Ch 9 Clunky Gift

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“I’m always sorry for our Ageha~”

After window shopping, we bought a Christmas cake as we had planned in advance and had a Christmas party at the Aizawa family’s house.

The party was a small one, just small talk while eating a feast prepared by the mother of Ageha, and finally eating the cake that we had bought.

The party was over, and as I headed for the front door to finally close the party, Ageha rushed upstairs, leaving behind saying “Wait a minute!”.

As I was putting on my shoes, her mother came up to me with a wry smile.

“No, I’m having fun too.”

“She loves Haruto-kun.
Maybe she thinks of him as her brother.”

At best, I gave a bitter smile to the words of my aunt who spoke in a gentle tone.

I didn’t know how to respond now that I knew what she was thinking.

As my gaze wandered around in embarrassment, my gaze fell on a picture that was carefully placed on top of the shoe rack.

“This is…”

“Oh, it brings back memories, doesn’t it? It was taken when Haruto-kun was still in the fifth grade.”

I wonder if it was made by Karen or Ageha when I was in elementary school.

I gently lift up a photo frame made of a cheap paper-mache-like material and look at the photos carefully stored in it.

In the picture are Karen and Ageha, who are much younger than they are now.
And in the middle of them is me.

In the background is the aquarium building a short distance away.

… Come to think of it, the three of us went to see a dolphin show together around this time.

“You were all so close the whole time.
Always together all the time.”

Behind me, aunt said nostalgically.

Her voice sounded slightly sad, probably because Karen had a boyfriend.

She was comparing us then to us now.

Just as Karen had a boyfriend and couldn’t make it to today’s party, she thought that eventually Ageha would leave home in the same way.

Parental feelings must be complicated…

When I was silent, the lady suddenly raised her bright voice.

“That’s right, Haruto-kun.
Is there someone you like, Haruto-kun?”

“…………”

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I was surprised that you would ask me that, of all things.

Like Karen and the other two, this family is unknowingly gouging out my wounds.

I gently put the picture frame back in its place and turned around, smiling wryly.

“If I had, I would have asked her out by now.”

“That’s true, isn’t it?”

I sigh inwardly, wondering how she could say such a thing while patting her chest in relief as she nods in agreement.

As I looked at the photo I had put back down at the side, I heard a thumping sound as Ageha came down the stairs.

“Haru-kun.
What were you talking about?”

“I’m talking about how spoiled you are.”

In response to aunt’s words, “What’s that?”, Ageha walked up to me and offered me a paper bag hidden behind her back.

“Yes, a Christmas present.
I haven’t given it to you yet.”

“Oh, thank you.
May I open it?”

“No, no!”

“What?”

When I was about to put my hand inside the paper bag I had received, Ageha stopped me with a panicked look on her face.

Usually I open such gifts when I receive them, and I have done so for the past Christmases.

I was puzzled, so she turned her head down and said,

“I was wondering if you’d like to open it alone when you get home.
I don’t mean to force you to do it.”

“Yeah, yeah.
I understand.”

I nodded my head, and she patted her chest in relief, then added, “Well, you can throw it away if you don’t need it.”

I was curious to know what was in it.

For the time being, after thanking my aunt, I tried to touch the door to have some free time.

“I’m home, Haru-kun?!”

The door was opened from outside and Karen appeared with a familiar voice.

“Yeah, why… oh, I see, a Christmas party.”

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Karen, who wondered why I was here, seemed to be able to swallow the situation immediately and was convinced by herself.

The tip of Karen’s nose was slightly reddish as she appeared in the cold air outside.

Was it because I was always watching her? It was immediately apparent that she was much more dressed up than usual.

“Welcome home, sis.”

“Oh, Ageha.
I hope you didn’t give Haru-kun any trouble.”

“I didn’t! We were just lonely single people huddled together.
Hey, Haru-kun.”

“I’m frustrated that I can’t deny…”

Karen sits down on the front steps and carefully unlaced her boots.

As she did so, she muttered, “But I see.”

“If they were having a Christmas party, maybe I should have come home a little earlier.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t go because you had a date.
I didn’t think I was going to do it either until Ageha took me out.”

When I said this, Karen’s lips twitched a little in frustration.

Then, Ageha, who was standing behind me, leaned forward.

“You know, that’s not the point, Sis.
How was your date?”

… I’m still here.

If I could, I wouldn’t want to hear about it.

However, my protests didn’t reach the girl with the expression of a girl who is completely in love.

Having finished taking off one boot, Karen reaches into her other boot while placing her index finger on her chin and looking up at the ceiling, “Hmm.”

“It was fun, okay?”

“What’s that? There’s nothing more.”

“What on earth are you expecting? It was normal, normal.”

Apparently not getting the words she wanted, Ageha looked in the direction of the day after tomorrow as if in a huff, saying, “Tsk, tsk.”

Then she smiled mischievously.

“Well, that’s okay.
I also had a date with Haru-kun today.”

“What?”

“Don’t be fooled, Karen.
We just went shopping at the mall.”

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“What? That was a date!”

As I was soothing Ageha, who was complaining and slapping me on the back, my aunt who had returned to the living room before I knew it, warned her, “Hey, don’t bother Haruto-kun.”

Be that as it may, we can’t just sit on the doorstep like this.

“I’d better get going.
Thank you for today, Ageha.”

“I’m the one who should be thanking you.”

I gasped for a moment when I saw her become so calm that it was as if she had been noisy just a few minutes ago, and then I hurriedly put on my shoes.

I said, “Well then,” to Karen, who had gone inside instead of me.

“Oh, Ha-haru-kun!”

“Hmm?”

As I open the door, I turn around to hear a voice at my back.

Then I saw Karen looking at me with a kind of sad look on her face.

Waiting for her next words, Karen eventually gave a small shake of her head.

“No, it’s nothing.
Good night.”

“Yeah, good night.”

This time, I go outside and slowly close the door.

What was Karen trying to say?

With a small exhale, the white-tinted air slowly melts away.

After watching her, I slowly made my way home.

 

 

“Hmm~, it’s cold, cold.”

I came home to an empty house and went straight to my room.

I turned on the light and took off my coat.

After settling down, I sat down on the edge of my bed and looked at the paper bag I had left there earlier.

She had asked me to open it by myself, but I wondered what was in it.

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Slightly apprehensive, I reached into the paper bag and put my hand inside.

Inside was a linen bag.

I loosened the string and opened the mouth.

“This is…”

I took out the fuzzy thing and unfolded it.

It was a scarf.

“Handmade, right? So that’s why Ageha told me to look at it alone.”

She must have been embarrassed.

Compared to scarves on the market, the stitches are not uniform and the scarf is frayed in places, but it seems to be usable enough.

The design is simple, a mixture of black and gray.

It can be used on a daily basis.

“Hmm…?”

As I unfolded the scarf, something that looked like a card fell out.

It was a pink message card.

I looked at it and chuckled, wondering what on earth was written on it.

“Merry Christmas, Haru-kun! I love you!”

I looked at her writing for a while, which was a little disorganized, as if she had written it in a hurry earlier.

I wrapped a scarf around my neck and fell into bed.

… I feel like a lot has really happened in one day.

I was blocked out in my room, and then Ageha came barging in, confessed her feelings to me, and I turned her down.

We went out together and had a Christmas party.

As I reflect on the day’s events, I feel a rush of exhaustion.

I slowly meditate.

I felt I had to reconsider properly what I had done with Ageha, but I couldn’t resist the urge to sleep, and my consciousness was turning black.

… However, I was feeling positive enough to go out tomorrow

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