After a checkup at our university’s infirmary, Hideki went straight home to get some rest. Chiaki and I finished the rest of our lecture class, and were already on our way to the train station. During the last lecture class though, she was busy explaining that incident to Yui, so there are some notes that she’d missed out. So, that’s why we are almost the only students in this train station. Most of them had already returned back home. Winter’s coming after all.
I looked at my watch.
It will be about 8:00PM when we reach our home.
A cold breeze swiped past my face. I shivered. This is the result of me forgetting to bring my scarf out today.
My stomach growled.
“Are you hungry?” Chiaki asked, standing beside me on our first train home.
“Sorry you had to accompany me.”
“Don’t mind it,” my stomach growled again. “I’m always hungry.”
“Are you preparing dinner for yourself again tonight?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, with a somewhat sad tone in her voice. “My parents are having their dinner outside tonight.”
I patted her head, and looked at her. “Want to come to my house tonight?”
“Yeah. My house,” I said. “My mom always cooked more than enough for the three of us, and my dad is going to be late home tonight.”
“So, I thought, she might be happier if I can take a girlfr—” she put her index finger to my mouth before I could finish my sentence.
“Fine, I’ll come,” she said, “But first, I’ll let her know.”
She then took out her smartphone with a pink bunny strap and called to let my mother know about her coming over. I can hear my mother’s excitement all the way here, without Chiaki needing to open the speaker on her phone.
“There,” she said, after ending her call. “Now you can’t try anything funny.”
I whispered to her, “Did you want me to try anything funny?”
She slapped my face with her phone. “Shut up.”
Her face is slightly red, but she chose to aimlessly stare outside the windows of our train.
She’d always looked scary to others, but even just for a moment, I wanted her to be able to relax, and be herself. I want to melt the cold expression that she wore, whenever she’s around anyone but me. Her strong appearance that she’s always put on, it looks exhausting. But I never heard her complained about it. Not even once.
“So,” I said, trying to start another conversation. “How’s it going between you and Yui?”
“Fine,” she said.
“You’re annoying,” she said.
“I know,” I replied. I don’t think we ever had this conversation before. Maybe I was too occupied with too many things, too many emotions, that I didn’t have the time to properly talk to her. Maybe I was purposely avoiding her. So that, it’d be less painful. Her face, when blood slid down her face, stained her yukata that night. That dreadful midnight.
She paused for a moment while still has her eyes set on the passing view outside the train. “We made a plan on New Year’s Eve. Yui’s coming to our town, for the shrine that she’s heard to be effective in granting wishes. I promised her I’ll go to the shrine with her.”
“Also,” she shot a quick look at me. “You wanted a lucky charm, right?”
… she was there.
… for me.
“Shin… are you ok?” she asked, suddenly putting her a-bit-rough hand on my right cheek.
“Your eyes are red,” she said.
I wiped my hand across my eyes. “I’m fine. Really.”
I turned away from her, as I rubbed my eyes again. Not here. Not now. I'm a grown adult. I can do this. I took a deep, shaky breath.
“Sorry,” I said, without looking at her. “I just… need some time.”
She slowly grabbed my right hand up, and peeked underneath it, taking a closer look at my face.
“Did I say something wrong?” she asked.
“No, I just—” I rubbed my eyes again. “I just—”
She suddenly wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me close to her.
“What are you—”
I just stood there, and slowly embraced her hug, as I wrapped my arms around her.
There was no one in our train chamber but us.
The chills were piercing.
“It’s ok,” she said. “It’s ok now.”
“You don’t even know—” I started to choke on my own words. “I should be the one—”
She gently stroked my hair. “It’s ok. I’m here.”
I chuckled, trying to hold tears in. “This is not fair,” I said.
I grabbed her closer into my hug. “You’re not fair,” I said.
“So are you,” she replied. “Ever since this morning.”
“You’ve been hiding some painful things from me, aren’t you?” she asked.
I couldn’t say another word. I felt my throat closing up, deeper and deeper.
“It’s ok,” she said again. “I’ll wait until you are ready to say it.”
She patted my head, “I’ll wait for you.”
I only nodded my head, as I hugged her.
It was cold.
But she was warm.
And I don’t want to let her go.