They’re eating lunch together when Chiya says it.
It’s the first sunny day in a week full of rain, so they’re eating outside today. They’re seated on the first empty bench they found outside, only a few yards away from the hallway that will lead them back to the their classroom. There’s not a cloud or a bird in the sky (and even if there was, Chiya has assured Cocoa that she kept Anko inside this morning, so there’s no risk of falling rabbits disrupting their peaceful afternoon).
Today’s one of the more extravagant days when it comes to their lunches. Chiya arranged her bento into a portrait of Anko’s face (“Business was slow yesterday,” she explains), while Cocoa made plenty enough lunch for the two of them to share together. So they pass pieces of meat, vegetables, and the occasional rice ball to each other, laughing and going over their days.
Cocoa had been late to class this morning, through a combination of sleeping through her alarm and stopping to pet to coo over a group of feral rabbits along the way. If Chino hadn’t woken her up twenty minutes after her alarm went off, she probably would have missed first period. Chiya doesn’t bother disguising her giggles as Cocoa recalls the story in vivid detail.
In comparison, Chiya’s morning had been much more tranquil. Well, she had stayed up until 2 AM the night before brainstorming new dish names, but at least she did at at Syaro’s house, where the smaller girl would be sure to wake her up before she could sleep in even a single minute. This has Cocoa sighing, going on about how she wishes she could have impromptu sleepovers with Chiya whenever she felt like it.
(Chiya feels like she should bring up that Cocoa can have impromptu sleepovers with Chino whenever she feels like it, but she keeps quiet. She’s not sure when she rose a level above Chino, but she’s certainly not complaining.)
The first leaves of autumn are just beginning to glide down from the trees. There’s a light breeze that passes by them, carrying the distinct smell of rainwater and tulips through the air. Above them, the sun stubbornly shines down, eager to spread some warmth before the rain inevitably makes its persistent return tomorrow.
Chiya looks at Cocoa’s face, and something about it makes her chuckle lightly. Quietly, she reaches into her bag and pulls out a napkin. One of her hands moves up to cup one of Cocoa’s cheeks, turning the other girl’s face towards hers. And then, with a steady, practiced hand, she wipes a spot of sauce off of Cocoa’s left cheek.
The words spill from her lips like honey. “I love you, Cocoa-chan.”
There’s a second’s pause. Neither of them move. And after a moment, Cocoa smiles. “I love you, too.”