"What's going on here?"
The voice was like a newfound surge of fresh air. The charged tension lingering around us disappeared as all eyes shifted to the doorway. Upon sight of the tall man with a pair of glasses rested on his nose and a stack of documents in hand, I brightened immensely.
"Mr. Hanamura!" I called out, waving. "Look, I've got more members for my club!"
My homeroom teacher peered past his lengthy brown bags to take in Koyuki and Chiaki.
"That's unexpected," he eventually said. "Did she bribe you guys?"
"How'd you know?" Koyuki responded.
I scowled, gently whacking his arm. He was back to his senses all right. Was that whole silence bit just a farce?
"It was a deal, thank you very much," I said sourly. "Why would you assume that'd be the only way people would join?"
"You did bring up the idea, but it was a little too unbelievable," Mr. Hanamura defended, a good-natured smile in place. "Well, congratulations. You're getting closer to your goal."
"I'd be even closer if you agreed to finally become our club supervisor."
He repositioned the mountain of papers on his arms. "I'm sure I already told you I'm too busy coaching the basketball team."
"Is there any way you'd reconsider?"
I put on my best pout. He hummed and scanned each of us over. "A baking club is what you said, correct?"
"Then, a birthday cake."
I blinked rapidly. "Huh?"
"My daughter's seventh birthday is coming up. February 26th," he explained. "If you can bake a cake big and grand enough to make her and her friends happy, I'll consider being your supervisor once you have five members."
Excitement seized me by the shoulders. I clasped my hands together. "Really? We'll do it! Please let us bake your daughter a cake!"
"Hold on. Why is our future club president already making decisions for us?" Koyuki demanded.
Chiaki wasn't listening. "Birthday cake sounds delicious..."
Mr. Hanamura chortled. "Just so you know, do not include any means of nuts. One of her friends may have an allergy. Also, she loves princesses. Good luck!"
He bid us a wave then made his way out of the room and down the hall. Upon his departure, I was leaping up and down, elatedly beaming from ear to ear.
"Our first request!"
"Your first unofficial request," Miko corrected.
"Who cares! Our club is in reach!"
I danced and twirled around like a ballerina on show night. Though I could accept a smiling Miko's quiet, I couldn't fathom why the others weren't saying anything. I swerved toward them.
"Hey, why are you both so silent? Let's do our best!" I fist-pumped. "Hip-hip hurray it up! Come on, hip-hip..."
"Hurray," Koyuki complied, utterly deadpanned.
"Not enough vigour," I scolded, doing another for emphasis. "Now, hip-hip..."
Chiaki this time threw his arm into the air, letting out a lethargic yawn. "Hur...ray...!"
I set my hands to my hips, expression contorting from displeasure. "We're going to have to work on this."
Koyuki placed a finger underneath his chin. "If we're going to be working on a princess-themed birthday cake, that requires a lot of decorations."
I jutted my chin. "You have nothing to fear. Even if not baking, you can have some faith in my artistic skills."
"Don't you think this is the perfect job for Hayate?"
Koyuki's focus was entirely fixed on Chiaki. My composure slipped.
"Ignoring me?" I made a face. "At least look like you believed my lie. It hurts."
"Haya... does like decorating," Chiaki agreed. None of them were paying me any mind anymore—a huge hit to my ego. "He came up and made the designs for the film's costumes."
"You took the credit but he did most of the work, I know," Koyuki said. "Not only is Hayate creative, but he's really good with his hands."
My ears perked and I was hurtling toward Koyuki before I realized it. "Good with his hands? Why? Who is this 'Hayate' you're talking about? Can he bake?"
Koyuki fumbled backward, but I'd already breached his vicinity beyond repair. Eyes widening to the point of saucers, Koyuki straightaway knew he'd lost the moment he saw just how much the idea piqued me with delight.
"Why is your curiosity already acting up?" he demanded.
"So? So?" On my tippy-toes, the distance between our bodies little, I moved even closer to his face. "Who is he?"
Koyuki craned his neck in another direction, shutting his eyes and keeping me as far away as he could. "Sakurauchi, save me!"
"When she gets like this that's impossible, sorry," she giggled.
"Teruhashi, give me space!"
But I wasn't listening. "I did think it was strange someone like Chiaki made costumes that good. But if it was someone you of all people compliment, he must be insanely talented! Say, was he apart of the Cooking Club at one point, too? Do you think he'll join my club?"
Our minimal distance eventually got the guy to reel away, extending his palms. I stopped in place, blinking slowly. Koyuki's countenance was filled with discomfort.
"Even if I do tell you who he is," he said slowly, "you can't just pester him like you did for me."
"Why not? It got you to join."
He knew I'd proven a point. "Hayate doesn't like getting involved with others. So even if you tried to attract his attention, he'll ignore you."
So he was shy? "What does he look like?"
"Are you even listening to what I'm saying? He won't join your club even if it was the last one on earth."
I skipped over to my other option, folding my arms behind my back. "Chiaki, what does he look like?"
It was after I reached his side and he placed a finger to his mouth to contemplate the question, I became exposed to the entrance of the theatre room. Somehow, when I spotted someone's head poking through, similar to these past couple of days, I could only discreetly stare right back as Chiaki started talking.
"He has white hair... like vanilla ice cream..."
I nodded, eyes glued to the white strands at the door.
"Blue eyes like blueberry popsicles... Glasses..."
I hummed. I couldn't quite discern their eye colour, but glasses were a sure check.
"He's really shy... and rarely talks," Chiaki went on. "Oh... and he has a habit of crouching at doors... and poking out his head to observe others. He's like one of those arcade games where you don't know when and where he'll pop up."
It was as if the guy was reading my mind, but with it, I didn't hesitate. I dashed toward the entrance of the theatre room, dropping into a crouch before the boy sticking his head inside could dodge.
"Hello, Hayate," I said, grinning from ear to ear. "Would you like to join my club?"
Shocked gasps erupted in the room.
"Hayate?" I'd heard Koyuki shout.
"Haya," Chiaki went on, proving my hunch was right.
"That's Hayate?" Miko mumbled.
I focused on the small boy's irises. Definitely blue—a bright shade. My smile curved up even higher. It was him.
Nonetheless, he gawked at me. Not uttering a single word, redness slipped onto his cheeks, enveloping his face like a wildfire. He peeled his fingers from the doorframe, backing away as slowly as possible.
By the time I'd realized his intentions, his head was already gone.
I lurched to my feet and rounded outside, but the boy's back was the only thing I could see as he dashed like his life depended on it down the empty hall.
My lips parted in shock.
"He probably got curious of what you were up to, Chiaki," Koyuki reasoned.
"Oh... maybe," Chiaki agreed.
"Teruhashi," Koyuki then called out. "This is exactly what we were telling you. There's no getting through to Hayate with his personality so you might as well—"
"He's joining my club."
A beat of silence passed through the room.
"Huh?" Koyuki finally asked.
"He's joining my club," I reiterated. I couldn't stop the sparkles from filling my eyes as I dashed for my bag. After slinging it across my shoulder, I was already making a break for the hall. "Hayate, wait for me! I have something important to ask you!"
"But you haven't even seen him bake yet—"
Koyuki's words were already a muffle in my ears. The wind hit my skin, blocking out the tiniest sounds to indicate my furious speed. I was dashing with all my might, scanning my surroundings like mad for this bashful boy.
A broad smirk upturned my mouth.
Four official members to the club here I come.