The Sakura Tree
Today was the…strangest day I've ever had in my life. No doubt about it. This ranks right up there with the day that I'd dreamt of being eaten by that catfish and then the dissection in science class at school.
Watanuki rolled over in his bed, but no matter how he tried, he couldn't get to sleep. His mind refused to let him rest and, like a tongue probing a sore tooth, he kept going back and reliving the whole day again and again. His brain was beginning to ache and he was getting frustrated. His mother had always said if you had a problem, just talk it out with someone, but there was no one for him to talk to. All things considered, he felt numb.
Fifteen hours earlier
"WHY AM I ALWAYS STUCK WITH YOU?!"
"It's not my fault we're running late."
Watanuki's legs carried him as fast as he could run toward the school gate and it galled him that Doumeki was keeping perfect pace next to him. This was all, truth be told, Yuuko's fault. She had called both of them, saying they had to be up at least three hours earlier than normal to do a job. As if she hadn't known that they wouldn't have time to do anything after it was done except burst into a frantic run toward school and hoping they'd beat the bell.
"Damn Yuuko! She just stood there, SMILING AT US! She knew we were going to be late!"
"We're not late yet. The gates are up ahead. So hurry up."
Doumeki pulled ahead, as if he hadn't been running with all his strength and Watanuki glared. There was a horrible stitch in his side and his legs were beginning to feel like utter jelly after so long. He feared for a moment, he would just give out right there, but if Doumeki could make it, he would rather die than admit that he was on his last gasp.
In the end, it was a toss-up who made it through the gate first, though Doumeki insisted that it was himself. Since they didn't share the same class, Watanuki could only shout his annoyance at a retreating back before sprinting, slower this time, toward his own school building.
"There you are! You're safe, the teacher hasn't shown up yet."
She had been waiting by the classroom door for him. How sweet! That was just like his adorable Himawari, to be so caring about others. He collapsed in his seat, his inner reflections on how wonderful his crush was interrupted, when said crush smashed his thoughts like a freight train with her next words.
"Watanuki-kun, can I ask you something personal?"
Watanuki blinked and sat up a little straighter, and for the first time, he saw a blush on Himawari's cheeks. She looked even more adorable now, all shy, that his heart skipped a few beats. "Yeah, sure."
She leaned in close, as if she didn't want anyone to hear, and he could smell a faint perfume of flowers. Or was that her hair conditioner? Or was it just her unique, perfectly lovely scent all her own?
"If you were going to…confess your feelings for someone, where would you do it?"
He couldn't believe his ears at first. She was asking him where he'd confess his love for her? Did that mean Himawari had someone she was in love with? Did that mean she might be asking where he would like to do it so she could confess her love to him just so perfectly?
"W-well," he stuttered, trying not to blush himself from the pleasurable thought that his crush might love him right back, "I would do it at lunch, under the sakura tree on the hill that the art teacher always has us near when we're outside. Then I would just let all my feelings out and give her a cherry blossom to put in her hair, and then we would hug."
"That's so romantic, Watanuki-kun!"
He wanted desperately to ask her who she was going to ask to meet under the sakura tree at lunch, but the door slid closed behind the teacher and that was the end of the conversation.
Several hours later
Himawari was nowhere to be found. She had been sent on an errand right before lunch. He had almost dared not leave the classroom in case she was rushing back to ask him to meet under the cherry tree, but she hadn't shown up after a few minutes. Maybe she was still busy? If he came to her, then maybe she would have the chance to ask him. Why ask him where he would confess if it wasn't him she was thinking about?
He rounded the corner, glancing in the direction of the sakura tree in an only absent manner. Yuuko would have called it hitsuzen that he did. He hadn't had a reason to glance in that direction, and he had convinced himself that Himawari would ask him there. Sometimes he hated hitsuzen.
Himawari's figure with…Doumeki. So that's why his tall form had been suspiciously absent in his search as well.
He'd know that hateful set of wide shoulders anywhere. Know that tilt of his head even from leagues away; memorized the habitual gesture of those rough hands being set in the pockets of his pants.
Watanuki was too far away to see or hear any details, but it was clear to him why Himawari had asked him her question earlier. She was under the delusion that Watanuki and Doumeki were comrades and that where Watanuki would confess would be perfect to say her feelings to his "best friend".
So his rival had won. He was truly that much better than Watanuki at everything except cooking. As far as he knew, Doumeki had never even set foot in a kitchen before in his life. His heart felt as if it would shake itself to pieces. He shouldn't have been surprised, he knew. What girl in the school wasn't after Doumeki?
Not wanting to intrude and cause himself to feel any more humiliated than he already was, he turned to find a secluded spot for lunch by himself. He missed the most important gesture of his life, and was too far away to hear the answer.
Doumeki shook his head. "I'm sorry, Kunogi-san, but no. I can't answer to your feelings."
He had to give Kunogi points: she didn't start bawling hysterically and she didn't lose the rather "upbeat" expression on her face, though it did falter and lose a little of it's punch at his words. Her eyes seemed excessively bright and he knew that she was close to tears. A weeping girl didn't move him, but he'd been confessed to often enough to know what was going to happen as soon as he left.
God, what a huge mess of a love triangle he was caught in. Anyone would find their jaws dropped to the floor if they heard of it. On a good day, Doumeki was laughing inside over it; on a bad one, he wanted to weep himself.
Watanuki adored Himawari and would walk on hot coals for her; Himawari, as made clear to him right then, had admired him and had fallen in love with him; and he…well, he would lay down his life for Watanuki and would give anything for just a smile from him. A smile like he had given the bones of the girl under the hydrangea.
How he envied those who were graced with those smiles. The ones he fawned on Himawari weren't true smiles, not like the ones he'd come to want. The ones he wanted were those sweet, soft, and even slightly shy smiles. They were so utterly rare, as if there was generally nothing in his life worth truly smiling about and Doumeki would do anything to change that.
Himawari looked down and her words dragged him from his reverie. How could she not know that Watanuki loved her? How could she be so dense, when Doumeki could see it every single day and in every way he looked at her?
"There's someone else you like, isn't there? All the girls say you've always turned them down. Has she not noticed you yet?"
Doumeki looked away. The only good thing he could say was that Watanuki knew he was alive and he hated him. But that was better than not being noticed at all. That he didn't think he could handle. To be ignored so completely was something he only saw in his nightmares. At least with Watanuki hating him, he was acknowledging his existence. What he feared the most was nothing.
When his silence stretched, Himawari bowed and smiled at him, but it wasn't the lively ones she always had. She looked utterly distressed and he knew she was going to be crying when he wasn't in view anymore. "Then I'll leave you be. Thank you for listening, Doumeki-kun."
He stayed under the sakura tree, leaning against it in a weary way, even after her figure was nowhere to be seen. How he wished he could have the freedom to take Watanuki up here and say his feelings. Just to let the crushing weight of what he felt out in the open. But he knew that if he did that, the only answer would be disappointment. No, he had made a deal with himself to never say his feelings until he had managed to get Watanuki to stop hating him and he would go through with that deal, even if it meant taking years.
Watanuki looked up in shock as Himawari jogged up to him and sat down with her own bento. Why was she not with Doumeki? After all, wasn't the only reason she was there, why she was always inviting Doumeki with everything they did, because she liked Doumeki? Wasn't the reason she would have fun with him because she thought he and Doumeki were best friends?
"Himawari-chan, what are you doing here? Didn't you…didn't you have a thing you were going to do at lunch?" He didn't have the heart to say confess and he dared not mention that he had seen what had gone up on the hilltop under the sakura tree.
She looked down and her smile was half-hearted. It was only then that he began to notice that her eyes were a tad red-rimmed and she wasn't anywhere near her energetic self.
"I did, but he turned me down. He must have someone else he likes."
It was jarring, as if the world had fallen on its axis and was beginning to tilt slowly upside down. Doumeki had turned down Himawari? He felt like spluttering what was wrong with him, but that would give away the fact that he knew who Himawari had gone to see.
"I'm sorry it didn't work out like you wanted it to."
And it was the truth. He was a total mess inside, but at least he knew that to be true. Himawari was heartbroken and he wished it wasn't so. He knew he wouldn't have a chance and he wouldn't tell her about his feelings. Even if she agreed on anything with him, she was only on the rebound and that would mean that their feelings would be false. She didn't love him. And then there was the anger inside of him at Doumeki. He had turned down Himawari! What person on the planet was worth turning down the wonderful Himawari for?!
"It's okay, really. I'll be okay. I don't think I expected anything different anyway."
The rest of the lunch was accomplished in silence. Watanuki just couldn't find anything to say to her and Himawari obviously had no wish to talk. Class was horrifically slow and since that glimpse of him under the sakura tree with Himawari, he had not seen Doumeki at all. And he had things to say to him.
With a few carefully placed questions, he learned that Doumeki was at archery practice. Himawari had declined his offer to walk her home, saying she wished to be alone, so that left him with the perfect opportunity to chew Doumeki out. It would give away the fact that he had seen the two of them, true, but his anger demanded some recompense on behalf of the wonderful girl.
It didn't take long for Doumeki to notice the little black thundercloud that was Watanuki standing on the edge of the practice field. He let his eyes bore into that carefully placed arm as he held the bow and hoped that it made him extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it was not uncomfortable enough since Doumeki never once missed his mark.
It galled Watanuki and only made his rage go higher that he had to wait until the rest of the members left. He didn't want Himawari's feelings and the fact that she'd been turned down public display, though considering Doumeki and how many girls he had refused, it would hardly be a surprise.
"Didn't expect to see you here. Yuuko have a job for us again?"
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?!"
Doumeki covered his ears in the habitual gesture, but Watanuki was having none of it. He wasn't just irritated, he was angry. His hand jerked Doumeki's down so that he couldn't cover them and gripped his wrists tightly. The archer's eyes widened a little in surprise, as if he had not expected to see a truly angry bespectacled boy.
Watanuki was completely unpredictable in his true rage, since he so rarely felt it. His habitual yelling and actions toward Doumeki were just a way to release the irritation he felt, not any sort of manifestation of anger.
"What are you talking about?"
"Kunogi Himawari." Each syllable in the name was pronounced slowly and with as much emphasis as the shaking Watanuki could manage. Those golden eyes widened a fraction more. "What in hell went through your mind when you turned her down? Who on this planet is worth it, is better than Himawari-chan?! Bastard, you MADE HER CRY!!"
Doumeki yanked his wrists from the shorter boy's grasp and attempted to walk away. That was apparently not good enough for Watanuki, who reached for his shoulder and managed to shove him against the wall. Normally, he recognized to himself, he would not have been able to do it, as the archer was much bigger than him, but Doumeki must have been in some kind of state of shock that allowed him the opportunity.
His hands pinned on those shoulders and his deep sapphire eyes glared up at that stoic face. Could Doumeki see himself through his right eye? He rather hoped so, and if he could, he hoped that the taller could feel the raw anger that simmered in his chest. "ANSWER ME, DOUMEKI! Who is it that's more important, more precious, more perfect, than Himawari-chan?! Who is worth it enough to make her cry?!"
Present time, midnight
Watanuki rolled over, his cheeks flaming red, and buried his face in his pillow. Everything after those two simple words was a blur. He couldn't remember getting his stuff and leaving school. Couldn't remember what he said in return, or if he'd said anything at all. There had been a smile on Yuuko's face the whole time he'd worked, but her needling hadn't gotten through his numb haze.
It wasn't like some sappy romance manga that Doumeki had suddenly kissed him passionately and he realized his undying love for the archer. That much he remembered. Doumeki had just stared down at him with his stoic face and Watanuki had fled.
He had never once suspected it and he dreaded the day to come because he had no idea what he was going to do about it.
Okaa-san, you never had a saying for something like this. What am I supposed to do now?