The next morning.
“Ryuuto, it’s morning~!”
I could hear Shirakawa-san’s voice from afar.
The sound of the door being opened, and light footsteps entering the room. The sound of the curtain being opened.
A dream, huh.
Today’s dream really is a quite good dream.
A dream like this… where me and Shirakawa-san could live under the same roof.
Under the same roof!?!
“Ryuuto! How long are you gonna sleep?”
When I rose up from the futon, there was a close-up face of Shirakawa-san in front of my eyes.
The distance was so close we could even kiss, and my waking heart felt like it’s going to stop beating.
Big eyes… cute…
Perhaps as a result of just waking up, my brain has lost lots of vocabulary.
Apparently, Shirakawa-san had just gone down on her knees and peered at me, trying to wake me up.
Shirakawa-san’s cheeks blushed, and she hurriedly turned her face away.
“Ryuuto, it’s morning…?”
Still with a hint of agitation, she told me while sending me glances.
When I looked at my phone near the pillow, it was already seven o’clock. If it’s a summer vacation with no plans, it’s a time where I’d go back to sleep, but today was different.
Starting today, I’d be helping out at Mao-san’s beach house with Shirakawa-san. For being taken care of, I volunteered to help in any way I could. So the three of us would then leave in Mao-san’s car for the opening time at nine o’clock.
Shirakawa-san was in a t-shirt and shorpants, which looked more casual than usual. When I looked closely, I could see a swimsuit’s string peeking out from the collar of the t-shirt, so it seemed she’s wearing it underneath.
“Let’s quickly go downstairs! Breakfast is ready”
Then I followed Shirakawa-san downstairs, who said that to me.
When I got to the first floor, breakfast was already lined up on the table in the living room, which was also a dining room.
“Ah, excuse me…”
Feeling apologetic, I went to the kitchen and found Mao-san preparing rice into everyone’s bowl.
“Morning~! Did you sleep well?”
Yesterday afterwards, Sayo-san ordered a home delivery sushi from her acquaintance’s store, saying “Since we have a guest”. The welcome party was prolonged over delicious fresh sushi, and it was around 11 PM that I lay down on the futon in an available room on the second floor, where I was guided to. When I looked back at the day where too much was going on, I had a hard time falling asleep and couldn’t wake up to the alarm, thus leading to the present.
“Good morning, Ryuu-kun”
And Sayo-san appeared from the bathroom. Looks like she was doing laundry.
“Good morning. I’m sorry I couldn’t help preparing breakfast….”
“It’s fine. It’s just leftovers put together anyway. And the miso soup was made by Ruu-chan, you know”
When I looked back behind me at Shirakawa-san, and “Ehehe” she laughed.
“Ruu-chan is usually a late riser, though. But because Ryuu-kun is here today, ‘I wanna do something, too’, she said”
Shirakawa-san turned red, and raised her voice.
Shirakawa-san, you made miso soup for me…
That thought made me smile a little.
“Granny Sayo is lively and a good cook, so when I was little she spoiled me by making me specialize in carrying plates. But she’s already 90 after all, so I wanna do what I can, too”
Saying it as if making excuses, Shirakawa-san fanned her red cheeks with her hand.
She showed her affection frankly when we were alone, but apparently, it’s embarrassing for her if her relatives found out about her devotion.
And then, the four of us sat around the square table and ate breakfast.
The side dishes were simple, such as Sayo-san’s handmade pickles, dried fish, and nattou, however, at home I’d finish breakfast with cereal or bread so this was fresh for me.
What Shirakawa-san made was turnip and seaweed miso soup. There’s unevenness in the thickness of the turnips, and I needed to put more power to chew the thicker ones, but that was also somehow lovely.
“…How is it?”
As I was drinking the miso soup, Shirakawa-san asked from next to me. Her face looked slightly anxious.
“Yeah, it’s delicious”
Shirakawa-san smiled when I replied.
That relieved smile on her face was as dazzling as the morning sun.
Today too, the light of the summer sun was pouring down on the beach.
“I want to borrow a locker”
“Yes! It’s 1.000 yen per person with a warm shower”
Perhaps because she’s been helping out for two weeks, Shirakawa-san handled the customers coming to “LUNA MARINE” beach house in an experienced manner. As I watched her with a sidelong glance, I was working at my leisure, wiping the table and repositioning the disposable chopstick holder.
Many customers came to change clothes in the morning, but once it became noon, the number of customers buying food multiplied, and gradually the seats inside the store were filled up.
When it died down, nearing two o’clock, we were called out by Mao-san.
“I’m gonna stock up and check up on granny for a bit, so can you look after the store for me?”
“Yep, of course! Take care~”
“Go get some rest you two~. And eat anything you like if you’re hungry”
Shirakawa-san replied, and I, too, saw him off with a nod.
“Ryuuto, you can have lunch first. I had an ice cream in the back earlier”
“Are you sure? Thanks”
With Shirakawa-san’s consideration, I started eating takoyaki at the corner of the tatami mat room alone.
That’s when it happened.
“She’s here again today”
The voice of playboy men startled me, and I looked towards the entrance of the store.
Two young men with sagging swimsuits and skin, which, if it was a toast, was far from well-cooked but to the point of overcooked, walked in and gave Shirakawa-san a nasty smile.
Somehow, Shirakawa-san’s smile also turned stiff.
“Runa-chan, are you alone now?”
“You’re also super cute today. Where do you live? Close by?”
With a “Ahaha~” and a smile, Shirakawa-san tried to fend off the barrage of questions from the men. She sent a glance towards me, and I felt an SOS from it.
Of course I want to help Shirakawa-san. But…
Scary! They look older too, and outright cheery young people type, or rowdy even, and the type of people I’m not good with the most.
While I was still hesitating, those two were persistently trying to talk to Shirakawa-san.
“Whom you like to give a shot1, me or this guy?”
“A shot! It’s just a giving us a shot”
Perhaps they’ve been drinking, but those two didn’t read the mood, and started coming on to her in high tension.
“By the way, this guy is a super quickshot”
“Nuh-uh, but I’m super huge”
This is awful. It’s blatant dirty talk.
As expected, Shirakawa-san’s face even looked troubled. When I saw it, something sparked within me.
When I got up from the tatami mat, the men got startled and looked at me. Apparently, they didn’t notice my presence.
“Wou… would you like to borrow a locker? Or is it for a meal?”
It’s my own style of saying “Get out if you don’t have any business here”.
And then, as if to hide their awkwardness, the men grinned and looked at each other.
“Are you a part-timer-kun? We’re not customers”
“We’ll come back again, okay, Runa-chan”
Then they turned on their heels, and left the store, however…
“…By the way”
One of them started to talk to Shirakawa-san again.
“Just asking though. part-timer-kun, me, and this guy, who has a shot?”
Why am I included…
Perhaps to harass me, or make fun of me, the men were looking at me while grinning.
Just ignore these fools already. It was then, when I had that thought in my mind and pursed my lips.
Shirakawa-san flatly answered them.
“And he’s my boyfriend”
With raised brows and corners of her eyes, she glared at the men.
This was the first time I saw Shirakawa-san’s seriously angry face.
The men’s faces looked taken aback.
“Eh, you’re into that type?”
Then with dampened faces, they left the store this time.
“I wonder if there’s a cute girl somewhere”
Perhaps out of awkwardness being turned down, the men made loud and deliberate voices to each other, then disappeared.
“…Shirakawa-san, are you okay?”
I immediately checked on Shirakawa-san.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help you before they said anything weird…”
Shirakawa-san shook her head.
“Me too, I’m sorry for dragging in Ryuuto. They’re customers who have been coming often since last week. They said they’re university students from around here”
“Are they always coming on to you like that?”
“No, it’s the first time. I think it’s because Mao-kun isn’t here”
I see. Certainly, if there’s a good-looking adult like Mao-san keeping watch, I’m sure they couldn’t come on to her so confidently like that. It’s vexing that they looked down on me because it’s me though, but when I recall the words Shirakawa-san said earlier, my cheeks slacken.
──Him. And he’s my boyfriend.
She confidently said that even in front of those cheery people. That makes me happy.
Is it fine that I’m the boyfriend?
Little by little… though, just little by little, I’ve come to be able to believe so.
“….You know, I was just thinking”
Suddenly, Shirakawa-san started to talk with a difficult look.
“The ones who approach me are always those kinds of guys. Why is that?”
Talking as if asking herself, she crossed her arms.
“My ex-boyfriends were pretty much the same way, and if I had to say it, Mao-kun is also that type, right? Previously I wasn’t really thinking about it, though… But I’ve been talking to Ryuuto a lot recently, so I felt really uncomfortable”
I motionlessly stared at her talking.
“Shirakawa-san, don’t you like that type of person?”
Well, the one just now was a little too awful but even now, I can’t get rid of the feeling that if you’re not a highly spirited, good-looking cheery guy, you won’t be worthy of standing next to a beauty of a gal like Shirakawa-san.
“Eh? Not at all”
Shirakawa-san quickly replied.
“Actually, I don’t really have a type or anything. There are entertainers I think are cool on TV, but love is about communication, right? I also can’t start dating unless the person likes me”
Even if it’s still girls, there are all sorts of love patterns, huh. There are types like Shirakawa-san, who basically wants to date someone who confessed to her, wants to get to know each other from there and fall in love, or a type like Kurose-san, who seems to have the feelings growing inside them.
“That means, that person you fall for is your type… is it different from that?”
When I asked, Shirakawa-san looked at the ceiling with a complicated face.
After thinking for a while, she looked slightly bashful.
“…Maybe. Maybe, someone like Ryuuto is my type…”
She muttered in a small voice, and stared at me.
“Anyway, I love Ryuuto”
Shirakawa-san with blushing cheeks and a smile is so cute.
I got flustered so much I unconsciously pressed down on my heart.
And Shirakawa-san stared at the face of such me.
“How about Ryuuto?”
“…Actually, isn’t a girl like Maria your type?”
Earlier, I actually happened to think about Kurose-san so I got startled.
My chest hurts when I remember the things about Kurose-san. But, when I look at Shirakawa-san in front of me, I realize once again that I couldn’t betray her after all.
“Sooo? How is it?”
Shirakawa-san pouted her lips, lowered her brows, and was looking at me anxiously with her head tilted. When I saw her like that, feelings of love flooded out of my chest.
As expected, even I have confidence in that. And that is… she’s jealous of me.
When I groaned, Shirakawa-san became flustered.
Cute. She’s so cute I could die…
“If we’re talking about type, the neat and clean type is certainly more of my liking than gal type, however…”
Shirakawa-san shrunk at my words.
I want to see her like that more, so I felt like putting her on the spot even more, but I will feel bad for her if I do something so mean like that.
“Shirakawa… Runa-san is my type, is what I think”
When I told her that, Shirakawa-san’s cheeks turned red.
“Why full name!?”
With her whole face bright red in an instant, Shirakawa-san opened her mouth.
“I-I also wonder why. I just thought that would convey it better…”
Shirakawa-san was heavily flustered, so I also got flustered, feeling like I had said something embarrassing.
“You know, Ryuuto. You’re so sly. You’re not a player at all, but you’re saying something like that so seriously”
Still with redness on her cheeks, Shirakawa-san grumbled.
“And moreover, in the end you’re saying the same thing I’m saying”
“Well, it’s fine, though”
Then, Shirakawa-san gave me a small smile.
“We are.. each other’s type, right?”
“That seems… like it, yeah”
If that’s really the case, I’m more than happy.
When our eyes met, I became bashful, I looked down, and, “fufu”, I laughed. When I checked on her with a glance, she seemed to be doing the same, too.
It’s an embarrassing but blissful time.
“Excuse me, I want to get a drink”
Then, we were called from the entrance. When I looked, I found a customer standing in front of the icebox at the storefront, where PET bottles were soaked in ice water.
Faster before I could move, Shirakawa-san ran towards the entrance.
“The takoyaki is gonna get cold, right? Hurry up and eat”
Her looking back at me and giving me a wink was so dazzling… I think I don’t mind if this summer continues forever.
After Mao-san returned, we took a break and played in the sea. Shirakawa-san really was frolicking like a kid, and watching her was also fun for me.
It was then, when we were in the car to get back after closing time.
On the back seat sitting next to me, Shirakawa-san spoke up as if she just remembered something.
“Did you buy what I requested?”
“Ah, yeah. For the beef, are you fine with meat pieces?”
“Eh? Meat pieces?”
“What are you gonna use it for?”
Shirakawa-san was asked from the driver seat through the mirror, and she glanced at my face and looked away.
“Let’s see, nnnn…”
“Well, as long as it’s not for something like a rice ball wrapped in meat, it can be used for most dishes, right?”
“That’s a relief, thanks!”
I wonder what this is about. Is Shirakawa-san going to cook?
After we arrived at the house, Shirakawa-san quickly took a shower, changed clothes, and swiftly and excitedly started the preparation of something in the kitchen.
“Oh, Ruu-chan. What’s wrong?”
When she was called out by Sayo-san, Shirakawa-san replied with a smile full of determination.
“Today, I’m gonna make dinner!”
Sayo-san smiled, and gave me a look.
“Thank you, I’m looking forward to it”
“I-I’ll help, too”
As I was about to join her in the kitchen because I’ve got nothing to do, Shirakawa-san stopped me with her hand.
“It’s okay! Ryuuto, just sit down and play some games”
If I was told so strongly like that, I couldn’t help but to think if I should help her or not.
And then, when I was waiting for Shirakawa-san in the corner of the living room while playing with my phone.
“Huh? Hey, granny Sayo~?”
Being called by Shirakawa-san, Sayo-san, who was sitting at the table drinking tea while watching TV, stood up and headed for the kitchen.
“Where’s the potatoes?”
“Potatoes? I don’t think we have any right now”
“Eh, didn’t we have potatoes last time!?”
“I think I made it into croquettes the day before yesterday”
Shirakawa-san screamed the so-called “oh no!” voice.
“Is there anything left? You weren’t given any?”
“I don’t receive any potatoes, you know. There’s no one producing it around here after all”
“Do you have to use potatoes? How about sweet potatoes?”
“What are you making?”
“Eh? Meat and potato stew?”
“No, don’t say the word!!”
Hearing Shirakawa-san’s loud voice, I unconsciously stood up and peered into the kitchen.
Shirakawa-san’s eyes and mine met, and she looked like she’s about to cry.
“…Even though I thought of making it a surprise~…”
“A surprise? Were you hiding it from Ryuu-kun? I’m sorry, Ruu-chan”
Even Sayo-san got flustered when she saw her like that.
“But, calling it a ‘surprise’ while making it when the person is nearby is just… Right?”
Being asked for an agreement, I couldn’t help but make a wry smile.
“Shirakawa-san… Are you trying to make meat and potato stew for me? Thank you”
“…But, there’s no potatoes….”
Shirakawa-san was dejected.
“Want me to buy some?”
When I made an offer to her, Shirakawa-san raised her face with great vigor.
“I’ll go but it”
Seeing us like that, Sayo-san smiled.
“Well, how about both of you go? If it’s the close by ‘Ishida Store’, you can get there by walking”
Thus, I went out with Shirakawa-san to buy potatoes.
Apparently, there was a small retail store called “Ishida Store” around eight minutes walk going up the slope along the main road in front of Sayo-san’s house.
It was before 6 PM in the beginning of August, and it was still bright. The temperature also didn’t drop that much, and I could feel my clothes getting sweaty with each step up the gentle slope.
“…Ryuuto, do you like meat and potato stew?”
Walking next to me, Shirakawa-san casually looked up at me as if peering into me, and asked.
“Eh? ….Yeah, I like it”
It’s the kind of “like”, in which I’d rarely choose it for myself when eating out, but I’d be happy if it came out as a side dish for dinner.
Shirakawa-san smiled at my reply.
“That’s great! I thought that it’s maybe too cliché, but when it comes to ‘a dish I want my girlfriend to make for me’ it’s that, right? I was wondering if Ryuuto would like it, and yesterday I looked up lots of recipes before sleeping”
Her cheeks were slightly blushing as she told me.
“I couldn’t make it a surprise, though”
I smiled at her, who was making a bitter smile.
“I’m happy even if it’s not a surprise, you know”
I spoke as if to reassure her.
“Everything that Shirakawa-san’s trying to do for me… all of it makes me happy”
Shirakawa-san stared at me, and her eyes became moist. And then she smiled, as if trying to hide her embarrassment.
“That’s natural, right? About doing something for Ryuuto. I’m your girlfriend after all”
“But for me, it’s not natural… and I don’t want to think it as a natural thing either”
Living a life with a girlfriend, it’s the first time in my life.
Moreover, a lovely girl called Shirakawa-san became my girlfriend.
Even if one, five, or ten years from now on I can continue to date Shirakawa-san… Even If someday it becomes a natural thing for us to be together.
“What Shirakawa-san does for me… Umm, for me, it’s always special….”
It’s embarrassing, sloppy, and uncool, but I have to properly say it.
“This feeling… I want to always keep it with me, forever”
Hearing that, Shirakawa-san smiled happily.
“…I see. Maybe because Ryuuto is like that, it makes me also wanna do something for you”
She muttered and dropped her gaze downwards.
“Hey, can we hold hands?”
“You don’t wanna because it’s hot?”
She stared at me with upturned eyes, and I shook my head.
“No, let’s hold hands”
I hurriedly rubbed my hands on my pants to wipe the palm sweat.
Shirakawa-san’s slim white hand piled up on top of my offered out hand… and her slender fingers entwined with mine.
I-is this, possibly… the thing called a lover’s bond…!?
Because the holding hands-style when we were on date at the park was the normal type, this surprise attack made my heart throb, and my body temperature suddenly soared.
Shirakawa-san smiled bashfully, and bumped her head on my shoulder once.
“It’s hot, isn’t it~”
“…I-it’s summer after all”
“N-no! It’s fine”
Thus, we walked up the summery mountain road holding hands, until we reached the store.
The “Ishida Store” Sayo-san told me was a small store halfway between a convenience store and a supermarket (about the size of a convenience store). There was a huge line up of non-perishable foods like drinks and confections, but it seemed that there’s also a few shelves with vegetables and meat packs.
“Ah, there’s potatoes!”
Seeing the vegetables shelf, Shirakawa-san ran over to it, and put the needed amount of them into the basket.
After that, when we were heading to the register where an old man was sitting idly, Shirakawa-san noticed the drinks shelf
“Aah, I think I’ll get some cola, too”
It’s probably because Sayo-san gave us a thousand yen and said “Just buy it if there’s anything else you want”.
“Hey, Ryuuto, what do you wanna eat tomorrow?”
“Eh? Anything is fine…”
I was being taken care of and I also couldn’t cook myself, so I thought that’s a statement with auspicious intent, but Shirakawa-san puffed out her cheeks.
“Sheesh~! ‘Anything is fine’ is what troubles a wife the most, you know? Don’t you know it’s a buzz in SNS?”
Although I got startled by the sudden “wife”, I reflected on what Shirakawa-san said, and hurriedly put my head to work.
“Let’s see… How about hamburg steak then?”
“Hamburg steak? How do you make it?”
“Err… want me to look it up?”
“I’ll look it up! …it said with ground meat and onions~!”
We headed back to the vegetables shelf, put the onions into the basket, then we headed towards the meat shelf.
“Ground meat… Ah, found it”
Then Shirakawa-san picks up the pack. However, when she looked at the price tag, her face frowned.
“Aah~ expensive! 200 grams cost this much, huh… I guess I can’t buy it unless I cut back on something”
“Maybe because it’s beef? And looks like ground-beef mix2 is sold out”
I’m not sure myself because I normally don’t go shopping, but I feel like the meat assortment is bad and on the expensive side, perhaps because of location issues.
“Well, I don’t mind if it’s not hamburg steak”
“Are you sure? Do you have any others in mind?”
“Let’s see… How about curry?”
“Ah, I like that! Then, I’m gonna buy more potatoes! Is pork fine for the meat? Because there’s some in the freezer”
“You see, I’m good at making curry! The onions are fine as is, and there’s still lots of carrots, soo…”
Shirakawa-san suddenly started shopping energetically.
And then, we used up almost all of our 1,000 yen at the register, and left “Ishida Store”.
“Let me carry that”
As we started to head back down the main road, Shirakawa-san reached out for the luggage I was carrying.
At the register, we also got the boxes of tissues that Sayo-san had asked for, so I had both hands carrying the shopping bag and the tissues.
“It’s light, so I’m fine”
I told her that, trying to show my manly part, but Shirakawa-san made a long face.
When I was wondering what’s wrong, Shirakawa-san looked at me with upturned eyes and murmured softly.
“But, we can’t hold hands, right?”
I see. So that’s why, huh…
As I was struck by her adorableness and doing some reflection, Shirakawa-san snatched the tissues from my hand.
And then she took my hand.
“See, like this!”
Shirakawa-san became even more adorable as she said that happily, and my slack face almost broke into a grin.
While holding hands, we descended down the mountain road as the sign of night rapidly approached us.
In each other’s hands were a shopping bag and a bag of tissues.
“…Somehow, we’re kinda like a married couple like this”
Shirakawa-san spoke shyly.
“I… guess so”
I got embarrassed, and I worried about my palm sweat even though it’s so hot and humid already.
“…Until now, I guess I didn’t understand it at all. What dating is”
Suddenly, Shirakawa-san murmured earnestly.
“Dating someone was… such a wonderful thing like this, wasn’t it”
Then Shirakawa-san looked up at me and her eyes were glistening, without exaggeration.
I held her hand tightly.
I wish that one day, all of the memories of the men who ever held this hand will be rewritten by me.
With this feeling, I held it strongly, and gently.
When we arrived at Sayo-san’s house, Shirakawa-san was excitedly standing in the kitchen again.
“‘Kay, time to make some meat and potato stew!”
“Ah, let me help… too”
Then Shirakawa-san tilted her head, and thought for a moment.
“…Then, can you peel the potato with the peeler for me?”
“Yeah, got it”
I think I can do that much, and as I was about to wash my hands, Shirakawa-san smiled at me.
“It’s like what I did earlier, isn’t it”
“Carrying the luggage together… and now cooking together, it’s so we can have time for the two of us, right?”
When I heard that, I recalled about Shirakawa-san carrying the tissues so we could hold hands.
“Ah, yeah, that’s… right”
When I wondered if she noticed how uneasy it’d feel for me to be in the living room alone, it made me happy.
Shirakawa-san is always thinking about my feelings. She tries to do something for me. And she gives me a lot of thought.
Because she’s like that, I can wholeheartedly believe that I also want to cherish her.
Unlike Shirakawa-san, it’s my first time dating someone, so I’m not certain, though.
But If this is what dating means, then it’s a very wonderful thing.
Are perhaps the public remarks like a woman is bothersome or it’s easier being alone, that up until recently I also believed in no small amount, traps to keep the non-normies further and further away from love?
The time I spent with Shirakawa-san was so pleasant and comfortable that it made me think that way
“Ryuuto, have you peeled the potatoes?”
“Yeah, is this fine?”
“Ah, it’s peeled nicely! Thanks!”
It’s just handing over potatoes, but our hands touched for a moment and Shirakawa-san smiled pleasantly.
At times like this, the fact that this was Sayo-san’s house and that Mao-san was nearby setting up the table, I’ve forgotten it, and I dreamed of a life with just the two of us.
“Wa-want me to peel another potato?”
“Ah, yep, thanks!”
Replying to me, Shirakawa-san then pressed the potato she received from me on the chopping board with a clumsy hand, and chopped it with a knife.
“…S-say, from now on, can I also help with cooking like this… too?”
When I said it, timidly.
Shirakawa-san raised her face, and stared at me.
“Ah, yep… okay”
Then she smiled like a sunflower.
To think that I’d be able to see Shirakawa-san like this every day for the next two weeks.
And that excitement filled my heart.
For dinner that day was cucumber and tomato salad made by Sayo-san, miso soup, chopped horse mackerel made by Mao-san, and then meat and potato stew made by Shirakawa-san, which I helped make. Apparently, Sayo-san and Mao-san made the side dishes while we were out shopping.
Shirakawa-san’s meat and potato stew was nothing special, but it’s tasty. And contrary to the turnip from this morning, the potatoes were too soft and often crumbled, but the flavor was well absorbed.
“Yeah, it’s tasty… this meat and potato stew”
When I conveyed it to Shirakawa-san, she smiled happily.
“Yaaay! I’m really glad I picked the most popular recipe~!”
That innocent smiling face was so cute, I unconsciously imagined her as a new wife, and it made me swoon.
In that manner, my eventful summer vacation with Shirakawa-san started.
I would wake up in the morning, go to the beach house to work with Mao-san’s car, come back, make and eat dinner, and then Shirakawa-san would go to Sayo-san’s room, while I would go to my private room on the second floor to sleep.
And on a certain day, after several days of living like this have passed.
Today, Shirakawa-san and I were at home since morning. It’s because of what Mao-san told us, “Next week is obon season and it’s gonna get busy, so how about taking at least one day off on the weekday of this week”.
There’s a porch3 on the first floor of Sayo-san’s house. Perhaps because it’s facing the east, the shade at noon would be just right, so I put down an electric fan, and I chatted with Shirakawa-san or played games on the phone.
“Ryuuto, let’s eat snacks~!”
After lunch with soumen4 had passed for a bit, Shirakawa-san came with a spoon in one hand. She said in a good mood, and gave me one of the plastic cups in her other hand.
“Ah, it’s cold!”
It’s a chilled jelly.
“It’s the one Ryuuto’s mom sent! I put it in the freezer for a bit~! Granny Sayo said we can eat it if we want”
A few days ago, a huge cardboard box sent by my parents came. The contents were changes of clothes I had asked for, an assortment of high quality fruit jellies addressed to Sayo-san, and a letter of gratitude for taking care of me, their son,
“Nn~ yummy~! As expected of Sembi●ya~!”
We started eating it side-by-side at the porch, and Shirakawa-san held her cheek with a happy look on her face.
“Peach is the best! How about Ryuuto’s pear?”
“Yeah, it’s juicy and tasty”
“Sounds yummy! Can I have a bite?”
Saying so, Shirakawa-san then opened her mouth.
Is this perhaps… the I-will-feed-you-event!?
Shirakawa-san opened her mouth so naturally, so I had no time to prepare myself.
With a hand that was instantly trembling with nervousness, I managed to scoop the jelly… however, I realized immediately that there’s no fruit in it, so redoing it… and I was finally ready, although slowly.
With both hands placed on the ground, Shirakawa-san leaned towards me. Then her chest fit between her arms… and pushed forward, creating a posture that emphasized her cleavage.
What a dreadful angle…!
Maybe Shirakawa-san hasn’t realized it, but it’s bad for my heart so I hope she stops this posture… Well, I’m happy though, but she’ll know if I get aroused at this distance, so I can’t stare too much but it’s difficult.
What Shirakawa-san’s wearing today is a tank top with frills on the shoulders and short pants, a casual outfit compared to her going out clothes. And the gap created as a result is also very sensational. Nice.
While I was smeared by such worldly thoughts, Shirakawa-san innocently took the spoon I was holding into her mouth.
“…Yep, this one’s yummy, too!”
With the tension like those gourmet reporters on TV, she held both of her cheeks.
“Does Ryuuto want a bite, too?”
Getting asked impishly, I jolted.
“…Ar-are you sure?”
“Of course! It’d be wrong if I’m the only one who got it, right?”
She said honestly, and Shirakawa-san scooped a spoonful of her own jelly.
“Here, say aaan”
Shirakawa-san urged me, and the mouth, that I’ve never opened for anyone but a dentist and otolaryngologist, was timidly opening.
Shirakawa-san saw the inside of my mouth and her hand stopped, so thinking that perhaps there’s an onion somewhere inside, I quickly closed my mouth.
However, Shirakawa-san said something unexpected.
“…Ryuuto, your teeth are cute”
This is the first time I’ve been told that. My lower jaw is narrow, and has a zigzag-like row of teeth, and it’s even enough to give me a small complex.
“Yep, it’s cute, somehow like next-door-neighbors standing in line and greeting each other”
I see… You can also view it that way, huh.
As I was admiring Shirakawa-san’s power of imagination, Shirakawa-san said “Ah” and paused.
“Did you mind it? I’m sorry”
“No, not at all”
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way, okay…”
Shirakawa-san said, as if making an excuse. And then her cheeks blushed slightly.
“Things I love about Ryuuto, it increased by one again and it makes me happy”
If you tell me something like that, I’d also be happy and embarrassed.
Shirakawa-san even turns my complex into a loveable thing.
“…I’m sorry. Here, I’ll feed you the jelly”
After collecting herself together, she once again said “Aaan” and I took the jelly with my mouth.
Even though it’s just the fruit that’s different, it tasted exceptionally sweet.
Continuing eating the jelly with the spoon I used to feed Shirakawa-san was somehow ticklish, and made my heart beat fast.
In the meanwhile, the sound of a talk show on TV was clearly leaking out from the living room with its paper sliding door closed. Apparently, Sayo-san had a bit of trouble hearing, so the volume of the TV was set to high.
“Aaa, it was so yummy!”
Shirakawa-san finished up the jelly earlier than me, and she held up the empty cup and spoke.
“It’d be nice if ‘LUNA MARINE’ serves this, too”
“Serving Sembi●ya’s jelly at a beach house? Can we?”
“Don’t know. I guess I’ll try asking Mao-kun”
And Shirakawa-san smiled.
“Or maybe I’ll ask my mom to bring some jelly”
It seemed that Shirakawa-san’s mother also planned to come here sometime during Shirakawa-san’s stay. Meeting with a mother was different from meeting with a great-grandmother and an uncle, and just thinking about it made me nervous now.
“Did Shirakawa-san’s mother say when she will come?”
“No, I haven’t heard from her yet. I heard that Maria won’t come again this year, though”
When I heard it, there’s a part of me that’s a little relieved.
“…You know, the name ‘LUNA MARINE’ came from our names”
Suddenly, Shirakawa-san spoke in a soft voice.
“At the beginning, Mao-kun was thinking of naming it ‘LUNA MARIA’, but Maria said ‘I don’t even like the sea, so stop it’, and it’s changed to what it is now”
I see… The original plan was to use the sisters’ names as is, huh.
“But, the name ‘Maria’ comes from ‘Marine’5, right? So the current name also sounds good, though”
“I guess so. Mao-kun dotes on me and Maria, so it looks like he wanted to use our names. When we were living together, Ì’m sure Maria really liked Mao-kun too, but… since we’ve been living apart, she’s been kinda distant, I guess. Mao-kun is often lamenting like ‘Maria is so cold these days~’”
Similar to Shirakawa-san, I feel like Mao-san is also the type of person who is well-liked by those around him, so I feel like I can kind of understand why Kurose-san is tsundere-like.
“Since Maria lives with mom, she can see Mao-kun a whole lot more than I can, you know. I envy her a bit”
Shirakawa-san smiled, seeming a little lonely.
“But, I can stay with dad in exchange, so I guess it can’t be helped. People have to choose for something, and can’t have everything after all”
“…I guess, so”
I’m surprised. I’d never thought that Shirakawa-san, who always seems cheerful and having it all in her hand, would have such a philosophic view.
“For a long time, it seems that Maria would come to like what was not given to her more than what was given to her”
Not noticing my surprise, Shirakawa-san talked quietly.
“That’s why, I kinda understand why Maria fell in love with Ryuuto”
“I think it’s called doubting the goodwill of others? Pulling away when people said they like you, and turned to something far away. Sometimes I wonder whether if it isn’t difficult for her”
When I listened to Shirakawa-san’s story, I felt like I could grasp Kurose-san’s nature more vividly than before.
She truly is the opposite of Shirakawa-san, isn’t she.
“Me and Maria have always been completely different since long ago. However…I loved Maria”
Shirakawa-san muttered, and floated a loving smile, perhaps thinking about her younger sister who was away from her.
“Maria is cute, isn’t she”
I waited for a bit but Shirakawa-san didn’t continue, so I reluctantly nodded.
“…I guess so”
And then, Shirakawa-san opened her eyes wide.
“Aah, you still love Maria after all, don’t you!?”
It’s a trap!?!
Shirakawa-san smiled with a face like a mischievous elementary school boy, which gave me a sense of relief.
“I-it’s something in the past. It’s before I met Shirakawa-san…”
I spoke as if making an excuse, and Shirakawa-san also nodded.
“Yep, it’s in the past, isn’t it…”
As if to persuade herself, Shirakawa-san muttered.
“Ryuuto’s feelings right now are for me, and not Maria. I know it in my head, but”
And then, she raised her eyes and looked at me.
“I said it before, right? About when I told Ryuuto that whenever I talked about my ex-boyfriend1 you made a somewhat difficult face”
I remembered that it’s a conversation we had when we were on the train heading to Enoshima.
“The reason for it, I feel like I got it why”
And then Shirakawa-san smiled.
“I think I’m probably the same. Because I love Ryuuto now, I guess I’ve come to want to go back in time and hog the Ryuuto from the past all to myself, too…”
Looking up at the sky, she talked as if talking to herself. And then she turned her head towards me.
“Ryuuto, how do you control your feelings?”
“Like how I have a bunch of ex-boyfriends… If the situation was reversed, I’m sure I would’ve been jealous. I would wonder if you were dating cuter girl than me before”
“…Rather than controlling my feelings”
That was something I’ve been thinking about ever since I started dating Shirakawa-san, so I’ve come up with my own answer.
“What makes me feel uneasy is, I think, caused by my lack of confidence. But, I’m sure that will be settled by time. As I spend more time with Shirakawa-san, and our bonds deepen… I think that someday, surely, if I try to care about your ex-boyfriends or stuff, I wouldn’t even care at all… And now, I’m waiting for it to happen”
Shirakawa-san was silent for a while, and then.
As I was searching for words to say, Shirakawa-san opened her mouth again.
“I guess so. As time passes, we’ll surely become more comfortable with each other, won’t we”
She said cheerfully and grinned at me.
And then, her face suddenly turned serious and stared at me.
“I think it’s kinda strange for me to say this, but…”
After a short pause, Shirakawa-san continued.
“If you can… together with me, will you be friends with Maria?”
“Wha-what do you mean?”
Not understanding the meaning, I stared at her and Shirakawa-san stared back at me with a serious gaze.
“I wanna be friends with Maria”
“It’s because it’ll get rejected if I go the proper way. We’re classmates, right? Everyone in school doesn’t know about our relationship. That’s why I don’t think that Maria will be able to ignore it if I pushily come to her saying ‘Let’s be friends’”
“So while concealing the fact that you two are sisters from everyone, you want to get closer to her just as a classmate…?”
“Yep. And I want a support”
Shirakawa-san nodded deeply.
“Of course, I think it’s difficult to do it right now. I also think that Maria needs some time to sort out her feelings for Ryuuto”
I can only be dumbfounded. What a pushy strategy…
However, Shirakawa-san looked serious. In the sultry summer afternoon, with sweat running on her forehead, she looked fondly at the distant sky, as if wishing for something.
“When it’s fall, and by the beginning of winter… I wanna be able to be by Maria’s side again. I wanna sit under kotatsu, watch TV, and sharing half a Papi●6 with Maria again”
“Eh, Papi● in winter?”
Shirakawa-san’s talking about crunchy ice cream that I could think of as nothing but for summer, so I asked back in surprise.
And then, Shirakawa-san looked at me with a surprised look.
“Eeh, you’ve never tried it!? Eating Pa●co under a kotatsu just right after a bath in winter is the best, you know!”
“Nnnn, if I had to say it, I think i’m in the Yukimi7 faction”
“Uhuh, that one’s good too, though”
“Winter is all about creamy ice cream, right?”
“Aah, now that you said it, I’m starting to feel that way, too~! But I just love ●pico!”
“Now I see”
In the end, it became us telling funny stories, so I still didn’t know how serious Shirakawa-san was about carrying out her plan.
But, I understood Shirakawa-san’s feelings towards Kurose-san well.
It’s a genuine, much deeper and stronger feeling towards her, that it couldn’t be compared to the feelings of the men in Kurose-san’s groupies.
I couldn’t help but wish that Kurose-san would quickly notice this great love for her.
And on another day.
After dinner, on a certain day where the beach house was flourishing even on weekdays as obon was approaching.
“Ryuutoo! Let’s have some fireworks!”
After I got out of the bath, Shirakawa-san showed me a vinyl packaging. It’s a variety of handheld fireworks.
“Mao-kun gave it to me! He said we can have it together”
“I got it from my supplier~! It seems to be an old stock, so it might’ve been damp, though”
Mao-san also came over, and prepared a basket and lighter in the garden in front of the porch.
“Also here, Runa”
What Mao-san handed to Shirakawa-san was a phone. There’s not a single scratch on the screen, and it looked completely brand new.
“I went and picked it up just now. It seems that it’s quite difficult to repair, and they had to send it to a store in Tokyo to have it done, so it took them a while”
“Eh, but all they did was replace the glass, right?”
“I guess so? It’s cheap after all. Because it’s an authorized store, I was told they couldn’t give any warranty if it breaks later, though”
Shirakawa-san happily went to her room once, and came back to the garden.
“Ta-da! It’s back!”
What Shirakawa-san showed me was her phone inside the matching “Osausa” case. Apparently, the case was undamaged.
“With this I can take pictures of the fireworks! Yaaay!”
“Do you think you can get good pictures? Light is hard to capture, you know”
At the same time, the preparation continued. And then Shirakawa-san and I started lighting up the fireworks.
Through the glass8 on the paper sliding door, Sayo-san and Mao-san watched the light patterns we were making from the living room.
“Huh~? It doesn’t light up that well…”
There were several fireworks that lit up poorly, perhaps because they were damp after all.
“Let me se…”
And as soon as I got close to the fireworks Shirakawa-san was holding.
A spark gushed out from the thin tube.
“That surprised me!”
We stared at the fireworks that started to go off normally out of the blue, and then we looked at each other’s faces.
“… Actually, Ryuuto, you were totally surprised just now”
Perhaps my state was really funny, and Shirakawa-san laughed.
“It’s really surprising you know, the one just now”
“Ahaha, that’s so funny!”
While laughing, she made the gesture of bringing the sparks closer to me.
“If just this much, it’s not dangerous to have it closer, you know?”
“You’re going to wet your bed if you play around with fire like that, you know?”
At my words, Shirakawa-san’s face turned serious.
“That’s what my grandma was saying. It’s probably just superstition, though”
“Oh come on”
Shirakawa-san smiled, looking relieved. She must’ve believed it for a moment. Cute.
“That’s good~, bed wetting at this age is too extreme!”
“Saying something like that’s going to raise the flag, you know?”
“Oh no! Then let’s stop!”
While talking about trivial things, we enjoyed the fireworks.
It was then, after we’re done with the regular handheld fireworks, and we’re lighting up the sparklers, which were the last thing left.
“…Sparkler fire has an interesting shape, doesn’t it”
While squatting and holding her knees, Shirakawa-san looked at the sparkler lighting up in her hand, and muttered in a whisper.
“Don’t you think it looks like snowflakes? It’s hot though”
“Aah, it really does. I was thinking it looked like a spider’s web. Regular fireworks looks like brooms though”
“Aah~. You see, for the regular one I was thinking it looked like susuki grass”
And then Shirakawa-san let out a small laugh.
“…Speaking of susuki”
Shirakawa-san’s sparkler fell off, and she reached out for a new sparkler.
“Ryuuto’s confession, I still remember it now. You said ‘susuki desu’I like you, and I thought I misheard ‘Suzuki’. But I was like, isn’t that the wrong name?”
My dark past.
When I made a sullen look, Shirakawa-san looked at me and laughed.
“I thought that you’re interesting. You’re that nervous, but you’re gonna confess to me”
I should tell her.
Before it becomes hard to talk about it later, like what happened with Kurose-san.
I don’t want to hide anything from Shirakawa-san anymore.
“Actually a punishment game”
Hearing my confession, Shirakawa-san stopped her hand that was bringing her fireworks to the candle.
“Punishment? It’s a punishment game?”
“With my friends, we were talking about how we ‘totally flunked’ the midterm test. And yet my scores were good, so I got the punishment game”
I summarized it in a simple and easy to understand way, but I guess that’s pretty much it.
“Eh, wait wait”
Shirakawa-san immediately became impatient.
“Then, does that mean Ryuuto didn’t like me at all?”
“No, that’s not it”
I, too, became impatient, and I added more.
“It was a punishment game about ‘confessing to someone you like’”
Hearing that, Shirakawa-san looked relieved.
“I see… Actually, Ryuuto, since when did you have feelings for me?”
“Eh? Let’s see…”
The start of the one-sided feelings were when I lent her my mechanical pencil, but since way before that, I’ve been one-sidedly watching and admiring her.
“…Since the first year”
“Eh, even when we’re in different classes?”
“…Because you’re cute”
“Eeeh, aren’t there plenty other cute girls out there”
Despite saying so, Shirakawa-san looked happy.
“Then you should’ve just confessed to me sooner”
I pondered about things before I dated Shirakawa-san, and I smiled wryly.
“I didn’t have any intention to confess. If the punishment game wasn’t there, probably even now… I think I still wouldn’t confess to you”
Actually, I’m almost certain that I still wouldn’t confess to her until graduation.
“It’s because I didn’t have self-confidence… I also never thought to be given the okay when I confessed to you”
“But I gave the okay, didn’t I”
“That’s why I was surprised”
What happened on that day in my sixteen years of life has had as much impact on me as the birth of Christ in human history.
Shirakawa-san muttered in disbelief, and held her knees even tighter with the hand that wasn’t holding the sparkler.
“…But in that case, Ryuuto really cares about your friends, aren’t you”
She smiled at me, and with an “Eh?” I was puzzled.
“Because it’s a promise with friends, you still confessed despite thinking you’d be rejected right?”
“And that’s really amazing. I think you really care about your friends. …Moreover, you’re serious. It’s Ryuuto’s personality showing all over, isn’t it”
As I’d never thought to be praised for that, I got embarrassed, and went to scratch my face.
“That’s definitely how it is, isn’t it”
As if she’s understanding something, Shirakawa-san greatly nodded her head.
“Within Ryuuto, there’s a big love or kind heartedness from the start. And I’m sure that you were giving it to your friends, family… or someone you care about. And it just so happened that there was no girl to accept it”
While talking, she lit the new sparkler again.
“And no matter how much I wish for true love, no one like Ryuuto had ever confessed to me… it seems like I’ve been doing everything wrong. In the way of love”
The sparks, that looked like snowflakes or spider’s web, were illuminating Shirakawa-san’s hand. She, who had been talking while gazing at the flames, then raised her face and stared at me.
“…Ryuuto, thank you, for choosing me”
The eyes of Shirakawa-san illuminated by the spark were shaking and wet, and appeared to gleam.
I want to hug her, I thought.
Hug her, and then… I want to kiss her.
With that in mind, I reached out my arm to her shoulder. But just to be sure, I looked behind me.
And I saw it.
From the other side of the glass on the paper sliding door, I saw Sayo-san and Mao-san averting their eyes with incredible energy.
If your great-grandchild or your niece is alone with a guy in second year of high school who is brimming with sexual desire, well, of course you’re going to be curious.
“…Ah, it fell”
Shirakawa-san raised a regrettable voice. When I looked, the sparkler in her hand was already gone.
“Ah, looks like that was the last. …Wanna go inside now?”
The sky has been dark for a long time already, but the night of an extremely hot day was hot and humid, hard to say to be comfortable.
“Yeah, all right…”
I had no reason to be staying out here, nor the pretext to be outside.
I wanted to kiss her…
Actually, we haven’t kissed at all since that one time on top of the boat that day. We can now hold hands a lot like it’s a routine, though.
Are you fine with this? And no matter how much you want to cherish Shirakawa-san, aren’t you being too careful?
I tidied up the bucket of fireworks and went inside the house as I was plagued by such questions.
And that night.
I unusually woke up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, perhaps because I was agonizing over it, or perhaps because there was a fear of wetting the bed because I was playing with fire.
Since Sayo-san’s house was a typical Japanese-style house, I had to walk around in the darkness. And walking around in the darkness was kind of scary as it felt like a horror game.
Moreover, the toilet was only on the first floor, so I had to go downstairs because I slept on the second floor.
And then, after I was done using the toilet while feeling scared inside, and was about to go back to the second floor.
I noticed that the paper sliding door that’s connecting the porch and the living room was partially opened. Did the last one to go to sleep forget to close it?
This may be a rural town, but it’s dangerous these days… Thus, as I was going there to close it just in case…
I saw the figure of a person on the porch.
I shouted in surprise, but when I looked more carefully, it’s Shirakawa-san.
With the usual casual home wear, Shirakawa-san was sitting on the porch.
I’m feeling tense.
Before going out of the room, I checked that it’s past one in the morning. Since it’s so early in the morning, Sayo-san and Mao-san are probably already asleep.
Maybe, we could get into a good mood and kiss… And so, I approached there with such wicked thoughts in my head.
When I saw her profile, my ulterior motive flew away somewhere.
Shirakawa-san clearly looked dispirited.
Noticing me, she turned to me. I really couldn’t find her usual liveliness.
“Shirakawa-san, is something the matter?”
Shirakawa-san looked down. Her gaze fell on her phone placed on her lap.9
“Mom said she can’t come this time”
“She said that this year she’s used several days of her paid vacation to move out… She said said she’s a temporary worker, and doesn’t feel comfortable if she takes a break from work in the summer when the company employees also wanna take a break from work”
While listening, I sat down next to Shirakawa-san.
Apparently, Shirakawa-san’s mother was working at a department store in Tokyo. I heard from Shirakawa-san that there’s rarely any consecutive vacation days because of the shift system. And I heard from Shirakawa-san that it’d be tough for her mother to go here on a day trip, and to also work on the next day, so she was told that her mother would contact her if she could make arrangements for some time off.
“…How about meeting her when you get back to Tokyo?”
When I suggested it because I felt sorry for Shirakawa-san, she tilted her head.
“I don’t know. She has to contact dad if she’s gonna meet with me after I return, right? She also just split up with the next guy. And because it’s awkward, she also doesn’t seem to wanna contact him now”
So there’s that circumstance, huh.
“It’s really troublesome”
“Yep. it’s really troublesome, isn’it”
She sighed, and Shirakawa-san didn’t talk for a moment.
“…My mom, she was devoted to dad ever since she started dating dad in the first year of middle school, until she split up with him”
Before long, she started to talk.
“She gave birth to onee-chan, and then Maria and I were born… Around that time, dad was caught cheating on mom once. But, mom forgave him. She loved dad, and because she’s never dated anyone but dad, I heard she wasn’t confident she could fall in love with another man, even now that she’s divorced with him. To keep on living on your own is uneasy after all”
I nodded while listening to her in silence. Since until now I hardly had any experience in listening to someone else’s house’s intricate circumstances, I didn’t exactly know what to say.
“I wonder if that’s the reason… She was repeating it to us like a spell, ‘Men will cheat on you’, she said”
Shirakawa-san looked up to the sky with a distant look as if she’s remembering the past.
“But, it seemed it was not gonna work anymore when he was found cheating for the second time. When she thought just how much dad swore to not do it again the first time it happened, she couldn’t believe dad’s words anymore… In that case she could no longer stay with him, she said”
Nevertheless, I’m sure there’s no one who would criticize her mother. It pains my heart when I think that that decision tore Shirakawa-san’s family apart, though.
“I don’t think that dad was serious in his affair. It’s because, dad seems to still love mom even now”
And then Shirakawa-san looked at me and smiled. It was a pained smile.
“I think that the reason why he took custody of me… was because I look like mom. I’ve been told that a lot lately. ‘Runa’s becoming more and more like your mom’, he said. And he looked really happy when he said that to me… It’s stupid, isn’t it”
It was painful to watch Shirakawa-san like that, and I wondered if I could shift the subject away from her past even a little.
“Is your dad dating anyone now?”
Shirakawa-san thought a little about my question, then she shook her head.
“Nnn… I think he hasn’t dated anyone lately. Before, he used to be gone on his days off, but I think they broke up”
“I think it’s because there’s me. Don’t you think having a high schooler daughter or something would be the most unpleasant thing for the girlfriend?”
Her usual cheerful tone, now echoed sorrowfully on the porch in the dead of night.
“As long as I’m at home, dad’s love life is probably not gonna go smoothly. I feel bad for him, but well… I guess this what you’d call getting his just desserts”
While frowning, the corners of Shirakawa-san’s lips raised, turning into a smile.
Even though it’s such a trivial remark, it’s my first time hearing Shirakawa-san speak ill of others.
When I thought that’s just how complicated her feelings towards her father was, the cause of her parents divorce, my chest tightened.
“…So, did something happen, Ryuuto? Did you actually wet the bed?”
Maybe because my face looked so grim, Shirakawa-san teased me in a joking tone.
“I-I made it just in time, all right”
No matter what I say here, it’d be just irresponsible remarks of an outsider. With that thought in mind, I couldn’t go back to the previous topic anymore. I had no choice but to go play along with Shirakawa-san.
“I see. I guess I’ll also go to the toilet, then go back to the room”
And then Shirakawa-san smiled, stood up, and waved her hand.
I also stood up… and then.
Mustering up the courage, I took Shirakawa-san’s hand.
Shirakawa-san looked at me in surprise.
Remembering the kiss I couldn’t have when we’re having fireworks, the fire in my chest was lit.
There’s no one watching right now.
There’s no one watching, but…
──Mom said she can’t come this time
When I remembered the lonesome Shirakawa-san from earlier, it pained me.
It’s so painful and unbearable, I just wanted to hug her.
But, for Shirakawa-san… right now is not the time for that isn’t it…?
“…Good night, Shirakawa-san. I’ll see you tomorrow”
In the end, that’s all I could say and I reluctantly let go of her hand.
Shirakawa-san stared back at me, and smiled a little. And then she turned around, her back facing me.
“…Yep. Good night, Ryuuto”
I felt that the voice coming from her back as she headed down the corridor to be a little tear-choked.
This summer, I felt like I’ve always been in agony.
At this rate, would the summer end without me ever able to kiss her for the second time?
But with us spending the day at the beach house and the night at the house, where Sayo-san and Mao-san were present, there’s no way I could take any bold action…
And finally, the day of the summer festival had come.
Even in the morning of the day of the summer festival, we went to the beach house as usual. Tomorrow after breakfast, we would have Mao-san drive us to the station for our return, so this would be the last day of working at the beach house.
Around the time when the noon peak had settled down, Shirakawa-san had Mao-san drive her back to Sayo-san’s house. It seemed that she wanted to wear a yukata and have her hair done for the summer festival in the evening.
As I was tending the store alone, Mao-san came back, saying “Thanks for your hard work” and handing an envelope to me.
“Thank you for the two weeks or more. And Ryuuto-kun, you too can leave now”
It’s still around three, though. As I was thinking that, Mao-san lightly poked me.
“I heard today is your two-month anniversary, right? How about you look for something? Since Runa loves surprises, I think it’ll make her really happy, you know~?”
Now that he mentioned it, it is. My head was full with thoughts of a summer festival date with Shirakawa-san in a yukata, but it’s been exactly one month since the day we went to Enoshima.
“And that is your war funds~!”
What Mao-san pointed at was the envelope in my hand.
I don’t think I have the right to receive an allowance from her uncle… With such a thought in mind, I opened it to look because I still didn’t know whether there was money inside or not. And then I was taken aback as my eyes suddenly caught the sight of several 10.000 yen notes inside the envelope.
“This is ….!?”
“Earnings from you part-timing~! That’s the result from having you working for five hours a day”
“I worked that much!?”
Although I’ve certainly been present from morning until evening, I’d play around in the sea when it’s not busy, and even if I was at the store, I also often spent a lot of time just chatting with Shirakawa-san.
“Well, you’ve at least worked for this much”
“No, but… in these two weeks I’ve also been staying at Sayo-san’s house”
Considering the expenses for taking care of me, I’ve been thinking of working for free as a matter of course. Although I called it working, it’s like a cafe in a school festival, and I was even thinking that I hoped I paid the favor back at least a little…
When I confusedly told him so, Mao-san smiled gently.
“By having Ryuuto work for me, I was able to do my stocking and preparation during business hours, and in turn, I was able to help granny. So, you’ve done a good favor for all of us. And this is the compensation for it”
His frivolousness was nowhere to be seen, and I could feel sincerity in his tone.
I think I understand why Shirakawa-san adores Mao-san. Even I, a man, can’t help but be charmed by him.
I’m glad that Mao-san is Shirakawa-san’s uncle… If this kind of person is my rival, I will certainly not be able to win.
“…Tha-thank you very much!”
That’s all I could say and I bowed my head. And Mao-san smiled and waved his hand.
“Go make a jaw dropping surprise! And take care of Runa for me”
After changing clothes and leaving the beach house, I headed for the site of the summer festival.
The summer festival would take place at a shrine located on a slightly elevated place on the mountain side. Perhaps because the fireworks were to be set off from the beach, there were already stands lined up along the beach.
“Even if he told me to make a surprise…”
In a place like this, can I get something that will make my high school girlfriend happy?
Among the stands, there were not only professional street vendors, but also local businesses that were setting up their stands like a flea market.
Since it’s the hottest part of the day, the crowds were still small. And alone in the crowds, as I was checking out the stalls, I caught the sight of a stand at the corner of the street.
Around five when the heat had considerably cooled down, I walked to Sayo-san’s house to meet her as I received a “Preparation complete!” from a call from Shirakawa-san,
“How is it, Ryuuto?”
I was lost for words when I saw Shirakawa-san coming out from the entrance.
Cute… super cute.
Shirakawa-san was wearing a flower patterned yukata with purple and pink as the base colors. In addition, she was wearing a similarly colored darker sash, and smiling while holding a small basket bag. Although her upswept hairstyle was gal-like flashy, she was dressed in an orthodox style, and completely different from one of the expected patterns, which was the courtesan style. It’s perhaps because Sayo-san helped her get dressed.10
In response to my usual bashfulness, Shirakawa-san let out an “Aah” and pouted.
“The reaction with the swimsuit was better! Ryuuto you perv! Is yukata not good?”
“Tha-that’s not true at all! Yo-you’re so cute”
“Nn~ are you sure about that~?”
“Yeah, I am!”
Our banter came to an end when Sayo-san came out from the back. Then we exchanged some greetings with Sayo-san, and left the house.
Even though the shrine and Sayo-san’s house were on the same side of the mountain, the direction was different, so we decided to go down to the beach, and then follow the food stands up to the shrine. Although we must descend down to the seaside again to see the fireworks, we had no other choice but to do so if we wanted to fully enjoy the festival.
Worrying about Shirakawa-san wearing wooden shoes, we walked down the road a bit more slowly than usual.
“Are your feet okay?”
“Yep, all okay. … Ryuuto, you’ve been repeating that since earlier”
I seemed to have repeated the question too many times, and Shirakawa-san bursted into a laugh.
“Sorry… It’s my first time walking with a girl in a yukata”
On our previous date she’s got a foot blister, and I also didn’t know how difficult it would be to walk in wooden shoes, so I unintentionally ended up worrying about her too much.
Shirakawa-san laughed happily.
I wonder how long it has been since I’ve been to a festival. I’ve a feeling that until the upper grade of elementary school, I used to go out to local festivals at the invitation of my friends.
When we descended to the bottom, the street, where stands were lined up, was much more crowded than before. Usually it’s a quiet rural town except for the beach, so where did everyone come from?
“What’s a cheese corn dog? And there are really tons of stands here”
As we started walking, looking at the stands on the left and right, I spoke out the question I’ve been having since my preliminary inspection here.
“Eh, you don’t know? It’s a snack from South Korea. It’s a snack with cheese stretching out from the inside and looks really shiny!”
“Like a cheese dog?”
“Ah, yep yep. It’s fried, though”
“And the fried cheese dog is shiny?”
“Yep! There’s some with rainbow-colored cheese”
“Heeh~ my first time hearing it”
“It’s been the staple of food stands for quite some time, you know!”
“Oh, I see”
It seemed that the trends of the food stands at the festival had changed in the time I hadn’t been visiting one. There was also a bubble drink stand, which Shirakawa-san liked.
“There’s even a bubble drink”
“Oh, nice! I’m getting thirsty”
“Should I buy one for you?”
“I’ll buy one myself. But I also wanna eat a candied apple, so I must choose between the two…”
“Let me buy you both”
“Eh, what happened, Ryuuto. Did you win the lottery?”
Shirakawa-san was surprised. While thinking that I usually seemed to be stingy, I smiled wryly
“I’ve got the earning from working at the beach house from Mao-san”
“Wah? No way! That’s so nice!”
“You didn’t get one, Shirakawa-san?”
“Yep… But I’ve got him paying for my phone repair after all. I’ll try asking him when we get back”
“I think he probably intends to give you one, you know”
While chatting like that, I bought her a bubble drink and candied apple as I had a surplus of money.
“Yaay, I’m so happy! It feels like I can get everything in this world! Thanks, Ryuuto!”
With over-the-top delight, Shirakawa-san nibbled on the candied apple.
“…I heard that the first thing dad bought for mom was a candied apple. And it’s a local summer festival”
As if she suddenly remembered, Shirakawa-san spoke.
“I wonder what it was for us? I think it’s a bubble drink?”
“Yeah, I guess so”
I remembered the time when we were on Shirakawa-san’s birthday date.
“Mom and dad were someone I admired. They split up in the end, but… when there was nothing wrong, they were very chummy and looked really good together”
Shirakawa-san talked in pauses, as she nibbled on the candied apple.
“I said it before though, that I’ve dreamed of marrying the first person I ever dated, like mom”
And then, she lowered her head even further, and nibbled on the candied apple.
Her steps gradually became narrow… and finally, she came to a stop.
Wondering what’s wrong, I looked at her face only to be surprised.
There were tears in both of Shirakawa-san’s eyes.
“Ar-are you okay?”
As I was panicking if she was also reminded of something painful about her parents, Shirakawa-san muttered.
“…Why.. it isn’t my first time”
She muttered softly, and sadly.
“When I see Ryuuto not used to many things, it makes me sad”
To me, who could only be confused, Shirakawa-san raised her face.
“This isn’t my first time. It’s not in this festival, but it’s not my first time to walk in a yukata with a man like this… or my first time watching fireworks together”
Her expression as she talked was contorted in pain.
“I wished it’s my first time…”
Tears were overflowing from those eyes.
In front of me, who couldn’t even let out a surprised voice, she, as if escaping from the gazes of the passerby, covered her face with both hands.
“Everything I did with Ryuuto, I wished it’s all my first time … I wanna erase my own memories…”
Shirakawa-san was crying. Her shoulders shook.
“Ryuuto has given me so many of your first times… even though it makes me happy, and yet… I can’t give you Ryuuto any of my first…”
She’s usually cheerful, but to think that now she’s crying like this.
I was stupefied, but then I remembered something.
“You did give me, plenty of it”
I told her.
“Even though the date location isn’t your first time… If the feelings Shirakawa-san’s holding when you’re with me is different from any other time before… I’m happy”
You can’t turn back time. Although one can’t pretend that the past never happened… I wish you wouldn’t be so heartbroken, regretting the days that have passed.
Because right now, I truly love Shirakawa-san who is in front of me.
Shirakawa-san’s wet eyes were wavering.
“Here, let me hold it”
I received the bubble drink cup from Shirakawa-san’s hand, and then linked my hands with her.
For a while, we were walking in silence.
The cook of okonomiyaki stand, who seemed to be basically on break earlier, was busily swinging around the spatula in front of a line of customers. A loud puff! sound was made from a puffed grain stand somewhere, and for a moment, the people in the surrounding made a stir.
“…I think that I’m contradicting myself, but”
On pause from nibbling on her candied apple, Shirakawa-san began to talk again.
“There’s a part of me that is glad that I’ve got to date Ryuuto only now”
I waited for her to continue, while wondering what she meant. And then Shirakawa-san smiled at me.
“If the first time I dated someone was with Ryuuto… I feel like I would’ve taken it for granted, and missed out on so many wonderful things about Ryuuto”
She muttered, and then let out a chuckle.
“If anything, you might complain ‘My boyfriend doesn’t touch me very often, does he not love me?’ or something like that to your friends”
When I mimicked Shirakawa-san’s usual way of talking, “ahaha” she laughed.
“…Previously, when my boyfriend wanted me, I felt relieved. I would think that I was loved, and that this was the place where I belonged”
Shirakawa-san narrowed her eyes, as if she was grieving for the pain of a distant day.
“And when I think about it now, on the contrary that means that I couldn’t feel any love except when it’s naught time, doesn’t it”
I listened to her silently as she made a self-deprecating smile.
“Maybe it’s because I’m the me now that I can understand it. It means that… Ryuuto really cares about me”
Dropping her gaze a little, Shirakawa san smiled happily.
“When I think about it… I feel that I can think… that my relationships until now, even though they’re painful, it’s maybe not useless”
My first girlfriend was experienced.
I had thought that only the man who would’ve conflicted feelings about that fact.
But I had never expected that she would also share the same feelings regarding it…
That’s already enough.
Looks like it’s about time for me to finally get over Shirakawa-san’s ex-boyfriend.
“Shirakawa-san, have you tried airsoft?”
“Eh, what’s this all of sudden?”
Shirakawa-san opened her eyes wide to my sudden change of subject, and then she shook her head.
“Nope. That, what was it again, was it the one where you shoot each other in the woods?”
“That’s right. Ichi… with two of my friends we keep talking about how much we want to try it, but the place we want to go to needs a minimum of six people, and we’re three short… If you’d like, do you want to come? With Shirakawa-san… Yamana-san, and maybe her boyfriend”
“Ah, Nikoru doesn’t have a boyfriend now”
“But I wanna go! Can I invite Akari? She’s a girl from our class!”
“Ye-yeah, all right”
Despite nodding my head, I felt like I’d said something bad. When I imagined Ichi and Nishi getting all stiff surrounded by cheery girls, and then their love-hate towards Yamana-san regarding the matter in the izakaya, and then getting abused with “You dare showing off with Shirakawa-san, you fake gloomy!”, later on, I started shedding cold sweat even though it’s hot.
But, I wanted to take her.
I wanted to take Shirakawa-san to a place she has absolutely never been to before.
“Shirakawa-san, let’s have lots of firsts with me”
Shirakawa-san stared at me intently as I spoke with enthusiasm.
“Before we started dating, we should’ve been living in a completely different world… so I think we can do as many things as we want if we want to. A new experience, together with me”
Once again, a gleam appeared in Shirakawa-san’s eyes.
“…Yep, you’re right. Let’s do lots of first time things together”
Tightly holding our linked hands, Shirakawa-san leant closer to me. The sole of her wooden shoes made a clunking sound.
“…Ryuuto, I love you”11
As the fruity or floral scent drifted thickly, I strongly savoured the sweet sound whispered softly in my ear, wishing to always remember it even after I became an adult.
When we walked all the way down the street filled with stands towards the mountain road, we found one conspicuous stand on the corner of the street.
“Ah, it’s so cute!”
It was an accessory shop. A tray was placed on a table covered with white cloth, and rings and earrings with various colored stones were lined up. The shopkeeper was a fashionable lady with two different colors of hair, who gave off the impression of being very particular.
“It’s natural stone accessories. I went as far as to Turkey to buy it, and to make it, so it’s much cheaper than the market price, you know. All of them are handmade, so they’re all one-of-a-kind”
The lady started talking to Shirakawa-san, who approached with interest.
“Hee~ they’re lovely! But I don’t know anything at all about stones, though”
“Many people start with their birthstone. What month is your birthday?”
“Umm, it’s June”
“Then it would be moonstone”
Shirakawa-san seemed to have her interest suddenly taken by the name of the stone originating from her own name.
“Moonstone is this one”
Being shown a sample of the rough gemstone, Shirakawa-san’s eyes sparkled.
“Wah, it’s pretty!”
It’s a milky-white stone, with a transparent feel like milk dissolved in hot water, that slightly looked like a pearl, shiny, and mysterious. If I was told about a moonstone, I had an inkling that it might look like this.
“What kind of design do you have for this stone?”
“Theses earrings for example”
“Since it’s an ear cuff, people with piercings can use it, too”
“Nnnn… I’d like to have a bigger stone, though. Is there a ring?”
“A ring? A ring is… Aah, a moonstone ring was sold earlier… actually, huh?”
And there, the lady opened her eyes wide when her eyes met mine.
The conversation between Shirakawa-san and the lady continued, and there was no gap for me to start talking. And when I was thinking of talking here.
“Nn, it’s unfortunate. I also thought it’d be perfect fit for you”
For some reason, the shop lady said that to Shirakawa-san, and then she gave me a wink.
“It’s really too bad… I’ll come again”
“I understand, I’ll probably be here again next year!”
The voice of the lady sent her off, and Shirakawa-san began to walk again with a regretful look on her face.
“It’s moonstone, she said. It’s my first time seeing it, but it’s really pretty~. I’d want it if there was a ring, though”
As she said this, Shirakawa-san brought her hand in front of her face, then spread her five fingers.
“It’s grown a lot, but the ornaments on these nails are called shells, you see. Because the hue is similar to these shells, I thought that it’d definitely match it, though”
My heart was pounding.
Actually… The one who bought the moonstone ring from that shop earlier was me.
Of course, I didn’t decide for this one because it’s Shirakawa-san’s birthstone, or that it’s named moonstone. Since I was nervous to talk with the fashionable shop lady, I just walked by for a few times, glanced at it from a distance and checked the price, and I made the decision right away because there was one size fits all written.
When I will tell her.
When I will give it to her…
Since I’ve just got it a little while back, I had no plan or something like that at all.
“Oh well. Ah, look, look over there~”
Shirakawa-san, who had her interest shifted to something else, would afterwards talk to me in every chance she got while consuming the bubble drink and candied apple little by little. And while giving my responses, I kept thinking about the ring and fidgeting.
“…Ah, but the stone earlier was really pretty, wasn’t it”
After the topic of conversation changed several times, Shirakawa-san came back to the topic of natural stone accessories.
“If we pass by her again when we get back, as expected, should I take a look at the ear cuffs? But it’s a little too expensive, isn’t it. It says 5.000 yen. I also have to pay for my phone… It’d be nice if it’s 500 yen”
“I guess so…”
While chatting like that, we went up the mountain road, and came to the premises of the shrine.
It’s a small shrine located on top of a steep stone staircase, and I could imagine that usually it’s quiet. But now there were even stands lined up on the premises, and it’s a bustling rural town’s local deity shrine.
“Since we’re here, let’s give the shrine a visit”
Led by Shirakawa-san, we threw monetary offerings at the front of the shrine then prayed.
“What did you pray for, Ryuuto?”
There’s only one wish in my heart.
I wish I can be together with Shirakawa-san forever
But, that’s too greedy.
So now, I made a wish that was a little bit more sound.
“I wished that I would have a great two-month anniversary with Shirakawa-san”
And then, Shirakawa-san’s face looked surprised.
“So you remembered…”
“Sorry, I actually wanted to give you a proper present, but…”
Halfway through my words, Shirakawa-san energetically shook her head.
“Just the feeling is fine”
Then, she stared at me with sparkling eyes.
“It’s because, meeting with Ryuuto is the best present I’ve ever gotten”
Like a sunflower, Shirakawa-san smiled.
“Hey, do you want me telling you my wish?”
“‘I wish I can be together with Ryuuto forever’”
My chest was overflowing with feelings knowing that we were thinking the same thing.
Shirakawa-san stared and smiled at me.
“Even though it’s a punishment game, thank you for confessing to me at that time”
I should be the one who is saying my thanks.
For coming to the staffs’ parking lot at that time. For giving the confession of a classmate you’ve never talked to before the OK.
That was the beginning of a miraculous happiness that continues to this day.
Remembering it, I reached into my pocket.
“And I’m sorry. Actually, it’s not like I didn’t get you any present…”
To the surprised Shirakawa-san, I handed the felt accessory case. Shirakawa-san took out the content, saw it, and lost for words at the ring with milky-white stone on her palm.
“This is …!”
With eyes wide open, she looked at me with her mouth closing and opening.
“No way!? Eeeh!?! When did you buy it!?!”
“A while ago… Before I went to pick up Shirakawa-san”
“Why.. did you get me this…?”
“I thought that this might match Shirakawa-san’s current nails… for some reason. And something like, shells? I didn’t know about it, though”
While I was talking, I could see something flickering in Shirakawa-san’s eyes.
So I hurriedly continued.
“Actually, I wanted to give something more proper… if I say it, it’d be rude to that lady, but I thought of getting you something more expensive at a store that would put something like a ribbon on the case and put it in a glossy bag, though…”
Since I’ve got the earnings from my part-time job, I also added that share from her birthday some time ago… there was that kind of feeling in me. But in this small seaside town, I couldn’t find any stores of that kind. So I was just trying to make it in time, and yet.
I would’ve never expected she would be this happy.
“No, It’s more than enough…”
While accumulating tears, Shirakawa-san shook her head.
“This is good for now”
Then she smiled shyly.
“The joy of receiving such a thing, I wanna save it for a long time to come…”
A long time to come…?
In my head, there was Shirakawa-san in a wedding dress smiling at me.
“…Hey, can you put this on me?”
Asked by Shirakawa-san, the blanked out me came back to my senses.
I took the ring from Shirakawa-san’s hand, and looked at her to see which finger I should put it on.
“Nnnn, then here!”
Shirakawa-san presented her right hand to me, and she’s flapping her ring finger.
Shirakawa-san smiled at me, who just slightly regretted that it wasn’t left the hand one.
“Not yet… okay”
My heart became warm, and a smile naturally appeared on my face.
I wonder if it’s fine for me to believe that there really is such a future.
A future where I can be together with Shirakawa-san forever.
If it’s only a wish of mine, I don’t have the confidence it’d happen. But if it’s Shirakawa-san’s… if it’s the wish of such a good girl, even a god would probably grant it.
“…Waa so pretty!”
With blushing cheeks, Shirakawa-san raised the moonstone in her right hand to the sky.
“It’s like there are two moons…”
When she, with blushed cheeks, muttered happily as she compared it to the round object rising in the evening sky.
Dry explosive sounds resounded from all around.
Simultaneously, large flowers of light shone in the still slightly lit sky.
“Eh, it’s already time for the fireworks!?”
Shirakawa-san’s eyes opened wide.
The plan was to watch the fireworks on the beach, but we’re still at the shrine on the elevated ground. Trying to find a place where we could at least find a better view, we searched for a place where the trees wouldn’t get in the way.
After leaving the shrine, we went further up the staircase that was split into two, and found a place with a clear view along the path. Since the flow of people either headed towards the shrine or the beach, there were no visitors before us and it was a quiet place.
“Yaay! It’s a secret spot”
The fireworks launched into the sky bloomed exactly at eye level. It’s comfortable to not have to look up.
Suddenly, Shirakawa-san leant in close to me. She took my arm, and twined her own around it. At the soft feeling against my upper arm, my heartbeat rapidly quickened.
“Can we stay like this until the fireworks end?”
Asked with a spoiled, nasally voice, I nervously nodded.
“Fufu”, I heard a chuckle from my side.
“…If your heart is close to someone, you naturally wanna get close to them, isn’it. I never realized that until I started dating Ryuuto”
The fireworks were launched continuously at a slow pace. In the midst of rapidly sinking scenery into darkness, the voice of Shirakawa-san on my side resounded pleasantly in my ears.
“I love Ryuuto. If this feeling stays with me, I’m sure I’ll… come to wanna have sex with Ryuuto”
With my heart beating fast, I looked to my side. Then our eyes met as she looked up at me.
Shirakawa-san released my arm, and then we faced each other, gazing into each other’s eyes.
Shirakawa-san shyly everted her eyes away.
When our eyes met again, I told her.
“I love you, Runa”
Her eyes quickly became moist and welled up, then it overflowed, running down her cheeks.
As if overcome with emotions, she spoke.
“I love Ryuuto, too”
I wiped the tears running on her cheeks, then I brought my face closer to hers. I watched her large eyes as they closed, and gently placed my lips on hers.
I could hear the sound of the fireworks.
And I felt the warmth of my beloved girlfriend.
Right now, that was everything in my world.
^1. It could also mean “One-night stand”.
^2. Mix of beef and pork
^4. Sōmen (Japanese: 素麺), somyeon (Korean: 소면), or sùmiàn (simplified Chinese: 素面; traditional Chinese: 素麵) is a very thin noodle made of wheat flour, less than 1.3 mm in diameter. The noodles are used extensively in East Asian cuisines. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C5%8Dmen
^5. The kanji of Maria’s name “海愛” the first kanji “海/umi” means sea, ocean, waters. “愛/ai” means love, affection, care. Meh, I don’t really have that much knowledge about kanji either.
^9. You must be wondering why there’s no phone on her lap in the illustration. I, too, was wondering about that. Though, this was not the first time that what’s written in the narration/text didn’t match the illustration
^10.You might be wondering, what’s the difference between orthodox style and courtesan style? These are the results I’ve got for courtesan style https://i.imgur.com/K6Q3oLx.png; These are the results I’ve got for orthodox style https://i.imgur.com/3ipeaCv.png.
^11. This is actually the first time Runa said 大好き(daisuki). previously it’s just 好き(suki). Now to wait for it to be 愛してる(aishiteru) in the future
^12. Runa’s name in kanji 月愛. the first kanji is the kanji for moon. and the stone is actually named “moon stone” but written in katakana. Aside from that, Runa/Luna is the divine embodiment/goddess of the moon. Oh well, you should get the gist of it from this.