"Happy Valentine's Day, Honoka…" I said to myself, as I sat on the roof of the school, watching the sun start to set. Everyone else was enjoying the evening with their special someone, while I was up here, all alone. I wrapped my jacket tighter around myself, as a sudden gust of wind made me shiver. I raised my knees to my chest, and wrapped my arms around my legs. I rested my head on my knees, fighting the tears that were starting to build up.
It's your own fault, Honoka. You're alone because you always put everybody else before yourself. You helped everyone recognize their feelings and to act on them…without realizing that you were neglecting yourself in the process. By the time all was set and done, you were all alone. The odd man out.
I could feel the tears start to run down my face, and then I buried my head in my arms as I started to cry. I cried there for what seemed like an eternity, with only the wind and the setting sun as company. Slowly, I started to calm down. When I thought the evidence of my tears had sufficiently vanished, I stood up to go home. Taking one last look at the sun, I headed for the stairs. As I was leaving, I decided to walk by the club room. I stood in front of the door and listened. It sounded like everyone was watching a movie or something. I slid the door open quietly to see what was going on.
Our meeting table was moved off to the side to make room for everyone to lie on the floor, and a TV on a cart was set up in the corner, playing some romantic movie. Looking away from the room, I studied my fellow Muses. Rin and Hanayo were sleeping quietly in a corner, leaned up against each other. Maki and Nico were sitting in the back of the group, with Nico resting her head in Maki's lap and Maki playing with one of Nico's pigtails. Umi and Kotori were leaned up against the bookshelves and Kotori was resting her head on Umi's shoulder, both of them focused on the movie. Finally, Nozomi and Eli were simply sitting next to each other, holding hands silently. I could see the love each of them felt for each other.
After seeing all this, I could feel the tears start to build up again. I tried to keep myself from sobbing, but one managed to escape, and Umi looked towards the door. Her eyes widened when she saw me in the doorway, and she started to get up. Seeing her start to move, I dashed down the hallway, hoping to escape, the tears flowing freely.
"Honoka!" I could hear Umi yell from the club room. I glanced back, to see my fellow idols poking their heads out of the door, with Umi standing in the middle of the hallway, trying to get my attention. I looked towards the ground and kept running, and I could hear everyone else break into a run as well. After I had found my way out of the school, I paused momentarily at the gates, unsure of where to go. Soon, I could hear everyone yelling my name as they searched the school. I turned towards the school, and made eye contact with Umi, who happened to be walking past the school entrance.
"Everyone, she's over here!" I heard her yell into the school.
I started to run again, not knowing where I was going, just wanting to get away.
"Honoka! Stop!" I heard Umi and everyone else yell.
I shook my head and kept going. After a while, I couldn't run anymore, and had to stop to catch my breath. Looking up, I saw where I had ended up. The stairway by the shrine where we had practice. I sat down on the top of the staircase, panting.
I…I think I lost them. I'm sorry girls, but…I don't think I can face you all right now. Please…don't worry about me. Just…be happy.
I wiped my nose on my sleeve and sat there in silence. The silence didn't last long, however, because soon my phone started to buzz in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw Umi's number on the screen. Pressing the reject call button, I slid my phone back in my pocket. A few seconds later, it buzzed again, this time it was Kotori. Once again I rejected the call and put my phone away. I cradled my head in my hands, trying to get my thoughts straight, when I could hear footsteps getting closer. I stood up, but I noticed that my legs were starting to feel wobbly. I tried to run again, but my legs gave out after all the running I had done. As I lay there on the cold concrete, I heard my friends getting closer.
"Honoka?! Honoka! Are you alright?!" I heard Umi say, and I felt her kneel next to me and rest her hand on my shoulder.
Somebody else knelt on my other side and gently touched my shoulder. "Honoka-chan…"
"Honoka! What happened?"
Amidst the chorus of everyone asking me what happened and if I was alright, I tried to get up. Pushing myself off the ground, I only succeeded in raising my torso. My legs still weren't working right. Thankfully, my hair was covering my face, because I wasn't ready to see everybody.
Everybody…I'm…sorry, that you had to see me like this. I try…so hard to stay upbeat…and keep a happy face on…in front of you all, but…I just can't…
Someone reached down, and gently pulled my head up, and I found myself looking into everyone's worried eyes. "Honoka…" Umi, who had lifted my head, whispered.
"H-Honoka-chan…" Hanayo said, before her voice cracked and she buried her face in Rin's shoulder. Rin put her arm around Hanayo, looking like she was fighting back tears as well.
Seeing this made my tears start to flow again. I chuckled sadly. "I…must look…pretty pathetic…huh?" I said as I lowered my face back to look at the ground. "I'm sorry everyone…for ruining Valentine's Day…" I said.
Umi pulled my face up again, and looked into my eyes. I saw that she had tears in the corners of her eyes. "Honoka…you didn't ruin Valentine's Day. You…were the one who made it possible. Without you…we never would have had anyone…to spend it with…" Everyone else nodded silently in agreement.
Nozomi crouched next to me, and lightly touched my shoulder. She had tears in her eyes, but I could see that she was trying her best to put on her caring, almost motherly, face. "Honoka-chan? What…upset you so much?" She asked me.
"I…I…just…" I choked up, unable to find the words. I shook my head sadly.
Nozomi grasped my shoulder a little more firmly.
"I…just…feel so…alone. Seeing you all together…happy…it made me realize that…I don't have…anybody like that. Nobody…to be close to…to spend time with…to love…"
Eli knelt in front of me and placed her hands on the sides of my head.
"Eli…senpai…" I said, reverting to our old method of communication.
She smiled and shook her head slowly, her eyes red from crying. "Honoka…no senpai allowed, remember?"
"We're all friends here right?"
I nodded again.
She smiled again and reached forward and wrapped me in a hug. "Honoka…you're not alone. We're all here for you…so don't be sad. Ok?"
I couldn't speak, so I just nodded again. Slowly, everyone joined in, and I soon found myself in the center of a big group hug. I could feel the warmth from their bodies, along with the friendship and love they felt.
Eli was right. Maybe I'm not dating anybody, but I'm most certainly not alone. I have eight other people to be close to and spend time with and also to love. Maybe not as lovers, but as dear and true, friends.
I started to cry again, but this time, they were tears of happiness. I smiled and looked up at the sky, admiring the stars.
"Thank you…everyone…" I whispered.