What was even worse, I felt my cheeks burn, and of course, Konya must have noticed. He looked at me curiously and smiled as if he had just won something.
"I won't suffocate any longer than necessary," he replied jokingly. I heard his footsteps coming towards me.
"I'll take care of the blackboard, you start sweeping!" I almost shouted, hoping that would stop him.
Surprisingly, he obeyed politely, and I heard him open the cupboard where we kept all the things we needed to clean. As I wiped the blackboard, I wondered if I would ever have such a clear mind again in my life, unclouded by endless thoughts of duty and trouble. However, I could look for at least one answer to the questions that tormented me.
"Konya, why are you helping me?" I asked without turning around, there was silence for a moment. "Why did you help me the first time on Valentine's Day?"
"It was a reflex back then," he replied thoughtfully. My imagination gave me images of him nonchalantly leaning against a broom, and I couldn't free myself from it. I wanted to turn around just to make sure it was. "But then you turned out to be too intriguing to be left alone ... for a Cupid, of course."
I grabbed the nearest piece of chalk and threw it at him. I hated the nickname, I didn't feel like one of them, didn't want to be one, and I was far from living up to the standards for children of Eros. I watched as a small white object headed towards him and landed a good meter away from him.
Konya looked from the object to me and started laughing at my surprised expression. I was sure that by some miracle I would hit him, but my clumsiness showed its superiority. He picked up the chalk and headed my way, I looked around quickly but didn't have many escape routes. I decided to face him, after all, I dealt the first chalk blow.
"Was this supposed to hit me?" he asked, getting closer and closer.
"Just tell me one thing, Sugiyama." My last name sounded rather strange on his lips, I guess I preferred it when he called me by my first name. "Something offended you that you went back to calling me by my last name?"
I turned my head away, I couldn't tell him that I was getting more and more terrified each day how often I was able to think about him, and that I wanted to be in his presence. Deep in my heart, I longed to call him by his name, to see that smile again and take away the element of pain from it. That's why I decided not to do it again because I knew that I could only sink more and more into these unreal feelings. I was afraid there would be no turning back after that. And I was even more terrified of what it could mean.
He raised his hand with the chalk, but I didn't feel threatened in any way, I was more curious about what he was going to do. He chalked my nose and smiled smugly as if he had just created the greatest work of art. I stared at him in shock, not what I expected, and I couldn't control my reaction and the redness that started to cover my whole face. Konya put down the murder weapon and went back to cleaning, whistling cheerfully.
By the time we got back, I was still a bit awkward but not uncomfortable, and in my rush to leave, I almost forgot to go to the bathroom to make sure I didn't still have chalk marks on my face. Konya looked thoughtful, I wondered what he was up to. At one point, he extended his hand towards me.
"What do you want?" I asked in surprise while giving him a slightly angry glance and looking around to see if anyone had noticed.
"I just want to do a little experiment," Konya replied. "Hold my hand for a moment."
"I guess not," I hissed.
"At least the forearm," he insisted. "Come on, you've done that before."
"Three seconds," I said, feeling he wouldn't let this go. "Not even one more."
I knew I shouldn't have agreed to it, but I couldn't refuse him in my heart. Anyway, what bad could happen? Well, it became too much, because after those three seconds, I didn't want to let go of it. On the contrary, I remembered that feeling when Konya put his hand on my shoulder that time, a perfect match, and I wondered if I put my hand in his now, would I feel the same.
Kiyoshi, what's wrong with you?! I shook myself suddenly and withdrew my hand in horror. Konya was smiling strangely to himself, while I was looking for any excuse to say goodbye. The store, it dawned on me suddenly.
"I remembered that I have to do some shopping, so go back alone," I said and immediately quickened my step towards the market.
At the same time, I wanted and was afraid to be near him, I didn't even want to think about what else my subconscious wanted to check. Why couldn't he leave me? Instead, he caught up with me and offered his company. I rolled my eyes, that was all I needed, and I couldn't just make him disappear.
I took the basket, I didn't like to be rushed when shopping, and it was only for Konya's sake that I wasn't going to change my habits. He walked with me without complaining and watched what I was packing.
"What will it be?" he asked me suddenly.
"A stew today," I replied, examining the sale shelf.
"Do you cook often?"
"Almost every day, that's how we shared with my mother, she takes care of breakfasts, I take care of dinners, but if I can, she also prepares some things for our bentos for the next day."
"I envy, if I or my father got down to cooking, the whole house would burn down," he laughed a bit embarrassed. "So we mostly eat precooked food."
I looked at him curiously, probably the first time he showed such an uncertain side. I wouldn't suspect that it would simply reveal a lack of skill. He was nice to me, and I decided to put my fear aside for a while.
"What do you like to eat?"
"I?" Konya was surprised.
"Except cheesecake, of course," I added.
"Hmm, since I don't do home cooking very often, it's hard for me to say, but I like spicy food," he replied after thinking for a moment.
"Ah, yeah," I muttered as we happened to pull up in front of the seasoning aisle and tried to remember what my house supplies were like.
"Did you know that... " Konya stared at the small packets in front of us and began telling the facts about the peppers.
I had no idea where he got this knowledge from, but he was surprisingly pleasant to listen to. I didn't interrupt him, but let him know from time to time that my attention was on him. He talked with enthusiasm about facts about food, even though he knew nothing about cooking. It struck me as somewhat comical, but strangely familiar at the same time. We left the store talking about more mundane topics.
"Household duties do not interfere with your club activities?"
"No," I replied, adjusting my shopping bag over my shoulder. "My club is specific, each of us is inspired by the subject and the work itself comes at a different time, for some it's in the morning, others must have perfect light. We meet once in a while to share recent work and possibly express each other's opinions. The only thing is that we set the topic for a joint exhibition every year when the time of the festival comes, and we let others vote for the most interesting of them. What about your club?"
"Theoretically, I'm in the chess club, but I immediately said that I'm not going to appear there," he announced smugly but quickly changed his face to an apology when I looked at him reproachfully.
I liked taking the easy way out, too, but I didn't approve of neglecting certain responsibilities. We walked a little further to the crossroads where we also parted for the last time. I didn't know how to say goodbye to him now, wasn't sure if I even wanted to.
"It's until tomorrow ..." he said cheerfully and added. "Cupid."
"I'll spare you this time," I replied, walking away. "Until tomorrow, Tatsuo."
It turns out that I was pretty bad at keeping my resolutions, but I already knew that I wanted to keep that smile that made my heart beat faster.