Osanai-san lived on the third floor of an apartment building. It was a nice building, with cream-colored walls. It also held a good number of units. I didn’t get lost, since I’d been over a few times already.
After I knocked on the door, I was shown in by Osanai-san, who was wearing a refreshing white dress.
“Sorry for making you buy the cakes. It was hot, wasn’t it?”
“I’m fine with buying the cakes, but yeah, it was awfully hot.”
There didn’t seem to be anyone else indoors. Osanai-san was an only child with both of her parents working, and they apparently went to work early and returned home late. Because of that, I would always find that it had only a scarce sense of having been lived in whenever I came over. Come to think of it, I had never met her parents. Since they were able to purchase such a nice mansion with their only daughter in her second year of high school, they must have some highly profitable jobs. Either that, or they received a lot of inheritance money. I had never brought up this topic before, and I would probably never do so. The air conditioner was working, but the temperature setting was probably quite high, for I didn’t feel cool at all.
“Please wait in the living room. You want some cold barley tea, right?”
Indeed, I needed one desperately.
I reached a short table with a carpet underneath in the floored living room. With both hands holding the cake box, I placed it on the table.
Osanai-san brought a beer mug filled with barley tea. Wondering why she’d used a beer mug, I accepted it with a purr from the back of my throat. I felt like drinking it all down, but it was impossible to finish a whole beer mug of ice-cold barley tea in one sitting. I could only drink half of it.
Osanai-san retreated to the dining room again, and returned with a coffee cup in each of her hands. That was too quick for her to boil some water, so she had probably used a coffee maker. A rich fragrance, steam and hot air rose from the coffee. Retrieving my handkerchief from a pocket, I dabbed it on my sweat-covered forehead.
Next came the small plates and spoons.
“Shall we eat the cakes, then?”
That means that Osanai-san had really called me here just to eat cakes… even though I’ve said so many times that I don’t like sweet things as much as she does… Without paying any heed to the dumbfounded look on my face, she slowly started to open the cake box with a docile air about her, as if she were opening the tamatebako1.
At that moment, a phone rang.
The ringtone was a simple electronic sound. Thinking that it was mine, I reached for my pocket, but it seemed that Osanai-san’s phone that was ringing, not mine. Was she waiting for that phone call, I wonder? The ringing mobile phone was jumping up and down on the floored ground. Osanai-san gracefully moved towards it.
“Hello, what is it?”
She said, then turned to look briefly in my direction.
“Sorry, please wait a moment.”
She said to the person on the other side of the phone call, then spoke to me.
“Sorry, please wait a moment.”
She then hurriedly walked out of the living room, leaving behind me, the cakes and the coffees.
I didn’t want to just do nothing while waiting, so I opened the cake box. Although they had been shaken around in the bicycle cage, the mango puddings and Charlottes hadn’t collapsed.
The mango puddings were in transparent plastic cups. Each orange-colored pudding was garnished with a dollop of fresh cream, one cranberry and one herb leaf. Looking at it closely, I could see multiple cubes of fruit mixed in. It looks delicious… I think. I’ve never really eaten mangoes before.
On the other hand, the Charlottes looked like slices from a large tart, but they didn’t have a pie base, and instead had outer shells made out of browned, soft-looking sponge cake. As for the contents, I could not be sure. It was white, but since I had never tried one before, I could not imagine the taste or texture. Each piece was served on a golden cardboard dish and wrapped in transparent film. The underside of the Charlottes was also made of sponge cake, and on top was some ruby grapefruit. They’re supposed to be sour, so would they fit the taste of the cake?
There was one mango pudding for each of us. As for the Charlottes, I took one, and placed two on Osanai-san’s side. If there were four Charlottes, we would be able to eat two each, but since I could only buy three, it was only natural for Osanai-san to get two of them. She didn’t specifically tell me to do that, but me getting two slices of cake while she only gets one is like water flowing uphill; it goes against the providence of nature.
Done with the distribution, I waited. The only thing I could hear was the rumbling noise of the air conditioner. I tried pricking my ears, but I could not hear Osanai-san talking on the phone.
Well, thinking about it, there was no need for me to eat while being face to face with Osanai-san. I certainly hadn’t wished for it, so I don’t know why it came to this, but with cake and coffee before my eyes, there was only one thing to do. Besides, while I might not be a fan of sweet things, I actually hadn’t eaten anything this morning. The intense heat had shaved off some of my appetite, but with food in front of me like this, my hunger rose to the surface.
“…I suppose I’ll start first.”
I muttered, grabbing a spoon.
After some consideration about which one I should start with, I decided on the Charlotte, because the sour taste of the grapefruit would be a better fit to my mood compared to the sweetness of the mango.
However, the Charlotte turned out to be unbelievably exquisite.
I was hit by admiration while holding the spoon.
It had a light texture that made me feel as if bubbles were melting on my tongue, and a faintly sweet flavor that seemed to ebb and flow. Inside the sponge cake that made up the outer shell was Bavarois2 that tasted like cream cheese. As I was keenly enjoying the cheese taste that was not individually strong, a marmalade-like sauce hidden within unexpectedly tightened up the overall taste. You could easily tell that the slice of Charlotte was a product of the whole cake being sliced into eight pieces, but it was impossible to tell from its outer appearance that such a sauce would come surging forth. They must have inserted the sauce into the Bavarois with a dropper or something or that sort after slicing up the whole cake. That would take quite a lot of time to prepare, but it resulted in a sucker punch that I was absolutely glad to receive. It was my first time tasting something that managed to match sweet and sour flavors so well.
With regards to the Western confections that Osanai-san likes, or in other words, those that have a sweet taste or alcohol flavor distinctly bursting forth, I would have to say that I don’t really appreciate them. I prefer those that have a weaker, lighter flavor, and the Charlotte was the very manifestation of my preferences, so I was uncharacteristically intoxicated by its taste.
The sponge cake base only had a normal taste, but it was filling, which was good since I was hungry. As if in a trance, I continuously shovelled cake into my mouth while occasionally sipping on some coffee, and before I realized, I had already finished it. Wow, that was a seriously satisfying experience. After washing away the aftertaste with some coffee, I let out a deep sigh.
The shop in Osanai-san’s fated summer selection sure lived up to its expectations. Then again, the Charlotte isn’t exactly a summer food, so her main target must have been the mango pudding. Even so, the Charlotte was simply wonderful. Osanai-san would definitely be happy with this.
But Osanai-san was…
“Still on the phone, huh.”
It didn’t seem like she would be returning yet.
I waited for a while, but I could only hear one sound, which was the grumbling of the air conditioner.
That cake was really delicious. Also, since I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning, I was quite famished. On top of that, Osanai-san loves sweet things, and has shown and extremely deep attachment to them.
…I want to eat another slice.
I was suddenly hit with such an impulse.
There are still two more Charlottes…
I was horrified by my own thoughts. Feeling some cold sweat, I pressed my handkerchief against my neck.
Am I seriously… am I seriously thinking of making a move on Osanai-san’s slice of cake?
Is that allowed? I was just thinking that me getting two pieces while Osanai-san gets only one goes against the providence of nature, wasn’t I? She probably knew that it was an exquisite product beforehand, too. Furthermore, she thought that I would be buying two for each of us. Osanai-san was supposed to have two pieces, so appropriating a piece would just be…
While I was in a dilemma, I had already recognized my desire.
So I’ll usurp her cake… what a wicked, luscious plan!
“This is troubling… I do want it, though.”
Let’s wait for a minute, no, thirty seconds. If Osanai-san comes back in that time, I’ll greet her with a smile, shower Jeff Beck’s Charlotte with compliments, and silently watch her consume the two slices of cake. But if she doesn’t come back…
In that case, I’ll…
…Osanai-san did not return.
After watching the slow-moving second hand of my watch make a semi-circular path around the dial, I made up my mind.
It was all because of the annoying heat. That was what I concluded, anyway. If everything was as per normal, there is no doubt that I would have never thought of something like that.
Well, now that I’ve decided to do it, let’s put it into action. For that to work, I must do it such that it does not come to light.
I will make Osanai-san have this notion… that there were only two slices of Charlotte in the first place.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- The name of the mysterious box that the fisherman Urashima Tarō receives from mistress of the sea (Otohime), after his stay at the Dragon Palace. After ignoring the caution to never open the box and opening the box anyway, he was transformed into an old, white haired man.
- Bavarois, or Bavarian cream, is a dessert consisting of milk thickened with eggs and gelatin or isinglass, into which whipped cream is folded.