Volume 2, Chapter 7: Confrontation
Translator : chelly
Editor / Proofreader : OD Dragon
“It’s a really small space.”
“I said I don’t mind.”
“No, really, it’s much smaller than you might think, Gotou-san.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry.”
We finished our meal and took a train to the station nearest to home. As we exited the gate, I felt a sudden surge of nervousness. I felt a slight chill in my stomach. I could feel my stomach churning and my heartbeat quickening.
“Oh, wow, there’s a movie theater!”
“Ah… it’s been there for a long time.”
“Do you go there often?”
“No, not much.”
“Hmm… not much, huh? Even though it’s nearby.”
“Do you like movies, Gotou-san?”
“No, not really.”
“Oh, I see.”
So what was the sequence of events that led up to this? Because of her excitement about the movie theater, I thought she was a movie buff like Mishima.
Gotou-san was looking all over the place, watching everything around the train station as she followed me. And then, she immediately noticed a convenience store a short distance away.
“Oh, speaking of which, that little girl staying at your house, how is she doing tonight? Isn’t she hungry?”
I shook my head, moved my left hand as if it were a cat’s paw, and then my right hand as if holding something from the kitchen.
“She can cook. I think she probably prepared something convenient today as well.”
When I said that, Gotou-san nodded her head with an expression on her face that seemed to had a hidden meaning.
“Proud of your wife?”
“N-no, you’re wrong!”
“Haha, I’m kidding.”
Gotou-san smiled amusedly and headed towards the convenience store.
“You’re buying something?”
“I have to buy a present.”
“No, you don’t have to.”
“That’s not for you to decide, is it?”
With her shoulders shrugging as she laughed, Gotou-san entered the convenience store. I can’t imagine Sayu being happy to receive a souvenir from Gotou-san at all. On the contrary, it was easier to imagine her looking at me with a troubled smile.
As I walked into the convenience store, I saw Gotou-san standing in front of the sweets department, looking at the shelves. Without looking at me, she asked:
“Does that girl like sweets?”
“…I’m not sure, but I don’t think she dislikes them.”
I remember the time Sayu and I went to a family restaurant and ate parfait. From the way she reacted at the time, I don’t know if she loved it or not, but she probably didn’t hate it.
“Then, I wonder if she would be happy if I bought something sweet and creamy…”
“I don’t know…”
“Maybe ice cream?”
“I’m not sure…”
Gotou-san suddenly glanced at me. When our eyes met, I felt a little stunned.
“You don’t know much about her, do you?”
Gotou-san smiled and said that as if it was nothing.
“Well, there are eclairs, ice cream, snacks, and a bunch of stuff! There’s so much to buy. I wonder which one will give me the win.”
“You don’t have to buy all that stuff…”
“No, no, it’s fine. Besides, it doesn’t make sense if I don’t bring her a present that will make her happy.”
Gotou-san said this happily and put the sweets and other snacks in the basket in her hand one after another. I guess she didn’t listen to my comments at all. No, perhaps…
What Gotou-san said a while ago came to mind.
You don’t know much about her, do you?
Those comments I made may have been deemed unhelpful. Now that I have thought about it, I’m not sure what kind of things Sayu likes or dislikes. I feel that I don’t know much about such trivial things.
“Aren’t you buying anything, Yoshida-kun?”
I was surprised when Gotou-san suddenly spoke to me. She was standing right next to me and she had a lot of stuff in her basket.
“A-ah… I think I’ll get a coffee.”
Pretending to be thinking about something, I nodded and headed to the beverages section. I picked up a coffee drink with milk and sugar, and Gotou-san grabbed me from the side.
“Oh, what is it?”
“I’ll buy it for you.”
“No, no, it’s okay…”
Gotou-san moved her face closer to mine, interrupting my words. The rapid change in the physical distance between us made it impossible for me to complete the second sentence.
“You’re doing me a favor, and I want to thank you for that. Got it?”
Gotou-san slowly shook her head, smiled, and walked to the cash register. Looking at her figure from behind, I sighed. She sure was taking her time.
We finished shopping and slowly made our way home. If I was alone, I would walk quickly, but Gotou-san wears heels. If I don’t match her stride, she’ll be left behind.
It was strangely refreshing to be walking alone with Gotou-san and to hear the loud, clicking sound of her heels on the street at night. While making small talk along the way, Gotou-san asked something which caught me by surprise.
“Hey, what’s her name?”
“The girl’s name. What is it?”
She was probably referring to Sayu. I wondered if it was all right to say her name, but she would probably ask me later anyway even if I didn’t say it here.
“Her name’s Sayu.”
“Sayu-chan. Sounds nice.”
Gotou-san nodded, her mouth seemed to be about to smile. And then she continued to ask me.
“And her last name?”
“As for her last name, I think I caught a glimpse of it on her student ID card, but I wasn’t paying much attention.”
As I replied, Gotou-san suddenly burst into laughter. I looked at her to see what was going on, but she was looking at me with a teasing look on her face.
“Although that girl has been an acquaintance of yours for a long time, you don’t know her last name. I find that quite strange.”
I couldn’t respond to Gotou-san’s words with my mouth open in shock. I was totally screwed over. Back then at the yakiniku place, I lied to Gotou-san about my relationship with Sayu.
However, I was very careful not to let my eyes swim1around, and since she hadn’t followed up on it, I assumed that it was deceptive. But, the fact that I was accused of this kind of trickery suggests that I was firmly under suspicion.
I looked at Gotou-san with a sideways glance, but she was still in a bit of a good mood and clicked her heels. She did not continue to ask questions, so it seemed that she had no intention of pursuing the fact that I’m not sure what Sayu’s last name is. She was quiet and smiling as always so I didn’t know what she was thinking.
Her mysteriousness had been her charm, but now she looked at me in a very eerie way. After that, Gotou-san hardly touched on the subject of Sayu, and as we walked around making bland conversation, we arrived home in no time at all.
“Can I ask you to wait for a moment, please?”
I got to the door and as I turned the key in the lock, there was a sudden breeze of cowardice.
“Ah, I don’t think I cleaned up.”
“Huh? Wasn’t Sayu-chan doing the housework?”
“Well, yeah, but it might still be a bit messy.”
“Stop trying to delay the inevitable, Yoshida-kun.”
Smiling, Gotou-san put her hand on the doorknob. As I held the door, Gotou-san plastered an even more forced smile on my face. It was a smirk. Then she grabbed the doorknob with both hands and pried it open.
I didn’t expect her to go that far. As I was holding the door with only one hand, I gave up and pulled my hand away from the door. When I looked inside, I saw Sayu standing in the hallway with her mouth hanging open. Sayu looked at me and Gotou-san in turn, then tilted her head in confused silence.
“Uh, I’m home…”
When I said that, Sayu finally smiled bitterly and let out a breath.
When I looked to the side, I saw Gotou-san had a seemingly happy smile on her face.
“Good evening, Sayu-chan. I’m Gotou.”
Gotou-san said as she stared at Sayu and lifted the plastic bag in her hand.
“First of all, want some snacks?
Sayu smiled vaguely and then looked at me. See, that’s why I knew this was going to happen. The expression on Sayu’s face was hardly different from the one I had imagined.
Gotou-san looked sideways at me as if following Sayu’s gaze and then smiled at me.
“I’m not sure how long I’m supposed to be standing here.”
“Oh, I’m sorry! Please come in…”
I let her through the front door with the same vague expression as Sayu and closed the door. I felt the cold sweat running down my back. I tried desperately to imagine what Gotou-san would say to Sayu after this, but I couldn’t get my head around it at all.
“Do you like sweets?”
“Ah, yes, I like them…”
Compared to Gotou-san who, as always, was smiling at her own pace, Sayu was hesitantly talking and floundering. Then naturally, she let out a sigh.
“Hahaha! Basically you saw a girl on the street so you picked her up and decided to let her stay with you. You did something amazing without knowing it, Yoshida-kun.”
It was my first time meeting Gotou-san, and she was just what I had imagined from the things I have heard from Yoshida-san, except that she was even more difficult to read than I had imagined. It’ll be difficult to hide anything from her.
Gotou-san asked Yoshida-san and me some questions while helping herself to the snacks she brought, but whenever we would try to cover something up, she would politely point it out. After a while, both Yoshida-san and I had given up and started to answer her questions honestly.
“Sayu-chan, did Yoshida-kun do anything strange to you?”
Gotou-san looked at me with a mischievous smile and compared Yoshida-san’s reactions to mine. I looked across at Yoshida-san, who was obviously anxious and chuckled at him. Why is he anxious? He didn’t do anything.
“He hasn’t done anything to me. I was really surprised.”
When I answered, Gotou-san squinted a little and nodded.
Gotou-san stared at me so closely that I looked away in a hurry. I had trouble with the way she was looking at me. I felt as if she was looking into my heart.
“Well, Yoshida-kun doesn’t seem to be interested in younger people. You’re quite lucky, Sayu-chan.”
“Even if I were interested, I wouldn’t lay a hand on her.”
“Eh~ I’m not so sure about that.”
“Hey! I’m not such an easy man!”
“Haha, it’s a joke.”
Gotou-san was teasing Yoshida-san. On the other hand, Yoshida-san reacted by looking a little embarrassed. The exchange was hilarious, and it was easy to see that these two had developed a friendship over the course of their time at work. It became clear to me that their relationship had gone beyond that.
It was supposed to be nice, but oddly enough, it bothered me. Did I show it in any way? As I looked away, repressing a hazy feeling, I had the feeling that Gotou-san was staring at me. When I turned my gaze in her direction, our eyes met as she looked into my face.
“Ah, no… it’s nothing.”
“Your face says otherwise, though.”
Gotou-san smiled persistently while staring at me. Ah, that smile, I really wish you would stop it. It was as if her smile completely hid her true nature. The eeriness of not knowing what was hidden in her smile was robbing me of words to say.
“Really, it’s nothing. Maybe I had too much dinner.”
I said to keep up appearances. Gotou-san responded with an “I see” and a nod, not probing further. She probably knew my answer was improvised yet she didn’t insist. I was relieved, but at the same time, I thought it was a bit creepy.
“Speaking of which, what did you have for dinner?”
Yoshida-san was silent for a moment then asked this as if trying to change the subject, and to help him I looked up and answered.
“Meat and potatoes. It was pretty good.”
“Oh, is that so? Such a shame that I couldn’t have it freshly made.”
“That’s right. Be sure to eat some tomorrow morning.”
When Yoshida-san and I were talking casually like we usually do, Gotou-san burst out laughing. She funnily shook her shoulders and then gave us a sly look.
“You’re like newlyweds.”
“No, seriously, stop it.”
Yoshida-san’s reaction seemed to be amusing for Gotou-san as she laughed even more. I found the way she laughed funny as it was similar to a child’s.
“I’m going to the bathroom.”
“Okay, see you later!”
Yoshida-san stood up and walked down the hallway to the door of the toilet. Only Gotou-san and I were left in the room. As I was breaking out in a cold sweat by myself, trying to figure out what to say, or even if I needed to say anything at all, Gotou-san let out a sigh and then said in a low voice:
Gotou-san and I looked into each other’s eyes. A smile appeared on her face that seemed to be hiding something until now. However, it was a gentle smile and she had a straight look that seemed to pierce my eyes, and it stung.
“I’d like to have a word with you in private.”
Gotou-san nodded, then raised her index finger suggestively.
“Maybe there’s something you want to ask me, just as there’s something I want to ask you too? I wonder.”
I was irritated by her expression, which seemed to indicate that she was seeing right through me. But she was right, there was only one thing I had to ask her.
I think Gotou-san implicitly presented me with the “terms of exchange.” She was implying that now that we had the opportunity to be alone together, we could answer each other’s questions. I think she really is a sly person. That being said, I don’t really have a choice.
“I’ll make time.”
When I answered, Gotou-san smiled and bowed her head slightly.
Turning away from Gotou-san, I waited for Yoshida-san to come out of the bathroom. It should have been only a few minutes, but it felt like a long time. I heard the sound of the toilet flushing and then Yoshida-san came out of the bathroom. I turned around and gave an excuse I had just thought up.
“Yoshida-san, sorry, I forgot to buy the ingredients for breakfast tomorrow.”
When I said that, Yoshida-san stood still for a moment, but quickly tilted his head and responded.
“I don’t mind. I can just go grab something tomorrow.”
“No way, you have to eat properly in the morning.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it if you haven’t bought ingredients.”
“No, I mean, that’s why…”
While feeling guilty for deceiving Yoshida-san, I put a fake smile on my face.
“Would it be possible for you to go buy them now? It’s almost 10 p.m. and I might get called out for being outdoors at this time…”
As I said this, Yoshida-san raised his eyebrows and looked at me, then Gotou-san in turn.
“Well, I don’t mind making a trip out but… are you two going to be okay?”
“It’s fine. We’ll have a fun chat with each other. Right, Sayu-chan?”
“Ah, yes… we’ll be fine. So could I count on you?”
Gotou-san intentionally laughed at Yoshida-san. When I nodded, Yoshida-san sighed a little and nodded his head.
“What do I need to buy?”
“I need some eggs, nira2, and also miso.”
Yoshida-san glanced at Gotou-san once more, then took his wallet and cigarettes out of his business bag, which he kept at the side of the corridor, and headed for the door.
“I’ll be back after I’ve had a smoke, so it might take me a little while.”
“Okay. Have a good one.”
Yoshida-san walked out of the door and closed it. There was silence for a short while.
Gotou-san spoke suddenly. When I lifted my gaze, I was met with eyes staring straight at me.
“So, can I ask you first?”
When I nodded, Gotou-san put on a different, slightly darker smile than before and asked me.
“Is it true that you’re a high school student?”
“Where are you from?”
The question left me speechless for a moment. I was thinking if I should tell her the truth or not. But I thought that if I were to lie, she would definitely catch me.
It’s not a question of whether I should tell the truth or not anymore. It’s a situation where I just have to tell her. I gulped and answered.
“Since when did you run away from home?”
“More than half a year ago.”
Gotou-san didn’t change her expression at all when she heard my answer. Nonchalantly, she continued asking me serious questions.
“Why did you do it?”
The question reminded me of numerous events that took place in Asahikawa, and I shook my head.
“…I don’t want to answer that.”
“…Okay, I understand.”
Gotou-san nodded quietly at my response.
“I’m not going to ask you what circumstances led you to run away from home and end up all the way out here.”
Gotou-san’s voice was gentle. I could tell she was taking into consideration my mental state. I was glad that I didn’t have to lie to her. It was frightening that this person could read my mind, but it was very clear she speaks to me with the utmost respect. I can’t do a disservice to someone who respects me so much.
I felt that the tone of Gotou-san’s voice had diminished a little.
“There’s one thing I need to clarify.”
Gotou-san looked me in the eyes when she said this. I also looked her in the eyes. Her eyes look like they’re going to suck me in. I felt my heart racing.
“I’m asking this as Yoshida-kun’s “friend” and as someone who’s a “stranger” to you.”
After saying that, Gotou-san smiled. And then, in an instant, the smile disappeared from her face. She gave me a cold look which seemed to pierce my eyes.
“How long do you intend to stay here?”
After Gotou-san said that, I bowed my head a little. It felt like my heart was about to burst.
I too have thought about it many times since coming here. And now, she is making me face that inescapable question head-on, which I have been trying to avoid answering over and over.
1 Yoshida used the term “swim” which Asami also used to describe his eyes when lying in Volume 2 Chapter 3.
2 Is the Japanese name for garlic chives. Related to the onion, it’s long flat leaves look like blades of grass, but it has a mild garlicky fragrance and pleasantly fibrous texture that is almost crunchy.
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