Absently chewing at her breakfast, Arisa gave a morose glance to the empty apartment around. She remembered complaining that the small suite was too cramped and unsuited for two people living together, but this morning it felt far more spacious and hollow. This wasn't the first morning that she'd spent alone, waking up, cooking for one, and eating breakfast on her own, so why did she feel so lonely? The reason wasn't that hard to find, really. Considering that her best friend had been avoiding her all weekend and adding in what her friends had said the night before, it wasn't a surprise that she was feeling miserable. Was that really all there was to it, though? With a troubled look down at her plate, the food barely even touched, Arisa realized she didn't have much of an appetite and rose to clear the table. Tossing the rest of her breakfast into the trash and leaving her dishes in the sink, she finally headed to the front door, leaving for her morning classes.
Life goes on
"You look terrible," Takumi observed, watching the blonde girl as she sat with her forehead firmly planted against the tabletop. It was noon already, and Arisa had already spent several hours of the morning sitting through lectures that had sifted in through one ear and out the other. The fact that she'd shown up on time in the right rooms seemed miraculous in itself.
"Unh," was the girl's only reply, not even twitching as she sat slumped over.
"Look, I know we were a little heavy-handed yesterday, but you don't have to take everything we said word for word. All we were trying to do was make a point."
Arisa looked up, resting her chin where her forehead had previously been. Her eyes were squinted, the distinct circles beneath them attesting to her serious lack of sleep. Seeing this, Takumi briefly wondered if everything would turn out if he kept pushing. The last thing he wanted was the girl to self-destruct, and she was definitely a likely candidate to do such a thing. Still, the way things were and the way things were turning out, he doubted that the girl's depression would last, and the least he could do was hurry her recovery along.
"I mean, it's not like we can tell the future. There are plenty of things that could happen down the road."
"It's true though, isn't it?" the moping girl murmured out, "Suzuka's got her own life to live. Am I just being selfish, thinking that things won't change?"
Takumi did a double-take, surprised that something that Arisa had actually said something that sounded so thoughtful. Then again, from the looks of things she'd spent the entire night mulling over such details.
"And what's wrong with that?" the boy asked quietly. Arisa only looked at him in confusion, not understanding the question. "Look, we weren't trying to tell you to sever all ties with Suzuka, or even to stop sticking to her, as unhealthy as your obsessive protectiveness is. You just…need to get your priorities straight. Stop trying to do what you think is best for her, and figure out what it is that you want."
"What are you talking about…" she mumbled, too tired to play guessing games.
"Look, did it bother you when we talked about you two going your separate ways?"
"What do you think?" Arisa answered back grouchily, a fair amount of sarcasm in her voice. Takumi smiled – at least some of her attitude was coming back.
"And does it bother you when Suzuka's avoiding you?"
"Of course it does!"
"Then why don't you do something about?"
"And what am I supposed to do?"
"For starters, try talking to her."
"And say what?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Takumi asked rhetorically, settling back in his chair. "You ask her to stay."
Suzuka lazily drifted through the water, floating on her back as she stared up at the ceiling. Practise had ended several minutes ago, but she didn't feel like getting out just yet, especially when the water was so calm and undisturbed. It was soothing, like she could pretend time had slowed right down.
"You can't stay in there forever, you know. Someone's going to kick you out eventually."
Peering over to the edge of the pool, the purple haired girl gave a lazy smile to her senpai. She kept on drifting, though, in no rush to leave.
"Hey, you doing okay?" Hasegawa asked.
"I'm fine," Suzuka answered lightly, "Thank you for worrying."
"Well, you make it pretty easy. For the record, next time you've got some serious problems to work out, don't come to me. I'm much more likely to make things worse."
"That's not true, you're an excellent listener," the younger girl replied, finally kicking her feet to push herself to the wall. A towel was handed to her as she pulled herself over the edge, which was accepted gratefully.
"I think that had a lot more to do with your talking. You're just lucky that I'm not a gossip, because you gave me a ton of material," came a light-hearted answer. Suzuka giggled at that as she started to walk to the change rooms. "So, you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah, I think it's all out of my system now."
"Well that's good, because you've got someone waiting for you."
Looking over her shoulder, Suzuka saw a girl by the doorway to the pool, long blonde hair swaying back and forth as she paced.
"Good luck," Hasegawa said softly before turning to leave.
Changing became a tedious affair as apprehension found its way into Suzuka's mind again. She'd known Arisa would be waiting for her, it was somewhat expected, but it was hard not to wish for a little more time. Her feelings were clear now, without any doubts or fears making her question herself. She was in love her best friend, something she should have realized long ago, and now that she couldn't deny her feelings she would have to face them. Part of her accepted that wholeheartedly – no, that part had known a long time ago – but another part was still trying to hide away, hoping that things would get easier if enough time had passed. But Suzuka knew that wouldn't be right. Waiting would make things simpler, holding back would be safer, but it wouldn't be fair to Arisa or herself. Neither of them were good at hiding their problems from one another, and lying could only lead to more problems between them. No, it had to be the truth, for better or for worse.
And despite all her tentative fears, there was a fair bit of hope that was pushing her forward. As she'd recounted all her childhood memories to her senpai she had realized that maybe, just maybe, she wasn't the only one that had been unclear about her feelings. Finally finished dressing, Suzuka took a deep breath and walked out of the change room.
A briefly exchanged hello was all that was said as the two greeted each other, the first words they'd spoken to one another for almost two days. The trip home was awkwardly silent, Arisa too tired and clumsy to think of the right words to say, and Suzuka too nervous to broach her emotions in public. It wasn't until they'd arrived back at their apartment that the blonde girl spoke, lamely attempting a normal conversation.
"So…how's your friend?"
Suzuka was confused for a moment, until she remembered that she'd vanished for an entire day with only a flimsy excuse as an explanation. "She's…um…doing fine."
"Well…that's good," Arisa said weakly. Finally noticing the unusually lethargic attitude, Suzuka took a good look at the other girl for the first time that afternoon. The blonde had slumped down into a chair, and was staring at the ground, the dark rings beneath her eyes still very pronounced. Guilty that she hadn't noticed earlier, Suzuka realized she hadn't been the only one that had been troubled that weekend.
"Arisa…are you okay?"
"What? Oh, yeah, I'm fine…" was the immediate and unconvincing response. Arisa glanced up, making eye contact with the other girl, who was staring at her expectantly. "Well…I was just worried, that's all."
"Something stupid, nothing important," the blonde denied, but kept talking anyway. "It's just…you didn't tell me anything, so I assumed something was wrong. And then I thought that I'd done something wrong, and you were mad at me, so then I was trying to figure out what it was that I'd done, which I guess was pretty stupid, since you'd probably just tell me what the problem was..."
"Arisa…" Suzuka tried to cut in, but Arisa had already moved into frantic overreaction mode.
"…I guess it was really selfish of me to keep thinking that it had anything to do with me, because it probably didn't, and I know you can take care of your own problems, so I shouldn't have been worrying in the first place…"
The blonde had her hands balled up in her hair now as she let out her frustrations. Suzuka tried to interrupt again, but failed. She was having enough trouble trying to process the rapid words, but as far as she could understand Arisa had spent the entire weekend worrying herself to death over her. The thought of it made her a little sad, yet hopeful in another way. Gently she moved to approach the girl, wishing to calm her down.
"…then Reika and Taku went and said something really stupid, which went and made things worse, so then I started worrying about even stupider things, like how you're going to go off to some other city and leave me behind, which is even more selfish…"
Arisa suddenly found her rambling cut short, needing several seconds to realize that her lips weren't working properly. It took a few more moments to understand why. Somewhere in between her run-on speech Suzuka had moved in closer, and in a surprisingly bold move had pressed her lips firmly against her own, stealing a sudden kiss. Arisa's mind slowed as she tried to wrap her head around the situation, all the while aware that her best friend's soft lips were locked with hers. Before she could even begin to come to terms with anything, though, Suzuka broke the kiss, keeping her face only inches away.
The action hadn't been planned, it just…happened. She certainly hadn't planned on confessing in such a spontaneous and daring way, but it had certainly gotten her feelings out in the open. Suzuka giggled, her heart feeling light and her head giddy. Speaking softly, she said the words that she had intended to before.
"Thanks for caring…but I don't plan on going anywhere."
Arisa could only blink and wordlessly open her mouth, her shock and surprise still not quite faded. As her thoughts caught up to her, though, a warm blush began to spread as she started to understand.
"Cut them slack. It's not like they've had it easy the last few days."
"They sounded just fine when we called them, didn't they?"
Takumi and Reika were standing at the train station, awaiting the arrival of the two girls that had them running through hoops all weekend. It had been Suzuka that answered their call, and she could barely contain herself, laughing almost every time she spoke. It was definitely a promising sign, for sure, but right now they were twenty minutes late, and Reika was getting antsy.
"Maybe we should give them another call…"
"They'll get here, just let them be."
"Yeah, but if they're not showing up I don't want to stand around all night."
"They said they'll be here, so they'll be here."
"Must be nice having that kind of blind faith in –"
"Sorry we're late!" a voice called out from the platform.
"About time, we were starting to wor – " Reika stopped short as she turned to look at the arrivals, watching them approach hand in hand. That alone didn't mean all that much, but Suzuka was absolutely glowing, looking like she had enough happiness to last a life time, while Arisa was in a constant deep blush, trying to act like everything was normal, with little success.
"Yes!" the redhead cheered, turning to give the boy beside her a high-five, "Operation Two-Dunces-in-a-Storage-Closet is a success!"
The blonde girl looked like she was conflicted between hiding herself away and giving Reika a thrashing, but instead stood silent, looking extremely irritated and embarrassed at the same time. Suzuka only laughed though, appreciating the humour.
"Alright, so spill," the older girl demanded, "Who confessed?"
Arisa mumbled something under her breath, staring down at her feet, while Suzuka jovially raised her hand into the air.
"Pay up," Takumi said, holding out his hand. Reika gave a disappointed sigh, slapping a bill into the outstretched palm.
"Come on Arisa, all my hard work and you choke at the last second! Next time I'm charging up front."
The blonde glared daggers and grumbled, though she still wasn't able to string out any coherent words. The girl beside her gave an appreciative smile, knowing what Reika and Takumi had both done to help the two of them along.
"Sorry we cause you so much trouble," she said with gratitude.
"Hey, that's what friends are for," the boy answered, grinning back.
"Yeah. Besides, things would be boring if we didn't have you two to keep things lively," the redhead said, before a sly smile formed on her face. "But now that I know you two are officially a couple, being late makes a lot more sense. I know you're an aggressive girl, Arisa, but rounding fourth base already? Show some restraint."
"W-what?! We didn't – I didn't – We haven't - " Arisa finally stammered out, looking like all the blood in her body had rushed up to her face. This time she really did take a swing, which the redhead dodged playfully.
Even through the worst of the teasing though, her left hand never let go of Suzuka's.
It was bright and early in the morning, the low sun barely peeking through the closed curtains. The soft rustling of the carpet was the only noise made as gentle footsteps were taken across the floor, slowly making their way to the bed. Beneath the heavy covers a girl lay curled up, her figure rising and falling as she breathed deeply. A soft hand carefully swept the strands of purple hair away from the girl's face, before it was placed lightly on her shoulder.
"Hey, Suzuka, wake up," Arisa whispered, gently shaking the sleeping girl. Suzuka only moaned and curled up tighter.
"Come on now, wake up," the blonde said more insistently, shaking with a little more force. For once that did the trick, as Suzuka's slowly looked up in a weak squint. Raising hand to rub her eyes, she gradually lifted herself up, stretching her arms up in a deep yawn.
"I had a nice dream," she said, opening her eyes fully so she could look at the girl in front of her.
"Another cheesy scene from your novels?" Arisa joked, handing over a clean blouse and a long skirt. Suzuka took them gratefully, but didn't get up from her seat.
"Sort of…but not quite," she answered. Arisa looked puzzled, but Suzuka didn't say anything more, only giving a content smile as she looked at her girlfriend, thinking about the life they shared. Even as their troubles came and went, and their feelings and their relationship changed, and no matter what they would face in the future, they were always there for each other, and always would be.
Life goes on.
A/N: Wow, did I ever have a tough time writing this chapter. Almost every part was hard in one way or another, but I made it, I finished, and I think I'm satisfied. And now that it's all done, and the story's come to a close, I think I can look back and say I enjoyed the whole thing. It wasn't quite what I had planned at the start, and it's a lot shorter than I had intended, but overall I'm happy with it. I hope you are too :D.