It’s been a week since Mizuhara’s mom came to visit the school.
It took a while before he sent a message asking for jelly and pastries.
I’m curious about what his mom is doing here, so I acknowledge his message and head to his place.
It doesn’t seem like he’ll talk.
I don’t know when is a good time to ask, so I focus on making snacks first. I’m ignoring his request and making anmitsu.
It still resembles jelly and agar.
I take out the ice cream maker and I’m about to make some vanilla ice cream, but I just realize that the milk has already expired.
I usually give an allowance of a week or so, but Mizuhara’s pretty insistent.
「Mizuhara, could you buy some milk?」
He’s pretty fast when it comes to anything related to pastries.
Within 10 seconds, he’s at the front door wearing his shoes.
「I’m expecting a timed delivery, so please be quick. It’s soft sweet bean jellies that need to be refrigerated.」
I explain to him and begin making some green tea agar and glutinous rice flour dumplings.
The doorbell rings minutes later.
It’s exactly 1 pm. I open the front door, impressed by the precise timing of the delivery.
「Thank you very much.」
「Oh! I remember you…」
Mizuhara’s mom is standing at the front door, wearing an elegant kimono and holding a parasol.
I’m standing at the door, still holding onto Mizuhara’s signature stamp. Deviina slips through between my legs and invades the place. I ignore her because I know she’s just going to the air-conditioned room.
「Yeah, um, Mizuhara-kun is making a trip to the supermarket right now… I think he will be back soon though.」
「I see. Do you mind if I wait for him inside?」
I don’t know how to respond to this situation.
I don’t live here so I can’t just let her in, but it would also be awkward if I refuse.
I tell her to wait while I give Mizuhara a call.
I hear his phone ringing nearby.
「Don’t leave without your phone…」
Should I let her in or not?
It’s not a good idea to keep her out, especially on a hot summer day.
Mizuhara told me about what happened last time.
Maybe she’s been here everyday, and is just visiting today so we can see each other in person.
What if I’m digging myself a bigger hole by not letting her in?
After spending some time lost in thought, I finally let her in.
Now I’m wondering if I should serve her some tea.
How should I interact with Mizuhara’s mom when he’s not here?
What’s going on? Have they reconciled or not? I’m panicking a little.
I don’t really know the details, so I’m really lost.
Actually, I’d still be at a loss even if I knew the details.
「Actually, it’s the first time I’m here.」
Obviously they haven’t made up!
Was it really okay to let her in?!
「Oh, a stuffed elf. You know, he really liked those when he was little.」
He still likes them, even now.
And that’s just the first thing out of many.
He even has some rare goods in the third drawer in his closet. Elf T-shirts, self made.
Please don’t even think about opening the second drawer.
「He really believed that elves existed.」
She gives a gentle nostalgic smile.
I simply nod without telling her that he still does.
「He always prepared himself in the event that an elf came. Heheh. He probably can’t imagine the fact that he was like that once.」
I can’t tell her that he’s even more into it now.
But what I find the most difficult to tell her is the fact that he’s convinced that I’m the elf.
「You seem to get along with Eiichi pretty well. Are you his girlfriend by any chance?」
「No, I’m not.」
If you take out some letters and spell E-L-F though…
「…You must think it’s odd that my own son won’t even tell me his phone number or address.」
「No, I wouldn’t…」
I actually did!
Her gaze drops to the stuffed elf she’s holding.
「Elves… He really loved 『The Elves and the Shoemaker』 when he was young. He wouldn’t let go of that book. He would mimic the illustrations and draw himself. I may be speaking from bias, but he was rather good at drawing.」
He’s really good at it now.
「He carried the book around, no matter how worn out it became. He really loved it. But when he was in 4th grade, my husband burned the book right in front of him.」
「Eh? May I ask why?」
Sure, it’s rare to see a 4th grader walk around with a book, but I think burning it was too much.
「He never studied or did his homework at all, and didn’t pay attention in class. Unable to stand that, my husband bought a 4th grade math practice book. A few hours later, he came in to check on his progress. Only the answers were written in the book.」
「He was in such a rage, he stormed to the garden where Eiichi was. He tore the book from his hands and burned it. Normally it would take over a month to finish the practice book, and the problems weren’t so simple you could get the answers without showing your work. So he thought that Eiichi simply copied the answers from the book.」
「Eiichi didn’t express his emotions often, but then he cried so hard that my husband tried to put out the fire, but more than half of the book was already burned.」
According to his mom, Mizuhara had a fever and a nightmare that night. The nightmare was about a half-burned elf slowly creeping towards him.
Even I’m getting scared at the thought.
「My husband stubbornly blamed Eiichi for playing all day. But his older brother Hideichi said that Eiichi could even solve the problems he had trouble with. We never noticed how intelligent he was until then because we were so focused on the family business. Only Hideichi knew.」
Mizuhara’s brother didn’t stop his father from burning the book, even though he knew Mizuhara could actually finish the book in a matter of hours.
I think he was jealous.
His younger brother, who spent all his time playing, instantly solved the problems he himself couldn’t solve.
Mizuhara’s brother was hardworking, and had a study schedule that began the minute he got home.
Yet, Mizuhara was able to solve his brother’s problems so easily.
I can empathize with his older brother who was in the second grade of middle school.
「All of us simply thought that it was just a burned book. But my husband never apologized, and a lot… happened since then, and Eiichi became increasingly distant.」
I can tell that it was hard for her to say all this.
I don’t dare to pry into the details of what happened since then.
Maybe because he was too proud, Mizuhara’s father never apologized, but he did compromise.
He bought a new book on The Elves and the Shoemaker, and gave it to Mizuhara.
But the illustrations in the book were different.
The book that was burned went out of sale long ago.
Mizuhara never took a second look at the new book his father bought.
And just like that, he went to middle school, where he graduated and went to live with his grandparents.
「I thought they would reconcile soon, and tried to let things take their course. That didn’t happen.」
I try to think of something to say, but then I hear the front door opening. I stand up and hustle towards the front door.
「Sorry! I let her into the house…」
Mizuhara frowns and passes me the milk.
「Looks like the devil thinks this is her summer resort.」
「It’s not about Deviina! …Although Deviina’s here too.」
He looks at the floor while he’s taking off his shoes, and he stops when he sees the classy Japanese sandals.
Looks like he knows his mom is here.
- TL Note: anmitsu is a type of sweets consisting of fruits, gelatin cubes, red beans, ice cream etc, topped with bean paste and syrup. ↩