* 15 *

However, there was one little thing that temporarily got me back on my feet. Though when I say temporarily, I mean it.

In the winter of my second year in high school, there was a terrible snowstorm one night.
I was shivering and waiting for the bus that went to the train station.
The terminal had a roof, but the wind blowing the snow around made it near-useless.
My melton coat was completely white with snow, and my face and ears were painfully frozen.

There was a warm light coming from a residence near the terminal.
The wet road served like a mirror, reflecting a distorted and inverted world.
I found it far more beautiful than all those light decorations which clumsily aimed for beauty.

The bus finally arrived, though it should've been there thirty minutes ago.
But before the door even opened, I knew I didn't have time to get on. I reluctantly watched the sluggish bus drive off.

I looked up to the sky and sighed a white breath.
I was sure I'd catch a cold in this weather, but I didn't really care so much. I'd have a valid excuse to take school off, right?
I was half-ready to just stay there another five hours and get pneumonia.

But when I sat down on the bench, I suddenly noticed someone similarly waiting in vain at the bus stop across the street.

I knew the girl well, her hair fluttering in the storm. Yes, it was Tsugumi, the one who had rejected me in the spring of my third year of middle school.
"Why?", I thought first of all. The high schools we went to should've been miles apart.
I wondered if, maybe sometimes, she had errands or other business which brought her around here.

I could've just asked her, but I couldn't gather the willpower to speak to her.
At the time, I still had sort of a half-resentment for Tsugumi. She hadn't accepted my good will, so now I wasn't going to give it to her.
A selfish excuse, yes. But if I didn't shift the blame onto someone else, I wouldn't be able to live with myself.

But now that Tsugumi was right there in front of me, I found there was a part of me that was glad. I had to recognize that, at least.
I gave Tsugumi a rude glance, but she didn't seem to notice it. Maybe I was so insignificant to her that she'd long forgotten about me.

Shivering in the cold, she seemed so lonely.
I felt like she could use someone warm beside her.

Of course, this was just me making false assumptions and fantasizing. Because when I thought "someone," of course I meant myself.
But I told myself that was what she was thinking. A happy misinterpretation.
The illusion that I might be needed by someone actually felt pretty good.

I succeeded in convincing myself that "Hey, that girl needs me after all."
After all, people can use misunderstandings as food to keep living.
Religion's a good example... nah, I kid. Don't wanna make anybody angry.

Chapter 16

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