Courage of Heart

Ichigaya Arisa had a decision to make.

It’d been a couple of days since the concert at Space, and after having a celebration yesterday, they had all decided today would just be a day to rest and recover.

With the stress of the concert now behind them, they could all have a moment to themselves. Do something relaxing, catch their breath. Unfortunately this had also given Arisa time to think and reflect.

*snip*

“Ah, for-” Arisa stopped herself, just in case her grandmother could hear. She didn’t approve of swearing. But Arisa had just cut one of the branches wrong. Bonsai was supposed to calm you down, but her current thoughts were too distracting. It wasn’t her first mistake today either.

She decided to put the shears down and take a break. Maybe getting some tea would help. Maybe it wouldn’t. The problem was that she was unable to get Kasumi off her mind.

Pushing the sliding door open, she took off her shoes just inside. If it wasn’t such a force of habit, she might have forgotten even that. Her steps were slow as she moved towards the kitchen.

Arisa had fallen for Kasumi. She was reasonably certain of that. She had never been in love before, but that seemed like the only explanation. Either that or allergies, but even though she only had a basic knowledge of biology, she didn’t think it was possible to be allergic to just one single person.

This was annoying. Everything about it. Kasumi’s annoying. And thoughtless, and rash, and stubborn. She had barged into Arisa’s life without invitation, and dragged her along into this band. And everything that came with it. Very annoying, but… it’s not like she hated it. She could be honest enough with herself to admit that she had come to treasure it. Along with everyone in the band. Especially Kasumi…

The coolness of the refrigerator felt refreshing as she opened the door and took out the bottle of tea.

She hadn’t asked for any of this though. Hadn’t been asked. She had protested… okay, maybe not protested that hard…

Closing the door again, she then got herself a glass. The noise as she poured the tea was pleasant.

And along the way her feelings towards Kasumi had grown. It wasn’t like she had just suddenly one day fallen for her, it had happened gradually. By the time she realised what was going on, it was far too late. So what should she do now?

“Arisa?” Her grandmother had come into room. “Are you done with the bonsai?”

“Huh? Oh.” It took Arisa a moment to hear what she had been asked. “N-no, I just decided to take a break. I was having trouble focusing.” She put the tea back in the fridge to avoid just fidgeting.

“Well, in that case,” her grandmother said, her voice sounding warm and understanding. “I was just about to get started on some lunch. Could you help me out?”

“Of course, grandma.” Arisa smiled at her, and they got to work. This might help her get her mind off of things, especially with her grandma in the room.

Except of course it didn’t. Arisa started wondering why her grandmother had sounded understanding. What did she understand? Did Arisa just imagine that in the first place? Had she realised Arisa’s feelings for Kasumi? No, that surely couldn’t be it.

“Are you okay, Arisa?” Her grandmother’s voice shook her out of it. She had been spacing out. That was embarrassing.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine. Just a little distracted, I guess.” She laughed nervously, and sighed inwardly. “I’m sorry.” She needed to get it together.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re nearly done.” That was true, as it took about a minute more before they could sit down to eat. Arisa had been hungrier than she realised.

“Your concert was really great, you know,” her grandmother said.

“I know,” Arisa looked up at her and smiled. “You already told me, remember?” They both laughed a little.

Arisa started thinking again. She felt like she needed to talk to someone about all this. But how? She had never been good with people, and she absolutely wasn’t sure how to start a conversation about this. Or who was the right person to talk to.

“Hey, grandma,” she said after a little while. “Have I changed?” She wasn’t exactly sure why she had asked that.

“Hm… I suppose so,” her grandmother said, and Arisa wasn’t sure how she felt about that answer. “A little, at least. I’ve never wanted to force you into anything, but you have friends now, and you go out more. To school, even. I’ll admit it makes me happy to see.” Arisa was suddenly struck with the thought that her grandmother might have been worrying about her.

“I was fine without them.” No, that’s not how she had meant to say that. “I mean… I’m… I appreciate having them… it’s just… not like I needed them, or anything.” Her grandmother didn’t seem bothered by Arisa’s outburst. She knew her grand-daughter pretty well, after all, so she kept smiling.

“Yes, I’m aware,” her grandmother responded patiently. Arisa blushed at hearing that. “Why did you suddenly ask that, though?” She blushed even more at that.

“Ah. W-well. It’s just… I-” She took a deep breath and tried to collect her thoughts. “My life feels different now,” she settled on. “With the band and everything. I think I’ve learned some things. Yet…”

“Yet?” Her grandmother prompts Arisa after she had gone quiet for a couple of moments.

“… there’s still things I have to figure out.” Arisa started fiddling around with her chopsticks. “But I’m not very good with… talking to people.” She could admit that to her grandmother, even if she wasn’t sure about anyone else.

“So what is it you want to talk about?” her grandmother asked kindly. She was done eating, and was now just patiently paying attention to Arisa.

“Er… that’s…” Arisa really didn’t know how to respond to that, she hadn’t thought that far ahead. “That’s…” She trails off.

“Well, if you can’t talk to me about it, maybe one of your friends?” Arisa wasn’t sure she deserved her grandmother’s kindness at times.

“Yeah, maybe…” That might not be a bad idea. She finished off her lunch, and the two of them cleaned up.

It was still early, so Arisa had texted Rimi. She was really the only good choice. O-Tae… was O-Tae. As for Saya… Arisa didn’t mind talking to her normally, but she felt a little unsure about Saya’s feelings towards Kasumi, and vice versa. It’s not like she was jealous or anything. … okay, maybe a little jealous. This wasn’t a topic she felt comfortable talking to Saya about.

Rimi had agreed to meet her at the park. Arisa was betting on there being some place there where they could have a bit of privacy. At the very least it was unlikely they’d run into someone they knew.

“Arisa-chan~!” She heard Rimi calling out as she came around the bend towards the bench where Rimi was already sitting. Seems Rimi had arrived first. Arisa waved at her.

It suddenly occurred to Arisa that she and Rimi hadn’t really had much one-on-one time yet. That thought hadn’t really come up when she was considering who to contact. Well, she should be fine talking to her. Hopefully.

“Hi, Rimi,” she said as she got close enough to not have to shout. Rimi was wearing a cute dress. She seemed to have several of those. Or maybe they just looked cute because Rimi was wearing them. The girl was basically exuding an aura of cuteness at all times, which could honestly feel a little overwhelming.

No, I’m already side-tracking myself. Focus, Arisa, she thought to herself. Rimi looked at Arisa curiously, wondering why she had been called out here.

“So what’s going on?” she asked as Arisa sat down next to her. Rimi was also thinking about how the two of them hadn’t really been alone much, and that she wasn’t much of a small talker. Neither of them were. So it might be best to just get to the point.

“Well… I… erm… well… h-how do I put this?” Arisa was struggling with what to say. She was aware she wasn’t the most… straight-forward person. Communicating how she really felt was hard, and falling back on old habits was easy.

Rimi could tell Arisa was struggling, but she wasn’t entirely sure how to help. Arisa had a tendency to clam up and retreat if she felt uncomfortable or embarrassed, or… for a lot of reasons, really.

“Hm… I assume you weren’t simply bored?” she tried, carefully. “The way you phrased the text made it almost sound urgent.” Arisa blushed, and Rimi wondered whether she had gone a little too far with adding that last part.

“N-no, it’s not like- it’s not… not…” Arisa trailed off. She nearly did it again. This wasn’t the time. As hard as it was, she needed to be open here, or Rimi couldn’t help.

“I’m sorry, it’s just… just…” Rimi smiled at her encouragingly, and Arisa decided to just go for it. “Rimi, I need your help.”

Rimi blinked in surprise. That was not what she expected to hear.

My help?” she blurted out, then pulled herself together. “Well, sure. I’ll do what I can!” She wasn’t sure why Arisa had come to her, but she felt a little pride at being chosen. It was nice being relied upon every now and again.

“Thank you,” Arisa said quietly. She looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone too close before continuing. “You see… it’s like… I have…” Arisa let out an exasperated sigh. She knew she could trust Rimi, that wasn’t the issue. It was just hard regardless.

Rimi was trying to not seem too eager while she waited for Arisa to finish. It had to be important if Arisa was having even more trouble than usual.

“Argh, I can’t think of a good way to say it, so I’m just going to say it!” Arisa exclaimed. She looked right at Rimi and steeled herself. “I-I… I have, I mean, I think I have…” Rimi tilted her head to the side, almost like a bird, and Arisa’s gaze began drifting down. “I t-think I have f-fallen in love w-” Rimi’s eyes went wide.

“I-IN LOVE?!” She shouted before even realising it, interrupting Arisa.

“Rimi, not so loud,” Arisa hissed at her, and Rimi clapped her hands over her own mouth.

“I’m sorry, Arisa-chan,” she said muffled, then removed her hands. “I’m so sorry, I was just really surprised.” Arisa shot Rimi an annoyed look, even as she was blushing.

“I can tell,” Arisa whispered. “It’s not that surprising though, is it?”

“I suppose not,” Rimi conceded. “It’s just that… well… you don’t…” Arisa’s face was communicating to Rimi that she was starting to tread on dangerous ground.

“I don’t what?” Arisa sounded almost threatening, and her body was quite tense.

“You don’t…” Rimi decided to abandon this thought, as Arisa’s sharp look was like a knife now. “A-anyway, with who? Anyone I know? Someone from your class? Wait, did you call me out here alone to conf-” Rimi’s brain was going at high speed, but Arisa cut off her babbling there.

“That’s none of your business!” she snapped, then instantly regretted it. “Ah, no, I mean-” Rimi looked shocked in a different way now, and Arisa’s guilt shot through the roof. “Gaaahhh, I’m sorry Rimi.” She put her head in her hands and groaned. “I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have reacted like that. I panicked.”

Rimi’s expression softened, and she put a hand on Arisa’s back.

“I understand,” she said kindly. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” Arisa looked up, and towards Rimi.

“No, I do want to. I-I need your help, after all, so you should know.” Arisa sat back up and took a deep breath. “I’m in love with… the person I am- that I think I am in love with… is… K-k-k-kasumi.” Arisa was blushing furiously now, but Rimi’s expression had gone blank. Something clicked into place in her brain.

“Oh.”

“What do you mean ‘oh’?” Arisa inquired.

“Ooohhhhh.” Rimi got it now. “That makes sense.”

“What do you mean ‘that makes sense’?” Arisa was sounding a bit annoyed now.

“I just mean it’s really obvious when you think about it.” Rimi felt like she had been handed the final piece to a puzzle she wasn’t even aware she had been putting together.

“It’s not really obvious!” Arisa prostested, then a seed of doubt took root. “Is it?” She could feel a bit of panic rising. Had any of the others noticed? No, surely not. Rimi was the most observant of them, and she hadn’t noticed. Except maybe Saya… oh no, what if Saya had figured it out?

Rimi could read Arisa’s current expression really easily, and she felt a bit sorry for her.

“Ah, don’t worry, Arisa-chan!” She tried to comfort her. “If you don’t think about it, it’s probably not that obvious.” Arisa groaned and hid her face as Rimi said that.

“Do you think Kasumi knows?” Arisa asked, just barely audible. Rimi couldn’t help giggling.

“This is Kasumi-chan we’re talking about.”

“You’re right.” Arisa had to let out a short laugh herself. She slowly unfurled again. “What do I do though? And how do I do it? Do I tell her?” She leaned back against the bench and looked up at the sky. The mere thought of actually confessing was making her red and dizzy.

“Of course you do!” Rimi sounded entirely convinced. “You have to!” Arisa felt the same in her heart, but she was also afraid. She needed support.

“But what if she turns me down? What if it ruins our friendship? What if it ruins the band?” Arisa’s fears started spilling out of her, and she couldn’t stop them. “She might not be into girls. Kasumi’s affectionate towards everyone, but maybe it doesn’t mean anything beyond that. Maybe I’m not special..” Her voice became small. Kasumi had come to her first. Had stuck to her and refused to leave, until Arisa had difficulty imagining a life where Kasumi wasn’t there. But that didn’t necessarily mean Kasumi thought Arisa was special. The thought stung.

“Arisa-chan,” Rimi said sternly. “Don’t you think you’re going to regret it if you don’t try?” Rimi could also get quite stubborn at times. “And it’s just going to get worse for you the longer you leave it.” Arisa knew Rimi was right. She knew it, but…

“S-shut up, it’s not like I-” Arisa deflated almost immediately. “Yeah… it’s not like I really have a choice, right?” She looked down at Rimi again. “Besides, I can just say you forced… me…” She noticed that Rimi had taken out her phone, and was grinning slightly.

“You could certainly say that, because I just texted Kasumi to say you’re coming over shortly,” Rimi declared with more mischief than Arisa thought she was capable of. Arisa’s face went pale.

“You d-did what?!” Arisa was in utter disbelief. Rimi’s phone beeped.

“Oh look, she just replied saying she’s free in about half an hour.” Rimi was still grinning. “That gives you time to get some snacks or something to bring over. Go get her!”

“What?!” Arisa was still stunned. “I’m not going! No way! You can’t make me!” She was outraged. This wasn’t helping! This was just making things worse! There’s no way she could go! She wasn’t ready!

Rimi just got up and her expression changed to a kind, but knowing smile.

“I’ll be rooting for you. Good luck,” was all she said before skipping off. Quite pleased with herself.

Well, it sucked for Rimi, because there was no way Arisa was going.

Half an hour later Arisa was outside Kasumi’s house. She’d had time to quickly stop by home and change into something a little nicer, a little cuter. To make sure her hair looked proper, and her face wasn’t messy. Her grandmother had insisted on sending some snacks with her when she heard where she was going. Arisa knew it wasn’t often she went to visit friends. Even after all this time, she’d really only been at Kasumi’s house a few times.

Maybe that will change depending on how this goes, she thought, then quickly shook it out of her head. She took a deep breath, then went up to ring the doorbell, preparing herself for seeing Kasumi. And hopefully not freaking out about it.

However it was Asuka who answered the door.

“Oh, Ichigaya-senpai. Hello,” she said, and Arisa could tell Asuka glanced behind to see if anyone else had come along.

“Hello, is Kasumi in?” Kasumi probably didn’t think to tell anyone that Arisa was coming.

Asuka turns around and yells up the stairs: “Big sister! Ichigaya-senpai is here to see you!” Then she turns back to Arisa. “Please, come inside.”

“Ah, t-thanks,” Arisa said as she stepped inside and took off her shoes. She still wasn’t entirely sure how to address Asuka, but the girl was already heading back towards the living room as Kasumi came rushing down the stairs.

“Arisa~!” She shouted and threw herself onto Arisa, hugging her like she was wont to do.

“H-hey, get off!” Arisa wasn’t sure she could handle close contact right now. “At least let me get inside!” she complained. Kasumi was slow in letting go.

“Where’s Rimi-rin?” she asked, looking behind Arisa.

“Huh? Why would Rimi be-” Oh. Right. Rimi had sent the text. “Ah, er, um. S-something came up, so it’s only me.”

Kasumi finally let go, and gave Arisa a curious look. Was it just her imagination, or did Arisa seem a little stranger than usual today?

“Well, that’s good too! Come in, come in!” She gave Arisa a brilliant smile. Kasumi had been getting a little bored on her own, so she appreciated some company. How long had it been since it was just her and Arisa hanging out? It almost felt a little nostalgic.

“Grandma insisted I bring some snacks,” Arisa said as she held up the bag to show what she meant. “It wasn’t my idea, I’ll have you know.” She wasn’t exactly sure why she had felt the need to add that.

Kasumi resisted the urge to giggle. Arisa was really cute when she got all obstinate like that.

“Okay, I’ll get us something to drink. Just go ahead up to my room, okay?” She was off before Arisa had the chance to respond, so she just shook her head a little and went up the stairs.

Kasumi never changes, she thought, and opened the door to her room. She paused there for a moment. It felt a little different today. It was Kasumi’s room, and had always been Kasumi’s room, but now it was also the room of the girl she had fallen in love with. As if that suddenly made it a little indecent to go inside.

She shook off that strange notion and went inside. Leaving the door ajar for Kasumi, as she was surely coming up at any moment, Arisa debated where to sit down. The bed, right? That definitely felt indecent considering what she was here to do, but would it seem weird if she sat on the floor? The room wasn’t that big. She put the bag on the desk, and sat on the bed. Not much of a choice.

Kasumi came in the moment after she had sat down, and Arisa just barely resisted jumping back on her feet.

“Thanks for waiting!” She was carrying a tray, and stopped just inside the door. “Hum… maybe we should get a table. It’ll be a little cramped, but I just changed the sheets today.”

Arisa helped Kasumi get a table, so they ended up on the floor anyway. It was cramped, but it wasn’t the worst.

While Kasumi could be a bit slow on the uptake, she really couldn’t shake the feeling that Arisa was acting weird today.

“So what made you want to come over? Were you getting bored too?” She took one of the snacks Arisa had brought and bit into it. Hey, this was quite good. Red bean manju, maybe homemade? Kasumi wasn’t really an expert, but Saya could probably tell.

“What? Oh. Um… n-no, I just… thought maybe you were…” Arisa chided herself for nearly telling a lie on reflex. Today wasn’t the day for that.

“Oh?” Kasumi smirked. “Maybe you just really missed me, hm?” She teased, and was a little surprised at how fiercely Arisa blushed. She was even squirming. What was going on?

“W-why would I miss you?!” Arisa sputtered, though her heart wasn’t really in it. The question was more directed at herself, it felt like.

“Hm… then why are you blushing so much?” Kasumi giggled. Arisa was really cute, and it was so tempting to tease her. If only…

“I’m not blushing!” Arisa protested, which really just made it worse. “Gah!” She put her head down on the table, and wondered if steam was literally coming out of her ears.

“Are you okay, Arisa?” Kasumi suppressed another giggle. Arisa was murmuring something down there, too quiet for Kasumi to be able to make out. Though she really tried to strain her ears.

Arisa pushed herself up, and looked at Kasumi. She was feeling a bit helpless, but she knew she had to push forward.

“I have something I need to tell you, Kasumi,” she managed to say. “And damn it, you’re making it more difficult.”

“I’m sorry.” To her credit, Kasumi sounded like she meant it. Arisa seemed more serious than usual today, so it had to be something important.

Arisa took a deep breath, and tried to sort out the words about to come out of her mouth.

“Look, you and I both know I’m bad at this stuff.” What the hell am I saying? “Talking to people, I mean. I get provoked easily, and I’m not… always entirely honest…” Arisa was not entirely sure of what she was saying, but she couldn’t make herself stop now. “So you better believe me when I tell you this!” It was getting hard to look Kasumi in the eyes, so Arisa’s gaze drifted to the side.

Kasumi was quite confused, and several questions were popping into her mind, but she thought it best to not interrupt Arisa right now.

“So… um… well…” Arisa started idly scratching at her cheek with one finger. “It would seem that… it seems like I… I mean… I think I have…” She sighed, then took another breath as if absorbing more courage. “I think I have fallen… in love… with you…” There. She had said it. Now to brace for the inevitable response.

Kasumi’s mind had gone blank. What had Arisa just said? Had she heard her right? Had she just said…

“Um… say that again,” Kasumi said. That wasn’t the response Arisa had expected. Was Kasumi making fun of her?

“Huh? You heard what I said-” Arisa wasn’t able to finish that sentence as she looked at Kasumi and saw the expression on her face.

“Say it again.” Kasumi sounded more demanding now.

“W-what’s the de-” Arisa got interrupted again as Kasumi put her hands on the table and leaned forward.

“Say it again!” She was suddenly sounding really insistent. Arisa wasn’t sure what was happening.

“Oh fine! I’m in love with you!” Arisa hadn’t meant to shout it, but she was starting to feel a little cornered. “Are you-” Again she cut herself short, as she could see Kasumi’s eyes shimmering, and tears were starting to form.

“Do you really mean it?” Kasumi’s voice sounded close to trembling, and Arisa was starting to panic. She really couldn’t tell what was going on.

“I-I already told you you’d better believe me!” she managed to say, and suddenly Kasumi lunged over the table at her. “H-hey, what are you- aaahh!” Arisa got knocked over, and Kasumi was now on top of her, hugging her tightly. “Kasumi… I can’t breathe…” She could feel Kasumi’s warm tears dripping onto her neck. “Kasumi?”

Kasumi was muttering something unintelligible. Arisa let out a sigh. Of all the scenarios she had imagined, this was nowhere on the list.

“K-kasumi please, you r-really are crushing me. And you n-need to speak up, I c-can’t hear you.” After a moment she could feel the pressure easing a little, even if Kasumi otherwise didn’t move. Arisa awkwardly tried to hug Kasumi back, but she didn’t really feel very natural when it came to this. As the shock was starting to wear off, Arisa was becoming acutely aware of the girl she loved being on top of her.

What Kasumi was saying was starting to become legible.

“… didn’t think… a coward… sorry… you too… were in… I’m a…” It was very broken up, and she seemed to be repeating herself. Only that with the sobs and hiccups not even half of it could actually be heard. Arisa hadn’t really dared entertain the thought, but it almost sounded like…

She tried to push Kasumi off, but that wasn’t happening. So instead she worked on pushing herself up, barely managing to get into a sitting position.

“Geez, I really can’t make out what you’re saying, you know.” For some reason she was starting to feel tears of her own coming on. She gently managed to get Kasumi to let go with some coaxing, and retrieved the tissue box before sitting back down in front of Kasumi and offering her a tissue. “T-this isn’t at a-all how I imagined c-confessing would go.” Damn it, now her voice was becoming unsteady too.

After a couple of tissues and catching her breath, Kasumi finally was ready to speak in a way Arisa could understand.

“I-I’m sorry. I-it’s just…” she started before getting interrupted by a hiccup. “I’ve b-been in l-love with you f-for a while t-too,” Kasumi stammered forth before blowing her nose again. On the one hand, this wasn’t the sort of romantic mood Arisa had dreamed of, and on the other hand she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“W-what? Then w-why didn’t you… s-say anything?” Oh no. Arisa had to grab a tissue for herself now.

“I’m a c-coward. I-I was too m-much of a c-coward to say a-anything.” More hiccuping. “I’m s-sorry. I was s-so certain y-you didn’t f-feel the same w-way. I just c-couldn’t…” Kasumi seemed to run out of words or breath there.

Arisa was having trouble processing this information. She had confessed her feelings, and it had turned out Kasumi had felt the same. That possibility hadn’t really occurred to her. Definitely not with a sobbing Kasumi in front of her. How did you deal with this?

Maybe it was best to take a page out of Kasumi’s book here. Not what she was doing right now, but what she typically did all the time. This time it was Arisa who hugged Kasumi, and she could feel the hug being returned as Kasumi clung tightly onto her again. Arisa was also crying herself now, but at this point who cared?

After sitting there for a while, Arisa was starting to feel okay with trying to talk again. Kasumi was so warm.

“So I can take this as you accepting my feelings?” She could hear a muffled yes from Kasumi. “And you’ll go out with me?” Another muffled yes. The tears were coming back. If she wasn’t pinned down, she might have been tempted to jump for joy.

After a moment’s pause, Arisa decided to ask: “And are you going to let go of me?” This time there was a muffled no, and Kasumi squeezed her tighter for a moment. “Oof, okay.”

Arisa shifted her legs a little to try to avoid them falling asleep.

“Geez, silly. But I guess staying like this a little longer isn’t the worst,” Arisa said, and started stroking Kasumi’s hair.

~Wulf

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Posted on April 26, 2017, in Fiction, Storytime and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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