These days, I dread coming to school. It's not like I'm a loser or anything, I have plenty of people to hang out with. I'm in a band with three other guys, Akira, Yutaka, and Takashi, so I spend a lot of my time practicing. I play bass and acoustic and I'd say I'm excellent. (Ok, I'm not really that self centered) When most people look at me, they think my life must be pretty good, like I've got it easy. It's not true though. Sometimes I feel like I have no identity, like my whole life and the way I act are just one big lie.
I only have one really close friend, Yagami Taichi. He's kind of goofy, with fluffy brown hair sticking up in every direction, and his uniform jacket is always unironed and unbuttoned. He's the only one I can really talk to at school though. We have kind of a mutual understanding, like we're soul mates or something. Tai is my best friend, but even around him, I don't always show my true feelings. My exterior hides what's going on inside me. Everyone figures I'm fine, that's how I act. Tai knows it's not true though, but even so, he doesn't know everything. I want him to, but I sometimes forget who I really am, so I never get a chance to tell him everything. I get side tracked.
The whole school is trained to move at the sound of a bell, it's pathetic. I decide I'm not going to my next class, I don't even care what it is. I sit in the corner of the music room, tuning my guitar. Just when I think I can shop the charade and be alone, I see her. She knows where to find me. I try my best to avoid her but not make it seem like I'm avoiding her, but it doesn't work. Everywhere I go, she manages to show up. She's like a boomerang that keeps coming back.
So there she is, standing in the doorway smiling at me. It's my girlfriend, Takenouchi Sora. Her name means sky, you think with a name like that I'd feel free around her, but I feel trapped.
The thing is, I'm not quite sure what I hate about her so much. She's so nice, we've been friends for years. In fact, she's one of the sweetest, most caring girls I've ever met. I think that's what drew me in, but now I'm stuck here. I can't tell her to go away, I'd feel way too guilty. There's that putting a show on thing again...I always end up acting how people expect me to.
"Hi Matt," she says, and sits down next to me. "Practicing hard?"
"Yeah," I smile, but I'm really wishing I could just jump out the open window across the room.
"Don't you have a class this period, Matt?" she asks me.
"Don't you?" I think, "or are you too busy following me..."
"Yeah, I better get going." I put my guitar back in the case and prop it up in the corner where I keep it during school. "See you later," I wave at her a bit and walk out of the room, trying not too seem too anxious. I've been so jumpy lately. It seems like the time between classes is a prison break and I'm trying to avoid getting caught. Nobody should have to go through that nine times a day. I have to go into stealth mode every time I leave the safety of a classroom.
I hurry down the hall, hoping she hasn't decided to follow me. I'm not really going to my next class. I head down to the basement, it's the last place I can think of where no one will find me. The sound of my brown shoes hitting the painted concrete stairs is the only sound I can hear, The footfalls echo in the stairwell. I think I'm alone, but I then I see someone coming up the stairs. I'm startled a moment, thinking she found me, but then I'm relieved.
I'm greeted by the sight of Taichi, I haven't seen him yet today, and his presence puts me at ease. He's the vanilla to go with my Rocky Road. I bet we would taste good together.
"Hey Matt, what are you doing here?"
"Just trying to get away for a while. What about you?" I step down a few more stairs so we're both on the landing.
"I was putting some soccer balls away in the storage room downstairs. Are you supposed to be down here?"
"Of course I'm not supposed to be down here," I think. That's the one thing about Tai, he's a little slow.
"I just don't feel like dealing with anybody right now," I say, and stick my hands in my pockets. I always seem to have my hands in my pockets. Izzy once told me it's a sign of insecurity. Izumi Koushiro, Izzy, is the brain in our group of friends. I'm pretty sure that kid is either going to grow up to be some kind of Quantum Physicist or working at Office Max by day and programming the next big computer program by night.
"So you're skipping class?" Tai asks me.
"Yeah, wanna join me?" I clench my teeth a little and wait for him to answer. I really don't want him to say no. Right now I want to be alone but still have someone to talk to. Tai is really the only one I can do that with. We're a lot closer than most people realize.
"Sure Matt, I have study hall now anyway."
I smile so my teeth are showing. We then make our way downstairs into the basement and sit down on some crates after putting our bookbags on the floor.
We sit down and talk for a while about random things, and then Tai asks me,
"What's bugging you, Matt?"
I look up at him for a second, a bit surprised. I sigh and instead I ask him,
"Tai, do you still like Sora?"
He looks at me, a bit puzzled. "Who said I ever liked Sora?"
"Well, just the way you act. And Sora mentioned something that happened outside my concert last Christmas."
"Oh yeah..." he looks down at the floor an kind of twists his lip to the side. He seems to be remembering.
Last year, my band and I had this huge concert right before Christmas. Sora had baked me these cookies and was going backstage to see me. Tai confronted her outside and asked her to join him. He seemed to really be ready to express his feelings but she just left him standing out there. I'm drawing all this from what Sora told me, and the way Tai acted after that night.
That's when Sora and I became a couple. There was just something about her, I felt obligated to be her boyfriend. I don't understand what made me feel that way. It's weird, at first I really did like Sora, but now I just want to get away from her.
"So do you like her or not?" I ask again.
"It doesn't matter, I know how you feel about her, Matt."
"What!?" I can't believe he actually thinks that. Of course, I've always avoided this subject before. "You have no idea how I feel, Tai."
He looks back up at me. "What are you talking about?"
"I can't stand Sora anymore."
Now he appears really surprised. He tips his head a little like an interested puppy and raises an eyebrow.
"But I thought you guys were so happy together."
"Not really," I groan and run my hand through my blonde hair. "It's just, I hate the way she follows me around and clings to me. I feel like I'm trapped in a cage and she's poking at me through the bars or something. I wish she would just go away, or I could go away."
"Matt," Tai places his hand on my leg. What is he doing? I feel myself starting to blush a little, although I don't know why this seems like such a big deal to me. Does he even realize how...not right a gesture like this is?
"Why don't you break up with her?" he continues.
"I don't know! There's just something stopping me, I don't get it, Tai. I walk though the halls like a criminal, ducking behind people trying to avoid here. But I just can't bring myself to be mean to her."
"Matt, you're always letting people just walk all over you and then act like it's no big deal. If you don't like Sora, just tell her, I know you're capable of showing your feelings in a big way."
I smile a bit, remembering the few times I've simply punched Tai in the face to get my point across. I seem to have these mood swings. Most of the time I'm really reserved, but sometimes something just provokes me and I get really violent.
I glance down and realize Tai's hand is still resting on my leg. I don't think he even notices what he's doing but it's making me really hot. Wait... what!? What am I saying? Ok, now I'm feeling really uncomfortable.
"Tai, why are you groping my leg?" No...that's not what I wanted to say.... Freaking Baka!
Tai jumps and yanks his hand away. I don't think he even knew it was there. He doesn't seem to know what to say, and looks really embarrassed. His tan face is turning very red.
"Sorry," is all he manages to say. It is a very awkward moment, but it eventually passes. We spend the rest of the day in the basement, talking about whatever comes to mind.
It's now Saturday, and I'm going to the mall with her. I slip on a brown turtleneck and grey pants. I've been told the way I dress I feminine, but I've never thought of my clothes that way. What's feminine about silk shirts and tight maroon pants?
Sora is always complimenting me. I should be flattered but I can't stand it. I hate always hearing how beautiful my eyes are or how nice my hair is. It just makes me sick. Maybe it's just because it's coming from her...
Sora arrives at my apartment, 202, right on time. I go with her downstairs and we walk to the mall. I don't have my license yet and I'm not sure I want it anymore. If I had a car it would just give Sora another excuse to be alone with me, driving her everywhere.
I cringe at her touch, but I force myself to put my arm around her shoulder anyway. Why am I putting myself through this? What if I end up stuck with her for the rest of my life?
We're walking through the mall, stopping in all kinds of girly stores. Each step with her is like Chinese water torture. Then a savior arrives when I see Tai and Izzy at the Video Gamer's Guild.
"Hey Tai!" I call.
We walk up to Tai and Izzy and I kick Tai's skinny little butt in Mario Kart Super Circuit. I was starting to enjoy myself, when Sora drags all of us into another women's clothing store. She goes into the changing room after picking out some clothes. Izzy seems to be eyeing the lingerie section with great interest, so this gives me a chance to talk to Tai.
"She's going to come out any second asking me how she looks," I groan.
"I thought you were going to break up with her," Tai whispers.
"I want to, but I just can't. Agh... I can't stand the way she's always hanging all over me and acting like such a girl."
"She is a girl you idiot."
I glare at Tai and then sigh. "I don't know what to do."
"It'll be ok, Yama."
"What?" It takes me a second to figure out what he said. What the heck did he call me that for? I'm shocked, but for some reason, I actually kind of liked it. I wonder if these means I'm....
My thoughts are interrupted by Sora opening the door of the changing room and stepping out in a pale blue blouse with short sleeves and tight, faded jeans.
"How do I look, Matt?"
"You look great," I smile. She grins at me and steps back into the room.
That's another thing I hate, she uses my name in almost every sentence. Why does she have to say my name with everything she says?
Now I remember Tai standing next to me. He seems to be looking down at his feet and I notice a hint of red in his cheeks.
"Hey Tai, are you blushing?" I ask. He looks up and his blushing intensifies.
"No," he says softly.
"Liar," I say, and nudge him in the arm. "What's up?"
"Nothing..." Why is he denying the fact that he's blushing? What's wrong with him lately?
"Hey, can Izzy and I eat lunch with you whenever you're ready?" he asks me. I think he's trying to change the subject.
"Of course," I answer. I actually don't want to be left alone with Sora. I'm happy to have Tai around. Then I realize I've actually been looking forward to seeing Tai lately. I go looking for him in the hallways at school, and use every spare moment I have talking to him. Wait...every spare moment? I really have been spending every spare moment with Tai. It seems the more I grow to loath Sora, the more I love Tai. Oh man, love!? What am I thinking, now I'm starting to get really confused.
I shove my hands in my pockets and look down at the floor. Now I'm the one blushing like crazy. This can't be happening, am I in love with another guy? Is that why I hate having Sora for a girlfriend so much, because I'm gay!?
I bite my bottom lip and I'm pretty sure my eyes are open extremely wide right now. Then a voice interrupts my thoughts.
"Hey, Matt, we're ready to go."
I look up and see that Sora is standing in front of me, smiling. She has two bags full of new clothes, one in each hand. I take them from her without even thinking, I guess it must be some kind of nice guy instinct.
We're walking towards the food court (Sora is hanging on my arm, making it even more difficult to carry her stupid bags) when Tai announces,
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Me too!" I say, what a perfect excuse to get away from Sora. I dump the bags on Izzy and race after Tai into the bathroom.
"What was that all about?" I hear Izzy groan as I hurry away.
When I get there, Tai is already at the sink washing his hands (that was sure fast). He looks up when I enter.
Suddenly I feel a knot form in my stomach. I start getting goose bumps all over my body. I wonder, should I talk to him about what I'm feeling? Maybe I shouldn't, because I'm not even sure if what I think is really happening.
Part of me wants to believe he'll understand, but then part of me starts worrying he'll freak out and never want to speak to me again.
"Is something wrong, Matt?"
I take a deep breath and decide it's now or never.
"Tai, I... uh..." I'm trying to get the words out, but I'm having a heck of a time saying anything. "Do you promise not to, you know, hate me if I tell you something?"
He's starting to look a bit confused, of course, it's not that hard to confuse Tai.
"Say something like what?"
"Just promise you won't flip out or whatever."
"Yeah sure, I promise."
Good...now that that's out of the way. "Tai, I think maybe the reason I don't like Sora is...well," I can't believe how hard this is, I don't think I've ever had this much trouble telling someone something in my whole life.
I'm so preoccupied trying to calm myself, that I don't even realize how anxious Tai is becoming.
I take another deep breath. "Tai, I think I might be-"
"Matt, I'm in love with you." he blurts out suddenly.
I stop short, did that just happen or did I imagine it? I look up and realize Tai is standing there crying and sniffling.
"I'm sorry..." he whispers, his eyes fixed on his shoes.
For a moment, I have no idea what to do. I can't decide if I feel the same way, I can't decide what to do, I can't really decide anything. Then, of course, I end up doing the stupidest thing possible.
"Heh, real funny, Tai." Yes, I know that's the most heartless thing I could have said. I'm well aware now, that he wasn't kidding when he said that.
Tai just stares at me for a second. His tears have stopped, but I can still see where they were streaming down his face. Then he surprises me even more.
"Yeah, I had you fooled there, didn't I?" He smiles a very forced smile. What is he trying to pull? I know he's lying, and I feel kind of hurt that he would joke about that. Then I realize, he must be just as scared as I am. But wait...what if he really was kidding? Now I'm so unsure of myself again. Do I love Tai or not!? But, he couldn't have been kidding...the way he had his hand on my leg, and when he called me Yama. This is getting more and more confusing, I can barely think.
So, as usual, since I can't figure something out I'll just avoid it as long as possible. I hate my reasoning sometimes.
"Izzy and Sora are probably waiting for us," I say.
"But I thought you had to go to the bathroom," Tai replies.
Great, now what? "Er, yeah, I'll be out in a minute," I answer. I go over to the urinal and pretend to go as Tai leaves.
"What am I going to do now?" I say quietly to myself.
The next day is Sunday, the supposed day of rest, but you-know-who has decided to drag me on a stupid walk in the park. How revolting, I'm going to have to spend all day alone with her.
At about noon, we've just had lunch from a traveling food cart and are sitting on a bench. Sora is chattering on about some dumb girly thing like make-up or something, and I'm pretending to listen. I've actually just been staring at this one squirrel climbing around in a tree for the last 15 minutes.
Then I notice something besides the squirrel, Tai is over there playing soccer with Davis and a few other guys. Finally, a chance to get away.
"Hey Sora, do you want to go play soccer?" I really hope she'll buy this, but the only problem is everyone knows I'm terrible at any form of sports. Getting insulted for running like a girl is bad enough without all the tripping and falling. People think I would be graceful, being trained in the martial arts, but when it comes to team sports like soccer or basketball, I just make a fool of myself.
Lucky for me though, Sora loves soccer. "Sure! Are Tai and the others over there?" She says, apparently just noticing the soccer game going on in the field next to us.
I nod, but she's already heading over to play. This is the best luck I've had since our math teacher lost everyone's tests (which I know I failed) and gave us all A's.
I walk over and sit down in the grass next to the soccer field. Sora is playing now, and Tai glances over and waves at me. I smile and wave back. He sure is pretty. Wait...WHAT!? I can't believe I just thought that Tai was attractive. Well...I guess this means I really do like him. This is so strange, I'm in love with another boy, and for some reason, it doesn't even feel wrong.
There's only one problem, now that I know I love Tai, how do I tell him? And what if it turns out he doesn't like me back after all...
Suddenly something smacks me in the face, hard, and I fall backwards. I realize I had been staring up into the sky, thinking, and the soccer ball has just hit me square in the face. Man, that really hurt. I hold my hand up to my face and realize my nose is bleeding badly.
I look up and see a few people standing over me.
"Matt! Are you ok?" Sora says, kneeling down next to me.
"Hey, Matt," now Tai is kneeling down. I'm much happier to see him than Sora...
"I'm really sorry, are you gonna be ok?" He says. I guess Tai must have been the one who kicked the ball. I feel him place his hand on my shoulder.
"I think so," I answer.
"Oh, Matt you're bleeding all over!" Sora says. No kidding, dumb girl.
"Come on," Tai says to me, "there's a park bathroom over there, I'll help you get cleaned up."
Maybe getting hit in the face with a soccer ball wasn't so bad after all. Now I get to be alone with Tai.
He helps me up and we go into the bathroom together. I lean over the sink and start washing the blood off my face.
"I hope your nose isn't broken," Tai says, leaning against the wall next to the sinks.
"What!?" I hope my nose isn't broken too, how could I go to school if I end up with two black eyes and a swollen nose!? I finish rinsing my face off and stand straight up again.
"Why did you kick the ball at my face anyway, Tai!?" I know that was uncalled for...but sometimes those mood swings get the best of me.
"It was an accident..." He says softly. That's weird, he usually gets mad at me and starts yelling back. I try to figure out what the expression he has on his face means.
"Tai, what's wrong?" He seems really upset. Does he really feel that terrible about hitting me in the face?
"I really should get home..." he says out of no where.
"But you were just playing soccer," I reply.
"Yeah well, I'm not anymore. See you tomorrow."
He's about to walk out and leave me here with Sora. Ok...it looks like it's now or never. I can't screw up like last time.
"Tai, there's something I have to tell you."
He's almost out the door, but turns back to me.
"Er..." Great, what happened to all that confidence I just had? Maybe this is just a phase, maybe I don't love him. What am I supposed to do? I need to say something...I need to stop doubting myself. I do love Tai. I have to tell him or I might never be able to do it again.
"Tai..." don't stop now, "TaiIthinkI'minlovewithyou," I say, without taking a single breath in between words.
He looks at me for a few minutes without saying a word, but finally answers,