TIME: 8:01 p.m. (EST)
Suzume runs her hand along the counter’s metal edge. “So the flight to Tokyo is still taking off, right? Like, before tomorrow?” She glances out the window at the swarm of thick snowflakes obscuring the runway.
The frazzled airport agent looks up from her computer in surprise, as if she’d just noticed Suzume. “Tokyo? Before tomorrow? Oh no, dear, I'm afraid that Flight 803 will be delayed for at least another five hours, if not more. This blizzard isn't expected to clear up until the well into the night. If you have somewhere you need to be, I'd suggest calling in to cancel right away.”
Suzume’s heart sinks. Five hours!... That's at least 1 a.m. Well… I guess I'll just have to wait it out. She nods a quick “thank you” to the agent and trudges back to her earlier-claimed plastic seat in defeat. She really, really hates airports.
Getting to visit her uncle Yukichi’s cousin in New York City over Christmas had seemed like a fantastic opportunity—and for the most part, it was. Suzume had been fascinated and thrilled by the chaotic, brightly-lit city, and there never been a dull moment—especially when they were with Yukichi’s cheerful and inexplicably tireless cousin. Suzume had been quite taken aback when Yukichi had decided that he would stay for another week in the city and let Suzume fly back to Japan on her own for the start of school. Their trip to New York had been the first time Suzume had even ridden an airplane, and now she was expected to fly by herself? Nevertheless, she had agreed, and tried to bury her unease underneath her annoyance with the long, tedious airport security process. And of course, as fate would have it, the sky chooses her return date to drop more snow in two hours than Suzume had seen in her entire life.
Suzume considers calling her uncle to pick her up until she finds out what time her flight will finally leave, but the drive to the airport had been long enough in proper weather and she hated to think of Yukichi trying to commute in the “worst blizzard New York’s seen since 2006.” She slumps in her chair and stares at the smooth white ceiling, listening to the crowds of harried passengers tugging overstuffed suitcases from gate to gate.
TIME: 8:32 p.m. (EST)
After completing her fourth sudoku puzzle, Suzume yawns and stretches, letting her eyes wander over the crowd to fix on a blond boy talking frantically to the agent from earlier. As she watches, he angrily hefts his single duffle bag onto his shoulder and stalks over to the seat in the very back corner of Suzume’s flight’s section.
How the hell is he traveling to Japan without a proper suitcase? Suzume marvels inwardly. Boys sure know how to pack lightly. Suzume looks at her own luggage, which was roughly the size of a small bathtub. Hmph. In her defense, her mom would never have let her step out the door with anything less.
The boy pulls a short pair of tangled earbuds from his bag and leans back with his arms crossed, sitting as still as a statue with a nonchalant expression. Suzume likes the way his hair sweeps down over his forehead, just barely touching his eyebrows.
TIME: 9:14 p.m. (EST)
The boy hasn’t moved an inch for the past half hour. Suzume thinks he might be on track for setting some kind of record, and she’s mildly impressed. More importantly, however, she's completely run out of magazines and the wifi is so slow as to be nonexistent; she can actually feel herself losing years of her life from sheer boredom. She stands up, trying half-heartedly to pat down her static-y hair, and walks confidently to the boy still listening to music.
“Hey,” she says casually, “you on the flight to Tokyo too?”
The boy looks up, his eyes narrowing. He takes out an earbud. “What?”
Suzume inwardly rolls her eyes. “Are you on the Tokyo flight? It sure sucks about the delay.”
The boy mutters an uninterested, “Yeah,” and goes to put his earbud back in. Annoyed, Suzume interrupts him before he can retreat into whatever music he finds so intriguing.
“So what’s your name? I'm Suzume. What’re you doing in New York?”
The boy gives an exaggerated sigh and sits up a little straighter. Hmph. What’s his problem? “Mamura, and boarding school—I didn't like it. Now can you leave me alone?”
Suzume stands gaping, momentarily floored by his astonishing rudeness. She recovers quickly. “Geez, you don’t have to be so mean. Aren’t you bored? We’re gonna be here for a while.”
Mamura looks away, his expression sullen, and for a second Suzume thinks he’s about to apologize. “... so annoying,” he mumbles. Suzume raises her eyebrows.
Well, alright then.
“Fine, whatever,” she tosses over her shoulder as she shuffles back to her seat. She flops down and looks irritatedly at him over the top of a magazine. He’ll never get a girlfriend that way.
TIME: 10:12 p.m. (EST)
By now Suzume is starving. She rummages through her bag and pulls out a weird type of bagel that Yukichi had bought her on the way to the airport. She glances over at Mamura; he’s still listening to music, his head in the same half-tilted position. On a whim, she walks back over to him.
“You want part of this… bagel thing?” she asks emotionlessly, careful to keep her expression uninterested. Mamura opens his eyes and takes out an earbud.
“What?” Exasperated, Suzume rolls her eyes and shoves the bagel near his face.
“Do you want some? I’m just trying to be nice.” Mamura’s face doesn’t move.
“Nah,” he finally replies, turning back to his phone. Suzume frowns at him for a moment, then turns back to her seat. Doesn’t matter. I was just being the bigger person. She bites into the bagel, stealing glances at Mamura to see if he’d look over. He doesn’t.
TIME: 10:42 p.m. (EST)
Suzume crumpled up a magazine page and tosses it at Mamura. He looks up, startled, and she watches his gaze land on the ball and slowly travel to Suzume. He narrows his eyes, picks up his luggage, and pointedly stalks over to another seat. Suzume smiles a little to herself.
TIME: 11:29 p.m. (EST)
The snow is still falling as thickly as ever outside the tall airport windows. Suzume stares at it blankly, resting her cheek against the back of her seat. She is so, so tired. The bustling of people rushing back and forth has long quieted, and Suzume could easily close her eyes and drift off to sleep.
A loud click from the airport intercom shakes her out of daze, and she sits up blearily to listen. “Attention passengers of Flight 803. Due to unfavorable flight conditions, your flight will be delayed until 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, December 31st. We apologize for the inconvenience.” Suzume groans and flops down onto the chair. Wonderful. Just peachy.
At least she knows for sure that her flight won't leave until the morning; now she can try to get some sleep. She digs a neck pillow out her suitcase, spreads her coat over the row of seats, and tries to get comfortable. She’s just closing her eyes when her heart drops. My luggage.
Suzume sits up groggily, blindly patting her suitcase on the seat next to her to make sure no one had stolen it. Despite the late hour, the airport is still fairly crowded due to the snowstorm. As exhausted as she is, she really doesn't think that leaving all of her bags unattended at a New York City airport is a very bright idea.
Suzume had just resigned herself to surviving the night on overpriced airport coffee when her gaze falls on Mamura. He’s finally abandoned his earbuds and is reading an enormous book that closely resembled a cinder block. Hmm…
Suzume stands up, stretches, and yanked her overstuffed suitcase across the row next to Mamura. He’s so deeply engrossed in his book that he doesn’t even notice her until she clears her throat expectantly.
“What do you want now?” he asks grouchily, his eyelids drooping with fatigue.
Suzume smiles as widely as she can. “Hi, Mamura! I really am sorry to bother you, but I'm really really tired, and I need someone to watch my luggage while I sleep. You seem pretty busy, so can you please just make sure no one steals it? You can wake me up after a few hours and I'll watch yours, if you want.” Her smile is starting to make her face ache.
Mamura stares at her for a bit, his expression unreadable. Finally, he heaves a huge sigh and says, “Fine. Whatever.”
“Thank you!” Suzume exclaims, a bit more enthusiastically than the situation calls for. Mamura mutters a quiet, “‘welcome,” and pulls her luggage onto the seat next to him. Suzume sets up her coat and pillow a few chairs down the row and curls up.
Before she closes her eyes, she glances at Mamura. He's making an effort to look in the opposite direction, and his ears are pink. She thinks it’s kind of cute.
TIME: 2:01 a.m. (EST)
The voice drags Suzume out of her restless sleep back into the airport, but she's too groggy to open her eyes.
At the sound of her name, Suzume lifts her head. “Mmm, what's up?”
Mamura is crouching by her chair with his face next to her ear, looking fantastically awkward. He looks away as she sits up, rubbing her eyes.
“Do you want to sleep for a bit?” she asks blearily. She stretches and checks the time. Still have seven more hours, ugh.
“... Yeah, I guess, if you don't mind,” he says uncomfortably, scratching the back of his neck. He's acting so differently from his former moody persona that Suzume doesn't know what to make of it. (Not that she's complaining.)
“Of course,” she says, and gathers up her coat and pillow to go sit by Mamura’s luggage. He lies down on the short carpet underneath the seats, determinedly closing his eyes. Suzume laughs inwardly.
“Don't you want a pillow or something?” she calls quietly.
“I'm fine,” he replies, his voice muffled by his sleeve. “Thanks,” he adds hastily. Suzume smiles and rolls her eyes. Soon she can hear him snoring softly.
His hair really is nice, she thinks to herself, gazing absentmindedly at him. And his nose. She's starting to hope that he warms up to her, eventually.
TIME: 4:11 a.m. (EST)
Suzume shakes Mamura’s shoulder. “Hey! Wake up!”
Mamura shifts a little and swats her hand away, his face pressed against the ground. Suzume wrinkles her nose; she doubts that airport carpets get steam-cleaned on a regular basis. “Hey! MAMURA!”
Mamura opens his eyes and blinks at her. Immediately his face turns bright red and he scrambles out from under the seats. “What?!”
Suzume laughs, the noise sounding unnatural in the nearly-silent airport. “I was just trying to wake you up. I need a favor.”
Mamura snorts, still looking disgruntled. “What is it?”
“I gotta buy food, I'm starving. But the stores here only take credit and I've only got cash. Do you have a card? I'll pay you back.”
Mamura considers it for a minute, then appears to give up. “Alright, whatever. Where do you want to go?”
Suzume starts walking towards a nearby McDonald’s. “Let's just go here, so we can keep an eye on our stuff.”
Mamura trails behind her. “I hate American food.”
The cashier looks just as tired as they are, and jumps when they approach the counter. “Welcome to McDonald’s, how can I help you?” she says listlessly.
Suzume orders a hamburger and fries; Mamura gets a small yogurt parfait. They grab the little paper bags and sit down at a nearby table. Suzume starts to count out the amount she owes Mamura before he refuses, going slightly pink again.
“You know,” Suzume muses, pulling the pickles off of her hamburger, “people probably think we're on a date.”
Mamura flushes. “No they don't!” he says indignantly, “We just met!”
“Yeah, well, they don't know that,” she points out, amused. She’s liking Mamura more and more with every passing minute.
She finds out a little more about Mamura while they eat—though getting him to talk is like pulling teeth. He lives in Tokyo with his dad and little brother, he’s a good runner, and he hates English class.
“But you sound really good,” Suzume tells him, “Better than I do.”
“Doesn't mean I have to like it,” he says.
The snow is still blowing every which way outside the windows, making the airport seem almost eerie—as if nowhere else in the world exists at all.
TIME: 4:35 a.m. (EST)
“I'm bored,” Suzume complains. She hops out of her seat. “You said you're a good runner—lets race.”
Mamura furrows his eyebrows. “Race? In here? No way.”
“Come on,” Suzume says, exasperated. “What else are we going to do? They're not gonna kick us out.”
“It’ll cause a scene,” Mamura argues, “and I'm tired, anyways.”
“So you just don't want to see yourself beaten by a girl…” Suzume says, making her voice flowery and sympathetic. “I guess that's fair.”
“... I never said that,” Mamura says.
A few minutes later, the two are lined up several sections from their own.
“First one back to our seat wins,” Suzume reminds Mamura. He nods, not taking his eyes off of the opposite wall.
“Ready, set, go!” Mamura commands, and they sprint down the tile hallway, drawing the startled gazes of other sleepy passengers passed out on plastic seats.
Suzume can feel her cramped legs burning as she tries to pull ahead of Mamura. He's taking it very seriously, she notes amusedly, and he starts wheezing as they approach their section.
They both ungracefully weave their way through the rows, smacking into seats left and right, and Mamura slams his hand down on their suitcases a second before she does. “HA! I win! I told you!”
Suzume puts her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. “Oh no,” she deadpans, “what a shame. I've been bested; my honor has been soiled.” Mamura makes a face.
“You're only making fun of me ‘cause you lost,” he accuses. Suzume wiggles her eyebrows.
“I guess we’ll never know,” she says wistfully, staring dramatically out the snow-encrusted window. Mamura plops down in a seat with his arms crossed.
They both look up as an irritated security guard jogs to their seats. “Hey,” he says, “were you two the ones racing?”
Suzume and Mamura exchange looks. “That depends,” Suzume says carefully.
The guard does not look pleased. “You're waking up the other passengers,” he says irately. “Calm down or I'll have to fine you.” He yawns and trudges away to a spot by the bathrooms.
“Fine us?” Suzume scoffs. “We're already paying an arm and a leg for these tickets and that ridiculously overpriced food, and we gotta give him more money?” It earns a small smile from Mamura.
TIME: 4:59 a.m. (EST)
“Let's play a game,” Suzume says, stifling a yawn.
Mamura wrinkles his nose. “Aren't you tired?”
“Yeah, but I'm more bored, and those plastic seats hurt my back anyways,” she complains. “Let's play Truth or Dare.”
“No!” Mamura says, sounding horrified. “I hate that game!”
“Come ooooooon,” Suzume whines, “It’ll be so fun. I'll go first.”
After a few minutes of coaxing, Mamura reluctantly agrees.
“Truth,” Suzume says, deciding to go easy on him at first.
Mamura rests his head on his chin and appears to think for a long time. “When you make hot chocolate,” he says slowly, “do you put the hot water in first or the chocolate mix?”
Oh boy. “That's really your truth question? Really?”
“What's wrong with it?” Mamura asks, sounding genuinely confused.
Alright, it's kind endearing. “Mix first, ‘cause it's less messy that way. Now it's your turn—truth or dare?”
“Truth,” Mamura says apprehensively.
“What would your ideal girlfriend look like?” Suzume asks immediately.
Mamura blushes all the way down to his neck. “I'm not answering that!”
“Why not?” Suzume asks, overly-sincere.
Mamura adamantly refuses, and after several minutes of pleading Suzume is surprised to find that he actually won’t budge on the issue.
“Fine! I'll just do dare!” he finally declares. Suzume gives him a thumbs-up.
“Perfect, the dares are more fun anyways,” she says. “Hmm…” She stares around the airport, her gaze falling on an emergency exit door in a far corner. It’s propped open with a door stopper, and the nearest security guard is sitting on a plastic seat a few meters away, fast asleep.
“I dare you to go out that door and make a snow angel near the runway!” she announces, pointing with both arms towards the half-open door.
Mamura looks completely floored. “I am… pretty sure that is illegal.”
“Why would it be? We already went through security. If you don’t want to do it, you gotta tell me your ideal girlfriend!” Suzume says happily.
“Come on, you wouldn’t do that,” Mamura points out. Suzume shrugs.
“Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t—but going alone is part of the dare. Let’s get moving!”
After promising to let him back in if the door closes, Suzume peers out the crack in the emergency door to watch Mamura shiver angrily in the swirling snow.
“THIS IS A SHITTY DARE!” he yells over the wind, standing in snow deep enough to completely cover his knees. He looks so indignant that Suzume can’t help laughing, especially since she’d made him wear the pastel pink coat that Yukichi’s cousin had insisted on buying for her.
“GO MAKE A SNOW ANGEL, SLOWPOKE!” she yells back, stepping out into the frigid wind with one foot in the door so the guard doesn’t hear her. Snowflakes catch in her tangled hair and make her eyes fill with tears.
Mamura trudges over to the runway, barely visible through the snowstorm. Suzume fumbles with her phone and opens the camera, aiming it at Mamura.
Mamura gingerly lays down in the blanket of snow, glaring at Suzume the whole time. She snaps a picture—though he’s completely blocked by the wall of white. He stands back up, trying in vain to dust off his snow-encrusted clothes, and gives her a thumbs-up. Suzume is about to yell to him when she sees a small light bobbing through the storm. Yikes.
“HEY I THINK SOMEONE’S COMING!” she calls with her hands cupped over her mouth. “HURRY UP AND GET BACK INSIDE!”
Mamura squints at the light and starts sprinting back to the door as best as he can, tripping and landing flat on his face at one point. Suzume waves frantically, torn between the hilarity of the situation and the possibility of getting fined for trespassing. Her fingers are starting to go numb.
Mamura finally falls through the emergency door, panting and wiping snow out his eyes. Miraculously, the sleeping security guard is still snoring. Suzume privately thinks that they should find someone more alert for the job.
“That was awesome!” Suzume exclaims quietly, scrolling through her camera roll to find the picture she’d taken. It’s barely distinguishable, but she supposes that it doesn’t matter as long as she knows what it is.
“You…” Mamura pants, “are a… terrible… person.” He sits down and pulls of his gloves, shaking snowflakes out of his hair.
“Yeah, sorry,” Suzume says offhandedly, “but you gotta admit that was fun! Way better than just sitting and being miserable!” Mamura rolls his eyes, but she can tell that he’s softened.
“Here, you can get me back with a really hard dare now,” she offers, plopping down in front of him. Mamura pauses, still brushing snow off his back.
“I dare you…” he says pensively, “... to go kiss a random stranger!” He blushes a little just saying the words, but he’s smirking triumphantly.
Suzume thinks for a second. “Alright!” she says. “I’ll do it!” Mamura looks shocked and slightly scandalized.
“Really? I can’t believe tha—” He stops short as Suzume leans forward and kisses him on the mouth.
She sits back on her heels and grins at him. She can still see tiny snowflakes melting on his eyelashes. “Ha! You technically count as a stranger, since we just met today!”
Mamura is gaping at her, his face the deepest shade of red that it’s been all night. He blinks several times, and scrambles to his feet. “What the—? What did you do that for??”
“It was just a joke,” Suzume says, confused. “It’s not a big deal, right? I mean, we barely know each other.”
Mamura doesn’t say anything, just looks away and scratches the back of his neck uncomfortably. Suzume gets to her feet and crosses her arms.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asks. “What’s your problem with girls anyways?”
“They’re annoying,” he says shortly, still not meeting her eyes.
“So you think I’m annoying?” she asks, feeling rather hurt. She’d been hoping that Mamura had been finally starting to like her.
Mamura sighs, frustrated. “At first yeah… but… no, I don’t. I guess tonight was kind of fun.”
“Then why do you have a problem with me?” she presses.
Mamura gives in. “It’s not some deep reason or anything, I just live in a house with all guys. So, you know.”
Suzume snorts. “Well, you have to learn eventually. Look, I’m sorry. It was just a joke. We can still be friends, right.”
“...Sure,” Mamura concedes. He finally looks at her; his eyes are a creamy shade of hazel. Suzume feels her own face getting warm.
TIME: 5:38 a.m. (EST)
Suzume is once again curled up on a plastic chair next to her luggage. “Is it okay if I sleep first?” she asks Mamura, her voice slurred with exhaustion.
“Sure,” he says, already putting his earbuds in. Suzume buries her face into her coat and closes her eyes, breathing evenly.
After a few minutes, she cracks open an eyelid to see Mamura hesitantly brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. He pulls his hand away quickly, and even lying down she can see him start to blush again. She smiles to herself, but her peaceful feeling is tainted with sadness. She doubts that she’ll be able to see Mamura again once they get back to Japan, and she’s dreading the moment when they’ll have to say goodbye.
TIME: 9:34 a.m. (EST)
“Flight 803 is boarding now,” the intercom calls. Suzume and Mamura stand sleepily in line to board their plane, each holding back yawns. Suzume squints at the seat number on her ticket.
“My seat number is D316,” she tells him. “What’s yours?”
Mamura digs his own ticket out of his pocket, and his eyes widen in surprise. “I have D318!”
“Wait, really?” Suzume grabs the ticket out of his hand. “Ha! What are the odds? Maybe it’s because your name is in the middle of the alphabet and mine’s at the end. Pretty weird way of arranging seats, but I’ll take it. This is great!” Mamura grins back at her, and she’s surprised yet pleased.
TIME: 12:49 p.m. (EST)
Mamura is snoring softly in the seat next to Suzume, his head resting against her shoulder. She’s holding back a smile and feeling quite giddy; Mamura had dropped off to sleep almost as soon as the plane had taken off, and apparently his unconscious self has no qualms about being around girls. His hair is messy and smells vaguely of mint. Suzume is starting to think that the 14 hour flight might just be worth it.
TIME: 12:38 p.m. (JST)
“You suuuuure were tired,” Suzume teases as they step into the Tokyo airport. Mamura huffs and looks away.
“You don’t have to keep bringing it up,” he complains, “I was asleep—if you had wanted me off your shoulder, you could’ve just pushed me off.”
“Oh no, I didn’t mind,” Suzume assures him. “I just think it’s funny.”
They walk together to the luggage claim. “Man, this time change is gonna mess me up,” Suzume says grouchily. Mamura nods in agreement. The atmosphere is decidedly melancholy.
“Well, my mom said she’s waiting by the east entrance,” Suzume says awkwardly, “So I guess this is goodbye.”
“Yeah,” Mamura says, hefting his bag higher up on his shoulder. “Well… it was nice meeting you.”
“You too,” Suzume says, disappointed. She turns and slowly walks towards the east entrance, her suitcase unbearably heavy.
“Wait a sec!” Mamura calls, sounding nervous. She turns around and Mamura kisses her again, his eyes shut tightly. He leans back quickly, his characteristic blush returning with a vengeance.
“Call me when you get home!” he says, “And you… you should really move to Tokyo one of these days!” He picks his duffle bag back up and turns to walk quickly in the opposite direction.
Suzume grins, her heart feeling light. “You never know!” she calls after him, “Anything’s possible!”
He was definitely worth the wait.