Calling – 3
Taking a step outside proved that the rain was much harsher than it had appeared from behind the glass windows.
However, the wind itself was not too bad, which meant that the rain would not hit you from the sides. When Chizuru opened the umbrella and gestured for Karasawa to move under it, he took the handle from her and carried it himself.
“Um, I can hold it…”
“Oh, but I am much taller. I won’t be able to turn my neck if you hold it. So allow me.”
Indeed, Karasawa was on the tall side, and Chizuru was more on the average side. She would have to hold the umbrella quite high to avoid him having to lower his head. She felt that there was little point in being stubborn when this would be over in five minutes. And so she gave her consent, and they began to walk.
The rainwater flowed over the asphalt roads, creating fantastical reflections of the neon city lights, which numerous cars busily drove over.
The sidewalk was protected by a guard rail, as people flowed down to the station on their way back from work, holding their colorful umbrellas.
This really was a world of convenience…Chizuru thought dully.
Lukrov’s world, of course, did not have streets paved in asphalt. During the worst rainfalls, you could not walk without getting covered in mud up to your knees. They did not even have umbrellas, so you had the choice of either going out and getting wet or staying under a roof until it stopped.
One time he…
“Why are you laughing, Ayase?”
He suddenly asked, and Chizuru looked up in surprise. And then she realized that she had been chuckling over a memory. Her cheeks flushed.
“S-sorry. I just thought of something amusing.”
“Is that right?”
Karasawa did not seem irritated by this, but Chizuru suddenly felt awkward. And she felt that she should change the subject. She knew that frantically running your mouth under these circumstances tended to have unfortunate results, but sometimes you couldn’t stop it.
Chizuru quickly scanned her surroundings for a topic to bring up.
There was a small Italian restaurant with a sign a dozen meters away.
“Uh, that place over there has really great food. It’s quite small, but the place is always packed during lunch hours.”
“It just happened to be empty recently, so I went inside. It’s very nice and…”
“Hmm, I didn’t know that.”
He said with interest as he looked through the menu that was written on the sign. “Ayase, are you hungry? I really would like to eat right now.”
“Uh, I, I don’t really…”
If she was honest, she was, in fact, hungry. She would have gladly succumbed to the lure of some delicious pasta and a salad, but she wanted to avoid the direction that she knew this was going, and so she lied. Ahh, so stupid. How could she talk about restaurants when they were on their way back from work?
And so it was no surprise when Karasawa pointed this out.
“It is your fault for talking about food at this hour! I’ll pay for you, so please indulge me. I can’t enter an Italian restaurant alone. Let’s just see if they have any empty tables.”
She wanted to object, but it was Karasawa who held the umbrella. And so when he changed direction, she had no choice but to follow him. Before she knew it, they were both standing in front of a building covered in white tiles. The first floor was the restaurant, the second was a beauty parlor and the third floor was a lawyer’s office with a stern-sounding name. A small and completely normal looking building.
She squinted through the glass passed the droplets of rain, and saw that while more than half of the tables were occupied, that there were still some that were empty.
She began her final protest, but he had already started to open the door.
The wet bell let out a dry ring at it opened. They immediately heard a cheery greeting echo from inside. Chizuru was the type of person who would feel bad about leaving after hearing that.
“Don’t look so worried. I’m not going to eat you. I’m just hungry, and you liked this place. There just happened to be empty tables. So stick with me for a while.”
Karasawa smiled with this last push. Chizuru started to feel like it would be stupid to resist any further. Perhaps the inviting smell that came from inside had something to do with it.
And so she followed him inside.
Dark wooden tables and chairs lined the interior of the restaurant. The overall appearance of the place was unified in a relaxed, European taste.
A single waitress in a black apron was busily moving from table to table. There were two recommendations that day, and Karasawa and Chizuru each picked one and returned the menu. The waitress also suggested some wine, but Chizuru politely declined. Karasawa did not object to this.
When the waitress left them, they stayed silent for a while as they faced each other.
“I…am sorry that I forced you in here. And you only just rejected me recently.”
It was Karasawa who opened his mouth first as he folded his hands on the table. Chizuru stayed silent but shook her head as if to say that it was nothing. He smiled weakly but nodded as if relieved.
They were silent again, but the place was so lively that it didn’t bother them too much.
Karasawa was looking at their surroundings.
“Places like this can be nice and relaxing. I only eat ramen or beef bowls when I’m out alone, so this is quite refreshing for me.”
This time, he sounded much more casual and happy. Chizuru couldn’t help but chuckle along.
“You eat ramen all alone?”
“Of course. Being single can be lonely. And I don’t have a girlfriend to make me lunch.”
“There are many women in the company who would be interested. I know it.”
“Is that right…”
Karasawa had the kind of conflicted expression, as if he didn’t know if he should laugh or feel depressed. He looked away from her. “…I suppose you aren’t one of them.”
It was a low mumble, like he was talking to himself. But Chizuru heard it clearly.
If…if she had no memories of Lukrov, perhaps she would have been one of those women who wished for Karasawa’s attention. That was how appealing he was. But.
“I am sorry…”
She said as she looked down. It was just as the waitress returned to bring them their cutlery.
“It’s fine. I knew that already… I’m just acting a little stubborn. I’m the one who should apologize. I won’t bring this up again, so let’s talk as normal colleagues.”
Chizuru slowly raised her head to see that he was smiling gently.
“The head manager and a contract worker are hardly colleagues.”
“Ah, we are not that kind of company. We work in the same office and receive our salary from the same boss. We’re colleagues. I used to be a contract worker myself.”
“Is that true?”
And with that, the air of formality crumbled, and the two of them laughed. Perhaps it was because they had ordered the special, but their food also arrived early. And Chizuru was able to enjoy her dinner with a feeling of safety as she listened to Karasawa’s memories of joining the company.