"Happy Birthday Risa!" Everyone yelled, brandishing the birthday omelet.
"It's your birthday?"
Everyone froze, looking at Otani.
Risa looked at him, tears beginning to well in her eyes.
Otani looked surprised.
"No one mentioned it"
Risa stood quickly and ran out the door.
"Otani, can I talk to you?" Nobu asked, gesturing to him from the other door.
He nodded and followed her.
"So, I guess that Koizumi hasn't told you about her school"
He shook his head, and Nobu sighed.
"Truth is, i'm really worried about her. She's flunking, and it's taking a toll on her"
Otani was surprised. This was the first he'd heard of it.
"She's stopped eating, and I know she doesn't hang out with anyone except for you, so she's alone most of the time. Mostly, she calls me when she needs to vent, but i've been so busy, we haven't talked in quite a while" Nobu continued.
"Also, I think she's depressed. This is the first time she's really seen you in a really long time"
"How come I haven't heard of this before?"
"You're so dense"
"Yeah, tell me something I don't know"
Nobu smiled, then her expression turned serious again.
"You honestly don't know?"
Otani shook his head.
"She doesn't want to interferer. You have a good life, and she gets to see you so little that she doesn't want to bring you down or take up your time with her problems"
That made total sense.
"So, you better go find her and make her talk, also spend some more time with her, maybe that will bring up her grades"
Otani nodded, then took off.
He had searched the whole beach, and couldn't find a single trace of Koizumi.
"Stupid" He muttered.
How could he have forgotten her birthday?
Her birthday, of all things.
Then, he remembered that there was a small playground a little farther down, maybe she had gone there.
Like the time her grandfather had yelled at her so much that she ran away.
He set his lips in a determined line and ran down the beach.
Sure enough, Risa was there, sitting on top of the jungle gym.
Just like last time.
She looked down to him and he could see how hurt she was.
"Would an apology help?"
She shook her head.
Otani rubbed the back of his neck. Something he always did when he was nervous.
"You want to come down?"
Another shake of her head.
"You'll catch cold"
At that, she glared down at him.
"Everyone knows you can't catch cold when it's 80 degrees out"
That had worked last time.
He looked out to the ocean. The sun was just setting, illuminating the waves perfectly.
Then he turned back and started climbing up the jungle gym, sitting next to Risa.
"I'm sorry. Nobu told me about school"
Rise hiccuped and more tears spilled down her cheeks.
"I-I wanna quit"
Otani put his arm around her shoulders.
"Want to talk about it?"
Rise wiped her eyes.
"I don't want to waste your time"
Otani took her face in his hands.
"I wasn't paying enough attention to you, and that was my mistake. I have to listen to you, you listen to me when I need to vent, and it's time I returned the favor"
Then, Risa broke down, falling into Otani's arms and sobbing.
"I-it's just too hard"
He gently stroked her hair.
"Shhh, it's okay"
"I-I feel like i'm intruding on your life, you have all those other friends, and it makes me feel like i'm unwanted and in the way"
He breaths were coming in short gasps now.
Otani gently brushed some hair out of her eyes with his thumb, then wiped away her tears.
"You would never be in the way, even with your legs"
Then he kissed her.
His kisses were the most amazing things Risa had ever experienced.
When his lips touched hers, she flet as if she were a floating fireball, drifting through an endless sky.
"I love you" He whispered.
"I love you too"
Then, he jumped off the structure, holding out his arms to her.
"I'll catch you"
Risa looked unsure, especially after last time, when she had knocked him over.
"Come on. I promise"
And he caught her.
Just like he always would.
"Happy birthday" He whispered in her ear, holding her tight.