Chapter 6:

A Cold, Warm Night

Second Chances

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.Bookmark here

I looked at my watch.Bookmark here

5:00PM.Bookmark here

It will be about 8:00PM when we reach our home.Bookmark here

A cold breeze swiped past my face. I shivered. This is the result of me forgetting to bring my scarf out today.Bookmark here

My stomach growled.Bookmark here

“Are you hungry?” Chiaki asked, standing beside me on our first train home.Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“Sorry you had to accompany me.”Bookmark here

“Don’t mind it,” my stomach growled again. “I’m always hungry.”Bookmark here

“Are you preparing dinner for yourself again tonight?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Yes,” she said, with a somewhat sad tone in her voice. “My parents are having their dinner outside tonight.”Bookmark here

I patted her head, and looked at her. “Want to come to my house tonight?”Bookmark here

“Your house?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Fine, I’ll come,” she said, “But first, I’ll let her know.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“There,” she said, after ending her call. “Now you can’t try anything funny.”Bookmark here

I whispered to her, “Did you want me to try anything funny?”Bookmark here

She slapped my face with her phone. “Shut up.”Bookmark here

Her face is slightly red, but she chose to aimlessly stare outside the windows of our train.Bookmark here

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.
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“So,” I said, trying to start another conversation. “How’s it going between you and Yui?”Bookmark here

“Fine,” she said.Bookmark here

“How ‘fine’?”Bookmark here

“You’re annoying,” she said.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“Also,” she shot a quick look at me. “You wanted a lucky charm, right?”Bookmark here

The shrine.Bookmark here

Midnight.Bookmark here

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That’s why…Bookmark here

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… she was there.Bookmark here

Yui…Bookmark here

and....Bookmark here

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… for me.Bookmark here

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“Shin… are you ok?” she asked, suddenly putting her a-bit-rough hand on my right cheek.
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“Your eyes are red,” she said.
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I wiped my hand across my eyes. “I’m fine. Really.”Bookmark here

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.
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“Sorry,” I said, without looking at her. “I just… need some time.”Bookmark here

She slowly grabbed my right hand up, and peeked underneath it, taking a closer look at my face.Bookmark here

“Did I say something wrong?” she asked.Bookmark here

“No, I just—” I rubbed my eyes again. “I just—”Bookmark here

She suddenly wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me close to her.Bookmark here

“What are you—”Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

I just stood there, and slowly embraced her hug, as I wrapped my arms around her.Bookmark here

There was no one in our train chamber but us.Bookmark here

The chills were piercing.
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“It’s ok,” she said. “It’s ok now.”Bookmark here

“You don’t even know—” I started to choke on my own words. “I should be the one—”Bookmark here

She gently stroked my hair. “It’s ok. I’m here.”Bookmark here

I chuckled, trying to hold tears in. “This is not fair,” I said.Bookmark here

I grabbed her closer into my hug. “You’re not fair,” I said.Bookmark here

“So are you,” she replied. “Ever since this morning.”Bookmark here

“You’ve been hiding some painful things from me, aren’t you?” she asked.Bookmark here

I couldn’t say another word. I felt my throat closing up, deeper and deeper.Bookmark here

“It’s ok,” she said again. “I’ll wait until you are ready to say it.”Bookmark here

She patted my head, “I’ll wait for you.”Bookmark here

I only nodded my head, as I hugged her.Bookmark here

It was cold.Bookmark here

But she was warm.Bookmark here

And I don’t want to let her go.Bookmark here

Not now.Bookmark here

Not ever.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.