Many thanks to Lap and Feurox for their valuable feedback!
It's been a very rough few months for me so I wanted to write something to cheer me up and here it is. If you wish, you can remind yourself of Hanako's friendship with Suzu, Hisao and especially Miki in the short stories "You are not alone..." and Manga evening.
Hisao frowns when an unfamiliar noise interrupts his attempts to make sense of his history assignment. A few moments later it repeats and he recognises it as the notification tone from the group messaging app Suzu had persuaded him to install. He grabs his phone and checks the messages.
Code: Select all
Sonic: Emergency get ur butz to shanghia nao
Kyoyama: didn't take enough money to pay your bill again? 😆
Sonic: NAO 👿
Kyoyama: Do I have to? I'm 🥱
Yamabe: Let's meet @ the gate, I'll buy you ☕ when we get down there
Kyoyama: ☕ < 🛌🏽 but OK, see you in 5
Suzu slips her arm through Hisao's as she collects him from Yamaku's front gate and they set off down the hill, the setting sun lengthening their shadows.
"I wonder what's got into her this time?"
Suzu shrugs. "Who knows? If it was really serious she would've given us a bit more to go on. She's not one to drag us out for nothing though, I'm sure she thinks we need to do something about whatever bee she's got in her bonnet."
"I don't like being kept in the dark. How am I supposed to figure out what to do when I don't know what's up?" he frets.
She rests her head on his shoulder. "We might not have to do
anything, sometimes you just need to be
. You'll give yourself an ulcer if you insist on trying to fix everything. "
"Yeah yeah, I know, you've told me a million times and I'm doing my best to take it to heart. But it's not always easy, 'specially when it's something to do with you two."
"We'll find out soon enough. And stop galloping, I haven't got giraffe legs!"
"Where's she got to?" Hisao asks as a tinkling bell announces their arrival at the Shanghai. Looking around he sees a couple wearing Yamaku uniforms chatting animatedly at a table by the window and, tucked away in a quiet corner, a figure bundled up in a black sweatshirt, face obscured by sunglasses and hood.
"Oooh, is that-" Suzu is interrupted by a hiss from the shrouded figure who takes off her sunglasses revealing a scowling Miki. She beckons them over, making a shushing gesture with her stump.
"What are you playing at Miki?" Suzu asks with a giggle.
"I'm safeguarding the virtue of our dear friend Hanako!"
"Is it in danger?"
"Yes! What do you think about that
?" Miki asks, her outrage obvious as she gestures towards Hanako and the mysterious student she is sitting with.
"Phwoar, he's gorgeous! Where's he been all my life?"
"You're not helping Suzu! All I know about him is he's in class 3-2, how can we be sure he's not just after one thing?"
"Heaven forbid! You've never
pursued someone with just one thing on your mind..."
"Well, yeah, but that's different. I can look after myself, Hanako's a newbie at this dating stuff."
Breaking his silence, Hisao sighs. "Look Miki, sometimes you've got to trust that your friends know what they're doing and let them get on with their lives."
Miki and Suzu share an astonished glance. "Who are you and what have you done with the real Hisao"' Suzu demands.
"Yeah yeah, very funny, at least it proves I've been listening! You should practice what you preach."
"Yeah, but it's-"
"Come on, let's go and talk to them." Before he can move Miki grabs his arm and shakes her head vigorously.
"We can't butt in on their date!"
"It's not the done thing. Back me up here, Suzu. Suzu?"
They look around to see her standing at Hanako's table, batting her eyelashes at the mystery man. "Hi Hanako, fancy meeting you here. Who's your friend?"
"Oh h-hello Suzu, I d-didn't notice you come in. This is Tochigiyama Moriya."
"Please, call me Tochi. I'll never forgive my parents for saddling me with such a mouthful."
"Sumo fans are they?" Miki asks as she takes her place next to Suzu.
"Very much so. I fear I was a terrible disappointment to them when they discovered I couldn't see beyond the end of my nose. Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?"
"S-sorry Tochi, these are my friends Suzu Suzuki, Miki Miura and Hisao Nakai."
"I've heard of your achievements Ms Miura, congratulations on shaking up the established order."
"Just call me Miki, surnames are too stuffy."
"So how did you two meet?" Suzu asks eagerly.
"Hearing Miss Satou speak so affectionately about Hanako made me wonder whether such an angel truly lived amongst us, though satisfying my curiosity was difficult given her elusive nature. I'm ashamed to say I took advantage of the hubbub surrounding our beloved class representative's departure to press my contact details into her hand and exhort her to meet with me lest I wither in despair."
"Aww, how sweet," Suzu coos, backhanding Miki as she mimes sticking her fingers down her throat and gagging.
"Contacting him was a bold move, Hanako," Hisao says approvingly.
"I dithered for a-ages until one day I asked myself what Miki would do, then g-grabbed my phone and called him."
Hisao smiles fondly and nods. "Yeah, she's an inspiration for sure."
"I must say I had almost given up hope. You can only imagine my elation when my prayers were answered and I heard her sweet voice on the line. Oh, but where are my manners?" Tochi asks rhetorically. "Please, join us for tea and cake."
Suzu grabs Miki's arm and starts nudging Hisao towards the exit. "No, no, we shouldn't keep you lovebirds any longer. Don't stay out too long Hanako, we've got classes tomorrow."
"I don't like him," Miki declares as she stomps up the hill to Yamaku. "All that flowery lingo. And you heard him say he took advantage of Hanako!"
"Well yeah but not in that
way," Hisao protests. "He seems fairly..."
"...harmless." Suzu frowns as she remembers where one of the phrases Tochi used came from. "Tennyson! I knew I'd come across that 'lest I wither in despair' line before."
"See! He's a plagiarist, you can't trust a plagiarist."
Suzu darts ahead of Miki and stands in her way, stopping her from walking past. Taking her face in both hands, Suzu rises up on her tiptoes and kisses her tenderly. "I'm so
grateful for your protective instincts and I look forward to benefiting from them for many years to come. In return I provide things which you benefit from too, don't I?" When Miki nods she continues, "if we didn't have this give and take you'd've dumped me ages ago for taking advantage of you. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I don't see the same dynamic between you and Hanako. You need to be careful you're not treating her like Lilly did."
"No fucking way! I give her support and encouragement without standing over her and telling her what to do."
"True, but what does she give you?"
"I don't need anythin-"
"It's not about what you
needs to believe she's got something to offer, otherwise she won't feel like an equal partner in the friendship."
A troubled look crosses Miki's face and she pulls back from Suzu, turns and takes a few steps away. "It's not like she treats me as her big sister. And I don't even get to see her that often these days, so much for catching up on lost time..."
"Graduation's coming up fast, you need to prepare yourself to part ways with her. The best thing you can do until then is let her make her own decisions, her own mistakes, and offer her a shoulder to cry on if she needs it. She's got her own path to follow and you won't be there to pick her up if she falls."
"Fuck you. And fuck you too Hisao." She wipes her eyes and blurts out, "why do things have to change? For the first time since I don't know when, everything makes sense, everything just works
. Why can't I have some time to enjoy the life we've struggled so damn hard to carve out for ourselves? Every time I try to kick back I get reminded it's about to end and I'll have to start again from nothing
"Not from nothing." Hisao walks over to Miki and hugs her from behind. "We'll be right there with you."
"Will you? You two have plans, you know what you're gonna do, what you're gonna be
. Me? Not so much. How long are you gonna put up with me mooching off you if I end up a NEET?" When Hisao starts to chuckle she spins around to face him. "Don't you laugh at me!"
"Then stop saying stupid things. You a NEET? I don't think so. We all know what you should do, the opportunity is right there, waiting for you to grab it with bo- with all your heart."
"What if I can't make it? Right now I'm a big fish in a small pond, out there I'll be swimming with the sharks."
Hisao shrugs. "You don't need to be perfect, just be the best version of yourself you can be."
"I dunno Hisao, no-one loves a loser."
"It doesn't matter where you place, you're always a winner in my eyes."
"Oh fuck off, you glib bastard." In contrast to her words, Miki melts into his arms and kisses him.
proud of you two right now, I can't even say," Suzu beams. "All this emotional stuff has made me hungry, how about I treat us to-"
"Pizza!" chorus Miki and Hisao.
Miki opens her door and is almost bowled over by a sobbing Hanako falling into her arms. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"We broke up!"
"What? How? If he did anything..."
"No no, I
finished with him
. I t-tried but I couldn't take it any longer."
"Awww, sit down and tell me all about it." Miki ushers her into the room and passes her a box of tissues. When she shows no sign of speaking Miki nudges her. "C'mon then, spill the beans, what happened? You looked disgustingly head-over-heels in the Shanghai last week."
"I'm a b-bad girlfriend," she wails. "I should n-never have accepted his confession."
"I find that very
hard to believe. You're not just super cute, you're kind and funny and clever. How the hell do you figure you're a bad girlfriend?"
"I'm supposed to be t-tolerant of my boyfriend's little oddities b-but it was just too much."
"What type of oddities are we talking about?" Miki asks suspiciously.
"The p-p-poetry! He'd spend hours reading aloud this excruciating
poetry he'd written and I was s-supposed to sit in appreciative silence until he f-finished, then tell him how good it was."
"I bet it didn't even rhyme! He came across as the sort of pretentious git who'd look down on conventional stuff like that."
Hanako giggles. "You're right, h-he calls it 'free verse'."
"As kinks go poetry is pretty harmless. Not that I'm not saying you should put up with it," she clarifies hurriedly.
"I wouldn't have minded something a bit m-more physical
, a girl's got n-needs after all."
"Hanako!" Miki shakes her head and laughs. "Hang on a tick while I grab us something from my emergency ice cream stash. When I get back I'll tell you a tale about the first guy I dated and his oddities