We spoke about it and decided that we would be a couple in public at school and on the way to school while we revert back to our usual childhood friend antics, while no one else is looking.
In order to prevent people from finding out that we’re acting together, we’ll keep the fact that we’re childhood friends a secret.
Toiro immediately told her friends that she and I had started dating, and she refused to go to school with me, saying that we were just starting out as a couple. So, Toiro began to come to my room after school, just like before.
“Hey…let’s do the things that couples usually do.”
As the both of us were walking home together, Toiro began saying such things.
“That’s one hell of an offer. But is that what it truly means to be a couple? I mean, aren’t we a couple just by walking home together?”
I replied to Toiro, who was walking next to me on my left. Whenever we walked side to side, I would always be on the right, while Toiro was on the left. There was no specific reason behind it, but it’s a position that comes naturally and feels right.
“Isn’t it normal for two people to go home together? To make it seem as though we’re in love, we need to do something more couple-like.”
Well, it’s true that just standing in line is no different than before, maybe.
The moment I said this, Toiro stopped dead in her tracks and immediately took out something from her bag, as if she was preparing for this.
“That’s right. It’s just an ordinary pair of earphones.”
It was the earphone with the white cord that Toiro always uses. She pinched it with her fingertips and began shaking it, saying:
“Let’s share and use this together.”
“Share? Do you mean sharing one earpiece between the two of us? Don’t we do that sometimes….”
I’ve spent a lot of time in my room playing video games while Toiro was reading manga. She would always use her earphones during these moments to block out the ‘unpleasant’ sounds emitting from my game. However, whenever a song caught my attention, I would ask her to lend me one of her earbuds so I could listen to it as well.
“While it’s true that we were doing it normally as a matter of course … according to the magazine, this is the best way for us to act as lovers!”
“Oh, I see……. Well, let’s give it a try, shall we?”
As I was about to complete my sentence, Toiro said, “Okay!” and handed me one of her earphones. The earphone plug is connected to Toiro’s phone. Since her earphones were the ‘wired’ sort, I looked at the alphabet on the earphones to see which side they were on.
It says “R,” which means right.
As I placed the earphone in my right ear, the theme song of an anime which was said to be the best of this season, began playing. The OP has been described as a piece that may give you chills no matter how many times you hear it due to the harmonious elegance, the growing uptempo of the song, and the moment of the chorus.
We stopped for a moment to listen to the melody.
Long before the song’s midpoint, I felt a strange fidgeting sensation towards the left of my arm.
My elbows were poking and prodding at Toiro, who was next to me. From deep beneath her clothing, I could feel the softness of her body. That was when I realized that I had unconsciously focused my senses to the tip of my elbow, which made me pull my arm back immediately.
“Hmm?” Toiro tilted her head and looked at me with her earphone attached to her left ear.
What am I doing? I’m……. As my brain replayed the sensations which my arm felt, my heart began to throb and throb.
If this is how ‘lovers’ generally behave, is it safe to say that the world’s couples usually have this sort of separation and distance?
…… Wait, that’s not right.
“Hey, Toiro, your might want to place your earphones in between the two of us ear to ear. I’ll be on the left, and you should be on the right.”
As soon as I thought about it calmly, I realized something. I was standing right next to Toiro, and if I tried to place the earphone in the right ear, the wire would have to travel under my neck and into the ear that was further away.
No doubt, I should wear the left earphone while Toiro wears the right one. This way, we can both enjoy the music with more freedom.
Or so I thought――。
“No, no, no. I read in a magazine that this is the best way to bring two people closer together, and you can’t wear the R’s in your left ear.”
It seems that she had given me this one for a reason. All because of the magazine…..
I had no choice but to put the earphone in my right ear. Since the cord was taut, I had no choice but to bring my face as close to hers as possible. However, If I were to turn my head, I would be able to feel her breath.
When I glanced sideways to look at her, I could see that she was listening to music, along with her long, curled eyelashes. Taking advantage of the fact that her eyes were closed, I gazed at her profile.
…..No, no, no. What the heck am I doing.
I couldn’t understand why I was acting so fidgety and bothered towards Toiro.
It’s not like this is my first experience with earphone sharing.
Normal mind, normal mind, normal mind.
That’s what I was chanting in my mind.
“Look, aren’t those two close?”
“Oh, they’re wearing the same earphones, aren’t they?”
The voices of the girls passing by entered my left ear, which was not wearing any earphones. We weren’t far from the school yet, and looking around, I could see many students wearing the same uniform.
『Aww, those two are so in love. I want a boyfriend too.』
When the subsequent discussion came over the breeze, I couldn’t help but slightly move away from Toiro. The cord was tugged, and the earphones fell out of her ears.
“Well, well, well. Embarrassed, are we? There’s a bit of distance between us, isn’t there?”
Toiro looked at me with a smirk on her face.
“Was it too early for the naive Masaichi to perform the lover’s move?”
“It’s not like that.”
Sharing earphones shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just that I got a little impatient when someone else pointed out my behaviour.
“Are you sure?”
As she looked at me, the corners of her mouth turned up in a grin. Gravity caused the hair in front of her face to flow smoothly.
“Of course. I mean, the cord is too short for this kind of thing. And it’s even harder to do it while we’re standing up.”
As I was laying out my excuses, Toiro clapped her hands to drown them out.
“So, let’s play a game.”
I tilted my head, unsure of what she meant.
“Yes. We can’t let anyone find out that we’re a couple in disguise. That’s why I’m going to reward you with something if you successfully pull off the lover’s move. You’re doing this for me, right? That’s the game.”
“Oh, what’s the reward?”
“Something nice and appropriate for the occasion.”
It seems that when you successfully pretend to be a lover, you get something anyway.
However, there is always a flip side to a good story. There’s a reason why it’s called a game, after all.
“So what happens when you fail? There must be some kind of penalty, right?”
“That’s right. If you do anything that drags me down, you will have to listen to one thing I say. Don’t worry. I won’t say anything rash.”
The content of the punishment game was also unclear. Even if Toiro said that she wouldn’t do anything rash, what on earth will she make me do?
Perhaps seeing my anxious expression, Toiro added:
“Well, it depends, but it’s nothing more than a simple patsy, like buying snacks or baby food.”
I was mildly relieved to see that it was only a punishment game. I had to be careful, though, because Toiro ate an incredible amount of sweets. It’s not uncommon to discover the empty garbage can packed to the brim with sweets after a day of playing in my room. It’s difficult enough to carry the shopping bags, but if I have to buy her a drink, it’s hard on me financially.
“Well, if you don’t like the sound of it, try not to fail. Or are you a little unsure of yourself, Masaichi-Kun? Is it too difficult for you?”
“It’s not like that. I can at least pretend to be your boyfriend.”
Toiro irritated me to the point that I retaliated. She is well aware that I hate to lose. It feels like I’m in the palm of her hand…
“So I’ll take your word for it and let the games begin.”
Toiro declared, and thus begins the mysterious game of riddles between us disguised couples.
As we began walking back on our way home again, Toiro whispered to me,
“Hey, Ma-Kun, what should we do when we get home today?”
She took a quick step forward, turned around, and walked backwards while talking to me.
“What’s with the sudden ‘Ma-Kun’.”
“We’re dating, so nicknames are normal. Come on. You can call me that, too, you know.”
Nicknames? I had never thought of such a thing. When I was in elementary school, I used to call her Toiro-chan for a while, but that was just to add the honorific title to her name. Since I became a junior high school student, I had been calling her Toiro.
I tried to say the name that I had squeezed out of my mouth in an instant.
The nickname sounded strangely like something an otaku would give.
This was much more embarrassing than the earphones I had just used.
Partly because I’m not used to calling Toiro by her nickname since nicknames for men and women are generally meant for couples.
And what the hell is “Ma-Kun” and “Toi-Chan.” The odour of love is overly bad for my heart. It’s a heavy load for me, who hasn’t had a girlfriend for 15 years.
However, Toiro began saying ――、
“Hmm? Aren’t we supposed to be lovers? Why do you look so embarrassed? Does this look like a punishment game to you?”
Toiro was trying to get to my head.
“………… Ma-Kun! Come on, you can say it..”
“Too soft! Louder Ma-Kun!”
Toiro had a friendly smile on her face. But, right now, shouldn’t we be working together to make this a success, not torment me internally.
While I was thinking about this, I noticed Toiro had a certain habit.
“Hey, of course, this punishment game applies to you as well, right? We can’t have the proposer dragging her feet, can we?”
“Yup, it applies to me equally as well. If I drag my feet, I’ll become Masaichi’s lackey.”
“No one said anything about being a lackey…”
While saying so, Masaichi glanced around at his surroundings. Girls of the same grade who were leaving school were approaching behind them. Masaichi opened his mouth once again.
“But it’s nice to call each other by nicknames, isn’t it? Toi-Chan.”
If you can let go of your shame and external appearance while letting your mind go blank, you can manage to say your nickname without getting bogged down.
“Yup. That’s good.”
Toiro, on the other hand, gave me such a vague and ambiguous reply.
“I feel like if we call each other by our nicknames, we’ll get closer, right? Hey, Toi-Chan.”
“Uh, yeah, I guess.”
There was something wrong going on with Toiro. While she was talking to me, her eyes were secretly darting back and forth.
In fact, for some time now, I’ve noticed a particular characteristic in Toiro’s behaviour.
She never says the name “Ma-Kun” whenever there are people around. She was about to say, “Ma-Kun”, when a bicycle rode by, forcing her to swallow her words. Even now, when other girls were approaching her from behind, she tends to avoid calling me by my nickname.
I’m sure she’s embarrassed by how things are going, even though she seems to be trying to be proactive.
“Why can’t you just call me Ma-Kun?”
I narrowed our distance by one step, taking a peek at Toiro’s face.
“Ah…uh…mmhm…it’s nothing? It’s just that…”
“Hmmm? Are you getting embarrassed just because there are people around you? But that would ruin our game, wouldn’t it?”
Could that be a sign of punishment? I tilted my head to the side and added.
“AH…!!! ma, ma, ma, Ma-Kun!”
Toiro’s face turned red as she said this. Her voice unusually betrayed her, drawing the attention of others around her.
Oh, wow. Now I’m embarrassed too.
Toiro hurriedly shouted. Man, she should breathe a little.
“A ceasefire agreement.”
Toiro said quietly. I nodded quickly and went along with the idea.
This time it was a draw. There was no penalty for failing the game.
We agreed that we would continue the game in the future, but we would not do anything to bring each other down.