The end of summer vacation loomed, and I would always end up recalling the events of that day, without fail.
August 27th, two years ago.
The day I received the first love letter in my life.
That was the time when I still had some inkling of hope for love. It’s such a stupid, yet happy memory.
And at the same time I also remembered another day.
August 27th, last year.
That was the day when there was no response on LINE, and that was when I realized that the happy memory the year before had already become a distant and nostalgic memory. I experienced the emptiness, the raw, lukewarm nostalgia that was devoid of sadness. That was when I realized that day had devolved into something like that.
We were supposed to celebrate it together.
It was supposed to be an anniversary.
But we’re too immature, and didn’t even deserve to have an anniversary.
Thanks to that fruitless realization. August 27th wasn’t an anniversary, but a death anniversary.
The day I woke up from the delirium of love.
It was the day the love inside me died.
Summer vacation was coming to an end, and so too did the date loom. I was looking at the calendar on my schedule app, reminiscing the happiest memory of my life, and also the most bitter memory of my life.
Two years ago, I successfully confessed my love for the first time in my life; last year though, I spent a fruitless day reminiscing about it.
But, this year’s different.
I was no longer a cowardly woman hoping for a miracle. I learned of the concept of attacking, wouldn’t just wait for someone to help me out, and would take the initiative to strike..
It’s our two year anniversary.
There’s no better chance—to drive that shut-in of a guy out of the house. There’s no better time than now to ignore the fact that we’re stepsiblings for the time being!
“…Where shall we go…?”
I opened the web browser on my phone, and searched for suitable places to go out—nope, at this point, I’m not going to be in denial—suitable places to date. I did enjoy myself a lot during our aquarium date, but if I were to invite him out by saying ‘let’s go to the amusement park’, I couldn’t think of any outcome other than ‘huh? Don’t wanna’. A date location where Mizuto would be interested in…
…Speaking of which, did he have no plans for that day?
I always assumed that he never had anything going on when I planned such things, but he did have something resembling a social life at this point, and he’s not the shut-in back in middle school whom I wondered if he had any acquaintances, let alone friends. I could imagine myself being rejected by him at this point.
First, I had to get his schedule..
With that in mind, I started up LINE and opened the chat window with Mizuto.
We promised if there’s anything we need, we would use LINe to chat instead of going to each other’s room. Furthermore, if I were to charge in and ask ‘are you free on August 27th?’, my intentions would be revealed…
I thought about what to write
“Hey. Any plans to go out?”
…Wouldn’t that seem a little weird? Ah whatever. Send.
A few seconds later, it was tagged as read, and a reply came shortly afterwards.
My heart jumped. I typed with trepidation.
While I was feeling dizzy and light-headed, Mizuto’s message continued.
“Higashira invited me to the movies.”
Since Mizuto’s interest was moderately piqued, and it did feel like a suitable place for a date…! I didn’t know such a move was possible…!
Struck with this realization, I couldn’t help but feel impressed… but, huh, I was surpassed.
He wasn’t…available on that day, huh?
I felt crestfallen, lonely—ah, yeah, it’s called ‘a tragedy’, huh.
For Mizuto—for us, August 27th was no longer an anniversary.
It’s to be expected. We already broke up. Why would we celebrate the day we started dating?
He didn’t have an obligation to leave the day available for me. Not anymore.
It was a fact I’ve only just come to realize. How long did it take me to digest this fact after all these years? Even I didn’t know.
I didn’t reply during this time. Maybe this unnatural pause conveyed my feelings to Mizuto.
Only in times like this was he really perceptive.
“Should I leave time for you?”
The moment I saw that message, I felt a bloodrush to my head.
“Why are you asking me?”
My fingers almost automatically replied words of indignation.
“Didn’t you make plans with Higashira-san? It’s your decision, right? You’re just going to free up time for me just because I popped by later to ask? Wouldn’t that be rude to Higashira-san?”
I didn’t know why I’m so mad.
But I couldn’t let it happen. I couldn’t forgive Mizuto for being so negligent to his best friend for the sake of his mere ex, and I wouldn’t allow him to become such a man.
That’s right…Mizuto cared about his ex-girlfriend Yume Ayai, not me.
After a long spill of words, several minutes passed, and Mizuto replied.
“You’re right. Sorry.”
It’s a simple message, yet filled with great remorse.
Phew. I sighed and cooled my head.
…Did I make a really terrible decision?
Mizuto might set aside his plans for me if I’d asked. Wasn’t my plan all along to invite him for a date on our anniversary.
No…that idea was cowardly.
I already swore to surpass my past self. I wanted him to like me now more than he did to Yume Ayai. So why was I relying on an anniversary that was already in the past?
Mizuto made other plans on our anniversary, and it should be a good thing—it proved that the old me wasn’t such a strong presence in his life.
…And in another sense, that left me a little frustrated.
“A movie, huh…”
It’s a great idea. No, well, since it’s Higashira-san, she might not really have intended to ask Mizuto out for a date—it’s most likely that she really just wanted to see a movie.
I mean, did those two actually have a proper date before?
It seemed like they’re always together, chatting in the library, leaving school together, and Higashira-san always hung out at our place. If we’re talking about a proper place to date though, I didn’t think they actually visited it before…
I opened the LINE chat window with Higashira-san.
Well. It’s her first date. As an ex-collaborator, I should at least be supportive. I was not, definitely not doing this because I was upset to be excluded!
I sought out various excuses, and sent a message to Higashira-san.
“I heard you’re going to the movies with Mizuto. Good luck!”
See, I’m calm.
To all the shitty brats who had weird thoughts when they saw their boyfriends chat with other girls, watch and learn.
Soon after, Higashira-san replied.
And after that—
“Do you want to come along with us, Yume-san?”
She might not have realized this, but I couldn’t just ruin the mood by going along on someone’s first date.
“It’s a rare opportunity! I’ll go!”
I looked up at the blue sky.
Cars kept passing by right in front of me as I remained under the shadow of a small roof. I sat on a bench at a bus stop not far from my house.
This was the meeting place
I had planned to meet Higashira at a random place. But for some reason, Yume suddenly joined us, called Higashira to our house, and she threw me out.
Really, what’s going on?
I remembered all too well the significance of this day, but there’s no special meaning to it at this point. That was my thought when I accepted Higashira’s invitation.
And yet—who would have thought Higashira would ask her out?
And more surprisingly, she‘d accept the invitation.
I heard that it was decided right after our exchange on LINE. Doesn’t she know the word ‘shameless’? She’s the one who told me to put Higashira first—no, well, Higashira was the one who invited her out anyway, so neither of us had any right to speak.
Taking two girls to the movies, huh…
One’s a friend and one’s family, but I wouldn’t have imagined this half a year ago.
Well, we’re just going to check out a movie and go home. No need to get all uptight about it.
“Kept you waiting.”
I turned around towards the voice, and found two girls looking down at me while I was sitting on the bench.
One of them—Yume, was dressed in pants, which was rare of her. Her long black hair was tied up in a ponytail, and she’s wearing a top with short sleeves that showed off her arms. She looked a little more adult-like compared to usual.
The other one was Higashira, and I saw her in this outfit before. She’s wearing a loose-fitting greenish top and a loose beige skirt, a plain look reminiscent of a fantasy village girl. I only saw her in parka and pants recently, with absolutely no fashion sense, so this outfit looked really fresh.
Higashira’s eyes were a little brighter than usual, and her lips were glittering. It was then when I understood.
“You kicked me out to check out Higashira’s fashion?”
“Yeah, Higashira-san would have gone out in a parka like usual if I left her be.”
“Why not? We’re just going to watch a movie, right?”
“No can do! It’s one thing when you’re at home, but you need to dress up well when you’re outdoors!”
“It’s so troublesome…~”
Higashira’s shoulders slumped. It’s tough being a girl, my sympathies. If Higashira had been born a man, people wouldn’t complain about her wearing indoor clothes while going out.
Yume stared at me while I silently sized them up while acting like a bystander.
“You got something to say, right?”
Yume lightly nudged Higashira’s back.
Higashira blinked and looked at me. She seemed befuddled. So did I.
I had a vague feeling as to what I should be saying on such an occasion…
“I think I told you my feelings about these clothes.”
“Of course. I already asked, you know?”
“I’m, asking, about, Higashira-san, today!”
It’s not the weather or the temperature. It’ll be crazy if a person’s appearance changes from day to day, right?
Yume didn’t seem convinced though, so I had no choice but to look for a compliment to give Higashira.
“I think it’s better than the usual parka.”
“There are more ways to praise her!”
“Don’t be embarrassed by this praise, Higashira-san! That’s cheap of him! ”
She’s so annoying today.
As I was thinking that, Yume sighed sadly and glanced at me.
“What about me?”
“What. About. Me?”
That was the reason she made me praise Higashira.
Since I praised Higashira, there’s no way I could ignore Yume…dammit, that’s underhanded…
I looked up at Yume, who was dressed more maturely, and started searching for words.
” Ponytail. That’s unusual of you.”
Yume gently fiddled with the hair tied up at the back of her head .
“Ahhh… I guess. I’ll clash with Akatsuki-san if I do it like this all the time.”
“…Do you like a ponytail?”
The question was asked in a subdued tone, and yet I couldn’t retort immediately.
It’s partly because I really couldn’t answer immediately, and also because, well, the way this conversation is going…
Higashira tilted her head and asked.
I couldn’t take it anymore, and chuckled..
“What? Wort wort wort? What’s so funny?
“You should start checking out the classic novels of 2000s~ pffffffttt.”
“Pfffft! I’m also a sucker for ponytails. The nape of your neck is erotic~~! Pfff!”
“Hey! Can you stop acting like you’re the only ones who know what’s going on?”
Well, it’s not a foul in any case—but it suited her rather well.
No way was I going to tell her though.
The bus came, and we got on, single file.
“Ah. There’s seats at the back.”
I followed the two who boarded first, and we went to the back of the bus.
The bench at the back was empty, and Higashira sat down, and then Yume sat next to her—or so I assumed.
“Alright, come here.”
She sat one seat away from Higashira, and invited me to sit in that space.
Why did she get me to sit in the middle…so I thought, but she continued to prompt me while patting on the seat, and I really couldn’t ignore her. I sat down on the seat with Yume and Higashira on either side of me.
“Ohhh. You’ve got a flower in each hand.”
“Fufu…are you happy?”
“I don’t think real flowers would call themselves flowers.”
“Mizuto-kun, why don’t you cross your legs and make a smug face? I’ll just lean on your shoulder.”
“Don’t try to imitate the cover of those isekai harem light novels.”
“You understood from that alone? That’s…”
The door closed with a whoosh, and the bus departed.
Higashira peered over me towards Yume while the bus shook away.
“By the way, Yume-san… How much do you know about otaku stuff? I know you don’t read a lot of light novels, but you don’t touch manga at all?”
“I guess she really doesn’t. The most she knows of are the dialogue in Tenma Urazome.”
“A detective character in a mystery series, an otaku high school detective who solves murders to earn money to buy Blu-rays and anime merchandise.”
I chimed in.” Oh,” and Higashira replied.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing. That sounds interesting.”
“The only difference between that and light novels is basically the lack of illustrations.”
“Do you want to read it? I like that series.”
“Can I? I don’t read many mysteries.”
Both Yume and Higashira’s bodies leaned me as they talked, and then they leaned on my shoulders in the middle.
I naturally reeled back to avoid Higashira touching my right shoulder and Yume touching my left shoulder.
“Mysteries are always full of distinct characters, and I think you should be able to pick up on them well, Higashira-san.”
“But people die if they are killed, don’t they?”
“You don’t like stories where people die?”
“No, not that I actually hate that, it’s just that I prefer happy endings. Basically. When people die, I can’t really say it’s a happy story.”
“Ah… But there are also mysteries where people don’t die.”
“These are daily mysteries, and most of them have bitter endings.”
“Can’t we just revive the victim after the mystery is solved?”
“Maybe there are so some…but can such stories really work out?”
And then, it happened while they were talking.
Yume, who was sitting next to me on my left, reached her right hand out quietly. She tangled her elbow with mine.
What’s she doing?
I wouldn’t have minded if it had been Higashira. There was no way she would engage in skinship publicly for no reason.
I pretend not to have noticed anything and continued on..
“There are patterns where someone isn’t actually dead, or that they can go back in time to prevent the incident from happening.”
“Time-lapse stories! I like most of them!”
“Oh. I like that too.”
“Either way, I guess for light novels or mainstream literature, I guess most people like stories that end with everyone smiling.”
On the left. Yume was already latched onto my elbow.
She, on the opposite side, acted in Higashira’s blind spot as she got into the position Higashira joked about. Despite that, she kept her breasts away from my upper arm, and I was impressed with her dexterity…there’s a sweet smell. It seemed different from her usual shampoo. Was she wearing perfume?
Pfft, I thought I heard a faint giggle, and glanced aside to see Yume give me a meaningful look…what are you playing at?
I decided to try my best to ignore Yume’s actions.
Hmmm…It’s working. It’s working.
He said he’s better at disguising his emotions, but if I actually observed him with this knowledge, it’s obvious how rattled he was. His eyes were shifty, and his expression was unnecessarily stiff. It clearly showed how he was feeling.
It’s the right decision for the three of us to go out together.
There was the matter of the failed seduction last time, and it would be awkward with just the two of us alone. Since Higashira-san’s here, I didn’t have to worry about this, and I could take advantage of Higashira-san’s unreserved behavior and take advantage of Mizuto’s weakness.
I felt a little guilty for using Higashira-san as an excuse, but she’s the one who invited me, and she seemed to be having fun, so I guessed it’s a win-win situation.
“What kind of movie are we watching today? I remember it’s an Anime, right?”
“It’s coming-of-age, a little sci-fi, or something like that. It’s highly rated, and I’ve always been curious about it~.”
While we continued with our nondescript conversation, I lightly touched Mizuto’s flank and pestered him. I felt bad for Higashira-san when I got too close to him, since it was the best that I could do, but I was amused thinking that he’s trying hard not to react.
If it were just the two of us, he would probably retort, but there’s nothing he could do in front of Higashira-san.
Now then, what shall I do next—so I thought.
And the bus made a turn..
Vrrooom, my body fell to the side.
Before this, I barely managed to keep my chest away from him—and then it hit Mizuto’s arm.
Wai…! It’s a little…I-I wasn’t planning to go that far…!
Even when the bus turned, I couldn’t move fast enough.
If I moved away here… I’d feel like I lost out…!
I glanced at Mizuto’s face.
“I’ve seen the same director’s work before, so I thought you might like this, Mizuto-kun.”
“I don’t know much about anime directors, but thanks for the help.”
He continued to talk to Higashira-san with a nonchalant look on his face.
…For some reason, I felt like a loser…!
I ended up pressing my chest onto him until the bus arrived at our destination.
…It’s just a mere bus ride, but I felt very tired.
“Over there is Toranoana. Right opposite it is Melon Books.”
“There’s a lot of otaku stores around here.”
“Further down there is an arcade that somehow seems to attract the fiercest competitors.”
“Higashira-san, are you a good gamer?”
“Mom trained me. We have a family motto that ‘Anyone who gives up on SEKIRO halfway through will also give up on life halfway through’.”
“Hmm…? I guess so.”
Yume continued to chat with Higashira nonchalantly as if there’s nothing wrong, and we continued walking towards the movie theater.
Looking at her from behind. I was secretly astonished.
She’s actually having fun from teasing me…and she got mad at me when I did the same to her. That’s quite a double standard.
We arrived at the cinema, received the tickets that Higashira had reserved for us, and paid for it. The price for a high school student was pretty much a tankoubon. That’s fair.
We paid, and then Yume said,
“I’m going to the bathroom first. Are you fine with Higashira-san?”
“I’m fine with that. Be careful now.”
Higashira waved at Yume.
There’s still some time until the movie started, and I sat on a bench in the lobby. There were a few customers aside from us, some fiddling with their phones, and some just chit-chatting away.
Higashira followed me and sat down next to me.
There was a short silence.
Higashira swayed restlessly from side to side while watching the music video playing repeatedly on the monitor, looking nonchalant. The ticketing process went smoothly, even though she didn’t seem to be the kind of the person to visit the movies..
As I thought about this, Higashira suddenly leaned forward, peering at my face.
“You seem to be in a bad mood today, aren’t you?”
The unexpected question took me by surprise, and I couldn’t help but make a rude gesture.
Higashira’s face became increasingly anxious.
“Well, erm, your face seemed kind of stiff when we were on the bus…don’t mind me if I’m mistaken though!”
While we were on the bus… Ah. I see.
I was trying not to react to Yume’s teasing, but I guess I appeared to be in a bad mood. My bad.
“It’s fine. You’re mistaken. It’s just… I’m a little dizzy since I don’t take the bus very often.”
I tried to come up with a reasonable explanation to Higashira, but the uneasiness still remained on her face.
“I see…that’s good…I’ve never really had any experience going out with friends…I was worried what I’d do if they get bored.”
Higashira would show such an expression from time to time.
Whenever I thought she would act at her own pace without a care in the world, she would start peeking at other people’s faces as though she had recollected herself, and shrivel uncomfortably… This would happen about once every three days or so.
And she’s always been like this when we first met.
When we first met in the library, on the first day we talked, she always talked to me with fear and trepidation on her face as though her very existence was a sin…
And because I knew of this side to her, I had to assure her clearly.
I had to do it over and over again, no matter how many times I had to repeat myself..
“No matter how bad you are at reading the mood, I won’t get angry.”
“Eh~? I think you always flare up though…”
“That’s not anger, that’s just scolding you.”
Higashira dejectedly lowered her shoulders, and I continued on,
“Don’t worry. I’ll remember my promise to you.”
I’ll always be the person you know.
That was the promise I made when I rejected Higashira’s confession and we returned to being friends.
Higashira fiddled with her bangs, and her tense cheeks relaxed.
“What are you laughing at?”
“I guess you can continue to push me on forever, Mizuto-kun.”
“Don’t think of me as an idol.”
From afar, I saw Mizuto and Higashira-san sitting next to each other on the bench.
Mizuto’s expression was so natural, so gentle, when he talked to Higashira-san. It was different from when he treated me like a treasure in the past when, or when he exuded hostility to me at this point—It’s a face only for Higashira-san, which he never showed to his own girlfriend, or his ex.
To be honest. I was a little jealous.
But at the same time, I was happy for them. I wasn’t trying to act tough. I was genuinely happy for them, from the bottom of my heart.
Maybe it’s because Higashira-san was doing what we couldn’t do back then.
Maybe it’s because she wasn’t troubled by unnecessary jealousy or selfishness, and just wanted to convey her emotion, that she just wanted to be with him, which I found was most wonderful…
Was this all to the reason why I felt so relieved…?
Higashira-san’s smiling, yet I felt so relieved about this fact. Was it because only I know?
I knew that she would smile happily when people praised her clothes.
I knew that she was bashful when she talked about what she liked about Mizuto.
There’s so much more to Higashira-san, who was neither eccentric nor acting at her own pace—
—Was it because I knew that Higashira-san would never show such a side of herself to Mizuto?
…Maybe my fears were unfounded.
But, well, Higashira-san’s smiling so happily.
She’s probably—not hiding anything.
She didn’t seem like she was hiding her true self for Mizuto’s sake…
“Hey, that’s…” “Woah! It’s true. ……!”
I thought I heard a voice, and turned around. The movie theater was packed during summer vacation though, and I could only see crowds moving about.
“Eh? You tried to book couple seats?”
“I thought it would be a little cheaper, but then I saw it’s cheaper to get two seats at the regular high school student rate.”
“I mean, pair seats are at the corner, and it’s hard to watch a movie from there. It’s hard to see.”
“Are you saying that those seats are more for flirting than watching movies?”
“They can just stay home and watch Netflix then.”
“I guess you guys will never understand the sentiment of a movie date…”
We chattered as we went into the darkened theatre, and looked for our seats.
Higashira seemed to have obtained some decent seats for us. The three of us sat down side by side, right in the middle of the theater. Not too close, not too far, and we could see the screen well.
Too bad. It was my turn to be sandwiched between the two of us again.
I called out quietly to Yume to my right, who had put her belongings under her seat.
Yume looked up.
“(Don’t mess with me while the movie is playing.)”
“(Hmm, you can just ignore me though?)”
“(If you mess with me, I’ll make you pay for mine…)”
“(I-I get it! Your face is scary!)”
This is fine.
I slumped back in peace, and watched the trailer on the screen. I liked to watch movie trailers. They stimulate the imagination, and there’s a pleasure in inferring. It’s a pity that I was often satisfied with them and never watched the full movie—speaking of which, the ‘ding!’ sound effect of the preview seemed strangely shrill in the movies..
I could sense a stare…and I looked to my left, opposite Yume.
And there was Higashira, staring at my face.
Higashira quickly looked away—or rather, she evaded my stare.
What? Did I have something on my face? I seriously doubted so, and hastily touched my cheek, but there wasn’t anything in particular..
I was a little curious, but before I could ask Higashira back, there was a warning about viewing etiquette on the screen. Once I heard we shouldn’t talk during the screening, I kept my mouth shut.
I switched off my phone, saw the footage of a face-camera man being arrested, and eventually, the lights were off.
The movie began.
The distinctive, magnificent illustrations of a theatrical anime filled the huge screen.
This was the one thing that I couldn’t experience in a novel. Well, there were a few novels that were unusually evocative using the power of images, but it’s still different from the visual experience.
While I was enjoying the movie, I felt a soft hand placed upon my left hand on the armrest..
Higashira made a small sound, and pulled her hand back in a panic.
It’s common for hands to touch—but what’s the big deal when she usually makes me give her a lap pillow? Feeling a little curious. I glanced aside.
Higashira’s shoulders shrivelled as she whispered.
I replied while tilting my head, and went back to watching the movie.
Higashira’s face seemed embarrassed just now….
Higashira’s not Ayai.
“That was quite something, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was. Especially after the middle part of the story. ……”
“I wonder if that’s what they call abstract acting. It’s like I understand and yet I don’t…”
“It really had the impact unique to an anime.”
We exchanged our impressions and left the theater.
The movie was quite interesting, but I was a little confused about some parts, probably because I wasn’t used to watching anime. Nevertheless, it was an interesting movie. Mizuto and Higashira-san seemed to like it, and continued to chat about this and that the entire time
“What are you going to do after this?”
“No plans in particular..”
“Ah… then, dismissed, I guess?”
“Hmm. It feels like a pity to dismiss though…since it’s about time, why don’t we go somewhere to eat?”
“Eh? You don’t mind?
“Nothing wrong with that. Ah, don’t forget to call home.”
Higashira-san took out her phone with strange enthusiasm.
At that moment, Mizuto said.
“Okay. I’m going to the toilet.”
“Ah okay. You okay with this, Higashira-san?”
Mizuto walked off to the toilet.
I noticed that Higashira-san was staring at Mizuto’s back with her phone in her hand.
“…Higashira-san, is something wrong?”
“No, it’s just that …… it’s a little too late for that. ……”
Higashira-san giggled with a stupid smile.
“When I looked at Mizuto-kun’s profile in the dimly lit theater…it felt like a date…”
It was a while since I took such damage..
Such innocence caused my frayed heart to sizzle in smoke like a vampire in the sun.
Compared to Higashira-san, who could be moved by something like this, I tried to flee after I tempted Mizuto and did nothing after that…
As I squinted at the innocence I had lost, “Oh!” Higashira-san suddenly cried out and looked at me.
“Is that what you meant when you said ‘Good luck’ on LINE, Yume-san?”
“…That’s quite a late reaction.”
“Ah, auuu, woah~ …! Sorry, sorry! You worried so much for me…!!!”
“I-it’s fine, it’s fine!! I didn’t explain myself clearly after all.”
Guilt stung my chest. How could I have used such a pure girl as an opportunity…?
Higashira-san smiled happily while I was increasingly depressed.
“When my confession failed. I thought, ‘Ah, I can’t go on a date with Mizuto-kun,’ but… surprisingly, I managed to.”
“…Yeah. Anyway, what does it mean to be lovers?”
Maybe the idea of lovers was to not allow any other girl to have him? …If that’s the case, that’s quite a small-minded relationship.
Higashira-san said with a deer-in-the-headlights look.
“If I may say so…I guess those that go to a hotel together are lovers, and those that don’t aren’t? ”
“…Higashira-san, vulgarity point 1”
“What? What’s that point about? What happens when you accumulate them?”
If Higashira-san’s right…then maybe I was the same, that we didn’t need to be lovers, or so I thought.
“Table for three?
We followed the waiter into the family restaurant, and sat down in a box seat. “Please call me when you have decided your order” so we were told “Okay” and Yume answered.
I picked up the menu at the end of the table.
“What do you want?”
“I think it would be nice to have something we can all pick up together.”
“Well, pizza or fries?”
“You don’t mind pizza, right?”
“I don’t, but…”
“So you’re finally starting to care about calories?”
“I-I’m not… and they basically go to my breasts.…”
“You know, it’s almost the end of the phase when you could blame your weight gain on your growth spurt.”
“Shut up! Don’t you have any sense of decency, you skinny guy!?”
While I bickered with Yume over the menu, the girl next to me, Higashira, was fretting about something.
“Higashira, what’s wrong?”
She swayed from side to side.
“It’s the first time I’m eating out at night with friends…I’m a little moved…”
“Ah~. I know! It feels really strange to be eating outdoors with someone other than your family, right?”
“Yes yes! That’s right! It’s different from just stopping by on the way home from school!”
The two loner girls started chatting away. It’s a cheap thing to bond over, but it’s not a bad thing.
In the end, we decided against pizza, and ordered French fries for three. I ordered the doria, Yume ordered peperoncino, and Higashira ordered hamburger steak. Of course, the drink bar was included in the set.
We left the table, and got our drinks at the drink bar. I got tea, Yume got orange juice, and Higashira got Coke.
“Higashira-san…are you really the type to have all the calories go to your breasts? ”
Yume said while she stared intently at Higashira’s glass of Coke.
“Who knows? The last time I weighed in was during the physical checkup.”
“You don’t have a weighing scale at home?”
“I don’t remember how many kilos I weighed before.”
“…Looks like we need to teach you more fundamental things instead of just superficial things like how to apply makeup, stuff to get you to understand that you’re a girl…”
That would be of great help to me too if they could.
“Actually, it’s my first time going to a movie with others. It’s pretty fun, and also really nice to have someone to talk to after the movie ends.”
Higashira expressed herself nonchalantly as if it’s nothing, while picking up some fries that were served earlier.
Yume’s smile looked a little concerned.
“I guess you’re the type of person to worry about going to the movies alone, Higashira-san…”
“Don’t people go to movies alone?”
“Yeah. Usually alone.”
“Well, yeah, I guess so. It’s not that uncommon nowadays.”
That sounded rather vague, but if we’re going out to the movies with others, we need to allocate a timeslot to watch the same thing, and that’s troublesome. I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t Higashira who invited me.
“If there’s another one, let’s go together.”
“Sure. I don’t really pay attention to them. Any recommendations?”
“I only know about anime movie news… Summer vacation is over soon, and the new movies aren’t coming out that soon, probably.”
“Then let’s go live action next. It’s good for a change.”
” I guess so~. As long as it’s not a rom-com.”
“You don’t like romantic movies?”
“It makes me angry.”
“I get it.
I pulled out my phone, wondering if there’s any interesting movies going on recently.
And then, I remembered switching it off when I watched the movies, so I could only wait for it to boot up.
The home screen showed up, and next to me, Higashira peeked over.
“Mizuto-kun, you’re using the default wallpaper, aren’t you?”
“Hmmm~… can I borrow that?”
Higashira snatched my phone, and switched on the camera.
What’s she doing, taking my phone like that—so I grumbled, and she switched to selfie mode, putting herself next to my shoulder.
Yume, right opposite us, had blank eyes.
She put my face and her own in the corners, and pressed the shutter.
It was a two-shot.
Higashira returned the phone to me.
“Okay, Here you go.”
“Are you my girlfriend?”
I stared incredulously at the photo which had Higashira giving a peace sign with a blank look, and couldn’t help but retort back.
There’s nothing sexy about her expression, but it wouldn’t be convincing to deny that we’re not a couple when we just had a two-shot of each other as our home screen.
Higashira snatched the phone from me again, and scampered over to Yume, who’s seated opposite.
She took a picture of herself with Yume, returned to me, and handed me my phone.
“How about this!?”
“Erm, well, I don’t know what I am supposed to do with this photo.”
“If I had to say, you’re like a dad…?”
Vulgarity point 2. Yume suddenly declared some mysterious point system..
Hmmm. Higashira looked at the photo and pondered.
She peeked at our faces, and timidly said.
“…Can the three of us take a photo together…?”
Yume and I tilted our heads and looked at Higashira.
Higashira hastily waved her hand in the air.
“Oh, no, not that. I mean! Look, it’s the first time the three of us went out together, right? I’ve been together with you two at your place! So erm…to commemorate…or something…”
The moment we heard that word, Yume and I naturally looked at each other.
It’s not an awkward look because we had something to hide from Higashira.
We were simply surprised in unison, and also, we agreed with her.
I was sure that both Yume and I had a nagging feeling in the corner of our hearts.
We chose not to express our conflicted feelings about this day, August 27th, in front of Higashira.
Even when we’re with Higashira, there was a little nostalgia in our head about this day, which was supposed to be an anniversary.
The day two years ago was the anniversary. The day last year was the death anniversary.
In that case…maybe it’s not a bad idea to have a different anniversary.
Maybe the bitter memories…could be overwritten by something else.
Higashira gave us a worried look as we remained silent.
“So… no? Is it?”
“No, not that.”
I assured her immediately.
“You weren’t shy when we had the twin shot, so I’m just wondering why you’re suddenly so skittish.”
Yume also chuckled and said as she pulled Higashira’s hand.
“Let’s take a picture, the three of us—as a memento.”
And so, the three of us took a picture on the two seater, one to commemorate this.
I looked at the picture again with me in the middle, and pondered.
Two years ago, we made a mistake.
Last year, we made a mistake.
But…maybe we didn’t make a mistake this year.
Maybe this hope could continue forever as long as we had this photo—
And then Higashira said.
“I feel like…someone is going to die in this photo.”
I couldn’t help but spit out.
“Higashira-san, read the mood! The mood!”
“Eh? But you know, it happens all the time. You know, it’s like a guy who lost his family and is looking at a family photo.”
“Ugggh, the kind inside the locket.”
“Yes. That’s it!”
“I know that, but, be mindful of such things or you’ll trigger bad luck!”
After that, we ate what we ordered and had a discussion over the theory of whether there are only photos of dead people in the locket.
“I really had fun today!”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“I’ll call you guys again if there’s any movie that looks interesting.”
“Yes! I’m looking forward to it! Bye~!”
Higashira-san waved happily at us, and disappeared into the entrance of the apartments.
While we chattered away at the family restaurant, the sun had unwittingly set, and it would be so sad to let Higashira-san walk home alone at night, so we walked her home.
When Higashira-san’s back was out of sight, we turned away and went home.
The vibrant lights of the streets, buildings and the passing cars shone upon the sidewalk while we walked next to each other.
“…You’re not going to cling onto me now?”
Mizuto glanced at me sideways and suddenly said so, which caused me to shudder.
“I-I changed my mind ….”
Mizuto cut his gaze to me, saying disinterestedly.
…I couldn’t believe he would attack me like this immediately after we left Higashira-san, and it felt like he was getting rid of any hindrance, which bothered me.
It’s true that I initially used Higashira-san as an excuse, but it’s because I took this day as ‘the anniversary of my relationship with Irido-kun’.
But, the situation had changed..
This day was the day that I went out with Mizuto and Higashira-san for the first time.
So let’s just say the movie was interesting, and leave it at that.—yep.
I called out while looking forward.
Mizuto replied while he too looked forward.
“…I’ll get angry if you make Higashira-san cry, okay?”
“As long as you don’t do anything stupid..”
“Well, I can’t guarantee that.”
Mizuto stared at me, and my shoulders shook as I giggled away.
There’s one possibility.
I might not be as obsessed about him as I once was.
But still, it didn’t mean that our bond wouldn’t revert to how it was before—I felt that Higashira-san showed me that.
So at this point, I shouldn’t have to worry..
I could wish for Mizuto and Higashira-san to be together forever—
Mizuto took out his phone. “Hello?” he said, putting it to his ear.
And almost simultaneously, I received a LINE notification on my phone.
It was from Akatsuki-san.
The message was,
“Yume-chan, what’s going on?”
“Why is it that the guys at school think that Irido-kun and Higashira-san are dating?”