Kimi ni Koi wo Suru Nante, Arienai Hazu Datta - Chapter 2
He isn’t coming today either, I felt dejected as I stared at his empty seat by the window.
Up until the Friday before the Center exams, his round back would always be there. And whenever I checked on him from time to time, I’d usually find him absent-mindedly looking out the window in the distance; wondering what he could be looking at through his glasses.
In the classroom, he rarely… no, he never speaks to anyone, but in fact, he actually has this calm and composed way of speaking, and I find his voice really pleasant whenever I talk to him. That is the reason why, despite feeling somewhat awkward during the first few weeks of our journey home together, the number of things I wanted to tell him eventually started growing day by day, and before I knew it, it had grown to the point where I didn’t even know where to start. This is also why, not knowing when he would show up, I kept waiting for him during the entirety of my winter vacation, despite being on the verge of catching a cold the entire time.
“The Center exam is coming soon, and I don’t want to waste a single second.”
On the last day of winter vacation, I finally found him at the Chiba station, and when I caught hold of his arm, those were the words he told me. After that, he shook my arm off and boarded the train without me.
Iijima’s sudden cold attitude towards me surprised me, and it really hurt me, especially since he was normally a gentle and mild-mannered person. I myself am not taking the Center Test this year, so I’m not entirely sure how much pressure it’d put on someone. However, Iijima seemed to have caught a serious cold right before the winter break, which might have disrupted his preparations. I hadn’t seen him for a while after winter courses started, and he might’ve also been absent from his prep school for a long time. For Iijima, who always studied right before his exams, it must’ve been a bother to deal with someone like me who was unburdened and laid-back. It was a little… no, it was really saddening, but since he clearly told me so, I decided not to bother him until he finished his Center test.
…I actually wanted to ask Iijima if he’d been getting harassed lately. I wanted to tell him that there were some strange rumors going around about him, but that I myself didn’t believe them. Ever since the day of the final exams, I hadn’t seen Iijima come to school at all, save for that one day where I didn’t come to school to self-grade my tests. And even worse, school attendance would be optional starting tomorrow.
(I wonder what he’s doing…)
I was curious, but there was no way for me to find out. He didn’t have any sort of cell phone, so it was difficult to get in touch with him. I was also unsure of how much his best friend, Saitou-kun, knew about our relationship, so I couldn’t carelessly ask him. Anguished, I knew that I had no choice but to wait and see if he’d come on the next school day, or at the graduation ceremony.
Today was the last day of regular school, and the whole school year was tasked with cleaning up all the classrooms and clubrooms.
Students were assigned to areas based on their attendance numbers. I, along with others whose names started with similar characters, were in charge of cleaning up the library and its surroundings.
I rolled some sticky tape on the carpeted floor below me. A friend of mine from my inner circle, Ootsuka Kokona, was also stationed at the library along with me since our initials were similar. She was out on the balcony, diligently wiping the windows with a cloth.
【TLN: Their given names, Kitaoka and Kokona, both begin with the letter K, followed by a trailing vowel. They are pretty close to each other in the Hiragana system, which explains their grouping】
It was probably cold outside the window, since she was wearing a jersey over her school uniform. I was mostly done with my job, so I went out on the balcony to help her wipe the windows, which is when she came up to me, rag in hand and a carefree smile on her face as she said, “Thank you.”
That was when my eyes landed on the surprising letters printed on the jersey she was wearing.
“Kokona, that’s my jersey…”
The jersey that Kokona was wearing had the name “Kitaoka” printed on its center. Although I’d pointed this out to her, it didn’t seem to come as a surprise as she checked her jersey before answering.
“Ah, sorry about that. I just put it on by accident.”
“Why do you have my jersey?”
My jersey should’ve been with Iijima, since I’d lent it to him just before the winter vacation started. I’d been thinking of retrieving it from him, but I kept putting it off.
Kokona tilted her head to the side and muttered, “Erm…” before answering.
“Ah, right! For some reason, Iijima gave it to me on the day of the end-of-term ceremony. I’d completely forgotten to return it to you.”
End-of-term ceremony. I suddenly got a really bad hunch about where this was going.
“Hold on, when was that…?”
“Like I said, the end-of-term ceremony.”
“Not that; I’m talking about when exactly?”
I was rattling questions at her non-stop, but Kokona was unfazed as she leisurely replied.
“You know, that time when the four of you were waiting for me in the class after the ceremony. Iijima was out in the hallway at the time, and he told me, ‘Could you please hand this over to Kitaoka-san?’”
I instantly froze in place, realizing that my bad hunch had just come true.
It had already been a month since then, but that conversation was still fresh in my mind. Juuri brought up the matter of my relationship with Iijima, Miyu stirred things up, and Maiko mentioned the rumors about him. All these things kept piling up, each one making it increasingly harder for me to come out and tell the truth. Eventually, I finally put the matter to rest by making a derogatory, contemptuous remark about him myself.
Even though I felt like I’d gotten carried away by the flow of things, that didn’t change the fact that my comment was clearly uncalled-for. I felt gloomy and depressed for a long time after said conversation, and I find myself looking back on it numerous times, regretting the fact that I could’ve worded myself a bit better.
I had no idea that he might have heard us─
Kokona took off the jersey and apologized to Ema, who still had a grim expression on her face.
“I’m sorry. I was going to hand it to you immediately, but I had a present for everyone in my locker at the time. I think I misplaced your jersey by accident, and it was just left there until now.”
“Oh… I see…”
“And don’t forget, I was also making you guys wait for me at the time. I remembered about it as I was walking, but I couldn’t bring myself to go back for it. I’m really sorry.”
I knew that Kokona didn’t have any ill intentions. She’s always been a good girl; a bit airheaded and careless at times, but overall, she has few flaws personality-wise. Juuri and Miyu are somewhat moody people, so one must be careful with how one interacts with them. In this regard, the always cheerful and bright Kokona acts as the group’s “conscience” and keeps the mood playful. That’s why I know I can’t reproach Kokona for this. I know I can’t, but…
“So, what did Iijima say…?”
My voice was trembling as I asked Kokona this question. She folded her arms and tilted her head to the side in thought, seemingly trying her best to remember.
“Erm… Just like I told you before, he said, ‘Please hand this to Kitaoka,’ then… Ah, but he seemed to be in really bad shape at the time and his body seemed to be trembling. His eyes also looked as if they were about to burst into tears.”
About to burst into tears?──That was probably because he’d heard baseless slander against himself, right? In fact, rather than ‘probably,’ I felt like it was most definitely because of that. If I heard something like that being said about me behind my back, I’d probably never be able to forgive the other party for the rest of my life.
“I wonder what happened to him?”
Kokona voiced her concerns for Iijima in a relaxed and gentle tone, but I didn’t have the composure to reply to her.
What should I do? Those weren’t my true feelings at all. When I try to imagine how Iijima must’ve felt when he heard my words, my heart ached so badly to the point where my body grew weak and my legs started trembling. I even felt like crying even though none of it had actually happened to me.
Kokona continued in her usual laid-back, gentle tone.
“Oh right, he hasn’t been coming to school lately huh. Perhaps something did happen to him?”
“Ah… There’s that strange rumor going around, so maybe it’s gotten hard for him to come to school.”
I assumed that Kokona probably knew about the sneak photography rumors too, which is why I deliberately brought the subject up. I wanted to at least tell her that the rumors were a lie.
But, before I could even open my mouth, Kokona’s eyes widened in shock as she spoke in a loud voice.
“Huh? But that’s clearly just a hoax!”
“Iijima-kun doesn’t even have a smartphone, after all. I know that because I’ve been his seatmate for a long time, and also because Uchida has told me the same thing before.”
Now I was the one who was completely baffled.
Why didn’t you come back sooner that day? I desperately wanted to tell her. If she’d come back sooner, she could’ve denied the rumors that Maiko had brought up, and I wouldn’t’ve had to say any of those horrible things. At the same time, however, I also felt ashamed at myself for not having the power to clearly and assertively declare false things as such, just like Shiina.
“I don’t know who spread that rumor, but it’s really cruel of them to do so, isn’t it?”
Although I agreed with her, I was internally overwhelmed with feelings of regret and guilt towards Iijima that I didn’t really pay attention to what Kokona was saying.
“Oh yeah, did you know Iijima makes his own bentos to bring to school? He’d probably make a good husband in the future, wouldn’t he?”
Kokona ended the conversation on a positive note as she wrapped up her window cleaning duties. She then headed back to where Maiko was. “What are you doing, Ema?” She called out to me as I stood there in a daze. After leaving the balcony and heading inside the building, I hurriedly followed after Kokona. My legs were shaking so much that it seemed like I would trip on the slightest of steps.
After the cleanup, we had our closing homeroom after which we were dismissed from school. I tried to keep my composure in front of everyone, but I felt like I would burst into tears if I let my guard down.
After leaving the classroom, I mustered up all my strength and somehow managed to make it to my apartment building despite my mind and body being on the verge of breaking into pieces.
I sat down on a chair in the empty dining room. My heavy head slumped and plopped itself down onto the tabletop.
(What should I do now?)
All the pieces finally fell into place. The reason for Iijima’s sudden change in attitude was because of what had happened that day. Him avoiding me wasn’t just my imagination, and it wasn’t because of the exams. It was my own thoughtless words and actions that had caused all this.
It felt off to apologize for something that he’d eavesdropped on, and because so much time had passed since then, I felt like it was too late to apologize anyways. Besides, once something is said, it can never be taken back, even with an apology. Even then, I didn’t know if Iijima would forgive me or not. Maybe if Kokona had at least returned my jersey to me immediately, then maybe…, I thought, but I couldn’t seriously blame her for it since she had no ill intentions at all.
But I still regretted it. To the point where I felt hopeless.
I remembered when he’d shook my arm off and disappeared into the train on the last day of winter vacation. The rejection that I felt from him on that day had now swollen to a size many times larger as it surrounded me.
(I’ve become hated by Iijima─)
The moment I became aware of this, the feelings that I had been holding in began to gush out. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I wasn’t trying to hurt him, nor was I trying to make him angry. I just wanted to protect our relationship, so I told my friends a stupid lie. I loved Iijima, but there was probably still a little bit of pretense in my heart somewhere. But I had no idea that my actions would result in something like this. If I did, I would have never said anything like that.
Click, I heard a sound from behind me. No sooner had I hurriedly stopped my tears than the door separating the dining room from the hallway opened.
The person who called my name was my older sister, Risa. Apparently she had a day off from work today, but I had completely forgotten about that. My sister stood beside me and placed her hand on my back as she whispered in an anxious tone.
“What’s wrong? Did something happen at school?”
I was crying, so it was obvious that something had happened to me. Now that I think about it, when I was a little kid, my sister would always comfort me like this whenever I got into trouble.
But I’m not a little kid anymore, and I don’t want to cause my sister any unnecessary worries. Besides, I still felt uncomfortable talking to my family about love matters, no matter how close I was to my sister. I tried my best to put up a front and said.
“Nothing at all…”
I dismissed her concerns and wiped my tears with a tissue. My sister just silently stared at me without saying a single word.
TLN: Sorry for the 40 or something day hiatus. Got lazy and stuff. Next chapter comes when I get motivation.