Chapter 5:

Close to you

Mismatch Romance


Today, Tanaka and I are having lunch on the rooftop again. This time she bought soft shell tortillas filled with various meats and other toppings. Every time she tried to pick one up, all the toppings kept falling out. It was kind of funny to watch. I gave her my spare handkerchief, so she wouldn't get too messy.

"Are you sure I can have this?" She asked.

"Yeah, I have plenty at home. Plus you need it more."

"Thank you, Kazuma-kun!"

She picks up another tortilla and turns towards me.

“Hey Kazuma-kun, are you sure you don’t want to try just one taco? They’re really good, especially with lime and hot sauce.”

I took a bite of my fluffy bread, “I’m fine with this.”

“But didn’t you have that same bread the other day?"

“No, that was red bean. Today’s filling is custard.”

“Such a boring lunch, but it makes sense for a boring guy. Tee-hee.”

“Ha, ha,” I said sarcastically.  “So Tanaka, what’s the plan for today?”

“Since we decided to take things slow, why don’t we work on compliments.”

“...Compliments?”

“Yeah, every relationship starts with a compliment.”

“Sure, I guess.”

“Alright Kazuma-kun, you start!”

A compliment huh? I don’t even know what to say. How about this?

“You seem…very nice, Tanaka.”

“Kazuma-kun, that's such a boring compliment.”

“A boring compliment is still a compliment.”

“Well yeah, but you can use that compliment with anyone. See, flowers are nice, red pandas are nice, babies are nice, but your lover should be more than just nice. Remember, we’re trying to learn how to become better partners. So the compliments should be more special and meaningful. Try again!"

“Fine. You can sometimes be.... kind of cute, for a weirdo.” There I did it. How embarrassing. Great, I can see she's pouting. Now what?

“KA-ZU-MA! Bad!” She says as she chops the top of my head.

“Hey, I thought that one was better.”

“Not exactly. You made a backhanded compliment, which is even worse.”

“Huh?”

“Backhanded compliments are insults disguised as compliments. You could have just called me cute. But, in the end, you still called me a weirdo. Here, let me give an example. Kazuma-kun, you should smile more. You look really good when you actually smile.”

Oh?
Oh.
Ohhh…

"I see what you mean.”

“See, it would have been better to just say, Kazuma-kun you have a really nice smile. But instead, what I'm really saying is that you never look good, unless you're smiling and happy, which isn't true."

“Yes, I get it.”

“But Kazuma-kun, don’t think I’m just making up some random example,” she turns her face away. "I really do think you have a nice smile.”

Nice smile? I can feel my face blush. It's funny. Honestly, I'm used to hearing compliments and praises, but this time it feels a bit different. How odd.

"Um, thanks. Tanaka, I...really like...the way your hair smells!"

I like the way your hair smells. Even I can tell this compliment is creepy. She's probably offended again. But as I turn towards her, I can see her smiling.

“You do?" She shouts. "Well, I have been using this new tropical-scented shampoo and conditioner. I’ll bring you some next time.”

“Eh, sure.” At least she took the compliment well.

“ Hey Kazuma-kun, I’ve been wondering, where do you go in the afternoon?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, remember that rainy day when we first met? I tried to find you after school. So I could return your shirt. But you weren't there. Then, the other day, I waited for you by the school gate, but you weren't there again. Then I heard some other students say you never stay after lunch."

"Yeah, once lunch is over, I just go home."

“What? But how? Won't your Sensei get mad?"

“Not really. As long as I keep my grades up, they don't mind, and since I have my own tutors, I'm never behind. Plus, as my family is so well known, the school doesn't mind what I do. Honestly, school is such a pain. It's pointless."

“Bad, Kazuma, bad!” She chops me on the head again.

"Again with the chopping. Really?"

Suddenly, her eyes widened. She frantically reaches into her bag and pulls out something shiny and gray. Then she quickly throws the cool metal object on both our wrists.

Is this... it can't be...

“Handcuffs! Tanaka, please tell me you didn't just handcuff us to each other!”

“Mmm hmm,” she says proudly.

“Why…?”

“Besides making each other feel good, partners should also encourage each other to do their best and be their best selves. That's why I decided to handcuff you. So I can make sure you attend your afternoon classes.”

“Let me guess. You don’t have the key, do you?”

“Nope! I left the key in the car.”

“Are you serious? You do realize what a problem this is, right? Which class do we even go to? How are we going to use the bathroom?”

“Uh, I’m sorry." She looks downward towards her feet. "It seems I didn’t think this through. We should just skip the afternoon classes and wait for my driver. I'm really stupid, aren’t I.”

I let out a sigh. "You've probably never missed class before, right? You said it yourself, partners are supposed to help each other. We'll figure it out. Today shouldn't be your first skip day."

“Thank you so much, Kazuma-kun!"

“Also, stop putting yourself down so much. Sure sometimes your decisions aren’t the best, but you don't need to keep being so hard on yourself. People are always going to judge you harshly, don’t let yourself be one of those people.

She rubs her eyes and smiles, “You're right. Thanks.”

The lunch bell rings. 

"It's showtime," I said

Surprisingly, we made our way down to the first-floor classrooms with ease.

“Alright, Tanaka, it’s time to decide which classroom, 1-A or 1-E.”

“Let’s do your class, 1-A,” she says quickly.

Wrist by wrist, we entered the classroom. Sensei and my other classmates stared at the two of us intensely. It's making me feel a bit anxious. Then, I turned my gaze towards Tanaka, she's playing with the tips of her hair. I wonder if she's nervous too.

Before Sensei could speak, I jumped right in.

"Ah, I understand your confusion. But my father is working on a movie about spies, and we lost the key. We're very sorry for the inconvenience."

The two of us bowed our heads in unison.

"Oh don't worry, I love your father's movies," Sensei responds. "Here, I'll bring over an extra chair to your desk."

I can't believe that worked.

While walking was easy, sharing the same desks while handcuffed was difficult. Because my right hand is handcuffed, it's pretty difficult to write without bumping into her. More so, it seems my wrist is starting to ache with the extra weight. I see Tanaka looking over my wrist.

"I have an idea," she whispers. She raises her hand, "Sensei, if it's okay could we go to my classroom instead, I forgot I have something important to do over there."

She nods her head.

"Huh, what was that about?" I asked.

"It looks like your wrist is starting to hurt. Since my right hand is free, I'll just take notes for us both."

"Thanks."

The two of us headed over to Tanaka’s classroom. I explained the situation like before. And we both took our seats at her desk. I'm not sure if it has to do with being in a different classroom, but I feel like her classmates' stares feel more intense than in my class.

At one point during class, there was an announcement calling for Tanaka’s sensei. Her sensei told us to quietly study on our own until he returns. But as soon as he left, the classroom was anything but quiet.

"Why is she with Ito-san? She’s soo ugly," one girl whispers.

"I bet she's bribing the director," said another.

"Bribing? Please. This girl has no status. It's a pity they let someone dumb and low-class like her enroll in the prestigious Kosei High."

"She's probably doing extra special favors," one guy snickered.

"Have you looked at her, who wants to be with someone as weird and stupid as her?"

Tanaka...

She lifts her face and smiles.

"Don't worry Kazuma-kun. They say these things all the time, it's no big deal," she says softly.

So this is what your classmates think of you. Ah, I see. Tsk, how annoying...

I stood up from the desk.

"What are you doing, Kazuma-kun!" She whispers loudly.

I gave her a reassuring smile.

"Just being my best self."

Now all eyes are on me.

Taylor J
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minatika
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