I hate how ordinary I am. “Ordinary” – it doesn’t have the same meaning as the word “normal”.
Ordinary home environment, ordinary school life, ordinary athletic ability, ordinary academic ability, ordinary appearance, and ordinary interests.
To me – as to the general public – “ordinary” means something like “boring”.
That was why, the day after an ordinary fight with my parents, it came as a shock that my dad could have been having an affair. But at the same time, I was excited. Something unordinary may have finally fallen into my life.
The following day, I enthusiastically called my childhood friend out to a café beside a station we didn’t normally use, and informed her she had to be in disguise.
“Fuyu, you’ve definitely misunderstood.”
A sigh escaped Anzu’s lips, which were of a colour as reminiscent of spring as her name.
“No no, even I wonder what’s so good about that old man y’know, but I’m just doing what I gotta do.”
“Oh-ho, is that so.”
Anzu took another sip from her café au lait, as her gaze casually returned to her paperback. Even so, she had picked out a bucket hat and a pair of fake glasses for our stakeout, so that was enthusiasm enough.
Anzu’s heart was as hard to read as ever. It was moments like this that gave her a little air of mystery or something, and so made her discreetly popular. Having known her since childhood, I knew that she was just exceedingly good at staying calm, but it couldn’t be denied that she had an unordinary knack for putting just the adequate amount of effort into doing things, which made me envious. Well, that – and her face that was considerably more than just ordinarily cute.
“Well, I came along because I wanted to see Fuyu again after such a long time, but y’know.”
“Even though we spent the day before yesterday bumming around in your room.”
“And so I was wondering, what makes you think Uncle is having an affair?”
I slightly lifted the visor of my cap, trying to give my best impression of being lost in thought. I was thinking about how I should best order my explanation to convince her easily. But in the end, I figured that a just adequate answer would work best for a “just adequate” Anzu, so I stopped thinking too hard about it.
Anzu took a deep breath.
“Even though Fuyu keeps on falling for scummy guys, for a moment I thought I could trust your intuition, but if you really had good intuition you wouldn’t fall for scum, so if you’re going to call me in the spur of the moment because of something like that, I think I definitely deserve some compensation.”
“Don’t waste oxygen on unnecessarily lengthy speeches. And they’re not scummy, just chill.”
“Chill has the same meaning as scummy, and expressionist is close too.”
Making a befitting face, Anzu had practically read my mind, and had done it like she was just killing time. It was that part of her that made her an unpleasant fellow. I know many a brave soul who had their hearts shattered after picking a fight with Anzu. But it wasn’t like I’d nothing to show for staying by her side.
“Mm, well? Being told by the guys you’ve dated that you were a pain despite being strangely conscious about timings and stuff? Or that you were like the child of a teacher? I can totally understand why Anzu would be upset with chill guys, y’know?”
“I’ll kill you, you fathercon.”
We glared at each other, but it was too troublesome to continue. So despite not knowing who yielded first, we stopped.
“Is Fuyu’s intuition really worth spending a whole day of summer vacation on?”
Yes, it was summer vacation now. A precious day that we flower-like high school girls had to cherish.
“This has more real world consequences than playing The Game of Life in Anzu’s room. If my family falls apart then let me become a child of Anzu’s family okay.”
“I think my Papa and Mama would really take you in so please stop. I want to keep being pampered as an only daughter.”
“If that’s so then help me investigate Dad’s affair, and bring an end to it before Mom finds out. And then once I get ahold of his weakness I’ll be able to dangle it in front of him every time we get into a fight.”
“So you got scolded again.”
“It was a fight. Seriously pisses me off.”
“I still think this is just gonna be a waste of time though.”
It seemed that although she had come all the way out here, Anzu wasn’t going to be easily convinced unless I properly explained my suspicions. It probably didn’t matter if I did so or not, but there was still some time before Dad arrived, and I wasn’t the type to kill time reading books like her.
Basically, it was this sort of thing. I had overheard Dad having a phone call with a young lady. Last night, Dad had come home late. But since the flames of anger within had yet to subside, I didn’t even speak to him unless our eyes met. I quickly retreated to my second-floor room. Before I knew it, I’d spent my evening reading magazines and playing games, and it was already 12 AM. Deciding to brush my teeth first, I headed down to the first floor and found that the lights had already been switched off. Relieved, I brushed my teeth in the washroom, and proceeded to help myself to a cup of tea in the kitchen. Suddenly, I noticed a faint voice coming from Dad’s room near the entrance of the house. I wasn’t particularly interested, but as I quietly drew closer, pretending to be half asleep, I heard an unusual gentleness in his voice. I got irritated for a second, thinking ‘how about using that gentleness on your own daughter?’ But then Dad called out the other party’s name. It was clearly her first name, and he even added a “chan” at the end. Afterwards, Dad let the other party know the time and place, and ended the call once they had confirmed the meeting. I quickly headed back to my room.
“Couldn’t she just be a company junior or something? Isn’t there a high percentage of women?”
“My Dad uses ‘san’ even for his subordinates so it’s definitely not that.”
“So Uncle and that woman are gonna show up by that clock tower over there right. If this ends up being a pointless trip I want a parfait.”
“I’ll treat you once you get me ahold of some evidence.”
“You should give the appropriate compensation for the labour done regardless of the result.”
“So you won’t do anything if I don’t create any incentives huh, ah-”
I was interrupted by his arrival.
Wearing a navy blue necktie on a sky blue shirt – the epitome of plainness – my Dad walked over to the clock tower that was representative of the station. I bent down reflexively. My cap and sunglasses were probably a perfect disguise, but it didn’t hurt to be safe.
“Fuyu I’m begging you, just don’t break down crying if a woman really does show up.”
“Just what do you think of your childhood friend?”
“A fathercon that simply wants to have a peace of mind after making sure that her father isn’t having an affair.”
Ignoring rubbish Anzu’s nonsense, I kept a close eye on Dad. Somehow it looked as if there was a grin on his face, and as the fact of his infidelity set in, I felt murderous intent welling up inside me.
“Just what kind of woman is she?”
Though I had only just barely made a whisper, without looking like she was giving anything much thought, Anzu said something that reflected her genius at thinking up horrible things.
“Wouldn’t it be the worst if she looks like Fuyu’s mom when she was young?”
“I’ll kill someone.”
“You shouldn’t say something like killing your own parent y’know.”
“Oh you meant me huh.”
Even though I knew it was all nonsense, I wondered if I would really be able to accept it if it really happened. After considering that sort of thing despite not being a fathercon, I concluded that I probably couldn’t, and so I put those thoughts aside for the time being.
Anzu said so before I could. The girl meeting up with an uncle that was the culmination of plainness probably wasn’t even five years older than us. Without thinking, I gasped.
“……Anzu, you don’t have to keep on glancing over here, I’m not going to cry.”
At the moment, surprise had overridden everything else. No, it wasn’t that I was shocked but. I’d just never thought that such a young girl would’ve shown up.
No but, no matter what it was, wasn’t she way too young?
The term “compensated dating” came to mind as they exchanged greetings and started walking to the station. They didn’t appear to be heading towards the nearby red-light district, so that at least was a relief.
“Time to go.”
I tugged my cap further down and left the shop, dragging Anzu by the arm despite her mock nonchalance.
Keeping our gazes low where possible, we stealthily passed through the station’s ticket gates, and found the two of them straight ahead on the first platform. So that we wouldn’t be found out, we snuck past behind their backs and kept our distance. I decided then that we should get into the adjoining carriage after they boarded the train.
“Refusing to ride the same carriage as your own parent – are you a child in the middle of puberty?”
“If you’re not going through puberty then what are you? More importantly, Anzu, can you hear what they’re talking about?”
“Nope. It’s all unintelligible.”
Ignoring Anzu who only seemed to be interested in messing with me, I pondered over what sort of circumstances would cause that girl to meet with my dull father.
Despite my best efforts to occupy my mind otherwise, my thoughts returned to the idea of compensated dating. If it were simply compensated dating, surely the girl would be reluctant to move about unnecessarily. Not to mention, there were too many witnesses in broad daylight. So maybe they were dating seriously after all? But then how would they have met? A fateful encounter like in a girl’s manga was out of the question for my Dad. I’d met the people in his workplace a couple times, and there shouldn’t have been anyone that young. Could it be – that he laid his hands on a new employee? If so, I’d be utterly disappointed.
While I was lost in my thoughts, the train had arrived. Once we had ascertained that Dad and the girl had boarded, we got on too. We made our way through a few carriages before we caught sight of them again in the next one, sitting side-by-side, smiling at each other. Conveniently for us, there was a window between the carriages. From the corner where we sat, we could see the two of them enjoying their time together.
“Well aren’t they all lovey-dovey?”
“No, it’s too soon to say yet.”
“But wasn’t it Fuyu that said they were having an affair?”
While I was stuck formulating a response to her reasoning, Anzu sighed, as if on purpose.
“In the first place, why did you get scol- oops. I mean, get into a fight with him?” She asked, jabbing a finger at my cheek. I’m gonna eat that finger y’know.
Without turning to Anzu, I remembered the quarrel from a few days ago.
It was something trivial. Really trivial. I just happened to be watching a movie on TV. And my dad just happened to come home early from work that day. As I watched the TV from the living room sofa, Dad sat eating dinner behind me at the dining table. Because I had grown weary of my tediously ordinary everyday life, while I watched the movie, as I messed around on my smartphone, somehow or other I said it.
“Must be tedious to live a long life where nothing happens huh.”
The movie just happened to have that sort of theme. Though I wasn’t particularly looking for a response, Dad spoke up.
“That’s not true.”
Perhaps, that too, was something he just happened to say. The way I heard it, the tone of Dad’s voice was less like idle chatter and closer to a lecture, and that activated some sensor at the back of my brain. And so, I made a rebuttal.
“It’s tedious. Living ordinarily, with nothing going on, and turning sixty just like that? There’s no hope in that.”
Perhaps there would be some people that think it would’ve been best if I hadn’t gone on further than that. However, the one who was at fault was Dad. The one who had already broken the peace in this house was that person.
“If life is going to stay as tedious as it is, I feel like I’d rather die dramatically.”
Since my name was called, I turned around. Dad was looking firmly at me, and I understood from his face that he was about to start some lecture. Looking at that face, even without anything having been said yet, probably just like all the other high schoolers of the world, I got pissed off.
“Something like it’s better to die, you shouldn’t say such things.”
“Because there are people in this world that want to keep living – are you going to say something boring like that?”
“As expected of a boring girl’s boring father.”
The situation quickly deteriorated into a mudslinging contest from there, so there was no need to recall it in any detail. When it reached the point that our war of words became more trouble than it was worth, I withdrew into my own room. Later that night, I heard the sound of a knock on my door, but I chose to ignore it.
I thought that if I told Anzu everything, she’d probably just find fault with me again, and so I decided to explain it simply.
“It was about the meaning of life, y’know.”
I thought that since she was probably going to call us an embarrassing parent-child combo anyway, I may as well put on the most self-satisfied look I could muster, but contrary to my expectations, all Anzu did was let out an agreeable “hmm.” Sometimes having expectations trips us up. Of course, I meant it figuratively, so I didn’t actually trip.
We swayed on the rattling train for a while longer, until Dad and the girl eventually got up at one of the stations. Dad stood up first, so it seemed like he was the host today. It didn’t really matter, but I wondered what sort of date plan Dad prepared back when he was dating mom. It must have been seriously boring.
I nudged Anzu who was reading her paperback, and we alighted as well. Fortunately, the two of them had their backs turned to us. Beside me, Anzu was giving her body a good stretch.
“We’re pretty far out huh.”
“Yeah, it’s my first time alighting here.”
There were scant few people on the platform, and it didn’t seem like there were any places around the station that could be called bustling. It wasn’t very solid proof, but it probably wasn’t a place to go to for a date.
“Looks like just the right place to rent a house for a mistress.”
As if reading my mind, Anzu once again said something detestable. If that really turned out to be the case, I’d blackmail Dad and make the rent my allowance. No share for Anzu.
We kept our distance as we tailed them, and once we passed through the ticket gates, a roundabout spread out before our eyes. I was thankful at least, that rather than getting on a bus or taxi, they ignored all the vehicles and headed by foot up the slope at the opposite end of the roundabout. Looking around, it wasn’t just the two of them – a small crowd had formed, walking in the same direction as them. The slope itself was pretty unremarkable; it simply led up a hill.
“Whaaat, I don’t wanna exercise,” whined Anzu as I pulled her along, following them up the slope.
“Nooo, I’m gonna die if you make me exercise when it’s this hooot.”
“You’re not gonna die! People are gonna think that genetic inheritance is nonsense if they look at Anzu.”
“I’m gonna die if you don’t get me the tallest parfaait.”
“That depends on how you do!”
It was backbreaking work dragging the cunning girl around when she was acting difficult and putting on a reluctant expression. But the fact of the matter was that I’d be too nervous if anything were to go wrong, so I needed Anzu by my side. I was a troublesome girl too, so surely that must have been why we’ve done pretty well as friends for as long as I could remember.
We continued to mess around even as we hiked up the slope, and soon our backs were sticky with sweat. I bought some water from a vending machine, and after sharing it with Anzu, we pressed on once more. Along the way, we were overtaken by a healthy-looking elderly couple, and we couldn’t help but to let out a weird laugh.
Just where in the world were Dad and the girl putting in this much effort to go to? My question was answered unexpectedly soon. Where the slope ended, a long, long stone stairway began. “I think the rest is for the family to resolve,” I happened to hear someone say from beside me.
Presumably for those that had come by car, there was a large sign board that showed the way to the parking lot.
“Anzu, it’s a grave.”
“Ah, mm, a grave, a grave? A grave huh. I see.”
With our ability to make conversation crippled by the midday heat, we trudged on, trying to keep our eyes on our two targets. I ignored the toddler-like pleas for piggybacks and carrying that started halfway up the stairs. Maybe that little child’s mood would improve if I rewarded her with a parfait once I’d confronted Dad.
Reaching the top of the stairs at long last, I saw the gentle slope that lay ahead, and in that moment, perhaps because of the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I concocted a new theory about the two people standing before me.
“Maybe she’s an illegitimate child or something.”
“……It doesn’t matter anymore.”
I bought the exhausted Anzu juice from a vending machine that seemed to have been calculatingly placed to extract the maximum value from any worn out stair-climbers. I’d have a guilty conscience if she were to really die at a graveyard.
That said, the path ahead was much gentler compared to the slope and stairs from before. Gravestones lined both sides of the track, and while occasionally admiring those which were unusual in shape, we continued pursuing their trail.
At some point, the ground had given way to stone pavement without me noticing. The two of them still didn’t look like they were going to stop just yet. Just whose grave had they come to visit? It was going to be Obon soon, so maybe this had something to do with that? I started to think of something more straightforward. That perhaps Dad’s friend had passed away recently, so he simply came with their daughter to visit their grave. I shuddered. A boring result for a boring family. That was something I didn’t want.
As we advanced, it was as if everything unnecessary had been pruned off, and the area became silent. We could hear the sound of our own footsteps. The wind soughed.
When we were passing by the graves’ water point, the two in front headed up another short flight of stairs. Once we could no longer see their figures, we cautiously headed up the stairs as well. Perhaps the wind was cooperating with us. Their unwhispered conversation flowed to us.
“Have you told your daughter?”
I didn’t think that we had been discovered by the girl. But even so, my heart was still pounding.
“No, I’ve been waiting for the right timing, but in the end I never got to talk to her about it.”
The sweat dripping on my forehead turned cold as I heard the regret choking up Dad’s voice.
“I see, mmm, it may be intrusive for me to say this but-“
“I think that if I were your daughter, I’d want to know. About the irreplaceable person in my father’s life.”
Hearing the girl’s remark, I ran up the stairs and declared, “So you really were doing something shameful!” Or so I thought I could’ve done. I refrained, not because of the hard work we’d put in till now, but because I wanted to hear how Dad would answer.
However, this time round, the wind blew in the opposite direction. It felt as if the wilful wind were making an expression similar to that of a prank-loving high school girl. Without thinking, I turned to Anzu beside me. She said something that was only common sense.
“Why don’t you go and ask?”
“But, it’s kinda-“
“I’ll go with you. It’ll be fine.”
With a push on my back from my irreplaceable friend, I strengthened my resolve. Climbing up the last few steps of stairs, I spoke to my dad in a determined manner, or at least I meant to do so, but it didn’t go that well.
For some reason, Dad had doubled back, and our eyes met. We both got a shock simultaneously. Perhaps as to be expected from parent and child, our “wah!” resounded in the cemetery in the exact same tone of voice.
“Good afternoon, Uncle!”
Dad flinched again at Anzu’s oddly spirited greeting. It seems like he only just noticed that there were two of us.
I wondered what to do about this unexpected development. Many excuses came to mind, but I decided that a direct approach would be best.
“Dad, I want to hear more about your earlier conversation.”
“By earlier you mean……”
“What did she mean by an irreplaceable person?”
In response to my tone that had unintentionally turned aggressive, Dad’s eyes widened momentarily, as though he were transfixed in thought. Then, just like I guessed would happen, he resigned himself and gestured for us to head up the stairs.
We followed after Dad. Standing amongst the graves of this next level was the girl from before. Drawing closer, I could tell that she couldn’t have been much older than us. I couldn’t help but to be irritated – this girl knew about things Dad wouldn’t even tell me.
The girl was shocked to see our faces. Conscientious as ever, Dad stepped aside to introduce us.
Was it really so hard to say that I was his daughter? Ah, I see, of course it’d be difficult to say that in front of his illegitimate child or mistress.
“I’m very sorry for the sudden introduction but-“
The girl was naturally perplexed.
“We just happened? To run into each other over there. This is my daughter, Fuyumi.”
I bowed my head just in case, and the girl let out an “ahh”. Judging by her expression she was surprised, but strangely enough, I could hear a tinge of delight in her voice towards the end.
Following which, Dad gestured towards Anzu, leaving the stranger for last. Anzu, who had been examining the grave, turned to face the other girl.
“And this is Anzu. Fuyumi’s childhood friend, as well as Kyouko-san’s first-born daughter.”
“Nice to meet you! My mother has been in your care!”
Anzu said something adequate and bowed her head with uncharacteristically good manners. The girl let out another shocked gasp. I didn’t expect her to know Auntie Kyouko as well. Just who was this person?
With a “nice to meet you”, the girl respectfully bowed her head at us. Seeing that, Dad finally began to introduce the excessively polite identity-unknown-cheating-partner-candidate-maybe-illegitimate-love-child.
“This is Ryouka Yamauchi-san.”
Ryouka – the name of the person Dad had talked with on the phone. But I didn’t know her last name, nor had I heard it before.
My thoughts must have shown in my expression, as Dad gestured towards the grave next.
“She’s the daughter of the older brother of the person resting in this grave.”
“Nice to meet you, I’ve been in your dad’s care.”
She bowed her head, but still suspicious of what kind of “care” she was referring to, I hesitated to reciprocate. But it would have been rude to ignore her entirely, so with a hollow “yes, likewise”, I turned to look at the grave. Inscribed upon the gravestone were the characters for “Yamauchi Family”. I had no recollection of any kin or kith with that name.
In the midst of all the confusion, only one thing was clear.
Given the dignified manner with which she greeted me, it was unlikely that she was a mistress – or an illegitimate child, for that matter.
And thus, it looked like this detective drama that had wrecked my precious summer vacation had ended with a whimper. Anzu silently nudged me in the back. It seemed like I’d have to get her a parfait later.
So, what exactly was going on here?
“Right then, so what are the two of you doing here?”
“Who’s the person resting in the grave?”
Making false conjectures and getting discovered so soon after arriving really weakened our position, so I tried to redirect the conversation. Of course, there was also the fact that I was genuinely interested.
Dad knew right away that he couldn’t do anything about my deflection and so made a troubled expression. Then for some reason, he turned his attention to Anzu before returning it to me.
“Come on! If it’s not an affair or anything, don’t leave me hanging!” These thoughts of mine were interrupted by a reply from an unexpected source.
“Mmm, you don’t have to worry. I’ve heard about it before.”
Having said that, Anzu turned to look at the grave again. Eh, she knew? About what?
To think that I’d be betrayed by Anzu like this.
“Anzu, what do you mean? You’ve never come here before, right? Did you lie to me?”
“No, I’ve never come here before. But I recalled something just now. Come on, I wouldn’t lie to Fuyu about anything important.”
Anzu gazed fixedly at me. Mmm, could I trust her?
“I understand,” Dad sighed with resignation, just as I felt the cracks appearing in our friendship of many years.
Then, little by little, as though he deliberated over every word, Dad told me about the person resting here.
At long last, he had let out his feelings.
His tale rendered me speechless.
I was dealt a great shock.
From Dad’s past that I had not known about.
From how it had contained experiences that I’d never even imagined.
Now I understood the reason why Dad corrected me so harshly the other day. The reality of life and death was something Dad was familiar with. Unlike me.
But what dealt me the largest blow, was that I could tell – this girl wasn’t just some person from the past. Even now, Dad thought of her dearly in his heart.
That he didn’t think of her as just a friend – I understood from his tone and expression.
Though the story sounded so unreal it left room for doubts, though I should’ve been able to look up the incident on my smartphone, I ultimately decided to believe in Dad. There was no way he could have carried the same tone and expression towards a fictitious person.
Having heard the story to its conclusion, as his daughter, there was probably much that I should have said to Dad.
But what spilled from my mouth instead was just what was on my mind.
“Do you still like that person?”
I asked because I wanted to know. The question surprised Dad, but his face soon broke into a gentle smile, and he shook his head from side to side.
“The sort of feelings that Fuyumi is thinking of, for example that which you’d have towards a lover, wasn’t what I looked at her with.”
“But, you weren’t friends right?”
“We weren’t friends. Nor were we lovers or family. We got along – so she would say, but I feel like something about that was off too.”
“I don’t really get it though.”
“Yeah, I’m sure no one would understand.”
What an indecisive way of putting it.
“Were you happiest when you were with that person?“
In response to the surely slightly mean-spirited question from me, who was but a child, Dad’s smile only deepened.
“……Ah, I had fun, and it was a special time.”
“But you know, Fuyumi.”
Dad spoke with a voice meant to address not just anyone in the area, but only me.
“The one I thing I want you to know, is that-”
What’s with that formality?
“Right now, is the best.”
It likely wasn’t a sudden embarrassing declaration. I recalled the conversation with Dad from a few days ago.
“Meeting your mom, Fuyumi being born, and all of us living healthily together. Though life may be quiet, simply having the two of you by my side – there is nothing in my life that could give me greater happiness. That’s all I really want you to know, so please believe me.”
Dad had said it all so boldly that I got flustered and shifted my gaze to the gravestone. “I got it,” I said, with a single nod of my head.
Not knowing how to carry on the conversation, I silently scrutinised the grave when Anzu called out, “Uncle.”
“If you were going to say all of that, then you should’ve just brought Fuyumi along for the grave visit to begin with.”
Anzu’s bold statement for her best friend’s sake made Dad’s eyes open wide. “Guess you’re right,” he nodded obediently.
“I did think that I’d have to talk about it someday, but I couldn’t find a good way to say it. I’m sorry, Fuyumi.”
Having received even an apology on top of everything else, I was at a loss. “I got it,” I repeated, with yet another nod.
While my gaze remained fixated on the grave, I received an explanation regarding Ryouka-san. It appeared that she and Dad had only started corresponding recently. She had wanted to learn more about her aunt, who had passed away before she was born.
With any pretense for quarrel having vanished, we were left with an odd silence as the four of us proceeded with the grave-visiting rites. Dad poured water over the grave, and offered a bottle of plum liqueur he had brought along. I pondered for a bit – wasn’t she only a higher schooler when she’d passed away?
Once we had put away the water-collecting bucket, Dad remembered something unnecessary.
“Speaking of which, why are you really here?”
“……I’ll go tell Mom that Dad talked to me about a girl from his past.”
Even though I said it as a joke, Dad made a really troubled face. Under any other circumstance I’d probably have laughed, but since I couldn’t tell how Mom would react, I put a stop to the topic there.
We descended the slope and boarded the train, and when we had reached our original station, parted ways with Ryouka-san. As we bade our goodbyes, she invited us to have dinner together next time. Imagining how our suspicions could become a funny story one day, we exchanged contacts.
At the station for our town, I thought that Dad would be heading home first. To my surprise, it was Anzu who said, “Well then, I’m heading home kay.”
“What about the parfait? Are you sure?”
“I’ll put it on your tab. For today, since Uncle’s already given in to Fuyu, please do your best to get along with him.”
Anzu stealthily jabbed her finger at my back, and after making plans for tomorrow, she quickly got on her bike and left.
She was probably being considerate in her own Anzu way, but I wished just a little that she hadn’t left me to fend for myself in this awkwardness. Though I guess I shouldn’t really be thinking that way.
I realised it. I understood that if I didn’t confront the awkwardness now, it would linger forever.
Seeing that I had come to the station on a bicycle too, Dad suggested that I could head home on my own first. But reasoning that I wanted to be treated to some ice cream since we were already here, we began walking together.
The sun had set, and the night air had started to cool.
We talked about things that didn’t matter, while acting like nothing was the matter. Basically, I was chatting about Anzu and Ryouka-san. I didn’t think that Dad noticed, but I was stalling for time.
Eventually, I ran out of topics and I had to talk about something meaningful.
But what could I say to get rid of this awkwardness?
No, I definitely had to apologise – so I thought. Even Dad had apologised to me. Because I owed him, it was an awkward situation.
I had to apologise. For calling him boring. Because Dad experienced something special when he was in high school- no.
What I really needed to apologise for was ridiculing Dad’s life, even though Mom and I were his greatest happiness.
But just when I was going to say it, the words got caught in my throat. It was strangely difficult to say something like that between parent and child, and the most I could muster were some “mm”s and “ah”s.
Even though I had tried my best, the awkwardness won in the end.
In exchange – or rather – as a starting point, I tried asking something like this.
“Dad, y’know, how did you choose your path in life?”
It was a good time to redirect the topic to my own future.
“Before you thought of working in a publishing firm, for example, since you experienced that sort of thing in high school, have you never thought of becoming a doctor?”
“That’s true,” he said. Since the question touched upon his precious memories, I had anticipated for him to mull over it quietly for a little while, but he took even longer than that.
“Perhaps that choice existed too. But I decided not to let her death weigh over my life.”
“Because the most important thing she taught me was, to live while acknowledging myself. So I chose own my path in life, treasuring the things that I myself wanted to do.”
And just like that, Dad attained his extraordinarily ordinary everyday life.
“Do you want me to do the same thing too?”
“No. Fuyumi, I wish for you to decide your future on your own. But well, that’s just my own thinking.”
A just adequate response like that was all I could muster.
And so, I continued to make insignificant chatter, leaving the important things unsaid. And before long, we had reached home. There were probably any number of times I could have apologised, but I didn’t till the very end. Maintaining a poker face, I parked my bicycle.
I guess it couldn’t be helped, huh– “Fuyumi,” Dad interrupted my thoughts as I was putting away the bicycle.
“Sorry, for keeping quiet about something so important till now.”
Obviously, that was what I had thought, but Dad shook his head.
“About how it’s special that I have you.”
What’s with that?
The first words on my lips were disparaging ones. But the feelings that simultaneously sprang forth coiled together tightly and spurred me on.
“Me too, I’m sorry.” It was just a short phrase, but though it was just a short phrase, I managed to apologise.
And with that, Dad and I made our ordinary return into the same home as always.
It was still summer vacation, and those were the words Anzu uttered as soon as we met. I was thinking of voiding the parfait agreement, but given what happened yesterday, I couldn’t really deny it, so I just quietly continued making my way towards the family restaurant.
“Well, isn’t it fine? This must be like what they call the calm after a storm. Ah, want some gum?”
“Don’t need it. Hmm, well, it turned out to be an opportunity to think about various things y’know. For now, the plug’s been pulled on chill guys.”
“That’s good. Though I’m sure you’ll get caught up with one of them again.”
My childhood friend really couldn’t live without saying unnecessary retorts. But she was having fun, and that was all that really mattered.
“I was thinking that we should just be happy.”
“Is it alright even if it’s boring?”
“I realised that it wouldn’t be boring if I prioritised my own happiness.”
Though I still didn’t know what else to do besides idle aimlessly, I could at least understand that philosophy now.
It dawned on me after listening to that story of Dad and that person in his reminiscences, whose face and voice I didn’t know.
“Speaking of which, Fuyu, rather than talking about the past, I wanna talk about the future, alright?”
“After speaking with Mama yesterday, she gave the okay for that two-girl trip we were talking about before.”
“Ooh! They’d really let their precious little Anzu-chan go on a trip, huh?”
“Riiight, I’m worried about whether Papa and Mama can bear with not having their super duper cute daughter around in the house for a few days.”
“Go leave behind a doll or something then.”
Our hearts danced with new hope for the future. As we wondered where to go and what to do, a gust of wind blew from somewhere and caressed us.