"Hey Ruki, wait up!" Takato called. "Ruki! Hang on a sec!"
Ruki didn't even look up as she felt thick, pelting raindrops begin to fall. Hands in her pockets, she continued walking down a deserted sidewalk.
"Ruki! I…" Takato stuttered. "I noticed you didn't have an umbrella."
She pounded her feet into the puddles as she walked away faster.
"It must be tough moving to a new town. It rains a lot more here than it does in Sapporo."
Ruki shrugged reflexively.
"Ta-da!" Takato joked. "I always wondered why mom makes me bring this stupid thing, but on days like this, I'm glad."
Ruki continued stepping at a methodical pace, showing little interest in Takato's stories about rain resistant materials.
"I can't believe Mrs. Iida wants us to write a 500-word story by Friday. I don't think I've written that many words at once in my entire life!"
Ruki let out a small, jolting giggle that was barely audible over the pelting rain.
"What are you going to write about?" Takato inquired.
Ruki stopped for a moment and looked up. She produced a thoughtful look for a moment, but simply shrugged with a regretful face.
"I was thinking of writing the story about how I once hit myself in the stomach with a golf ball," Takato ventured.
Ruki's feet stopped immediately as she looked over at Takato's sparsely freckled face. She rolled her eyes in disbelief that such an implausible claim could be true.
"It was really funny when I think about it." Takato continued. "Not to mention stupid. I set up a zip line in my backyard and draped a big blanket over it."
Ruki pointed toward a quiet side road that led to her house. She began to cross the busy street as Takato never broke from his story.
"I hit a few balls, but they all kept flying under the bottom of the blanket. So to fix that little problem I weighed the blanket down with a couple of cinder blocks."
Ruki's pace had slowed noticeably since Takato found her. She was even walking closer to him underneath the umbrella now. She no longer took hard stomps, but softly stepped forward while keeping her brightening blue eyes on Takato as he spoke.
"I hit the first few shots ok, but then I hit a low sinker and Boing! BAM! The ball ricocheted off the cinder block and right into my stomach. I doubled over in excruciating pain. I thought I busted a kidney or something!"
Ruki started laughing uncontrollably, nearly stepping out from under the umbrella.
"My mom and sister came outside just after it happened, and I was hunched over like I'd been kicked in the groin or something." Takato added. "I was standing there trying to act like nothing was wrong, but later I saw a little purple and black bruise on my stomach."
Ruki had stopped laughing, but locked eyes with Takato. Her newfound smile beamed as they reached the gate to her front yard. She swiftly unlatched the gate and ushered for him to come inside.
"Thanks, but I can't stay. I've got to get to soccer practice by four."
Ruki pushed back the sleeve of her thin white jacket to check her watch.
"Our coach is such an idiot. We practice rain or shine, every single day! What about lightning? It's dangerous! What if I die before I get to drive a car? I've never even been on a date!"
Ruki's head shot up quickly with her eyes wide open.
"Well, I guess I've gotta run! See ya tomorrow!"
Ruki quickly chased Takato down and grabbed his wrist.
Ruki smirked softly as she shook her head in dissent and kissed Takato gently on the cheek.