Sunday, 6 November 2016
Chapter one, 2017, a new year, segment ten
A couple of hours later, after the last period, Ryu found himself on his way to the Haven café, or their clubroom to be more precise. The number of members took a dive after Principal Kareyoshi announced to the entire school that the Himekaizen Cultural Exchange club was disbanded.
It wasn’t. Not after parental outcries and a hastily assembled meeting by the board of directors. An eight percent increase in test results compared to the rest of the student body was hard to argue against, but Ryu was certain Kareyoshi would force the club to close shop one way or another.
Test results, however, was the last on his mind right now. The latest arrival, Jeniferu-chan turned out to be a first class pain in the arse, much more so than Tomasu-kun, who just couldn’t let go of his old academic merits. At the moment Ryu was more afraid of Kuri than anyone else. She’d go livid if she saw how Jeniferu-chan glued herself to Urufu.
What a mess. I’m scared about how my girlfriend is going to react when she finds out about the guy she dumped. Which really meant she wasn’t his girlfriend in the first place.
When Ryu came inside, accompanied by the chiming of the bell, the first thing he saw was a different kind of mess, one he didn’t mind confronting at all. He’d recognise that back anywhere.
His ex jumped up from her chair, and somehow managed to turn mid-air. “Ryu? Why are you here?”
Now that’s a new high-score in stupidity. “Eh, because our clubroom is here, like it’s been since the start of the year.”
Ryu looked at her and her friends. No you didn’t. You were looking for me. “Wanted something?”
Ai-chan quickly regained her composure, one of the reasons Ryu fell in love with her. “Actually I do. Your sister to yell at. She had me come here, but I never thought she’d stoop to the level where she set us up.”
Noriko? Ryu gave it a thought. Actually she would stoop that low. He grabbed a chair by the table next to Ai-chan and sat down. When James waved a question, Ryu nodded a silent approval. Soon enough his standard order would arrive.
“You’re saying you’re unhappy to see me?”
By Ai-chan’s side her best friend looked like she was going to explode. She grabbed her glass of water, and Ryu braced himself, but then the girl thought better of it and put it down again. A clatter of kitchenware from behind Ai-chan told Ryu the other friend was burning with ire as well.
“No, I’d never do that,” she said.
“Because this is not about what you want, is it?” Suddenly irritated Ryu felt the need to be mean. “Just for the record I still love you. Very much,” he added when he saw Ai-chan stare at him, mouth wide open, while she blushed furiously.
This time the clatter was replaces by the sound of a fork being slammed to the plate. “If you love her so much, then why did you dump her?”
Dump her? Ryu glared at Ai-chan. I didn’t think you were the kind to lie.
“He didn’t. I broke up with him.”
“Is what you’re saying, but let’s hear it from him as well.”
Oh, so you didn’t lie about it after all. “Like Ai-chan says. We agreed to break up, but she took the initiative.” Hearing her defend him warmed him somewhat. “Why are you here?” Time to change topic. This one still hurts.
Ai-chan looked down at her shoes while she dangled her feet.
“Your sister called me here.”
James arrived with coffee and cake; Ryu’s standard order, but in the beginning something Urufu ordered by chance.
“Noriko?” Ryu said and sipped his coffee. As usual a superb blend. James might cheat on interior and exterior design, but what he served was first class. “How so?” Ryu continued when Ai-chan didn’t answer.
“I think it’s about you, or me, or us.” Ai-chan fidgeted a little until she finally looked up and met Ryu’s eyes. “She thinks you dumped me for another girl.”
With a bit of cake in his mouth Ryu mulled over Ai-chan’s explanation. “You know what, the part about another girl is true.”
As expected both of Ai-chan’s friends growled angrily.
“Wait,” Ai-chan said. “Ryu’s not like that. Explain.”
He still saw the hurt in her eyes. “Kuri saw us that day.” So now you dropped the honorifics. I wish you had done so earlier. Ryu looked at the girl he still loved. Kuri, Urufu, I’ll kick your butts to kingdom come. What a mess!
“She’s hurting. She loves Urufu maybe even stronger than I love you,” Ryu began. There was no maybe in that, but he had no reason to hurt Ai-chan. An adult’s love wasn’t flimsy in the way of a teenager’s, that much he understood. “Kuri saw us and asked me if it was a new beginning or an end.”
Ai-chan bit her lips but said nothing.
“And then you just got yourself a new girlfriend?” Ai-chan’s best friend, and she showed signs of losing her control altogether.
“Please, listen to him!”
“She needed a cover, a convenient lie, for her work,” Ryu continued. “Two people in love with someone else they can’t have, she said.”
“Ryu,” Ai-chan said. Her voice was very small. “Do you really love me?”
He looked at her, and then he looked inside himself. “I do, but I’ll never keep my girlfriend a secret, just as I told you that day.” Knowing that she’d need time to process that Ryu drank some more of his coffee. Still hot but no longer scalding. Make of that what you want.
“Ai?” That was the girl hidden behind Ai-chan.
The question made her flinch. Ryu watched her looking down, just to turn around and face her friends.
So you didn’t tell them everything?
“It’s my dad. Ryu did nothing wrong.”
“Ai, if he loves you and you love him, then why...”
“It’s not that simple!”
You know, Ai, Ryu thought for himself, and dropped the honorific, even if only silently, it really is that simple.
He looked at her as she explained what had happened, and then Ryu’s thoughts went to his sister. I wonder what happened, but this sure is a shitty way to start a new year.