Second part of my story.
Don't own. Enjoy!
The next week went by fast. Every day was the same. We would all get up early to prepare the bread together, Azuma, Kawachi, Kinoshita and myself. I would always make sure I was standing next to Azuma, so I could look at his smiling face as he did what he loved the most, baking. The store would open at around 9, when all the fresh bread had been placed in their racks. Mushroom-head tended to the customers mostly by himself. Sometimes Azuma, the star, would make an appearance in the store and the customers would be all over him, including some girls his age, who would get a little too close. It angered me, but Azuma didn't really mind, and he probably didn't understand what was going on.
Tsukino or I would sometimes go work the cash register, during rush hour. I'm not really the kind of person who takes care of customers. I have very little patience and I struggle to be polite, but I do my best. I mostly work the cash whenever Azuma greets customers, so that I can keep an eye on him. Tsukino also sometimes flirted with him and it pissed me off. I spent as much time as I possibly could with Azuma-kun. He would always smile at me, and it made me happy. Whenever I was around him and him alone, I could forget that so many girls constantly flirted with him. I could pretend I was the only one.
The store would close at around 9 PM. Since Azuma, Kawachi, Tsukino, Manager and I would leave earlier, sometimes at 5 or sometimes at 7, Kinoshita was left alone to close the store and clean up afterwards, before he could finally go home.
Finally, it was Friday, the end of the week. The store was still open on weekends, but it opened later and closed earlier, so it wasn't as demanding. We could actually sleep in the morning. At around 7, Tsukino walked into the kitchen, where Kawachi and Azuma were preparing for the next day's baking and where I was sitting, using my laptop, doing some research. "Hey guys!" She said, excitedly. I knew what was coming. "Do you want to go to the karaoke club?" "Yeah! Sounds great, Tsukino-san!" Kawachi answered. "I'm in too!" Azuma said. "What about you, Kanmuri?" Tsukino asked. I did not feel like going to the karaoke club again, considering what had happened the last time. I turned around from my computer screen and met Azuma's gaze, staring right at me with a wide smile. I recalled what he had told me a week ago and couldn't help but blush a bit. "Sure, I'll come." I finally said, turning back to my computer, so they wouldn't see me blush. "Great!" Tsukino continued. "I already asked Manager and he's coming too! Let's leave right away!"
We all took off our Pantasia shirts and left them in the employees' lounge, before getting ready to leave. Manager was waiting for us at the front door. As we walked through the main store area, I saw Mushroom-head taking care of a few customers. Tsukino walked up to him. "Kinoshita-kun!" She said, with a wide smile. "W-what is it, Tsukino-san?" He asked, love struck. "I hope you don't mind closing the store again tonight?" She asked, with a charming voice. "Of course not, Tsukino-san! It would be my pleasure!" He answered. "Thank you, Kinoshita-kun. You're very kind." As she walked away, Kinoshita followed her every movement, completely mesmerized by her.
It annoyed me so much how she would use her charms to make men do whatever she wants. She would act so coy and lovely, but she is really quite manipulative. Most guys instantly fell for her. She could have so many guys, and yet she only wanted Azuma. Perhaps, it was only because he doesn't act interested, she wants a challenge, she wants what she can't have.
As we walked to the karaoke place, Tsukino held Azuma's hand again. I stayed behind so no one would notice my annoyance. "This is going to be so much fun, Azuma-kun!" She said. "I know, I can't wait!" Azuma answered. "Would you like to sing with me again?" She asked, with her timid voice. "Sure, Tsukino-san!" My heart sank when I heard his answer. I really didn't want to have to listen through their duet again. "But I also promised Kanmuri I would sing with him." He continued. I blushed when I heard my name.
Tsukino turned around to look at me, with a curious expression. I blushed even more and looked away. She simply smiled at me, before turning back. I was slowly beginning to realize that Azuma was serious about singing with me. At first I thought he only said that to make me feel better. I was starting to get a bit nervous. Because this meant I would have to go on stage and sing in front of a small crowd. I am a terrible singer, and I can't stand to make a fool of myself.
After a short walk, we arrived at the karaoke club. We were let in right away as we are regulars. I was surprised at how crowded the club was that night. Of course it has to be the most crowded it's ever been on the night I have to sing. Or perhaps, my nervousness made it seem as if there were more people than there really are.
We sat at a vacant table and we ordered some drinks. Manager was hitting the alcohol even faster than the last time. Tsukino was sitting next to Azuma again, talking to him, laughing with him. But I was too nervous to care. I could only pray Azuma would forget his promise to me. As I looked at the couple singing karaoke together, I was even more nervous. A few people were waiting for their turn, so we won't be able to have our turn any time soon. I felt a bit better, but looking at each person or couple, one after the other, singing their song, I knew my turn would come soon.
Too soon, there was no one on stage. My heart was beating wildly, as I expected Azuma's invitation. "Azuma-kun." Tsukino asked. "Do you want to go sing with me again?" "Sure Tsukino-san." Azuma answered. On one hand I was relieved that I didn't have to sing, but I was also sad that Azuma would sing with her again. "But first, I'll go with Kanmuri, like I promised." Azuma said, turning to me. And suddenly, they all turned to me, and I was blushing madly. Azuma got up from his seat and Tsukino seemed disappointed as he walked away. Azuma stood next to me and offered me his hand. I could only stare blankly at the hand, as I momentarily lost basic cognitive functions out of sheer nervousness.
When I finally regained usage of my speech, I attempted to blurt out some excuse to exempt me from going on stage. "I-! I don't... You don't have to-" Azuma grabbed my wrist and forced me up. "Come on, Kanmuri! Let's go!" Azuma said, excited. As he dragged me to the stage, I tried to fight off his hold, but he was surprisingly strong. "Please, Azuma, wait-" I tried to stop him.
Next thing I knew, I was standing on the stage, with the spotlights pointed at me, and all the eyes in the audience looking at me. I was paralyzed. Azuma was fiddling with the karaoke machine, probably selecting a song. He handed me a microphone and stood next to me as he gave me a warm smile. I blushed. Suddenly, the song started. I was shocked when I realized it was some generic ballad. I blushed madly.
After a few seconds of cheesy guitar, the lyrics popped up on the screen and I was completely paralyzed. Azuma started singing. He sung of love and happiness, but I wasn't listening. I was blank.
I felt a nudge on my arm and I snapped out of it. I looked at the lyrics on the screen and I saw I missed about half a line. I stumbled to pick the song up. Finally, I caught up to the song and tried not to massacre the song too much, but I'm sure I sounded like crap.
When the chorus started, Azuma jumped in with me. He was moving around to the song, but I didn't move at all. He was looking at me and smiling throughout the chorus, but I was too nervous and scared to enjoy the attention. I didn't really process what we were singing, something about the "sunshine of my life", "all I've ever wanted" and "my whole world". We probably looked ridiculous.
I suffered through another verse and the chorus twice. And then, finally, the song was over. Azuma grabbed my microphone and set it with his back on the machine. I dashed off the stage as people applauded. Azuma quickly followed me. We walked back to our table.
Kawachi, Tsukino and Manager were clapping as well, but they were holding back chuckles. "That... That was interesting, Kanmuri." Kawachi laughed. "Please don't make fun of me..." I asked as I sat back down on my chair, looking away. "Kanmuri-kun is a very good singer." Azuma said. "He was just nervous. Next time, he'll do much better." Azuma sat back down as well. Finally, Manager couldn't hold it in anymore as he let out a drunken, excessive laugh. "I'm sorry guys!" He almost shouted. "That was just too funny!" Kawachi joined in as well. I was incredibly embarrassed and I only wanted to leave.
For once, Tsukino was silent. She seemed slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps she was jealous of me. I know this made me a bad person, but I was really glad she got a taste of her own medicine.
The evening went on. We listened to more mediocre singers. Now that I had actually had my turn at the microphone, I felt a bit more compassionate. Manager got pretty drunk and monopolized the microphone for a few songs. His singing was sloppy and loud and the audience laughed. But after a while, it wasn't as funny anymore. Kawachi walked to the stage and dragged Manager back to the table, and he wasn't fighting back. He is not an aggressive drunk.
Tsukino wasn't as cheery and she didn't cling to Azuma as much. The boy didn't seem to notice a difference but I did. I was glad. I made a fool of myself, but it was worth it if she's not all over him. I had a hard time looking at Azuma. Every time I did, I would blush, remembering how we had just sung together. But Azuma was simply enjoying himself, without a care in the world, without noticing the peculiar change of dynamic within our group.
Since most of us weren't in the mood anymore, I was too embarrassed, Tsukino was silent and so was Kawachi because she was, and Manager was very drunk and slowly falling asleep, we simply decided to go home. Azuma seemed a bit disappointed, which saddened me, but he understood we all wanted to leave. We paid our tabs and left.
Along the short way back to the shop, I noticed Tsukino wasn't holding Azuma's hand and she was very silent. Azuma was cheery. "That was fun, wasn't it?" He asked to everyone and no one. And then, he suddenly turned to me, who was standing behind him. "Did you like singing with me, Kanmuri-kun?" I was taken aback by the question and I blushed. "Hum... Yes-" "You two were so cute!" Manager shouted, suddenly out of his drunken daze. "You seemed so in love, it was adorable!" I blushed madly. My mind was blank, I couldn't imagine what Azuma would answer. "Yeah, it was fun." He just ignored the comment. I didn't know if I should be relieved or disappointed.
We finally got to the bakery and Manager went on home. Kinoshita was surprised we were home so early. He was still cleaning the shop and Azuma and Kawachi decided to help. I wanted to help also, but I was stopped in my tracks. Tsukino was holding my arm. "I'm sorry, Kanmuri-kun." She said, sounding sad. "May I have a word with you?" "Certainly." I answered mechanically, not really caring.
We walked back outside and stood by the door of the bakery. "What is it?" I asked. "Well... I have a few things to say." She paused and seemed to gather her thoughts together. "Is there something between you and Azuma-kun?" I was shocked by the question. Tsukino is just about the last person I wanted to share my feelings with. I didn't know what to say. "It's just that when you two sang together this evening, you really looked like a couple. Azuma seemed so happy to sing with you..." She continued. "And last week, when I sang with Azuma-kun you seemed very angry. You seem annoyed whenever I'm around him. I thought maybe it was because there's something between the two of you and I was being a little too friendly..." I didn't know she had picked up on so much. "I do like Azuma-kun very much, but if Azuma-kun is with Kanmuri-kun, I don't want to interfere." I blushed and looked away. "There's nothing between us..." I finally said. "Really?" She didn't seem to believe me. She observed me for a moment.
"But you do like Azuma-kun, don't you?" She asked, with a smile on her face. I didn't say anything, I was too embarrassed. I didn't want her to know. But, my silence answered her question. "That's very sweet, Kanmuri-kun. I know Azuma is quite oblivious at times, but don't give up." I sharply turned around to look at her. Did that mean she gives up? "I know what you must think... I've been trying to make Azuma love me for a few months now, but it's not working... I don't think it'll ever work out. But I know Azuma-kun cares for Kanmuri-kun very much. He cares for your feelings and values your opinion... I don't know what his exact feelings are, but I know Azuma-kun likes you more than me." I was absolutely shocked by her words. "Tsukino-san..." Tears were starting to flow down her face. "Don't worry about me, I'll get over it. Go get him!" She cheered, as she cried. She then turned away from me and ran. "Thank you, Tsukino-san!" I shouted, so she would hear me. Tsukino waved at me.
I was glad she gave up, but it also meant I had to work harder to make Azuma-kun mine. If I simply gave up, it would be unfair for her. After all, she wasn't as bad a person as I thought... Obviously, my jealousy was blinding me.
I walked back into the store, where Kawachi, Kinoshita and Azuma were still cleaning up. "Where's Tsukino-san?" Kawachi asked. Kinoshita also turned to me for the answer. "She went home." I said. "What?" Kawachi answered, disappointed. Kinoshita was also sad. "Without saying goodbye?" "I guess..." Kinoshita and Kawachi finished up the clean up without much energy. Perhaps they were expecting to be praised by Tsukino after they were done. I pitched in as well and soon enough we were done. Kinoshita went on home, disappointed he didn't get to see Tsukino before leaving. We also went upstairs to our apartment, before locking the door.
I was in a much better mood so I didn't run off to my bedroom. Azuma seemed happy to have me around. We chatted in the living room for a while and it was very pleasant. Then, Kawachi went to take a shower. I walked to my bedroom where my computer was so I could use it. A few minutes later, Azuma knocked on my door and I let him in. "Sorry, I hope I'm not bothering you, Kanmuri-kun." He said. "Not at all." I answered.
Azuma walked to my bed and sat on it. I didn't look at him, because I knew I would be flushed. The only thought of him sitting on my bed made me blush. How I would love to be sitting there with him... "So what are you doing?" Azuma asked. "Just checking my e-mail..." I answered. "Did you like singing with me?" "... Yes. It was nice..." "Let's do it again next time." My heartbeat sped. "That sounds lovely..." I answered. Perhaps he does like me. I took a deep breath and gathered my courage. I closed my laptop and spun my chair around.
I was shocked when I saw Azuma. He wasn't sitting on the edge of my bed, like I thought. He was laying on it, with his head on my pillow, his hands behind his head. I could only stare at his shape, stretched out on my bed... He was so beautiful.
"Hey, what's this?" Azuma asked as he grabbed the calendar I kept on my night table. But I couldn't answer. I probably looked like a total idiot, but I couldn't help it. Azuma sat up so he could look at the calendar properly. After examining it for a few moments, he looked up to me with a surprised expression. "It's your birthday next week?" He asked. I simply nodded, still stunned by him. "Really? That's great! We have to celebrate!" Azuma said, excited.
"Oh, it's okay..." I finally said. "No! We have to do something! Next week, you pick where we go on Friday! And I'll get you a nice gift!" "You don't have to get me anything, Azuma-kun..." Azuma stood up from my bed, sitting my calendar back on my table, and walked to me. "No, but I want to." Azuma answered. He smiled at me. I looked up to him, standing in front of me. The vision was angelic. "Goodnight, Kanmuri-kun." He said. "Goodnight Azuma-kun..." I followed his every move as he walked out of my bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Sitting on my chair, I felt lightheaded. I'm in love...
I changed to my nightwear and moved to my bed. The covers I had carefully fixed this morning were now a bit ruffled, because he had laid on them. I almost didn't want to lie down, to not move how my covers were left by him. I moved my hand along them and felt the lingering warmth he had left behind. I finally lied down, and put my head down on my pillow, where he had laid his head.
I know he wasn't on my bed long enough to leave a scent, but I could smell him... Azuma... I hugged my pillow and took in all the scent I could get. I felt so good. Slowly, I fell asleep on top of my covers, lulled by images of my love and his smile...
Thank you for reading!
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