Chapter 8: A Little Change
“So, what kind of relationship do you have with Kazemiya-san?”
What began at the dinner table the next morning was not a happy family time, but an inevitable interrogation for me.
“Who’s Kazemiya-san? What are you talking about?”
“KOUTA, it seems he has a girlfriend.”
“Oooh, a girlfriend, huh? Way to go, Kouta-kun.”
“I was surprised, too.
He has never talked about anything romantic before.
I wish I could interview him about his love life as a high school boy.”
Perhaps because of her profession as a writer, my mother had always been the kind of person who would get herself involved in things that could become a topic of conversation.
However, after the divorce, this aspect of her personality gradually became less and less.
She also seemed to have been trying to restrain herself, perhaps out of concern for me.
“I told you we’re just friends.”
Just a friend, huh…she sounded pretty cute, though.”
“It’s just a voice, right? How imaginative can you be?”
“I’m a writer, after all.”
It was honestly a bit annoying from an adolescent high school boy’s perspective, but not bad for the atmosphere.
The guilt I had, the uncomfortable feeling I have at home.
I guess I needed to be a clown for the worry and burden I usually put on my mom.
(……come to think of it, this might be the first time)
This might be the first time since I moved into this house.
I’d never had a dinner table where I didn’t feel guilty about anything.
This was truly a time of happy family time.
“I remember you don’t have a part-time job this coming Friday.
If you want, you can go on a date with her.
I’ll help you out if you need money.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m afraid I’ll be heading straight home.”
Besides, Akihiro-san—I could talk to my new father normally.
I was able to eat breakfast at a normal pace, even though I usually tried to shovel it down quickly.
It was as if by magic.
I didn’t realize that Kazemiya could improve the coziness of the house so much just by making her talk on the phone with my mom.
……Well, this would only be a temporary thing.
We couldn’t talk about Kazemiya for 24 hours and 365 days.
I felt more comfortable at home, albeit temporarily, and perhaps I should thank Kazemiya for that.
“If you ever go out with your friends, Kotomi, don’t be afraid to go.
Even if you have to stop off for a bit…….”
I prefer to stay in this house with my family.”
Thinking back, I had never seen Tsujikawa go out with her friends.
At least since I moved into this house, she had always gone out with mom and Akihiro-san on weekends and holidays, and she also did her shopping quickly.
Unlike me, Tsujikawa Kotomi was always with her family.
“This may be meddlesome, but I think you come home too late every day.
Even though you work part-time, it’s not safe for you to come home late at night.”
“Kouta is a boy and……somewhat, right?”
“Being a boy is no guarantee that you won’t be involved in an incident.”
“I think any normal family would be concerned about their children walking around late at night.”
Both husband and wife were taken aback by their daughter’s righteous argument.
In fact, the legitimacy lay with Tsujikawa, and both of them probably knew that what they were saying was not something to be praised as adults or as parents.
But they must have been in such a state of emotional flux.
“And……Kazemiya-senpai is a person of whom I have not heard many good rumors.
If you are seen out together late at night, even NARUMI-senpai could get caught up in the rumors.”
I knew some not-so-good rumors were circulating about a girl named Kazemiya Kohaku.
—I don’t know if the rumors are true or not, that she’s hanging out with not-so-good people, playing around out at night, etc.
I could recall Natsuki’s words immediately.
If we excluded the fact that she was the younger sister of the singer Kuon, Kazemiya Kohaku would be a student in that position in the school.
It was only in the last few days that I began to exchange words with a girl named Kazemiya Kohaku.
Until then, I had only known her as a regular customer at the same family restaurant.
If you asked me if I know her well, I would answer “no.”
It would be a possibility that the rumors were not entirely false, and that they were true.
“….Thanks for the food.
I’m going to school now.”
I couldn’t nod my head in agreement with Tsujikawa’s sound argument.
“Kouta, you have a very difficult look on your face today.”
While I was eating lunch in the classroom, Natsuki looked into my face.
You’ve been making this face all morning.”
“I don’t have a funny face like that.”
I understood that Natsuki was trying to soften the atmosphere in his way, but I couldn’t overlook that funny face.
“I was just thinking about something.”
Tsujikawa’s perception of Kazemiya and her warning to me.
That had been stuck in my mind for a while.
What I couldn’t figure out was why it had stuck with me this long.
The hazy feeling that had been clutching at my heart.
I couldn’t figure out what it was, and I kept mulling it over.
“Do you want to solve that problem?”
“…I don’t know.’
“Do you want my help?”
“It’s difficult right now, but if I want your help, I’ll talk to you about it.”
Then I won’t ask any more questions.”
I liked Natsuki because he was clear about things like this.
I would say that the fact that we had been able to have a moderate relationship as childhood friends were due in large part to Natsuki’s personality.
“Speaking of mornings, Kazemiya-san is also strange.”
You didn’t notice?”
I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t notice anything.
And even though Kazemiya herself had nothing to do with it, I couldn’t say that I hadn’t been watching her.
“She’s been sleepy ever since she arrived at school, and she’s down every break.
Even now……you see, she’s been sleeping since lunchtime.
She usually listens to music.”
Natsuki urged me to look at Kazemiya’s seat.
Kazemiya, who was supposed to be listening to music during breaks, was indeed lying on her desk, sleeping soundly.
It was as if she had stayed up all night until morning.
“….it can’t be…”
I remembered that I recommended a game to Kazemiya last night, but……was it something to do with that?
I couldn’t believe that Kazemiya Kohaku was up late playing games.
“I’ve never seen Kazemiya in that state before.
Everyone is curious about it.
What happened to her?”
Quickly shaking off the images that flashed through my mind, I proceeded to eat my lunch of bread.
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