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Mar 22, 2018 - 12:43 PM

Who I Am (8) ~ Revealed

There's no light in the house. Brother hasn't returned from training yet. I sigh in relief because now I don't need to explain *this*... I wrap the Ryonan jersey tighter around me. My hands are trembling so heavy that I can barely put the key in the lock.

Finally I get inside and I run to my room, pick some clothing from the closet and get myself to the bathroom. The hot water of the shower feels like heaven on my face and my body.

I look at the jersey while drying my hair in a towel in my room and I remember the happenings at the peer. I have to smile at the thought of the tall ace player.

The lock downstairs rattles and I quickly hide the jersey under the sheets. I would not know how to explain it to my brother.

"Brother, is that you?"

"Yeah," he moans, "damn, every muscle hurts..." I hear him plopping down on the couch.

I swiftly run downstairs. He lays stretched out on the couch and I have to laugh at the sight. "Come on, I'll give you a massage."

As I sit behind him and give him a massage on his shoulders and back I think of the Ryonan guy again. I just can't get that disarming smile out of my mind. "What was he thinking, that I would go home with him?!" I get a bit angry at that thought.

A calm snoring sound brings me back to reality and I carefully take a look at my brother's face, not willing to wake him. He is still the handsome guy from old times. No, even more handsome.

I carefully lay him down and let his head rest on my lap. I think he silently moans the words basketball and championships. I smile at his sleeping face and gently stroke my fingers through his hair. Actually, this short hair cut fits him quite well.

After maybe 20 minutes he slowly wakes up and rubs his eyes. He sits straight up and stretches his arms. "Why didn't you wake me up?"

"You looked so peaceful. And I thought you deserved some rest from your hard trainings."

He sighs. "I have to. I need to catch up as much as I can before the Inter High games."

I nod in understanding.

"The shooting went well today," he tells as he stands up stretching his arms once more. "I'm gonna take a shower."

"Will you make dinner tonight?"

He pauses and then walks upstairs moaning and stretching a bit more, pretending not having heard my words.

"Hey brother!" I laugh, but I got the message.

As I walk to the kitchen I suddenly think what Sendoh would like to eat and I immediately shake the thought away.

The next morning I carefully put the white jersey under my pillow again before I go to school. I don't know if I should return it to him. I mean, he said I didn't need to. But then again, it will be more appropriate if I do return it. What would he think if I do *not* return it...

Fortunately, I didn't get a cold from my swimming trip yesterday. I shiver when I recall the cold. Then I also think of Sendoh, did he get a cold? After all, he was soaking wet as well, but didn't he say he lived nearby?

The team has early training today. We are dismissed in the afternoon around four o'clock. Brother stays for extra training and I decide to go for a bike ride.

To my great surprise the Super Rookie left as well. This is the first time that he leaves early. I'm sure a lot of the team members wondered, but no one dared to ask.

When I reach my bike at the shed I see a flat back tire. "Damn, now what?" I speak out loud as I inspect the damage.

"Patch it," a familiar cold voice responds to my question.

I look back and see Rukawa just a few bikes away. He is unlocking his bike and wants to leave already.

"I don't have the gear. Besides, I don't know how to patch it..." I admit in distaste.

He pushes his bike back to the shed and walks upon me. He inspects the tire and takes out a small kit with one hand and takes the hand-held pump in his other. Without saying a word he starts repairing my bike.

I gather all my courage and speak: "Why don't you talk? You're always silent."


"Like now."

He sighs. "I've got nothing to tell."

I'm not sure, but I think he just took a quick look at his watch. Is he impatient or does he have to be in time somewhere else?

"Are you in a hurry?"

"It's ok." But I can see that he apparently handles faster. After a while he stands up and rubs his dirty hands on his pants.

"It should work now," he says while he puts away the kit and attaches the pump to his bike.

"Thank you, Rukawa-kun," I reply in gratitude.

He looks at me and for the first time I see no coldness at all, just a friendly (did I just say that) guy who helped someone out. I want to find out what's behind the cold curtain very badly, but I think I have to be patient.

He turns around, gets his bike and leaves without saying one more word, but I think it already was a first step. For some odd reason I think Rukawa is actually looking for contact.

As I take my bike I notice something on the ground near to it. It's a bunch of keys. Rukawa must have lost it when he was doing my bike. I quickly jump on my bike and ride to the exit. I can barely see him in the distance. I don't think shouting will have much use, so I go after him.

"Damn, slow down already, will you?" I think as I pedal harder and harder. The wind blows harder through my hair as I increase speed. Finally, after a 10-minute race I see him slowing down and parking his bike. I look at the signs and see it's a hospital.

The only thing that I can think of is him suffering from a terrible injury that he didn't tell anyone of. I gasp and wipe the sweat drops from my forehead. I hesitate if I should follow him. After all, it's private business...

"But if he is indeed injured, the team should know... Anzai-sensei should know. If he's injured then he should not play like he does now," I startle, "how can someone playing like him be injured...? It doesn't make sense."

"Well, he might be just visiting someone, why haven't I thought of that?" I comfort myself. I'm sure I worry too much. And I walk to the entrance, but I can't find Rukawa anymore.

I have not much choice but waiting at the entrance. After half an hour I decide to try my luck inside anyway.

"Excuse me, about half an hour ago, a tall young man with long bangs walked in and..." I gesticulate a little, but feel embarrassed to try it out like this at the reception.

"You mean the basketball player?" the nurse tries.

In amazement I reply: "Yes, the basketball player."

"His name is Rukawa," the nurse explains, "It's been a while since a girl followed him down here to the hospital."

I raise an eyebrow. "It's not what you think. We are in the same school."

The nurse smiles: "So were the other ones." Did she just wink at me?

"I'm from the basketball team as well." My cold voice tries to clear it up and I finally show her my Shohoku wrist bands.

"Oh I see," the nurse clearly shows more respect now. "He is on the 5th floor, room 17."

I thank her and head to the fifth floor. So he *is* visiting someone.

At room 17 I pause. "Is this appropriate? Following him down and getting nosy into his business?" I peek round the corner and see six beds in the room, three on each side. Most of the beds are empty, only the one at the big window and the middle one on the other side are taken.

A woman is asleep in the bed at the window side and a girl is sitting up in the other bed trying to reach for a book next to her bed. Her long hair reaches her shoulders and her smooth face looks a bit tired. I notice the sports bag under her bed.

Footsteps stop right behind me and a cold voice asks: "What are you doing here?" His coldness could not entirely cover the amazement in his voice. I look back and see him standing there with two washed apples in his hand.

"Kaede," the girl speaks excited and the tiredness on her face makes place for a beautiful smile. Then I realize how pretty this girl is, "you didn't tell me you'd bring a friend. I could have tidied myself up a bit..." And she brushes her fingers through her hair.

Rukawa walks to the girl and hands her the book that she's been reaching out to. "Eat some fruit," while he gives her one of the apples.

I sigh and think: "Rukawa is cold to *everyone*..."

"She is from school, and basketball."

"Really?" the girls smiles at me, "I'm Kobayashi Shiori. Nice to meet you."

I walk closer and reach out my hand to her: "Mitsui Shizuri. Nice to meet you too."

Her handshake is firm but weak at the same time. I take a glance at Rukawa who eyes me to the hallway. We excuse ourselves and move outside.

"Why are you here?"

"You forgot these," and I show him the bunch of keys, slightly rattling it.

"Not mine..."

The embarrassment flows to my cheeks. I cannot believe I followed him all the way down here to return something that is not his. I try to cover up my shame and ask: "Who is she?"

I can't believe I did what I just did. How can I ask Rukawa such personal thing? To my greatest surprise this question breaks the ice and the cold rookie finally opens up to another person.

It probably takes him a lot of effort to break down a wall that he has built around him for such a long time.

"We attended junior high together," he starts, "we were in the same class."

"She's a fan of yours?" it was a very rhetorical question, because *every* girl is fan of Rukawa's...

"More than that," he replies.

~~ Sometimes you can't make it. The best you can do is to fake it. Sometimes you can't make it on your own. ~~

--> To Chapter 9.