Baby Steps (Continued)
I lightly tap my knucles on Nurses door, half-expecting Emi to be on the other side, playing jokes again. The distant sound of papers shuffling is the only noise that I can hear coming from the other side of the door. I knock again, a little louder this time.
"Come in!" I hear Nurse call out in response, his voice lacking it's usual cheerfulness.
Gently pushing the door open, I step through and give the room a quick scan. There are papers and files lying everywhere across the countertops, along with one messy pile in the middle of his desk. Nurse, for the first time that I've ever seen, looks exhausted. Dark bags hang under his eyes and his hand shakes slightly while balancing the weight of a large coffee cup. I think that I even see one small purple hair out of place, he must have a lot going on right now.
"Good...morning." I hesitantly greet.
"Eh, something like that. How are you today Hisao?" He answers back with a dull look in his eyes and a half-hearted grin.
"I'm doing fine. Apparently, better than you're doing." I chuckle back at him. I hate to kick a man when he's down, but after all of the joking around and prodding that he's done at my expense, I don't feel very bad about it. He lets out a short laugh before standing up and stretching his arms towards the ceiling.
"It's that time of the year again!" He answers back, a much more genuine grin on his face now. "Finals will be here before you know it, and I need to make sure that everyone's files are squared away...just in case."
"I'm...not sure that I follow." I state, raising an eyebrow.
"Finals can be a stressful time. Stress makes almost every health condition known to mankind harder to handle. I organize every students files ahead of time, so if anything were to happen in the coming weeks, I can quickly find information." He quickly explains.
"So, students normally start dropping like flies around this time of the year?" I question back, a little worried about the thought of it now that he brought it up.
"No, Hisao." He states, his lips forming the straight stern line that I've grown to loathe. "Well, at least it's never been an issue in the past, but I'll be ready if it ever becomes one."
Again, I find myself impressed by the extra steps taken by the staff and school itself. I would have never even considered something like that, but I guess that's why they're here.
"Alright, enough of that. Let's have a look at you." Nurse states, rubbing the metal part of his stethoscope on his jacket.
The check up goes by just how any other check up normally would, which is a nice change from yesterdays. He doesn't make much noise as he checks me over. I think I even seen him start to nod off once. Once he's done, he writes a few quick notes into a folder on his desk before turning back to me.
"Same place, same time, tomorrow." He says, covering his big grin as a yawn escapes. "Have a great day!" He says, plopping down in his desk chair.
"You too. Get some sleep." I laugh over my shoulder as I stride out of the door.
My morning routine goes by the same as it did yesterday; Shower, get dressed, grab a quick breakfast, and head to class. On my way to class, I'm stopped outside the door though, as I approach a familiar blonde girl who's talking to a few students outside. They walk away as I approach, giving me an opening.
"Goodmorning Lilly." I state cheerfully.
"Oh? Goodmorning Hisao," She answers back. "How are you today?"
"Fine, so far. Did you get to enjoy the festival any, after we had left?" I question.
"I did, thank you for asking. I especially enjoyed the fireworks." She answers with a polite smile. I'm a little confused by the answer. How did she enjoy the fireworks, when she can't even see them? That's pretty much the whole point. Eh, it would be rude to ask, I'll just let it go.
"They were pretty impressive!" I happily agree, thinking on the events of that night for a moment. "I'm glad that you were able to enjoy yourself."
"Did you and Natsume have a good time?" She questions.
"I...we did. It was nice getting out and...experiencing something new." I state sheepishly, trying to avoid any further questions that may come out of that.
"Well, I'm very happy for you..." She giggles to herself. "You two make a very nice couple."
"Yeah, th-thanks Lilly. I should...uhm, probably be getting in to class." I answer back, trying to skirt the issue.
"Sure. Have a great day Hisao." She states with a smile.
"You too." I weakly answer back, turning towards the classroom.
I take my seat and and situate my books on my desk, but am soon interrupted, once again, by the student council girls to my side.
"Goodmorning Hicchan~!" Mishas voice rings through the room. I look over to them before responding. They're both wearing a cute smile, but it doesn't seem like they have anything crooked planned behind them, for once.
"Goodmorning you two." I answer back with a smile. "You seem awfully happy this morning."
"I'm always happy Hicchan! Why wouldn't I be?" Misha questions, a genuinely confused expression on her face.
"Normally, you all just want something from me." I shoot back.
"Wahaha~! No way Hicchan~! We're just saying goodmorning to our friend!" She smiles widely, her white teeth shining in the morning sun coming from the window.
While I don't quite believe that they don't have something else planned, I don't really have any evidence to prove them wrong right now. Hopefully they've given up on the whole 'Trying to drag me into student council' business, at least.
"Fine. So, are you two ready for finals?" I ask, changing the subject. Misha frowns a little as she signs to Shizune.
"Ehh, Shicchan is always ready. I'm...I'm going to have to study more." She says dissapointedly.
"Well, we still have time. I'm sure that you'll do fine." I answer back with a smile. Mutou stands up from his chair at the front of the room, looking much more alive than he did yesterday.
"Really? Thanks Hicchan~! You're right! I'll do fine! Wahaha~!" She exclaims.
Mutou clears his throat, announcing that he's ready to begin class. He picks up a piece of chalk and begins furiously writing on the board. He creates another list of different chapters and page numbers, putting small stars beside some of them. After several moments of nonstop writing, he sits the chalk down, I think I can almost see smoke coming off of it.
"Same as yesterday. Pay particular attention to the passages with stars beside them." He states, glancing over the classroom. He strides over to his desk and takes his seat, pulling a science magazine of some sort out of one of the drawers and flipping it open.
I decide to give up early today, I'm not even going to try to pretend that I'm interested in studying right now. I rest my chin on my hand as I look around the room. Some people are actually studying today, but most are still spacing out or have their heads down. Misha looks like she's trying to study, but I can see her head nod forward every few seconds; It's only a matter of time.
The birds happily chirp outside of the window to my side, each one dancing on the branches of a nearby tree. Shizune seems to be taking her studying seriously, carefully reading through the pages. Every few minutes I see her head raise up and look out the window though, her expression tells me that she's not as into it as she leads on.
I glance behind me, but most of the students have their heads down. The big guy in the corner even has his mouth open as he's leaned back into a deep sleep already. There's an empty seat where Hanako normally sits, it makes me a little curious. She seems to miss class pretty often, but Mutou never really reacts much to it. He must make it a point to be understanding about her lack of interaction.
On the other side of the room, I can see Naomi trying to focus on the book in front of her, but her eyelids are slowly coming closer together with each passing second. Her thin lips slowly open up more and more as the seconds go by. Beside her, Natsume is resting her cheek against the palm of her hand, looking down as she idly makes small circles on her desk with the eraser of her pencil. She looks absolutely bored to death.
Looking back to the front of the class, I find myself unable to hold back the urge to put my own head down. I turn my head to the side and rest my cheek on my arm, casting my gaze through the window.
Peripherally, I can see that Misha has officially given up. Her forehead rests on the table in front of her and her mouth is open just a little. Quiet little breaths of air leave her mouth as she snoozes, it's actually kind of cute.
The birds outside the window soon begin to get blurry as I find myself joining the rest of the class.
Stirring from my rest at the sound of the bell, I quickly gather my books up, preparing to head to the Newspaper room once again for lunch. Shizune nods farewell, with Misha happily waving behind her as the two pass by my desk. I smile and wave back, trying to simultaneously clear the fog from my head.
Naomi excitedly meets me in front of Mutous desk as I make my way toward the exit, her white teeth shining as the sunlight touches her big grin.
"You ready for lunch, sleeping beauty? Haha~!" She jests.
"You don't have much room to talk!" I playfully fire back, pointing towards the big red mark on Naomis forehead, left from where it was resting on the desk.
"Okay, okay~! You caught me!" She laughs back. "Come on Hisao, let's g-"
"Ms. Inoue," Mutou cuts in. "Would you mind if I borrow Nakai for a moment first?"
Naomi raises an eyebrow in confusion. I probably do too, but I don't notice. She shoots a questioning glance at me.
"What did you do Hisao?" She playfully asks. "I didn't know that you were a trouble-maker! Haha~!"
"I wasn't. Must be some kind of bad influence in my life." I shoot back at her with a laugh of my own. I think I even heard Mutou chuckle under his breath, but it could have just been a cough or something. I am kind of curious what he wants with me though.
"Alright Hisao, you know where I'll be!" Naomi says with a big smile, as she turns towards the exit and waves farewell. Natsume wasn't anywhere around, which I can't help but find a little strange.
"So," Mutou starts, his voice it's normal dull tone. "How have things been?"
"Uhm...pretty good. I'm starting to settle in a little better here, I think." I nervously answer back, still unsure of where this is heading.
"That's good to hear. The Newspaper club is quite the place to help out. I didn't take you much for a journalist." He responds.
"Oh, I'm...I'm not really helping out with the club." I clarify.
Mutou pauses in thought for a moment, seeming to be unsure of whether he wants to continue this topic or not.
"Ah, I see." He says with a tiny grin. This is actually one of the first times that I can remember seeing him express any kind of emotion, it's a little jarring.
He awkwardly shuffles around with a few papers on his desk before bringing his attention back up to me. "You seem to be doing very well with most of your subjects," He says in a proud manner. "Have you considered what your future may hold yet, by chance?"
"I...uhm, no, I can't say that I've thought about it much." I admit, a little disappointed at the thought.
"No need to get down about it," Mutou says. "You have plenty of time to make a decision." He gives a small reassuring smile.
The topic brings me back into the reality around me for a moment. I've been so caught up with just trying to find my place at Yamaku that I hadn't even considered the fact that I'm only going to be here for a brief period of time, and then I'll move on to the next chapter of my life.
I don't think that I have any interests that could lead into a profession, so I'm not even sure what I would want to study at a university. I've always found science to be an interesting subject, but that's so broad...I'm not sure that I can narrow my interest down to anything specific.
"It's...been awhile since I've had a student who grasps concepts as easily as you do Nakai." Mutou continues on. "Just consider some different possibilities that you could find yourself being passionate about. You don't want to pick a profession just because you're good at it."
There's a brief period of awkward silence while I ponder the idea. I'm not really sure how I should respond to him, considering that, up until this point, I hadn't thought about the future much at all. It worries me a little that I may be lagging behind the rest of the students. I wonder what Naomi and Natsume plan on doing?
"Anyways, I just wanted to put that bug in your ear." Mutou explains as he stands from his desk. "If there's anything that I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask."
"Th-Thank you. I appreciate that." I respond back.
"I won't keep your friends waiting any longer. Enjoy your lunch." He says, as the two of us exit the classroom.
"Thanks, you too." I respond back as he turns down to the opposite side of the hallway.
I make my way towards the Newspaper room, hoping that I didn't miss the girls already. Our conversation didn't last very long, so I should be fine. Striding by the art room, I glance through the open doorway and see several students working on some artwork as I pass.
Approaching the doorway of the Newspaper room, I notice that, for once, the door is closed. Naomi told me that I would know where to find them, so, surely, this is where she was referring to. I lightly tap on the wooden door as I lean in, trying to hear anything from the other side.
Seconds later, the door cracks open, leaving nothing but a small slit for me to see through. On the other side, I see a pair of wide ruby eyes looking back at me.
"What's the password?" I hear Naomi whisper through the crack, giggling to herself.
"Uhm...Pineapples." I hesitantly answer back.
"I do love pineapples..." Naomi whispers to herself. "Eh, close enough!" She swings the door open suddenly, laughing excitedly at herself.
She skips towards the middle of the room as I walk in, plopping her body down in a nearby chair. She slides it across the floors and stops herself suddenly as she approaches the table.
"What's up Hisao? Did Mutou set you straight, or are you still a delinquent?" She questions with a grin.
I take a nearby chair, but refrain myself from sliding it all the way across the floor like Naomi did. Knowing my luck, I would probably hit something or tip the chair over.
"Yeah, he set me on the right path for now. You can't hold a rebel like me down forever though." I answer back sarcastically. Naomi lets a hearty chuckle go as she rocks back and forth in her seat.
"Oh, come on! What did he actually want?" She forces out in between laughs.
"Just...wanted to talk about future plans and stuff. No biggy." I answer back.
Looking around the room, I notice that Natsume is still nowhere to be found. Naomi must have cleaned up at some point too, because I can actually see the tabletop. There's several neat stacks of paper on one side of the table, beside of where an open laptop computer sits. There's even a slight lemon scent in the air, which has a distinct 'cleaning product' smell to it.
"Hey, where's...Natsume at?" I ask curiously.
"Ah! I forgot to tell you! She had to go see Nurse. She told me to tell you that she would catch us later, if she had time." Naomi explains.
"Oh, is she...okay?" I question worriedly.
"Oh yeah! Just a normal check-up thingy!" Naomi reassures with a grin. "Hey Hisao," She quickly starts again, her expression forming a very 'I caught you now' kind of look. "You really care about Natty, don't you?" She questions softly with an expectant look in her eyes.
"I...uhm. Well," I stutter back.
Other than Natsume, Naomi is pretty much my only other friend that I can consider myself 'close' to. She has to already know about the situation between us. Actually, she probably knows even more than I do about it now, if Natsume has told her anything.
"I...Yeah, I do." I weakly answer back.
"I knew it!" Naomi exclaims. "I've known it ever since I seen that look in your eyes at the festival!"
"Yeah, yeah." I idly say. "Can I...be honest with you Naomi?" I ask, mustering up any dormant confidence that may be left in my body.
"Well, yeah! We're like the three Musketeers, you know? 'All for one, and one for all!'" She excitedly explains. "We all have to stick together. You can tell me anything!"
I can't help but to laugh at the comparison she made. Despite me laughing at it, it really does feel good to be thought of as a companion like that. Ever since the Festival, the three of us have gotten pretty close, I guess.
"I have no idea what I'm doing." I admit, trying to stay positive about the topic. "I...told her this morning how I felt. She said that she liked me too, but...she said she wanted some time to think about it." I pause for a moment in thought. "I...I have no idea what that means, or what I should do now."
Naomi seems to ponder over everything that I said. She rests her chin on the palm of her hand, lost in thought for a few moments. She doesn't really seem surprised or lost for words, moreso debating on how she wants to respond. I expectantly lean forward in my chair as Naomi straightens up, ready to weigh-in on the topic.
"Natsume is the type of person that doesn't take very many things at face value." She explains. "You're going to have to show her how you feel Hisao."
I pause for a moment to take the advice into consideration.
"H-How do I...show her that I like her?" I question nervously. "I mean, I've already told her, and she said that she just needed some time. So, what more can I do?"
Naomi nervously giggles to herself before she starts speaking again.
"I...uhm," Naomi starts, but suddenly bursts out laughing, cutting herself off. "I'm probably not the best person to be giving relationship advice." She answers a moment later, brushing a stray tear from her cheek as she stops laughing.
"You know her better than anyone else does though. You have to help me out here." I plead with her.
"Hisao, you know how Natsume is. You just have to show her, so she's convinced that you're not lying to her about it or something." Naomi explains, brushing her straight blonde bangs to the side of her head. "She worries about silly stuff like that, you know?"
Suddenly, what she's saying clicks in my mind. Natsume hasn't brought the topic up again because she doesn't believe that I really meant it. After all the close contact, my confession to her and everything else, she still has doubts?
The room goes silent for a few minutes while I think about the situation. I feel like I should be irritated by her doubts, but I really can't be, I know that I've been guilty of the same thing more often than I'd like to admit.
Looking back on it, anyone in my shoes would have easily picked up on the fact that Natsume had some kind of feelings for me. Not that I have any experience in the field, but friends don't hold hands just 'because'. I even made excuses to not believe that it could mean anything more than a friendly gesture.
It probably doesn't help that neither of us have any experience with this kind of thing, but there's no way that I can hold her disbelief against her now. It's a little scary how alike the two of us are in some ways.
"So, she...she doesn't believe me?" I question aloud.
"I don't know if it's that she doesn't believe you, or if it's more that she just doesn't know what to do, and her natural reaction is to not do anything out of fear." Naomi carefully counters.
I raise my eyebrow in confusion at Naomi while I try to form a response. She's the last person in the world, other than maybe Misha, that I would expect such a well thought-out answer from.
"Hey! Don't look at me like that!" She says, forming a fake pout with her lips. "I may not be the best at school work, but I'm pretty good with figuring people out!"
"I'm sorry," I chuckle back at her. "I just...wasn't expecting that."
"Yeah, yeah~!" She says, giggling at my surprised expression. "She really does like you Hisao," She starts in an uncharacteristically calm tone. "Just...show her how you feel, Romeo. Everything will work out."
"Thanks Naomi," I answer back softly. "For being a good friend to both of us."
She smiles back sincerely as we both let the subject fade away. She probably doesn't realize just how much I mean that. Feeling like I've been alone in this adventure was one of the most miserable feelings I've experienced, it's been so nice to have Naomi and Natsume here now.
I guess that I'll need to work on a plan to 'show' Natsume how I feel now. I'm still not even sure what that means, but I'll figure it out eventually. I don't consider myself to be a very patient person, so I'm going to have to think of something quickly if I don't want this to drive me crazy.