Chapter 3: The Other Guy
“Hey Mitsui, where are you? We’re about to leave. The shop is about to close already.”
“I’m already on my way. Grab my bag, ok?”
Miyagi has been calling me but I was not able to answer my phone. It was only now that I’m on a cab when I answered it.
“Okay, but come quick. I have to walk Ayako home and you know how patient she is.”
“Yeah, Got it. By the way, Miyagi… you know the table where there was a commotion earlier, the group of guys.. could you look if there’s a bag left there and hold on to it too?”
“Yeah, I saw a backpack here… got it. But whose is this and why?.. Hey Mitchi don’t tell me you caused some trouble?”
“I’m with the owner so just hold onto it. I’ll explain later. I’m already seeing the shop.” I closed my phone and look at the girl beside me.
She’s staring outside through the the car window. We have not spoken since we got in the cab.
When she cried earlier, I did not know what to do. To be honest, I never saw a girl cry in front of me before.. even Ainah. I would just know that she cried since her eyes are swollen but never did she shed tears in front of me. That is why I did nothing earlier..I just called for a cab and told her that we have to go back to the shop and get our things. She did not say anything and just went inside the car. Looking at her now, I’m feeling a pang of guilt.
“Mister, just stop there.” I reached for my wallet and paid the cab driver. Hana already went out of the car.
As I get out of the car to go after her, Miyagi pat my back. “Hey Mitchi, where were you? Here. I really got to go, Ayako’s calling my phone like crazy. Let’s talk tomorrow, okay?” He passed the two bags to me then ran off.
I searched for Hana and I saw her from afar, she’s walking at a slow pace so I was able to catch up to her. I grabbed her arm since she seems like she can’t hear me calling out her name.
“Hey. I’ve been calling out to you but you won’t stop walking. I got your bag. Here.” I passed to her the back pack.
“Thanks.” She grabbed it then she continued to walk.
I decided to walk alongside her. “You hungry? I haven’t been able to eat since I followed you earlier.” I started to talk to her.
She stopped and stared at me for a while. “Okay. Let’s go” Then she walked towards the closest store near the place where we were standing.
I didn’t really expect her to easily say yes. I followed her inside and she is already sitting at a table, holding the menu. I really can’t read her mind.
I sat in front of her and opened the menu. “Have you chosen your order?”
“Yeah. Platter A.” She answered as she closed the menu on her hands.
“I’ll have the same.” Then I raised my head and our eyes met. “You okay now?” I can’t help but ask.
She gave a slight nod. “Sorry that I acted that way.. and for the things I said, it was unfair.” She then gave a slight smile.
“No. You’re actually partly… right.” I can’t help but admit it. The fact that I doubted Ainah, I broke her trust.
“Here are your orders. Enjoy your meal mam and sir.” The waiter served us our meals.
Hana placed spoon and fork on the side of my plate and she started to eat. I looked at her.
“Why are you not eating?” Her words snapped me back to my senses. “I thought you’re hungry?”
“Yes. I just remembered something.” I answered back as I grabbed my spoon and started to eat.
“Ainah used to serve you spoon and fork when you eat together.”
It was not even a question, she said it as if it was not a guess. I stared at her.
She smiled. “You’re surprised? It was something simple. Many girls do that to their boyfriends. Well I’m impressed that you notice small things like that.”
“I’ve began to think of those things after Ainah was gone. When we were together, I really did not pay much attention.” I answered back
“Typical. You wouldn’t take note of the small things since it was a routine for you.” She said and she smiled again.
“How long were you together?” She casually asked as she poured drinks on my glass.
“Three years. I met her as soon as I rejoined the basketball team.”
“It was a pretty long relationship. What did you used to do together?”
“Well, Ainah loves to draw and take pictures so she would always come to watch my basketball games. We exercise together every weekend with her dog. I taught her how to play basketball and even some self defense moves. I want her to be fit and healthy but she always nags and complains. That’s just the way she is but in the end she’ll still…”I stopped as soon as I realized that I’ve been talking continuously.
For some reason, I feel comfortable talking about Ainah with this person. She is a stranger but I felt like she knew things about me and Ainah that even I did not know myself. Listening to her, I began to realize things from another perspective.
She broke the silence. “She seems like an interesting bright girl.”
Those words were compliments but I felt some bitterness in her voice. She stopped asking. Silence fill our table again as we both focus on finishing our meals.
Since she started the questions first, I decided to ask about her too. “You said a earlier that you lost him. Is ‘him”, that Shin?”
“Yes.” She answered back as she continue to eat her food. Her eyes focused on her plate.
“Can I ask why you said ‘you lost him’?” I carefully asked since I can sense that the mood is becoming tense again. “Is it because of Ainah?”
She took her last bite and she placed down her spoon. Her eyes then fell on me. “Yes.”
We stared at each other for a moment. At that moment, I did not know what to say. “I…I..” I started.
“You don’t have to say anything.” She cut me off. “He wanted to be there for Ainah, that’s why he left me. His world revolved around her for some time so it was no surprise when he made that decision.”
“But Ainah has me. Why would she need anyone else?”
“I don’t know. Only you can probably answer that.” She answered back. “Maybe there were times when you were not by her side when she needed someone.”
“I don’t know that. Ainah never told me things like that.”
“I have no idea why she wouldn’t tell you. But shouldn’t you at least be aware of how she’s doing without her telling you?” She gave a deep sigh. “As much as I want to give you advice and help you understand those things. I can’t honestly say that I like talking about her. I don’t really know how her mind works. She already has someone to talk to or comfort her so why would she need to take somebody else’s.”
I was offended and annoyed by what she said. Ainah has always been the most important person to me so hearing someone saying things like these about her is bothering me. “Ainah is a good person. I know her more than you know her. You already said that it was a one sided love so why blame her now.”
“I’m not saying that she is not a good person. I’m just saying that I don’t want to talk about her.” She retorted back
“Then fine. I also wouldn’t want to hear you say anymore bad things about her.”
“I’m not saying bad things about her.What’s wrong with you?! I just don’t like her! You cannot force a person to like someone just because that’s what you want.”
“I’m not forcing you. I just want you to respect her in front of me. From what I see, you’re putting the blame of being left alone on my girlfriend. Have you not thought of the possibility that maybe that Shin guy found something in Ainah that she never saw in you.. that maybe he realized how a great girl Ainah is that he wanted to be with her than…”
Before I was able to finish my words, she slap me on the cheek. The people on the nearby tables are now staring at us. She grabbed her wallet, pull out some cash, and placed it on the table then she grabbed her bag and left.
I did not go after her. This is the first time that I get slapped on the cheek and also the first time that I lost my temper on a girl.
As soon I entered my house, I changed and went straight to my room to lie on my bed. It is an exhausting day.
The next day…
I was on my way to Shohoku High when I saw a group of guys lurking at the entrance gate. I slowed my pace as I try to recognize their faces.
It’s them. The two guys who beat-up Hana last night. They are with four other guys. What are they doing here? Are they here for me?
Then a girl walked past me. It’s Hana. She’s wearing a Shohoku school uniform and is reading a book while walking so she’s unable to notice me.
Those thugs are here for her. I walked faster as I tried to catch up to her.
“What!” She exclaimed as I grabbed her arm and turned her to face me. She looked shocked.
“You… What are you doing?” She continued as she recognized me.
The two guys turned to look at our side. I put my arms on Hana’s shoulder and forced her to walk alongside me towards the opposite direction.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She tries to get free from me.
“The two guys last night are here for you. They’re waiting for you at the entrance. The cowards even brought back-ups.” I answered back
She grabbed and put down my arm that’s holding her. “They don’t know me. I was disguised as a guy last night so it’s okay.” She turned back and walked towards the entrance gate.
Why doesn’t she listen. Seriously, this girl creates nothing but trouble. I have no choice but to follow her.
“Hana. What if they already know your cover-up and they are really after you?”
She continued to walk and started to open up her book again. I don’t even know how she can read like that.
She reached the entrance and just as I expected, the guys recognized her since they started to whisper with one another. She still seemed oblivious about this. The guys started to encircle her.
One guy put his arm around her, snatch away her book and started to whisper something to her. “Surprised are you? How tacky of you to dress up as a guy and try to trick us. You think we’ll not find you? Huh?”
“Get your stinky arm off me!” Hana pushed the guy away from her.
The guy looked agitated. “Stinky? Huh! Just tell me where your stupid brother is before I start breaking your arms which I’m really itching to do now!”
“Aki, let’s continue this somewhere else.” One guy whispered to the agitated guy.
“Okay, grab her.” Aki ordered two guys who are now walking towards Hana.
I pretty much know how this will go so I started to warm up my wrist muscles as I walk towards these thugs.
“Let go of her.” A guy’s voice made me stop. He snatched the book from Aki’s hand and is now walking towards Hana.
Hana looked surprised, her eyes staring at the guy as she whispered, “Shin….”