Warm Place Chapter 13


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My Current Position

I’m reading a book while lying on the bed, but I can’t really focus and the content of the book isn’t entering my head at all. My chest feels fuzzy and restless. In the end, I close the book and leave it at the edge of the room.

——I wonder how many days have passed since I came to this town.

It shouldn’t have been long yet. Although, my memories are hazy, perhaps because so many things happened in the past few days. I open my cell phone to look at the calendar, and I notice that the school entrance ceremony is coming soon. Now that I think of it, I haven’t tried my uniform at all. I’d better check the sizes later.

“I hope I can get into the same class as Tsubaki.”

I’ve run into a series of coincidences that it should be called a miracle. So maybe… well, at least let me hope that I can spend a fun school life again at that school….

I vacantly recall my nostalgic high school memories. I didn’t think much about anything. I only thought that the fun days would continue forever. But all of a sudden, my future was smashed into pieces that day.

Am I going to start over from now on?

(…..Start over?)

What am I trying to start over in the first place? The future of [my past self] had ended. The sorrowful look of my childhood friend faintly surfaces for a brief moment——Her future is still going on.

This time, Tsubaki’s face, looking exactly like my childhood friend appears in my mind. I inadvertently wonder what she is doing right now. Oh, right, she said she’s going shopping.

“………”

I’m reminded by the fact that Saki was flirted with by two men. Is it okay for her to go out alone? Saki did warn her about it, though. But the more I think about it, the more I get worried, so I end up calling Tsubaki. But, it doesn’t connect, maybe her phone ran out of battery or something.

……I’m sure it’s because she is in someplace with poor signal. Acting like a worrywart will only bother her.

………

…………

“I-I’m worried.”

If I knew this would happen, I should’ve just asked to go with her from the start. Since I can’t stay still anyway, I go out to search for her.

 

*

 

“It’s been long since last rode a bicycle~ The wind feels nice~”

I borrowed the bicycle from Saki before going out to search for Tsubaki. I have no idea where her destination is, so I just look wherever I can think of. I have gone around quite a few stores that Tsubaki might visit, but I couldn’t find her.

Maybe we passed by each other and she already went home. Having given up, I decided to return home. For some reason or other, I drop by a public park on my way home, and I spot the sight of Tsubaki sitting on a bench by herself.

The park is empty. I wonder if she is thinking about something——she’s only sitting while looking down.

“Tsu—baki!”

When I cheerfully call out to her, she looks at me, surprised.

“Hinata-san?”
“Ehehe, what a coincidence. Have you finished shopping?”

I shift my gaze next to her, and I see a plastic bag filled with foodstuff. It seems that she’s done shopping.

“Yes, I have decided on what to buy beforehand, so it didn’t take long. Hinata-san, what are you doing here?”
“I’m cycling, with my sister’s bicycle.”

chirin chirin I ring the bell and park this mamachari that I borrowed from my sister in front of Tsubaki. Although she is staring at it like it’s something rare, this is only a commonplace bicycle that can be bought anywhere.

“Hinata-san, you can ride a bicycle. I am envious.”
“Ah, you told me before that you can’t ride one, didn’t you? …Then Tsubaki, wanna try to practice?”
“Eh?”
“Come on, try riding it for a bit. Our heights are not that different, so there won’t be a problem with the seat, I think.”
“Wah, wah, Hinata-san!”

I support Tsubaki as I let her get on the bicycle…. Yup, her feet are reaching the ground, so it should be okay. I used the training wheels when I first started. But since I don’t have them right now, I’ll be the one to keep the balance instead.

“Grip the handles firmly and put your feet on the pedals. I’ll hold the bicycle in place. Don’t worry, you won’t fall.”
“Y-yes.”

The bicycle wobbles greatly when she puts her feet on the pedals, so I put some strength to keep it steady. I somehow succeed, and I let her feel the knack to balance herself. After a while, her stability has improved, maybe because she’s started to get used to it. It’s time to advance to the next step.

“Next, try to move the pedals. It’s okay to go slowly, let’s see if you can pedal forward.”
“Wah, wah! Yes.”

Although unsteadily, Tsubaki manages to go forward with my support from behind.

“Now, turn. Push the handle bit by bit… Don’t use too much strength. Like this…”

I put my hands next to hers to teach her how much strength to put in. Although it’s clumsy, we still manage to turn around. Then we slowly advance in a straight line again.

After repeating several times, she is now cycling more steadily. Maybe she’s caught the knack of it. But, I didn’t expect that she would be able to improve so much in such a short time. Her learning speed surprises me.

“How is it? Have you gotten used to it?”
“Yes, I feel that I have grasped the hang of it.

……I think she’ll be okay even if I release my hands now. I pick a timing and let go so that she won’t notice. Tsubaki is smoothly riding the bicycle by herself, as if I’ve never supported her in the first place.

“…Ooh, she’s doing good.”

It seems that she hasn’t noticed that I’ve let go of her, as she is still pedaling forward diligently. With the way she’s handling the bicycle beautifully, I think she won’t have any problem turning, either.

“Tsubaki—! Do you know that you’re already riding a bicycle on your own—?”
“Eh? Eeeeh?! I, I… kyah!”
“Watch out!!”

The fact that Tsubaki is riding the bicycle by herself surprises herself, and she ends up losing her balance. I hurry to support her before she falls to the ground. However, I couldn’t prevent Saki’s bicycle from hitting the ground. I should worry about Tsubaki first, though. I look at her to check if she’s hurt, but it seems that she isn’t grazed anywhere.

“Are you injured anywhere? Does it hurt?”
“Ah, I-I’m all right. I’m not injured anywhere. It doesn’t hurt, either.”
“Are you sure? You’re not enduring the pain, right?”
“Yes, it’s because Hinata-san helped me. Thank you very much.”
“No, I should’ve said something before I let go. I shouldn’t have called you so suddenly, either. I’m sorry.”

She shakes her head when I apologize. Then she says, “That’s not true,” to me.

“It’s all thanks to Hinata-san that I can ride a bicycle now! I thought that I would never be able to ride one in my lifetime, so I’m really happy about it. Thank you very, very much for teaching me.”
“………”

I did nothing much, but Tsubaki seems to be so happy, which in turn makes me happy, too. It makes me feel warm in my chest.

“It’s not all me. You did your best, too, Tsubaki. That’s how you become able to ride it.”

To hide my embarrassment, I pat her head like a child. Although, maybe I’m embarrassing her because she is blushing as she stays silent.

 

Tired from practicing, we take our time to relax on the bench. I pass her a drink that I bought from a vending machine nearby.

“Here, are you okay with orange juice?”
“Thank you very much.”

My throat is parched after moving around that much, so I open the can and drink it in one go. Then, I aim at a faraway trash can and I try making a long throw. The empty can beautifully lands not into the the target, but in the grasses instead…. I remember that my friends once told me that I had a poor aim.

“………”

In the end, I have to get up and look for the empty can in the grasses. I toss it into the trash can, and I return to the bench in low spirits. When I sit beside Tsubaki, I see her laughing at me.

Uuh, how embarrassing. Although, Tsubaki is now laughing cheerfully instead of looking sullen like when I saw her earlier. I guess I’ll let it pass this time.

“How did it feel to ride a bicycle? Was it fun?”
“Well… at first, it scared me because my feet weren’t touching the ground. But afterwards, it started to become more enjoyable, and the wind felt good.”
“It’s even more fun when you go downhill, you know~”
“T-that’s quite scary. I’ll refrain until I get used to it.”
“Ahaha, you’re right about that.”

Since she’s just learned to ride a bicycle today, it’s still too dangerous for her to go downhill. She should experience biking in various kinds of roads first.

“Although, have you never practiced at all before? You’re learning like a sponge…”
“There was no one who would teach me.”
“……What about your mom?”

When I make up my mind and ask, she looks troubled and frowns.

“Mom is busy with work. Besides…… no, it’s nothing.”
“Um, I’m sorry if I’m wrong. Tsubaki, are you on bad terms with your mom?”
“I don’t know myself. She doesn’t speak much. Even when we’re together, we rarely play together.”
“Then, do you hate your mom?”
“That’s… not true. I… don’t hate my mom.”
“I see.”

She doesn’t hate her mom, huh. I’m relieved to know that, but it’s not all good. Tsubaki… although she loves her mother, she thinks that her mother doesn’t love her.

Although I don’t know what that girl really feels, I… I believe that she isn’t the type that would hate her own daughter.

“I’m sure that your mom loves you, too, Tsubaki.”
“Does she?”
“I think there are no parents that would hate their own children.”
“…I see.”

I guess she isn’t convinced. In this world, there are parents who loath their own children—even after they’ve taken the labor and pain to give birth to them. We both know that. But still, I want her to believe in her own mother. Even if all I can do is to tell her these flimsy and unconvincing words.

“So… did something happen today?”
“Eh?”
“You were looking glum.”
“………”

I know that a problem between a parent and child is not for ‘an outsider like me’ to butt into. But still… I can’t pretend to know nothing and just leave them be.

“Is it related to your mom?”

She twitches in response. But she stays silent, not saying a word. Although it makes me a bit sad, I know that it’s natural for her to do so.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me. But, I want you to share with me if something makes you sad, pained, or troubled.”
“Hinata-san…”

I want to support those who are dear to me, and the people that are important to them, as well.

“Ussh!”

I stand up vigorously, and I make a smile to Tsubaki.

“Let’s go home.”

I hold out my hand to her. After she gently clasps it, I pull her up from the bench.

“……Thank you very much, Hinata-san.”
“Yup.”

I said let’s go home, but she doesn’t seem to be releasing my hand. After a while, Tsubaki finally realized that she’s still holding my hand and she lets go in a fluster. Her face is slightly red. Is she okay?

“I-I’m sorry.”
“???”
“Let’s go home!”
“Eh? W-wait for me—”.

With a bicycle in tow, I start walking in quick steps to chase after Tsubaki who’s already walking ahead of me.


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