Implication 5: New Beginnings

Credits and thanks goes to whore!sica!


 We’re moving into our new places, and Ayane’s mother has asked me to help out her daughter. I sort of want to tell her mother to go find Keigo, who is Ayane’s actual boyfriend, but now’s a good time to impress that mother. Win over the mother who will then persuade her daughter to pick that other guy, right?
My plan means tons of lifting into Ayane’s new room. All Ayane has to do is look after the remaining boxes at the front of the hall, so no one steals them. I, however, have to also stack those boxes and luggage onto this cart. Her mother is responsible for organizing Ayane’s clothes, books, and other belongings. 

As I make my second round of deliveries down the corridor, I pass by Takeshi. He and I assess each other with one look. There’s no mistake at all. It’s that douche bag. I still don’t get why Fan Girl likes him, and it is even worse that he is on the same floor and same wing as Ayane. I can imagine the two bonding; Takeshi’s group sometimes hangs out with Keigo’s friends. Ayane probably already knows Takeshi; he was not exactly low-key at high school. I wonder why he is even here. Ogano said that Takeshi was going to the same university as him. I guess Taekmi got lucky with the waiting list. Damn that bas.tard.

I’m glad that I’m not living closer to campus; it’s way too expensive too. I decided to live at a place that was around forty-five minutes away from campus. It’s not that bad compared to where I lived before, which was an hour away. I haven’t exactly moved into my building, but there isn’t much to bring. After helping Ayane, I’ll have to do my own things. School starts after today, and I still haven’t gotten my books. I’ll get them after the first day of classes; it seems too much of a hurry to get them now. Plus, I doubt we’ll be doing much on the first day, just some introduction stuff.

“It’s too bad Keigo-san goes to Osaka University,” her mother mutters in dismay. She is putting plates and bowls into one of the cabinets while I am placing the last box into the room.

I try to act politely and nicely by saying, “Yes, but do not worry. I’ll be there when Ayane-san needs me.”

Her mother gives me a sympathetic look, almost to the point of pitying me. “I hope you are not too overburdened by my daughter,” she sighs. “Ayane really has no idea how lucky she is sometimes.”

“She has a gentle heart though,” I remind her, “and that’s what’s important.”

“Yes,” Ayane’s mother slurs in between her words. “Yes . . . she does, and I hope . . . you always know that.”

“I’m going to go get Ayane-san now and make the last round,” I declare and exit the room almost too quickly. 

Before I know it, I see Ayane jogging towards me with a sheepish smile and a shy wave. “Hey!” she cheers aloud.

“Wait . . . why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be—“

“I got bored,” she grumbled and grabbed me by the arm. “Plus, I got a guy to look after it for me! I can help you now.”

I’m not sure how she’d be helpful. She’s really a major klutz. She can’t clean, cook, or organize. She’s only good at writing her poems and stories. She has been published a few times in local journals. I’m not sure how she’s able to be so talented, yet be so challenged too.

“I’m actually done,” I inform her, “so I guess let’s just get the remaining stuff from the guy you met?”

She claps her hands in joy. I can’t help but grin along with her. She’s always so optimistic; I’m sure that’s why so many guys like her too. “Sounds good! I’ll race you there!” She winks at me and already starts to run down the hall.

As stupid as I seem, I chase after her. She has this way of making me do foolish things. I feel childish with her, but I think that’s how she releases the stress on me. I feel free with her. She might nag at me like how a mother should, but she will never force me to do anything I don’t want to do. Perhaps I’m chasing blindly after something unattainable. I don’t mind though. I don’t mind all this running because I know it’ll be worth it. She’ll come to her senses one day. She’ll . . .

“Thank you so much, Takeshi!” Ayane flashes her signature smile at him and even pats his arm. “I hope it wasn’t too much of a burden for you. I know you have your own stuff to carry.”

“Oh it’s nothing, Ayane.” Takeshi has this gross, fake laugh. In fact, he reminds me of a plastic doll that all the girls want as their prince. “And this is?” Takeshi throws me a weary glance. I know I don’t belong here in this high class world because this building is for the elite. I reek of poverty. I know that well enough, so he doesn’t need to implicitly tell me that. Honestly, he’s such a basta.rd.

“Takeshi,” I informally call him and place my arm over his shoulder, “we know each other already! You’re funny! Ayane, you and I all went to the same school! And I really wanted to apologize about what happened at the school festival. I let my emotions get to myself. That happens a lot with me. I hope you don’t mind.”

Even with an uncomfortable, tense face, Takeshi manages to say, “Ah, it’s okay.” 

Purposely, I tighten my grasp around his neck to announce, “That’s good then! I can be straightforward with you. You know, I really don’t like posers. I hope we’ll both keep it real. ”

“Azuma!” Ayane screams at me, stomping one of her feet. “You’re going to suffocate him!”

I smile widely and loosen my grip. “Sorry about that, Takeshi,” I apologize. “I get too passionate at times.”

Straightening his collar, Takeshi murmurs, “It’s fine.”

Then, I carry the bags that Ayane has and continue laughing my head off. The expression on Takeshi’s face was priceless. That was fun. That was better than fun. My laugh, though, breaks off once I see Ayane make that face, where her eyes squint and her lips puff up. She’s disappointed in me. She thinks I was being rude to her new friend. She doesn’t know the whole story; she’ll never see anyone’s bad side. She’ll only notice their good points. That’s probably why she chose to befriend me in the first place. Out of all the wickedness in me, she still found something good, and now, I’m losing whatever she discovered in me.
It hurts to see her treat me this way, but I can’t get myself to apologize to her. I don’t think I’m wrong, and that marks the beginning of our long silence. Once I finish helping her out, I head back to my own place. I purposely pick a time to move when Hisashi is away at one of his lessons. I don’t want him begging me to stay. He’ll make me waver, and that’s no good. So, this is it, I tell myself. I’m going forth on a new journey. There won’t be anyone else that I’ll know, but I think fate is funny bringing a stranger in my life. 

Just when I think I won’t see anyone from high school anymore, Fan Girl becomes one of my neighbours. In fact, she lives on the same floor as me, three doors down from my room. She is moving in like me, except she has more things to bring in unlike me. She is a girl after all. I would help out if the two of us were introduced with each other, but since we are strangers, I don’t do anything. I unlock the door and throw in my knapsack and gym bag. Too tired to even make my way to my room, I settle on lying on the wooden floor of the small living room. The whole place is pretty empty. I think my roommate probably hasn’t moved in yet. 

I see that girl in my mind upon closing my eyes. It has only been a month, but I see a few minor changes in her. Her hair has grown longer, and instead of having bangs, she chooses to split her hair to the side. Even though her face is rather bare, I can tell that she has started to wear eyeliner and mascara. Her hidden double eyelids seem bigger now, and there is more life in her otherwise desolate stare. I’m not exactly sure who or what made her change, but I like how she is moving forward.

After lying on my makeshift bed for too long, I roll over and force myself up. I’m too hungry to even sleep it through. Guess I’ll just make a run for the convenience store. I’m glad I was smart enough to pick an apartment that had a few stores and restaurants scattered here and there. There will be days where I’ll be too tired to cook, especially when I’ll be working three days a week at a clothing store. I throw on my hoodie and slip on my trainers. Tapping my jeans, I’m relieved that I didn’t lose my keys and wallet.

Now, what should I eat and drink? 

All the way to the store, I keep trying to answer that question. I’m being too indecisive these days, like I’m not even sure if I’m going to the right major. Finance just seems stable. Thinking about this just makes my head ache. I guess I’ll stock up on some beer and some sake. That should be good.

As the doors automatically open, I head to the fridge. I grab at least six cans of beer and then throw two onigiri onto the counter. The cashier tells me the price, and just as my hand slips into my pocket, I see pass by this store. She has a small cupcake in her hand and a candle in another. I don’t see why she doesn’t get the lady to pack up these two things into a bag. Is it because she wants someone to take notice of these items? If yes, then why?

“Sir?” the cashier reminds me to pay.

“Ah yes, sorry,” I mumble quietly and fumble through my wallet. “I just thought I saw someone familiar.”

Once I place the change onto the tray, the cashier punches a few numbers, grumbling, “Well, you should have greeted your friend then.”

I’m thinking . . . she’s not exactly a friend when she has no idea that I exist. Still, I lie, “Yeah, I should have asked her why she was holding onto a candle and a cupcake.”

“Someone’s birthday?” The cashier places a finger on her lips. “Or maybe it’s her own? I mean, usually people don’t give other people something that small. And usually it’s cake right?”

Immediately, I sprint down an aisle even though the cashier is yelling at me. She has no idea why I’m leaving my stuff behind, but I know exactly why. Pacing down another aisle, I stop once I see what I want to buy: skincare. I know she is starting to change, but she probably doesn’t have all of her supplies. I don’t think she is particularly rich since she’s living in my building. Scanning quickly, I holler at the cashier, “Which toner has been rated pretty highly?”

Most likely pitying me, the cashier walks towards me and helps me pick out a toner. Luckily, it’s not too expensive or too cheap, and it just so happens that I have enough money left to buy this. Upon scanning the time, the cashier notes with her eyes slanted downwards, “I hope this isn’t a gift for your girlfriend. It seems kind of . . .”

Stupid? Odd? Yeah, I know that this isn’t the best gift out there, but it’s practical or at least I hope it will be. I know I should just ignore her comment. However, I correct her, “It’s not for my girlfriend.”

“Oh.”

So I make my way back home, and by the time I reach home, I realize that I’m not very sure which room she lives in. I don’t even know how I’m going to give this to her without seeming weird. I let out a sigh and place everything I have bought onto the ground. Planting my bottom to the floor, I reach into the bag for a beer, my onigiri and the toner. As I’m filling up my stomach, I toss the toner up and down. I’m not sure what to do with this exactly. I guess I’ll give it to her one day. I’m glad the expiry date on these things is long. Who knows when we will actually meet or if we will ever meet?

But before I forget, I dig through everything I have for my pencil case. I get out a sharpie and a sticky note. Then, I write: “Happy Birthday.” I’m not sure what else to add before I stick this on the toner. It seems shallow to leave it at that, so I add: “Keep going. I know you can do it.”

I know he’ll eventually fall for you. I have this feeling that that bubble gum will learn to appreciate her. As superficial as this seems, he will be intrigued by her transformation. Fan Girl wasn’t ugly to begin with, but of course, she isn’t the most beautiful. There’s just something about her that makes me wonder. 

I wonder . . . what it’d be like to actually meet her.
------

I want to save money, so I ask Rei to lend me her almost broken car. She is even nice enough to help load my luggage from my home to the car. Then, the two of us unload the few belongings that I have to the lobby. When she sees what I have packed, she laughs at me in disbelief. 

“That’s it?” Rei shrieks so loudly that the birds fly away. “That’s all you have?”

I bite my lower lip and look at the ground. Once I place a box of kitchenware onto the ground, I mutter, “Y-y-yeah.”

“It’s amazing how you’re a girl.” Rei gives me a soft pat on the shoulder while shaking her head. As she sighs, she gawks at me straight in the end to warn me, “All right. I’ve got to get going to my boyfriend’s place. He has a gig tonight, and I’m supposed to help with his makeup.”

“Yup, thanks for all your help!” I shout at Rei, who is already dashing to her car that is illegally parked in front of the entrance of this eight-story high apartment.
Even though there are several floors and an elevator in this building, this place is rather old and shabby. The building’s walls are starting to crumble, and there are weird vines growing up them. The key that my landlord handed me for the front door is the classic sort that’s too simple to be safe. That’s what one gets with a limited budget. In this sense, my life is easier because of the few belongings I own. Lifting what I own into the elevator isn’t as tiring as someone with a closet full of clothing. Plus, I’m getting furniture later on. For now, I’ll just sleep on the ground.

I can’t help letting out a sigh once I manage to bring most of what I have into my room. This place isn’t big at all. I have all the basic necessities cramped into three areas: the living room/kitchen, my bedroom, and the washroom. There’s actually another room, but that’s for my roommate who has yet to come. That’s not really why I sighed. I sighed because it’s my birthday but no one has realized it yet. My parents already bought me something before, and I appreciate that. However, on the actual day, they’re too busy working to even tell me in person: “Happy Birthday.” This year is another birthday celebrated without cake. I don’t know how long it has been this way. Was this after our family’s financial crisis?

I know I shouldn’t mind that the friends that I have don’t remember. People these days are bad with dates. I think that’s an excuse though. If we were all bad with dates, then why is it that some people have birthday parties? Maybe, they planned their festivities by themselves to remind their friends of their birthdays. There are surprise parties though.

It’s just that every year on this particular day, I feel especially lonely. Am I that unpopular? Why am I even seeking for their wishes? Am I that self-conscious? I release another sigh and decide to head out. I have to buy myself something to celebrate this day to justify that there’s a meaning to my existence. I wonder what I should buy. It should be something like cake, something sweet, but nothing large. I can’t finish a whole cake by myself. It’s too expensive anyways.

Now, I grab my keys and lock the door. As I make my way down the hall, I see him walking towards me. It’s Azuma. He lives here too? The way Azuma stares at me makes me shudder. I hope he doesn’t know that my fingers are trembling so much that this empty cardboard box might just as well fall off from my grasp. I feel that he’s assessing me. Does he notice that I’m slowly changing? I took some of the money that I earned to get a proper haircut from the salon. Instead of cutting my own hair, I’m finally letting someone decide what matches my face shape. I even looked online for magazines about makeup. I’m starting out with the basics before saving more money for more supplies. Clothes will have to wait until I earn more as well. I’ll probably research where good second-hand clothes are sold. Then, I’ll be able to have more outfits and mix and match.

This trip to the elevator is supposed to be short and quick, yet passing by him makes it hard for me to breathe. Knowing that he lives on the same floor as me is scary. Maybe fate is toying with me, forcing me to not be lazy. I must change, and I think I am. Okaasan thinks I’m secretly dating some guy and shakes her head whenever she sees me now. Otousan is too busy working to even care. It’s okay, though. I don’t need them to understand what I’m doing. This is truly for the best.

That’s what I keep saying to myself even when I’m walking down the streets in search of a bakery. I keep strolling down this somewhat empty street. A few bicycles pass by here and there. Sometimes, children are racing down the alley. I think it’s cute how they’re still kids. It makes me feel nostalgic. It makes me think of those innocent days where I just played all day with my best friends, who have long separated from me. It is not that we became enemies. It’s just that we have changed, and friends come and go. They’re replaceable as much as we’d like to think otherwise. Sadly, that’s just how it is, I keep reminding myself before I finally arrive at a local bakery.

Inside this shop, there are the typical loaves of bread and different sorts of pastries here and there. For some reason, a row of cupcakes catch my eye. One of the workers tells me, “These cupcakes are part of new line that our pâtissier has developed. He thought that women would like cute, small treats rather than huge cakes.”

I look up to find a young teenager, maybe around seventeen, standing behind the counter. He is dressed in white like the assistant of the pastry chef. I wonder if this is his full time job or if he is just here for some extra cash. If this is his dream, then I’m surprised that his parents allow him to do this. He’s lucky. Sometimes, I wish my family would let me do what I wanted. Secretly, I have always dreamed to be a writer. I’d like to have a series published, one that is as popular as Harry Potter. Obviously, I never tell my parents of this dream. It’s far too idealistic and impractical. What are the chances of becoming the next Harry Potter writer? Slim, too slim to waste my youth on. That’s why I resort to writing online. At least, there are a few readers here and there. I want to, at least, share what I have. Maybe I’m not the most popular writer online, and I probably won’t be. However, knowing that there’s someone in this world reading my works makes me content already. Really, that’s the reason for writing right?

Now, I focus my attention back to the cupcakes. There’s one that has dark chocolate and mint sprinkled on top. I think that’s the one for me, and the boy with short, spiked hair blurts, “I really like that flavour. There’s just a bit of spice to it and bitterness that matches perfectly with the sweetness.”

“Then, I’ll get it.” I look at him to find his large hazelnut eyes widening.

With a sweet smile, the boy shouts, “Okay! I’ll pack that up for you!”

As I watch him do his job, I ask, “Is it all right if you give me a candle?”

He gazes at me with much puzzlement until he gasps and slams both his palms on the glass counter. “It’s your birthday?” he shrieks. Once I nod, he shouts even louder, “Oh god! Happy Birthday!” Then, he accidentally wonders aloud, “But wait . . . is that your birthday cake?”

I force myself to grin and chuckle. “No,” I find myself lying, “my friends have one for me. I just wanted to—“

The boy frowns at me as if knowing all along that I was lying. He lets out a scoff before muttering, “There’s really nothing bad about celebrating by yourself. I’m usually too busy in the store to remember anything about dates. Heck, holidays are our busiest days. I don’t get to celebrate Christmas.”

“Yeah,” I mumble almost too quietly, “I guess I shouldn’t complain . . .”

“Well, I was trying to make you feel better.” He glances in the other direction with his cheeks slightly burning. Scratching the back of his head, he suggests, “How about I treat you to this?”

“Wh-wh-what? No!” I wave my hands in front of him. How could I let a teenage boy help me out? Plus, I don’t even know his name. It seems wrong to take advantage of a stranger.

He reassures me with another gentle grin. Staring intently at me, he confirms, “Yes, let’s just make it that way. Of course, it’d be great if you could visit our shop often or help us advertise. To be honest, I don’t get why no one is coming in here. Our chef, Kazuki, makes great cakes and other goods, but . . . I don’t know.”

I can see that wavering in the young boy’s eyes. He’s wondering if he made the right choice to dedicate his career to baking. Obviously, his mentor isn’t doing too well. I think it’s the problem with this location. People here aren’t looking to spend extra money for unnecessary food. Cakes are something extra. If you don’t have one, it’s not like you won’t survive. I’m sure his chef had no choice but to locate here. The rent is by far cheaper than any other area. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? Except . . . sometimes, you just won’t make it big. I feel that guiltiness gulping down my throat. I don’t really want to be the bearer of bad news. I don’t really want to tear down his dream.

So, I widely push my lips apart to laugh. “Don’t worry about it!” I exclaim. “People will come! You just have to attract people! You know, step out and ask them to come in or have samples!”

“Thanks.” He returns to his typical cheerful attitude. “I’ll do my best.”

“No problem. I need to thank you for your gift too.”

“Oh, that’s nothing! Seriously, don’t sweat it! You deserve to have a nice birthday!” He hands me the wrapped good.

I feel bad for making him waste perfectly fine paper on me. I end up stating, “I’ll just take the cupcake and the candle. You’ve really done enough . . .”

“Nakihara Sentaro! But everyone calls me Sen,” he chirps. “And you? What’s your name?”

“Kuhara Sumiko,” I announce in a surprisingly clear, crisp voice.

As Sen unwraps the box containing the cupcake, he says, “Well, Kuhara-san, I wish you a Happy Birthday. Sixteenth birthday?”

“No, it’s my eighteenth,” I correct him.

Immediately, his palms clasp together, and he begs, “Oh! I’m so sorry! I thought you were the same age as me!”

“No, it’s all right."

"Ah gosh, I should have called you senpai!”

Somehow, it feels weird to be hear that coming from Sen’s mouth. He really doesn’t seem that young. He has those daunting, playful eyes and a strong jaw line. His forehead slumps over his eyes, creating a sort of Eurasian look. He looks mixed with his straight pointy nose and plump lips. He’s pretty tall, around a model’s height, and is rather fit for his age. From his white shirt, I can see the shape of his toned arms. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he were part of a sports team. Of course, he’s too pale to have participated in a lot of sports, and he has that sense of delicacy to him. He reminds me of a kabuki actor specializing in female roles. 

I honestly don’t know why I would say this, but I suggest to him, “Just refer to me as Kuhara-san.”

“Really?” He nearly slips on his toes. “But that seems so rude.”

“Well,” I mumble, “you said I could call you Sen.”

“Yeah! Of course!” he shouts before stretching his hands in front of him. “All right! You can call me Sen, and let’s see . . .” Placing his index finger on his lower lip, he cocks his head to the side and then proclaims with way too much excitement, “I know! I’ll call you Sumi!” 

He sticks out his tongue just as I hold the goods in my hands. When I turn around to frown at him, he waves at me merrily. I leave the store, but Somehow, I’m regretting letting this kid know my name. I can’t believe he just jumps to creating a nickname for me! Even my mom doesn’t get to call me Sumi. What makes this little boy think that he can skip all formalities? I guess he’s still young, still in high school so that’s why he can be so light-hearted. In fact, he kind of reminds me of Azuma, except Sen isn’t as wild as him. Sen has that touch of playfulness without going too overboard. Azuma, on the other hand, can catch you completely off-guard to the point where you’re too stunned to even make a peep. To be honest, Sen would make an interesting character for a story I have in mind. I may as well visit the store more often to understand his personality more. That way, I can develop his character. I’m just not very sure what female protagonist would pair with Sen. I guess . . . I’ll worry about that later. I’ll just hurry up and eat this cupcake before midnight. Then, it’s time to say good-bye to this birthday.
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