"Heyy, Senpai. Where are you looking? Hehe... hehehe..."
How has it come to this?
Sitting alone with an underclassman, in her living room nonetheless. It's the afternoon, about an hour or so after classes and her parents are nowhere to be found.
She's an underclassman who wanted to speak to me in private, I believed it was something school related so I obliged and met up with her in the courtyard. In the Winter, students generally don't spend too much time after hours, unless they're in clubs.
I didn't think it'd turn out into a confession. But, as a school's Student Council President, I can't let myself get into a relationship. It's my last year before I graduate and thus, I want to put my all into it and make a big impact for the sake of my peers.
In a meek voice, she spoke; even though we were the only ones around, she constantly checked her surroundings. Perhaps she was shy because we were alone together.
Her dark hair hanged just above her shoulders , her build is rather petite but her chest is more endowed than most her age. With purple eyes which shined like amethysts, she was like one of those typical pure juniors you'd see in TV shows. Those who'd try their best, but don't stand out too much and cheers on her friends; that kind of girl. She seemed incredibly shy as she couldn't seem to find the words to say, I found that rather cute if I have to say.
At that time, I didn't know she was about to confess. And so, I took it upon myself to get the words out from her.
"To call me out here, is there anything you need? Something you can't talk about with others?"
Girls like her tend to be bullied by others. I was thinking it may be related to that. Or perhaps club related, probably funding.
"U-Umm... Senpai... I-um... I've been l-looking at Senpai... for a long time..."
Despite her meek personality, she summoned the courage to see me.
"Looking..? Ah, well I'm usually in the student council room filing a few things."
I wasn't sure what she really meant, so I believed she was just looking for me physically. However, she shakes her head and presses both her index fingers together in front of her, all while hanging her head. Almost like she couldn't look me in the eye.
"N-No... it's not... not that... I-umm... Since the entrance ceremony... A few days after, u-umm... club recruitment day..."
As though she wanted me to think back to earlier this year, I couldn't remember anything specifically; other than a bunch of club forms.
"Senpai... encouraged me... To try out... clubs."
"You mean me? Ehh..."
Directing her gaze on the floor to me, I looked into her eyes as she tried her best to stay in place. If I recall correctly, she wore glasses back then.
"...That was you?"
Her eyes widened as her lips tugged into an excited smile as she nodded.
"You remembered, Senpai?"
"Yeah... You were by one of the club recruitment boards."
I was up on the 2nd floor of the school corridor when I saw her in the courtyard. Examining the board with great intent, despite her shaking legs. When people went up to her to recruit she immediately shook her head and bowed. She held that stance for awhile until they left as she turned towards the board once again before sighing.
Your first week at school is probably the hardest, especially if you're alone. Usually friends would be accompanying each other as they try finding clubs they'd both would like to join. However, as much as she stared at the board, none of her friends joined her side.
Having a bad junior year would most likely affect your overall enjoyment at school. And so, in order to prevent that from happening, I spoke to the Vice President to hold the fort for a bit as I went down to meet her.
"Looking for a club to join?"
Even though she declined a few already, I could tell she was trying to find a club she'd enjoy.
She most likely thought I was another senior attempting to recruit her.
"There's a lot of clubs in this school, most are rather nonsensical; but they're good fun."
Not too close, nor too far, I didn't want to invade her personal space.
"U-Umm... S-sorry, d-do I know you..?"
She asked as though she believes that people need to be acquainted in order to have a conversation. Though now that I think about it, she was probably keeping her guard up.
"Ah, that's my bad."
I laughed whilst rubbing the back of my head as I smiled.
"Ueyama Naoko, and you are?"
"T-Tsuchida Keiko... u-umm..."
Shifting her gaze many times, she soon happens upon the sash around my arm as her eyes widened before taking a few steps back.
She immediately apologized whilst performing a 90 degree bow.
"W-Wait why are you apologising?"
"B-Because I-I'm in the way, aren't I? I've been here... a-and...-"
"You can take all the time you want, it's an important decision. And after all," I looked around the area, and though there were students about, none were interested, "No one seems to be bothered by it."
"But... I-I don't want to be in one."
"You're not going to join a club?"
Considering how long she's been in front of the board, I assumed she was searching for the one she can see herself in.
Finally raising her head, she casts her gaze off to the side as gloomy clouds seemed to have formed above her.
"I-I don't want to... but, everyone else seems to want to be in one... and Ma-.. O-Okaa-san..."
Observing her expression slowly deteriorating, I recall my junior years of being complete opposite. After all, I wanted to be in the student council from the very beginning. Nothing else was on my mind, I wanted to be in the position where I could make a good impact.
"Well, if anything there's the Going Home club. You know that, right?"
Though it's not exactly a "club" per se.
As though problems where looming in her head, I stepped up to the board and briefly examined it.
"You don't have to be in a club if you don't want to. All that matters is that you enjoy your time here, and that won't happen if you join a club against your own will, right?"
I turned to her as she looked up at me, she didn't say a thing as though she was waiting for me to continue.
"You can always have a test day, I'm sure they'll all be willing to welcome you. And if any of them tries to pressure you, just let me know. Just do whatever suits you, don't worry about what others say."
"Whatever suits me..."
Repeating those words, she hanged her head in thought.
"Okaa-san said I should join one, because I wasn't in any."
Knowing that she wasn't in any clubs in Junior High made it clear that her decision now is a pretty big deal. Her parents seemed rather forceful, but I'm sure they meant well.
"If that's the case then, you should join one."
In contrast to what I said before, she raises her head once more; now looking rather perplexed.
"I recommend it, as Student Council President, it's a good idea. You get to meet new people and learn a lot of things."
"U-Uehara-senpai's the head of the Student Council..?"
She distances herself in small steps.
"I-Is that why you're telling me..."
As though she believed I was only talking to her because of my position, it made me feel rather lonely as I'm sure it showed on my expression.
"Perhaps. But if I were to talk to you as just your Senpai, then," I removed my armband and stuffed it in my pocket. And though it's not like I threw my position, I wanted to tell her that I'm not just trying to fulfill my role as Student Council President. "I recommend joining a club. They're fun and I'm sure you'll make good memories. Many times my friends would come around and tell me to visit. And many times I do go, they have fun stories to share."
As though my efforts were wasted, she quickly bowed as she thanked me before making a quick exit.
The following day, I saw a form with her name on it as she seemed to have successfully joined a club. Though, that was the last time we ever spoke.
Now to the present day, it's almost the end of the year; a large gap between our meetings. And though she hasn't grown physically, I could tell she enjoyed her time here. It made me feel both relieved and glad for her.
"Are you enjoying your school life, Tsuchida-san?"
"Tsuchida... M-Mm, yes! I'm enjoying it a lot because of Senpai."
"I see, that's great to hear."
"Mm... it's because of Senpai. I was able to join a club, and met people who've become my friends."
"Yeah, clubs are a wonderful thing. In a way, I'm envious of my peers. Not like I don't enjoy Student Council work. Anyways, it's nothing exciting to talk about."
I turned the topic back to the reason why she called. And though it may be a bit rude, I would've preferred to spend more time organising the Culture Festival.
"S-Sorry. I don't mean to take much of your time..."
She seemed to have picked it up, the thing about girls like her is that they're rather observant.
"I-It's just... U-Umm, would you... Would you dance with me..?"
I tried to think back to the club she joined, though nothing came up.
"T-The Folk Dance... C-Could I be the one to dance with you?"
"Oh, for a second there I was wondering what you meant. But, the Folk Dance? There's still a month to go."
She nodded like she knew already. And despite that she asked beforehand, way beforehand.
"The dance, hmm..."
The Folk Dance occurs during the evening, people would dance by the large bonfire; thanks to the efforts of those involved. The couples seen there are generally those actually in a relationship, or close friends. And though it's open to every student to participate, tickets are only sold to 2nd and 3rd years. Meaning 1st years can only participate through invitation by their seniors.
And though I do know her, our relationship is merely senior and junior.
"Are you sure? You know the rumors, don't you?"
Those who dance together and then bounded by fate, a red string as bright as the bonfire which they dance around. After graduating from school, they'll eventually end up married. It's a rumor that rears its head in every Winter. I'm not so sure when it started, but I'm sure it's merely a way for people to participate in the dance. I for one don't believe it, but the juniors, especially the girls go crazy about it. And since only seniors can get tickets, it makes it all the more believable to them, because they'd be inviting them to the dance.
"I do... S-Senpai, I... love you. W-Will you take me to the dance?!"
Shutting her eyes closed while extending her arm, it's similar to the gesture of taking ones hand to said dance. Her body trembles, though not due to the cold winds.
"We barely know each other."
"Are you really sure?"
Without falter, she holds her stance strongly as I couldn't help but be surprised by her act. The junior who so much as believed she was a nuisance just because she was standing by the board for long. Who even performed a hefty apology without being in the wrong. Is standing her ground, and asking me to the dance; all whilst knowing the rumor. Perhaps even believing it.
I was touched. But, I took deep breaths and denied my racing heart.
After all, throughout my years in school; all I wanted was to be someone of position. I wanted to climb, to get higher. Perhaps due to how I was raised.
Relationships. I can't be in one. Because I know I'd neglect whoever I'm with.
"Tsuchida-san, I'm sorry, but I can't accept your feelings. And, I can't invite you to the dance."
It truly pained me to say that, especially to someone like her.
"I-It's a no..?"
I half expected tears to stream down her flustered cheeks, however, she stared at me unyielding; however, her body was trembling more so than before. Pinching her thigh, I was afraid she'd start to bleed as she really did look like she was about to burst.
"Yeah. As happy as I am that you asked, I can't. But I'm sure there are others who'd be more than happy to go-"
"...But then it's meaningless... It's meaningless, if it's not with you, Senpai..."
Seeing her expressions warp right in front of me made me feel really guilty. I'm okay with being the target of scorn, whether or not I'm the Student Council President. Many friendships have come and go in the past, because I simply stayed true to my duties and goals.
"...Why, Senpai? Is it... a problem? Am I the problem?"
"...I have duties I've yet to fulfill here, and there's only one chance I'll get at it. So I want to give it my all."
I'm sure it's not a valid reason, especially when it's one as selfish as mine.
"It's not you that's a problem, it's most likely me. There's probably something wrong with me-"
"There's nothing wrong with you at all, Senpai!"
Raising her voice so suddenly, I looked to her in shock as she too was surprised about it as she adverted her eyes.
"Thanks, Tsuchida-san, you're a nice girl. But, I can't be in a relationship. Because I know I'll end up hurting you even more. I'm sorry."
I guess you could call it bad luck. But I'm sure the fault resides with me. Which is another reason why I like to keep a certain distance between everyone and do my part.
"It's okay... hehe."
In a strange turn of events, instead of crying; she looked at me with a smile.
"I sorta expected this. Senpai has to concentrate with the upcoming Culture Festival."
She smiled, like it wasn't anything. It was like she was a different person. Or at least, I imagined her to be different according to my memory of her.
"By the way, Senpai. Have you finished with your Student Council work for today?"