Tsukiko disliked labels. Ever since she was a child, she always tried to look past them and see the real person. But despite her feelings, the world loved them.
If she had to use a label for herself, she’d say she’s one of those energetic and happy girls. And that wasn’t all. She also loved exercising, so much she even helped the sports clubs whenever they needed.
And yet, at the moment, she struggled for air.
“Taiyou…kun… wait…” She tried calling for him while running. That is, if you could call that running. To her, she was barely walking anymore. She was amazed her heavy legs could still move at all.
He stopped and turned around, moving his legs up and down to keep the pace. “What’s wrong?” he asked in the low and polite tone, looking at her with those innocent eyes.
She stopped too and placed her hands on the knees, trying to catch her breath. When breathing didn’t hurt that much, she looked at him and narrowed her eyes. Normally Tsukiko thought that look was cute, but now it annoyed her. How can this brat be okay after running all that?
“Aren’t… you… a little… tired?” she managed to speak, staring him.
Taiyou-kun checked the timer around his neck. It was only for a heartbeat, but she saw his lips tightening. Is he annoyed? I’ve never saw that expression on him before…
“There’s a park nearby,” he said. “We can take a little break.”
I can’t blame him for being mad, Tsukiko thought, avoiding the boy’s eyes. They were running for less than twenty minutes and she was already asking for a break. I was the one who asked to tag along during his morning training…
She follow him, dragging her legs, remembering how it started. Tsukiko saw him with a package the other day and her curiosity got the best of her. When he said it was the sneakers his grandparents sent him, a smug appeared on her face and she said she herself was a “sport person” and could help him with his training.
Why did I open my big mouth? She realized how big her mistake was now. After she said she’d help, he told her he’d go running at 7 o’clock… on a Saturday. I should’ve given up at that time… She couldn’t take her word back, even if she could barely awake at that hour. Why did I had to be so arrogant?
And that wasn’t her only mistake. Even if she liked exercising, since the end of the semester, except for hanging with her friends or go out to eat, Tsukiko was pretty much a shut-in during her school breaks. Adding the fact the clubs had finished their activities long ago, which meant there was no one asking for her help, she was out of shape. Maybe gasping for air could be a new for of shape, she thought, an empty laugh coming from her lips.
Tsukiko sat on the beach with her arms on her knees, taking deep breaths. She cleaned the sweat from her face and tried moving her feet, but her legs weighed a ton. Just like her eyelids. If I close my eyes now, I’ll fall asleep. She knew that and fought the will to close them. Why did I had to open my big mouth? She thought again, her breathing slowing. Maybe if I close my eyes just a little, I can keep up with him…
“Hiiii!” Tsukiko screamed and opened her eyes when suddenly something cold touched her cheek. She looked around, blinking. It took her a few seconds to understand what happened. Taiyou-kun stood next to her, with a drink in each hand. “Thanks,” she said, accepting the cool tea and drinking half in one gulp. She cleaned the moist from her lips and watched the boy stretching.
Even while he drinking, Taiyou-kun didn’t stop moving something, even if it was a little. The only time he stopped was when a group of teenagers came running down the street. He watched them with a glow in his eyes. Tsukiko recognized the black and dark blue jersey; they were the soccer team from Hyouzan School.
“Taiyou-kun? Oooiii, Taiyou-kun.” She called his name with a smile on her lips. That expression is too interesting, she thought, chuckling. Suddenly her tiredness was forgotten, and she got close to the boy. The soccer team was almost out of sight, but he still hadn’t noticed her leaning in closer. “Taiyou-kun,” she called him. There was no response. A sly smile popped on her lips and she blew in the boy’s ear.
He quivered and finally turned to her, his face an alarming shade of red. “What?”
Tsukiko laughed so hard she had trouble breathing, almost falling from the bench. “You really like soccer, huh?” she asked when she finally stopped laughing. She was truly interested, but part of her wanted to take the boy’s mind off the training they were skipping because of her. “How long you’ve been playing?”
“Since first year elementary school,” he answered with a faint smile on his lips, his cheeks still red, though not as much a few moments ago.
“You guys were district champions, right?”
He widened his eyes a little. “How did—”
“I saw the photos,” Tsukiko said with a sly smile. “You looked so cute holding the trophy.” Taiyou-kun blushed again and looked away, avoiding her eyes. She held the impulse to laugh. “Oh, come on, don’t be so shy. I loved seeing that side of you. I need to thank your aunt for showing me again.” Now she chuckled.
Thanks to Taiyou-kun, Tsukiko had finally met her long time neighbor for the first time, and it was great. Not only the woman fun and interesting, but, as it turned out, Rin-nee-san liked to tease her nephew a lot. Even more than Tsukiko. She showed to the girl not only his baby’s photos, but also recent ones that made Taiyou-kun blush every time Tsukiko brought it up.
Sometimes the girl felt a little guilty for teasing a kid, but when she saw that cute face an alarming shade of red, she always forgot the feeling. I wonder if I’m waking my S side… Tsukiko wondered for a moment.
“Shut up,” he said, his voice only above a whisper. Still avoiding her eyes, he drank the rest of the tea. He’s mad… she covered her smile with the free hand. “Do you still need to rest?” he asked before the girl could tease him a bit more.
Tsukiko blinked a couple times. Oh, that’s right… She had forgotten she could barely move a few minutes ago. She drank another gulp and moved her legs around a bit. “I think I’m okay now.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, looking back at her, his eyebrows raised.
Is he being considerate with me? Even after all that? That put a smile on her lips. He’s really too good to be true. “Yep. I’m good to go now,” she answered, beaming.
“I’m relieved. I know older people have trouble moving around like they used to.” There was a weird twitch in the corner of his lips.
It took a second for Tsukiko to realize he was trying to hold a smile. Wait… Is he… making fun of me? That Taiyou-kun? She didn’t know if she’d laugh or get mad.
“Why you little…” she stood up and drank the rest of her tea. By that time, he had tossed his empty can in to the trash bin and was already running. Tsukiko did the same and chased after Taiyou-kun, his laugh ringing in her ears. That laugh is cute, she thought, smiling.