Chapter 1: Endings and Beginnings
The day that Tohru and Kyo were to board the train, I was running late. Despite Haru's offer to give me a ride, I had told him to go on ahead. I remember running, my violin case bumping against my leg. I skid as I caught sight of them, everyone saying their goodbyes.
"Look out!" I yelled as I bumped into Tohru, having lost control of my speed. I flinched, I can't transform here! The thought lived a second before being trumped by the reality: the curse was broken. I got up quickly and then realization hit me, "Oh no!" I opened my violin case and nothing was broken. I heaved out a sigh.
Kyo was helping Tohru up, "You're not hurt, are you?" he asked. "No, no, I'm fine," she replied.
Kisa's face relaxed.
Grasping tightly to the handle of my violin case, I said, "Tohru, do you remember that promise of long ago that I would learn any song you asked for?"
Tohru looked questioningly at me for a second before her face lit up as she answered, "Of course I do!"
I grinned, taking out my violin and positioning myself, "Well, as my farewell, I am going to fulfill my promise."
I began to play When You Wish Upon A Star.
As I played, Tohru squeezed Kyo's hand while smiling ever so kindly at me. Her wish upon a star had come true. I felt my heart tighten as I stared at those intertwined hands. I looked over at Tohru's friend, the one named Arisa Uotani. Kureno was not here, but I felt in my heart that everything between them was alright; her smile was light.
I began to think of Momo for the day of the promise and Tohru's looking for Kureno was the same as the day Tohru told me Momo wanted to get near me. I felt myself on the verge of tears and I concentrated on the strings.
The song reached its close and the group clapped. I forced a big smile and bowed grandiosely. Tohru approached me and took hold of my hands. "Take care, Momiji-kun." I tightened my grip on her hands as I said, "I will if you do, too."
Tohru and Kyo boarded the train and I watched as it left the station.
"Still think she should dump him."
I laughed as Haru said, "Rin, don't go sulking today."
I looked after the train, already far away, and thought fondly of the former cat and the girl whom everyone loved. Kisa, who was standing on my left, dried her tears as Hiro gave her his shoulder. Ritsu and Kagura were already walking away and Ayame was being awfully loud, going on about how Yuki's farewell gifts will be grander than the ones he gave Tohru. Yuki was speed walking away from him and Mine, who were holding hands.
"Momiji, are you ready to go?"
I turned around to face Haru, who had asked the question.
"Yeah," I breathed as I nodded.
How bittersweet. The girl I love with the man she loves, off to find their happiness after bringing so much here.
And I, a third year, and no longer the rabbit.
Everyone did as they were told.
It was now the first day of school. It was a lot less climactic then I had imagined, but exciting nonetheless.
When the teacher started his sermon, I leaned over to Haru and said, "Hey, do you wanna hang out after school?"
"Can't. I promised Rin I'd go on a date with her today. Sorry."
"Oh, it's alright."
I leaned back against my chair, my smile melting away.
I paid close attention to the teacher after that.
The day drew to a close. Haru gathered his things and said, "I'll see you tomorrow, Momiji."
I waved and smiled, "See ya!"
As he closed the door to the classroom, leaving only me, I slumped into my chair.
As I gathered my things, I thought about what I'd cook for myself and I thought about what I would serve up for my father when he came to visit after he returned from the trip he had with mother and Momo. I opened the door and started walking down the hallway, the only sounds being my footsteps, when suddenly, I bumped into something as I turned a corner.
I then realized it wasn't a something, but a someone. Being much smaller than me, she was knocked over while I remained standing.
"Sorry! Are you alright?" I exclaimed.
The girl looked up at me, first with a questioning look. Then an angry one.
"Did you just knock me over?"
With my eyes wide, I braced myself for her lashing out.
"You literally just knocked me over!"
The girl proceeded to lie flat on the ground and say, "And I've been practicing my stance, too! You weren't supposed to able to knock me over!"
I blinked and stared, "Excuse me?"
She was a really cute girl; she was so petite and her hair was a short bob with a pink flower clip in her hair.
She glared and while getting up, said, "My stance! I've been working hard on having a strong core and you knocked me over without a problem!"
"Oh! You're a martial artist!" I finally understood.
"Yeah, and you'd think I would be able to stay on my feet after simply bumping into someone." She sighed.
I forced a small laugh and said, "Are you a first year? I haven't seen you around before."
She widened her eyes and laughed while saying, "No, no. I'm a third year. I just switched schools."
"Eh?! You look younger!" I laughed and added, "Though, not too long ago I also looked younger than I actually am. A friend of mine who graduated last month thought I was going into middle school when I was to become a first year!"
"That's hard to believe," she replied, looking me up and down.
"What's your name?" I finally asked.
"Oh! Didn't I already say it? I'm Makoto Tenoh. I'm in class 3-B."
"I'm Momiji Sohma from class 3-D."
"Well, Sohma-kun, it was very nice meeting you, but I have to get going now."
"Wait, where are you going?"
"I was told that new students had to go to room 4-G for something."
I laughed weakly, "There's no such classroom."
She stared at me and then glared. She put her hand on her face and leaned against the wall, "Are you kidding me? I'm not even a first year and I fell for the 'swimming pool on the third floor' joke."
I couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, ha ha, okay." She was blushing such a deep red.
"I'm sorry," I said, still laughing.
After my laughter had died down, I said, "Would you like to walk home together?"
She widened her eyes at me, "Uh, no. Thanks for offering, but really it's fine. I'll catch ya later, 'kay?"
And with that she ran off.
I looked on as she ran down the hallway, my mouth hanging open.
What a pretty name.
Chapter 2: The Wallet Photo
Tuesday morning rolled in and I was walking to school with Haru. I yawned and stretched as I walked while he carried his satchel over his shoulder, completely at ease.
"Since when do you have restless nights?" he asked.
"Since last night," I answered while yawning.
"Were you having nightmares?"
"Nuh-uh. I just couldn't catch a wink. I just lay there tossing and turning."
"I've been having trouble konking out myself," Haru had said.
I glared at him, "You certainly don't look like you have."
"But I have."
"You'd think you'd be resting easy considering you're living the dream right now," I said, putting my hands behind my head and closing my eyes, still walking.
"Is that so? Does that mean you're lack of sleep is the result of stress?"
I forced a chuckle, "Perhaps."
Haru stopped walking then and said, "You do know that you can talk to me, right?"
I stopped and looked at him, surprised, "Y-Yeah, of course."
We continued walking and I mulled over what he said. Despite it, I really didn't feel like I could. Yeah, Haru and Rin are my friends. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I was an unneeded wheel on a happy wagon.
Once in class, I opened up my wallet and took out a tiny photograph. It was Momo's portrait, neatly groomed and her stare focused away from the camera. I've never shown this picture to anyone and the only reason I had it was because I stole it from my dad's own wallet. Surely, he realized but never said a word about it.
"Rise!" the teacher said as I jumbled to put the photograph back in my wallet and into my back pocket.
When I sat back down, the day went on in a drawl so I was looking forward to lunch. I jumped out of my chair and put my hand on Haru's shoulder, headed for the garden, bentos in hand.
"You have no idea how much I was itching to get out of there!" I exclaimed as we went through the door.
I fumbled with my bento as I said, "I think I've learned how to sleep while sitting up!"
"Yeah, I could tell," Haru said with a smile.
My wallet fell from my pocket to the floor and I bent down to pick it up while looking at Haru's face and saying, "Seriously! I didn't think it was possible but I've mastered it! And it's not even like I do it on purpose!"
We continued walking and then sat under a tree, the sun enveloping us in warmth.
"I'm so glad it's warm out; the classroom was so cold," I said.
"Really? I didn't think anything of it," Haru replied.
"Eh?! You weird lizard thing!"
We continued talking and when we were halfway finished with our lunches, I spotted someone making their way to us.
"Makoto! How've you been?"
She didn't say anything until she reached us. She eyed Haru a little nervously but shrugged it off to say, "I found something of yours and I just wanted to give it back." She handed me the picture of Momo.
I panicked and exclaimed, "How do you have that?!" and went on to look in my wallet. Of course, it wasn't there.
"I found it in the hallway and I knew it was yours the minute I saw it; that little girl looks a lot like you."
I chuckled, "Yeah, I guess she does."
"I'm glad I was able to find you, Sohma-kun. It would've sucked if I had to go all around the school in search of you," she laughed.
"Hey, what's with that 'Sohma-kun' mess? Just call me Momiji," I then hit my forehead and said, "I forgot to introduce you; this is my cousin, Hatsuharu Sohma. Haru, this is Makoto Tenoh."
"Nice to meet you," she said as she bowed. Haru nodded.
"Take a seat, Mako-chan."
"Have you eaten yet?" I asked.
"Actually, I forgot my lunch at home," she forced a laugh.
"In that case have some of my food," I replied.
"Momiji, really, it's fine," she said as she put her hands up in front of her.
I held out my chopsticks and said, "Open wide!"
She blushed deep red and then realizing how weird it was to feed her like a child and on top of that, with my chopsticks, I blushed, too. But I didn't put it down because I had already done the act and I had to commit.
"Eh, I, uh... Okay..." she mumbled and hesitantly took the bite. I looked over at Haru and he just sat there, eating his own food without any hint of embarrassment.
"So, what is your class doing?" I asked, trying to cast aside the awkward moment.
"Uh, our teacher was giving us a lecture..."
We continued talking, the three of us, until lunch ended.
"You should join us tomorrow for lunch again," I said.
"I will!" she said, and she smiled first to me and then at Haru.
Haru just nodded. He was a man of few words.
As we started getting close to the other students walking back in, Makoto perked up and nervously said, "Well, I'm gonna run ahead, my teacher gets really mad if anyone is late. See ya, Momiji-kun, Hatsuharu-kun."
And just like that, she was off, zigzagging through the crowd.
Chapter 3: The Love Letter
Every day that entire week, Makoto joined Haru and me for lunch. When Saturday rolled in and I was opening my shoe locker on my way home, I saw a pink envelope in it. Questioningly, I opened it and the letter read:
Meet me at the entrance of that carnival on the other end
of town tomorrow at 7:00 in the morning. Surely you know the
one? It's hard to miss.
I couldn't help but blush. She's asking me out on a date, isn't she?
"Whaddya got there?" I heard Haru ask from behind me. I jumped and clutched the letter to my chest.
I blushed harder and said, "I think I got a love letter from Mako-chan."
Just then, Makoto passed by. When she caught sight of us, a flustered expression came upon her face and she half ran away from us.
"She certainly seems to like you," Haru said with a surprisingly teasing tone.
"I think I like her, too, to be honest," I said, grinning.
Sunday morning came and I was walking to the carnival, still a little ways from it but I could already make out the top of the Ferris wheel. It was a refreshing day; the sun was warm and the breeze was gentle. When I could finally catch sight of the entrance, there I saw Makoto. She was wearing a brown sweater that revealed her slender shoulders and her bob cut seemed especially bouncy that day. Her cheeks were slightly pink and I felt myself get a little flustered. She's so cute!
Makoto caught sight of me and smiled hugely.
"Did I make you wait long?" I asked.
She shook her head, "No, I just got here."
I grabbed hold of her hand, smiling widely, "Well, come on, we gotta go on every ride!"
And that's exactly what we did.
I urged her to ride the carousel with me and she grabbed on tightly to her horse, making me laugh.
“It’s not like you’re going to fall off!” I cried.
“You don’t know that!” she called back to me.
“This ride is so tame!” I laughed.
“And yet I still fell off these plastic horses when I was a kid!” she exclaimed.
This set me into a fit of laughter and she turned to me, pouting, and said, “Yeah, keep
making fun of me! I’ll fight you!”
We then went on one of the dizzy rides and we made it spin as fast as we could, neither of us getting queasy. Makoto and I sat in the swing ride and we laughed at our dangling feet and she was incredibly excited about the view from up there.
“Momiji! Look! You can see the school from here!”
“Yeah! You can!”
She squealed in delight and then said, “This is amazing!”
“It is!” I said.
“The people below look like ants!” she exclaimed.
“We can crush them!” I said.
Makoto laughed with such emotion that I couldn’t contain my own smile.
At one point, I tried winning a teddy bear for her in one of those rigged games and as I
was turning away with a sheepish grin on my face, she surprisingly won the bear herself.
"Aren't those games supposed to be rigged?!" I yelled.
She rose an eyebrow and smirked.
We came upon a concession stand and I said, “Let’s get lunch!”
“Okay, sure!” she replied, holding tightly to her bear.
“Do you want a crepe?” I asked.
“Yeah! And let’s share a cotton candy!” she said.
“And we should get odango, too!”
“And ice cream!”
We both stopped yelling and stared at each other. She turned bright red and then we both began to laugh.
We both hauled our mountains of cravings to a nearby bench.
We attacked the cotton candy first, seeing as it already began shriveling up. She giggled after every bite. I began picking larger pieces of cotton candy and Makoto noticed almost immediately. She followed my example and soon enough, we were racing to finish the cotton candy. She won. We both laughed.
Our ice creams were already half melted. She slurped hers up as quickly as possible. When we were finished, I noticed Makoto had gotten ice cream on her nose. I giggled and she frowned, “What so funny?” I didn’t answer, I just went and wiped it off with my index finger and licked it off. She squeaked and burned crimson.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” I said with a smile.
“Easy for you to say, you’re not the one that made themselves look like a pig…”
“I don’t think you looked like a pig,” I chuckled.
“You don’t have to be this nice…” she mumbled.
Now it was my turn to frown, “What do you mean?”
Makoto began eating the odango slowly, seemingly mulling over her answer. She scrunched up her nose and then slowly began speaking, “I appreciate how kind you’re being, Momiji, but… I worry you’re wasting your kindness on me. Or rather, that you’ll end up wishing you never gave it to me in the first place.” She forced a smile.
“Makoto… Why would I ever regret befriending you?”
She smiled nervously, “I don’t know… Maybe I’m just being weird.” She hurriedly continued eating.
“Makoto…” I began before she interrupted me by saying, “Are you not going to finish that?” She pointed to my odango.
I didn’t let her change the subject, “Makoto, I’m having fun. I’m glad we’re both here together. And I don’t regret any of my memories, even if they’re bad. I make a point of it. Are you regretting having come here…?”
“No! Not at all!” she blurted and then softly said, “I’m… I’m glad we’re both here, too…”
I offered her a smile, “Good. Now, to answer your previous question: yes, you can have my odango.”
She made a tiny giggle, eyebrows still pressed together in what seemed to be worry.
So I said, “Mako-chan, I bet I can eat mochi faster than you.”
Makoto perked up slightly and said, “You’re on!”
After our lunch we continued exploring the amusement park, taking pictures of each other and the park every few minutes.
We finally arrived at the Ferris wheel and I suddenly started feeling nervous. I took a peek at Makoto from the side of my eye and she was burning red, clutching her bear.
"Shall we?" I asked, putting out my hand for her to hold.
She gave a small smile and gave me her hand.
We were alone and the wheel turned. The day had gone by and the night sky was calm. That is until fireworks shot up in a brilliance of colors. Makoto let out a small sigh.
"Makoto," I said.
She turned, "Yes?"
I put my hand on her cheek and she looked flustered but did not turn away. I slowly came closer and then she was the one to close the distance between our lips. It was warm and soft. One hand let go of her teddy to rest on my chest. Her hand glided up to my neck and pulled me in closer. Nothing compared.
As we were leaving the amusement park, she interrupted the silence by saying, "Thanks for inviting me out here."
I stopped in my tracks and frowned. She looked startled at me.
"You were the one that invited me," I assured her.
Now she was frowning. She rummaged through her shoulder bag and pulled out an envelope. I took it and then reached into my back pocket for the pink envelope I received. I bent down so she could see, too.
Both letters had identical handwriting.
We looked at each other and finally, both of us blurted, "Haru!"
"I just thought that a day alone together would do the two of you good, is all."
"Was there really a need for a ruse?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at Haru and hunching my shoulders. Makoto was sitting with us under the tree where we always eat lunch, blushing with furrowed brows.
Hatsuharu gave a soft smile and asked, "But now the two of you are going out, aren't ya?"
I looked at Makoto and her eyes grew wide at my stare. She then lowered her gaze, trying to conceal the redness of her face. She's so cute!
"That's all the answer I need," Haru said, a serene expression on his face.
"Don't think you're getting off the hook so easily!" I said, pointing at him firmly.
"Alright, alright, I understand..." Haru started standing up, "I'll see you back in class, Momiji. See ya, Tenoh-san." With that, he turned and walked away.
I turned towards Makoto; she seemed on the verge of saying something but she wouldn't spit it out. I tilted my head, "What is it?"
Makoto furrowed her eyebrows again and said, "Are we still on for this Sunday?"
She was referring to our plans which we made at the end of our date.
"That Haru!" I put my hand on my forehead, "Anyway, I had a nice time," I smiled sheepishly.
She was covering most of her face with her teddy bear when she replied, "So did I."
"Would you be up for catching a movie with me next week?" I asked.
She brought down her teddy to reveal her delicate smile, "Sure. I'd love to."
"Of course we are!" I exclaimed.
"Same time as our last date?" she asked.
"Yes. And we'll meet by the fountain," I reminded her.
"Alright!" she exclaimed, standing up in a rush, "I look forward to it!"
I stood up as well, "Want me to walk you to class?"
"No!" she yelled. I was taken aback. She tripped over her words for a second before saying, "No, really, you don't have to."
I studied her for a bit and then said, "Alright, if you insist."
"I do," she forced a laugh before waving bashfully and running off.
I frowned and then shrugged it off. It's not like she's my girlfriend... yet. I smiled. Surely she feels things are going too fast. We did just meet a week ago.
The bell then rang and I walked back to class.
"So your dad's coming to your house today?" asked Haru.
We were walking back to the main house, bags over our shoulders. The school day had ended.
"Yeah... He called this morning to let me know. So I'm gonna prepare some curry for him or something," I answered.
"Do you want me to come over, too?" Haru asked.
I looked at him and he stared back intently. We were no longer walking. It felt as if he was searching for something in my eyes. I smiled to reassure him and said, "Nah, it'll be fine."
"Of course," I laughed.
We continued walking as he said, "If you change your mind, don't hesitate to give me a shout."
I laughed, "Aren't you going to be spending time with Rin, anyway?"
"Yeah, so? We haven't hung out with you in a while. Maybe we can have dinner at my house after school on Saturday?"
I gave him a tiny smile, "Yeah, sure."
Haru widened his eyes, his obvious concern for me growing more apparent. I was making myself a burden by not concealing these recent moods. I widened my smile and enthusiastically said, "It'll be fun!"
Haru wasn't convinced. Regardless, he said, "Of course, if you want to bring Tenoh-san along, there aren't any objections."
By the mention of her, I blushed. "Maybe I will," I said.
When Haru and I finally arrived in front of my house, he patted my head and said, "I'll see ya at school tomorrow."
As he walked away towards his own home, I said, "See ya, Haru," and with that entered the quiet of my home.
As I flicked on the light, I filled the silence with my usual tiny mutter: "Welcome back, Momiji. It's good to be back."
Chapter 4: Dusty Violin
The food had been prepared and my homework was completed. I stared at the table, the curry and rice growing cold slowly. I had not been watching the television for a while so I turned it off and walked to my room. I flicked the switch and walked past my violin case covered in several layers of dust to lay on my bed. But as soon as I had done that, I heard the front door open and a "I'm home!" be called. I heaved out a large breath and closed my eyes, proceeding to drag myself to the door.
"Welcome back, dad."
He took off his coat and his shoes as he asked, "How've you been, son?"
"Well, actually. The beginning of this school year went without a hitch. Dinner's ready, by the way." With that, I walked away into the dining room.
The two of us kneeled across from each other.
"This looks quite good, Momiji. It seems your cooking skills are improving."
"There's always room for more improvement, though," I replied.
An uncomfortable silence fell upon us, only interrupted by the scrapes of our utensils on the dishware.
"So, how was vacation?" I finally asked.
"Very nice, very nice. Your mother loves the sea, as you already know, and Momo seems to have inherited that love. It was difficult to get her out of the water. She kept referring to herself as a 'fishie'. She laughed so gleefully."
I smiled as I imagined it. What sort of face had she made?
"Can you believe that Momo took her violin with her on the vacation?"
I widened my eyes at the question.
"She has almost gotten as good as you. A little prodigy, she is."
"That's nice to hear," I answered in a monotone, while in my mind I was struggling between feelings of tenderness and sadness; Tohru had told me Momo wanted to play violin so she could play with me. She wanted me to be her big brother. Could it be she still hung to that hope? Surely, the caprice of a child would have gone away by now. But even if it was still there, there was no way I could ever get close to Momo. Father made sure of that. That familial life that Father described on his visits here did not belong to me.
"Well, I'm off, Momiji. Give me a ring if you need anything," Father said as he put on his coat. He opened the door and gave me a nod before closing the door behind him. The silence returned.
I dragged my feet back to my room and lay on my bed without changing out of my clothes, anxiously waiting for sunrise until I lost consciousness.
When morning came around, what awoke me were the hard knocks on my front door. When I went to open it, there stood Haru, preened and with his school bag over his shoulder.
He look me up and down and said, "Did you go to sleep in that?"
"You sure overslept; you're gonna have to skip breakfast if we wanna make it to school on time."
"When did you become the poster child of the Japanese school system?" I asked as I turned around and waved him inside.
When I was finally presentable, I grabbed my school bag and walked over to Haru, sitting on the steps to the door.
"Sorry that I made you wait for me. Ready to head out?" I said, exchanging my house slippers for my shoes.
He stood up and held the door open for me.
"So, how was dinner with your dad?"
"It was okay. Nothing special."
Quiet followed. Light conversation in between silence ensued until we reached school. Class went on as usual, I did my work as usual and I looked forward to eating lunch with Makoto. I began to think of Haru's invitation for dinner and a tiny smile crept onto my lips.
Once it was time for lunch, I noticed Haru was walking in the opposite direction of our tree.
"Where're you going, Haru?" I called.
"I have something to do. Don't have to much fun without me," he answered without turning around, waving as he continued walking away. The last part almost sounded teasing.
I frowned but walked on. It was probably for the best. Having him present while I invited Mako-chan to his dinner might add unneeded pressure on her.
When I saw her under the tree, I perked up. She really was unbelievably cute.
"Mako-chan! How are you?" I said in a cheerful voice.
"Momiji-kun! I'm fine, how are you?" She looked slightly flustered and then her nervousness showed more as she asked, "Where's Hatsuharu-kun?"
"He said he had something to do. In all honesty, though, I think he wanted to give us time alone," I said.
She turned bright red. "Oh, I-I see."
I smiled and after a few moments asked, "Do you think things are moving too fast with us?"
She hesitated before saying, "A little..."
"Don't worry, I won't push you. But now we can talk more freely."
She seemed to gradually relax as she giggled and asked, "Talk more freely about what?"
I shrugged as I took my food out of my bento and broke off my chopsticks. "Anything, I guess. Like getting to know each other a little more in a relaxed setting. Not much talking is going to go on when we go to the movies on Sunday."
Makoto smiled, "Then mind if I start asking the questions?"
"Only if we take turns!" I exclaimed.
She laughed and said, "Alright, alright." She then hummed as she pondered what question to start with, tapping her chopsticks on her chin.
"Alright, what's your favorite thing to do?"
"Violin," I answered automatically.
"You play violin! Oh, that's so cool! Do you play every day?"
I was taken aback and then shook my head and said, "Didn't we say we'd take turns? Alright, what's your favorite thing to do?"
"I love karate. It makes me feel powerful and in control," she perked up as she said it and went on, "What do you like most about playing the violin?"
I did my best to remain cheerful, "I can really express myself with music. It was once my dream to play a concert for my family. And when my friend went away a month ago, I played a song for her that she had requested. It was When You Wish Upon A Star. It had a lot of meaning for us and expressed a lot of joy and hope everyone was feeling back then."
"Why do you say once? Is it not your dream anymore to play the violin for your family?"
Why was she asking all the difficult questions?
"It still is. It's just impossible."
I pursed my lips and said, "Hey, it's my turn-"
I stopped talking as soon as she grabbed hold of my hand. Her hand was firm and I didn't look away from it even when she asked again, "Why is it impossible?"
I shrugged and shook my head to then smile at her forcefully to say, "It's unrealistic. They don't consider me part of the family."
Makoto flinched and tears suddenly poured out of her eyes.
"No, no, no... Makoto, why are you crying?" I got close to her face and held it, wiping her tears with my thumb.
"That's terrible! Why are parents like that? Why?" she sobbed.
"Do your parents not consider you part of the family, either?" I asked, bewildered.
She looked up at me with a sort of fear in her eyes. She dried her face and whispered, "I won't pry anymore. Please do the same."
I looked at her, concerned.
She smiled for me and said, "Momiji, I'm gonna get going. I need some time alone. I'll see you tomorrow, 'kay?"
I nodded, still caressing her face.
She grabbed hold of my wrists and pulled my hands away as she got up. "I'm sorry I pried. I'll see you soon."
She walked away and left me disconcerted under the shade of our tree.
Chapter 5: The Walk Home
The next day it was as if nothing had happened. She greeted Haru and me cheerfully. The only slight change was that she now seemed more comfortable around us. We joked and teased and ate happily; yesterday's tears were never shed. But all this had me more anxious than ever. Why don't her parents consider her family? Is she still living with them? Does it have something to do with having transferred to our school in the third year? There was no way I was going to batter her with these questions; especially not when she's smiling so brightly and in the presence of Hatsuharu.
"So, I just realized that I never asked: What's up with the hair on both your heads? Why hasn't anyone at this school said anything about it?" she asked.
"This is our natural hair," I replied.
"Okay, I can see how that can be in your case; you told me you're German, right? But what about you?" she turned to Haru, "No teen has natural white hair."
Haru shrugged, "I do."
"I don't believe you."
Haru shrugged again, "The carpet matches the drapes."
Makoto burned bright red and started laughing.
"It's true; I can show you," Haru said in a deadpan manner.
"No! No! I believe you!" Makoto hollered and waved her hands in front of her, as if Haru was about to pull his pants down outside in clear daylight.
"I'm pretty sure that'd be considered sexual harassment, Haru," I said, chuckling.
"I was only teasing, Makoto-san," Haru said, a light smile on his face.
With a few more swift bites of his lunch, Hatsuharu said, "There's something I need to do. I'll see the two of you later." Haru looked over to me and subtly winked. I smirked and shook my head; his winks might be subtle, but his intentions were not.
"Catch you later, Hatsuharu-kun," Makoto piped up.
Once he was out of earshot, I said, "Mako-chan, are you busy on Saturday afternoon?"
Makoto knit her eyebrows and said, "That's still a little bit away. I don't plan any sort of spectacular events for after school. The usual plan is to work on homework. Though, I do tend to procrastinate. So, um, I guess, no. I don't have anything planned."
She blushed slightly; my guess was that she feared she had spoken more than necessary. I smiled.
"It's just that Haru invited me to have dinner with his girlfriend, Rin, and he said you were also welcome."
"Oh, that sounds nice. I'd love to!" She then blushed, "I guess it's sort of a double date, then?"
"You don't have to think of it that way... Unless, of course, you want to."
She smiled and asked, "We'd walk together to his house?"
"Yeah, that's the plan. Haru's a pretty good cook, so you won't be disappointed."
"I'm sure; his lunch is always worthy of envy. What's Rin-san, like?"
"Well, she's two years older than us and a Sohma. Rin's a nickname, though. Her first name is Isuzu. She's pretty spirited, very confident. I've known her my whole life. She's very protective of Haru and can be pretty intimidating when you first meet her. But she can be fun to tease once you get close to her."
"An intimidating Sohma? What a surprise!" Makoto said.
"Is that sarcasm I detect?" I inquired.
Makoto blushed, "Yes..."
"I'm intimidating?" I asked, grinning.
"Well, not like scary intimidating... You're really refreshing and friendly... I mean..."
"Yes...?" I pressed.
Makoto's face was turning redder every second, "You... and Hatsuharu-kun, are... Intimidatingly attractive..." She hid her face in her hands.
I laughed, feeling myself blush, too.
"You know, you're not sore on the eyes, either."
"It's true! You're very cute, Mako-chan!"
"Shut up!" she repeated, trying to bury her face deeper in her hands.
We continued eating and soon enough, our bento boxes were bare. So, with nothing else to do, I offered to walk Makoto to her classroom.
"No!" she exclaimed immediately.
I furrowed my brow, "Why not?"
She seemed to be looking for an excuse as she opened and closed her mouth; every time she was about to say something, but then quickly changed her mind.
I began to walk toward the building and said, "Really, it's no trouble. I want to spend some more time with you."
Makoto followed me.
"What's wrong? You're shaking all over!"
"I have to pee,” she replied.
I laughed, "You could've just said so!"
We walked in silence to the restrooms and once there, she began walking into the men's room.
"Makoto, check the sign," I said, giggling.
She walked back out, a puzzled look on her face but once she looked at the sign she turned bright red.
"I guess I got distracted!" she laughed, still jittery and nervous.
I laughed with her and then stared at her questioningly when the laughter had subsided. She was still there, standing in front of me, unmoving.
"I'll wait right here," I said.
"You don't have to," she insisted.
"I don't mind. I want to walk you to class."
She stared at the girls that talked animatedly to each other as they passed us into the restroom.
"Alright, I confess. I don't have to pee. I just really don't want you to walk me to class."
"Why not?" I asked.
She bit her lip and stared at me with fervent distress. Her eyes were huge and desperate and they penetrated my very being.
"Alright, alright. I won't walk you to class," I finally said.
Relief swept through her face, apparent even though she tried to hide it. Her eyebrows came together to form a frown as she looked at what must've been obvious concern on my face.
"I won't say no to you walking me home, though," she offered me a smile.
I sighed and returned her a reassuring grin, "Sounds like a plan!"
"Good! I'll meet you at the front of the school!" And with that last word, she was off.
At the front of the school, I couldn't find Makoto. I turned around and searched, but it wasn't until I turned the corner that I saw her, leaning against the wall with a bashful face.
"Are you hiding from me?" I asked.
"Yep! And you found me!"
I cocked my head to the side and smirked. Makoto blushed in response.
"Could it be that I just made you swoon?" I asked, excited.
Makoto jumped, "How can you ask such embarrassing things so nonchalantly?!"
I laughed, "I've never been particularly timid."
"This is more than just 'not being timid'! You have no shame!" She was blushing so hard, I couldn't contain my ever-growing smile.
“Life’s too short to let yourself feel shame!” I exclaimed.
Makoto’s face grew thoughtful, making my emotions slow down, too. Her expression became serene and she smiled up at me and said, “I guess you’re right.” Her face was pink.
I smiled and said, “Of course I’m right. Now, let me carry your bag.”
Makoto opened her mouth, ready to protest, but I stuck out my hand before any words passed through her lips. She sighed and gave up her satchel.
“You live this way, right?” I asked as I took my first step down the sidewalk.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Makoto answered.
“On Saturday, do you wanna walk to Rin’s straight after school or would you rather I come by to pick you up after you changed out of your uniform?”
She pouted in thought and then said, “I guess the latter… Though I don’t really mind walking there straight after school; I wouldn’t want you to go out of your way.”
“Nah, it’s fine! Besides… it gives me time to make myself even more intimidatingly attractive.” I bent down close to her face and grinned.
Makoto guffawed and blushed, “STOP!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll catch you next time you swoon,” I winked at her.
Makoto laughed heartily and said, “I guess I’ll try to make myself match…”
“How much cuter can you get?!”
She looked up at me, blushing more, and said, “STOP!”
“You sure get flustered easily,” I laughed.
She pouted, preoccupied by her embarrassment, and stretched out her leg, ready to cross a busy street.
“Watch out!” I yelled, reaching for her hand to pull her back.
Her eyes shot open just as a truck went past right in front of her. She would’ve been hit if I hadn’t pulled her in. I panicked momentarily: I’m gonna transform! Once again, I remembered that was no longer something that could happen. Once my brief shot of anxiety passed, I looked down at Makoto, pressed against my chest, stiff with shock.
“You okay?” I asked, worried.
She looked up at me with her huge doe eyes. A serene silence fell over us and it seemed time had stopped as I held her there as she oriented herself again.
“I’m fine,” she finally breathed.
I smiled and said, “I told you I’d catch you.”
She pulled away, the color coming back into her cheeks, and yelled, “Momiji! That doesn’t even count! I didn’t swoon!”
I laughed and grabbed hold of her hand, “Let’s keep going.”
She burned crimson, “You don’t have to hold my hand…”
“Yes, I do. Don’t want you walking onto oncoming traffic again.”
The rest of the walk was silent. I think we were both concentrating too much on the warmth of each other’s hands to speak.
“This is it,” Makoto said once we reached an apartment building.
“I’ll walk you to your door,” I said.
“Well, if you insist,” she said.
“I do,” I smiled.
We walked into the building and headed straight for the elevator.
“Which floor, Mako-chan?” I asked.
The elevator doors closed shut and we there alone, still holding hands.
“There’s no oncoming traffic in an elevator…” she said.
“Is it really that bad to hold hands with me?” I pouted.
“No! It’s not!” she yelled.
I grinned, “Good, because I don’t plan on letting go just yet.”
The sight of her blushing once more made my heart beat faster and that’s when the elevator doors opened.
“Lead me to your palace, princess!” I exclaimed.
That got a giggle out of her, “You’re too much, Momiji…” She began leading me away from the elevator.
“I try to be,” I sighed.
“Well, this is it; 402,” she breathed.
“Great! I’ll knock right on this here door on Saturday.”
Makoto shook her head and giggled, “My bag, oh, prince?” She held out her free hand.
“Oh! Right…” I laughed.
I handed it to her and she let go of my hand to look for her key. I sighed, wishing I could’ve held it a little longer.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mako-chan!”
She held the door open to say, “See you, Momiji!”