Red. Blue. Orange. Green. The sky is bathed in brilliant light as the colors dance on the dark canvas of the evening sky. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen fireworks in person, and I've never been this close to them before. Every flash of light is followed by another boom half a second later, some larger than others.
“Oh wow!” Saki shouts in excitement. “This is way larger than last year!”
I look at her and see the look of pure joy on her face, her eyes darting to take in every flash that goes off. The two dark pools light up with almost every color you can think of.
As another round of fireworks goes off from the town below to join the ones up on the hill, I turn towards them.
This is another one of those moments. Where no matter how badly things have ended up to bring you to them, you stop and appreciate everything about them...and they're made even more special by what you had to go through to get to them.
More than one of those moments in a single day? I can't remember that happening, even before
I ended up in the hospital.
<<Art by Kuriitama>>
Happy gasps and other noises from the crowd add to the entire experience, and for the next ten minutes or so, time seems to stand still as everyone is completely absorbed.
“Here it comes!” Saki says loudly, when the fireworks slack off for a few seconds.
“Here what comes?” I ask, my own voice raised since I can't hear much.
No sooner does she say that then the fireworks start up again. In ferocious intensity, one explosion flashes after another until that entire part of the sky seems to be one bright, multicolored display. Cheers sound out from around me, matching the cacophony of what's happening above our heads.
Finally, with one last booming echo and a bright smear that leaves an afterimage burned into my retinas, the fireworks show is over.
As my hearing comes back, I hear voices talking about what just happened. About half of the people in the crowd start to stand up, taking stock of their various things like blankets, lawn chairs, and children.
“Is that it?” I wonder, looking around me at the movement.
“Pretty much,” Saki says, raising herself to a seated position and brushing some strands of grass off her arms. “After the fireworks, there's nothing else really planned for the rest of the night. Awesome way to end the festival though!”
“Makes sense, seeing as how nothing will be able to top that,” I grunt, getting to my feet.
“The booths should be open for a while longer,” Saki explains. She holds up her hand towards me and I use it to help pull her up. She smooths out her skirt and stretches, yawning. “Everyone suddenly realizes they want to play one last game or get some more food. Is that something you want to do?”
I bend down to pick up our two drink containers. “I'm pretty full, actually, and you already fell asleep on the grass.”
“I wasn't sleeping. I was resting my eyes.”
“Sure you were.”
“Alright, you win,” she concedes, yawning again. “Can we get going back to the dorms? I'm about to pass out.”
That seems like a good idea, actually. I can feel my own energy reserves dropping now that the adrenaline from the fireworks has worn off.
“I think we might have to wait a while though.” I say, scanning ahead. The crush of humanity is moving slowly but inexorably towards the front gates, away
from the dorms. I don't think we're going to be able to swim upstream through that.
“Here, this way,” Saki says, grabbing my arm. She leads us across the great lawn towards the back of some of the booths, then slips into one. I follow, and realize we're back in the band's goldfish booth.
Saki sits down in one of the empty chairs. “I figured this would be as good a place as any to rest for a while until people start to leave."
Chisato and the other girl from earlier...Noriko?...are busy over the fishtank.
“Free fish! Come take one, or two, or ten!” Chisato calls out like a carnival barker, so intent on what she's doing she never even noticed the two of us. Saki whacks the back of Chisato's leg with her cane playfully, causing her to jump in surprise.
“What the? Where did you two come from? I thought you were going to go to sleep?”
“Caught a second wind. We thought we'd hide here for a while,” Saki says. “No way to get back to the dorms right now.”
Noriko speaks up shyly. “Did you enjoy the fireworks?”
“Yeah, they were amazing this year,” Saki answers, and the two of them start talking among themselves.
I walk up towards Chisato to get a better look at what she's doing. She's scooping fish into the plastic cups from earlier as quickly as she can. “Need some help?” I ask.
Chisato shoots me a grateful look. “Definitely. We've been giving these things away since the fireworks ended and we only have about a dozen left. I scoop, you lid?”
She hands me a cup with a rather energetic occupant bouncing madly against the plastic. I take a lid from the stack sitting on the table and put it firmly in place. Working quickly, we soon have all the rest of the tiny creatures taken care of.
Chisato yells out her offer again, and several people come by to take advantage of it. Some take only a single cup while others take two or three. I notice a lot of the other booths, save for the food vendors, are already in the process of turning off their lights and tearing down. A few have a line of people waiting to play one last game.
“Here,” Saki says behind me, causing me to turn. She hands me one of the cups that was on the table.
“Thanks,” I say, turning to get ready to hand him to someone who already has two. Saki stops me with a hand on my arm.
“No, keep him. It's a thank you present for all your help the last few days. He's yours.”
I'm a bit dumbfounded at this. I glance at the fish floating lazily in the glass, then hold him up to get a better look at him. He's one of the larger ones; a mottled thing with a gold back, cream belly, and black freckles all over.
“Uh, you don't really have to. I don't know the first thing about fish and I don't know if we're allowed to have one in the dorm.”
Saki waves her hand dismissively. “I have a few in a tank in my room. As long as it's not something like you would see at the aquarium, you should be fine.”
“And they allow this?”
“I'm sure they would.”
“So, in other words, you don't know.”
Noriko laughs, having heard the entire exchange. I just sigh again. I have the feeling I'm going to be doing that a lot in the future.
After a few more minutes of idle talk, all the other goldfish are gone. Chisato dusts her hands off, and Noriko starts to unplug the lights.
“Are you ready?” Saki asks me, noticing the crowd has died down. There's still a fair amount of people on the grounds, but not nearly as many as there were making their way home a little bit ago.
I notice Chisato give Noriko a look. That
“Don't let us keep you two,” she says with a teasing tone. “We'll finish up here tonight and tomorrow morning when we wake up. Your violin was taken back to the room with all the rest of the instruments after the show.”
“Thanks, Chisato. Sorry for being hard on you earlier. Did you get anything to eat?” Saki asks with concern.
“Eh, I deserved it. Don't worry about it. And yep, I got plenty. About to get a snack after we get done here.”
“Alright. See you two tomorrow,” Saki says.
“Thanks for your help, Hisao,” Chisato says over her shoulder, already intent on another task.
“Anytime,” I answer automatically. Oh man. Why do I think I'll be eating those words?
And with that, Saki and I make our way back towards the dorms, tracing the same route we used earlier to get to the stage in the first place. There's still the sound of people, but most of the noise has quieted down to where I can hear the gentle clacking of Saki's cane every time it touches the ground.
“So, Hisao,” she says in step beside me. “Did you enjoy the festival?”
“Yeah,” I say, truly meaning it. “I think after this week and after everything else, I really needed it.”
“Good,” she answers, unable to hide the tiredness in her voice. “I'm glad. Hope you didn't mind spending most of it with me.”
“Not at all. I had a good time.”
pretty amazing. The entire day was, thinking back on it. I didn't know what to expect when I woke up today. I wasn't even sure I was going to go to the festival at all, much less enjoy it. It’s kind of fitting given that my whole attitude towards Yamaku was similar when I first transferred in. But the day ended up being fun.
No, not exactly the right word. Peaceful. Calming. Enjoyable. Mesmerizing is another good term for parts of it. I realize that I didn't just enjoy the music, or the food, or the fireworks, but I enjoyed pretty much every way I spent my time today.
And who I spent that time with.
“Looks like this is where we part ways for the night,” Saki says. We're in the courtyard before the dorms before I had even realized it. “Get a good night's sleep, okay?”
“I should be saying that to you. You're the one who can barely stand up.”
“Hey, you're the new guy. Someone
has to look out for you.”
“I thought you said I wasn't allowed to use that as an excuse anymore.”
can,” she giggles, turning away from me to start to walk towards the entrance to the female dorm.
“Hey, Saki?” I manage after she takes a few steps. She stops and turns around to face me.
Thank you for what? Thank you for spending time with me today. Thank you for playing that song. Thank you for being concerned about me. Thank you for reaching out to me this last week. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for verbally slapping me and challenging me.
All of that passes through my mind in a second. And I swear, after a brief moment when her face breaks into a warm smile, she's understood. All
“You're welcome,” she replies, with just as much unspoken.
And with that, she turns and walks through the door, with it closing behind her. I'm left standing in the courtyard to end the day, just as it really began hours ago.
Thank you for letting the day be fun, and thank you for showing me it was okay
for me to have fun.
All I really had to do was just open my mind to the possibilities as to what could have happened today, and take that first step of leaving my dorm room.
It turned out to be a great decision.
Can I do the same thing with Yamaku, in general? With my new life? Can I just stop being bitter about it for long enough to actually accept that this might be a good thing?
I don't know the answer to that, but I know that I'm going to try.
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