Yes, another one shot for no reason whatsoever. :)
Neji is depicted as an introverted awkward child.
I don't own Naruto.
Neji had seen the girl with the saltine crackers many times. She must have bought into the idea that eating the salty snacks before an exam would boost her mind. He, on the other hand, dismissed it as a silly myth.
It always seemed like she was taking the same exams as he was, on the same day, at the same place. And they were constantly in the same room, next to each other, besides each other, in front or in back, diagonal, and occasionally, separated by two seats. Not that he minded it—she had become such a familiar face that it was like he actually had a companion in the boring testing center.
Well, she would be a companion if a single word passed between them.
For all the times that he saw her, he never said a thing to her.
The girl with the crackers remained a familiar stranger.
He sure knew that she existed. But whether or not she knew he existed was another matter entirely.
But it would be okay if she didn't know him.
It really wasn't a big deal.
He surely didn't care.
It was absolutely fine with him if after each test, they parted ways without ever greeting each other.
Neji sighed and rubbed his temples.
He was only lying to himself.
If she didn't step up, he would.
There were moments when he wondered if she was even semi-intelligent. She got lost during break once when trying to find the bathroom. Another time, she brought her mother's ID instead of her own. And she would always ask the same question before the exam started:
"So I'm not allowed to use anything other than 2B pencils? Not even if it's mechanical and the lead is the exact same?"
And she was always treated with the same answer. "Yes. That is correct."
And she would huff and resign, and pull out the pencils she had prepared just in case, stuffing one last cracker in her mouth.
The testing would begin.
It would end.
And still, they would remain strangers.
But not this time, Neji swore. He would ask her. He would casually talk to her like all the other teenage boys did. And she would smile, and introduce herself. And then he would do the same, and they would finally be in contact.
He entered the classroom. She was the only one there. Neji pushed down his anxiety and took out his things, pretending to study for a moment. Her saltines were already out and ready: a larger pack this time, filled with one hundred.
His courage failed him and he turned back to his calculator. Perhaps later. After the first half was done. Then there would be adequate room for discussion of problems. Yes, that was the way to do it.
The first part of the test ended and the test-takers filed out for break. The girl did too, bringing her pack of crackers with her. How she managed to eat so many without drinking water was unfathomable.
Neji cleared his throat, feeling his confidence wavering. But today was the day.
"I see you always have that as a snack."
She looked at him.
Neji mentally slapped himself. No, no…he was supposed to ask about the test first.
"I do. They taste really good."
Now here was room for improvement.
"Really? May I have one?"
Oh, maybe that was a little too forward.
She was looking at him.
He tried not to let his gaze waver.
Her eyes were really large…
She stared at Neji for a second longer, and then laughed in his face—a loud, bright sound, like she was making fun of him. Startled, he took a step back. The girl proceeded to turn on her heels and sprint down the hallway, taking her crackers with her, leaving him behind in the dust.
His mouth was parted in astonishment.
Was he…did he just get rejected?
Well, that was sure to damper his performance on the second half.
Sulking at his failure, Neji refused to talk for the remainder of the test. The girl did come back, but he didn't want to make eye contact with her.
The test ended without another word.
She killed off his attempt at a conversation with no remorse whatsoever.
So there was no point in trying anymore.
The next time he saw her was before finals. Like always, the crackers were with her. They met in the classroom, as both were constantly early for the exams. She looked at him, but he turned away.
She wouldn't want to speak to him anyways.
He sat down, the metal seat feeling colder than usual, letting a frown find its way onto his features. Well, it wasn't his fault, he tried to convince himself. He had put in the necessary effort, and she…
Neji took a deep breath.
…She didn't want to associate with him.
Which was fine.
He took out his pencils and books and started to do some last minute cramming.
Someone cleared her throat behind him.
He paid it no attention.
It came again, louder this time. "Aghrmff."
He ignored it once more.
Finally, it turned into a full blown cough-fest, full of throat-tearing hacking and retching.
Was she sick?
He tried not to be worried, and said in a cold voice: "You should get some water or something."
"So you finally talked again!" she said, smiling.
She wasn't sick.
He let his face stay rigid, though he was panicking slightly. Why was she making contact with him? Didn't he totally screw up the first meeting? What was he supposed to do?
Neji was so busy thinking that his mouth just opened and stayed that way.
Nothing came out.
She took that as a sign to continue, and reached into her bag and pulled out a package of blue and white plastic. "Um, so we've seen each other a lot," she began, ripping the bag open. "And you know, last time you asked if you could have a cracker. But I didn't want to contaminate you with my germs or anything, so I got you a pack too."
She glanced up at him, like she was waiting for a response.
She had noticed him.
And she didn't loathe him.
She laughed and held up the package, wiggling it in the air teasingly. "I hope you haven't changed your mind…you haven't said much."
"I…I uh," Neji took a breath. "Yeah, I'd really like some. Thanks for the uh…crackers."
She slipped the bag into his hands, and he took out the first snack. She gazed at him intently, like she was waiting for his response. Aware that she was watching, Neji took a bite.
The crisp wafer melted in his mouth, salt dancing on his tongue, making him so very thirsty, but also craving more. He stuck his hand in the bag again after he was finished, swallowing wholeheartedly. "That was really…tasty," he managed to say, actually quite surprised.
He took out another one and began nibbling on that too, careful not to get crumbs on his pants.
"They are pretty good, right?" she mumbled, taking out her own crackers. "I eat them all the time. I know they might be bad for you in the long run, but I just can't help myself." She stuffed a saltine in her mouth, munching happily. "So, what brings you to the testing center? I mean, my parents are just sticklers for grades, so I'm forced to take these dumb tests all the time."
The girl was initiating a conversation.
He needed to respond in a way that wouldn't make him look like an idiot.
"I take these tests so I can see y—see my scores improve."
What a blatant white lie.
"I am not. I just wish to get into a good school. Grades are important."
"There is no 'buts' to the truth of that statement."
"Well, actually, I beg to differ."
They talked until it was time to begin the exam. And then they talked during break. And then they talked when it was time to leave, all the while snacking on saltines when they had the time.
It was finally time to part, and Neji had never felt so upset at leaving a conversation.
"Well, I'll see you later then," she said, waving goodbye.
"Yes, I'll see you soon," he said quietly.
She was already out the door when he realized he needed to ask her something important and rushed after her, yelling for the first time he had in years.
"What's your name?"
She turned around and yelled back, her bag of saltines dangling at her side. "I'm Tenten! And you?"
Tenten. That was a nice name.
"I'm Neji," he called back.
"That's a nice name!"
And then his mother pulled up in her car, and their talk was rudely interrupted. He would have to wait weeks, maybe months, before seeing her again.
And they had barely gotten to know each other.
When Neji got home, he took out the saltines, examining the packaging in hopes he would find out where she bought them. He had forgotten to ask, but knowing her name seemed more important at the time.
Then something caught his eye—near the barcode, written in black ink, was a phone number and a message.
Let's stay in contact!
That night, with wavering hands, he typed out his first message, punching in the numbers and rechecking over and over again to make sure he hadn't entered anything incorrectly. How was he to write a message to her? What could he say?
A flash of inspiration struck him, and he texted out a wavering two sentences.
Hello, this is Neji. I'll bring the drinks next time.
She responded quicker than he had imagined, her reply filled with happy emoticons that he wasn't too surprised about.
I'm looking forward to it!
And so their second conversation began.
When Neji crawled into bed past midnight, he only thought one thing.
Life had never been so perfect.
AWWW aren't they cute?
LOL I'm loving this...I really wanted "Saltines" as a title of some sort, then this popped up. It was perfect. :)
R&R for the fluff :D