Ch 10 New Year’s Eve meeting

On New Year’s Eve, after a late cleanup, all that was left to do was to pass the year.

I woke up in the late afternoon and opened the curtains in my room, when my phone, which was on my study desk, beeped.

I walked over to the screen and saw a message from Karen.

“Message from Ageha: ‘Meet at park in the neighbourhood at 23:30 this evening.'”

On Christmas Eve, I had promised to go to Hatsumode with Ageha.

Since Ageha is still in her third year of junior high school and does not have a smartphone, it means that Karen contacted me on her behalf.

The three of us had been going to Hatsumode together every year, but this time Karen was going with her boyfriend, Saijo-kun.

Feeling ennui from waking up from sleep, I tapped my phone and responded, “Roger that.”

I put my phone in my sweatshirt pocket and left the room, biting back a sore throat.

My dad is probably at work on New Year’s Eve, and my mom is out at a town meeting.

I walked down the quiet hallway into the kitchen, poured myself a glass of water and slurped it down in one gulp.

As I do so, the phone in my pocket shudders with a familiar ringtone.

I took it out, wondering who was calling, and saw the word “Karen” on the screen.

“Hello, Karen?”

I hesitate for a moment and then press the call button.

Then a slightly stunned voice came from the other end of the phone.

“Haru-kun? Did you just wake up, by any chance?”

“Yeah, well.
I’m going to be up late tonight anyway, so I thought I’d try to get some sleep.”

It is a lie.

Since the start of winter break, I have been basically lazy, which has thrown me out of rhythm with my life.

Karen, who has known me since I was a child, must have seen through that, because I heard a small sigh over the speakers.

I can’t help but notice how perceptive Karen and Ageha are.

“So, what happened?”

“Hmm, yah, I don’t have anything for you…”

“?”

I was caught off guard by her rather brusque mannerisms.

As I poured water into the glass again and waited for Karen to speak, she cut in, “You know…”

“About today…”

“Today…? Oh, you mean Hatsumode? That’s all right, Like I said before, I don’t have any hobbies of getting in your way.”

She must be feeling sorry that she can’t go this time because she has been going with me every year.

I tried to smile back at her in a cheerful tone.

Then, Karen denied it, saying, “No, that’s not it.”

“About the Ageha, it was Ageha who suggested you go on a Hatsumode, wasn’t it? And at Christmas.”

“That’s right.
What about it?”

“You see, she forced us to follow her when we went out somewhere, right? So I thought she might be giving Haru-kun trouble this time, too.”

“Aunt told me something similar.
Do I look that involved?”

Or perhaps it is called being “stuck up one’s own ass.”

It is not that I am unaware of it.

“Don’t worry, it’s not a nuisance.
And if you want to call it forced, Karen has been like that for a long time.”

“What?”

“When Ageha invited me to go out with her, Karen came along, too, didn’t she? Both sister are alike, just like each other.”

“Was I so…?”

Through the phone, I could see that Karen tilted her head slightly.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at Karen’s annoyed voice tone as she cooed and groaned.

I don’t think Karen remembers it, but I vividly remember being caught between the two of them.

Whenever I tried to go out alone with Karen, Ageha would try to get in between me and Karen, and whenever I tried to go out alone with Ageha, Karen would try to go with me.

I wasn’t really unhappy about it, so I didn’t mind.

As I wondered if she had called me all the way to the phone just to talk about this, I heard a voice other than Karen’s on the other end of the speaker.

“Hey, sis, who are you on the phone with?”

“Haru-kun.”

“Oh, Haru-kun! Sis, give over for a second.”

“Oh, hey…!”

There was some kind of buzz on the other end of the phone.

I took the phone slightly away from my ear and waited, “Haru-kun!” and the cheerful voice of Ageha jumped into the room.

Even without looking at her face, I could tell she had a big smile on her face.

She took a deep breath and said in a buoyant tone.

“You remember our appointment today, don’t you?”

Of course I remember.
When I woke up, I received a message from Karen.”

“It’s the park, at 11:30 p.m.!”

“Okay, okay.”

I could feel my own mouth relax.

It was a little funny to see Ageha excited like a child going on a field trip.

“Ageha, are you done yet?”

“Oh, sis, just a little more to go.
You know, Haru-kun.
You should look forward to today.
See you later!”

“What…?”

I was about to ask her what she meant when the call was cut off with a clunk.

Overwhelmed by the typhoon-like force, I stared at the screen of my phone for a while and let out a small exhale.

…I thought about it, and I wondered if it was just the two of us going to Hatsumode today.

I felt somewhat embarrassed when I became aware of this, and I poured the water I had poured into my mouth in one gulp.

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