The next day, I had afternoon tea with Kinoshita at a cafe she’d suggested. I knew I wasn’t supposed to enjoy cake in a situation like this, but eating cake just made me really happy. Moist and mild, it tasted delicious.
「Sorry for calling you here so suddenly.」
「Nah, don’t worry about it. We couldn’t have talked in the club room with all the members around, after all.」
We sat in silence for a while, drinking our black tea. I added more sugar than usual to my tea, stirring it boredly.
「Um, well, the truth is, Michel broke up with me.」
So that’s what happened!
Everything suddenly became more awkward.
I knew Michel was hiding from me because something bad had happened, but this was the absolute worst thing I could have thought of.
「Michel apologized a lot to me. He was crying, saying that hurting me was unforgivable. But I can’t give up – I love Michel,」 declared Kinoshita, rendering me speechless with her determination. 「That’s why I’ve decided to be the karate club manager. Arioka has agreed as well.」
「Huh?! Manager? Well, everyone’s going to welcome you with open arms, but being a manager is exhausting. Keeping watch over them during normal practice, and then matches and whatnot. The members all do stupid things too, so you’d have to learn how to use first-aid kits as well.」
「That’s alright, I just want to be near Michel. Would you support my decision to be a manager as well?」
「Of course, if you really want to.」
The members would be restless around her, but at least they’d keep the clubroom clean, be more enthusiastic for practice and matches, and a lot more good things as well. Kinoshita didn’t even need my permission to be manager in the first place.
「I look forward to working with you!」 Kinoshita bowed to me, and I did the same in return.
「So… I was trying to find the right timing to ask this, but um… Did Michel tell you why he did this?」 Was that a tactless question? Kinoshita hadn’t brought it up herself so I had to work up the courage to try asking.
「He said he kept feeling conflicted at heart since before we started dating, and the entire time we were together. It was a really abstract and selfish reason, but… I still love him.」
Kinoshita smiled sadly, and after bowing countless times in thanks to me, left and went on her way.
Dragged along by this incomplete combustion, I called Chii-chan to complain as I lay in bed. 「Michel’s so cruel! I thought he’d be with her forever, he’s the one who confessed to her in the first place…」
「Saa-chan, feelings can’t be explained by things like that. After all, Michel’s been worried ever since he thought Kinoshita made the cookies.」
Love was complicated, and I didn’t understand it. I did think some people were cute, but I’d never been that worried over any of it.
There were girls with eyebags in the morning who’d say, 「I couldn’t sleep at all last night because I was thinking about him,」 but I was always fast asleep 5 minutes after getting into bed.
They did say being in love and having a cold felt the same, but I’d never had a cold so I didn’t understand that either.
「So does Kinoshita know that you made the cookies?」
「I don’t know for sure. She didn’t mention it to me, so I think Michel didn’t tell her.」 I really thought she called me to talk about the cookies thing, but it turned out she was just becoming the manager.
My imagination was searching for patterns in the most mundane things, my heart racing before she told me. It was so anticlimactic.
「It was really honest of her to take all the trouble to tell me privately, don’t you think?」
「No, it must have been a ruse.」
Why would she try to trick me? She couldn’t possibly be competing with me. There were thousands of light years in the difference between our girlish charm.
「By the way, didn’t you like Michel before?」
「Ah—! I just thought he was kinda cute, that’s all.」
After hearing Michel describe his perfect girl, I realized it was hopeless for me. I just thought it would be lovely if Michel and Kinoshita got along smoothly.
「Then you shouldn’t be meddling with other people’s love! It’s going to be November soon, get it? December will start very soon.」
「I know that, but what’s in December?」
Autumn was ending and winter was approaching. It was going to be November in a few days. But why was Chii-chan thinking so far ahead to December?
「It’s Christmas! It’s easy to find a boyfriend with an event like that coming up, isn’t it? Speaking of which, the mixer. Are you free next weekend?」
「I have practice on Saturday, but I’m free on Sunday.」
「Then I’ll set it up for Sunday. You must have a boyfriend before Christmas.」
I was overwhelmed by her enthusiasm for Christmas. She then proceeded to tell me about her experiences spending Christmas alone, her voice full of emotion as she talked about her loneliness. I nodded all the while, murmuring, 「Oh, really?」
The members were informed about Kinoshita becoming the manager in a few days.
They were horrendous – the definition of dancing like crazy. They were shouting, rolling around and shadowboxing at the height of their rejoice, their excitement uncontrollable.
It was decided that a welcome party would be held when it was a suitable day for everyone. Kinoshita was very modest, apologizing for the trouble and thanking them, but the members were already enthusiastically decorating the clubroom.
I thought they were going to rent out a space for the party, so I was stunned as the clubroom looked like there was a birthday party going on.