*DING DONG DANG DONG!
The school bell rings with its usual four notes into the orange sky.
Today the class rep of 2-9 stays behind after everyone else. Her right hand holds a pencil, filling in the duty roster on her desk. The left flicks through a stack of papers; prospective future surveys from the class.
They come around every year to help students choose what they want to do in life.
Her pencil stops before being laid down on the desk. The owner stretches like cat with a small sound before resting her elbows on her desk and her chin on her palms.
Afternoon sunlight warms her left side and a wave of drowsiness laps at her consciousness.
The door suddenly snaps open causing her eyes to do the same.
A boy with bleached hair walks over to her and holds out a slip of paper.
"Kishinuma-kun... You're late!"
She plucks the offered sheet from his hand and places it with the others on her left.
"My bad, my bad." He smiles. "You know my place is a while a way."
"This wouldn't be a problem if you remembered to bring it this morning." She pouts.
"It would be faster if I had my bi-"
"No, I'm not going to get your bicycle back from the school for you."
Kishinuma Yoshiki sighs helplessly as Shinozaki Ayumi turns away from him, still pouting.
The bike in question was confiscated earlier in the year by the gym teacher; Tsubota. Kisaragi Academy has strict rules for the allowance of bikes. Only students living a certain distance away are allowed to use them, and unfortunately Yoshiki's apartment was on the border of that limit.
The boy in question scratched his head as the girl in front of him continued to pout. Taking a look around, a surprised look appeared on his face.
"Where's everyone else?"
The classroom was empty. It had been for a while. As the color of the sky showed, it was long after classes had finished.
"Nakashima-san went home with Shinohara-san." Ayumi replied, still turned away from him. "She said something about returning a sleepover."
She also said something about sneaking into Naomi's bed at night and was swiftly smacked over the head by Naomi, but that wasn't worth mentioning.
"Hmm. What about Morishige, and Suzumoto?"
"They went to the drama club together." She huffed.
Suzumoto extracted another promise to eat crêpes from Morishige on their way out. As always, pink heart marks invisible only to the two of them were floating above their heads, protecting the glasses boy from the hard stares and depressed auras of the other guys in the class.
A hopeless smile crossed Yoshiki's face as he imagined the oblivious couple flirting their way down the hallway.
Some of the girls seemed to enjoy watching that sort of thing. The boys, as stated before, were either making silent death threats at Morishige in their minds or figuratively on their knees at having the class idol being taken. In the past, he might have joined them in their silent and secret jealousy for entirely different reasons. However, today it didn't seem to matter.
"I guess Satoshi had to take Yuka home, right?" He says as he puts his hand on his hip.
"That's right." Ayumi turns back, but only towards her desk. She continues to avoid Yoshiki's gaze. The stack of papers clacks against the plastic of the desk as she taps them on it, straightening them. Collecting them and the duty roster, she holds them to her chest before swiftly weaving her way through the desks to the door. Her pigtails struggle to catch up in the wind behind her.
Suddenly, she stops at the door.
"Well?" She turns back and meets his eyes.
"Are you coming or not?"
"Yes is enough!" She snaps before walking down the hallway, to the teacher's room.
The student left behind blinks, then smirks before chuckling once. He picks up his bag from his desk before picking up hers as well. She'd forgotten it in the rush to leave.
"Hey, wait a little! Shinozaki!" Calling after her, he jogs his way out the classroom and down the hall.
He catches up to her in the hallway just as she had begun to turn back to the classroom. Frowning, she snatches it out of his hand and turns back down the hall. A helpless smile crosses his face and he sighs before jogging to keep up.
"You could have gone home, ya know?"
She sniffs at his comment.
"We promised we'd go home together."
Yoshiki scratches his head.
"Really?" He asks.
"Yes, really!" She snaps back.
They walk down the orange hall in silence. Their shadows merge with the ones from the window sill as they walk, and the faint sounds of students playing baseball comes from outside. It's the school team. The PE teacher, Tsubota, shouts orders from the stands as they run drills.
Yoshiki glances out the window at him for a moment and snorts; thinking, "Even if he's a shitty teacher, he's still a teacher."
The two continue to walk towards the faculty room, a slightly uncomfortable silence between them.
Upon reaching it, Ayumi announces herself before sliding open the door.
"Oh, Shinozaki-san." Their assistant homeroom teacher looks up from a stack of papers she was grading. "You were still here?" Shishido Yui says glancing at the clock.
"Yes, because somebody forgot their prospective future survey form at home." Ayumi replies with a smile. Yoshiki scratches his head behind her.
"You could have handed them in tomorrow morning." Yui smiles helplessly and takes both the stack of forms and duty roster from her. "But, thanks anyways."
The students leave the room as the teacher returns to grading. She calls after them to take care as they cross the doorframe, and they give their own well wishes towards her as well.
Ayumi's mood doesn't improve as they cross the school gates and walk down the street. The cause of it preserves a dignified silence as he walks next to her.
Finally, they reach a junction; the junction their two paths are supposed to diverge. Straight on leads into the middle of the city and to the place Yoshiki works at. Taking a left turn leads further into the suburbs.
Ayumi stops at the lamp post, before suddenly opening her bag and holding a package wrapped in a handkerchief.
The orange light hides the blood rushing into Ayumi's cheeks.
"It's food." She looks away. "You're always complaining about not having time to cook dinner when you get back from your shift... so here." She shakes the parcel again.
Yoshiki blinks again, and makes a nervous expression.
"Sorry, I don't need it."
Her pig tails suffer whiplash as her head turned to glare at him.
"No, that's not what I mean!" He tries to explain with both hands held up in front of him. "I don't have work today, so I don't need it."
Blue eyes blink in surprise before the cheeks beneath them grow red enough that even the afternoon sun can't hide them.
"But I'll still take them! I don't have anything to eat at home anyways." Snatching the wrapped food out of her quaking hands, he stows it in his bag.
He peeks at her face.
Her blue eyes are slightly wet. Her white cheeks are crimson.
"Shinozaki, are you... crying?"
She turns away from him.
"No, I'm not."
Her voice quakes a little, and she sniffs right afterwards.
Yoshiki sighs, then puts a hand on her head. Gently, he tousles her hair.
"Don't cry over something like this." He gives a hopeless smile as he says it. "I know you're a crybaby, but people are going to think I've been bullying you at this rate."
With her face turned away from him, Yoshiki doesn't see her embarrassed expression turn into a scowl. She whirls around, reaching for his shirt, and receives a face full of handkerchief instead.
"Oh, sorry!" Yoshiki apologizes as Ayumi rubs her nose, slightly tender from the impact.
She looks at him, and he holds up the handkerchief like a peace offering.
Snatching it out of his hand, she blows her nose on it loudly.
"You were going to use my shirt as a kerchief again, weren't you." Yoshiki sighs and she looks away a little guiltily. "My grades may be bad, but it's not like I'm braindead or something."
Ayumi glares at him sulkily for a moment before blinking in surprise, as if she just realized something. A slight blush quickly appears on her cheeks a moment later, and she hurriedly hands him back the piece of cloth at her nose. Yoshiki stuffs it back into his pocket, not noticing the lingering blush.
"So, if you don't have work, what are you going to do?" Her voice is a lot gentler, the usual tone she uses at school.
"Well, I don't have anything planned..." He mumbles as he scratches his head. "But, I do have some of these."
Opening his bag again, he rummages around for something before taking out some slips of paper.
They're bookstore coupons; the type you'd find during shopping sales, or as a sales gift.
"Some guy at work had some extra, so I got these off him." He said sheepishly. "I know it's not much, but do you want to visit a bookstore or something on the way home? My treat, of course."
Ayumi blinks in surprise.
"I'm okay with that, but won't you be bored, Kishinuma-kun?"
"Hey, it's not like I can't read or something."
"But, you don't do well in Japanese literature at all."
"That's because the books we deal with are old and boring, not my literacy skills."
"Then, what will you read there then?"
"I dunno, a magazine perhaps?"
"A perverted one?" She looks at him suspiciously.
"As if!" He retorts.
Her frown quickly turns into a giggle.
"Sorry, sorry. I was just teasing you."
Yoshiki sighs and scratches the back of his head thinking, 'For a moment, I thought she was serious.'
"As I said, as long as you're fine with it, I don't mind." She reaches towards him and he makes to hand her the coupons, but her fingers curl around his hand instead.
"Come, let's go."
Yoshiki saves the coupons from being crumpled just in time, and stuffs them into his pocket. His face is a little nervous, but quickly loosens as the boy and the girl walk down the street, hand in hand.