Per Diem

Chapter 4

As quickly as Handa had showed up in the village, one day he was gone just as fast. No one had heard about the calligrapher leaving the island, but that seems to be what had just happened. Everyone found out once Naru came running down the streets, yelling and looking for him. It didn't take long for the other young kids, Tama, and Miwa to join in on the search. Hiroshi had heard all of the fuss and went outside. He himself was considering helping a little until his father came around to announce that Handa had went back to Tokyo.

Everyone's hearts dropped just a bit when they heard it. There was absolutely no indication that Handa would be going back. Hell, just the previous day he was acting as he always had. Why would he leave so suddenly like that - wasn't he starting to consider this island, at least a little, part of his home?

But instead of getting angry, everyone seemed complacent. They all believed that Handa would come back, that he was only going to be in Tokyo for a little while. Hiroshi wasn't so sure. Would Handa come back after seeing his home town again? Would he even want to leave the modern, glitzy city of Tokyo to return to the backwoods atmosphere of the Gotou Islands?

Hiroshi wasn't even sure how he felt about Handa's absence. He felt a little upset with him for leaving without notice, that's for sure. But could he really blame him? Maybe Handa was just bad with goodbyes. But most of all, Hiroshi wasn't sure what he was feeling about not seeing Handa anymore - not being able to deliver his food and to see his tired face after a day of working. Not being able to see his messy and amazing calligraphy strewn about the house. Not being able to see him smile and become overly excited over just a small favor...

"Whatever, life'll jus' go back to the way it was if he doesn't come back," Hiroshi mumbled to himself as he stared absent minded at the unfinished homework in front of him.

He set down his pencil with a long sigh. He was no longer up to wracking his brain over the assignment that he had actually given up on long ago. Maybe a walk would help him clear his head. With Handa gone he had lost his daily excuse to put off his homework until nightfall.

"I'm goin' out, ma!" Hiroshi shouted before walking out the door.

His mother had also been a little down since Handa had left. It was similar to the time when Handa denied the dinners she cooked him - except this time there were no guarantees that she'd ever cook a meal for him again.

The sun was already starting to sink down towards the horizon as Hiroshi left his house and walked down the all too familiar dirt road. Wondering how Handa left and if he'd ever be coming back should be the least of his problems - midterms were coming, and fast. Hiroshi had his whole future to think about, and that's what he needed to focus on right now.

Not only was Hiroshi's mind wandering, his feet were wandering too. He had walked these roads so many times in his life that he would often walk to various places around the village without much thought. He'd often end up some place and couldn't recall what route had taken him there.

It seemed like that's exactly what happened today as he had somehow ended up outside of Handa's house. Well, what used to be Handa's house. Hiroshi stood in front of it for a moment. It was strange how this house used to be full of life from half the village walking in and out of it as they pleased - now it seemed so empty.

Or maybe not.

A sudden blast of music sounded from the old house.

"Did the girls seriously go 'n take the house over again already?" Hiroshi mumbled to himself as he got closer.

He walked around back despite still having his own copy of the house key. He knew the back door was pretty much broken and might've even fallen off by now. As he rounded the corner, his guess was right and there were the usual three, making themselves at home with the door wide open.

"Oh, Hiro-nii!" Miwa was lying on her back, reading a magazine when she noticed the presence of company.

Hiroshi sighed, setting his hands on his hips. "What're you guys doin'?"

"What's it look like? We're hangin' out at our base, duh!" Miwa shrugged and went back to reading her magazine.

Naru was at the table, concentrating on something she was drawing, while Tama sat up against the wall reading one of her manga.

"Sensei's only been gone a few days 'n you guys are already gettin' over it?" Hiroshi shook his head at the sight.

"Sensei'll be back! For now we're jus' keepin' the house nice 'n lived in for him!" Miwa replied, unfazed by the situation.

Hiroshi didn't know why everyone was so confident that Handa would return. Sure he ended up getting along with everyone while he was here, but that was only natural, right? His purpose of coming to this island was to find inspiration. Maybe he had already found it and was content, maybe that's the entire reason he went back to Tokyo without a word. He probably never intended to stay here long in the first place.

"Are you missin' Sensei, Hiro-nii?" Tama asked from behind her manga.

"Huh? I ain't said that..." Hiroshi scratched at the back of his head.

"Aww, Hiro-nii misses Sensei!" Miwa chimed in.

"I said that ain't what it is!" Hiroshi raised his voice, his cheeks burning slightly.

"I miss him more!" Naru finally spoke up, shooting a glare at Hiroshi.

She had eventually calmed down after their little 'fight', but would occasionally give challenging glares at him if the subject of Handa being involved with Hiroshi ever came up.

"Of course ya do, Naru! Cuz you looooove Sensei!" Miwa set down her magazine to tease Naru.

"Urk...!" Naru clammed up, her face bright red.

"Since Hiro-nii misses Sensei so much, d-does that mean he also loves Sensei!?" Tama said, her voice squeaking a bit.

Hiroshi's eyes widened at the accusation. "What'n the hell're you goin' on about, Tama?"

"Tama, are you reading too much manga?" Even Miwa lifted her brow at the outburst.

"I-I-I..." Tama stuttered as she hid her face behind her manga. "I said nothin'!"

Hiroshi let out a deep sigh and turned on his heel. "Whatever, I'm goin'. I ain't have time to deal with you weirdos."

"Takes one t' know one!" Miwa shouted after him.

Hiroshi clicked his tongue as he got back on the main road, looking down and kicking aside pebbles in his way.

"How can they be so confident Sensei's even comin' back anyway..." He mumbled under his breath.

If it were him, he wasn't so sure he'd come back either. This country bumpkin lifestyle, this tiny village remaining the same... Tokyo was probably a lot more exciting.

'Are you missin' Sensei, Hiro-nii?'

"I ain't missin' that guy," Hiroshi kicked hard at the dirt, letting a bit of his frustration slip out.

His legs stopped moving and he stood still, his eyes remained pointed towards the ground.

People always said that when you're a teenager, all your hormones were in a jumble because of how much you were growing. But Hiroshi never really thought all of that was true. Maybe it was because it wasn't until this year he started to take his schoolwork seriously. Or maybe it was because he was on that cusp of not being considered a kid anymore and becoming an adult. Maybe it was that so much in his life had changed over the past few months that had stirred so much up in him.

Hiroshi shoved his hands in his pockets and began his walk again. He was planning on returning home, but who knew where his legs would take him.

"He could've at least said 'good-bye'..."


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