"It was spring…" Haruka's voice softened, slipping into the rhythm of the story. "There was no swim club practice that day, and you had stayed behind for class duties, so I walked home alone. I didn't have my scarf, because I'd forgotten to take out of my locker after last period. I turned back to get it... it was stupid to go back, but it wasn't like I had any other plans for tonight. I thought that maybe I could meet up with you this way, anyway, and we could pick up some dinner on the way home.
I went inside the school and back up the stairs towards the classroom. It's funny what you remember, but I could hear sneakers squeaking, and the same few bars of music being repeated over and over by some band. It was annoying.
Then, I was standing in front of the classroom, and I went to open it but heard a voice and… I froze. I didn't want to walk in on anything awkward.
'This is such a cliché… I mean, the after school confession, right?'" Haruka imitated a higher-pitched girl's voice rather poorly, making Makoto smile. "I didn't recognize her voice but I kept listening… probably I shouldn't have.
'Hey, Marin-chan,' you said to her." This time, Haruka's voice lowered absurdly and Makoto snorted.
"I don't sound like that." He protested.
"Yeah, you do. Anyway. I could picture you two in the classroom - it really was sort of a cliché. You and Marin-chan, the student council vice president. I remembered here for her dolphin mascot, do you remember that..? She was nice enough, I guess.
'Don't apologize,' you said. I… I could always tell what you meant, Makoto, you weren't the only one who could do that… and I knew that that tone meant love. But I couldn't interrupt then, and I knew I shouldn't keep listening, but I did anyway." He flushed a little. "And you said… 'I'm really honoured, so you shouldn't feel bad. But I … already like someone else.'" Makoto started horribly, but Haruka continued in the same soft voice.
"'Oh…' she said. She sounded really sad, I remember that. "'Can I ask who? If – if that's not too presumptuous…' But I could tell that you were smiling, not to be cruel, just that little smile of yours.
'It's a secret.'"
"But if you heard that, then why did you leave?" Makoto asked. There was a funny, rumbling feeling in his heart, like it was being shaken. Maybe it had been shaking for years and he'd finally noticed. Trying to reconcile this Haruka, who'd heard the conversation in its entirety, with his mind's Haruka who heard only the most damning, was impossible. His hands shook in beat with his heart.
"Let me finish my story," Haruka said implacably, and Makoto pressed his hands between his knees.
"The next one... I'm a little ashamed of. I'd made you lunch one day, and we were talking about it. You thanked me, and I said it was no problem, but… truthfully, this happened just a couple of days after I'd overheard you and that girl in the classroom. Ever since then, I'd been feeling… down. It was as though, with life opening up in front of you two, for me, it was shutting down. You were both preparing to go to university… Makoto, I hadn't even applied." His voice was very quiet. "I had no idea what I was going to do, what I even wanted to do, and you were all moving on…
So I made you lunch that day." He shrugged. "I don't know. I wanted to show you that I needed you to stay with me. And when you understood, I backed off again." A sigh. Makoto's chest tightened, and he wiped sweaty palms on his pants legs. "But I… was going to talk to you about it, that day. I'd gathered up my nerves. I even started to say something, but we were interrupted." Makoto's own memory supplied the interruption.
"Hey so…" Haruka said, obviously hesitant, and Makoto looked at him, deciphering the flicker of emotions playing across his face as nervousness.
"Yeah?" He asked.
Before Haruka could reply, they were interrupted by a commotion as Nagisa, who had finished his lunch, started rummaging through Rei's backpack.
"I remember that." Makoto said. His mouth was dry. "What were you going to say, back then?"
"'Hey, so,'" Haruka quoted himself. "'Have you settled on a college yet? I was thinking we could be roommates.'
"But when you asked again, it was too hard to say. Because… the thought of being without you, of you being with others, was… it hurt. But I knew that that was wrong, I knew it wasn't right to hold onto one person so tightly, it couldn't be right to want to..." But he trailed off, face tight. "You're made for other people, Makoto, you're the friendliest, kindest person imaginable. And I didn't want to limit you, or impede you, or whatever. And if you felt differently… well, I thought you would say something. You always knew what I really meant. So I didn't force the issue.
And I didn't think you meant me, anyway." Haruka sighed. He still looked at the stars. "The scarf thing, I mean. I thought… I didn't want to…"
"How could you think I meant anyone else?" Makoto replied, voice hoarse. Unthinking, he grabbed at Haruka's hand, pressing it tightly between his own. It was smaller than his and cold. Haruka, startled, tore his gaze from the sky and focused at Makoto, blue eyes shining with emotion. "Who did you think..?"
Haruka shrugged. "Honestly? Kou."
"Kou? But, wait a second – you – you – did you really think that way about me?"
"…yeah." Haruka said. He looked into the distance past Makoto, eyes bright.
"Then…" He swallowed. This was too much, too much. He pushed the overwhelmedness away, fought it back from every centimetre of his mind and face. "Then… why didn't you say anything?"
Haruka was silent for a very long time.
"I told you the truth, that I didn't want to hold you back. You were really happy to be going to university. You and Kou, you would have, still would, make a good couple. And you didn't," Haruka closed his eyes and breathed in quietly. "…you never needed me, like I needed you."
That was untrue, so untrue, and Makoto released a deep breath, trying to be rational about this. He grasped for something he could wrap his head around. "The story's wrong. The lunch was before the scarf incident. I'm sure of it."
Haruka shrugged indifferently, but the clamminess in his hand told Makoto a different story. "I don't think so. Can I finish the story?"
There was so much Makoto had to say that it jammed up in his throat and he could only nod.
"This is the last one. It was the end of term, of their last term, and everyone was busy preparing for university – well, except for me, I guess. You and I hadn't really spoken in days.
The swim club was closed for the year so every day I just went to school and returned home. It was a little lonely but also sort of peaceful. I'd taken to texting Rin, who was just as busy as everyone else but it didn't bother me as much as – other people. Perhaps because Rin had always been more arms-length than you, so it was easier to imagine him leaving Iwatobi again.
Anyway, one of those days, Rin texts me. I'm paraphrasing, but basically: Come and swim, you're depressing me. I know you're just going to go home and spend the afternoon in the tub and it's weird.
I didn't need any more prompting, and I left pretty much right away. Rin was waiting for me and we went in. When I went to dump my stuff in the locker room, you texted me. 'Where are you? I'm a little worried about you.'" He used the same gravelly voice for text-Makoto as real-Makoto. But I wanted to swim, and – it was difficult to think about you. So I just sent the word 'Samezuka' back. And that night, Rin asked if I'd go to Fukuoka with him.