On the morning of the Seidou High School graduation ceremony, Chris opens his blinds to see wispy little excuses for clouds painted across the sky. The sun hangs high, and, he thinks, it’s a beautiful day for what should be a perfectly happy occasion. Though there is no such thing as a game played without any regrets, the graduating third years will leave high school with Koushien under their belt, which is more than Chris could say for himself. That alone is something to be glad for.
Chris thinks that graduation should—and is, perhaps, for people other than himself—be a fond memory, something to look back upon when calling friends from high school. And he does remember Seidou with a feeling that curls warm in his heart, when he gets lunch with Tanba and Tetsu and Jun and Ryousuke, when he receives a call from Miyuki to discuss plays, when he watches his underclassmen play high school games, and even more so when he plays against them on their university teams.
But not Sawamura, the traitorous voice in his head reminds him. He does not meet Sawamura, or say hello after he watches Seidou’s games; there are no phone calls and no LINE messages.
He doesn’t like to look back on his graduation day two years ago—he cannot even claim that there were things unsaid, things left unfinished, because Chris himself is the one who said things which he didn’t mean, who finished what could have been forever.
Chris watches Sawamura the way he watches the seasons: ever-changing, full of the kind of life and beauty which will adapt to any condition it is given, even if it takes time. He watches from a distance, through windows and in passing, and it will not still or wait for him, just like everything else in the world. He does not expect it to. He will not ask it to.
When Takigawa Chris Yuu, age eighteen, wakes up in the morning on the day he will graduate from high school, he opens his curtains to a blanket of gray clouds. It’s awfully early in the year, reads a message from his mother sent an hour before his alarm clock went off, but it sure does look like it’s going to rain. Don’t forget your umbrella, Yuu.
It doesn’t feel like a day fit for rain.
It doesn’t feel like a day for him to walk away from Seidou.
He isn’t sure if there ever will be a day for that, though—and what, exactly, Chris wonders, makes a day feel like anything, anyway? What is the weather to make the day a good one or a bad one; who is the sky, to dictate human life?
(There had been no clouds in the sky and a still warmth in the air, on the day Chris had felt a tear in his shoulder more than a year ago.)
He eats the same breakfast for the last time, sits at the same table with the same friends in the same cafeteria, and he walks the same halls he has for the past three years. Once, he heard the walls whisper sweet nothings—genius, starter, prodigy—until the weight of them suffocated him until all that he could hear was jeers reminding him of all his failures.
Now, he does not hear either; he is alone here with his own footsteps, a steady rhythm of one foot after the other and then the first one again, repeating sometimes without thought and sometimes with; sometimes without purpose, and sometimes simply because it is the only way that he has learned to keep moving forward in this world.
He will face the rain and the goodbyes: it does not matter if Takigawa Chris Yuu leaves with regrets, because there is nothing in life that will wait for him, anyway.
You know, Chris, Ryousuke had told him when they spoke on the phone two weeks ago. I talked to Haruichi the other day. Sawamura’s still hoping that you’ll make it to their graduation.
Don’t be ridiculous, Chris had replied. It’s been two years since we last saw each other. Why would he want me there?
Beats me, Ryousuke had said with a scoff. I wouldn’t want the guy who rejected my confession at my graduation, but Sawamura’s never been known for his common sense.
It’s been two years, Chris had repeated again.
Now, Chris wonders if he had said it not because he believes it’s too late, or if it’s because he’s still trying to convince himself that he is. Even now, when Chris closes his eyes, the image of Sawamura, hopeful in the rain, is still burned into his memory; he should have known better, he thinks, than to look directly into the sun.
Sawamura is agitated. Even before he says anything—which, granted, is not long, because this is Sawamura—Chris can tell by the way he flits about the crowd of people who stand outside after the graduation ceremony, weaving his way in between families and wringing his hands with impatience as he waits for Chris to finish taking photographs with his homeroom classmates.
He darts over to where Chris is as soon as he’s finished, and looks up at him in the same way he looks at the first batter he throws a pitch to: with a determination that flares like fire, and a certain steel which Chris recognizes to mean that he has absolutely no intention of backing down from whatever he’s about to say.
“Chris-senpai,” he says, “I love you.”
For a moment, the rain stills.
It is a good day for rain, or perhaps a bad one. Chris isn’t sure anymore. He lives a moment in the deafening silence, the world around him narrowed to just him and Sawamura, him and the love that Sawamura has laid out for him to take. The love which Sawamura has given, for a long time, and which Chris would have to lie to say he didn’t have an inkling of before.
He feels the cool wetness sink through his uniform blazer. No matter; it is the last day he will wear it.
Is there truly anything to say?
Takigawa Chris Yuu is no stranger to the concept of missed opportunities—should’ve gone to the physiologist when his shoulder started hurting—should’ve relied on his team in the aftermath instead of pushing them away—should’ve accepted his confession—should’ve spared his heart—should have kissed him right then and there, surrounded by sakura petals glistening with the rain—should’ve gone to his graduation, told him what he should’ve said those years ago on that rainy day—should’ve—should’ve—should’ve—
Chris is not who he was when he injured his shoulder, or when he graduated. The Chris who is sixteen and feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, the Chris who is graduating and does not know how to accept love when it is given freely—they stay with him, in his heart.
No more should’ves, they say.
Run, they say. Run, and this time, not away.
“Sawamura,” he says, starts. He looks down; he cannot bear to meet Sawamura’s eyes, because he does not want to say something that he will regret—because he is afraid of the remorse which already clouds the words he says now. “I…”
Sawamura’s gaze is steady and sure, filled with a sincerity which Chris does not know that he could ever replicate. Sawamura is many things, with his own share of shortcomings, but in the face of a challenge, brave by his own truth, he is fearless and resolute, and Chris knows that he means every word he has said.
It makes Chris hate himself that much more for it.
“I’m sorry,” he says, because there is nothing else he should say. He is sorry for the way he has treated Sawamura, he is sorry that they could not form a battery, he is sorry for the words he says, right now. He is sorry for closing the door on a future that both of them wanted to take, and he is sorry for leading Sawamura to believe that it is because he does not want to at all. He is the most sorry because he doesn’t even know what is stopping him right now except his own self-doubt. I’m sorry.
Sawamura nods, lip stiff, and turns away as if he doesn’t want Chris to see him cry when he walks away, as if it’s something Chris has never seen before—and Chris turns away, too, because after all is said and done, he doesn’t think it’s something he has the right to see, anymore. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Sawamura walk away. This is the sound of ligaments tearing and of high school baseball careers ended, the sound of hope lost and found only to be thrown away in the end. His footsteps fade into background noise. This, Chris thinks. His grasp around the button tightens until his nails press into his palm, a grounding reminder that this is the reality he chose. This is the sound of when someone walks out of your life.
Regret, sorrow seep into him; they cling to him like the soaked shirt that hangs from his shoulders, and Chris makes no attempt to move.
When Chris arrives at Seidou, the rain is still pouring down upon the pavement in a shower.
He stops in his tracks, pauses to observe the crowds of people gathered around the auditorium, umbrellas and programs raised overhead to shield from the rain.
It is the very image of his own graduation two years ago.
He blinks, then pauses to examine the sliver of sky that appears below the rim of his umbrella. The rain shows no sign of stopping anytime soon; a thick blanket of gray hangs above their heads. Sawamura is easy to spot—his smile is a sliver of light in the midst of the gloom that surrounds them; that much is nothing new.
When Sawamura spots Chris approaching, his face contorts into a million different expressions in a minute, trying to find the words for such an occasion.
Hello, how are you, after two years? Do you still love me?
I still love you.
But none of that seems right to say. He doesn’t know what will.
He tilts the umbrella, its brim protecting both of them from the rain that falls around them.
“It’s nice weather to take a walk,” he says, swallowing the dryness in his mouth, “don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” Sawamura says, taking a step forward to the sanctuary of the umbrella. “It is.”