"It's a bit lame though, isn't it Ryoma-kun?" Sakuno pondered smilingly. She opened her locker and put her shoes inside. "Instead of Cinderella, we could've chosen a more…" she chewed on her lip, searching for the right word. "Mature play instead." she decided.
"Mature?" Ryoma prompted from behind her, and Sakuno thought his voice sounded as if he was smirking. She'd known better. She'd become familiar with that haughty smirk of his these days. Before Sakuno could point it out, she was abruptly swirled around and cornered until her back was pressing against Tomoka's locker, right beside her own. Her hands were deftly held captive by the wrist, before being pressed against the same locker up over her head. Sakuno's eyes gradually widened to the size of a saucepan, no doubt, but Ryoma smiled. And it wasn't an innocent smile either. He leaned down and without bothering asking for permission, lightly brushed his lips on hers. When he captured her mouth with his in a hot, searing kiss, Sakuno's brains practically scattered all over the place. One part of her mind yelled Oh God! What if somebody sees you!? but another part--which proved to be stronger--cheered Isn't he just a good kisser?! and then the other part--which was more angelic--admonished Sakuno! Your thoughts are becoming dirty! Well, not that she really minded… Her hands found their way around his neck, pulling him even closer. "Like this?" Ryoma whispered against her mouth.
Sakuno had forgotten what the question was about. She blushed furiously when he broke the kiss and distanced himself so he could look into her eyes.
"Wha-what was it?" she asked in a tiny voice.
"You were talking about mature." Ryoma reminded, amused.
"O-oh." was she? "Oh… Y-yes… Cinderella." she mumbled. "It-it's okay, I guess."
Ryoma released her hands, and Sakuno had to keep herself from sighing in disappointment. But then, he reached out and lightly brushed his fingers on her cheek, which reddened instantly at the feathery touch.
"Hn." he said. Sakuno glanced up timidly, thinking he looked pleased. "Do you turn red every time a guy touches you?" he asked.
If not because he sounded genuinely curious, Sakuno would've taken it as an insult.
"T-that's mean." she reported. "A-asking that kind of question, Ryoma-kun, is mean."
"Why?" Ryoma asked. He cupped Sakuno's face with both hands and leaned down until they were looking straight at each other. "Why is it mean?" he demanded in a low voice.
If Sakuno had had any intention of giving him a piece of her mind, it had all vanished. She couldn't breathe at their close proximity. They had been dating for about two months, and she wondered if he enjoyed making her tremble from head to toe, making her palms sweat and her heart race. He did look suspiciously enjoying it.
"B-because—" her voice came out in a squeak, gradually lowering in tone until it was barely above a whisper. "—b-because I like you, Ryoma-kun."
Sakuno never saw it coming. The next second he'd pulled her to him and kissed her for the second time in less than three minutes--in a mean sort of way--and slowly, his fingers began tugging at her ribbons. Sakuno had noticed that usually when they kissed, Ryoma had the habit to tug at her ribbons, slowly, gently, pulling and extricating until her long, braided hair was loosed. Every time he did that, she ended up with her hair flowing freely past her shoulders. Every time that happened, Ryoma would definitely twirl the strands of her dark hair between his fingers, ensnaring and whirling them almost as if he was intoxicated. His kiss too, would become more persistent, and then his hand would wander around a little too carelessly.
When Sakuno had shyly and hesitantly mentioned that strange habit to Tomoka and their friends (when they'd insisted on knowing whether Ryoma knew how to kiss), the girls had excitedly squealed about how "romantic" it was. Tomoka even came up with the embarrassing theory that Sakuno's hair was what turned Ryoma on.
Snapping back to the present, Sakuno gasped. She broke the kiss abruptly and pushed her hands on Ryoma's chest until he reluctantly backed away.
"Wha…?" he asked, for the first time looking dazed.
Sakuno's face felt like it was boiling, and she blamed it on Tomoka's outrageous assumption.
Then again, her hair was completely undone now; her green ribbons lying forgotten on the concrete floor. And Ryoma looked a bit too breathless, and his brown eyes… Sakuno bit her lip anxiously. His eyes were so clear and seemed to be filled with… Lust?
Tomo-chan's dirty thoughts are getting on to me!!
"I-I… We need-we need to get to class!" Sakuno stooped over quickly to snatch her ribbons, before she bolted away from the area (forgetting her opened locker and her bookbag), leaving her boyfriend staring blankly after her.
Heaving out a sigh, Ryoma leaned back against the wall, lazily tussling at his already disheveled hair. He closed his eyes and replayed the panic-stricken expression he'd seen on Sakuno's face just now. He smirked, and it turned into a slow grin, before he ended up laughing out loud like a maniacal psychopath.
So she finally realized how much he "liked" her hair.
The classroom was abounded with voices and scraping chairs like every other morning. The class president was currently being pestered by the girls who were responsible to organize the play their class was going to do for the school's upcoming tournament. Poor Kobayashi was evidently annoyed and didn't give a chase about the whole "kindergarten" play (as he said it himself), but those excited girls were merciless in their attack.
"Ano… Sakuno-chan, you look very red." Tomoka observed, putting an intentional emphasis on the second last word.
"And your hair looks a bit windblown." Minami chimed in. "Did you just braid it on the way to school with Ryoma-sama, or what?" she asked, sounding way too interested in the matter.
Sitting in her chair, Sakuno hung her head lowly, fidgeting with the hem of her skirt. Tomoka and Minami exchanged glances. It was Kotoko who pointed out,
"Eh? Where's your bookbag, Sakuno?"
"E-eh? It isn't-it isn't here?!" Sakuno jolted up from her seat, but before she could move further, someone cuffed the top of her head lightly.
Tomoka and Minami squealed when Ryoma leaned toward Sakuno from behind, placing her forgotten bookbag on her desk.
"Am I your boyfriend, or am I your errand boy?" he asked, deliberately slowing his words and lowering his voice.
Sakuno's face practically turned another different shade of red.
"I-I'm sorry, Ryoma-kun…" she whispered desperately.
"Say, thank you."
"Morning! Ryoma-sama!" Sakuno's three friends greeted in unison.
It was only after her boyfriend-slash-errand-boy had left her table that Sakuno breathed again.
"Oy, oy, were you listening?" Horio demanded, slamming his hands on Ryoma's desk.
"What a blatantly cold answer." Katsuo remarked.
"Typical though, isn't it?" Kachiro smiled. "Ryoma won't be interested in what you're going to tell him anyway, Horio." he surmised.
"That's right." Ryoma droned out. He propped his elbow on the desk and rested his cheek on his fist, plastering a bored look on his face. "Go cling to somebody else's chair."
Horio sighed, a bit too dramatically. He shook his head, wiggled his forefinger, and clung again to the back of Ryoma's chair.
"Now, now, Ryoma. I was trying to tell you that there's a transfer student coming in today. She's going to be placed in our class, I reckon."
"I was just saying." Horio smiled smarmily, before he frowned. "It's a wonder how you ever got the mood to ask Ryuzaki-san out. Back then you were so innocently, transparently ignorant; tennis was literally the whole wide world to you." he recalled, and much to Ryoma's annoyance, he managed to sound excessively nostalgic, exactly the way Nanjiro Echizen and Momoshiro had sounded when they'd first found out that Ryoma and Sakuno were going out.
"Back then I was twelve." Ryoma retorted in his defense.
"That was only three years ago, I can't say you've changed much." Horio observed. "Other than getting taller and as the girls put it, sexier, you're pretty much the same egotistical guy you were back then."
"Agreed." Katsuo and Kachiro supported simultaneously.
The whole class was conspicuously loud and the three boys crowding his desk were pests, but Ryoma made no reply, the best to give them a pointedly I-don't-give-a-damn look.
Without being too obvious, he glanced sideway to the front, watching his Sakuno listen to her friends' enthusiastic noisy chit-chat. He wanted to grin whenever she smiled or laughed to something her friends said. It was a strange feeling. When she was happy, he'd all feel happy as well and thought that she was irresistibly cute because she would smile. When she was down, he'd feel some kind of rush to make her feel better (although the urge to tease her was sometimes too much). And then there was the urge to tease her; he'd never told her about it, but he just couldn't resist the temptation to get her face flushed and her words to tumble all together. If he wasn't so egotistical, he would've admitted that he liked teasing her so much because she looked so… Beautiful to him when she blushed and stammered. To be precise, she looked even more kissable than she already was.
As Sakuno covered her mouth with her hand and laughed, Ryoma smirked inwardly.
Their homeroom teacher walked in the class then, and they stood up greeting the man in unison. True to Horio's words, a girl in a new school uniform shortly followed, graciously entering the class and stopping next to Mr. Utsugi's desk. From behind, Ryoma could feel Horio jabbing an index finger repeatedly against his shoulder.
"She's pretty, isn't she?" he whispered. "Look properly, Ryoma! You've got to agree with me!"
Uninterested as ever, Ryoma's eyes swept lazily past the transfer student's face, and he froze. Somehow, she looked familiar.
"This is your new classmate, she's transferring all the way from America." Mr. Utsugi announced, and the girl bowed as murmurs and clapping erupted from the class.
"I'm Okumura Eri, please take good care of me." she said with a smile.
With an elbow still propped on the desk supporting his cheek, Ryoma scrutinized the girl thoughtfully. Dark-brown-haired, green-eyed, sparkly white teeth… Hmmm. Just as he was racking his brains for some sort of recognition, the girl's gaze stopped directly on him. Although he was surprised, he didn't show it. He stared back stoically, until she smiled at him.
It was then that he remembered.
"Psst, Sakuno-chan!" Tomoka hissed conspiratorially, turning back to peer at Sakuno.
"That Okumura girl is staring at Ryoma-sama in a very shameless way!"
"E-eh?" Sakuno blinked. She followed the direction of Tomoka's accusing finger and found Okumura Eri staring at Ryoma (except that she wasn't sure whether it was in a shameless way or not). But still, she noticed that Ryoma was also staring back. In fact, he looked startled, as if he'd just remembered something long forgotten.
"Ne? Sakuno-chan? Wasn't I right?" Tomoka prodded.
"Um…" Sakuno frowned faintly, a little curious.
At the back of the class, Horio had joined the other guys in discussing about the new girl. Ryoma averted his eyes and sighed, idly wondering what was the girl who'd back some long years ago, claimed she was his "first admirer" doing in Japan.
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