But I'm a Girl
My name is Akira Haneda, and even though it might not seem like it, I'm actually a girl. Ever since I started University, people have been mistaking me for a boy. It's kind of a new sensation for me. When I was in High School, I was sort of a plain girl. I wouldn't say I was ugly or pretty, but somewhere in the middle. There wasn't anything remarkable about me, other than I was unremarkable. So I guess I stopped trying. I was the type of girl who wore tights under her uniform's skirt.
I got really sick my second year of High School and had to spend a few months at home. To make it easier on me, I cut my hair short. I suppose that's when I really stopped caring about how I looked. When I came back to school no one seemed to care one way or another, and I just finished out my time in school looking like that.
I was really happy when I finally got accepted into Keiai University. No more uniforms, I could dress how I wanted. When I'm at home I often steal my younger brother's clothes (he's only two years younger than me, so his clothes fit), even if they are fashionable for guys. But they feel more comfortable than some of my normal clothes so I don't care. I kept the trend alive when I went to classes.
Then I started hearing girls gossip. "Who's that guy with the cute face." "Even if he's a bit small he's my type." "I wonder if he has a girl friend." Looking back I know it was stupid that I didn't realize it before, but they were talking about me. When I heard those things, I'd even look around to see who they were talking about.
My world of ignorance shattered one day when after a lecture one of my classmates asked me to stay behind. I didn't really understand why until she nervously worked up the courage to tell me she liked me. It was embarrassing, for both of us. When I told her I was a girl, she was mortified. She asked me never to tell anyone, like I would brag about something like that. But she wasn't the last person.
After awhile I realized I seemed pretty popular with the girls in my classes. I guess I make a better boy than a girl. I had put two-and-two together by this point, but it was nice getting attention. I wouldn't tell them I was a girl until things got weird or if I was directly asked, then I'd play it off as if they should have already known.
After my first two months I thought maybe it was time I stop wearing boys clothes. I had gotten confessions from three girls and it was getting really weird. The school was about to take a few days break and I had decided that in between that time, I would stop borrowing my brother's clothes.
On the day before the break, I was taking Lunch in a public student area. A girl I didn't know took a seat next to me and started to unwrap a bento. I didn't think anything of it, as she just seemed to be hungry, but then she started chatting with me.
"At my old high school they would let us eat on the roof."
That was her opening line. I wasn't sure what to say to that, so I went with a noncommittal nod.
"I guess the building is too high for that sort of thing. Still, it would be nice." She paused to take a bit from her lunch, then introduced herself. "I'm Miyu Hoshino, by the way."
"Akira Handa." I told her automatically.
She looked confidant in herself as she ate beside me, and I started to feel the aura of the situation start to change. I hadn't noticed before, but she was dressed up. Not in a flashy sort of way, but dressed up casually enough so that she was showcasing her best. Her hair was perfect, and the way she was eating was delicate. When I realized this, I also saw the confidence that I thought she was displaying earlier was more like frozen panic. The reason it felt so weird was that she was nervous and was trying to hide it. I inwardly moaned as I realized that she might be another girl trying to make hit on me.
"You're dressed nice. Is it for a job or project or something?" I blurted it out. I was hoping she'd say yes and I was just panicking for no reason.
"Dressed nice? You think so?" Miyu smiled slightly, but didn't look rattled, even if her eyes gave her away.
I rubbed the back of my neck. I do that a lot when I get nervous. "Uh… yeah. I wish I could get away dressed like that."
I thought I was giving her a subtile hint, but instead she looked up in surprised and started giggling. Then almost as if she tried to reel back her laugher she covered her mouth. But she looked less nervous now. "You're funny."
I wasn't trying to be. I'm a girl. Is what I wanted to tell her. But the image of the three girls I rejected before still was fresh in my mind, and I really didn't want to hurt Miyu's feelings. So I tried a different tact.
"I don't know if I am. In high school I wasn't that popular. I was pretty much of a boring person, not one ever noticed me. I guess that's why university is great. You can start over with a clean slate."
"I-I…" Miyu was looking down at her bento. "I wasn't all that popular in high school either."
I found that hard to believe. "Really? You look like a fashion model though."
"Yeah, I guess…" Miyu wasn't making eye contact with me, but I saw her face become flush. I really stepped into it by complimenting her. "But I went to an all-girls school so I didn't stand out."
If she went to an all-girls school, shouldn't she be able to tell that I'm a girl? This was getting painful. The longer this went on, the more embarrassed Miyu would get.
"Hoshino-san, was it? I think you should know something about me."
She was looking up at me now, her eyes looking into mine. Even my heart skipped a beat in that moment. This really was going to awkward.
"Well… what I mean to say is that I'm really a g-"
But I couldn't finish. At that moment the fire alarm went off. After the initial shock, Miyu and I gathered our belongings and started for the exit. Things were going orderly, as fire-drills are hammered into your head nonstop from Elementary School onwards. But as we made our way to the door, a surge of people pushed us forward, and panic set in.
"It's a real fire!" Someone shouted out.
There was a scramble to get out the doors. All those stupid fire-drill exits left those morons minds and they turned into a brainless mob. I was tousled and moved around so much that I was surprised that I reached the door. Before I left I looked back to see if Miyu was okay, but she wasn't beside me. I looked behind me and saw that she was pressed back-first against the wall near the door allowing people to pass her by. If she stayed like that she could hurt.
I don't know what caused me to do it. I'm not brave at all. But Miyu looked so scared, so I had to do something. I pushed my way back and made it to her. I was about to lead her away when I was pushed against her, and it was only my hands on either side her head on the wall that stopped me from head butting her.
She closed her eyes in a panic and wrapped her arms around my back, pulled me closer to her. It was odd. I was shielding her from the passersby with my body. I could hear her crying.
"C'mon, we got to go before we get trampled."
"My ankle." Miyu whimpered.
But I couldn't respond as something big pushed passed us and my head slammed into hers. I was quick in that I turned my face so my cheek pressed against her instead of my nose stabbing her. When I pulled away, she looked less scared.
"Sorry." I apologized even though it was kind of stupid for me to do so. "Put your arm around me and I'll help you out."
"It's too chaotic out there." Miyu rightly said.
I didn't care. I wasn't about to be trampled to death. Especially since I was starting to smell smoke. "Here." I picked her up. I have no idea how I did. I'm not that strong, in fact Miyu might even be the same height as me, but I was motivated now.
"YOU'RE IN THE WAY!" I shouted. My voice was gruff and scary sounding from the effort of holding Miyu's body weight and the sheer amount of adrenaline pumping through my veins.
People moved out of the way. It wasn't long until we reached the outdoors and I procured a bench in front of the building for Miyu to rest on. I sat down on the ground next to the bench, throwing my book bag off my back and breathing heavy. My body was still pumped from the excitement and I haven't come down from that high yet.
"Thank you Akira-kun." I heard Miyu say. "You really saved me back there."
I wanted to correct her, to tell her not to call me '-kun' but I was too out of breath. Instead I just waved an "anyone-would-do-the-same" type of wave and gave a heavy sigh looking at the smoke escaping the door we escaped from.
"It's a good thing school was going to close down for break anyway…" Miyu went on. "I wonder what started the fire?"
We didn't have time to speculate, as the fire-brigade had finally arrived and were dashing importantly inside the build, dragging a long hose with them. I decided we were in the way so I helped Miyu to her feet again, left school grounds, and took a seat on the outside wall of the entrance.
"Akira-kun, I know this is a bad time… but I was… I was trying to work my way of asking you… Then the fire happened. We could have died back there, and I guess I realized I can't be scared anymore. Life is short and you have to seize the moment. So… what I'm trying to say is… well…"
My heart sunk. After all of this, I would have to turn her down. I decided I'd would cut her off before she asked me, and just tell her point-blank that I was a girl. I faced her and she started, our eyes connected as she was willing herself to be brave. I'm so like her in that aspect. Deep down I'm a shy too.
"Hoshino-san, I'm-" Her finger pressed against my lips. I don't know why it commanded me to stop but it did.
"Even if you're going to turn me down, I have to do this." Miyu looked determined. "You might not like me but… even if it's just once… would you go out with me?"
Her eyes looked deep into mine. Shakespeare was right when he said "The eyes are a window into your soul", I could see everything. Miyu's fear, her strength, her vulnerability, her courage, her desperateness, and her confidence. My mouth opened with the intention of saying no, the correct sound never came.