––Back gate of the park.
Sae had not left the classroom when the messages came in. One right at the tail of the other.
As the first class ended, a quick session of break was in place while the two teaching lecturers changed. Well after seven in the evening, most kids used the break to rush out and buy something to eat.
At this time of the day, a lot of people had already gotten off work and went to eat out; there was no time to buy at a restaurant. Delivery bikes clogged up the small alleyways to bring food but not everyone was that particular.
The private education centre’s building was surrounded by little shops that made use of the hungry mouths of kids. They offered food in the quickest way possible from the widest variety. Everything a restaurant offered could be found in these stores, wrapped up in boxes, ready to go.
The twenty minute break brought waves of students fluttering in and out of the doors, making the scene especially lively.
Sae glanced down at his phone, eyes skimming across the two bubbles of text. He wanted to write back, Why bother coming here? You could’ve simply given me the book tomorrow.
Although he wished to write that, he knew it would not make a difference. What he was up against wasn’t rationality, but the raw nature of impulsiveness. He pocketed his phone and made it towards the stairs.
The evening air already had a bite to it. The last stroke of the sun remained smeared at the bottom of the sky, purple-red on light blue.
Since Sae had left without his school jacket or cardigan, the chill permeated through his shirt’s neither thin nor thick material. He subconsciously quickened his steps, turning at the first intersection on the way to the park. Even without the blazer of his uniform he seemed very put together, slacks dark and fresh, shirt cuffs covering his wrists, his collar wrinkle-free.
The intersection on the outskirts of the apartment complex let its ever-present noise become part of the scenery. It was already evening, but there were still middle schoolers trying to act big and smoke on the little park’s swings. As Sae approached, he scanned the park’s perimeter.
“Took you long enough,” a boy with a ball-like round scalp called out as Sae neared him. The lamp behind this person lit up as the two met each other. Orange light fell on them, soft and lovely.
The boy’s head seemed so round because of his extremely short hair. He sported a cool looking buzzcut. Form languid and comfortable, he perched on the metal railing that surrounded the park. Even though he was rather slumped with hands crossed over his chest, he looked somewhat prominent.
Sae first let out a breath and told the other, “Deil, I don’t have much time.”
Deil still wore his school issued slacks but his uniform jacket got swapped for a worn tracksuit. He stood and reached out a hand with a can of tea in it, “Here.”
“Thanks,” Sae accepted the drink, surprised at how warm the can was. He stopped for a minute, eyeing the free spot on the railing next to Deil, then circled to the other side and sat down.
The two now sat beside each other, but facing different directions.
Glancing over his shoulder, Sae asked, “Just until when are you going to wear this thing?” The question could be considered disapproving, but his tone was easy, his eyes glinting with playfulness in the overhead light.
Though the tracksuit was a bit worn, it did not matter much as it was still a brand name. And although what Deil wore could only be considered as a thin layer, at least he was wearing something over his shirt.
Sae moved closer so that his arm brushed Deil’s. Enjoying the other boy’s body heat, he asked, “Have you eaten?”
“We can go to a store.” Deil made to move off the railing. “What do you want?”
Before he could stand, Sae pulled him back. “It’s okay.”
The boy gazed at him for a moment, but did not comment. He unzipped his bag and took a book out of it. “When do you have to go back?”
“We have a twenty minute break so like…” Sae checked his watch, “In eight minutes.”
“Mnm,” Deil grunted in acknowledgement, “When will classes end?”
“Around nine.” Sae kicked a pebble with the toe of his shoe. Thanks to the warm drink in his hands and the human resource radiating enough heat by his side, his limbs did not go cold. “You’re going home now?”
reached up with one hand rubbing the back of his head. He did not seem to feel
They said the breeze came from all the way up north bringing with it at least a week’s worth of rain. The leaves on the trees rattled with it, scattering about. Sae could smell smoke on Deil; he probably finished a cigarette not long ago.
Just then, Sae’s
phone pinged. He took it out and looked through the messages, then slipped it
back into his pocket. It was nothing important, only the centre’s group chat
going off with practice paper results.
Unbothered about the messages, Sae gripped the drink in his hands, fiddling with its tab as he asked, “Deil, why are you here?”
As if he was waiting for the question, Deil shook his head and laughed a little, “To give you your book.”
The pair sat in silence for a while, watching two sides of the park. Trees whispered above and the park lights painted the layout in contrasting areas, one bright, and one doused in shadow. Sae fiddled with the drink, snapping its tab rhythmically without opening it. He felt the person beside him shift around a fraction.
Deil’s eyes darted around, trying to find an anchor to focus on. He cleared his throat but the nerves would not leave even as he spoke, “Heard you got confessed to today.”
“Mnm.” Sae’s voice was void of any emotion. Another bound of silence descended on them, and somehow this time around it became cumbersome. A few months ago this would have never happened.
actually wanted to say was, This really
isn’t a good time.
Couldn’t Deil wait after classes were done if he wanted to have a talk so much? Was it appropriate to drop by and launch a bomb out of the blue?
But then, thinking about him coming over at night with the intention of having a talk like this… at the thought a tiny tremble ran down Sae’s shoulders.
He adjusted his glasses and checked the time. Class would start in ten minutes. Walking back took about five minutes, but he hated to arrive last. If the teacher wanted to revise some things or talk to anyone before class she came a few minutes early. It all took time.
Deil continued after a beat, and his tone hardened. He sounded almost pissed off. “Well, congrats. It took her enough time...”
Two years just to get up her courage. Sae knew that Deil thought of saying such out loud, but the latter kept it in.
At last, he made a decision. If this conversation was finally happening, it had to be straightforward and to the point. Deep down Sae knew that this was coming, but in a passive aggressive way he hoped it would never happen. So now he said, quite matter of fact, “It doesn’t matter. Yes, she confessed but I rejected her. We talked a bit and, okay, it will probably be awkward for a while but she said she’ll get over it. We won’t let it affect our friendship.”
Deil looked up, his head whipping around.
“What?” Sae was watching him all through while talking. A covertly sated feeling which he had been unaware of up to this point flooded his being. “I said it doesn’t matter. I rejected her.”
“Oh.” Deil’s mind visibly blanked. He closed his eyes, thin eyelids and stubby eyelashes hiding his gaze with a sweep. His hands squeezed the book, the binding leaving a mark in his palm. He rolled the world on his tongue a few times before calling out, “Sae.”
Sae wanted to smile. He leaned back a bit so that more of his weight was supported by Deil. “Hm?”
Deil did not ask
the reason for his rejection, nor told him that somehow this information made
his breath catch and his pulse hammer. He did not say that he only came here and
called Sae out to check what had happened.
Because surely, Sae knew it the moment his first message got sent.
Deil’s lips could only form one sentence, giving voice to a subdued, but firm yearning that came from the depths of his being.
Sae heard him say, “I want to be with you.”