Regret instantly washes through me, both at that realization and that I pressed Saki into revealing that.
“I'm sorry, I didn't-”
“Don't be,” she says, cutting me off. “You didn't know.”
I ease myself over and sit down on the edge of her bed, my hands on my knees, unsure of what to say. The mood in the room is thick like a fog; heavy and stifling. Saki's face quickly changes expressions, as if she's reliving the memories of that time, both good and bad.
“Her condition...” Saki starts to explain, “Kayoko had something called cystic fibrosis. It's not very uncommon in the rest of the world, but it's pretty rare in Japan. That's how she ended up here at Yamaku. It's a genetic disorder that causes mucus to build up in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. It gets worse until...well...”
Saki's voice trails off into silence.
“I'm sorry,” I say again, this time more softly. Saki doesn't correct me this time, but instead nods.
Silence passes between us for several moments, before Saki jolts a bit in her chair, as if she just now remembered she has somewhere she needs to be.
“I forgot that I need to get over to therapy,” she says, confirming my suspicions. I stand up and move to offer her a hand to help her out of the chair. She takes it, and steadies herself against me as she stands up.
“Sure,” I reply. “Over by the pool, right?”
“Mhmm,” Saki confirms, grabbing her cane. “And Hisao? Thanks.”
“For not peeking.”
I flush a bit. “Well...I do
have good peripheral vision...”
“Well if you were able to sneak a look without me catching you, you deserve to get away with it,” Saki says with a giggle before wrapping her arms around me in a surprising hug.
“I didn't mean-”
Saki places her lips against my ear and shushes me with a throaty whisper. “Maybe next time you won't have to sneak.”
Before I can react, she gives me a quick peck on the cheek and separates herself from me.
I'm flustered a bit at the teasing, but not nearly as much as I would be if it didn't feel...forced.
I know Saki can switch moods very quickly, but even I have a hard time believing she could go from discussing the death of a close friend to being openly seductive in less than a minute flat. The fact she was able to has more of an effect on me than the words she just spoke. Fortunately, her back is to me so she can't see the complex mixture of emotions on my face. Maybe this is Saki's way of moving past an uncomfortable subject for her, and if that's the case, I should follow suit. Saki's no stranger to changing the conversation away from uneasy subjects, but she's usually much more subtle about it.
I can still take a hint, however.
“You ready?” she asks, turning back towards me. I see she's grabbed a scrunchy off her desk and slipped on her wristband. I nod, and she takes a second to study herself in the mirror on the back of her door.
“How'd you get this thing in here, anyway?” I ask.
“Connections. Besides, a girl has to know she looks good.”
“Are the bathrooms here different than the ones in the male dorms? I mean, we have mirrors in those.”
“I wouldn't be caught dead putting makeup on in there, and what would I do if I wanted to see which clothes I wanted to wear? I'm not dragging half a dozen pieces of clothing into the bathroom to try on everything.”
“Works well enough for me.”
Saki spins her head to look at me, in mock horror at the very idea of what I just said. “Well, we were going to have to work on your fashion sense anyway,” she says. “I guess that's just going to have to be another part of it.”
“I happen to like the way I dress, thank you very much.”
“That sweatervest? Yeah, it's nice, but...is that the only
thing you brought with you when you came to Yamaku that isn't a school uniform?”
“Don't tell me you have more than one of those things.”
“I really do
have my work cut out for me,” she says, with an exaggerated sigh. “Guess the next time we go into the city, we'll have to do some shopping.”
I remember back to the price tags we saw at Plus Two. “I think the stores where we went are just a bit out of my price range...”
Saki grabs the scrunchy with her teeth so she can use both hands to start to corral her mane into a tail. “Ith nmph thmt brrd,” she mumbles through the fabric. I laugh as she rolls her eyes at me, grabbing the elastic from her mouth and twisting it several times around in her hair.
“It's not that bad,” she repeats herself clearly. “We can find plenty of things that look nice at the store we got your swim trunks at.”
“Alright, but I don't think I'd be able to get a mirror that size in my dorm room.”
“I don't use it just for fashion, you know. It also helps with therapy.”
“Yeah. I'll show you next time...or if you actually decide to stay and watch, you'll see for yourself,” she says, putting her hand on the doorknob and giving it a twist.
Retracing our steps the way we came, running into approximately the same number of people as we did the first time we came through here, with about the exact same indifferent response. The clacking of Saki's cane changes pitch as we step outside onto the concrete at the entrance of the dorm. I breathe a little easier once we're finally out in the open.
We make our way over towards the medical building near the front of the school, as if we're heading towards the pool. The further we get away from the dorm, the more I'm able to relax, it seems. Even if I know it's completely illogical. There's not nearly as many students walking around the campus now; my guess is that they're either back at the dorms, heading into town like Lilly and Hanako, or in one of the after-school clubs that happens to meet today.
Going through the same entryway we take to get to the pool, I hold open the door for Saki. After we enter, I can smell the chlorine in the air.
“The therapy room is on the left, right?” I ask. Makes sense, seeing as how there's only one door on the right, and that leads to the pool.
“Yeah, second door down,” Saki confirms.
A few seconds later and we reach the door in question and both of us stop next to it.
“See? We made it. That wasn't so bad, was it?” Saki asks me.
“Not really,” I say, trying to gain the upper hand in what is sure to become another session of teasing. “I admit, you are
the first girl who's ever invited me back to their room. But really? I don't see what
the big deal is.”
I'm lying out my ass, but I'll be damned if I show her that.
Her eyebrows raise in response, and the corner of her mouth curls up in a grin at the challenge.
“I guess I'll just have to try harder next time, won't I?”
“I guess you will,” I agree, trying to remain nonchalant.
One second later, I realize what I actually just said.
An equal amount of time after that, I realize what it implies.
In a sudden movement, Saki turns towards me and puts her hands on my shoulders, taking a quick moment to look around us. I start to ask what's wrong when I'm cut off by the pressure of her body pushing mine against the wall with all her weight, followed quickly by her lips pressing hard
against mine. My eyes go wide as my train of thought completely derails with a pounding series of crashes in my head - only after a few heartbeats do I realize the sound is my own pulse thundering in my ears.
I wrap my arms around Saki in response, and I feel her tongue on my lower lip. I automatically open my mouth slightly, and she deepens the kiss, blowing away any semblance of rational thought I might have been hanging on to.
After a few seconds of this, she pulls away, her cheeks flushed and her eyes glassy, reflecting my own. We both do nothing but look into each others eyes, breathing heavily.
I'm not sure which one of us just raised the stakes, but they've definitely
“How was that?” Saki asks, trying hard to regain her composure and almost
“It's definitely a start,” I answer with a slightly nervous laugh.
“Good,” she says, a bit more steady. She takes a step away from me, letting me separate myself from the wall. We both idly adjust our clothing and hair – anything to take our minds off what just happened.
It's a good thing, too. Both of us jump about a foot in the air when the door we were standing next to opens. The white-clad arm that pushes the door is soon followed by the torso of someone we both recognize but haven't seen in a while.
“I thought I heard some noise out here. Hello, you two,” Nurse says in greeting. We both return it, a little higher pitched and more quickly than both of us mean to. A quick flash across Nurse's face broadcasts that he knows.
Well, this is just great.
My mind kicks into overdrive, imagining all the ways he's about to lecture us, possibly get us in trouble, maybe even-
“Miss Enomoto,” Nurse says, cutting through my thoughts and bringing them to a halt. “I'm sorry, but Mrs. Nakagawa had something come up and asked me to substitute for her today. I hope that's not a problem?”
“N...no, not at all.” Saki replies, having composed herself a bit quicker than I have. “I don't mind.”
“Excellent,” Nurse says, beaming at us. “It's been a while since I've done this, so I spent some time reading up on the latest procedures she was having you go through. You'll have to show me exactly what you were working on though. She's not the neatest writer, and I'm having some trouble making out some of her notes...not that I'm any better, admittedly. Right, Nakai?”
I bark out instantly, causing Nurse's smile to grow just a bit wider.
“Good. Oh, that reminds me, Nakai. Can you swing by tomorrow after class? I'm starting vacation after tomorrow so I won't be able to do your usual weekly checkup on the normal day.”
“S...sure,” I answer, willing my heartbeat to calm down along with my nerves. “No problem.”
“That settles that then. Alright then, Miss Enomoto, come on in and we can get started. Will you be staying, Nakai?”
Saki shoots me a look that conveys it's probably not a good idea, especially with how close we were to getting caught. I'm completely in agreement with her on this.
“Actually, I have some homework to do,” I tell Nurse. I can't for the life of me remember what
exactly that homework is, but I'm sure it will come back to me when my brain finishes rebooting.
“Good luck then!” Nurse says, moving to the side to allow Saki entrance to the physical therapy room. With a final smile from the both of them, the door closes and I'm left alone in the hallway. I take a few shaky steps over towards a bench on the far wall and gingerly sit on it.
I take the first full breath I've taken in the last few minutes, and then another, trying to calm down my heartbeat. It's pounding pretty hard, but not to the point of pain. I do feel pain, however, from all the muscles in my shoulders and back as they finally start to loosen up.
Even with all the swimming, the walks I've been going on, and helping to carry Saki up the hill that night, this is without a doubt the hardest my heart has had to work since I came to Yamaku. I lean back and rest my head against the cool brick of the wall behind me.
Everything that happened today kind of hits me in a blur. The kiss, and what it implies, what it could lead to; that's certainly on the forefront of my mind. But deep beneath it, I can't shake the nagging feeling I put aside when I was looking at the pictures in Saki's room.
Kayoko. That was her name.
Still, why was she sitting with Maeda when Saki was supposedly going out with him? Was that before or after they started dating?
Maybe they were all friends, and I'm reading too much into it.
But if they were all friends, and Kayoko passed away from her condition halfway through the year...could that have had something to do with Maeda's attitude towards Saki? It seems to go just beyond the standard disdain someone would have towards a former girlfriend.
I don't want to think about this now. It's all in the past anyway, and my mind keeps drifting back to the present. Specifically, what happened a few moments ago.
I look again at the door to the physical therapy room, wondering what could possibly be next. I passed the point of experience long ago, and all of this is new to me. I lick my lips, and there's a shadow of the flavor of peach from Saki's lip balm.
Whatever happens, I think at this point it's obvious that Saki's taking the lead.
And I'm more than willing to go along for the ride.
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