Chapter 28:

Dinner invitation

Bonded by Music

As someone who struggled to share his worries, Eloy decided not to pressure Genta when he didn’t get in touch for the rest of the weekend. After all, it could only mean that Genta was busy, since Sunday was the day that it took him the longest to reply to any messages.

Then Monday came, and Genta hadn’t said anything yet. But well, it was a National Holiday, so maybe Genta was spending the day off with his mother, and wasn’t paying attention to the phone.

By Tuesday, Eloy was running out of excuses, so he sent Genta a short message, asking if everything was okay. Several hours later, the response finally came: a simple ‘Yeah, just busy, thanks for asking’. And the frustrated sigh that Eloy let out in the common room of the share house made several heads turn in his direction.

That afternoon he was supposed to meet with Cristina, but he made up an excuse of not feeling very well - which wasn’t too far from the truth - and went to Harmony instead. He arrived when a couple of hours remained until its opening time.

He knocked as usual, expecting to see Mako and Narumi at the other side of the door. To his surprise, it was Ms. Yamane who opened it with a smile.

“Oh, I wasn’t expecting you today. Did you and Genta need to practice?”

“No, I had just come here to play for a bit, but if it’s a bad time, I can come back when the bar is open.”

Eloy was pretty sure that his tone had sounded perfectly normal, but Ms. Yamane narrowed her eyes a little before adopting a softer tone. “Eloy, is everything okay?”

The question caught Eloy off guard. And though he was initially tempted to lie, he ended up shaking his head. “Actually, something happened this Saturday.”

Fifteen minutes later he was still talking while sitting in one of the high stools, with Ms. Yamane standing behind the counter. They were the only people at the bar, since the girls had taken the day off. Ms. Yamane had also insisted on preparing him a smoothie with the excuse that she wanted one for herself.

“...and that would be it,” Eloy finished, finally taking a sip of his own drink. It tasted really good. “We haven’t spoken since then, and I have the feeling that he’s avoiding me.”

“And didn’t Genta explain to you anything else about Taichi? Or about his father?”

“Nothing.” Eloy exhaled a new sigh and averted his eyes. “Maybe I should’ve asked. But I was afraid of pressing him and making him push me away even more.”

His conflicted words caused Ms. Yamane to play a comforting hand on his arm. “I really doubt that Genta ever pushes you away. He really appreciates you.” She made a pause before talking again. “I wish that I could tell you more, but it’s not my story to tell.”

“It’s okay.” Eloy tilted his head with curiosity. “But can I ask how you met them?”

“Oh, Hiromi and I went to the same University. We met there and became really good friends, but lost contact after finishing our respective grades. We didn’t meet again until years later, one day when she and her husband entered this bar by chance, before it became Harmony.” Ms. Yamane started twirling her straw in her drink. “They appeared in my life just in time to save me.”

Eloy’s eyes opened more. “Save you?”

Ms. Yamane nodded, took a short sip, and continued talking.

“My ex-husband wasn’t a good man. For years he made me believe that I was nothing without him, and that I would never be able to run this bar on my own, even if it was mine to begin with.” Ms. Yamane’s tone, a little bitter until then, acquired fondness. “Genta’s parents helped me escape from that. They were there for me, supported me when I finally decided to divorce, and welcomed me in their home as I learned to forgive and love myself again. I owe them everything, and I’ll do everything I can to repay that favor.”

Eloy gulped softly. This time it was him the one who settled a hand on the woman’s arm, which made Ms. Yamane smile again.

“Genta has inherited that kindness and bravery from them. I don’t know if Mako and Narumi have told you how they became friends, but if they haven’t, ask them. It’s a nice story.”

Eloy was about to try to convince Ms. Yamane to tell him more, not to be left with that suspense when a new knock sounded at the bar, causing Ms. Yamane to leave the counter to open it.

“Hiromi?” Eloy stopped drinking in order to look towards the door. Genta’s mother was there, sustaining a beautifully enveloped packet in her hands. “Weren’t you working today?”

“Yes, but I could escape for a moment to give you this.”

“Hiromi, I’ve already told you that you didn’t need to.”

“And I told you that I wanted to. You’ve been helping the boys so much with the contest so please, accept it–” Hiromi finally noticed Eloy, and her face illuminated. “Oh, I’m glad to see you again, sweetie! How are you?”

“He’s missing your son.” Eloy was glad not having taken another sip when Ms. Yamane suddenly said that, because he would have spit it all otherwise. “It seems that Genta is worried about something, but he’s keeping it to himself.”

“Really?” Hiromi exhaled a soft sigh. “I had noticed that he had been quieter these past days, but he didn’t tell me anything.” Hiromi finally entered the bar and approached Eloy to place a hand on his shoulder. “Listen, why don’t you come over tonight to have dinner? That way my stubborn son won’t have any escape route and you two will be able to talk.”

Eloy opened his mouth to say that he didn’t want to set Genta up.

But then he realized that, deep inside, he really liked that idea.

“I’d love to, Ms. Ishikawa,” he said while bowing his head a little, which caused the woman to smile widely.

“Perfect. But please, call me Hiromi. Ms. Ishikawa makes me feel too old.”

Hiromi gave Eloy her address and told him to pass by around 7:00 PM. Eloy spent the rest of the afternoon playing the piano until it was time for him to go.

It was a couple of minutes before the agreed time when Eloy stood in front of the Ishikawa's apartment, feeling a little nervous. At the second knock, Hiromi opened the door.

“So punctual!” Hiromi said with a smile, gesturing inside with a soft movement of her hand. “Please come in, and make yourself comfortable. The dinner will still take a while.”

Eloy left his sneakers at the entrance and stepped inside. The apartment was a rather old 1LDK, but it was well-equipped and furnished with taste.

“I’m sorry, it’s a little messy,” Hiromi commented from the small kitchen where she was preparing dinner, after noticing Eloy looking at the several crocheted plushies of different animals and sizes scattered on the table. “Lately I’m having a lot of orders, which is good, but we’re running out of space.”

“Orders?” Eloy looked at Hiromi with surprise. “Wait, have you made them all?

His impressed question made Hiromi smile proudly. “Yes, I’ve always loved crocheting, but then I realized that I could actually get some money from it, so I sell them in an online store. You can check it if you want. And if there’s something you like, I’ll make you one for free. And you better not try to pay for it.”

Eloy laughed at the final, familiar threatening tone. “Okay. But I’ll just accept it if you let me help you tonight. What can I do?”

Hiromi chuckled but shook her head. “Thank you, sweetie, but the kitchen is too small for two people.” She paused when she was about to open the fridge. “Although well, do you see that paper on the table? It has information on the orders that I still have to pack. If you could help me with that, I’d appreciate it.”

Eloy smiled and nodded. “Leave it to me.”

The next half-an-hour passed by quickly, with Hiromi preparing dinner and Eloy helping pack the orders. Talking to Hiromi was easy. She asked Eloy about Spain, his family, and eventually the contest inevitably came up.

They had just broken into a fit of laughter, after Eloy started giving details of how hard the first challenge was while making trends, when the sound of keys jingled, causing Eloy’s heart to skip a beat as the door opened.

“Hey, mom, sorry for being late. There was a small problem with the last delivery and–”

And predictably, Genta’s jaw almost hit the floor when seeing Eloy there.

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