From a distance I used to watch him, like a forgotten shadow hanging upon the heels of others. But that was enough. Simply watching him was enough to provide me with happiness. I tend to stay away from people because they would often laugh at my awkward behavior, my stuttering words and my humble looks. They never bothered to understand why I was the way I was. Instead, they made many assumptions about me just with the brief seconds that they spent looking at me. All they saw was a short skinny girl with vacant gray eyes, abnormally long black hair and sickly pale face. They knew nothing about me and yet, they believed that their brief assessment was enough to understand who I was. Yes, people were cruel in that way.
However, he wasn't like that. He always smiled his radiant smiles. He had asked me how I was doing. Yes, he would actually talk to me, at least until someone pulled him away. I could still remember that day... that day when we first meet...
It was the first day of ninth grade. He had just moved to Tokyo from Fukuoka. Later that day, I was hiding in the stairway trying my best not to cry. The hurtful reactions from my classmates earlier were especially harsh. During English class, the teacher made me read a paragraph from my essay. I was so nervous that my stuttering became almost incomprehensible. They all laughed at me... the teacher didn't but I could tell that he was trying his best to hide his smile.
After class I quickly took off to hide in the stairway, but he followed me. He sat down next to me and spoke to me in his gentle and kind voice:
I looked up and found myself staring into a pair of soft brown eyes. I remembered that a sudden fall breeze flew through the opened windows and tossed about his matching light brown hair. For a long time I just stared at him. To my surprise, he simply stared back, smiling. Finally he broke the silence by saying:
"Gomen, let me introduce myself. My name is Yumada, Hakari."
In a meek voice I replied: "M-m-m-y n-name is Yuki, M-m-megumi."
"Nice to meet you Megumi-chan!" He extended one of his slender but firm hands toward me. Hesitantly, I extended mine. But before our hands touched, another voice rang out behind us.
"Yo Hakari-kun! We've got soccer practice! You're gonna be late!"
"Be right there!" Hakari turned back to me and said apologetically: "I'm sorry Megumi-chan I have to go. But I just wanted you to know that I liked your essay."
Those were the first and last words that he had spoken to me within the whole year. From then on, I could only watch him from afar. He quickly became one of the most popular boys at school. He was elected into the school council, became the captain of the soccer team and received so many love letters that his locker was constantly bulging from them.
I never wrote silly letters confessing my feelings for him. I didn't have to. I knew that he would never look upon me with as much adoration as I looked upon him. We were night and day. But I didn't care. As long as I could watch him from a distance and see him happy, that was enough. He was perfect. Everything about him was perfect; from his handsome looks to his easy going and caring personality. Not a single cloudy day existed in Yumada, Hakari's perfect life. He was always happy. At least, that was what I wanted to believe...
* * *
Many months later...
It was an ordinary day. I dragged my lead filled feet down the stark concrete sidewalks. In the distance I could hear the crickets chirping among the cool shade of the willow trees. Just one more week before summer vacation would begin. I wasn't at all thrilled. My parents owned a small local restaurant and they would become especially busy during the summer months. My older sister was a college student but worked during the summer to pay for her tuition. And my younger brother was usually too ashamed of me to be caught dead around me. I suppose this summer would be like the rest... a lonely one...
I was so busy dreading summer vacation that I did not pay attention to where I was walking. Without looking, I made a sharp turn around a corner and found myself walking right into someone.
"G-g-g-omen! I d-didn't mean to..." My heart stopped when I looked up and found myself staring at a familiar pair of lovely brown eyes. "Ha…Hakari-kun?"
"Megumi-chan! Long time no see!" He smiled at me, the same smile as when we first meet. My heart was dancing in circles. I took in a deep breath, gathered all of my nerves and asked:
"H-h-how are y-you Hakari-kun?"
"Oh, I'm alright... My! I can't believe the year is almost finished. I remember talking to you on the first day of school..." Suddenly his lovely smile turned into a slight frown. For a split second I could almost see sadness within his eyes.
"Megumi-chan... I should get going. But it is nice to talk to you again!" His cheerful voice now sounded forced and he quickly walked pass me.
Did I just see sadness within his eyes? Yumada, Hakari sad? That was not impossible... how could someone so perfect be sad? I told myself that I was seeing things. However, the sad look within his eyes was branded deeply within my mind.
* * *
Last day of school...
All the other students where shouting out with glee. They embraced summer with such zeal and excitement. All week people were chatting non-stop about all the fun things that they were going to do this summer. I simply watched their excitement. I felt mostly apathetic; maybe a slight sense of relief that I could hide away from everyone for several months.
Suddenly, Hakari appeared down the hall. He was surrounded by people. They all wanted to know what he was doing this summer. He didn't give any of them a real answer; just a plain smile and said that his family had plans so he may not be around. To which, everyone groaned in disappointment.
I kept looking at Hakari's eyes. They looked even sadder today than last week. They almost looked like they were consumed with grief. How could everyone not see it? How could they talk to him with cheerful voices when his eyes looked as though they were on the brink of tears? Blind! They were all blind!
It was then that our eyes met. For a brief moment I could see him; the true Yumada, Hakari. For a brief moment I saw a boy who was crying out for help but was drowned out by incoherent chatter. For a brief moment I found myself reaching out to him. The strange part was… he accepted my offer… he accepted it by whispering softly:
And that was how it began. From that moment on, I was to learn who Yumada, Hakari truly was...