I couldn't sleep. Rolling over on the uncomfortably warm sheets, I checked the clock by my bed. Six o'clock am. It was *way* too early for me to be up. *This is all Shigeru's fault!* I groaned and buried my face in the pillow. It was impossible to sleep when I couldn't stop thinking about him and that darn journal of his. I'd spent hours thinking about what I'd read, what his feelings meant, and what I might feel in return. Was there a chance I loved him back? I had to take hours to obsess over that one. And how did he respond? He shut me out. I couldn't believe it. Here I was, with a speech all prepared and my thoughts on the matter firmly established, and he decided that he couldn't even talk to me.
I'd taken a few nights out of my life to cry myself to sleep over that, too. Stupid Shigeru.
Well, if he thought I'd give up on my best friend that easily, he had another think coming. I wasn't going to give up until Shigeru and I talked this out and resolved our feelings -- and I could have him back in my life. I knew my best friend was stubborn, but *I* could be more pig-headed than he could ever even dream.
Although I had a feeling he could dream of me in lots more ways than I could imagine.
I rolled over again and smacked my head against the wall. "Ouch." OK, maybe that wasn't the smartest thing to do. But at least it stopped that dangerous line of thought. I wouldn't want to be thinking about that sort of thing when I was talking to Shigeru, or I'd totally choke. I needed to be calm. Cool. In control. Right. And the last time I managed to be *any* of those things was...?
With a frustrated sigh, I sat up, looking around the room almost angrily. Shigeru had no right to treat me this way! Granted, I *had* invaded his privacy by reading his journal, but I just couldn't help myself. And that didn't mean he had the right to shut me out of his life without even asking how *I* felt about it. Give me a break! Just because he happens to like guys instead of girls, is apparently in love with me, his best friend, and has been having wild sexual fantasies about the two of us together doesn't mean he's evil and belongs in the darkest depths of hell. It means he's human. It's not like *I* was exactly perfect myself... Far from it, actually. So why did he think he had some kind of ideal to live up to? I found it pretty baffling.
Oh well. I wasn't going to sleep any more anyway, so I figured I might as well get up. Stifling the urge to make some kind of displeased noise that might wake up my mother, I pulled a T-shirt on and trudged downstairs. I didn't have school, so I didn't have to worry about falling asleep in class... Eating was always a good idea. I could pack away more food than Hiroshi, Kasumi, and Shigeru combined. Funny, considering I was the shortest and battling with Hiroshi for second-thinnest -- both of us losing, of course, to Kasumi who was skinny in a way that I'd always thought required puking your guts out after a huge meal. Not that she was unattractive -- I mean, Hiroshi seemed to like her the way she was. It just intrigued me.
I felt my way toward the kitchen. Now that I'd chosen a destination, the only thing left to do was get there. Unfortunately, I get distracted easily, and on the way to the kitchen was our telephone, which reminded me that I hadn't tried to pester Shigeru into talking to me since -- well -- yesterday. Too long. I found myself forgetting the kitchen and reaching for the phone.
My hand jerked back. What the hell was I thinking? It was six o'clock in the morning, for Christ's sake! Shigeru would have my head on a platter, and I could just *imagine* the reaction I'd get from his older sister... I frowned at the phone. On the other hand, what better time to shock him into talking to me than early in the morning...?
*Not a good idea, Satoshi...* As usual, I ignored the lone sensible voice in my head. I'm not really known for common sense -- I never actually listen to that voice telling me I'm being an idiot, even though it's usually right. I reached for the phone again.
I jumped about three feet in the air and crashed into the stand holding the phone. It fell into my hands, the receiver coming apart from the rest. I snatched it to my ear before my little 'act' could be broadcast to the caller. "Hello?"
Right, I didn't sound over-anxious for a phone call.
"What were you doing, sitting by the phone waiting for me to call?"
About fucking time. I clutched the receiver tighter. "I was not! I just happened to be thinking about making a call, that's all. And I want to know why the hell you've been avoiding me, Shigeru! It wasn't fair of you."
"You read my journal." I recognized the tone of his voice. He was trying not to let me know what he was thinking or feeling. Damn it...
"So? What did you think, that I'd hate you for what you wrote?" I warmed to the topic almost instantly. This was something I'd spent a lot of time thinking, crying, and hitting the wall with breakable objects over, after all. I was *not* happy with Shigeru at the moment, and I think it showed. "If you're going to try that little sob-story about how you're afraid that I'm going to refuse to ever speak to you again, I'll make you pay for it, Shigeru!"
"Yeah? How would you do that?" He actually sounded curious, despite the sarcasm in his voice.
I grinned. "I'd do the opposite and never leave you alone. You'd have to hear me talk every minute of every day. I'd call you at three o'clock in the morning, and refuse to leave you alone until midnight. You'd be sick of me after a week!"
"Spare me," he cracked, then his voice turned serious. "You did say you wanted to talk to me, Satoshi. Well, you're talking to me now. Go ahead." There was a kind of fear in his voice that I heard right away -- hidden beneath that easy bravado that more or less defined Shigeru. He really didn't want to hear whatever I had to say, especially not if I planned to tell him I wasn't interested.
"I'm not sure it's something we should talk about over the phone." I thought for a moment. "How about if I meet you later today, Shigeru? If I come over to your house just after breakfast, will you promise to keep the door to your room unlocked and your music off?"
He laughed. The sound was almost like music to my ears. How long had it been since I'd heard Shigeru laugh? "Sure thing, Toshi," he promised. "Come over whenever you want. And, you know, if I chicken out, you can always have my sister swipe my journal again."
I bit back a laugh. "That was Hiroshi's idea, not mine!"
"Whatever. I know why you did it, and I can't make you sorry, considering the fact that it actually *worked*. Here I am calling you, after all." I could almost hear him smirking, and clutched the phone to my ear with both hands as if that would help.
"You're going to be my friend again, Geru," I promised him, smiling happily. "And you'll smile all the time, and everything you write in that journal of yours is going to be happy! Got it?"
"I wouldn't dream of disobeying." He even managed to sound serious.
"Good. See you after breakfast?" I stressed that last sentence. I had better see him then!
"Don't worry, you will. Bye Toshi."
"Bye." I dropped the phone back on the hook, replaced the whole thing on its stand, and stood slowly. Suddenly, my stress-filled morning wasn't so stress-filled. I was talking to Shigeru again! This was great!
"Satoshi?" My mother stumbled down the stairs, looking and sounding sleepy. "Who was that on the phone?"
"Just Shigeru." She didn't know that we hadn't been talking to each other -- well, Shigeru hadn't been talking to *me* -- and I didn't feel like filling her in on that. It wasn't anything she needed to know about, anyway.
"Did he have to call so early in the morning?" She made her way toward the kitchen with a resigned sigh. My mother is like me -- once she's awake, it's hard to force herself to sleep again. And if she does manage it, she knows she'll sleep until late afternoon. I wasn't too contrite, though, because I knew she'd have been up in about half an hour anyway.
"Yup. It was important." I leaned over her shoulder as she made breakfast for herself. "Can you make me breakfast too?" I was a natural disaster whenever I tried to do anything in the kitchen.
"Sure." She didn't look surprised at this request; I made it almost every morning, though, so that could be why. I was usually a fairly predictable person, especially in the morning.
"I'm going over to Shigeru's house after breakfast," I added nonchalantly. Since this was something I had done quite often in the past, I was hoping she'd overlook the fact that I hadn't been over to my best friend's house any time in the past few weeks -- except to try and persuade him to talk to me. But that was different.
"Whatever you want, sweetie," she answered almost cheerfully. I made a face at her. My mother *loved* to do that to me. I hated nicknames like 'sweetie' and 'honey', so she used them all the time. And what's worse, she used them in front of my friends. It was really embarrassing.
Oh well. I went to the cupboard to grab a plate. Enduring it was easier than trying to argue with my mother anyway.
* * *
"Shigeru!" Nanami called, looking away from the door. "Your friend is here!" She gave me a doubtful look. "I don't know if he's going to answer, Satoshi -- he's been in his room all morning, even when he was eating breakfast."
"He said he'd talk to me." I wasn't about to leave without somehow getting in to see Shigeru -- even if that meant taking some kind of sledgehammer to his bedroom door. *You're talking to me, my friend,* I thought stubbornly. *So don't even try to -- *
"Tell him he can come on up!" Shigeru's voice answered back, muffled by the distance.
I was past Nanami, kicking off my shoes, and running up the stairs to my best friend's room before she could say another word. "Thanks Nami!" I called back, taking the steps three at a time.
Shigeru was waiting for me in the chair by his desk. "Close the door, Toshi," he said, snatching his journal from the bed and purposefully moving it to where I couldn't get at it. I smiled, and did as he said.
"So I guess you want to know what I thought of it, huh?" Hey, there wasn't much point in beating around the bush. We both knew why I was there. "Well, to start with, Shigeru, I -- "
"No," he interrupted.
I blinked, startled. "What?"
"No," he repeated, then turned to face me, blue-grey eyes intense. "I *don't* want to know what you thought of it. I'm sure you read my last few entries..." At that, I had the grace to blush. "So you probably know why. Can't I at least pretend that I might have some chance, Toshi?" His eyes were pleading, desperate.
I blinked a few more times, a little taken aback. "So you don't want to know what I think, Shigeru?" Actually, this hadn't occurred to me, and I *had* read those last few entries. I just assumed that, since my friend was talking to me again, he wanted to know what I'd thought of his 'confessions' in that journal.
"Not really." He sighed, and looked away. "But you're going to tell me anyway, so go ahead."
I bit my lip, fighting tears. To think, I'd waited for this moment this long, only to find that Shigeru didn't want it like I did. Well, fine then! I wasn't telling him anything if he wasn't brave enough to take it. "All right, if that's what you want." I tried to keep my voice casual, but I think he heard the emotion in it, because he turned to face me.
"What do you mean, Satoshi?"
"What I said." I forced a laugh. "If you don't want to hear what I have to say, then I won't tell you -- ever. But make sure that's *really* what you want, Geru." I fixed him with my own hard stare. "After all, how do you know that what I'm going to say isn't what you want to hear?"
It was his turn to look astonished. "Satoshi..."
"I'm going to leave it entirely up to you," I told him with as much impartiality as I could muster. "In fact, you can have the whole day if you want it. I'll meet you somewhere later tonight, and you tell me if you want to listen to me, or if you want me to keep quiet for the rest of my life." I mimed zipping my lips shut. "But be careful what you decide, and *please* spend a lot of time thinking it over. If you read me wrong, you could end up breaking both our hearts."
He was staring at me with the most miserable, heart-wrenching look on his face. I nearly cracked. It would be so easy for me to make the decision for him, right then and there. But I couldn't. I mean, it would come back and haunt me, I was sure of it. So I turned and marched out of the room.
"Call me when you've made a decision, Shigeru."
He didn't answer, but I hadn't really expected him to. I made it all the way back to my house, back to the safety of my room -- and then I broke down and fell onto my bed in a sobbing heap, crying so hard I thought that I'd never be able to stop.
* * *
*What have I done?* I clung to my covers, staring blankly at the wall. *He's going to choose not to hear it, I know he is. And it's going to drive him crazy! He's always going to wonder whether or not I actually would've said that I loved him back...*
I flopped onto my back, rubbing at my eyes. I'd *had* to do that, though. I couldn't let him off easy. He had every right to decide what he heard from me. If he didn't want to listen to my opinion, fine. I was hoping he'd realize that chosing that option would put a huge strain on our friendship, though. There wouldn't be any way around that. He *had* to chose listening to me! He had to! I moaned and buried my face in my pillow. *Please don't be an idiot, Shigeru.*
The phone rang downstairs, and I sat bolt upright. What time was it? Late afternoon, I guessed, glancing out the window. It was getting dark out. Belatedly, I got up from the bed and hurried out of the room, but my mother still beat me to the phone.
"Hello?" I hung on the railing of the stairway, shamelessly listening in on the one-sided conversation.
"Oh hello Shigeru," she said into the phone, smiling, and my stomach fluttered nervously. "How have you been? I haven't seen you in a while." A pause. "Oh good. Just a second, I'll get him."
I ran down the stairs before she had to call my name. "Thanks mom," I told her, taking the phone without waiting for her to offer it to me and immediately speaking into the receiver. "Geru?" The last was a bit breathless, I'll admitt. I wasn't having much luck with Shigeru and phones lately.
"Hey." He sure sounded calm, I noted sourly. That was Shigeru, though; he always managed to sound cool over the phone, even if he was feeling anxious -- and I knew he had to be, because of how completely strained I felt. "I think I've come to some kind of decision, Toshi. Where do you want to meet?"
I had to smile at that. "I know the perfect place, Shigeru..."
* * *
I *know*, the school is locked during the summer for the most part, but there were summer school classes going on at nights, so the front doors were usually open on week nights. I marched back into our high school with just a few misgivings. Of course, Shigeru thought I was crazy -- wanting to go back to school during the summer -- but I had my reasons. The school was where this problem had started, so it was fitting that the problem should either be resolved or be added to here.
Yup, I was nervous. Who wouldn't be?
Trying to avoid giving in to either shaking like a frightened puppy or bursting into loud, dramatic tears, I opened the door to the boys locker room and walked on in.
That's right, the boys locker room. I chose it for a couple of reasons. Shigeru had said in his journal that he'd admired my half-naked form in here that one time -- and that was pretty close to when the problem had started. Plus, that first dream he'd had was one that had sort of half happened in here too. So it seemed like a good place to fix up our friendship.
Shigeru was already there when I arrived -- he'd been pacing around like a restless beast -- but he looked up when I walked in. I got my first glimpse of what people have referred to as a 'deer in the headlights' look, on my best friend's face. He looked nervous as hell -- which, I desperately hoped, was probably a good sign, right?
"Hi Toshi," he said quietly. His voice didn't shake, either. I doubted I'd be able to match that.
"Hey." I was right; my voice shook, just like my hands were shaking. I stuffed them into my pockets. "You said you made a decision, Shigeru," I reminded him, taking in a deep breath. "Can I ask what it was?"
"OK." He closed his eyes for a moment and leaned back. "I'll probably regret this," he sighed. "I've really been thinking about what you said this morning -- making the right choice and all. I figure, you must know what you're talking about. You've really given this whole thing a lot of thought, haven't you?"
"I had to." I shuffled over until I was standing next to him, leaning back against the lockers like he was. "I mean, it's important to me. I don't think I can remember everything I had planned, but there was a whole speech..." I laughed shakily. "I'm sure I'll think of something if you want me to, Geru." Please, please want me to, I begged silently.
"I must be crazy," he murmured, then looked up from where his eyes had been fixed on the floor and stared over at me. "But this is the decision I made." He took a deep breath, and I found myself holding mine in, watching him desperately, as he got ready to announce his decision. *Please, Shigeru,* I thought. *Please...*
"I want... I want you to tell me what you thought," he blurted out, and I released my breath loudly, sighing with relief. "I don't want to kill myself thinking about what 'might' be, especially not if I'm making you unhappy at the same time -- and I realize that forcing you to keep quiet would *really* make you suffer." We share a smile at that. "So, tell me, Satoshi. Tell me what you thought of my... journal." He says the word like it's some kind of bane on his existance.
"Thanks, Shigeru." I smile at him, feeling so utterly relieved that I could hardly stand staying still any more. I felt like I was on a total high right now. "You won't be sorry, I promise. See, because I was reading your journal, and I read how you felt about me..." I blushed. "Um, that dream, for example. Wow..." He turned red at that, too.
"I didn't ask to dream it, you know..."
"I know," I cut in. "And I didn't ask you to dream it, either, but..." I tried a laugh. "See, I was reading through all these things and feeling totally overwhelmed, because I never would've dreamed... I mean, you said it yourself: I'm really bad about seeing what's right under my face. But still..." I managed a wicked grin. "I think you really would have gotten a reaction if you'd screamed in my ear that you wanted to rip off all my clothes and fuck my brains out, Geru."
"Oh." He turned even redder, if possible. "Sorry. I..."
"Don't be." I smiled. "I laughed out loud when I read that. And I can't believe I was so blind about that girl. I just couldn't see it." I shook my head. "Maybe I wasn't thinking, or I wasn't ready to see it... Whatever the reason, I never could've even considered you and me as a couple until I read it in your journal. I never would've thought of it."
He looked like he was going to cry or scream or do something really desperate. "Satoshi, please, don't tease me like this."
"I'm sorry," I apologized -- sincerely, actually. "I guess what I want to say is, Shigeru, I've been so blind and..." I took a deep breath -- again -- and managed a slight smile. "Everything I read made me feel differently about the way I've always thought of things. From all those referrences to sex" -- and at that, he looked sheepish -- "to the time when you wrote about that one dream, where you found out you were in love with me..." My voice trailed off. That dream had left me breathless.
"Satoshi, I..." His voice choked.
"Tell me, Shigeru," I demanded, turning to face him. "This is what I've been wanting to hear -- *really* wanting to hear. I read it in your journal, I can see it all over your face... I want to hear it. Tell me you love me."
He opened his eyes, and I could see right away that he was fighting back tears. This was so different from the Shigeru I knew -- the one who was always so tough and unfeeling. He looked right at me. "Always." And I could see on his face that he meant it. "I love you, Toshi, now and forever. Until the day I die."
I started to cry. I couldn't help it; I'd imagined this moment so many times, but nothing could make it real until I actually heard him say those words. I'd rehearsed it a million times, gone over the details in my mind... But nothing could've adequately prepared me. My best friend loved me. I let the tears run down my cheeks slowly, closing my eyes.
"Shigeru..." When I opened them again, he was still staring at me, a bit hesitantly. "Thanks." I can't explain why I felt shy just then, but... I guess having your best friend tell you he'd love you forever can do that. "That was beautiful. Just... beautiful."
"Glad you liked it." He smiled at me, ever so slightly.
"I'm going to try and get right to the point." I wiped my cheeks with the backs of my sleeves and fixed him with a determined gaze. "See, when I read those things -- especially the 'love' part -- I started crying when I first read it too..." I closed my eyes again, then blinked back up at him. "When I first read them, they made me feel things... stuff I'd never felt before." I put one shaking hand over my heart.
His eyes widened slowly.
"I read through it a million times, and it always felt the same." I smiled, desperately fighting the tears that I felt were just waiting for another chance. "I couldn't stop thinking about you -- and me -- how you put it in the journal. And every time I pictured us together... I don't know, it just felt *right*. I've never had feelings for anyone the way I have feelings for you, Shigeru."
He looked as if he thought this might be another dream -- that it was too good to be true. "Are you saying that...?" His voice trailed off.
"I'm saying that I want to be with you." I turned entirely and managed a shaky smile as I looked up at him. "I'm saying I've probably been in love with you for years, and I never would've known if it hadn't been for that journal. And..." I laughed. "If you'd chosen not to listen to me, I would've *killed* you!"
He started to laugh out loud, and then he grabbed me around the waist abruptly and pulled me close. I felt a shiver run through me at the contact, and I knew that I'd made the right choice. He stroked my cheek, an almost unbelieving happiness on his face. "Satoshi... can I kiss you?"
"Please." I wound my arms around his shoulders lightly, and he bent his face down toward me.
The moment his lips touched mine, I knew without a doubt that I belonged. Right there in his arms; that was where I was meant to be. Every part of my body that made any sort of contact with his was on fire. And he kissed me so softly... I floated off somewhere high above my head, the pounding of my heart being the only thing grounding me.
He parted our lips gently, and we gazed at each other for a moment. "Love you, Shigeru," I whispered, and his eyes lit up at that. "Love you forever." I clung to him tighter. "So, I guess we're going out now, huh?"
"Looks that way." The emotion in his eyes thrilled me.
I smiled, as a wicked thought struck me. "So, did you want to live out your locker-room dream for real?"
He blushed red to the roots of his hair, and I took the opportunity to fall back onto the ground, taking him with me. "Honestly, Geru," I said brightly, smiling in satisfaction. "Why do you think I chose the locker room anyway?"
He stared at me for a moment, then burst out into helpless laughter -- which I was quick to smother with another kiss. *Now and forever,* I thought happily, and busied myself with making Shigeru's dreams come true.