“So… what did you want to tell me, Mida-chan?”
“E… ehm… I…”
I tried as hard as I could to not blush, even if by now Notsuki-kun probably realized what this was all about, I still hoped it wasn’t so just because it would be easier to downplay my confession as something else, should anything happen or should I want to back out; like right now, for example.
I felt like my heart was about to burst, my mouth was dry and words wouldn’t come out. I was scared of his reaction, I was scared of how our relationship will change, I was scared he would reject me, I was scared.
“I… I LIKE YOU NOTSUKI-KUN! WO– WOULD YOU LIKE… TO GO OUT WITH ME?”
I did it. I confessed to him. Even though I shouted a little… But that wasn’t the important, what was important was the surprised look on his face, which then changed to a pensive one and then… to a sad one. I already felt like crying.
“…! …I see. Thank you Mida-chan, but… I’m sorry, I don’t like girls, I like guys.”
‘…Eh?’ My mind blanked at his answer.
“Wha–! Are you kidding me?! I’m being serious with you!”
“? I thought it was obvious tha–”
I felt my tears running down my cheeks, pain spreading in my heart and rage corrupting my mind. Why didn’t he simply reject me? Why did he have to come up with such a stupid excuse just to turn me down?
“If… if you d… hic… don’t like me, hic… JUST SAY SO! IDIOT!”
“Hey! W- wait! Where are you going?! I’m not lying!”
I didn’t want to listen to him anymore. I didn’t want to stay there anymore. I didn’t want to accept it.
‘I… don’t want to stay with him anymore…’
It was already time for our end-term exams, soon we would be fourth graders. A few weeks passed since Mida’s confession and she still refuses to talk with me. I gave up trying to reach out to her last week, when she actually tried to hit me. I lightly shook my head and concentrated back on the conversation between me, Hou-kun and Ei-kun.
“…But seriously, Ame! What happened between Mida-chan and you? It’s been three weeks since she’s been treating you like how she was at the beginning, if not worse…”
“I told you we just had a fight, so drop it. I’m not in the mood to talk about it.”
“Now, now, Ame, it doesn’t matter what happened between you two, what does matter is that you should make peace; friends are precious, you know?”
“Okay, I’ll try to…”
‘Yeah right, as if she’ll listen to me.’ I even had trouble meeting with her, and we were in the same class. Ei-kun saved me.
“Ame, we should go back to class, recess is almost over.”
We were about to start heading toward our class when Hou-kun stopped us.
“Ah, hey… Ei-kun, Ame, after the exams are over I have… something to tell you two…”
“Oh, okay, well… see you later Hou-kun~!”
“Let’s go, Ame.”
I didn’t really know how to answer him, even though he wanted to say something to the both of us, last time with Mida didn’t go really well, so I felt a bit wary. As me, Ei-kun and Hou-kun split up, I briefly wondered about what he could want to tell us.
Toward the end of the afternoon homeroom class Hou-kun came to our class with a slightly depressed face. I got anxious but the teacher, even if he had noticed, would not have stopped all of this from happening. The teacher nodded to Hou-kun before making all of us quiet down.
“Everyone, please be quiet, Houtarou-kun has to make an announcement.”
The teacher went a bit to the side, he left more room for Hou-kun who had stepped up in front of the whole class. He sighed in resignation after he stole a glance in my direction. I had only bad feelings sprouting from inside my heart for this situation.
I asked ‘What is happening exactly?’ in my mind, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer. No, I surely didn’t want to. Not even a little bit, but Houtarou still gave my question a reply.
“My family will move away because of work, it was nice being your classmate and friend, I hope we’ll see each others again in the future.”
He was about to give us all a small bow, but Ei-kun, enraged, stood up and screamed at Houtarou.
“Wha… WHAT?! YOU! Why didn’t you tell us anything until now?!”
“C- calm down Eichirou-kun! Don’t make a fuss during class now…”
I heard the teacher speak, though I wasn’t really able to understand what he said.
“Come on Ame! Why aren’t you saying anything?! …Eh? A… Ame?”
But I was in a daze, and couldn’t react properly. My head and heart processed his announcement, my head accepted its rationality, it wasn’t anything impossible or new, as it had happened before, but my heart didn’t; I couldn’t possibly accept Houtarou’s departure, I couldn’t possibly accept losing another one of my little oasis of solace.
“Quick, quick! Look at him!”
“Ehh… ehm… Houtarou-kun, Eichirou-kun, would you please take Ame-kun to the infirmary?”
My classmates’ whispers along with Houtarou, Ei-kun and the teacher’s brief talk didn’t even register in my mind.
All I felt was overwhelming sadness.
I was lying on one of the beds of the school’s infirmary, gazing with an empty look at the ceiling. Ei-kun and Houtarou were sitting by the side, probably. I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings. My mind started working again, more or less, because after having accepted the fact that Houtarou was going away, my thought process got stuck on a single and very simple question:
Silence reigned in the room. While I was too immersed in my own self-depression to care, for Ei-kun and Houtarou the situation was a tad awkward. Houtarou eventually couldn’t stand it anymore and began talking, even though he stammered a little, showing hesitation and insecurity. He evidently hadn’t predicted that we would end up in such a state.
“I’m… really sorry… It’s just… I… I just wanted my last week with the both of you to be the same as always… I didn’t want our time to be filled with… tension and awkwardness, just like now… I wanted us to have fun together for one last time…”
‘Why is it so painful?’
I couldn’t understand it.
‘Is it because he is my first friend?’
I didn’t want to understand it.
‘Is it because he treats me like I’m “normal”?’
I didn’t want to accept it.
I heard Ei-kun ask something to Houtarou, and it was then…
“When will you move?”
“…Three days from now.”
…that reality made me accept it. It didn’t give me time, it didn’t care about my feelings and it was not slowing down nor stopping for me. I briefly resented such a reality, but once again, it didn’t stop, and my two friends’ discussion continued.
“Then… why don’t we have a farewell party at my house tomorrow?”
“…That would be great. Thanks, Ei-kun…”
I couldn’t see their faces, both because I was still looking at the ceiling and also because of my tears, but Ei-kun probably had his usual, serious and stern look, while Hou-kun, no, Houtarou… he probably had a weak smile on his face. Even when we fought or discussed about something, he always had a weak smile adorning his face while he tried to ask if we could be friends again…
‘Is it because he’s been so kind to me?’
‘But, isn’t he kind to everyone?’
‘Why does it hurt…’
I still wasn’t able to understand it, yet I had already stopped crying and it was at that point that Ei-kun’s voice reached my ears.
“Eh? Ah… What is it?”
It was like waking up from a nightmare, only it was not one and my feelings had just been shoved to the back of my mind, to temporarily let me think straight once more. I noticed Houtarou looking silently at me while Ei-kun questioned me.
“We asked if it’s okay for you to come to my house tomorrow after school ends.”
‘If I’m not wrong… tomorrow should be Kazumo’s turn to clean…’
“Y… yeah, I’m free, I can’t wait!”
I hesitated as I recalled that time during Tanabata, nonetheless, I accepted. I couldn’t help it, it would probably be our last party.
I still did not regret it.
After we had our fun, most of the others went home, but there were some that, like me, remained for a sleepover. I would say half of the reason why I remained was because I wanted to avoid Kazumo. Though, I couldn’t avoid him forever, and once school ended I had to go back to the orphanage.
Two hours after I got back, Kazumo found me in the kitchen; I had come downstairs to drink some water.
The first thing he did was to take my glass, he threw it to a wall and then he shoved me on its remains. His push made me lose my balance, I hit the back of my head and my shoulders on the wall while I landed with the small of my back on the fragments of glass.
I immediately curled up and held my head between my arms as my hands pressed where I felt it hurt. I coughed, feeling it difficult to breathe. Kazumo quickly came over to me, he started kicking me repeatedly. I cried and whimpered, but I didn’t beg him to stop. He wouldn’t do it anyway, and lately I had started to think that he took pleasure in seeing me beg him.
“FUCKING LITTLE SHIT! WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU YESTERDAY, UH?! I HAD TO CLEAN UP OTHERS’ SHIT BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T HERE! BITCH! WHO GAVE YOU THE PERMISSION TO BE ABSENT?!”
The glass under my side started to hurt more than his kicks, but probably because he was screaming over and over, people started to arrive all around us and then I heard a worried Sister spoke up.
“P-please, stop it Kazu-kun! You’re going to kill Am–”
“SHUT UP YOU STUPID NUN!”
Kazumo threw something at her and I heard her scream, after that no one dared to speak up until Kazumo was finished and he walked away.
‘Sigh… I knew that it would end up like this…’
“Honey, it’s almost time to go, hurry up and say goodbye to Eichirou-kun!”
My mother’s voice broke me out of my reverie; I stopped staring down the street, I hoped to see Ame’s figure before departing, but it seemed like I was not forgiven. I sighed and forced myself to smile as I talked to Eichirou.
“I guess Ame won’t come… sigh, it’s not like we’ll never see each other again, but still… Ei-kun thank you very much, I’m happy that you decided to come here. I wonder if… …. …Could you give this to Ame?”
I passed him a little envelope, inside was a little gift I bought some time ago after my parents told me we would be moving. I wanted to give it to Ame as a goodbye present, mostly because I felt guilty.
“Mh? Okay but, I’m curious, care to tell me what’s inside?”
I didn’t he had noticed yet, so I decided to keep it a secret. It’s too bad I won’t be there to see his face once he sees it. So, I just told him some cool-sounding cryptic words,
“It’s a secret~ You’ll understand once you see them~ The gears of Fate, that is~”
“What’s with you? If you want me to hit you to set your head straight, there’s no need to be so roundabout!”
At first, Ei-kun made a scrunched up, frowning face, but it gradually changed into an evil looking face, from which I decided to run.
“Ahahahah! No thanks! I’m going ahead first then, see you~!”
I laughed heartily as I felt the wind around my body trying to slow it down. I didn’t want to feel even more sad, so I could only continue to laugh. We were both laughing. We were both pretending that this was normal, that this was our routine just like always, because neither of us could face reality.
“… See you…”
At that point I was too far away to hear what Ei-kun was saying anymore.
I missed Hou-kun’s departure because I had to go to the hospital. To cover my wounds today I wore more clothes than usual. I also had to move slowly so as to not reopen my wounds or causing them to make me feel more pain.
Though I couldn’t cover up a broken arm. When Ei-kun asked for an explanation I was momentarily panicked inside, but on the surface I was totally calm, like always. I quickly fed him a bunch of realistic lies but he didn’t seem too convinced. I guess after being together for so long, if I don’t concentrate clearly when telling him some lies, he’ll be able to sense that something is wrong.
“Ame, this is from Hou-kun.”
During recess, Ei-kun passed me a small, brown envelope. I couldn’t feel the shape of the contents because of the wrappings inside. As I wonder what it could possibly be, Ei-kun continued to talk to me:
“He didn’t tell me what it was, so I believe he doesn’t want you opening it right in front of me. Though he did say that I’d be able to recognize his gift once you have it. I still don’t understand what he meant.”
As he shook his head left and right, I stopped my hands that were about to open Hou-kun’s gift for me. After that we continued to chat about other things, to distract ourselves until recess was over. That day school was especially boring and listless for me. I could only emptily stare at the wide blue sky outside the window to distance myself from my depressing thoughts.
After I was back in my room at the orphanage, I quickly locked the door and discarded my bag with all my used books inside it. I took out Hou-kun’s present from my pocket and opened it. My eyes opened wide at the wonderful little hairpin he gifted me. Three small, white gears with beads of coloured glass in the center of each gear: red to represent Eichirou, purple to represent me and finally black to represent Houtarou. They were our favourite colours.
I cried once again as I felt a pang of pain in my heart. I really wouldn’t be able to see Hou-kun for a long time now. I softly crumbled to the floor while I hugged the small hairpin which I decided to wear during middle school as a good luck charm.
I really missed Houtarou.
I really… really loved him.