According to my calendar, today is Tuesday, but I swear that it feels just like a second Monday. I woke up with a pounding headache this morning, and it reminded me that I never brought my sleep issues up to Nurse yesterday, not that I was given much opportunity to anyways. I really need to make sure that I do that today.
I quickly change over into my gym shorts and a plain T-shirt after downing my morning dose of pills. I'm a little later than I wanted to be to meet Natsume, but it shouldn't be too big of a deal. I gather up my books for the day and throw a school uniform in my gym bag as I make my way for the door.
Quickly shuffling through the exit of the dorm building, I glance down at my watch. Fifteen minutes late on my second day of dancing...that won't win me any points with Natsume, but I can't really picture her being mad at me. Actually, I can't picture her being mad at anything.
My eyes expectantly lock onto the bench as I make my way through the courtyard, but I'm only left disappointed. It's empty, as is the rest of the shadow-covered grounds. I panic for a second, thinking that Natsume may have overslept or something. I pull my phone out, considering the idea of calling her, but my plans are interrupted by a little white envelope icon on its display.
I flip the phone open and read the text message.
"I went ahead to the misc room. Meet me there if you wake up with enough time sleepyhead." The text reads. I can't help but to laugh at the playful message.
Deciding that there's now no reason to call her, I slide the phone back into my bag. I would label her as 'impatient', but she's obviously had this same routine for awhile now, I shouldn't expect her to change that whenever I show up late...even if it is only
by fifteen minutes. I quickly step off, making my way towards the auxiliary building.
A few of the staff members are sitting in a small break room drinking coffee, each shooting me a strange look as I pass by, as if to ask why I'm here. Ignoring their glances, I make my way further down the hall and round the corner. My footsteps echo off of the walls as I quickly stride down the hallway, trying to recover some lost time.
I dip into the locker room, cramming my bag and books into the locker. Luckily, all of my hygiene and shower supplies are still where I left them yesterday. I might actually be the only person who uses this locker room, so I don't think that I have to worry with getting a lock, for now.
As I exit and make my way further down the hall, I begin to hear faint tones of music coming from somewhere towards the end of it. I'm sure that there's only one room that it could possibly be coming from, and it makes me a little curious.
Approaching the cracked doorway of the dance room, I slow my steps down, the music getting louder and louder as I get closer. It's a smooth mixture of violins and pianos, coming together to form a soft melody. There's a certain pattern to it that makes me want to tap my toe to the rhythm, pretty fitting for the room that it's coming from.
I peek through the crack in the door, but I can't see much. I lightly push it open a little more, allowing me to see what's going on more clearly. Natsume spins and twirls to the flow of the music. She effortlessly raises herself up on her toes and prances around the wooden floors, her bare feet making soft -pt-
noises each time they come back down. Her wavy auburn hair flows loosely through the air, creating soft waves of color as she moves. She's wearing a uniform-like one piece outfit, the spandex-like material showing off every curve of her tight figure. I can feel myself staring, but I can't seem to make myself quit.
Artwork courtesy of: Emi
The way that she moves reminds me of the way that birds fly around outside; Just like it's second nature to her. It's something so foreign, yet fascinating, to me. Her body doesn't seem to carry any of the nervousness that it does at times. She seems totally free and calm right now, and the more I watch, the stronger the longing feeling in my chest becomes.
Relaxing a little, I lean my shoulder into the doors frame as I take a step forward, trying to soak in everything about her in this moment. Her body perfectly matches the tones of the music, each note played making her body react in a new and exciting way.
Soon enough, the music slows down and so does her body. The final notes begin to fade as she pauses her movements, holding her hands slightly away from her side's and lifting her body up on her toes in a final stance. She lowers her body back down as the notes finally cut off, relaxing her posture a little as she strides over to the stereo in the corner.
I softly step through the doorway, letting an impressed "Wow" escape my lips and echo through the, now quiet, room. Natsume spins around in shock. Her eyes lock on to mine from across the room as she jumps back in surprise, letting a sharp -EEK-
slip out as she shoots her thin fingers up to her mouth. Her eyes are wide with embarassment and her cheeks burst with a bright pink color.
"Hi-Hisao?! I thought that you were skipping out or something?" She anxiously questions.
"Just got a little bit of a late start, I'm sorry." I answer back with a smile, closing the distance between us. "Natsume, you..you wer-"
"Awful, I know. Ugh...I'm sorry that I'm wearing this silly thing too, this is so embarra-" She jumps in, her voice tight and her words rushed.
"Natsume," I interrupt back. She lifts her face up to mine nervously, meeting my gaze. "That was...amazing, really." I state, trying to be reassuring. "I'm really impressed." I give her a playful wink, as if that was her goal.
She shifts her eyes back and forth across my face, as if she were searching for something on it. As her shoulders lose their tenseness, she lets her hands fall, clasping them together in front if her chest. Her finger tips are still painted in the bright green coat that they were at the festival. The rest of her body relaxes a little more as a small smile creeps onto her face.
"Thanks Hisao." She says genuinely. "Still want to speed things up today?" She questions, her voice still a little shakey, despite her relaxed posture.
"I'll...do my best!" I answer back, chuckling to myself.
I plop my body down and begin stretching, my muscles painfully protesting as I lunge from side to side. I follow Natsumes lead again, trying to match her movements but still coming up a little short. I can see the potential health benefits from stretching like this over time. We might as well be doing a short Yoga routine, considering the variety of stretches that Natsume does. As she finishes up, I glance down at my watch to gauge how much time we have left.
There's still a little over an hour until class, plenty of time to get some dancing in before I need to go see Nurse and get ready. I stand to my feet, slowly dragging my loose legs over to the middle of the wooden floors to meet her.
"I'm going to play a different track today. It's the same as yesterday, but the ticks are going to be quicker and I'm going to add some different things in." She explains with a sly grin. "Maybe, if you're doing okay, we'll try something...a little different." I nod my head, nervously agreeing to the proposition. She skips over to the stereo and presses it on, allowing the quick -tick-
pattern to enter into the room around us.
She shoots her hand towards me and steps forward, resting her other hand on my shoulder. I gently take her offered hand and cautiously place my other hand on her hip. The tight one-piece that she's wearing doesn't leave much to the imagination, and the feeling of my hand resting on the tightly stretched material over her skin brings an all too familiar warmth to my face.
I raise my eyes up to hers, trying to make sure that I'm still doing the right thing. Her cheeks are flushed with color, her eyes bright as they reflect the rising sun starting to come through the windows behind her. The corner of her lips push upwards in a sly way.
"I uhm...was just seeing if this leotard would still fit, I really didn't think that you were going to show up." She chuckles nervously to herself, looking down at her outfit. "I don't think I had...developed quite as much, when I wore it last" I glance down to where she's looking and find myself staring directly at her chest. I don't mean to stare, but it seems like the spandex material is fighting to not rip down the middle. If, by some chance, it did rip...I don't think my heart would allow me to survive.
"You aren't...thinking any dirty
thoughts, are you Hisao?" She playfully questions, raising her face up and lifting an eyebrow in curiosity.
Only about a dozen, or so.
I freeze for a moment, trying to think of a good answer, but I think that my brain is fried. It takes me a few seconds, but I snap out of my daze and shoot my head up suddenly.
"N-No! No, of course not." I lie to her.
My few inches of height advantage on her give me a hard to ignore view of the cleavage of her chest. I try to control my eyes, but I feel my hormones taking over. My heart is beating in my throat, it feels like I could pass out from all the pressure in my head. The ticks coming from the stereo seem so much louder than they were a few seconds ago.
" She hums, pulling on my shoulder and drawing her body in a little closer to mine. "Why not?" She playfully whispers in a seductive tone, pushing her chest out a little bit and giving her best shot at puppy dog eyes.
"Well I...I-" I nervously stutter, soon being interrupted by Natsumes nervous giggling. I can feel my hands starting to shake a little.
"I'm sorry Hisao. I just like messing with you." She chuckles. "You're...almost as anxious as I am sometimes, it's...kind of nice."
"You...you remember that I have a weak heart, right?" I nervously chuckle back, trying to regain my senses.
She suddenly stops giggling and takes on a more serious expression.
"I...I didn't mean to-." She nervously starts.
"I don't mind the playing though. I think I'll be just fine Natsume." I clarify with a chuckle. "Hopefully." I playfully shoot her a wink.
We share a few moments of laughter together, both of our cheeks bursting with color now. I've never seen Natsume joke around like that before, especially not in that manner. I can't say that I'm against it, but for someone who has some occasional anxiety, she, surprisingly, played the seductive role pretty well.
The ticks coming from the stereo are considerably faster today, and, as we begin to move together, I can already notice the difference from yesterday. Natsume pushes and pulls on my shoulder to help guide me in which direction I need to go, but I soon find myself staring at our feet again to keep up.
After a few moments of stumbling around, I think I'm actually starting to get the hang of it. I feel Natsumes fingers gently slide over my shoulder and towards my sternum. She delicately taps underneath my chin with her finger tip as we move. I raise my head up to meet her gaze as she puts her hand back on my shoulder.
"You're doing fine." She says with a confident smile.
"If...if you say so." I weakly answer back.
Looking into the depth of her eyes, I find myself soon becoming lost in them. The emerald color of her right eye beautifully soaks in the sunlight that's trickling in through the window. I can almost see my reflection in the deep brown of her left eye. It's an almost familiar feeling, getting lost in their unique beauty now. I can't help but to smile as our eyes carefully stay connected while we move. Natsume smiles back, her cheeks still a little pink from our earlier conversation.
Time slips by slowly as I get more comfortable with the rhythm and the new movements. We twist and turn, just like yesterday, but every few turns Natsume does a graceful spin away from my body, and effortlessly spins back into our starting position on the next tick. It's not necessarily hard to keep up with, but it is much more advanced than yesterdays routine.
I can start to feel a slight strain on my body as time further passes by. A certain tightness in my chest makes my breathing a little more labored, and I can feel my awkward heartbeat picking up it's pace as we spin around the room. Suddenly, Natsume stops, tapping my shoulder lightly to get my attention.
"Think you're ready for something new?" She questions with a cute smile. I'm not sure that I am, but how can I say no?
"Sure." I answer back, forcing some confidence into my voice.
She breaks our position, excitedly striding over to the stereo and flipping through the different tracks. Seeming to have found what she was looking for, she stands up and skips back over to me. We quickly find our starting position once again, anticipation and excitement beam from her eyes.
(Song being played)
The soft tones of the piano keys caress my ears gently as our bodies begin to move. Natsume softly guides me as we start, but I soon find my body moving on its own, trying its best to sync with each note that's played.
There's a sense of excitement that I feel now that there's actual music to go along with our movements, as if there's more purpose behind them now. I can feel my body relaxing more and more as the song goes on, it shifts almost automatically to the ups and downs of the tempo.
Natsumes eyes close as she breathes in deeply, seeming to almost melt in my hands. For someone who has never had a partner before, this still seems like it's almost second nature to her. I guess that certain aspects of dance must carry over, whether you're with a partner or not.
I watch her soft features as we continue to move through the room together. My senses dive further and further into the music as we dance on. There's an unfamiliar feeling of weightlessness that soon overtakes me. My mind pushes all the anxious thoughts out as we move together, as one. I think I'm starting to understand what Natsume meant when she said that she used dancing to cope with her issues in the past.
Time seems to stand still around us. The outside world soon becomes a blur, along with everything else with it. The anxiety of finding my purpose at Yamaku suddenly seems so small in comparison to this moment. The anxiety of fitting in...of figuring out my own limits...of coming to terms with my issue...it all fades into a distant fog in the back of my mind as we move together to the music.
A few final notes play through the open room as our bodies slow down, soon coming to a rest as the notes gently fade out. My heart is beating angrily in my chest, a combined effort of the dancing itself and the flood of emotions that I feel right now. I've been trying to keep my control over it, but I can feel it starting to boil over within me now. I don't think that I can hold it in much longer, nor do I want to.
"Natsume," I start, my throat tightening as I try to form words. She slowly opens her eyes, the morning sun casting an orange glow over her features as we stand mere inches apart, still holding one another in our starting position. The bright green and deep brown pools of her eyes only serve to make my heart increase its awkward pace even more.
"I...I," I stutter. I can feel my face burning hot, but I know that I have to get this out.
"What's wrong Hisao?" She questions, a sudden look of worry raising her eyebrows upwards.
"Nothing's...wrong." I weakly answer back. "I...I just.." I exhale, giving up any form of confidence that I was desperately trying to hang onto. "I've just...really enjoyed dancing with you the past few days."
I look down in disappointment, but all I can see is her chest glistening with a light covering of sweat. I awkwardly shift my head to the side in embarrassment. I can't believe that I still
couldn't confess my feelings for her. I'm ashamed and mad, but there's not much that I can do about it now. I blew it.
"Well...I'm really glad that you decided to join me. Dancing alone can get...old after awhile." She states, a hint of disappointment lining her words. She lets out a small sigh, shifting her head towards the window to our side. "Hisao, was that all that you had to say?" She questions softly, her words coming out in almost a whisper.
I furrow my brow in annoyance at myself.
No. No, that wasn't all that I wanted to say.
It's just everything that I could
say that doesn't ask for much confidence from me. The fact that she is asking tells me that she already knows something is up, so what good does me hiding it do now? I'm only going to make things worse if I lie to her.
I give her hand a gentle squeeze and move my other hand from her hip to the small of her back as I lean in closer, lightly pushing our bodies together.
"I like you Natsume." I push out from my lungs. The words ring through my head. I almost can't believe that I actually said it. Time itself stands still for, what feels like, minutes. I can feel my heart beat violently against her collarbone.
"Well, I like you too Hisao." Natsume nervously chuckles back, moving her hand across the nape of my neck and leaning in to my hug. She obviously missed my meaning.
"No...Natsume, I like
you." I clarify, emphasizing the word. "I've felt...differently about you for a few days now...I...I just didn't want to tell you." A few moments of silence drift by as we hold each other closely.
"Wh-...R-Really?" She whispers back, her voice trembling slightly. "Why...would you want to keep that a secret?"
"I...well, it wasn't a secret." I nervously start. "I just..." I lose my train of thought for a moment, trying to find the best way to say it without it coming across the wrong way. "I just...knew that I didn't stand a chance with...someone like you." I admit.
She leans back, bringing us face to face now, her expression a mix of irritation and nervousness.
"Hisao, don't talk like that! Didn't you just tell me recently that I shouldn't be so hard on myself?" She shoots back.
"I'm...I'm sorr-" I start, trying to smooth over the situation.
"Don't be, I...I understand." She states, taking her hand from mine. She leans in once again, shooting her now freed hand over my shoulder and crossing it over her other on my neck as she nestles her head into my upper chest. I gently wrap my other arm around her, holding her more tightly to my body.
"Hisao," She softly whispers, the heat from her voice sending goosebumps across my neck as she speaks. "Of course I like you too."
Everything around me stops for a moment as I take in the words. I question if I really heard them, or if my mind is just playing a cruel joke on me. I feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience.
"I'm...no good at this Hisao." She begins again. "I'm...new to this, I guess you could say."
Trying to regain my senses, I softly shake my head. It puts me back into my body, but my mind is still violently wrestling with the previous statement.
"You...you like me?" I question in disbelief, almost to myself.
"Well, yeah. I...I thought that I made that pretty obvious...or, at least, I tried to." She pauses. "I told you that I'm new at this!" She points out playfully.
"To be fair, it probably wasn't your fault. I couldn't pick up a hint if you dropped it on my foot." I chuckle back.
We share a few seconds of comfortable silence, both of us enjoying the moment of honesty that we're sharing. I quickly recover myself enough to cafefully ponder everything that she said. I'm actually really glad that she doesn't have any experience with this type of thing either, I don't feel quite so silly now. Sure, we're still just 'friends', as far as titles go, but I can't say that I'm disappointed in the outcome. At least now we're friends that know that we like each other, and that's much better than before.
"Just...give me some time to think things through, okay?" She whispers softly into my chest.
"Take all the time that you need." I answer back. "I've never really done this before either."
"Really?" She asks in disbelief.
"Hard to believe, I know...such a steal like me." I sarcastically chuckle back at her. She giggles into my chest, squeezing my neck a little harder.
A few more seconds silently pass by as we hold each other, seemingly content with our morning workout and the topic of our conversation. It may not have led to anything more than a confession, but some progress is better than none at all. We soon break our embrace as we silently gather up our belongings and make our way out of the room and into the hallway.
"I'll see you in class, okay?" Natsume says, as we approach the pink door of the girls locker room.
"You bet." I answer back with a smile, waving her farewell as I step off towards Nurses office.
"Hisao?" I hear her gently question from over my shoulder. I stop, turning around to see her upper body peaking out from the locker room. "Thank you for dancing with me." She says, her airy voice filling my head.
"My pleasure Natsume." I smile back again as she dips into the locker room.
I feel a certain sense of accomplishment and confidence as I stride down the hall and round the corner. I finally confessed my feelings to Natsume, and, better yet, she reciprocated with her own. I'm starting to realize that every time that I worry about something, it turns out to always be better than I expect. I wish I could just be more confident in myself, but I have a feeling that that's easier said than done.
I almost can't believe it still. She...actually likes me. I want to triumphantly jump up and down in the hallway, but...I'm not going to do that. The thought of having a potential girlfriend feels strange, what the heck does that even entail? Am I...supposed to buy her flowers, or something? Should I ask her on a date? What does someone even do on a date? Taking her to the Shanghai seems pretty lame.
I'm getting ahead of myself already. We aren't even actually dating yet. I guess I'll just give her some time to think about everything, whatever that means. I probably shouldn't worry too much about it until she wants to talk about it again.
Navigating my way through the halls, I soon find myself in front of Nurses door, ready for another check-up. I just hope that it goes better than yesterdays did.