By the time that I made it outside of the school building and completed the journey to the soccer field, where we held our meetings, most of the members had already arrived. Laying down wherever they could find room, they dominated the field, covering the entire area in blankets, pillows, bags, and whatever else they had decided to bring with them.
Natalie, the girl who had come to notify me of the meeting, as well as the treasurer of the Cloud watching club, led the way, her knotted hair bouncing up and down as she stepped over the bodies of students, filling me in on the details of the meeting as we went.
“Sorry we didn’t let you know earlier,” she was saying, turning back to face me with a smile, nearly stepping on the torso of a freshman. “Masako got the idea this morning, and we were so busy notifying all of the other members, we nearly forgot to tell you.”
“That’s fine,” I said, dodging a group of kids playing dice. I surveyed the field, scanning the faces of those in attendance. “It looks like you got almost everybody here. Good job.”
“Nah, it was easy.” She shrugged. “All we really had to do was say ‘Club Meeting’ and everyone came running.”
“Well, thanks, either way,” I said, taking another look around the soccer field.
No matter where you looked, there were students, taking part in about as many activities you could imagine–playing games, reading books, meditating, drawing, or even just talking with one or another. I noted, with a smile, that the majority of people in the cloud watching club, with the possible exception of me and the other leaders, didn’t look up at the sky once during the meetings.
But, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the end, everybody in the club has fun, even if it isn’t expressly through watching clouds, as the name would imply. Actually, if I had to pinpoint the exact reason for the staggering popularity of the club, that would probably be it, even if Cat doesn’t think so.
After a bit more wading through club members, conversing lightly with a few along the way, Natalie and I made it to the front of the court, next to the net, which served as the unofficial meeting place for the leaders of the club. Immediately, Natalie sat down on the ground, leaning against the chipped white pole of the soccer net, and I sat next to her, stretching my legs out and leaning back.
As expected, the other two members of the club office were already there.
Masako, vice president, had laid out a fleece blanket and a pillow, and was lying down, staring at the clouds with a heavy-lidded gaze. Strands of her hair–a dark black tinged with so small an amount of purple that I couldn’t tell whether or not it was dyed–flew out in all directions, but she didn’t seem to mind, taking deep, rhythmic breaths and never looking away from the blue expanse above her.
Meanwhile, Jay, an excitable freshman who had worked his way up to secretary through pure passion for the club, sat on the opposite side of Natalie. As soon as she and I had settled in, he produced two bottles of water–from where I don’t know–and handed them to us with a lopsided smile.
“Nice to see you, prez,” he said, looking at me with eyes as blue as the sky above us. Then, almost as an afterthought, he glanced at Natalie. “Oh, you too, I guess.”
Her response was to give him a mostly-friendly shove on the arm, sending him rocking to the side, his grin wider than ever.
“Save the kissing-up for later,” she said. “We’ve got to discuss our plans for the meeting.”
“Plans?” Jay asked, picking blades of grass from his golden hair. “Isn’t this just a normal meeting?”
“Not exactly,” I said. Natalie had filled me in on the way there, and I had a rough idea of the plans she and Masako had come up with in the morning, which I figured I would let Jay in on. “Today’s the last meeting of the year, so it’s kind of special. We’ve got quite a few senior members, and we want to thank them for the years they’ve devoted to the club.”
“Oh, I get it,” Jay’s eyes lit up, and he nodded quickly. ‘What’s the plan, then? Are we gonna throw them a party?”
“No party,” Natalie said, taking control of the conversation and extinguishing the fire in Jay’s eyes before it was too late. “We don’t have enough time for that. We’re just going to have them stay after the meeting and thank them in person.”
He folded his arms and turned his attention to the sky once again, as if he were slipping into deep thought. Natalie, however, had other plans.
“Hey,” she said, tapping him on the forehead and diverting his attention from the clouds. “That doesn’t mean there’s nothing for us to do. Me and you still actually have to tell the seniors to stay after the meeting. Come on.”
With that, she stood, and motioned for Jay to follow. Almost immediately, the light returned to his eyes, and he sprung to his feet, ready for action. A moment later, they were gone, wading through the crowd and looking for as many seniors as they could find.
“They’re going to make good leaders once we’re gone, don’t you think?”
Masako addressed me from the ground, her voice quiet and dreamlike. She was focusing her gaze on a large group of clouds near the sun, their rounded edges seared pure white, and I trained my eyes in the same direction.
“Hey, we’re not dead yet,” I said, feeling that it wasn’t necessary to address her question–we both knew the answer already. “We’ve still got another year.”
“I’m not sure about that. A high-stress environment such as this one advances the aging process, and could very well lead us both into early retirement. Just look at the damage it’s already done to your hair.”
Had anyone else been listening, they probably would have thought she was serious–especially taking into account that neither her facial expression nor tone of voice had changed in the slightest–but I knew better.
After all, along with being the only other original member not yet graduated, Masako had been the first person I’d approached about forming the cloud watching club, and had helped me with every step of its formation. You don’t go through something like that without getting to know a person pretty well.
“Well, no one ever said being President and Vice-president was easy,” I shrugged, fingering a strand of hair and deciding that, unlike with Cat, it wasn’t worth making a big deal about her joke. “But, I think you and I will be able to last until graduation, even so.”
Rather than respond, she simply gave me a double thumbs-up, before letting her arms drop and turning her dark eyes to a section of promising cirrocumulus clouds in the distance.
One more time, I looked out over the club members, making sure that everyone was comfortable and that there were no more issues to be addressed. Aside from a small conflict over what constituted proper board-game etiquette, and someone playing their music too loud–was that Chopin?–everything seemed fine, and I laid down on my back to finally take part in club activities.
And, just before I did, although I’m sure she imagined I couldn’t see her, I noticed a flash of red on the opposite end of the field, appearing for just a moment before ducking behind a storage shed. With a small smile, I placed my hands behind my head, and searched the sky.
The club meeting ended nearly an hour later, with most members drifting off slowly with promises of meeting up over the summer or seeing each other next term. The seniors–about thirty of them, all rounded up by Natalie and Jay–now stood in front of us, looking only slightly confused and muttering to each other occasionally.
Although speaking to one person is usually a struggle for me, let alone speaking to nearly three dozen, I pushed my hesitation down. Masako, Natalie, and Jay stood at my side, and I thanked the group of seniors for staying with the club as long as they did, my voice only shaking slightly.
It went by quicker than I expected and, after a few short conversations and promises to keep in touch, the seniors were gone, leaving me and the others alone. For a moment, none of us spoke, each of us glancing at the sky while thinking of what to say.
Eventually, Natalie broke us out of our trance.
“Well, I’m going to go get my stuff together,” she said, pointing behind her. “It’s been a great year, everyone. I’ll see you in a few weeks.”
“I’m going to head off, too,” Jay said, his voice quiet and his eyes slightly damp. Although he had tried to hide it, the farewell to the seniors had taken its toll. Then, as if someone had flipped a switch in his head, his eyes lit up, all former sadness seemingly forgotten. “Oh, and I’ll be sure to text you all about hanging out, like we talked about last meeting.”
“Alright, that sounds like a good idea,” I said, putting my hand in my pockets. “Thanks for all of your help so far.”
“No problem,” they said in unison, a fact which sent Jay into what I can only describe as a fit of laughter. Natalie, on the other hand, didn’t seem so amused.
Then, just like that, they were off, walking towards the school building and waving farewell. Masako and I waved back and, with a final call of “Don’t be afraid to call!” from Jay, they disappeared.
Masako and I waited for a moment, wordless, but in the end I decided to take the initiative.
“So, I guess I’ll see you next year?”
“Hmm, yeah,” she said with a small roll of her shoulders. “But, from what Jay said, we might see each other sooner than that.”
“Oh, right,” I said, thinking of what it would be like to meet up with them outside of school. “He sounds pretty excited about it, huh?”
“Yeah, he does,” she agreed. “But, I guess I get it. It does sound like fun to hang out without having to deal with managing the club, for once.”
“Well, I’m going to go.” Masako changed gears in an instant, and I wondered briefly what her internal thought process must look like. She stretched her arms out over her head, before bringing a hand down and patting me on the cheek twice. “See ya later, Asher.”
It took me a moment to respond, as I was still trying to figure out what the whole cheek thing had been about, but I was eventually able to manage a simple “Bye.”
After Masako made her exit, almost as if on cue, Cat burst forth from behind the shed, red locks flying as she ran towards me. Miller and Ayame, after a moment of hesitation, followed in her lead.
“That looked really boring,” she said as soon as she reached me, not even taking the time to make the reveal that she had been watching me which, of course, I had already figured out. “You all just layed around the entire time.”
“That’s what we told you when we got here,” Miller said, approaching from behind her, his hands in his pockets. “It is the cloud watching club.”
“Yeah, but even I didn’t expect cloud watching to take so long,” she said. “It just made me think about all of the fun things you can do during that time.”
I was ready to explain to her that people’s interests differ, and that, while she may not enjoy it, a lot of us had fun at the meetings, but she never gave me the chance. Apparently, her last comment had led her to some sort of revelation, and she had turned her attention to the sky, holding a finger up as if directing our attention to it.
“Hold on,” she said. “I have an idea.”
“What’s that?” Ayame asked, her eyes bright in the newly-revealed sun, just barely poking its way out from behind the clouds.
“The beach,” Cat said, as if that explained everything. Then, realizing that none of us understood what she meant, she elaborated, “We can’t let our summer be boring. We should go to the beach, as soon as possible.”
“Oh, that sounds fun,” Ayame said, nodding her head. “I haven’t been to the beach in years.”
“Me either,” Miller agreed. “That would be nice, especially with how hot it’s getting.”
“Mmhmm.” Cat nodded, hands on her hips, smiling proudly at her suggestion. She faced me. “What do you think, Asher?”
For a brief second, I thought about her idea, but it didn’t take long for me to come up with an answer. After all, if everyone else was into the idea and wanted to go, there wasn’t much of a reason for me not to be.
“Sure, that sounds good.”
“Alright! I’ll make the plans tonight, then,” Cat said, throwing her hands in the air and twirling around on her heels. She took a few steps forward, before turning back around to face Miller, Ayame and me, her eyes twinkling. “I have a feeling this summer is going to be the best one yet!”