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Mar 22, 2018 - 12:40 PM

Who I Am (10) ~ My Name

As I step on my bike I recall the scene in the bathroom. His words echo in my head and I wipe the tears from my face before I reach the hospital, where Rukawa is already waiting for me.

"Sorry, I'm late," I apologize.

Rukawa doesn't answer and enters the hospital. In the elevator he suddenly asks: "Are you okay?"

I look at him amazed and reply: "Sure I'm okay. How so?"

The silence was not broken until we reach room number 17. Shiori silently watches us entering. She looks tired...

We put our bags on the ground and I smile at her. "How are you feeling today?"

She doesn't answer.

Rukawa looks at me and finally says: "I'll be right back."

After he left the room I try again: "Shiori, you haven't spoken a word since yesterday. We are worried about you."

I sit next to her on the bed and hold her hand tight. "You have to hold on. Don't give up."

A tear rolls down her face and drips on my hand. Her trembling voice finally speaks: "I'm so tired. I don't want to go on."

I feel tears burning in my eyes and before I can say a word, she continues: "But I know I will miss Kaede..."

"Then you must hold on."

"I hate to have him seeing me like this. Look at me, there is barely any weight left on me. And these bruises..." Big tears roll down her cheeks.

Then Rukawa steps in the room with a yellow daisy flower in his hand. I stand up and make room for him. Shiori looks up at him while he puts the flower in her hair. He has not spoken a word but he has calmed her down entirely. She smiles at him.

"You're beautiful." He whispers.

She smiles even more while tears flow over her cheeks. She wraps her arms around his waist and buries her face in his white t-shirt.

I silently walk away with a bitter smile on my face. Rukawa nods at me. "See you at school," I whisper.

I decide to go to the beach to freshen up before school. I still have a bit time. I can't wait to feel the sea breezes in my face.

As I reach the beach and see the familiar peer, I remember the Genius and his great charisma.

"It's Thursday. He won't be around," I sigh in relief. I take off my shoes and socks and walk into the sea, carefully keeping my uniform skirt dry.

The breezes whisper in my ear "It's none of my business..." I look over the water and still hear an echo in the wind: "It's your freedom to see anyone you want..."

When I think of Shiori my heart aches. She is struggling and fighting so hard but it's getting difficult for all of us to keep having faith that a miracle will occur to her. There's so much she still wants to do and to see.

She told me that her new dream is Shohoku winning the IH tournament. I giggled at it because it was of course just Rukawa's dream that she shared. And she wants to witness it so badly... She hasn't seen him playing for a long time.

I hear a voice and I cannot recognize it. What voice is this in the wind?

"Hey, girl without a name!"

I turn around to see the tall Ryonan ace standing at the shores. He's wearing his dark school uniform and he looks stunning. I feel a blush coming up and try to suppress it.

"You?" I try with my coldest voice.

"Did you bring it?"

I have not forgotten about that jersey, but I haven't had enough courage yet to meet him again. "Bring what?" My heart pounds heavily.

He smiles at me and I recognize the remarkable laid-back glance in his eyes. "Such a flirt..." I think, but at the same time it feels so warm and I can do nothing but love it.

"It's okay. You'll remember it." He winks.

"Going to school?"

He looks at his uniform. "Yeah," he replies, "but not really in the mood. So I thought of taking a walk on the beach."

I look at him without saying a word. He indeed has the perfect body gesture for basketball. Then I frown, because he also has the perfect features to be the biggest womanizer.

"I didn't think I'd meet you here." I would love to believe that his words, the kindness and his sweet smile were all true.

I look at my watch and notice it's about time to leave, but on the other hand I really want to stay here and have a conversation with this irresistible guy.

"Do you need to go again? Am I really that scary?" He raises his eyebrow.

"No you're not. And you know it." I coldly reply and walk back to the beach in his direction.

I walk past him and sit down in the powdery sand as different thoughts cross my mind. I just hope that my mind will slow down as Rukawa, Shiori and brother cross my mind in looping flashes.

He sits next to me at a 'safe' distance. "Why do you have so many worries every time I see you?"

I look aside and wonder if I'm really such an open book. "Everyone has worries."

He sighs and for the first time I see a bit of sadness on his worriless face. "Well, everyone thinks I have no worries. But to tell you the truth, all the expectations, I'm feeling a little pressure lately."

"A 'little' pressure..." My brother told me that Sendoh has become the new team captain due to retirement of the former captain. Expectations on a captain have always been high in every team, but the pressure on Sendoh must be even greater because he is considered the Genius.

"Sometimes I wish I was somewhere no one knows me, somewhere no one has ever heard of my name, somewhere even the streets have no name... You know, just for a day, to breathe." The usual calmness in his voice has disappeared. He takes a quick glance at me and smiles his worried face away. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be this way."

"It's ok. I think I understand." I wonder why I'm so cold to him, while I'm not a cold person at all. Why is it so difficult to be nice to this great guy?

"You're not from my school," as he points at my uniform, "but I knew that. If you attended Ryonan I wouldn't be able to miss you out."

He responds to my silence: "You know, you're almost the coldest person I've met. Did you notice that you haven't smiled at me once?"

"Not everyone needs to like you Sendoh-san."

"You mean you dislike me?" I don't dare to look at his face whether he's faking the disappointment in his voice and I just stare at the sea.

"I didn't say that."

"Good," he smiles, "you know, there's probably only one person in Japan who's colder than you. Great basketball player though... Are you interested in basketball at all?"

I suppress my inner smile. "Sure."

"You're just like him. He's ever cold, until you mention basketball. You should have heard about him if you love basketball: Rukawa Kaede." Sendoh explains, "He's one of the best opponents that I've faced. I'm still thrilled when I think of our one-on-ones."

Rukawa never said but I think he has the same feeling about the Genius as the Genius has for him: deep respect for a strong opponent.

"I've seen him playing."

"Have you seen me playing?" I hear the smile in his calm voice.

I secretly hope that he doesn't flirt with other girls, but I doubt it. As I said, he has the perfect features to be a womanizer.

"I have. That last game you lost." Oh my god, why did I say that?! Stupid, stupid Mitsui Shizuri! Why the hell did you say that to him?

I carefully look at the expression on his face hoping he would not be mad. I'm surprised to see a kind of satisfied smile.

He sighs: "I would be lying if I told you that I'm not disappointed. Of course I wanted my team to enter the IH tournament, but what can I say, we lost. Shohoku is a strong team and we could not defeat them. It's quite simple actually..."

Despite his broad minded words I read the disappointment in his eyes. I feel stupid for bringing this up and softly speak: "I'm sorry."

The disappointment fades into amazement when he looks at me. He then calmly says: "Don't. Because I'm not."

Finally, I get to experience the great spirit of the Genius. My brother told me a lot about him, because he too has true respect for great players and I can tell you brother doesn't show respect to many players.

I smile without really realizing. And his big smile back at me almost makes me blush. "Finally. I finally see your smile."

In embarrassment I stroke my hair so that he cannot see my face well. I peek between my fingers at him and see he's looking at me. A warm feeling fills the void in me that I've felt for years.

"Did you know that you've got basketball hands?" he paused and quickly adds: "Please take that as a compliment."

I look at my hands and ask: "How so?"

"It's hard to explain," he smiles, "but it's the elegant strength in your fingers I guess. Do you play basketball?"

"Once in a while. But I'm not very gifted." The words of my brother sound somewhere in my head though: "Shizuri, you're gifted..."

"I can teach you if you want," he offers, "anything you want to learn. Well, except for the dunk shot. That might me a little hard for your height."

Every time the ace player offers me something I automatically want to decline it, before I've actually thought it through. Why am I so reluctant to him, while in my heart I want to know him?

"My brother plays basketball. He's already taught me a lot of things. He's the best shooter of Kanagawa."

I slowly put on my socks and shoes and then get on my feet, while the spiky haired ace just silently looked at my movements. I tap the sand from my schoolbag and say to him: "I have to go."

"Are you ever gonna tell me your name?"

I try hard not to drown in his beautiful pair of pools of unpredictable depths. It's said that eyes are the windows of one's soul. I want to look right into his soul now to know whether he's really a flirt to every girl.

"Mitsui Shizuri." I'm sure he will recognize this name.

~~ I'll show you a place, high on the desert plain. Where the streets have no name. ~~

--> To Chapter 11.