As a result of last night, I ended up with no sleep at all.
Trying to stay awake during lessons would be pointless because I could already feel the drowsiness weighing down on my eyelids.
Ever since the moment that Katashi Oshiro’s eyes caught me standing behind the wall after witnessing their murder, I just couldn’t bring myself to let my guard down anymore. I was expecting them to crash through my house door at anytime and drag me away in front of my mother… never to be returned to her again.
What I feared was not death, but the failure to keep the promise I had made to her at the moment that I arrived home after being released from jail. I had promised her that I would never part from her like that again and even now I could still hear her words clearly echoing in my ears, I know… I trust my son; you would never abandon me,” she smiled, “Welcome back.”
The tears that she was trying to hide made me realise how much pain and loneliness she must’ve gone through while I was away. It was obvious that memories of my father had returned to bother her much more too… but I would never become someone like that man.
“K-Kentaro?” I heard an unfamiliar voice call out, “Kentaro!”
I frowned and blinked my eyes open, finding myself leaning on my arms at my classroom desk,
“Tsk… what do you want?” I grunted in irritation.
I must’ve dozed off at some point during my train of thoughts, “Its break?” I yawned and looked up at the girl standing in front of my desk, holding a pile of white sheets against her chest. She was rather short, had her light brown hair in two plaits and was wearing round glasses. I had no recollection of her name, although I was sure I had seen her a few times before.
“I’M SORRY!” she gasped as she stepped back, “I didn’t mean to disturb you! Y-you can continue your nap if you want! We were j-just going to discuss about the play we plan to perform during the school’s summer festival! ” The girl bowed and apologised a few more times.
Ignoring her dramatic reaction, I looked up at the clock on the plain white wall and confirmed that it was time for break. Thank god… What play? Anymore of this boring stuff and I’ll fall into a coma.
I grabbed my bag and got up from my seat, planning to leave school for the day, but stopped when someone suddenly grabbed hold of my wrist. Startled, I looked back to see who would dare to make such a bold move in a classroom that was full of wimps. These guys barely even had the guts to look me in the face.
“Ayano!” The girl with the glasses gasped with wide eyes. Her seat was next to mine, so it wasn’t too hard for her to lean over and grab my wrist. But not just anyone would dare to do that…
“I think you should stay for the discussion,” Ayano said, “The class president will get in trouble if the whole class doesn’t participate…” she reasoned as she nodded towards the short girl before me and let go of my wrist.
“Why should I care–”I blurted almost by instinct, but stopped midsentence as I looked at Ayano again. I hesitated.
“Whatever… this better be quick” I muttered and sat back down, which automatically formed a smile on Ayano’s face.
“Thank you!” The girl with glasses beamed enthusiastically and hurriedly handed out the white sheets of paper that she was holding to everyone before returning to the front of the classroom.
“Since the majority of the class voted for Sleeping Beauty, it has been decided that we will be performing that for the play at the festival!” she mumbled shyly, “But voting doesn’t seem to work for picking the roles so I’ve decided that we will make a draw instead.”
“How do you intend to make a draw for picking the roles, Maaaari-chan?” One of the guys in the classroom teasingly called out. So I learned that her name was Mari, but I was certain that I’d forget it again pretty soon anyway.
“W-well, I prepared two bowls filled with name slips. One for the girls and one for the boys… We will go through all of the roles that we need one by one and pick people out from the bowls.” Mari explained.
“Why can’t we just vote?” A girl with long black hair complained out loud whilst the others groaned, “Most people voted for me to be Sleeping Beauty anyway, right?”
If I wasn’t wrong, that girl’s name was Kyoko. I’ve heard guys talk about her all over school so she must be quite popular, but I guess she didn’t have the same effect on me. She was pretty, but she only had to open her mouth and all hell would break lose… like now.
“Actually… that was the problem.” Mari mused nervously.
“What problem?” Kyoko scowled as she leaned forwards on her desk.
“There was a clash in vote numbers for that role. You got 8 votes, but so did someone else, it was a draw.”
“WHAT?” Kyoko screeched and got up from her seat, “Who?”
“Um… I don’t think it’s necessary to mention anymore. It’s already been decided that we’re going to pick out name slips.” Mari refused to answer, which tweaked my curiosity a little.
It seemed like she was trying to protect this other person, but the question was, why?
Kyoko rolled her eyes and sat back down.
“Before break finishes… let’s start with Sleeping Beauty’s role then!” Mari quickly continued as she plunged her hand into the girls’ bowl of slips.
Bored, I looked up at the clock again and noticed a lot of time had been wasted already because of the black haired hag. I was running out of patience.
“I’m leaving.” I said and got up, walking towards the classroom exit.
“Ayano Sakai,” Mari called out just as I touched the door handle.
I whipped my head around to look at Ayano, but was startled to see her lying flat on her desk, happily dozing off in the middle of the commotion.
When did she fall asleep?
And yet she actually made me sit and pay attention?!
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kyoko shouted in dissatisfaction, “Ayano? You might as well just let me be the Sleeping Beauty then!”
“Well if it will help you settle down…” Mari mused, “Coincidently, it was Ayano who was in a draw with you in the voting too.” She revealed, which bewildered me slightly.
Somehow I hadn’t realised before that Ayano didn’t only have my attention, but quite a few others’ as well.
“Impossible!” Kyoko protested, “Her? Sleeping Beauty? I mean look at her!”
The entire classroom craned their necks to stare at Ayano, only to witness her quietly snoring with her mouth wide open.
I laughed abruptly.
Mari’s attention switched to me when she heard it, but I was quick to turn away again, hiding any sign of amusement. I rarely showed any interest or amusement in anything in front of these people.
“Okay… now for the Prince,” She continued and I heard the slips of paper rustling as she picked out a name from the bowl for boys.
I gripped the door handle tightly.
“It’s-“Mari started, but before she could finish her sentence, I pulled the door open and left the room.
I decided that I didn’t care who it was because regardless of his identity, on the day of the play he would be dead meat.
I left the school building and walked towards a bench before the nearby rice field, which was on my way home. I sat down and leaned back on the bench, thinking about why people even bothered to make useless plays anyway. The wind was a little stronger than usual, but even a storm couldn’t hold me back from lying down and taking a nap anymore. Before I knew it, my guard was down.
But when I felt the softest touch on my shoulder, it didn’t even take me a fraction of a second to grab the person by the wrist, twist their arm behind their back and keep the suspicious person in an arm-lock.
“Ow! Ow!” The person yelped with a high pitched voice, trying to break free from my tight grasp, “Wait!! Let go of my arm!”
I blinked my eyes a few times to wake up from my drowsy state but it wasn’t easy as the girl kept whipping strands of her hair into my eyes while she struggled. It was my instincts which alarmed me to react so fast, but the fragile wrists that I was holding onto were enough to tell me that it was a false alarm.
As soon as I managed to stop her hair from flying into my face, I recognised her.
The brown wavy hair, the school uniform and the jasmine flower scent that I was only far too familiar with…
Ayano! Damn… this is going to be awkward.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, startled.
Only then did I take notice of my surrounding. It was already dark now, the street lamps were the only sources of light left to guide the path before us and it had already gotten pretty chilly too.
How long have I been sleeping for?
“First let go of my arm! You’re going to break it off, it hurts!” She shouted and I immediately let go of her when I realised that I was still holding onto her.
She turned around and scowled at me whist she rubbed her arm in pain, “Your grip is like a bears’! I thought you were going to pulverise my wrist bones!”
I rubbed my nape awkwardly, “It was your fault for approaching me suddenly whilst I was asleep.”
“I… I just wondered if you were okay, sleeping out here so late at night.” Ayano looked away as she stammered, “Are you homeless by any chance?” She gasped and clicked her fingers as she turned back to look at me with a grin.
“No,” I said and narrowed my eyes, “If sleeping on a bench makes me homeless then what does sleeping on your classroom desk in the middle of a meeting make you?”
Ayano bit her lip in guilt, “You caught me?”
“The whole class did…” I informed as a smile threateningly tugged at the corners of my lips, “And yet you had the nerve to stop me from leaving the classroom earlier.”
Ayano scratched her head and hung her head in shame, feeling even guiltier, “Sorry… Last night I-” she started to say something but stopped herself from finishing the sentence.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” she simply said, but it was obvious that she cut out a lot of what she was initially going to tell me.
The dark circles under her eyes explained it enough, but I wondered what it was that could’ve stirred her sleep last night. Whatever it was, I guess it couldn’t have been anything dangerous like my own experience last night. I supposed that it was likely that she was just sat up trying to finish her homework. She had a steady reputation of always missing her deadlines or forgetting to do her homework altogether.
“What are you doing out here so late anyway?” I asked, stepping back and sitting down on the bench again.
“Nothing… I was just taking a walk.” She smiled, catching me off guard again.
I leaned forward as I rested my elbows on my knees and decided to stare at the concrete floor instead. I frowned when I was greeted by a chewed piece of gum which was stuck to it.
I couldn’t understand how those sappy couples in romantic movies always ogled each other in the eyes for so long. I’ve glowered into the eyes of a thousand opponents, yet somehow I couldn’t last a second looking into Ayano’s light brown eyes.
She sat down next to me and I glanced at her again, wondering whether she wasn’t scared of me at all.
“Hey… I’ve always wanted to ask you,” She said and pointed at my chest, “That’s a 5 yen coin, right? Why do you wear that as a pendant?”
I froze in alarm and instantly grabbed hold of the pendant hanging from my neck and shoved it back into my black t-shirt, “No particular reason…”
Ayano blinked and moved back a little. She changed the topic immediately as she sensed the awkwardness, “I’ve been given the role of Sleeping Beauty by the way!” She sighed as she slumped back on the bench.
“You don’t sound too happy,” I looked at her, “You barely have to do anything other than sleep…and you seem pretty good at that in my opinion.”
“Ha-ha!” She laughed mockingly, “I’m more of the kind who’d rather do backstage work! I hate being in the spotlight, it makes me nauseous.”
I raised my eyebrows, “Oh…”
“And Shin is Prince Charming!” she laughed, “He’s going to make a joke out of this play! Do you know how clumsy he is?!”
I clenched my jaw,” Shin huh…”
Who was that again?
“I remember your part too! I was wishing so hard for that role, I’m so jealous of you!” Ayano sighed, making me curious, “I wish we could swap but I doubt you’d want to be Sleeping Beauty.”
“What is my role?”
“The tree in the background!” She smiled as I stared at her, speechless.
Was she serious?
“It suits you though! You’re tall and everything –” She went on but stopped and blinked at me in a questioning way as I shushed her, holding my hand out in front of her as a gesture to keep her silent.
I heard something.
We weren’t alone.