Volume 1, Chapter 17: Skin
I went to take a shower first after arriving at home.
The sensation of sweat running down my skin felt nasty, plus, I was in the mood for a hot bath.
Not to mention, I need some time to find the words to deal with Sayu. If I sort through my feelings in the shower beforehand, I would hopefully be able to face her with a calm mindset.
The hot water helped relaxed my tense mind and allow the questions I carried to surface.
First, thank god I was able to find her; all the more so without incident. After all, I had ran out to find her with the mindset that she had maybe been kidnapped by some hoodlums or the like.
However, with her safety came another question.
Why had she run away? She hadn’t contacted me at all either.
If she had merely meant to go out for business, knowing her, she would’ve certainly contacted me beforehand.
However, she hadn’t done that. Rather, she left her smartphone at home.
Rationally, it meant that she simply disliked this place and meant to leave here for good. However, she had left all her belongings here as well.
I don’t know why she was with Mishima either. Had they planned to meet up in front of the station? But they shouldn’t have known one another to begin with.
However, the alternative – meeting at the park – seemed rather strange as well…
No matter how much I thought about it, I wasn’t able to figure it out.
“…It’d be faster to ask her directly.”
I knew that, but I couldn’t bring myself to follow through with it.
I shut off the faucet and got up from the bath.
With the whirlpool of thoughts still weighing on my mind, I exited the washroom.
I roughly dried my hair and body with my bath towel, put on my underwear, dressed in my pajamas, and exited the dressing room.
“It’s your turn, Sa-“
Exiting the dressing room, I looked in the direction of the living room, where Sayu was. My mouth remained open as I stopped for a few seconds to process what was happening.
My mind was turning, but I had nothing to show for it. Finally, I mustered up something to say.
“Put on your clothes.”
That was all I could say.
For some reason, Sayu stood still in the living room in nothing but her underwear.
It was a black, simple set of cutesy lingerie, adorned with a ribbon in the middle
Well, that aside, what was she doing in her underwear. It didn’t seem like she was changing, nor did she make an effort to hide herself despite my presence.
“I’ll listen to what you say, just put on some clothes first.”
“Let’s talk after that, okay?”
Sayu’s tone was serious. I couldn’t find the words to continue and closed my mouth shut.
I wasn’t sure what was happening, but perhaps her being in her underwear had something to do with what she wanted to say.
“…Uhm, Yoshida-san, you probably don’t see me as such, but…”
Sayu continued with much difficulty. I didn’t know how to properly respond, so I looked away from her and awaited her next words.
Looking straight at a high school girl in her underwear would be a little off-putting.
“You know, despite how I am… I’m still a woman… well, a girl, actually.”
“Uhuh, I get that.”
There was a lot of weight behind that statement, but I readily parried it.
Still, Sayu shook her head at my reply.
“You’re wrong Yoshida-san, you don’t understand that at all.”
“And why do you think that?’
Hearing my rebuttal, Sayu wordlessly approached me step by step. Faced with the eerie pressure exuded by the high school girl closing in in nothing but her underwear, I reflexively took a step back.
Finally, Sayu arrived in front of me, looking me right in the eye with unturned eyes.
“You know, for a high school girl, I think my breasts are on the larger side.”
“And know a high school girl like that is in front of you in nothing but her underwear.”
“Just put on your clothes already.”
“How do you like it?”
My eyes which had avoided looking at Sayu until now, now turned to looked directly at her.
“Don’t give me that, to start with, a high school girl shouldn’t be showing her skin to-…”
“Wanna have sex?”
My thoughts came to a halt.
In then it rapidly accelerated, accompanied with fury.
“I told you that I was going to kick you out if you pull this shit again…!”
“The people I met before-!!”
I had meant to pacify her with those words, but Sayu responded with a volume close to a shriek. The intense pressure behind her words felt as though it was binding me.
Sayu put a hand on my pajama shirt, then grabbed in tightly in her palm. Her hands were shaking.
“The people I met before… all wanted to do it.”
The people she met before… that she wasn’t referring to a lover went without saying.
She was talking about the people whose homes she surfed around.
I could feel a swelling sensation in my chest.
When I listened to what she had to say when she first arrived here, I got the feeling that might’ve been the case. She purposely spoke about it in vague terms, so I never asked about it in detail.
However, I had nothing more to say. Yet, seeing her wordlessly shake in front of me, I felt a sudden realization – I had to ask.
“…Did you do it?”
I placed my hand on the hand that she grabbed me with. After a brief intermission, she lightly nodded.
I couldn’t help but sigh.
“Mm… I don’t know. Sorry.”
I felt a bit ashamed that I couldn’t firmly deny it.
In this moment, I felt something akin to disappointment intermixed with anger towards some men in this world. In between these feelings was a sense of despair; a desire to ask Sayu, who had allowed these men to do such things to her, ‘Why?’.
“Yoshida-san, don’t you want to do it with me…? If even just a eensy weensy bit?”
Hearing her say that, she pulled me into a hug. I could feel her chest pushing against me.
I wanted to tell her to stop playing around, to push her away, but her expression was serious, sincere, yet somewhat sorrowful. Strength seemed to leave my body.
She said with deep breaths as she touched me through my trousers.
“Hey, cut it out.”
“Not until you answer me.”
Sayu looked me directly in the eye as she ran a finger across my trousers.
“Do I excite you?” She said as she slowly placed a finger on the band of my trousers.
She would only need to touch that and she would know the answer to that. I wasn’t thick-skinned enough that I wouldn’t react to the slightest when pressed by a pair of ample breasts and appealed to in such a way by a woman.
In order words, my lower half was in ‘that state’.
With a heavy sigh, I grabbed Sayu’s hand that was on my trousers.
“Of course. I don’t think that there’s a man out there that wouldn’t be.”
Hearing me answer, Sayu’s face suddenly flushed red. She quickly turned away from me.
“What’s the point of getting embarrassed now? Quit screwing around already.”
“And get away from me already, before I make you.”
Sayu stepped back away from me. Then, after a moment hesitation during which she cast her eyes restlessly about, she crossed her arms to hide her breasts, her face flushed.
“Come on already. You wouldn’t need to hide it like that if you just put on your clothes.”
“I-, I can’t… I want to keep talking like this.”
Why was she so fixated on that?
I still don’t get was it that she wanted to talk about that she had to be dressed like this.
“Uhm… so you see.”
Her eyes drifted along the floor as she desperately searched for the words to say.
It seemed as though she had something she needed to get across to me, so I decided to keep tight.
“I-, I was desperate. And… you see, I needed a way to somehow live without going home.”
Sayu continued, bit by bit.
“Of course, taking in a high school girl comes with more demerits than it’s worth. If the police find out, you’d most likely go to jail. That why… I figured that there had to be some merit in taking me in, you see?”
Her words came to a halt as she hung her head defeatedly.
She didn’t want to talk about the cornerstone of her situation.
“…And that merit ended up being your body, huh.”
Sayu’s back curled as she lightly nodded.
“…Mhm. I really hated it at first… but somehow… I got used to it. It just became normal.”
“Rather, it was only in those moments that I truly felt that I existed; that I was needed. There were times where I even felt happy… if not satisfied… you see…”
I didn’t know whether I should be angry or sad.
All I knew was that I didn’t want to listen to this any longer.
However, Sayu wanted me to hear it, so I did everything I could to hold it together.
Even then, I couldn’t just plug my ears and give default responses.
I desperately held down the feelings that were endlessly festering within me and did what I could to earnestly engage in the conversation.
“Everyone would use me, saying things like ‘You’re so cute’ or ‘That feels good’; I had taken their offer for a place to stay after all. That was fine, it was easy to understand. When the demerits for that person outweighs the merits, I would be chased away. I would repeat that, again and again.”
Contrary to what she said, her expression was completely indifferent, as though it were a matter-of-fact. Her voice was complete devoid of emotion, as though she were reading someone else’s biography.
“That’s why I don’t understand you.”
She raised her head and looked me in the eye.
“Why are you letting me stay here, Yoshida-san?”
She spoke softly, but I could feel an intense amount of passion within what she said.
“I don’t have anything to offer you. Anyone can do simple household chores. As it stands, I’m nothing but a minor convenience to you. It doesn’t have to be me either. Despite how much trouble I’ve caused you, you always respond with kindness. Knowing that kindness… I began to wonder how to be make it so that I won’t be cast aside again… and I couldn’t figure it out.”
I couldn’t find the words to rebut.
What she said was certainly correct.
There weren’t many people out there would accept demerits without merit. However, such intricacies were things that minors should turn a blind eye to until they grow to become adults. The thought a high school girl had considered all this an offered her body as a result was regretful to say the least.
“I’m such an idiot aren’t I? I’m really just a helpless kid that doesn’t even know the first thing about herself… I don’t know what I should do when I’m not expected to do anything by anyone.”
Saying that, she approached me once again.
Again, she moved up to me, and again, she hugged me.
“Yoshida-san, if you really don’t mind-” Sayu said with a trembling voice, her head against my chest.
“Then do it with me. I’m fine with it if it’s you. If you would do it, then I would feel li- ugh! Mmpf! W-, What, I can’t breathe…”
Without hearing what she had left to say, I pulled her into a hug with all my might.
“Yoshida-san… I can’t…”
“What’s wrong… Wha-“
I dragged Sayu by her shoulders and pushed her against the wall of the hallway.
“No means no.” I continued, staring at her straight in the eye.
I’m sure my forehead was completely crumpled up, but in this moment, I couldn’t figure out how to loosen it.
“Alright, listen up.”
Sayu blinked a few times with a mix of hesitation and surprise, before nodding a few times.
“Honestly, I think that you’re really cute.”
“Despite being a high school girl, you have the right curves and the right bodylines. You’re good-looking, you can do the housework, there’s nothing more I could ask for.”
“W-, What’s this all of a sudden-”
“But you aren’t my type.”
Her face went blank at my declaration.”
“I can’t love you.”
Her lips parted in surprise. I continued to stare at her eyes, which absentmindedly blinked a few times.
“I won’t do it with a woman I don’t love. Well… I’d of course react to your body, but I don’t want to see you naked, nor do I want to have sex with you in the slightest. You asked me just now remember, that ‘if I don’t mind’? Then I’ll answer you. I do mind. I refuse. Got it?”
Sayu loudly gulped as if overwhelmed. Having said all that I had to say, I left her alone for a few seconds.
“Okay then… now put on your clothes already.”
I pointed to the sweats that had been cast aside in the living room. Sayu bounced on her feet to retrieve it and – finally – vigorously pulled it over her head.
With the skin reflected in my eyes decreasing, I could feel the tension slipping away. I sat down in the hallway where I was.
I had moved my body and mouth with the sole purpose of getting her to cut it out. With that objective completed, I could finally gather my bearings.
It felt as though I could now begin to gradually put what I wanted to say into words.
“…You said that you could do nothing for me, but it really isn’t it case.”
Hearing my murmurs, Sayu, who had now dressed herself, slowly crawled towards me and sat down next to me.
“To me, a home has always been just a place to eat, take a bath, and sleep.” I continued.
Though I wasn’t looking at her, I could tell that she was looking at me.
“Work was enjoyable. Plus, the more I worked, the more I earned. Knowing that I would be able to save up, I really had no qualms about my life being round trips from home to work.”
Thinking back, my life had been as I said.
In the five years since I’ve started working, I couldn’t remember anything but work. Of course, I have memories of going drinking with my coworkers and going bowling with them.
However, I never once had a lover, nor had I ever taken any long breaks to do travelling and the like. Either way, I found some way to involve myself with work each and every day.
“That’s fine, I thought. Plus, I often fantasized about dating Gotou-san and how bright such a future could be.” I said in a somewhat deprecating tone as I turned to glance at Sayu.
Unable to find the words to respond, she showed an awkward smile and let out a long nasal breath.
“But when you arrived… all that changed.”
Since she arrived.
Even without going into specifics, there was more than enough to talk about.
“I would have a delicious dinner and a prepared bath waiting for me when I got home. Plus… you’re here, Sayu.”
My thoughts smoothly transitioned into words. I could hear Sayu breathing deeply beside me.
“How should I put this… You’re concerned about what ‘added value’ you bring, aren’t you?”
‘How am I seen by others?’. ‘What do they want from me?’. She had come all the way here fearing the standards set by others, hasn’t she?
This was my final answer to her fears.
“My life has a lot more enjoyable just by you being here, Sayu.”
Sayu’s gaze seemed to waver.
“I just got rejected by Gotou-san back then, so I may have been feeling a little lonely too… Knowing that you’ll be here, that I would have someone to chat about pointless topics over dinner, that I wouldn’t be sleeping all alone in this cubicle, has made this place a lot more comfortable. I’ve begun to think that ‘I have to get home sooner’ too.”
During the time that I was talking, Sayu eyes had grown ragged and she had broken into tears. I couldn’t pinpoint why she cried, but even I could tell that those were not tears of sorrow.
“That’s why I want you to stay with me, or so I should say.” I said as I scratched my chin.
The hairs which I’m sure I had shaved this morning had already started to regrow.
“I’m nothing but an unseemly old man, so…”
I really should have said this sooner.
Ever since bringing this girl home, I’ve felt nothing but the desire to help her without taking back.
She had run away for some reason. On top of that, she had been jump from one man’s home to another. I had hoped to become the white knight that would protect and guide this girl back on track.
Those were my honestly feelings, but that wasn’t everything.
I had mistakenly believed that it was everything, when in truth, it lacked fairness.
“So, until you feel ready to go back-”
I would take this girl in – that very idea had been a mistake. Cohabitation without equal standing was wrong.
“Won’t you stay here?” I finally said.
Sayu let out a sob and hung her head downwards.
She rubbed her eyes with the sleeves of her sweaters and sniffed her snot countless times.
Then, she raised her head with a crumpling expression and asked in a trembling voice.
“Is that okay?”
“Mhm, if all you’re doing is staying of course.”
“…You’re really a desireless, pitiful old man.”
“Now ain’t that right.”
Sayu let out a chuckle even as she wiped her tears. Even I couldn’t help but laugh.
As she giggled, she crawled up until she was right beside me, and then rested her head against my shoulder.
“We’re both such miserable people.”
Saying something that was clearly different from what she had said earlier, she raised her head.
“Since you’re so pitiful, I’ll be with you.”
With that, she finally seemed to loosen up, showing her trademark slackened smile.
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
A high school girl was hard for an old man like me to deal with.
But I’m sure the same applied to her; an old man was hard for a high school girl like her to deal with.
Perhaps only now, having laid bare each of our weaknesses, did our ‘cohabitation’ truly begin in earnest.
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