“Tsurumi-san, can I have a minute?” Minako, her classmate stood next to her desk, back straight and chin upwards.
Tsurumi was not impressed by Minako’s tough, intimidating facade. Already, she predicted the topic of their conversation. Minako would never approached Tsuruko unless it concerned a certain someone.
Matsuyuki had gone home early that day. He had rushed out of their classroom after speaking briefly to Tsurumi. Minako was no fool. She had chosen this moment to confront Tsurumi directly precisely because her friend, aka Minako’s crush wasn’t here.
“What’s the point of asking my permission if you’ll ask anyway?” Tsurumi said, squaring her books on the table before putting them into her bag.
An angry look flashed through Minako’s eyes. She slammed her hand on Tsurumi’s desk. The cold girl didn’t flinch at the display, neither did her expression change.
“Good try, Tsurumi-san. But I know you’re just cocky because you act like you’re the only one who knows Matsuyuki-kun.”
“Why don’t you find out about him yourself then?”
They must have taken Tsurumi to be a fool, if they thought she hadn’t seen this far ahead. Of course it would be about Yukiatsu. Minako’s obsession with that idiot was almost admirable... not.
“I’d like you to take back what you said yesterday.” Minako said, eyes flashing.
“Don’t pretend, Tsurumi-san. You’ve been badmouthing Matsuyuki-kun. Calling him a crossdresser! Now take it back!” Minako’s voice hitched up in anger. Beside her, her best friend was also nodding vigorously in support, sending Tsurumi an equally accusing gaze.
“Why should I?” She replied. “If you’re so convinced I was lying, why don’t you ask Matsuyuki-kun yourself?”
“I want to hear it from YOU.” Minako hissed. But ignoring her display of anger, Tsurumi got up from her seat and calmly strode to the door. “Oi, Tsurumi-san! Don’t you dare walk away from this!”
At this, Tsurumi turned her head and gave them a blank, icy stare. “If you’re so insecure about such a trivial fact, maybe you should rethink exactly how strong your feelings for him really are.”
Before Minako could regain her speech, Tsurumi had already exited the room.
Tsurumi’s mind couldn’t help but think about Yukiatsu again that day, as she walked back home. It was strange not being next to him. Tsuruko’s mind was filled with a familiar melancholy. After all they’ve been through, it was strange how she had to keep up this strong, emotionless facade in front of everyone. Almost everyone. The members of the Super Peace Busters were the only exception. Even there, she wasn’t able to confront Yukiatsu with her own feelings.
This was the fate of an outcast such as her. The only people she could call her friends are so far away.
Her mind wandered back to Minako and her obvious crush on Yukiatsu. Contrary to the girl’s belief, Tsurumi did not view her as a rival. She had the oddest feeling of sympathy towards Minako, despite her hassling her over and over again. Weren’t they in the same situation? Chasing this one impossible thing, yet failing because of one obstacle they could never overcome. The only difference is that Minako couldn’t see any hurdle beyond Tsurumi herself, but the latter can.
As she walked past an accessories store, she noticed a familiar face. His eyebrows were all scrunched together in deep search for something.
She entered the store with small, purposeful steps. She didn’t want him to notice her presence until she was standing next to him.
“Found anything?” She asked sarcastically.
She could see him visibly jump when he was startled by her.
“Tsurumi! Why - why are you here?” He asked, bewildered.
“I just happened to walk past. Don’t worry, I wasn’t stalking.” She said, smirking lightlu.
He seemed to calm down a bit, but he still looked at her nervously.
“Do you need something?” He asked.
“I should be asking you. Looking something for your ‘girlfriend’ again, Yukiatsu? If so, I think that hair clip suits you.”
He looked taken aback. “I wasn’t buying anything for myself.” He said defensively.
Tsurumi tilted her head. Her gaze was piercing Yukiatsu, making him nervous. Her countenance didn’t change, but she appeared to accept that he was telling the truth.
“I see. For Anaru then?”
“What? No!” He denied again. But Tsurumi could tell he was hiding something from her.
“But it’s for a real girl?” She asked.
Yukiatsu seemed both happy and relieved that she seemed to trust him. Tsurumi’s ability to see through anyone could come in handy sometimes.
“She’s real, alright. Very, very real.” Yukiatsu’s gaze softened as he looked in her eyes. He looked incredibly gentle then, that Tsurumi knew immediately that this girl was someone Yukiatsu was unspeakably fond of.
And that could only be one person.
And that person couldn’t be her, no matter how she longed for it to be. It could only be the person who radiated white with the captivating purity of an angel - the one who, whether she wanted or not, would always carry Yukiatsu’s heart.
After all, that hair clip would look equally good on Menma.
Tsurumi could feel her lips tighten, and her chest even more so. Itai.
He’s breaking her heart again.
Hadn’t she confessed to him a while ago, on that same night when their darkest secrets were thrown open for all to see? The same night before they said farewell to Menma? Although he never spoke of it afterwards, he knew she had feelings. Still, he was willing to hurt her like this... This idiot.
“I see. Good luck, then.”
Even now, after she’s gone, I still can’t compete.
Yukiatsu watched her as she walked out of the store, her small and measured steps seem to contain all her urgency to get out and away from her childhood love, not even hearing the voice calling after her, asking her to stay. It was unbearable to stay next to Yukiatsu any longer. Once outside, she ran straight towards the station and never looked back.