At the Edge of the World
Disclaimer: CCS is not mine.
Chapter Thirty Nine - Sonomi
"Would you like some watermelon?" asks Nadeshiko, pulling a small tupperware box from her bag.
It's a warm day in September and we are having lunch on the roof of the science building. I wipe my sweaty forehead clean with a handkerchief and lean back against my arms.
"It's too hot," I whine.
"Have some of this. You'll feel better."
Nadeshiko hands me a pair of chopsticks and I quickly toss a couple of cubes of fruit into my mouth. Its juice is cool, sweet and delicious as it washes over my tongue. I sigh contentedly.
"This is ridiculous - it's a hundred degrees in the shade. Didn't summer technically end a week ago?"
Nadeshiko grins. "You ought to lodge a formal complaint, Sonomi." She makes of show of clearing her throat and speaks in a high-pitched, affected accent. "To whom it may concern," she says, "I am extremely displeased with the inconsistency of your forecast this week-"
I throw a piece of watermelon at her as viciously as the heat lets me. It hits her arms, raised in defence, and falls in to her lap. She laughs and tosses it back. For a second it feels like everything is back to normal.
"So testy," she teases.
"Fnurgh," I groan, rising only long enough to steal another piece of fruit. The clouds are murky-white and windswept as they race across the sky. I fail to conjure up an intelligent train of thought; instead I blink each eye alternately in rapid succession, so that my field of vision appears to jump back and forth. The fact that it keeps me busy for five whole minutes indicates the present state of my mental faculties.
"Ice cream later?" I ask, rolling on to my side so that I can see her face.
Her expression turns uncomfortable as she hesitates for a moment. "Ummm…" she says, her green eyes lowered nervously, hands twisting the material of her skirt, "I don't think I can come home with you today."
"The…uh…art exhibition's coming up. I need to stay late so that I can finish my pieces in time for the show."
"So paint them at home."
An errant curl, free from the confines of its bobby pin, bounces lightly as she shakes her head. "I can't – not all of them, anyway. The sculpture's too heavy and I'm doing a mixed media piece with a couple of other girls from the club."
"When is it?"
"It's just one day, Nacchan."
"But I have so much to do…"
I think I know what's happening and I don't think I like it. I sit up abruptly, feeling my face contort into a scowl. Nadeshiko has been unnaturally distant these past few weeks. She never looks me in the eye anymore and doesn't open up the way she used to. She spends ages writing letters (under the pretext of homework – as if I'd fall for that) and always seems to be in a hurry, even though I know she has nothing better to do. She has found reasons to stay after school four times in the past two weeks.
She's got a boyfriend. That has to be it – though what I don't understand is why she's being so damned secretive. It makes me feel awful and left-out because I thought we were supposed to be best friends. I thought we were closer than best friends. I thought we were sisters. I thought we were soul-mates.
I suppose I was wrong.
The sting of rejection makes my stomach squirm as I angrily rise to my feet. "I'm going inside," I say, dusting off the back of my skirt. "You can stay out here."
It's juvenile, but my message is clear.
Nadeshiko grabs my wrist as I try to pass by, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. Her grip is hard and desperate but I can barely feel it – I'm too focused on the beating of my heart, sounding louder than usual in my ears.
"Tomorrow. I promise."
I don't speak.
"I'll speak to the girls. We can spend the whole afternoon together, and the whole weekend as well - just the two of us. Please don't be angry. This is really important to me."
I relax into her grip. Her hand is clammy against my skin. A few seconds pass before I ask, "what time will you be home?"
Another awkward pause. It lasts a beat too long and I start to feel uneasy again. "If we run late, I'll probably be back after dinner."
"I'll bring you back something," she says. She has still not let go of my wrist. My head starts to throb. She'd normally invite me along. Why hasn't she? Is she sick of me? Is she starting to hate me too? I feel like everything I know is a lie and I don't know what to do and the world is spinning and I feel like I'm falling and-
I wrench my hand from her grasp, set my jaw and stalk to the door. "Don't be back too late," I say, lingering as I pass through the threshold. Then I run all the way down four flights of stairs and on to the path behind the tennis courts. I angrily kick at the mesh before I sink to the grass feeling deflated, like a discarded balloon.
I suppose I must have dozed off, because when I wake up the sun is in my eyes, and there is a strange boy sitting next to me. My throat is scratchy from crying and my face feels sticky in the wake of my tears; I know that I do not look particularly attractive at the moment. Nevertheless the boy looks at me curiously, as if I were something interesting he happened to find under a bench at the park.
"Wh'time izzit?" I mumble.
"It's two forty-five."
"Ch. Miss'd m'class."
I yawn widely and notice that the grass has left imprints all along my arm. It is cooler now than it was a couple of hours ago; the breeze rustles the leaves on a nearby tree and it sounds as if it's whispering.
"Who're you?" I ask, turning over to face him.
His eyes are a lazy charcoal-grey; his expression languid as he looks over his shoulder at me. He idly brushes back his dark hair as it flutters against his temple; his shirt is un-tucked and his tie is sticking out of his trouser pocket.
"Haven't seen you before."
"I'm a first-year. Just transferred here this term."
"Ah. I'm Amamiya Sonomi."
"I know who you are."
"Oh." I don't quite know what to say to that.
"Are you hungry?"
"No, but I could use a drink."
"I know a good place."
I frown. "You mean, you want to leave the school?"
I feel peculiar – I have no idea who this person is and yet I am seriously considering his offer. It's strange because he doesn't feel like a stranger; I couldn't say the same about people I've known my entire life. There is something about his easygoing confidence that appeals to me; something about the honest look in his eye and unpretentious curve of his lips.
"It's not allowed. If someone catches us we could get in trouble."
He shrugs. "You coming?" he asks, rising to his feet. He dusts off the seat of his pants, extends a hand and looks at me expectantly, eyebrows raised.
I hesitate for all of two seconds before I take his hand, hoist myself up, and follow him down the path.