Hurriedly, Makoto runs out of his room with his coat and bag in hand and down the stairs to the kitchen.
He swiftly grabs his lunch from the counter-top and rams a piece of plain toast in his mouth from the table.
Groaning inwardly, he turns around to face his parents who are both sat at the table, eating breakfast. They look at him, confused and expecting an explanation. "Sorry, morning Mom, Dad."
"Why in such a hurry, Makoto?" his mother asks.
Mako glances at his watch. "Well, I don't want to be late for the first day after winter break."
Mako's father laughs lightly.
"Makoto, we know you're a good student but in the history of every high schooler there's ever been, no one ever said they didn't want to be late for the first day back.
Why are you really in a rush?"
Scratching the back on his neck, Mako shrugs. "Well... I know for a fact that Haru won't be ready yet so I'm getting a head start. That way we won't be embarrassingly late this morning."
Running into the room, Mako's brother Ren and sister Ran grab onto his legs from under his coat and hug tight, making him slightly off balance.
He chuckles. "Hey, you guys, I'm sorry but I've got to head out for school."
"Mako!" they chorus and he pats their heads.
"Sorry guys, we'll do something when I'm home from school later. But for now, I need to go to Haru's place."
The two siblings look up adoringly at their older brother. "Promise?" Ran points a finger.
"Double promise?" Ren adds, a slight raise in his eyebrow.
Grinning at the two, he generously nods. "Of course, you have my word."
Satisfied, the twins let go of his legs and run to the table, ready to eat breakfast.
"Before you go Makoto, are you swimming with the boys after school today?" his dad asks, placing his coffee back down on the table and grabbing hold of the paper once more.
Makoto checks his bag over once more after placing his lunch inside and glancing up at his father.
"Not today, we're still waiting to see when Coach Sasabe is ready to open the doors to the pool. And even then, it'll be a few days before we can take a dip."
His mother chuckles. "I bet Haruka is excited."
"You can say that again," Makoto thinks about his best friend for a moment. "Well, whatever his excited is, then yeah."
The 8 am alarm on his mobile phone goes off and his eyes widen, zipping up his coat and slinging his bag on his shoulders.
"Right, I really do need to go now. I'll see you all later, have a good day!" Mako calls as he runs through the hallway.
"Bye, Mako!" the family chorus and he shuts the front door behind him.
Hastily, Makoto runs in the direction of Haru's house, past the other houses in the neighbourhood. He waves at the locals, wishing them a happy new year and past Haru's neighbour, Miss Tamura.
"Good morning, Miss Tamura!" He greets her.
Looking up from her plants, she gives him a warm smile. "Good morning, Makoto. Did you have a good winter break?"
He slows down slightly, not wanting to seem rude. "It was great thank you, but I've got to run. Happy new year to you!"
She waves goodbye, tending back to her garden.
Catching his breath slightly --noticing the cold in the air-- he rings Haru's doorbell a few times.
Expecting nothing else from his best friend, he searches under the small plant pot, grabbing the spare key and unlocking the door.
"Haru! You ready, man? I'm coming in." Makoto hears a slight splash of water as he walks down the hall and rolls his eyes. "Of course. You decent in there?"
Makoto walks into the bathroom after no reply to see Haru in the bath --like always-- and he shakes his head.
"What are you doing here? It's still early, right?" Haru asks in his usual way.
"Only by about 15 minutes, Haru. Come on, time for school. The last term of 12th grade as well, let's make it count.
" Mako offers out a hand for Haru to grab and he stands up in the bath, wearing his swimsuit like always. "Jeez, you sure you don't sleep in that thing?"
Brushing him off, Haru gets out, wrapping a towel around himself.
"Please hurry, man. I don't want to be late for homeroom and I certainly know that Miss A won't appreciate it." Mako stuffs his hands back into his pockets.
"Relax, Mako, I'll be ready," Haru says calmly. "I've just got to make my lunch."
Mako shakes his head slightly. Typical Haru, yet Mako always seems to be slightly surprised no matter what.
"Maybe you should start making your lunch the night before? That way it's not such a rush in the morning."
Shrugging, Haru puts an apron on. "Not my style."
"Well, you always know what you're going to have, am I right? Mackerel and rice?" Makoto grins.
To Mako's surprise, Haru takes out two slices of bread from the cabinet.
"A mackerel sandwich? That's new."
Haru looks at him, slightly confused. "No, I need to eat some breakfast as well."
Unable to contain himself anymore, Mako places his head in his hands in despair. "Haru!"
Finally making it to school, the two friends slide into their seats for homeroom just as the bell rings and Makoto lets out a sigh of relief. "We made it." He whispers to himself.
"Good morning class and a happy new year! I hope you all had a good winter break but remember, this is the last push before the school year is done and you leave these halls behind.
This will all be a distant memory soon, so make this year a good one!" Miss Amakata stands at the front of the class.
A wave of quiet groans are heard from the students and Miss Amakata chooses to ignore them all. Continuing with her, supposedly, inspirational speech, she places a finger in the air.
"I believe it was T.S. Eliot that said it best; "For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.
" So, in other words, have a great year everyone and find your own voice to project your dreams!"
Clearly not being appreciated enough by the 17 and 18-year-olds in her homeroom class, they all return to their various groups and carry on conversations.
Quietly sighing to herself, Miss Amakata continues to mark exam papers.
Makoto turns to Haru at the desk next to him. "You know, I can't help but feel kind of bad for Miss A. She's got all those motivational quotes ready at hand and they're just being wasted."
Haru's shoulders raise slightly at Mako's comment, signalling to him what would be considered a laugh before Haru turns back to look out the window.
Shrugging nonchalantly, Makoto straightens his tie as the bell rings. The third-year students all gather up their things, leaving homeroom to walk to their first period.
With Haru trailing behind Mako, the two walk along the corridor in the crowd of people, like a school of fish in a reef.
"Chemistry this morning, Haru?" Mako asks Haru over his shoulder. Haru mumbles a reply to his best friend. "Right, I've got Biology."
"Sorry, excuse me, sorry!"
Mako looks round and a mane of pink, salmon coloured hair brushes against him and the girl runs forward, clutching a folder.
In her rush to get past people, a piece of paper flies out and hits Mako flat on his chest.
He takes it off himself and examines it slightly. To his surprise, it reads 'Nocturne Op. 9 No.2 by Frederic Chopin' with what appears to be piano sheet music.
"Hmm." he raises an eyebrow as he inspects it further, along with the pencil markings along the sides. "E-flat Major?" Mako reads carefully.
"What's that you're looking at?" Haru glances over his friend's shoulder and he shows it to Haru for a closer look. "What is it?"
Mako shrugs. "I'm not too sure. I know it's piano music from my Mom's pieces she has lying around the house. But I don't know who they belong to."
The two stop in front of two classrooms, one Biology, the other Chemistry.
"Well, I'll keep it with me for now, someone's probably looking for it. Have fun in Chemistry, Haru." Mako chuckles as Haru sighs, waving a hand to his friend and walking into Chemistry.
Taking one last look at the piece of music, Mako notices another note written at the top, this time not in pencil but a red pen.
'LEARN BY MARCH 30TH'.