Tonari no Kuuderera o Amayakashitara, Uchi no Aikagi o Watasu Koto ni Natta - v1 chapter 3
- Tonari no Kuuderera o Amayakashitara, Uchi no Aikagi o Watasu Koto ni Natta
- v1 chapter 3 - Making cookies for the first time (four attempts)
Making cookies for the first time (four attempts)
It was the morning after the weekend and I was in the classroom.
Kei was yawning while looking sleepy, probably because it was the beginning of the week
“Kei always looks exhausted on every first day of the week.”
“Oh, Natsuomi. Well, knowing my job’s nature, the weekends are when I earn the most, so it can’t be helped.”
After exchanging our usual greetings, Kei plopped down on his desk, yawning again.
Kei’s family business requires him to work on weekends, and he was always worn out after our day-offs. Occasionally, on Saturday evenings, Kei would call me, seemingly in high tension, and whine about how rough his day had been, then the next day I’d get a message on SNS saying, “Sorry, did I do it again?”
Yui, who arrived in the classroom a little later, quietly took her seat next to me. Without saying any words of greetings she took out a cat pencil case from her bag and put it on the top of her desk.
Since then, Yui and I have not been involved with each other, even on the weekends. Although she lives next door, we don’t see each other very often, and just because we sit next to each other doesn’t mean we’re close enough to exchange greetings every morning.
The other day was just a coincidence. If Yui is in trouble, I would help her without a doubt, but if I tried to take care of her when she isn’t in trouble, I would just be a nuisance to her.
When I turned my gaze sideways, I could see that Yui’s complexion didn’t look that bad, and while I was wondering if she succeeded in buying a half-price bento during the weekend, my eyes met with hers.
After a moment of hesitation, Yui muttered in a small voice that only I could hear.
She then turned her head to look at the window to conceal her slightly reddened face. As I froze due to the sudden and unexpected hit, Yui sent a peeking glance at me again.
“I thought that… I should try to change a little.”
After saying that, she turned her face away towards the window, looking embarrassed again.
(…I see, so that’s what it means)
When I understood that Yui had taken action in order to change herself, I couldn’t help but smile at her, who was currently looking out of the window.
I don’t have any reason to meddle with her, and I’m not trying to be friendly either. However, if the incident the other day gave her the push to improve herself in the future, I would be happy to hear that. That’s why–
“Yeah, good morning.”
I returned the greeting to the seat next to me and relaxed my mouth as I looked at the back of sleeping Kei.
◇ ◇ ◇
Since then, Yui certainly has changed from how she used to be last week. She hasn’t initiated a conversation with anyone yet, but she is trying to be more friendly and she attempts to smile at her classmates who talk to her. But regrettably, she was trying too hard to smile and didn’t really look like she was smiling at all.
But she was trying her best, to the extent that made me cheer for her from the next seat over. Well, maybe time would eventually solve the problem.
By the way, the boys who are trying to get close with her are still being dealt with a cold attitude, but they seemed to become more excited saying, “As expected of our Kuuderera” with a satisfied look on their face.
During the lunch break, as I was eating the bread I brought from the cafeteria, Kei turned to look at me with a happy expression.
“I guess Villiers-san doesn’t need a caretaker at this rate.”
“Yes, I’m glad to see that she’s not having any trouble.”
“She was so quiet last week. Did something happen to her during the weekends?”
“Well, I wonder about that.”
I answered briefly without sounding suspicious, took another bite of the croquette bread, and then looked away from Kei.
It’s not that I have something to be ashamed of, but I can’t just talk about other people’s circumstances because I’m involved with them, so I decided not to tell Kei about what happened last weekend.
I glanced at Yui, who was slicing a loaf of cream bread and popping it into her mouth. In the circle of girls seated slightly apart from me, she was watching and replying to them, although awkwardly.
(…Though her smile is still a bit stiff compared to the smile she showed me the other day.)
While I was feeling a slight sense of superiority, Kei leaned forward and flashed a grin at me as I watched her from the side with a slight smile on my face.
“Why are you smiling, Natsuomi? Are you interested in Villiers-san? It’s unusual for you to be interested in a girl, isn’t it?”
“It’s not like that. I just thought it was nice to see someone working hard.”
“I see. Then, I’ll leave it at that for now.”
I tossed the last piece of bread into my mouth as I brushed aside Kei, who seemed to be enjoying himself. I wonder what he’s expecting from me.
◇ ◇ ◇
I was currently inside the church office after the classes had ended. As I told her last week, I handed Yui a document with a permission stamp on it.
“Then I’ll explain the job to you right away.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
Yui nodded, her lips pursed, as she opened her pen case with its matching cat notepad.
Basically, the main purpose of this part-time job is to help the church during holiday prayers and big worship events. On rare occasions, we may be asked to assist with weddings and other events for the general public, but since my group was originally assigned to help with school events, our priority is to assist the sisters, Kasumi, and other school staff. So, unless there is a need for manpower at a big event, you don’t have to show up, but if you want to help out when there is a shortage, you can.
Therefore, you can work at your own pace most of the time, but on the other hand, if there are enough people, you won’t be asked to work, which means you won’t earn much money and it’s not a stable source of income. In other words, if you want to make a good living, this is not the right job for you. In my case, my skills as an organist allowed me to get some outside commissions from the church if I needed to, but that was unrelated to her job, so I didn’t explain it to Yui.
After I finished explaining the details to her, Yui closed her notepad and nodded.
“Thanks for explaining, now I have an understanding of what the job entails. Speaking about an upcoming worship event, would it be the Easter worship?”
“Yes, it is scheduled to take place on the last Sunday of this month.”
The Easter holiday is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, and for Christians, it is one of the biggest religious events of the year. In Japan, where religions are mixed together, there are more and more events involving eggs in reference to Easter, and I think many people are familiar with the name.
Originally, the service was held on the Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox, but since the church at Tosei Gakuin is a school facility and is usually occupied in April, the service was held on the last Sunday of the month every year.
“You are supposed to attend as much of the event as you can, but is Villier’s schedule open?”
“Yes, I don’t have any plans, so it’s fine.”
Yui took out a notebook which was another part of her cat merchandise and wrote down her schedule.
(…I’m not familiar with this brand, but maybe it’s a trend.)
I continued explaining the Easter service to Yui while tilting my head at the cat merchandise that kept appearing one after the other.
“Would it be okay to attend an Easter worship event at a church with a different patron, given that you have a baptismal name? “
[TN: Baptismal name, Usually the name taken at baptism is the name of a saint, or virtue, that one has a special attachment to and seeks to invoke as a particular patron. And Christian churches have different patrons so Natsuomi is asking Yui there if it’s ok to attend a church with a different patron since it was a big worship event.]
“The Villiers family has been Christian for generations, but I’m not a devout believer myself, so I’m fine. Thank you for your concern.”
“Oh, Villiers isn’t a devout believer, huh?”
With the same calm expression, Yui nodded her head.
It’s not unusual for most of the students to be non-devotee, even at missionary schools, but I’m a little surprised to hear that Yui wasn’t a devout believer despite having a baptismal name.
“Then, is Katagiri-san, who plays the organ for the church, a Christian?”
“No, not really. I’m a non-devotee too, my parents are Christians but I only have some connection with the church.”
“Well, I’m the same.”
I was convinced by her explanation and didn’t say another word.
The baptismal name itself is not particularly useful, since it is something that may or may not be used by believers, and it doesn’t have any legal effect on the family register.
If your parents are devout Christians, you can understand why they would want to give their child a baptismal name. This is probably what Villiers is talking about. As I thought to myself, a knock sounded at the door of the office.
“Nacchan, are you there?”
A woman with a familiar cheerful voice and a slightly prolonged tone along with a friendly smile on her face walked into the office.
“Katagiri-sensei. We’re at school right now, please stop calling me that.”
“Oh, no, I almost forgot. Well, there are no other people here, so it’s fine!”
“That’s exactly the reason why the principal is always getting angry with you!”
“Oh, You’re saying rude things again? Nacchan’s charm is getting worse each year…”
With a long sigh, Kasumi shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head.
It seems that every year, Kasumi’s uselessness continues to get worse, but there’s no point in saying that, so I remained silent. Yui watched our friendly exchange with curiosity.
“Oh, right, I should explain. Our homeroom teacher is my cousin.”
“I see. That’s it…”
As Yui nodded in understanding, Kasumi smiled warmly, took Yui’s hand and shook it.
“Miss Villiers, you’ll be joining us as a church member today! Do you think you can get along with Nacchan? He looks a little grumpy, but he’s a good kid.”
“Yes, I know him already, so it’s fine. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
“Hmm? Do you know him? Already? Hmm?”
Seeing Kasumi blink her eyes and tilt her head significantly, I diverted the topic before she asked for a troublesome explanation.
“So, what do you want, Katagiri-sensei? Coming all the way here means there is another troublesome matter, doesn’t it?”
“No, it’s not! I wish you’d stop being sarcastic every time I came to visit! I need you to help me carry the booklets for next Sunday’s worship! Or rather, carry it for me!”
“Why are you getting mad?”
It was just a chore, exactly as I expected, but I’m used to this as it’s usually the case when Kasumi comes all the way to visit. Even when it’s not, she just uses it as an excuse to skip staff meetings.
Since she’s taking care of me and I don’t really hate her, I decided to go along with Kasumi as part of my job and got up from my seat.
“Sorry, Villiers, can you wait for a while before we continue? I’ll be back shortly.”
“I understand, I’ll be waiting.”
“That’s my Nacchan, quick to the point! All right, let’s finish this up quickly then!”
Leaving Yui behind who nodded her head obediently, I left the church with a sigh, following the lead of Kasumi, who seemed to be in a good mood.
◇ ◇ ◇
“It took me longer than I thought…”
As I squinted at the setting sun, I walked from the school office back to the church, holding the paper bag containing the bundle of books that Kasumi had pushed on me in both hands.
It’s actually quite heavy, and I know it was tough for Kasumi’s small body, but I hoped that she would at least help me a little bit as I made my way to the church.
Then, a faint voice came from behind the door, and I halted in my tracks.
“This voice is…”
A familiar and beautiful voice came from behind the thick door.
Stifling a gasp, I gently opened the door, trying not to make a sound.
Then, I was met by the sight of Yui singing in the empty chapel, the hymn of praise No. 148, “The Lord of Salvation”, a standard hymn sung at Easter worship events.
It was a clear, calm, and soft acapella with no accompaniment whatsoever.
The evening glow from the night sky illuminated Yui like a spotlight, and her voice echoed quietly and gently through the church, creating a beautiful, illusory scene.
The beauty of her singing made my skin crawl and I felt a rush of warmth from seemingly nowhere.
“…!? Katagiri- …san”
When Yui noticed me, she was shocked and stopped singing.
Her pale blue eyes widened as she pressed her pounding chest with both hands, her gaze fixated on me like a frightened cat.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…”
With the same words of apology as the other day, I smiled bitterly and went through the door in order to close it, and Yui tightened her lips and turned her face away.
“Your voice was really good, were you a choir member back in England?”
I put the paper bag containing the booklet on the couch near the entrance and asked Yui.
As I had thought when we first met at the balcony, I immediately noticed that she was clearly not at the level of a hobbyist who just likes singing, but was familiar with singing praise and worship songs.
Even though she was not a devout believer, she had attended the church enough to receive her baptismal name, and if she could sing like this without even looking at the music sheet, it was natural to assume that she was an experienced choir member, and Yui did not deny it.
“If you want to increase your income, you can apply for choir work as well.”
Just like my case as an organist, there is a special demand for choir work.
In addition, to worship events, there are also requests for singers at wedding ceremonies, and if someone can sing as well or better than Yui and has the looks to back it up, they’ll have plenty of opportunities.
I suggested that she could have a better income doing this, and Yui lowered her eyes with a faint smile tinted with sadness.
“I can’t sing… anymore…”
Shaking her head slowly, she muttered in a strained voice.
“I don’t have the confidence to sing in front of people anymore…”
The cold expression on her face left me at a loss for words.
It was the same fleeting smile on Yui’s face when I first saw her, a smile of resignation, longing, and self-mockery.
The long black hair covered the profile of the dejected Yui, blocking my gaze as if to hide the meaning of her words.
Her voice, as if she had just barely managed to draw it out, made me stop the words that I was going to speak. I knew that this was a sensitive topic that should not be touched easily.
“…I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.”
“No, it was me who should apologize.”
Yui looked up and shook her head with a thin, lonely smile.
“I’ll take one of these paper bags with me.”
She holds one of the paper bags on the couch with both hands and carries it to the office at the back of the church.
As I sat down on the couch and rest my back on it, I closed my eyes to recall the voice that had echoed through the room earlier
(…How can you not be confident when you can sing like that?)
I muttered in my heart, replaying in my memory one of the best hymns I had ever heard.
Villiers has her own problems, and I’m sure it’s not something that I, a stranger, should be stepping into insensitively.
Despite these thoughts, I bottled up a slight itchy feeling in my chest.
“…I guess everyone has their own problems to deal with.”
As if to convince me, I muttered quietly to myself and carried the remaining paper bag to the office.
“Katagiri-san, this… is, I’m not sure if it’s enough but…”
When she had finished putting away the Easter booklet on the shelf, Yui, who looked somewhat apologetic, took out a small paper bag and presented it to me.
“I felt awkward visiting you at home on your day off, so I’m sorry that it’s late… but I’d like to thank you again and I’m sorry…”
I don’t know what Yui was apologizing for, but I still accepted the bag from her.
It’s pretty light and fits in both hands, so I tilted my head to the side, not knowing what to make of it.
“Well, it’s a thank you gift for the food you gave me the other day. The minestrone and the meat and potatoes were both very tasty. Thank you very much.”
Yui bowed respectfully, and I nodded my head in response.
“You don’t have to be grateful because I did it on my own accord. Do you mind if I open this?”
“Yes, it’s… really not that big of a deal, but… please go ahead.”
Yui apologized again with an embarrassed and nervous look on her face, then dropped her gaze and stammered.
When I opened the paper bag, I found a small OPP bag inside, and when I took it out, I was greeted with an uneven assortment of baked cookies.[TN: For those who have no idea what an OPP bag is, OPP (oriented polypropylene) is a very shiny plastic, often perfectly clear or brightly coloured,]
Some were golden brown while others were slightly browned or burnt.
“Could these be… homemade?”
When I asked her, Yui nodded awkwardly, her face turning red.
“I thought of different ways to repay you for teaching me how to earn and save money… So, when I went to the supermarket to buy the half-price bento you told me about, I found this recipe and thought I would follow Katagiri-san’s example and give it a try… I’m sorry.”
She apologized again, fidgeting with her fingertips.
I remember seeing a recipe for homemade cookies that can be made quickly and inexpensively using pancake mix flour at the market.
The introductory pamphlet was mainly in hiragana and had a lot of pictures, so I think the target audience was small children, but it seems that the store attracted unexpected customers.
“I thought that it was strange that I, who has almost no experience in the kitchen, would cook something in order to repay Katagiri-san, who is more experienced in cooking… But I also thought that spending more money would defeat the purpose, so I decided to give it my best shot…”
Yui continued, twirling her fingers and making excuses.
It’s difficult to imagine that a princess with such a cool demeanor would be so blatantly embarrassed.
(Villiers can also have this kind of reaction…)
Smiling at Yui, who was still making excuses, I took a cookie out of the OPP bag and tossed it into my mouth.
Yui let out a small voice and held her breath for a moment.
As if to see my expression as I was eating, Yui peeks at my face, while gasping for air.
“It tastes good. It’s very well made.”
It was perfectly baked and it melted inside my mouth. The rich butter and slight sweetness were perfectly balanced, and the salt sprinkled on the surface adds a certain depth to the flavor.
When it came to baking cookies for the first time, it was common to make mistakes in either the thickness or the degree of baking, resulting in very soft cookies or burnt cookies that became very hard, but these cookies, though uneven in appearance, were exquisite in both taste and the degree of baking.
As soon as the tension was relieved, Yui let out a sigh of relief as she watched me nod and bring another piece into my mouth.
“I’m glad to see that you liked it. It’s a pleasure to make someone happy.”
Yui looked at me with a smile that was appropriate for her age.
The natural smile on her face was so adorable that I almost dropped the cookies I was holding, and I could feel the happiness radiating on her face.
“Oh, I mean, this is really well done. I can’t believe this is your first time cooking…”
I felt embarrassed by Yui’s defenseless smile and averted my gaze.
I managed to hold back the number of words that I was about to say and threw another cookie into my mouth to cover my embarrassed face.
It’s true that the cookies Yui made were delicious, so I managed to get away with it without her noticing.
After eating a few more cookies to calm down, I thanked Yui for the delicious treat.
“I’m sorry, to made you spend money unnecessarily”
“No, it’s nothing compared to the meal Katagiri-san gave me, and I used the money from my previous job, so it’s fine. Rather, I’m happy to have used it for such a meaningful purpose.”
Yui’s blue eyes narrowed as she smiled with satisfaction.
“I see. Thank you.”
I nodded back with an awkward smile at Yui, who gave me a relaxed smile while scratching the bridge of her nose to hide her slightly flushed face.
“Villiers must have a talent for cooking if she can do this well on her first try.”
“Do you think so…? Then that’s a relief…”
Yui’s gaze softened with a slightly deliberate smile.
“…Perhaps this wasn’t your first attempt?”
Yui’s face turns red as she curls her shoulders like a small ball. .
“Yes, actually it didn’t go very well and I made it four times. I’m sorry it doesn’t look very good.”
“Villiers, is the type of person who can’t lie, huh?”
It was so adorable that I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle at Yui’s failure to hide her mistakes.
Yui then raised her eyebrows and became even more embarrassingly smaller.
“I mean, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially since it was your first time.”
“But it’s really shameful that I had to redo it four times…”
“If you put it that way, I couldn’t even count how many times I remade the karaage we had the other day to get a passing grade.”
“Eh… even Katagiri-san, who is such a good cook?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t even make a tamagoyaki properly at first.”
I recalled last year and nodded with a wry smile.
I used to think that a fried egg was as simple as cracking an egg and frying it on a pan, but in order to make it taste good, you must consider the amount of oil, the temperature of the frying pan, and of course, it goes without saying that you also need to make sure that the egg is properly and evenly cooked.
It was last year that I finally realized that cooking is more about personal preferences rather than the cooking itself, meaning more trial and error.
In my case, I got Kei and my sister to experience sweet, sour, and bitter as well as tasteless food all together with me numerous times, and finally here we are.
“So, I think it was important that you tried even though it was your first time, and I’m more than happy to hear that you went through the trouble of redoing it just to thank me.”
Although it was embarrassing for me to say this, I wanted to tell Yui how I felt, so I faced her directly and looked into her eyes.
Yui still looked a little embarrassed, but her expression is now more relaxed and happy.
“…Yes, thank you. I’m so glad to hear you say that.”
Because I also cook for myself, I can understand the joy when someone enjoys the food I made, and I can also relate to those who try their best to make it taste good.
Knowing both of these things, I was honestly glad that Yui was willing to make sweets for me, even though she was new to cooking.
“This morning, Villiers mentioned that she was trying to change.”
“Yes, I did.”
“You can do it, little by little. You can slowly change.”
Yui’s blue eyes narrowed and her expression became more gentle than before.
The smile on her face was so gentle and sweet that I naturally smiled back at her, thinking that it was far more endearing than the cool expression that her classmates found so attractive.
“Yes. I think I’ll keep trying.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
I nodded back at Yui, who smiled happily in a manner befitting of her age.
“I’ll show you around the church and elaborate on the contents of the job, so please follow me.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
Feeling a little more relaxed and closer to Yui than before, I decided to continue explaining the details of the job, which we had set aside for a while now, as I guided her around the church.
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