This kept on for two weeks, and then…
One afternoon, it rained.
This wasn’t your typical summer shower that died down in half an hour or so. This was a full-blown rainstorm that poured in torrents, beating against classroom windows and falling in rivulets down glass panels, soaking anything and anyone out in the open.
Wind howled, lightning struck in jagged lines, and thunder resonated in a steady rhythm.
School had ended, and Usa was waiting in the shelter of the school entrance, shivering and impatiently tapping his foot. But Shirosaki did not appear.
Slowly, the crowd panned out, and he was alone.
Just as he was about to take his chances with public transport, his cell phone rang. Finally, the lazy dog was coming to get him.
“Well, where are you, good for nothing scum?”
“Awwh… maybe I should leave you out in the rain more often. You’re more cooperative in giving me insults then.”
Anyone would, stuck here with sopping feet, Usa thought with gritted teeth. “Are you coming to get me?”
“Eh… gomen, really. You deserve to yell at me.” Usa was surprised to hear sincere regret in Shirosaki’s tone.
“The rain has cut off my transport to the mainland. I am probably staying here overnight. Goody, I can’t wait for the mosquitoes to come prey on my defenseless body tonight!”
“Wait, then what about my dinner…?! Spare a thought for me!”
“Oh, I’ve asked someone to get it for you.” Usa detected a hint of laughter in his voice, and his eyebrows furrowed.
“For now, sit tight till help comes.” Before he could ask further questions, Shirosaki hung up.
“As if I can do anything but sit tight!?” He saw footsteps approaching, running at top speed, and his head shot up.
The words died in his throat.
Ritsu's shirt was completely soaked through, giving him full view of… a pale yellow singlet. Her arms were covered in goosebumps and she was shivering violently. Her soaked umbrella fell to one side, as though heaving a sigh of relief.
“Car… splashed water...” she gasped before collapsing limply beside him.
Before he thought twice, Usa’s school jacket and vest were off his shoulders and draped around her shaking torso. She was too weary to protest and for a long time the two sat in silence, she recuperating from her run in the rain and him gathering his thoughts.
“Oh, yes, your dinner!” It was a large okonomiyaki, still hot and crisp from the frying pan. The taste was heavenly, along with the comforting thought of how carefully Ritsu preserved it. He timed his munching to the pitter patter of the rain, broken only by Ritsu clearing her throat awkwardly.
“Well,” Ritsu was fidgeting, “I was bored one day, and decided to search up your name.”
His heart pounded uncontrollably. Ritsu stalking him online? That was so hot!
“Usa, in the dictionary, means poor unfortunate soul.”
(a/n; not true, please don't Google)
“I also found an interesting website entitled, ‘The online album of Usa Kazunari’ and it had some very interesting photos of you.”
Kill me now. “THAT WAS BY MY MOM, SHE’S CONSTANTLY LOOKING FOR WAYS TO EMBARRASS ME.”
Ritsu burst out laughing, and he followed suit shortly after. Giddy with relief and happiness, Usa briefly forgot about his leg, his unfortunate circumstances, and the cold weather.
He marveled at how their friendship had evolved. A year and a half ago, she was too shy to look him in the eye. Now, they were laughing and comfortably talking alongside each other.
“Hey… did you pick up some new books the other day? I didn’t see you.” Inwardly, Usa gulped, wondering if he was being too forward.
A pregnant pause, and then Ritsu spoke.
“No… I was making my way home by the usual route when I saw two girls from my middle school walking ahead of me.”
Her halting speech did not bode well with Usa.
“Our personalities never really clicked. So, I decided to take a detour.”
A heavy silence settled over the duo.
Senpai goes to such lengths to avoid people… Usa thought soberly.
She and I have been stuck in the same situation, with strange people who have weird habits.
But I didn't want to be alone. So as much as I resented it, I tried to be welcoming and outgoing. I talked to them, tried to be a good friend, tried to accept them. Because as strange as they were, they were the only friends I had.
Yet Ritsu...she's accepted being alone. She's decided to be alone. How am I supposed to change what she’s used to? That’s like taking away a part of her.
“Don’t you think it’s pretty?”
Clearing his melancholic thoughts, Usa managed a feeble grin, which turned into a genuine smile as he looked to the sky. “Yeah!”
The rain had subsided to a drizzle, and the sun peeked out between diminishing clouds. A car horn sounded in the distance, reminding Usa these precious moments with Ritsu were about to end.
The sky was in hues of gold, pale orange and blue, but despite the brilliant colours, there was an unmistakable tinge of grey.