Chapter 41:

My Summer Vacation Just Got Messy.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

The blue sky, the bright sun, the wide ocean, the warm sand between your toes, girls in swimsuits having fun...beach vacations are every teenage boy's dream. I know it happens in every TV show, but most high school guys don't get to experience this in real life. Today you can count me among the lucky few that do.

So why am I not in a state of pure bliss sunbathing and watching the girls giggle and splash each other, like you would expect me to be? Why am I only slightly enjoying what should be a wonderful experience?

Well, for one, there are only two girls on this small, isolated strip of beach right now.

One is my sister, and the other is my childhood friend who is basically my sister, too.

You're supposed to go on a vacation like this with your friends from your class and loads of pretty girls, but that's not what happened. If my class actually did plan a beach trip, I wasn't invited.

The second reason why I’m not having fun is because I'm tired. We packed everyone into a rental van at 8 AM (to "beat the traffic"), drove all the way to Kanagawa, stopped for a million toll booths, still got caught in Tokyo traffic anyways, took three hours to get here when it should have taken us an hour and a half, and my mom and you-know-who were yapping everyone's ears off the whole time. Kaede looked carsick the entire way. I think she was idiot-sick. I don't blame her. So the whole time, instead of enjoying myself playing in the ocean, I've been sitting here on this chair trying to sleep.

I can't, though, because of the admittedly delicious scent of meat that's creeping through the air and the cacophony of voices from off in the distance.

My dad is having a pretty good time flipping the steaks and fish on the grill up in this tiny beachfront campground's barbecue area- and he's also a little buzzed. I appreciate that he had the decency to put on a shirt instead of showing his flab to the world. He looks surprisingly like an ordinary dad right now- just holding a beer and having fun grilling.

My mom, standing next to him, is having an even better time. Her face is as pink as her swimsuit and the can of the nasty chuhai she's chugging like water. It's barely 1 pm and we've not even been here a couple hours and she's already drunk.

Mr. Shiritori, on the other side of the grill, is having a fantastic time. He's arguing with my mom about something. I can barely catch the snippets of conversation about F*nal F*ntasy and Sun Emblem and stuff as they float into my ears from far away. Man, they're getting heated. I have never seen Ayame's father either drunk or yelling at people about 20-year-old games, but today he's both.

I guess this is what it was like for them in college. It seems like they're having fun, at least, but I can see why they didn't have any friends besides each other.

One person who is not having fun is Mrs. Shiritori, who looks distinctly out of place, not just because she’s nearly as tall as her husband, who isn’t a small man himself, but also because she seems to be the only one at the grill who's not rip-roaring drunk. I feel a bit sorry for her. She's nervously looking off to the side while her husband and Mom are face-to-chest (her face, his chest). Now they're arguing about Gondom. Look, I know you're allowed to have a good time here, but I'm pretty sure at this point that the other people in the campground are getting bothered. Tone it down a little bit, please.

"REO!" That's Mr. Shiritori's voice. They're so loud that I can hear every word all the way down here.

"ASHUMI!" Mom can barely pronounce words at this point.



Oh God, not this again.

"Tetsuya-" my dad's voice is quiet, but I can still hear it- "you're a man of culture."

I want to yell at them to shut the hell up, but I promised myself I'd be kinder to them after everything that happened between us, so all I can do is bite my lip and try to listen to the crashing waves.

When my dad told me he was thinking about a family vacation, I thought it was going to be somewhere cool. I didn't imagine it would be a weekend trip, and I definitely didn't imagine anyone else coming along. But even this is better than our previous summer vacations (i.e. nothing at all).

I wonder if next year-

A multi-colored, striped beach ball slams into my face so hard that my sunglasses go flying into the air. Holy crap, it's bright outside.

"Which one of you-" It takes me about 3 milliseconds to snap upright in the chair.

"Baka-Haru. You should have paid attention." Ayame snickers as she skips over to pick up the beach ball.

"It's called a beach ball! You throw it toward the beach!"

I haven't imagined what my childhood friend would look like in a swimsuit...okay, maybe I did once or twice, but still, it's not something I would usually fantasize about. I have to admit, though, I'm a bit surprised by her choice. I thought she would go with something skimpier, or something like a school swimsuit or some other weird otaku fetish outfit...but it's actually kinda modest. Well, as modest as a bikini can be. It's more like a large ribbon that wraps around her chest with frilly edges and small straps going over her shoulders, white with dark and light blue lines of different sizes crossing both the top and the bottom. It's actually...cute.

Where'd she get that sunflower hair clip from? I've never seen her wear something like that.

It feels really weird to say this, looks good on her. She looks pretty. She may annoy me, and it's uncomfortable for me to compliment her like that because it feels like I'm complimenting my sister, but I'm not gonna sit here and deny objective reality. Blue has always been her favorite color and she's so fit that I bet she could pull off any swimsuit, but the fact that she picked a cute one instead of something totally inappropriate makes it look better.

It's like she knew I would object if she wore something that was too skimpy, and picked this one out because I'd like it.

No, there's no way.

"Niichan, are you okay?"

I turn to see my little sister with a concerned expression. She normally pulls her hair back with a headband, but today she's let her bangs down and I think she's curled her hair a bit.

Whoa. Black with a highlighter-yellow stripe wrapping around her ribs, and one around her waist? That would look nice on a mature woman, but it's a bit much for her.

"I'm fine. More importantly-" I make sure to stare directly at her when I say this- "you're showing way too much skin for your age, young lady."

She says nothing in reply except for pulling down her eyelid and sticking her tongue out at me like a grade schooler. She's even painted her nails black.

"Your cute little sister waited all day to show you and that's what you say?" Ayame harrumphs, then turns to Kaede. "I think it looks great on you- don't listen to Haru-kun. He's such a prude that he'd draw censor boxes on old paintings if he could. I'm like 99% sure he doesn't know what a uterus is." Kaede nervously recoils upon seeing my childhood friend approach her.

"Stop putting lewd ideas in my little sister's head." I'm up on my feet in the time it takes me to blink.

First off, I know what a uterus is, and second off, I am not a prude. I'm a healthy 16 year old high school boy, which means I'm attracted to women, and just like any other guy my age, I like seeing beautiful women in swimsuits. I even think that, despite her obnoxious personality, Ayame Shiritori is attractive in the bikini she's currently got on right now. But unlike her, I have self-control, so I don't feel the need to tell everyone about how seeing half-naked women turns me on. It's one of those things that you think but don't say.

Do I make myself clear? Good. Let's continue.

Unfazed, Ayame tosses the beach ball up, twirling it. "If you want to get me away from Kaede-chan, come play with us."

Kaede's already run off to go wade in the water, but I see her stiffen as she hears her name. It's dead obvious that she doesn't want to play with Ayame- to everyone but Ayame herself. My sister has put about 10 meters between them in under a minute.

"No chance, and leave Kaede alone."

Still, I'll admit that the idea of playing on the beach with your girlfriend does seem really fun. You chase her down the sand, both laughing, and you get in the water and have a splash fight, and then when you're both tired out you cuddle under the same towel and watch the sunset and she wraps her arms around you and says "Haru-kun, you know, I've loved you ever since we were kids. It really is just like a light novel," and-

Oh, come on. Why is she there?! Of all the women I could have imagined- it could have been Sudou-san, it could have been a blonde foreigner with big breasts- why was it her?!

"Boring." She flips her hair around her finger. "You're no fun. What am I supposed to do?"

I don't know, swim? It's not like there's an entire area set up for that purpose or anything like that, and it's not like you're wearing clothes designed specifically for that (I also am), and it's not like there's a lifeguard watching if you want to do exactly that.

"I'll play wish ya- hic- Aya-chan!"

While I was busy yelling at Ayame, my mom made it all the way to the beach, with a satisfied, vacant grin on her face. It's the same color as the salmon-pink, frilly, lacy swimsuit (complete with skirt!) she has on that no woman of her age and size should EVER be wearing.

At least she's ditched the alcohol.

"Back in Santa Clara they- hic- ushed ta' call me Attacker Chi-"

She takes two steps and immediately faceplants in the sand.

Immediately, she pops back to her feet, goes "Ah! I'm out of Strong Ten!" and then immediately heads back up the concrete stairs toward the barbecue area, humming, "I need another drink, I- hic- need another drink..." like she completely forgot about us.

Sighing, Ayame plops the beach ball down on the sand and stretches out in the chair next to me. "I guess I'll be boring and sunbathe like you. You seem like you're liking it."

The sun overhead is positively blinding. I wish I'd brought a book or something. There's no way that I can sleep with her nearby and I can only watch the seagulls circle overhead for so long- I hope she'll be quiet, at least for a little while.

"Aw, crap, I forgot my sunscreen!" Ayame sits up abruptly.

"So? Go in the shade and put some on."

"I can't reach my back to put it on, though..." Suddenly, she rolls over on her back in the chair and gets a mischievous grin on her face. "I think you're gonna have to help me, might even have to unlatch the strap...oh noooooooooooo~"

My eyelid twitches. "Get Kaede to do it."

"She's all the way over there, and you've got bigger hands."

I gulp. She's right- there's absolutely no way Kaede's comfortable doing this. This is a situation straight out of one of Ayame's favorite ecchi manga, or maybe a light novel. I'm not even kidding.

Damn it, I'm gonna have to do it.

Calm down, Haruto, she is just your friend and nothing more.

Where do I start? From the top? From the bottom? I guess the top...

"Niichan, what are you doing?" Kaede's voice stops me in my tracks.

Ayame smirks, flipping back over. "He was gonna oil me up really good- Ow!"

She quickly curls her knees up to her chest, pouting and rubbing the spot on her forehead where I just flicked her with my finger.

"I said cut it out around Kaede."

"Hmpf." Ayame rolls back over, exposing her rear end to the world. "Well, aren't you a regular Kousuke Kanzaka today?"

"I think I'll go walk around a little..." Kaede says nervously. "You guys want some shaved ice or something?"

"From where?"

"That little place over there." She points across the beach, where a small wooden shack stands at the end of the campground.

"I don't know...doesn't it look like it's closed?" I haven't seen a single person come in or out the entire time we've been here, and I really don't want Kaede wandering around dilapidated buildings by herself.

"If it is, I'll head back over here."

"Blue Hawaii, and make it a big one!" Ayame chirps.

Ignoring her, I ask my sister, "Do you have money?"


That was a rhetorical question. I fish around in the backpack on the towel next to me before I find my wallet and pull out a 5000. "Use this. Don't forget the change. Do you have your cell phone?"


"I don't want one, but you can get whatever you want. I wouldn't get a big one, though, since lunch is pretty soon. Come right back, okay?"

I guess it'll be fine to let her go. There's no one on the beach but us and the lifeguard.

She nods and I watch her walk across the sand, fading into the distance. It seems like yesterday that she was a tiny little first grader who was scared to go outside if I wasn't there with her, but now she's almost an adult, and there she goes, confidently, like she doesn't need me at all.

In not too long, I guess it'll be time for her to start dating.

I don't want to be one of those guys who goes "my little sister can't date anyone and I'm gonna put the fear of God in any guy who even looks at her" because that's weird and possessive. It's not my business who she dates. It's probably better to have a good relationship with her boyfriends because you never know which one of them will end up being "the one" and if you tried to scare him off before, you'll have a brother-in-law that hates you.

But if any guy is dumb enough to put the moves on her, I'll murder him.

My train of thought is interrupted by Ayame mumbling, "You two have such a good relationship. I'm jealous."


"Well, compared to me and the brat..."

"Ryou-kun's not that bad."

She cocks her head at me. "When did you get so friendly?"

"We're not really friends...but I understand him. That's all."

"Oh." She looks away for a second.

"Why didn't he want to come, by the way?"

"Because he couldn't. He failed all his finals and has to take summer classes."

"On a Saturday? That's rough..."

"And that's why you study."

"You have no right to say anything like that. What did you get on your finals, anyways?"

"34, 37, 41, 35, 40. A solid 288th place!" She says that with pride, as if it's somehow an accomplishment.

My scores were double that and they were still pretty average. I have no idea how she always manages to pass by the skin of her teeth, since she's a scatterbrain who spends most of her time on club activities or her hobbies. I'm beginning to suspect divine intervention, or maybe a contract with Satan.

We sit there in silence for a few seconds, listening to the waves crash and watching the clouds roll by.

"Do you still need sunscreen?" Hesitantly, I breach the question.

"Nah, it's gotten cloudy," Ayame responds.

Whew. Dodged that bullet.

A couple more minutes pass, and then Ayame finally, hesitantly says something. "Hey Haru-kun, can you help me with something?"

"What?" Please, God, please, Buddha, Amida, Dainichi, Susanoo, Okuninushi, and all the Seven Lucky Gods, don’t let it be sunscreen again. Or tanning lotion.

"How do you know if someone?"

"Like someone? You mean in that way?"

"That's the thing...I'm not sure if it's that way or not."

"You got a crush on someone? That's unusual."

"I don't know. That's why I'm asking you."

"I don't think I'm a good person to ask...but if you can't figure out if you like someone or not, what's the harm in confessing anyways? The worst thing is that he turns you down."

"I guess...but I don't want to confess to someone unless I'm sure I really love him."

"If you keep thinking that way, you're gonna be alone forever."

Before she can respond, we're interrupted by my mom's earsplitting screech, so loud we can hear it all the way down here. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE'RE OUT OF ALCOHOL?!"

Then comes Dad's voice. "Chisato, honey, calm down..."

"I'm- hic- goin' to th' konbini- hic-"

"Hold on, I'll go with you..."

Then, one more minute of silence, then two. I guess the Shiritoris aren't a talkative couple. I don't really know if they are or they aren't- I've rarely seen both of them together.

Suddenly, a phone buzzes. Is it Kaede? No, my screen is black. She sure is taking a while...

"Hello?" That's Mr. Shiritori's voice. He's walked over by the stairs to answer a call.

The voice of my dad, on the other end of the line, is so loud I can hear it from here. "Tetsuya, help! Chisato tried to buy a few tallboys and the cashier laughed at her and when I tried to explain they called the cops on me for aiding underage drinking!"

Are they talking on speakerphone in public? Are you kidding me? Stupid drunk adults.

"And then I told them she was my wife and they detained me for being a suspicious person!"

"Hold on, I'll be right there!" I hear Mr. Shiritori exclaim.

Another couple of minutes, and then this time it's a ringtone going off. I know for sure that's not me.

What is going on right now?

From where I'm sitting, I can see that Mrs. Shiritori has the decency to not turn the speaker on, but it doesn't matter because her husband's frantic voice is still loud enough to be audible all the way down here. "Help! Tsubaki! The cops got me too!"

"What do I do with the food?!"

"Take it off the grill! We'll put it back on later!"

"I'm coming! Give me a minute!"

The last of the parents rushes off, leaving the beach silent except for me, Ayame, and a very bored lifeguard.

Finally, I break the silence. "Kaede’s taking a long time, isn't she?"

It takes a couple seconds before Ayame replies to me. "Since this is like the beach episode in a harem show, I bet she ran into someone that we know."

"What? Don't be stupid. There's absolutely no way we know anyone here. It's too far away."

Without warning, her scatterbrain power activates again, and this time her thought roulette lands on something completely unexpected.

"Hey Haru-kun, can you take your shirt off?"

"Huh?! Excuse me?!"

"You've been staring at my chest all day, but I can't do it to you. It's not fair."

"Hold on just a minute. I was not." I mean...I was, but for just a little bit...fine. You got me to admit it. Happy?

"Weren't we gonna go swimming?" she asks with puppy-dog eyes.

"Fine, if that's what you meant," I huff. "You gave me the wrong idea."

As soon as it comes off and I feel the sun hit my bare chest after I stand up, I start feeling self-conscious again. Yeah, I've gained two kilos at this point, but I'm still on the scrawny side, even though I'm less embarrassed about looking at myself in the mirror than I once was. "This good enough for you?"

"Oho." She looks me over with a really intense expression. "You're really skinny."

"Look who's talking!" As soon as I lay back down, I let her have it. "You're a beanpole, too!"

"I didn't say it was a bad thing." She shrugs her shoulders. "I can tell you've been working out a lot. You've got good muscle definition."

Before I can react, she springs out of her chair and jumps on top of mine, holding herself up above my body with her arms and legs, peering down at my midsection. "Nice abs."

Holy crap, she's so close.

Then her arms give way, she yelps and we topple to the sand in a heap.

When we come to rest, I've somehow ended up straddling her, peering deeply into her widening eyes. She's starting to turn red.

I'd never noticed how deep her eyes were before...they're like two prisms. I never had any reason to look.

No, not just that...her face is perfect. Her eyes are big and her nose is small and round and her lips are full and there's not a single feature out of place, not one iota higher or lower than they should be. Her hair, splayed out on the ground, looks so silky it must feel like a cloud when you run your fingers through it.

When did the little girl I grew up together with...get so beautiful?

Oh my God, we're touching each other. I've got her by the arm and I can feel her muscles tensing in my grasp, but she's not moving. No...she doesn't want to move. I don't want to either. Our bodies are on top of each other and her skin's so pale and smooth and soft and warm and we're so close I swear I can hear her heartbeat and her heavy breathing.

It's not her heartbeat, it's mine, loud in my own ears. It's racing so hard I can barely take a breath.

I bend over, closer to her face, and she closes her eyes and purses her lips.

They look so soft.

I can't stop myself.

Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt. From what seems like a million miles away, a phone begins to ring.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy