*A* I know I said I'd post yesterday but the post from before was still on the main page and I hate posting too often... So! : > Here's the next two chapters. There's only one more to go after this (cliffhangerr!), so I'll wait till I'm off the first page again to post the last one.
chapters three & four
chapters five & six
chapters twelve & thirteen
Hope you guys enjoy!
Just like that, he was gone.
Kuro left without saying much, really. After we left the mall, he sort of went his own way, silently, as if his soul had left before his body had. Still, I felt bad for him, wondering how he could have come all this way only to leave empty handed and broken hearted.
On second thought, I felt triumphant. I was the alpha male! I had conquered over the threat between the (fake) relationship between Ai and I, I had battled for our (fake) love and won over the (non-existent) heart of the girl of my dreams. Revelling in this, I looked over at Ai, who was fumbling with her cell phone.
“What are you looking at” she snapped, closing her phone with a click, glaring up at me. While, at one time, I might have been afraid or turned off by her coldness, but I decided that in my ecstatic mood, I’d take it as endearing.
“Nothing” I said softly, fumbling for an excuse, “I was just ... your hair looks nice.” To my surprise, she paused, and continued to stare at me. Keeping eyes locked like this, even for just a few moments, suddenly made the sweater I was wearing feel like a sub-zero parka.
“...thanks” she said quietly, and turned back to staring at her lap. To make things less awkward, I looked away, but I could have sworn that around those ringlets, I saw her blush.
Obviously, I was brimming with pride at this point. It seemed like a future was ... feasible. While I knew that our ‘date’ wasn’t even really a date, more so a covert operation to protect her from the psycho ex-boyfriend, I couldn’t help but feel like we’d made an advancement.
Above all, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe, she was feeling something too.
Like usual, I walked her to her door, but this time, I felt more comfortable, like I was more at ease around her. It must have been the same way, because not once but twice she asked me to re-tie one of the ribbons on her sleeve, and I brushed away an unruly curl without her threatening to cut off my hand. To an average guy, this was probably awkward at best. To me, it was a little slice of paradise.
“I’ll see you at school tomorrow, then” I said as we made our way to her gate. She turned to me, pausing and catching her breath a moment.
“So I heard there’s some stupid, childish event happening at school tomorrow night” she said, though she sounded almost too sharp, even for Ai. I frowned; she had caught me a little off guard. Small talk wasn’t really ... again, wasn’t really Ai-like. Come to think of it, it wasn’t really James-like, either.
“Oh, uh, ...yeah, isn’t student council holding...”
“A carnival”, she cut me off. “Pretty dumb, in my opinion. It sounds stupid.”
At this, I was definitely confused. Why was she bringing up something that she didn’t even like? It wasn’t like we had been talking about school beforehand, so she wasn’t turning me down for anything. I was lost.
“What, you’re not going to stand up for it?” she snapped “It’s YOUR school after all! I mean, I bet you’ve been to this stupid kind of thing before, right? What kind of guy are you? Do you have no school spirit at all?”
She was ... attacking me? This made absolutely no sense at all.
“W-well, no, actually,” I stammered, “It’s really not that bad... I think that this year, they’re planning on having a real ferris wheel brought in. Usually it’s just games and a pony ride.”
Ai rolled her eyes. “Stupid.”
“...so, um, I guess ... I’ll see you tomorrow?” She ignored me.
“I bet I’d hate it.”
Wait a tick.
“Ai ... have you ever been to a carnival?”
“Of course not. That’s stupid. I don’t play games like that.”
“...would you like to go?”
Her face scrunched up a little tiny bit, and her lips pouted out slightly. Again, I felt triumphant. Not only had I fended off the ex, but now I was reading girl’s minds? I hoped no one noticed that my chest, along with my ego, had grown substantially in just a few hours.
“I don’t know” she said, trying to maintain that haughty air, “I’d probably be bored.”
“I could take you with me,” I said, “I guess I know which games are fun ... since most of them are rigged. I-I mean, I know what ones you can win a prize from.”
“I’ll go if you can get me one of those ... prizes” she said, “...but if you don’t, I’ll kill you.”
“...see you tomorrow, then,” she said slowly, eyeing me. “...starts at seven, right?”
“I’ll meet you right outside the school, then” I said, smiling at her. She continued to stare at me awkwardly.
“Fine.” She turned on her heel, the bows on the back of her shoes (wait, they even put bows there?) shining a bit from the orange light of the sunset. I watched her until she shut her door, then turned to go home.
I felt like throughout the day, I had filled with air. As I walked home, I no longer felt like dragging concrete blocks instead of feet; now, instead, I could barely keep them on the ground. I wanted to run, or skip, or something. I wasn’t sure if I could even move in a way that would express how I felt. I felt lucky to make it home, worried that I might have taken flight between my house and hers.
Just like that, I was gone.
I held my heart in my hands.
The day had gone by like a blur; class and lunch hour blurred together. I imagined that if zombie's existed, I'd have felt like one of them; not really paying attention to anything, simply moving through the day. Though, unlike a zombie, I had an undeniable sense of anticipation. Every window I passed gave me a glimpse outside, and whether they looked to the parking lot or to the large back field, I could see aspects of the carnival coming together.
Aspects of my evening being trucked in, constructed, built.
How was it that she'd never been to a carnival before? Aside from the school carnivals, I'd been to a few as a child, and considered them to be pretty integral to my early years. I recalled a few memories of the roller coasters (and throwing up after them), the sweet treats (throwing up after those, too), the games (and my uncanny ability to lose every single one of them), and above all, the feelings that I had when walking with my parents, hand in hand, as the night settled in and all of the lights seemed to get brighter.
Maybe they didn't have carnivals where Ai came from. In fact, maybe they didn't have a lot of the things I'd come to know where Ai was from, either. It occurred to me, suddenly, that there was so much I wanted to share with her, so many things I wanted her to see and experience. Had she ever been to a water park? Had she ever been camping? Come to think of it, I couldn't really picture Ai swimming (...a water proof dress? The world's frilliest bathing suit?) or camping (...just no), but I thought that maybe, if I got to know her more, we could at least try.
The concept of 'we' was thrilling, especially now that everything felt like it was falling into place.
I left my house early, because I was certain that she'd be right on time, and she probably would have scratched my eyes out if I made her wait for me. I didn't mind setting out a little ahead of schedule, though, considering that the majority of the space in my stomach usually reserved for dinner had been consumed by butterflies, and I'd already paced around my room probably a hundred times. At this point, I'm sure my mother is actually convinced I'm a drug dealer. Truth be told, she'd never believe me if I told her I was going out to see a girl, anyway, so that conversation was best left ... for some other time.
So there I stood, outside the school, fiddling with my sleeves. It was only six thirty, and it occurred to me, suddenly, that I'd left a bag of chips in my locker. Figuring that eating would give me something to do for the next little while (or at least, I could pretend to eat so I didn't look like a freak just standing here), I headed inside the school. Most of the classroom doors were still open, since I was sure the student council was still setting things up, which put me at ease; I hated it more than anything when the lights were off in the halls and everything was dark and locked up. Between you and I, it gave me the creeps.
I'd just turned into my locker's hallway when the sound of heels clicking against the floor caught my attention. Looking up past my feet, I saw as the last bit of Ai and all her poof disappeared up the stairwell towards the library. I frowned. Hadn't she said to meet in front of the school? Or was that me, who said it? Apparently my ego had stuffed itself into my ears at that point, as I couldn't remember for the life of me. I was pretty certain that one of us had said in front of the school ... but if Ai was heading to the library, and I was supposed to meet with her, it would make more sense not to go back downstairs and wait if I knew where she was already, right? I scratched my head.
But if she wasn't expecting to meet me in the library, maybe she was getting something? Suddenly, I was more curious than confused. Maybe she'd made me something, or maybe she had a secret hideout in the library! From having always wanted a secret hideout, the urge to follow behind her with all the stealth I could muster refused to go ignored. So stealthily follow I did.
I peeked around the stairwell, and when she'd already moved onto the floor above, I slipped up the steps as quietly as I could. Sure enough, I watched as she entered the library through it's large, open doors. Smiling a little, I felt like I was a little kid again, like I was cheating during a game of hide and seek.
Then I heard a voice; Ai's voice.
“What do you want? I don't have all night.”
“I need you to answer something.”
My heart stopped. Why was Ai meeting with Mary...? I held my breath, moved closer towards the
door. I couldn't see them, but I could hear them, and that was enough. As guilty as I felt for eaves dropping, I was already here, right? It was more like ... an accident, if I had to explain myself.
“Fine” Ai snapped. I realized how cold her voice sounded to people she didn't care much for, remembered she used to sound like that to me.
“...What's up with you and James?” Mary asked quietly.
“This is stupid. These questions aren't worth my time” Ai huffed exasperatedly.
“Wait!” Mary cried out, “Don't leave. I'm serious, I need you to answer that for me.”
“Asking 'what is up' with James and I is much too vague a question.”
“I mean ...” I heard Mary clear her throat. “...do you like James?” As Ai scoffed, I felt my chest tense up.
“Do I like James? Do I like James? Are you joking with me? Do I look like someone who would
like James? Does James look like someone who I'd like, Mary? James is awkward, and shy, and to be honest, he's a complete and utter failure when it comes to interacting with girls.”
...she continued to talk to Mary, but I'd already heard more than enough.
I guessed that there was nothing really for me to do, at this point. This was why I hadn't talked to girls before, this was why I'd never felt so happy or so excited; it was because I was a 'failure' when it came to girls. Because I was 'awkward' and 'shy'. Even on the second floor, I could hear Ai begin to yell. ...it was of no concern to me anymore. Would I have been grateful if I didn't go upstairs? Probably not. I'd have been crushed at one point anyway. It's not like she could keep up dealing with me for long ... this was Ai we were talking about. How did I ever, for a minute, forget that? Oh, yeah, that's right. I fell in love with her. Upon leaving the school, I could see Blake and Kyle standing out front, where I'd been standing before.
“Hey, James, you're coming to the carnival too?” Blake called to me.
“Dude, he always comes to the carnival. It's the dances he doesn't like,” Kyle interjected, “But it confuses me too, isn't he the one that never wins any of the games...?”
“I just forgot something” I croaked. Hearing my own voice made me sick; I sounded so pathetic, like I was about to cry. There was just such a huge lump in my throat, I couldn't manage to talk around it.
“...you're just going home?” Blake asked, frowning. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, you know what, ...whatever. You’re right, I'm just going home.” I just walked forward, not wanting to deal with them, but honestly not wanting to go back home anyway. Explaining to my mom that I'd left the house to go meet with a girl but was now going to lock myself in my room because it turns out that she doesn't even like me anyway was worse than just sitting someplace, so I found a bench, and did just that; sat someplace.
I had held my heart in my hands. ...I was such an idiot.