AN: So sorry for the really long wait. I've been getting through with exams, and now that the school year is about to end, I get to spend more time updating this story. Yay! :D
Have fun, for this is where the drama begins.
Initially, Hikari hadn't suspected a thing. She just thought this was part of the 'honeymoon phase' that many had described the first few months of dating. The way Nanami held on to her for a bit too long, how she tried to increase their time together, even going for a prolonged kiss (that Hikari had no objection to whatsoever). But now a little over a month had passed and the seed of suspicion had been planted and cultivated. Now, she was sure that something was bothering the blonde. What exactly was it, Hikari did not know.
Her first thought was that she had done something for the blonde to be upset with her. As quickly as she had thought it, she discarded the idea without hesitation. It was unlikely after all; they were perfectly happy with one another, and shared whatever what was bothering them, even if it happened to be each other. They shared their opinions freely without judgment. It was a reason why Hikari enjoyed being around Nanami.
The second thought had been personal issues. But like the first one, it was dismissed quickly. They simply shared their problems with one another far too often.
The thought of what exactly caused Nanami to be acting this way kept Hikari up all night, playing her game of trial-and-error, thoughts keeping her awake and refusing her to gain an ounce of rest. Once morning came, Hikari was drowsy and cranky, and even seeing her blonde lover poured a large amount of stress on Hikari's shoulders.
All Hikari wanted was the answer and several hours of sleep.
Of course, like everything that happens in her life, the answer just absolutely loved to elude her. Whenever she asked a direct question, Nanami would change the subject and pretend Hikari never asked, or give a vague answer such as, "It's nothing major, don't worry about it," or, "Hikari, I told you. I'm fine."
As if I'd believe any of that, she scoffed, furiously scribbling down notes on the board Akio had made. Nanami was absent for the third day in a damn row. Hikari had visited the girl the first day she had been absent, and she was in perfect condition. So why exactly was Nanami avoiding school? Wasn't the entire point of her clinging onto her was because she wanted to spend more time with one another? Wouldn't that reasoning be the reason why she should be looking forward to school? The constant questions were making her head ache, and she felt another level of accumulating stress take place.
The bell rang, and Hikari quickly wrote down the last of the notes before shoving her items into her bag and rushing out of the room. She was the first one to exit in a long time.
Nanami answered Hikari's knocks—which just happened to be loud pounding on the door—with a blank expression. It almost scared the brunette to see her lover that way, the seed of worry being planted alongside the growing shrub of suspicion. Nanami noticed the way Hikari had knitted her eyebrows together, and the blonde quickly dressed on a smile, tugging the girl inside.
"Coming by to see me once school is over?" She giggled, leaning up to press a playful peck against Hikari's cheek. "You call me sickeningly sweet, but you can be like that at times too," her voice trailed off as she wrapped her arms around the taller girl's waist, pulling into her heat. The delinquent was enwrapped with a warm blanket of vanilla, and she was compelled the return the embrace.
"How come you didn't come to school today?" Hikari questioned, giving a soft peck on flaxen hair. She was answered with silence. Hikari sighed, holding Nanami closer tighter. "C'mon Saito, I can't read your mind." While waiting for an answer, Hikari busied herself with brushing the golden locks with her fingers, untangling the knots.
"Let's go out today. Can we go to the café?" Nanami mumbled gently into the other's neck. Hikari frowned, but gave a hum of approval; looks like the damn girl wanted to beat around the bush once more.
"Yeah, sure. Give me a quick change of clothes, will you? I don't want to be walking around in my uniform. Jeans, shirt, and jacket will do nicely."
"Of course." Nanami broke the contact and held her lover's face with both hands. The warm feeling against Hikari's cool face was nice, and she smiled lightly. Bending down for a small peck, the other decided to deepen a kiss, for about a little more than a minute. Nanami pulled back, gave a quick kiss on the lips before going into her room to retrieve clothes for Hikari.
As the girl waited, she pondered about the salty taste that was left behind on her lips. Could have been something she ate, she thought. But the more she thought about it, the possibility was very unlikely; there were no dishes or any cutlery in sight of the kitchen. Hikari knew that Nanami disliked having fast food for a meal, and would rather make anything from scratch. So the fact that there was the salty taste left on her lips and there were no cooking utensils in sight whatsoever, led to the fact that she was possibly crying.
But what was she crying about, exactly? Could that reason be the very reason why she absolutely refused to attend school? How clingy she had gotten over the past week or so? How she would evade almost every question when asked about what was bothering her?
Could it be that someone hurt her? The simple thought sent a wave of fury and in an episode of lividness, Hikari clenched her jaw and fist. Who the hell in their right mind would decide to hurt Nanami Saito in any shape, way, or form? Admittedly, Nanami was a very sweet and a kind person, someone who was very amiable to get along with. It would be quite hard to find a motive to hurt Nanami, and the only person Hikari could think of at the moment was Riku. After all, she did reject him. But could a simple rejection be really enough for someone so shy and quiet like Riku to turn violent?
There's that saying about it's always the quiet ones, Hikari mused, her anger subsiding to frustration and confusedness. But it's so out of damn character for him. What other reason would make Nanami cry?
A tug on her sleeve pulled her back to reality and she look down at the pile of clothes Nanami was holding out for her. Hikari took this chance to quietly observe her smaller lover. A red-tipped nose, slightly puffy eyes, and the way she wiggled her nose like something was tickling it (although it was pretty cute watching her do that). Yeah, she cried.
"Something the matter," Hikari asked, running a hand through the blonde's bangs.
Nanami quirked a brow, seemingly confused. "What? Nothing's the matter." She offered a small smile to prove her point, but it quickly disappeared. Reluctantly, Hikari took the clothes and gave a quick peck on Nanami's forehead before making her way to the bathroom.
She stopped smiling too… Hikari realized, locking the door.
After spending the day exploring the town and ending it with a walk in the park before going back to the apartment, Hikari's questions were now bursting at the seam. They entered the blonde's apartment and Hikari collapsed on the couch while the other girl gingerly sat down, like she was anticipating something bad was going to happen. Hikari watched as the girl played with her own fingers instead of reaching out and lacing their fingers together like she would have normally have.
Those blue eyes didn't look up to glance at her, not even once; they were too focused on her hands. By the look of them, Nanami was about to tear up, if not, cry. And she didn't smile, not even once. It was strange, and for some reason, it unexpectedly hurt to see her like this. Hikari did not understand it, but seeing this girl that is supposed to be upbeat and energetic fallen into a rather quiet and reserved person was unnerving.
"Nanami, are you really okay?" Hikari asked, covering the blonde's hands with her own. Futilely, Nanami nodded, but her eyes said otherwise. Tears were brimming now, and the brunette wiped them softly away. "Come on. You can tell me. Did someone hurt you?" Nanami shook her head no. "Okay then. Did I do something to you? Is it something about me?" There was a slight hesitation before the blonde took a shaky breath.
"N-Not necessarily," her tone was wavering, and Hikari knew that she was trying hard not to cry right now. "But I feel like it would be something that would hurt you if I told you. And I don't know how to cope with the fact that I…" She trailed off, clearly disturbed.
"Come on, Saito. I'm tougher than you think," Hikari assured, going in for a soft peck on the head. "I'm sure I can handle it."
Blue met black in an unsure gaze. Very carefully, Nanami took a deep breath.
Those two words made Hikari's heart drop and shatter to the floor. There was an emotional turmoil of dread stirring up inside of her, but she nodded, trying to keep a monotone façade.
"Oh, that was it? I mean, if you're moving just out of town then I could just—"
"No, Hikari. I'm moving. Like, out of country." Nanami took several more breaths to steady herself. "And I'm leaving next week. I'm so sorry I couldn't have told you earlier, but I just couldn't. I just didn't know how to tell you without hurting you in the process and I'm so sorry for that you have no idea how much." The girl rambled on and on, tears flowing freely now. And the mere sight of it all was enough to make Hikari's stomach leaden.
She didn't know how to comfort her, and she didn't know what to say. So she leaned in for a soft kiss, the salt of tears tickling her taste buds. After an exchange of comforting words and having her school uniform in a plastic bag, they shared one final kiss. This one was a bit more prolonged, and the naturally sweet and tantalizing flavor that Nanami always seemed to have was tainted with the taste of salt.
As Hikari said her farewells for the day and watched the door close in front of her, she tried very hard not to breakdown on her way home.
Nanami's leaving in a week or so.
Maybe if something was different, maybe if I could possibly change something, things wouldn't have to be so…hard.
It hurts a lot.
I can still taste salt.
Who knew vanilla could have a bittersweet flavor.