“…Alright, let’s go! Shouhei!”
After school, on a Friday.
Once again, even though I didn’t call for her… my childhood friend and neighbor, Alice, is attempting to invade my room by jumping over the balcony.
For a moment, the thought of ignoring her crossed my mind, but the noise was so annoying that I reluctantly took off my earphones and looked outside the window. There, I saw Alice banging on the window glass.
…She’s so noisy.
Don’t you know why I carefully lock the windows despite being on the second floor? Her test scores aren’t that bad, so she can’t be that stupid.
I’ve repeatedly warned Alice not to enter through the window. The reason, of course, is that it’s dangerous if she falls. No matter how annoying I find her, she’s still my childhood friend. We have plenty of memories from our childhood, and if something were to happen to her, I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully.
However, now that she has already jumped over to my balcony, if I were to send her away, I would have to make her jump back over the balcony again, which would be even more dangerous. So, I have no choice but to let her into my room.
“Well, I’m coming in~♪”
Alice, who left her shoes on the balcony, straddles the window as she passes through. —- In doing so, I accidentally caught a glimpse of her skirt from underneath. And with a light landing on the carpet, she pats her skirt to tidy it up.
In response to her actions, my heart goes thump…
But that shouldn’t have happened.
I’m naturally attracted to quiet and ladylike girls. That’s why Alice is the complete opposite of my preferred type. If a pitcher were to throw a ball straight, it would result in a perfect pickoff at second base.
What’s unfortunate is that Alice wasn’t always like this. If I were to objectively judge her based on appearance alone, she’s quite cute, which makes it even more regrettable. Why couldn’t she have grown up with the shy and introverted personality she had when we were younger? It frustrates me. It’s like the feeling of emptiness when you pull a super rare card from a gacha game, only for it to become useless due to power creep.
“So… What do you want, Alice?”
Due to the strange thoughts that crossed my mind, I ask her about her request, as a matter of principle, in order to clear this vague feeling. However, I can already sense that it’s probably something trivial.
“Hey, Shouhei, look at this hair accessory. Isn’t it super cute?”
…Yeah. As I suspected, I couldn’t care less.
“Sure, where did you buy it?”
While nodding along, a sudden question arises in my mind: doesn’t Alice have any friends who would listen to her? – No, that can’t be right. She’s somewhat surrounded by people in our class, and above all, Alice is popular because of her good looks. When it comes to her stories, even if they’re just trivial boasts, there would be many people willing to listen. So why does she specifically feel the need to talk to me? …After thinking about it for a while, I couldn’t seem to find an answer, so I give up on trying to figure it out and decide to simply listen to her story.
“I received it. From Tatsuya-kun.”
Alice answers with a slightly proud tone.
Tatsuya-kun, huh? Is she talking about him, the guy who is rumored to be a regular player in the soccer club despite being in the same second year as us?
Needless to say, Alice is popular. …That’s because her attitude towards others is completely different from how she treats me. In class, she behaves as if she were a pure and innocent girl. To the point where —- if I weren’t her childhood friend, I might accidentally fall for her.
You could call it having a good outward appearance. Well, unfortunately, in reality, she’s like this. Noisy and self-centered. Well, because she’s showing this side of her to her childhood friend, that’s probably her true self. …Ah, it’s really a pity.
“Hmm. So why aren’t you wearing it then?”
By the way, a simple question arises here. Alice proudly talks about the hair accessory, but she takes it out of her pouch and hasn’t put it on her head.
And in response to my question, Alice eagerly takes the bait. …I immediately regret asking.
“He forced it on me. You know, Tatsuya-kun confessed to me, but when I told him I couldn’t respond to his feelings, he said he wanted me to at least accept this.”
So that’s how it is.
When I heard those words, the thread of patience I had been holding on to snapped, and I suddenly felt exasperated.
Ah, another bragging session. Look, I’m popular.
Unfortunately, I’ve never experienced being confessed to by a girl in my entire life. That’s why Alice’s story sounds even more sarcastic, and she’s probably doing it on purpose.
But because Alice is so beautiful, even if she says something sarcastic, I can’t come up with a retort, and I feel pathetic for being unable to. And precisely because I find her physically attractive… I involuntarily become the listener for her stories, despite wanting to refuse.
She looks like she wants me to ask further, so out of pity, I reluctantly decide to inquire.
“Why did you reject him?”
“He wasn’t my type, simple as that. I rejected him based on my own decision, you know? It’s fundamentally different from someone like you who can’t attract anyone. Do you get it?”
Alice raises her index finger with an air of superiority.
…This was my breaking point.
Even I, with a fair amount of patience, got extremely irritated. Despite accommodating her in the conversation, I felt provoked and angry.
“You don’t have a girlfriend, do you, Shouhei?”
“Shut up! If that’s the case, I’ll get a girlfriend for sure!”
And before I knew it, those were the words that came out of my mouth in the heat of the moment.
Tit for tat, is this what they call it?
…It’s the worst. There’s no turning back now.
Surely, Alice will tease me about this incident in the future.
…Well, if that’s the case, I might as well go all the way.
Let’s turn this determination into courage for this cowardly me.
To be honest, there’s a girl who has caught my interest lately.
I decided to confess to the girl that I was up to no good.
“Hey, hey, Shouhei, is it true that you got a girlfriend?”
The following Tuesday, Alice, who had intruded unlawfully, asked me that as the first thing she said.
“Yeah. It’s Suzune-san from the class next door. I’ve been interested in her for a while, so I confessed to her. She’s a really great girl, even better than I expected.”
But now, I can confidently answer this question.
I actually got a girlfriend.
I may have lost my temper the other day, but thanks to Alice’s provocation, I should probably be somewhat grateful.
Upon hearing my reply, Alice seemed genuinely shocked.
…Well, even with the childhood friend bonus, that’s just too rude. Even with the bias, it’s not something that should be allowed.
“I’m going to be honest with you. Suzune is different from you. She’s calm, elegant, and a bit shy. So even if I end up hanging out with her after school, I’d prefer if you didn’t talk to me too much. And there’s a chance I might invite her to my place, so don’t come over without permission anymore, okay?”
So, taking advantage of my irritation, I propose to keep my distance from Alice.
“Invite her to your place…? No unauthorized entry…??”
Upon hearing that, Alice stood frozen in disbelief.
…I wonder why.
Did I say something strange? Even though we’re childhood friends, it’s natural to reassess our relationship when one of us gets a romantic partner, right?
I was briefly swayed by Alice’s reaction, but after confirming in my mind that my instincts were correct, I decided to express the all-too-obvious reason in words.
“Yeah. If I have a girlfriend and I’m seen talking intimately with other girls, it wouldn’t feel good, would it? Even Alice should understand that much.”
I counter her teasing remarks precisely because she did the same to me before.
This is a good opportunity. Alice has been getting a little too full of herself lately.
Seeing Alice unable to retort and her face turning red, little by little, I felt slightly satisfied.
Perhaps it was the result of anger, or rather, frustration, but her delicate body trembled.
“…..That’s enough! I’m leaving!”
She must have been emotionally affected to a considerable extent. It was memorable to see her leaving the front door in a serious manner, unlike her usual self.
…It was somewhat amusing.
I’m such an idiot.
As soon as I returned home and went back to my room, I immediately closed the curtains and pretended to be angry.
…That was all I could do.
I must have stumbled and scraped my knees when I was feeling disoriented and climbing up the stairs to the second floor. Blood was slowly seeping from my knees, causing pain and distress. I was a mess.
When did I become unable to face Shouhei honestly?
I think I started becoming aware of Shouhei as the opposite sex around elementary school, maybe around the middle grades.
I liked having casual conversations with Shouhei. But it wasn’t just that. I wanted to be even closer… I wanted to become the most important girl to Shouhei.
So, I decided to change. I tried to actively engage in conversations with Shouhei, especially when we were alone… of course.
I boasted a lot. I wanted him to know more about my good qualities. I wanted him to be aware of me.
But Shohei was not interested in me. In fact, perhaps because of the beginning of puberty, I even felt more distant from him than before, and I became impatient.
I was in a hurry, in a hurry …… and it all backfired.
I was shocked in a double sense when I heard that Shouhei got a girlfriend named Suzune.
Speaking of Suzune… It’s like watching the old me. She even resembles the real me that I always hid at school.
I was always nervous around Shouhei, trying to hide it, and as a result, my attitude changed only towards him… I shouldn’t have done such things.
I should have calmly enjoyed the time alone with Shouhei without rushing things.
And in the end, I even pushed Shouhei into having a girlfriend…
Shouhei said it. He wants to keep his distance from me.
…I know that’s only natural. His girlfriend should be his top priority.
But… I don’t want that…
Can’t we be alone together anymore?
Give me a chance to make amends.
Before I knew it, my vision had blurred.
I… I love Shouhei so much…
It’s in the mistakes that I realize what I’ve lost.
Regrets flood in endlessly, thinking about what I should have done differently, how I should have acted… Maybe it would have been better if I had been able to express my feelings to him, but I’ve even lost the opportunity to do that.
I spent the whole night crying in my room.
―――Nevertheless, deep down in my heart, just a little bit, I had a tiny bit of hope.
But since that day, Shouhei never spoke to me once.
I was truly rejected… It had been two weeks since Shouhei got a girlfriend, and that realization became clear to me.
While my room remained silent, on the other side of the window, I could hear joyful laughter, and my chest tightened.
Come to think of it, when was the last time I saw Shouhei smile in his room that I passed by so many times?
I was so consumed by my own thoughts that I didn’t notice something as simple as that.
Surely, Shouhei is happily conversing with Suzune right now…
When I thought about that, I finally understood that this love had come to an end. And I also understood that continuing to observe Shouhei’s happiness from this close yet distant distance was my punishment for tormenting him until he rejected me.
I gather Shouhei’s voice in my heart and conjure up his smile in my mind.
The numerous memories I had with Shouhei since we were little were too big to keep locked away in my heart… They overflowed and scattered, turning into tears, fading away ever so transiently.