Chapter 26 – Okay, Now Come Here (1)
The fingers that brushed against her cheek slowly withdrew. The moon, which had completely escaped the shadow of the clouds, cast a white light into the dark room.
Louise slowly blinked and looked at the blue eyes looking straight at her. His gaze was heavy and filled with some complex emotion. Whatever he was feeling, it had to be broken. Ian and Louise. The only thing that could exist between the two of them was friendship.
Louise smiled casually and shrugged her shoulders. It was a simple matter to break the tension between the two.
“Were you worried?”
This was what they did. She would ask a slightly embarrassing question, then he would say something that would provoke her. Louise Sweeney had the vitality of an insect, so there was no need for him to be worried.
He didn’t say anything for a moment. Then with his heavy expression unchanged he answered,
And he added,
“I was worried about you, Louise Sweeney.”
Louise’s strained smile faded away.
“I thought you were crying.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“You’re too forgiving, my fiancée.”
Louise frowned. Ian’s use of that title was not a mistake. Perhaps it was revenge for not being allowed to talk about the engagement earlier that day.
“I don’t understand.”
“When I was a child I relied on you.”
He was talking about the days after his mother’s death.
“You were more mature when you were younger. You knew that a boy who had just lost his mother had to be treated normally. You acted quite fiercely towards more.”
“I was just annoyed by you.”
Louise smiled awkwardly. It was true to some extent.
“And now I’m someone you can rely on.”
“And the Sweeney family makes use of everything they can.”
“Listen, Louise. I’m not going to go back on your offer, I was just…”
He took a shuddering breath.
“I was just angry.”
“…That I didn’t rely on you?”
“I didn’t know you’d be disappointed about that,”
Louise answered doubtfully, and Ian’s eyes lowered for the first time.
“That’s unfortunate. If you don’t use me, I don’t feel comfortable using you either.”
“That’s a good thing.”
Louise laughed sheepishly.
“You won’t be able to take advantage of me anymore.”
Ian lifted up a hand as if he were taking an oath.
“I’ll never use Louise Sweeney too much.”
“…How much of me were you planning to use here?”
“To save on labor, I’ll stop relying on the president too.”
“And I’ve been meaning to ask. What’s going on with that title?”
“Yes, that horrible word. It’s the only thing you call me.”
“But you are the president.”
Ian had nothing to say to that and instead sighed a little.
Why else did people have names? It was to be called by them…
If he had known the title was the only thing he was going to be called by, then he would have reconsidered his position as student council president.
“Okay, now come here.”
Ian stood in front of Louise and extended a hand. Louise looked alternately between it and his face. Come here, why?
“I’ll prove to you that I’m a great ballroom dance teacher.”
“’Come here’ was your way of asking for a dance?”
“Geez, that’s how you’re asking me…!”
“What’s wrong? At least I didn’t ruffle your hair.”
He reached out with his hand again. Seriously, why did he mention that useless memory! Louise stared at his sleeve and suddenly remembered something.
“I have a favor to ask of you.”
“You’re finally going to rely on me. Alright, say it. “
“Later, if you see my mother during vacation, can you tell her that I danced really well at the Academy?”
“I’ll tell her you danced beautifully. “
He was willing to tell the story. Louise hesitantly reached out her hand. The tip of her fingers touched his palm, then their hands slid perfectly into each others. A strong force pulled her up from the bench and she wobbled a little before a secure hand on her waist steadied her. The distance between them quickly narrowed.
Why was it so awkward? Louise couldn’t meet his eyes and instead simply stared at the fabric of his suit in front of her.
“Music…there isn’t any…”
she said to break the tension.
“Even without music, there’s still Louise Sweeney here with the plants.”
So there was.
“But if you say you need music, I could sing for you.”
He hummed slow song before Louise could say anything else. It had been their main practice song, and when she was young she had been sick and tired of hearing it over and over again. He started at the introduction, and the entire piece seemed to come back in Louise’s memory. Maybe it was the same for Ian.
His right foot backed away while Louise’s left foot stepped forward. After sharing the tension between the center of gravity and their hands, their rhythm eventually became more natural.
Louise finally raised her head and their eyes met right away. She smiled when she saw his gaze was on her. It was the normal Ian.
Louise took a step back and Ian stepped forward in turn.
“How did you know?”
He did not immediately ask what she meant. After a moment in thought, he replied slowly.
“There were two options.”
He seemed to have grasped the meaning of Louise’s question by the natural flow of conversation.
“I thought you would be in the dormitory or the library.”
“But we’re in a greenhouse?”
Louise was staring off at some plant in the background. Ian drew her attention by briefly pulling her small body towards him, closing the gap between their bodies before it widened back to its normal distance.
“I ran into my cousin. In the dormitory.”
Ian frowned when he heard Simon’s name on her lips. Why was he referred to as the president while Simon got to be Simon? He was the same friend.
“Yes, Simon Hillard.”
Louise nodded, now understanding how Ian had found her in the greenhouse.
“Simon told you, didn’t he?”
“Yes. He said he introduced you here.”
“To my heart’s delight.”
“I wish you would give the same assessment to your ballroom dancing teacher.”
Louise pretended to think for a moment. Ian had been leading the dance in an unusually gentle and friendly manner tonight, unlike their during childhood when he sometimes had a temper that he shook Louise recklessly.
“If you’d been like this before, I would have made that assessment.”
“Louise Sweeney, there’s something you have to understand. Boys are mean when they’re embarrassed.”
“You were embarrassed?”
“Yes. Have you ever thought about how much courage it takes for a boy to hold a girl’s waist at that age?”
It must be difficult for a man or a boy to do such a thing, even more so if the boy was passing puberty. The mean way Ian used to lead the dance before made some sense now. It was almost cute.
After a small giggle, Louise humorously raised him another question.
“Are you embarrassed now?”
“…I don’t know,”
was his vague reply, but his expression looked nothing like embarrassment. What should she say? He seemed to be enjoying the situation.
“I’ve always wanted to be. Even now.”
The conversation fell quiet again, and the only sound was of Louise’s low-heeled shoes stepping on dirt and gravel. Ian’s footsteps somehow didn’t make any noise. Was that evidence he had precise control over his whole body? She had to admit that he was a good dance teacher.
Louise’s shoes made a noise again. Her feet had even kicked up a little gravel. As if the sound were some kind of signal they stopped dancing.
They did not say anything to each other and his hands remained on her body. Louise glanced down at the tip of her shoes for a moment then looked up. At that moment the moon disappeared behind the clouds and she could not see anything beyond the lost light.
He spoke after a while, as if he was waiting for her to empty her senses. The sound of his voice after the silence made her feel like she was being swallowed up by its vibrations.
She was afraid. She knew that if she got used to it, she wouldn’t be able to step away. Louise shivered instinctively. She tried to take a step back from him without realizing it, but Ian’s grip tightened on her instead, refusing to let her go.
“A little longer…”
she heard him murmur, but it was only for a moment. Soon his hands relaxed, and he did not close the distance between them. The last connection with their hands fell away, and Louise’s fingertips were left holding on to the dark.