Shoyou misses Kei, he misses Kei so much that he wants to yell at the top of his lungs and express all these bottled up feelings of misery. But that would have been dangerous, and inappropriate – most especially now, specifically now. Still, Shoyou is willing to take that risk; but he may never have a chance.
It was the first day of their third year in high school, hoards of student chatting around the campus relaying tales of their vacation and hopes for the new school year. But Shoyou is not aware of any of these. Shoyou for all they know is still caught in daze thinking about something bizarre. The people around him would guess he is thinking about the beach, or food, or a cartoon show, or anything that they don’t want to know. Little did they know that Shoyou has been searching for someone beneath the sunlight and among the sea of faces. He is looking for a certain boy named Kei, but Shoyou couldn’t find him.
Kei – that name has always been part of him; used to be part of him. It is something he loves and hates at the same time. He loves it, because he knows Kei in a special way no other does. He hates it because Kei can’t be that particular person that Shoyou knows every single time. He loves it, because he can tell Kei apart in a crowd even if his five senses are numb. He hates it, because there are times where he cannot find Kei even if he uses all his senses. He loves it, because he can feel if Kei is with him. He hates it, because he can feel if Kei is not with him.
Shoyou felt something is poking his side. When he looked to his right, he saw Yachi gesturing into something in front of him. Shoyou, still partially dazed, could not process Yachi’s action at all. He just stares back at the girl in confusion. Seconds later, there is an enormous amount of happy sound in the hallway. He looks around and sees some of his friends laughing. Shoyou is pretty aware that he is caught spacing out that cause the laughter among the people around him. In situations like this, the best thing he can do is flash his bashful smile, bites his lower lip and look down – covering his embarrassment; a gesture many find adorable.
Eventually, the laughter has died down. Shoyou mental-scolded his own self for being such an idiot. How can he not just leave all those thoughts at home, or at least not when they are not in a crowd.
“Tsukki” he heard someone calls. Being more aware of his surroundings; Shoyou looks to see this blonde tall boy with his trademark stern expression. Shoyou involuntarily put all his focus to this boy. A bittersweet smile escapes his lips. There, there is the reason why he is being an idiot, why he was in a reverie, why he cannot just let go of those thoughts.
Shoyou realizes that there really is no point in shouting. Kei is not anywhere far, but he is not anywhere near either. The bitter smile just won’t fade as he realizes further where Kei is. Kei who is supposed to be his blocking partner, Kei who has been patient in teaching him calculus, Kei who he shares his meals with, Kei who lets him sleep in his arm, Kei who always listens to him, he gives some mean responses, but Kei listens, Kei who makes him smile and makes him all weird and joyous feelings inside him. But Kei isn’t here, Tsukki is.
Shoyou knows who Kei really is, that is a given fact, and it’s sickening to him that he also knows who Tsukki is. What is more sickening to him is that he can tell the difference between Kei and Tsukki. Kei is Tsukki, but Tsukki is not Kei.
Kei was that scary tall guy who was good at everything. This guy he thought was so intimidating and high that he can’t possibly befriend the likes of Shoyou. Who was Shoyou anyway – an ordinary boy who’s only pride is his resilience. But surprisingly, months later, he and Kei were practicing together in the same gym. It started off rough but it grew into something more until they found exhausting themselves in between laughs and movements. After their repeated plays, Kei would usually throw him a towel because he always forgets to bring his own.
Kei was another colleague whom Shoyou had shared his dreams with. Kei and him, they were boys – boys who were filled with youthfulness and vitality. In time, it was Kei who had was with him when he took steps to his dreams. They were about to have their first game at the nationals. Shoyou was nervous. Totally unaware, Kei grabbed Shoyou by the shoulder and shook him ferociously. And with that, Shoyou loosened up, thanks to Kei’s ferocious shaking. He was able to play that day. Kei was there when he first went in that large stage in front of unknown spectators. And Shoyou thought he still wants to be with Kei in every volleyball game he will be into in the future, he wants to play in Kei’s side until the very last.
Kei was his seatmate who shared a blanket with him in one cold afternoon. Kei carefully placed the blanket in their laps to warm their hands. Kei set the blanket in Shoyou’s first before covering his own, a gesture that made Shoyou smile inside. And they both stayed, sitting together side by side with that blanket still in their laps. Underneath the blanket, he felt Kei’s hand placed it on top of him. And Shoyou thought, Kei is after all not just his seatmate, maybe.
Kei was just one of the chests he cried unto whenever he feels lonely. There really wasn’t much difference in Kei’s embrace compared to the others. Maybe except that Kei’s arms were longer. Yet, it had always been the one that truly comforted him. And on those times, Kei’s warmth did not fail him again. And since then, he had always yearn for it when he’s about to falter; like when he had a fight with Tobio or when he was afraid in watching a horror movie. Sometimes, he just yearned for it, just because, like whenever he wakes up in the morning or whenever he’s tired or whenever he meets Kei just anywhere.
Kei was his diary who knew every secret he kept. Whatever he had inside of him, he would tell it to Kei, and Kei will listen to him. Shoyou would tell Kei about a funny thing he saw in the corner which was not necessarily funny, but it’s alright, because Kei would laugh with him. He’d tell Kei about the song he just heard, or a movie he wanted to see. He’d tell Kei that he’s bored and he wanted to do something fun. Knowing Shoyou, he had his own definition of fun. Kei would hesitate in participating in accompanying him to play at first but Shoyou knew that Kei could not resist his cute expressions. But Shoyou would not tell Kei when he’s sad, but Kei would know; he always did. And Kei will sit beside him without saying a word and Shoyou will cry, then Kei would wipe the tears away from his eyes. And he would tell Kei that he loved him but he won’t tell Kei how much he does.
Tsukki on the contrary is different.
Tsukki was the special friend who invited Shoyou in his birthday party. Shoyou wanted to be there in celebrating this special occasion with Kei. So he came, spending the first hour sitting in the corner looking at Tsukki as he talked from one person to another but him. As what truly occurred, the only word he got from Kei was his thank you. And it did not take long before Tsukki excused himself; because Tsukki had too many engagements, he had other friends. Shoyou left the party without even telling Kei; but he did not go home. Staying in the playground, Shoyou held to his phone wishing that Kei would call or at least message him. Maybe Kei would notice that he had gone. But Tsukki did not call him.
Tsukki was the attention-seeker who tries hard to always look good in front of Tadashi. Whatever he does, Tsukki always wants to be the best in Tadashi’s eyes. One night, Tsukki stayed in the room practicing. Shoyou was worried of Kei; so he came to the gym and told Kei to rest; but Tsukki neglected his offer. Tsukki told Shoyou that he wants to impress Tadashi the day after with his improved plays. Shoyou decided to stay and help Tsukki. The day after, Tsukki wore the biggest smile as Tadashi gave him a hug for his great performance. And Shoyou was given with nothing, just a half-hearted thank you.
Tsukki was the nervous fool who asked for Shoyou’s help to set-up the perfect date which Shoyou stupidly agreed to – Shoyou was with Tsukki when he was shopping for the suit he’ll wear. Shoyou was the one Tsukki asked which rose to buy, the red or the white? Shoyou helped Tsukki in setting up the table in the rooftop. Shoyou told Tsukki that he was handsome that night and he has nothing to worry about because everything is going to be alright. And Shoyou shed another liter of tears that night; but there is no way Kei will know that, for Tsukki has spent all his night with Tadashi.
Tsukki was the sweet lover who whispers words of love to Tadashi, the way Kei would whisper random nonsense to Shoyou. Tsukki would lovingly held Tadashi in his arms; the way how Kei held Shoyou. Tsukki would smile at Tadashi’s words, the way Kei will smile at Shoyou’s childish antics. Tsukki would tenderly kiss Tadashi’s lips; the way Shoyou wishes Kei will kiss his.
While Kei are the stars in his night sky, trying to spare some light in the darkness; Tsukki are the clouds, breaking the light. While Kei is the street sign to help him find his way home; Tsukki is the broken road that guarantees his lost. While Kei is the sea breeze that calms him in his wearisome, gentle and reoccurring; Tsukki is the raging storm that annihilate his appease, cruel and unexpected.
Tsukki broke all the promises that Kei made. Shoyou fell in love with Kei, and Kei loved Shoyou. Tsukki loves Tadashi, and Tsukki broke Shoyou’s heart.
When Tsukki and Tadashi once had a serious argument; Shoyou was the one who was left to pick up the pieces. It was one late evening when he heard Kei’s voice over the phone, Shoyou jumped off the bed even if he’s already near his sleep, because it was Kei calling him. With adrenaline rush surpassing his drowsiness, he rushed outside and went to the playground only to see Kei standing in watery eyes. It was a total moment of bewilderment to him when Kei suddenly wrapped his arms around Shoyou’s body snuggling his face to Shoyou’s shoulders. Shoyou knows that this time it was Kei who needs him.
Somehow, he didn’t know if he liked it or not. Nonetheless, Shoyou embraced Kei back to comfort his “friend”. That is when he thought maybe he liked it more than he hated it. Shoyou fell into embrace and ceased that moment. He heard Tsukki muttering Tadashi’s name in his cries. Uncontrollably, tears also began to fall from Shoyou’s eyes. And he wondered, will Kei also cry for him like this, probably not.
Kei lay beside him that night. Shoyou tried his best not to fall sleep. He tries his best to keep his eyes open gazing upon Kei’s slumber. Shoyou is afraid; for this might be the only time he can be with Kei again; because this can really be the only time. Reciting small poems of granted wishes was never granted, Shoyou sunk his face against Kei’s chest. He cried again that night; he cried as Kei sleeps by his side, he cried until his last consciousness.
Like some bittersweet dream had passed, Shoyou’s eyes flickered the following morning with still restless body. And just what he was afraid of the night before, Shoyou woke up in the bed alone. Tsukki has left him again.
The moment he got out of his room, he fought the urge of returning to his bed. There was a cheerful expression in Tsukki’s face whispering yet another sweet word in Tadashi’s ear. Shoyou knew that what occurred last night will all be turned into ashes. Kei looked at him for a moment to give him a small smile. That was only a smile of gratitude; probably that was the only kind of smile he can receive from Kei from now on. It was just a second before Tsukki turned back to Tadashi and kissed the other man’s cheek. And Shoyou wished that he did not wake up that morning.
When they were reunited, Tsukki was never been joyful. All that time, Shoyou has to mask his surfacing agony every time he sees Tsukki and Tadashi laughing at each other, or every time Tsukki will caress Tadashi’s locks, or every time Tadashi rests his head in Tsukki’s shoulder.
To distract himself, Shoyou tried to get away from the group and look for items sold in the bargain by his own. He needs his alone time more than anything. He found his self standing in one of the stores mesmerized in a set of small bird dolls placed in the shelf made of cotton. This particular kind of bird dolls is rare. He remembered seeing these exact dolls during last year’s summer festival. Shoyou did not expect to find it here, heck he was not expecting to find it anywhere again. He had always wanted to own one but only that time he had already run out of money, and so as his companion.
Shoyou’s eyes are still looking from far back at the winged dolls as he walked side by side with Kei. Both had run out of cash at this late in the festival. None expected that they will be so carried away doing numerous activities. It’s just sad for Shoyou that the item he wanted the most is the one he saw last. It’s not like he can return all the things they bought or the food they ate anyway.
“I’ll buy you one someday.” He looked up to his side and momentarily saw that kind smile in Kei’s face. It seems that Kei had figured him out again this time. Is he really that of an open book that the taller boy could read easily? “I promise.” Kei vowed in a gentle yet strong voice. Shoyou’s remorse on the winged doll had vanished as he let himself be drifted in his steps.
A hoping smile escape from his lips from the memory. Until now, Shoyou still holds to the belief that Kei will hold on to his promise. It was rather a very shallow oath. It’s just a bird doll, nothing else. And Tsukki might have forgotten about it anyway. If he really wanted one of these dolls, Shoyou could have bought one on his own. In the surface, there is no difference if who will buy anyway. But Shoyou is very particular; he does not want just any doll. He wants a bird doll from Kei.
“Which one do you like?” It was a simple casual question but Shoyou couldn’t give a proper answer for he was surprised. How in the world did Kei get here beside him? Was he just alone just now?
“I like all of them.” Shoyou answered.
“Come on Shoyou, just choose one.”
Shoyou smiled when he heard Kei said his name. It’s not first time he did it, but it became a rare moment lately. Shoyou could tell that Kei is still waiting for his answer which makes it a little harder for him. He was not lying when he said he like all of them.
Shoyou looks again among the dolls, looking at them again, Shoyou notices the differences among them “This one.” Shoyou finally made a choice pointing out a doll with black feathers with blue eyes.
Kei looked at the specific doll that Shoyou pointed “Well if that’s what you say.” Kei said nodding cupping his own chin like a satisfied supervisor. Shoyou couldn’t help but feel vibrant in the familiar gesture.
“Shoyou there you are!” Shoyou felt two hands, in each in his shoulder. He never wanted to slap Inouka this much before. The other male may have been oblivious of his situation, but still, how could he just interrupt such moment?
“You better have a good reason for surprising me.” Shoyou spoke the words tiredly. Inouka was not able to answer Shoyou for another cheerful voice came to distract them.
“Tsukki! See what I found!” Tadashi suddenly comes popping from somewhere holding a pair of couple shirts in his hands. And just in one moment, Tsukki runs directly to Tadashi completely forgetting about Shoyou.
When they went back to Miyagi, Shoyou harbored the hope that he could see Kei again. But unlike in Tokyo, he did not try to look for Kei, until today…
Shoyou went inside the room and noticed Kei reading another set of his self-improvement books. He hesitated for minutes just merely watching him. He had never had a chance to see Kei alone in days. The way that Kei is continuing with his activity, not nearly feeling Shoyou’s presence makes it more perfect for the smaller to observe. It was then when Kei halted in his reading and rose up when Shoyou finally cracked. He could no longer take witnessing Tsukki’s back walking away in front of him.
“Kei…” Shoyou uttered his name. Kei looked back.
Kei looked at him with his two eyebrows raided, Shoyou couldn’t help but smile. But it was Tsukki’s eyes that made him lose his courage. His eyes, his eyes are normal, Shoyou thought. They aren’t cold, but they aren’t warm either. Emptiness.
“Nothing.” Shoyou denied softly. Shoyou is clueless of the reason in calling Kei on the first place. He still could not understand himself why he’s still hoping that Kei will still be all the things that he wishes.
He no longer knows what to think when Kei suddenly rushes to him and embrace him tightly. It’s been days, years to Shoyou, since he was denied such contact with Kei. But even though, Shoyou does not like the feel of Kei’s embrace anymore. Kei’s embraced has already changed. But nonetheless, he still wrapped his arms around Kei’s body. Who is he to complain on the first place?
“Tsukki.” A familiar voice was heard not from a near distance.
“I’ll be back.” Kei whispered softly to his locks, that was a promise right? In a flash, Tsukki clumsily unwrap his arms in Shoyou. Shoyou knows what is coming next.
“Will you really come back?” The question is more than what it literally means. Shoyou knows he asked sounding desperate, but he does not care, because he really is desperate.
They look at each other for about three or five seconds. Shoyou’s eyes are pleading as to Tsukki’s are blank, totally not in sync. Tsukki’s lips finally move but not to speak but to curve into another small smile – the last smile which Shoyou never wishes to see. Emptiness. It appears that Tsukki could not wait for Shoyou to respond. Or maybe Tsukki does not want to hear Shoyou’s response at all. Tsukki turned his body completely and rushes his pace to meet the owner of the voice.
Shoyou cannot point which part of his body feels the worst witnessing the sight in front of him. Is it his trembling knees? Is it his shaking hands? Is it his stomach turning upside down? Or is it his eyes that threaten to water? Tsukki quickens his pace to reach for Tadashi. And the moment he did, he gives the other boy a sweet peck in his lips. Shoyou sees how Tadashi smiles in the kiss and how Tsukki’s eyes glistens.
Shoyou once thought that he can no longer feel lower for he is at his lowest already. He thought wrong. Tsukki was holding a box wrapped in red with a ribbon knotted, a present as Shoyou noticed. It was for Tadashi as what was obvious. He could see the glows of delight in the eyes of both Tsukki and Tadashi. And excitement it is that adrenaline made Tadashi to unwrap the box in a rush to reveal what Tsukki gave him. When what was inside the box was finally revealed; Shoyou saw how the excitement turned into a blast of smiles as Tadashi tightly embraced Tsukki.
Shoyou recognized the item. How could he not forget about that certain blue-eyed in white-feathered heavenly figure?
“Tsukki, It’s beautiful.” He heard Tadashi said admiring the petite bird doll in his hands. Shoyou agrees it is indeed beautiful, he knows it is beautiful, because it was him who chose it.
The feeling was like a thousand needles stabbed directly into his heart while a sea in masked faces was laughing at his fall. It seems that God and The Devil had collaborated for the first time just to play a prank on him. Pathetic. Just Pathetic. No longer could he take to stay in the center stage of immense shame, Shoyou looked away. Turning his back ninety degrees he walked in small weak steps – away from Tsukki, into his despair. And just like the waves that will always return in the shore, salted water of tears started to flow in his cheeks again. Because even how much he longed for Kei, it does not mean he loves Tsukki any less, and it is Tsukki who is here to stay.
Shoyou had finally realized; that the Kei he knows and loves had been long gone, maybe never to return.