“Noriko-San. I want to talk to you about something, but I don’t want you to get mad.”
Oh no— Don, did you shrink my clothes again?
“No, it’s not that..”
Then..what’s on your mind?
“...You have to hear me out. And promise you won't get mad!”
Haha..? I promise.
I should have not promised. If I hadn’t promised, he wouldn’t have asked me, and then he wouldn’t have went ahead with it, and I wouldn’t be in this constant state of worrying about how I can’t mess thisupohdearGodWHATHAVEIGOTTENMYSELFINTOOOOOOOOO!
No. No, it’s okay, Noriko! It’s just your boyfriend..!...And his boyfriend...on a date.. alone..TOGETHER!
I slap both my cheeks and shake my head, squeaking in embarrassment at the thought. It’s not like this is my first time on a date with Don, or my first time meeting the Director, but it’s my first time on a date with Don and the Director!
It’s normal to be nervous, right? Right! Anyone would be, right?
But what am I nervous for? The Director is no one to be scared of! We’ve talked loads of times!
But at the same time, I haven’t spoken to him since he started dating Don..
I pull at my hair as I walk, “Ughhh…!” Why is everything so complicated! Why am I backing out now, of all times!
I open my eyes to see the people on the street staring at me weirdly, and I immediately clasp my hands together in front of me and avoid eye contact.
Ugh, that was embarrassing.. I gotta make sure I don’t get like this in front of Don.
It’s not that I don’t like the Director. He’s actually a pretty cool person, according to Don. He always tells me all about their dates together. They’ve only been going out a few weeks, but it seems like they’re already lovey-dovey. The same goes for us two, I guess. It’s only been about five weeks since the school festival, which also happens to be the time we started dating. To be strictly honest, when Don brought up polyamory, I was completely caught off guard. I wasn’t mad at the idea, but my first thought was yeah, that sounds like Don.
I mean, the guy fell in love with a bop of his head. It makes sense that he wouldn’t be able to have only one partner. I’m honestly glad he was the kind of person to talk about it, instead of cheating like other guys do. He was quick to tell me that he’d let it go if I said no. That he’d get rid of all remaining attraction he had for the Director if I was uncomfortable with the idea. It was so unexpected and so responsible and so Don to do that the option of actually saying no hadn’t even occurred to me.
This was our first date for processing. I’m not polyamorous, so I’ve never done it before. Neither have they, if their past relationships were anything to go on. Don told me it was kind of like a meeting to talk about our feelings. Like a therapy session. I don’t think he fully knows what he’s doing either, but he’s trying his best.
I look down at the cracks in the sidewalk as I walk. I should try my best too. I sigh.
I really admire Don’s confidence. It’s one of the many reasons I like him so much. I wonder if that’s why the Director likes him too?
Don told me that on their dates, the Director laughs at all his jokes. He’s got a cute laugh, he says. Almost as cute as yours, Noriko-san.
I slow to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk, feeling my face grow warm in the sun's glow, heating up more and more as I remember all the times Don has spoiled me. Like when he took me to an ice cream place he’d found because of his boyfriend’s suggestion, and he tapped my nose with his cone and left a white mark, just like in the movies. And there was that time that he brought home flowers for me and placed one in my hair right before cooking dinner. Or when we were sick, the days after the festival, and he washed my laundry for me despite the fact that he was practically about to faint just as well.
A bus drives by, blowing wind in my direction and cooling my face down. I can’t keep getting like this. I take my phone out of my frog-shaped purse and look at the time. I’ll be late if I don’t keep a steady pace.
Just as I begin to turn a corner, a person runs into me from behind. She lets out a soft, “Oh, sorry..!” And I turn around to see the girl from the festival. The one who acted last as the play’s head actress. Her hair is styled differently, in a short ponytail, and she’s wearing a yellow top stuffed into jean shorts with black tights and red sneakers.
“It’s you!” We realize in unison.
Somehow we end up walking with each other. She has a natural smile on her face. Her thin eyebrows raised and eyes looking forward into a bright future. She walks with a purpose, but never gets ahead of me, and she has a hop in her step. “You’re sure excited to get somewhere..”
“I have a date with a senpai from school,” she says with her really nice smile aimed at me.
“Oh, the one from the festival? The Director’s friend?”
“Yep! We actually got together after that.”
“Oh, that’s so strange! I’m on my way to a date with Don, too! It’s so weird we both got boyfriends right at the festival. It sure was a night of love and sickness, huh?
“Sure was!” She grins so wide her eyes close. She’s gripping the straps of her sushi backpack, which I’d just realized she was wearing. What could she have in there that would deserve such a large bag? Or maybe she just really liked it? Actually, upon further inspection, she had a band around her wrist to match it. It had the exact colors of the bag tie-dyed on it. On it was a small symbol of a fish head. It looked as if it were looking right at me. “It turns out that Senpai had liked me for a while before then. But I hadn’t noticed a thing! I guess me and Don Underwear have something in common..!” She grins cheesily.
“Ah, guess so,” I smile back. “He always seemed kind of introverted to me. Is he still like that with you? He seems like the type to take you to a library or something.”
She blushes at that. “That was our first date, actually..”
“A used book store, yeah.”
“Haha! I was spot on!” I tilt my head back and laugh.
“Dating Senpai..I don’t know how to explain it. It’s very...relaxing.” She describes, her smile fading into a thoughtful purse of her lips. She looks up to the sky, stopping as I do in front of a crosswalk. “I’ve never dated before, so I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like. But being with him is fun. Sometimes, when I’m with him, my heart goes pirupirupiru, and I feel really good. You know?”
I tilt my head to the side. “Pirupirupiru?”
“Yeah, pirupirupiru, you know?” She points her index finger at the sky as she meets my eyes, her own wide and genuine.
I look up at the sky. “Pirupirupiru...huh…” An image of Don’s awkward smile when he told me he accidentally shrunk my clothes in the wash with his crosses my mind, and I feel it: my heart stuttering. “..Yeah.”
Their scene together at the end of the play had indirectly caused me and Don’s relationship to start, so I owed them both one. It was sweet, them going on about fate and chance and coincidence. And the hand-holding part had really struck a chord within me.
I find myself mumbling, “I was kind of jealous of your opportunism, actually…”
“You almost had the chance to kiss Don. Luckily enough, your senpai jumped in just before. I had really thought about going up in your place instead, but I didn’t have the courage.”
She tilts her head to the side as the cars in front of us come to a stop. “I think you’re plenty courageous, Noriko-san..”
We walk forward, crossing the street. “That’s not true.”
“I gotta think it takes plenty of courage to confess your love in front of an audience like that. All I had to do was memorize a script you gave me. But you had to come up with your own lyrics on the spot..!” We step onto the next sidewalk.
I hadn’t thought of it like that. Everyone calls Don the romantic, believing in fate and falling in love at the drop of a dime and such, but I like to think that the woman and man who fell for him have to be just as naive.
I’m a romantic as well, you see.
“Huh..I guess so!” I agree, feeling a smile rise to my face. I was a sucker for romance plots. Why else would I have directed The Codger of Monte Cristo? “By the way, don’t sell yourself short. You have an amazing voice, you..”
Oh. Oh, wow. I just realized that I never got her name! Oh no! Should I ask her? But we’ve already been talking for so long! It would be awkward if I just asked.. It just never occured to me. This girl has been in my home! How could I have not even known her name?
She doesn’t seem to notice my blunder. Or maybe she doesn’t care. “Thank you! You have a wonderful voice, too, Noriko-san. I’m jealous!”
I laugh with her for a while as we walk closer and closer to the cafe where Don and the Director are. “But thank you.. for that, and calling me courageous.” I needed that. I think..I think I’m going to be OK. I think I can do this.
“Yes! It’s no problem. To tell you the truth, I had no interest in romance until Senpai confessed to me that day. The thought hadn’t really crossed my mind at all. But when Senpai asked me out for coffee, it’s like my world expanded!” She smiles and raises her arms to make them into a circle shape. “When I looked it up, I found this cute little bracelet and a bunch of other people that thought like me!” She pulls on her pink, white, black, and red bracelet band, then lets it snap against her wrist as she jumps in emphasis of her joyousness. Her happiness is infectious, and I can’t stop myself from grinning.
“Does it have a meaning?” I nod down to it.
She points her index finger up and makes an ‘o’ shape with her mouth. “There isn’t a word for it in Japanese, but in english it’s recipromantic. Crazy, right?” She grins and shows off the fish symbol on the bracelet. “I put this sticker on it to match my bag! It was so weird that I got this backpack on the same day I started to like Senpai! It’s like fate!”
The big pink eyes of the fish are staring me down, intimidatingly. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Oh!” She comes to a stop. “This is my stop!”
We’re standing in front of what looks like a toy store. The window case shows off a variety of cute stuffed bears in all sizes and colors. It didn’t look like it was just for children, though. On the far left is a popular black and white bear that I know is not from a cartoon a child should be watching.
“See you later!” She waves at me, one leg lifted up behind her as she grabs the handle of the door, then steps in.
I let out a breath of air that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding in all this time. She was a nice woman, but she had a lot of energy in her.
I continue my walk forward, checking my phone.
I’m five minutes away now. My pits are starting to get sweaty. Maybe I should have worn a sleeveless shirt this time around instead of this tee.
No, no! I can’t get nervous now. I just started feeling better! Get a hold of yourself, self! I slap myself in the face and ball my hands into fists as I walk with a purpose. The people that pass by me on the street leave a space for me to walk, but I can’t worry about that right now. There’s no reason for me to be nervous. It’s just the Director. Why would I be nervous? I know them. Neither Don nor the head are ones to be intimidated by.
But what if Don likes him more than me?
I slap my hands onto my ears as I continue my quick pace, as if it would block out the dumb thoughts. But why would that matter? Why would it matter if Don liked him more than me? He’d still like me, regardless! We’re in a polyamorous relationship, so there’d be no reason to break up even if that were the case!
Unless he wanted to go back to monogamy. And what if the head doesn’t like me now that he’s dating my boyfriend?
What if it’s awkward?
I come to a stop and so do the mean thoughts.
The cafe is nice-looking. The sign atop of it is made of unpainted wood and has a rustic feel to it. Through the windows, I can see the dark oak wood walls and bamboo trees in the corner of the shop. There is a barista standing at the counter, smiling fakingly with wide, coffee eyes.
I mimic them. If they can get through a busy Saturday afternoon of customer service with a fake smile, so could I. I straighten my back, lift my chin, and open the door to the cafe.
You’re courageous, you’re courageous..
As I walk in, I immediately hear my name being called to my left. Don’s there and he’s waving at me ecstatically, standing with one hand on the table and his chair pushed back behind him. Across from him is the Director, and his smile is calm as he looks at me. He also gives a small wave, and it’s like he’s waving away all my fears. Almost immediately, like a meteor hitting them, all my nerves go away to somewhere far and distant.
“As I was saying, I was just as lonely…” The Director’s cheeks are slightly flushed as he turns to face the wall. “I wanted to be loved by someone too. But, when you confessed your love for me at the festival, while not knowing I was a man, it made me realize that it didn’t matter to me that you were a guy, just that you liked any kind of version of me.”
Don places both hands on the table and returns his attention back to the conversation he was apparently having before I walked in.“When I realized it was you, my qualms wasn’t that you were a man, but that you, the one I’d been searching for for a whole year, were the one I’d been running away from the whole time! I had only wished I had figured it out sooner. Gender means nothing to me when it comes to love!”
He talks like a character out of a romance novel. I smile to myself as I pull out a chair adjacent to them and sling my purse over the side before sitting down. Still, it’s one of the reasons I like him so much. “You look good in that beanie,” I say to the Director as Don sits down in his seat again.
He blushes even more and pulls down the band of his beanie even more, so as to have his hand cover some of his embarrassment. On it is a picture of the play’s symbol; a neat caricature of Don’s face in the style of a demon. It’s plastered large on the front of the beanie for anyone to see. I bet no one but the students at the college would get it, but if he were to be seen outside walking around with Don wearing a hat with his face on it, he’d surely get a lot of stares. I wonder where he got it? From someone in one of his fan clubs, maybe?
“Thanks…” He mumbles, shyly.
Don raises his hand and winks at me, and my heart stutters again.
As I sit there, blood rushing, and the Director sits there, trying to cool his face down, Don orders a large drink with three straws.