8 days until the show
“We did it…”
I was the first to say it.
“We did it, right…?”
Next was Ogiso.
“…Yeah. We did.”
And finally, Touma tied together our trio performance of “White Album.”
I yelled almost without meaning to. The exaltation running through my whole body right now, Friday evening after school, was indescribable.
Setsuna’s vocals had been incredible from the first moment I heard her sing, but with this special practice it had become something even more polished. And I hardly need mention Touma’s piano skill.
And my own guitar playing—of course, I was far from their level of perfection, but I had managed to give a performance that didn’t completely bog them down—I hoped.
At last, a unified resonance had been born.
“We did it! We did it, Kitahara-kun!”
Ogiso picked up the yell herself.
“That was amazing! All of that practicing by yourself produced results like this! This is so wonderful!”
Ogiso was bouncing up and down, celebrating as if it were her own accomplishment. She must have been seriously worried.
So, it was inevitable that the phrase “by yourself” would snag.
As I was dithering over whether to say something, Touma spoke up first.
“All Kitahara did was manage to play through it with no mistakes. It could easily have been a simple lucky coincidence.”
Well, I knew that, but… I still felt a little deflated.
“…Though, I suppose managing to get to the point of no misses in this short a time is a pretty significant success.”
Touma gave a small smile.
Had Touma just praised me? Seriously? The feeling was… incredible.
“Anyway, that’ll do for today. Now what we’ve got left is to add in the synths and tighten everything up.”
“Then, we’re finally going to start rehearsing all together next week?”
“No, next week is too late. Tomorrow. I have a place we can do it.”
Touma threw me a glance. So, it was time at last for Ogiso to lay eyes on Studio Touma.
“We’ll meet up in front of the Iwazu-cho station tomorrow morning at ten. Kitahara, let the club chief know. And… I’d actually like for both of you to stay through the weekend. We’re short on time, and we need to do as much rehearsing as possible.”
“You mean, we’ll all be staying together? Wow, that sounds like fun!”
Yet again, Ogiso hopped up and down in her excitement.
“Oh, but your family, Ogiso… Aren’t they going to object to you sleeping over?”
They had needed a whole explanation in order to let her stay late rehearsing. Now, for something like this…
“Maybe… But I want to do it!” Ogiso’s tone was firm. “Now that we’ve come this far, I want to do everything I possibly can until the show happens!”
“All right. You good for it, Kitahara?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine with it, I just… Um…”
It wasn’t about us…
“Kitahara,” Touma said, her voice low. “Are you not prepared to put your all into this? Are you all right with that?”
“N-No, that’s not the issue, it’s Ogiso’s family…”
“Well?” Touma shrugged. “All we have to do is talk them around.”
“That talk is the problem…”
“Please, Kitahara-kun, we can do it! I’ll help you.”
“There you go. Take care of it, Kitahara.”
Did they really have to gang up on me like this?
“Hang on, I’m the one doing the talking?!”
The two of them nodded, as though it were obvious.
I didn’t imagine it would be easy getting permission for an overnight. And how was I, the one guy in the picture, supposed to convince anyone of anything?
There was no way, I started to say, but I could tell from the way the two of them were looking at me that they were serious.
Why on earth did they trust me this much…? Well, all right. This was for the show, too. I might as well try.
“Hm? We’re all going over there tomorrow… then…”
Something had just struck me.
“Yes. We’re finished rehearsing for today. Which means… it’s time for you to go to Ogiso’s house, Kitahara.”
“Obviously. When will you go, if not today? You went to ask them for permission before. There shouldn’t be much of a problem.”
The problem was preparing myself mentally…
“Anyway, I’m heading home to sleep.”
Touma attempted a hasty departure.
“Hang on! You’re coming, too!”
How could one guy possibly have any persuasive power when it came to what was essentially a sleepover? Unbelievable…
And so, even though there was some grumbling and foot-dragging on Touma’s part, the three of us headed for Ogiso’s house together.
“Whew… Well, that worked, somehow.”
“I still don’t see why I had to go through that…”
The two of us were walking to the station from Ogiso’s house, as we had before.
We waited for Ogiso’s father to come home, and in the meeting that ensued, we explained everything as thoroughly as we could: that this weekend was absolutely crucial to the success of the show, that all three of us would be available to contact at all times, and that I was a thoroughly harmless guy (almost pathetically so).
In addition—we got Touma’s go-ahead for this—we came right out and said that Kazusa was at present the only person living in the Touma residence, because we determined that it would be more effective than making up an unwieldy lie and having to keep to it.
Ogiso’s father was unwilling to budge at first, but in the face of Ogiso’s own strong stance, he finally yielded. That her mother politely took our side in the course of the discussion was also a big help.
So, in any case, they had decided to trust me. I allowed myself to feel happy about that.
“Ogiso looked pretty surprised when she found out you had a studio at your house.”
“And you did a nice job of acting surprised yourself, Kitahara. You’d better be ooh-ing and ahh-ing tomorrow. God, though.” Touma sighed. “I still don’t know how to handle that family.”
“I can’t comprehend it. I can’t… spend too much time in that place.”
I knew how she felt. But I could understand Ogiso’s family, too.
I was glad that they hadn’t asked me about my own family during the discussion. If they had, I wasn’t sure I would have been able to be honest about it.
“…My family used to be like that.”
“If I missed curfew, Dad would get mad, Mom would get worked up in a panic. Any kind of event we experienced, we experienced together, whether it was a fun thing or a sad thing. It was the kind of family that made it feel like you didn’t need anywhere else to return to.”
There wasn’t really any intention behind my talking about this. The words just spilled out.
“But, I suppose I only thought that way because I was a child. Before I started middle school, my father left. Let me tell you, it wasn’t great having to hear my parents arguing.”
“I don’t know if that’s the reason, but… my mother and I both decided we’d had enough of ‘family.’ We’re just strangers living in the same house now, getting our living expenses from Dad. We’re completely apathetic to each other.”
Whether I was an honor student, whether I was class representative, whether I started a Light Music Club…
Whether I stayed out until late at night, whether I slept over somewhere else—she didn’t care about any of it.
“So, there’s part of me that has to wonder whether we would still be living like the Ogisos, if the family hadn’t fallen apart back then.”
“…If it hadn’t fallen apart…” Touma spoke up after a moment’s silence. “My family… What would you even call it? I guess it’s been broken in some way or another since the start.”
As she told me that she didn’t even know what her father looked like, her expression was impossible to read.
Youko Touma had married twice and divorced twice. And, apparently, she had given birth to her daughter more than a year after her second divorce.
This genius pianist of many affairs had caused her fair share of scandals—while she was raising her young daughter.
“I’m not… complaining about it, really. It’s her life, she can do what she wants. I just…”
Touma fell silent again.
Anyone who was of a mind to look into it could probably learn that much. But hearing it all from Touma herself felt like a rare privilege.
So, I gently shifted the conversation.
“…You know, however twisted we might get, Ogiso’s a good one, right?”
“Yeah. That’s exactly why I’m so stuck. The world she lives in is completely different from mine. Always has been, always will be.”
“That’s not true. We all have this music we share, right?”
“What we have will last until the day of the show. If I do stay with Ogiso after that…”
We’ll be either the best of friends, or eternal enemies.
Touma quickened her pace. Her white breaths dissipated in front of me.
I couldn’t see Touma’s face when, after a few moments, she muttered, “It’s cold out.”
Her black hair danced in the night wind. I spoke my response to it: “It’s only going to get colder.”