The Purest Form of Love - Chapter 7: Third Time's the Charm
| Part 1 | Part 2
| Part 3
| Part 4
| Part 5
“Do you need a hand, Lilly?” I ask, extending my hand towards the girl on the bus.
“No, no, I’m quite alright, thank you Emi,” Lilly replies, stepping gracefully onto the pavement. Behind her, Hanako also steps off the bus. Lilly quickly latches onto her, arm in arm. With his eyes on the tall buildings around us, Hisao follows us onto the footpath.
“I’d like a hand, if you don’t mind,” Rin says with a smirk, as she, too, steps off the bus. I don’t even respond to her joke, choosing only to roll my eyes and turn away. Though neither Lilly nor Hisao respond either, Hanako, at least, does Rin the favour of acknowledging her with a smile.
As we begin to walk, Lilly coughs politely, getting our attention. “I must say, Emi, it was rather generous of your mother to offer her house for the occasion. Are you sure it’s not too much trouble?”
“Nah, it’s all good. Mom adores Hanako, so when I asked her if you guys could come over for dinner she agreed straight away.”
“Emi…” Hanako protests.
“It’s true, though!” I say, walking backwards so I can face the others. “All I ever hear from her is ‘when’s Hanako coming over’, ‘what has Hanako cooked recently’, ‘do you think Hanako would like this thing I made’… I’m a little jealous, actually.”
“Oh, stop it. You’re making me b-blush.”
“My, my, how cute,” Lilly chuckles. “I must remember to thank your mother for her hospitality.”
I wave my hand dismissively at Lilly’s formality, turning to walk forwards once again. “Ah c’mon, there’s no need for that. Like I said, it’s all good. Besides, didn’t you say your sister was going to bring something?”
“Akira’s coming?” Hanako says, her interest having been piqued. “You didn’t mention that before.”
“I didn’t think it was necessary,” Lilly says, arching her eyebrows in surprise. “She is going with me, after all, and what good would a farewell party be if those departing weren’t present?”
“I guess you’re right.” Hanako pauses for a second, before adding, “It’ll be good to see her again, even if it’s to say g-goodbye.”
“We’ll be back in no time at all, don’t you worry,” Lilly says, smiling.
“So, uh, since I’ve never met this Akira, d’you guys mind telling me what I’m in for?” Hisao asks. I was about to ask the same thing, myself.
“You’d like her,” Hanako replies. “She’s a lot of fun. She and Emi have a fair bit in common, actually.”
I whirl back round to face Hanako. “Really?”
“Yeah. Akira’s got a similar look about her, in, uh… certain w-ways, and she’s pretty cool and casual like you, too.”
“And she has a penchant for getting into mischief at school, might I add,” Lilly remarks, stifling a giggle.
“Is that so? I dunno if I can handle two
resident detention experts,” Hisao chuckles.
I frown at Hisao, crossing my arms. “Hey! Shut up! How’d you even know about that, anyway?”
“Guilty,” Rin says, smirking just like before.
“Ugh, you guys… why do I always have to be the butt of your jokes?”
“Well, someone has to.”
“Can’t it be you?”
“What? No. Of course not. How can I be the butt of my own jokes? I can’t even see my butt.”
“No, but I can.”
“How? Do you have x-ray vision?”
“Woah-ho-ho-kay, uh… that’s enough talk about butts, I think,” Hisao interjects nervously, stopping me from replying. “Um… where is your house, anyway, Emi?”
“Oh, it’s just over there,” I reply, pointing to the house just across the road from us. I almost hadn’t noticed how far we’d actually walked. I’m a bit surprised that we got here so quickly.
Just as I’d asked, all the curtains are drawn shut and not a trace of decoration is visible from the outside. I cross the road, walk up the driveway and open the front door, ushering the others into the darkened room beyond. Hanako, however, stops short.
“I thought you said your mom was home…” Hanako whispers.
“Don’t worry,” I whisper back. Then, noticeably louder, “She’s here!”
With a booming cry of “Surprise!” the light switch is flipped on and everyone bursts out of their hiding places. Having only just arrived, Rin, Lilly and Hisao weren’t exactly hidden in the first place, but they call out regardless. It is a little worrying, though, that Hisao’s friend is nowhere in sight.
As I turn to see Hanako’s reaction, however, I do a double take. Where… where’d she go? I don’t have to look far for my answer; a loud ‘oof’ and the sound of someone falling over just outside is a big enough hint.
Sprawled on the ground, Hanako rubs her nose gingerly. Next to her, a blonde woman in a suit sits, stunned, holding a large, wrapped box under one arm and a paper bag held just off the ground in her other hand.
“Woah, Hanners, you okay there?” the blonde woman says. Her voice is deep – almost masculine – but smooth.
“Yeah,” Hanako replies, standing up with a groan. “Are you?”
“Nothin’s broken, that’s for sure,” the blonde woman says, eyeing her cargo. “What the heck are ya doin’ running so fast?”
Eyes widening in realisation, Hanako whirls around to face me standing on the door step. “What the hell was that? You scared the crap outta me!”
I feel pretty guilty. Well, I already felt guilty, but Hanako’s expression makes me feel guiltier. I’ve never known Hanako to shout, much less curse. Maybe surprising her was a bad choice after all. Oh well. It’s too late for that now. I smile apologetically and shrug. “Happy birthday, Hanako.”
Hanako’s mouth opens and closes several times before she finally manages to say something.
“You told me we were having a farewell p-party for Lilly and Akira.”
“And you got everyone out here under my nose.”
Hanako sighs, burying her face in her palms. When she looks back up, there’s a steely glint in her eye that I’ve never seen before. She strides up to me, hands on hips, and looks me square in the eye before lightly punching me in the shoulder.
“D-don’t ever do that again.”
I flash the biggest grin I can muster and reply, “You’re welcome.”
Rolling her eyes, Hanako ushers everyone back into the house. Watching from her place on the ground with a smile of wry amusement, the blonde woman extends the hand holding the paper bag towards me. Taking the hint, I remove the surprisingly heavy bag from her hand and help her up.
“You must be Emi,” she says, dusting off her suit.
“That’s me. Lilly’s sister, right?”
“Yup,” she replies, taking back the paper bag. “Akira Satou. Nice to meetcha.”
“Likewise. Come on inside, everyone else is already here.”
I turn on my heel and head back inside, with Akira following close behind. In the dining room, everyone is milling around, variously chatting amongst themselves and wishing Hanako a happy birthday. As much as she may protest, I can tell she’s glad that so many people turned up.
Akira steps past me and approaches the dinner table, placing the box and paper bag down on it. The other Yamaku students look curiously at her as she grips Hanako in a rough bear hug and ruffles her hair.
“Happy birthday, Hanners. Never thought I’d see you having a party like this.”
“Neither did I. I wouldn’t have organised anything this big, at least.”
“Well I’m glad there’s so many of your friends here. Wouldn’t want you to keep your present all to yourself.”
“Y-you got me a present?” Hanako peers over to the items Akira left on the table, eyeing the paper bag in particular. I notice it looks suspiciously like a bottle. Clearly, Hanako notices this as well. “It’s not… is it?”
“What, you mean this?” Akira laughs, holding up the bag. “Nah, this is for Mrs. Ibarazaki as thanks for hosting this whole shebang.”
Akira slides the bag upright across the table to where mom stands. Mom, in a panic, snatches it up before it has a chance to fall off the edge. With a muttered ‘oh my’, she pulls a bottle of some fancy red wine out of the bag.
“Now this,” Akira continues, gesturing to the large box, “is for you.”
Hanako runs her hands over the wrapped box, looking to Akira for approval. With her nod of confirmation, Hanako gently tears the coloured paper away from the box underneath to reveal a case of some kind of pre-mixed alcoholic drinks. Despite her being unable to see the box, Lilly seems all too knowledgeable about its contents.
“Akira, please tell me you didn’t…”
“Okay. I didn’t.”
“You did, didn’t you,” Lilly sighs.
“Ehehe, yep. Surprise~! Don’t forget to share ‘em around, Hanners. There’s more than enough there to give all you kids a good buzz.”
Hanako blushes, possibly out of embarrassment. “Akira… I c-couldn’t. We’re all u-underage…”
“I’m not,” Kenji interjects, raising his hand out from under the table. So that’s where he went. Hisao immediately slaps his hand to his face.
“Psh yeah, but no one’s gonna find out,” Akira replies, completely ignoring Kenji. “What’s a party without good friends, good fun and good booze?”
“A legal one, for starters,” Lilly answers sternly.
“Aww chillax, Lils, it’s not like I’ve never been involved with underage drinking before.”
“Um, if it’s alright with Mrs. Ibarazaki, I think it’d be o-okay…” Hanako says.
Mom doesn’t respond at first, causing most of the group to look over to her in the kitchen. With a loud ‘pop!’, she wrenches the cork out of the bottle of wine and begins pouring herself some. Having carefully measured out half a glassful, she finally notices the expectant air.
“Oh my. Up to me, is it?” Mom pauses for a second in consideration, swirling her glass under her nose then taking a sip. “It would be hypocritical of me to open up this wine while saying no to you lot. Go right ahead! I trust you’re all mature enough to take responsibility for your actions.”
Hisao and I immediately share a glance that simultaneously flicks to Kenji, now crawling out from under the table to inspect the box. Hisao makes a cutting gesture, but I simply shrug in response. Maybe Kenji won’t kill anyone if he’s in a booze coma. Maybe.
Everyone eyes the box uncertainly. If my own thoughts are anything to go by, they’re thinking something like ‘will I or won’t I?’ while at the same time trying desperately not to be the first one to take a drink.
Nervously, Hanako rips open one end of the box and extracts a single beverage. What’s it say on there? ‘Vodka and raspberry’? Huh. Hanako pops it open, releasing a loud fizzing noise, then examines the liquid within, taking it in by smell. With one final look at every else, Hanako takes a sip.
“Not bad. It’s really sweet.”
With the taboo now breached, everyone but Lilly, Saki and Rin reaches for a drink. I notice that each one has a different colouration and flavour; mine is apparently vodka and lemon. Before opening it, I grab a second drink – this one vodka and orange – pop it open, stick in a straw, and place it on the table, in front of Rin. Her face on sampling a sip is probably the most expressive I’ve ever seen her.
Nearby, Akira pours Lilly a glass of the wine, and a second for Saki soon after. Saki watches Lilly carefully, mimicking every movement Lilly makes as she savours the aroma. Natsume and Naomi each take a sip of their own drinks, before switching and trying each other’s.
In the corner, Kenji seems to have successfully swindled a top-secret feminist-sponsored vodka and apple drink. He inspects it closely, periodically looking at it without his glasses, as if checking for signs of tampering. With a shrug, he cracks it open and chugs the whole lot in one go.
“Jesus Kenji, slow down!” Hisao shouts in surprise.
Downing the last sip, Kenji dramatically lobs the container into the nearby rubbish bin, bellowing ‘Hoo rah!’ like some kind of deranged madman.
Naturally, this attracts everyone else’s attention. Kenji doesn’t seem to take any notice of everyone’s confused stares, merely posing with his fists on his waist and looking slightly to the right of the window. Yep. He’s nuts.
Akira – wearing an expression somewhere between impressed and confused – steps over to Kenji, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Hold your horses, kiddo, you’re gonna knock yourself out if you keep drinking like that.”
“Not likely. This alcohol is for sissies. It’ll take a drink of real masculine strength to bring me down.”
“Uh huh. Whatever. We’ll see about that.”
Kenji brushes Akira’s hand off, following through the motion to adjust his glasses. “Is that a challenge, sir?”
“You wanna make it a challenge? I’d like to see your face when you get out-drunk by a woman, sir
Noticing the imminent hostility, mom steps between the two. “Now now, let’s not get ourselves too tipsy before we even get to the rest of the presents, please…”
Hanako nearly chokes on her drink in her surprise. “There’s more? Y-you guys…”
“You bet your ass there is!” I chirp. “You can’t have a birthday party without presents!”
| Part 1 | Part 2
| Part 3
| Part 4
| Part 5