The afternoon sun is behind us. Our shadows stretch down the street, as if leading us home. A small group of children run past giggling, one of them holding a weird black doll to her chest. Another bunch, this time composed of high school students appears around the corner before heading to the city center. The guys wear purple blazers and blue striped neckties along with the usual collared shirts and black pants. The girls have green sailor uniforms.
They're an odd bunch.
Most of them look normal, but two of the guys are hanging at the back playing games and there's one real flashy looking one with red hair and earrings. He's trying to get the attention of the tallest one of their group, but the person in question is speaking on a cellphone and ignoring him completely. The guy on the cellphone sticks out the most, literally. He's almost a head taller than anyone else and has his jacket slung over one shoulder.
"Yeah, we'll meet at the train station... No, I don't mind if Kobayashi tags along. If push comes to shove, I'll take care of her." He says the last bit with an evil grin, and a sporty looking one in the group punches his arm and tells him to stop. When he moves to glare at the guy who punched him, he notices me staring. A brief moment passes, then he snorts and continues on his way.
As we near Shinozaki's house, two people are just leaving.
"Sister!" Shinozaki shouts, and then dashes up to them.
"Welcome home, Ayumi-chan." A gentle looking woman says.
Shinozaki Hinoe, she's here as well.
Even though she spends most of her time at the institute she's working at, she still visits regularly.
I look at the guy next to her.
"What?" He glowers at me.
"'What' yourself." I retort.
The green haired asshole in front of me is Kiriya Misuto. He snorts and blows a bubble with his chewing gum at my face. I'm half tempted to pop it so it goes all over him, but last time I did that I got scolded by Shinozaki. It wasn't all that bad though. I got to watch Misuto get told off like a little kid by Hinoe as well.
Just as I was wondering whether it was worth popping Misuto's bubble again, Shinozaki calls my name. She's glaring at me suspiciously.
"Relax, we're just saying hello."
Misuto snorts at that, and sucks in his bubble gum.
"Let's go, Hinoe."
He starts walking down the street.
"Sorry. Let's talk again later, Ayumi-chan."
She catches up to him and the two start talking again.
Ayumi looks on at the two with a frown.
"So, you don't like him either, do you?" I ask.
She nods and sighs.
"But he's a patient of hers, so we can't stop him meeting her." She sighs. "I just hope sister's got something planned to get him to give up."
That's right. Kiriya Misuto likes Ayumi's sister. Sure she's a beautiful woman, but she's probably almost 10 years older than him, not to mention that an asshole like him doesn't deserve a woman like her. Still, as a guy who spent almost a year with a one-sided affection, I can't help but feel a little sorry for him.
"Well, see you tomorrow then."
I start down the street again. My place is further from school than hers. Actually, going to her place is a bit of a detour, but I don't really care.
"Hmm, what's wrong?"
She fidgets nervously for a moment.
"You still haven't written the report for tomorrow have you?"
"Well, yeah... but how do you know?"
She blinks, then sighs.
"We talked about it at lunch, remember? The same time you promised to go home with me."
I don't remember, but if she knows I guess I must have said something like that.
"You said you'd do it this evening, but you didn't go to the lesson about it yesterday or today, right?" She frowns at me. "That's why I suggested we do it this afternoon on the way home."
I don't remember anything like that all. Then again, I was pretty sleepy today. I'm only this alert since I took a nap during the afternoon period. I guess the lesson she's talking about must have been during my nap.
Oh, that's why she was so mad when I showed up late. She thought I wouldn't have time to do the report since I usually spend the evening working. The fact that I broke my promise definitely didn't improve her mood. I guess I didn't say that I had asked for a break from work to do the report when she asked me about it.
"Yes, really!" She pouts again.
"Sorry, I must have been really out of it at the time." I scratch my head. "I've got the rest of the day off, so I'll probably get it done."
Whether it's done well is a different matter.
"I don't think you can get a good grade like that." Shinozaki sighs as she reads my mind. "I've got the rest of the day free as well, so I'll help you."
"'Oh, thanks'? Is that the best you can say?"
"Ah, umm... My bad. Thanks a lot, Shinozaki. You're a great help!"
"Of course I am. I'm not your class-rep just for show!"
She smiles victoriously, while I clap in the background.
"But, where are we going to do it?" She looks at me, surprised then frowns. Assuming her usual thinking position, pinching her chin with her left hand, she tilts her head a little. Suddenly, she blinks then blushes slightly. Clearing her throat, she faces me.
"Well, you've escorted me home already and bought me a present." She mumbles. "So, how about doing it at my house?"
"Both my parents are out, so we can use the dining table."
I look up at the place in question.
It's an ordinary looking two story house, a set of walls and a gate separate the yard from the street. There's not much yard in the front, but it wraps around the left side of the house to the back. A brown door rests within a rectangular depression of the house, forming a sort of miniature porch. Two windows are on either side of this porch, and an intercom is on the left side of the doorframe; a placard holding a nameplate with the name 'Shinozaki' above it. The door itself has a window built into it too, but the glass is so bumpy you can't make out what's on the other side. It's like staring through a rippling lake.
Beyond this door, there's a single hallway with a flight of stairs leading up at the end. There are four doors on this hallway, two on each side. The bathroom is the first door on the left. The second one second one leads into the living, kitchen, and dining area. Hinoe's room is the first one on the right, and Ayumi's is the second one on the right.
A fancy car passes behind us. The window is rolled down and a girl with ice blue eyes glances at me from inside. Her blond hair is in two twin tails. She's dressed like a princess, or a doll.
"Sorry... I guess I'm still a little out of it." I smile helplessly as I scratch my head.
Shinozaki's house... I haven't been here before. She never invited me until now.
That's why this will be the first time I'll go into her house.
"Sure, why not." I nod at her as she looks at me worriedly.
"Alright, but if you don't feel well you can always refuse." She says as she opens the gate. "If it's something serious, I can help you apply for special circumstances, you know? We can probably get you an extension for the assignment, although you'll have to see a doctor first."
"Don't worry, I'm fine."
I step in after her.
As I enter the miniature porch, I see something out of the corner of my eye.
It's a woman. A woman dressed in black pants, and white collared shirt. She has blue eyes and black hair like Shinozaki, but her hair is in a ponytail.
I see a small smile on her face.
Then she's gone.
Nobody is there.
Shinozaki San no longer existed in that spot.
I close my eyes and continue walking.
I don't know Niwa Aiko.
I've never seen that black doll.
I haven't met Kizami Yuuya.
I don't recognize who he was talking to. I have no idea who that girl was. I didn't see that woman. I haven't seen past this door. I don't remember that book. I don't. I don't. I...
A single heartbeat, unbelievably loud, rings in my ears.
I open my eyes, and the world has changed.
The afternoon sun is gone. Now, the moon lights the earth in its place; a faint white glow turning the world black and grey.
Shinozaki stands in the doorway of the house.