I Can Hear Your Thoughts, but it's not like I'm Telling You or Anything!
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Date: May 2nd
When you lie down and carefully and methodically contemplate on it, it is still a very difficult thing to answer; even absolute concentration can’t create peace of mind sufficient enough to answer such an ancient question.
What rules over my life? More like, who does? Is there a supernatural power behind it, controlling my own fate as if I were a mere puppet? Is there something that makes me unconsciously follow orders from another plane of existence just to fulfill something that has to happen, or am I really on my own, acting according to my instincts to create my own fate through trial and error?
Does someone have control over other people’s lives as well? If so, do they also think about these things, or are they innately ignorant on that and are not meant to have such ideas cross their minds?
If I’m suddenly getting all philosophical when philosophy isn’t even my forte, does it mean that, at this very moment, in this very place, I was meant to lie on my bed and think about all of this? Wouldn’t that make my life pre-planned? If that’s the case, my life is just a cassette or a CD that’s playing on an amazing, otherworldly device that allows every voice heard to have its own consciousness, right?
What is the reason I’m thinking like this right now? Maybe it’s to finally understand that I should dive deeper into the meaning of my existence and being? I can’t really say for sure, at this moment.
But what I can say for sure is that my life has gone from 0 to 100 way too conveniently in a matter of just half a month.
Waking up late on the day of the opening ceremony helped miss the bus I intended to take and meet Karasuma on my way to school instead.
Forgetting to drink enough fluids during breakfast that morning to remain hydrated resulted in me meeting Fukuda-san after leaving the school gym to find something to fulfill my thirst.
Waiting outside the gym of my own volition until Karasuma finished talking to the seniors after the entrance ceremony made both of us be marginally late to the year’s first homeroom, something which the Irisu twins, Midori-san and Shigenobu-kun, took advantage of to pull a prank on poor lil’ Taichi —and a pretty persuading one, to say the least.
And that’s when Ichijou-san came out of our classroom and intervened to stop their prank from scaring the living hell out of me (‘traumatize’ me, as she called it.) All of that happened because I arrived a bit later than everyone else to class, which made her wonder what was taking the twins so long to return.
The following day, Karasuma’s absence on the bus really got me thinking about what could have happened to her that I realized I enjoyed being beside her, even if we had met just a day ago. I was feeling down for most of the time, and I needed a distraction from all that; Satoru was the one that took me out of my own overthinking world. Given how much he lacks presence, I doubt I would have noticed him anytime soon otherwise.
When I found out that Karasuma had come to school a bit late because of her ill sister, I got to meet a new side of her, which ultimately wouldn’t allow me to say ‘no’ to a favor of hers. It’s not like I wanted to refuse either. This led to us going to the Student Council, getting to meet Higashiguchi-senpai and Akiya-senpai for the first time.
A week later, a certain situation contributed to me basically feeling obliged to visit the Council. The truth is that I just wanted an excuse to go to that cramped room at the corner of the hallway again, because my first time there was an amazingly unforgettable experience. There, I met Karasuma’s older sister, Eru-senpai, who proved to be not just any member of the Council, but the President, to add the icing to cake.
To sum it up: In just 10 days, I became acquainted with so many great people; there’s nothing that can make me doubt or deny that.
But why can’t I deny it?
No matter how much evidence I gather to say that all of this was a mere coincidence on top of another, I have a feeling that everything that happened has a meaning.
That’s right; everything has a meaning, doesn’t it?
Then, is there something mutual connecting everything with this meaning?
As silently as possible as I open my eyes to find myself facing the ceiling, I let out: ‘’The ceiling…sure looks good.’’ I was barely able to hear my own muffled voice under the sheets.
‘’I think it needs to be painted though, it’s quite old.’’
‘’Can’t say I disagree with tha—’’
WAIT A MINUTE!
Who was it that just responded?!
To answer this question, I lift my resting upper body up with my tiny bits of strength.
And guess who today’s star is: Yanagisawa Saki.
I had my suspicions about who it could be, but it couldn’t have been anyone other than her, right? On a day during Golden Week, a period when students relive the euphoria of not having to go to school, and a period when businesses in Japan strive to thrive, why would my parents even be home? The store can’t run itself!
Wearing a set of at-home clothes befitting the current season, consisting of light-blue shorts and a T-shirt of the same color with white sleeves, she’s lying back-to-back with my room’s open door, just staring at me with a frown on her face and her arms crossed. I can’t make out what her expression is, though. (My vision is still a bit blurry and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open.)
THERE ARE OTHER THINGS THAT SHOULD BE TROUBLING ME, THOUGH!
‘’Did you always have the habit of talking in your sleep?’’ she asks with a rather surprised tone. ‘’I didn’t even know.’’
‘’Happens to the best of us, you know.’’
SO I WAS TALKING OUT LOUD THIS ENTIRE TIME?! MORNING THOUGHTS ARE SO TERRIFYING, AREN’T THEY?!
‘’Best, hehe…’’ she fakes a laugh, then switches to her smug mode: ‘’Like you’re even good at anything.’’
‘’It’s way too early in the morning for you to be—’’ my yawn cuts me off. ‘’—this sassy.’’
‘’T-Too early in morning, huh? You don’t say.’’
I can smell the irony in her attitude from all the way here!
‘’Sorry to break it to you, my dear older brother, but last time I checked the time was just past 12:30. IN OTHER WORDS, NOON!’’ she scowls at me, albeit a bit comically.
Unable to believe what I got to hear, I stretch my hand hurryingly to reach my phone on the nightstand beside me and check the time for myself.
Current Time: 12:50
Realizing how right she is, I scream ‘’WHA—! HOW CAN THIS BE?!’’ loudly in my distress, realizing how much productive time went to waste while I was acting like the philosopher I am not…
‘’I’ve been trying to wake you up since 11, but you wouldn’t even open an eye for your adorable little sister. I can’t even imagine how you ate breakfast so early in the morning with Mum and Dad before they left and then just went to sleep like that.’’ she says in a slightly annoyed manner while tapping her right index finger on her left upper arm rhythmically.
This is actually a quirk of hers, showing how she has lost her patience. She’s had it for as long as I can remember, so I’m 99% sure it comes out completely unconsciously since she hasn’t stopped doing it.
There are a few branches to this quirk: In musical terminology, largo and fortissimo tapping indicates boredom and annoyance by that boredom, andante and mezzo-forte tapping means she can’t get anything in her mind, and finally, allegro and pianissimo tapping shows she is REALLY annoyed about something.
THE PROBLEM HERE IS THAT HER TAPPING IS PRESTO, MAYBE EVEN PRESTISSIMO! WHAT SHOULD I MAKE OF THIS?!
Anyway, you might be asking yourselves: ‘How did it come to this?’, or even better, ‘How can you even sleep until almost 1 PM?!’
And I’m more than willing to answer that.
To keep it short, I’m stuck at home with nothing to do. I completely forgot to ask about everyone’s contact info at school; email, phone number, you name it!
It really sucks when you have something in mind just to forget about it when the time to do that thing comes… Even writing in down somewhere (for instance, on your palm with a pen) won’t help you remember in time either…
I raise the sheets to get up from my slumber bed.
Saki, hearing this, stops her tapping and looks directly at my direction, only to suddenly freak out for no apparent reason: ‘’WHO THE HECK ARE YOU?!’’ is how she (over)reacts after I get off of bed, breaking her arm crossing to point at me.
A single questioning ‘’Huh?’’ comes out naturally as I approach her.
It doesn’t even makes any sense why she reacted this way, does it? Like, what is she even talking about?
‘Wait, what’s going on with his bedhair? Is he attempting a mad scientist look or something?’
Well, that makes everything a bit more rational.
Come to think of it, my hair does feel kind of funny.
Eh, whatever. I can always take a shower to straighten it.
‘’YOU LOOK LIKE SOMEONE SUCKED THE SOUL OUT OF YOU!’’
‘’SO NOW I’M A ZOMBIE TOO?!’’
A couple seconds pass before she gives me an answer.
Confidently enough, she bumps her fist on her open right hand: ‘’…Pretty much.’’
‘’DO I LOOK SO HIDEOUS RIGHT NOW?!’’
‘’WEREN’T YOU BORN THAT WAY?!’’
An awkward silence takes over our lively conversation for a few seconds. She is waiting for me to reply to her question, and I’m waiting for her to just say something.
This is called a dead-end, ladies and gentlemen!
‘’I didn’t cut you out for such a weakling, Tai-nii… Did that hit home so much that you can’t even talk…?’’
‘’Not at all, I can talk just fine. What I’m curious about is how can you say that with a straight face.’’
‘’The truth should always be dealt with with a straight face!’’ she crosses her arms once more to show the confidence in her words, her sharp, determined look of her eyes adding to that.
I sigh. ‘’Is my hair so unseemly?’’
‘‘What, you thought I would really let something like this obvious just slide?’’
‘’Knowing you, it’s not like anything can slide past yourself…’’
‘’Bingo!’’ she winks at me.
I don’t know how much pride someone can take in this!
‘’I’ll go take a quick shower to straighten it then. It'll be better than doing nothing at all.’’
‘’Oh, is that so? Be careful, I took one too an hour ago, so the floor might still be a little wet.’’
‘’Well, thank you for the warning, flattie,’’ I rub her head as I walk past her to leave the room.
‘’Flattie? What do you mean…?’’
I was taking discreet looks at her to see when or how she will react before she actually did.
Until I reached the shower —which is only a few steps from my bedroom— she had stationed herself on a spot where I could be able to see her being in deep thought, while she was also glimpsing to see if I’ll turn around to explain what I had just said.
Before closing the door to the shower room, I give her the single hint she needs to understand it: ‘’No need to overthink. Just take it at face value.’’
It was only after I had locked the door that she got my point, and oh boy did this lead to the anticipated and hilarious over-the-top reaction from her!
‘’I know I said that the truth must be said with a straight face, but how dare you use my own words against me! I’ll get you back!’’
My refreshing morning shower was the thing that ultimately woke me up from my slumber.
Sorry, ‘midday shower’ is what I meant to say. It’s already…um…
…1:30 PM?! Or so my phone says!
Great… I spent more than 30 minutes showering…
The least I can do to make up for that is to eat lunch as soon as possible to stop my hunger temporarily. I know I ate breakfast, but that was over 6 hours ago, there’s no way I wouldn’t get hungry at this time!
I open the door to get out of the shower room.
However, a certain obstacle has appeared in front of me.
Blocking me from passing is something like a gate guardian sitting firmly on the center of the exit, as if awaiting to give me a nearly unbeatable mind-boggling trial.
I’m talking about none other than Saki sitting in front of the door on a cushion, with her legs folded underneath her thighs and her hands resting on her laps; in other words, seiza-style.
Her clicking her index finger rapidly means she is impatient about something.
With a slightly irritated voice, she asks me: ‘’You sure took your time showering, didn’t you?’’
‘I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET ANYMORE! SITTING LIKE THIS FOR HALF AN HOUR WAS A HUGE MISTAKE!’
Sometimes, I can’t even understand what’s going on in Saki’s head, even when I know what she’s thinking… Was I so complicated as a kid as well…?
‘’If you take into account that I almost feel asleep a couple times in there…the answer is still yes.’’
‘’Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for you to come out?’’ she pauses for a split moment, then cuts me off right before I announce my answer to her question: ‘’Almost half an hour, before you make any wrong guesses.’’
T-That’s what I was going to say, though…
‘’And your reason for that?’’
‘’Punishment for insulting me earlier.’’ Saki chuckles maniacally.
‘’For calling you a flattie? That’s barely an insult for your age. Can you please move aside now, I’m feeling way too hot in here all of a sudden.’’
‘’You’re not even hot, what are you even talking about…?’’
‘’DON’T TWIST MY WORDS!’’
‘’See? This is exactly how I felt! It hurt my feelings just like that, so I want to make you pay.’’
Wow, I never thought I would want to utter these words so much in return.
‘’Fiiiiiiiiiiiine…’’ I heave an enormous sigh. ‘’What do you yearn for, milady?’’
‘’M-My feet and legs have gone numb from sitting like this, so take me to the kitchen on your back.’’
‘’Aren’t you just bored to get up…?’’
Hearing my statement, her eyes become hostile. ‘’Oh-ho, so you think I’m going to ignore the fact that you dared call me a liar?’’ she says with an extremely sadistic smile on her face.
‘’N-No, ma’am… I take it back…’’
‘’Good!’’; a rejoicedly buoyant reply coming from someone who was seemingly ready to kill someone just a moment ago, but now takes on a smug look, for a change: ‘’Now, if you will be so kind.’’
YOU’RE REALLY ENJOYING PLAYING A COMPULSORY ‘SIMON SAYS’ THERE, AREN’T YOU?!
I squat to allow Saki to lock her hands in front of my chest. Then, I raise myself a bit to be able to get a hold of her numb legs, and firmly lock my hands behind her knees.
‘’Okay, I think we’re set to go. Let yourself free now.’’
Saying that was probably a major mistake.
The moment I did, she leaned her entire upper half on my back. Quite literally.
‘’Yay, piggy backride!’’
It took a couple of steps to get used to having Saki on my back.
I still want to find out how she has mastered switching moods so fast with so much accuracy! She went from hostile to sadistic to cheerful to princess-y to childish in, like, 10 seconds or so?
Now that she’s on my back, actually, I think she’s gotten heavier since the last time I picked her up like that. How long ago was it… 3-4 months, I believe?
Of course, she is a child at growth, so it’s only natural that she’d get heavier, but telling her —or any girl— that she has put on weight, even if it’s part of her growth… That could result in something deeply undesired by yours truly…
But you need to stay calm, Taichi! In a minute or two, everything will be over and you’ll eat your lunch peacefully!
‘’N-Nothing beats the feeling of lifting weights, right, Saki?’’
Well…this was phrased the wrong way… I’m 99% sure she is going to misunderstand something here…
‘’DID YOU JUST CALL ME FAT?!’’
I KNEW IT!
I feel kind of horrible for thinking this, but I want to see how this will progress if I don’t deny that.
‘’Yes, I did.’’
‘’…This is why you don’t have a girlfriend.’’
‘’Nah, you’re overthinking it.’’
I finally muster the courage to descend the stairs; with a grain of hesitation, that is.
‘’We’re at the stairs, don’t do anything funny while getting down.’’
‘’I know I know, I won’t~~’’
‘’I don’t like your tone, miss! It really makes me believe you have ulterior motives!’’
‘Geez, we have to spice things up a bit, can’t you even think that through?’ she thinks, letting out a ‘’Humph!’’ as she pouts to express her dissatisfaction.
BUT I DARE YOU! I DOUBLE DARE YOU TO TRY!
Okay, 5 steps down, nothing to worry about so far.
‘’Hey, hurry up! If you keep this speed up, your food is going to get cold!’’
‘’YOU HAD FOOD READY!?’’
NOW WE’RE TALKING!
‘’Fufufu, who do you think I am!’’ she declares boastfully.
Such a little adorable brat you are, damn it…
Who will she have to tease once I leave this place? Just thinking about it is just…
I shouldn’t be thinking like this.
It’s too early to be worrying about these things right now. I can’t afford to feel miserable because of that right now. I will try to make the most memories I can with her until that happens.
‘’Say, when are Mum and Dad going to be back?’’ I ask out of curiosity to break the silence between us.
‘’Around 4, I think. That’s why you have to make sure to stuff yourself now! You’re getting no food until we go to Shimoda, you got that?!’’
Why is she acting like she’s getting me grounded…?
Is that even acting or is she taking this seriously? Nothing is certain, it seems…
‘’And why do you sound so distressed?’’
‘’BECAUSE THE SAME GOES FOR ME TOO!’’
‘’I-It’s just food, chill…’’
‘’I can’t! Just thinking about getting hungry and having to wait to eat makes me panic!’’
SHE’S MUCH MORE MISERABLE THAN I WAS MOMENTS AGO!
I can only sigh to her extreme hunger consciousness —if that is actually a thing, of course.
We have now safely reached the ground floor.
‘’Hey, get down, we’re outside the kitchen.’’ Not moving an inch from my back, I nudge her a bit to signal that.
No response is given by her.
To my surprise, I find her head resting on my shoulder, eyes closed. A light, soothing breathing is heard coming from her; that can only mean she fell asleep after thinking about her food deprivation…
‘’Honestly, you’re one unpredictable creature, you know that?’’ I say to myself with a bright smile beaming on my face, chuckling a bit.
Opening the door, my eyes fall on the kitchen table laid out with a green red-striped sheet, 4 silicon plates stacked on top of each other, and a couple glasses next to them.
A smell of fresh food being prepared is emitted from the oven. In it, there’s a tray with what looks like tortellini skewers on it (about 20, judging from a quick look.) Each skewer comprises folded salami and bacon, a couple olives and cherry tomatoes, and, of course, a tortellini.
The best part about it, if you ask me, is the tiny cheese slices she has put on each skewer. It is common sense to expect cheese to slowly melt in high temperatures, and this is what would really make me drool this very instant. It feels so fulfilling seeing cheese bubble when melting, and this is just one of the many signs that the skewers will turn out to be a great lunch in the end.
She must have been preparing lunch while I was asleep. This does seem like it takes a painstaking effort and patience to get every single ingredient on the skewer, let alone 20 of them. How much time this requires is not something I can answer as someone who can barely cook.
Whatever the case is, the fact that she decided to devote so much of her time to make something this fancy and appetizing for lunch is just impressive.
She must have been really tired from that, right?
Heading to the sofa, I lay Saki down on it and cover her with a thin blanket that was on the armchair beside it.
At first glance, Saki would seem to be a very demanding, persistent and tyrannical child, but in reality, I enjoy our little gags, so does she, and we both know that.
Saki is more independent and trustworthy than I could ever imagine to become. At just age 11, she can cook, clean, do housework like she has years of experience, and so on… She’s really taking those seriously, so it’s kind of obvious how she boasts a bit more maturity than her classmates.
At first, I was really worried that she was pushing herself too much to become proficient at everything around the house. However, I was proven wrong when I found out she was doing all that merely because she enjoyed it, and that she found housework more relaxing than tiring.
Ever since she was a baby, Saki had a unique attachment to our mother. It runs in her blood to want to be attached to people she loves deeply, but our mother was apparent to be in a league of her own from the very beginning. Saki admired her to no end, and tried to mimic everything she did.
Now, more than 10 years later, that attachment and fondness have become stronger than ever. Both of them love each other very much, and all I can say about that and Saki’s attachment right now is that this affection is going nowhere for the foreseeable future. I mean, why would anyone want to abandon such a heartwarming and unadulterated expression of love?
Maybe the reason she finds housework relaxing is because she feels at ease when helping out people. In that sense, she would reduce the load of housework for our mother to show her love and gratitude towards her, and would feel one step closer to becoming like her; talk about ingenious planning for a 5-year-old.
As a result, Saki also inherited our mother’s altruism and gentle kindness she shows to everyone she cares about (or would it be better to say that she adopted it?). As far as I’m concerned, if I need some company when I’m alone, she will show up, no matter what. She will try to make me laugh, push all my worries aside…
The one thing she won’t ever fail at will be creating such a strong feeling of mutual affection and trust when she’s around you. Almost instantly, the air around you becomes lighter when she appears, and she just changes your mood in a matter of seconds, forgetting about everything that bothers you and looking to enjoy the moment in front of your eyes.
Would it be an exaggeration to say that she’s the one person that means the world to me the most?
‘’Thank you.’’ I mutter with a huge smile of gratitude on my face while caressing her hair from the side.
The Sleeping Saki responds with a wide smile to that, even tilting her head a bit towards my hand. ‘’Tai-nii…’’ A petite smile forms on her childish face, her cheeks getting subtly red.
DON’T TELL ME SHE WAS PRETENDING TO BE SLEEPING THIS WHOLE TIME!
‘’Tai-nii… I love you…’’
OH MY GOD, THIS WAS TOO ADORABLE!
At the end of the day, no matter how much of a hard worker she is, no matter how mature she becomes, she’s just a child at heart. She deserves some time to enjoy herself after working so hard.
Of course, her rebellious phase is imminent, so I might be taking my word back on that.
WHICH I HOPE I DON’T EVER DO!
But no matter how much she insults me to have an innocent laugh, I feel equally gratified to be able to have a playful and humorous sister like her.
Saki woke up from her nap about half an hour later, at around 2 PM. Even she herself couldn’t believe she fell asleep.
Currently, we are both sitting on the table, eating our lunch that was made by her.
‘’MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, SO DELICIOUS!’’ she bluntly savors her own creation.
‘’Homemade food is always delicious as long as it’s made with care. Hasn’t Mum taught you that already?’’
‘’She has, but it feels so good eating something like this when it’s fresh and warm!’’
I was right about the skewers turning out great. Appearance-wise, just looking at how the cheese slices she had laid on them had melted on the rest of the ingredients was basically giving off how tasty and appetizing they were going to be. One side of every skewer was deep yellow, and on most of them, the cheese was still bubbling.
Their scent and taste were on a whole new level, as Saki mentioned. When she took them out of the oven, the entire kitchen was inundated by the smell of freshness they emitted, as well as the smell of baked bacon and salami combined with the pungent pleasing smell of the melted cheese. (I think cheesemongers call that kind of aggressive and bold aroma ‘funky’.)
By the way, a single skewer with these ingredients contains almost 1/5 the recommended daily calorie consumption amount.
And then she wonders why she’s gotten heavier!
Despite that, it would be far worse to eat just the tortellini and the meat products from the skewer and not anything else—
Why is she taking the tomato off?!
‘’Hey, eat that tomato.’’
‘’But you were the one who included them in the skewer.’’
‘’T-That was just for the aesthetics of the dish…’’
For the aesthetics of it… Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight…
‘’Just so you know, I can assure you that eating cherry tomatoes on their own will make them taste raw and mundane after a while. And I doubt you would want Mum and Dad to eat something mundane that you made. Am I wrong?’’
‘’Okay okay, I get it! M-Maybe I’ll try one…’’
‘’No maybes. Eat them. It’s for your own good. They shouldn’t go to waste.’’
Waiting for her to even put a single cherry tomato in her mouth is like watching a lengthy countdown; you know it’s going to take a lot of time to end, but it must come to an end, eventually.
As she tries to bite off the tomato and the neighboring ingredients, all covered in melted cheese to add to the already exquisite flavor, her urge to hesitate eating it intensifies, ultimately leading to her giving up: ‘’You know, there was this one time—!’’
‘’Leave the tangents for another day, you’re eating the tomato like I am.’’
‘Tch, what a persistent tomato-lover.’ she thinks, sounding quite pissed off. (I can’t really tell if she’s again acting or is serious about calling me that name, though…)
DON’T BE SO DISAPPROVING OF CHERRY TOMATOES, THEY DID NOTHING WRONG!
‘’Please don’t force me to eat that, Tai-nii! I don’t like cherry tomatoes~!’’
Even though she was the one who made the entire dish, she doesn’t want to eat it… That’s quite troublesome…
Children generally judge books by their covers and foods by their appearance, so the only way to get past that issue is to have her forget about that appearance for a second…If only there was one efficient way to persuade her stubbornness…
She says she doesn’t like them… But is there a way to eat something without tasting it at all?
No, that’s just plain impossible.
Then, how about changing the taste of the food? She could add something on top of the tomatoes to weaken their flavor, right?
Right now, suggesting that would seem too conspicuous to her. It’s a fact that she will be very hesitant to even try to force herself to eat that if she catches wind of my plan. She will be too fixated on the taste of the tomato that she will only be able to taste that; I’ll accomplish the exact opposite of what I’m aiming for.
There must be a way to make her forget about the taste for a second.
The key is as I mentioned before: An ingredient to weaken its flavor, so that it becomes to her liking.
An ingredient that’s already there, huh… That’s what I’m searching for…
Wait…that’s it! The cheese is the key! Since it’s melted, it must still be warm enough to conceal how the tomato tastes!
To be honest, why am I making this seem like I’m trying to create a grand villainous scheme against an 11-year-old…?
‘’You want to know the truth, Saki? I don’t like them either.’’
Saki gives me an emotionless look.
‘’W-What’s that look supposed to mean, Miss Saki?’’
‘’WHO’S THE UNDECISIVE ONE HERE NOW?!’’
I understand her frustration more than anything, which is why I would like to flat out tell her this is all part of my plan, but that would ruin its point entirely...
‘’Listen, Saki. I find them too sweet and juicy myself. However, if I combine them with, let’s say, melted cheese, I will enjoy the combination more rather than each ingredient on its own.’’
However, Saki’s reaction is definitely uncalled for.
All I get in response for my plan is a huge demonic smirk by her: ‘’Well well well, look at the potential food gourmet here. Did you enjoy that little one-side persuasion talk of yours?’’
‘’The what now…?’’
‘’It’s spelled p-e-r-s—‘’
Suddenly, my phone ringing interrupts her spelling lesson.
‘’Is it Mum?’’ she asks almost immediately after it rings.
Glimpsing at the name of the caller, it seems she is right: It is Mum calling.
‘’How did you know?’’
‘’She said she would call about half an hour before they closed the store.’’
‘’Interesting.’’ I say as I get up from my chair and head outside the room to have some privacy —although I have an ulterior motive up my sleeve, as you’ll understand in a second. ‘’If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I have to take this.’’
‘’Don’t leave me alone!’’ she pouts.
As always, her mood shifts never fail to surprise me…
‘’It’s just for a couple minutes.’’ I close the kitchen door behind me, then answer the phone: ‘’You have reached the Yanagisawa residence. Unfortunately, no one is at home right now and—’’
‘’Ta~i-chan, good mo~rning!’’ On the other end of the call, my mum greets me very boisterously.
DAMN, SHE SAW RIGHT THROUGH ME! I THOUGHT I HAD HER THERE!
‘’It’s already noon! And I ate breakfast with you guys this morning!’’
Her reply takes a while to arrive. ‘’…I completely forgot about that.’’
If there’s one thing I’m not proud of about her, it’s her bad memory… It’s so bad that she will forget almost everything that happens during a day in her life for the entirety of said day, but after the next one comes, she paradoxically can recall things with minute detail…
How she is able to do that is honestly baffling everyone around her…
I’D LIKE SOME EXPLANATIONS HERE!
‘’But why are you so harsh, Tai-chan? You will make Mum sad…’’
‘’Didn’t mean to, sorry.’’
And in case you were wondering, ‘Tai-chan’ is her way of calling out to me.
I want to tell her to stop calling me that, but I’m so used to it by now that it would feel awkward to just change it; I would feel bad for forcing her to get used to calling me ‘Taichi’ all of a sudden. Plus, calling me by such a nickname hints that she thinks very dearly of me. The same applies for Saki.
All in all, she treasures us and we mean the world to her, and I doubt either of us doesn’t hold her unadulterated affection close to our hearts.
‘’So, any reason you called?’’
‘’Did you and Saki-chan eat lunch?’’
‘’Yeah, she made tortellini skewers. She left some for you two too.’’
‘’I see I see! Were they tasty?’’
‘’Will it suffice to say that she learned from the best of the best?’’
I’m sure this made it way too obvious by now how much she means to me as well.
‘’Aww, you’re making me blush, Tai-chan, stop being so sweet.’’
‘’D-Don’t call me sweet, it’s embarrassing.’’ is my response, which makes her giggle.
However, I’m currently the toughest challenge any teenage boy will have to go through: Admitting to enjoy getting complimented by my parents. Whenever you want to thank them for praising you, it just doesn’t come out like you want it to. Instead, a bashful, mildly disapproving kind of reaction takes its place.
‘’Anyway, is Saki-chan eating everything? She’s still growing—’’
‘’She’s 11 and almost 150 cm tall, she will get too tall at this rate!’’
‘’Fufufu, is that a jealous Tai-chan I’m talking to?’’
This is who inspired Saki’s ‘fufufus’ as well.
‘’I’m a head taller than her, I have no reason to be jealous.’’
And hereby, my ulterior motive of leaving the kitchen kicks in.
In reality, I didn’t actually close the door; rather, I left it ajar to check on her.
You might need to hear me out on what I mean by that to make sense of it: Usually, when Saki is left on her own, she acts much more serious and straightforward than when someone’s around her. Using that logic, she should probably eat the cherry tomatoes when I’m not looking —or probably secretly slip them in someone else’s food, for all it’s worth…
‘’Anyway, she’s eating everything except for the cherry tomatoe—’’
But who am I trying to kid, she’s eating them like normal.
‘’What did you say, Tai-chan?’’
Not only is she eating them, but she looks happy that they turned out good.
‘’It’s nothing, never mind. She’s eating everything.’’
‘’That’s my girl!’’ she rejoices. ‘’Well, I don’t want to keep you busy, so just know that we’ll be back in about an hour. Make sure you and Saki-chan get some good rest. It’s going to be a long night tonight!’’
‘’It’s just another family outing. You’re the only one that’s this excited about tonight that not even Saki’s usual excitement can compare to yours.’’ I giggle.
‘’Tonight is special, you know!’’
‘’I know. It’s like this every year. I’ve gotten way too used to your excitement this day that it’d seem weird if you, of all people, weren’t looking forward to it.’’
‘’I have a good reason for that~’’ she responds rather playfully. The store's bell is heard ringing from her end of the call. ‘’A customer just came in, I need to hang up.’’
‘’Okay, later then.’’
‘’Mm-hm, later! Love you!’’ she ends the call.
To give a complete description, that was my mother, Yanagisawa Mihoko. From what she has told me, her mother couldn’t conceive easily because of a birth defect she had, and was ready to give up on having a biological child right before she reached 40 (back then, the technology for artificial pregnancy was barely a concept, if that). After months of persuasion from her husband, they prayed for one final time that she conceive a healthy child; the result, of course, was my mother being born 9 months later. Her given name, Mihoko, spelled 美保子, was chosen very carefully by them to represent their gratitude.
In more detail, 美 (mi), meaning ‘beautiful’, was meant to bless the child with unimaginable beauty (because they considered her a heavenly gift, that is), while 保 (ho) and 子 (ko), meaning ‘protection’ and ‘child’ respectively, stood for one very particular thing: Their wish for the daughter to protect, to treasure her own children one day from the bottom of her heart, much like they deeply treasured their only child.
Her last name was 'Kanegawa' before she got married to my father. She is currently in her early 40s, but she doesn’t allow me to reveal her real age…
As for her appearance, she seems younger than she actually is. My father insists is that she has seemingly barely aged ever since they first met; a quick look at photos of their wedding does this unlikely statement justice. Back then, she used to have a hime cut, but she allegedly adopted a different, much simpler hairstyle after their marriage Now, she keeps her hair curly and let down, reaching just below her shoulders, so it is obviously shorter than Saki’s, but they share the same tint of brown, as for its color.
Her most noticeable and exceptional feature, however, must be her altruistic and insightful personality. For as long as I can remember, when something was on my mind, the first person who got a grasp of that situation would always be her; even if I kept silent about it, she would eventually notice something was wrong. Willingly, a calming maternal smile confronted me, her speech filled with so much patience and kindness that she sometimes spent even hours trying to make me regain my smile, sacrificing her precious time just to help me. Her cunningness always found the right way to overcome everything that worried us.
What she was feeling, what she was thinking, what means she used to talk to her beloved children…we just admired every single thing she did. Her happiness was and still is our happiness too.
There’s no wonder why Saki holds her so dearly and sees her as her role model now, is there?
Of course, if I were to convey my feelings like Saki, I would probably say that I’m the luckiest person alive to have such a wonderful and caring mother.
In the end, if we mean the world to her, then she means the entire universe to us.
Guess it’s time to wrap up that little heartwarming flashback, right?
Right before I enter the kitchen once more, I feel an urge to give Saki a taste of her own sass medicine. Truth be told, I feel kind of frustrated, for one reason or another.
Guess it’s time to follow my heart’s desires then!
Opening the door, the odd sight of Saki leaning against the door in a way that resembles how someone would eavesdrop on a conversation appears before me.
‘’Saki, what are you doing…?’’
‘’N-Nothing too conspicuous, you could say?’’ she replies with obvious hesitation.
No matter how you look at this, it’s way too conspicuous!
‘’That aside, how is the tomato consumption going?’’
She lets out a prideful chuckle: ‘’See for yourself.’’
Saki brings both her hands in front of her from behind her back and holds out a plate, which I assume is the one she was eating lunch from.
The biggest surprise is to come shortly, though.
‘’WHEN DID YOU EMPTY YOUR PLATE?!’’
‘’Fufufu, surprised?’’ she asks with a vainglorious tone.
‘Surprised’ is a word that can’t even surprised how unbelievable this is. The plate is crystal clear, like it just came out of the dishwasher…the exact opposite of what it was when I left the kitchen…
‘’What you said earlier got stuck into my head, so I was only thinking of the cheese on the skewer and ate all of them without even realizing it, hehe…’’
See? In the end, it was as easy as you would expect it to be. She managed to eat her despised cherry tomatoes like they weren’t even there.
‘If only he knew I actually love cherry tomatoes, fufufu!’
WAIT, IS SHE FOR REALS?!
‘’Don’t tell me…you were planning to eat them all along?!’’ I gasp, surprised.
‘’DID YOU READ MY MIND OR SOMETHING!?’’
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Kinda like that.
BUT FOR ME TO BE THE ONE THAT PLAYED RIGHT INTO HER HANDS IN THE END?! THIS IS UNFATHOMABLE!
‘’Do you really cut me out for the kind of cook who makes food go to waste?’’
Well…she was the one who packed up our breakfast leftovers and took them to school during her school’s opening ceremony... Touché, I guess?
''How did you know I was up to something?''
A child her age cooking up such a complicated plan to trick someone else into believing that their own plan is progressing smoothly, when in reality they’re unknowingly tangled in her own puppet strings is just...incredibly and unimaginably astute. (This came out quite darker than I expected it to…)
''I had a hunch and acted on it. That's all,'' she says with a honest smile.
The way she said that seemed so simplistic compared to the overextended description I was expecting that I burst out laughing.
''I-I'm not kidding! Don't laugh!'' she pouts.
''Sorry sorry, didn't mean to.'' I manage to contain my laughter somehow. ''It's just...I wasn't expecting that response at all. Only you could have said that without even giving it a single thought.''
''I'm your little sister for a reason,'' she sighs, but a grin is plain visible on her face. ‘’You didn’t leave anything on your plate either. Did you like it as much as well, Tai-nii?’’
‘’What are you even asking, you airhead? You just want to get praised, don’t you?’’
I carefully place my palm on the top of her head, caressing her soft, smooth hair.
‘’It was delicious, as always. Thank you.’’
Her reaction is a warm, innocent smile; enough proof that she got what she was waiting for.
‘’You know I deserve more spoiling than that, hehehe…’’ she fidgets, her face getting a bit red.
SHE WANTS MORE?!
That’s my little sister alright…
I continue to caress her hair while utter silence prevails in the hallway. After a while, she leans her head on me, so I caress the back of her head as well. Her smile remains as wide as ever, of course.
‘’You excited about tonight, Saki?’’
‘’You bet!’’ she lifts her head to look me in the eye and gives me a huge thumbs up. ‘’Now, I’d like another ride up the stairs! I’m too bored to walk to my room!’’
I flick her forehead. I kinda left a red mark on it. ‘’In your dreams, shortie.’’
‘’You big meanie!!’’
Whoa, almost two months since the previous chapter was released? I can't believe I haven't updated the novel for this long... Terribly sorry for not releasing earlier, but trying to find sufficient free time during exam season was just next to impossible... (Looking at you, November and first half of December —_-)
Now then, I'm 99% sure the intro turned most of you off, but believe me, it's probably the first major foreshadowing in the series so far! Of course, if it took this long to mention it, imagine how long it will take to resolve that plot point XDD
The rest of the chapter...well...I'm sure you noticed that it's obvious that it's the longest one so far, and I'll confirm that it's 7000 words long! That's also a reason it was late, because the first draft I was ready to put up felt incomplete (it was set to end after Saki fell asleep)
I hope Saki returning made the older readers feel a bit nostalgic since her first and only appearance in the 1st chapter, and that the Mum was likable enough as well!
As always, thank you so much for reading and I hope you're looking forward to the next chapter! It will focus on Fukuda this time, with Taichi's parents appearing in person too (we'll be getting a bit of backstory on these two!)
Should you spot a grammatical/spelling mistake or anything that seems off, it means it got past proofreading, so please let me know so I can correct it at once! Remember, help and criticism are greatly accepted and appreciated!
See ya around Honeyfeed, then!