… I’m just kinda scared of being in a real relationship like this.”
“Ano, I… you know, right now, I’m dating another woman. I didn’t think this kind of thing could really happen either, but I just want you to know that it can.” Wait, what? I guess on some level it made sense, but wow… Kiri… and Yuna… there sure were more of them than I had thought.
“I, but, Kiri… I don’t know if I can be a good girlfriend. It’s kind of a world I don’t really understand…”
Kiri looked a little bit embarrassed. “Ah, well, it’s not like I know what I’m doing either, really. I was a big mess around the time I realized I was in love, too. I think most of us have no idea what we’re doing,” she said, laughing nervously.
“But she’s such a nice and strong person… I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near her level. Could I really date someone like that?” I asked, twirling the rose around in my hands.
“I… don’t think that kind of thing matters. My girlfriend is a wonderful person, much more than me. I dunno if I’m ‘worthy’ of her love or not, but she still loves me. And this person who confessed to you loves you. The real question is, do you love her back? If you do, then I think that’s all you need. You’re someone I’ve always been happy to have as a friend, Ano, and not just ‘cause you’re super cute. I think whatever you decide, it’ll work out. I just, you know, if you both love each other, I wouldn’t want you to give up on that for no reason.”
That’s right, huh. Yuna… loves me. She said so. Do I really love her too? I was really nervous when she confessed to me, but… I was a little happy too. Knowing that she thought about me like that.
After all that heart-to-heart, we started talking about less serious things, like games and school and Kiri’s cute new junior in the math club. I was certainly very grateful to have been able to talk about the love stuff, but I was grateful for this too. Even as everything around me seemed to be changing, I still treasured this little piece of my life that remained the same as always.
When we’d said our goodbyes, I found myself alone in the hallway outside, staring at Yuna’s rose. Geez, giving me a flower… I’d never have expected you to be such a ladykiller, Yuna. But then again, I guess I’m discovering new things about myself, too, aren’t I… I inhaled the flower’s sweet scent and smiled, faintly but genuinely. Wait for me, Yuna. As long as this takes, I hope you’ll be there at the end.
The roof in November was a little chilly, but not unpleasantly so. Ano had told me she wanted to talk to me, so here I was, back in my old haunt. Sometime over the past couple of months I’d stopped eating lunch here, and I didn’t really regret it, especially since it meant I got to spend more time with Ano. But I had a lot of memories wrapped up in this place, and there was still something appealing about its quiet solitude.
“Hey, Yuna,” Ano said, coming up next to me. She was wearing a really cute scarf, dark blue against her light hair, that made her look even prettier than usual. Leaning against the railing, she stared out over the town beneath us, and I felt a pang of nervousness. This is the moment, isn’t it. Where she’ll really tell me how she feels about me.
“You know,” she said, “when you confessed to me, I was really surprised. I didn’t know how to feel. I would never have imagined that you possibly had a thing for me.”
“Well, yeah, I… didn’t really expect things to turn out this way either.”
“I’d kind of told myself I wasn’t interested in romance. That I’d be happier watching other people’s relationships than actually being in one of my own. But, because it was you, Yuna…” She turned to look at me, and I found myself turning red. “Because it was you, I had to think again.”
I was holding my breath, unable to speak, staring at her. “For a long time,” she continued, “I thought all I wanted was for you to be happy. You were so nice to me but you felt a little distant and a little sad. I just wanted to get a little closer to you, to see you smile more, and I was so happy when that happened. But then you said you loved me and I realized that no, it wasn’t enough to just see you smile. I wanted to be someone special to you. Someone you treasured above anyone else.” Oh no, I was starting to tear up again. Was this… really happening?
Ano looked at my face and I could see a flush of red spread on hers. “Yuna, I--I love you. So much. I don’t know anything about romance or being someone’s girlfriend or anything but…”
I wiped away tears from my eyes and held out my arms to embrace her, just like that fateful day in the classroom. This time, though, she hugged me back.
I whispered, “I love you, Ano,” into her ear and she stiffened. “Geez, Yuna,” she said, “you can’t do stuff like that. I’ll really fall hopelessly in love with you…” I laughed and held her tighter, and as we stood there in each other’s arms, two girls in love under an overcast sky, I felt so deeply, deeply happy. I’d never thought this day would come. The day when my precious friend became my precious girlfriend.