Umi idly twirled her pen in her hand, the pages of her homework left blank. She frequently snuck glances at her study companion, and if Maki took notice she didn’t say anything. Ever since they started dating many of their "dates" went like this, working hard together to maintain their grades while enjoying each other's company. Maki would often stay for tea afterward, and Umi enjoyed their little chats.
It was Umi’s birthday today, but they were treating it like it was a normal date. This was just another day for them.
“How are you doing?” Umi asked.
“Pretty good. I’ll be done with this soon,”
“Ah, should I put on some tea then?”
“No thank you.”
Umi nodded, and went back to her work. For some people, a birthday was something that required a ton of fanfare and a party, but Umi had never appreciated that line of thinking. She winced at the thought of last year’s birthday, where Kotori and Honoka got her father to host a party in the dojo with many of his students.
Most of the people there were pupils of her parents, who had great respect for her family. They went out of their way to compliment everything about Umi from her hair to her manners. She was so embarrassed she could die. Umi would gladly have a hundred boring birthdays like today if it meant never having to experience that again.
That’s what she believed, but today still felt a little sad. Perhaps asking Maki to treat today like any other was an overreaction. Kotori and Honoka’s parties were always over the top. She didn’t want a party, but Umi could felt like she was missing something. It was as if her heart was empty.
Maki closed her notebook and began stretching, catching Umi’s eye.
“I’m finished, thankfully. Some of this stuff is a real grind to get through.”
“Was it hard?” Umi asked, an eyebrow raised.
“Not at all. We learned all of this stuff today, so it’s just repetition.”
Umi smiled. Maki was complaining, but she had dutifully done her work the day it was assigned. Such a hard-working girlfriend felt more fitting for Umi’s character. Frankly speaking, Maki was more productive than Umi was. She was putting Umi’s position as senpai in danger.
Maki and she were pragmatic individuals. They weren’t the type of people to make a big fuss, a birthday was just another day for them. Umi pushed her books shut, stacking them on one another.
“Your worth ethic is impressive. I with Honoka and Rin could learn from your example.”
“D-don’t say something like that out of nowhere…” Maki said with a blush, though Umi got the feeling she appreciated the compliment. Despite appearances, Maki could be a very needy girl. Umi stood up, carrying the stack of schoolwork and books.
“Then I’ll get the tea ready. Give me a moment.”
“Ah, Umi before then,” Maki called.
For once, Maki was fidgeting more than Umi. A sight Umi very much welcomed, until Maki cupped her hands and yelled.
“Operation Beta Ocean!”
A manic screaming was heard from inside the walls, echoing around the room. To Umi’s horror, the floorboards of her study room were pulled open neatly like a trapdoor, and poking their heads from the hole were Kotori and Honoka.
“Happy birthday!” The two were holding up a cake, obviously Kotori’s work. Umi tried not to think about where it had been.
“How did you two get down there? Is that a trap door?” Umi really couldn’t believe them. “Honoka why is there a trap door in my house?!”
“Why are you assuming it’s my fault?!”
“I’m sorry, it was my idea,” Maki said, looking like she wasn’t sorry at all. “You said you wanted today to be just like any other, but I couldn’t do that without feeling guilty. So I said to Honoka, we have to do something. To let Umi-san’s birthday pass just like that would be a shame.”
There was a hint of teasing, but Umi could recognize the kindness in Maki’s thought process. The tsundere had a habit of not being honest about what she wanted. Umi would be perfectly happy not having a party, but this was a welcome surprise.
“Thank you, Maki.
“You better be ready for a birthday party, because that’s what I’ve got!” Honoka yelled, pulling open a confetti popper. Kotori pulled one as well, hers aimed straight into the air with much more grace.
“Today is your special today, so we’ll do anything you want,” Kotori said with a wink. “Anything except leave of course.”
“Your company is very welcome.” Umi bowed. “Truthfully, I was starting to miss you two.”
They broke out party hats and paper plates (Umi’s parents were of course in on the scheme). Umi was made to cut the cake as they all sang Happy birthday, and Maki started to give a speech on how great Umi was as a person.
“-one of the most inspiring people I know,” she was saying. “I hope we can stay together…”
She tried, before getting embarrassed and breaking down into a blushing fit. Honoka took over.
“Umi-chan is the kindest person I know. She’s always working hard and helping me out. Even if she and Maki-chan stay together, I want to always be Umi-chan’s friend. Don’t forget about me, okay?”
“Why is your speech all about yourself,” Umi grumbled, but it was in good fun. Honoka laughed and the small party clapped. It was awkward, it was embarrassing, but if Umi was being honest with herself she enjoyed it.
Umi thought back to that party last year. To the people who went out of their way to try and make her feel special. Getting complimented so much was embarrassing of course, but there was more to the incident than that. Umi felt like she didn’t deserve it.
Umi wasn’t special like Honoka. Umi wasn’t beautiful like Eli and Maki, and she wasn’t as smart as her grades made her seem. She didn’t have fun hobbies, she didn’t enjoy parties, and she had only recently started learning about pop culture. Compared to most girls her age, Umi was pretty boring.
However, that was before Muse. Before singing practice. Before dancing on stage. Before Maki. Today, Umi was surrounded by friends who love and appreciate her.
“Umi-chan, come take a picture!” Honoka called. She wrapped up Umi in a bear hug and positioned the camera lens on her phone. Honoka was surprised to find Umi hugging back, and a sly smile appearing on her face.
“Look! Look!” Honoka proudly showed Umi the picture. “You’re so cute! You never smile for pictures, this one will be worth a fortune!”
Umi laughed. Certainly, she was feeling more indulgent. Today was her special day, so she would be forgiven right?