Ryoko, as I saw her
I think images flashed in my head but I couldn’t remember what I was dreaming.
I guess the only thing I remembered was biting my lower lip because that’s what I did after my eyes opened.
For a moment, my mind was a total blank. I didn’t think or mind anything around me.
Then, as if by instinct, I clutched my chest. Something was hurting inside me so bad…
I turned my head, thinking that I’d see no one, just as what usually happened when I woke up in the morning.
I saw a pair of concerned blue-ish brown eyes staring at me.
I had to pause and just take in all the emotions that radiated from them. God, I wish I were dead and in heaven.
I tried to open my mouth. My lips were dry and cracked and I felt some pain trying to open them. She spoke before I could conjure up any voice from my vocal chord.
“Hi.” Ryoko said.
My face was quite warm and I wanted to run out of the room as soon as I could. But something inside me kept me from hopping out of the bed. “I…”
“Just stay.” Ryoko said. “Stay here.”
I could swear we never talked much before then but at that moment that didn’t matter.
Speaking with a low and magnetic voice, she said: “Hey. You scared me.”
I shook my head; words failed me at that moment.
She continued: “You know, I’ve been looking at you all this time…”
I must have cocked an eyebrow because she laughed. “Such a smart girl.” She cooed.
“Uh…I don’t understand?” I said weakly.
She smiled: “I’ve been looking at you, you little kitten, since the first day you entered the school.”
“Wait, I don’t understand…” The Sannomiya Ryoko, looking at me? I remembered she saying that, but…
“But you never looked my way.” She said with a sigh. “I wish you did.”
My eyes widened: “But…I’ve been looking at you all this time!”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted it immensely. “I…”
Ryoko was taken aback. “You…actually looked at my direction?” She put a hand to her chest. “You noticed me?”
My mouth was agape. That was not what I was expecting to hear. Ryoko actually wished someone as featureless as me to notice her?
I said before, I was thin and frail with legs that no one in our school would care to notice.
Ryoko relaxed her shoulders and leaned back. “I never expected a smart girl like you to even glance my way.” She said.
Letting out a sigh, she smiled and looked at my face: “I’m so glad.” Her voice was deep and magnetic. God, I wished I were dead just then.
She paused and reached out with her right hand; I bit my lower lip. She retracted; I regretted biting my lower lip.
Ryoko sighed. “I couldn’t help myself…you were so different from all the other girls that melted when I barely walked pass by them. You were so free and careless in your ways…you just shot your eyes toward the heavens…” She shook her head. “I had never seen anyone like you…everyone turned to noticed me but you never did.”
I sighed. Indeed, I couldn’t careless when all the fan girls in school drooled at the sight of her. It was not something I wished to pursue. I’ve always noticed her when I felt a different aura from her.
I…I couldn’t stop smiling when I thought about her - her essence, her grace, her elegance and her feminine strength. Something in her made women proud to be women. God, that’s what I wanted to see from her.
She still had her competition swimsuit on. She looked dynamite. She seemed to brace herself. “Hey, listen…I…”
The door to the nurse’s office slid open without any warning.
Somewhat annoyed, I shot my eyes at the direction of the door. My eyes rounded as I recognized the intruder to my moment of near triumph.
It was Kanazuki Mari who entered.
Mari quickly came to my side and before I could say anything, she put her right hand on my forehead. Her hand was so soft and nice. I really loved the feeling of her skin against mine. She had a smell that was a cross between perfume and flower. I cared very little for perfume – I always smelled like Dove. On the other hand, she smelled amazing.
A zone of aroma that I didn’t particularly care surrounded most men. I didn’t notice how girls smelled before. But for some reason, my sense of smell became quite strong within the past few minutes.
I blinked, feeling guilty that I’ve totally forgot about her during the past 12 hours or so. I let a sigh escape my lips and then regretted it.
Because she frowned right away and then took hold of my hands. “I’m sorry, Sayosayo, I should’ve been there.”
I shook my head. “No, you couldn’t have. Don't worry about it, after all, I was just near the pool and you were probably…”
I widened my eyes in surprise after realizing her outfit, or rather, her school regulation swimsuit. “Mari?”
She merely nodded. “Yeah, I guess I should’ve told you that I’m on the swim team…”
Both of us turned to look at Ryoko. She tried to keep a smile on her face but it wasn’t the gentle and warm smile she showed toward me when she and I were alone. Her facial lines were tense.
Mari straightened herself regally with her chin up and turned fully to face Ryoko.
Ryoko crossed her arms in front of her and stood toe to toe with Mari.
Both of them smiled but I was not a least bit thrilled to see their faces right then.
Sparks clashed between them.
“So, I guess you two met.” Ryoko said. Her voice was rather quiet. “I guess I don’t have to introduce you two.”
“Yes. We have. As a matter of fact, Miss Sannomiya, we were childhood friends.” Mari tossed her fine strands of blond hair back with flair and I could swear with some defiance as well. “We mean a lot to each other.” Her voice was quiet as well.
Wait a minute; what was she trying to say?
Ryoko’s eyebrows arched. “Oh, is that right, Miss Kanazuki? Don’t you mean, ‘meant a lot to each other?’”
The fire that was ignited between them burst into silent flames and it wasn’t friendly warmth that was being generated.
Mari opened her mouth but Ryoko dismissed her with a wave. “It was rather rude of you to come in without knocking, Miss Kanazuki. That was rather unbecoming of you.”
If there was one I think I knew about Mari, it was that she wasn’t someone you could simply dismiss; after all, she always behaved like a noble woman from the courts and there was a good reason for that.
Her family had been the direct aid to the prime ministers and the shoguns before that for centuries behind the scenes. She had generations after generations of noble blood in her.
I tensed up and winced in advance, hoping to brace myself well for the powerful and regal verbal retaliation/outburst.
Mari simply held Ryoko’s gaze for a moment. She took in a deep breath. As my jaw fell to the ground, she bowed slightly to Ryoko. “Yes, you’re right, Miss Sannomiya. I really should have knocked first. My apologies.”
What was that?
“However,” Mari quickly straightened up. “I feel that you bear a strong responsibility for letting a frail girl who can’t swim for her dear life to fall into the pool.” Her eyes flashed and I winced before Ryoko reacted. Ouch, even thought her katana-sharp-gaze wasn’t directed at me.
Sunlight came in and for a moment, Mari seemed to dwarf Ryoko then. As her hair shined and even glared, I blinked. Mari was not merely a princess then; she was the queen.
Ryoko took a step back. Taking in a deep breath, she turned to me.
As my eyes widened, she took my hands in hers. God, her hands were also soft. However, they were firm and strong. I peered sheepishly at her face. I couldn’t react because I was enjoying her touch.
“I’m sorry, my kitten, would you forgive me? I was so caught up in my training that I failed to notice your presence. I’m so sorry.” She said. With a dreamy smile she pecked me on my left cheek, and then she grinned brightly.
I heard a sharp intake of breath fro Mari’s direction. I was too scared to look her way.
“How dare you…?” Mari said. This time, Ryoko waved her off.
“I think, Miss Kanazuki, that you know we’re equals.” Ryoko said slowly. She straightened herself in full. Her chest was high and her shoulders were thrown back with pride. She tucked a strand of hair behind her right ear with grace. “Unless, of course, you’d like to cover the debt for the entire nation with your family’s wealth?”
I gasped. That was probably something I should not have heard. “Ah…”
Mari snapped sharply before I could interject: “You really should behave yourself, Miss Sannomiya. She doesn’t need to…”
“What, you couldn’t tell your best friend about it? It’s not that much of a secret, you know.”
“Um, Actually, I think I have a right not to know about it.” I quickly interrupted, inevitably coming to Mari’s aid in the process. “I…Ah…I’m not sure what’s going on, but…” seeming both of them peering at my face with concerned eyes and the sweetest smiles I had ever seen at the same time, I almost lost my capacity to form words properly. “I think I should just…ah…rest for a little then go home?”
They both opened their mouths but I waved, albeit awkwardly. “Could…could you two leave me alone for a while?”
Both of them slumped a little, looking deflated. The ticking time bomb I imagined in my head was dismantled.
Mari came up to take my right hand and she was about to reach for my left but Ryoko quickly took it up with surprising gentleness. Mari held my right hand to her chest and Ryoko put my left onto her face and caressed it. “You have cold hands, Sayoko.” Ryoko said first. “But they’re fine and cute.”
I blushed hard.
Mari whispered: “Take care of yourself, Sayosayo. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Um…” I said after neither of them made a move for a while. “I think I can’t rest without my hands tucked in…”
Their faces turned red. They quickly but gently tucked my hands under the cover. Both smiled at me before leaving room. Ryoko winked and Mari clasped her hands in prayer-like gesture. They exchanged no words and left in opposite directions.
I sighed. My mind was a blur. Despite my whirling entanglement of emotions and thoughts, I quickly felt asleep.