Author note: Sumika → Sumika Hosokawa
In the midst of all the excitement of classmates gathering with their friends for the return of exams, my name was called and I walked to my homeroom teacher, passing Yuki on my way back.
It seems that he was trying to tell me something when we passed each other,…… but I guess that was just as well, right? Ah,……I can’t do anything about it now, but I still get nervous when the results are handed to me,…….
“Ishikawa …… oh! Oh,…… you did a great job.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you.”
She looked at the stack of answer sheets handed to me and the small piece of paper on top of them. The average score for each subject, my score, and my rank in my grade were written in the form of a table, and at the bottom of the table was the overall score and overall rank. When I looked at the rankings for each subject, I saw that all of the …… subjects were among the first three, and the overall ranking was first.
I’m happy about that, but …… well, I’ve been studying in my spare time ever since I started high school. It must be thanks to that.
After confirming my ranking, I folded the answer sheet and returned to my seat, where I saw Yuki looking at me with a sense of curiosity.
“How is it?”
“Well, it was good, I guess.”
“Hoo. …Well, that’s good. I wasn’t too bad myself.”
Upon taking my seat, I put away the papers with the rankings and average scores in a clear file, and put the answer sheets on my desk to check what I had done wrong.
However, there were not many mistakes, so I quickly finished that and put the answer sheets in my bag before the results of all my classmates were handed out.
When I saw my classmates returning their answer sheets, I said to myself, “Okay!” and some of them were smiling with a gut-punch, while others were staggering back to their seats with a sullen look on their faces. While I was watching them, Yuki lightly tapped me on the shoulder from behind.
“Hmm? What is it?”
“…… I remember Obata said she was going to that coffee shop today too.”
“Aah, she did say that ……. I was thinking of reviewing for the exam. I wish I could do that in the library.”
“Eh, are you not allowed to study there?”
“No, it’s not like that. I don’t think it would be a problem if you spend too much time there. I just don’t want people to see me working too much.”
“Oh…..But Miyamoto goes there a lot, doesn’t she?”
“Well, that’s true. ……”
I’m used to Miyamoto-san’s visits and I rather enjoy her company, but I haven’t seen Obata-san since the ball game. I feel somewhat embarrassed.
“Hmm, I thought I’d come, too.”
“Oh, really? You’re reviewing it too?”
“That’s part of it. But Obata said before the exam that she wanted to win against me even if she couldn’t win against Mizuki and Ishikawa. I was going to see how she did.”
“I didn’t know she said that. ……”
Aren’t these two hostile? I feel like I see them competing with each other about something every now and then. I’m a little jealous ……. ……Ah, so I get to see them working again. …… Well, I’ve been here once already, and it’s not like there was anything special going on last time either.
While having such a conversation, a loud voice rises in the classroom. Continuing on, the volume of those voices remained the same, but the praise was spreading. If this much attention was being paid to it, it must mean that the result of the popularity was good.
After reflexively turning my gaze in the direction of the voices, I realized that those voices were coming from a direction I would never normally look. At the other end of my gaze, I saw Sumika smiling and saying to her classmates, ” I still have to work hard.”
…… Oh, Sumika’s smile was like that.
What a thought occurred to me. From the voices of the people around her, Sumika seemed to be in fifth place in the total score. No privacy, I guess. …… Well, she is a serious person, and it is no wonder she has a good ranking.
After looking that way for a little while, Sumika looked at me. Then her eyes turn cold for a moment and she quickly looks away. …… I don’t know if it was a good idea to look at me like that just because our eyes met for a moment.
I felt a pain in my chest and thought of that, and I took my eyes off her. Then I heard Yuki’s voice saying, “Hey,” and when I turned toward the voice, I saw that Yuki had a serious expression on his face.
“…… shouldn’t you tell Hosokawa the truth properly?”
……What do I think? ……No, that’s right, it would be better to tell the truth properly if I think about it in a normal way……. But lately, since after the …… ball game, it hasn’t been anything like that. She doesn’t talk to me, she just gives me a little glare when she makes eye contact with me. I’m not sure if there’s any benefit to making an excuse now, even if Sumika believes my side of the story. …… I think it would probably be a good thing for Yuki and the others if my image improves. But I don’t think it will change the image of me around them anymore. If it is ……, I don’t think I need to take any particular action.
I wonder if I’m running away……. Maybe I’m actually afraid that I’ll have to explain myself properly and still not be believed. I’m afraid …… that I’m going to have to go through that scene all over again, in middle school. I’m afraid that she’ll look at me again with that contemptuous, disappointed look.
” …… Well, if that’s okay with Shota, I won’t say any more.”
The teacher’s voice echoes, ” Come on, be quiet!” and little by little, the voices in the classroom become less and less. ……I wonder what’s going on.
After homeroom was over, people were having a lot of fun in the classroom showing each other their ranking list. The other people are getting ready to go home, and I’m one of them.
“Then, let’s go. Where do you usually meet Miyamoto?”
“At the front entrance. But before that, can we stop by the library?”
“Sure, but do you want to borrow a book?”
I often read books from the library these days because it’s free and there are all kinds of books to pass the time. Until now, when I had free time, I had two choices: study or do muscle training, but I had already solved all the problems in the textbooks and problem books for the first year of high school, so I needed something else to pass the time.
“Then I guess I’d better get going.”
“Then, let’s hurry up.”
I was just about to head for the library when I got a frightening start. At the time of the ball game, my body was showing rejection just by being approached, but now that we’ve been in the same class for a little over two months, I don’t think I’m going to go crazy just by being approached.
“What rank did you get in the exam?”
I didn’t have the courage to look her in the face and talk to her, so I answered while dropping my gaze to the bottom and she asked me such a question. ……Why are you asking me that? What are you going to do when you know my ranking?
“Hey! Are you listening?”
“Shota and Hosokawa aren’t the kind of friends you’d ask something like that, right? Our friends are waiting for us. Can’t you do that kind of thing with your own friends? Let’s go to ……, Shota.”
“See you later, Hosokawa.”
I was wondering what I should say, having been accused of cheating by a classmate in junior high school in the past, when Yuki said to Sumika and gave me a shove on my back. I glanced behind me and saw that Sumika seemed to be at a loss for words and was just walking away.
I returned the book I had borrowed from the library, checked out three appropriate books, and came to the main entrance of the meeting place.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
Usually only Miyamoto-san is present, but today Obata-san was with her. I’ve been saying since about the day before yesterday that she wanted to go with Mizuki to the coffee shop where I work to review for the test since she has Wednesday off from club activities, so there’s nothing surprising about that.
“No, I’m not waiting that long.”
“Like 5 or 6 minutes.”
“Ah, I see”
Do they always wait that long? I always make them wait when going to the library, so I’m in a hurry every time, but even if I didn’t have time to communicate with Sumika, I’d still have 3 or 4 more minutes ……. That’s a little tight. …… If I run down the hallway, I might be able to get there first, but it’s a bit of a quandary. ……
“…… Let’s go then?”
In a somewhat listless voice, Miyamoto-san said that and went towards the shoe box.
“……Miyamoto-san, is kinda in a…… bad mood?”
“Probably her exam results weren’t as good as she thought it would be. She has been like that since homeroom.”
“Eh, oh,…… I see………….”
I asked Obata-san and she said that’s what she meant. …… ah …….
After changing shoes, I talked to Miyamoto-san, who was sighing a small sigh. Normally, if I talk to her in a crowded place, the stares from those around me hurt even more, so I quickly move away from such places before talking to her, but today she seemed to be in low spirits, so I didn’t feel like doing what I usually do.
I usually talk to Miyamoto-san alone, so it’s a new experience for me.
“Ah, yes. Indeed it is.”
“What’s that, am I interrupting something?”
Obata-san said from the back. …… interrupting? I don’t think so at all. The four of us are more fun and lively together.
“No, it’s not like that at all.”
As Obata-san said, looking a bit bored, Yuki came over to us, saying, “Sorry to keep you waiting.” Everyone’s feet naturally begin to move as they gather.
Walking slowly as the four of us talked, I think we arrived at my part-time job in a shorter time than usual. The conversation during this time was all about the contents of the exam and not about the rankings, probably because Obata-san said that Miyamoto-san’s exam results might not have been good.
When we arrived at the restaurant, Yuki looked at the entire restaurant and grunted.
I thought about it the other day, too, but I guess it’s hard to go in alone, isn’t it?
Ah, right. The manager was talking about how to make it easier for people to come in.”
Yuki is right. The atmosphere is calm and a little bit austere. …… I think many people will become regulars once they’ve been here. Even Miyamoto-san is like that.
I said, “Well, let’s go in,” and opened the door. Then I greeted Makoto at the counter.
“Oh hello, Shota-kun and Mizuki……are you with friends ? Welcome.”
Makoto-san, who was wiping down the counter, looks behind me and Miyamoto-san and says so. In response, everyone returned the greeting. Then, following that greeting, Miyamoto-san opens his mouth.
“Uhm, Makoto-san. Can I study a little bit today too?”
“Yes, it’s okay.”
After Miyamoto-san and Makoto-san have such a conversation, everyone is led by Makoto-san to the seats at the back of the room.
…… I’m going to go to change in the locker room, I think.
“Huh, Shota-kun, are you sure?”
“? ‘Sure’, what do you mean?”
“Since you’re here, why don’t you join your friend for a cup of coffee first?”
“Uh, no, I’m good.”
After having such a conversation, I turned my feet to the locker room.
When I changed into my store clothes and came out, everyone had just decided to order and Yuki was beckoning me to come in. …… No, this one was probably waiting for me. Haa……, I guess I’ll just have to go.
“Have you decided what to order?”
“Yes. Uhm, …… I’ll have an iced cafe au lait.”
“I’ll have a hot blended coffee.”
“I’ll have tea.”
“Okay, one coffee blend, one iced cafe au lait, and a cup of tea?”
“Okay, please wait a moment.”
A little while after I gave my order to Makoto, the drinks seemed to be ready, so I brought it to them.
“Thank you for waiting.”
“Oh! Thank you.”
Everyone had their exam results on the table, so I put the drinks in front of each of them, avoiding them. It seemed that they had also put the ranking list out together, and I glanced at it as I put my drink down.
……Ah……, I knew Miyamoto-san was in second place. ……
“Hey, what was Ishikawa’s overall ranking?”
” Ah …….”
I was about to say, “Call out to me if you need anything,” when Obata-san asked me that. Ah ……
“Ishikawa, you are No.1⁉”
Just as I was about to answer, Miyamoto-san leaned forward and asked me with such force that I was startled and backed away.
“Hey, Ishikawa, you are No.1⁉”
“…… yes, I am No.1.”
“Eh! Really⁉……Crap……. The top two of the test are here ……”
“Oh, …… Crazy. Amazing.”.
When I answered, Obata and Yuki were mumbling something like that, and Miyamoto-san was frozen in the form of leaning forward.