“It's me, Kenji,” I answer him with a sigh.
“Oh hey man, how's it going?” he asks me, much to my surprise. Normally we'd have a few sentences of interrogation so he could determine if I was really me or not.
“Not bad, just getting ready to turn in,” I say, trying subtly to drop a hint that I'm not really in the mood for a conversation at the moment. But regardless of whatever social tact Kenji may have developed since we've been introduced, it's not really enough for him to pick up on that cue.
“I hear ya,” he continues, completely oblivious. “These exams are brutal, man. I haven't been able to get my normal sleep this week. It's going to feel great going back to getting four hours of sleep a night.”
“Wait, you only sleep for four hours on a normal night?”
“Of course,” Kenji proudly states, admonishing me. “There's too much stuff to do during the other twenty. I mean, you don't really think that I can become the general I'm meant to be in this upcoming war if I don't prepare myself with knowledge every night.”
There it is. “No, I don't suppose so.”
“You should do the same, my friend. I just finished listening to The Art Of War
on tape for the third time. Great book. It's really taught me a lot about how to handle almost every encounter I have with anyone else.”
“Is that so?”
“I can let you borrow it if you want. It's great to listen to while falling asleep.”
“I think I'll pass, thanks.”
“Hey man, just you watch. One day all of this is going to come true, and you'll be one of the ones that the reporters all line up to talk to to get to try and get a picture of who I was. I really think you'd be doing both of us a disservice if you had no idea what to say, you know?”
“...maybe later then. But not tonight.”
“Suit yourself. Hey, before you go, can you hand me my towel? I left it on the counter.”
I look over and see his towel folded up next to the sinks, clear on the other side of the large bathroom area and nowhere near the shower area, not even sitting on the small bench next to each distinct shower stall. Why he decides to put it there, when all his other
sitting on the bench is a mystery to me.
“Why do you leave it over there?”
“So I know exactly where it is, duh.”
“But you can...you know what? Never mind,” I say, taking a few long strides and retrieving the piece of fabric for him. I sling part of it over the top of the stall door, letting it hang there so he can grab it whenever he finishes up.
“Thanks!” he says.
“Don't mention it,” I reply, and this time I intend to end the conversation before he steers it in yet another direction. “I'm going to head back now. If I don't see you, good luck with the exams the rest of the week.”
Walking back, I feel a bit better about the situation. Kenji was the main reason I was worried about Saki spending the night; not because I think he would rat me out, but because I really don't want to get into the discussion he'd bring up as a result of knowing it. He already thinks I'm deep undercover, but I don't want to try and wrestle with the mental gymnastics needed to keep him thinking that.
Plus, with him taking his shower now, I doubt Saki would run into him later if she got up in the middle of the night.
When I get back to the room, Saki's already put the pillows back where they normally go at the head of the bed and started to turn the sheets down. The laptop is already closed, and the only light is coming from the lamp I have on the nightstand. I decide to go about my evening routine like I normally do and start to pick up a variety of bottles from the lineup on my desk.
“Sorry about falling asleep there,” Saki mentions, sitting down on the edge of the bed and watching me.
I twist off the top of a bottle of water and take a large swig to wash down the half-dozen pills that make up my nightly regimen. Grimacing as I swallow, I offer her the bottle.
“It wasn't a big deal. You were only out for about twenty minutes or so.”
“Thanks for not waking me up. I guess I'm more tired than I thought I was...are we ready to go to bed?”
A small part of me notes that this is the first time a girl has ever spent the night in my room, much less asked me that question in general. That same part takes notice as to how alluring she is in her outfit, but honestly, the combination of mental and physical exhaustion that's resulted from the stress of this week and the specter of the next are pushing any lustful thoughts out of the forefront of my mind.
“Sure,” I say, sitting on the edge of the bed and swinging my legs up to lay on the side closest to the wall. I hold up the light blanket so she can slide in against me, and she does so with a quiet rustle of fabric.
“One sec,” she says, sitting up. I see her pull her hands inside her shirt, and a few deft movements later where her elbows tent it in various ways, her bra ends up getting thrown in the direction of her other clothing in the corner of the room.
“Much better,” she sighs, winking down at me. “I hate sleeping in one of those. You don't normally wear a shirt at night, do you?”
“Only sometimes,” I answer, a bit more defensively than I intended.
“Take it off,” she requests.
I can't see any meaning behind those words besides her usual playful mischief, so I sit up again just long enough to do what she asks. Satisfied, she reaches over to turn the bedside lamp off and then snuggles against me. It takes a few moments to get properly adjusted so both of us are in a comfortable position, but we eventually end up with me on my back, and Saki on her side next to me, her head in the crook of my shoulder and an arm draped across me.
“You're warm,” she says into my chest, nuzzling me gently. I try not to laugh from the ticklish sensation, and distract myself by running my hand lightly up and down her back. She coos and wraps a leg around mine.
“Mhmm,” she answers.
The room isn't completely dark. It never is at night. Enough light streams in from outside to splash on the opposite wall and faintly illuminate the rest of the room. I can barely make out her outline next to me, but I can feel her warmth and the rhythm of her breathing.
It's relaxing on a level I can't fully comprehend, but one I'm enjoying thoroughly.
“Hard to believe summer break starts in a little over two weeks,” I idly say, trying to start some gentle banter before sleep claims us both.
Saki yawns. “I ended up getting the hotel details taken care of. We'll have two rooms this time.”
“I thought Mitsuru wasn't going to make it.”
“He's not. Noriko's going to be staying in the second room with Chisato.”
“So we end up getting a room to ourselves?”
“Yeah,” Saki says, hugging me tightly. “I didn't plan it that way but that's how it ended up working out.”
“Well I didn't want to do anything that might get my father too upset, so instead of trying to ask for anything too specific, I just wanted to see what they had. They only had two rooms left, one with two beds and one with only one. It seemed like a good idea.”
I place my hand over hers and give it a squeeze. “I'm going to miss you for those four weeks.”
“You too,” she says, nuzzling me again. “Do you know when you're coming back to Yamaku?”
“There's no real plan. I'll most likely get up here a few days before class starts again. It's probably going to depend on what day has the cheapest train ticket, unless my parents want to drive me up. You?”
“I'll be back a week or so before. We're getting together with Mrs. Sakamoto and are going to try and do some more recording that week, before we get dragged back into classes again.”
In that moment, my plans for getting back to Yamaku end up becoming a lot more concrete.
“You gonna be okay for those few weeks?” I tentatively ask.
“It's nothing I haven't done before. I'll just spend some time with my brother, put in enough time with my parents to be polite, probably deal with the semi-annual grilling over all the choices I'm making, then we can all stare at the calendar until it's time for me to leave again.”
A thought occurs to me. “Do you do much traveling over the summer break?”
“Sometimes my family would. I only went with them a few times. Why?”
“Well, if you needed to get out for a while, you could always come visit me.”
Saki props herself up on her elbow. “Yeah? You think so?” she asks, her eyes glittering in the low light. I can already see the gears in her head turning, trying to work out the logistics of such a plan. “That would be one hell of a day trip.”
“We'll have some more experience at those by then.”
She laughs, then moves in to kiss me tenderly. “Thanks for the offer. I'll think about it.”
That note seems to be the perfect one to end the conversation.
“Night, Hisao,” she answers me, settling down against me once again. I lay still and continue to stroke her back, and in only a few moments, I can feel her breathing become deeper and more even.
Finals this next week. Then Tanabata a week after that, followed by our trip to the waterpark and then summer break until the second week of September.
Saki said she might come visit me, and I don't think that she idly said that just for the sake of conversation. As much as I would want her to, I know enough about her family now to know that if it happens, a lot of negative things would have sprung up prompting it.
As far as my own plans go for summer, I find myself strangely torn on how I feel about them. I want to see my parents again, but that's really all I'm looking forward to. I already decided that I'd be getting there a few days after the start of the break and coming back here a week or so before the end of it, which cuts the amount of time I'd be spending back home significantly.
So why, with everything going well at the moment, do I feel a sense of apprehension about it?
Saki shifts against me, and the reminder of the beautiful soul sleeping next to me is just enough to push it out of my mind – long enough for me to embrace the present, and slowly drift off to sleep.
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