Contact.92 – The Promise that Existed Nowhere
“I know it’s sudden, but can I make a request?”
I was approached by a girl I never met.
One day, I was approached by a girl I had never met before.
It happened when I was on the way home from school.
First, I heard an angelic voice, one impossible to forget after you heard it once.
“Well, I want you to bring me to the movies.”
It was at the weathered bus stop, my old childhood friend, amongst its faded zinc sheets and the wooden bench ever-exposed to the weather.
An unfamiliar girl was standing there.
The street lights were neither exactly orange nor quite yellow. They caressed the girl’s nice body with gold, emphasizing her presence amongst the darkness. Yes, even those somewhat old street lights made her out to be some kind of sacred being when shining upon her.
She tilted her head cutely, probably because I remained silent.
“Didn’t you hear me?” she asked.
Before I knew it, my reflection in the girl’s eyes looked a lot larger than before. Suddenly, they were close. Real close. I wondered why was she able to approach me so casually just like that. It was disturbing. I gulped, hoping for the saliva to unlock my dry throat.
“No, I heard you.”
My voice sounded a lot softer than I wanted it to, hoarse even.
This time, it was I who was worried if she did hear me.
Really? That’s good. This time however, it was the girl who said that, patting down on her ample breasts. It appeared my message did reach her.
“I’m Shiina Yuki. Nice to meet you, Haruyoshi-kun.”
“Huh? Yes, hello. Erm… Shiina-san?”
“Call me Yuki, please.”
Shiina Yuki beamed. She was really, shockingly cute.
The hair falling down to her shoulders seemed ironed and a little curly. Her skin was white as snow. That made her fine, blood-red lips look alluring despite her not having any makeup on.
A momentary gust of wind sent her hair aflutter. It carried a hint of perfume in my direction. What is this scent? I wondered. The answer came to me after a moment. It was the cherry blossoms. No doubt.
The moment I found this answer, though, my heart was assaulted by a sudden torrent of emotions: searing heat, anguish. Pain. It tightened under the onslaught.
I put my hand on the left chest of my uniform, and at the same time, called out her name as she had wished. Yes, I really am trying to bluff my way out of things I should be doing.
“Yuki… You said you want me to bring you to the movies. What’s up with that?”
“You’ll be going to see a movie tomorrow, right?”
“…Tomorrow’s a working day.”
“Yes, I know. But your high school will be closed tomorrow, right? To celebrate its founding?”
She, no, Yuki spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. Tomorrow’s set lunch will be curry, the menu says so. That was the manner in which the reply was delivered.
“And you’ll use this day off to watch a movie, right? You do have two tickets. Unless… You asked someone out already?”
“How do you know, Yuki? I never mentioned it to anyone.”
I recalled back to a few days ago, when my friends invited me out. I rejected them, saying that I had something important. Akane in particular fervently questioned why; since you’re going out alone, bring me along. Nevertheless, I never mentioned the reason.
My mind brought back memories from a few days ago, when my friends invited me to go out on that day. I rejected them, saying that I had something important. They asked why and Akane in particular was relentless in her questioning, even saying that since I was going to go out alone, I should take her along. Nevertheless, I kept mum.
I certainly didn’t want any acquaintance to spot me and this girl together, and watching a movie with her would just invite a full-blown interrogation. Not to mention that I’d be teased about this matter years in the future.
The girl before my eyes just smiled, however, seemingly unable to comprehend my emotions.
“Ah, hmm…. Let’s just say it’s my secret.”
“Because, a girl full of secrets should be more attractive, right?”
It appeared she had no intention of answering me directly.
I tried waiting her out, but no decent answer came. Yuki simply stood there, smiling, fully aware that I was waiting for her reply, but choosing to remain silent.
In this battle of patience, I lost.
“Fine. I didn’t ask anyone out. Got two tickets on hand.”
“Then bring me along.”
“Why do you want to see the movie?”
“…I promised to see the movie.”
Yuki continued to smile, but her smile seemed a little sadder than before. It might have just been me though.
I looked up at the sky. So did she.
Somehow, the darkness up there had become very, very deep.
The clouds were thin and few apart, allowing the multitude of the stars to sparkle unhindered. It would be really cool if I was able to identify a constellation or two there. Unfortunately, I was absolutely clueless about astronomy.
I found nothing in the vast, endless night sky.
“I see… So, you promised.”
“A promise is a promise, I guess I can only oblige… —”
I tried saying this instead of discussing the constellations. Plenty embarrassing, and I was spent just by this one line.
“Got it. Let’s go together then.”
“Really?” she asked. “Thank you.”
“If I remember right, there’s a train going there at 10:10am. Shall we meet up at the gantry?”
“Mn, no problems. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow!”
We waved, bidding each other goodbye.
Yuki went off along the street in the opposite direction I would take, the only one possible to take. Soon, her petite silhouette vanished from sight.
I watched her until she was gone, before moving on myself.
My mind was filled with the girl I had just met, and it lingered for a long, long time.
That fragrance of Spring, that slender body, those fine fingers like a piece of glass art moving through the hair as it danced with the wind… The long and narrow eyebrows, the pitch black eyes, the nicely shaped red lips… I kept bringing all that back, until…
The moment Yuki’s voice echoed in my mind, I stopped.
For a question clearly floated in my mind.
Because it triggered one, distinct doubt.
Did I ever tell her my name?
Of course, nobody would answer. Yuki’s pleased smile as she sidestepped the issue remained in my mind.
This was how I encountered Shiina Yuki.
I arrived at the station 30 minutes early, but it was Yuki who arrived earlier. We probably could ride on an earlier train.
But my legs, wanting to run towards Yuki, hesitated if they should approach her anymore.
Her back was leaning on the pillar, looking into an empty void. Her sidelong face had the disposition of an artistic masterpiece, giving her an unapproachable vibe.
On a closer look, many peeked towards her from time to time, but none dared to speak to her. It takes a lot of courage to go up and talk to her.
I gulped, rubbed my sweaty palms off my pants, forced my legs to move towards her when they couldn’t, slowly raised my hand, and finally managed to talk to her.
“Good morning. You’re really early.”
Yuki noticed me due to my voice. Her palms pushed off the pillar, and she hurried towards me.
My voice made her take notice. Her palms pushed off the pillar, and she hurried towards me.
“Have you waited for long?” I asked.
“No. I just arrived myself.”
Ehehe, Yuki giggled.
She giggled and thorny aura around her vanished without a trace. I heaved a sigh of relief. The heat rising from the bottom of my lungs dissolved into the clear air.
“Sorry, I’ll take note for the next time. It’s not good to keep a girl waiting after all.”
“You don’t have to worry. You’re really sincere about things like this, Yoshi-kun.”
“Yes. Haruyoshi, so Yoshi-kun. Can’t I call you that?”
“Not that you can’t, I just never had anyone call me that before.”
Normally, I was either called Segawa or Haru.
The former was used by my little sister, Natsuna, and my parents. Being called something different for the first time made me a little uneasy.
“So let this be my personal way of addressing you, okay?”
Yuki smiled, revealing her white teeth, and pulled my arm towards her.
I barely managed to maintain my balance and avoid falling forward. The distance between us decreased by a step or so.
It felt like Yuki’s small, cold hand robbed me of all my warmth as she grabbed onto my wrist. But then, I felt hot just from being held. Unable to look up, I simply stood there and kept staring at the dirty tips of my shoes..
“Okay, let’s go then, Yoshi-kun.”
The moment she said this, I recalled something I had forgotten to ask yesterday.
“Anyway, do you know where we’re going today?”
The movie I was going to see on this day was different . If I was to try and describe it, well, it was nothing like those movies heavily pushed in the TV ads, and it was not aired at a cinema either.
But Yuki brushed all of my concerns aside.
“What a silly question. We’re going to Yasaka University, right?”
There was a town two stations away from where I was living that boasted lots of slopes. Yasaka University was located at the longest slope in that town.
It was far enough in fact, that we have to take the bus after alighting at the station.
“Ah, it’s there, right, Yoshi-kun? Here, see?” asked Yuki.
We were almost ten minutes into our bus ride at this point.
She was pointing towards a large gate and sign.
The sign, in colourful popup words, said ‘60th Aksho Festival’.
This University in Yasaka had begun holding this week-long festival on Sunday. The tickets I had on me were for the ‘movie club self-produced film’ on display during this event.
I forgot when exactly it had happened, a year ago maybe, half a year at least, but due to a certain incident I happened to come into possession of these two tickets.
The moment I entered the gates, I felt a sudden change in the atmosphere around me.
We were welcomed by the rare sight of the leaves in Autumn colors beneath which…
There were stalls, so many stalls on display. You could hear intense guitar riffs from afar and delightful clappers for YOSAKOI from nearby. It really seemed like a real festival.
I received a pamphlet from a big sister, and immediately flipped through it, intending to check the schedule of the movie. It was a short film, just 30 minutes long. Taking breaks into account, it aired once every one and a half hours.
There were ten minutes until the next seance. If we hurried, we should still be able to make it. I attempted to check the venue location on the map, just to make sure, but as I was flipping through the pages the pamphlet got snatched away from my hands.
I lifted my head to see Yuki holding a pamphlet in each hand.
“What are you doing?”
“Straight back at you, Yoshi-kun. What are you doing?”
“Me? What? …Looking for where the movie is being screened, of course?”
Yuki sighed audibly, shaking her head in the process. I got the full-blown ‘you don’t understand’ look for my trouble.
“You can just look around and still find that place, right? More importantly, this is a rare festival! Stalls! Band performances! Haunted houses! If you ignore all of that and go straight to your destination, it’ll be such a waste. Karma will strike you, know?”
“I certainly don’t want to be hit by karma.”
“Then let’s walk around a bit. Come on, It’ll be fun!”
That was how we started touring the festival grounds.
Yuki sniffed around the stalls corner with her little nose, and was finally tempted by the fragrance as she queued at the crepes shop. She hesitated over whether she should add strawberries or chocolate bananas, but she chose both. I personally chose chestnut to fit with the autumn theme.
Yuki kept sniffing around the stalls corner with her little nose, until finally she was tempted by a certain fragrance and queued at the crepes shop. She hesitated for a while, unable to choose between strawberries or chocolate bananas as topping. In the end, she went with both. I personally chose chestnut to match the autumn theme.
“It’s amazing that you’re able to eat two.”
“Seeds do invo abrother starbucks.”
Yuki’s mouth was stuffed with so much crepes, her cheeks were puffing. What she said sounded alien, though I never met an alien myself.
“What was that?”
This time, she began by closing her mouth, and chewing carefully. She seemed a tad reluctant to swallow the crepes, however she did so eventually and, with cream still on the side of her lips, she said once again with emphasis, “Sweets go into another stomach. Duh.”
“Yuki, you got cream on your lips.
“Ah, sorry. This side?”
“This one then?”
Yuki tried wiping herself with her palm, but the cream was still there.
I took out a tissue and used it to wipe her mouth. She let me do so obligingly, but never stopped eyeing the crepes for another opportunity to take a bite. I actually had to say “It’s not off yet. Wait,” in the middle of the operation. Such outrageous creatures, girls. I was partial to sweets myself, but their passion easily exceeds any kind of enthusiasm I could possibly muster.
“Alright, all done.”
“Thanks, Yoshi-kun. You’re quite well prepared.”
“It’s just a tissue, nothing much. It’s pretty normal for a high school student to have some around.”
“Well, I’m almost 17, and I never carried any before.”
“Oh? You’re older than me by a year then?”
“Yes, I am. That makes me your senior, so you have to respect me.”
“Hard to speak of respect when you still have cream on your mouth.”
“Lies! …There’s still more?”
I watched Yuki grow flustered and start rubbing her mouth. It made me chuckle. Her white skin took a reddish hue, probably because in her panic she rubbed a bit too hard. Soon, even the cheeks, unaffected by her actions thus far, turned a little red.
I chuckled again and said, “It’s gone.”
“Uuu… You’re so mean, Yoshi-kun. Really mean.”
Yuki pouted as she walked before me.
That gave me an excellent view of her slender back, fluffy hair, and shapely legs beneath her skirt. I actually let her gain a little distance to be able to enjoy them a little better.
She went straight for the library, though, to marvel at the exhibits presented there by the photography club, and I had to give chase almost instantly.
We marvelled at the many monochrome photos lined together—talking about the work we both liked.
I chose a photo of a man jumping on a beach, she that of a girl alone on the shopping street.
The lonely girl looked isolated from the vast world and so very helpless. It was without a doubt a nice picture, one with a message, but it didn’t match my impression of Yuki. I expected her to be more like me and choose a photo filled with life.
“Really?” I asked.
Yuki’s soft reply was unmistakable in the library sparsely filled with people.
“This is definitely me, though.”
After that, we went to the arts club store where we bought a few doujins. Our tastes in novels were similar, and it seemed we liked the same works. Walking next to each other, we read through some of our purchases together.
Then, Yuki noticed something ahead, and went in that direction without hesitation. I hadn’t noticed before, but we were at the furthest end of the school grounds now, far away from the hustle and bustle. There was an old building ahead, out of the way, almost as if built in secret, and it piqued her curiosity. I even heard her mutter, “What’s that building for?”
Many years of weather exposure changed the originally white walls into anything but and allowed plants that I couldn’t name to grow all over the structure. I could venture a guess that the green stuff was probably moss, but that was about it. Anyway, the place seemed rather unapproachable.
I wanted to call for Yuki to return, but at this moment, a slightly familiar voice stopped me in my tracks with a line I heard before – “You, the boy there. Hold on a moment.”
Even after a long time, I could recognize that muscular body.
The other person had a messy three days worth of stubble, hair tied behind his head, and childish, dazzling eyes sparkling between his long bangs.
It was at least a year since we last met, but he was the same as usual.
The one behind the movie we were going to see today.
And the person who had given me these two tickets.
I first met the director during a winter break while I was still in middle school.
Club activities were suspended, and I was alone with nothing to do. So I went for a stroll in a nearby park.
This would be a very busy place during vacations or evenings, but not many people came here on a normal workday. The lack of crowd made me feel a little lonely.
Breaking this silence was an exceptionally gruff voice.
“You, the boy there. Hold on a moment.”
Someone was calling me so I turned towards the voice. I saw a muscular uncle running in my direction with all the associated frantic noise. He looked like he was in a fix, so I stopped without thinking much about it. A big mistake.
By the time he made it to where I stood, the man was wheezing so hard he sounded as if he was dying. He went behind me, and suddenly grabbed me by the elbow.
“Ahh… Saved. Please come along with us.”
“Wh-what’s going on?
“We’re filming a movie, but we don’t have enough actors at the last moment. It’s causing us lots of trouble.”
“Nonono, hold on. I don’t get what you mean.”
“Don’t get what I mean?”
The uncle turned towards me with bewilderment which gave me a chance to have a closer look of his face. I found him to be somewhat young, in his twenties probably, thus I could still maybe get away with calling him a big brother.
“Not one bit.”
“So, I said you’ll be an actor in my movie for now.”
“I heard that. What I’m saying I don’t get is why I have to come along with you.”
“Didn’t I just explain? If you don’t come along, I’ll be in a real pinch.”
“So, that’s how it is. Come on.”
I didn’t get to finish, I was dragged away by him just like that.
All my objections after that were wasted effort. The difference in strength was overwhelming, and no matter how I tried to resist, I couldn’t escape. Eventually after some three minutes of struggle, I gave up.
I was completely at his whim, either to be roasted or fried.
I soon learned that this man was the director of the movie, and everyone called him just that, the Director. He carried himself in an entirely different manner while on the set and the aura around him changed drastically too. He looked a little cool actually, as annoying that was to admit.
The scene was a bench in the park.
I was assigned the role of Passer-by A.
All I had to do was to follow behind the protagonist. I had no lines to say and wasn’t expected to do anything special either. Even so, I was meticulously instructed on how to behave, where to look at what time, and how fast to walk.
The plan was to film only a single scene, so I naively thought I would be able to get it done soon and go home, but the reality was a brutal four hour of deadlock and many, many retakes.
The blue sky began to darken when they started collecting the equipment. In a mere ten minutes or so, gloom would smother the world, barely a blink of an eye, honestly. The night was coming fast.
“So, boy, you’re here. You did good.”
I looked towards where the voice was coming from and saw the Director walking towards me. Apparently, he had been looking for me for quite a while.
“It took a lot of time.”
“You really helped me out, though. You might be on the screen for only like 10 seconds or so, but I really didn’t want to compromise on the quality. And things dragged out. Oh, yeah, this is for you. A token of gratitude.”
Saying that, the director took out a can of corn soup. With the sun gone it had gotten quite cold, so I accepted gratefully. The soup proved to be still warm, and I felt the sensation spread through my palms as I held the can in both hands.
“Thank you very much.”
“These are for you as well. Tickets. There’ll be a public screening during the culture festival next Autumn. Do come by to watch.”
“Next year? Not this one?”
“The production won’t be probably finished in time for this year. I think that once this is done, I’ll be graduating.”
The rectangular bits of colored paper had the words “60th Akiho Festival Movie Screening Ticket” on them. It had been ‘59th‘ originally, but the number had been crossed off twice, and replaced with ‘60th’ above in a noticeably larger font, as though conveying the director’s determination.
Next to the writing, I could see the name of the university and its crest, even if he rectangular red words ‘Yasaka University’ were a little blurry. I did hear rumors about the school. Supposedly it had been built on a cursed slope or something.
“Eh? There are two tickets?”
“It’s a romance film. If you have a girl you like, invite her along.”
Thanks to this, I found myself in possession of two movie tickets and one can of corn soup. It was a cheap return for the four hours of hard work but, well, it the experience might have proved invaluable in the future, so whatever.
The Director turned to leave and, still drinking his soup, gave me a wave for goodbye while walking away. I stayed for a bit longer, drinking from my can. The temperature of the soup was just right. It did not offend my cat tongue, and just spread a gentle warmth throughout my throat and belly as I sipped it.
The brightest of all stars was sparkling in the sky.
It looked like the leading star.
So I started walking towards the little light of Venus.
“You’re here, boy.”
The Director addressed us from behind a table with a festival pamphlet, about a dozen or so tickets, and other paraphernalia messily strewn about. There was even a movie magazine there, probably flipped through lots of times judging by how the actress’ face on the cover was disfigured. His muscular body was taking up nearly two-thirds of the bench he was sitting on.
“It’s been a while. Is this where the movie is airing?”
“Yeah. This is the clubroom building and our club is in its deepest depths. On the second floor, to be precise…” At this moment, the director finally seemed to notice Yuki. “Hm?”
He sized her up like a man possessed, several times over. Then, he finally tore his eyes away and spoke to me again.
“Boy, a word,” he said, beckoning me closer.
Confused, I approached as he wanted, only to be dragged to the end of the building.
This put us at some distance away from Yuki so our voices probably wouldn’t reach her even if we spoke normally. “What’s with that girl? Isn’t she super cute?” the director still started questioning me at a mosquito-level whisper anyway. “What’s her relationship with you?”
“Friends? I guess? …She seems like she wants to see this movie no matter what. No idea when she got the wind of me having two tickets, but I brought her along.”
“A fan of mine?”
The director eyed sideways, smirking.
“Don’t think so. She said she promised someone that she’ll see this movie.”
The leer on his face was off-putting, so I just had to emphatically deny.
Both of us looked towards Yuki in unison.
She was flipping through the worn-out magazine that lay on the table. Didn’t seem like she was reading properly. Probably just browsing through, enjoying the feeling of paper and the sound of the pages turning.
“She’s like a painting,” marvelled the Director to himself as he appraised her once more. “Such girls are rare. She’s not just cute or pretty, she has a certain charm that attracts attention. A really rare thing, that. So, boy, negotiate with her to appear in a movie if you may?”
“Not going to. Can’t you just ask her yourself?”
“Well… You see…”
“I see what?”
“…I’ll be hurt if such a cute girl rejects me.”
I was really, seriously outraged, and it showed on my face.
Hold on a moment, I thought. What’s this guy saying? Actually, what happened to the crazy guy who dragged me away by force that year?
“Are we guys not such creatures, boy? Facing a beauty saps our strength.”
“Why are you saying it like it’s a motto?”
The retort was instinctive, but the large eyes of the Director still stared at me intently.
“You’ve changed, boy.”
“Yeah, you’ve changed. The old you, well… How do I put it? Easy to deal with. Beg you enough and you’ll agree to anything. You’re a little different now, though. Able to express yourself.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“That’s definitely a good thing. Those that go with the flow can’t catch anything. If you really want something, you need to grab it with both hands, even if it means taking it by force. And since that’s how it is, I can only plead with you. Boy, I’ll get down on my knees and beg if you continue to refuse. But then you’re just going to refuse me again, so…”
Why did he have to be so forceful towards me? Couldn’t he do that to Yuki instead?
Still, as a guy too, I couldn’t say that I didn’t understand what he felt.
“Sigh, so be it. I’ll introduce her to you. But you will have to ask her yourself.”
I called her by name. She closed the magazine and came to us, her body swaying sensuously as she approached.
“Finished your little whispering session?”
“Yeah, basically, this guy here gave me the tickets, and he’s the director of this movie we’re going to see. Seems like he has a request for you.”
“Say your piece, Director,” I said, giving him a hard nudge in the back. It was a very solid back, hard and unmoving, like a rock. Even so, my little nudge might have motivated him to go out of his shell.
“Oh… Yeah. Th-th-thank you very much for coming to see this movie today!”
“You’re welcome. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Yuki smiled, making the director blush and shake visibly. I had never expected that little would be enough to push him to his mental limit.
Feeling that he was beyond hope, I was about to step in, but he continued on his own.
“And,” he cleared his throat a couple of times, “if it’s okay, can I get you to act in my movie next time?”
He reached out with his massive hand towards Yuki.
“Uh-huh,” she just said.
“No can do?”
That only got an, “Uh huh,” again.
“So, is it a yes?”
Yuki smiled impishly.
“I can decide after watching the movie, right?”
That was the smile of a little devil.
There were twelve chairs and three other people in the room large enough for twenty. Four chairs a row, arrayed into three rows. We were seated in the second. The chairs felt wobbly, probably because the floor was old. The lights in the room were switched off as soon as the projector was started.
The picture was displayed on a typical classroom whiteboard.
It was your typical everyday story, the encounter between a boy and a girl, their breakup, and a reunion. A very common tale you could hear everywhere.
No alien invasion, no world-destroying monsters. No crisis gripping the planet. But there was clearly something to the movie.
The scene I appeared in was the important one, when the duo, after having a huge argument, came to regret their actions and reunited at the bench in the park. I was far into the background, but I still realized it was me, just passing by.
Yuki might have noticed my appearance as well, because she poked my side just then.
I grabbed that mischievous finger, and glanced towards her discreetly.
She looked at me briefly from her chair right next to mine, but almost instantly her eyes returned to staring at the screen, and she looked to be taking the movie really serious.
I had a pretty rude thought that it was just an amateur movie made for a culture festival, not something meant to be watched so seriously. Why is she being that serious? I wondered.
But at the same time, her profile in the darkness illuminated by the light of the projector looked really beautiful. And for the last five minutes, I was just staring at her, completely spellbound.
We arrived at the bus stop by the University’s main entrance only to see one disappear around a corner, its red taillights slowly getting smaller until they vanished outright.
It seemed it would be 10 minutes before the next one arrived.
We sat down together on the plastic seats next to each other. There was no one else around.
“Yoshi-kun, the movie really left me nervous,” she said, but then added with a beaming smile, “but it was really interesting too. Especially, the part where the protagonist confessed, that was really good. Honestly, I want to be confessed to passionately like that myself…”
She was relating her impressions with obvious delight, but I let the words go by. There was one thing I was more interested in than the review, and it kept lingering on my mind. I wondered if I should ask or not. Eventually, after much deliberation, I couldn’t help myself.
“In that case, why did you refuse?”
It had happened maybe ten minutes ago.
We found the Director outside the venue, waiting for us to exit.
“How was the movie?”
“It was really nice.”
He was probably very anxious for this answer because he heaved a huge sigh of relief. I could almost see him clenching his right fist in a victory gesture, the smile on his face was so dazzling.
Yuki too smiled.
“But I guess the miracle never happened after all,” she said, “So, as promised, I think I shall refuse.”
Neither I, standing next to her, nor the smiling director managed to comprehend her words, or recall her reason for such a decision.
The look on our faces must have been quite obvious.
So she repeated her answer again, with emphasis, so that nobody was under any misapprehensions.
“I am sorry, I cannot appear in your movie.”
One bow later, Yuki hastily left the club building.
I stood there for a moment, looking back and forth between her retreating back and the dumbfounded Director, before finally bowing in his direction as Yuki had done, and giving chase.
“Because I promised,” she said in reply.
“Hey, Yoshi-kun, do you think there was a scene there, in the movie, that looked out of sorts?”
“In that case, I shouldn’t appear in the Director’s new work. It was a promise after all.”
“I don’t get what you mean at all. Who did you make a promise with, and what was it?”
Yuki’s eyes shifted to look at the slightly worn out tips of her red shoes. Tips that touched and broke away over and over again, in what looked like a repeated, fleeting kiss.
“And since we’re on the subject of promises, I’ll ask again. Yuki, who did you promise to watch this movie with?”
She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly towards the sky. Her legs stopped their playful motion. She stood up.
I raised my head to keep her in my sight immediately and without much thinking. Her back was facing the setting sun, making it impossible to tell what expression she was making.
“There was a promise that existed nowhere. Nowhere in the past, present, or future.”
“What’s going on? You had a promise to keep, didn’t you, Yuki?”
“I did, but it no longer exists. Even the act of us making one ceased to be.”
“I… don’t really get you. If that is the case though, wouldn’t it be fine for you to not fulfill your part?”
“No. that’s because it’s still very important to me.”
There was clearly something in Yuki’s voice, a certain stubbornness. The root issue didn’t seem to be something I could settle just by wanting to, and she gave me nothing more to work with.
Finally, the bus arrived.
She offered me her hand, and I did my best to hold it as gently as possible as I stood up from the seat. Her hand was delicate, cold to the touch, weak and fleeting. It felt so fragile that I worried I would break it if I exerted a little too much strength.
“If possible, can I meet you tomorrow?”
“That will have to be after school though, if you’re fine with that.”
“See you tomorrow then.”
That we promised to each other.
We made a promise that really existed in this world.
We were together the next day, and the following day too.
We visited the bookstore, and studied at the library.
Yuki was great at academics, and would patiently explain the solutions to the questions I couldn’t solve.
Before I knew it, a week passed from the moment I met her.
“You’re a good kid, Yoshi-kun.”
“Look, even if you say that, I’m not treating you to tea.”
I already bought a meat bun for her at the convenience store, as a thank you for having her check my schoolwork.
“Tch, you’re not treating me?”
She went into a clumsy rendition of, “It’s cold, it’s cold.” The streetlights started to brighten as we walked down the town. “I’m scared of the cold,” she admitted as she rubbed her little hands, breathing out on her fingertips. Winter was coming and, surely, tomorrow would be colder than this day.
We passed by the post office, eventually arriving at a place a little away from the station.
“Hey, Yoshi-kun. You shouldn’t trust me too much, you know?” she said out of a sudden with a gentle rebuke in her voice.
“Because I want to do something cruel to you.”
Saying that, Yuki shook her head. She closed her eyes. Tight. Three seconds passed. She opened her eyes again then, and there was a mysterious glint to them. Was that confusion? Fear? Rage? Rugged determination? I couldn’t tell. Finally, that light too vanished.
“No. Nevermind. Forget about it.”
Yuki ran away from me, step by step, looking as if trying to hide her face.
“Can we meet again tomorrow?” I shouted at her retreating back, suddenly gripped by an irrational fear that she would vanish.
That made her turn towards me on the spot. The momentum sent her skirt aflutter and lifted her hair slightly. In that moment she looked like she was dancing. And just like the day when we first met, my heart pounded like a hammer, with so much force that it ached.
“This is the first time you started a promise with me on your own, Yoshi-kun,” she said with a happy laugh.
“If that’ll make you happy, I’ll keep inviting you starting tomorrow.”
“Then I’m happy.”
Like before, I bade farewell to her in front of the train station.
She waved vigorously at me, so hard that I was worried if her arm would stay attached. I waved as hard in response. The distance between us was increasing, little by little.
After her train made some distance, Yuki let her hand fall, and shouted my name.
At that moment, my body froze.
Yuki’s expression changed, and I had the impression that her smile was a lie. At the same time, she said something else too.
The noise and the distance swallowed her words, so I did not hear what she had said.
But I was able to read it from her lips and understand.
Yuki’s last, anguished message to me.