When I left the big bath, I felt kind of tired …….
I sit slumped on a bench in front of the changing room.
I see students leaving the baths, changing into their jerseys and walking up and down the street.
–I feel a little dizzy. Could it have been a case of hot water?
“Are you all right, Shinjo? Get some rest.”
Hiratsuka and Hirano are worried about me.
Hirano handed me a bottle of Pocari.
“Thank you, I think I’ll be able to move after a little rest. Please go to your room first. Hiratsuka has an appointment with Seo, right?”
My words came out without stuttering. I could not have handled it like this if I had been a little earlier.
“I-I don’t care if I’m late! Shinjo, you look like you’re in a lot of pain!”
He looked flirtatious, but he had the most impatient expression on his face, and the atmosphere was somewhat bizarre.
Hirano pats Hiratsuka on the back to calm him down.
“Hiratsuka, you know Shinjo is confused, right?”
“But, ……, I don’t want to make that mistake again. ……”
“Hiratsuka, it’s different from that time. You need to face Seo with that included.”
“I know that. ……”
I didn’t really understand what the two of them were talking about.
There must be something between Hiratsuka and Seo.
Hiratsuka glanced at me.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah, no problem. I took some Pocari and it made me feel better. I think I’ll be fine after a little more rest. Just go on ahead of me.”
Hirano pushed Hiratsuka back.
“Come on, let’s go. ……Shinjo, don’t worry about Hiratsuka. Take a good rest and come back.”
“I’m sorry, it’s gotten weird. I’ll explain it to you when we can talk sometime. …… If it’s too hard, call me on my phone!”
Hiratsuka stood up from the bench and said, “Aah.”
“I don’t have Shinjo’s number!?”
“….Neither do I. Shinjo, can you tell me?”
In my mind, I recalled a bad memory for a moment.
The exchange of messages with Nanako in junior high school. The exchange with Kisaragi, whom I thought we had become friends.
I shake my head. That was in the past.
I’m okay now.
“Aah, Sure. I’ll give you my number.”
We exchange numbers, and the two of them head back to their rooms this time.
I watched their backs in wonder as I sipped my Pocari.
–I’ve been in the room for a while now, and I’ve had a good time.
I closed my eyes and spent the time without thinking about anything. There used to be a lot of time like this. I used to be alone all the time.
In past classrooms, I would close my eyes during recess. When I opened my eyes, there was no one in front of me.
I spent my days listening only to the voices of my classmates.
My cold heart became a solid mass and slowed my body down.
–But the encounter with Anri changed me.
I am a little afraid to open my eyes.
I used to be okay with being alone. Now I am afraid of being alone and feel lonely.
I thought my heart had become weak. But I am not.
I haven’t become weak. I have acquired different feelings.
The forest school in junior high school was a bad memory.
But it could have turned out differently if I had behaved differently.
I can’t even remember their names anymore, but I never hurt the girls I was with at the time any more than I had to.
I wonder what life is like for those girls?
Maybe I should have just faced them a little better.
I let out a small sigh.
–All right, I’m all fine now. Physically, I’m feeling better again.
I can’t wait to see Anri.
I know this feeling is love.
When I fall in love, my chest tightens up.
It’s not a bad feeling. When I think of Anri, I feel very tender.
Because Anri was there, I was able to change.
I became friends with Hiratsuka and Hirano because of Anri.
–I slowly open my eyes.
I didn’t think anyone was there, but someone was looking into my face.
“Makoto, are you all right?”
Anri was right in front of me, her face glowing, as if she had just finished taking a hot bath.
I immediately said the words in my mind.
“—–I really love you.”
“Ah, no, it’s, uhm”
I was so excited that I couldn’t stop myself from saying what was in my heart. What am I talking about!? My face is burning.
I was too embarrassed to look at Anri’s face.
“S-sleep talking ……, I don’t mean in a weird way.”
“Y-Yes. You were sleeptalking, right? Don’t worry, you’re [the most important friend in the world to me].
Anri looked away from me and said so quickly.
The title of Anri’s novel popped into my head.
The words made me feel even more confused.
“A-all right, we still have some free time. Wanna go outside and cool off?”
“Yeah, let’s go!”
Anri grabbed the sleeve of my jersey.
The students were passing by in front of the large bathhouse.
It’s a normal thing for us to hold hands to calm ourselves down.
But, to an unknowing student, it is considered to be a deep relationship.
Until now, we had not consciously held hands.
No, I was aware of it, but I didn’t think about it deeply.
I took a deep breath and squeezed all the courage I could muster.
I had been holding her hand as a friend, but from now on, it will be different.
From now on, I will hold hands with the person I love—-.
The moment I realized this, my heart began to race.
I grabbed Anri’s hand.
Anri looked a little surprised, but squeezed my hand and twirled it around mine.
I also squeezed Anri’s hand and she responded.
I could only hear Anri’s small laugh.
I don’t care about the students around me.
Nikaido is doing a fist pump in the corner of my vision, but I can’t see him. What the hell are you…?
We walked out, exchanging something that wasn’t words.
The woods at night are dangerous.
A walk outside is at best a walk around the campground.
There are many students everywhere. Is it my imagination …… that there are so many couples, male and female?
“Hiyaa!? M-Makoto, look at them! They’re hugging each other!”
“Pomeko, stop looking at it ……”
“T-they’re holding hands, too!”
“Y-Yes, we’re holding hands, too.”
“R-right. Ehehe. Then it should be okay.”
I don’t know what’s okay, but it’s alright because Anri is in a good mood.
But still, our school has many serious students.
I’ve seen some students bring in alcohol and cigarettes when I was in junior high school.
“Hey, let’s go to the kitchen over there!”
Indeed, there are no students in the kitchen at all.
There was nothing going on, and it would be a good place to cool off.
We went to the kitchen.
“Hey, isn’t that Tanaka-san?”
“It is……, Yamada is there too.”
The two of them were standing at the far end of the kitchen.
There was a strange tension in the air.
I tried to approach them without thinking.
Anri’s face was suddenly close to mine. She also pulled my hand.
My heartbeat jumped.
“…… We can’t, Makoto. It is probably important to talk about something.”
Anri whispered in my ear.
“I-Is that so?”
“Yes it is.”
While saying that, we couldn’t move a step.
For some reason, I was taken in by the atmosphere between the two of them.
All I could hear was Yamada’s well-composed voice.
“Hey, Tanaka, I’m sorry for calling you here.”
“You know, I wanted to talk to you……”
“I’m too stupid to play games with you.”
“I’ll make it clear.”
“I love you, Tanaka! I’ve been in love with you since the first time I saw you. P-Please go out with me.”
Me and Anri look at each other involuntarily.
We had just stumbled upon an unbelievable scene.
This is the moment when Yamada is confessing his love to Tanaka.
It was not the usual Yamada, and I could feel his seriousness.
Even though it’s someone else’s business, I’m getting nervous too.
Tanaka doesn’t make the slightest move. It was too dark to see what kind of expression she had on her face.
After a short pause, Yamada started to cry.
Crying seriously. He is crying.
I had thought that Tanaka also liked Yamada.
Yamada has been dumped. ……
The forest school is still going on.
Will the awkward time continue?
Tanaka-san is looking at Yamada who is crying.
I had my eyes on Tanaka-san.
Yamada also noticed me and walked slowly toward me.
His face was battered with tears.
I don’t know what to say to him.
Thinking back, I had received a confession of love once.
I didn’t think it was serious. I thought it was a false confession.
–Perhaps there was a girl who really thought about me.
I had unknowingly hurt someone.
My heart ached when I thought of that.
Suddenly I remembered a girl who had confessed to me before I met Anri. I thought it was a false confession and turned her down.
That girl was crying like Yamada is now.
The always cheerful Yamada broke down crying.
I put my hand on his shoulder.
“Yamada, I don’t know what to say, but you’re a good guy. I’m sure–“
“Shinjo, Tanaka and I are in love with each other. ……”
A strange voice came out from me and Anri.
Tanaka-san is fidgeting in embarrassment.
I see. ……, you succeeded.
Very confusing. What the hell, I’m getting very pissed off.
I was a fool to feel sorry for Yamada for a moment.
Looking at their daily life together, there is no way they wouldn’t be together. No matter how one looks at it, they are in love with each other.
I was worried about them, and it was my fault.
Anri tugged on my hand.
“Makoto, I don’t want to bother them, so let’s go over there.”
“Y-yeah, you’re right……. Yamada, I’ll see you later.”
Yamada’s voice was inaudible as he spoke to me.
We decided to leave Yamada and the others.
For some reason, we were walking too fast.
I had never seen a confession scene before.
“Y-You know, I have to go back to my room now, or the teacher will get angry with me.
“I guess so. ……”
We stopped, holding hands.
It’s the dividing line between the girls’ room and the boys’ room.
The feeling of not wanting to separate comes on more strongly than usual.
Our hands are separated without any hesitation.
“See you tomorrow! Good night.”
“….Good night, Anri.”
I said that, but for some reason I was holding Anri’s hand again.
“N-no, it’s dangerous on the road at night. I’ll walk you on the way.”
“It’s right over there? Uhm, ……then would you kindly?”
It was only a few meters to the room.
I wanted to be with Anri, even though it was only for a few seconds.
For me, those tens of seconds felt like a very long and precious time.