I groaned, again.
My mother pulled off my blanket, and opened the curtains. Day 2’s morning.
“You’re going to keep Chiaki waiting, again,” she said.
“I was worried about you two yesterday, you know,” she continued. “Your father called and he said the train was suddenly out of service, and you almost fell onto the tracks. Then he didn’t call for a few hours, then he showed up with you in a taxi. And you were already soundly sleeping. Your father had to carry you here.”
“Where’s him now?”
“You two are going out on a date today, right?” I asked.
“Don’t tease your mom,” she slapped my arm. “Did your father tell you about it?”
“Well, we are planning to watch the 10:00AM movie. It should be about two hours long.” she paused at me. “But are you feeling sick or anything?”
“No,” I replied, as I stood up and pushed her to my door. “Don’t worry, and enjoy with dad. I’ll get ready and come down in a few minutes. Also, buy me some Hokkaido egg tarts on your way back.”
Then I shut my door.
I grabbed my watch and set the time, then I unlocked my phone and instantly texted Hideki. “We’re skipping school today.”
After a few minutes when I’m properly dressed, with my red scarf as well, I received a reply from Hideki. Well, replies. Weird reactions.
“Shin, are you having a fever?”
“You never skipped any class before.”
“Are you Shin?”
“What have you done to my Shin?!!!”
“GIVE HIM BACK!!!”
I texted him back. “It’s me. I have your Shin. If you want him, meet me in the cafe in front of your university at 9:00AM.”
“You REALLY have Shin!”
“WHO R U?”
“If I tell Chiaki, YOU’RE DEAD.”
“She will hunt you down, I tell you.”
“The last thing you see is RED.”
I texted him again. “Don’t tell Chiaki. She has other classes this morning. Yes. I know her routine. If you don’t want any harm to be done on Shin, shut up and comply with me.”
“I will comply.”
“Don’t harm him.”
I smiled. “Good. As long as you understand, Mr. Hideki.”
“I WILL GET HIM BACK.”
Then, I walked downstairs to have breakfast.
My father and I choked at the egg rolls. Too sweet.
After saying ‘goodbye’, I left for the train station. Chiaki was already waiting.
She paused at my scarf. “You’re wearing it today, huh?”
“Of course, it’s warm.”
Her mouth edges widened, as she said in a low voice, “as long as you like it”, but loud enough to be heard by me.
I whispered to her, “You learnt, and made it after all.”
“S—Shut up!” she blushed, and walked a few steps faster than me to board the train.
Then, as usual, none of us said anything after a few minutes.
“So,” she said, scrolling the messages on her phone. “Are you skipping class today?”
She showed her phone in front of my face.
I took a look.
“HE’D BEEN KIDNAPPED!”
Then there was a few minutes gap.
“EVERYTHING’S FINE NOW.”
“Shin just wanted to skip morning classes.”
“OK THEN. C U AT UNI.”
“So?” she continued to ask. “Why are you skipping?”
“Umm… nothing.” I said. “I just want to take some breaks from time to time. You know, sightseeing.”
“Today’s the last day of our semester though,” she said. “If you want, we can go tomorrow.”
“Nah… it’s ok. I’m only skipping the morning classes. I wanted to talk about something with Hideki.”
“Yeah, our project for the coming semester. I wanted to get some inputs from him, and check some historical places at the same time.”
“Oh,” she said. “Ok then. You’ll be joining the 12:30PM class, right?”
“Then it’s fine,” she smiled.
After a few hours of the trip, we watched some funny videos Yui sent to her, and I listened to her sharing with me the magnificent tales of the Twelve Olympians that she learnt recently. Her eyes would always look like they are sparkling, when she’s excitingly sharing these tales. I would only look at her lively expression, and nod, without any intention to interrupt her.
After she finished on the third Olympian, we reached our stop.
I waved ‘goodbye’ to her in front of our university’s entrance gate, and was already on my way to the cafe.
“Ouch!” Hideki shout, as I smacked his back.
“I told you not to tell Chiaki, didn’t I?”
“But I’d already told her before you said so,” he complained with a pout on his face.
“Fine,” I said. “Have you had breakfast?”
“No,” he said. “I rushed here. Wait a bit, let me grab some rice balls from the convenience store.”
“No,” I replied.
I let out a sigh. “I’ll buy you breakfast, let’s go into the cafe.”
He looked stunned. “YOU! What have you done to Shin?!”
He started to shake my shoulders. “Be gone, demons! Be gone!”
I held his arms back. “Shut up, stop drawing attention to us.”
A few girls, probably from the same university, giggled as they walked past us.
“You’re going to keep adding embarrassing moments into my university life, don’t you?”
“Your what now?” he said. “It’s OURS. OUR university life.”
“Fine, fine,” I said. “Just get inside already.”
“Fine, fine,” he replied, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and dragging me in.
After two sets of breakfast, I was already too full to walk around. But after a few minutes’ walk, we arrived at a souvenir shop in front of a cinema. The cinema.
The souvenir shop is actually selling more than just souvenirs, but also a lot of trendy things that girls of our age are attracted to: trendy sneakers, facial sets, sunglasses, clothes of all kinds, and just about everything that you can choose a gift from.
“Necklace, for Chiaki?” Hideki asked, as he saw me stopping in front of this shop.
I looked at my watch.
There’s still time.
“Let’s go for some browsing,” I said.
After some wandering around, I found the necklace section, along with other accessories. I looked through each different pattern that these necklaces offer.
I found one, a necklace with a sunflower shaped pendant, which can be opened and has a small space inside to put a picture in. The girls that were choosing some earrings beside us giggled at my choice.
Would Chiaki have liked this, just like any other girl? Does it look… lame? Old-fashioned, maybe? Maybe she would have preferred a book, or a scarf… She always said she didn’t need anything and that she had everything she needed already. But, for once, I really just wanted… to buy her something, to buy something just for her. Something, that would put a smile on her face.
The girls giggled again.
“HEY!” Hideki slammed the shelf behind me.
“You’re buying this for your girlfriend, right?” he said, loudly, silencing the girls.
“No one knows Chiaki more than you do,” he continued. “So don’t care about others. Care about her. About what you think she will like.”
“That’s what gifts are for, right?” he heightened his voice again. The girls frowned at him, and left to the counter.
I chuckled. “Luckily I brought you with me.”
“What are you saying? I’ve always got your back.” Hideki said.
And then we both laughed, loud enough for the people around our area to stare at us.
“This one it is then,” I said to myself, taking it off the display.
“Done?” Hideki asked, peeking into my final choice. “The girls were right, it looks a bit old.”
I elbowed his stomach. “Shut up.”
Is this the right choice? There’s a bookstore nearby, maybe I should…
I looked at my watch.
Taking the gift that I’d chosen, Hideki and I sat on WcDonald’s which was just a few shops away from the souvenir shop, on the opposite street from the cinema. I chose the window’s seat, just enough for me to cover the whole area in front of the cinema.
“There was dust everywhere in that book shop, you know?” Hideki said, slurping his soft drink. “And you stayed for like an hour. No one but us, in that old book shop, for an entire hour!”
He slurped again. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been closed yet.”
I smiled at him. Even though he ranted about it, he still chose to stay with me during the one hour, and picked some books to read on.
“What are you grinning at?” he asked. “Are you into men too?”
He swiped his hair up and coughed, “You’re a good guy, Shin. But, sorry. I don’t go that way.”
I threw the paper wraps of my burger at him. “I’ve already got someone I like.”
He swiped his hair up again, as he put his palm out to me. “I’ve already told you, Shin. I don’t go that way.”
I looked at his hair again. That day at the cafeteria, there were some small leaves in between his hair.
“What were you doing that day?” I asked.
“Which day?” he asked me back, only starting to stuff his mouth with the deluxe cheeseburger.
“The day you vomited in front of the whole cafeteria.”
He paused. “Shin, I’m eating here.”
“I know. So, what happened?”
He gulped down the bite in his mouth. “You know our university’s gardener, that Korean old guy?”
“Mr. Chu, yeah.”
“Well, I was sleeping under a tree that day, when he put a ladder sort of thing nearby the other tree. He climbed up the ladder, and with a.. a…”
Hideki paused, and began to make random hand motions. “The… ummm… what is it called again? Those things with long ends, and at edge, it has this curly sharp blade on it. Like what the Grim Reaper carried.”
I paused. “Scythe.”
He slurped his drink again. “So, as I was saying, Mr. Chu was cutting down these small branches one by one you know, and the whole ladder he climbed on looked unstable the more he extended his hand out. But he didn’t realize this. Because he was wearing earphones, so he didn’t know how shaky the ladder actually is.”
He continued, “I got worried, and offered to hold the ladder steady for him. Then, it repeated for 10 more trees. 10, Shin. TEN!”
He took another bite out of his burger. “Yeah, so I was quite tired already that day when I was eating the ribs. I didn’t pay too much attention to my surroundings when a girl accidentally elbowed me as she walked, and I choked.”
“So, that’s what happened, huh?”
“Yeah, were you expecting something else?”
“No… just curious, that’s all. You are my best friend, after all.”
“… What did you just say?”
“I heard it. I HEARD IT!” he stood up, with a proud smile on his face, like Columbus who had made the land discovery.
“Shut up, sit down.”
“I, HIDEKI IS NOW OFFICIALLY SHIN’S BEST FRIEND.”