Kimi ni Koi wo Suru Nante, Arienai Hazu Datta - Chapter 4
I was making my way home that evening after journeying downtown to take an entrance exam at a women’s junior college when I found myself greeted by a sweet scent wafting through the doorway.
Earlier this morning, I was feeling anxious about riding the train during peak rush hours. However, since I lived relatively close to the starting point of the line, I was able to locate a seat without much difficulty. Several stations down the line, there would be a massive crowd of people rushing onto the train which would make the mere act of moving around difficult, but even so, all I can say is that I was very lucky. On the flipside, however, that meant that my time on the train would be prolonged somewhat, but if I had to choose between standing for an hour versus sitting for an hour and a half, I would invariably choose the latter. When I’m sitting down, I can read a book, play with my phone, or even take a snooze. Time would pass by in the blink of an eye, and you’d be there before you know it. I also realized that I wasn’t as afraid of the men sitting next to me as I used to be. Perhaps it’s because I’ve learnt that not all men are like that.
Arriving at the huge, dungeon-like terminal station on the other end of the line, I transferred over to the subway. I knew that there was a “women-only carriage” on subway trains, so I decided to ride in that. Although I felt some judgmental glares on me regarding my makeup and fashion choice given that the car was full of women, it was a relief to know I didn’t have to worry about being sexually harassed. I might even be able to commute to school by train in the future, I thought.
The campus itself was right by the heart of the city, and the inside of the campus was as sleek as a movie set. After I’d finished my three exams, I figured I might as well do a bit of exploring around the city before I returned home.
Despite it having been noontime during a weekday, the department store in front of the station was crowded with people. I headed towards the cosmetics counter of a foreign brand, and after consulting with a staff member, I decided to try some liquid foundation I’d been interested in. It added some gleam and translucence to my skin while still retaining its natural look and feel. Its price was pretty exorbitant for a high school student like me, but I made up my mind and bought it, justifying it as a reward for all my hard work on the exams.
Fast forward a bit, and I noticed it was already quite late by the time I arrived at my home station. I ambled my way to my apartment with the setting sun in the backdrop before finally arriving at the fifth floor where I opened the familiar front door to my unit.
“Ah, Ema-chan. Welcome back. Great work on your tests,” my older sister called out from the back. There was a sweet scent thick in the air, permeating the entire space. I wondered what my sister could be doing as I took my shoes off, and sure enough, when I turned to look in the direction of the voice, I found my sister clad in her apron in the kitchen. She seemed to have gotten off from work early and was currently heating chocolate bars by placing them in a bowl immersed in hot water, slowly melting them. Curious, I popped a piece of leftover chocolate in my mouth… and found that it was bitter and not tasty. When my sister saw my face scrunched up, she directed a troubled smile at me and said.
“Didn’t taste good, did they? You have to add sugar and stuff.”
“…What is this?”
“Those are called couverture chocolate. They’re chocolate used for making other confectionery.”
She went on to explain that she was in the middle of making chocolates to give to her colleagues for Valentine’s Day. Apparently she had many people she was going to give them to, so she was making them early on. She skillfully flipped the chocolate with a wooden spatula, leaving me gawking in amazement for a moment.
“Ema-chan, wanna join me and make some together?”
I froze at my sister’s casual invitation. There is someone I’d love to give chocolate to, if I could…
“…Do you think there are people who’d find it a bother if I gave some to them?”
For instance, a certain boy in my class who I’ve made things awkward with. If I gave some to him, I wonder if he’d just refuse it by saying things like “I won’t be fooled by this,” or “Keep it. It’s too much of a pain to get you a return gift.” Seeing me fretting over my anxieties, my sister kindly smiled and said.
“I don’t think so. Wouldn’t boys be especially happy if they received chocolate from a girl?”
“I’m sure they would. Even if they didn’t like you or really know you, they would still sensibly accept the chocolate.”
Were things really as simple as she said they were? As I was musing over her words, my sister lightly pinched my cheeks and said, “Besides… Is there any boy who wouldn’t rejoice at being given something by you?”
I don’t know why, but for some reason, my sister has always had absolute confidence in my looks. In reality though, I’ve never really remembered my appearance being a boon to me. If anything, it’s been somewhat of a nuisance at times, bringing upon me unwanted quarrels and disputes with others, but I’m sure my sister wouldn’t understand even if I told that to her.
…And yet, if it’d only been my sister, I could’ve just dismissed it as the bias of a family member. However, the truth is that there are others saying the same thing to me lately.
“You’re really cute, so I’m sure that person will fall in love with you, too.”
That was the message Chiibaa gave me during the cultural festival. I don’t even know who was inside the suit, and whoever they are could just be flattering me. But still, that message made me really happy, and I want to try and believe in their words.
Tomorrow’s the first school day in a long while. I don’t know if he’ll come, but if he does, it could turn out to be a great opportunity for me. He’s been avoiding me for so long, I don’t even know what to say to him if I see him. It might be too late for me to clear up the misunderstanding. Even so, I want to talk to him for at least a little while. Therefore, I’ll give him some chocolates as a conversation starter. He isn’t popular and he doesn’t have any female friends, so in the event that he does come to school, he won’t be expecting to receive chocolates from other people. If I give him some, perhaps it might brighten his mood a little. Plus, if it raises his perception of me, then it’d be killing two birds with one stone.
I changed my clothes, borrowed a little of my sister’s ingredients, and made several chocolate bars covered with dried fruit. Of them, I chose the three that looked the best before placing them in a small transparent bag for wrapping and tightening the knot to close it. I had a taste of the leftover chocolate and found the balance between the bitterness of the fruit and the sweetness of the chocolate to be perfect. Not too bad if I do say so myself, I thought, pleased with myself.
The next morning, I groggily got up from bed, had a light breakfast, put on my uniform, and stood before the mirror in the bathroom. I immediately tried on some of the foundation I bought yesterday. …It’s not like I’m particularly excited about today or anything; it’s just because I feel like it’d be a waste not to use it after buying it. I kept telling myself that was all it was, that there was no other reason.
The foundation went surprisingly well on my skin, perhaps because I’ve rarely ever used makeup before. With the foundation on, my skin now took on a lustrous look and a smooth feel. In addition, I decided to apply some light, glossy lipstick on my lips and lengthen my eyebrows discreetly using mascara, which gave me a refined yet natural look. I was certain he wouldn’t notice any of the effort I put in just now, but I did feel very happy and somewhat embarrassed that I’d become prettier than before.
Even though we were well into the spring season, it was still biting cold outside as I made my way to school for the first time in a long while. I managed to arrive at the classroom ten minutes before the start of school.
“Here, take this, Ema. It’s some chocolate I made at home.”
I had just put my bag down on my desk when Kokona, who seemed to have arrived a bit earlier than me, came running to me. She was holding some truffle-shaped chocolates in her hand, wrapped in semi-transparent wrapping. I’d already expected her to give me chocolates, so I handed her some of the chocolate I made for her yesterday. Seeing this, the boy who sat next to me, Ishida, jokingly said, “How nice~ Where’s mine?” However, I didn’t have any extra chocolate, so I replied, “Too bad, I don’t have any more.”
…Well, I actually do have some chocolate hidden in my bag. But those are already reserved for someone else. I wonder if he’ll come to school. My sister already gave me words of encouragement yesterday, so rather than worrying about whether he would reject my gift or not, I was more excited about the prospect of him being happy about my gift.
When it came time for school to start, Iijima actually decided to show up, surprisingly. It’d been weeks since I’d last seen his face, which now had a beard for some reason. I was also surprised to see how different and rough he looked. Even during cleaning time, I kept watching him dazedly and almost made eye contact with him so I hurriedly averted my eyes.
However, closing homeroom was soon held afterwards and class was dismissed without any chance for me to hand over the chocolates. Sure enough, Iijima left the classroom before I could even call out to him.
Miyu wasn’t present at school today due to her exams. Juuri wasn’t in the same elective as me. And the social butterfly Kokona said that she was going to hang out with her friends from the classroom next door.
Now’s the perfect opportunity. I sprinted out in search of Iijima before my other friends and the boys could catch up to me. He made his way out of the building and turned toward the opposite direction of the station. He must be going somewhere, I thought as I followed him from a short distance away. Not long after, I found him talking with his friend, Saito Katsuya, as they hugged each other. It must’ve been a while since they last met each other, so they’ll probably head somewhere to chat and catch up before heading home. If that’s the case, I should probably stay out of the way for now.
Oh well. If I wait in front of the station, he should arrive sooner or later. And so, I decided to head to the station ahead of him. There was a shopping district located across the station, and one of the restaurants there was a fast food restaurant overlooking the ticket gate. I went inside and sat on a table seat. This particular seat was facing the glass panes of the store, allowing me to have a clear view of both the ticket gate and the ticket machine. It was the perfect place for an ambush. I looked inside my bag and checked that the chocolate was there before quietly steeling my resolve.
Alright. If he comes, I’ll hand this over to him. Saito Katsuya is most likely going to be with him, but he’s not the type of person to gossip, so I’m sure it won’t be a problem. In fact, having a friend with him might actually be a good thing for me. If he has a friend with him, he won’t be able to act in a blatantly hostile manner toward me, and if I say to him, “Here, take this. You two can eat it together,” then I’m sure he won’t be able to turn it down. The only drawback to this plan is that there’s an odd number of chocolate to share between the two of them, but they can just decide who gets the last one by rock-paper-scissors or something. Next, if his attitude has softened a bit, I’ll try asking him about the incident. If it’s all water under the bridge to him, then great. Otherwise, if he’s still bothered about it… in that case, I’ll have to apologize as best as I can and ask for his forgiveness.
And so, I waited for Iijima to come as I reviewed some English words and phrases. However, the person I was waiting for never showed up. One hour passed… then two. A huge wave of first and second year students who seemed to have been dismissed from school had come flooding into the station earlier, but by now their numbers were few and far in between. And yet, the two people I was waiting for hadn’t shown up at all.
I sighed as I thought of the faces of the intimately close otaku duo who were surprisingly talkative for boys. Several seconds later though, my eyes caught sight of something unexpected.
Huh…? Through the glass pane, I saw Saito Katsuya walking towards the station alone. Why? Wasn’t he supposed to be with Iijima? I was puzzling over whether I should call out and ask him about it when I saw him casually stride through the ticket gate.
What’s going on? I was dumbfounded. I was certain I saw him together with Iijima when I left the school. I had excellent eyesight, so I definitely couldn’t have gotten it wrong. I waited for a minute, but there was still no sign of Iijima.
…Perhaps he’d gone ahead of Saito without me noticing? But I constantly checked the ticket gates every minute or two, and I made sure to pay especially close attention when it was around time for a train to depart. He does act pretty mysteriously though, so he could be on a ten kilometer trek home right now. Or maybe he pretended to go somewhere else and then made his way home. If so, then my plan was a bust. I had no choice but to go home and devise a new one. I stood up, ready to leave, when…
There at the ticket machine stood a boy wearing glasses from the same school as me. He had unkempt hair, a black backpack, and a scarf wrapped around him. It was Iijima. Taking out his wallet, he operated the touchscreen in a fairly laid back manner. In the blink of an eye, I gathered up all my belongings and dashed out of the store, heading toward the ticket gate.
When I got there, I noticed a small paper bag sitting by the ticket machines. Isn’t that the paper bag Iijima was holding earlier? I was amazed at how careless he was, but for now it seemed like it would provide me with another good excuse to talk to him. I’ll take the paper bag, call out to him, and say, “Hey, you forgot this.” I walked over to the machines, stopped for a bit to calm my nerves, and took a deep breath.
Alright, let’s do this! I sneaked a slight peek at where Iijima was standing, then casually picked up the paper bag. It was then that I inadvertently caught a glimpse of what was inside it.
Eh…? I saw a white, non-woven cloth adorned with a blue satin ribbon. It seemed to be a present, but the way it was wrapped came off as thorough yet amateur-ish. Could this be…? I had a bad feeling. Why would he have something like this? Is he going to give it to someone? But I had no idea he had someone in mind. If that’s true, then…
My heart began to ache painfully. I wanted to check, but at the same time I didn’t want to. I stood still, frozen in shock as I kept staring at the bag when a quiet murmur snapped me out of my daze.
“Um, excuse me. That’s, um, mine…”
My whole body stiffened. I looked up and saw Iijima standing in front of me, his expression half-awkward and half-suspicious of me. Then, a sudden realization struck me. Maybe it looks to him like I’m trying to steal this right now. But I’m not… I’m really not…
“Ah, erm… You left this there.”
I really was just trying to give it back to you. It’s just that I was a little surprised by what was inside… I averted my gaze as I handed the bag to him to which he just gave me a half-hearted response and took it. I secretly snuck a peek at him and noticed that when he looked inside the bag to double-check its contents, he seemed relieved and even smiled happily.
…So that means it really does belong to him. When that realization hit me, I screamed in my heart.
Iijima was still looking down at the bag. I pleaded again.
Don’t make that kind of expression.
Why do you look so happy?
Where did you get it from? Who did you get it from?
Why aren’t you looking my way even though I’m right in front of you?
I was dying to know more, but we weren’t in a dating sort of relationship at all. If anything, I was someone he hated at the moment. I was in no position to voice any of my thoughts at all.
This unexpected turn of events was so shocking that all the words I had planned to say to him got stuck in the back of my throat, unable to come out. I could’ve just taken out the present from my bag and handed it to Iijima while adding a few perfunctory words, but even something as simple as that was beyond me as I just stood still, frozen in place.
After some time, Iijima finally turned to look at me. I had a premonition that he was about to say something I absolutely didn’t want to hear. So before he could even open his mouth, I desperately squeezed out a random question from my throat.
…have you been all this time? I was about to say, but before I could continue, an abrupt shout from the side cut me off. “Sorry for making you wait!” I turned to see who it was and found a modest yet pretty girl from the same school as us. She must’ve been an underclassmen since she didn’t seem familiar to me. She had long hair tied in a distinctive twintail and made her way right next to Iijima, tugging the sleeves of his uniform.
“It’s almost time for the train to depart. We better get going.”
I was stunned by the intimate atmosphere between the two. Iijima gave me a simple farewell before disappearing into the ticket gate with the girl clinging on his arm.
I was currently on my way home, albeit with unsteady steps. I passed by the station, feeling as empty as the deserted streets I was walking through. I was well-acquainted with these roads, so I didn’t get lost on the way, but my thoughts were so hazy that I strayed onto the roadway and got honked at by passing cars several times. Get a hold of yourself, I spat. But no sooner had I done that than the scene earlier at the train station came back to mind.
He’s an unpopular person, so I’d feel bad if I didn’t give some to him, I kept telling myself. And yet for all that I said, he actually did get a gift from someone. The truth is that I wanted to give him chocolate.
The chocolate in that paper bag… There’s no doubt that it was heartfelt (honmei) chocolate, not obligatory chocolate. Judging from its size and weight, it was probably some brownies or a chocolate cake. The wrapping was even done with great care such that my finished work pales in comparison to it.
Also, the girl who was with Iijima there had a smile so gentle, it truly gave off a soothing feeling. She was even looking at Iijima with such a devoted gaze, and her feelings of love for Iijima were readily apparent from her every word and action.
On the other hand, I was unfriendly and had a bad attitude, always treating Iijima badly. I wanted to see how he would react, so I deliberately said a lot of mean things to him.
That girl likely─no, definitely─was the one who gave the chocolate to Iijima, and by going home together with her, I could infer that he had either given the OK to the girl’s feelings or was prepared to do so. He didn’t seem to dislike her touching him, and she was such a good match for the laid-back and reserved Iijima that it was almost unbearable for me to watch. It reminded me of a famous fable called The North Wind and the Sun. In this fable, the North Wind and the Sun were competing to see which of them could make a passing traveler remove their cloak. The North Wind blew with all its might, but the traveler, not wanting to get cold, tightened the cloak around him instead. Next, when the Sun shone brightly, the traveler naturally took off his cloak due to the heat, so the Sun triumphed over the North Wind.
In the same way, Iijima has opened his heart to the Sun who’s more receptive to him. And to me, the North Wind, who’s only made him feel more cold and miserable, he’s opted to turn his back on me instead.
But even the North Wind would have wanted to do the same if it had the warmth of the Sun. What the North Wind, which had no choice but to blow a cold wind, really wanted was…
I was five-minutes away from reaching my home when the phone in my pocket suddenly vibrated. I checked to see who the caller was and saw that it was a childhood friend of mine who I hadn’t gotten in touch with lately. With my brain still in shambles, I picked up the phone. A familiar voice echoed in my ears.
I wondered what they wanted. “Yes,” I replied, to which they responded in a slightly troubled tone.
“It seems you’ve been down in the dumps lately, so I got worried about you. Are you okay? What are you doing right now?”
…How did they know that I was depressed? I found it strange, but I didn’t have the mental capacity to worry about it at the moment.
“What should I do…”
Since the day of the training camp, I’ve kept my relationship with Iijima a secret from almost everyone. But the unexpected turn of events has taken an unbelievable toll on me. The shock was too much for me to bear on my own.
“Eh, what? What’s wrong with Iijima-kun?” they replied in a surprised tone. I barely managed to hold back the tears that were about to overflow and answered.
“He’s been stolen from me by another girl…”
After I let it all out, I couldn’t take it anymore and fell to my knees on the spot. The occasional passerby looked at me strangely but still, I couldn’t muster the energy to get back up.
100% TLed but 0% edited. This note will be removed when my editor is finished editing. Thanks for reading and sorry for the inconvenience.