[Follow-up based on Mending a Heart]
Feeling Yui relax into the hug was a strange sensation. Maybe not so much because of the hug, but because of what she’d said just before.
“You… you’re sure you want me, Yui-chan?” Akari asked cautiously. She was no longer the naive girl who wouldn’t have understood what Yui meant. It’s just that she’s not used to being wanted. Not like this. Especially considering what Yui told her just a month or so ago.
“Yes,” Yui replied, her voice barely above a whisper. She returned the hug, and Akari let out a puff of air. Had Yui always been this strong, or was Akari simply that soft? Maybe the way she was clinging so desperately to this embrace was all the proof Akari should need. And yet…
“Don’t you… believe me?” Yui said, leaning back so they could see each other. This close it was really obvious to Akari how they’re nearly equal in height now. Which was still a little weird. Yui’s voice was so sore, so fragile. Had confessing really taken that much out of her?
“I-I was just… surprised,” Akari said with a reassuring smile. She was always bright and cheery on the outside, but on the inside she could be just as insecure and vulnerable as anyone else. A positive personality did not mean feeling positive all the time. She didn’t want to show that side of herself though, if she could help it. “Of course I believe you.” People relied on her.
Yui smiled back with an expression of relief, and hugged Akari tight again. It was amazing to Akari how much Yui still resembled the Yui she had known in middle school. But they had both changed since then. That Yui would never have looked at Akari this way. No one had looked at Akari in that way, except in her dreams. If they even looked at her at all. For someone so brightly coloured, Akari could be really hard to notice.
So Akari’s doubts flooded her. Yui hadn’t asked for a response yet, and Akari wasn’t sure what to say when that time came. She liked Yui a lot. She liked all her friends a lot. But what about liking her as more than that? Was it fair to Yui to agree to go out with her if Akari wasn’t sure? Was it okay to figure that out later? It was also hard to shake the feeling that maybe she was just a substitute for Kyouko.
No, that sort of cynicism doesn’t suit Akari, she thought to herself. Yui wouldn’t do that. Yui was a sincere person, she wouldn’t deceive Akari. At least not on purpose… she hadn’t told Kyouko about her feelings, but there was a difference between not being able to speak up, and not speaking honestly when you do. Akari was sure Yui was the type who would speak honestly when she spoke up.
Speaking of Kyouko, how would she react to Yui and Akari going out? They were an unlikely pairing, after all. What would Chinatsu think? Did she still have a crush on Yui? They hadn’t really spoken since she went to a different high school. Akari still wasn’t certain why Chinatsu had picked a different one.
No, that’s not important right now. This is about Akari and Yui-chan, she thought. Akari sighed, and Yui leaned back from the hug again.
“Is… is something wrong, Akari?” Yui asked. Even when she was uncertain like this, there was something special about Yui. Akari was starting to understand why Chinatsu saw Yui as a prince. She got up on her toes a little, just enough to touch her forehead to Yui’s.
“Not exactly,” she said, and closed her eyes. “I guess I just suddenly have a lot to think about, hehe…” She thought she could faintly feel Yui’s pulse through their contact. Yui leaned down slightly so Akari could place her feet on the ground again. Akari was grateful. “Yui-chan, can I be honest?” she asked, and thought she could feel Yui’s pulse quicken.
“Um… I guess…” Yui replied nervously, wondering if this was where she was getting turned down.
“I just don’t think I can be the regular Akari for this,” she said, not sure if that made sense. “If… if you’re still sure you want me after I’m done, I’ll be your girl… g-girlfriend.” That was harder to say than she thought it’d be. Maybe it would have been easier to phrase it differently. Yui relaxed a little. Akari still had her eyes closed, so she couldn’t see Yui’s expression. Yui put a hand on Akari’s head.
“I don’t know what you imagine you might say that could be so bad,” Yui said, feeling a bit more composed now. “But of course I’ll hear you out.” Akari decided to just jump right into it.
“I like you, Yui-chan. You’re one of my precious friends,” Akari said, and Yui tried to not let her heart sink immediately. “I’ve never thought of anything more than that, because… well, you know what I was like. Kinda am still like probably, eheh…” Yui had been aware.
“Ahaha, yeah. I still remember Ikeda-san’s expression when you tried to get her to tell you about things,” Yui recalled, and they both laughed a little.
“I wasn’t even aware you noticed that. She never told me in the end, but I might be able to guess,” Akari said. “Ah sorry… I’m getting side-tracked already.” She tried to pick up her train of thought. “I… I know I always appear very positive and upbeat, and that… it’s not a lie, it’s just… also not always true. I have my own fears and worries. I just don’t like showing them.” Akari noticed her cheeks were starting to feel warm.
“I realised at some point I had basically cultivated an image,” she said, still not wanting to open her eyes. “As this cheery, innocent girl who people could always rely on. Hey, don’t laugh! People rely on me! Right?” She leaned back, and finally opened her eyes to give Yui a grumpy look.
“I suppose we do,” Yui said while trying to stop giggling. “I’m sorry, it wasn’t that exactly, I’m just not used to you sounding so serious.” She smiled warmly.
“That’s what I mean, though!” Akari exclaimed in frustration. “People never… almost never… see that side of me. That’s not Akari,” she sighed. “If we started dating, you’d have to put up with that side of me sometimes, the part that’s not the regular Akari.” She looked down at the floor.
“Don’t worry about that, Akari,” Yui said, and started to stroke Akari’s hair gently. “No matter what you think, you’re always you.” Akari looked up at her again, blushing pretty strongly now.
“Yui-chan…” she said softly, and Yui smiled at her again. “B-but there’s also… no one has wanted me before. So I…” She buried her face in Yui’s shoulder. Yui wasn’t entirely sure Akari was right about never having been wanted, but she decided to keep quiet. “I don’t know what to do, and I’ll probably do the wrong thing a lot…”
“Akari, you’re starting to mumble. It’s getting hard to hear you,” Yui said, and Akari raised her head again.
“Sorry…” she said. “And… and sorry I keep asking this, but… are you sure you want me? Me? The Akari who’s usually the regular Akari, but also sometimes the irregular, messy, insecure Akari?” She swallowed nervously. “That’s… that’s all I wanted to say… I think…” She couldn’t bring herself to ask about whether Yui actually wanted Kyouko instead.
“Akari… yes, I’m sure,” Yui said. “Don’t be so silly. I’m not so shallow that I’d only want your good sides.” Akari blushed a bit more at hearing that. “So was that your response then? You’ll be my… my… g-g-gir-” Akari smiled a little at how Yui had difficulty saying it too. “You’ll go out with me?” Yui asked instead, and Akari nodded shyly. “Right… I’m glad,” Yui said relieved. “I don’t really know what to do either, though… we’ll figure it out.” They giggled a little, then realised they had been holding each other this whole time.
“Oh… ahm…” Akari wasn’t sure if she should let go, or keep going.
“Er… um…” Yui was going through similar thoughts, and the two of them sort of slowly and awkwardly let go and stepped back with a blush. “Y-you know, I think your hair looks good like that,” Yui said, thinking that changing the subject might be a good idea. “I never thought to mention it before, but I think it suits you.”
“Oh… thank you,” Akari said, automatically reaching up to touch her ribbons. “I just wanted to change a little. I think people notice me more now,” she added with a smile.
“I agree… but I don’t think that’s the only reason people notice you more,” Yui said. Akari just gave her a confused look.
“You know…” Yui said. “Your… you’ve got… all your…” Yui tried to indicate how Akari had grown in certain places, but Akari was still entirely without comprehension. “Never mind, it’s not that important,” she said, which caused Akari to pout.
“Yui-chan, you can’t just say that,” Akari complained. “Now I’ll be wondering for days.” Yui giggled.
“Alright, I’ll whisper it to you. Come closer,” she said and leaned forward. Akari turned her ear towards Yui and also leaned in. Yui whispered what she meant, and Akari went as red as her hair.