Chapter 31:

How I Spent Not My Birthday

Cursed Lines

"When was the last time I saw you up so early?" my mother wondered, rubbing her eyes and groping the coffee for herself. The smell of the drink woke her up a bit, and she watched intently as I carefully packed the cake. "It looks great, it was really hard not to try a bit of it." I glared at her, frustrated that the pastry wouldn't cooperate with me. "Now, now, I respected your request not to touch it."

"That's part of a birthday present too," I said calmer as the cake was safely tucked into the bottom of the bag. "A very important part of the gift."

"Will you be celebrating on the beach?" she was surprised. "If so, why are you leaving so early? And who has a birthday?"

"Not really," I explained. "It's Tatsuo's birthday, he wanted to go to the beach, he even offered to take the rest, but he asked me not to tell them about his birthday. Although, maybe Daisuke would remember." I thought for a moment. "No, he wouldn’t. He doesn't even remember when Maiko's birthday is. Anyway, we're going to celebrate his birthday in the morning, and then we'll meet the others at the station and go to the beach."

Mom stood up and stroked my head with tears in her eyes, then hugged me tightly. I wondered what had got into her unless it was because she hadn't had a full cup of coffee yet.

"My son has definitely prepared something special, I didn't think he was such a romantic," she laughed.

"Mom." I pulled away from her embrace. "I love you, but you scare me right now."

She smiled and urged me to leave. I checked that I had everything, the cake was safe, the gift was wrapped, and the beach equipment was ready. I was able to move, but Konya let me know that he was already waiting outside my block. Mom couldn't let it go and followed me outside to watch us for a while. I greeted Tatsuo and let him know we had an audience. We looked up, and my mother just formed a heart with her hands looking at us, and in a moment she sent us a message that we looked cute together.

"Does this mean I've been accepted?" Konya laughed and put his hand on my shoulder, pulling me closer.

"Watch out for the bag," I muttered, peeking inside to make sure everything was okay while not letting the birthday boy guess what was in there. "I don't know, I guess she's having fun just embarrassing me, but I hope it's a good start," I replied to his question.

"I'll take it," he announced taking the second bag from my shoulder, I looked at him gratefully, he didn't mind that he had to carry two now.

Tatsuo was smiling happily all the time as if he knew that some nice surprise was waiting for him and tried to pretend that he wasn't waiting for it. I liked him best in this version, cheerful and carefree, either talking about something with enthusiasm or eating cheesecake. Then his eyes took on such a glow, so inconsistent with the shape of his pupils. No one would have guessed who his mother was then, when I thought about her, he did not resemble her in any way, except for some moments when her genes clearly dominated.

"Kiyoshi, I have a request for you," Tatsuo broke the silence that accompanied us during this short walk.

"What is it about?" I asked curiously.

"I know you don't like using your skills, but my dad recently met someone. There are a couple of years difference between them, so I'm a bit sceptical about this relationship. Could you please..."

"Sure." I smiled at him. "I don't mind using it, I just don't like being forced to use it without any specific conditions and reasons."

We finally got to the place where I wanted to take him from the beginning. Konya paused for a moment as he recognized the playground where we met. He laughed for a short while and hugged me.

"You're very sentimental," he said.

"That's bad?"

"No, on the contrary, it's insanely cute," he said and took off running, knowing that I don't necessarily like that statement.

I just rolled my eyes and followed him, and we sat down on the ground, leaning against a structure I had tried to climb twelve years ago. I sighed heavily, remembering my clumsiness, my inseparable companion.

"Close your eyes," I asked Tatsuo, who looked at me curiously, but did not resist, he just politely obeyed.

I took out a cheesecake and a candle, which I kindly managed to light with a third match. I cursed under my breath, only causing more amusement to Konya, who began to mutter something under his breath that I should hurry up because he would like to see what would make me so nervous. When I finally succeeded, I shoved a fake cheesecake under his nose and told him to open his eyes. His initial surprise was quickly replaced by joy.

"Happy birthday," I whispered, handing him the cake, he looked at me expectantly.

"And the 'Happy Birthday' song?"

"Forget it," I muttered. "I won't sing."

"I would sing for you," he said, offended. "I'll remind you of that! Now blow out that candle."

Konya finally did it, pretending to think about his wish for a long time, meanwhile, I took out a fork out of my bag and handed it to him. He was surprised that I wouldn't eat either, but I could see that he was glad that the whole portion was for him. I gave him time to calmly eat his birthday present, and he looked like he was enjoying every bite. He praised the taste several times, which made me very happy, because this time I really tried, and from the beginning I knew that it would be difficult to please him as a cheesecake gourmet.

"It's already the best birthday of my life," he said, smiling at me. "Thank you."

"It's not over," I said. "I have a gift for you. It's not a big deal, but I hope you like it."

I took an envelope from my bag and handed it to my boyfriend. Konya accepted the gift gratefully and carefully opened it. I wasn't quite sure what to give him, so I made a bookmark for him. I painted it myself, and I was really proud of it because I wasn't very fond of painting in a small area. It showed a castle in the mountains, surrounded by a forest, which I modelled on several real buildings of this type from Europe.

Tatsuo stared at it with delight, absorbing every detail, holding the gift with delicacy and fear.

"It's beautiful," he said, putting the bookmark back into the envelope. "I'll be afraid to use it for fear of destroying it."

"I can paint you a new one every year," I replied, which surprised me with a short kiss.

"I will look forward to it. After all, we're stuck with each other," he joked.

"Does this not scare you?"

"No. Absolutely not," he replied confidently. "And thank you for everything. This day is already special for me."