Per Diem

Chapter 8

"So, how'd your date go last night?"

"Oh, it was awesome! It got pretty hot n' heavy!"

"Eh, I'm jealous! Damn, I wish I could feel how soft a girl is, lucky bastard."

"You ain't lived until you've had a girl's boobs in your hands."

"Stop braggin' you jerk!"

Hiroshi tried not to let out an audible groan as the two classmates sitting next to him talked unnecessarily loudly about such private matters. He wished he could tell even one person about the one he liked, but he doubted he'd get reactions like the two beside him if he talked about another man.

Hiroshi had never wished for the teacher to come in and start the class more than now as the two beside them continued their vulgar talk. There was a time when he'd probably be more interested in hearing what they had to say, but Handa didn't have breasts nor did he have the curvaceous body of a woman. Instead his chest was flat and his body was slim and muscular. Far from what he had found attractive until this point.

But it didn't matter. Handa was... Handa. He'd already established that was the person he ended up falling for.

The ringing of the school bell and the shuffling of chairs as the teacher walked in was a welcomed distraction.

Class felt unnecessarily long that day, and Hiroshi wasn't sure if he should be excited about going to Handa's house straight after school to get some studying done. On one hand, it was really nice that he could go to his crush's house pretty much anytime he wanted to - he even had the keys to the place. On the other hand, he felt as if he could never bring himself to confess, so it was a little painful being near them knowing that.

But Hiroshi figured it might be okay like this. Every day his feelings for Handa grew stronger, but maybe one day he might come to terms with not being able to be with him. Maybe if Handa found someone to settle down with and have a family with, Hiroshi's feelings could be laid to rest. He hoped that it wouldn't just break his heart, but maybe seeing Handa happy would be enough...

Hiroshi let out a deep sigh and looked up at the sky. Sometimes he wondered why it had to be Handa. Why couldn't it have been a girl in his class, or maybe a co-worker a few years in the future. But there was so much about Handa that Hiroshi liked that it was plainly obvious why the goofy calligrapher ended up winning his heart.

"Somethin' interestin' up there?"

Hiroshi heard a voice behind him and came down from the clouds to look at the person who had trotted up beside him.

"Oh, no, not really. Jus' thinkin'," Hiroshi saw Miwa with her schoolbag as well.

"Thinkin' 'bout what?" She questioned.

"Lots o' stuff. I got graduation comin' up an' everythin'... My whole future," Hiroshi sighed again.

"Hmm, must be rough. I sure ain't lookin' forward to that. Then again I'm prob'ly jus' gonna help out with my dad when I get older," Miwa said with a carefree tone.

"Must be nice..." Hiroshi mumbled.

"You really ain't gonna be the next mayor like your dad?"

"Nah... I don't wanna be tied to this island," Hiroshi replied. "I wanna feel like I can go anywhere I want..."

"Hmm, well good luck t'ya!" Miwa slapped a hand on his back.

"Thanks..." Hiroshi said halfheartedly.

"You headin' to Sensei's place?" Miwa asked.

"Yeah... gonna make him some dinner."

"Ohhh yeah! I'm definitely comin' too then!" Miwa shouted.

"Don't go eatin' it all now! Sensei doesn't eat enough as it is," Hiroshi crossed his arms.

"Jeeze, I ain't that much of a glutton. You're jus' like Sensei's mom or somethin'," Miwa giggled a bit.

"Its jus' Sensei is really bad at takin' care of himself," Hiroshi retorted.

"Well, I can't say you ain't wrong there," Miwa couldn't help but agree.

The conversation died down after that. Even if the atmosphere wasn't awkward, Hiroshi felt awkward. Probably because there was something he wanted to get off of his chest for so long. Asking Kawafuji offhandedly didn't do much to help except to make him even more nervous about the situation. At this point he really didn't have anyone to turn to and he was getting desperate.

"Err, Miwa, can I ask you somethin' a lil' personal?" Hiroshi palmed at his neck in nervousness and looked off to the side.

"Uh, maybe..." Miwa replied hesitantly.

"No, its nothin' bad its jus'... Have you ever... liked someone?" Hiroshi tried to prevent his voice from wavering much.

"Like someone?" Miwa paused for a moment. "Hiro-nii... do you have someone you like!?" She shouted.

"No! No! I'm jus' askin'!" Hiroshi's face was bright red as he turned to look at the girl that he probably shouldn't have just admitted something so important to.

"Who is it!? I gotta know!" Her face was filled with pure glee while Hiroshi's was full of dread.

"No one! Its jus'..." Hiroshi was flustered trying to get her to be quiet.

He could feel himself getting upset. Oh god, what if Miwa found out and told Handa? It would be devastating, he knew it would be.

Hiroshi held his hands up to his face, taking a deep breath to calm himself down.

"I shouldn'tve told you..." He felt like sinking into the ground and disappearing at that moment. He felt like he had messed everything up.

"Hi... Hiro-nii?" Miwa's voice was quieter now.

Hiroshi could feel her place a hand on his arm.

"Don't tell anyone, please..." Hiroshi said in a raspy voice. He couldn't take his hands down from his face, he didn't know why, but that was the only thing he could do to 'hide' at that point.

"I-I won' so calm down!" Miwa sounded a bit worried. "I didn' know it was this serious... sorry, Hiro-nii..."

Hiroshi took a deep breath. That's right, Miwa might be a trouble maker, but she wasn't a bad person. If it was something that'd hurt someone mentally or physically she wouldn't do it.

"Lets jus' go sit over there for a sec, okay?" Miwa suggested.

Hiroshi lowered his hands and saw her pointing near a tree off the side of the road.


The two headed over and sat down in the shade.

"Jeez, Hiro-nii, you outright scared me! I ain't ever seen you in such a state," Miwa huffed. "I guess I won' ask why this girl has you so scared about them knowin' you like them..."

"Its jus'... really complicated..." Hiroshi replied as he looked down at the grass and the leaves already beginning to fall from the trees.

"But you really like her, right?" Miwa asked.

Hiroshi couldn't bring himself to correct Miwa about the gender, so he went along with it. "Yeah... I do."

Miwa sighed and crossed her arms, "So why can't you jus' go 'n confess?"

"I said its complicated," Hiroshi repeated.

"So what? What's the most that could happen? You get rejected? Well then you jus' pick yourself up an' brush yourself off an' say 'Well I was too good fer her anyway!'" Miwa nodded with confidence.

"If only it was that simple," Hiroshi chuckled at Miwa's naive confidence.

"Honestly, Hiro-nii, she's a fool if she don' like you!" Miwa nodded and patted Hiroshi on the shoulder.

Hiroshi knew she was just saying all these things to cheer him up, and actually, it was working. He chuckled again.

"But if they end up bein' that 'fool' and denyin' me... I would be sad if I could never see 'em again."

Miwa thought for a moment before replying. "Well then, tell 'em that. Tell 'em that they mean a lot to you an' if you two can't be together its okay as long as you can still be friends. But then you really gotta let her go, Hiro-nii."

Hiroshi turned to face Miwa who looked a bit uncharacteristically serious.

"You gotta be happy for her if she finds someone else to be with."

Hiroshi could feel his chest clench at those words, but they were true. He couldn't believe that a middle-schooler with probably no dating experience was more well-versed than he was about this situation. She watched way too much TV...

"Yeah, you're right," Hiroshi sighed as he looked out at the horizon of where the sun was beginning to set.

"Well let's get our minds off it for now an' go visit Sensei!" She stood up and brushed herself off. "Then you can make us some food!"

"Remember, the food is mostly for Sensei," Hiroshi replied. Not to mention that going to the house of the source of his problem was for from 'getting it off his mind'.

Miwa was back to her perky demeanor as she waited for Hiroshi to continue their walk to Handa's house.

"By the way, where's Tama t'day?"

"She went in'ta town because there was some manga comin' out she really wanted," Miwa explained. "Wait..." She looked over at Hiroshi, "Don't tell me, she's..."

"It ain't Tama!" Hiroshi answered before she could finish the question.

"We're here, Sensei!" Miwa hummed as she slammed the door open.

There was silence for a moment until Handa finally called out from the kitchen,"O-Oh, hey guys."

"Watcha doin'?" Miwa went off to investigate.

Hiroshi took off his school bag and set it near the table.

"Ah... I needed a couple things for Hiro's meal today and had to rush out and get them before he came," Handa was unpacking things from a bag. He must've just gotten home himself. "You two came together?"

"Yeah, we was both headin' over and ran into each other," Miwa explained.

"Oh, I see..." Handa's eyes were fixed on the few ingredients that he had laid out in front of him. "Err, I have a lot of work to do so I can't chat much, sorry," Handa said with a little stiffness to his voice.

"Guess I'll start cookin' then," Hiroshi walked into the kitchen rolling up his sleeves.

"I'll leave you to it," Handa's eyes darted away as Hiroshi walked in and quickly went back to his table in the main room to continue his calligraphy.

"Sensei's bein' a little weirder than usual, don'tcha think?" Miwa whispered to Hiroshi.

"Yeah, a little," Hiroshi mentally scratched his head as he looked out to where Handa was sitting.

He would've chalked it up to their awkward exchange in the car from the airport, but they had seen each other since then and had pretty much mutually decided to shrug off the whole drunk incident. Hiroshi was glad for that because then he could hang out at Handa's house like usual. But today he seemed a little finicky and distant.

Deciding not to worry about it too much, Hiroshi instead concentrated on getting the meal done with a little help from Miwa. He chopped the vegetables while she cleaned the shrimp and started up the rice. Hiroshi did the rest of the preparation, battering everything and making sure they were fried to crispy perfection.

"It smells so good," Miwa sighed as Hiroshi laid out the last few pieces of tempura on a paper towel.

"I made enough for all of us so don' go eatin' all'a Sensei's portion," Hiroshi reminded.

"Jeez, how many times are you goin' t'say that!" Miwa puffed her cheeks.

Hiroshi chuckled a bit.

"Dinner's ready!" Hiroshi called as he plated everything and brought out two portions

"Thank you," Handa smiled slightly as Hiroshi passed him his plate.

Miwa brought out her plate and the dipping sauce.

"Thanks a bunch, Hiro-nii," Miwa chimed as she started on her food immediately.

Handa picked up a piece and took a small bite.

"Ahhh its hot but its good!" Miwa said, her eyes watering a bit.

"It just came out the frier, dummy," Hiroshi commented.

"Ouch...!" Handa cupped a hand to his mouth.

"You okay, Sensei?" Hiroshi leaned over towards him.

"I-I'm fine, just burnt my tongue a bit," Handa waved it off.

"I'll get you some water," Hiroshi stood up and rushed to the kitchen and was back in an instant. "Here, y'go."

Handa took the glass slowly and took a sip. "Thank you... But don't you think Miwa needs some as well?"

"Huh?" Hiroshi looked over at the girl who's face was stuffed with food. "She don' need it," he said bluntly.

Miwa nodded, "I can get my own water."

"But... aren't you..." Handa looked back and forth between the two.

"What're you goin' on about?" Hiroshi asked, a little confused.

"Er, nothing," Handa chuckled a bit nervously.

"Um, I'm gonna go get me somethin' t'drink," Miwa announced and stood up from the table.

"You alright, Sensei?" Hiroshi asked in quiet voice.

"I'm fine! I'm just feeling a bit off... Nothing to be worried about," Handa shrugged his shoulders.

"You sure? You gettin' enough sleep? Do you got a fever?" Hiroshi's brows furrowed as he worried over Handa.

"Hiro, there's no need to be so concerned," Handa said in a more firm tone.

"... Alright..." Hiroshi backed off a bit in time for Miwa to return.

The rest of the meal was spent in relative silence. The only thing preventing it from being completely devoid of conversation was Miwa's occasional comments, and Hiroshi was actually grateful for that.

"That really hit the spot," Miwa said as she rubbed her stomach contently.

"Yes it was really great, thank you, Hiro," Handa added.

"No problem, you guys," Hiroshi gathered the plates and stood up.

"Ah, I'll get those," Handa stood up as well and reached for the plates.

"You sure?" Hiroshi asked.

"Yes, you two cooked the meal so I'll clean up," Handa gave a faint smile and grabbed the dishes from Hiroshi.

"You sure you don' need help?" Hiroshi called after him.

"Just start on your studying!" Handa called back.

"Guess I'll do that," Hiroshi said to himself and went to get his bag.

"Eh, boring, I don' wanna stay for that," Miwa grumbled.

"Then go home, you only came for the food anyway," Hiroshi commented.

"Hmm, think I will," Miwa stood up and stretched.

"Oh, if Miwa is going home you should walk her," Handa said from the kitchen.

"Huh? I don' need to do that," Hiroshi said, a bit bewildered. Miwa walked by herself from Handa's house all the time, so why would he need to do it today?

"Because its getting late!" Handa stood at the threshold of the kitchen, drying a plate with a towel.

"So? She can find her way home herself," Hiroshi replied.

"Yeah, I ain't a baby, Sensei. And this ain't Tokyo - even Naru goes home in the dark by herself," Miwa added.

"I still think you should walk her home," Handa was firm on his decision.

"I got studyin' t'do!" Hiroshi was getting a bit irked now.

"What'll you do if something bad happens to Miwa on her way home? Wouldn't you feel awful knowing you weren't with her?"

"What the hell're you goin' on about, Sensei? Nothin's gonna happen!" Hiroshi wasn't sure why Handa was being so strange about this situation. In fact, he was strange since the moment they arrived at the house.

"Yeah, what is up with you, Sensei?" Miwa added.

Handa sighed, holding the plate and towel in one hand and crossing his arms. "Like I said, I'm very busy today so maybe its best if both of you just go home for today."

And with that he turned back around into the kitchen.

"If y'jus' wanted us t'leave you shoulda jus' said so!" Hiroshi shouted.

He slammed his books into his bag and jerked it onto his shoulder.

"C'mon, Miwa," he said as he headed out the door.

For once, Miwa didn't say a word and followed Hiroshi out who was already on the main road.

"Wait up, Hiro-nii!" She called out, but he didn't seem to pay attention to her. She ran to catch up with him, "Why'd you get so angry? Maybe Sensei's jus' havin' a bad day and he didn' want to jus' ask us t'leave..."

"I dunno, alright?" Hiroshi said in frustration. "His attitude was jus' pissin' me off."

"Hiro-nii..." Miwa said quietly.

"Sorry, Miwa, do you mind if I jus' head home? I feel like if I walk you home I'll jus' end up takin' more of my frustration out on you," Hiroshi took a deep breath.

"Its okay! Like I said, I was planin' on it anyway," Miwa tried sounding cheerful. "Don' get too upset with Sensei, he's kind of a kid himself."

With that last word of reassurance Miwa set off to her own house and Hiroshi was left alone.

Miwa was probably right and Handa was probably just having an off day, so why did Hiroshi get so angry? The events of his day up until then probably didn't help, but that didn't mean he had to blow up like he did.

But just the thought that Handa wanted him to get out of his house that badly was... upsetting to say the least. That night when Handa was drunk, he seemed excited to see Hiroshi after only a few days absence, and it actually made him feel a little happy. Because that meant that Handa enjoyed Hiroshi's company - it was like a confirmation that he wasn't a bother and was actually welcomed.

So why this sudden change of heart? Hiroshi had spent time at his house when he was busy with his work plenty of times before. They often just sat there for hours, each doing their own work without interruption. What had changed? Was it really that drunk incident? Did Handa wake up while Hiroshi almost kissed him and suddenly remember?

Whatever it was, it hurt to hear Handa ask Hiroshi to leave in such a way. And it hurt to know that Hiroshi was far from ready from letting go of his feelings for Handa.

"Ah, I got so caught up in work that I nearly forgot to buy the panko and oil," Handa sighed to himself as he peeked into the bag with his newly purchased items.

Hiroshi was coming over that evening and he said he wanted to make tempura. Handa had Hiroshi's tempura before when they went on a picnic and remembered it being amazing. So he'd be lying if he said he wasn't excited to eat it again.

Handa was almost surprised at how well of a young man Hiroshi was. Although a little brash at times and a little reluctant to show his true feelings - he was truly a great guy. He even worked really hard for his last year at school. Not to mention his great leadership and amazing cooking. Handa always felt spoiled whenever Hiroshi did something for him.

So after the night he got drunk, it was a complete relief to find out he didn't assault him. Handa knew he lost pretty much all semblance of personal space when he was under the influence, so who knows what kind of things he could've done. He wasn't sure if he could live with himself if he did something awful to Hiroshi in his drunken stupor. But thankfully, he passed out before he could do much, and Hiroshi seemed to have not thought it a big deal.

Handa was nearly halfway home when he heard a murmur that broke through the silence of the fall evening. It was a natural reaction to look in the direction of the noise and see what it was.

"Oh, its Hiro," Handa could notice the blond hair from a mile away.

Hiroshi was sitting in the shade of a tree, but it was obvious he wasn't alone by the fact that he seemed to be talking with someone.

Handa moved a few more step to see a head of short, brown hair.

"Miwa?" Handa said to himself.

Hiroshi let out a laugh and smiled warmly, Miwa smiled as well and set a hand on his shoulder.

"!" Handa's heart jumped a bit as he felt like he witnessed something secret.

He adjusted the bag in his hand and quickly continued his walk back to his house.

Did he just witness something he shouldn't have? Were Hiroshi and Miwa...?

It would make sense, they did seem pretty friendly with each other, even picked on each other often. Handa wasn't sure if he could approve of their age gap, but he figured that kind of thing sort of happened on a small island like this. When they both reached adulthood that age gap would mean nothing.

Handa shook his head - what was he doing, already thinking of them going into adulthood together!? He wasn't even sure if they were actually dating or not.

And Hiroshi said he wasn't looking for a relationship right now. Could he have changed his mind? Love can make you make rash decisions, or so he'd heard.

For some reason it made him feel a bit strange though. He didn't really like the fact that he saw them sharing an intimate moment together. Maybe because it seemed so private, but it didn't settle well with him.

Well, if they were together... he supposed all he could do was support them as much as he could. But now he was feeling nervous about how to act around them. Especially Hiroshi who came over so much lately.

He fumbled with his key to the house and eventually got the door open. After getting in, he shut the door quietly and walked into the kitchen, setting the bag on the counter down. He wasn't sure how long he was standing there until he heard his door slam open and Miwa announce their arrival.

Almost instantly, Handa's heart began to pound and suddenly he didn't want to see Miwa and he especially didn't want to see Hiroshi. Why did he have to witness what he did only moments earlier? It took everything that he had to call out from the kitchen, settle his heart, and hope the rest of the night went alright.

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