It was one of those rare summer days that didn't feel like the humidity was going to make your skin feel so damp you could've sworn you were constantly in a sauna. It also wasn't one degree less than the surface of the sun. In fact, the breeze was pleasant and the temperature was just right. What better way than to spend it out fishing?
This was Hiroshi's exact train of thought as he headed out for the day, fishing rod and bucket in hand. Maybe he wouldn't be catching any hisan iwo, but he was positive he'd come home with a few good catches. He needed a day off after being piled in homework and stressing over college applications. Today, it was just him and the ocean.
Well, that's what he thought, anyway.
The first hour was fine, he reeled some nice fish in and got to enjoy some peace and quiet until a familiar voice chirped up from beside him.
"Ya catchin' anythin' good, Hiro-nii?" Miwa must've stopped by the dock during her day off as well.
"Kinda," Hiroshi replied briefly. He could hear the younger girl's shoes scraping against the concrete and sitting down beside him.
"How do you even 'kinda' catch fish?" She teased, poking at his cheek.
Hiroshi slapped her hand away in annoyance. "I jus' caught a couple so far n' I can catch more if you don' bother me."
"Eh? Why you gotta be so mean, Hiro-nii!" She puffed out her cheeks, "You don' do anythin' else either besides go fishin' n' school, do ya?" Hiro-nii is surprisingly boring."
"Well if ya gotta problem with how borin' I am then you can scram!" Hiroshi's gaze fixed in front of him.
"Psh, you can tell you ain't gotta girlfriend either. You don' know the first thing about treatin' a girl!" Miwa continued to tease.
"So what!? I don' need no girlfriend right now anyways!" Hiroshi protested.
"Hey, how about datin' Tama-chan? She's a bit weird but hey, you two know each other n' stuff so why not?" Miwa suggested.
"No way! Even if I liked her she's way too young. 'N stay out of my datin' life!" Hiroshi was starting to get beyond annoyed with Miwa's presence at this point.
"She's only a few years younger'n you! When yer both old'n gray the age won' much matter!" Hiroshi could tell that Miwa wasn't being serious and was solely doing this to make fun of him.
"Jeeze, get lost, Miwa! I dunno why you gotta go'n make fun of me so much when I'm jus' tryin' to relax." He was definitely not in the mood for her incessant jokes.
"Whatever," Miwa hoisted herself up. "You're gonna end up jus' like Sensei - an adult who's only concern is his work."
"You say that like its a bad thing..." Handa was a bit strange, but his work ethic was admirable. So what if he wasn't the typical, young adult who played around to his heart's content?
"I'm bettin' Sensei is hopeless with woman too, so you two got somethin' in common it seems like," Miwa chuckled to herself before turning on her heel.
"Yeah, well when the women on this island 're like you I don' think you can blame me," Hiroshi shouted at Miwa's back.
Hiroshi couldn't help but think about his brief conversation with Miwa after the day had ended and he was lying in bed. He had never really concerned himself much with girls. Of course there were a few girls he found attractive at his school, but he never bothered with pursuing them seriously. There were guys in his class and teammates in the baseball club who had girlfriends, but he really didn't think much of it.
Maybe he never gave much thought about having a girlfriend because he had always assumed he'd leave the island one day. Would a girl from the island be willing to leave this comfortable, simple, life with him? Or would she be okay with being left behind?
Hiroshi turned onto his back and looked up at his ceiling, barely lit up by the moonlight. In the country, everything was pitch black at night, the only thing that could be seen were the stars and the moon and it was incredibly quiet. He bet the nighttime in Tokyo would be a lot different, with the buzz of millions of people going about nonstop. Hiroshi closed his eyes, wondering what it'd be like to experience falling asleep to the lull of the big city.
Hiroshi met up with Naru while he was on his way to deliver Handa's lunch the next day. The air was moist and sticky unlike the previous day, but that didn't prevent the young girl from bounding about and even doing a cartwheel or two on their way to Handa's house.
Naru darted up to the door with her key to the house in hand, something Hiroshi had as well, and unlocked it with a click.
"Senseiiii!" She shouted as she pattered into the house.
"Hey, Sensei, brought you your lunch," Hiroshi came in after her to find her already clinging to the calligrapher in the midst of his work.
"Oh, thank you, Hiroshi," he replied, not looking up at neither Hiroshi nor Naru. He had gotten pretty good at tuning out the distractions, but it was only a matter of time before Naru broke the barrier.
"Sensei! Watcha writin' this time?" Naru peeked over at his work in curiosity.
"Ah, I got a commission to write a sign for this wedding chapel... Although I find it a bit odd that they'd want something like this as their sign," Handa set his brush down and looked at his work, placing his hand on his chin.
"Well its lookin' nice so far," Hiroshi commented.
"Hm, something just doesn't seem right, though. I've written it so many times and every time feels off..." Handa's eyes narrowed in concentration.
"'S okay, Sensei! You can be my bride 'n maybe you'll get the feelin' of bein' married n' writin' the sign'll be a breeze!" Naru patted Handa on the shoulder, puffing her chest out in pride.
"Huh? Even if that was ethical - why would I be the bride!?" Handa protested.
"Cuz you always need takin' care of, jus' like a bride!" Naru said matter-of-factly.
"Are you saying that I'm so helpless? And hey, aren't you a woman yourself? Doesn't that way of thinking bother you even slightly?" Handa's cheeks burned a bit with embarrassment.
Hiroshi laughed and sat down across from Handa and Naru.
"There ain't nothin' wrong with bein' takin' care of, Sensei," Hiroshi tried making Handa feel a little better. "Innit with these modern Tokyo guys 's always the woman makin' decisions in the household anymore?"
"I guess, in a way," Handa grumbled. "But I'm fine on my own! I've survived so far..."
"Yeah, with me bringin' ma's cookin' over almost every day! You'd be shriveled up n' dead if it weren't for us keepin' an eye out on you!" Hiroshi had way too many experiences to account for the fact that Handa was far from okay being left alone.
"Well, in normal places I could just get take-out or stop by the convenience store for food!"
"Tha's so unhealthy! An' what about you workin' yourself to death like you've been doin'?"
"It's just because it's been so hot lately!"
"Hiro-nii..." Both Handa and Hiroshi halted their words to look over at Naru who had a serious look on her face. "You can't take Sensei away from me!" She said loudly, clinging to Handa.
"Eh? What're you goin' on about, Naru?" Hiroshi asked in confusion.
"You're tryin' to take my bride away, ain't ya? I'll learn how to cook better'n you an' I'll get stronger'n you! Jus' you wait!" Naru pointed her finger threateningly.
"HUH? I ain't tryin' to... 'take' Sensei from ya!" Hiroshi's face reddened slightly at the ridiculous accusation.
"Don' lie! I've seen Tama-nee's books that she has 'bout two guys gettin' all romantic with each other! You're tryin' to seduce Sensei!" Naru's eyes started to tear up a bit.
"What'n the heck are ya talkin' about?" Hiroshi was baffled.
"H-Hey! What are those girls teaching you now!?" Handa covered Naru's mouth with his hand, his face flushed with pink.
It took a little while to calm Naru down and convince her that no one was going to be taking her 'bride' away. Honestly, Hiroshi really wondered if it was alright that Naru spent so much time hanging around Tama and Miwa. What in the world were they doing to make her say such weird things?
"It looks like I have to have another serious talk with those two..." Handa rubbed at his temples after he had finally distracted Naru with a calligraphy brush and sheets of paper, telling her to go practice her writing.
"Seriously, it don' much help that Miwa has been a bit of a pain in my side lately," Hiroshi watched Handa finally unwrap the bowl of food he had brought over.
"Huh, really? It's not Tama that's been bugging you?" Handa asked.
"What is it about Tama that you'n Miwa keep bringin' up to me 'bout?" Hiroshi furrowed his brow.
"Eh? Uh... nothing!" Handa's eyes shifted as he munched on his food.
"You know, the other day Miwa had the gall to say I'm borin' n' I don' understand women! Jus' cuz I don' have a girlfriend doesn' mean I'm bad with women," Hiroshi grumbled.
"Oh yeah, I remember you said you didn't have one at the festival. I'm kind of surprised, lots of kids your age are going out with each other, aren't they?" Handa asked casually.
"Gee, thanks..." Hiroshi eyed Handa.
"Um, I didn't mean it in a bad way!" Handa stuck out a hand in defense. "This is coming from a single, 23 year old guy, so its not like I'm judging you or anything..." Handa scratched at his chin and looked off to the side meekly.
"You ain't gotta girlfriend back in Tokyo, Sensei?" Hiroshi rested his arms and chin on the table.
"Nah, I don't have time for relationships. Honestly, I'm happy with my situation right now. Although it does get to me a bit when people ask why I'm single..." Handa recalled the time when Hiroshi's father commented about it.
"Well, you're still young. If you ain't wanna bother yourself with girls right now, tha's your own choice. I feel like I'm kinda in the same situation. I dunno where the next couple years is gonna take me, so why tie myself down?" Hiroshi shrugged.
"Hiro..." Handa had a look in his eye that just screamed 'my comrade!'. Oh well, Hiroshi didn't mind sharing this sort of trait in common with Handa. In fact, he felt a little happier knowing that Handa felt the same way as him.
"Well, I should get goin'," Hiroshi lifted himself up off the floor.
"Oh, I'm not finished with the food yet..." Handa got up as well.
"'S alright, I'll come pick it up later today," Hiroshi turned to face Handa.
"Huh? You're coming back?"
"Sure, why not?" Hiroshi shrugged, "I'll come make you n' Naru some dinner."
"You don't have to do something like that," Handa felt like he shouldn't take Hiroshi's kindness for granted all the time.
"Nah, I kinda feel like it today. I'll jus' tell my ma that I'm havin' dinner at your place tonight," Hiroshi gave a brief smile.
"Thank you..." Handa returned the smile, "Heh, I think between you and me you're more wife-like," Handa joked.
"No way I'm the wife! You're definitely the wife! Men learn how to cook now-a-days!" Hiroshi went along with the joke with a laugh.
"But I'm older so I win," Handa nodded.
"Jus' you sayin' that is so childish!" Hiroshi nudged him in the arm.
"See? Wives are always trying to keep their husbands in line!" Handa said, nudging Hiroshi back.
"GET AWAY FROM SENSEI!"
Before either of them knew it, the sound of small, fastly approaching footsteps was in their ears and Hiroshi felt himself losing his balance as a small body came hurdling towards him.
"Ow!" Hiroshi landed with a thud, tripping backwards on the front porch and landing in the dirt with Naru on top of him.
"I knew it! You was tryin' to take Sensei away from me!" She wailed, pounding on Hiroshi's chest.
"Hey, hey, Naru! We were joking! Joking!" Handa ran over and attempted to pull Naru off of Hiroshi.
"Man, oh man, you certainly have some weird hobbies, don't ya, Sensei?" As if the situation couldn't have gotten any worse, more company had joined them.
They must've looked strange standing there, Hiroshi on the ground, Handa hovering over him with Naru in his hands and the girl clinging onto the younger man.
Yep, definitely strange.
"Hey! You two! What have you been teaching Naru this time?" Handa shouted, still trying to pry Naru off of Hiroshi and ignoring Miwa's comment.
"Didn' I tell you she jus' picks it up? We ain't teachin' her nothin'," Miwa replied.
"Oh yeah? Well she was talking about some sort of book she found in Tama's room and then got the impression that Hiro was trying to take me away from her or something!" Handa finally managed to get her off of Hiroshi.
"Yeah, wha's that all about?" Hiro dusted himself off and rubbed his tailbone that was now throbbing in pain.
Everyone's attention turned to Tama who stood in place, dumbstruck.
"I d-d-don' know what any'a are talkin' 'bout!" She said in a squeaky voice, her face growing pale. "I, uh, jus' realized I forgot somethin' at home, bye!" And faster than she came, Tama left in a hurry, not even looking back.
"Huh, I wonder wha's gotten into her?" Miwa scratched at her head.
"Anyway, no more teaching Naru weird things!" Handa held Naru up in front of Miwa.
"Ehh, didn' you jus' say it was Tama's fault this time?" Miwa crossed her arms.
"You need to be reminded too!" Handa scolded.
"Sensei ain't gonna be anyone else's bride but mine!" Naru announced once Handa put her down.
"Oho, looks like you got yourself a suitor, Sensei. Good for you, Naru, finally tellin' Sensei how you feel 'bout him," Miwa giggled.
"Hey! There you go again! Putting weird things in her head!" Handa scolded once again.
"I'm gonna get goin' alright, Sensei?" Handa had nearly forgotten he was seeing Hiroshi out.
"Oh, alright, I'll see you later," Handa waved.
"No you ain't! Hiro-nii ain't allowed to come back!" Naru hissed.
Hiroshi scoffed a chuckle under his breath and went on his way. Kids were so unexpected sometimes. He never thought he would get tackled by Naru in some sort of mistaken 'lover's quarrel'. He rubbed at his back again. The damn scamp didn't have to send him into the ground, though. Maybe he'd skimp on Naru's portion of dinner as revenge.