Energy! 24/6 [Book 1: Chapter 5]
I found myself thinking about Azusa’s mother at the dinner table. Miyuki was chatting away with my dad, who only became lively around this time and continued to be well into the early morning when he fell asleep. My eyes were drawn to my mom who was eating the meal she had made quietly with that air of strength and serenity she always had about her. She looked up at me with mirroring chocolate eyes and smiled.
“Got something on your mind, kiddo?”
Suddenly I felt embarrassed. Why are my feelings so obvious to her? “I met a friend’s mom today and she seemed really… strict.”
“A friend besides Kazuto?” She looked excited and suddenly all eyes were on me.
I grimaced. “Well they’re not really a friend… I just keep running into them…”
The excitement level of the table went visibly down at that and my dad and Miyuki continued their conversation, but I could tell they were still paying half attention to me.
“It’s just that this person is really cheerful all the time and it feels like they don’t take anything seriously and their mother seems kind of harsh about that. But instead of being annoyed they said, it’s tough when you get stuck with a lazy kid.”
“This person sounds kind of self-depreciating.” My mom said, contemplatively.
“I think they sound mature for a high schooler.” My dad cut in. He smiled at me. “It’s possible they’re just being realistic and they understand the trouble they’re causing for this overbearing mother. But if you’re worried about this person maybe you should keep an eye on them.”
I looked down at my plate as I realized how much Azusa consumed my thoughts. In the past two weeks I’ve only read one book and it was the one she’d handed to me. I thought I was changing this year. I thought that books were going to be my focus from now on, but all I seem to think about is her.
My mom definitely noticed my melancholy and I silently thanked her for not saying anything at the dinner table. But that didn’t save me from her looming presence in my bedroom afterward. The sounds of video games and laughter echoed from downstairs until my mom closed the door and leaned knowingly against it. I sat on my bed with a guilty expression.
“This person you’re concerned about…” She grinned. “It’s a girl isn’t it?”
“It’s not like that, mom!” I defended, but she looked suspicious.
“Is it a boy?”
“Honey, I will love you no matter what you’re into.”
“Mom! No!” I hid my beet red face in my hands. “It’s a girl! But it’s not like that!”
“Oh.” She said casually before sitting cross-legged at the end of my bed. “Alright, then. It’s a girl. You like girls, but you don’t like this girl.”
I dropped my hands to scowl at her for the implication then looked back at my hands in my lap. “I don’t know…” I found myself saying quietly. “I don’t know how I feel about her… She just always seems to be on my mind.”
“You don’t have to know everything right away, Kou. And just because you care about someone doesn’t mean you have to want them to be your girlfriend.” She smiled sweetly at me and ruffled my hair. “If you’re concerned about her maybe it’s because there’s cause for concern. People aren’t one dimensional. No one has energy 24/7. I’m sure this girl has times when she’s upset, but she doesn’t know how to show it. Maybe you can help her with that.”
I thought really hard about that and, even though I didn’t really respond, I’m sure my mom could tell how much it resonated with me. She could always tell those sorts of things. She ruffled my hair and left to run my bath as I contemplated my apparent obsession with Azusa. There was no sense in wondering about her relationship with her mom or any of the stupid thoughts I’ve been dancing around. I would just have to get to know her.
So that was the plan the next day at school as I left Kazuto and his pouting face as soon as I finished eating lunch to find Azusa. I mentally prepared myself to search in vein again so you can imagine my surprise when I entered the library to find a mess of burgundy hair and a cherry shaped hairpin.
“A-amamiya.” I have got to stop stuttering around this girl.
“Izumi!” She smiled. It was fake. I was beginning to be able to tell that now.
I could tell she didn’t want me to sit down, but I did anyway. “We… um… never got a chance to talk about that book.”
“Scented Letters?” This time her smile was real. “Did you like it?”
“I loved it.” I corrected, somewhat surprised at the natural grin that found its way to my face. I had meant to use it as an excuse to ask about other things, but now that we were talking about it I couldn’t help myself. I wracked my brain to pull up the images of the book and the things I’d been wondering about when I remembered the one thing that really got me. “But I hated the ending.”
Azusa closed the book she had open on the table and leaned into her hand. My eye caught her notebook underneath her other arm. “Because you wanted the romance to work out?”
I blushed a little and remembered why I tried to fit Azusa into the protagonist’s shoes. A girl who’s had a loving relationship with a boy for years suddenly gets the opportunity to move far away and accomplish her dreams and realizes that she and the one she loves has very different ideas about how they want their lives to go. The heroine was emotional and struggled with her decision but ultimately chose her dream over her romance. I thought that was a decision Azusa would make with far less tears.
I defended my standpoint without all of the extra elaboration. “I mean… It just felt to me like the author was saying a career is more important than love.”
“Really? I didn’t see it that way at all.” Her amber eyes lit up as she explained and I couldn’t help but find them beautiful. “There are a bunch of different kinds of love. I think the author was trying to say you can love your dreams more than you love a person.”
“I see what you’re saying…” I admitted. “But that still seems so sad to me. It’s like saying that if the thing you love and the person you love are separate than you have to pick one.”
“Isn’t that how it is?” She shrugged. “Life’s tough. You can’t have everything.” As true as that statement was and as generally as I’m sure she meant it, it felt like she was saying, I can’t have everything.
“Is that what you would choose, Amamiya?”
“What? A career? Over a person?” Azusa looked almost shocked that I would ask something like that. “No way. I’d choose a person. Definitely.” She surprised me with a laugh. “I hated the ending too!”
I was a bit in shock. Suddenly I felt like anything I’d learned about this girl was tossed right out the window.
“Don’t look so surprised, Izumi! It’s only because following some daring dream is too much work for me.”
“What? But…” I tried not to be so obvious about it but my eyes instinctively sought out her notebook. “Don’t you want to be a writer?”
She sighed. “The notebook again? It’s just a hobby. All I do with this is story build. I don’t actually write anything.”
My brows furrowed reflexively. “What’s the point in that?”
“What’s the point in doing anything you like doing? It’s for fun, of course. Stress management. That sort of thing.” She looked at me funny just then and I realized I probably looked like I was glaring at her. “Does that bother you?”
“I guess… not.” I tried to relax my face. It baffled me that someone would go to such extreme lengths just for fun. I felt like it should be a bigger part of her life. “I was just wondering about your stories. It seems like you go through a lot of effort. So they must be good.”
“I don’t know about that, but if you want to know I’d be happy to tell you about one.” Azusa began flipping through her notebook until she reached a page entitled Compatibility. “Since you seem to be interested in romance, I’ll go with this one.”
I made a face, but didn’t protest. “I’m shocked you even have a romance in there.” I tried not to sound patronizing.
“It’s the only one.” What a surprise. “But I liked the concept. See, this girl has a childhood friend and they’re inseparable all the way up until high school where he starts to make other friends. They still hang out all the time, but she’s not interested in other people because she thinks she’s in love with him.”
“She thinks she’s in love with him?”
“High schoolers don’t know what love is, Izumi.” She said it matter-of-factly and completely ignored my annoyance. “Anyway the boy gets a crush on another girl and in order to be close to her he joins the literature club so naturally the heroine also joins in order to be close to the boy. Long story short, the heroine finds that she’s actually far more compatible with the literature club president than with the boy she thought she was in love with.”
Her way of thinking bugged me a bit—like she knew better than me even though we were the same age. But as she went on I found myself really interested in this love polygon. It was an interesting concept. I could imagine the drama of it all. Just when the heroine’s heart is broken, this new, better love shows up to pick up the pieces! As Azusa went on a bit about the characters I became more and more attached to the lead female. She was standoffish and came off as cool and mean, but she was really just shy and didn’t know how to act. That stupid childhood friend of hers didn’t deserve her. I immersed myself in these ideas and characters until I realized something.
“Wait.” I stared hard and Azusa who looked up from the notebook casually. “Who did you base the heroine off of?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” She leaned on her hand again and grinned wide. “I based her off of you, Izumi!”
I could feel the blood rushing to my ears as I buried my face in my arms on the table. I heard her giggle at me as I tried to hide my embarrassment. Somehow I could only take it as a compliment, but it was still incredibly unmanly. After a loud groan I looked up from my hiding place to ask the question that’s been on my mind.
“If I’m going to be used as reference then you’re going to let me read it first, right?”
“I already told you I don’t write anything. This is as far as I’m going to take this.”
“But it’s so interesting.” I was probably pouting. “What a waste.”
“It would be worse if I wrote it. I’m really bad at writing, Izumi. Trust me. It would just be disappointing.”
“I’m sure you’re just being modest.” I reasoned.
She raised an eyebrow at me and flipped through her notebook again. After stopping on a page she pushed it wordlessly over to my side of the table. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was as I began, but I quickly realized that it was supposed to be the opening of a novel. It wasn’t cringe-worthy… it was worse.
I struggled a bit to look at her. “It… You know… Everyone starts somewhere!”
“You don’t have to hold back so much, Izumi.” She looked like she felt kind of sorry for me.
“But… your ideas are so good.” I’m sure I sounded as disappointed as I felt.
She laughed. “Too bad you can’t write them for me.”
For a moment I felt filled with passion for the idea, but my shoulders quickly dropped as I realized that I wasn’t much better.
“I’m not really the creative type…” I defended.
“Don’t look so defeated, Izumi!” She laughed, resting her head in her palms again. “Like I said, chasing big dreams like that is just too much work for me. I’m not cut out for it. I’ve already decided I’m just going to be a civil servant. It’s easy and secure and I can still do this for fun.”
Something about that didn’t sit right with me. “But… aren’t you passionate about this? If not writing, what about editing or something?”
“That’s a high pressure job.” She looked really put off by the thought. “Besides, I’m not that great at school so getting into university would be hard.”
The bell rang before I could protest and I stood suddenly, realizing I was about to be late. Azusa didn’t seem to care one way or the other as she took her time packing up her things. I quickly said my goodbyes and bowed before running off to class, rushing through the hallway with one thing on my mind.
She’s wasting her potential.