"Kuronuma…!" Kazehaya called out in his familiarly playful tone, scooting over so he was right next to her. He wrapped an arm around her, thankful that they could finally be so close to her and not have to be hesitant or awkward about things. It was like he finally reached her.
She raised a brow, tilting her head to look him in the eye. "Hmm?"
"We've been dating each other for a while now, but we've never been on a date… A real date, that is." He got quiet, waiting for her response. What if she didn't want to? What if 'dates' weren't her sort of thing?
Her eyes widened in surprise as she jumped back slightly. "A-A-A date? Me and you? T-Together?" she stammered, caught off guard by the mention of such a topic. Her pale cheeks soon turned to a shade of bright pink.
"Yeah, I was talking about a date, just you and me… But it's okay if you don't want to, it was just an idea! I thought it would be a fun thing for us to do. But if you're not ready that's also okay!" he replied, tilting his head downwards to hide the blush that was on his face. 'Am I moving too fast? Is she comfortable with me asking her things like this?' he wondered.
"N-Not ready? No, that's not what I meant… Um, it's just… Are you sure that would be okay? I-I don't want to embarrass you…" she asked, eyes still locked on his. 'I would hate for his reputation to decline because of me… Even if he said he doesn't care about what people think of him, I still don't want him to be made fun of…' she thought to herself, clutching her chest, feeling the steady beat of heart in her chest.
All Kazehaya could think to do was laugh a little. The tense atmosphere vanished as he let out a faint chuckle, and soon Sawako let a small, barely noticeable smile appear on her face as well. "Embarrassed? How could I be embarrassed by you? Kuronuma, I love you."
Even though he'd said that to her so many times before, and she was sure he meant it, she still got butterflies in her stomach at those three words. "L-Love…" she whispered to herself, overwhelmed with happiness. "Kazehaya-kun, I love you, too. I would… be honored to go on a date with you."
"Really?" He grinned from ear to ear, enveloping her entirety in a gentle, yet secure, hug. "That's great! I'll come pick you up tomorrow night, okay?"
She nodded in response, beaming at him with a full and genuine smile. 'Her smile… It makes her look so… so beautiful.' he thought, as his lips soon curled into one as well.
'Will he think that this is too much? Should I find something else?' Sawako wondered, watching her reflection in the mirror. She had sewed the pale blue dress herself, adding in small details like the way it fitted her smaller frame, or the white ribbon fastened to the front of the outfit. She considered calling Chizu or Ayane over to help her, but decided against it. This was between herself and Kazehaya, after all.
Meanshile, Kazehaya sighed, rummaging through the clothes in his closet. Would Sawako really care about what he was wearing? No, of course she wouldn't, but that didn't mean he could dress sloppily. "I've never had to think so hard about what to wear before…" he mumbled, to himself, shaking his head. It seemed as though he was always experiencing new things, thanks to Sawako.
Finally deciding on a navy blue dress shirt and a pair of loosely fitting pants, he pulled on his sweater and biked to her house.
Knocking at the door softly, he waited. Was he too early? Was he late?
"H-H-He's here! What do I do?"
"He? It's a… A boy?!" her father exclaimed, eyes wide and full of shock. "You're going out… with a boy?" She blushed a bright pink and nodded in response, to her father's dismay. "Is he… your… b-boyfriend?"
"Yes… His name is Kazehaya Shota; he is in my homeroom class. H-He and I… are in love." she explained, embarrassed to tell her father this so suddenly.
"I have to meet him! I'll go answer the door!" He raced from the room, opening the front door eagerly. "I'm Sawako's father, you are?"
"Hello! I'm Kazehaya Shota; I'm here to pick up your daughter, w-we had plans tonight... Is she here?" Kazehaya tried to sound as polite as he could and held his hand out. 'Am I making a good impression…?' he wondered, glancing around the room.
'Hmm… he doesn't seem so bad,' Sawako's father thought, before shaking his hand. "Yes, she's ready. Sawako?" he called out, as she nervously shuffled into the room.
"K-Kazehaya! Meet my parents!" she stammered, taking him by the hand and pulling him into the house. "This is my father…" She gestured to her dad, who was still analyzing Kazehaya for flaws of any sort. "And my mother…" Her mom walked into the room with a smile, waving to Kazehaya happily.
"You two seem very nice. Thank you for taking such good care of Kuronuma." He smiled softly. 'It seems like they like me… Am I getting ahead of myself?'
"You're so sweet! Sawako sure knows what she's doing!" her mother exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear while the two high schoolers blushed. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go out and have fun!" She pushed the two out the door, winking at Sawako.
"Do you think she'll be okay?" her father asked, turning to his wife as he shut the door.
"Of course! We raised her, didn't we?" she nudges him gently, a teasing smile on her face.
"Would it be okay if I left my bike here? I'll need it to get home later." Kazehaya gestured to the bike, using his foot to pull out the kickstand.
"Of course! Leave it wherever you would like!" He seemed so at ease, while she was still nervous. But she didn't feel as though this nervousness was a bad thing, no, it was most definitely not a bad thing.
"Haha, okay then." He chained his bike to the fence, then turned back to Sawako. "Let's get going," He held out his hand to her, smiling warmly. 'Am I making her nervous?' Even a boy like Kazehaya had insecurities when it came to girls.
Her lips curled upwards slightly as she took his hand and clutched it tightly. This was the first time they had been alone together since he had asked her out on a date. ''Everybody's Kazehaya'… is finally all mine.' After a few minutes of walking, Sawako noticed something. "Um… Kazehaya-kun… Where are we going?"
"Hmm? Oh, I'm not sure!" He laughed, "We can go wherever you'd like!" His answer surprised her.
"Y-You don't know where we're going?" she asked, eyes wide.
"I was following you! But it's okay, we can stop here and decide where to go." He stopped walking, leaning against a wall of a building.
Since she never had any friends to go out with before this year, she wasn't exactly familiar with many of the restaurants in the area. Her family usually ate at home. "Um… I-I-I don't really…" The only real restaurant she'd ever been to with friends was Ryuu's ramen shop. "Oh. Sh-Should we just eat at Sanada-kun's restaurant?"
"Okay! If that's what you'd like!" He smiled and walked her there, never letting go of her hand along the way.
When they arrived, Ryuu's father gave them a warm greeting. "Shota! Good to see you! And you've brought a lady today." he teased. "Ryuu! Get over here and seat your friends!"
"Huh? Okay…" Ryuu walked over, showing little to no emotion as he took them to a table. "Shota… You took her here on a first date…? How… romantic." Despite his slightly sarcastic tone, he cracked a small smile at them, happy for his two friends.
After they had ordered and were waiting for their food, they spent a few uneasy moments in silence. They were, after all, just average teenagers. Awkward, nervous teenagers. "You… You look nice." Kazehaya finally said, turning his face away to hide his flushed cheeks.
"Th-Thank you…" she said softly, almost in a whisper, slinking back into her chair. "You look nice, too. Y-You always look nice."
"I do? Um, thanks…" he mumbled, nervousness slowly getting to him. "…Do you mind looking the other way for a bit? I really need to calm down…" He put his hand to his face, glancing back at Sawako.
"I-I-I'm s-s-s-sorry!" she exclaimed, looking away at once. She hid her eyes with her hands, practically shaking. 'Did I do anything to make him so nervous? Am I doing this wrong?' she asked herself, not daring to open her eyes.
"You're not at fault here, Kuronuma! I'm just nervous!" He folded his arms on the table and rested his head on them, breathing heavily. This was not exactly how he had expected their first date to go: in his best friend's ramen shop, both of them too nervous to speak a word to each other.
Ryuu chuckled a bit to himself as he watched from a corner, arms crossed loosely across his chest. 'They need to relax… and be themselves.' he thought to himself, shaking his head slightly as he walked off to another table.
A few moments later, when the two had finally settled down, they looked up at each other. "Maybe we should just… start over," Kazehaya suggested with a laugh. Instantly, Sawako felt calm. His laugh broke down the wall that they had built up between them.
"Okay…" she answered, smiling a bit. She noticed that she had been smiling more and more around Kazehaya. And she liked that.
"So… Kuronuma, how are you?" he asked her, reaching across the table and taking a hold of her hand gently.
"Um…" She paused for a moment, lost in her thoughts. 'I'm… so happy. You are all mine…' she thought, shutting her eyes and inhaling sharply before looking back at Kazehaya. "I'm happy. I'm overwhelmed with… happiness."
At her words, his gaze softened and he leaned forward a bit. "Me too. I'm happy." He grinned, squeezing her hand lightly. "I can't even remember the last time anyone's made me feel this happy," he thought out loud, eyes wandering around the room.
"R-Really? But you seem so happy all the time! How is being with me any different?" A genuinely confused look crossed her features, her brow furrowing as her cheeks turned to a darkening shade of red.
"Hmm… You ask good questions, Kuronuma." He laughed. "But I think I know the answer. I'm happiest with you because…" He let a bit of silence into the conversation while he straightened out the words in his head. "Because I'm in love with you!" he finally said, pulling her a bit closer to him.
Speechless, she felt heat rise to her face and her heart start to race. She smiled at him, the look in her eyes full of joy and gratitude. 'I wish I could find a single word to tell you everything I wanted to tell you, Kazehaya. To thank you and apologize and to… tell you that I love you. But there is no single word like this.'
"Ah-! It looks like the food's here!" Kazehaya grinned and let go of her hand, allowing Ryuu to set the bowls of food on the table. He smiled at them slightly as he went on his way to another table. Both bowls were steaming hot, full of homemade broth and noodles. "Looks good, doesn't it?"
"Yes…" She nodded. She ordered the miso—it was what she got when Chizu and Ayane had first taken here, and it brought back fond memories. The scent of the food was appetizing, and soon both her and Kazehaya were eating mouthfuls. "This place has such good food…"
"I know, right? I've been coming here since I was in junior high, when me and Ryuu first met. I was surprised his family owned a restaurant!" He took another bite of his food and swallowed it, letting out a sigh. "My first time here, me and Ryuu were 11 or 12, I think. He was just as quiet as he is now, back then," he chuckled.
'An 11 year-old Kazehaya-kun? I never got to see him when he was that young. I'm sure he was a very cute kid…' She sipped at the soup from the bowl. "I was surprised to see that Sanada-kun's family owned this restaurant, too. This is where I really met his family. His brother, his father, and him are all very different people. I can see the resemblance, though."
"Yeah, no matter how different I can still see the similarities in them," Kazehaya agreed. "Tohru's very outgoing, but Ryuu likes to keep to himself. And his father likes to joke around. Hey—Speaking of family, you look very much like your father!" He laughed.
"I-I get that a lot…" She nodded. "I think my father likes you. I-I'm not sure, but I don't think he would have let me out of the house if he didn't like you…"
"He does? That's great! I was trying to make a good impression." He took a few sips at the broth in his bowl, finishing the food. He let out a sigh and leaned back into his chair. "That was good. Do you want to go somewhere after this, or should I take you home?"
Sawako thought about it while she took the last bites of her ramen, then checked the clock on the wall. It was only 8 o' clock, surely they had enough time to go do something else for a while. "We can visit somewhere else, if you would like to. But where…?"
Kazehaya tapped his chin, thinking about it for a second or two, when Ryuu got to their table and took away both bowls. "Uh… Did you… enjoy your dinner?" Ryuu asked, trying to make somewhat decent conversation with his friends.
"It was great!" Kazehaya answered, while Sawako nodded in agreement.
Happy to hear that, he took their dishes and left for another table.
"Should we get going?" Kazehaya stood up, while he pulled on his sweater and held out his hand to Sawako. "It gets cold at night, make sure you put on your coat." he instructed, a bit of a protective tone in his voice.
She nodded and pushed her arms through the sleeves of her jacket, then took Kazehaya's hand. "Where do you want to go…?"
"Hmm… Maybe we could take a walk? The stars are out." He held the door open for her as they left the restaurant, leading her out onto the sidewalk by the hand.
"That sounds… nice." She smiled slightly, following his lead as they walked along the streets of Japan hand in hand.
They strolled around the streets aimlessly, eyes watching carefully the buildings and scenery surrounding them.
"Hey, look at that!" Kazehaya pointed to a convenience store at the corner of the street. He smiled, pulling her forward and stopping in front of it. "Do you remember this?"
"…?" She looked confused for a moment, thinking back to all the times she and Kazehaya had spent together outside of school. "Oh!" she exclaimed, realizing where this was. 'It was my first time at Ryuu's home, and at the end of the day it was time to part ways. Kazehaya walked in the same direction as me, saying he had to buy something at this convenience store. I asked him what he needed to buy, and it turned out he had nothing to buy. He… just wanted to stay with me.' The memory played back to her in her mind. "This is where we were walking, the first night I spent with you and my friends… You walked home with me."
"That's right," he nodded with a laugh. "I didn't want you to walk home alone, it could have been dangerous." He started walking along the path again, leaving the store behind. 'I also wanted to be with you longer… but I would never admit to that.'
After that, a period of silence entered the conversation, the only noise being the sound of their footsteps and the occasional car passing by. Once or twice, they'd look at each other and smile a bit, then turn their attention back to the streets.
Sawako glanced around, the area they were in was extremely familiar, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She had been here once before, but when was that? 'It wasn't on New Year's, or Christmas… It was before that…' She puzzled it out in her mind, and when she finally figured it out, she stopped in her tracks. "Kazehaya-kun!"
"Yeah?" He turned to her, tilting his head slightly.
"Th-This is where I took Arai-sensei's advice! He told me to grab you, and close my eyes for 5 seconds if I wanted to thank you for something!" she told him, the memory still fresh in her mind. When she had opened her eyes, his face was so close to hers, he was almost—
"…I was about to kiss you." he blurted out, still embarrassed by that memory. "I-I… didn't know what to think, and so I…" He quickly turned his face away without finishing the sentence. Hopefully it was dark enough outside that she wouldn't be able to see the blush on his cheeks.
"K-Kiss… me?!" She staggered backwards, caught off guard by what he'd said. "You… wanted to kiss me?"
By now, Kazehaya's face was a burning hot. "I… y-yeah, I did want to… kiss you…" he mumbled, facing the other direction. 'I was such an idiot…'
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She knew that he liked her, of course. That much was obvious. But did he really want to get that close to her? "K-Kazehaya-kun!" she stammered nervously, her pale white cheeks slowly darkening. 'I acted so afraid of him. He must have felt hurt.' "I-I-I'm sorry!"
"Sorry? For what?" he asked, trying to think of anything she had to apologize for.
"I must have given you the impression that I… was afraid of you." She spoke slowly. "But… I wasn't. I was never afraid of you. I just didn't know how to tell you how I truly felt about you. I'm sorry."
At this point, neither of them were facing each other. That is, until Kazehaya spun around, wrapping both arms around Sawako securely. "It's okay…" He smiled. "It's okay."
They walked on into the night, the hour approaching 9 o' clock. It still wasn't that late yet.
Passing by a café, Kazehaya turned to her. "Want some tea? This place is really good." When she nodded, he took her inside, ordering two hot cups of tea for both of them.
With their cups in hand, they went back outside, sipping at the steaming drinks. "Thank you…" Sawako said in a soft voice.
"Haha, it's my right as your boyfriend to do these things for you, remember?" He nudged her arm with his elbow gently.
'Boyfriend… He's my boyfriend.' At this thought, she smiled back at him and they continued along their way.
Her house was just around the corner. The night was over already?
Kazehaya took the chain off of his bike, pulling it away from the fence it was on. "So… I guess that's it?" He smiled at her, but he was obviously sad to have to leave. She nodded, and he turned away, ready to get back onto his bike, when—
He jumped slightly when he felt something, startled by her hand on the back of his jacket. She was holding onto it loosely in her hand, just standing there. Her eyes were closed and her hair was blowing in the wind.
Somewhat hesitantly, Kazehaya looked over his shoulder at her. She was waiting for something. For him.
He smiled down at her. She looked so beautiful like that- standing totally still, the wind tugging at her long locks of hair.
He motioned forward slightly, his eyes taking in the sight of her face from this close.
He took a deep breath, moving closer to her slowly, their faces only an inch away from each other.
Sawako's eyes shot open, but she didn't jump back and neither did he. Instead, they both leaned in, their lips meeting gently. With that, both of them stood there, frozen in time for just that instant.
'I've finally reached you.'
"SAWAKO!" her father yelled as soon as she had set foot into the house. "Y-YOU... JUST... KISSED THAT BOY!"
At these words, she blushed a dark red and her eyes widened. "…I-I-I-I u-u-um, I c-can explain…"
"How long have you known him?! What is he like?! Oh, I wish I could have met him first. He seemed like a good kid, but you can never be sure…" He paused. "You just had your first kiss. YOU'RE SIXTEEN!" He grabbed her by the shoulders frantically, before Sawako's mother stepped in.
"Congrats, Sawako! Your first kiss!" She grinned and hugged her daughter gently, then sent her up to her room to spare her of her father's rambling.
"M-My little Sawako… has kissed a boy… Her… boyfriend."Sawako's father could be heard all throughout the house that night. "K-Kissed… A boy… She kissed him… and I saw it…"