Chapter 21:

(Vol. 2 beginning.) Oh, the blooming heart is so great, wouldn't you think, Iwasaki-san?

Accepted


warning: violent language

Himari Iwasaki


A wonderful, blooming Friday befell me. The school was no problem; and thus, led to nothing important being assigned to us. That meant that all I had to do for the week was just to write some notes down and study when I had the time. And since I lived by myself, there were no plans to go eat out with family, or even friends at all.

Nothing was in my way. Nothing.

So, when school ended, I aimed straight for home. Confidently and happily, I leaped forth on the road, enjoying the whistles of the chatty birds above me, the wind that blew past the trees, and… Another pair of footsteps which were in sync with mine.

Their steps dwindled until finally halting.

“What the hell are you doing?”

I stopped walking too and gazed at who it was. Kojima had been there with a puzzled look planted on his face.

“Ah, shit.” I continued to straighten my standing form, “I forgot you were there.”

He was devastated by this reply, and just squinted his eyes at me unhappily.

“Oh, yeah, let’s just ignore my friend who’s been walking with me for the past fifteen minutes. That’s reasonable.” He mocked me, “Those words hurt a man, you know that?”

Annoyed, I pent up a hefty groan and breathed it out.

“Yeah, well, it’s not my first time, okay?”

“Oh, really? It’s not your first?”

I gestured my hands to my side with a shrug and lightly shook my head.

“Uh, yeah? That’s what I just said, right?”

After my pestered answer, he became quiet. For fifteen seconds, he only just eyed me emptily but stupidly, and it was enough for me to start to build up a warm sensation around my face because of how difficult it was getting to return his stare back. Finally, he’d give up and let me win the staring contest, and just looked down at his shoes with a slouched form.

He sighed.

“Ah, just forget it.”

I became offended by this. Who the hell eyes somebody for that long and just says to “forget it?” Like hell, I’m forgetting it! Clearly, that person is thinking of something, and since I obviously couldn’t read Kojima’s mind, it just made me angry.

“Wh-what? You just stared at me for an absurd length of time and you’re just gonna say forget it? Did you try to imagine me naked or something?” I retaliated.

“NO! Damn it, of course not! I wasn’t doing any of that at all!”

I noticed the tips of his ears blush red as he didn’t let his eyes off his shoes. Seeing this, I took my opportunity to continue to clash with him even more for revenge.

“Oh, what’s this?” I snickered, “You’re embarrassed? I didn’t even mean for that to be in a perverted way, you idiot. You know, some people imagine people naked to get rid of stage fear.”

He paused and then pointed his face back at me. He seemed to be dumbfounded, so much so that he wasn’t able to form his words properly for a few seconds.

After stuttering, he’d finally say what he needed to say properly: “Does it look like I’m on a stage, Iwasaki-san?”

“No.”

“... Then why would I do that?!”

“Because you’re perverted?”

“NO!” He shouted at me in denial.

Once more, he coughed out another sigh and straightened his back. Kojima was taller than me, so every time we had to talk, he had to aim his head a little down to meet my eyes. When he did that now, he had eyes of apathy, and I didn’t exactly know whether to be upset by it or not. Still, I ignored it because I wanted to hear him out.

“I was just thinking of… You know… Like…”

“Like?” I cupped my ear and got closer. “Come on, you can say it.”

“Ice cream! That’s right, ice cream!” He now found his words. “Erm, since I work in an ice cream store, I was just taking this time to use my skills to try and impress customers. Wh-what skills you might ask? Uhh… Like… Like, I was trying to figure out what kind of ice cream you’d prefer just by your looks alone! That’s pretty cool, right? That’s what I was doing, I swear. I wasn’t doing anything weird, Iwasaki-san, haha! Fun, right? You should play it with me too!” He smiled.

I put my hand down and backed away from him. I felt a little repulsed even being in front of him after what he said.

Hey, that’s just weird, Kojima. People are going to think that you stalk them or something. And still, if you get it wrong, then doesn’t that just make it awkward? You better hope that you guess right every time, because I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to handle the embarrassment.

“... So? What did you guess?” I asked, trying to put this skill of his to the test.

He looked away briefly and dawdled on his response until returning to me.

“Um… Chocolate?”

“Hell no. Wrong.” I instantly rejected it. “Go again.”

“Shoot… Er, strawberry?”

“Nope.”

“Mint!”

“Bleh.”

We went back and forth, attempting to find out about my desired flavor of ice cream. But, it was hard, because I didn't even know the flavor I liked best. I just waited for Kojima to say something, promptly thought about it, and dismissed it over and over again.

He guessed around thirteen times, until giving in.

“What is it then?! Kojima cried now, desperate to find his answer.

After thoughtful consideration, I thought of something to resolve his pleading.

“Lemon thyme ice cream.”

“Who likes lemon thyme?!” He cried out.

“I do, you fucking idiot!” I fired at him.

Maybe that was a little too harsh… I wondered after zipping my mouth shut and trying to keep a strained angry look.

Kojima, receiving my shot, surrendered upon contact. “Okay, fine! You beat me! You want a peck on the cheek or something as a prize?”

“...”

What? What the fuck did you just say to me?

“... Iwasaki-san?”

He gently turned to me.

“Yo, your face is all red, bro…” He pointed out. “You got a fever? If you do, then I gotta bring you home quickly. You weren’t red earlier though? Is it just acting up now? Quick, let’s get you home before it gets worse-!”

“I- I don’t have a fever, dumbass!” I looked away and clenched my school handbag. “And don’t call me “bro,” it’s weird. You don’t hear girls calling you that, do you?”

“Well… Nah. I wish, though.” He released a small chuckle after. “Are you sure you’re okay, though?”

“... I’m fine, bro.” I now said, trying to aggravate him.

“Oh, so it’s okay for you to say it, but not me?” He sounded insulted, “What’s with that, Iwasaki-san? You’re fine after all, aren’t you?”

“No. You’re crazy, bro. I dunno what you’re even talkin’ about, bro. You’re just acting all weird again, bro.

“Oh, please, just shut up! I won’t say it again, okay? Let’s just get you home!”

“Okay, bro.

“Aargh!” He cringed.

And so, we walked back to our residences while frolicking with each other. And since my apartment was on the way to his house, I was the one to be dropped off first. When we arrived, we celebrated our goodbyes in front of my door before I watched him stroll off with his bag over his shoulder, just as he typically did.

How do I tell him?

I entered my house, shut the door, and slid off my shoes.

How? What’s the best way to do it?

I bolted over to my couch.

How?! How do I even say it?!

I lunged at my pillow and let the soft cushion mattress catch me. I tightly embraced the pillow that I had for a few seconds to recollect myself, but it wasn’t enough. So, I opened my mouth wide, shoved the pillow in, chomped down, and yelled to the highest of my ability while violently swinging my legs

When I was done, I pulled myself away from the pillow and threw it to the other side of the couch, then slapped my hands on my face to conceal myself.

“What the fuuuck?!” I shrieked now, “A peck on the cheek?! Is he crazy? What kind of joke even is that?! And he has the audacity to tell me that I can hurt people with my words?! What a hypocrite! Seriously! I didn't even mean to hurt him! I was just trying to brag!”

Still upset, I let go of my cheeks, only to smack them again with my palms.

“What if I had said yes? What then?! Would he have actually done it?! Shit, maybe! He’s definitely the type of person to do that! It might’ve been embarrassing, but damn it he would have done it! He’s a man of his word!”

I fell back onto the couch and continued to kick my legs in the air just like before.

“WHY DIDN’T I TAKE THE CHANCE?!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

Bark! Bark bark!

Suddenly, a white fluffball of an animal appeared on my lap, and it made me stop swinging my legs around. I gazed at it until sighing.

“Oh, hi, Mimi… I forgot you were even here…”

Bark!

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get you some food… But first, you have to promise me something, okay?”

It tilted its head with its tongue out, appearing confused.

“You didn’t hear anything. Got it?”

Mimi’s head refused to shift any more than it already had, and her mouth didn’t formulate another bark. Instead, she just stuck her tongue out and continued to eye me with its happy grin.

I groaned. “What am I doing… Of course, you wouldn’t tell anyone… You’re a dog, Mimi.”

She barked again. I took this as an indication that Mimi was getting impatient, so I nodded and got up from the couch.

“Right, I’ll get you your food.”

Since I was currently living in a one-person apartment, it was no hassle going to the kitchen. I took the dog food out of the drawers and poured some into a pink dog bowl that had been sitting on the floor. When I finished, Mimi wasted no time dashing over to it and consuming it like a vacuum.

I propped myself down to the floor to her level and observed her chow down her food. I smiled in gratitude when I saw her lick off a piece of food that had stuck to her muzzle.

I’m glad for Mimi. I don’t think I could survive living here all by myself.

Because of my parents' jobs, they couldn’t spare any time to take care of me anymore after Junior high. So as a solution, they bought this apartment just for me to reside in. Once I was done with Junior high, they wasted no time shoving me in this place, and excused it as “learning to be independent.”

Everything else except the apartment was my responsibility. I guess it comes with this “being independent” stuff. Whether that was food, clothes, or materials, I had to pay for all of it by myself with a part-time job. As soon as I realized that, I had to scurry for a job, and ultimately ended up working in a dog cafe.

Sometimes, if my parents were feeling generous, they’d send me some snacks and clothes along with notes. I’d eat the snacks, but I never wore the clothes. It was just too plain and weird, and it required some lack of awareness to wear.

And since I was all by myself, I had all the freedom to do whatever I wanted. So if I wanted to, I could get a boyfriend right now and they wouldn’t be able to stop me.

Wait, maybe it’s too far to think of that now…

Oh, man, I don’t know anymore!

I turned warm and hugged my knees, not letting my eyes off of Mimi who kept eating.

“... What’s stopping me, though?” I mumbled.

Pondering this, it soon came to mind as to what exactly had been stopping me from achieving that goal.

Nevermind. I know what’s stopping me. It’s me.

It’s my lack of self-confidence. I don’t even think anyone could like me romantically even if they wanted to. My bad temper would most likely be too much for them to handle and just lead to a swift breakup, leaving me in the dark.

That’s probably why Kojima and I haven’t even dared talk about moving on from this platonic relationship, despite us being opposite genders. Hell, I even made a move on him during that time in the cafe after Okumori and Miyake had left, but all he did was just say one line and kept his mouth zipped for the rest of the time we were there.

… Okumori.

Before I had the courage to make physical contact with Kojima’s shoulder, Okumori and I had quarreled in a violent dispute. It resulted in both of us not exactly resolving anything, and I’m not sure if I even was in the right place to say what I had so vulgarly expressed to him.

I regret doing what I did, because not only was I being a massive pretender with my insincere words, I was being a total douche and just caused the problems between us to light an even bigger fire than there already was.

It’s just… I don’t know why he hasn’t accepted it yet.

It won’t make it any better, you moron. Acting like you’re all correct and justified with your arrogant, jackass personality, will not only just put your life into more ruin, but others, too. When you spread this ideology of: “I hate everybody, and everybody hates me” nonsense, it makes me wonder if you’re just molding into a sociopathic piece of shit.

Yeah, sure, life is unfair and all, but why would you contribute to it when you don’t even like it yourself? Is your excuse when you break people’s hearts going to be: “Sorry. Life just works that way.”

You’re such a scumbag if you do that.

Screw Okumori. I hope he gets slapped for that jerk of a character he has. When that happens, and he realizes it, then I’ll finally talk to him for real.

Knock knock knock!

I turned to my door after my internal venting, startled and terrified. The doorknob rattled roughly, and I was convinced that I was going to be robbed just by examining how brutally the doorknob shook. But even with my uncertainty, I still mustered up the courage to stand up and check who it was.

When I peeked through the peephole, I saw Kojima, out of breath and panting while he leaned himself on my door. Seeing this had me disconcerted, as I couldn’t think of any logical reason why he was here during this time. I unlocked the door and yanked it open with a dark glare.

“What the hell are you doing, Kojima-kun? I thought you were heading back home! Is there something important going on?!”

After I yelled at him, he jumped back in horror.

“Oh, heeey, Iwasaki-san!” He chuckled nervously now.

“...”

He straightened his posture and aggressively hit his chest with a fist.

“Ahem… Um… I just… I just forgot to ask you something before I left. Could you… Hear me out?”

His hands that were previously by his side now were in his pockets, fidgeting and squirming inside while he waited for me to talk.

I loosened my tight clamp of the doorknob when I took in what he had just asked me.

This better be worth it.

“I’m not waiting on anything else, you dummy. What is it that you want?”

“Movie. I want to watch a movie with you.” He answered right after I had spoken.

Hearing this made me lost in words. For a second, I felt like I was being pranked. I had to even search him carefully with my eyes to spot any recording devices that were being used to capture me. If anything, I was terrified by the thought of him bursting out laughing and screaming: “Oh my god you fell for it, you absolute fool! I got you on camera!”

“Wh-why are you looking at me like that, Iwasaki-san?! It’s a genuine question! Stop it!” He pulled his palm out.

Once I had finished seeking anything suspicious from him and deeming him harmless, I just lifted my head back to him and snorted.

“You ran all the way just to ask me that? Couldn’t you just text me, you dumbass? That’s what phones are for.”

“Yeah, well, I thought it’d feel more sincere if it was in person, okay?”

“No. It’d be less embarrassing if you had just texted me.”

You’re the one making it embarrassing!”

“Am I?” I shifted a finger to my face.

Kojima faltered when he saw my innocence by rolling his eyes gallingly and groaning under his breath.

“Look, if you don’t want to go, just say no. I get it; it’s weird for me to ask you out to stuff like this, but I really want to hang out with you, and… And if you’re gonna say no, then I’m completely fine with it. Okay-?”

“I’ll go,” I interrupted him and grinned. “I never said I wouldn’t, did I?”

“Okay, good to know- Wait, WHAT?!”

His eyebrows had honed downwards in a defensive and aghast way, clearly in dismay after my acceptance.

“I. Said. I’ll. Go. Are you deaf or something?” I chuckled. “So? When is it? And what type of movie?”

He became quiet after I had asked him my questions, and only talked in a mousy tone shortly after.

“Um… Well, it’s an anime romance movie… And uhh… It comes out in four months?”

I could sense my grin deteriorate into a nettled frown when he replied.

“What?” I grumbled.

“It’s… An anime romance movie… And it comes out in four months-”

“That’s not what I meant, you bonehead. I meant, why are you inviting me to something that’s taking place in four months?”

Kojima, dumbfounded by my simple inquiry, began to trip on his words. His head twitched, along with his fingers, and his awkward smile was all there for me to view.

“There’s just… There’s just a lot to catch up on, okay? I was thinking that during these four months, we could catch up on the movies, ya’ know? I could bring some of my DVDs! There are a lot of movies, okay? Th-that’s why!”

I sighed and stooped my head low.

“... I just have one question.”

“Hm?”

“What happens if I’m not available?”

“Then… I won’t go? I dunno, maybe I’ll offer another time?”

God, I love you.

“God, I hate you…”

“What did I do?!” He cried.

“Nothing! Fine! I’ll go! As long as it’s with you, okay?! You better not bring anybody else!”

“Yes? Yes?! Okay! Great!” He cheered with his hands in the air. “Woohoo!”

He then stopped, and looked at me, intrigued. “Wait, why nobody else?”

I bit my lip when he caught on to my question, but I continued to stare directly at the floor. Mimi arrived and circled my legs before gazing up at me with her hearty smile. Seeing Mimi’s grin was enough to make me spit out what I had to say to him.

“Because… I wouldn’t mind watching the movie with you.”

I sucked in my lips and aimed my eyes at him in silence after it sunk in what I had just told him. It seemed that he had also done the same: staring at me back without saying a word, too. Mentally I was already freaking out, screaming out insults and imagining myself shrieking again on my couch. Physically, though, I was just stuck. It took a while until my body came out of its paralysis and tried to make sense of what I just said.

“As in, like, if it’s boring, I wouldn’t go with anybody else, duh.” I added, “We could just talk in the theater if we get bored, you know? I didn’t mean that in a weird way, you freak.”

“Oh.” He now smiled. “I see!”

I nodded. He then began to step back, away from the apartment door.

“Okay, then, Iwasaki-san, I’ll be arriving tomorrow with the DVDs! We have a lot to catch up on, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you.” I swayed my hand. “Make sure not to get hit by a car, will you?”

“Mhm! Loud and clear! I’ll see ya!” He returned the wave and began to jog off while whooping and weeing in glee.

I shut the door and held the doorknob tightly. I later dropped to the floor, letting Mimi jump on my lap.

… It’s because I only want you, dumbass.