STOP! THIS IS THE LAST CHAPTER. If you haven't read the rest of the story yet, please refer to the links below (unless you want to ruin it for yourself!)
chapters three & four
chapters five & six
chapters twelve & thirteen
chapters fourteen & fifteen
This is it, ladies and gents! Before you read the rest of it, I just want to thank you guys for your feed back and your comments along the way. Attention-whore as it may be, it really helped me stay motivated for this story, and honestly, this is the first full story I've written in years; thanks to all of you here, I've pulled out of that awful writers' block. I'm going to edit it like whoa, and possibly submit it to Tokyo Pop and see if they'd be willing to publish it for me. Cross your fingers!
TIME FOR ME TO GO EDIT LIKE A MADWOMANNN! : > hope you like the ending!
I was reminded: the biggest problem was that she was in love with herself.
Why I had thought, even for a moment, that I could get to know someone like Ai, form a friendship with someone like Ai, fall in love with someone like Ai and even learn to trust someone like Ai was beyond me. I was a complete moron for ever so much as looking in her direction. It was like she said; she didn't talk to bugs.
I put my head in my hands. What a pathetic sight; some random kid sitting on some random bench on the verge of tears, over the worlds' most un-random girl. Maybe there was someone inside me who had always wanted to be brave, like a knight or a soldier. Maybe there was someone inside me who'd always wanted to be the one to rescue the princess, to fall in love with her ... maybe I was honestly just the world's biggest nerd.
I'd been sitting in my place for a while, now, as I noticed that the sun had already set. I'd heard a few people pass me earlier, but obviously hadn't looked up at them, since I was obviously not exactly in the mood to people watch. Though, I'd followed a certain pair of footsteps that seemed to stop right beside me. The bench I was on creaked a bit as the weight of another person was added to it. Maybe it was Ai, coming to tell me off, or to freak at me for not meeting her at the carnival. What would I say? Sorry, Ai, but I realized that I don't want to see you anymore? That would be the lie of the century, but what else would I do? If she hadn't already told me that she didn't want to see me, than I doubt that she'd pull that card right now. ...but if she was already on a roll, after yelling at Mary, I could see it happen...
“I'm surprised you're not at the carnival.”
Not Ai. Totally not Ai. Totally not who I expected, and one hundred percent totally not who I really wanted to talk to right now.
“...Mary?” I lifted my head, and was shocked to see Mary sitting beside me, her face red and puffy, makeup sliding down her cheeks with her tears. My eyes widened. “Are you okay?”
She looked at me. “Yeah, I'm fine.” I stared a moment, and she smiled weakly. “Okay, I guess
... not really.”
This was the last thing on my mind. I felt selfish, but I wanted to brood in my own problems, not deal with Mary talking about her issues. I held in a sigh. I guess if there was a time to start being good to girls, anytime was a good time ... even if it was Mary.
“What's wrong?” To my surprise, she laughed.
“See, that's what I like about you.” I blinked.
“You care. You honestly care about people, even about me, even though I know you don't see me like that. The rest of the guys I've ever liked only cared about the way I look, or about sports, or something dumb like that. Even though your friends are loud and rowdy, you care about them, even if you're awkward, you do the right thing. Even though you're shy, you're not afraid to love a girl like Ai.”
Now it was my turn to laugh.
“Yeah, well ... that was my mistake, I guess.” She looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
“...what do you mean?” I took in a breath. There wasn't any point in keeping secrets, and I was honestly too tired to lie, or care about lying, anyway.
“I heard you and Ai talking in the library.” Mary still looked confused. “I heard when she said that I was shy and awkward. I heard her tell you that you were crazy for thinking she liked me. I guess I was crazy for thinking she liked me, too.” I hadn't been concerned for Mary too much when she was crying, really, but she seemingly managed to somehow choke on air, just then, and that's when I started to feel a little worried.
“James, how long did you listen into that conversation?”
“I left after the first blow, I guess. I've never been much of a fighter. ...even you must know that.”
“James, you MORON!” Mary cried out, hitting me hard on the shoulder, then leaping to her feet.
“I wondered why you weren't at the carnival, and there was no point in me staying there anymore, but now I get it! You are SUCH an idiot!” Great. Exactly what I wanted to hear. A voice other than mine telling me that I sucked. Just lovely.
She pulled me to my feet against my will. How was a girl this small ... this strong?
“You complete loser! You better not suck at running, too, because you have got to get back to the school. Get to that carnival now,” Mary ordered, looking extremely stern, even through her mascara streaks. “If I'm going to lose you, I might as well know I helped you be happy!”
“Mary, did you hit your head on something...? Did someone throw something at you?” I asked, but she had already spun me round and was pushing my back.
“Go! Get lost! Hurry the hell up!” Maybe I was just a coward, but she honestly sounded frightening, so I started to run in fear of being hit some more. I'd already made it down the block when I finally looked back over my shoulder, seeing Mary still standing in her place, with one hand on her hip, the other wiping her eyes.
I had been just given another great reason to believe that all girls, no matter how different, were completely insane.
Following drill sergeant Mary's orders, I had run the entire way to school. It was now already dark, and upon looking at the lights of the carnival, I realized that I still had no idea why I was here. Mary never even told me the most important part! She'd wasted time whacking me on the shoulder when she could have been telling me why she even sent me here! Come to think of it, I never even heard why she was upset.
I turned around. Sitting on a little bench in front of the line for the ferris wheel, Ai was dressed in an all white ensemble, white bow in her hair. I noticed it looked similar to the one I'd brought back to her in the hospital, but reasoned that she probably had a ton of them, and honestly, I couldn't tell a bow from another bow anyways.
“...oh.” I didn't know what to say. She motioned me forward, though, and so I complied. Since I'd already told Mary, and she'd be likely to tell the rest of the world, I might as well have told Ai, as well. I sat beside her.
“Where on earth have you been?” she snapped, crossing her arms. “You said to meet you in front of the school at seven, and it's already eight thirty. I almost went home, I'll have you know. Leave it up to a bug to come so late.”
“Why didn't you just leave” I said, looking at my knees.
“...what?” Apparently, I'd caught her off guard.
“I said, why didn't you just leave?” She looked at me wide eyed, though I reasoned that it was probably just the contacts she was wearing.
“What's wrong with you?” Ai said, puffing out her cheeks. “You asked me to come to this stupid thing and now you're in a bad mood?”
“I heard what you said in the library.” So I wasn't tactful, so I didn't wait for a good opportunity; so what? I might as well have just got it over with.
She huffed out an angered sigh. “Well, this is stupid. I guess there’s no point in waiting, since you already know, now.” I had expected her to stand up and leave. I had expected her just to get up and walk away without saying goodbye. I could picture things going back to the way they were before, with Ai ignoring everyone (including me), eating her lunch in the library while I ate mine in the field or the cafeteria with Kyle, Blake and Mary. I could picture being alone again, staying at home on the weekends for the most part. I could picture forgetting about Ai, forgetting about Lolita, forgetting about this whole stupid thing and going back to my regular, boring life. I expected things just to ... end.
I never expected her to kiss me.
Time ... stopped. More than it had when I heard her in the library. In fact, now that I think about it, what did I hear in the library? Her lips were soft against mine, and I closed my eyes. I was a pretty apathetic person most of the time, but now I understood the concept of 'nothing else mattered' more fully than ever before. We pulled apart slowly; her eyelashes fluttered against my face.
“I still want to say it to your face, though” she said, smiling a little through a forced scowl “but I will say it's a bit of a disappointment that you creeped around to hear it the first time.”
“Ai ... I left after the first few sentences. I-I”, great, now I was starting to stutter; pristine timing, James. “I left after you said that ... after you told Mary that you weren't the kind of person to like me.”
“That's because I don't like you.”
“...” Okay, what did you expect me to say? Honestly?
“James, I don't like you. You're weird, and you're not at all my type. To be honest, Kuro is my type, or, was my type. You can understand that, can’t you?”
I could feel that internal whimper choke combination bubbling up from inside me. I tried my best to stifle it.
“However, I guess I’ve come to terms with myself, and even with you. After all, things are different now than they were a few weeks ago.” I looked lost, and she could tell. I half expected her to insult me some more. “I love you, you stupid bug.”
“So ... you don't like me, but ... you love me.”
“Do you like me?”
“Of course I like you! Wasn't that obvious?” I hadn’t exactly imagined confessing my feelings to Ai ... like that.
“How on earth could you like me? James, I'm often rude to you, I have a tendency to snap because of my short temper, I'm more obsessed with clothing than I am with being kind or gentle and above all, I boss you around. Think about it again. Do you like me?”
“...I guess you can be pretty mean.”
“Exactly. So don't lie! I might have made an exception for you, since I don't usually love losers, but I cannot tolerate liars-”
Midway through her sentence it occurred to me that she'd stolen my first kiss. I'm the guy! I'm supposed to be the one to kiss her, not the other way around! Who was she to rob me of my first ever experience with a kiss, which was supposed to highlight me being manly and conquering evil and winning over the princess? Nerd or not, this felt like a birthright!
I kissed her. Maybe it was a second kiss, or maybe it was her ‘first kiss’ kiss, but it didn't matter. And this time, she giggled. I laughed a bit too.
“Okay fine, Ai. The truth is: I love you, too. I-I’m sure you guessed that one a while back, and I guess it’s not too much of a surprised, s-so…” She raised an eyebrow, which directly translated to ‘quit your stuttering and say what you want to already’. I cleared my throat.
“But here's the thing.” Now it was her turn to look concerned.
“...I thought you didn't talk to bugs.” She smiled a slow, wide smile, and took my hand.
“I guess I could make an exception.”
Solution to the problem? She loved me, too.