As the rare snow had fallen oddly late this year, the very middle of February while the school year of their final year as high school students began to come to a close, she decided to make snow angels in the white covered grass. The cold quickly seeped through her clothes. Then she spotted blue in the corner of her eyes. Not the blue of the sky nor the blue of their school uniforms, what she saw was simply the blue of her red string of fate.
Watanabe Rika sat up on the snow, and she met the eyes of her classmate, Shida Manaka, exchanging a series of confused blinks.
Shida Manaka with her dyed hair and consistent blue headphones quirked up an eyebrow, cat-like expression exasperatedly asking what in the world the class oddball aimed to do. Extending a hand, the girl who had yet to remove her headphones silently brushed the snow off of her classmate's clothes and gestured as if expecting a response.
The ever so awkward Rika held out her dog plushie Karaage with one hand. She found her fingers stiff, reddening. She had lost her one glove, the other hand gloved yet not quite warm either.
The girl with blue headphones appeared to sigh.
Upward, Rika's world suddenly jerked. Her wrist and arm pulled by her classmate, she stumbled to her feet, hugging that girl with the blue sky for a moment for balance. Warm, she thought, watching a fleeting pink brush against her classmate's cheeks.
Still without a word, Shida Manaka apologized. She took Rika's hand. Softly, fingers running down Rika's thin wrist with a feather like touch, taking Karaage and placing him tightly in Rika's scarf, Shida Manaka gave Rika the heat from her hand.
Rika wanted to see that person's eyes. Yet, she found her classmate suddenly turning her face away, walking forward as if hurrying into the school building.
The awkward girl opened her mouth as if to talk to her rebellious classmate. She closed her mouth instead and followed in step. After all, class was starting soon. After all, that hand was warm, and childishly, she wanted to hold onto it forever and forever and forever.
Entering the school building, she found an unusual atmosphere lingering.
She couldn't quite pull the name of the occasion from her head. Karaage squeaked with her physical movement of her head against his body snugly tucked in her scarf, voicing out an equivalence of her soundless confusion.
In a stroke of personal genius, Rika mused to herself that Karaage had just answered her question. This feeling hanging around was the incomprehensible feeling in her own heart as well, and she rather did not need an answer to it at all.
Her eyes followed the dangling blue cord from Shida Manaka's headphones. Perhaps Rika had slowed down as they walked, but the other girl paused in her steps, looking the awkward girl in the eyes, and nodded. Afterward, the two proceeded more slowly, and that blue string swung along more slowly as well.
By the time they entered the classroom, the bell to start the school day was but one minute to ringing.
Without realizing, Rika had lost her moment with her classmate. Shida Manaka's hand parted from Rika's almost reluctantly as the two split for their seats. And, a voice cut right through their sweet silence without a care in the world, greeting Manaka and complaining that she was nearly late.
Still, Shida Manaka refused to take off those headphones. She merely elbowed her sporty, pushy friend and gestured rudely in the direction of the class representative, insinuating a special something on this day, causing that friend of hers to sputter.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Class began.
The formalities of homeroom, the boredom of teachers, those words going in one ear and out the next, Rika fingered with Karaage in her lap as she noticed that today she had missed the early morning gossip. Of course, even despite a murder incident from what seemed like so long ago, she had only missed listening to the gossip, not partaking in it. Now at least, she could feel the warmth of someone else's hand on hers.
Absentmindedly, Rika looked toward Shida Manaka. Shida Manaka who still had those headphones on in the middle of class did not look toward Rika.
Rika rather liked that bored look on the cool girl's face. Looking, looking, looking, the awkward Rika only stopped looking for a split second when Manaka adjusted her posture. Rika nearly squeezed Karaage to a squeak.
She continued looking.
Shida Manaka looked back.
Eyes meeting, the two could not break their gazes from each other. Rika slowly lifted Karaage before her face as if hiding the blush that had risen. She saw as pink dusted the other girl's cheeks and as the other placed her hands over her ears covered by headphones as if hiding reddening ears. Rika's heart raced.
Finally, they were interrupted by the bell.
Deflating onto her desk, Rika once again glanced toward Shida Manaka. However, now in break time, she could only catch glimpses between the gaps left by the headphone wearing girl's friends' bodies. Rika held Karaage in front of her, making him give out a squeak, and telepathically questioned him for advice.
She soon figured out what day today was. From the covert chocolate giving to the outright flirting (Shida Manaka's shameless friend and the class representative, Rika noted), she had had to be an alien whale shark to not notice the romantic day of the year so kindly situated exactly halfway through February. Like usual, Rika received no chocolates.
Placing her face onto the desk, Rika felt coldness. She promptly fished out her cell phone to do something. She brainstormed her mysterious something.
All the while, blue, a blue string, the instinctive brain of the whale shark spotted a color, and mindlessly she twirled the blue about her pinky and giggled. She seemed to have said words. Karaage sent a mental message to her in that instant that the words left her mouth.
Rika lifted her face. Her eyes widened as they met Shida Manaka.
Shida Manaka who always had those blue headphones on still had those blue headphones on. Flustered, a bit embarrassed, the usually sarcastic, sometimes smug, often cool Shida Manaka looked to be at a loss for words. With her headphones on, surely she would not have heard Rika's words.
Rika looked down at her pinky finger, at the blue string she had taken, and at the headphones, which from the very start of the day had not been plugged into a music device.
The words that she said, the words that Manaka heard, they were simple yet sincere. From Rika's heart, Rika said, "I love Shida-san."