For a long moment I felt remorse that I had left Hamada in this way, but remembering the unpleasant contact with her skin made me shiver. Nothing could come of this. I must have screwed up from the start, always waiting for who knows what when I should just act. And then Konya appeared, and everything else lost its meaning. I also don't know what Hamada was trying to achieve, her behaviour also resulted from a sudden, mysterious change. Until now, she treated me only as a good friend, until, without a clear signal, she wanted me to become something more. At the moment it was too confusing for my head.
I got the wrong way twice and wasn't happy about it, I tripped over a stone in the middle of the pavement, fell into a puddle, scraped my elbows, and soiled my uniform. I turned furiously at the culprit, picked it up, and carried it to the side of the road, wishing the worst for the piece of ground. The point was that the glasses were intact, but passing the shop window I was terrified of how bad I looked. I didn't care about Konya's opinion, he probably didn't look better himself since he was sick, but it would be nice to make a good impression on his father.
I sighed heavily, There was no time to go home and change clothes yet, which would have made my mother suspicious, and I didn't like lying to her. Anyway, what should I tell her? "I'm going to visit a boy in my class with whom I fell in love, on the pretext of taking notes. By the way, it's the same one Alice told you about how bad and dangerous it is for us." Maybe I could skip half of it, but it would still arouse her suspicions, and I'm sure within a second of my leaving, she'd be texting Daisuke for more details.
I made sure with a note that I had definitely arrived at the right address and looked at the small two-story house with a beautiful, well-kept garden. The place was inviting, so I took a few deep breaths and pressed the doorbell. I didn't want to expect anything specific after meeting Alice's stepfather, but I breathed a sigh of relief when an energetic, tall, thin man opened the door for me. In appearance, the son was a younger version of himself, but Konya did not seem so pleasant. Before I could respond, he invited me in.
"You must be Tatsuo's friend, Come in, your teacher warned me about your arrival," he said happily. "I am very glad that someone visited him, even if they had to."
"If he had said he was sick, I would have visited him sooner," I said sadly.
I looked around the sparsely decorated living room. Zero unnecessary extras, just a few photos standing on the dresser. If mom saw this, she would frown and then order a march to the shop for flowers, figurines, and pictures, and in the meantime, she would consult everything with her friend, Maiko's and Daisuke's mother.
"It's like him," Konya's father muttered, but the smile quickly returned to his face. "You've got a bad timing, because when I checked just a moment ago, Tatsuo was asleep." He nodded towards the stairs. "I spoke to him earlier, and he insisted that I keep my plans with my friends, so I will be leaving soon. If you want..."
"I'll wait," I said firmly.
The man smiled as if relieved and continued to get ready to leave. I sat on the couch, wondering how long Konya would sleep, although I knew I would wait how long it would take to talk to him. His father came up to me and unexpectedly, in a serious tone, thanked me for being nice to Tatsuo.
"No need to thank me," I replied confused. "Konya is very close to me."
Suddenly, the phone rang and he quickly reflected that he had to leave so as not to be late. I sat in silence for a while, and then something breathed in me to go see him, after all, that was all I thought about since I found out that I could have a good excuse for it. I followed my hunch and chose the first door on the left. I knocked gently, but no answer.
"Tatsuo?" I opened them a little and listened for a while.
He was there, breathing peacefully in his sleep, and I went inside and studied his face, which was a little paler than usual. It just dawned on me how much I missed him these past few days. I wanted to make sure it was him. I reached out and stopped millimetres from his face, wondering if I had the right to do this, to make such an innocent gesture as brushing back a strand of his hair.
He's asleep, he won't even know! I thought to myself and dared to do it. I smiled involuntarily, wanting this to be my place from now on, next to him. What hurt though was what I was talking to Alice about, how to make sure it was true. Then I shook myself off, People don't know that either, and yet they risk it by trusting their feelings.
I wasn't going to wake him up, so I sat on the floor, leaning against the bed, and for the first time in a long time, I felt the urge and inspiration to draw. I didn't have to think about what I wanted to capture or look at the model, I had too much material stored in my memories. I wasn't sure how much time had passed, but I was so engrossed in my work that I didn't notice when Konya woke up and watched me work.
"I don't remember asking you to draw me like one of your French girls," he said in an unexpectedly hoarse voice, right next to my ear.
I jumped in fright, everything flew out of my hands, and I had to walk around his room several times before my heart started beating in a reasonably normal rhythm.
"If you've got the strength to tease, you're obviously well now," I replied, smoothing down my uniform.
I finally looked around his realm and my attention was caught by a large worktop instead of a desk, with some odd things on it and a tool board hanging on the wall. And next to a cupboard with another collection of strange utensils, I wondered what Konya does in her free time. Textbooks and a pile of other books were thrown loosely on the dresser. The walls were empty, as was the rest of the house. Mom could really show off here.
"What happened?" Tatsuo asked, looking at me with attention and frowning. "You look terrible."
"Speak for yourself," I snapped back. "I tripped on the way here."
Konya started to get out of bed, but I stopped him by asking what he was going to do.
"I'm going to get the first aid kit," he replied as if it was obvious. "You should at least cleanse your elbows."
"Where is it?"
"Last cabinet in the kitchen, top shelf."
I went and quickly found a suitable box. Konya was sitting on the bed and insisted on tending to my wounds. I let him do it, knowing at the same time that I wouldn't avoid reddening my cheeks. His touch was exceptionally soothing as my wounds made contact with the disinfectant. He did it with the utmost concentration that I had not seen before, even when I tried to make him do it during our study together.
"What are you doing here?" he asked after the treatment. "You should be on a date with Hamada."
"First of all, when I agreed to go out with her, I didn't know it was a date," I blurted bitterly. "Second, I ran away. Third, Goda-sensei asked me to give you the materials from the few days you were away. Fourth, I was fucking worried you weren't at school, and fifth, I'm mad you didn't text me back," I finally blurted out.
"Why did you run away?" I think he was a bit perplexed by my confession, but I could see a smile lurking somewhere on his lips as if he was trying to hold it back at all costs.
"I didn't want to be there. I thought Hamada was the girl of my dreams, but it turned out to be quite the opposite," I replied with a shrug, she didn't matter to me anymore.
We were silent for a while, each gathering his thoughts. As always I was surprised by the lack of awkwardness between us in situations like this. In the meantime, I picked up the things from the floor that I had scattered earlier. As if it was so natural and obvious that when the need arises, one of us will speak up.
"My father left, didn't he?" Konya finally asked, I nodded as he slumped back onto the bed with a sigh of relief. "That's good because it's already been hard, I hate that even my own family is not immune to my powers." He reached for the keychain on the nightstand. "I haven't done my duty for a few days now, and it's even harder to fight the compulsion to hurt."
"I don't care about it," I muttered, showing my keychain. "Even Alice stopped picking on me."
I don't know what came over me, but suddenly I grabbed the two damn things and tried to smash them with a small hammer I noticed among the tools on the wall. Of course, not even the slightest scratch was left on the keychains, but at least after a while Konya laughed out loud.
"Stop, or you'll get tired," he said. "You think I haven't tried it myself, these little contraptions are indestructible."
"Let's spite them all," I said, giving him his property, he looked at me curiously. "Our absent parents, maybe a little Alice, everything that's inside of us that we didn't ask for."
"How do you want to do it?"
"I don't know, let's pretend we're dating. Everything says we shouldn't even tolerate each other's presence, so…" I have no idea where the thought came from, but Konya cut me off, staring at me sadly.
"I can't Kiyoshi," he said.
"Because I really like you," he said with all the confidence he could muster in the words. "And it has been for a long time. I don't want to pretend anything."
I had to turn around for a moment and calm down, I didn't expect that at all. My feelings were reciprocated, my heart was beating wildly, and I could feel myself smiling broadly. I didn't think I'd ever been this happy in my life. Suddenly, my eyes landed on a photo pinned to a corkboard that I hadn't noticed before, and my head flooded with memories. I laughed suddenly and turned to Konya, who was waiting impatiently for my reaction to his confession.
"I won," I announced cheerfully. "I liked you much earlier."
I moved closer to him, watching his surprised expression slowly turn into a smile, the one specific one, as I addressed him by name, this time without a trace of pain. I reached my goal faster than expected. He probably tried to ask me how that was possible, but I wouldn't let him.
"So Tatsuo, since we're not going to pretend anything, let's say from Monday, I'll leave you now to recover completely. I'm not going to spend the whole first day of being together alone." I said with a smile, and before he could say anything I left.
I stood outside the door to his room for a while with my heart racing, I thought my face was about to burn, but I was happy, apparently, I just got into a relationship. Suddenly, I heard a shout of joy from outside the door, and I nodded in amusement as I remembered my notes. I left them on the table in the living room, and among them, I hid a drawing with the message "See you on Monday!".