I made my way to the front of the classroom, with Tanaka following closely by my side.
“Hey, just shut it! Honestly, your lack of consideration for others is impressive. You whisper, pretending that I won’t hear what’s being said. Thinking that I’ll just ignore it. Well congratulations, you got my attention. From what I see, it’s clear that you each have ugly personalities. Heh. You guys would fit well in the current film industry. Where jealousy runs rampant. Where people are constantly competing, bringing each other down, just to get ahead. It's disgusting.
It's time to wise up and change. Remember, in the end, we are all in the same year, we all are students of Kosei High. When we graduate we will eventually work with each other. What’s the point of tearing someone down, and spreading false rumors, when we are all here to learn and grow? Instead of wasting time gossiping, just focus on studying and treating each other better.”
I took a deep breath. Silence fills the air. I hope I didn’t overdo it.
Tanaka says in awe.
A student raises her hand.
“So Ito-san, is Tanaka your girlfriend?”
Shit. Why this question? I don’t blame them for making this assumption, but still, this is not good. If word gets out that we are engaged the paparazzi will be relentless. It’ll be hard for us to lead a normal high school life. Plus, things are already bad for Tanaka now, it’ll get worse if they were to find out about the engagement. Even if it is a sham.
I cleared my throat.
“No, of course not. We are just scene partners. Sometimes my father likes me to test out various scenes before he decides to add them to the script. I have zero interest in Tanaka. She's just an acquaintance, that's all."
"Yeah, plus I already have a boyfriend," Tanaka chimes in.
“You do?” They asked. Then suddenly the girls swarm around Tanaka, curious to see the guy. Before these girls seemed ready to rip her throat, and now they want to chat. How hypocritical.
Afterward, her Sensei returned and class went about as normal. Soon the final bell of the day rang. Tanaka and I are waiting by the school gates.
“So you have a boyfriend huh?” I asked.
“Tee-hee. No, that's just something I said to get them off our backs. I was just showing them pictures of my other past fiancés”
“Well, I guess you do have a lot to choose from.”
We both laughed.
“Kazuma-kun, thank you so much for what you did back there. You didn’t have to though.”
“You were bothered by them, weren’t you? Besides I didn’t mind lecturing them, I really dislike people who gossip and badmouth.”
“Some afternoon, huh? I guess today really was a waste of time. Just another stupid idea of mine.”
I raised my hand and proceeded to chop Tanaka on the head.
“Bad, Tanaka, bad.”
“You chopped me?”
“What did I just say earlier, stop dragging yourself down. Also, who said today was a waste of time? I had a bit of fun. Plus I think I prefer learning in the classroom environment, rather than at home with the tutors. Maybe being handcuffed to you wasn’t such a bad idea after all.”
I can see Tanaka’s face brighten.
“I probably won’t mind staying at school after lunch. Only on the condition, that you speak up and you stop calling yourself stupid. Deal?”
Soon enough, Tanaka’s driver arrived and we were able to free ourselves.
“See you tomorrow, Kazuma-kun.”
“See you tomorrow, Tanaka.”
Unfortunately, after that day, we had to pause our Operation L&D lunch meetups. You see, a student was recording the speech I gave to Tanaka’s class, and it went viral throughout the school. Since it felt like there were more eyes on us than usual, it was best to lay low. However, we at least texted each other occasionally. Tanaka even mentioned how her classmates were starting to be slightly nicer to her.
Luckily, after a few days, the news died down. And everybody went back to catching up on the latest trends and gossip. Tanaka kept pushing to resume Operation L&D, and today, I finally gave in. The two of us are back together on the roof once more. This time Tanaka had just finished eating an Indian dish, called Dal. Which kind of looked like curry to me, but she said it's similar to soup.
After she took her last bite, she asked, “What do you do after school?”
“Usually, I just go home, scroll through my phone, do some homework and just sleep till dinner.”
“Eh, I don’t mind.”
“But you know Kazuma-kun, I was thinking, why don’t we join a club.”
“Join a club…why?”
“Think about it, if we were in the same club people would be less suspicious if we hang out. Plus being in a club together can help strengthen our bond. You haven’t forgotten the objective of Operation Lovey Dovey, right? Partners should try to take an interest in each other's hobbies. Also, don't you want to do something fun? You’re just wasting your precious youth."
“Fine, I get it. But are there even any openings available? It’s been a couple of weeks since school started. Everything is probably full.”
“Let me check.” Tanaka pulls out her phone and begins searching on the school app. “Well it seems like the only clubs with openings are the JP_lit ☆A club or the Cooking Club.”
“The JP lit star A club? That can’t be a real club.”
“Yes it is, see." She begins to read from her phone. "The JP_lit ☆A club, is otherwise known as the Japanese Literature and Animation Appreciation Club. This club explores the beauty and meaning of the rich, picturesque, illustrative, literature and the marvelous, stupendous, engrossing animation…”
“Then, that leaves the Cooking Club.”
The Cooking Club huh? An opportunity to test one's culinary expertise, make interesting dishes, eat delicious food, and get to be in the kitchen.
Tanaka begins to tap her finger against her chin. She then smiles.
“You can’t hide it from me. You want to join, don’t you? I can see it all over your face. After all, your face lightened up when I mentioned the cooking club.”
I sighed. “It doesn’t matter anyways. A guy like me has no place in the kitchen. If I tried to cook I would just mess it up anyways. Besides, I could always have someone else prepare my meals. Learning to cook is just a waste of time. It's pointless.”
“Kazuma-kun, the kitchen is for everyone! It doesn’t matter who or what you are, anyone can cook. Sure you might make mistakes, everybody does, but that's how we learn. Alright, that settles it! We are joining the cooking club. After all, I want to join too!”
Once classes were over, Tanaka and I headed straight to the Cooking Club’s clubroom. There we were greeted by a member at the door.
“Hello, my name is Hina Yamada, I’m the club leader of the cooking club, do you two need any assistance? Wait a minute, you're Kazuma Ito, right? I can’t believe it. I just love your father’s films. Are you interested in a meal or perhaps joining our club."
"Yeah, we're both looking to join," I said.
“I'm sorry but there's only room for one more."
“Oh, I'm not joining,” she said.
“Can you excuse us?”
I pulled Tanaka aside.
“What are you doing?”
She smiles, “Kazuma-kun, I can see it in your eyes, you really want to cook. Don’t worry I’ll be alright. I know earlier I said it's good for couples to be together and share similar interests. But it’s okay to do different things too. Just promise me that one day you will cook me a special meal.”
With that, she took her leave.
“Come Ito-san, let’s get you an apron,” Yamada-san says.
This feels wrong. While I am excited to cook. It just doesn’t feel right doing this without Tanaka. Especially since she was interested in joining too. And if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have thought about joining either.
“Yamada-san, you really can’t add any more additional members?”
“As I said before, we are full.”
“Then I quit.”
“What! You’re quitting the cooking club?”
“Yeah. If we both can’t join, then I quit.”