Wow. Alright. I haven't posted any of this since last year. But for my first semester of university, I took a creative writing course with my goal being to finish talking to bugs, and since end of term is next week ... it's done!
There are 17 chapters in total, but I don't want to post all of them up right now or people would tl;dr, so I'm going to post 14 and 15 tomorrow, and then 16 and 17 the day after. :'D Hopefully no one minds the spam!
If you can actually remember what happened in the last chapter, internet cookies to you, but for the majority of you who don't, here are the links to the previous chapters:
chaptera three & four
chaptera five & six
Here we go!
Nervous habits are actually sort of funny, or at least, I think them to be. Even more funny than nervous habits are realizing you have one, despite year after year of living with yourself, and never noticing. Today, as you may have already guessed, was a funny sort of day, as I rocked back and forth all too furiously; my body ticking, tocking, back and forth like a clock on stimulants. Second in humor to nervous habits are things that occur to you completely randomly while nervous; I dare you to try and imagine without laughing my pitiful, stick thin frame rocking to and fro, jittering every few seconds with body racking hiccups.
So, shaking as I was, I stood in Ai’s doorway for a second time that weekend, despite the homework that lay untouched on my desk at home. I slid my hands down the leg my pants, which looked like I was trying to smooth out wrinkles but was actually mostly because my palms were cold and sweaty. Being so nerve wracked was silly, I tried to tell myself; what was the big deal about being Ai’s boyfriend for a day? It wasn’t like anything could possibly go horrifically wrong, right?
I chose not to answer that question, simply because I was worried for my own health. I walked towards her door after another moment’s contemplation, hoping that none of her neighbors had seen how long I’d stood here for, and tapped against the door.
Much like the phone, I’d barely had even enough time to tap more than once before it swung open. Ai didn’t stand still for long; she stepped out of her home unnaturally quickly, standing stiffly by my side.
She looked up at me without turning her head, her eyes shifting up to capture mine.
“Mess up, and I’ll kill you”, she hissed. I swallowed, which gave a similar sensation to eating a sandpaper and glass sandwich, chasing it down with a tall mug of not-so-blended barbed wire.
“N-No problem” I choked.
“Ai! Darling, wait just a moment longer,” sung the melodic voice from up the stairs, “Let me fix my cravat and I’ll be with you in no time.”
She looked straight ahead, not appearing to be focusing on anything, and her expression was half desperate, half crazed.
“I can’t take this for much longer” she said quietly, in an almost monotone voice, “…he’s driving me insane.”
“Is he stealing your makeup?” I mused, grinning down at the blonde puffball, who’s arms hung limply at her sides.
She looked up at me again, this time looking less life threatening and a little more worn.
“Like you wouldn’t understand”, she groaned, “why he couldn’t bring his own eyeliner is beyond me, but I’m sick of him using mine.”
I’d actually intended my comment to be a joke, and I stared at her a few moments before I registered that she wasn’t kidding.
I reasoned that while in the process of gazing at her, it wouldn’t hurt to look for just another second longer; I admired her dress, a soft mint matched with gentle pastel pink highlights. The dress had patterns of fruits and treats around the bottom of it, with layers of frills and a trim of beautiful, flowery looking lace. It had little puffy sleeves, like usual, but she wore long white sleeves, gathered at the wrist with more soft ruffles. She even wore a soft green make up over her eyelids, shimmering gently in the sun. Despite the shining sky, it was actually quite chilly; I shivered slightly.
As if it wasn’t rude to keep people waiting at all, the gangly looking ex-boyfriend trailed down the stairs and to Ai’s side, placing her in the middle of us.
“Shall we?” he said, holding his hand out to her.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do, yes” Ai said curtly, and she turned on one heel, trotting down the pathway to her gate, ignoring the outstretched hand.
We walked towards the bus for a few moments in silence, until Ai cleared her throat loudly, startling me out of my mental checklist. Shortly there after, I felt a painful nudge in my ribs, and looked down to find Ai’s hand splayed open, twitching angrily.
Oh, right. Boyfriend, I repeated in my head. I took her hand, just like I’d done yesterday, and held it tightly. She was warmer than I was, but I reasoned that was because of the hundreds of layers she wore, and the minimal layers that I wore. I tried my best to look decent, however, wearing a tee-shirt under an open dress shirt and a pair of nice black jeans, with the black and white canvas sneakers instead of the usual beaten down running shoes I often wore. I looked lack luster, paired beside these two, but I didn’t feel too bad about it; truth be told, I looked less interesting than everyone most of the time anyways.
I tried to think of some sort of intelligent conversation to bring up, possibly to stop her ex-boyfriend from chattering on incessantly, but could think of nothing worth speaking about, other than how cold it was (since it was rude to discuss how annoying someone was when they were right there next to you). There was a pause in the conversation, before I felt the tall, dark gangly boy look over to me.
“I don’t believe I ever properly introduced myself to you, James”, he said poetically, his voice soft and almost girlish. “Did I ever even tell you my name?”
“Does it matter?” Ai huffed, cheeks puffed out. She gripped my hand harder in annoyance, and I winced slightly as her nails dug into my knuckles.
“N-no, I don’t think you did, actually” I said politely, my voice sounding garbled and nervous in comparison to his.
“My name is Kuro,” he said, tipping his top hat to me, “Pleased to meet you.”
I bit my tongue.
“I’m James. Which you already know. Which is good, so, I guess that I didn’t have to tell you. Sorry.” He stared at me a moment, as if he were sort of perplexed, and went back to looking forwards again.
We caught the bus after only a short wait, but I started to notice that Kuro beat me to everything. Before I could dig my change out of my pocket, he’d already paid for Ai’s bus fare, before I had the chance to offer her a seat, he’d already brushed one clean for her, although she never took it. She looked at me as if she were sort of pained, almost ashamed that I wasn’t doing my part more than I was. Or maybe she always looked at me like that, and I was the one feeling so shoddy about what I was or wasn’t doing. Truthfully, trying to compete with tall dark and handsome when you yourself were smaller, paler, and uglier was a bit of a lost cause.
But I couldn’t give up.
Arriving at the mall, Kuro looked impressed.
“There are quite a few people here, aren’t there?” he exclaimed, Ai rolling her eyes as she looked away from him, “It makes me feel more at home when it’s busy like this. It’s so quiet around your home, Ai. How do you manage? It’s like a … ghost town.”
“It’s actually quite peaceful,” I said back, trying to stand up for my little neighborhood best I could, pleased that my sentence came out at least relatively right sounding, “people mind their own business, so you don’t have to worry about much. It’s a good place to get away from people.”
“Or so I thought” Ai whispered under her breath, low enough for only me to hear. I smiled at her, and much to my relief, she smiled back at me. I felt more at ease, knowing that she at least had enough to smile for me right now; it kind of proved to me that she didn’t hate me just yet for being such a failure.
After meandering past shops and stalls for a short period of time, past the place where Ai and I shopped for shoes and past the arcade where I was harassed by the photo taking booth, we made it to our café. Kuro made comments here and there, ooh-ing and ah-ing at some of the stores we had, as if realizing that we weren’t living in some primitive, old-world country. I could tell it was annoying Ai, but I felt sort of proud that at least we had something to show off (since I wasn’t exactly something to ooh or ah over). I’d never been inside the little place, but it was obvious that Ai had, since one of the waitresses hurried to fix us a table and, more politely than I’d ever been served anywhere in this mall, offered us menu’s and water. The menu consisted mainly of tea and sweets, fruits and small sandwiches. Kuro had become absorbed in his decision, so I took the opportunity to talk to Ai, as if I really was her boyfriend.
“Ai, what do you feel like having today? Pick anything you like, I want to treat you.” I felt like I was rehearsing lines from a sitcom, or a play, but I knew that I’d have to get rid of my stuttering and stammering if I wanted to prove to Kuro that Ai had really moved on. Her face lit up a little.
“I think I’m going to have a parfait, James, if that’s alright.” I smiled and nodded, and she smiled back.
“You don’t want anything to drink?”
“Oh, right,” she replied, sounding a little bit like she were rehearsing lines herself, “I’ll take … I think I’ll take some hot mint tea, thanks.”
“No problem.” I grinned, “Anything for my girlfriend.” Suddenly, the tense situation became a joke; she held her breath to keep from laughing, I bit my tongue to keep from bursting out loud. Thankfully, Kuro had no idea what was going on between us (which truthfully was nothing, but it was amusing because he thought it really was something). I opted for a crepe and some milk, because I was starving due to being too nervous this morning and not eating breakfast. I felt almost silly for being so worried, because at this point, I was enjoying myself, and so was Ai. It felt … as if we were close, hiding this inside joke of ours, concealing our secret. It felt like it was one more thing that she and I shared between us, kept away from Kuro. I felt proud.
Kuro chose his snacks, cappuccino and toast with condensed milk, and placed his head onto of his folded hands, chin cradled on his black gloves.
“So,” he began, “how long have you been together?” I looked sideways, swallowing hard, staring at Ai. Seamlessly, without change in facial expression, she shot back a quick
“Since school started.”
“Really!” he exclaimed, “How did you meet?” I smiled, wanting to play the story game with Ai, as well.
“I met her at school,” I started, “It was love at first sight. We got along right away, and I was her first friend in her new city. It was like we’d known each other our whole lives.” I reasoned that he didn’t need to know that she actually hated me and I was terrified of her, so this was a better story.
“Of course,” Ai continued, “James was just so nice to me that I couldn’t help but want to be with him.” She smiled at me tenderly, I tried to keep from bursting into laughter, and then she went back to glaring at Kuro.
“You’ve known her so long now,” he went on, “You must know a lot about her.” I nodded, though I felt a bit uncertain, because he had a certain look in his eyes.
“Of course, I mean, why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, since we both seem to know Ai quite well, of course you’d think it fun to have a little quiz about her, then!”
I took back my previous statement about nervous habits; they weren’t funny at all, I realized as I started to wring my hands together furiously.
I think that one of the strangest things about nervousness is this lump that gathers in the middle of your throat, because not only is it uncomfortable, but it makes it near impossible to actually say anything at all. This, of course, couldn’t have waited to happen to me, say, ten or fifteen minutes after Kuro’s guessing game had begun, and had to congeal in my esophagus at that exact moment. I tried to swallow, but sounded like I was choking on rocks.
“What’s Ai’s favourite color?” he asked, eyebrow raised.
“Wrong! It’s mint!”
The color ran from my face. Even after the first question, I was convinced that without some gifts from the mercy gods, I was, for lack of a better word, completely screwed. Strangely enough, the mercy gods just so happened to be listening to my plea, and suddenly spoke through Ai.
“I changed it.”
“pardon?” Kuro said, his concentration on my anxiety-stricken face broken as he turned to face her.
“I said I changed my mind. My new favorite color is pink.”
I blinked a few times.
“…oh. Alright, then. Continuing on with the game, then…James, what is Ai’s favourite food?”
“Ai likes … cookies.”
“WRONG” he snapped, “Ai likes cake much more than~”
“I’ve changed my mind on that, too” she cut in, “and James is right. I love cookies.”
In my head, I was cheering. I hoped it wasn’t too obvious.
“Fine,” Kuro hissed, “What kind of tea is Ai’s favourite?”
Of course, I knew nothing about tea of any sort, except that it sometimes smelled like flowers and my mother drank it in the mornings. At this, I was really stuck, because I didn’t even know of any tea’s to make up so that Ai could correct Kuro.
“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS~”
“it is my favourite!” Ai said, holding her nose high in the air and looking away from James, “you don’t know a thing about me, Kuro.”
“I know more than James does! You’re just making all of this up!” he spat, becoming more and more distressed, “I know everything about you!”
“FINE. Let me ask the questions, then,” Ai shot back.
“That sounds fair,” I said, “that way, we can count points, or something.”
Kuro straightened himself out a bit, and fixed a strand of hair that had somehow popped out of place, like a spring from a clock.
“Right. Perfect. Sounds fair.”
“Question number one; what time do I walk to school?”
“That’s not fair! How would I know this?”
Ai ignored Kuro, and looked at me. “Since Kuro doesn’t know, James gets a point.”
The game continued on like this for a few more questions, Ai asking things only I would know, and Kuro becoming more and more defeated. I was happy that she could think of something so quickly, and manage to turn the tables for me, but at the same time, felt sort of … hopeless, with myself. The questions that Kuro had asked in the beginning of the game were parts of Ai that I had no idea about, and really, when I thought about it, were things that I’d never even bothered to get to know. Ai hated Kuro for being so persistent, but how was I supposed to truly care about her if I didn’t even know her favourite color? I sank in my chair a little with each question she asked, because knowing that she had to dumb down things in order for me to win made me a little more than upset.
“All of these questions about your teachers names, your seating arrangements in class…I can’t answer. You’re just tailoring these questions to James because he doesn’t know a thing about you!”
My heart sank, but Ai still looked determined.
“Fine. Have it your way, Kuro. I’ll ask something even you should know.”
I looked up at Ai through my worried brow, still feeling dejected, and became more and more certain with every passing second that, even after the months we’d spent together, I knew nothing about her.
“What is my favourite flower?”
I was just about to open my mouth when Kuro cut in.
“Roses!” he blurted, “Your favourite flowers are roses!”
“No, they’re not” Ai continued. “James? What is my favourite kind of flower?”
I waited a moment, and looked into her eyes, and felt that she was trying to remind me of something, felt that the question she asked was more personal than just her favourite color, or her favourite kind of sweets … something that only I would know, and not because of the way our lives revolved, but because of something between us …
“Orchids,” I said quietly, “…pink and white orchids.”
She softened, and smiled a little, and I smiled too, suddenly pulled back into that day in the hospital, and remembered her smile that I saw for the first time…in this moment, Kuro disappeared, and the stupid game we were playing disappeared, and even pretending to be Ai’s boyfriend disappeared, and I reached over and took her hand.
And I was just about to say something, something important, something that had sort of just shown up, all of the sudden … something that hadn’t been so serious before, or maybe I just hadn’t really understood it before, something that suddenly made everything so much more … something, something I couldn’t really explain. But that lump in my throat gathered again, and blocked off my voice completely, and instead, I simply, sadly, smiled.