A long and hard night, pt. 1
“Ah…like…Come in, please…” I whispered. Like come in please? I was kicking myself inside.
The two of them moved forward for about less than an inch and then stopped at the same time.
“Well, why don’t you go ahead, Miss Sannomiya?” Mari said. Her sarcasm was needle sharp and I had to fight off the urge to run.
Ryoko leaned back a little, and then bowed slightly and gestured. “Why don’t you go right ahead, Miss Kanazuki?”
Mari took a deep breath and let it out strongly. “All right.” She said.
The strings of my heart loosened somewhat as both of them finally came inside. Oh dear.
Both of them took off their shoes; Mari’s feet were small, delicate and cute, with the big toes being the longest and the other toes followed their orders of length down to the pinky toes. She took a look at Ryoko’s size 10 feet and laughed.
Ryoko blushed and looked away for a microsecond before shooting back her gaze at Mari: “Perhaps that’s why I can swim better in water, Miss Kanazuki.” She said.
Mari’s face flustered, but she quickly gained her composure. “Well, perhaps that’s why I’m more elegant on land, Miss Sannomiya.” She said.
Ryoko’s face’s flustered and her facial lines hardened.
“Um…Can you guys just come in, please?” I said. I could feel a drop of sweat sliding down on the right side of my face.
Both of their faces turned red and they seemed to shrink a little. “I’m sorry.” Both of them said at the same time. Next, they stared at each other and then snapped their heads to look away from each other.
I sighed. It was going to be a long night.
Both of them requested to study in my room. I couldn’t utter any suggestions. Besides, I wanted them in my room…near my bed…near the place where I fantasized about being with another girl…
I shook my head and invited them in.
Quickly, Mari took her position on the right side of the small table in the middle of the room, and Ryoko took hers on the left side of the table. Both of them knew how to sit properly.
I frowned; I usually just stretched my legs out and I couldn’t care less about sitting properly. Oh dear.
Seeing both of them sitting uptight, I sighed. This was going to be a long evening.
“Um.” I said. Both of them looked at my direction and I nearly lost my voice. “Would you like some thing to eat and drink?” I said. Duh, I thought.
Mari smiled. “Yes, please. I’ve always liked the desserts that you provided.”
Ryoko quickly scanned her abdomen, and replied. “Wow, that’d be wonderful, thanks, Sayoko!”
“Really, Miss Sannomiya.” Mari spoke: “I thought you’ve been on a diet in preparation for the competition!” She said. A smirk came off her lips.
Ryoko blushed. God, I love it even when she was shy.
“Uh…Well…Aren’t you on the competitor’s roster as well?” She said. An evil glint was in her eyes.
It was Mari’s turn to blush. “R…right. Yes, of course…I…uh…I think I’ve been good and I deserve a treat.”
Ryoko laughed, to which, Mari shot her with a gaze that I wish I’d never receive even on my happiest days. “I hope so.” Ryoko said.
I sighed. “I..um…I guess I’ll just bring the tea and dessert, huh?”
Quickly, I left my room.
I hope they would not be at each other’s throat by the time I went back.
I sighed with relief when I saw them staying at their respective positions exactly as they did. I did shudder, wondering what other words they exchanged when I was absent. On second thought, I probably didn’t want to know.
The air among us thickened considerably as the three of us ate cheesecakes and drank tea in silence. Odd combination, I thought.
I bit my lower lip. I wanted to get out, I wanted to flee to the streets, to the park nearby, so that I could lie on a bench and stare at the starry night.
On the other hand, my superstars were near me and perhaps, I could just gaze at both of them at the same time. I used to gaze at the stars and imaging being up there with them in the heavens without feeling ashamed of my plain appearance, which would be reflected under their radiance and laid out plainly for the world to see.
“Maybe we should study?” I muttered.
“You remember that time we were up in the mountains for star gazing?” Mari said. “Wasn’t that great?”
I nearly jumped. “Y…Yeah. It sure was.” I couldn’t help but grin. My eyes got a little wispy. “You know, I never remembered the names of the constellations but I was just so…happy to see them. They were like…”
“Sparkles and gems thrown carelessly on black velvet?” Mari spoke my thoughts out aloud before I could finish.
“Yeah.” I smiled. Tension was drained from my shoulders.
“Right?” She said. We both stared at each other for a moment and then let out a sigh collaboratively.
I shook my head. “What happen to you anyway, you’re like…different…” I said.
“Did you make this, Sayoko? It’s delicious.” Ryoko said. I jumped, and then quickly sat back down.
I turned to see her drinking the tea gracefully with her index finger, middle finger and her thumb on her left hand holding the ear of the cup. I cocked an eyebrow as I suddenly realized that how quiet she has been. All the usual energy that I had been seeing from her was somehow distilled into a quiet force resting inside her bodily form. She was silent but alert, with a smile that I couldn’t refuse – if she asked for something.
“Yes, I made the tea. But I got the cake from that shop across from the station,” with my face turning red, I muttered: “I can’t bake…or cook…you know…” I said.
“I can teach you. In fact, if you don’t mind, I could just show you right now.” Ryoko said.
I blinked. “Right…now…?” I said.
“Do you have any ingredient in your refrigerator?”
Ryoko stood up. “Come on. Let me show you. It’s simple, really.”
I stood up. I never expected Ryoko to know how to cook. I assumed she placed all her energy into swimming and socializing with her teammates in addition to fending away screaming fan girls.
“My parents are never home, so I had to learn.” She said. “Come on, let me show you.”
“Wait a second,” Mari said. “How very rude of you for interrupting us! We were just sharing our memories and we were definitely not done.” She paused. “Why are you here anyway?” she said.
She stood up. Ryoko turned and returned her glare.
“I’m here because I care about Sayoko. I wanted to see that she was all right.” Ryoko said.
“Well, you don’t know her, and she doesn’t know you.” Mari said. Her voice was becoming a little quieter. “I think you’ve been the source of her anxieties.” She said.
“But I can’t help myself.” Ryoko put her left hand to her chest and gestured with her right hand. “She’s special to me.” She said.
My face was probably red like a tomato at that point. “Ah...I…” I said.
“Stay out of it!” Mari snapped without looking at me.
“Let us finish this.” Ryoko said quickly with a smile without looking at me.
“Ah…mm.” I mumbled. Then, bowing my head, I started playing with my braids. I had always been quiet during moments of confrontation. It wasn’t my nature to speak or even move during these moments. My gaze was downcast and I couldn’t think.
The doorbell rang.
Letting out a big sigh of relief, I started heading out of my room. I stopped at the door. With my hands on the knob, I turned.
Mustering as much strength as I could, I looked at both of them. “Please behave yourselves before I come back, or I will be alone tonight.” I said, with emphasis on “will”.
“OK, Sayosayo.” Mari said. Her hands were in her lap.
“As you wish, my kitten.” Ryoko made an exaggerated gentleman’s introduction bow.
I bit my lower lip hearing the word “kitten” but said nothing.
As if by miracle, I rushed downstairs without stumbling much in the process. Opening the door, I sighed in relief seeing Keiko standing there. Taking a glance at what she was holding, I smiled and let the tension in my body drain away.
She had Chinese takeout in her hands. Looking directly into my eyes, she smiled back. “Want some dinner?” She said.
A long and hard night, pt. 2
“Here,” she said.
With a smiled I took the Chinese takeout from her hands. I braced myself. “You know, actually, I have…unexpected guests so…I hope this is enough for four of us.” I said.
Keiko’s eyes widened. “Four? You mean you have two guests here?” She said.
“Mmm.” I nodded. “I honestly didn’t expect them to show up.”
Something in my demeanor probably betrayed some of my emotions because Keiko took a step closer and leaned closer to me. “Are they…?”
I turned to look at the dinner table. “Let’s just eat.” I said.
Keiko took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I knew your mom’s never home so I bought a lot. There should be enough for four people.” She said. After a brief pause she continued: “Actually, I was thinking that you could have the left over for lunch but I guess that’s not going to happen.”
I turned to her.
“Thank you. You’ve always been so thoughtful.” I said. I couldn’t help but blush and grin.
Keiko brushed a strand of her hair back. “You know, I’ve always tried to be a good friend.” Her voice dropped an octave and her eyes drooped. “But I still have trouble figuring you out.”
I bit my lower lip but said nothing.
We went to the dining area and I place the Chinese takeout on the table. Clearing my throat, I shouted toward my room upstairs: “Dinner’s ready! Won’t you two come down and eat?”
There was a silence. After it was drawn out into a painful minute or so, they finally came down; Mari was in the front and Ryoko followed her. They kept their distance from each other.
A sharp intake of breath came from Keiko’s direction and I shot a glance at her. Her body became extremely rigid. My eyes caught hers but she quickly looked down.
Mari continued her regal pace toward us but Ryoko’s feet seemed to be cemented at the bottom of the stairway.
“Wonderful. This restaurant serves delicious quick-eats.” Mari said. She looked at Keiko and then at me. “Would you like to introduce your friend?” She said.
Her clear and soothing voice broke my trance. “Oh right. Mari, this is Miss Sawashiro Keiko. Keiko, this is Miss Kanazuki Mari.”
Mari reached out with her right hand, palm down. “Nice to meet you.”
Keiko smiled but I could see she wasn’t exactly in a friendly mood. She did take Mari’s hand, however. “It’s very nice to meet you, Miss Kanazuki. I’m surprised but delighted.”
I winced. Her attempt at friendliness was not convincing. What was going on in her mind? As I followed Keiko’s glance, my eyes landed on Ryoko’s face. She smiled but had her head turned sideways. I looked back at Keiko; her eyes were downcast and her face was red,
My eyes narrowed. “Uh…Miss Sannomiya, would you come and join us for dinner?” I managed without straining my voice.
Thoughts were racing through my head but it wasn’t the time to discuss any of it.
Ryoko waved her hand. “You know what? I think I probably should stick to my diet after all.” She walked right past the three of us without a glance. Before I could say anything, she was at the door. “I’ll see you guys later.” She gave another wave.
“Let me…I’ll walk with you for a little bit.” I said. Without any hesitation, I followed her out of door. Neither Mari nor Keiko said anything or followed along.
She took a few steps, turned, and gazed straight into my eyes. “Yes?” She said.
My legs trembled but I managed to stay upright. I breathed in deeply.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry that I ran…away.” I said. My heart was pounding and threatening to jump out of my mouth.
Ryoko beamed. I could swear I was literally turning into jelly by her gaze. “You don’t have to apologize. Not at all.” She said. Without any warning, she reached out and touched my left cheek. “Maybe I'm just better off walking away right now, huh?”
That’s not fair. I thought. “I…Ah…” was all I could manage to say.
She dropped her hand, turned and started to walk away. “I’d love to stay, my kitten. But I don’t want to be in this mix at the moment.” She waved behind her back. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Wait a minute!” I finally remembered the other thing. “You and Keiko…?”
Saying nothing, she waved and continued walking. My gaze followed the graceful curve of her back. Even after she turned the corner and disappeared from my sight physically, my eyes still tried to track her, though I was imagining her posture and motion as she walked. I closed my eyes, wishing to intertwine my legs with hers with out feet touching. Sighing, I shook my head and went inside.
A long and hard night, pt. 3
Looking at the floor nearly all the way, I went back inside of my house.
Knowing that my friends were still waiting, I kept a smile on my face and tried to lift my head up. My mind was racing and spinning but my heart was rapidly slowing down. I paused for a brief second; it was almost like I was looking at myself from a different angle. The other me was residing in a frozen moment in time, observing my actions.
I lifted up my head; Mari ran toward me and grabbed my hands.
“Are you all right?” she said. Her voice was so soft and gentle and her embrace was so tender that I wanted to collapse in her arms. I braced myself with as much strength I could muster.
“I’m fine, thank you.” I said.
Mari’s eyes searched mine for a few second, and then she looked at the table. “I guess we should eat.” She said.
Without another word, I sat down. The three of us each sampled the delicacies laid before us. I knew there were vegetables, pork, chicken and rice, but I couldn’t remember much else.
I stared at my bowl after I was done. I couldn’t move my hands if I wanted to. I just stared at it.
“Can’t believe that you’d find Yamashita attractive.” Keiko said. Her voice made me twitch a little. A boy? I thought.
“No, no. She’s hot but I don’t have the hots for her.” Mari said. Her laughter was clear as bells. “I certainly didn’t miss her butt whenever she walked by, but I wasn’t into her.”
I could hear her crystal clear laugh. I frowned.
What were they talking about while I was gone?
Keiko’s hand was on my arm. I barely lifted my eyelids. “Yeah?” I said.
“Well, you must have someone you have a crush on, right?” She said.
I shook my head; were my movements so cheerful? Did I look like I wanted to participate?
“I guess…not…” I mumbled. “And…even if I did, the person won’t notice me any way.” I said. My eyes were on the floor the entire time.
The next thing I knew, Marimari and Keiko took seats on my left and right. Before I could utter a protest, they took my hands and stroked my arms.
A chill crawled up my spine but a warm feel shot into my heart. They had really soft hands and both of them smelled very nice. I bit my lower lip. “Um…” I said.
“Don’t worry hon. Just relax, OK?” Marimari said.
“You’ve been stressed out lately, I know.” Keiko said.
“Hey, you know she’s sensitive here?”
Marimari poked at my left ribs and I started cringing and giggling. “How about here, then?” Keiko poked at my right flank and I burst out laughing.
“Koochi-koochi-koo…” Marimari whispered in my left ear. Her breathy voice made my body tingle. God, I hated and loved it when she did that. She learned about all my secret weak spots when we were kids. One time, I stayed over at her place, and out of boredom, she started tickling me all over. I tried bravely not to laugh, but when her fingers stroke near my chest, I couldn’t hold back and I rolled and thrashed like a bull.
“S…Stop…” I laughed and squirmed, trying to fight off her ticklish fingers. What made it worse what that Keiko was showering her loving attention on my ribs on the right. She smelled so nice and she stroked with just the right pressure that I couldn’t help but squirm. But damn it! She held my right arm and refused to let me break free.
What was a girl supposed to do under the assault of two sets of tickling fingers?
Something broke in my heart and I broken down and cried. My shoulders shuddered uncontrollably and I sobbed.
I felt two sets of arms surrounding me. In my teary eyes, I saw both of them embracing me.
“I’m sorry hon, I thought I’d cheer you up the old way.” Marimari whispered.
“Yeah, we meant it as a joke…to get you out of the gloom…” Keiko said.
“We’re sorry.” They said in unison.
I opened my eyes and found two sets of doe-like eyes looking back. “I’m sorry, it’s just that…” I choked back some of my tears. “I…I don’t know what’s happening to me.”
My mind dimly wondered how they managed to coordinate a tickle play within the relatively short time I was out side. Did they know each other from somewhere?
Following my lead, both Keiko and Marimari cried. We held on to each other and had a good sob for a while.
“Hey, do you still need company tonight?” Marimari said.
I nodded without a word.
“Do you mind if we stay over, then?” Keiko said.
I sighed but I shook my head.
“Great.” Marimari said. “Let me call my butler and he’ll send over what I’ll need.”
“Butler? God damn you’re just too rich for me girl!” Keiko said.
I blinked and then became wide-eyed in wonder.
“Oh silly you. Did you think I wanted to be this way?” Marimari said.
“Well, as for me, I’m already ready.” Keiko said. She whipped out a toiletry kit and began to strip off her shirt.
“Ah…Um…” I blushed. “Maybe you shouldn’t…”
Keiko looked at my direction and winked. “I came prepared, silly.” She said. Taking off her shirt revealed a jammie underneath. “You may want to pay attention to Miss Kanazuki later, though.” She smiled coyly.
I frowned. “Huh?”
Marimari smiled. “You’ll love it, really.”
With that, my heart started pounding and refused to stop.