And went straight for the front door of the school.
However, of course, I couldn’t just go straight home – not that it had been the plan at any point, but more so now that I had promised Claudia to meet here. Last thing I’d ever do was forget about a
And so there I was, at the front gate.
My back lying against the fence, in pain, and my bag in the dirty floor, probably in pain too.
But before long, not even having left me enough time to fully check all my group chats, I noticed Claudia standing right next to me, a smile on her face as she held out the game case to me. Usually I would have checked the disk and the manual were both inside and in the same condition I lent them in, but I thought it would be kind of rude to do it in front of her like that.
After all, if there was a single one of my friends who had never done any damage to my property, it had to be her. She had certainly earned my trust.
I simply took the plastic DVD-like case and carefully stored it in my bag. Game was worth half a kidney nowadays.
She spoke. Or more like shouted, because the noise levels at this hour were inhuman.
“Hm? What’s up? Something urgent? I’ll probably hear you better if you wait for people to go away!”
“Nah, it’s okay. I can tell you like this.”
Actually, her voice wasn’t that loud. I didn’t know how she managed to communicate in that tone with the, uh, ambient noise.
She continued speaking.
“So… I have nothing to do right now. My parents are out with my brothers to get them vaccinated, and I forgot my keys at home so… would you mind if I hanged out with you for a while? U-unless you don’t want to be late yourself, of course…”
Damn. This was an unexpected offer.
Common sense told me to refuse and go back home.
But I really had no intention of going home for a while that day. None whatsoever. Not a chance.
So my options were two.
Stay alone until I decided to go back, possibly reading more of that book I was so hooked to, or go for a walk with Claudia and talk about the same old topics all over again.
The decision was clear.
“Yeah, sure, let’s go wherever for a while. I’ll tell my parents I’ll be doing a group project or something, should be enough to convince them.”
I said that, but there really was no need to even message my parents.
So I just pretended I did, and with no guilt weighing in my conscience, started walking with no destination or purpose other than to kill time.
Claudia came right behind me.
We both stayed silent for a few minutes, silently thinking to ourselves while enjoying the other’s company.
Eventually, though, I spoke. With no intent to break an awkwardness that wasn’t there. I had simply just thought of a topic.
“So how was the game? Did you finish it?”
“Ah, yeah I did! Just yesterday, actually. It was amazing, one of the best games I’ve ever played. It was just so well made and charming, everything it does is simple yet charismatic… Thank you so much for letting me keep it this past month, it’s really been so great…”
“Oh. Damn. I knew you seemed to like it when I showed it to you back at my place, but I didn’t actually expect you to like it so much. I’m impressed. Pity all the other entries are on different consoles, though…”
“Ah, that’s no issue. Just for this game I bought a Wii with backwards compatibility. Now I can play the first and third games in the series, even if I have to pirate one of them. Hehe.”
She flashed a teasing smile at me.
My heart skipped a beat.
“Damn… You bought a whole CONSOLE for the game?! So you couldn’t even play it when you asked me to lend it to you?! Oh God, you’re a danger to your house’s economy. I better keep all my cool games hidden next time until I make sure which consoles you own…”
“N-no, please don’t do that! Awww, you’ll ruin all my fun now, and all because I played the game you lent me… Guess next time I’ll have to keep it in its case, untouched… Goodbye happy life…”
She made the worst impression of a sad face I’d seen in ages. If she actually thought she’d get me with that, I should probably have to do some big self reflection on the image I give people.
“… Okay, okay, I’m not gonna stop showing you games. I enjoy that as much as you do. But next time maybe ask me to lend you the console too instead of buying it yourself just for three games, will you?”
“Okaaay. Though I didn’t buy a Wii for three games. I really do want to play a lot of stuff in that thing. Plus, it was cheap. What can you do about it.”
“Give you more games for it. Maybe actually gift you a game so you don’t have to rely on me to give you everything.”
“Haaa… I guess that’s a good point.”
Nobody mentioned her birthday being the day after.
I knew she didn’t exactly like being reminded of it outside of the day in question, so I said nothing. I also wouldn’t spoil the present I’d gotten her for anything in the world.
The conversation kind of died out again after a bit more of our gaming exchange. It was really nice having someone else share your hobbies and who you could talk so passionately about them.
She said, breaking the silence once more.
Her tone had completely changed, though.
“I-it’s nothing important, there’s just one thing I’ve been meaning to tell you, and since we’re having this nice walk together, I thought I might…”
“Oh, sure. Tell me whatever you need.”
“… You promise you won’t get mad at me?”
“Uh, yeah of course, I can’t remember ever getting seriously mad at you for anything anyway. But sure, I promise.”
A phone vibrating.
It wasn’t mine, and there were only the two of us here, so it had to be Claudia’s.
I looked at her. Her face was red, she looked really flustered for some reason. Probably she had actually meant to tell me something important.
“…Yes? Mom? What happened “
“Claudia, it’s your grandmother. She’s in the hospital right now. We are with her right now, she’ll be fine, don’t worry. Your father’s going back home to let you in since you forgot your keys. Wait for him, okay? He’ll tell you everything.”