White mug. Black Coffee.
It had been the weekend already. Saturday, to be precise. Though, it was boring. Ever since that conversation with Iwasaki yesterday in the café, the distance between us had been quite difficult.
For me, it was awkward because she had rested her head on my shoulder. Ever since that, I haven't been able to look at her without remembering that situation. I swear I could still smell the hair conditioner she used on my shoulder.
For Iwasaki, however, I had no clue as to why. I presumed it was because of what I told her. I could only assume that she considered my advice, to which I understood.
Was that the right thing to say? I barely knew much of the situation between Okumori and her, and I only said something I thought would be logical. Would my advice just make it worse? I had been glaring at my mug intently while I contemplated before I grabbed the handle and pulled it over to my mouth, taking a sip.
“Those eyes… Onii-chan, What are you thinking about? Did you get heartbroken? Did onii-chan get boo-hoed?"
I spat out my coffee, the liquid splattering against the table.
“Like hell I did!” I yelled.
She wore a bathing towel, holding the top so it wouldn’t fall off. My sister stared at me with a disgusted face.
“Don’t look at me like that! Not with what you’re wearing! I should be the one with a disgusted look! Put some clothes on, Naoko!” I pointed at her aggressively.
“What?! Are you saying I don’t look good?!” She pointed back, her eyes fuming.
"Of course I am! You're talking to me half-naked! That is exactly what I'm indicating, you idiot! You don't have the appeal of a woman to me at all!"
“Shut up! You don’t have the appeal of a man either!”
“Huh?!” I stood up.
“You heard me! Ugly! Disgusting! I doubt any girls would fall for you!”
Naoko stuck her tongue out and pulled down on her eyelid.
“What?! I’m a girl magnet! Look at me!” I directed my thumb over to my chest.
We had yelled for a solid fifteen minutes at each other until we finally reached our limit and stopped. Naoko sat on the couch now, crossing her arms while she sulked. I was no different, both of us facing different ways.
“Coffee?” I spoke, breaking the silence.
“Mm,” Naoko agreed.
I stood up, walking over to the coffee machine, and grabbing a different mug, then pouring some black coffee inside.
“You never told me what you were in a bad mood about,” Naoko spoke in a bothersome manner.
“It’s nothing.” I lied, trying to keep my tone confident while I gave her the coffee.
“Really? You were really sulking over there.”
She took the mug, cupping her hands around it.
“Were you watching long?” I asked, somewhat disturbed.
“No- Well, yes. I was making fun of you in my head.”
“Funny.” I groaned.
I grabbed my coffee, setting myself down on the couch.
“Was I right? Was it a break-up?”
“No,” I replied blankly. “As I said, it’s nothing.”
She didn’t seem to back down.
“What?” I faced her.
“What?” She returned the look.
I shook my head in exhaustion from her questions.
“Stop asking me ridiculous questions. I’m not telling you.” I distressingly spoke.
“So it is something!"
Naoko lifted her right hand in accomplishment, letting out a silent yet happy cheer.
“That's not something to be happy about, Naoko." I sighed.
“Sorry.” She lowered her hand, then pointing at me. “I’ll help you!”
“Nope.” I didn't hesitate to reply.
“What? Why not?!”
Naoko leaned forwards, so close to the point where I could feel her breath against my cheek.
“You’ll just make it worse,” I uttered, pulling her face away from me with my hand.
I had no intent of Naoko getting involved, nor did I see a need for it.
“At least tell me what it is. Then I’ll decide if I’ll help or not.” She placed her coffee down, crossing her arms as she waited patiently. I didn’t respond, only staring at the table in front of me.
“You’re just gonna wait there half-naked?” I exhaled, pointing at her. Naoko still had her towel wrapped around herself.
“Yes.” She replied tamely.
“You damn airhead, put on some clothes then I might tell you," I grumbled.
“Fine.” Naoko moaned.
She stood up, running over to her room. In a matter of minutes, Naoko had slammed open the door, wearing a shirt that was labeled: LOVE. She also wore a pink skirt that complimented the t-shirt. I stared at her with repugnance.
“Why are you looking at me like that?!” She pointed, seeming embarrassed.
“Other than the fact that you genuinely look like a seven-year-old, it doesn’t fit you at all, and it makes me want to vomit-”
“Shut up! I know! You told me just to put clothes on, not be an idol!” Naoko declared.
I rolled my eyes, groaning, not attempting to argue against her remark. Naoko had walked over, setting herself down on the couch once more.
“So, what is it?” She crossed her arms again.
"I said I might tell you. What are you going to do anyway? Use a magic spell from that magic girl anime show you watch every day at six PM?"
"N-N-No, you idiot!"
She charged me and hit my shoulder with her hands.
"I-I don't watch that! What are you talking about?! What the hell is magic? If anything, you're the type to watch that! I would never! That's so weird!"
"You always force me to give you the remote around that time, so it's obvious that I'd be curious at what you've been watching! You'd have sparkling eyes whenever the pink-haired girl with ponytails does her magical move! You're in Junior high already, Naoko! Grow up!" I yelled, wincing and grunting each time she hit me.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" She continued hitting me.
"What was that move called again? The one where she spins her wand around and shoots out a projectile? Star-beam?" I teased.
"It's Star-gleam, you dum-"
She froze, realizing what she had said. I watched Naoko's face slowly turn into a bright red, then started hitting me even harder than before.
"Shut up!" She exclaimed once more.
Naoko eventually got over it, now sitting on the opposite side of the couch with a resentful face directed right at me. Meanwhile, I had been watching the TV and finishing drinking my coffee.
Noticing how vexed she was, I decided it'd be good to lighten up the mood a little.
"Do you remember Iwasaki-san?" I finally spoke.
"Onee-san?! Of course!" She confirmed.
She brightened up more than I thought she would. That glare of hers instantly turned into gleaming eyes.
"Y-You call her onee-san...?" I questioned.
"Yes!" Naoko nodded her head rapidly.
I had to take a deep breath so I could stop myself from yelling at how jealous I was at their close relationship.
I then proceeded to set my mug of coffee down on the table in front of me, connecting my hands as I leaned forwards. I had to think first. Was it worth telling Naoko what had happened? If I didn't, she'd most likely be agitated at me and avoid me for a while and probably hide the remote of the TV just to annoy me.
I pulled my hands away from each other and stared at the palm lines I had, recalling Iwasaki's words the other day about her pretending to be more delightful. Straightaway, I felt an urge to ask an important question.
"Naoko, what do you think of people who act bold or joyful?"
Naoko paused, clearly puzzled by my question. She then sighed, closing her eyes.
"I don't know what this has to do about onee-san, but if I had to say... They may be trying to hide something, and they want to make the people around them think that they're completely fine, while in reality, they're hurt. The more someone seems joyful, the more hurt they are on the inside. Though, it really could just be their personality, which is most likely the case. There might not be anything wrong with them in the first place." She shrugged.
"Can you say that about someone who used to be completely different?" I added.
"As I said, It's not a guarantee that they're hiding something. But, if they were a completely different person than before... There is a chance that they're not exactly happy."
I nodded, directing my head to face Naoko.
"Final question." I raised my finger.
"Huh? How many questions are you going to ask?! Just tell me about onee-san already!" She wailed.
"Shut up. Stop being so obnoxious and just answer it." I replied, annoyed.
Naoko crossed her arms and had a sullen pout on her face, averting away from my eyes.
"Do they do that to cope with their emotions? Or simply just not to be pitied?" I finally asked.
Naoko took a moment to realize my question, then yawned. She closed her mouth after and looked right at me.
"Everyone copes with problems differently. They could act happy as you said... Or look despondent and helpless. It depends on how they were taught to deal with their emotions, or simply how terrible their situation is."
I watched Naoko stare at me with a disinterested expression on her face. She then proceeded to point at me.
"For example... Males, like you-" She let out a small repulsed look then continued talking. "Were normally taught by society to hide your problems because it's weak and not 'like' you. You don't want to show that sad side of you to anyone, so you end up trying to resolve that problem yourself."
Naoko then pointed back at herself. "Meanwhile, females like me normally let out their emotions almost frequently. They don't hide it as guys do. They like to vent and tell their problems to other people."
I was about to nod until she leaned forwards once more and placed her finger on my chest in an aggressive way.
"BUT! It depends on that said person. Everyone's different. Everyone has their way of confronting their problems."
"I'm seriously debating whether you're thirteen years old," I said, somewhat shocked.
"Huh?! You made me say all of that just for you to insult me?! Did you even do your research in health class?! They talk about it there!" She dug her finger into my chest.
"No. I didn't pay attention much. Did you seriously listen to that boring class?" I blankly said.
"Of course I did, you idiot! Unlike you, I try to get good grades!"
Naoko went back to scolding me, as I simply ignored it and sunk what she had told me.
If that was the case... Then how much was Iwasaki not telling me? Instantly, I felt a distance between us. I already knew the situation between Okumori and Iwasaki, yet I always felt something was missing. So, what was that missing piece?
"So? What happened to onee-san?" Naoko had finally calmed down.
"Nothing. Don't worry about it." I lied, trying to have a confident tone.
Naoko let out a grumble, then sighed.
"Fine. I won't pry anymore." She griped.
My phone then vibrated in my pocket, to which I quickly pulled it out and looked at the message.
Message from: Iwasaki.
I blinked, then opened up the message to read what it had said.
"Miyake-san would like to meet you. She told me that she wanted to talk to you about something important? I don't know the details for sure, but she said to meet her in the coffee shop nearby school."
My heart skipped a beat. My head started to spin, and my thoughts started heading to weird conclusions as to why she was inviting me.
"Naoko, I'm heading out right now. I'll be back in an hour or two." I spoke, then swiftly stood up and went straight to my room before Naoko could say anything.
Once I had closed my door, I directly went to put on my light blue sweatshirt and some grey jeans, then exited outside the house. I strode my way over to the coffee shop, whistling a happy tune.
Ooh, what is she going to do? Did she rethink her decision? Am I going to get her as a girlfriend?
I giggled as I thought this before I realized what I had been doing. I instantly stopped smiling, then raised my hand and slapped myself on the cheek.
No, you can't! Iwasaki needs me! I won't falter!
I then felt confused, wondering why I instantly thought of Iwasaki. Then, the question that almost everyone asks themselves was now stuck in my head.
Is it because I like her?
I stopped walking for a second, staring at the concrete road that I stood on. I then raised my head towards the clear blue sky, comprehending what I had just asked myself.
"Probably," I muttered.
After finding my supposed answer, I continued to walk. Eventually, I had reached the coffee shop, looking inside. Upon my eyes were multiple people sitting at different tables, all either drinking their coffee, using their laptops, or simply conversing with each other. I felt rather amicable just being inside.
I had been waiting inside, my hands inside my pockets while I waited quietly. After a few minutes, I noticed a girl with a dazzling appearance. I had to squint to take a closer look before the girl looked over to me and waved happily. I stood there, dumbfounded, only to realize who it was judging from their orange eyes and blonde hair. Miyake stood, wearing an unzipped light green winter coat with a white shirt inside, which was also tucked inside some light blue skinny denim jeans that had rips around the knee area. She also wore white canvas sneakers to match the shirt she wore, as well as a handbag slung on her left shoulder.
I gulped, staring in awe at her style.
"Hi, Kojima-kun!" She happily called.
"Yo." I awkwardly waved.
She approached me, cheerfully looking at me. I looked at her attractive and contented smile, only to remember what Naoko had told me.
"The more someone seems joyful, the more hurt they are on the inside."
Yet, I also remembered what she said right after.
"It really could just be their personality, which is most likely the case. There might not be anything wrong with them in the first place."
I shook my head rapidly, forgetting what I had been thinking. I met eyes with Miyake, returning her smile.
"What do you need me for? Did you think about going out with me?" I joked.
Miyake's smile slowly turned into a displeased one. I instantly felt offended upon seeing her expression.
"Shut up. Playboy." She insulted me, then punching me in the chest.
I let out a grunt, coughing twice.
"Ouch!" I complained, holding my chest.
"That's not why I called you here, dummy." She looked away.
Seriously, even when Miyake looked agitated, it was too cute.
"I called you here to talk about Okumori-kun."
Miyake turned to face me once more, more of an earnest look on her face now.
"Huh? Did you call me here for relationship advice? You're finally dating Okumori-kun?" I questioned.
I watched Miyake's expression turn into infuriation as she punched me again in the stomach. I yelped, hunching over as I held my stomach.
"No, of course not! I wanted to talk about something else!" She indignantly stated.
"O-Okay! Stop punching me, jeez!" I cried.
We walked over to an empty table, setting our belongings either beside our chair or on the table. Miyake looked at me, placing her hands on her lap.
"You don't act like this to anyone else, do you?" I managed to ask.
"No. I only act like this because you were dumb enough to misread the situation and confessed to me while I pinned you on the wall with my sole intent to hide both of us from Okumori-kun and Iwasaki-san. So, therefore, I'm making sure that you don't fall for me again." She said in rapid succession.
I paused, looking straight at her with a sly smile.
"R-Right." I stuttered.
It was daunting to how serious that statement of hers sounded.
"Anyways, I want to know something!" She then pointed.
"What?" I said, intimidated by her aggressiveness.
"What do men like?"
Upon hearing her question, my head slowly went blank. I had been expecting more of a smarter question, yet here she was. I stared at her for a few more seconds, then finally deciding to speak.
"...Why do you need to know that?"
Miyake mousily directed her eyesight at the brown round table in front of her, clearing her throat.
"Don't freak out when I say this." She spoke angrily.
I swallowed, a shroud of curiousness surrounding me while I timidly nodded. I was oblivious to what she'd say next, slightly concerned about the fact that it was something she might hit me for. I started to fiddle with my fingers that were below the table and waiting anxiously.
"Okumori-kun and I are going to the mall tomorrow, and I don't know what he likes!" Miyake exclaimed.
I stopped moving my fingers, the feeling of curiosity suddenly disappearing. A snort erupted from my mouth as well as a tingly feeling in my stomach. Before I knew it, I had been laughing intensely. Miyake stared at me with a poker face, completely frozen.
"You're asking me?!" I cackled, pointing at her.
"Y-Yes..." She bashfully nodded.
I continued laughing, eventually calming down after a few seconds. I wiped my tears, letting out small giggles now and then.
"So... Let me get this straight. You want my help with your cute date with Okumori-kun?" Is that correct?" I pointed.
Miyake's stumped expression turned into a slightly flustered one.
"We're just hanging out together!" She declared.
"Isn't that the same thing as on a date?"
"Yes! No! I don't know!" She responded in a muddled tone.
I watched Miyake lift her arms towards the table, setting them down and using them as a cushion for her forehead.
"I just want to see him happy." She groaned.
I rested my arms on the table as well, staring at her blonde wavy hair in quietness for a few seconds.
"I see." I acknowledged.
I took a moment to recollect my thoughts, then sighed.
"He's still like that, huh?"
Miyake nodded under her arms, then stopped. She rose her head slowly, looking at me with uncertainty.
"Still? What does that mean? Did you know what he was like before?" She inquisitively questioned.
I let out a firm nod. "We were in the same Junior high, but we weren't friends. We never talked to each other, but we acknowledged each other's presence." I replied emphatically.
Miyake's eyes slightly widened as her eyebrows raised. She kept silent, nodding.
"I remember Iwasaki-san telling me you two went to the same Junior high... I didn't know that Okumori-kun was there too."
Miyake paused, seeming to realize something vital. Suddenly, I felt chills run down my spine, sensing something terrifying was coming. A surge of worry ran throughout my body, as I immediately felt uneasy.
"Wait... If you knew who he was, then what was he like? Was he still quiet back then? Was he popular? I mean, he looks pretty handsome, so I bet he was popular there! Was he outgoing or talked a lot? I'd pay to see it! Seriously, he never tells me anything about him... It's so stressful! I've never seen him smile before! He's practically invisible in school too! He never talks to anybody-"
"Stop! Stop!" I cried, waving my hands frantically in front of her.
Miyake stopped, looking at me in bewilderment. Meanwhile, I had my face buried in my hands, stressed and disoriented to how many questions and how rapid she spoke. I couldn't remember a single thing she spouted out, a dazed and nauseous feeling in my head.
"Kojima-kun?" She spoke, concerned.
"It's terrifying to how excited you can get." I groaned.
"Sorry. I couldn't contain myself..." Miyake apologized, looking down.
"Does that just happen whenever you're in an elevated mood?" A grumble came out of me.
Miyake nodded slowly. "I guess so."
It made me worried about how Okumori even dealt with this. If I couldn't deal with it, how could he? I doubt he'd be able to stand by the time she would be finished. It was purely devastating and too overwhelming to understand what Miyake could say.
I pulled my hands away from my face, looking over to Miyake in an enervated way, then exhaling and finally responding to her question.
"Okumori-kun was more... Joyful back then. I didn't know him too well, so don't expect me to give you a lecture about him. All I know is that he's completely different than how he is now."
Miyake sighed, her buoyant and elegant eyes earlier now having more of a dejected look on them.
"Something bad happened to him, didn't it?" She spoke in a somber tone.
I bit my lip, looking away from her and reluctantly nodding. We both kept quiet for a few seconds before I attempted to change the subject.
"Aside from that... You couldn't just ask him yourself about what he likes?"
Miyake shook her head to my question, lowering her head and resting her chin on her arms wearily.
"I doubt he'd tell me what he likes. I don't even know much about him. Plus, it'd destroy the point of my plan. I'm trying to surprise him, but it won't work if he already knows what I'm going to buy him..."
I paused, then nodded. "Fair point," I agreed.
I then leaned back on my chair, pulling my arms closer to my torso and crossing them together. I started to wonder what Okumori would like. That said, I had no valuable information about him. I had no idea who he was at all or even the simplest things about him. For example: Did he like dogs or cats better? Is he good with kids? Did he like vanilla or chocolate ice cream? I knew nothing.
"Then... What about a keychain? He might like that. I mean, I would, especially from a girl." I shrugged.
Miyake's eyebrows arched, as she placed her thumb and index finger towards her chin, nodding.
"I see." She said sternly.
I took a few seconds to realize what Miyake had been doing, watching her in slight bemusement. Miyake ignored me, sitting there in silence. Unknown as to why I decided to ask if she was okay.
"Shut up. I'm thinking." She interrupted me.
I stared at her with a deadpan expression, startled at her instant reply. I decided to follow her instructions, feared by the thought of her possibly throwing a hard punch to my face if I interrupted her train of thoughts.
"What kind of keychains do guys like?" She looked at me once more.
"You spent all that time pondering and couldn't find an answer to that?" I replied, baffled by her unintelligent question.
She shook her head rapidly.
The most astounding thing about this whole conversation we were having was how smart she could be, yet so dense and empty-minded as well. I groaned, leaned forwards, and rested my chin on my hand.
"Get him a good luck coin keychain. I've seen them in the mall before. Okumori-kun might like that." I said, somewhat peeved.
"Ooh... Okay!" She gave me a thumbs up.
A tricky smile formed on my face as she approved my suggestion.
"What else should I get him?"
She leaned forwards on the table, looking at me desperately. What happened to that desolate mood of hers earlier? The way she had switched her mood up drastically had astonished me. I sighed, then meeting her orange eyes that were sparkling and jubilant.
"I work in an ice cream shop inside the mall. If you run out of ideas, or simply want to get ice cream, you can come to me and I'll give you guys free ice cream cones." I replied, waving my hand.
"Yes! I will!" She nodded again.
We continued talking about what Okumori's interests would be such as sports, games, clothing, anything at all that guys would generally like. After a few minutes of conversing, we were interrupted by Miyake's phone erupting a ringtone. She sat back down in her seat and took it out, reading the message before letting out a deep sigh.
"I have to go, Kojima-kun. My mom's telling me to go home." She said, a little saddened.
"It's fine, I have to go check on my sister anyways." I waved my hand.
Miyake froze, staring at me in perplexity.
"You have a sister?" She curiously asked.
I nodded. "She's in Junior high still... And such a nuisance. Though, we get over our problems pretty quickly."
I remembered what Naoko and I had talked about earlier today once more, now looking at Miyake intently.
"Miyake-san, can I ask a quick question?" I asked.
"Hm? What is it?"
"You aren't hurt on the inside, are you?"
I watched her, waiting for her response. Miyake's eyelids raised, as well as her eyebrows in unison. Her pupils got smaller, as well as her overall expression changing into a stunned one for a quick second. She then smirked at me, shaking her head.
"No, of course not!" She giggled. "I'm happy as can be!"
Mutely, I nodded.
"Sorry for the odd question... I just had it pop in my head." I then smiled.
"It's fine!" She gave me another thumbs-up.
Miyake now lifted her finger, her eyebrows arched as she looked at me.
"I'm a little jealous, though! I'm an only child, and my mom's always at work, so I end up being alone in the house for the majority of the time!" She stated.
"Well, you can invite me and we can do something together in your house." I joked frivolously.
Miyake stopped, then looking at me in disgust.
"Gross." She murmured.
I then realized what I had said. Upon realization, I instantly reddened and flailed my hands frantically.
"N-Not in that way! I didn't mean it that way! Plus, it was a joke! I'm not indecent, I swear!" I yelled out.
"Shut up. Pervert!" She stood up and grabbed her handbag.
"Miyake-san! Believe me! I swear I won't do anything to you!" I reached out to her.
She stuck her tongue out to me before she hastily exited the coffee shop. I sat in my seat, watching her leave in disbelief. I took a moment to look at my surroundings, to which the customers had been murmuring to each other.
"Did he just get rejected..?"
"He's definitely indecent. They always say those types of things..."
"It's a good thing he didn't get her. She doesn't deserve him if he states such embarrassing things..."
I groaned, dropping my head on the table drearily.
Well, at least one of my doubts was answered.