The alarm clock goes off, its incessant, insistent noise snapping me out of not only a sound sleep but a rather nice dream to boot. I shoot the ugliest look I can at it before turning it off, but not before I seriously have to resist the urge to reduce it to a pile of scrap. I will myself to sit up in bed as I shake the remnants of sleep from my head. Remembering what day it is today motivates me to get up and get moving through my morning routine. I hit my radio and absently listen to whatever popular music is playing while I go through the motions for the morning.
My name is Tomoyo Sakagami. I'm 20 years old and in my second year of college as a Political Science major. Today my brother, Takafumi, graduates from Hikarizaka High School, the same high school I came out of a couple years ago. My family has planned a pretty big celebration today in honor of it. Just about every part of my family that I know, and probably a few that I don't, have all been invited to the party this afternoon. Many friends of the family are slated to come as well, not the least of who is my boyfriend for the past three years, Tomoya Okazaki.
Well, really it's four years as far as I'm concerned since we first got together during my second year of high school. We were apart for a while, but we got back together. It's like the old saying about how if you love someone you let them go and if they don't come back it was never meant to be. But he came back to me. Or did I go back to him? Now that I think about it, we kind of went back to each other. Though really I don't think we were ever actually apart to begin with. Man I suck when it comes to describing my romantic life.
Anyway, my day usually starts by going over to his place to make sure he's up and moving in the morning. I also bring him a lunch for the day since he can't cook and like hell I'm letting him eat whatever junk he finds near his office. Though I wish he'd just break down and either move in with me or let me move in with him. It's not like either of us has anything to hide from the other after all. We started getting intimate almost as soon as I was out of high school, and we don't exactly go for long periods of time without one of us waking up in the other's apartment for a change. Maybe I'll try to talk to him about it later this weekend; I don't want to aggravate him over it at the party. Today's supposed to be a fun day.
I'm just about to get started on making breakfast for myself when there's a knock at my door. That's odd, I wasn't expecting anyone coming here today, much less this early. I stop what I'm doing and answer the door. My jaw almost hits the floor.
"Tomoya!? What're you doing here at this hour?"
Not only is he here at my door, but all cleaned up and dressed better than I ever remember seeing him. Suit, tie, nice shoes…he's even got that wristwatch on that I got him for Christmas last year! I don't know whether to be worried or impressed. No, check that, he looks so good in that suit it's criminal. I'm impressed.
"It's your brother's graduation today, right?" he says as he steps into the doorway. "It's not like we have time for the usual routine of you coming to drag me kicking and screaming out of bed."
"Still, how did you manage to do it yourself?" I ask as I close the door behind him.
"Two alarm clocks, a cold shower and three cups of coffee." He says with a straight face. I sigh in exasperation.
"You'll be out cold before they even start handing out diplomas." I tell him. "Have you at least had anything for breakfast yet?"
He shakes his head as he slips his shoes off and steps out of the entryway. "Didn't have time, I wanted to get over here before you left to get me."
"Why so diligent all of a sudden?" I ask unconsciously. I immediately follow it up though, suddenly realizing what I just said. "If you don't mind my asking, that is."
"Most of the people I'll be meeting today will be complete strangers, right?" he said nonchalantly. "I want to give off a good impression in spite of my personal history."
Not this again. "How many times do we have to go over that, Tomoya? You know I've never cared about that and my family knows how hard you've worked to bury that past as well."
He gives me a knowing look. "You and your family are one thing, but you can't speak for everyone that's going to be at the party right?"
I bite my lower lip and look away a little, unable to answer him. That time apart we had early on in our relationship was due to something just like this. Tomoya has a history of getting in, and causing, large amounts of trouble. He's got a complicated relationship with his father, and his mother died a long time ago. In high school he had a reputation for fighting and delinquency. Both are things I'm well familiar with myself, but whereas I have somehow been graced with a chance at redemption, Tomoya has not been so lucky. Even the lowly position he has within the recycling agency he works at he had to scrape to get. He's since solidified his position there, but promotion opportunities haven't come his way yet and he's been there almost as long as we've been together. It sickens me that prejudice like this still exists here today, but that's something I hope to work towards eradicating someday.
He lifts my face and smiles at me. "It's alright, I'm used to it by now. But if I have a chance to set a good impression on your family then I'm going to take it."
"You shouldn't have to, you're a good man Tomoya. The best as far as I'm concerned. Putting up facades like this isn't worth your energy or time."
"As far as I'm concerned it's for your sake as well as mine, Tomoyo. And you are worth any sacrifice to me."
I'll be damned if this man can't still find ways to make me blush like a little girl from time to time. Words failing me at this point, I pull him close and hug him tightly, burying my head into his chest like I have so many times before. If I could redefine the word "comfort" this would be the new definition. I only allow myself a short respite in his arms, though. Like he said earlier, we don't have time to waste.
I let go of him and head back towards the kitchen. "Make yourself at home while I fix us both a decent breakfast. We both need some proper energy to get through the day."
"Yes, ma'am." He says obediently, giving me a small salute as he heads for my kitchen table.
We fall into our usual back and forth banter as I cook, making things feel at least a little like a normal day despite the more auspicious events happening later. This has certainly been a pleasantly surprising way to start the day. I hope the rest of the day is even half as nice as this.
"Kentarou Koizumi…Akane Kobayakawa…Emiri Saitou…"
The principal continued reading off names as all the assembled families looked on in silent anticipation of their kids' name being called. We were no different, and if not for Tomoya's hand on mine I don't know that I would have been able to contain myself when the time finally came.
And there he was, my now not-so-little brother. The moment might be a little lost on him, but for me and the rest of my family it's truly a moving event. This boy who, despite his family coming apart at the seams, never stopped being nice. This boy, who watched his parents bicker day and night and his sister go annihilate street gangs to vent her anger and frustration, never gave up hope for us to be a family. This boy who taught us all how important family really is, and who brought us back together almost at the cost of his own life. To say Takafumi is the heart of our family wouldn't be an exaggeration at all. So for us to see him at such a triumphant moment in his life was an honor and a precious moment that none of us would ever forget.
I feel Tomoya's hand on my cheek as he wiped away a few tears that I didn't even realize had fallen from my eyes.
"Cheer up." He whispered. "Takafumi wants to see you guys all smiling, not crying."
I sniffle and do my best to rein in my emotions, but all things considering it's not easy.
"I'm just so happy for him is all." I say, my voice cracking a bit. "Especially considering everything he had to bear when he was younger."
"And yet he is who he is today thanks to you and your parents, Tomoyo." Tomoya says back. "I envy you guys for the pride you must be feeling right now."
I just nod and lean against him a bit, smiling as I watch Takafumi step down off the stage with his diploma in hand. Now I can't wait for this ceremony to be over so we can all be together and tell him just how proud we are. Unfortunately, there's still quite a few students to go through so this is going to take a while. I feel Tomoya's arm go around my shoulders, though, and it makes the passing of time quite a bit easier.
Eventually the ceremony came to a close and all the graduates sought out their families. It took a fair bit of weaving his way through the crowd, but Takafumi did catch up with us and we shared a family hug together. His face immediately turned red from being embarrassed by his family like that in public, but like I said, we just couldn't help ourselves.
"I'm a high school graduate now!" he pronounced. "I've got a lot of responsibility ahead of me."
"Really? None of us would know anything about responsibility now, would we?" I joked at him.
"Sis, you've got it easy." He said. "Guys like me and Bro here are our families' eldest sons! We have quite a bit more to live up to, right Bro?"
"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." Tomoya replied flatly, which sent Takafumi sprawling to the ground. I laughed even more. Tomoya's comedic timing is impeccable. Sometimes I think he really should have put together an act with his old friend Youhei Sunohara. They would've been a big hit.
"Bro, you always cut right to the core, don't you?" Takafumi said with a chuckle as he got back to his feet.
Tomoya smiled back at him. "Sorry, force of habit from spending so much time with a guy who made it way too easy for me. But anyway, congratulations on your graduation Takafumi. You certainly earned it."
Takafumi beamed, clearly happy to get such praising words from Tomoya. "Thanks a lot, Bro."
I was so happy for Takafumi that I almost missed it. For a brief moment I saw Tomoya make some kind of odd motion with his right hand to Takafumi, who nodded ever so slightly in return. What was that? Some kind of signal or something?
"Hey Sis, mind coming with me for a last walk around the school grounds?" Takafumi suddenly asked. "It's been a while since you were here after all, right?"
What's this out of the blue? "Huh? I guess…but shouldn't we get back home and get ready for the party soon?"
"I'll head back with your folks and start getting things ready, Tomoyo." Tomoya said. "You two should have some quality time together."
"C'mon, Sis, please? I want to see the trees one last time." Takafumi was practically begging now.
"Well…I guess it couldn't hurt. Those trees are still quite special to me too."
"We'll see you both back at the house later." Tomoya said as he walked off with our parents.
Takafumi and I wandered all over campus for a good long while until finally coming to that path that weaved through the sakura trees. Seeing those trees brought many memories back to me, both happy and sad. I remember how hard I worked to save them from being torn down for development, not just for my own selfish reasons but for the good of the town.
"Word is that the city is going to adapt the work you put forth during your time as student council president to make sure these trees never get touched." Takafumi said as he stopped in the middle of the path. "I was relieved to hear that."
I nodded in response, stopping to look around as well. "I heard the same. I'm glad some part of this city will always be the same, even if other things do change."
"Things always do change, no matter what. It's one of the few things you can count on in life, right? But I guess I don't need to tell you that, right Sis?"
I close my eyes and nod to him. Change is, indeed, a constant in life. I have no problem with that. I just don't like change for the sake of change, or irresponsible actions done for the sake of something that we're told is progress. Progress is all well and good, but people need to keep some remnants of the past alive so that we never forget who we are or where we come from. Even if the past is a bitter memory, like it is for myself and Tomoya, it should never be forgotten.
"Places change, ways of thinking change, people change too. " I say to him. "Everything changes somehow sooner or later."
"Even peoples' relationships, right?" he adds.
I look at him oddly as he continues to look up at the sakura trees. What was that, just now? Relationships? I don't remember Takafumi making any girlfriends in school, so what on Earth is he talking about? None of this is sitting right with me, I'd better start finding out what's going on.
"Hey, Takafumi, earlier I-"
"Oh dang." He says, cutting me off before I can ask him about the signal he got from Tomoya. He looks at his watch briefly and then back at me. "We wasted way more time than I thought we would. We'd better get moving so we're on time for the party!"
I check my watch too and, sure enough, we've really blown a chunk of time. The party's supposed to start in half an hour! I guess I'll ask Takafumi more about what he meant later, time's a-wasting and we've got a party to get started!
My family is hardly what you'd call party animals, but just this once we all saw ample reason to cut loose and enjoy ourselves. I saw my dad trading stories with his brother and sisters, all the while with a whiskey in hand. Mom sat with a bevy of girlfriends and other family, talking about what lie ahead for Takafumi in college as well as what I was doing these days. I just stood back taking everything in, occasionally sipping from my beer and waving at someone who wandered by. This was definitely turning out to be a great day. I doubt it could get any better than this.
"There you are." I hear Tomoya say as he approaches me from behind. I turn to face him.
"Where have you been this whole time?" I ask pointblank. I hadn't seen him since he left with my folks to prepare for the party.
"I had some final party preparations to see to." He replied with a wink.
Okay, now I'm getting annoyed. Odd behavior, hand signals, cryptic talk from Takafumi, and now playful hinting from Tomoya. I put my beer down and stare long and hard at Tomoya.
"Just what's going on, Tomoya?" I ask pointedly. "You've been acting weird all day."
Tomoya sighed dramatically. "And here I thought I was keeping up a good front. Well, it's a bit early but I guess now is as good a time as any."
Tomoya takes my hand and, pulling gently, leads me over closer to the house. As we go, he waves to my mother, father and Takafumi all in turn. What the hell is going on, and why is my family in on it? We finally stop walking and he lets go of my hand, turning to face me. His face looks a little red all of a sudden. But why?
"Tomoyo…" he says, almost forcing my name out. I look up at him curiously. "Earlier today I told you that Takafumi had you and your parents to thank for becoming the man who he is today, and that's certainly true. Especially so regarding you. Your influence in his life made him proud to be your little brother and gave him the desire to become a good person. Of anyone here, you should be the most proud. But Takafumi isn't the only one who's benefited from your presence in his life."
Tomoya takes a deep breath and steps a little closer to me, taking my hands in his. As he does, I become slowly aware that there's a bit of a crowd of people gathering around us.
"I am the person that I am today thanks to you." He says, his voice a bit softer. "You pushed me to be something better when I just wanted to be nothing. You believed in me when no one else expected me to amount to anything. And you…you loved me when I thought there was no one who could ever be bothered to care about me. These past three…no, four years we've been together haven't always been easy, but to me they've always been happy."
"I feel the same, Tomoya." I reply meekly, now feeling some warmth in my face as well.
"I know the future is likely to be just as hard or even harder on the both of us, too. But I think so long as we're together we can face it and still be happy."
He lets go of my hands and reaches into his coat pocket, producing a small black, velvet box. It takes me a moment to realize he's holding it in front of me. My eyes go wide as I suddenly realize what's going on. Oh my God, that's not…!
"And I want to make sure we do face that future together. Always." He says as he opens the box. Inside is the most beautiful ring I've ever seen: a white gold band with a small but brilliant diamond set atop it. It glitters in the afternoon sunlight. My heart races and my eyes sting with tears as he takes my left hand again while going down on one knee, holding the ring up towards me.
"Tomoyo Sakagami…" he says. "Will you marry me?"
I struggle to compose myself, but it's useless. All I can do is sob for several moments. Finally I smile at him and manage the only words I could possibly say to him.
"Why ask questions to which you already know the answers?" I say, moving my hand closer to the ring. Tomoya slowly and carefully slides it onto my left ring finger and then stands up. As soon as he's standing again I jump at him, kissing him fiercely in front of everyone. I barely register the applause that strikes up around us; I'm so caught up in this moment.
We finally stop kissing after several long moments and I'm suddenly incredibly self-conscious. Today was supposed to be Takafumi's big day, wasn't it? And here I am making such a scene. As if in response to my worries, Takafumi comes up to us with a big smile on his face.
"Looks like the mission was a complete success, Bro." he says, giving Tomoya a "thumbs up".
"You two planned this all along?" I ask a bit weakly. "But Takafumi, this is your graduation party! I-"
"I was the one who came up with the idea, Sis." Takafumi said. "About a month ago, Bro came to me and told me that he wanted to propose to you. He had the ring, he was just looking for the right opportunity. With both of you being so busy it was hard to find a good place and time. So I said why not do it at my graduation party? There would be plenty of family and friends around to celebrate with, and it'd be here at home too."
"But still, I feel like I'm stealing your spotlight."
"Today is your graduation too, Sis." Takafumi says with a smile. "Graduation from being someone's girlfriend to being his fiancé."
"Takafumi…" I'm sure someday I'll look back on those words from my little brother and realize how utterly cheesy they are, but I can't be bothered with sarcasm right now. My head is still spinning and my heart is racing, after all.
"Thanks a bunch, Takafumi." Tomoya says, shaking my brother's hand firmly. "Your distraction gave me just enough time to let everyone know what to expect."
"My pleasure, Bro. You two take it easy and have some fun here now, I'm gonna go catch up with my cousins."
Takafumi waves to us as he heads back into the crowd. I look down at my left hand again, still rather stunned from the turn of events. The ring is simple but beautiful. I know most girls want some crazy huge ring to show off to everyone, but I don't need anything like that. I look up at Tomoya and, once again, bury my head in his chest as I hug him tightly.
"Thank you Tomoyo." He says softly. "For everything."
"You were worth it." I reply, echoing his words to me from the morning. "Everything I went through, everything I sacrificed was worth it because it brought me closer to you, Tomoya."
"I'm just sorry the ring isn't more spectacular." He says, looking at the ring that now rests on my hand. "I saved for almost a year to be able to afford it."
"It's beautiful, Tomoya." I tell him, taking his face into my hands. "But not nearly as beautiful as the feeling I know is behind it. I love you."
"I love you too." He says just before we kiss yet again. Of all the forms of happiness I've known nothing compares to this. Tomoyo Okazaki…I love how that sounds.
After the kiss he takes my hand in his as we begin to stroll around the party, preparing to meet friends and family and talk about us and our enagement.
"So, has this been a great day or what?" he asks as we start walking.
I smile a bit but then look at him a little seductively. It certainly has been a good day, but the day isn't over yet.
I fall onto my back in bed gasping for breath, my body slick with sweat. My mind is blank and my body is just starting to cool down as I come down from the heights I had just reached. I feel Tomoya's hand touch mine and look over at him. Just like me, he's catching his breath as well, and just like me there's still a raging passion in his eyes that hasn't quite been sated. I slowly roll over and cuddle up next to him, resting my head on his shoulder.
"Just a small break." I say in-between breaths. "Then round three."
He puts his arm around me, pulling me closer as he nods in agreement. "Good call."
The party started dispersing as the sun went down earlier on. We stayed behind to help clean up some and have dinner with just my family afterwards. Then we headed off on our own back towards my apartment. No sooner did we reach my door than I just couldn't restrain myself anymore. I was all over Tomoya as we worked our way inside, shedding clothes here and there as we continued towards the bedroom. I don't think either of us has ever been this out of control before, but then I don't think either of us could have helped it after the day's events.
"Back in high school I don't think I ever imagined something like this would ever have happened to me." I say, finally mostly relaxed. "Even after we were together for a while."
"It's not like I had any interest in any other girls back then." Tomoya says, slowly stroking my hair as he does. I love when he does that.
"No, but there were plenty of other girls with interest in you. Like that Kyou girl, she practically stalked you."
He sighs in such a way that I know he's rolling his eyes simultaneously. Trust me, I know my man's mannerisms by now. "Don't remind me, please. I still look over my shoulder from time to time just in case."
"Still, at the time I worried that I wouldn't be able to be enough for you. That someone else might steal you away from me."
Tomoya looks down at me with a half-smile. "Tomoyo, you have always been more than enough woman for me. If anything, I'm the one who always worried about not being good enough for you."
"But you know better than to think that now, right? At least you'd better…"
"If you say so then I have no reason to doubt it."
I nod in approval to him before we start kissing once again, one thing leading to another for now the third time tonight. I really wonder if either of us is going to get any sleep tonight. Oh well, at least tomorrow is a Sunday.
The future is always uncertain, and what lies ahead of us is both exciting and incredibly scary. Will we face yet more prejudice? Can we make this work? Will our pasts catch up with us yet again somewhere, somehow? To these questions and many more, I certainly don't know the answers and neither does Tomoya. But I know so long as we're together we can face anything. So long as we're together, we are both happy.
I love Tomoya and he loves me. That's all that has ever mattered, and that's all that ever will matter. That love will help us start our own family someday, I know it. And through our family we will find even more happiness and love. Family is everything. It took me a lot of time and almost losing my own family to understand that. Now I have the opportunity to make a family of my own with the man I love more than anyone else in the world. No gift, no matter how expensive or extravagant, could ever possibly compare.
This has definitely been one hell of a good day.
I have Takafumi call Tomoyo "Sis" and Tomoya "Bro" since in Japanese he refers to them as "onee-chan" and "onii-chan" and I'm not enough of a dweeb to mix Japanese and English. I see "Sis" and "Bro" as completely acceptable translations.
If this story turns out to be popular enough I may do another one-shot along a similar vein in the near future. We'll see. Hope you enjoyed!