But I Love Her
It’s Yukari! I’m really glad that your mother has made a full recovery! It’s too bad you decided to stay in Okutari but now that you have someone else there for you, well, I gotta say. I’m really happy for you. You deserve it. Honestly, I’m glad we were friends in the time I was there - I don’t know how much longer I could’ve put up with his creepiness and just those old fogeys. Have they croaked yet? Well, I hope if they did, they’re not haunting the school… unless you’ve angered more people?! I’m just kidding!
Things in Nagakita is amazing - just how I remembered! They really seemed to improve the city a lot! I really hope the both of you come down here one day so I can show you around!
Thanks to yours and Masahide’s glowing recommendation letter, I actually managed to get into St. Lucinda’s Academy! I’m so excited to start!!
I’m really glad that you convinced me to move back to Nagakita. I think I left out a little too much anger on poor Nakashima-san that night. My legs are still killing me from everything that happened but it’s not that bad. I just have to be more careful with how I run. I think those exercises the doctor taught me should be okay. How lucky are we that Masahide’s family are doctors?? Man, you’ve bagged a lucky one! Ahah, I’m just kidding again!
Speaking of boyfriends, I can finally announce that Sakurai and I are officially dating! I used the net to see if he’s married, taken, or has a criminal record, but he seems clean. Thank goodness! It took some time to get over that other guy, but living there didn’t help. It was like everything - except you, of course - reminded me of him and I felt so trapped. Being in Okutari is bad for my health, it seems. Nothing but good things happened when I came home.
And you’ve inspired me to check up on my mother again. She argued with me about ditching my dreams and my family for a man but I could tell that she’s happy that I’m back… somehow. Somewhere deep inside, she’s ecstatic to have me home.
How are things with you? Have you sensed Nakashima since then? Have you heard from Masahide yet? I haven’t gotten a little from him for some time so I hope he’s not planning anything weird again! Mariko! Get on his case! Use your magic to get him back!
I’m glad we can exchange letters like this but I really wish you can just email me! Get a cell phone, already! Oh wait, can you even get service in Okutari…?
Well, whatever, I get to go shopping for cute stationery so I suppose it’s not that bad!
I can’t wait to hear from you soon!
Your Best Friend,
Dear Mariko (it looked like he almost wrote “Inai-san” again but scribbled it out),
How are you? I’ve been better. Currently, I’m in Tokyo, seeing a doctor and working part-time at a department store. Oh, but you probably already knew that. My father’s connections truly surprised me when he said he knew someone who could help me with this here. I probably just talked to you on the phone before you got this letter, but I love your letters. They always smell really sweet - like peaches. It reminds me of Momotaro. Oh, being a fellow bookworm, you’ve probably read that as a kid, huh?
Oh… you probably already told me that. I’m sorry I’m always repeating these things. The doctor says that it’s important to keep memories and it’s okay to write them down and to let them go.
“Once you write them down, you can always go back to it without the memory interrupting your life,” he says. He’s very kind to me although sometimes his Japanese isn’t the best. Have I told you? The doctor is from America - he said he was grateful to my father who helped get him this position when he was starting out here. I probably told you this but my father is a very influential man - we came from Yamakoshi, like Hiromi-chan, to live a quieter life. I remember he said when we came to Okutari that I should be more careful not to let others influence me so much… but so much for that, right?
I’m sorry, Mariko, for everything that happened. I know I apologized before I left, but I want to say it again. I caused you and Hiromi-chan so much pain and I hadn’t meant to do that. It was that awful man’s fault but we all were hurting so much. Do you know what became of that house, Mariko? Please keep me updated.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about traveling the world but it costs a lot of money and the net can only do so much. Then again, maybe I should stay in Tokyo. I’d really like to talk to you more about books and maybe we both can pool in our money together.
Have you thought about what I said? I may have been a bit rash, but I mean every word that I said. And I promise that no one is influencing me this time. Those words came from my heart. I realize it’s a bit much and especially since I’m all the way in Tokyo, it’d be hard to do that. At least, I hope you can consider it. When I saw you again for the first time in years, I thought my mind was trying to fool me again but now I realize what it was. It feels weird to be the one on the opposite end when Hiromi-chan was the one who asked me.
I’m sorry. I keep bringing up Hiromi-chan again when I want to talk about us.
It’s really hard to just let her go. I miss her so much. I wish we could’ve all been friends together. I wish we talked more in high school. But and if you can forgive me for being so direct, I’m in love with you and I want to be the best man for you when I come home. I want to be the man you can rely on.
I don’t know if you feel the same way and I’m sorry for putting pressure on you. I wish I knew why my feelings for you are so heavy but I will work hard while I’m in Tokyo. Even if you reject me, romantically, I want to be in your life in some way.
Attached to this letter should be a small package. I found this journal that reminded me of you. I probably should be saving for my trip so this was quite an impulse buy. Oh, please don’t think I’m trying to buy your love - I’m merely trying to give you a gift.
I’m just going to end this letter. I think I made things worse with my additional confession.
Please tell my parents I said hello and that I’m doing well. I will wait patiently for both your phone calls and more of your letters.
By the time you’ve received this letter, you’ll already know my feelings for you as well. But in case you forgot, or if you want to keep another memory, I do share the same feelings for you… even back then with the incident. And as I’ve said, for as much as I want to be with you, we both need to do a lot of work. You have the doctor to talk to and I need to atone for my sins to Hiromi-chan and I need to help my parents since my sister has her own family. I know you want to avoid talking about her… but she is the reason why we can’t be together right now.
And not just that, your father says my mother could have it again. I’m scared, Masahide. I thought she was going to get better but if she gets sick again, I don’t know what I would do. I need to stay here in Okutari with her. I’m sorry. Things are harder than they should be right now.
Thank you for the lovely journal. Having it does help collect my thoughts and put it in there, including the letters I receive from both you and Yukari. It makes things a bit easier for me and it gives me something to do while you and Yukari are in the big city. I really wish I could visit at least Yamakoshi but until my mother is 100% better, I’ve got to stay here in Okutari.
But I’m glad that we can talk this way at all. Is your job fun? What sort of people do you meet? Are you in a specific department? I’m surprised you chose that instead of teaching again. Or are you working at the department store at the suggestion of your doctor?
How interesting that he’s from America! I wonder what brought him over here…
I’m sorry to cut this letter short, Masahide, but I have to sleep early. I’m still teaching at Keisetsuin High School as an English teacher and I’m trying to start the track team again. I don’t have any formal training as a runner - maybe my talent’s dried up, so maybe we can get someone new to take that spot. You know how the older teachers are, they don’t like to listen to us younger teachers. Hopefully, they can retire soon. Hopefully, I can find them soon…
Oh, one more thing! Your parents miss you and they wish to hear from you soon. Your father, in his own way, wishes you the best but I wish he would understand more why you’re in Tokyo and not here. Although, they started calling me your ‘wife’, which I admit, tickles me a little bit. I don’t know if we’re going to make it that far but… maybe, maybe in the future. Sometimes, they come over and visit my mother and help out a little bit but it breaks my heart it has to be like this. I hope my mother gets well soon.
I’m super glad to hear about you and Sakurai! From your previous letters, he seems like a very kind man. You two make a wonderful couple - I’ve never seen you smile so brightly! I love your other pictures as well - I’m glad you’re taking up a hobby as a photographer again. I’m sorry Okutari was so miserable for you - it’s a very hard place to live in. They’re still stuck in their old ways!
And speaking of old ways, I don’t think I ever told you but I actually do have a cell phone! My number is 0X-XXXX-XXXX and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org but you’re absolutely right! Okutari has no internet access much less cell phone service so that’s why I’ve stuck to writing letters. I wish I could show you my background - it’s a cute little black cat dressed up like a witch flying around. If you ever come back to Okutari, I have to show you!
But you’re right, it does let us go shopping for cute stationery papers and pens. It makes me feel like a kid! Speaking of which, Masahide had sent this to me from Tokyo. Isn’t it lovely? It reminds me of the old witch’s grimoire in the old movies I used to watch in high school so it’s interesting to me that he got that for me. He also says that my letters smell like peaches - but I never sprayed anything on there before. Do you think he’s still recovering?
Honestly, I must confess to you that Masahide confessed his feelings to me before he left for Tokyo. And, I have to admit, I feel the same for him. I suppose that’s my problem too - I can’t let him go like he couldn’t let her go. Is it okay to love him? Would it be okay to care for him as an adult in front of Nakashima-san’s grave like that? I feel bad… I can’t help but feel guilty for taking Masahide away from her.
I know what you’re about to say - “Mariko! She’s dead! She’s crossed over, right? That means she gave you her blessing!” And you’re right. I have a feeling she did give us a blessing - after all, our parents got along a little too well… his parents started calling me his ‘wife’, even! Aaa! Aaa!! I feel… excited about that.
But I have terrible news about my mother. The doctor says that there’s a chance she’ll get ill again and I don’t know if I can handle that, Yukari. It’s scary. My grandfather passed away with the same illness and so I’m scared it’ll never truly leave her alone.
And lately, I’ve been hearing something creepy. I think I told you before I’m trying to set up a track team at the school. Please don’t tell Masahide this next part. It’s very important.
But I think I hear that creepy old man calling my name again.
Your Best Friend,