AN: Thoughts in italics


It was about five thirty pm on a Friday, and I was walking home from school, balancing the many books that I had just checked out from the university. It was no joke, being on my last year in that hellish school of mine. Teachers piled papers and projects like there was no tomorrow that my grandmother was starting to get irritated because I was cutting tennis practice for the nth time now. I was in a mighty hurry, because I was late again for another session she had especially arranged for me. I decided to take one of my many shortcuts—one that passed the tennis courts, under the train station near my former middle school.

That was when I saw him. I don't know why, but even if I hadn't seen him for nearly a decade now, at first glance I was sure that it was him.

He was playing against his old captain, in the court under the train station, and as my right fingers stilled on the wire fence surrounding the court, I swear my heart skipped a beat. There he was, barely a few feet away, playing again, before my very own eyes. I had never imagined that I would be seeing him again, but he was really there, donning the same cap, using the same racket. Though he was significantly taller. I had laughed quietly at the thought. But apparently the court was very silent, for the two figures playing heard and turned to look at me. I remember that I was startled as a pair of big, black eyes settled on mine, looking different yet still poignantly familiar. I blinked twice, and stuttered out, "Oh, I'm really sorry, carry on with your game, I'll leave at once." I balanced my books and left, but not before stopping and turning to face them another time, who were still staring at me. I found myself under the intense gaze of those big black eyes again, but I had found my old courage somewhere, and smiled gently at him, before nodding and setting off. I was glad that that action didn't betray my then pounding heart.

Walking to the station, I felt my face burn. I hadn't even greeted Tezuka-san! I shook my head. Was my reaction to him really that different, that I forgot everything else?! I was terribly rankled by the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, I hadn't gotten over my first love. Why, when I saw him again my heart wanted to jump out of my ribs and do a somersault in the air! I shook my head again and sighed. This cannot be, for goodness' sake! I haven't seen him for nine years, and for all I know, he has forgotten me.

I was now a girl of twenty one years, still looking the same, from my eyes to my twin braids. I didn't have the heart to cut my long hair, and was too busy to think of changing hairstyles either. Nine years did not do much, except made me taller and given me the curves a woman of my age normally has.

And as for him. Well, he was overseas for a long, long time that my heart had to forget him. I had thought it was impossible—at twelve I thought that I wasn't capable of getting over him. But, well, I did. There was just that occasional smile every time I saw his pictures in the international sports magazines. Apart from that, there was nothing. Or so I thought, before I saw him again.

I sighed again, and began to admonish myself for the remainder of the trip home.

A week had passed, and because of the many requirements at university I was rarely at home. At nights I slept over at a chum's house to finish papers. It was at a Friday afternoon when a really tired me slumped in the floor of our house's foyer, that my still energetic grandmother had to drag me to my bed where I slept the whole afternoon and well into the early night.

At nine thirty in the evening I went down, in time to hear a car pull out of the driveway. Curious, I asked my grandmother, who had just emerged from the foyer, "Obaa-san, who was that?"

My grandmother raised her eyebrows at me and said, "The Echizens came over for a visit. They arrived from the States about a week ago."

"Oh." So it was him I saw. No doubt about that.

"I didn't try to wake you up, knowing that you were really tired. I was surprised you didn't, though; Nanjiroh was making such a racket. Ten years, and still nothing has changed." She chuckled.

In the midst of my sleep induced consciousness a question pervaded, but I kept my tongue at bay, unable to utter it to my grandmother, Did he ask for me? I remained looking at my grandmother, who looked puzzled at the way I was staring. Reaching the conclusion that he hadn't, I smiled at her and said, "I'm going back to sleep, 'Baa-san."

"But dinner, Sakuno?" She asked, but I hadn't heard.

So it is, I thought. He had forgotten me. Just as well, it was all the better for my poor heart, which must forget him at all costs. No more hope for a renewed one sided love, Sakuno. No more. It's too much for your poor heart to bear. It's best to forget him, just as he has forgotten you. Still I went to bed with a heavy heart, though determined to forget him for all it's worth.

The next Monday I was on the train, going to the school to return my load of heavy university books. It passed the tennis court and I found myself reliving last week's memory. I nearly smiled, before shaking out of my reverie and scolding myself. At that point a racket nearly hit me in the face. Instantly the memory of when I first met him came back to me. Oh gosh, will I ever stop?! I expelled a huge breath of air when a racket swished inches from my face.

"Oh really what is it with people these days?" I muttered under my breath. But again, the surroundings were so quiet that the middle aged men who were boisterously discussing tennis heard me. Yep, they were the same people who were swishing around the aforementioned tennis racket. They rounded up on me, but before I could react I heard a familiar voice saying, "Your grip's all wrong."

"Really, what is it with me today? My mind must be playing tricks on me, making me remember and replay memories a decade ago. A decade ago, for goodness' sake. A decade ago. I'm starting to have a headache. Gosh, I really shouldn't have gone home Friday night, or used that shortcut a week ago and stopped at that tennis court to watch. Or maybe I shouldn't have ridden this train a decade ago. Then all of this shouldn't have started and messed up my mind and my emotions and then I wouldn't be having this rip roaring headache right now. Gosh." I began to mutter under my breath again. When I had to stop for air I heard a rather amused voice say, "Good morning, Ryuzaki-san."

I looked up, confused—who knew me?—and my eyes landed splat on his face, on his amused face—why, it was he who used that amused voice earlier?—and reeled from shock because he was smirking at me. Him smirking at me?! I blinked. He chuckled and sat beside me. He was chuckling? I blinked again.

"Don't tell me you no longer remember me?" He asked.

Oh no, no, no, no. Who could forget him? But the thing was, he had called me Ryuzaki-san earlier.

He had called me Ryuzaki-san earlier.

Yup, he remembered me.

He remembered me.

Echizen Ryoma had remembered me.

End of Flashback

That had been the start of the renewal of our friendship. Or I guess it really was the start of a new friendship, since as far as I can remember our relationship a decade ago was just that of an idol and one who had admired him. A lot.

In the months that followed the said friendship ran deeper, and blossomed into something different, into something more, just because of, well, that gentle smile I gave him on the tennis court that fateful Friday that I saw him again. That was what he confessed to me later, sometime during the first month that we were officially together.

Two years later, he asked me to marry him.