This is set after the graduation.
Chii-chan had just won a red king crab. She never failed to buy a lottery ticket, and she often entered a lot of the prize draws online or by post. She invited us over, happy about winning but also troubled over the large amount of crabs. Arioka, Mizuhara, Chii-chan and I all decided to have a crab hot pot party together.
「A happy ending to your graduation, Crab Girl and Crab Two-Eyes. Kindly accept my graduation gifts for you.」 Arioka had turned up a little later than usual. He handed us a styrofoam box full of shrimp, scallops, and other seafood.
「Wow! So gorgeous… Thank you. And….. What kind of a name is that?」 I didn’t like ‘Crab Girl’, though it was better than being called Crab Two-Eyes.
「What’s Arioka’s part in this play?」 I had no interest in playing along as the female role, but since Arioka always had these customs of his, I asked him what his part was.
「What? That’s such a convenient name…」 I didn’t understand.
「I love crabs, so I want to focus on this crab right now.」
「Well then, how about we don’t do this at all?」
「Is the Crab Goddess in the kitchen?」 Chii-chan, being the one who got all these crabs for us, had a grand character.
Chii-chan made a surprised face at being called the Crab Goddess, taking the seafood box from Arioka. She skillfully began dealing with the shrimp and scallops, making them easier to eat.
I was of no use, so I was put in charge of skimming the scum off of the broth. I adjusted the temperature so the boiling pot wouldn’t boil over, and tossed in some vegetables.
「For your information, just don’t put the food you’re stealing with your chopsticks back into the pot.」 I poked Mizuhara with my elbow as he put the cod in.
「Rude. I wouldn’t do something that lacking in common sense.」 He looked at me as if asking, 「What are you saying?」 but I wouldn’t put it past him. Excluding sweets, Mizuhara’s diet was on a child’s level.
「This part’s already cooked.」 Chii-chan excitedly began eating as I put it into a plate for her. This gorgeous hot pot wasn’t something you saw every day.
「By the way, Arioka. You really like crab, don’t you…..?」
Arioka was silently taking out the crab’s insides from its shell. I had only seen him look that serious in karate matches. In fact, I’d never seen him look so fearless before.
Looked like the name Crabioka wasn’t just for show.
「……Mizuhara. Don’t put things in other people’s plates either.」
Mizuhara, frowning at the cabbage that came with the crab, put it just like that into my plate. Even though cabbage tastes good.
「You have to eat vegetables too. Like this garland chrysanthemum.」 I casually put some healthy-looking vegetables into Mizuhara’s plate.
「Saa-chan, stop acting kind and putting vegetables you don’t like into Mizuhara’s plate.」
Chii-chan was too sharp-sighted. I’d been caught! Although I liked most vegetables, I couldn’t take the bitterness of chrysanthemums. Chii-chan would get angry if I was picky, so I traded Mizuhara’s cabbage for my chrysanthemums when she wasn’t looking.
We’d put rice into the leftover broth too, so we were rather full after eating it all up.
「Aah, I ate too much…」 I patted my now-full stomach, rolling over backwards. Chii-chan quickly wiped the table, removing the hot pot.
I tried to help, but my stomach felt too full. I’d overeaten.
「Saa-chan, that’s bad for your digestion.」
「But my stomach feels too full… Sorry I can’t help, Chii-chan…」
「That’s fine, it’s faster by myself.」
「Chii-chan, that’s just cruel…. Wait, Arioka. Right when I thought you were being quiet…」
Chii-chan had made some Japanese tea so we were all laid-back like people get after a good meal. Arioka, meanwhile, was looking at a photo album he’d got from somewhere – not at all quiet or appropriate.
「I have Chisato-san’s permission!」
「Isn’t it fine?」
When we were little, Chii-chan and I were often photographed together. She’d taken care of me since we were little, so I was also attached to her. We were almost never apart at big events like festivals, school entrance ceremonies, New Year’s, or Christmas.
It was a tradition for our families to go on summer vacations together.
「This photo’s a masterpiece! Mini Noda’s doing a wheelie on a tricycle!」
Not to sing my own praises or anything, but I did feel a sense of pride at that picture for being able to manage a tricycle. I was changing course, safe on my rear wheels.
「I like this photo.」 Mizuhara had slipped beside Arioka before I’d even noticed. The picture he’d pointed at was one where I was chasing a car on my tricycle.
「What’s this?」 I had nothing but vague memories of this, so I had no idea what I was doing.
「This was when Saa-chan was upset at being separated from me so she chased our car. My parents and yours were all in a hurry. I heard your father shout, ‘Stop, Sagiri!’ so I looked to see Saa-chan was chasing us with her tricycle! We thought it was just a tricycle but she was ridiculously fast. Everyone said she’d be a professional cyclist in the future.」
「That’s… The car hadn’t gone at full speed yet, right?」 If I could keep pace with a car going at normal speed, I’d be an urban legend. The next picture was a close-up of me sobbing, clinging to Chii-chan’s leg as she exited the car.
For some reason, my eyebrows looked really thick. Arioka and Mizuhara too focused on that. 「……Uh, if you remember what these eyebrows are, please tell me.」
Even I didn’t remember this myself. But I’d probably drawn them on with a magic marker.
「It looks like you drew them on when your parents weren’t looking. You were delighted, saying they looked so strong, but your father went through a lot of trouble getting it off. Your mom just laughed it off, saying, ‘She’s at that age, huh?’」
What was young Sagiri thinking?
「Just like Noda, doing it with oil-based magic markers!」
「Her entire forehead is just eyebrows.」
「Arioka and Mizuhara, you’re both annoying!」 I was going to check the album once they left. It would be nice if this was the only time I drew on my eyebrows. I hoped it was the only time.
「But putting aside the ‘tragic goodbye to your little sister’ quality of this picture, mini Noda does look like the perfect cute kid.」
「Doesn’t she? Saa-chan was just too cute.」 Chii-chan kept saying biased things with all her heart, gleefully pulling out another album.
Though I just wanted to stop… Nothing is as embarrassing as past mistakes.
「Mizuhara-kun, if you really like this picture you can have it. I have them all saved anyway.」
「Chii-chan… He doesn’t need it…」
Mizuhara was still looking at the eyebrow picture. The one with Chii-chan making a troubled face, and me sobbing with my huge eyebrows.
「Thank you. If you can, I’d like this one too.」
「You don’t need it!」
Mizuhara took out that picture and pointed to one on a different page. When I looked to see which it was, it was one of me taking cookies out of the oven, holding a large pan.
I remembered this day. I’d made cookies for the first time by myself for my mom’s birthday.
My face, splattered with flour, still looked proud and satisfied. This had to be from my second year of elementary school. My dad had watched on from behind as I followed the same procedure me and my mom used to make cookies, this time alone.
The cookies’ thickness was inconsistent and they were burned in some places. They weren’t cut out properly, I’d used too much butter. I probably hadn’t set the temperature right to bake them. They didn’t look appetising at all, but I remember my mother was really happy.
After that day, I started liking making sweets more and more and started making them by myself.
If I hadn’t drawn on my eyebrows with magic marker in this picture too, it would have been a really lovely memory.