"So that's the kind of boy you go for, is it?" Sae asked, her eyes alight with something other than just friendly curiosity. They were in the hallway of their high school in between classes and Sae had caught Momo looking at a boy earlier and was now on the trail of dirt.
"Who, Touji?" Momo replied, looking over at the boy in question with an unsure expression on her face. "No, I don't feel that way about Touji. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a really nice guy!" Momo was fast to correct, thinking maybe she'd given the wrong impression. "I just..."
"There's someone else you're interested in?" Sae asked, with something approaching friendly interest. Though the level of curiosity evident spoke otherwise.
"Um, well, yeah. There is..." Momo looked down, avoiding eye contact.
"Well, who is he? You've got to tell me. You know I'll find out anyway if you don't." Her friend warned, and Momo knew that Sae wouldn't easily give up if she thought something like this was being hidden from her.
Momo went over and leaned against a windowsill, looking thoughtful a moment. "Alright. Um, but just, not now, o'kay?" Momo looked at her friend with pleading eyes. "Just wait a little while, and I'll tell you. I promise I will." She said.
"Mm..." Sae considered her friend. "This is really serious, isn't it?" She asked.
Momo felt her face warm a little and was sure she was blushing some, glad that her darker skin at least had the benefit of hiding it a little when she blushed. "Yeah, I guess... I guess it really is." She admitted.
"When are you going to tell me?" Sae whined a little and did her best to look the part.
"Well I um, that is..." Momo tried to think.
"Come on Momo, I'm your best friend." Sae persisted, taking one of Momo's hands in both of hers and holding it to her chest. "If you can't tell me, who can you tell? Right?" She pressed the point with her eyes.
Momo's mouth fell open just a little, caught in her friend's eyes. "I um, uh, yeah... I'll tell you..." She felt her cheeks flare with warmth and all the nerve endings in her hand heat and send such good feelings through her from Sae's hands over hers like that. "You, um... are you still going to come over to my house this weekend?" She asked very shyly.
Sae nodded. "Of course I am, Momo." She said.
"Then I'll tell you then." Momo said, a shy smile coming to her lips.
Sae got a triumphant look in her eyes and moved in closer to Momo, her face now mere inches away. "I'll hold you to that." She said lowly.
Momo gulped. [Is she going to kiss me?] Her mind stupidly asked.
"Well, now that that's settled, we have to get to classes, don't we." Sae backed away and clasped her hands behind her back, leaning forward at the waist a little and smiling. "Come on, we're meeting out by the pool today." She spoke. "I want to see you beat everybody again. It's so funny to see the other girls give you those death looks behind your back." She laughed.
"They really do that?" Momo asked, letting Sae tug her by the hand away from the window and falling into step besides the other girl. Momo fleetingly wished Sae had kept possession of her hand, even though she knew it would look strange and she'd be embarrassed by it. She and Sae already got a few strange looks every now and then, and Momo hated to think of what those looks might mean people thought about her, or about Sae. She also hated to think that people gave her dirty looks because she was so good at swimming though. Why did people have to do that?
"Uh huh, it's really sad too. Bitter people. I tell you." Sae joked. "Boys like that sort of thing though, you know. You should bring this boy you like to a swimming meet. I bet he'd just die." Sae further poked at her friend's mysterious crush.
"Sae..." Momo's eyes fell, feeling more embarrassed. "Do you have to say things like that to me?" She pleaded.
"Come on Momo, you know it's true." She further pandered to her friend's ego. "Any guy would be so totally lucky to have you."
Momo looked over at Sae as they walked. "You think so?" She asked.
Sae met Momo's eyes. "I know so!" She said. Her mind already stewing over what she'd do when she found out who this boy was.
That night Momo Adachi lay on her side in bed, a framed picture of her and Sae at the park in her hands and the clothes she'd worn out to the shopping district that afternoon still on her. She closed her eyes and sighed softly, remembering the look on Sae's face, in her dancing eyes, when her friend had pulled her along by the hand into a jewelry shop to browse for things that were mostly too expensive for them to buy (although there were some things there meant to pander to teenage girls on a budget like the two of them). A warm feeling spread through Momo's body in remembering.
She hadn't had an easy time of it in her life, especially in school. Ever sense she was little, you see, she'd loved swimming and would take part in it when ever she could. She'd joined the swim team the first chance she'd gotten, and that meant she felt like she had to practice all the more to be the best she could. Add to that all the time she spent out doors, because she was not an indoor sort of person by any means, and you got a very noticeably tan person. Add to that her reddish blonde hair, courtesy of the chlorine in the pools she swam in, and to look at her, she seemed to fit the bill for one of those girls who went to indoor tanning salons and changed their hair color to get noticed more. Boys thought she was easy, and girls thought she was shameless just by looking at her. The trouble was, none of it was true. She'd come by her looks naturally. Truth be known, she'd never even kissed a boy. And in fact, she no longer wanted to even do that.
She had liked a boy once. Really liked him. Kazuya Toujigamori, Touji, the boy she'd been caught looking at in school the other day that had led to Sae's little hallway interrogation and the impending date with disaster that the weekend might turn out to be. Touji had been nice to her, when a lot of others weren't. One day though, a friend of hers had told her, Touji didn't like girls with deep tans like hers. It had really hurt. And for a while after that, she'd been obsessed with trying to lose that tan of hers so Touji would be interested in her. It hadn't really worked very well through. Even though she'd stayed out of the water a lot and gone though a pile of bottles of sunblock, it hadn't really put all that much of a dent in her tan. And she'd been miserable too, really missing being in the water. Still, she'd tried so hard, because she knew it would be worth it to have someone special like Touji who would be in love with her. Someone to stand by her and go through life by her side. Someone to whom she could give her heart and trust it was safe....
But it hadn't worked out like that at all. She'd never told Touji how she felt. She knew a lot of people, and some of them were friendly to her. Lord knows she went out of her way to be friendly to them when she could - to try to show who she was, on the inside. But she still felt alone. She hadn't had even one good friend who she could point to and say: I've got someone in my life who really matters. All that changed one day though. And that had all been because of Sae Kashiwagi. Sae had come up to her in class and pretty much told her they were friends now. She hadn't cared what anyone else thought - and, one time, when some boys were giving her a hard time, one of them making some unwelcome advances towards her (it happened sometimes) - Sae had marched up and chewed them out so bad it was funny, and when she'd been done she'd dragged Momo away and they'd gone to an ice-cream parlor and then the park.
From that day on, thoughts of Touji, who had already started to fade in her thoughts of late, just seemed to be relegated more and more to the past. As feelings she'd once had that didn't matter anymore. She'd started to swim again and when Sae had told her how impressed she was with her ability, she'd taken to the pool again with the same passion she'd had for it when she'd first joined the swim team. And it had felt really, really good. Sae wasn't perfect of course, and Momo could see that. The other girl played tricks on her sometimes, and was way too nosey for complete comfort, but it didn't really matter to her any more. Sae was her friend, and the only one who cared. Sae was shorter than her, but also never hesitated putting herself in the way when someone was ragging on her or something.
It had happened slowly, and at first she wondered if it was real. If she could really feel that way about another girl. She'd been quieter than normal around the other girl for a few days, staring off into space or looking at other girls and at boys and imagining different scenarios to see if she was attracted to girls in general or boys, if it was just Sae, or what. Sae had grown more an more impatient with her over that, and finally gone on a little of a terror over it, managing to break Momo's withdrawn introspection and return them to something more normal. After that, Momo had caught herself many times just staring at the other girl with what she could only imagine was something like a love sick expression on her face. She'd done her best not to let Sae catch her at it, but it was getting harder and people were starting to notice more and more. She'd even caught this one group of girls talking in hushed tones and looking at her and Sae one day. She couldn't prove it, but she was sure they knew something was going on. Which was the story of her life really, because in reality there wasn't anything going on between her and Sae. The difference was though, that this time, she wanted there to be.
Thinking about it logically, that she'd promised Sae to tell her her feelings this weekend was probably for the best. Not that the fact of that made her stomach feel any more at ease about it mind you. Still, if this went on much longer, or if Sae really tried to look into the 'boy' that Momo had a crush on, the truth was sure to come out. Far better if Momo had the chance to break the news in private in her house and that Sae heard it from her and not someone else. That was actually the only reason she'd been caught staring at Touji that day, really. She'd been thinking and thinking about how she should tell Sae she was in love with her, or even if she should. She'd been looking at Touji to try to see if she still had any of her old feelings for him. If there had maybe been some mistake in all of this or something. But the only thing she'd felt for him was the fondness one felt for a memory, the echoes of a past hurt that had since healed itself, and maybe a small sense of regret at a friendship that had drifted apart before it had even begun...
Momo finally opened her eyes and looked at the picture in her hands. Sae's smiling face and oh so amazing eyes looked back at her and filled her with warmth and feelings of love and precious friendship. There had been no mistake. The only one she wanted to be with was Sae. She was sure of that now. And next Saturday, she would tell her. She would lay her heart on the line and risk it all for love.
She said a silent prayer to whoever would listen, that her heart would be safe and that Sae would love her back. The thought of anything else was just too painful for her to consider.
The next few days had been a blur of activity, and they'd ended far too soon. Momo had been on a personal mission to impress and endear herself to her friend just as much as she could. She'd taken her to the fair grounds and paid for everything one afternoon, and the other they'd spent in town going wherever Sae wanted to. They'd ended up spending a lot of time in this video arcade actually. They had all these weird games Momo had never seen before, not that she'd spent much time playing video games or going to arcades or anything mind you. And she'd been really hopeless at most of them, so she hadn't even had to pretend to let Sae, who was likewise mostly ignorant of the games there, trounce her at everything. Momo had been good at the ones that required good aim though. She always had really good coordination (most of the time) and she'd ended up winning two stuffed animals and a cheep looking necklance for the other girl. Sae had greedily taken the items with pride and given Momo more than one hug, so delighted was she at the gifts that had been won for her.
Now all that was over though. It was almost ten and Sae would be here soon.
Momo was busily making sure her room was spotless and going over words in her mind again and again, still not quite having determined the best way to actually say it. "Sae, I'm in love with you." She spoke to the mirror on her wall, studying her face critically and wondering again if she should change her hair.
Before such a debate could again begin though, the doorbell rang. "Coming!" She yelled automatically, though she knew form experience that her guest wouldn't be able to hear her. She checked herself in the mirror one last time and raced down the stares to go and open the door.
"Hi!" She said excitedly as she opened the door. Her rush of energy fell right away though when she actually saw Sae standing there looking perfect in her casual Saturday clothes, the other girl's eyes locking with her own and staying there as if to say 'I know something'.
"Hi Momo." Sae said, eyes once again dancing at something only she knew what. "Can I come in?"
"Oh, um, sure." Momo said, moving aside for her friend who had already started to walk in before she'd had a chance to reply.
"So, you have something to tell me?" She asked.
"Um yeah, uh... Yes I do..." Momo looked at her and something inside her froze.
"Momo, are you o'kay?" Sae asked, genuinely seeming to be concerned. "You're acting kind'a strange."
Sae bent forward at the waist, hands on her hips, and made to study Momo as if to look for signs of what was wrong on the other girl's face.
"Oh, um," Momo laughed a little self consciously. "Yeah, I'm alright. I guess I... Just didn't get up on the right side of bed this morning, that's all."
Sae looked at her strangely. "Momo, you never get up on the right side of bed. There's a wall there." She pointed out.
Momo laughed again. "When you're right, you're right." She said. "So, um, you wan'a go upstairs?" She asked helplessly.
"Mm, o'kay. Sure. Lets go." Sae said, turning to go to the stairs. "But don't think I'm letting you off the hook just because you've got a brain injury or something." She pronounced, turning around and looking at Momo over her shoulder. "You are going to tell me your secret today. Got it?"
Momo laughed nervously again. "Got it." She said, trying to act calm and amiable. [I think I'm in trouble...] She thought to herself, quickly getting herself to move and follow Sae upstairs. [Please let me not mess this up.] She pleaded into the ether.
See you next time...