I will hold onto you


Sunday, 22 July 2012

"Hey, Ritsu."

Ritsu looked up from her plate in mild surprise. She could see Mio react in a similar manner from the corner of her eye.

Souta directed his pair of chopsticks at her. "You ever saw Mio get drunk while doing karaoke?"

Ritsu could hear Mio's mental groan. Of course, if Souta wasn't picking on her, he was going to target someone else. He had been referring to her as midget since their first step into the restaurant. Yet she wasn't sure if she really minded this or not. It was because of Mio's presence that Souta hadn't been pummeled yet—saving her many a trip to the authorities.

"Don't think so, no," Ritsu replied. "Did hear her though."

Souta's eyebrows rose. "Hear her?"

"Hey." Mio was apparently unhappy with the target change. "Shouldn't we get the bill by now?"

Souta waved her away. "I'm still drinking, woman. Slow down, why are you in a hurry?" To emphasise his point, he picked up his cup of tea and sipped it. He then cringed; it had gone cold.

"Yeah," Ritsu started to elaborate as she watched Souta refill their cups. "She called me and screamed in my ear. Really woke me up."

There was a mumbled apology by her side. Cute, but unnecessary. Ritsu had forgiven Mio as soon as she had recognised the voice of the so-called prankster. But she was still going to tease her.

"Ah, I was there when she called you. We were celebrating my sister's birthday. Mio was … copying this Ton girl, I think."

Ritsu repressed a smile. "Ton-chan's a turtle."

"Pseudo soft-shelled turtle," Mio automatically grumbled. She sighed. "I'm never going to drink again."

"Same thing," Ritsu said airily. "And it's not like—"

"I—or Aka—will make you drink," Souta stated with a shrug. "I can make anyone drink, I've never failed before. Especially with girls."

Ritsu figured she must've had shown a disgusted look for Souta continued, somewhat casually, "A drunk girl is funnier, ja?"

Ritsu shrugged. She had to give him points for not throwing any predictable, crude jokes.

"So, turtle," Souta said with a smirk, "I didn't forget that. This turtle Mio was copying … can speak?" He snickered. "Turtles can speak. Ha, you're funny. I'm really going to make you drink again next time. Watch me."

Feeling a nudge on her right arm, Ritsu turned towards that direction. Mio's face seemed to struggle in deciding on which emotion it should show. Mortification or madness. Mortification — "I hate you," she muttered, "Now he's never gonna let me live it down."

Ritsu arched an eyebrow. "And I will?"

Forget the struggle; Mio shot a livid glare.

Ritsu smiled. Mio was all bark and no bite in public, nowadays. "Who else did ya call?"

Mio looked the other way. It took a few moments for Ritsu to realise she wasn't going to get an answer.

"So midget—" Ritsu glowered. "—do you work?"

Not wanting to growl out her answer, Ritsu shook her head. It made her dizzy.

"So Mum and Dad give you money? You can be my backup money—for the bill." Souta stood up and gave a headshake of his own. "You're lucky you're girls, or I would make you work and pay for everything from now on."

Ritsu looked at Mio, who leant in and whispered, "He never lets me pay when I do have money, anyway."

"So you are broke."

Mio pulled a sheepish face. "Well, what do you have?"

"Uh … only 2,000 yen."

Mio pursed her lips. She looked like she was going to say something but had changed her mind. Ritsu tilted her head.

"…That'd be 6,570 yen, Sir."

Ritsu looked over her shoulder. She watched Souta pull a 10,000 yen note from his wallet, pass it to the cashier—and saunter towards the exit without looking back.

Mio and Ritsu hurried over to him, self-conscious by the cashier's helpless stare. They made it in time to witness Souta sharply nodding to a passing waitress. She flustered and bowed lowly in return.

"Hey," Ritsu mumbled as soon she was in Souta's hearing range, "you do know you gave more money than you should, right? You've got like 3,000 change."

Mio was concerned with another matter. "Why do you keep on doing that?" she demanded, "This is exactly why I don't want to accept that job."

Souta chuckled as he swung the car keys around his finger. "It was good food. And it's funny when they think you're bowing to them."

"Funny to you. She looked like she was having a panic attack. I would too if I were her!"

Ritsu looked back at the victim. She was smiling brightly at the next group of customers. When Ritsu turned around, she was facing Souta's hand. Palm towards the sky. She grumbled and gave away her last 2,000 yen note of the week.

Souta laughed. "Ritsu sure is nice. She gave the girl some change. She is really pretty though." He pocketed the money and directed his hand towards Mio's way. She glanced at him and sighed. She rummaged out a note.

"1,000?" Souta exclaimed. "That's it? Even midget here managed to give me 2,000."

"Stop calling me midget, jackass," Ritsu grumbled aloud.

"You said you wanted a job," Souta continued, either not hearing or ignoring her, "so why don't you take it?"

"Yes," Mio replied, "I wanted a job. I'm too busy nowadays. I don't know how Mugi does it."

Souta remotely unlocked the car doors, allowing the three to climb in. The front seat was not taken. "Because unlike someone, Mugi trusts I won't go and do anything when I visit her."

"It's because Mugi tolerates you more than I do," Mio muttered at the same time Ritsu exclaimed, "You know Mugi?"

Souta glanced at the rear mirror. "'Course I know her. You know her too, ja?"

Ritsu wanted to ask how. She stopped, gaping, when Souta pulled out a pair of glasses from the small compartment next to him. The lenses were not tinted.

What? He needs them?

Souta took her silence as a chance to target Mio again. "It's break for you now. Now's a good time to work." He looked over his shoulder as he reversed the car out of the parking spot. "I swear I won't tease you if I see you."

"You never keep your promises," Mio said bluntly.

"I will keep this one."

"What kinda job is it?" Ritsu asked, looking out of the window after she had caught herself staring. She thought Souta had blue eyes, not brown.

"Waitress at a café. Only takes about 20 minutes on the bus to get there, since little Mio here doesn't have a car."

"Shut up," Mio mumbled.

Ritsu was grinning. It felt nice that she wasn't the only one to be seen as little. "Does she have to wear uniform?"


Ritsu shook Mio's shoulder. "Hey, you really should take his offer!"

Mio faced her. "If you do not want to lose your hand, take it off. Right now."

"You did fine when we worked at the café—that Mugi owned?—Mio."

"And I was traumatised, Ritsu. No."

Ritsu shook again. "I'll visit you when your shift ends so I can fix your face."


"Oh c'mon, you're cute in uniform."

Mio twitched. Ritsu jerked her hand away; on second thought, she preferred to have two of them attached to her person.

"Hey you two, remember there's someone else here."

"Huh? !"

On the rear mirror, Souta's eyes were wide as he echoed her exclamation.

Ritsu looked away. "What are the work hours?" she mumbled, noting belatedly that Souta had switched the radio on. She repeated herself after Souta had given the predictable what?

"The usual day hours on the days you are free. They let you pick which days."

"Oh, okay." Ritsu chanced a glance at Mio. She was humming along with the radio.

"Why? Do you want to take the job?"

Ritsu leaned forward to hear Souta more clearly. "Who, me?"

"Who else am I talking to?"

"…I don't know."

"You don't know who I'm talking to?" Souta said incredulously.

Ritsu had a feeling he knew what she had meant. But she still took the bait; she shook her head. "No, I mean I dunno if I should take it. You offered it to Mio first."

"And Mio doesn't want it," Souta concluded, "At this rate, her husband and me will be betting how many jobs she rejects. Not the person wanting to hire her."

Ritsu leant back, blinking rapidly. "Wait, what? Husband?"

"Mio's obviously gonna get married one day, ja?"

"But don't you know—" She saw Mio glance her way.

Souta apparently didn't hear Ritsu, for he continued, "I'll be rich. If he's not too worried to bet for real." Then for a moment, it seemed like he had heard her. "So Ritsu, do you want the job then? It's good pay."

Ritsu dropped the impromptu topic, for now. "What's the catch?"


Ritsu repeated a bit louder, "What are you getting out of this?"

Souta shrugged. "I get paid too, once. For giving them an extra worker. Want some time to think on it?"

Ritsu watched Mio with her peripherals. From what she could tell, the glance had turned into a stare. "Yeah," Ritsu finally said, nodding, "gimme some time to think about it. Um, thanks."

"Be quick though. The job's been up for a long time already. Someone has to take it soon."

Ritsu made a noise of acknowledgement. After several moments, when the surroundings grew more familiar, she spoke up, "Hey, can you drop us at the station?"

"Drop you at the station?" Souta parroted. "Both of you?"

"Yeah," Ritsu said before Mio could speak. "We can walk the rest of the way."

If Souta had seen Mio's confusion, he didn't comment on it. He complied with the request.

"Thanks," Ritsu mentioned as she got off. Having heard Mio's mumble of gratitude right behind her, she knew her friend wasn't mad at her for being made to walk. She left the door open for her.

"See you."


As soon as Souta's car sped off, Ritsu turned to Mio. She was already making her way towards some shade. Ritsu followed her, but didn't speak. Not yet.

When the possibility of passers-by was close to zero, she took her chance. "Mio."


"Does Souta know you're…?" Ritsu inwardly grimaced. Now that she had heard the same words, which she would often say to Mio, come from Souta's mouth … Ritsu felt sick in the stomach.

"Yeah. He knows."

Ritsu adjusted her hat. Tch, of course he knows. "Then why did he say the things he said? I know he's a..." she paused to wet her mouth, and found she couldn't continue.

"I probably will end up getting married." Ritsu's gaze flickered up, catching Mio's eyes. Mio shrugged off her confusion. "I'm sure there're a lot of norm—a lot of girls out there that are married with someone they aren't in love with." She shrugged again. "It's not farfetched, you know."

Ritsu swallowed. "And what if the guy you're married to loves you?"

Mio seemed to skip a footstep. She didn't stumble. "Marry a guy who wouldn't love me—like that—then. Someone who knows he's allowed to visit someone whom he does … and vice versa."

Ritsu stared at Mio.

Mio gave a half-hearted laugh. "Maybe Souta is that guy."

Ritsu gawked. "What? No," was what she was about to say. Instead, after she had composed herself, she murmured, "How would you know he wouldn't fall for you?"

It was Mio's turn to stare at Ritsu.

"What?" Ritsu asked quietly.

Mio grimaced. "I'm like his little sister. He spoils me."

Ritsu blinked quite a few times. "…He's that type? Huh. Can't see him like that for some reason. I can only imagine all the trouble his big sis has to endure."

"People wouldn't know you're the big sis type too, you know."

Ritsu frowned. "Shut up."

Mio gave a wry smile.

A passer-by appeared and left. Ritsu took that time to ponder over what had been discussed. "…How 'bout Souta's sis?"


"Souta's sister. She got married because she loved the guy, right?"

Mio shook her head, mostly to herself. "I don't know. Probably. It's not like I asked. And it's not like I can anyway."

"Why not?"

Mio looked taken aback. "W-well, you said it before, we aren't really friends. And it's not really something you can ask, you know?"

Ritsu met Mio's gaze.

"And," her friend continued, breaking eye contact, "then there's you. I mean, I've known you since we were nine and…."

Yet I don't know much about you.

Ritsu nodded curtly. She understood.

It was some moments later did Ritsu admit to the ground, "Remember all those questions I asked before? Some weeks ago?" She didn't look up nor wait for Mio's answer to continue. "It's 'cause of that. This."

"…We talked almost every day," Mio muttered, agreeing, "after we graduated."


"It was partly my fault. I … suddenly met all these people and…."

Ritsu's jaw tightened. And so you forgot about me.

"You've always told me to go out and meet people, Ritsu." The brunette looked up; Mio was quick to add, "Not like I'm blaming you or anything; I'm just saying you were right. But I wasn't … used to talking to more than four people on a regular basis. Mama and Papa don't count." Mio's head shook. "But that's not the point. It's just…."

Ritsu glared at the concrete. Of course that's not the point. You thought I'd stop talking to you if you told me about your problems. Me, your best friend since elementary. So you went and finally took my fucking advice to meet other people. And it pisses me off that that jackass seems to know you so—

Much to Ritsu's shock, Mio started to laugh. It was weak, but she was laughing when she was—

"Yui scolded me once," Mio explained. Ritsu became confused; felt dizzy from the sudden change of pace, Yui scolded Mio? "For making you promise you won't get a boyfriend till you're 40. I didn't think you were even serious when you—I didn't think it was even a promise. But Yui thought I was trying to make you guilty or something. Since it took you so long to tell me about Renjiro."

Ritsu stood still.



Of course. The memories were coming back to her; flooding her mind.

Ritsu had felt guilty. And she had told Yui about it over the phone. It was one of the last calls she made to her old friend. It had been two years.

She'd thought she was betraying the group somehow. She'd thought she was breaking a promise with her best friend. She had hardly called her then; hardly invited her out. She didn't know what to say, despite Mio's lack of an attitude change when she had finally found out.

She hated to admit it, but she had been utterly wrapped up in Ren's world too.

And yet here she was, blaming Mio for meeting new people.

Ritsu felt like a complete jerk.

"Ritsu?" Mio's voice was too quiet. Too soft.

Ritsu looked up. Mio was also looking too worried. She was rummaging through her handbag, searching for something. Finally, she pulled out a handkerchief. She meekly handed it to her.

As soon as Ritsu took it, realisation and intense embarrassment hit her. She dropped her head. "I-I was just sweating!"

"I know. So keep the handkerchief. I wouldn't want it to stink up my bag."

Ritsu giggled brokenly. She didn't dare say anything else, after hearing her voice. She quickly rubbed her eyes.

"You know I wasn't mad at all, right?"

"Yeah," Ritsu croaked out, before she had the chance to think. She mentally chastised herself.

"Actually, okay, I was a bit mad that it took you so long to tell me. But I've long forgiven you."

Ritsu wanted to tell Mio to drop the subject, because the tears were not stopping. But she had a feeling that if she did, Mio would drop all topics that contained similar worth.

Her stomach sank when Mio did stop. Or had seemed to.

"Hey, Ritsu."


"Do you love Daishiro?"

Ritsu looked up. Mio was expecting an answer. Why she would ask such a question, Ritsu didn't know. Then, she thought over it.

And it suddenly made sense.

If Ritsu wanted to know what was happening in Mio's life, she had to share what was happening in hers, too.

Do I love Daishiro?

He was nice and good-looking. They didn't share many interests as of yet. He was a gamer geek, she knew, no matter how much he tried to hide it. And despite his decided lack of fashion sense at times, he had good taste in regard to movies and music.

"Yeah, I like him."

Mio blinked. Ritsu followed her.

Why does she look so surprised?

"Are you—" Mio stopped herself and shook her head. "Actually, nothing."

Ritsu knew what Mio was trying to ask. "I am, actually."

Mio's brow was raised. "How did you—"

"My cousin asked the same question not so long ago."


They walked the rest of the way in relative silence. Passers-by were appearing more often now. Maybe it was about time they called each other as frequently as they did in the past. Or visit each other. Ritsu couldn't remember the last time Mio stepped in her room.

"Did you seriously mean it?" Ritsu blurted out, when Mio's house came into view.


Ritsu matched Mio's steps and lowered her voice. "That you'll marry someone, but…."

"It's what society expects, isn't it?" Mio chuckled. "Um, if they don't know about the—about the other part, that is."


"Anyway, I'll see you later."

Ritsu nodded mutely. She waved.

Mio turned, briefly checked the letterbox and walked up towards the front door with a hand in her bag.

Ritsu stared after her.

Ritsu watched the woman who was okay being alone when she was a little girl, had become used to company by middle school, and couldn't handle being alone by high school. And throughout those years Ritsu had known her, Mio had dreamt of a fairytale marriage.

Ritsu stared down. At lost time.


Ms Tainaka placed a few carrots on the chopping board Ritsu was using. "Please cut those too."


Her mother returned her attention to the stove. "Have you considered working during the break?"

Ritsu slid the chopped onions to the side. She shook her head, as if to rid the burning near her eyes. "I have, actually. Thinking of taking a waitress job a friend told me about." She then cringed. Friend? Souta? But it was better than explaining the whole thing, her pride be damned.

"Oh?" The tone was unusually inquisitive. "Where is it at?"

"Uhh … I'm not sure. I just know it takes 20 minutes to get there by bus. From the bus stop near Mio's house, I think."

"Oh, was Mio the one that told you about it?"

"Huh? About the bus stop?"

"…About the job, Ritsu."

"Nah, it was a friend of ours." Ritsu cringed again. If this kept up, she'd be chopping some skin off her fingers.


"Souta. Forgot his last name; he's a foreigner."

"How come I haven't heard of him till now?"

With the carrots now chopped, Ritsu carefully placed the board by the stove. She washed the blade. "Only met him recently. He's more of a friend of Mio's."

"A friend?" Her mother's voice had a certain tilt.

"Yeah." Then, Ritsu thought back to the words Mio had parted her with a few hours prior. "I think so," she added smoothly.

"…Mio with a foreigner, hmm? I wonder if her mother would approve of that."

Drying her hands on a small towel, Ritsu casually regarded the older woman. "Would you approve? Say, if it was me with a foreigner."

Ms Tainaka gave a levelled stare. "Is there something you're not telling me about Daisuke?"

"Daishiro," Ritsu corrected.

"Daishiro. …What is his last name? I don't think you've told me."

I'm really sure I did. "Inoue. So, you seriously wouldn't approve if he was … say, half-German?"

Her mother took a suspiciously long time to answer. "If he's a nice, well-mannered boy like Kondo, of course I'll approve."

Ritsu rolled her eyes. Another mention of Ren. "When are you going to stop that, Mum?"

Ms Tainaka made a face as if she hadn't done anything wrong or sly. "What are you talking about? Stop what?"

"Stop bringing up Ren. And using him as the standard for the rest of the guys I'm going to date."

"He was good to you, Ritsu. I still don't know why you two had to break up."

"He broke up with me, Mum," Ritsu said perfunctorily. They had gone over this many times already.

"Then you should've tried your best to fix the problem that caused the breakup in the first place." The woman was stirring the noodles in the frypan in agitation. "I thought I had raised you be a strong girl, Ritsu."

"And you did," Ritsu articulated, "That's why I'm over him. I knew him more than you did, especially his flaws."

The occasional sound of the wooden spoon hitting against metal was her only reply.

Ritsu left the kitchen. She needed a good excuse to take a breather from this household.

"Where are you going?"

"Getting details about that job."

"…Alright. Dinner will be ready soon."


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Ritsu stepped out of the café in relief. It was a surprising but pleasantly smooth experience; she had been dreading the wait one would usually endure afterwards.

Her weekends had been quickly filled with work hours.

She made a beeline to the park Mio was supposedly at. She was munching on a home-made sandwich when she found her.

"I got the job!" Ritsu exclaimed, before Mio could finish swallowing her last bite.

The poor woman looked like she was about to choke. "W-What? That's quick!"

"Souta wasn't lying about them needing people, huh?"

Mio was looking doubtful. "But the spot had been up for nearly a month…."

Ritsu scratched the back of her neck. "I hate to say this, but maybe it's 'cause Souta recommended me."

"I guess so," Mio muttered, before taking a sip out of her steel water bottle. "Hey … was there a job notice at the front?"

"Uh…." Ritsu recalled what were displayed on the windows of the café. Her half-raised arm fell to her side. "You know what? There wasn't. …Not even near the cashier."

Mio nodded, as if all the answers in her mind had been answered.

Ritsu pouted. "You could've said congratulations or something."

Mio seemed to be forcing down a smile. "…Congratulations."

"It's too late now."

Mio jerked her head to the side; her shoulders shook.

Ritsu soon heard her amusement. "Shut up," she grumbled, trying to delay the upward curving of her lips. She failed.

After the shared laughter had faded away, Ritsu took a seat next to Mio on the bench. "What should we do now?" she wondered aloud.

"Hmm … we can't really window shop. We always end up buying something. Movies are out … you probably want to watch that horror movie."

Ritsu nodded sleepily. "Yeah, but I don't feel like sitting for an hour or two. So yeah, movies are out."

It became eerily quiet.

Ritsu opened her eyes; checked to see if Mio was still wide awake. Her friend seemed to be watching the sky.

Mio suddenly muttered something.



Ritsu stared sluggishly. "…Just the two of us?"

Mio shook her head, slowly. "Mugi and the others are thinking of ice-skating next week."


"Ishiko and Souta…." Mio finally faced her, and Ritsu could see how sleepy Mio had become from the way she had turned. "Do you want to join?"

"…Is it on the weekends? 'Cause I can't if it is."

Mio's eyes travelled upwards as if to remember. "It's on a Wednesday. Why?"

"I work on weekends now."

Mio was instantly awake. "Oh. Well, Wednesdays are good, right?"

Ritsu was startled to a nod. "Yeah."

Mio returned the gesture. "We could even plan what to do for your birthday. Since it's coming up in a month. Less than that, actually."

"Heh … so it's not gonna be a surprise for me, huh?"

Mio flushed. "Well," she stuttered, "it's just ... it's just in case your boyfriend might have something else in mind, then. It'll be better if there aren't any conflicts, you know."

Ritsu blinked rapidly. "Oh. Uh, I didn't think of that."

Mio arched an eyebrow.

"What?" Ritsu defended herself. "I really didn't think what I should do. 'Sides pretending I'm not really that old."

"Maybe you should just face reality for once. You're getting older and your height's still the same."

"Hey! Shut up, you."

Mio snorted.

Ritsu poked her in the arm. Hard.

"Hey— ow!"

Ritsu harrumphed. "Let's play video games at my house."

Mio rubbed the spot where she had been prodded. "You just said you don't want to sit for hours."

"Yeah, sit and just watch for hours. Gaming's different!"

"…Right," Mio said, but remained seated.

Ritsu stood up. "Let's go!"

Mio released a long-suffering sigh. Ritsu watched her friend take her time to stretch her back and gather her belongings.

"…You know, looking at you, people'll think you're the one older than me."

"Oh shut it."

The jab seemed to awaken Mio, for she was able to keep up with Ritsu on their way to the bus stop. Mio dumped her bag by the pole that held the timetable and squinted.

A few seconds later. "Are you actually getting blind before me, young'un?"

Mio flushed. "No! I-It's just … the text's a bit small."

Ritsu leaned in. "I can read it just fine."

Mio sighed and dropped down; sat on the balls of her feet. "We gotta wait for seven minutes."

"Yeah." Ritsu nodded, leaning back and allowing her eyes to dart around the half-crowded stop. All the seats were taken. And as much as she would like to cherish the abrupt height difference, she ended up squatting alongside Mio. She huffed towards the road. "Should be cool at the icerink, right?"


"Can Souta skate?"

"…He's alright at it, I guess."


He'd better not be looking when I get on the ice….

"Why'd you ask?" Mio said at the same time Ritsu commented, "Didn't know he wears glasses."


"Souta," Ritsu repeated after she had faced Mio, "He wears glasses?"

"Uh." Mio blinked rapidly. "Yeah. Mostly contacts though. He prefers those over glasses."


Mio rose to her full height, forcing Ritsu to do the same. The sun stabbed the back of her legs. A bead of sweat glided down in-between her breasts. Ritsu resisted the urge to fidget, allowing her want to whine to triumph.

"Why is it so hooot? Mio, pass me the water."

Mio stared at her. Despite her seemingly lethargic mood, she managed to pull an unrelenting face.

"Please," Ritsu added.

Mio passed the water bottle.

Ritsu took it, unscrewed the steel cap and tipped her head back, awaiting ice-cool water to dribble down her throat. Because surely Mio must've had drunken at least half of it by now.

Mio hadn't.

A good portion of what should've went into Ritsu's mouth splashed onto her top, cooling and showing the skin underneath.

Ritsu pulled out a handkerchief—I just fucking washed it too—and quickly dabbed it at her top, which had already soaked up all the moisture.

"Fucking piece of—oh geez." Ritsu pocketed the small cloth and gave another attempt at quenching her thirst. This time, she succeeded.

"Bus is here," Mio said.

Ritsu looked up, expecting the bus to be at the end of the road. Instead, it was right before her. Having heard the other passengers line up behind her, she hastily fetched out her purse and fumbled in gathering the correct coins for her fare.

"I'll pay for you," Mio hissed over her shoulder, "Just—cover up before you embarrass yourself even more."

"Thanks," Ritsu mumbled over her bag, which was held over her chest. She shuffled along, thankful for Mio's side-step so she could take the seat by the window and that she was one of the first in line. By the time the bus moved again, two people were standing on the aisle.

Ritsu paid Mio back and returned the bottle. Adjusting her bag so it wasn't blocking the sunrays from doing its work, she rested her temple against the cool glass of the window.

"…Ritsu. Ritsu, wake up."

She opened her eyes, only to immediately close them. Turning away from the source of light, she groggily watched Mio rise from her seat and look back at her. Mio tilted her head towards the front of the bus.

Familiar neighbourhood.

Ritsu jolted to her feet and stumbled her way after Mio. She almost fell at the last step.

"Could've wakened me up earlier, you know," Ritsu grumbled.

Mio huffed. "I didn't even know you were asl—" She was then stumbling forward. After she had regained her balance, she glared at the offending groove in the footpath.

"Hah! Teaches you right for not looking where you're going. Or you just can't see that far?"

Mio gave Ritsu a long stare.

Ritsu fidgeted. "What?"

"Did I say something I don't remember?"


"When I was drunk and I called you," Mio explained, "Did I say anything that was—anything that peeved you off?"

"'Sides screaming in my ear as hello?"


"'Sides mimicking—"


"Just joking. That was hilarious. You do a crap Ton-chan, you know—"


"Okay, okay." Ritsu looked where she was going as she thought about it, knowing this was a bad time for her to do a Mio and trip—again. "I was giving you advice and you weren't listening, does that count?"

Mio blinked. "Advice?"

"Yeah, I mean—uh, don't tell me you ended up getting a hangover…."


"Were you hungover the ne—"

"Oh, no I wasn't. I—advice…?"

Ritsu stopped walking. She watched Mio with some amusement. "I told you to drink some water or else you'd regret it and I forgot what else I said. But yeah, you pulled a Yui so I had to shorten it up for you."


Ritsu recalled the initial question. "Why did you ask?"

Mio continued to walk ahead, for she had only paused when she received what was seemingly a satisfactory answer. She shook her head half-heartedly. "It's nothing really. Thought I said something stupid—and embarrassing."

Huuuh…. Heh.

Ritsu skipped a few steps to match Mio's pace. She gave a friendly smile as she offered, "How 'bout I tell you something embarrassing and you can tell me what you said? Well, what you thought you said."

When Mio's eyes caught the smile, Ritsu knew they were both thinking what they had exchanged yesterday. "Okay," Mio conceded. "You first."

Ritsu almost squealed in joy; blackmail material! To make sure Mio didn't change her mind, she hastily searched for an embarrassing moment. "Well, when I was drunk one time," she then paused and considered backpedalling; Mio might think she was mocking her. But with one glance back at her friend, she knew she had nothing to worry about. For now. "It got too hot or something, 'cause I started stripping. We were at a karaoke bar at the time, too—forgot which one. Reina was there. She tried to stop me but uh, I guess I really wanted to be naked or something. …Okay, that sounds wrong. As in, dirty wrong. Not like, uh, it's not supposed to sound like I was—horny or something."

Before Ritsu could chance another glance at Mio, expecting her to be offended or amused, Mio asked, "Is there more? Like … do you remember anything else? That happened at the time."

Ritsu looked up, and suddenly felt naked. She wasn't sure if it was her paranoia talking, but she'd actually rather Mio to be amused after seeing the look of knowing on her face.

Ritsu trained her eyes on the footpath. "Um, something like that."

On second thoughts, she should've had kept her mouth shut. Or should've had taken her time in finding a more appropriate story.

"Why couldn't Reina stop you?" Mio asked. Her voice was probing. "You once told me she could restrain you as well as I can."

Ritsu attempted a voice of reason. "C'mon Mio. You know I tend to be pushy when drunk."

"…Hmm, that is true."

Ritsu ruffled the back of her hair, giggling and turning away. She exhaled in relief. It was a gut-wrenching feeling; wanting to tell but also not wanting to. "So? What about you?"

Mio seemed to walk faster. "What about me?"

Ritsu skipped to catch up. "Hey, hey. I told you about my embarrassing moment. Now's your turn."

"Oh! Well, I said—well, I thought I said—I wish I was shorter than you."

Ritsu ceased all movement. "What?"

Mio did an about-turn and placed a hand over her chest. "Thank you for sharing that with me, Ritsu," she said with a growing grin. "I'm sorry mine doesn't match up with yours."

Ritsu lunged forward. "You!"

Mio did another turn and dashed off.

Ritsu wasn't finished; she ran after her. "You tricked me! You come back here!"

Mio glanced over her shoulder and—Ritsu fumed—stuck out her tongue.

Ritsu picked up the speed. And just when she had thought she was gaining on Mio, Mio started to sprint.

"I said come back here!" Ritsu roared, "Face some hits to the head like I do, damnit!"

At the Tainaka residence, Akiyama Mio groaned in frustration as she mashed the buttons of the console controller. Beside her, Ritsu was smirking as she won match after match. The feeling of satisfaction nearly overrode the memory that Ritsu had shared, almost completely, with Mio.

Ren was also there—on the night Ritsu was drunk and embarrassed herself. They were together at the time, and he had a twin sister.

On any normal day they looked quite different. But with a mind that spun, Ritsu didn't see the difference; she had pressed her lips against Reina's.


Friday, 27 July 2012

"You got a job?" Daishiro asked, right next to her left ear.

Ritsu nodded, mildly turning her head towards her boyfriend. Her eyes were trained on the computer monitor as she replied, "Yeah. I start, um, tomorrow actually."

"Tomorrow? So … weekends?"

Ritsu nodded again, hoping the dialogue and—is that a train?—in the movie was enough to distract Daishiro from the bigger picture. He was already working full-time on weekdays, and now that she was also working, part-time, but on weekends—

"What—a 500 dollar fucking wallet? Why the hell would you need that?"

Ritsu mentally groaned. Now I'm anxious on when he's gonna figure it out.

"…Job." Daishiro said through the sudden crashing of gunfire, thanks to the surround sound system in his room. Ritsu wondered if his housemates were ever bothered by it. They always seemed to be conveniently absent whenever she was over.

There was a lull. Ritsu took the opportunity to ask, "What did you say?"

"What kind of job?"

"Waitress," Ritsu said briefly, itching to reach for the keyboard so she could lower the volume.

Much to Ritsu's surprise, the loud gunshots and screeching tires were silenced. Daishiro's hand quickly returned to her waist, right under the hem of her top. "With uniform?"

"Have you ever seen a waitress not wearing uniform?"

Daishiro chuckled. "Think you can visit tomorrow, after work?"

Ritsu raised an eyebrow at no one in particular. "You have a waitress fetish?"

There was no verbal response. The hand on her abdomen was sprayed out now, stroking her skin so idly that it became ticklish. Ritsu spun around and placed each of her legs at either side of Daishiro, carefully. The last time she had done it hastily, she ended up kneeing him where it horribly hurt.

When Ritsu had faced him directly, she asked, "You don't mind me working?"

Daishiro blinked slowly. "Mind? What? Uh, no. Why'd you ask?"

"…If you haven't noticed it yet, we don't share any free days now."

Daishiro tilted his head, as if in thought. "Oh," he finally said. "Hey, Watanabe got shot."

"What?" Ritsu twisted her head. "Where? I don't see him."

"Should show him again soon. It looked critical. Anyway," Daishiro paused the movie, "how far's the café?"

"About … half an hour away."

Daishiro slid his hands to Ritsu's hips and lifted the hem of her top until it rested on top of her bra. He proceeded to work on the clasp behind her back. "Let's watch the movie later," he muttered.

Relieved that he didn't become mad—or sulk—as she had expected, Ritsu quickly agreed. "Just don't leave marks. Working tomorrow."

Daishiro made a sound at the back of his throat and the bra was successfully taken off. Ritsu pulled up the top the rest of the way, knowing he had heard her or else he would've had paused.

Ritsu lay on her back as Daishiro leaned over her. She fumbled with the shirt buttons as he dipped his head, covering a nipple with his mouth. The feel of both teeth and tongue against it had Ritsu gasping and grabbing at Daishiro's dark hair. Or attempting to grab, as her fingers slipped to the base of his neck every time she tried.

Daishiro moved to the other nipple, adding more suction this time, and Ritsu stopped grabbing and began to press. Pressed her palm against his head. Her fingers were twisting strands of rough hair as Daishiro's mouth worked up on her inner thigh.

It was after Daishiro had looked over his shoulder as he threw away the used condom did Ritsu realise something. "Did you get a haircut?"

Daishiro's head snapped back to her, hiding the back of it. "Huh?"

Ritsu gestured him to look over his shoulder again. When Daishiro didn't comprehend, she sat up and pressed his cheek to one side. "Your hair, did you cut it?"

She could see him blink a couple of times. "No, why?"

"Oh, it just looks better for some reason today."

Daishiro shook off Ritsu's hand and smirked. "I didn't brush it this morning."

"…That's it?"


Ritsu tried to glare down at him. "You bastard," she growled.

Daishiro's smile only grew.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Ritsu was running away.

Someone was chasing her. There was no malicious intent but Ritsu didn't want to give in to the numbness of her legs. Her lungs were still taking in air and she could still move.

What felt like an arm around her waist broke Ritsu's next step, sending her knees to tumble down onto soft, grey ground. Hot breath was brushing against her left ear, and there was a kiss on her neck.

Ritsu lay on her back, laughing, still easily taking in mouthfuls of oxygen when her chest was treated as a make-shift pillow. She threaded her fingers through soft, dark hair as she looked down.

Looked down at the neon numbers of 9:00.

Ritsu groaned as she hit the snooze button of the alarm clock.

At 9:07, Ritsu was yawning as she finally stumbled off towards the bathroom. She came back, running, to the room three minutes later to turn off the alarm. By then, she was fully awake.

All she needed now was a good shower and breakfast, some time to pick nice, comfortable clothes and Souta to not mention anything about her height when he arrived to pick her up.

It was finally Wednesday. Ice-skating day.


End of Chapter

A/N: Did I say, "Let's take what has happened in Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2 has happened. I'm ignoring the rest."? Sorry, I told a little lie. I think the only thing I'm ignoring is the five going to the same college. Do correct me if I am ignoring something else, though. Thanks in advance. :3

A huge thank you to each reader, and of course my awesome beta RtDK, for being patient with me. I'm trying my best to defeat pro-power so I can speed up my updates. It's an extremely slow process, but I'm winning the fight and gaining exp. :D *holds onto lucky egg*