Kumiko stared at the calendar with intensity. She wanted the day to disappear from the calendar and explode into a million tiny pieces. But there on that piece of paper it stayed.
“This sucks,” she said. “Today is going to suck.”
She put on her school uniform while continuing to stare at the calendar, though now with a much less certain gaze. Today was February 14th, which meant it was Valentine’s Day. A stupid holiday brought over by the Americans fifty years ago that she never, ever liked.
Especially this year.
Of course, it wasn’t as if she didn’t want to celebrate the holiday. She loved chocolate as much as the next girl. She just didn’t like giving it to other people…
She began packing up her euphonium and music to take it with her to school, and thought about seventh grade. It was the first year of middle school, and Kumiko had given Shuuichi a box of chocolates on this very day. She didn’t do it romantically; she just thought that it was a friendly gesture. But apparently that wasn’t very good, because he lambasted her in front of all his friends. He bought her some chocolate in return a month later on White Day, but that didn’t make up for it in the slightest.
That was the only time she’d ever gotten anything for White Day, too…
Considering her, uh, “thing” with Reina as of late, she figured that this year would be a wash as well. Valentine’s Day was for girls to give chocolate to guys, so it was… kind of weird for them to do much of anything.
With a huff, she went to the fridge and took out her lunch… as well as the box of chocolates she bought last evening.
Yeah, she hated Valentine’s Day, but… what if? Maybe Reina was expecting something, you know?
She didn’t even know if Reina liked chocoolate…
Kumiko sighed and realized she probably should have discussed this with Reina beforehand so they could clarify what exactly Valentine’s Day… meant to them. Eww, that sounded awkward and embarrassing even just in Kumiko’s head.
“I’m off!” she shouted to her parents, assuming either of them were still home, and left for school.
Well, even if Reina didn’t like chocolate or didn’t like the idea of Kumiko considering her the “guy” in their relationship (was it actually a relationship?), she could at least eat the chocolate herself. She slipped the heart-shaped box into her purse with one hand and took a bite of toast with her other.
At least it wasn’t that cold out.
Kumiko laid her head against her desk. “Midori…” she said to her friend as she walked into the classroom. “Help…”
Midori rushed over and semi-squatted to get on eye level with her. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“Yeah… Well, no…” Kumiko sat up. In tandem, Midori stood back up. “You know what today’s date is, don’t you…”
“It’s… February 20th, right?” Midori put her finger on the side of her mouth as if she were quizzing herself about the date. “No… It’s February 14th! Oh!”
“It’s Valentine’s Day…”
Midori clasped her hands together. “Oh, and you’re excited because you and Reina--”
“Oh, sorry. But are you two really doing anything?”
Midori cocked her head to the side like a curious puppy. “Really?”
“Yep.” The answer was a lot less clear than this, obviously, but Kumiko really didn’t want to go through the effort trying to explain to her friend all of her dumb anxieties. “It’s a weird holiday for… couples like us.” Saying the word “couple” when talking about Reina and herself was nerve-wracking… but sort of exciting, too.
“Hmm…” Midori took her finger off her mouth and pointed it into the air. “Well, I know I’ve got to give my little sister some chocolate. I guess I need to go to the store after practice.”
“Yeah…” Kumiko laid her head back on her desk.
She really needed to talk to Reina about this. In a way that wouldn’t be completely awkward in every way, that is…
Kumiko sat down next to Reina at the lunch table. “Hi,” she said. Reina scooted over a little bit, but left her right hand next to where Kumiko sat. Kumiko saw this, glanced a few times around the lunch room, and put her hand on top of hers. It was a little weird for girls to be holding hands at lunch, but she tried to disregard what anyone else thought of it.
Reina ate at her miso soup, chopsticks in her left hand. Kumiko was fairly sure that Reina wasn’t left-handed, though…
“So, Reina,” Kumiko began. “Do you…” She hesitated, trying to think of a good way to phrase her Valentine’s Day question. Questions. “What are you doing after practice?” Kumiko shot herself into the air but forgot to steer, with that one.
“I’m conferencing with Taki-sensei,” she said, her expression flat and tone flatter. “Remember, we talked about this a week ago.”
Kumiko lifted her left hand from atop Reina’s right hand and put it into her lap. Her face turned completely red and she put her anpan down. Was Reina… Oh no.
“Are you okay?” Reina asked.
“Haha, yeah, of course I’m okay. I’m very okay. Don’t worry about me!” Kumiko got up and brushed her skirt. “I need to go. I just remembered some homework I need to do.”
She started to walk away when Reina called out, “Kumiko, you forgot your anpan.”
“Oh. Thanks. Hahaha.”
Kumiko scurried out of the lunchroom and back towards her classroom.
Kumiko walked home from school that afternoon with a giant frown on her face. Reina had been in her “conference” for over half an hour before she decided it wasn’t worth waiting any longer. It was clear what was going on by now.
She was going on a Valentine’s Day date with Taki-sensei after all, huh…
She was so stupid for thinking that they were ever more than… whatever they were. Stupid Kumiko and her stupid weird crushes that made no sense. Why couldn’t things be simpler, like when--
“How are you?”
“Eek! Oh. Shuuichi. Dammit.” She guessed she was walking home with her neighbor again today, then.
“What’s the deal?” he asked.
“You seem really upset today. Even I can notice that.” At least he was self-aware about his denseness. Too bad he wasn’t self-aware about his really obvious romantic affection for a girl that was also really obviously not interested.
Oh… Kumiko realized that Shuuichi probably didn’t even realize she and Reina were together (or whatever). She wondered if she could get anything out of that ignorance… Like chocolate, maybe.
“Remember when you insulted me in front of all your friends three years ago today?”
Shuuichi put his hand behind his neck. “Yeah… I told you I was sorry about all that though. I was a jerk, I know. I’m still really sorry about it.”
“Well, you still never made it up to me,” she said.
“I bought you chocolate on White Day,” he said, raising his voice and losing a bit of his aloofness. Then he sighed.
“I don’t count that,” she said. “I mean, you should make it up to me now.”
Shuuichi’s face lit up. “Yeah, I guess we can go on a date tonight, if that’s what you-”-
“Nevermind.” All she wanted was some extra candy. Now she just didn’t see the point in any of it. “You know what, here.” She shuffled around in her purse and presented Shuuichi the box of chocolates she bought for Reina. “You can have this.”
Kumiko turned around and started walking the other way. “See you tomorrow,” she said, waving and also trying really hard not to start crying and making a scene.
Shuuichi stood where he was. “Uhh… Okay,” he said.
She was right. Valentine’s Day was and continued to be the worst holiday in the entire Japanese calendar. “Everything sucks,” she said to herself. She sat on a park bench about halfway between the school and the train station and leaned back, looking up at the already-starry sky. “I’m so stupid.”
“Yes, you are.”
Kumiko looked forward and saw Reina standing there in front of her, hands on her hips. She was wearing a dress and had her hair tied back.
“I’ve been looking all over for you,” she said. “Why don’t you ever answer your phone? Where have you been?”
“Uh… right here.” She was looking for her? Since when?
“You didn’t forget about our date, did you?”
Date? Date? What? Kumiko looked back through her brain for any mention of a date. Had they ever been on a date before? Who was she? Date?
Reina sighed. “That’s just like you,” she said. “Good thing I’m the one who always remembers everything. Well, we’ve got to get to the restaurant by eight o’clock. That’s when our reservation is scheduled for.”
“I… Okay. Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Pizza-La… is not what I expected,” Kumiko said. “I’m very surprised after all.”
“Well, I’m paying, so you should enjoy it,” Reina said. “Let’s sit down.”
They sat at a small table and a few minutes later, a server brought out a pepperoni pizza. It smelled really good and Kumiko immediately began chomping away at a slice, but it was certainly a very weird way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
“Thank you for this, Reina…” Kumiko said. “But… What about you and Taki-sensei? I thought that you guys were… ‘conferencing’.”
Reina burst out laughing. “That was an actual ‘conference’, Kumiko. We were talking about what colleges I might want to apply to. You’re so weird.”
“But… you’re the one who told me you’re in love with him! You totally said so!”
Reina calmed down. “Kumiko. I was just messing with you. Plus, that was six months ago. You really have a good memory.”
Kumiko blushed. “Well, except for our dates apparently…”
“I have an admission to make,” Reina said. “I… forgot about Valentine’s Day today. I made this reservation at the last minute, and it was the only place I could get. I didn’t think you’d believe me...”
Apparently, Kumiko was extremely gullible and fell for everything Reina ever said. She guessed that “falling for” and “Reina” were synonymous in her subconscious was the psychological reason for that.
Reina peeled the pepperoni off her slice of pizza and handed them to Kumiko, who dropped them all into her mouth at once.
“So…” both of them began at once. They stopped and giggled.
“Oh, you first,” Kumiko said.
“No, you first.”
“Fine.” Reina cleared her throat. “Kumiko… I’ve been wondering something. I haven’t been entirely sure about it and I just wanted to clarify.”
“Yeah?” Kumiko elt a few butterfly cocoons hatching inside her stomach.
“Are we a couple? Are we dating? Do you actually like me, or is this a misunderstanding?”
This time, Kumiko was the one to burst out laughing. “Reina! I was about to ask you the same thing.” Reina laughed alongside her. Then Kumiko pulled her close for a quick kiss. “I am pretty sure we’re dating,” she said after she broke away. “At least I think so.”
“Okay then,” Reina said. She pulled another piece of pizza off the plate. “Then you’re going to be buying me the chocolates for White Day, right?”
“I… Dammit.” She gave her box of chocolates to Shuuichi. “Yes, I guess so. Does that make me the man in the relationship then?” she asked, laughing.
“We’re both girls,” Reina said.
Kumiko rolled her eyes. Reina kissed her again, this time on the cheek. It left a bit of lipstick and some pizza grease residue behind.
Valentine’s Day was still a terrible holiday, but at least she got to spend it with her… girlfriend? Yes, girlfriend. That had a nice ring to it.