After taking a hot shower and stiffening myself up,
I finally got accustomed to the winter air.
It was cold today, but the weather was beautiful.
The sound of the washing machine and the light from the window
announced the beginning of the day.
Well, I say “beginning,”
when really we had already spent some time lazing around,
but today was Sunday, after all. That was permissible.
And now, Sunday’s customary battle would begin.
“Come on, get up already.”
“Mmmrrrrr… Just a little more…”
“It is 10:30 already. 10:30 in the day.”
“Yes, it’s 10:30. In the morning…”
…Yes, our fierce struggle
over how long “morning” was allowed to last.
“In thirty minutes, breakfast specials will stop being served.
It is very clearly daytime.”
“Or, to turn it around,
there are still thirty minutes of morning left…!”
“If you were the sort of person who could properly wake up within thirty minutes,
that might pass for an excuse…”
“This is my first real Sunday in forever,
without any events or store visits.
Please, just let me sleep a little more…!”
My hypotensive princess
was weak in the morning, which made her strong (strong-willed, that is).
At times like this, she was like a traveler fighting against the north wind.
With only half-hearted force, she was immovable.
So, I had no choice…
“All right, all right… Good night, Setsuna.”
“Thank you, Haruki-kun.
I love you…”
“Now, I’m going to try my hand at making us some lunch.
Sleep tight until I’m finished.”
“Hm? Did you say something?”
Yes, until she was bathed by the light of the sun.
“No, Haruki-kun, you can’t do any cooking…
It’s a matter of wifely honor.”
“You and I both work. There’s nothing wrong with me making it.
And anyhow, you’re worn out from your job.”
“I don’t want to hear that from the one who leaves the house before I do,
and comes back home later than I do, every day…”
“I normally leave everything to you,
so I at least have to return the favor on Sundays.”
“But, Haruki-kun, you always snatch laundry and cleaning duty away from me
at the first opportunity, too.
If I can’t at least hang onto cooking, I’ll look bad!”
“Then get up.
If you leave me to my own devices, I’ll be forced to make food for myself.”
“Oh, you demon! Fiend! You… traitorous chairman!”
“Well, given that you are the princess, Miss Houjou High,
I suppose you had better abstain from any conduct that might mar your name.”
In this way,
as she wallowed in her happy indolence every weekend,
my wife still loudly asserted her rights as “part-time housewife.”
Setsuna Ogiso, now Setsuna Kitahara.
Formerly an idol of the academy, Miss Houjou High, for three years running,
currently a public relations idol at Knights Record.
“Hey, we had an agreement. Will you get up now?”
“…You have to get me up, Haruki-kun.”
This was the side of Setsuna that she absolutely never showed anybody else.
Like a spoiled child…
No, like a princess, she reached out her hand from the bed.
“Yes, yes, all ri—Whoa?!”
“Heeheehee, caught youuu…”
Instead, she suddenly grabbed my hand,
dragging me down onto the bed with her.
“You might as well go back to sleep with me, right, Haruki?
No one would really blame you for it today, you know.”
“You can say what you want,
but I don’t feel like sleeping at all. You know that.”
And it was perfectly clear
that she wasn’t planning on simply snoozing together, breathing quietly,
but rather a more aggressive activity.
“Hey, hey, Haruki-kun… Mm…”
For example, this,
her lips, brushing the base of my neck.
“If we do that, we’ll just get even more hungry.”
“Oh, yes. We should be able to have a delicious lunch.
“…Hey, it’s still morning. We can’t do this.”
“It certainly doesn’t seem as though… this thinks we can’t do it.”
For example, this,
her fingers, touching my…
“This can’t even talk in the first place—ah…
S-Setsuna… No, I…”
“Mm, hmm , Haruki-kun… Mm, mmm, mm, hff…”
“Hah, ah… God, you are… hey…! Ngh…!”
“…Mmph, mmph… mm…”
I already mentioned this,
but it was 10:30 in the morning.
For a visitor to show up at this hour
was not especially rude or anything…
Will you wake up, please!”
Your mother said she was going to come by this morning to help.”
“No, she didn’t! She said it would be in the afternoon some time!
Ugh, she’s so impatient…!”
reviving our argument over how long “morning” lasted,
we hurriedly jumped up out of bed.
We were nearing the end of December.
A bit more than a year had passed
since Setsuna made that little change to her surname…
This was a story of those few days remaining,
that winter, in a room like this.
“Um, here’s your tea… Mother.”
“Oh, please don’t fuss over me.
…More importantly, allow me to apologize, Haruki-san.
My daughter is such a sleepyhead.”
“Ah, not at all. She’s usually completely on top of things.
Today is just one of her rare days off…”
Mom, you don’t have to say stuff like that!”
“And you, Setsuna,
don’t need to put in appearances at unnecessary times…”
“Yes, at least get dressed and dry your hair first.
What terrible behavior.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.
I suppose my parents never taught me any manners!”
“Again, I am so sorry.
My husband spoiled her, so she grew up doing whatever she pleased.”
“No… Thank you.
Thank you for letting her grow up so selfishly.”
“Oh? Haruki-san, don’t tell me
you’re the sort who delights in being tyrannized…?”
“No, it’s not…
Well, actually, sure, let’s say that.”
With an expression that was dubious, or maybe a little put off,
Setsuna’s mother took a long, hard look at me.
But as I responded to her reaction with an ambiguous smile,
possibly causing her to grow even more suspicious,
feelings of gratitude rose up in my chest.
Saying, Thank you, truly.
For raising Setsuna however she liked, gently, normally,
Even after all the times that I had hurt her through my own errors,
she endured, without once giving in.
Even when she did start to break a bit,
she soon recovered.
Because she was just like her father, and her mother,
and her younger brother.
the end of the year is busy as it is, and to think you’re moving…”
“What are you talking about, Mom?
It’s more efficient to get the move and the big cleanup taken care of at the same time.”
“And anyway, the celebratory moving soba
can also be used as New Year’s Eve soba,
so it’s more efficient for our neighbors, too.”
“You could have lived here a little longer.
This space is plenty for the two of you.”
“I believe your husband was the one
who got angry at me and said,
‘How long are you going to keep my daughter trapped in this tiny room?’…”
The next Saturday…
As my mother-in-law said, over a weekend approaching the end of the year,
we were going to move out of this place, where we had lived since our college days,
and into a two-bedroom apartment five train stops away.
And so, with our move only one week away,
she had come today to help us prepare.
“Come on, Mom! Don’t pack up all of our tableware.
How are we supposed to eat for the next few days?”
“Make do with paper cups and plates.
It’s far better than panicking the day before
and not having time to get everything cleared away.”
“We still have a week left before we move!
Start by packing up the stuff we don’t use all the time.
No, not the TV! There’s still stuff I want to watch!”
“My goodness, you’re noisy.
If you’re going to be that way, then you can do the whole thing yourself, Setsuna.”
“I’ll do it all myself, so you don’t have to go to the trouble of coming here.”
These words of refusal, which came so naturally out of my mouth,
provoked an extremely antagonistic response from the entire Ogiso family,
and the moment I spoke them, everyone, including Setsuna, told me off.
“How much longer are you going to take this stiff attitude?”
“There are limits to formality, you know!”
“Come to think of it, weren’t you acting like this the day before the ceremony, too?”
Well, I felt like there were some unreasonable things mixed in as well,
but enough about that…
Of course, they weren’t bad people, and I loved them all,
but there were still some gaps between their ways of thinking and mine,
large enough that sometimes I couldn’t help but laugh.
“…Oh? Look at this, Setsuna.”
I’m busy doing all of this tidying by myself!”
“Forget about that for a moment, and look at this!
It’s your middle school album.”
“Ah, so that’s where it was.
I knew I must have it somewhere,
but I could never find it…”
“Holding onto something like this, in this tiny apartment…
No wonder the place feels so cramped.”
“…Yes, I apologize for how small the place is.”
Of course, it was her own daughter
who very vehemently insisted,
“This place will be just fine until we’ve put some decent savings away”…
“…Oh, my. This takes me back.
Look, this is a picture of Setsuna in middle school.
Look at this, Haruki-san.”
“I’ve seen it plenty of times.”
I knew everything—who her friends were in that class,
who her enemies were, who all she’d made up with.
…And for that matter—listen to this—
I even knew the class, name, and face
of the soccer ace who asked her out.
Even though there wasn’t really any need for her to tell me that much.
“You were so sweet and cute then.
When did you turn into such a stubborn girl,
who never listens to what her mother says?”
This was our school trip.”
“Oh, yes, I remember, I remember.
Setsuna, I seem to recall you were running a 38-degree fever until the day before.”
“Yeah, I was!
Dad told me not to go on the trip because of it.”
“And you cried your eyes out, saying you absolutely must go…
You know, now that I think about it,
this must have been the moment when you stopped doing as we told you.”
“No, it wasn’t!
My temperature dropped to 36 by the next day.”
“You do know that the thermometer was a bit off?
And you didn’t clamp it properly under your armpit, either.”
“Oh, wow, really?”
“Here, look at this picture.
Your face is red and swollen.
That’s plain proof that your fever hadn’t gone down at all.”
“Whoa, my face looks weird.
Ew, that’s so embarrassing!
Haruki-kun, you don’t get to look at this!”
“…Okay, I’m not looking. Now will you two please put that away?”
“Thank you so much for today.
You’ve really helped us out a lot.”
“One day clearly wasn’t enough, though.
I’ll come by again later.”
“Hey, the two of us are going to be working up until the day of the move,
so even if you do show up, there won’t be anyone here.”
“Oh, is that so?
But there’s still about half of the packing left to do…”
“That’s because we didn’t make any progress at all.
What exactly are you here for?”
“Setsuna, you were goofing off with me the entire time.”
As their overall evaluation suggested,
our moving preparations today did reach a pretty spectacular standstill.
Starting with the album, then onto old books and comics,
accessories that didn’t fit with clothes she never wore any more.
Every time, it was, “Wow, there’s so much stuffed into this tiny apartment,”
while some item or another was excavated, and every time,
they stopped working and started talking.
And, even more frustratingly,
the two of them just couldn’t leave me out of the loop…
and so, in the end, I got dragged into these “breaks” as well.
Now, that didn’t mean I was going to say aloud,
“At least I made some progress on my part.”
“You’re leaving already?
You could at least have a meal here.
By all means, eat with us.”
“I would very much like to,
but I can’t.”
“If you’re worried about Dad and Takahiro,
you can just have them go out to eat somewhere.
Well? Why don’t you stay here a little longer?”
Although, when it came to this poor treatment of the men in that family,
I couldn’t exactly say, “By all means”…
“That’s not it. I have other business to attend to.
I’m going to see a play tonight.
“Whaaat? Why didn’t you mention that sooner?
I could have made you a box lunch or something, at least.”
“I’ll be fine. Once the play is finished,
we have a reservation at a French restaurant in Onjuku.
…Of course, you will keep this a secret from your father and brother.”
The “Kitahara-san” to whom my mother-in-law referred
was, of course, neither me nor Setsuna.
In which case, there was only one person bearing that name
who came immediately to mind.
“And so, I will take my leave now.”
“…No, never mind.
Thank you very much.”
“Before long, we’ll see one another in your new home, won’t we?
She must not have gleaned anything from my expression and attitude,
or else she did notice, and simply let it slide by…
My mother-in-law, with her usual attitude,
simply left us normally.
At some point, not only I,
but also my mother, got wrapped up into the Ogiso family community.
What I couldn’t do,
what I couldn’t find the will to do,
she managed to accomplish perfectly smoothly.
why don’t we have some dinner ourselves?”
“…Setsuna, did you know?”
“Oh, no, not a thing!”
As she practically boasted this,
she laughed, with a deeply mischievous look in her eyes.
Honestly, this family…
They weren’t bad people, and I loved them all,
but when it came to my way of thinking versus theirs,
I definitely felt some gaps, large enough that I couldn’t help but laugh.
The fetters and discord that I had been running from for so long
came barging in with muddy feet.
And everything was transforming
into a “happily ever after.”
I had arranged a conclusion that I could never have imagined.
“Should we go back into the apartment?
It’s getting cold.”
Truly, I never imagined it.
That I would always spend Sunday evenings with family.
That I would loaf around meaninglessly watching TV that I really felt no need to watch,
and savor food that I brought out whenever I pleased,
and beer that I poured whenever I pleased.
My partner bringing up bits of idle chit-chat one after another,
getting cross when I didn’t put enough effort into my responses and reactions,
causing a significant bother when I needed to pacify her.
These lively days,
these pointlessly inefficient days,
these unaccustomed days…
Days that I used to dream of, and now they were the days I spent.
All of my negatives had turned to positives,
in this dreamlike end to things…
No, not a dream, and not an end.
The continuation of a happy reality.