After school, Anri and I left the school early.
We don’t want to get caught by anyone.
Anri is dressed as a yankee, but she has a look that attracts the attention of boys.
…… I felt a little weird. It’s a feeling that’s bothering me deep inside my chest.
“An? What’s the matter, Shinjo?. Let’s go quickly!”
I exhaled and cleared my mind.
“Oh, I can’t wait to write.”
I’ve already finished writing tomorrow’s update, but today I want to try my hand at another romance novel. I felt the same way about Anri as I did about Destiny.
–I felt that I loved her as a person. …… I still feel that way now. It’s okay, this isn’t love or anything like that. It’s just that I have feelings for her that are more than friends. If I didn’t, I’m sure Anri would be in trouble.
Again, I was struck by a feeling of uneasiness deep in my chest.
A different feeling from before. It’s like I’m fooling myself.
Anri smiles at me……. It was pretty.
“What the hell, are you dazed for? are you worried about the puggy? You can handle your studies, right?”
“Yes, I am. I’m sure she’s worried about you too. ……”
I’d better not think about it too much.
As I stood up from my seat and looked around the classroom, my eyes met Saito-san who was getting ready to leave.
She has changed a lot since I first entered the school, Or rather, I’d say I’m back to my usual self.
She’s still popular with the boys in her class, but recently I’ve seen her chatting with a different group of good looking boys.
“Miyu-chan, you’re not going to karaoke today?
“I’ve been practicing!”
Saito-san cut her gaze from me and shook her head at the boys.
“Miyu is going to the bookstore today with her friends from another class. I’m sorry–“
The lightness of her words didn’t seem as strong as before. The boys said, “Oh no! “It can’t be helped!” The boys left the classroom, saying, “Well, Saito-san has gotten cute. ……”
Saito-san gave me a gentle smile and …… bowed with her eyes closed.
I don’t know why, but I felt a sense of gratitude.
I could tell even from a distance.
She slowly looked up and made small mouth movements.
She left the classroom with a soft smile on her face.
–Happy? It sounded like she was saying that. I don’t know if it was true or not.
But for some reason, the words lingered in my ears.
“Shinjo, let’s go quickly.”
Anri puffed out her cheeks and grabbed my sleeve.
I found her appearance very endearing.
“What are you laughing at?”
“I’m not laughing, it’s just my imagination. Come on, let’s go.”
Saito-san’s smile reminded me of the library in junior high school.
….. It’s only a bad memory, but I’m sure I spent some time with Saito-san back then.
Don’t worry – thanks to Anri, the wounds in my heart won’t open up.
I won’t look back at the past anymore. With a will of steel, I’ve lived through those days.
Be happy ……. Is it okay for me to be happy?
After leaving the school, Anri and I walked together to our house.
There were no students around, so Anri’s tone of voice had returned to normal.
“Saito-san used to be good friends with Makoto, right? …… She’s beautiful, isn’t she? shee seems like a nice girl. ……”
“A good person ……, huh? Maybe she was.”
“…… Hey, don’t you have to make it up to me? After everything that happened, we were still …… friends, right?”
I don’t know how to explain it in words. But Saito-san and I will never be friends like we used to be. That was ……She seemed to be making some kind of decision. I could sense that she wanted nothing to do with me.
I can’t explain it with just words. I didn’t want to see Anri’s anxious face.
I grabbed Anri’s hand.
“Shinjo-kun! There are still students here!
“The most important thing to me is Anri. When the two of us are together, I feel at ease ……. Of course, puggy is also an important friend. …… I can’t put it into words, but there is something different about the quality of friendship.
I’m not sure what to say.
She seemed to be answering my words.
“I also feel at ease when I’m with you, Makoto-kun. Hehe, I’m sorry for saying something strange. Yeah, let’s write at your home!”
“Oh, I’m sorry for making you worry. You’re a bit of a worrywart, aren’t you?”
“Oh, my God! No, that’s not true! Well, you’re so cool. ……”
“No, no, no, Anri shouldn’t say that.”
We were just about to enter a residential area.
A strange male student walked in front of me.
He had a big body, and I had …… seen him somewhere before.
Anri let her voice trail off.
The large student was looking at us as he walked by.
I had unconsciously taken a protective stance towards Anri.
For some reason, the large student smiled when he saw what I was doing. Why?
He bailed lightly and walked straight past me.
The atmosphere was indescribably gentle. Who was he?
Anri’s feet had stopped.
She closed her eyes and was thinking about something.
He might be someone Anri knew. Maybe he knew Anri, or maybe he had something to do with her in the past.
But is it okay for me to step in? No, it’s better not to pry into the past.
Anri opened her eyes and said to me
“Makoto-kun, you ……, I …….”
There’s no need to force yourself. There’s no need to reminisce about the past and spread the hurt.
All I can do is be there for her and let her heal slowly.
“Anri, take it easy…”
Anri nodded quietly.
We decided to go to my grandfather’s house.
Silence reigned in my grandfather’s house.
No, only the sound of Anri and I on the keyboard.
It was supposed to be a comfortable space.
But I often stopped typing on the keyboard.
Am I worried about the guy from earlier? What kind of relationship did he have with Anri?
What had happened to Anri in middle school?
I try not to worry about it, but my mind is disturbed.
It was a comfortable space, but I was confused about my feelings.
“Oh, Makoto-kun, I’ll make coffee!”
“Oh, yeah, please do.”
Anri got up from her seat and went to the kitchen to prepare the coffee.
I watched her back and completely stopped typing on the keyboard.
Anri began to talk to herself as she made the coffee.
“I, ……, have been afraid of men since I was a kid. They’re …… selfish and make silly noises, and they make fun of me a lot. ……
The smell of coffee drifted in the air.
“So…I once had a childhood friend. He’s the one we saw earlier, ……, and his name is Nikaido-kun, and he’s always messing with me. It’s not like he’s bullying me or anything. –He was a little rough with me, and I didn’t like it.
Anri put the coffee on a tray and brought it to the table.
She put the coffee in front of me. I listened to Anri’s story in silence.
“It’s hot, so be careful. …… we were still good when I was a kid. When I was in junior high school, Nikaido-kun would often talk to me. He was scary, but he wasn’t that bad. I thought, Well, whatever.–But, you know, the girls in my class didn’t take it well. …… Nikaido-kun had a fiancée, or rather a girlfriend. And yet, he keep talking to me. So, that’s why …… When I was going to tell the girls in my class about it…….”
Anri’s tone was calm. Even so, Anri’s tone was calm as she breathed in and out, perhaps remembering the past. Despite the content of her speech, her face was very calm.
“Anri, don’t go any further…”
Anri shook her head and stared gently at the cup of milk coffee.
“No, I want you to listen to me, Makoto-kun. –So, you know, girls are so insidious, right? From Nikaido-kun’s point of view, he thought that the girls in my class and I were good friends. In fact, we weren’t. That’s why I rejected him …… and told him to leave me alone. I haven’t talked to him since then, and that was because of Momo-chan. Yeah, that’s all I’m saying. I wasn’t falsely accused like you, and I didn’t have a very hard time. ……”
What else can I do but shut up and listen?
What can I do?
Why are you staring at me with such calm eyes?
She showed me her hand.
“Here, touch it. ……”
I put my hand on top of hers fearfully.
Anri’s hand was warm.
“You’re not shaking, aren’t you? When I remembered …… the old days, my body was shaking. I could forget about it when I was …… writing. When I was in the food court with …… Makoto, I could forget. But you know, when I am alone, I suddenly remembered and my body was shaking. ……”
Anri took her hand away from mine and stood up.
I was overwhelmed by my helplessness.
A warm feeling spread across my back. A sweet smell tickled my nostrils.
Anri came up behind me and put her face on my shoulder. If you’re afraid of men–
“You’re not scary at all, Makoto. You’re clumsy, but you’ve been so kind to me since the first time we met. ……”
“That day, when we were watching fireworks, I hugged you and I didn’t shake at all. I’m not afraid to be alone. I was sure of it when I passed Nikaido-kun. I didn’t feel anything, you know? Even though just seeing him would remind me of the past, ……. –I felt that my heart was healing– It’s amazing, Makoto-kun. ……”
Anri’s hand gently wraps around my chest.
It’s so soothing ……. And yet …… I feel like I’m going to burst into tears.
Why? Aren’t I supposed to comfort Anri? I thought I was supposed to cheer her up. Why am I – before I know it – being comforted?
I’m sure Anri’s hug, healed my heart, too.
“I owe it all to you, Makoto. –Thank you. I’ll always be there for you. Yes, I’m going to learn how to cook and I’m going to clean. We’re going to eat pancakes together, write, and become writers, okay? We have all the time we need don’t we? Oh, yeah, I want to go to the beach, too! –Because.”
So? So what? Why is my face so crumpled?
I’m at peace now that I met Anri.
I’m supposed to be okay now, right? My heart wasn’t all broken. I knew I wasn’t empty. That’s enough, right?
“Now it’s my turn to heal your wounds, Makoto…”
Anri hugged me even tighter.
It’s not that I held back until now. I felt happy to be with Anri. I thought I had healed my wounds.
And yet… why did I…
“I’ll hug you again and again until your wounds heal…”
I heard the sound of my lbroken heart.
All the things I’d been holding back came pouring out.
–I wanted to play soccer with everyone. I was really looking forward to the field trip. It was lonely being alone. Even when I was betrayed, I thought that maybe. I was really happy when people talked to me. I wanted to go out to eat with my stepmother and stepsister. My silly stepsister was so cute. I was hoping that maybe I would be celebrated at the graduation ceremony. –I really wanted someone to hug me. No, this is not me. I gave it all up. I gave up that because it didn’t matter. I built a wall to live. I built a wall with a will of steel.
When Anri hugs me, I can forget everything. The past slips away from my mind.
Something inaudible was coming out.
“I was afraid that I would break down if I knew about Anri’s past. I hated myself for being …… selfish.”
As I spoke, Anri said, “Yes, yes—,” and patted me on the head.
“I thought it was going to be okay. I thought the past was irrelevant.”
That was not true. I was aware of the past.
I tried not to look at it. I was always reminded of it.
“You’re too strong, Makoto. Too strong, both physically and mentally. You look like you’ve …… erased it, but your wounds were deeper than mine.”
“N-no ……, I’m a bad man. I never had …… any friends, so I don’t know how close I am to Anri.”
“Oh my God, Makoto, you’re too serious. …… It doesn’t matter, because this is the distance between us.”
Anri pulls her cheek to my face.
It is soft and comfortable to the touch.
“…… That’s our distance.”
Anri’s voice soothes me. This is what it means to be healed. ……
The warmth that envelops me makes me feel far away from my consciousness.
Anri stroked my head.
It was as if she was tucking in a child.
I could hear Anri’s voice in the distance.
“Makoto, just go back to sleep, my dearest. —- person”