CHAPTER 11: LIFE at Second Glance

Enjoy loyal readers...

Rukawa sat on the bench as he watch his teammates jog for the last 15 minutes. They were preparing for Kainan and everyone is determined to put some extra effort to become a team worthy enough to beat the Champion of last year's tournament.

'If only I didn't get fuckin injured...' Rukawa thought.

He closed his eyes hoping that when he opened them, it will be a ball that he's holding and not his laptop and some paperworks from some writer that he had to edit.

'What the hell, since I can't do anything and I think Coach wouldn't mind me doing some paperworks...'

Rukawa started reading some articles submitted by his newspaper staff. He was glad that lately, there were but few errors being committed by his writers.

'Not to mention, their articles are getting interesting and more attention grabbing -in a good way thank gods.'

He jumped straight to the Sports Section, which he usually checks last, and read about his career best performance.

"Kaede Rukawa, Shohoku's brilliant rookie showed the whole world why he's the top contender for Rookie of the Year and even the coveted Most Valuable Player. Outshining Akira Sendoh at the last second, Rukawa made a difficult fade away jumper that gave them the lead, beating Ryonan for a Championship Showdown with last year's Champion Kainan University. Hisashi Mitsui also..."

'Brilliant eh...' Rukawa liked that sound. Deciding that the artcile was the way he wants it to be, he read the next column.

'Opinion by Haruko Akagi. Crap.'

Rukawa shifted his vision from a paper full of words to a figure who seem to be lost for words -Haruko.

He hasn't seen Haruko for 2 days because Coach Anzai told them to rest for two days, no basketball no warm up, shooting -everything. He did tried calling her, "tried" being the key word. He also tried to send her an SMS, "tried" being the keyword again.

'What will I say to her, "No congratulations for my awesome game?" Smooth Kaede...Well, how do you start a conversation with someone whom you're sure as there is a God that you're falling in love with and then a girl shows up from your past whom you've thought as your "ex"? Jeez, sounds like an episode from One Tree Hill. I have to stop watching that show!'

He watched her while she watched the game. There was a time, not too long ago, where she watches him play the game. Shaking out from his reverie, he reverted back his attention on Haruko's article.

"Life at Second Glance

My life has always been about second fiddle. Second best. Second everything. I have to settle for second and it came to a point where I called myself a "loser". Have you ever felt that way?

Life is about chances right? But how come I can't get mine right during first. I always manage to get it right the second time around. I win second place. I'm the second in our family. I settle for second jobs.

During my elementary year, I worked my ass off (have to edit that one, Rukawa thought) hoping that I'd finish at the top of my class. I was second. I wanted to become the Editor-in-Chief, I became a Staff. I wanted to do sports, I got Opinion.

A few days ago, or weeks probably, I thought I was, for the first time, THE priority. First and foremost, before anything else...and I like the feeling.

But I have to admit...I was scared. Being priority, being FIRST was so new to me that I didn't know how to handle it. But I managed...I thought I could.

Funny how you think that everything is finally falling to its proper places while at the back of your mind, there's that nagging feeling that it won't last that long. And that's what happened to me, I won't be going in to details but lets just say being first isn't my cup of tea.

But as weird as this may sound, I don't mind. And it's not because I'm used to it or I accepted my fate as a second placer but because the time wasn't right. It just clicked to me that being second isn't that bad because maybe...just maybe...

I wasn't ready the first time around. We weren't ready...Most of us are not ready.

I realized that "second" is there for a very important reason. So is "third", "fourth" and so on...I don't mind really.

I don't mind being long as I'm doing something that I love, I won't mind being second.

It hurts little though..."

'The article is very interesting. Choices of words are perfect. Flow of content is right. Argh! My only chance of making a conversation with her all went down the drain. Should I make up something, a little bit correction maybe?' Rukawa thought in frustration. He looked at Haruko again and the words came back to him "we weren't ready". 'I wasn't ready is more like it'.

The article was very personal and he felt like it was speaking to him, like it was made for him specifically.

'Dream on Kaede...''

Rukawa remembered clearly how everything suddenly became a dream after the game with Ryonan.

"She's his girlfriend!" Sakuragi said with glee.

"WHAT?!" Everyone chorused.

"Tell me about it. A mix of Voldemort's cold aura and Dumbledore's gayness and he still managed to get a girlfriend, pft!"

"When did you start reading Harry Potter?" Ayako asked.

He heard the whistle blow, a signal that the practice is over. He saw Hanamichi prancing his way towards Haruko, saw Haruko smile, watched amusedly how Akagi punched the living daylights out of Hanamichi and hear Haruko laugh...more of saw her laugh. And it pains him...not because he wasn't there to share it with her. But because it sounded so empty, looked so empty, felt so empty.

The gym door opened and Ruriko made his way towards Rukawa. The other guys teased him but all Rukawa could think about right at that moment is to dig himself a hole and stay there until everyone fades away.

"Kaede, let's go home." Ruriko said with a smile.

Rukawa could only managed a nod and heard more teasing but it didn't really reached him. He was looking at Haruko who was smiling along.

'What a faker.'

Rukawa would like to believe that Haruko felt something for him. That there was this mutual understanding between them and it was only a matter of time before they admit it to one another.

'Well, all of that happened when Ruri wasn't here. What now?'

"Kaede, are you okay?" Ruriko asked.

"Yeah, lets go home."

Rukawa waived goodbye along with the teasing of his teammates and made his way towards the door without looking back. Unbeknownst to him, someone was watching the subtle exchange of emotion.

"And then I got 20 rebounds! Can you believe it?! I am the master of the ring!" Hanamichi said.

"King of the Boards you mean." Haruko offered.

"Don't bother explaining to him the wonders of basketball terminology." Akagi said


They walked in silence afterwards, almost close to a tense surrounding. Akagi decided to break the silence.

"How come you're walking with us? And don't even think that just because I'm not killing you right now means I've given you the green light to court my sister!"

"Nii-chan!" Haruko said exasperatedly to which Akagi gave a resounding 'hmp!'

"Well, I would've went with Rukawa but you know he's kinda busy. Hehehehe..." Sakuragi wiggle his eyebrows.

No one laughed with Sakuragi but Haruko gave a forceful smile to which Akagi noticed.

"Rukawa's not you so I don't think what you're implying is possible."

"Well, you're right on that." Sakiragi said to which Akagi gave a hard slap at his head.

"Ouch what was that for you --" Akagi gave him another slap before he completed his remark.

"Baka, you dare say that in front of me and Haruko?!" Akagi said.

"I didn't mean it that way Gori -- ack!" Akagi gave him another slap sending him to the pavement.

Haruko laughed, genuinely this time.

"Now go home, before there's nothing left of you." Akagi bellowed.

Sakuragi scratched his and head and knowing that he hit a bad spot, readily went the other way with his head hanging down and his hands inside the his shorts sideways.

"That wasn't necessary Nii-chan, you know he didn't mean it that way." Haruko said softly, still giggling.

"Hmp!" Akagi said while crossing his arms to which Haruko smiled tenderly. "No one messes with my sister!"

Haruko smile wistfully and thought, "too late for that..."

"You've been quite Kaede." Ruriko said looking at Rukawa's spaced out features.

"Kaede...Kaede, are you still with me?" Ruriko prodded.

'Am I still with you? Physically yes, but emotionally I'm elsewhere..."

"Yeah, I'm still here. Just tired is'll."

"Okay,.." And then they fall into absolute silence all the way.

When Kaede said goodnight, Ruriko went straight to the phone and called Ayako.

"Ayako, I need to get the number of someone in the team..."

Ruriko sat on a bench and watched the kids run around the street. Their mother running after them. A few feet away, there was a swing and on it were two children, a boy and girl around the age of five or something. She watched the boy swing as high as he could while the girl watches in envy. Seeing the girl's jealous face, the boy stopped swinging, got off his seat and started pushing the girl's swing.

Ruriko smiled, 'that looked awfully familiar..." she thought while remembering the times Rukawa would help her out in situations where she couldn't do anything about it.

'But now, there's something I can do. Something I want to do.'

"Hey, have you been waiting too long?" A voice coming from behind Ruriko said.

Ruriko turned around and smiled, "Just for a few minutes, come on, have a seat."

"Thank you."

"It's nice to finally meet you properly, Haruko."

"Likewise, Ruriko."

Yes, I am back from the grave and it's because of YOU people! Who keep doing reviews despite the number of years that I've stopped updating this fanfiction. No I'm not angry as if I have the right! I'm actually flattered that people are still doing reviews despite the non-update of this fic. So I thought, "Wtf, I know the feeling of getting frustrated because the stories I like suddenly stop updating! I owe it to those who loyally followed this fic of mine." So here it is, hope you guys like it. It's not that long like the previous chapters but I am closing in the "series finale" so this one is sort of a teaser to that. Until next time guys and I'll try to update this as soon as possible.