After she’d put on her shoes in the entrance hall, Natsuki kept clenching and unclenching her hand around the doorknob.
From an outsider’s point of view, the action probably seemed like strange behavior, but for Natsuki, it was inevitable.
‘Th-this is it… Our first date at his house….!’
On the weekends, they’d spend the day at one of their houses–
They’d put a hold on this tradition since summer vacation, but today, they’d finally start it up again.
They hadn’t outright made an promise to do so, but as childhood friends, it just felt like the right thing. The fact that they both started getting antsy with the weekend drawing close was proof of that.
‘I’ve already done everything that I could, but….’
Miraculously, she’d woken up before her phone alarm, and put up her hair more neatly than she usually did. She’d picked out her outfit the night before, and checked herself in the mirror several times.
As a present, she’d brought the cake that she’d made together with Miou and Akari.
“It’ll work out somehow or other!”
Natsuki slapped her cheeks with both hands to pump herself up, and headed for the house next door.
Today, she would finally hear the words she wanted to hear from Yuu.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
“I came to bring you a present for all your hard work~”
“You sure you don’t mean you’re here to disturb me?”
Throwing open the door with gusto, she saw that the room’s occupant was still in bed.
Yuu burrowed under the blankets as if to hide from Natsuki, and rolled over in bed, facing his back towards her.
“Hold on, Yuu, is it alright for a test taker to be going back to sleep like this?”
“I’ll have you know, it’s only been two hours since I got into bed!”
“Huh? Another all-nighter? You shouldn’t overdo it, you know?”
“Yeah, so let me sleep!”
The moment Natsuki stuck out her lips in a pout, she came back to her senses.
If she kept acting like this, it would be like they were still just childhood friends.
Natsuki shook her head, and told herself to get a grip.
‘If I’m not careful about what I say, things are never going to move forward….!’
Even if she had to resort to brute force, she had to try and overcome this situation.
Ready to give it another go, Natsuki started walking towards the bed.
She yanked the blankets off the bed and dropped them right onto the floor.
Naturally, Yuu shot up and looked at her in outrage.
“Wha– Natsuki! Didn’t you just say that I shouldn’t overdo it?!”
“That’s true, but I have something more important to talk to you about!”
As soon as she said this, Natsuki could almost feel herself going pale.
She knew that she had to be careful about what she said now, but even she was surprised herself as how straight-to-the-point she’d just been.
‘I was planning to be a little more subtle about it, but….’
Yuu could be a bit dense sometimes, so there was a chance he wouldn’t catch on if she wasn’t straightforward about it.
‘In times like these, you just have to go ahead and do it….!’
Grabbing a confused Yuu by the shoulders, she leaned up close to his face.
“Wh-What is it? Seriously, Natsuki, what’s wrong with you?”
“Yuu… Do you like me?”
Silence filled the room for the next minute.
Yuu sat with his mouth agape, looking back at Natsuki, whose face was so close he could feel her breath.
“….Um, you’re asking me this just now?”
The words that finally made their way from his mouth exhausted her patience.
Taking a deep breath, she said as loudly as she could,
“I’m asking you now because I’ve never once heard you tell me that you like me since we started dating!”
Silence filled the room again.
This time, Yuu looked annoyed, as one would expect, but slowly, he started to pale.
“Yes, I’m serious! When I confessed, all you said was, ‘Me too, I feel the same way,’ but that was it!”
“Ughh, don’t repeat it word for word! God, this so embarrassing I could die…”
Natsuki stared intently as Yuu clutched his head and tumbled back down on the bed.
“That time, you said, ‘I finally caught you,’ which means you’ve liked back me for a while, right? Then you should have just told me so when we were doing confession rehearsals….”
She took this chance to confess the feelings that had been spiraling in her chest all this time.
Yuu bolted upright in bed, and facing Natsuki, rebutted with an annoyed look on his face.
“What?! But those were rehearsals, not real confessions, remember? It was normal for me to assume that there was someone else you really liked. There’s no way I could’ve had the guts to do that when I was, in a way, being rejected.”
As Yuu confessed this begrudgedly, Natsuki was at a loss for words.
Yuu looked back at her in silence for a moment, and then scoffed and smiled.
“And anyway…. I didn’t have the confidence to, either. Haruki’s talented enough as a movie director to win an award for it, and Mochita’s an amazing scriptwriter, but I couldn’t do anything….”
‘No way…. Yuu felt that way, too?’
At first, she was genuine surprised.
And then she started to feel frustrated for being so self-centered that she never even realizing any of this before.
“But, I made up my mind. I decided that I’d just be myself, and aim to become a producer.”
Yuu spoke with conviction, his face happier than words could describe.
Natsuki, overwhelmed by so many emotions at once, could only nod.
“Geez, you look like you’re about to cry again.”
Standing up, Yuu reached out and cradled her cheek in his hand.
He smiled at her with a look that seemed to say, “What’m I going to do with you?” but somehow, he looked kind of happy, too.
“The day before the graduation ceremony, the Student Council is going to be holding a screening for our movie, and I’ll be helping out with some things there, too. It’s going to be like a joint project, so look forward to it.”
Holding back her tears, Natsuki nodded, and after patting her hair, Yuu took his hand back.
And then, Yuu pulled her forward by the arm, and held Natsuki close to his chest.
Instead of answering her with words, Yuu’s arms tightened around her.
Just like that day in the classroom, they could hear each other’s heartbeats.
It wasn’t only Natsuki’s, but Yuu’s heart as well, that was pounding.
Natsuki’s voice cracked from how nervous she was, and her face felt like it was on fire.
Yuu, who also seemed to be at his limits, laughed loudly, lightening the tense atmosphere.
“I think it’s better doing it this way.”
Before Natsuki could ask him what he meant, Yuu said with a smile,
“I like you.”
“S-Saying it out of nowhere like that is against the rules! Say it one more time, now that I’m ready.”
“Whaaat? Not possible, it’s bad for my heart.”
“Right? When I confessed, I had to overcome that kind of nervousness too, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah, and I’m grateful for it.”
“Say it like you mean it!”
After that, the conversation went as it usually did.
As their lively voices echoed around the room, in the drawer of the study desk awaited a pair of matching couple’s rings.