Since I’d stormed out of both the Printing Preparation Room and my classroom, there was nowhere for me to go. That should be a good time for me to head home, but there was still something I had to do. I’d borrowed a book from the school library.
It was titled somewhere along the lines of “The Rules of Writing A Proper Article”, and was written by a former journalist. I’d borrowed it thinking that it could be used as material to convince the Newspaper Club, but it was just filled with grumblings, and turned out to be absolutely useless. I’d given up reading when I was only a third through. Since the deadline had arrived, I had to return it.
It was already quite late. I’d never been to the library at this time, so I was a little surprised. It was almost empty, with only one male student who looked like a librarian sitting on the other side of the counter, engrossed in his book. Not wanting to be a nuisance, I left the book in the return box.
I was treated lightly by President Doujima, laughed at by Hiya, and now I was returning a book before finishing it. Nothing was going well for me today, and there was nothing that could save it. However, I got into the mood of searching for another book to replace the one I’d just returned.
That said, there weren’t many books in a high school library that could be useful to a first-year student in the Newspaper Club. I finally found a book titled “How to Write A Good Article”, so I looked for a seat for me to read the book a little before deciding whether or not to borrow it. Placing my bag by a nearby table, I sat down and was about to open the book, when I noticed something. Someone’s bag was on the other side of the table. It was a white bag with the school crest, as per Funado High School’s regulations.
In this virtually empty library with so many available seats, I’d chosen to sit opposite someone else. That could totally give them the wrong idea. While I was regretting my decision, I did not intentionally change my seat. It was no big deal, I thought.
However, after seeing the bag’s owner return with a book in their arms, my breath was taken away.
That was someone I knew.
I knew her, but she probably didn’t know me. That person was a girl who seemed to be acquainted with President Doujima, as she’d visited the Newspaper Club a few times already.
The first time I saw her, I thought she was really small. She had pretty black hair in a bob cut that somehow looked like a wig, making her give off a weird vibe. It was only later that I realized that was the exact situation to use the descriptive term “doll-like”.
The second time I saw her, I could only think that her high school uniform did not suit her at all. She’d come over to ask something of the president, and all she’d said was, “About that thing…” As might be expected of the head of the Newspaper Club, President Doujima had a diverse circle of acquaintances. I’d assumed that the girl had an appointment due to some article.
It was only the third time that I saw her in a different light. That occured right after the end of the summer holidays, so it wasn’t that far back.
Only President Doujima and I were in the Printing Preparation Room. It was not yet time to start on the next issue of the newspaper, and since I’d subtly expressed my disatisfaction towards the direction of the Newspaper Club, there was nothing we wanted to say to each other. The silence in the clubroom was deafening. With my notebook spread out in front of me, I was doing homework or something like that. President Doujima was holding his arms and staring into space, probably thinking about something. He had a bandage on his right hand. He’d apparently gotten an injury during the summer break.
That girl unexpectedly opened the door to the Printing Preparation Room. She walked directly to the side of President Doujima, who was sitting on a folding chair. Without any sort of preface, she brought her lips to his ear.
It seemed like she whispered something to him.
I couldn’t make out the contents of her whisper, but at that moment, a chill ran down my spine.
Based on just her height and facial features, she didn’t look like a student in the same grade, and instead looked like a middle school student who had snuck into a high school. For just an instance while whispering, she narrowed her eyes, and together with her supple action of crouching to meet President Doujima’s ear, caused me to feel a shiver through my body. I was unable to look away. Was I sexually attracted to her? No, that probably wasn’t it. My eyes were strangely drawn to the lack of balance in her figure, countenance and actions. Later, I learnt that she could be described by the word “coquettish”… but at that time, all I could do was stare with my mouth agape.
As President Doujima listened to the whisper, all he did was roll his eyeballs to the side, and never stopped folding his arms. I didn’t know if it was good or bad news, but it was certainly a long talk. Finally, President Doujima muttered, “I see,” and the female student moved her lips away from his ear.
Next, as if only noticing me for the first time, she turned her head to look at me. Her eyes, which had been narrowed earlier, now captured me directly. I could feel sweat form on my back.
The girl laughed with only her lips. She seemed to be saying to me, “This has nothing to do with you.”
When the two of us were left in the room again, I asked President Doujima who that girl was. He replied with a slightly bitter smile on his face.
“She’s called Osanai. She’s, well, somehow who’s quite hard to deal with.”
The person standing in front of me in the library after school was that Osanai-san.
“Do you have some business with me?”
She asked a question out of the blue. Only now did I realize that I had been gazing steadily at her face.
“Ah, no, sorry.”
I shifted my eyes downward. Osanai-san was obviously suspicious of me, but eventually spoke again.
“I feel like I’ve seen you before.”
“Ah, yeah, I think…”
It was good that I was sitting down. The semicircular canals of my ear were acting up, causing me to feel a little giddy.
“I think we met at the Newspaper Club.”
“At the Newspaper Club…?”
She frowned and placed her right index finger on her soft-looking cheek. However, she didn’t think for long before shaking her head.
“I can’t remember, sorry.”
“Ah, yeah, we only caught a glimpse of each other, so it can’t be helped.”
I desperately forced myself to grin, to the point that I probably looked comical. We’d stared at each other for such a long time back then, so it was awfully strange that she couldn’t remember. Then again, perhaps it was just me who thought it to be a long period of time, when in reality it was only for an instance.
Osanai spoke again.
She then placed the book she was carrying on the table. Placing both hands on the table, she asked the question again.
“So, do you have some business with me?”
That was not a gentle way of putting it, but I hadn’t been rejected outright. It seemed like she was judging the distance between us… Do girls always do this in this kind of situation? Or is it only Osanai who puts on such airs?
She’d completely misunderstood and thought that I had been waiting for her. Well, that wasn’t an unreasonable assumption.
I was about to say that I hadn’t noticed and accidentally sat down at that spot.
However, that seemed like a wasted opportunity.
There was no one in the library except for the student librarian sitting on the other side of the counter, not even looking up. Osanai was staring at me a couple of feet away. There was no way I could have predicted such a coincidence, so I didn’t have the resolve to do it. However, if there’s one unique trait of Urino Takahiko, it’s being able to muster up resolve at any time.
Osanai was waiting for my response. Let’s say it, then. Right now.
“I was entranced by you.”
“It was since the last time we met, but it seems you don’t remember. Do you mind accompanying me if you don’t have anything to do? I wanted to try talking to you.”
That was courageous of me, if I may say so myself. Without saying another word, I even managed to put on a smile.
Osanai’s eyes fluttered. She studied my face fixedly, as if expecting me to reveal that it was just a joke or prank. If I burst out laughing here or avoided her gaze, the opportunity would vanish. I understood that, which was why I took her gaze head on.
I hadn’t noticed earlier, but it was a day with an especially red sunset.
But it was Osanai who laughed. While peeking at my eyes, she let out a short giggle.
“I don’t dislike boys who are direct.”
Strength drained from my body. I’d been acting as if it was no big deal, but I hadn’t noticed that my body had been working all the way to its limit. Osanai had laughed, and said that she didn’t dislike someone like me.
Osanai picked up the book from the table and used it to hide her lips.
“Alright, but the library is not the place for a talk. I know a good shop that has a marvelous gâteau fraise1.”
I immediately stood up.
How pathetic. I’d spoken so fluently earlier, yet this was all I could respond with now. However, I did not feel frustrated or ashamed at my failure.
That was because my mind was a blank, and I could not think of anything at all.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!