Chapter 10:

Interlude: Kirigiri

The Last of Our Summers

It's Saturday morning and his sister is screaming in his ear: "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!" over and over.

She's laughing. The giggles turning to delighted shrieks when he tries to catch her.

His mother's voice, wafting up the stairs alongside the smell of something frying: "Yui! Kazuha! Stop messing around, breakfast will get cold!"

He hears Yui running around his room as he brushes his teeth. He smiles at his reflection, a toothpastey smile, before he rinses his mouth. Then he collects his sister and goes downstairs.

His mother is at the stove and his father is already seated at the table, pretending to try to trip Yui each time she zooms past. Her giggles fill the air. Sunlight streams in through the windows.

His father notices him first.

"Any plans for today, son?"

"Probably going to hang out with Natori and the rest."

"I thought you were going to stay home and play with me!"

He ruffles Yui's hair. "Tomorrow, okay?"

His mother slips an egg onto his plate and hands it to him. "You overslept again. You've been sleeping a lot, lately. Are you tired from basketball?"

Yui laughs. "Brother's a sleepyhead."

"It's fine to sleep in a little at his age," his father says.

His mother's gaze lingers on him, worried. Kazuha eats his toast.

"Ah, Kazuha-chan called earlier."

Kazuha says, "Hm."

"She must have been studying something strange, as usual. She was asking me about all sorts of health checkups."

"She's an odd one, alright," says Kazuha's father. "What did you tell her?"

"Oh, just explained all the basics, really. Then she asked when the last time any of us got checked up was. As if she doesn't know that we're always up to date on everything."

"She must have been worried. The Kajiuras are hardly ever home, there's no way they're on top of her health." His father raps his knuckles. "Why doesn't she come over anymore, Kazuha?"

Kazuha eats. "Busy. Studying."

"She's trying too hard to catch up to her brother," his mother says. "You tell her we're thinking of her, alright?"

She scoops another egg on to his plate. A perfect sunny side up, with a slightly wonky ketchup smiley face.



Two hours later, he's pressing on the buzzer of an apartment building. "It's me," he says.

The girl who opens the door for him is taller than he is by just a bare inch. Her shoulder-length hair hangs in wet strands, forming a ring around the white T-shirt she's wearing.

As she moves aside to let him in, he catches a glimpse of the tattoo reading 03:00:30 that had first caught his eye. She had later told him that it was how long the best relationship of her life had lasted.

"Don't you have school?" she asks as he passes her.

"It's Saturday."

"Oh. Damn. I have work tonight." She hipchecks him to the side as she reaches into the fridge of her cramped little kitchen. "You want something to drink?"

He shakes his head. This close, she smells like strawberries. Probably her shampoo. It wafts through her apartment. This close, her body heat travels through the thin cotton of both their T-shirts and caresses his skin.


"No thank you."

"You're always so polite," she says, turning around, slipping an arm around his shoulders. "Are all kids this polite nowadays?"

The strawberry smell is more intense now. He pushes a strand of her air behind her ear. Her eyes go hot, dark.

"Come here."

Kazuha half-expects her kiss to taste sweet, but it doesn't: it's dry, then wet. It's nice to kiss someone exactly his height. When she moans softly into his mouth, he puts his arms around her waist and pulls her close.

Her hand is on his jeans. Then it's in them. She yanks them down and pulls him onto her bed.

After they're done, she roots around on the dresser for her abandoned cigarette and lights it.

"How's school?" she asks, after her first drag and the subsequent little satisfied noise.


"And that uptight little friend of yours?"

Kazuha had mentioned Kajiura to her once. He'd talked about other girls more to make up for it, but she saw through him.

"She's alright too."

"Come on man, I'm dying out here. Tell me something about her."

"She once asked me what falling in love felt like."

She hisses in a breath through her teeth. "Ah, shit, I burned myself. And? What'd you say?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. That it makes your heart race, and stuff. That you feel excited."


"She said that she doesn't fall in love if it makes her feel more stressed."

She snorts. "Sounds like her."

Kajiura had that half-dreaming expression on her face that made everyone a little uneasy. She'd said, when I fall in love, I'll calm down for the first time in my life. I won't need to run so fast anymore.

Kazuha turns that thought off. Turning to the girl beside him, he says, "How was your job?"

She makes a face. "Full of perverts. Just as usual." She takes another drag off her cigarette. "Maybe I should go back to university. Finish off my degree. It might get me some office job in Tokyo."


"Nagoya University's prestigious, you know! It might not be top-tier, but it's solidly middle of the pack!"

"I didn't say it was bad."

"That uppity girl of yours has gotten into your head," she grumbles. "You definitely made a face."

"I just get enough university talk as it is."

She shrugs. "I don't know what to tell you. Nowadays you need a degree to get a stable job anywhere. People dunk on it a lot but there's really nothing better than a life where every day's the same as the rest."

"But why can't it be days you actually like?"

She looks surprised by the intensity of his tone.

"If every day's going to be the same. Why can't they be days where you're actually happy?"

Her eyes are shrewd. "You mean like now?"

He looks away.

She sits up and draws him close. She's warmer now. Strawberry snakes in on his senses. "Oh, darling," she says. "You know high school can't last forever."

He sits in her embrace. There are no clocks in her apartment, but he hears one anyway.

His phone rings.

"Hey man," says Natori. "Are you on the way yet? I'll be running a little late."

Kazuha's dazed for a moment.

"Are you at the movie theater already? I can't hear you, Kirigiri."

Kazuha nods to himself. Right.

"Yeah, I'm on the way," he says.

She shrugs when he looks at her. "I could do with a walk." She taps out the last of her cigarette into a shot glass on her dresser. "Want me to drop you?"

"If you want."

"Do I look presentable?"


They walk all the way to the cinema. On the way she buys him a strawberry milk, and he holds it against his cheek. Summer has set in proper. He feels the back of his neck begin to bead with sweat.

Aonuma is standing in front of the cinema, wearing a white one-piece dress.

She freezes when she sees them.

The girl beside him pats his shoulder and grins at Aonuma. "He didn't tell me you were pretty."

She winks at both of them, and strolls off.

Aonuma is watching him when he turns back.

"Your girlfriend?"

He shakes his head.

"She seems mature."

"She's twenty-five, if that's what you're asking."

Aonuma nods. They stand on the brightness of the summer sun for a while till Kazuha feels his skin stretch over his cheekbones in the beginnings of a sunburn.

He's raised his hand to touch his face when he spots Kajiura in the distance. She's running at them with that speed she was newly famous for in school.

"Why are you two out here? Go inside!"

Kazuha breathes in. Kajiura's louder than she's been in a while. Her eyes are bright with worry. She gives Kazuha a hard glare before she turns to Aonuma. Naturally, without thought, their hands twine together as Kajiura pats Aonuma's cheek.

It's a while till Kajiura turns her gaze back to him. "Sun poisoning is deadly for idiots, you know."

"And whose fault is that? Did the alarm on the droid malfunction?"

"Shut up, Kirigiri."

He grins at her. It hurts his sunburnt face.

"We're waiting for the others inside. Are you coming or not?"

A cool hand on his wrist. Kajiura doesn't seem to question that he'll follow her. And he does: same as he always has. 

Haru Yumera
Steward McOy
Kya Hon