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19 September 2015 @ 11:09 pm
3/4  
Title: Water's Edge
Pairing: Nanase Haruka/OC
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Spring has arrived, and they finally move on.
Note: This is the third part of the fifth installment. You may find the previous installments here:

Coastline
Soup-Port
Harbor
Island [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]









It takes a couple of weeks for Sousuke to clear his mind and decide to visit Haruka at W College. They may not be the best of friends (or perhaps even friends in the first place) but Sousuke has wandered off to that area in the city and he just wants to see and maybe put in a couple of questions because why not? He has the time anyway.

“Sousuke…”

“Been a while, hasn’t it?”

“What do you want?”

Just outside the building that houses the campus pool, Haruka has stepped out to eat his lunch, never at all expecting one of his seniors to call him over because he has a visitor. And more than anything, Haruka wasn’t expecting his visitor to be none other than Sousuke. He hasn’t seen him since they saw Rin off at the airport back in spring.

“I was in the area and I thought I’d drop by for a visit,” Sousuke explains casually as he sits next to Haruka on a bench. The quiet boy has started to eat his lunch. “So? How’s training?” Expectedly, Haruka doesn’t answer at first, focusing on his usual mackerel meal. “Hey—“

“It’s okay…”

Caught off guard, Sousuke glances at his companion, whose mouth is now full of rice as if he’s trying to show that he didn’t reply just now. Haruka has always been hard to understand but at least Sousuke knows this much about the boy.

Satisfied with the latter’s short answer, Sousuke leans back into the bench to look at the sports building. From within, he can almost hear the splashing of the water created by trained limbs performing extraneous strokes and the wise instructions of the coaches echoing above the currents and diving into the swimmers’ ears. He hasn’t swum ever since jumping into the pool of cherry blossoms with Rin and the others before graduation.

“I’ve been talking to Miharu.”

Discreetly, Haruka pauses from chewing.

“We bumped into each other about twice now, since she moved here. She’s the one who told me you were training here.” Sousuke directs his attention to the empty field in front of them. “She probably told you anyway.”

An uneasy feeling washes over Haruka slowly. He hasn’t been talking to Miharu for weeks now because he has been preoccupied with races and extensive training. He tries to recall if she did mention ever talking to Sousuke but all that comes to mind are their pitifully short phone calls which were mostly about his competitions and whether or not he’s too tired to talk or otherwise so that she can let him rest. But there was that one time, at the beach a long time ago, when Miharu mentioned something about what Sousuke told her. He had found out from Rin, in one of his letters after he had gone to Australia, that Sousuke had given Miharu ‘advice’ some time ago before their graduation but he never thought of asking for any details, thinking that Sousuke was only going to be a part of that memory and nothing more.

Now that Haruka remembers, he begins to realize that he has been too exhausted to talk to Miharu properly and because she’s always been the type to consider others before herself, she has probably kept all of her weekly stories to herself, not wanting to bother Haruka during his time of rest. And did Sousuke call Miharu by her given name just now? When have they grown so close? Have they been talking so often to actually address each other by their first names? Have they grown that close during Haruka’s period of exhaustion? Why? Why didn’t Miharu tell him sooner?

No… She probably thought it’d be a bother…

Since when? Since when did Miharu think of herself as just and only a nuisance?

“Haru, I need to ask you.”

Haruka looks at Sousuke and suddenly finds himself sink in the whirlpool of emotions swirling dangerously and viciously in the other’s eyes.

“Which is more important? Your dream,” Sousuke starts, “or Miharu?”

Why? Why are you asking me such a question?

Time has shifted just as the Earth did on its axis, the sun casting shadows that paint the empty space on the bench. There are no words, only Haruka’s retreating figure and Sousuke’s sigh dancing in the cool breeze. And yet again, another robber escapes the cop’s grasp.

As soon as training ends before evening, Haruka makes his way to Makoto and Miharu’s apartment two bus rides away. In his seat, looking out the window, he recalls Sousuke’s absurd question from earlier. Unlike Makoto, who goes to the same university and stays in the same apartment as Miharu, Haruka knows that he can never warrant an answer to such an unfair query. And why does Sousuke want to know? Still, the annoyance of not knowing whatever relationship Sousuke has with Miharu violates his system.

So troublesome…

This is why Haruka doesn’t like getting too involved in anyone’s business. He’d rather just be in the sidelines, watching and observing, unneeded of requirements to answer whatever question directed at him and never be held responsible for anyone’s loss or pain or confusion. He’d rather not think of anything and just swim and swim and swim…

“I like you, Nanase-kun.”

The bus stops to let down several passengers. In just a few more minutes, the building will come into view and Haruka will have to alight from the vehicle and make his commute worthwhile. He has only emailed Makoto just then and the boy has yet to reply. Could he be in Miharu’s room that moment? Are they having dinner together tonight, like they do at school for lunch? Or maybe it’s Miharu who has gone to Makoto’s and now they’re washing up so they can use the remaining half of the night to study together? They did that often during the first few weeks of school but Haruka has never heard from Makoto or Miharu if they still do, lately. He finds it hard to admit but he has been struck by jealousy on numerous occasions because fate made it so that his best friend and his girlfriend could be close to one another and spend time together longer, whenever they wanted to, while he has no one – no one. And why is it so fitting, that Makoto and Miharu stay together and when they’re together, they’re never aware of how others look at them? Haruka will also admit, alongside their old high school friends, that Makoto and Miharu do look good together, which all the more fuels the green-eyed monster’s attack. And then he thinks of how both of their classmates look at them and whisper behind their backs, gossiping if they’re a couple or that they make a great pair.

As if on cue, the memory of Miharu turning down a senior who had confessed to her back in high school resurfaces in Haruka’s mind. He wonders how many others like that guy would appear before her and because he’s so far away, how will he see if she turns them down or not? The thought of Miharu choosing someone else makes him really uneasy; so much that he tries to sleep it off with the remaining minutes before his stop.

The insecurity disappears for a while when Haruka gets to Makoto’s room and finds out that he and Miharu had been waiting for him to arrive so that they can eat dinner together.

“You should’ve told me you were coming over sooner, Haru,” Makoto whines lightly as they sit around his coffee table where the food has been prepared.

“We really panicked!” Miharu adds quite expressively with a sigh. She and Makoto look at Haruka though and smile at him fondly. “But it’s really nice to have you here, Haru.”

Hiding a tiny smile to himself, Haruka looks down at his plate. “Yeah.”

With that, Haruka decides to push his thoughts away for now and then the three of them have dinner peacefully.

And then it’s sudden – absolutely sudden – that Makoto asks Miharu to visit Haruka at W College on a Sunday afternoon. Haruka has training that day because three days from then, he and his teammates need to fly to Hokkaido for both a joint practice with one of their coach’s old friend’s team as well as another race. Makoto needs Miharu to deliver the compilation of all of their old swim club regimens that Haruka had asked for just that morning. The moment she lets Makoto into the room, right a little before lunch, the tall boy starts explaining and apologizing all at the same time.

“I’m so sorry!”

“No, Makoto-kun—“

“I’m really sorry! I have this test tomorrow and I still don’t understand the lessons—“

“Makoto-kun, it’s okay—“

“I promise I’ll make it up to you!”

So that’s how Miharu ends up being escorted to W College’s pool by a very nice junior student who happened to be passing by the campus. Just remembering how she fidgeted and fumbled for words in front of him made her blood skyrocket to her ears. It’s really a wonder how the young man understood her.

“Nanase-san sure is popular, you know. A lot of people visit him nowadays,” the young man says with admiration and a pinch of jealousy mixed together. When he notices Miharu’s suddenly crestfallen expression (although she doesn’t mean to show it) resulting from his words, he quickly pieces two and two together and lets out a chuckle and clarifies, “But all of them are probably reporters. The swim team has been joining several competitions lately.”

Seeing a hint of relief in the smile that blossoms on Miharu’s lips then, the young man mentally pats himself on the back. He’d feel bad if he were to make a girl look so dejected. And soon enough, they reach the pool’s entrance.

“S-Sorry for the trouble…” Miharu mumbles almost inaudibly but the young man hears it just fine and he smiles at her, all the while thinking how nice it would probably feel if he could find a polite and pretty girl like her.

“No, it’s okay. It was a pleasure—“

“Miharu.”

Both the young man and Miharu didn’t notice the doors opening and revealing Haruka, who is still in his swimming trunks and very much dripping water everywhere. Just as Miharu is about to turn to properly say good-bye to the young man, Haruka grabs her hand and almost hastily pulls her inside the building. Once they leave the young man outside, Haruka starts to slow his steps.

“H-Haru—“

“Why didn’t you tell me that you were the one coming?” Haruka interrupts curtly as he continues to pull Miharu along to the benches by the pool. He can feel all of his teammates’ eyes on the two of them. Though he’d rather take Miharu to a much more secluded space (where other guys won’t ogle her in her ensemble consisting of a light green turtleneck shirt paired with a white pleated skirt and black thigh-high socks and plain gray lace-up doll shoes), he just can’t possibly leave her by herself in the waiting room where his peers and coaches are bound to visit from time to time during break. Honestly, Haruka is torn.

“Makoto-kun was in a real panic and it seemed really urgent so I rushed and forgot all of my things except for my wallet and my keys and—“ Miharu tugs Haruka back lightly to show him the clear folder Makoto handed to her before she left. He glares at it as they stop in front of a bench where Miharu can sit on by herself. “This. You needed this, right?”

Haruka looks up at Miharu now. Her cheeks are so red and her hair’s a mop of messy black that the wind has played with relentlessly. Her hand still in his, he can feel the tiny tremors of her body, her warmth passing to him through just a mere touch. Suddenly being tasked to run an errand and forgetting her necessities in the hurry must have caused her a tornado of problems and the commute must have been unbearable at this time. Taking a good look at Miharu, Haruka can imagine her running down the path to the bus stop and, after two rides, sprinting to the campus’ entrance and awkwardly asking for directions from that junior guy – all of these, directly under the sun, despite her sheltering clothes.

Slowly, Haruka takes the clear folder from the girl and whispers, “Thanks.”

“I’m glad to be of help,” she replies with a tired yet happy smile. She takes a seat on the bench while Haruka leafs through the folder in silence. As she waits for a reaction, she listens to the coaches’ instructions and watches the swimmers glide effortlessly across the water. They seem so professional, somewhat, but Haruka’s swimming is still and will always be number one in her eyes.

“Hey.”

“Hmm?”

“Do you…” Haruka turns to the side slightly to cover half of his face and his awkwardness. “Do you mind if you wait for training to finish?”

“I don’t really mind,” Miharu answers a bit curiously. Without anything else to say, she watches as Haruka walks toward his coach at the other end of the pool.

It’s such a huge building now that Miharu has the chance to look about. The pool seems to be the standard Olympic size, almost stretching from end to end and it’s quite a sight. To have gone to such a prestigious school like W College – Haruka’s teammates must be really exceptionally talented and hardworking swimmers. The coaches who continue to instruct them seem so wise about the sport as their words resonate even within her mind.

This is Haru’s world now.

Everyone is moving about, bustling here and there, conversing in jargons that Miharu barely understands as if she’s in a different country right now and she’s the only foreigner around. Even if she can see Haruka on the other side of the pool; even if she knows that if he comes over and talk to her, she will understand whatever he says; even if she’s right there where she can see almost everything before her, the feeling of not belonging that she has become so familiar with since childhood is gradually becoming foreign, scarier because having to feel such fear and trepidation all over again from scratch is truly frightening, like drowning just when you finally get to breathe again.

Finally, Haruka dives into the water and shows Miharu the reason why she’s there right now, sitting on that bench watching him whilst her heart pounds hard and races almost as fast as he is. But are those the only things she can offer? Is just being there with a heart full of hurt and secrets and affection for him enough to be enough? Is it really okay for her to cheer him on when there’s a dark void within her that never ceases, never lets her rid herself of her own misgivings and fears? Is Haruka, who is looking right at his dream as he swims toward it closer and closer each day, truly satisfied with merely a ghost with a heart that pounds just for him?

Skipping dinner that his teammates invited him to (because he doesn’t want to bring Miharu along to be swarmed by other guys and be pestered with annoying questions), Haruka takes Miharu back to his apartment. Training had dragged on much later than expected so that when the two of them arrived in his room, the wall clock indicates that it’s already quarter to ten, and already too late to catch a bus and even more so dangerous to send a girl home by herself. Heating up the leftover mackerel and curry from that morning, Haruka and Miharu eat a quick dinner before washing up, preparing for rest (Haruka lends Miharu another set of his clothes) and retiring on the couch with the lamp’s light dim and the balcony curtains pulled aside to grant them a peek of the night sky.

“I told Makoto to pick you up early tomorrow.”

“But he has a test for his first class.”

“He already said that he would.”

“He probably feels bad for sending me over…”

“Do you?”

“Huh?”

“Do you feel bad for coming over?”

“N-Not really…”

Exhaustion is robbing Haruka the thoughts he had prepared beforehand as well as the coherency to get them out into the air to drift toward Miharu beside him. They’re sharing a blanket again but this time, he’s the one who is pressing close to the girl, resting his head on her shoulder as he tries to prevent himself from yawning into her ear. When he accidentally does, he feels her body tremble; tickled, maybe. Although Miharu knows, if Haruka isn’t exhausted, that the boy wouldn’t allow himself to get too close to her but having him lean on her after such a long time seems really rewarding.

“Sousuke…” Haruka mumbles, failing miserably not to feel sleepy. “What do you talk about with Sousuke?”

“Yamazaki-kun?”

“He calls you by your first name…”

“A-Ah—“

“How close are you to him…” Haruka trails off as he succumbs to sleep. He certainly doesn’t have the energy to feel embarrassed being in that kind of situation right now and Miharu understands that.

Get plenty of rest, Haru. You don’t have to think of trivial matters anymore.

In the darkness, a sweet lullaby choruses with slow, trickling tears.

When morning sets, the clock chimes at 6 o’clock, ushering Haruka to sluggishly awake. He sits up on the couch as he waits for his vision to focus. The room is doused with heaps and heaps of silence which seem absolutely peculiar on a morning he is sure to share with another. His hand on the empty space beside him, he can make out the depression left by another body, a faint scent of milk wafting in the air. He turns toward the table and there, atop the clear folder that was delivered to him yesterday, is a note that reads:

“I took the first bus home. Thank you for letting me stay over. Good luck with your training! –Miharu”

The ‘first bus’ comes around 4 in the morning. Once Haruka understands this, he realizes that he has been sleeping alone for two hours – two oblivious hours. And that also means that Miharu went home by herself at the dead of night and didn’t even try to wake him up. Of course, if she did, he would ultimately stop her and remind her that Makoto would be coming over anyway but it seems like that girl couldn’t (or didn’t want to) wait so she just up and left. Then again, Haruka knows that Miharu isn’t that so reckless; if anything, she only wants to lessen the burden she thinks she gives people and most often than not, despite her efforts, it’s inevitable for others not to worry. In a sense, Miharu is reckless whenever she thinks of herself as a burden.

The phone rings next to the TV. Haruka stands up and crosses the room to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Haru!”

“Makoto?”

“I tried calling your cell phone but the call won’t go through.” Haruka forgot to charge the device when he and Miharu got home last night. “Did I wake you?”

“No. But Miharu—“

“Miharu-chan?” Makoto repeats curiously. “What about her? I’ll be leaving the apartment in a while—“

“She left.”

“What?”

On the other line, Haruka can’t help but release a sigh. “She took the first bus two hours ago.”

“Haru, that’s—“

“So you don’t have to come over,” Haruka interrupts. “I’m going to eat breakfast now.”

“O-Okay then. She doesn’t have classes on Mondays so I’ll just drop by her apartment,” Makoto says as some part of reassurance for both Haruka and himself.

“All right.”

Then the call ends.

Keeping his word, Makoto ventures out of his room and takes the stairs up to the third floor. The morning is so quiet and serene, much needed calmness for someone who has a test that day; for his first class, no less. In a moment’s time, Makoto reaches Miharu’s room, pressing the doorbell. He waits there for a couple of minutes before the door finally opens and reveals Miharu wearing her thick-rimmed glasses (apparently, she has had them since they were in high school but she only wears them when she’s at home or during classes) and clothes that Makoto is very much familiar with, having seen them worn by Haruka countless times.

“Good morning, Makoto-kun,” Miharu greets with a little yawn. She steps aside to welcome Makoto into the room.

“Good morning. I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” Makoto asks as they settle themselves in the living room.

The girl shakes her head slowly. “It’s okay. I’m sorry for not emailing you sooner. I just collapsed on the couch the moment I got home.”

“That’s fine. I’m just glad that you got back safely. I called Haru before I came over here. He told me you left his place around 4,” he says with a worried tone. “You should’ve told him that you were leaving early.”

“But he was asleep.” She stops to consider her words. “And he was exhausted. I didn’t want to disturb his rest.”

Makoto withdraws from the conversation as he watches Miharu take her glasses off to rub her eyes. They are awfully swollen, and quite alarming. “Miharu-chan…”

After adjusting her glasses back into place, Miharu glances at the boy beside her. There’s a small smile playing on his lips. “What is it, Makoto-kun?”

“Let’s have dinner together tonight,” he invites warmly. “I may not cook that well but I’ll do my best.”

“Let’s,” she answers between laughs. “I can’t wait then.”

Later in the evening, for lack of ingredients, Makoto and Miharu end up eating instant spaghetti and a little side dish of instant carbonara and oolong tea as beverages. Their desert is an array of bottled cherries, bottled mangoes, bottled mandarin oranges, grapes and apple slices.

“It was such a hard test!” Makoto moans for the third time. He barely finished it before the end of the period.

“I’m sure you did well, Makoto-kun. And even if the results won’t meet your expectations, then I’ll help you study next time,” Miharu generously offers once again, pouring more tea into her companion’s cup.

“I’d appreciate that, Miharu-chan. I’m sure you’re doing just fine in your classes.”

“I wonder about that…”

Compared to her own room, Makoto’s is much more organized and clean. To outsiders, they might even mistake it for a girl’s room with how spotlessly immaculate it is! Miharu can get lazy sometimes and the spell doesn’t wear off until at least a week at most passes and she’d have no choice but to tidy up. Makoto helps her out whenever that time comes but lately, since his life is bombarded with tests, Miharu does it by herself. Besides, it’s about time for her to stop relying on others with regards to her lifestyle. Sooner or later, she’d have to stop making excuses to fend off the loneliness, too.

After washing up, Miharu perches herself on the couch as she reads one of Makoto’s review books while Makoto sits by the table, facing the couch as he tries to finish his homework due tomorrow. Aside from the tic toc of the clock and the sputtering of the AC and the occasional flip of a page, there is no other sound in the room. The two of them have spent times like this before, much more often back then than now but here they are again, after a long while.

It’s already ten minutes past 11 when Makoto decides to take a break from studying. Across the table, on the couch, Miharu is reading a new book. Her eyes scan the pages thoroughly as if they are trying to decipher a code of sorts, before she turns to a new page and does the same process.

“Makoto-kun,” she calls quietly, out of the blue. Makoto looks up and notices that the book on the girl’s lap has been closed, her eyes now searching its cover. “Do you think it’s still okay for me to stay by Haru’s side?”

The abrupt question fashions a frown on Makoto’s face. “Don’t think like that, Miharu-chan. I know a lot has happened since we got to university and I know that you’re always doing your best. You need to be stronger for yourself, and for Haru.”

It doesn’t show on Miharu’s face if his words have reached her but Makoto wants to believe that they did so that the smile on her face then won’t seem so sad. “You’re right, Makoto-kun. I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for, Miharu-chan,” Makoto reassures. He looks down at his notebook to check his work so far. “I’m going to get more tea. Would you want some snacks to go with it?”

When there is still no reply after a moment passes, Makoto looks up and finds the same scene before his eyes – Miharu just sitting there, still, yet her eyes have stopped searching, stopped focusing, stopped looking all together. She’s right there, but then she just isn’t.

“Miharu-chan?”

And she comes back. From where? Makoto doesn’t know, but she’s back, her eyes staring right past his existence.

“Call my name again.”

Makoto hesitates. “Why?”

“Please,” she whispers without a trace of emotion on her pale face. “Just call my name again. Over and over.”

There’s this feeling that throbs in Makoto’s heart like some kind of reminder, some kind of reassurance that if he lets her name roll off his tongue, it might return more life to her suddenly soulless eyes. And if that doesn’t work, he’d do anything for it to.

“Miharu,” he tries and searches the girl’s being for any kind of response. “Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu. Miharu…”

How many more times? How many more times does Makoto need to repeat her name in order for her to come back completely? How many more times does he need to say her name to make her face him with her usual brightly shining eyes that are full of wonder and mirth? How many times more should he speak her name for him to make her smile again and to stop herself from feeling like an empty doll?

Then Makoto stops. He doesn’t know how long he’s been calling Miharu’s name; doesn’t even know if his voice has failed him once this whole time because it might have. If it didn’t, then maybe Miharu won’t still be sitting there, quiet and dazed, like a lost child who has given up hope in finding her way.

Why? Why do you look so sad?

The notebooks and books have been forgotten, words drifting off and following steps that make the wooden floor creak with meaning. The couch sinks lightly and big, strong arms come to wrap themselves around a fragile form, preventing it from ever disappearing and maybe, somehow, pulling it back to that moment. And when Miharu feels Makoto’s warmth spreading across her momentary graying existence, collected tears from forced overlooked days begin to trickle slowly down her flushed cheeks, painting the boy’s shirt with blotches of carefully hidden hardships. She speaks not a sound as she trembles in Makoto’s arms. This is the first time that Miharu has ever let him feel her tears, her secret sorrows and they burn him as much as they stabbed her.

This pain…

What used to be hidden behind Miharu’s eyes that she always covered with her shaking hands is now exposed and imprinted onto Makoto’s mind and heart. Finally, finally, Miharu is learning to rely on him more and more, like how she really needs to.

“I’m here, Miharu-chan. I’m right here…”

And she nods and nods and nods, her head bobbing with such tiny movements that prompt Makoto to hug her tighter and rub more comforting circles on her back. For this reason alone, Makoto forgets his homework completely.

Reality has gone on its usual hasty routine; faster and faster, racing the bullet trains and the lights and the seasons. Summer vacation is fast approaching; anyone can tell from the humid breezes that blow over and around the city. Miharu has been burying herself with her schoolwork lately and Haruka is as busy as ever with training and competitions in between while Makoto got himself a part-time job at a convenience store.

To stop time, for just a moment, Miharu decides to call Gou one afternoon, looking over the neighborhood as she stands at her balcony.

“Gou-chan?”

“Miharu-senpai! Is that you?! It’s been so long!”

Miharu smiles to herself. “I know. How are you?”

“Everything’s been so hectic! We’ve been going to competitions, training and recruiting new members.” Gou lets out a deep breath after speaking in such a rush. “How about you, senpai? I bet you’ve been busier.”

“You can say that,” Miharu replies with a giggle. “Gou-chan.”

“Yes?”

“I think I’ll be coming home to Iwatobi this weekend. Do you mind if I visit you and the others?”

“Of course not! You’re always welcome to visit, senpai. I’ll tell Nagisa-kun and Rei-kun as soon as possible!” Gou says excitedly. She pauses just as a gasp escapes her. “Will Haruka-senpai and Makoto-senpai come home with you?”

A fat white-and-orange-striped cat crosses the street with its two kittens in tow. How peaceful the afternoon is…

“Miharu-senpai?”

“I haven’t talked to them in a while. They’ve been so busy,” she answers vaguely but truthfully. On the other line, Gou hums in thought.

“I see. Well, it can’t be helped,” she says in a tone that makes Miharu imagine her shrugging. “We’ll be practicing at the local pool this weekend so be sure to head over there.”

“Okay then. I’ll see you soon.”

“See you!”

After the call, Miharu leans over the balcony edge slightly to see where the cats have wandered off to. They’re nowhere to be found now so the girl retreats to her living room and plops down on the couch, tossing her phone on the table. She doesn’t feel like eating lunch either, having skipped breakfast that day and the day before. She doesn’t have much of an appetite to begin with. She gets by with apple juice or tea, coffee usually for dinner and a few biscuits and sweets.

“Iwatobi…” she murmurs as she closes her eyes. She wishes, deep within her subconscious, that she’d be back in her home once she sees again.

The wind bellows and rings the chimes hanging at the balcony, the clouds sluggishly careening past the sun in their homey blue. No, they are not and never will be in charge of making wishes come true but they do, naturally, generate serenity and much enough of it for Miharu to sleep well and dream of the beach that she longs to see and relive the memories that it has kept for her all these years.

For once, time treats Miharu well. She has finally returned to Iwatobi that Saturday morning. After having a normal breakfast with her parents at home, she readies herself for a stroll around the neighborhood, and maybe a visit to the bookstore. As she ventures out, passing by houses and shops she knows so well and had missed for the past months, she doesn’t expect to cross paths with familiar faces so soon into her visit.

“Onii-chan! It’s Miharu-neechan!”

“Hayato, what are you…”

Before Miharu now stand Kisumi and his younger brother, Hayato. The little boy seems much taller than the last time Miharu saw him and Kisumi is as friendly as ever, beaming at her with the most charming smile.

“It really is you, Miharu-chan!” Kisumi exclaims in glee as he traps the girl in a tight hug.

“O-Of course it’s me,” Miharu answers awkwardly. When Kisumi lets her go, she sees Hayato hesitate so she crouches down to level herself with the boy and opens her arms toward him. Hayato dashes right into her and ultimately makes her sit back on her heels, the young boy nuzzling her neck sweetly.

“Where did you go, Miharu-neechan?” Hayato whispers against her skin. “Onii-chan said you left the town!”

Miharu hugs him closer. “I transferred to a new school. I’m sorry I didn’t tell Hayato-kun.”

“Hnn…” the little boy murmurs, burying his face against the girl’s neck further. Miharu can feel his tears wetting her.

Kisumi frowns a little in worry, his hands on his hips. “Hayato, don’t make Miharu-neechan feel bad.”

“It’s okay,” Miharu whispers to Hayato. She combs her fingers through his soft hair comfortingly. “I’m sorry for leaving without telling you.”

Once Hayato calms down, the three of them start walking into a different neighborhood where Hayato’s friend lives. Apparently, Kisumi and the boy were on their way over before they bumped into Miharu. After they drop Hayato off at his friend’s house, Kisumi and Miharu walk to a nearby convenience store where they buy shakes. They take their beverages outside, to the parking lot, where Kisumi crouches down in a corner while Miharu stands next to him.

“I never saw you again after that visit at the pool,” says Kisumi, passively looking up at the sky. “I saw Haru and Makoto the day Rin left for Australia but I didn’t get the chance to ask them about you because Haru hurried off to the pool and Makoto, well, you know how he is.” He pauses to chuckle. “He just followed after Haru and they both disappeared.”

“I was preparing to leave for Tokyo,” Miharu mumbles against her straw. She likes biting the tip.

“Tokyo, huh? What’s it like there?”

Pictures of traffic and skyscrapers flash in Miharu’s mind. “Busy with lots and lots of noise.”

Kisumi leans forward, his arms stretched before him so he can stare at the plastic tumbler he’s holding before looking up at his companion. “Do you still talk to Haru and Makoto?”

“Mhm.”

“That’s nice,” he comments almost dreamily before he sighs. “I feel a little jealous.”

“Huh?”

“I haven’t heard from them in a long while. Rin and Sousuke seem to be busy, too.”

Miharu somewhat awkwardly pats Kisumi’s shoulder consolingly. “This may not be much but I’ll tell them to call you once I see them.”

A laugh escapes Kisumi’s lips. “You’re the best, Miharu-chan. But are you going somewhere after this?”

“I’m going to visit Gou-chan and the others at the local pool.”

Kisumi pouts. “I wish I could come along but I have errands to run before I fetch Hayato.”

The two of them dispose their cups into the trash bin by the exit. Before parting ways, Miharu takes out three lollipops from her pocket – strawberry, blackberry and lemon lime – and passes them on to Kisumi, whose eyes sparkle at the sight of sweets.

“Share them with Hayato-kun, okay?”

Delighted, Kisumi nods with a smile. “He’ll be thrilled. Thank you, Miharu-chan. I’ll see you around.” He turns a little as he takes a step forward but he looks over his shoulder, at Miharu’s curious expression, and says, “If you need anything – anything at all – or just someone to talk to, give me a call, okay?”

Just as Miharu’s lips part so that she could voice her reply, Kisumi turns away from her and raises a hand in the air, punctuating their conversation completely. He saunters off down the street and Miharu simply watches him go.





<<< Part 2 | Part 4 >>>



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