Energy! 24/6 [Book 1: Chapter 11]
Narumi was talking. I only knew because I could hear him saying Azusa’s name every now and then and it reminded me that I was about to be face to face with her in her own home. It’s not like that was a big deal on its own, but I wasn’t really prepared for it. I wanted to talk things out, but how exactly was I going to do that with everyone else there? I’d be way too embarrassed.
“When you say it it gives her some merit, but in the end it still feels like Azusa’s playing hooky.” Saya walked easily next to Narumi, turning to him and shaking her head.
I walked behind them, Kazuto at my side. He had no problem navigating in and out of the conversation, but I guess I was the only one too awkward to say anything.
“Is that why she likes all that health food stuff?” Kazuto asked, his book bag dangling carelessly in the grip that rested behind his neck. I tried to tune in at that. Is what why she likes health food? What were they talking about?
“Oh, you noticed, huh?” Narumi chuckled. “I guess there are some things she can’t help but put effort into still. She used to be a lot more hard working and since mom was dead set on her being a doctor Azusa started studying health and nutrition. She was really good at it, but after the burn out she doesn’t really care about studies. I guess she’s just using what she learned to stay healthy. She gets really moody when she feels even a little bad so I can imagine why.”
“The burn out?” I blurted out.
“Yeah… well, I don’t really know what else to call it.” Narumi rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly as he came to a halt. We watched as he turned to us, guard down and eyes a bit pleading. “Azusa’s going to wring my neck when she finds out I’m telling you guys all of this… I know you aren’t that close. There’s no way you could be with the way she is, but if you can would you please try to be her friend?”
The three of us exchanged glances, probably taken aback by the request. Honestly I didn’t know what they were thinking, but I was sure that Saya would take the lead as always. To my surprise it was Kazuto who spoke up first.
“I know that dork isn’t closer to anyone else in school than us.” He smirked. “So doesn’t that make us friends already?”
Saya appraised him for a moment before smiling. “Well, she’s a pain my ass, but I do feel a sense of responsibility for her.”
“You don’t have to say anything, Kou.” Kazuto slapped me on the back. “We all know you’re pretty much obsessed with her.”
“I’m not! Don’t say that! That makes me sound like a stalker or something!”
My protests were ignored as we moved on and Narumi continued with his explanation. He told us about Azusa’s collapse in middle school and how her body has been weak ever since then. The doctors tell her she’ll be fine as long as she watched her stress levels and to just go on like normal. Somehow it didn’t surprise me. Thinking back, Azusa always seemed tired, like she was forcing herself to be cheerful. I had to wonder if that was a difficult thing to do.
As we approached the door Narumi turned to us again, hands clasped together. “Um, can you guys not tell her I told you all of that? She’s really scary when she’s mad, okay?”
Saya laughed. “Don’t worry, Narumi. We’ll behave. Right, boys?”
That bright smile lit up Narumi’s face as we nodded and he eagerly opened the door. “Welcome! Please make yourselves comfortable!”
Kazuto gawked shamelessly as we entered the expensive looking home, abandoning our shoes at the door. Narumi led us into the living room with that bright smile of his and I soon found myself face to face with a startled Azusa. We three stood in the archway to the living room watching as an orange slice slipped from her fingers and onto the short table. The low volume of the TV was loud in the silence of our impromptu staring contest.
Amber eyes shot toward Narumi who approached gleefully as if nothing was awry. “Narumi. What are they doing here?”
“I invited them! I thought you’d be happy to see your friends!” He grinned, but kept his distance as if he was anticipating a physical attack.
Azusa turned back to us, her hair falling a bit in her face without her hairclip. She was dressed so comfortably in a matching light green pajama set. It was casual and I felt like I was invading her privacy a bit, but it was really cute.
“Jeez, Azusa! Aren’t you going to welcome us? After we came all this way just to see if you were okay!” Saya marched fearlessly into the room, taking a seat at Azusa’s side. The action was enough to break the tension and Kazuto and I followed after toward the low table to sit. Saya’s scolding was light hearted and caring, but Azusa looked away with a pout. Her face was more expressive than I’d ever seen before. She looked so much less guarded than usual and a part of me wanted to take advantage of that somehow.
“How rude of you to barge in here like we’re friends after yelling at me.” Azusa jabbed childishly.
“Well I was going to apologize, but now that you’re acting like a five year old I’m not sure that I want to.” Saya folded her arms and turned away equally as childish.
Azusa looked like she was fighting with herself as she trained her eyes on her brother and Narumi offered her an encouraging smile before escaping to the kitchen for snacks.
“Were you really going to apologize?” She mumbled.
“I’m not so much of a child that I can’t admit that I was being too pushy.” Saya quipped.
Azusa looked at me with a suspicious expression. “Did you… come to apologize too, Izumi?”
I inwardly panicked for a moment. What did I come for? My mind went blank and I nodded reflexively. I don’t think I was the only one who jumped a bit when Azusa dropped her arms to the table and buried her face.
“Seriously?” She whined. “Are you messing with me? You can’t possibly be this nice after I said all that stuff.”
Saya looked at me pointedly, gesturing toward Azusa. I could tell she wanted me to do what we talked about and fix things, but everyone was watching and I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say.
“Hey, Saya.” Kazuto suddenly stood. “Let’s go help Narumi in the kitchen, huh?”
“What? But Izumi is—!”
“Don’t worry about him, he’s fine.” He smirked, helping her up and practically dragging her away. “Koichi’s not good under pressure.” I heard him whisper. I might’ve protested that if I wasn’t so grateful, so instead I turned back to Azusa who was peeking over her arm to watch them go.
“I’m sorry, Amamiya. I didn’t mean to stress you out this much.” My eyes took to watching the grain of the table, traveling up and down the little grooves to avoid looking at Azusa.
“It’s not really your fault…” She sighed. “No… I guess it is a little your fault. But mostly it’s me.”
“It’s because I’m pushing you to make your hobby into a career, right? Does it bother you that much?”
“It’s not that it bothers me… It’s that… It’s not easy for me to say this.” Azusa looked at me and I met her eyes on accident.
“I’m not going to judge you.”
“It’s that. It’s you. You’re not at all what I thought. Even though I thought I’d figured you out when I took my notes, the more I learn about you the more I feel like I don’t understand you at all. I don’t get why you care so much and I want to care about it as much as you do but I don’t. I do care. Just not as much as you. But… what you want to do… what you want me to accomplish… it’s difficult. I think that, if it was you then you could do it. But it isn’t you. It’s me. And I can’t do anything.” She sat up. Her delicate hands played with the ends of her pajama shirt and I could tell she wanted to apologize, but I didn’t really care about that anymore.
“Then let me do it.” I found myself saying. Somehow, watching her in that delicate state gave me courage. “Let me be your ambition. Let me do everything that’s too hard. Let me help you.” I searched her eyes as they widened, looking for any sign that she might give in but Azusa didn’t say anything. She just watched me. “I really do believe in you, Amamiya. I believe that your stories are important. But in the end, making them a reality isn’t your dream. It’s mine. I know that it’s selfish of me, but I want to do this. So I’m okay with it if you only want to do the fun parts. All I’m asking is that when you do, you give it your all.”
“…I’m sorry, Izumi.” She finally spoke. I could feel myself deflating as I anticipated her answer. “For that stuff I said before. You’ve been working so hard all this time for my sake and I’ve been a jerk. I know I’m not really tactful and you’re pretty sensitive so I should’ve been more careful about what I was saying.”
I let that one slide, telling myself she must not have known how rude that last part sounded. “It’s fine. We were both frustrated.”
Azusa gave me a slightly sheepish look. “Do you think Takahashi would hear us out one more time?”
“It’s Saya.” The girl in question made her way to us with a tray of cookies, setting them delicately on the table. “It’s weird if I call you by your given name when you don’t do the same!”
Azusa looked a bit put off, but she caved quickly under Saya’s stare. “Saya…” She struggled. “Would you—?”
“Of course I would! Why would I come all the way over here if I wasn’t on board?” Saya smiled, seemingly satisfied. “And Izumi!” She pointed at me and I felt my back straighten up involuntarily. “Didn’t Narumi say earlier that there are more than one Amamiya’s here! It’s confusing if you don’t call her by her name.”
I locked eyes with Azusa and my face burned up. “A-Azusa…” I stuttered helplessly under Saya’s stare. My heart skipped a beat at the small smile Azusa tried to hide. I followed her eyes to her hands as they fiddled with her half eaten orange.
“Stop giving Kou a hard time. He has a weak heart.” Kazuto laughed, setting drinks down next to the cookies.
Narumi followed soon after with a bowl of pealed oranges. “If you guys are going to work on a project then I want to help!” His smile shined brightly as he took a seat next to his sister who lightly shoved him away.
“After midterms are over, naturally.” Kazuto sat casually beside me and the whole room froze.
“Ugh!” Azusa dropped her head back on the table. “I hate exams.” She complained earning her a scolding from Saya who warned her against slacking on something so important.
I relaxed at the atmosphere even though I was sure I was most likely in the room to fail in at least one class. Even so, at least I didn’t have to worry about Azusa anymore so I might finally be able to concentrate.
We left shortly after that when Azusa’s eyelids became noticeably heavy. It was a relief. I was able to make up with her and somehow my social circle had become a little bit bigger. The excitement was bubbling up inside me as I anticipated the project to come. We had a team and I couldn’t wait to see how it was going to come together.
“I can’t believe you didn’t confess to her.” Kazuto sighed, draping an arm around my shoulders.
Saya nodded in agreement, slapping me lightly on the arm. “Yeah, Izumi! We even left you alone!”
“Confess what?!” I near shouted.
“Your undying love, duh.” Kazuto looked at me like I was the crazy one and I shrugged out of his grasp.
“I am not in love with Azusa.” I blushed as I realized my mistake. “Amamiya.”
“Don’t back track, Izumi.” Saya scolded. “You made progress. Take advantage of it.”
“I’m not in love with her.” I repeated. “I meant what I said back there. Maybe it’s selfish of me but I can’t let go of this dream and I can’t do it without Azusa. Maybe I like her…” I admitted. “But I don’t want to rush at her with something I’m not sure of.”
They exchanged glances before smiling at me. I could tell they were sticking by their thoughts, but at least they would let it go for now. At the very least I knew we all had something to look forward to after the midterms were over. So we left it at that and walked home.
As I lay in bed that night I thought I realized after that I couldn’t do anything on my own, but neither could Azusa. All of the faith I had in her and the will I had to accomplish this tall fantasy was what she lacked. Azusa was never going to put in any effort unless I did first and somehow I was okay with that. I wanted that. Maybe I was hoping that if I pushed enough, someday, she would push back.
So I don’t know what you’re going to take out of all of this, but there are a couple of things I learned. You shouldn’t expect to get more out of anything, or anyone, than you put in yourself and if you really want something you can’t expect it fall in your lap. You have to fight for it as hard as you can. You can bet that that’s what I’m going to do from now on.
So thanks for listening.