This chapter is from Konya's POV.
It was one of the strangest, but also the best moments of my life. I didn't know why Kiyoshi left, but I was so happy and let out a cry of joy. I thought about it later and hoped he hadn't heard it. It would be better if I would be able to maintain some pretence of being cool.
I sat up abruptly on the bed, which all means there has been something between us for some time, and our genes don't seem to be in the way. And from Monday we'll officially be a couple, my heart almost jumped out of my chest at the thought and I felt like I couldn't stop smiling, I wanted to hum something under my breath. And what was it supposed to mean that he liked me first, I was sure that the feeling first appeared on my side.
Maybe it's better that Kiyoshi went, although it was unusual behaviour after confessing feelings, but at least we limited the possibility of awkwardness. Anyway, what would happen next? I didn't allow my imagination to run wild with different scenarios to make them real all too soon. Now that I didn't have to be afraid any more, though I didn't expect to ever live to see that, everything could go on at its own pace.
However, I remembered the notes Kiyoshi was supposed to leave me, and I hoped he forgot to do so. Maybe then I'll persuade him to come back or come the next day. Knowing that I would not see him until two days later became painful. I wrote to him about it, but he replied that he had left them on the table in the living room.
I regretted it a bit, but looking through this pile of papers, I found my portrait. I was wondering if that's how he sees me. Honestly, I couldn't imagine myself laughing so carelessly and sincerely unless he noticed that. My heart felt warm. I didn't care what most people thought of me, I just didn't want my father and Kiyoshi to see me as the monster I was supposed to be.
I glanced at it now and then when I was catching up with materials over the weekend, and it only made me want to go back to school and miss Cupid even more. Admittedly, I couldn't imagine what the beginning of our relationship would look like, but whatever it was, I couldn't wait.
I made sure several times that it was not a dream, which Kiyoshi patiently reassured me again and again, for which I was immensely grateful to him. Still, I couldn't get out of him what he meant by liking me much earlier. I thought about it a lot, and finally, it dawned on me what he saw then. I grabbed the photo and looked at it again. Still, the faces seemed so familiar to me, if you added glasses to the one with the darker hair... I stood up abruptly and almost tripped over the chair, but managed somehow to keep my balance.
I found my father in the garden and asked him if he remembered anything more about the circumstances in which he took this photograph. He smiled and began to tell me as much as he could remember about our first visit to that playground.
"This one was probably named Daisuke, and he had a younger sister, such a cute girl, and this one..." He thought for a moment. "And yes, it was Kiyoshi. He seems oddly familiar to someone."
"He was here on Friday," I announced, delighted, forcing my mind to remember that time.
"Really?" my father was surprised. "Actually, I didn't even give him a chance to introduce himself. I'm glad you're friends again after so many years. Before we went to look after grandpa, the three of you were inseparable in kindergarten, even though we were living here for a short time. Almost every day, you could talk about Kiyoshi for hours after we were back home, you adored him," he laughed and returned to gardening.
I came back to myself with a smile on my face, hugging the photo, we will have a severe conversation about who actually fell in love first. I was still convinced that the title belonged to me. Furthermore, I hung the picture in a more visible place, now I just needed a more recent one. I was just sorry that somehow it ended up somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind, dusty and forgotten, like the box I found this photograph in.
I couldn't sleep, instead, I reminisced about my preschool days over and over again, knowing now that it was love back then. It always somehow made me sad to think about the times before Her genes were activated, because I saw it as something that I had lost forever, and in the meantime, I could at least partially regain this happiness.
I was at school early, I wanted to see him, greet him, and hear his voice. I found Cupid, but unfortunately, not the one I was looking for. We passed each other at the school gate, and Alice gave me an angry look. I saw that she, too, had a sleepless night, and not just one.
"Couldn't you look worse?" I huffed angrily, unable to stop myself.
"Couldn't you disappear for good?" she replied and stopped, obviously in the mood for a skirmish. "You've only been away for three days, but the world around us seemed instantly more beautiful. What are you waiting for? For another innocent victim."
"Your brother," I replied and smiled as I noticed her expression had dropped a bit.
"Do you want to hurt him?" She approached me ready to hit me.
"No," I laughed. "Since we're a couple, it would be appropriate to kiss him as a greeting, don't you think?"
However, I did not expect such a violent reaction from her, this short but furious girl rushed at me with her fists. But something told me that I shouldn't defend myself, that she had to deal with it in her own way. Kiyoshi mentioned that Eros' genes in her manifested extremely early, and she had already experienced the curse the hard way, she had been in it longer than us. I didn't like her much, but at the same time I felt sorry for her, it must have taken its toll on her. She was screaming and accusing me that I must have done something to him, that I had given him something, that it was against all the laws of nature, and she was crying, simply not understanding it.
I knew she only saw me as a threat, I didn't blame her, and she wanted to protect her loved ones from me anyway. I wouldn't be so mean to her if I didn't have to. Her strokes began to weaken, and her cries became quieter. She pulled away from me, shaking. She didn't know what to say, but she also couldn't walk away.
"What happened?" asked Kiyoshi, who had just come to school with Daisuke.
I certainly didn't want it to be like this from the very beginning of our relationship, but at the moment I was more worried that my other friend from kindergarten looked like he wanted to kill me. And I knew that for all his pleasant disposition, he could fight, but refrained from making any move towards Alice, even though he wanted to. The girl turned to her brother.
"Why did he say that?" she asked in a voice hoarse from crying. "Why did he say you were a couple?"
"Because it's true," Kiyoshi replied, he was looking into her eyes, and Alice took a deep breath.
"That can't be true," she said in shock. "It's against all the rules!"
"I don't follow them anymore," her brother sneered. "You should stop, too, it's only destroying you from the inside out."
"Will you allow it?" she asked Daisuke, hoping that his friend would talk some sense into him.
"That's surprisingly obvious news," he replied, eyeing us all.
Alice started tugging at her brother's shirt, no energy left, or rather from despair and helplessness, all the time asking why, but none of us could give her a clear answer.
"What about the curse?" she finally asked. "You know what awaits."
"I will risk it if I suffer, it will be my own fault," Kiyoshi replied. "I'd like to say you should take a chance too, but maybe it's time to stop imposing things on each other."
Alice looked up at the sky for a moment, maybe seeking some advice from their father, I don't know, but then she smiled sadly. I had the impression that she breathed a sigh of relief at the same time, and reluctantly returned to her bubble of solitude. I've felt it too many times myself not to recognize it. We watched her going for a while, Kiyoshi came to me and rested his head on my shoulder, looking for comfort, I gently stroked his head.
"I didn't think it would be so difficult," he said in despair, only now I understood how much this conversation cost him.
"I'd like to help her somehow," Daisuke announced.
"Me too, but I don't know how."
Kiyoshi approached him and smiled, his friend smiled back. I'd seen that smile many times when we were kids and knew it only meant one thing, it wasn't time to give up yet. My boyfriend turned to me, we had a fight of a different kind waiting for us.
"Well, now you two nicely messed thighs up," Daisuke joked, scratching his head. "But damn, you two were drawn to each other since we were kids."
He didn't need to add that remark about our shared past, now it was even harder for both of us to hide our blushing cheeks.