Time Dilation — Chapter II

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The one with the coffee pact of blood

I can’t ...

Takehiko grabbed the phone and rapidly dialed a familiar number. He let it ring.

Luckily, it didn’t take long for the person from the other side of the line to answer.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Aya! This is Také. I’ve got great news!”

 

“Oh my god, bro! Don't tell me! Is it, is it-”

 

“Yes,” he quickly interrupted his sister and briefly paused to force her hold her breath in agony. “… I got accepted to P!”

 

“Con-gra-tu-la-tions!!!!” shrieked the girl, making Takehiko take his ear away from the phone.“Ahhh I'm super excited!!!”

 

“Yeah, me too,” he chuckled.

 

“That’s so nice, baby bro, I’m super psyched! We’re gonna be roommates!!!! So,”  asked Ayako, changing the subject in a flash, “what's the news there? Anything else you'd like to share? Any new friends? Any girls???”

 

“Geez, Aya, seriously? I just told you the best news ever and you’re simply interested in my love life? Ugh, you psycho.”

His words were sounding rough, but he could hardly hide a smile from his lips. There was nothing he loved more than chatting with his sister. Even if it was plain gossip.

“I guess not much has changed around here. Same people, same faces, just different days… Oh and a girl from my class asked me to prom-”

 

“What, what, what?”  she instantly yelled, her squeaky voice piercing through his brain.  

“When did this happen? You sneaky little rascal!”

 

“A week ago, I think. Maybe two,” he said and scratched his chin.

 

“Takehiko Yamada, who do you think you are? You call me at least once a week and you haven’t even mentioned a single thing! I demand details. Right now. All of it!”

 

“Listen, calm down, ’kay? You’re making it too much of a deal. She asked me to be her prom date and I refused. That’s all.”

 

“Why did you say no? Breaking a young girl’s heart! You're awful brother.”

 

“And you are a meanie,” said Takehiko playfully and curled the phone’s cord around his fingertip, his body leaning on the wall. “I’m not interested. Not in her nor going to prom. I couldn’t care less. You know me better than that.”

 

“Yes, yes, I know…”  her voice cracked in a deep sigh,  “You always prefer an all-night handheld game session to a date with a cute girl, my nerdy little brother… But… Oh Také-chan, you should really start giving people a chance. You’ll never get any friends if you keep pushing them away like that. Because you can't rely on me forever. I love you brother, very much, but what would happen to you if I decide to leave one day?”

 

At the sound of her question, he tried to swallow the sudden lump in his throat, letting his back slide against the wall, and crouched on the floor. “I-I know…” he said in a low voice, “But…”  

 

“Five dates Také-chan. Just go out with her five times. Give. Her. A chance. If you still don’t like her by then, feel free to do whatever you want. That's what I say and that's what you should do. Deal?”

 

“Mhmm…” he breathed out and slightly nodded as he was wiping his teary eyes.

 

“Good boy. Anyhow baby brother, I have to go now; I have a class in 3 minutes and gotta run! We'll talk later, okay? Love ya!”

 

“Right back at ya.”

 

“Make sure to ask her out, ’kay?”

 

"... Fine. Later…"

 

Takehiko rose up and put the phone on the table.

 

What if she decides to go? Will I be alone then? More than I am right now?

 

Dealing with the possibility of his sister abandoning him, in addition to forcing himself to interacting with new people, was a lot of pressure for him. But he would do it. He had to.

 

A cup of coffee won’t hurt right? More like, five cups of those… And… It is true.

I have to change. I can’t burden her forever. I have to stand up on my own.

 

He hit the wall with the side of his fist and bit his lip. He couldn’t hold it in any more.

The tears began to fall across his cheeks.

 

I’m so sorry… I can’t… I don’t want to be in your way forever…







The following day was the one. He was determined to speak with that girl.

 

Lisa… was it?

 

The bell rang for recess and Takehiko took a deep breath. Lisa’s desk was next to the window and she was sitting there alone, staring outside. He marched towards her, fists clenched, legs trembling, and gaped his mouth to start talking.

 

“What do you want, jerk?” she asked without turning around, but closely watching his reflection on the transparent glass.

 

Left to look like a complete idiot with his mouth wide open, he tried to form a proper word and start his speech. “Umm- Ahh… Ah- I wanted to apologize…”

 

“Oh really? You just happened, out of the blue, to remember you’ve been an ass to my face, THREE weeks ago?”

 

Takehiko rubbed the back of his neck. He was already feeling uncomfortable.

“That long, huh? Oh boy… L- Look,” he muttered and moved closer, continuing his talking slowly but clearly, in fear of making any mistakes, “I know it may sound foolish, coming here all of a sudden to say I’m sorry, but… I do mean it. I kind of hurt you in some sort of a way I do not completely understand… You see, this is all too new and too difficult for me. Connecting with people. I-It was very blunt what you did the other day. I-I was shocked and… I reacted the way I did. I didn’t mean to embarrass you or make you feel awkward. I’m really sorry. I’d like to make up to you.”

 

She turned her head around and looked him in the eye. He got scared by her fierce stare and looked away.

“And what is your proposal?” asked Lisa with an imperative voice.

 

“H-How about coffee?” replied Takehiko, still staring at the floor. “Anything you like… My treat.”

 

“Hmm… Do you know that comic book store Sunshine ? It’s like 10 minutes from here.”

 

He looked at her with a smile. “Yes! Yes, I do!”

 

“Meet me there after school. Now scram,” she instructed and returned to watching outside the classroom.

 

Good. Four more to go.







It’s been 15 minutes already. Where is she? Does she intend to make me wait?

 

5 more minutes of waiting in the blinding sun and Lisa came.

 “Where’ve you been?” Takehiko protested.

 

“Like I’d tell you that,” Lisa blurted out. “You know you are being punished, don’t you?”

She seemed strict but the tone of her voice indicated a more playful mood.

 

“Oh… Right…”   

 

“So, we’re going in there, I’ll buy a few volumes and then, we can go have a cup of coffee next doors. Do you copy?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he nodded.

 

“Good. Now off you go.” She gestured him to enter the store and followed from behind.

When they walked into the store, the teen was impressed and amazed by all the merchandise and the magazines that filled the place. He would always love spending time looking for comics or staring at the action figures while wondering how long it’d take him to gather the money and actually buy them. That’s what he did at that moment as well, waiting for Lisa to decide what she was going to buy.

 

It appeared that they did have a thing or two in common, but apart from that, he thought, she was too plain and not interesting at all. Then again, he reminded himself, this was actually the first time they’d hang out, so he shouldn’t yet rush into any conclusions.







After half an hour, they both left and went to the coffee shop next door.

 

“Have you ever been here, Takehiko?” asked Lisa once they got inside. She seemed more loosened up than before and was faintly smiling.

Instead of replying, the boy shook his head and shrugged.

Alarmed by his reaction, she frowned. “You do like… coffee, right?”

 

“I do.”

 

She sat at a table and gestured him to join by patting the chair next to her. He did and Lisa scooched closer. She took the menu and placed it between them for both to see. Takehiko was trying hard not to show how much their close proximity was bothering him.

“I think I’ll have a latte. How about you?” She looked at him and blinked, waiting for his answer.

 

“Espresso.”

 

“Are you sure? It’s so tiny, you know! How about a cappuccino?”

 

“Double then. I don’t like milk,” he replied abruptly.

 

“Oh… Okay.”

 

They ordered and right away followed an awkward, long silence between them. He had nothing to talk about and she was probably still uncomfortable being around the guy who openly rejected her. But, as soon as their order arrived, she started babbling about her new comics and her favorite fictional characters. It turned out that this conversation was indeed something Takehiko could do and feel at ease, though his mind would still travel miles away, vaguely listening to the conversation and mostly thinking of other things he could be doing instead. 

He could be studying, playing computer games, reading books, even laundry seemed a lot more intriguing. He tried to drink his coffee as slowly as he could and nodded often as a sign he was listening. Her voice was fading away and what he could only see right now was a mouth that would rapidly open and close.

 

As soon as he finished his coffee, he placed his elbow on the table and rested his cheek on his fist.

“Are you bored, Takehiko?” she cried, a bit annoyed by his reaction.

 

“Yes,” he snickered, “I am.”

 

“Well, that’s new! I didn’t know you could laugh! … Even if it’s an awkward one.”

 

“I'm sorry,” he said, returning to his usual straight face. “I won’t do that again.”

 

“No, come on! You are joking, right?”

 

“… Right.”

 

He wasn’t. Another half an hour and he could get away.

 

Just half an hour…







 

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