I don’t sleep well at the best of times. Whiling away the small hours gaming can really mess with your sleep pattern so going to bed at 11pm is a rarity for me. Not to mention being in a strange, new place; the mattress beneath me much stiffer than I’m used to.
It’s only when my slumber is disturbed by the sound of a heavy sliding door squeaking open that I reflect on this.
The unfamiliar room around me is only dimly lit by the ambient light of the moon and the street lights outside. I peer out of the curtains into the street below and find a long shadow cast onto the road from the balcony of Hisao’s room. What the hell’s he doing up?
I creep out of the guest room and pad barefoot over to Hisao’s room, still dressed in my nightgown. I don’t think Hisao’s parents are back yet but I’m still quiet as a mouse lest I’m caught night crawling by his mom. Pretty sure she doesn’t like me as it is and I doubt that would endear me to her. I tap gently against Hisao’s door then open it a crack to see the main light on.
“What are you doing up?” I ask as I slip into the room, simultaneously closing the door and flicking off the burning light. The now backlit Hisao, dressed in nothing but boxers and a t-shirt, peers back from his balcony into the darkness at me.
“I could ask you the same thing.” He responds and I glare though I don’t think he sees it.
“Funnily enough, your door is super-loud.” I rap my knuckle against the sliding door as I pass it and join Hisao on the small balcony. My arms snake around his torso as his wrap around my shoulders.
“Sorry I woke you… I tried to be as quiet as I could.” He sighs, squeezing me affectionately.
“You didn’t answer my question; trouble sleeping?” My voice muffled slightly as I nuzzle into his chest.
“Yeah…” Hisao quietly admits. “I thought I’d be more comfortable sleeping in my own bed again but after months of quiet mountains; all I can hear is the city.”
I look out into the quiet night sky, past the sleepy little suburb and to the lights of Meguro. It’s not Tokyo proper but it’s still quite a sight compared to the pitch blackness of Yamaku’s mountain surroundings. I listen carefully and while I can hear the distant sounds of cars, there’s something missing…
There’s something I can’t hear that I feel like I should be… What is it?
“Cicadas!” I exclaim before realising I’ve just shouted that into a quiet suburban street. “There’s no cicadas around here. It’s all I can hear at night at Yamaku!”
Hisao looks at me confused for a few seconds before his eyes wander away from mine, his head tilting as he listens more carefully.
“I’ll be damned. I used to hate those things but now it’s weird not to have them.” He chuckles, turning his attention back to me.
“Sounds to me like you’ve gone native, senpai.” I smile up at him, giggling.
would be strange enough to notice that.” Hisao’s face softens with a smile, causing me cheeks to warm.
“I notice a lot of things! Things you don’t even know!” I respond with an authoritative air.
“Did you know you’re really pretty with your hair down?” That’s right, I don’t have my braid in. Crapbaskets, gotta say something nice back! Ummm. Errr.
“Y-you’re pretty w-with your… hair… down.” Nailed it. Thankfully, Hisao takes my weak-sauce attempt to compliment him in stride. We stare at each other and, in a wordless second, we both decide on something.
And it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. The warm, slightly chapped texture of his lips is… Just… It’s just so… And he tastes… His hands are… Mmm
Wow. Struggling to breathe and my heart is pulsing loudly but that’s okay. Totally worth it. Hisao looks okay, I can feel his heart beating fast with my hand pressed against his chest. He looks pleased with himself too. High score achieved. “That was…”
“Yeah.” Hisao agrees with a smirk. I purse my lips while staring at his. I want to do it again, inching towards his face to steal another kiss.
“Rikaaaa… I think you better head back to your room.” He leans back, away from me and my head snap in the direction of his concerned gaze. “Pretty sure that’s Mom’s car.”
FFFFFFFFFFine… I don’t want to cause trouble for Hisao and canoodling with him on the balcony in the middle of the night would probably qualify. We both head inside and before I leave, I pull Hisao into another kiss. When I let him go, he looks a little shocked.
“One more for the road.” I grin as I walk backwards out of his room. “See you in the morning, senpai.”
“Pleasant dreams, Rika.” Oh, they are going to be very
Meguro might not have cicadas that keep you up at night but they certainly have chirpy birds who like to wake you up in the morning… Maybe I should have gone straight to sleep after I left Hisao’s room last night…
Nah. I hop out of bed and almost trip on the towels left in front of my door. I guess that’s the Nakais’ way of letting me know I can use their shower? It would be rude not to I suppose…
A gorgeously satisfying shower later and I’m almost skipping downstairs to find Hisao already awake and in the kitchen drinking coffee.
“Good morning, sleepy-head.” He greets with a smile, getting up from a stool next to the counter and greeting me with a peck on the lips. That’s already the best part of my morning.
“Mornin’. Are your mom and dad back from work?” I ask, taking his stool as he moves towards the corner of the counter where the kettle and fridge are.
“Yeah but they’re both sleeping. Mom didn’t come into my room to give me a lecture so I think we got away with it last night. Coffee or orange juice? Toast?” He chuckles.
“Mm! Toast and orange juice, please.” I say and he nods. “Glad your mom didn’t catch us. That would have been awwwwkwaaaard~” I brush my hair in front of me, playing with the tip of my long braid.
“Heh, it would, yeah.” Hisao swaps the coffee mug next to me for the glass of juice, leaning against the counter in front of me before going to the toaster on the opposite side of me. “So what did you want to do today?” He asks and I look at him with wide eyes. I gulp the mouthful of juice and wipe my mouth with my thumb.
“You’re asking me
? I don’t know what Meguro’s hottest, hippest places to be are! That’s your
job!” I poke his shoulder for emphasis and he rubs his neck, blowing air out as he looks to be thinking.
“Well… I guess I can show you around the neighbourhood a bit, if you’d like? Maybe we could take a trip into Shibuya… Get some lunch…” He looks to me for approval and I roll my eyes at him.
“Whatever you want to do, I’ll tag along.” I shrug and he seems to accept it, turning when the toaster makes a loud ‘TCHUNK’ noise.
“Do you own anything other than sweater-vests?” I tease as Hisao locks the door to his childhood home before turning to me, laughing.
“I don’t think you really want the answer to that! Ready to go?” He clasps his hand around mine and I nod. As much as I make fun, I think he looks ridiculously cute. It’s almost like his iconic default costume, not that I’d phrase it that way to his face.
We take a casual stroll around his neighbourhood in a seemingly random direction but I trust Hisao knows where he’s going. At least, more-so than he did yesterday. I look around and can imagine a tiny Hisao, scraped knees and snotty nose, running around with the friends he talked about; getting into trouble, playing soccer, climbing trees… A lot of stuff I never really experienced.
Not that I begrudge him all of those memories, not at all but as I look up at the confident smile on his face while he explains the route he used to take to his Junior High School, I can’t help but envy how long he lived with no knowledge of his arrhythmia. How lucky he was…
“Hisao? Hisao Nakai?” A tiny old voice asked; the source of which was an equally tiny old woman, hunched with a cane, coming out of a gate to our left. She shuffled slowly towards us as Hisao moved to greet her.
“Hey, Mrs Ukita. How are you this morning?” Hisao greets the elderly lady with a smile, hunching over a little.
“Ain’t seen you
around for a while! Your momma ain’t grounded ya, has she?” She laughs; that kind of dirty, guttural cackle that only old people can do. Hisao rubs his neck while throwing me a look.
“No, uh, I’ve been going to a new boarding school so I haven’t been around. I’m back for summer vacation.”
“Oooooh? Doesn’t that
sound fancy! And who’s this lovely young lady?” She looks at me, squinting curiously.
“Hey there! I’m Rika, Hisao’s girlfriend.” I smile gently, Mrs Ukita nodding ponderously.
“Is that so… I think you need some sun, miss. You look awfully
pale…” I giggle a little at her concern and nod enthusiastically.
“Hehe, I’ll try.”
“Whelp! I better be off; gonna take all my time to get to the supermarket before sundown! Take care, you two!” She cackles again, shuffling away with all the speed of a tortoise. We wave before continuing on our way. I look to Hisao, looking bemused at the sidewalk before noticing me.
“That’s Shin’s grandma… Me and Shin and the others would sometimes run errands for her. I guess he didn’t tell her where I went.”
I don’t have anything to say to that. I don’t know why she wouldn’t be told or if she even needed to be but it clearly upset Hisao. I squeeze his arm tight, nuzzling his shoulder.
The walk around town is pretty quiet and Hisao’s story become fewer as we encounter more people from his neighbourhood who are surprised to see him. At least some of them are aware of what happened to Hisao, even if they don’t know about Yamaku. It’s not until the fourth person he spoke to that his heart attack was even mentioned.
“I’m sorry to hear about what happened, Nakai, but you’re looking great! And with such a pretty girl on your arm too!” The portly shopkeeper bellowed as Hisao bought two cans of soda for us. He chuckled nervously and thanked the man before we resumed our walk outside.
“So people do know… I was starting to get a little paranoid there for a second!” Hisao waves off his thought as he cracks open his can. I can see it’s actually a relief for someone to talk about it because I think we both were getting a sense that everyone thought he’s just been ‘away’ and his heart attack swept under the rug.
We near a bus-stop when we hear a booming “HISAAAAOOOOO
We both look at each other confused before turning around, looking back to the long stretch of road we just walked down. A girl with short reddish hair bolts toward us, chased by a much slower boy with black hair and a rucksack. The red streak all but skids to a stop in front of us, her mouth agape with shock. The boy, huffing and puffing behind her, braces himself against his knees before straightening up with a cocky grin.
“See…? I… told… you…” He wheezes.
“Hisao… Holy crap! Hisao
!” The red haired girl’s shock turns to glee and she launches herself at my boyfriend, wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging tight. Hisao lets my hand go and stumbles back a step but before I can move to wrench this crazy person off him, he laughs and hugs her back.
“H-hey, Mai. Miss me?” He chuckles and she all but pushes him backwards off her, crossing her arms with an annoyed look on her face.
“Hardly! I was just surprised to hear you were back!” Okay, so if this is the Mai he's talked about then that guy must be…
“Glad we caught you! How’s it going, sir?” The boy asks, offering his hand up for a high-five that Hisao grabs hold of for one of those high hand-holds that macho people or gang members do.
“Takumi! It’s great to see you, man.” Hisao smiles broadly, for the first time since we started talking to people. “Who told you I was back?”
“Mrs Ukita — we saw her just now and have been running our asses off looking for you! Why didn’t you call to tell us, jerk!” Mai certainly seems as excitable as Hisao’s stories made her out to be. Just as she goes to bop his shoulder with an annoyed scowl, she pulls her punch. She guiltily withdraws it and looks down. “Sorry, almost forgot…”
“Don’t worry about it, Mai. I’m sorry for not calling you guys but I don’t have the same phone anymore and… well, after the hospital
… I didn’t think you’d guys would want
to see me.” Hisao explained, becoming glummer as he goes on.
“Are you kidding? You’re our friend
, Hisao! We’ve known each other since we were kids!” Mai explodes with emotion while Takumi scratches his cheek.
“Granted, we distanced ourselves during your recovery but we never stopped being your friends. I’m sorry if I—we
made you think otherwise.” Takumi’s eyes practically twinkle with emotion, his brow furrowed with guilt.
“I’m mostly to blame for what happened anyway… I’m sorry if I made you guys feel like you weren’t wanted. I was in a bad head-space and-oof!” Hisao’s apology is cut off as Mai hugs him again, Takumi joining in this time. I’m starting to feel like I’m intruding on this tender moment. And maybe a little bit left out of the hugging.
“Knock it off, man… You’ll make me cry…” Mai mutters while Takumi places a hand on Hisao’s shoulder.
“All for one, one for all.” He smiles warmly. I have to turn away to sniff and clear my throat as the emotion starts to get to me. Ugh, I’m such a girl with stuff like this.
who’s the spooky-looking goth chick?” Mai says and I spin on my heels to find them all looking at me. I ruined the moment, didn’t I?
“She’s not a goth!” Hisao rolls his eyes and I giggle. I step forward, smiling as sweetly as I can, with my hands behind my back.
“Hi, I’ve heard a lot about you guys. I’m Rika.” I hope they like me, otherwise this nice reunion could turn sour and I really wouldn’t want that for Hisao.
“We’re dating.” Hisao adds, stepping up to me and wrapping an arm around my waist. My cheeks burn and his friends turn to each other confused before looking at us with twisted smirks.
have you been at this new school?” Takumi asks first; posing like he’s thinking, chin cupped between his thumb and index finger.
“Seriously: is having a heart attack the cripple school equivalent of a big dick?” Mai crosses her arms with a teasing smirk.
“Mai! It’s not ‘cripple school’! Don’t be a bitch.” Takumi scolds, cuffing her bicep with a backhanded swipe. Mai realises her faux pas and does at least apologise, Hisao smiling as he shakes his head.
“It’s alright, guys. I’m not offended.” I chuckle. Well, I’m a little
offended but it’s the kind of slip-up Hisao could have made too before he came to Yamaku. Me and Hisao just have show we’re normal teenagers behind the disabilities.
“Hisao told me you guys like to hang around arcades and that Mai's pretty good.” I offer and Mai’s expression turns from apologetic to a grin.
“Good? I can trounce these losers all god damn day! Hell, before we heard you were back, we were going to head into Shibuya to hit up Taito Station and Adores.” She boasts.
“Sounds fun~” I say, smiling coyly at Hisao. He knows what I’m after and he’s not going to stand in my way.
“Mind if we tag along?” Hisao asks and the pair smile.
“Sure, it’ll be great to catch up.” Takumi responds and Mai looks me up and down.
“You like video games, Rika?”
“More like love them! It’s been a while since I’ve been in an actual arcade though…” I rub my arm sheepishly, setting the trap…
“Don’t let her cute act fool you, she’s a demon with a controller.” Hisao ruins my initial plan but Mai seems to have taken the bait regardless.
“Yeah but you’re a scrub, Hisao!” Mai laughs and I just smirk. I think he could do just fine given that I’ve been his opponent. “Just so you know... Just because you’re Hisao’s girlfriend
doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you.” Mai cocks her hip and I match her bravado with a hand-on-hip stance of my own.
“That’s good to hear, because I wasn’t planning on going easy on you
just because you’re Hisao’s friend.”
We stare each other down with such intensity that electricity could be arcing around right now.
Rika versus Mai.