Dry (Pt 1)
First Published on Ainushi
—— 『Go take an early lunch』, the store manager said and shooed me out of the store.
It was a clear sky today as well. A perfect day at the rooftop.
I stared at the sky in a daze.
—— Kiuchi, she cried。
I could only let out a sigh.
As I watched the contrails running through the sky absentmindedly, I heard the door open behind me.
「Tachibana-kun, I’ve made cream croquettes!」
As I span around to take a look, there was Kiuchi who was standing at the door carrying a lunch box.
「Here you go.」
She approached with a sweet smile and placed the lunch box on top of my lap.
I lifted the lid, and was met with a delicious assortment of neatly arranged dishes.
「Yup. This is definitely delicious.」
The flavor was also as I had anticipated.
「Kiuchi-san… Your specialty dish isn’t roast beef, is it? It’s cabbage rolls, right?」
Today, I finally understood why Kiuchi lied the other day.
Cabbage rolls was that fellow’s favorite food.
Even though my feelings about it had subsided, the remaining emotions did not disappear. I just couldn’t stomach it. Resting my chopsticks, I turned and levelled my gaze at Kiuchi.
「What’s your favorite food, Tachibana-kun?」
Kiuchi deflected my question.
「Steak… That’s what I thought all along but when I eat your food, I can no longer tell what I like anymore. Your karaage, fried shrimps, pasta, hamburg. Even today’s cream croquette. They’re all delicious.」
The fact that I’m eating Kiuchi’s cream croquette even as I’m depressed is a testament to how delicious it is.
「It’s the same for me… I don’t really know what my specialty dish is. Cabbage rolls are Satoru’s favorite dish so I made it all the time, which led to me being so good at making it that I did think it was my specialty. However, whenever I made a lunch box for you, you always said that everything was delicious, to the point that I started to wonder, “Is my specialty dish karaage?” or “Maybe it’s fried shrimps?”」
“Hehe”, Kiuchi laughed with an embarrassed expression.
「I suppose I won’t ever receive a lunch box like this ever again…」
Kiuchi’s delicious lunch box, even the fun times with her. All of it end today.
「… Why? You don’t want to eat my lunch box anymore? I have thought of passing this task to your girlfriend if you’ve found a girl that you like… Have you, perhaps, met someone?」
Kiuchi looked at me with sad eyes.
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I’m sad.
「You already have someone. Kiuchi-san, you’re getting married, aren’t you?」
As if I was stress eating, I crammed the cream croquettes into my mouth.
When I thought about how I could no longer eat this, I started to take my offense from each and every delicious delicacy in Kiuchi’s lunch box.
「I turned down the ring…」
Surprised, I looked at Kiuchi. She let out a “hehe” once again and smiled bitterly.
「… Weren’t you tearing up because you received the ring?」
Weren’t you crying because you were overjoyed, Kiuchi?
「… I wasn’t happy. Even though it was what I had always desperately wanted, I wasn’t happy. Yet, despite being unhappy about it, it made me feel uneasy. “Will I truly not regret that I didn’t accept it?”. I am already at that age after all.」
“That’s why I cried,” smiled Kiuchi.
No no no no! Why are you turning it into a trivial matter, Kiuchi?
How should I handle it now that her spirit has plummeted this low?
「You know… I really like the work I’m doing right now and this workplace, to the point that I’ve always thought I’d be here forever.」
And then, disregarding how tense I was feeling, Kiuchi started to talk about a wholly unrelated topic.
Since it was Kiuchi’s business and I also didn’t want to come off as meddlesome, I resumed my endeavour in gobbling up the lunch box.
「… So, you don’t have to respond to what I’m about to say right now. I want you to forget about it immediately. I don’t want it to turn awkward between us. Besides, I think you’ll find it bothersome as well… What I’m going to say is just part of casual conversation but I have to get it out nonetheless. Otherwise, I won’t be able to put a stop to it…」
What’s with that long-winded speech you got there, Kiuchi.
I’m the one who’s not feeling it in the slightest…
What are you trying to tell me, Kiuchi?
As I continued to stuff my mouth with cream croquettes, I gazed at Kiuchi unamusedly.