Part 22: House of Sweets ~un petit nid~ (22)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
It was a lavish birthday party.
Chise had gotten Rio the 24-color pastel set that he had wanted, and Agi had enrolled him in a children’s painting class in the neighborhood. Because Rio had seen the children with their art bags heading to the class and had given them longing looks.
“Mommy, Uncle, thank you. Next time, I’ll draw a picture for you both. Hiro-kun, thank you for the art supply bag. I’ll take good care of it.”
Kase nodded and stroked Rio’s head.
“And there’s Uncle Mutou’s present… I wonder if I can play with this okay.”
Rio tilted his head at the remote control car in his hands. The toy would normally make a young boy happy, but Rio liked drawing better than cars.
“Mutou is goddamn hopeless. Even kids have their own likes and dislikes, but year in and year out, he never listens to Rio’s requests and just buys whatever he wants.”
“Anything is fine as long as the thought is there. Rio, make sure you say thank you to Uncle Mutou next time.” Chise gave Agi a light rebuff and smiled at Rio.
Agi bowed his head and said, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right,” while Rio nodded happily with an “Okay!”
A mother, a father, and a child—it was a perfect picture.
“Alright! It’s about time for you know what~ Chise, get the lights.”
Chise got up, and Agi lit the candles on the cake. In the darkened bakery, an orange-lit space glowed around the cake decorated with bright red strawberries and whipped cream. Rio was in the middle with Agi and Chise on either side of him. That was as far as the light could reach.
“Rio, make a wish.”
“Okay. Umm, umm, well, I wish that I can get better at drawing. And that I can stay with Mommy and Uncle Agi forever and ever.”
Rio took a deep breath and blew out the candles. The flames disappeared like they’d been suctioned away somewhere. Rio’s wishes would likely come true.
Chise turned on the lights, and Agi sang Happy Birthday. Paper streamers and decorations in the shapes of planets and stars hung from the ceiling, and balloons of blue, green, and pink decorated the area. Kase had helped make the decorations too. Chise’s homemade dishes and cake were all lined up on the table.
Kase looked at this scene of happiness from outside of the circle. He was plainly envious. Kase had never had his birthday celebrated like this. He was no longer a child, and he thought that he was weird for thinking such a thing.
What cut him most deeply in this scene: the ring sparkling on the ring finger of Chise’s left hand. Kase had noticed it when he got back at the bakery, but he pretended like he hadn’t seen it. It was a beautiful diamond ring, and sometimes Chise would rub at it gently. Maybe it had been unconscious. It was a casual gesture that was filled with love.
Kase pretended to go wash his hands and left the bakery from the back door.
The sun had completely set as he walked through the darkened town and sent a text message to Agi that said he felt sick and left to go home. It was Rio’s birthday, and Kase hated how childish he was acting.
As he walked with his head down, it didn’t take long for him to arrive at the apartment building, but he didn’t want to go back to the dark apartment. Kase turned back towards where he came from. As he sought a brighter and brighter place, he eventually arrived at the train station. The place was crowded with people returning home from work. Kase bought a ticket and went through the ticket gate.
The platform was also full of people. Kase felt a little relieved among the crowd and followed everyone onto the train. However, he became incredibly sad as he watched the nighttime scenery outside of the train window. There were all these people here, but Kase was connected to no one.
However, if he were asked if he wanted to connect with the person next to him, the answer was no.
The name of the town where Kase previously lived was announced over the speakers. He suddenly remembered his ex, and it surprised him. Kase had missed his ex for a long time, and it surprised him that he had forgotten about the person until he arrived so close to the town. The train slowed to a stop.
When the door opened, Kase wasn’t thinking too deeply when he got off the train. It hadn’t been that many years since he moved, and the place hadn’t changed very much. As he walked the street lined with cherry trees that ran along the fence that separated the train tracks, Kase remembered suggesting to his ex that they go cherry blossom viewing in the spring. They broke up soon after that and hadn’t gone to see them. The cherry trees had lost their vibrancy this far into October. All that was left on them were their dried leaves.
Kase had leaned on the fence to listen in a daze to the sound of the trains passing behind him when he heard a nostalgic gentle voice call out his name.
“I never expected to see you here. I thought that it was someone who looked like you at first… It’s been a while.”
Kase’s ex gave him a smile. Kase didn’t know how to react and looked down at the ground. He couldn’t walk away, and they weren’t on terms where he could suggest that they get coffee or tea together. They leaned on the fence side by side together and watched the crowds of people walking past.
“Have you been doing well?”
“…Oh, um, uh, probably.”
The answer sounded pretty stupid. His health was fine, but emotionally, he wasn’t.
Kaname just smiled and nodded, and a silence fell between them.
“As for me, right now I’m a teacher at a cram school.”
“Yeah. I told you before, right? That I wanted to become one in college. Things happened, and it hadn’t worked out, but lately I’ve finally been able to think about myself more.”
“I think you’d be a good teacher, Kaname.”
“You think so?”
There was a happy bounce in Kaname’s voice. Kase nodded. Kaname had been endlessly patient with him when they had dated, at a time when Kase acted out violently at the smallest of things. Kaname had had his own issues which had compelled him to act that way, but even so, Kaname was someone who was good at looking after others.
“What about you, Hiroaki? What are you doing now?”
“…I work with bread.”
“I work in the kitchen of a bakery.”
“Oh? That’s nice. I think it suits you.”
Kase lifted his head at the unexpected answer. He felt like someone as gloomy as him didn’t fit the image of a bakery, the symbol of a happy peaceful life. However, Kaname continued on.
“Hiroaki, you cooked a lot for us when we dated. You would just throw together something from the fridge. I thought that you were so good with your hands. So you do have a talent for it.”
“Anyone can do something like that.”
“But we all have things that we’re good at and things that we’re not. Even if I practice, it will never turn out any good for me. You’re good with your hands, so I’ve always felt that you’re better suited for vocational work than an office worker.”
Did he really think so? Kase didn’t think that at all, but if Kaname said so, then—
Kaname widened his eyes when Kase thanked him.
“What?” Kase asked.
“Oh, nothing, sorry. I was just a little surprised.”
At what? Kase thought, but when he remembered what he was like in the past, he somehow understood. Everyone around him had been the enemy, and it made him want to vomit at the people who looked happy. If Kase had been his old self, he would probably spit, What would you know about me, at Kaname’s words.
“…Hiroaki, you’ve kind of changed. You look more gentle than before.”
“Yeah. I’m happy to see you like this. I think that maybe your current workplace really does suit you.”
Kase gave it a little thought and nodded. “It’s easy to be there.”
“Easy to be there?”
“The owner is a former yakuza. The boulanger used to be the wife of one too. Her son is cute, but the kids at school call him a pill bug, and sometimes real yakuza will come by too.”
Kaname listened to Kase with a smile.
“Everyone has gone through a lot in life, but they live every day normally. That’s why I think that I can also…”
That’s why I can also… what? Try my best? Be more honest?
Kase felt like they both seemed a little off, but they both seemed to fit too. He wasn’t sure what to say when he looked over next to him and met Kaname’s eyes.
“Yeah, I think I understand what you’re trying to say.”
Kase was relieved that Kaname gave him a smile. A happiness slowly spread throughout his chest.
In the past, Kase had wanted this smile so badly that he became desperate to obtain it. But he hadn’t been able to get a hold of it, and he had hurt Kaname. Right now, it was this simple to see Kaname’s smile. Kase hadn’t said much of anything. And it had been a coincidence that they met up on the street. Something about it felt strange.
The trains ran at high speeds behind them as they leaned against the fence and talked. The rumbling sound that grazed their ears was like the flow of time. Even if he wanted it to stop, it would keep going. There were things that disappeared as it flowed, but there were other things that could be seen instead too.
“I should try my best as well,” Kaname murmured, and a silence descended between them.
They had nothing in particular to talk about, and several trains passed behind them. Time continued to flow even now without stopping.
“Well, I should go.”
Kase was the one to say it.
“Okay,” Kaname said, picking up the handles of his bag
They told each other to take care and turned to go their separate ways. Kase suddenly remembered something that he forgot to ask.
“Kaname,” Kase called out.
The slender figure turned around.
“Are you happy now?”
Kaname tilted his head slightly, and his expression slowly changed.
It was a clear and bright smile that Kase had never seen before. He stood there captivated for a moment, before smiling back and waving. There were no intense emotions like in the past. He would probably never see him again. With a faint sadness and nostalgia, Kase watched the person he had loved leave.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.