“H-how did you know?”
She found out that Shinonome had been cooking for me. It might be possible to lie…..no, it’s impossible.
She said that because she knew that.
“It’s easy to tell. The position of the seasoning was totally different from home. ……These things tend to be a habit at home. So what do you think? Is that right? Nagi chan.”
Nagi looked at me as if she was a little troubled. I quietly…..nodded.
“Y-yes. But, I-I’m doing this on my own. Because I felt indebted. ……Please don’t blame Souta kun too much.”
Said Shinonome. ……She’s a really considerate girl. But in fact, I’m aware that I’m in a position to get scolded.
“…..Shinonome. You’re doing it because you’re worried about my eating habits. I’ve been hiding it, but I haven’t cooked for myself since the first few days. I’m sorry, Mom.
I bowed to my mother. After a few seconds… I heard my mother sighing.
“Geez, it can’t be helped. ……It’s your first time living on your own, and you have school life. I won’t get angry right away. Anyway, Nagi chan, thank you. It looks like you’ve been taking care of this kid.”
“N-no. Really, he’s the one who’s been taking care of me.”
Though Shinonome said that to me. I really can’t be more grateful to her.
“……I have to say one more thing. I’m going to take care of the lunches.”
“……Nagi chan, is it okay? Tell me if the burden is too much for you, okay?”
“N-no. I make the meal and lunch because I like it. It’s fun. He said it was delicious, so it’s worth making.”
Listening to Shinonome’s gentle words. My mother smiled softly.
“So that means Nagi chan is a really good cook.”
We both tilted our heads, not understanding what she was saying. Certainly, Shinonome is a good cook.
Seeing us like that, my mother continued to explain.
“This boy. He’s very honest. When the food is good, he will say it’s delicious, but when it’s not, you can tell by looking at him. His eating speed, facial expression, and everything else is different.”
“I-is that so !?”
That’s the first time I heard of it. When I was surprised, my mother nodded her head.
“It’s very noticeable when he eats frozen food. No, maybe he just liked my cooking. He ate it with a grumpy look on his face. Naturally, even if I don’t have time, I still make it.”
“….I didn’t know that.”
That means. When I eat the lunch I received from Shinonome recently, or when I eat her meal, I unconsciously say that it’s delicious……was it a habit from the past?
Shinonome made a surprised face when she heard my mother’s story…..and then she stared at me and smiled.
Softly and happily.
“Souta kun and I. We’re similar. ……And I’m glad. Souta kun, I thought you might be just flattering me or something.”
“That’s not true.”
Even so…it still tickles when she calls me by my first name.
“Yes. Souta is an obedient child in both good and bad ways. Nag chan, when you’re being praised, you should accept it honestly.”
Shinonome blushed and nodded at my mother’s words. I think I remembered something…but I don’t know what it was.
“Even so, it really looks like Souta can’t live without you, Nagi chan.”
“I have nothing to say back.”
It’s not exaggerating when she said that my life is in Shinonome’s hands. …..I’m not sure if I can go back to my usual daily life.
Those days. I don’t hate that kind of daily life. I mean, I thought I liked it.
I looked at Shinonome as I thought about that,…..and she seemed to be thinking about something with a difficult face.
“What’s wrong? Shinonome.”
“……No. I was just thinking……that I had to hurry a little.”
The expression on her face looked a little more serious than usual.
“If there’s anything I can do, you can talk to me.”
I said that unintentionally. Shinonome grinned and shook her head.
“No, this is my problem…..and I can’t tell you about it, Souta kun. Besides, I have talked about it with my few friends. Don’t worry.”
“Really? ……That’s fine then.”
It looked like she didn’t want me to ask too deeply, so I cut the conversation there for now.
And then. My mother started talking.
“……Well, if Nagi chan is with Souta, he’ll be fine. Then, I’ll go and cook. Please wait.”
“Yeah, okay. Thank you.”
And this time, lunch was served.
We had fried chicken for lunch. My mother’s cooking, so nostalgic, yet delicious. Shinonome also likes it. There was quite a lot of it, but I was able to gobble it up.
And what we’re going to do now is….
“This is Souta’s album when he was in elementary school.”
“Wow, this is him ! He’s soooo cute!”
It was time to appreciate the album my mother had brought. As for me, I was extremely embarrassed.
“I don’t know why Souta never made any friends. I wonder why.”
“Because I prefer to be alone. I was tired of adjusting myself to the people around me.”
“You were very mature from then on. Oh, this is a picture of the relay.”
The one Shinonome saw was……if I recall, it was the relay when I was in the second grade of elementary school.
“That’s right. Souta was very fast. He was the anchor for the sports festival, and I believe he came from last to first at that time.”
“I remember that too.”
That brings back memories. I was the anchor for all of my elementary school years.
At the same time……I suddenly remembered something. My mother grinned.
“Souta seems to be very popular at that time. Every year after the field day was over, Souta seemed to have a hard time〜. He was a little embarrassed, but he looked happy.”
The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that the first time you see a new product, you will be surprised.
For a second, Shinonome’s [Ice Princess] gaze has come back, sending a chill down to my spine.
“B-by the way. After a month, everyone was getting tired of it, you know?”
“A month. …..Tired of it? Of Souta kun?”
That’s weird. Why am I talking like I’m making excuses? And why is Shinonome so angry?
“M-more importantly. I miss this. The performance at the school festival.”
Anyway, let’s just change the subject. I pointed at the photo there.
Shinonome was looking at me with slanted eyes…..but she shifted her gaze there.
“Um, why a tree?”
“It was for kids who weren’t good at acting and stuff. There were roles of trees and stones. After I graduated, the parents complained about it, so it was discontinued.”
So nostalgic. The role of the tree. Ah, I miss it.
“……Well, it’s fine.”
Relieved by Shinonome’s words. She looked at the album again.
“Ah, here you are in middle school.”
“Yes, that’s right. ……I’m not sure if he made any friends. I was so worried.”
“I liked being alone. I was a bookworm at that time.”
Fortunately, I was a person who liked to be alone.
…..Although I said that. Now that I think about it, I just didn’t know the joy of having friends.
Sure, there’s no one who didn’t feel pain being alone.
“…..I feel the same way. I’ve been alone for a long time too.”
Shinonome said that with a slightly sad look on her face.
……That’s right. Shinonome said that herself.
Shinonome is different. Maybe she didn’t like to be alone…..or maybe she actually did.
I’m not sure if I’m being too self-conscious, but after becoming friends with Shinonome, she seems to have become somewhat more lively.
“We’re not alone now.”
‘Yes ! That’s true !”
Shinonome smiled…..but there was a slight gloom in her expression.
“I don’t get to be alone anymore. I must do my best.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Shinonome shook her head and lowered her gaze to the album.
“Looking at it this way, I’m getting a little bit closer to Souta kun……”
I answered with a wry smile and turned the page.
“I really miss it.”
“Well, you said you didn’t have any friends. You really enjoyed being alone, didn’t you?”
“I was busy with studying and other things.”
No, I was bored, so I could only do things like study and read.
“Come to think of it. How did you do on your last test?”
I remembered something I hadn’t told her.
“Wait here for a minute.”
I went to my bedroom and grabbed a piece of paper. Then I went back into the living room and handed it to my mother.
“First place ! That’s amazing ! Come here.”
My mother said so and held out her hand.
“No, I mean, I’m a high schooler now. It’s a little embarrassing. Shinonome is here too.”
“No, It’s our family tradition. [The child who works hard has to be praised a lot by his mother or father.] Now, hurry up.”
When I was reluctant, my mother shouted…..and looked at Shinonome, who was tilting her head, with a smile.
“By the way, how about you, Nagi chan?”
“Ah, me? I got first place.”
“That’s great ! Then I should praise Nagi chan a lot too. Come here, you two.”
My mother extended her hand happily…… It can’t be helped.
I looked at Shinonome, who was still tilting her head.
“My mother is so stubborn about this kind of thing. Shinonome, will you play along?”
“Eh? P-play…..ehem. Play along?”
“I told you before. My mother is the type of person who has to praise her child who works hard. Would you like to be spoiled by her?”
When I said that, Shinonome widened her eyes. ……Her mouth is opening and closing.
“A-are you okay?”
I was unexpectedly surprised when I saw something different from what I had imagined…I smiled wryly.
“…Yeah. Please do.”
“Come on, hurry up !”
I went to see Shinonome and …… both of us went to hug Mom.
My mother urged us to come quickly. Shinonome and I decided to lay along…the two of us went to hug my mother.
“All right all right. You both did a great job. It’s really amazing. You’re number one out of hundreds of people, you know?”
She patted us on the head. The same goes for Shinonome. A little… No, it was quite embarrassing.
But looking at Shinonome, my cheeks relaxed.
Because her expression……looked so happy.
Just like that, for a little while. We had our heads patted by my mother.
“Yeah. I just wanted to see your face. I wanted to spend more time with you if your father could come. It can’t be helped.”
My mother was leaving, and we were at the door to see her off.
“Thank you for today.”
“It’s my pleasure. Souta seems to have been quite helpful. …..I know it’s going to be hard, but from now on, please take care of Souta, okay? ”
“Yes ! …I’m also indebted to him. We will do our best to support each other !”
The way she said it made me think of something bad again. I closed my eyes to get rid of the bad thoughts.
“Then, be careful on your way home. Mom.”
“Thank you. Souta, take care of yourself, okay? See you later.”
“S-see you later.”
After seeing my mother off, we sat on the sofa.
“She’s a very good mother, isn’t she?”
“Yeah…..I think so too.”
I hear a lot of high school students don’t get along with their parents. At least it wasn’t like that at my place.
“She’s a very gentle person. ….J-just like Souta kun.”
So she said. She called me by my first name……my heart made a nasty sound.
“Sh-Shinonome, my mother has gone home, so the name-calling is–“
Shinonome interrupted me and looked at me intently.
“Please call me Nagi. People will think we don’t get along well if you call me by my surname even though we are friends.”
Shinonome looked a little embarrassed.
“B-but, you said it was difficult before.”
“That was before. …..Let’s get used to it now, let’s do our best.”
Shinonome’s words made me think…
“Y-yes. Souta kun.”
Even though I said that, Shinonome’s face was blushing.
I unintentionally became a little bit embarrassed. But more than that. I was happy.
We called each other by first name. …..After a while, both of us let out a breath.
“I’m still a little nervous. Let’s get used to it.”
“Yeah. …..You’re right.”
The two of us held together on the sofa. After a little while,……Shinonome. No. Nagi leaned over.
Her eyelids are about to close at any moment. …..It’s probably because she stayed up late last night.
“Okay, just go to sleep.”
The same thing happened on the train sometime ago. My heart is thumping, but not as much as before.
“Good night, Nagi.”
“Good night, Souta kun.”
Just like that, Nagi began to sleep peacefully. ……After a while, my eyelids become heavy too.
Without going against it, I closed my eyes..
I forgot my shopping bag. I’ve just said goodbye, but it can’t be helped.
There was no response when I rang the bell. I thought, Oh, well……I felt a little sorry, but I opened the door with the spare key.
“…..I felt bad for Nagi chan if she was in the mood.”
While thinking that, I took the shopping bag that was left in the kitchen… and secretly looked into the living room.
There were two people snuggling up on the sofa and quietly sleeping.
The two of them are like a close brother and sister, and they’re very comfortable with each other. But they are certainly different from brother and sister, and they create a somewhat sweet atmosphere.
“…..I wonder if it won’t be too long before I become a grandmother.”
I can hardly wait for that day.
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