Per Diem

Chapter 2

It was a long day. Hiroshi was exhausted. It started off with him waking up late, then he realized he forgot his lunch after he had already arrived at school. It didn't take long for his homeroom teacher to bring up the big subject every senior had to be a victim of - their future careers. Hiroshi knew that after this year he'd be expected to be a full-fledged adult, something he was unsure how exactly was going to happen. Everything in his life was so average that he never really had a job in mind - it wasn't like he was particularly good at anything.

His talk with his guidance counselor didn't help at all. When Hiroshi said he wasn't sure about what he wanted to do for a career and said he would consider college, his counselor agreed and said he'd 'be good for the local college'. The local college? Hiroshi had always imagined that he'd probably get off this island one way or another, but would he really ever make it off if he just settled for the local college? But maybe that was all he was good for - could he even make it in a big city like Tokyo? Well, Handa was from Tokyo, and if a guy like him lived there all his life it couldn't be that bad, right?

But Hiroshi didn't catch much of a break when he got to baseball practice and sprained his wrist. It wasn't a bad sprain, one that would heal in a few days, but it didn't help his mood at all and he arrived home brooding over all the events that happened that day, just wanting to take a bath and lie down.

"Hiro, can you deliver this champon to Sensei, please?" Hiroshi didn't even have his shoes off when his mom came walking up to the front door with a large bowl in hand.

Hiroshi huffed in frustration, "I just got home, ma! Can't you jus' take it yourself today?"

The cheerful smile on his mother's face faded into a grimace, "It's not gonna be so much trouble to spend a few minutes takin' this to Sensei! Don't you know why I make this food for him? As a woman, I-"

"Alright, alright, I got it!" Hiroshi didn't want to hear his mom's speil about her womanhood again.

"Good!" She changed back to her cheery mood and held the bowl out towards Hiroshi.

Hiroshi gave another irritated sigh and snatched the bowl from his mom, walking out of the house again.

The walk from his house to Handa's wasn't terribly far away, but at this point he just didn't want to deal with anyone, especially knowing that Handa probably had other visitors at the moment. He figured he'd probably just announce that he was delivering the food and leave it out on the porch for today. He didn't even feel like eating the portion that his mom obviously put in with Handa's.

"Hey, Sensei! I'm gonna leave you some champon on the porch, 'kay?" Hiroshi said in a loud voice and rapped on the wooden door.

Just as he was about to leave the bowl on the porch, the doors flew open.

"Hiro-nii!" Naru burst through the doors, her voice and expression were filled with worry.

"Wh-What is it, Naru?" He got a bit of a scare from the door opening all of a sudden.

"Sensei won't wake up! I keep a'shakin' him an' he jus' won't wake up!" Naru looked like she was nearly on the verge of tears.

"Where is he!?" Hiroshi's heart jumped a bit as he set the champon down and quickly walked into the house.

"He's in the back room!" Naru pulled at Hiroshi's hand and led him towards the room where he remembered Handa had kept all of his calligraphy sketches.

Naru slammed open the door and Hiroshi saw a body lying amongst the piles of sketches. His heart jumped to his throat.

"Hey, Sensei!" Hiroshi rushed to his side and shook him.

"He's still not wakin' up!" Naru's eyes were filling with tears.

Hiroshi kept shaking, but Handa did not respond. He placed his hand in front of Handa's mouth - he felt breathing, at least that was a good sign.

"Damn, we gotta go get someone! Naru, go see if you can find an adult!" Hiroshi ordered.

"Senseiiii!" Naru was nearly in hysterics.

"Naru! You gotta hurry! Sensei might be-"

Hiroshi's sentence was cut off by a loud snort. But he and Naru looked down at the somewhat lifeless body to see Handa's mouth wide open; low, quiet snores sounding on interval.

"What the hell! He's jus' in some kinda deep sleep or somethin'!?" Hiroshi stood up in anger. "Oi, stupid Sensei! Wake up!" Without much thought Hiroshi kicked at Handa's side.

"Uh!" Handa lurched and grabbed his hip.

"Don't hurt Sensei! He's dyin'!" Naru began punching Hiroshi's leg.

"He ain't dyin' he prob'ly jus' worked himself to exhaustion again!" Hiroshi fumed as he watched Handa rub at his eyes in a daze.

"Uh... Hiro? What was that? It really hurt..." Handa grumbled and struggled to sit himself up.

"What was it? Me kickin' you awake!" Hiroshi couldn't believe that Handa was, again, not taking care of himself properly. He nearly thought his heart was going to stop when he saw him lying there, unmoving, and it was just a result of his stupidity.

"I was just taking a nap..." Handa mumbled. Naru sobbed onto his sleeve, muttering how she was glad he was alive.

"Yeah right! You nearly went an' killed yourself overworkin' again! What if you really hurt yourself n' neither Naru or me was here to help you, huh?"

"What the hell..." Handa grumbled as he held onto his side."I know my limits, I'm an adult! Its not like I need you yelling at me like you're my parent or something. I wasn't actually dying or anything so you didn't have to kick me so hard!" Handa shot back, obviously grumpy he got woken up in such a way.

"Whatever! Go ahead an' kill yourself like that then!" Hiroshi shouted, turning sharply and storming out of the house. He couldn't believe such carelessness. How was working yourself until you pass out 'knowing your limits'?

"Hey, Hiro!" Handa yelled after him and stood up.

Hiroshi turned back around before leaving. "And here's your stupid dinner!" He pointed towards the champon before slamming the door closed.

"If you made it, it probably tastes like crap!" Handa opened up the door and shouted after Hiroshi.

"Then you'll love it!" Hiroshi fired back, already a ways away from the house.

Handa shut the door in frustration and clicked his tongue in irritation.

"Sensei, why was Hiro-nii so mad?" Naru said from beside him, wiping at her puffy eyes.

"I dunno, teenage hormones or something? Some girl rejected him? Who knows!" Handa stomped back to the living room.

Naru watched Handa walk off and then her eyes settled on the champon.

"Will this champon really taste like poop?"

Hiroshi thought a good night's rest would've helped with how crappy he felt after blowing up at Handa. Maybe it actually would've if he wasn't so restless the entire night. Almost right after storming out of the house, Hiroshi regretted how he had overreacted. He knew he was having a bad day, but it was really no excuse. He was just so concerned and Handa acted like it was no big deal. He got angry that Handa wasn't watching out for his health when the entirety of the village took such good care of him. And it really did give him a fright to see the calligrapher face down in the middle of the room...

He should apologize, he really should, but he couldn't bring himself to see his face. He and Handa had gotten in little tiffs before, they were usually over silly things and got resolved easily, but this was probably the first time Hiroshi had gotten really angry with him. It was pretty much a fight.

"Stupid Sensei," Hiroshi sighed as he spaced out for the umpteenth time that day. Luckily, class was just ending and he could finally head home.

"Hey, Hiro, wanna hang out tonight? We're prob'ly gonna go inta town if you wanna join."

Hiroshi was snapped from his thoughts as he noticed one of his teammates in his class had been talking to him. Occasionally he'd do something with his teammates like get a bite to eat, but it usually wasn't much more than that.

"Um, no thanks, I'm pretty tired n' my ma' is real concerned 'bout my wrist n' all, so she don't want me doin' too much so it'll heal quick," Hiroshi thought up of the best excuse he could.

"Eh, lame," his teammate shrugged, "Guess next time then."

Hiroshi waved weakly as his teammate walked off. He didn't know how his fellow classmates could be so carefree this time of year. Well, he probably would be too if he hadn't resolved himself to become more serious about his future.

"Guess I'll get this project started or somethin'," Hiroshi said to himself as he lifted himself up from his seat.

Luckily, there was no baseball practice that day. It wasn't like his coach would've let him practice anyway with his sprained wrist. Hiroshi's trek home was spent worrying about his argument as well as the career sheet sitting in his backpack.

"Hiro! Please take this over to Sensei!" And once again his mother was asking him to take food over when he really didn't want to.

"Ma, I really can't today..."

"And why not?" She eyed him with a stern look.

"I just..." Hiroshi paused for a moment and let out a soft sigh. "I really can't see him right now..."

His mother's face softened a bit as she paid attention to the expressions on her son's face.

"Alright, I'll go n' deliver it today," she said and walked towards the entrance of the house.

"Eh? Ma, you don't hafta..." It was rare to see her give in so easily.

"You got a lotta homework with you bein' a senior n' all, right? Go up n' do it now, don't go slackin' off!" His mother shooed him away with her hand before turning around.

Hiroshi stood at the entrance for a moment and watched his mother leave. "Thanks, ma..." He said quietly to himself. No matter what, his mother was pretty sharp in her own ways.

"Hey, ma, what's for dinner?" Hiroshi came down to the kitchen after finally completing his project. It took him nearly a week of spending hours after school locked up in his room to finish. At least his sprained wrist had healed fairly quickly.

"Oh? Jus' thought I'd make some stew..." She sighed, looking forlorn as she stirred the pot.

"Is somethin' the matter?" Hiroshi asked, he rarely saw his mother in such a mood.

"I don't think Sensei likes my cookin' anymore," she sighed.

"Huh? What d'you mean? He's always sayin' it tastes good," Hiroshi still hadn't seen Handa since their argument, so that meant he hadn't been delivering food to him either. He had been so busy with his project after school that he assumed his mother was taking the meals over.

"The other day he told me there was no need to be makin' him meals anymore n' he'd be makin' them for himself from now on," his mother sulked as she continued to stir the pot. "Doesn't that make you think he don't much like my cookin' no more?'

"Hmm... I doubt that..." Hiroshi said quietly.

"He said he didn't want to be troublin' us anymore. Makin' meals for him was always the highlight of my day too," she sighed again.

Hiroshi remained silent as he thought about why Handa would do such a thing. Maybe he should go over and see why? But he still hadn't apologized... Would it really be okay to just go over and ask questions after ignoring him for a week?

He looked over at his mother who seemed to really be saddened by the absence of something so simple in her life.

"I'm gonna head out for a bit..." Hiroshi said after a few moments of silence.

"Huh? Where're you headin' off to at this time?" His mother asked.

"I jus' wanna take a little walk, 's all," Hiroshi shrugged, hoping that his mother wouldn't grow suspicious.

"Alrigh', well jus' come back in time for dinner," she said as she went back to tending the pot.

Hiroshi headed out the door, relieved his story worked and walked towards his destination.

He needed to apologize. If not for himself and Handa, but for his mother. He knew Handa wasn't a bad guy and probably declined the meals because he didn't want to make Hiroshi feel obligated to his mother to come deliver them. He probably knew Hiroshi was avoiding him on purpose. But did that also mean that Handa didn't want to see him either?

It didn't matter much now, as he was standing in front of the familiar wooden house. He knocked a few times and waited until the door slid open.

"Oh... Hiro..." Handa seemed surprised, yet his eyes cast downwards. "Sorry, I already told your mother that I'd be making my meals from now on. Sorry for causing so much trouble for your family." Handa gave a faint smile that seemed a little forced.

Hiroshi looked at Handa's face and noticed he looked pretty drained. Then he remembered when Handa first came to the island. He had a similar situation when, upon first meeting him, told Handa that his mother wouldn't be making meals for him anymore. He came back to find Handa's hands cut and bandaged and some rather inedible onions.

"I'm comin' in..." Hiroshi pushed his way into the house and headed towards the kitchen.

"W-Wait, Hiro!" Handa followed after him to find Hiroshi going through his cabinets and fridge.

"What the hell, you hardly have any food!" Hiroshi said as all he had found was some rice, vegetables and a few condiments.

"I just have to go shopping is all," Handa protested. "Anyway, I'm fine so you can head home now."

Hiroshi ignored him and dug out a frying pan. "Go n' sit down, I'll make you somethin',"

Handa knew when he was defeated and hung his head a bit. "Alright..."

A few moments later, Hiroshi came into the living room with a plate of fried rice and a pair of chopsticks, setting it in front of Handa.

"Go ahead n' eat, you prob'ly haven't been eatin' much for a few days now I'm assumin'," Hiroshi sat down at the table across from him.

"Thanks for the meal," Handa said quietly and took the first bite. "Oh, this is really good. Especially considering what I had in the kitchen," he let out a weak laugh.

Hiroshi tensed up a bit and looked down at his hands. "... Sorry..."


"I'm sorry... about the other day. I shouldn't have went an' kicked you an' yelled at you like that, but you wasn't takin' care of yourself an'-"

"It's okay," Handa interjected, placing his chopsticks down. Hiroshi lifted his gaze. "It's alright, after I cooled down a bit and had a talk with Naru I understood why you got angry. She told me how she thought I was dying and then came and got you..."

Hiroshi remembered the feeling he had when he thought Handa might've seriously hurt himself this time.

"I really do cause problems for everyone..." Handa said in a quiet, somber voice.

"No, that ain't it at all," Hiroshi spoke up. "It's just 'cus we care about you n' all! Of course I'd get mad if you was doin' somethin' that was harming your body... Or bein' so careless. I thought you would've learned your lesson by now, already overworkin' yourself before. Jeeze..." Hiroshi crossed his arms.

"Heh..." Hiroshi heard a noise coming from Handa's direction and looked over. "You really are a nice guy, Hiro..." his voice trembled slightly.

"Eh? You cryin'?" Hiroshi leaned over the table.

"No!" Handa scooted away and covered his face.

"Jeeze, you don't hafta go an' cry over somethin' like that!" Handa was such an emotional guy, it wouldn't be the first time Hiroshi had seen him tear up over something so simple.

"But, I yelled at you and said the champon would taste like crap," Handa sniffled.

"Pfft..." Hiroshi covered his hand with his mouth.

"Don't laugh!" Handa's mood changed quickly when he looked over at Hiroshi, whose face began to turn a shade of red from holding back his laughter.

"But... Tha's such a stupid reason to be upset..." Hiroshi said from behind his hand, letting out a little chuckle here and there.

"Shut up! I felt really bad after yelling at you, you know!" Handa shouted and pointed his finger towards Hiroshi.

He couldn't take it anymore and let out a loud guffaw while Handa's face turned red in embarrassment. Hiroshi couldn't even tell what Handa was saying in protest because all he could think about was how glad he was that the atmosphere between them was back to normal.

"Hey, hey, what's so funny?" Miwa's voice sounded from the doorway.

"Nothing!" Handa shouted.

"Huh? Hiro-nii was with you here? Alone?" Tama had also apparently tagged along. "Miwa, I think we should leave them alone," she grabbed Miwa's arm with a tug, her face dusted with pink.

"There ain't no way I'm leavin' I jus' got here!" Miwa ignored Tama's suggestion and walked in. "Besides, it looks like Hiro-nii is cookin', make me somethin' too!"

"I'm not makin' anythin' for you!" Hiroshi rejected.

"Hiro-nii will only make food for Sensei..." Tama muttered under her breath.

"Come oooon, I'll buy ya some ice cream next time I go to the convenience store," Miwa decided maybe a bribe would do the trick.

"No can do, what I jus' made for Sensei is the last of the food he had."

"Ehhhh..." Miwa pouted and looked at Handa's plate. "Lemme have some of this then," she grabbed for the plate and chopsticks but it was quickly snatched up.

"No way! This is mine!" Handa said, holding it away from Miwa's prying hands.

"Jus' a lil' bit won't hurt!" She reached over Handa trying to get at the food.

"Nooo!" Handa protested and nearly fell over.

Hiroshi let out another laugh as he watched the scene unfold in front of him. He realized he hadn't smiled for a whole week when he felt his cheeks ache slightly.

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