Chapter 40 - Going Japanese
"I think it suits my image quite well," Chie quipped as he put a hand on his hip and a finger to his puckered lips. I couldn't help the chuckles escaping my mouth.
We were at the mall, walking around and passing time. There were no interesting movies for us to watch and I was still deciding whether to buy a new pair of shoes or not.
Chie, bored out of his mind probably, randomly picked up a hair accessory with cat ears and wore it without shame. He grabbed a scarf on display right next to it and wrapped it around his neck.
And if he didn't already stand out, he also took a pair of sunglasses to complete his look.
"You look ridiculous," I said, trying to resist my laughter but it was a futile attempt.
People were snickering around us but we didn't care at all.
After taking a few pictures of him, he returned all the items and we continued walking around.
I felt his hand snake around my waist as we walked and I pretended not to notice. I liked it when he did that.
It's been days since that night. That night he kissed me and told me he was sorry.
He gave me no explanation as to why he apologized out of the blue and I didn't dare ask either.
Was he sorry that he kissed me? Was he sorry because he thought he crossed the line? Did he regret it?
There were so many questions I wanted to ask but was afraid of knowing the answers to. My instincts were telling me that there was something so so wrong but I just can't help myself.
I like him too much and I don't want to believe he's a bad guy.
I know I'm being stupid again but I don't want to assume before anything actually happens. I might just be overthinking things.
A cute dress caught my attention and I stopped to check it out. I showed it to Chie and he nodded. While I was inspecting the said dress, Chie decided to help with my window-shopping and picked out a dress for me as well.
He was showing me a baby pink dress that obviously lacked enough coverage. Skimpy, to put it simply.
I was laughing sarcastically as he proudly waved it in front of my face. I shook my head and before I could bring my attention back to the dress I was holding, he held the dress against my body as if measuring it, and then asked a random old lady for her opinion.
She was just passing by and minding her own business when Chie called her attention. "Wouldn't she look pretty in this?"
The old lady laughed gently and nodded in approval. "Yes, yes. She'll look sexy in it."
Oh my God!
I couldn't help chuckling again but I was a bit embarrassed. Chie just smiled as he agreed with her statement.
"Thank you," he said. She laughed again before waving us a goodbye.
I sent Chie a playful glare and he just shrugged his shoulders in return. One of the things I really liked about this guy was that he was really great with people. He can make friends with anybody be it old people or kids.
It just came natural for him. I adored that trait of his.
He returned the skimpy outfit to its rack and pinched my cheeks before a silly grin appeared on his attractive features, probably because of how attractive he was making my face by pulling my cheeks to random directions.
I rolled my eyes laughing and grabbed his hands to stop him. I'll get wrinkles. When I turned my head to escape his grip, I saw a familiar face watching us from a distance.
I couldn't make up what his expression was. I didn't have much time to have a reaction myself. I felt like my heart stopped.
Sean was standing right there.
A girl suddenly popped out of nowhere and grabbed his hand, pulling him out of his trance and away to their next destination probably.
I couldn't see her face because her back was turned against me, but I could tell she was pretty feminine just by the way she moved and by the clothes she was wearing.
Who was she? He was dating someone now? She was obviously not just a friend.
Why was I so curious? I'm with Chie now.
I abruptly looked away from the depressing sight and found Chie looking at me worriedly. His hands were still on my face and I couldn't help but feel guilty for feeling sad over another guy when he was right here trying to make me laugh. Trying to make me happy.
I am such an idiot.
I don't know if he realized what had just happened. But after that, he kind of stopped playing around. Our walk around the mall was a bit quiet compared to usual.
It didn't take long for him to suggest that he take me home. I was a bit upset. I don't know. I mean, it was getting a bit late and there was still school tomorrow, but I feel like I just created a gap between us.
I didn't even mention Sean to him. So how could he know, right?
He dropped me off my house and before I could jump out of his car and lock myself in my room, he took my hand.
He rubbed a thumb against my palm and gave me a reassuring smile, as if telling me to take it easy or something. No words were exchanged during the ride home. I don't know what was really going on, and I doubt he did either.
I returned the smile but it was rather strained. I'm a horrible person.
School came the next day and I dreaded leaving my comfortable sheets. I wanted to stay in and skip school even for just today but Peyton wouldn't let me.
She had no idea what had happened but I was sure she knew what I was feeling. But Peyton was Peyton. She wanted me to get up and get my shit together. I knew she didn't want to see me sink into this depression I fell into when I broke up with Sean years ago.
I knew she was just trying to make me do the usual stuff so I wouldn't think about the things that make me sad.
And for that I'm so thankful I have a sister like her.
My head was still in the clouds when I arrived at school though.
Why do I feel like he's keeping secrets from me?
Why do I feel like I don't know him?
Why do I feel like everything's gonna end bitterly soon?
Why was he everywhere?
Why was he pretending like nothing ever happened?
Why was he with another girl but still looked at me that way?
I really don't want to think about this right now. Distraction. I need a distraction.
Just as I had entered our classroom, karma came quick. Sean was standing right there, as if he was waiting for me. And here I am again, assuming things.
I was determined to ignore him and just walk around him, but then he spoke up.
"Is he good to you?"
My fists clenched. My heart punched my ribcage. I bit my lip so hard I thought it was gonna bleed.
I turned around to look at him, exhausted. I didn't have the energy for this. I wasn't ready.
How dare you ask me that? I wanted to say, but didn't.
My head was heavy and my vision was getting a bit hazy. I was sleep-deprived. I had so many thoughts last night. I couldn't sleep. And I can't deal with this right now. I feel like throwing up.
My knees felt numb and all of a sudden I was on the floor. The notebooks and papers I was holding against my chest were everywhere.
Did I... Did I just fall down?
I felt like I just came back to my senses when I saw Sean crouching down and quietly gathering the papers.
It was so quiet. Why was our classroom so quiet? God I hated quiet.
"Sorry," he said, somewhat panicking. It was almost like a hushed whisper.
"It's okay," I spoke in monotone. This is humiliating. "It's okay."
He set aside the papers he just picked up and offered me his hand. "Let me help you."
"No." I said, quickly gathering the papers around me. I have to get away. Please get away from me. "It's okay. Really."
There was a slight pause before he spoke again, sounding solemn. Sounding guilty. "But you hurt yourself."
I didn't look at him.
Get away from me.
I could tell he was getting impatient with my stubbornness. I could almost imagine the frown on his face right now when he said my name firmly. "Ella."
Huh, I haven't heard him say my name so sincerely for the longest time.
"Sean." I matched his tone, if not a little stronger. "I said I'm fine."
He tried to meet my eyes but I was determined to avoid it. If I looked at him right now, I don't know what I'd do.
"Are you really?" He asked. It sounded like he was not pertaining to my accident just now.
Are you kidding me?
I finally met his eyes when he said that. I knew my gaze was quite piercing but it didn't hold any anger in it.
All I felt was disappointment or even sadness maybe. But there was no anger. If there was, it was completely extinguished.
I had finally finished gathering the notebooks and papers and was now hugging them back against my chest. I took the papers he had collected from the floor as well.
I had to keep my cool just until I get home. I just need to survive this day.
My eyes dulled as I quietly returned his question in a more meaningful manner.
A heavy silence followed after that. Sean had no words at all. He just looked down as I stood up and went back to my desk.
I could feel Tina's and Anne's worried gazes. I knew they were gonna come and ask me if I was okay but I just hoped they wouldn't.
If I talk about it, I'll think about it.
And if I think about it, I know I'll end up feeling it harder. I know I'll end up crying about it.
Luckily Miss Stanford came in to start the class. Everybody went back to their seats, dead silent.
Classes went like a blur. As soon as the bell rang, I rushed home, not even saying goodbye to my best friend. I felt sorry, but I felt more sorry to myself.
I survived this day, now I just wanted to get home and sleep
Tina texted me a few times. Every ten minutes actually. I really didn't feel like talking about it yet, but to ease my best friend even for just a little bit, I replied that I was just tired.
Peyton came in my room and brought me dinner. She didn't say anything and just left the tray of food on my desk.
She closed the door quietly and I smiled under my sheets. I don't know what I'd do without her.
I don't want to think about anything right now. I don't want to deal with misery. I don't want to sink into depression. I'm going to fight this. Tomorrow, I'm gonna smile and be happy for sure.
But tonight, I just want to sleep.
The butthead's being weird again.
It's been days since his dad left for some business trip and he's acting really weird.
I mean, normally he'd come and bother me as soon as he gets the chance. And he had lots of chances since then.
But he was rather silent these past few days aside from the occasional "are you hungry?" questions followed by him cooking or buying me food.
I wasn't complaining. I was just... not used to this kind of behavior. It got me thinking if something happened right before his dad left.
As soon as class ends and he drives us both home, he locks himself up in his room and doesn't come out until dinner.
It was really strange. And I was getting worried.
Was he getting tired of dealing with me? Did I bore him already?
The thought sent an unbelievable pricking sensation in my chest.
I didn't want to get ahead of myself and decided to ask him what was going on. I should have asked as soon as I noticed but I only built up the courage now.
It was Friday night. My parents were out having dinner with friends. The butthead was locked in his room.
Okay. Time to move, Tina. Dinner's not going to cook itself. I mean. I had to talk to the butthead.
I knocked a few times on the guest room door, his room, and received no response. I let myself in and immediately saw him immersed in his laptop with his headphones on.
I didn't know what he was watching but he was completely focused. He didn't even notice me enter the room. What if a thief came in? I had better smack this fool.
Or was he purposely ignoring me? Was it because I kept teasing him after he confessed to me?
I carefully sat beside him on his bed and placed all my attention on his screen. I wasn't surprised at what I saw.
He was watching anime.
He seemed to have finally noticed my existence and took his headphones off immediately. He paused the show and looked at me quite sheepishly.
"Hey," he started. I narrowed my eyes at him.
"What are you watching?"
He glanced at his screen and pressed his lips together. "Tokyo Ghoul. An anime."
I nodded. "I see."
"What's up?" He asked, setting his laptop aside and changing his position to face me directly.
I raised my brows at him, causing him to wince. "You mean what am I doing in your room, disturbing your little marathon?"
He took my hand and held it firmly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that."
I feel so stupid. Why am I acting like a spoiled brat?
I looked away and thought about what I should say next. I should ask him already. Ask him what was really going on.
"Did you miss me?" He quipped, breaking the silence and the rising tension. I scoffed but laughed anyway.
"Did something happen?" I finally asked. He looked at me like he was surprised at my question. Then shook his head and linked his finger on mine.
I adjusted my position to something more comfortable. I kicked my slippers off and sat Indian-style on his bed. "Do you wanna talk about it?"
I could see the hesitation flicker in his eyes. There was something. I always knew there was something going on. He said it before. But that look seemed like he wasn't ready to tell me yet. Or rather, didn't want to tell me.
I admit I was a bit hurt. And I quickly withdrew my statement.
"It's okay," I said. Maybe I was crossing the line? Where was the line between us? "I'm sorry. I'll leave."
I placed my feet back on the floor and was about to withdraw my hand when he tightened his grip, stopping me from leaving.
He was watching me with eyes I couldn't quite explain. It was like a mixture of sadness and fear.
"I'm sorry," the words came out of my mouth before I could even comprehend the situation.
He pulled me back in one swift move and hugged me. He placed his chin on my shoulder and just held me in place for a bit.
"Daniel?" I called, unsurely. Why do I feel so uneasy?
"I'm such a jerk. I'm sorry." He said. His words were heavy and full of regret. I had no idea what was going on. How did things escalate to this?
He released me from the hug and met my confused gaze.
"I'm sorry I kept you in the dark. I promised your dad I'd tell you."
My heart was racing. Why did this sound so serious?
"It's a long and ridiculous story, but can you hear me out?"
I nodded quickly. I was both curious and worried. Was this really happening? All the mysteries surrounding him. He was finally gonna tell me?
He sighed and lowered his head. Was he still hesitating? I really didn't want to force him if he didn't want to.
"Please don't think I didn't tell you earlier because I was keeping secrets from you," he said. "I just didn't know how to tell you. Or when I should tell you. I didn't want to involve you with my mess of a life."
I took a deep breath and nodded my head in understanding. "I already am. I just need you to tell me what kind of mess it is so I can help you. Don't you get it yet? I want to be involved in your life. More than you'll ever know."
I could feel my cheeks heating up from my words. But I was glad I finally let it out of my chest. It was almost like a confession.
A silly grin broke out from his face as he held my face and sighed in relief or amazement.
"Ahh. I love you."
It was like he was in a loss for words. I could've said it back easily but I didn't give him the privilege. Not until he told me what was going on.
He pulled me into another hug and I was relieved, honestly. I felt that after I said those words, all restrictions fell off his mind and he was ready to talk about it.
The doorbell rang and I raised my brows. My parents shouldn't be back for at least another hour.
He grinned at me. "I ordered Chinese. How about I tell you my ridiculous story over dinner?"
I chuckled in response. "Fine by me."
"So," I mumbled, chewing on my chicken and at the same time processing all the information Daniel provided me with. "You're a genius. I already figured that one out for some time now. You're some big shot in London. I'm not so surprised about that one either. And there's this bald guy who's after you and your dad? And he's related to Anne?"
He nodded, sipping on his drink as I continued to summarize everything as simply as possible.
"And you think the press already knows about you going to this school. They would've figured it out sooner if it wasn't for Kristopher transferring here and diverting their attention towards him. I think he did it on purpose too. Even though you weren't on good terms with him back then, he still had your back."
He remained silent as I went on, my heart racing and my blood boiling as I said the next part.
"Ella's dating the son of the bald guy. You think he's using her to get to you and Kristopher."
He didn't even name the bald guy. I could already tell he wasn't his biggest fan. I should probably ask his real name but I was too distracted with the new pieces of information that names didn't seem so relevant at the moment.
Daniel sighed as he set down his drink, gathering his hands together on the table. "I know for sure that Daichi Watanabe is the bald man's son, and that he's dating Ella. What I'm not sure of is his true intentions. It's just too suspicious to say he met her by chance during his so-called vacation here."
I kept my breathing steady. It was hard to calm my nerves. If it was true that he was using Ella, I'm not going to hesitate to give him a piece of my mind.
My best friend just doesn't deserve that. Nobody deserves to be used. And now that I know this, I just can't sit here and do nothing; although nothing's for sure yet.
"I'd like to meet him." I said. Daniel shook his head quite strongly.
"I don't want you to."
"Why not?" I huffed. "It's Ella we're talking about here."
"I know," he sighed, sounding defeated. "That's why Tops and I are observing his movements. Our family has eyes on him, same way his family has eyes on us. We're all being careful around each other. Just leave it to us."
It almost sounded like a mafia story.
I wasn't satisfied with his answer. "Ella's going to introduce him to us soon. You can't stop that from happening. Are you all going to pretend like you don't know each other again when that happens?"
He was quiet. I know I wasn't making this easy for him but I can't stop myself. I was feeling a lot of things right now and my temper was rising at the second.
Daniel sighed again. "I just don't want him to meet you and get any ideas. I don't know the guy personally, but I'm sure he's a cunning guy just like his otou-san."
I blinked, wondering if I was getting too worked up to hear things incorrectly. "His what-san?"
He buried his face in his hands and groaned. It took several seconds for him to release his face and look at me wearily, like he slipped or something.
"His dad." He replied. "Otou-san means dad. In Japanese."
Of course. Their rivals were Japanese. Of course he'd know that. In order to compete with them in equal footing, or have the upper hand rather, it was pretty wise to understand their language. But does Daniel even know how to speak it?
Realization suddenly hit me. These past few days of him acting weird and locking himself up in his room to watch those shows. It started to make sense now.
"Are you trying to learn the language through--"
"Anime, yes." He nodded. Then he laughed for a bit. "It sounds ridiculous but it works."
I almost sunk in my seat. "And you've been locking yourself up in your room for days because of that?"
"Hai," he replied, smugly.
Oh wow. Wow.
I can't tell if he's a genius or an idiot.
"I just started watching without the subtitles last night. I can understand what they're saying now but I'm still working on how to speak it properly."
I can't comprehend the situation. It's only been a few days. How was that possible? I mean, I know he was a genius, but was that really possible?
He smiled at my reaction. I didn't know what to say. "You may not believe it, but my memory's pretty impressive."
Oh trust me, I know just how impressive your memory is. But learning another language is at a whole new level.
There was a hint of playfulness on his tone when he spoke again.
"Didn't you say you wanted to help me, Poopy-chan?"
The boomerang I threw earlier just came back at me. But I wasn't turning back on what I said. He wasn't kidding around when he said his story was ridiculous.
I nodded, already standing up from the table and motioning him to lead me to his room.
If I were to meet Chie in the future, I had to learn the language too. Not only because he was Daniel and Kristopher's rival, but because he's having his way with my best friend.
It was a rather small advantage but it was still an advantage. I think.
I don't mind cursing him in his mother tongue.
When we got there, I took his laptop and opened it, revealing a number of animes I've never seen before. Not like I've ever watched one seriously before.
I know there were several dialects in the Japanese language, but animes provided the main or common dialect. I guess that's why Daniel chose this method of learning. That, and he's a total nerd.
He sat down behind me and placed his chin on my shoulder as I continued to browse. The art was great and the summaries seemed pretty interesting.
Maybe it was possible to learn the language quicker by watching.
"What are you going to watch after you're finished with this one?"
"Hmm," he hummed, hugging my back as he clicked on something on the screen. "This one looks interesting. Pretty popular too. Wanna watch it with me?"
I read the title and nodded unsurely. "Kaichou wa Maid-sama. The Class President is a Maid? Why a maid?"
He snickered against my shoulder and neck, tickling me a bit. "Guess we'll have to find out."
Something still feels off. He was being his usual self and he told me what he promised to tell me, but I can still feel some tension.
I felt rather sad as he hugged me. It felt like a goodbye. I don't understand why but it felt like he was slipping away from me again.
Was there something else he wasn't telling me? Was I just overthinking?
I trusted him, but I was getting impatient.
My heart was beating wildly and I felt a lump inside my throat. Why do I feel like he's gonna leave me again?
He's learning this language to face the Watanabes head on, right? That meant he was going to their territory. And that was in London.
He didn't mention anything about that yet so I shouldn't assume. But still. But still.
I swallowed hard as my shaking hands reached for the play button. I don't know if Daniel noticed my stiff movements, but he hugged me tighter from behind.
Something tells me this hug held more meaning than it should.
He wrapped his hands around my waist and kissed the side of my neck before burying his nose on my shoulder. Why does something feel so wrong?
"I'm sorry." He started, almost whispering. I felt like my heart was gonna jump out. I'm scared of what he was gonna say next. Please. Please don't say it. "I'm leaving... After New Year's... I don't know when I'm coming back..."
I froze up.
I was right.
For the first time in my life, I hate that I was right.
I blinked quickly and held my breath. I was thankful he was behind me right now. That way he wouldn't see my face contorting into something ugly.
No no no.
"I know this doesn't sound fair, but I have to," he explained, his words sounding like they were squeezed out of him. "I have to stand by my dad in this fight."
"I'm not stopping you..." I choked out. I doubt it sounded sincere. I wanted to support him. It was admirable that he was loyal to his dad and to their business, but the fear that he might not come back for another long time warped my mind.
Why now, when I finally realized my feelings? Why now, when things were going great between us?
"I'll come back, I promise."
When? In another twelve years?
I don't know how serious the matter was, but he wouldn't be acting this way if it was just a small trip back to London right?
Suddenly time seemed so little. How much time have I wasted? How much time do we have left?
"You better." I said, keeping my voice steady.
He chuckled shakily as he tightened his hug. If I was thinking properly, I'd probably tell him that I couldn't breathe, and not because of the hug.
"We still haven't went out on a proper date yet," he reminded, attempting to lighten the mood.
I nodded, biting my lip and furrowing my brows to keep myself from getting too emotional. "Yeah. Tomorrow's Saturday right?"
"Yeah." He replied. Then it was quiet for a bit before he asked again. "Where do you wanna go?"
Instead of thinking about where to go, I was mentally calculating how much time we had left. Almost less than a month left.
Maybe even sooner.
This just wasn't happening. No.
"Up to you," I said, holding back my tears.
I trust him. I just have to trust him.
"Okay," he said quietly. Then he held my hands and snuggled on my neck. I don't know how he must've felt all this time, knowing that he was gonna leave soon. And me being the oblivious idiot, had the nerve to waste precious time by denying my feelings and teasing him as payback.
This was getting too heavy. I should play the anime right now to distract ourselves. But I was too numb to move. My hands were so cold.
Daniel hugging me from behind was comforting though. It brought a great sense of relief to my system. If he wasn't doing this right now, I'm pretty sure I would've broken down by now.
There were just so many regrets. Panic. Hurt.
I was right. History had a knack of repeating itself.
But he was making it better. For me and for himself too. Somehow.
He lifted my weight up from my position and made me sit on his lap, making me face his direction. When I saw his eyes, the huge lump formed in my throat again.
This was really happening.
He pulled me in for a deep kiss before fully wrapping his arms around me and squeezing me against his chest.
"This feels nice..." he slowly said, rubbing his eyes on my shoulder.
Was he crying..?
I can't take this...
"Let's stay like this for a bit longer..."
"You're such an idiot," I couldn't help but say. There was nothing else I could do. Tears were falling. "I love you."