Kirisa had been acting weird, sort of… distant. I knew she was hiding something, but seeing that she wasn't going to explain it, I didn't ask. She said to wait a month… It had been three days, and I still didn't have a clue what she was doing. I was getting impatient though.
What's worse, we were finally on winter break and there was a festival coming up. I planned to ask her to go, but I hadn't been this nervous to ask her something since I asked her out. I was seriously scared she would reject me.
She told me she had to go meet up with someone from school today, so I figured I'd run some errands first. I needed to get some grocery shopping done anyway. As I drove to the grocery store, I texted Kirisa to ask where she was. It wasn't until I finally reached the grocery store and had locked my car that she finally texted back to tell me she was with a friend.
Who?I texted her.
When my shopping was done, I still hadn't gotten a reply. I didn't need one… because when I left the store, I saw her go into a café across the street. I planned to throw my groceries in the back of my car and go see what she was up to. I threw my bags of vegetables and various meats in the backseat, and returned my cart to the store, pitying the employees that had to come collect carts from the parking lot. As I turned around, someone said my name.
"Oh, Saku, did you just finish shopping?" Ritsu asked. She stood in the doorway of the store, so I couldn't tell if she was entering or leaving. Her short black hair was in a small ponytail. Since it was early morning, Ritsu was still in her pajamas.
I smiled at her, waving. "Yeah, are you here to shop too?"
Ritsu held up a small bag I hadn't seen before. "Just grabbing some snacks," she answered, heading toward me. "Where's Kirisa?" she asked.
I glanced across the street, seeing Kirisa sit down in front of a guy. I recognized him within a few seconds. He was that guy we ate with the other day. Kenichi. "Ritsu, do you know him?" I asked her, pointing across the street.
She squinted, following my line of sight. "Hm… Is that Kirisa?"
"Yeah…" I saw Kirisa reach in her purse for her phone and check it. I watched to see if she was going to message me back. Instead, she handed it over to that Kenichi guy. I narrowed my eyes, waiting to see what he would do. A second later, my phone buzzed in my pocket.
"I don't know him," Ritsu finally said. She pulled out a small drink out of her bag and handed it to me. I accepted it, smiling; it was a strawberry drink. Ooh, she knew me well, I thought to myself, smiling. I thanked her for the drink.
I pulled out my phone warily. It was a message from Kirisa's phone. I looked up at Kirisa and her 'friend'. I startled. Kenichi… He looked like he was staring right at me. Kirisa didn't notice me; her back was to me. I checked the message.
I'm with a good friend. You remember Kenichi-san, right? He wants to go to the festival with me. What do you think?
I typed my reply in quickly, exasperated and very irritated. Do what you want.
Ritsu must have noticed because she asked, "What's wrong?"
I tightened my fist over my phone, holding it at my side. "What's with Kirisa lately?" I asked quietly. "She's acting weird."
Ritsu's eyebrows rose. "Is she? I thought so too, but Hana's convinced everything's okay… Did something happen between you two?"
I rubbed my temples. "I don't know… Did she say something?" She might have told Hana and Ritsu. She usually tells them a lot.
"No," Ritsu answered, just as puzzled as I was. I was disappointed. I thought I'd actually find out something. She cleared her throat, seeing how depressed I was, and changed the subject. "So, the festival's coming up…"
I groaned. That was the worst possible subject she could've brought up. "Don't even talk about it…" I grumbled, stuffing my phone back into my pocket.
Now, Ritsu was concerned. She furrowed her brows in confusion. "Why not?"
I only sighed, plopping down on a bench. She sat down next to me quietly. "I was just going to say," she continued. "That if you and Kirisa weren't going alone, we could go as a group. Me, Sora, you, and Kirisa. It would be fun."
I raised my head to look at her. "What about Hana?"
"She visiting her grandparents. She won't be back for a week, and since the festival is in two days, she told us to go without her."
My phone buzzed again in my pocket, but I ignored it. I looked across the street again, watching as Kenichi smiled smugly at Kirisa. Too bad I couldn't see what kind of face she was making. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to know. As I watched them, I saw Kenichi say something to Kirisa. She suddenly turned around and scanned around. I guess she was looking for me. When she saw me, she stood up quickly and hurried out of the café.
"I'm leaving," I told Ritsu, shooting to my feet.
Ritsu stood up. "But it looks like Kirisa's—"
"Bye," I told her, pulling my keys from my pocket.
I slammed my door shut after I got in. It took me three attempts before I finally shoved my key into the ignition. I drove off before Kirisa could cross the street. I heard her call my name as I passed, but I turned up the radio to block out her voice. Just to see if I should feel bad for ignoring her, I checked her message.
Seeing her message, I slowed down my car.
It read: I'm sorry, Saku. I'm going with him. Please pick me up. I'm in the café across from your favorite grocery store. I want to go home, Kagimoto Saku.
I pulled up to the curb and made a U-turn. She was acting weird. The thing that made me turn around was 'Kagimoto Saku'. Ever since she started calling me by my given name… she hasn't used my full name, except for that time her little sister got really sick and needed a ride to the hospital. It had to be serious; I felt something was wrong… unless it was Kenichi texting me… I almost stopped the car, but I found her and stopped beside her. I unlocked the doors, not looking at her. I kept my eyes forward, too angry and embarrassed to look at her.
"Saku…" she whispered when she closed the door. "Were you there the entire time?"
Her voice was soft and scared. What did she have to be afraid of? Me catching her with another guy?
"You want to go home?" I asked her dryly.
She didn't answer for a while as I pulled back into traffic. "No," she finally said. "Can we go somewhere quiet? Quickly?"
I drove us away silently, toward a beach that was a favorite of ours. It was unpopular because of the rocky cliffs and reefs, but that's what made it peaceful. And especially because it was the cold time of year, it would be empty. As I drove, I notice a black car with dark-tinted windows that seemed to be following us. Even when we pulled into an old country road that led to the ocean, it seemed to follow us. I pulled in to a stop next to the beach. I kept my eyes on the mirror, watching the car. When it drove past us, I let out a sigh.
"I didn't want to go with him," Kirisa said quietly.
I set my car in 'park' and turned it off. "Then why did you agree to go?"
I stared ahead at the blue ocean, watching the waves crash onto rocks at the bottom of the cliffs. It was breathtaking.
"What was I supposed to do…?" Kirisa said helplessly. She seemed so hopeless, I felt sorry.
I turned to look at her. Her eyes were so scared and desperate. My heart fell back in my chest. I wanted to comfort her. I wanted to let her know everything would be all right, so I leaned over to kiss her.
To my surprise, just as I leaned over, she turned to look out the window. A wave of disappointment coursed through me.
"They're coming back," Kirisa said quietly, staring ahead into the empty, winding road. Suddenly, the black car came back and parked beside us. I tried to see who they were, but the tint didn't allow me to.
"Let's leave," I told her, not looking at her anymore. She didn't say anything, so I turned the key in the ignition and sped off back the way we came from.
I parked my car outside her house, on the curb. "Can I come in?" I asked her.
She fixed the strap of her purse over her shoulder. "Yeah, mom will be glad to see you."
I followed Kirisa up the steps to her house. I wanted to confirm our relationship. I was nervous. Maybe she wanted to break up with me. Maybe she didn't like me anymore… I don't know what went wrong. Was it Kenichi? I had to ask, but I couldn't.
I grabbed her by her shoulders when we reached the door. "Kirisa," I said seriously. She was taken by surprise, looking at me with wide eyes.
"Y-yeah…?" she asked in a small voice.
"Stop hiding things from me. Stop acting so depressed. Tell me everything, ok? Because it's killing me." I looked her in the eye, begging her to tell me something.
She glanced around nervously, as if she was afraid someone was watching. "I'll tell you," she finally broke down, crying. "Okay? I'll tell you. Can we go inside first?"
Instead of relief, my heart pounded nervously in my chest. I had no idea what was going to happen next. We went into the house and closed the door securely behind us. I grabbed Kirisa again and looked her in the eye, wanting to get one thing straight first. "Kirisa, do you love me?" I asked. "Are we still good?"
She nodded, crying tears into my chest as I held her close. I pulled her chin up and placed a light kiss on her lips. She didn't move this time. Her eyes were swollen from crying, so I pulled away and swiped her cheeks gently with my thumb. "Don't cry," I told her, holding her close and rocking her. "Don't cry," I repeated, crooning. I didn't think it was working, because she only broke into more sobs. I looked up, needing help. I need to know what to do now.
The image before me startled me. My eyes widened immediately, and I tightened my hold on Kirisa instinctively. Kirisa, startled, looked up too, and her face contorted with fear and worry as she saw the same image I did.
He waltzed in through the kitchen, barefooted, and seated himself on the new family couch.
"Welcome home, Kirisa." He took a swig from the glass of water in his hand and propped his feet up on the coffee table. It made me angry. He was making himself at home in a girl's house. Correction: my girlfriend's house. He hadn't even bothered to wear slippers inside her house. They were tossed carelessly on the couch.
Kirisa pushed me away and stood in front of me, facing him. "What are you doing on my couch, Kenichi?"