I don’t think I’ve ever believed in destiny before now. Certainly not in any meaningful way… I mean, how screwed up would it be that I was meant
to be born with my condition? What kind of ‘god’ or universal equation or whatever would allow for such a thing? What would be the friggin’ point? And if I was meant to be this broken hearted she-hermit at this school for the limb-lost and biologically damned then… What am I meant to do?
What am I?
Good god, I sound like an anime protagonist. Uuuuuggghh… I thought I grew out of my chuunibyou phase… Shake it off, Rika. You’re not the cosplaying little weirdo you were in Junior High just… get to the point already.
Ah yes, the reason for my little ‘fate’ tangent. Hisao Nakai. We keep bumping into each other and I’m not sure how to take it. I mean, sure, you’re going to meet people in the halls or the cafeteria or even the Shanghai but every day? Multiple times? What’s that old Fleming quote?
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action. Have I gone from stalker to stalkee? No, Hisao seems too nice a guy to be some freakazoid weirdo. Like his neighbour.
Oh god, what if that’s why they were put together? No. Surely not. Argh, get out of your weird tangents and FO-CUS.
Hisao… He’s a pretty nice guy. Funny in that clueless kind of way, handsome with a cute little flick of hair that seems to defy gravity, a tad submissive maybe but that’s not a bad thing… Plus there’s his arrhythmia, which sucks to be honest.
I don’t know the how or why but as someone who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt; I kinda feel something for him. A camaraderie. A kinship. Not to mention the other feeling… That burning desire to do all the sorts of things that would be no good for either of us. Oh boy… Is it getting hot in here?
The end of the day bell rings and Fuuka is all packed up before I’m even close to remembering what class I just daydreamed through. She impatiently rolls back and forth in her chair as I pack my things away in a hurry before we set off for the girls dorms.
Just as we leave the main building, my bag is knocked out of my hand by someone forcing their way past me and down the ramp. “S-Sorry!” The boy calls back, bandage over one ear and one hand keeping a firm hand on his weird little French-hat before he continues his sprint. Fuuka curses him out as I kneel down to pick up the scattered contents of my bag, two figures appearing from the closing doors. The fatter one huffing and puffing heavily as he leans against the railing and the other being Hisao, of all people. What’s after enemy action?
“Wily… Little… Prick
!” The fat guy spits in bewtween wheezes as he catches his breath and Hisao’s concerned expression turns on me.
“Whoa! Are you okay, Rika?” He asks, kneeling to help me gather my things.
“I’m fine, just got my stuff knocked all over the place…” I sigh before, slipping the last of my notebooks into my satchel. Hisao helpfully hands my pencil case over and I nod with an appreciative smile.
“Sorry, it was probably Maeda who did that. Little guy, big bandage on the side of his face, beret?” Hisao apologises sheepishly but the snap of my fingers soon turns his face into one of surprise.
the word!” I beam, finally remembering the word for the silly hat. Fuuka has turned in the meantime, her tirade subsiding in the presence of the two upperclassmen.
“Were you guys chasing that weirdo?” She questions and the fat guy nods, looking very red in the face but still a little apologetic too.
“Yeah, sorry, he just…” He begins but soon waves off his thoughts with his meaty left hand. “Doesn’t matter, sorry if we caused any trouble…” His pudgy face smiles a little and, somehow, I can’t stay mad at him. It’s like being angry at a stuffed bear…
“Don’t worry about it, nothing was damaged. I didn’t imagine I’d be running into you again like this though, Hisao.” I smile, almost teasingly, and he blushes guiltily.
“Sorry.” Hisao follows up and looks to his companion. “We’re not going to catch him, Arai. Better off calling it a day and trying again tomorrow.” He offers and the larger Arai sighs noisily, a rumble of disappointment erupting from his throat before he shrugs with one shoulder.
“Yeah… Sorry to drag you into this, Hisao. I know you’ve probably got better things to do than help my dopey ass.” He chuckles lightly and pats Hisao on his shoulder. “I better go check on Akio, you know how dramatic he can be.”
“Sure thing. See you tomorrow, man.” Hisao responds before Arai gives a respectful nod and wave as he leaves, entering the main building again.
“What was that all about?!” Fuuka grins maniacally as she rolls almost into Hisao’s shins, thirsty for some fresh gossip. Hisao grimaces and rubs his neck. “I shouldn’t really say… It’s kind of a personal matter; one I’m not entirely comfortable being a part of already…”
“You are such a tease, dude!” Fuuka points an accusing finger toward him and I swat it away on his behalf. “Don’t take your boyfriend’s side! What happened to sis’s before his’s?” God damn it, Fuuka…
“That’s not a real saying!” I exclaim indignantly.
“Boyfriend?” Hisao questions and I realise what I should have chastised my friend for — the same friend who is smirking at me like the devil herself.
“Oh yeah, aren’t you guys, like, a couple now?” She rests back, both hand planted firmly on her armrests like a super-villainess. Hisao and I both deny the connection, a little too quickly and earnestly for both of us given our quick glance to each other afterward.
“You kids are just precious. I’ll get out of your hair but if you need help with your assignment, just give your Aunt Fuuka a call~” Her cheery demeanour is only matched by the sickening tone of her voice as she rolls down the ramp with a wave.
“I’m eight months older than her…” I grumble to no-one in particular before my attention is refocused on Hisao. “Ummm, hey. I was, uh, actually gonna do my usual afternoon swim sooooo… unless you wanna tag along and do some laps or something
.” My voice slowly decends into a whisper as I explain my routine.
Maybe it’s the thoughts I had earlier, maybe it’s Fuuka throwing me under the bus but right now, I would really like it if Hisao couldn’t see me.
“I’m not a very good swimmer… That is… I can’t
swim. At all.” Hisao lets an adorable, embarrassed chuckle out and I smile a little.
“Don’t feel too bad! I’m not either because of my…” I want to tap my chest but I’m not sure if he’s figured out I have a condition like his yet, though his fascination with my medication may tipped him off. “I just like to go and have a float more than anything. Helps me unwind after a long day.” I admit which seems to amuse Hisao.
“Well, that’s something at least. I’m supposed to be jogging in the mornings but I’ve realised that having Emi as your running partner is equal parts dangerous and emasculating…” Hisao admits with a slight look of guilt that I giggle at.
“Lil Swift isn’t the best person to compare yourself to. She’s like lightning! If the Doc’s on your back to exercise, you could try swimming.” I nonchalantly shrug — or at least I try to look nonchalant. Not sure it's convincing him.
“Are you going to start pestering me and keeping tabs too?” Hisao’s brow furrows and I laugh.
“I’m not going to be your swim coach, Hisao! And I’m certainly not a spy for the Doc either. Float, sink, do a lap or two — Hell, you don’t even have to get in the pool if you can’t swim.”
“You’d make a terrible salesperson.” He smirks, crossing his arms. I defiantly puff out my cheeks at him. “Are there any actual benefits to swimming?”
“Building muscle mass, clearly.” I flex one frail arm and chuckle dryly. “But honestly, if you want to just come hang out for a little bit, I’d be glad of the company! Not many people use the pool, especially right after classes soooo…”
“Okay, okay, I’ll come check it out…” He relents, but his arm clearly didn’t need to be twisted all that much.
I finish winding and pinning my braid into a bun on the back of my head before I snap the tight elastic swim cap over my hair. I tilt my head in the mirror to make sure no errant strands are peeking out before adjust my navy blue one-piece.
As I make my way out into the pool area from the changing room, towel in hand, I’m beginning to have second thoughts. I just invited a boy, an upperclassman no less, to a private venue where I’m going to be scantily clad in lycra…
Raise more flags, why don’t you? You’ve played enough dating sims to know better than this, Rika…
The dull thumping slowly accelerating in my chest is a concern. As I clamber down the ladder into the tepid water below, I struggle to think of the last time I felt this anxious…
First day jitters spring to mind. I’d been a sporadic attendant of public schools before Yamaku; always being in and out of hospital when I was a kid will do that so being full-time at a private school was daunting to say the least. The only other time would have to be…
The doors opening at the far end of the pool echo throughout the entire room and startle me a little, making me miss the last rung and slip backwards into the chest high water. Not a major deal but still enough for the brunette bystander to show concern.
“Are you okay?” Hisao’s voice carries over to me easily and I nod shakily, waving my arms through the water as I move towards the centre.
“Yeah, just lost my footing.” I smile up at Hisao, making his way around the pool’s edge to where my towel lies on the bench, taking a seat with the small plastic bag he held in his right hand. “So you’re really not going to join me?” I tease with a little smirk and a raised eyebrow.
“So this was
a set-up! Nurse put you up to it, didn’t he?” He throws an accusing gaze my way, but the smile on his lips says he’s joking. I decide to play along as he pulls a can of soda out of the bag next to him.
“Okay, you got me! This was all just a cunning ruse to get you to exercise.” I throw my arms up in surrender. “Please forgive me, senpai
.” Heh, it’s weird to say that out loud. Could be good for a nickname though.
“Put your arms down!” Hisao laughs, rocking in his seat. “How’s the water?”
“A little colder than I’d like but I’ll adjust.” I shrug before I let my legs go limp and allow my body to gently float in the water. I lay my head back, eyes closed, and take a deep breath, releasing it slowly.
“Soooo… This is it? This is all
you do down here?” Hisao’s question, and the snap of the metal ring pull being popped, shatters the usual tranquillity I feel in this moment.
“Pretty much. I just float and relax and just let the stresses of the day go.” I reply, content to bob along the water while Hisao talks. “It’s like meditation, I guess.”
“But with the danger of drowning.”
“No one likes a worry wart, Hisao…” I sigh with a small smile. “So how’s Yamaku treating you? Any more juicy rumours about you yet?”
“Pretty good... Definitely glad the rumours have died out a little.”
“I bet… Though this secret little rendezvous would get them gossiping, I’m sure.” I chuckle.
, remember?” He responds a little indignantly.
“Certainly did! And yet you’re still sitting on the bench! Live a little, senpai. Dip your toes in at least.” I encourage and open my eyes to look at him. He seems to sit on the thought for a little while, looking at his school shoes and then at the edge of the pool.
“What the hell… You’d just hound me until I did anyway.” He says with self-deprecating smirk. I stand upright in the water and grin at him taking his shoes and socks off.
I’m positively giddy as he rolls up his trousers, the material bunched tight around his knees. He kneels cautiously near the pool edge and lets his legs dangle loosely into the water. “Gah, that’s cold!” He whines and I giggle.
“Not that cold, you wuss! Trying being all the way in!” I playfully splash towards him but the spray doesn’t even reach him, but he still recoils with a laugh. He puts his feet back into the water and grips the edge of the pool.
“So why did you really ask me to come down here, Rika?” He asks, a warm smile spread across his lips that makes my heart figuratively skip a beat. God, he looks so cute. I said I wanted company but I usually prefer the peace and quiet this place affords so it should be pretty obvious, right?
“Rika?” He continues and I look down at the water. I can see the alabaster skin of my arms begin to pinken as my body heats up in embarrassment. “Are you al--”
I don’t give him time to finish as I take a deep lung full of breath and drop under the water. I clamp my eyes shut and focus on my quickening pulse — more specifically, getting it to slow down.
What the hell am I doing? Seriously, what the actual hell? Why am I acting like a freak in front of Hisao? Yes, he’s cute but hiding under water? It’s not like he’s magically going to disappear! And I can’t stay down here forever, I’m going to have to go back up for air and face him. It’s not like he’s going to ju--
The dulled sound of water being displaced startles me and my eyes shoot open and suddenly I’m not as worried about being embarrassed.
Author's note: I'm not entirely happy with this chapter, mostly because it was written through a haze of painkillers as I struggle with a couple things right now. Long story short; I might have carpal tunnel or some manner of arthritis and it's really doing a number on me. Waiting on blood tests to confirm what it could be but I'll try to get something better out soon. Love, Sharp-O.