“Uhh, coffee, grey tea, cola and… was it curry again?”
As I prepared each drink one-by-one at the drink bar, I heard loud noises and singing. Seemed like it was coming from the room next to us, for some reason.
“Oh, they’re fired up next door. But, well, it’ll suck if they get carried away and hit the ceiling… might be a good idea to let them know…”
There was no way of knowing at the time that I would regret following my whim. If I had never seen that horrifying sight, I’m sure I could’ve gone home with a happy heart. To think I would lay eyes on such a tragedy…
I went all the way up to the front of the room next door and knocked lightly. But it seemed the sound of my knocking was being drowned out by the music.
“Hmm? They can’t hear it? Meh, guess I’ll take a look.”
I turned the doorknob discretely and peered through the slight gap.
“Ah, is that Hiratsuka-sensei? She’s all alone, but there’s no mistaking her.”
Hiratsuka-sensei was more or less always on her own, so there was no mistaking it was her.
Even as Hiratsuka-sensei gripped the microphone, she was staring vacantly at the screen and looking rather drained of energy.
She sighed. “Love songs are just frauds and deceptions and lies… I don’t feel like singing one… and the people next door seem to be having a wedding, what with all their jubilation… riajuu, you should just explode…”
As soon as that voice reached me, I slammed the door shut. But I wasn’t able to shut away the sobbing voice, slipping through the cracks.
I couldn’t help but sob myself. “H-Hiratsuka-sensei… someone, please take her already… oh crap, she’s coming this way.”
Since Hiratsuka-sensei had guessed that the door had open and shut, I hurried away from the door and ran towards the drink corner with a nonchalant look.
Hiratsuka-sensei was walking that way with a tired expression. “I’m so thirsty…” she sighed. “Oh? Hikigaya, I’m surprised to see you here.”
“L-long day, huh. S-sensei, why are you here…?” I asked.
For a moment, Hiratsuka-sensei was dismayed, but soon enough she was back to her ordinary self. “Me, you ask? I, uh… w-well, it’s a way of relieving stress. And you…? Oh, right. Yuigahama’s birthday party, huh? Having fun there?”
“Yeah, I guess,” I answered.
All of a sudden, Hiratsuka-sensei broke out into a gentle smile. “I see,” she said after a pause. “Ah, sorry, let me take a puff.”
With that offhand apology, she pulled out a cigarette from her breast pocket and lit it up. The smoke she puffed out wandered through the air.
“You’ve changed a bit these days. The old you would never have gone to something like a birthday party. I am proud as your teacher to start this and see the signs of your growth.”
“Well, even though I say that, Hikigaya, it’s you we’re talking about. At any rate, you’re probably thinking this everyday life is a fraud and fake. That’s fine for now. The depth of your doubt is proof that you’re continuing to think hard. I like that part about you. No need to rush. One day, the answer will come to you.”
This person had really been watching me. She neither affirmed nor denied the current me, but saw me for who I was. Thinking of that, I felt my heart warm up just a little bit.
“…Sensei. Since you’re here, why not announce yourself?”
“Hm? I’m happy at your invitation, but…” She started mumbling. “I told Yuigahama I had a party just before… if she by any chance found out I was driven out of a wedding party…” She cleared her throat. “Ah, I’ll have to refuse. I wouldn’t like to be a bother.”
“You won’t be a bother. Our ages are so different we won’t know the songs, so even if you sing them it’ll just be killing time!”
I’d been showing my concern, but for some reason Hiratsuka-sensei slowly clenched her fists.
“Hikigaya, shut up and bite the bullet. Shocking First Bulleeeeeeeeet!”