I'm not so sure about how I ended this chapter. Seems kind of sloppy to me.
Oh well. Enjoy, since I've been neglecting this poor thing.[Chapter Four -- Decided]
“So where are we going now?”
“Well, I thought since we had some time to kill… and since I’ve had the chance to shower and no longer smell like dancing… that we could go and visit Kumai-chan at her house.”
“Who’s that again?”
“Yurina. The girl you’re replacing, remember?”Might
be replacing. Maybe. I still hadn’t said yes to her yet. It all depended on that night’s rehearsal… and whether or not I had the willpower to pull it off.
Risako and I had left the theater not long after Natsuyaki and Takahashi-san in order to head over to her house so that I could drop off my things and so that she could ‘freshen up a bit’. Whenever I heard those words, I knew that I would be waiting a few hours before she got out of the shower. But it’s okay… I’m good at waiting. I can find things to focus on to keep me from getting bored.
Like when I had been waiting for my cousin to call a taxi, I started to people-watch in order to entertain myself, and I spotted this shady-looking girl across the street. I think she had been looking at us, but as soon as she made eye contact with me, she disappeared from my sight.
I’d been getting a lot of reactions like that ever since I made it into the city, so I didn’t really think much of it.
Oh, and by the way, riding in that taxi sucked. The leather was hot and kind of sticky and it burned basically every little bit of bare flesh that I had the misfortune of letting it touch. My arms still hurt every time I think about it.
So anyway, once Risako was done getting all pretty again—which I thought was pointless—she had decided to take me back outside for a walk, and soon after our little conversation ended, we stopped at this small, somewhat dilapidated house. I was beginning to wonder if the whole city was broken and sad like this… from what I had seen so far, the only nice places to be were the theatre, the train station, and Risako’s house…
It was really somewhat depressing.
As we walked up to the front door, I could hear a piano being played inside. Risako paused to listen to it for a moment, a grin on her face. I was confused.
“Her admirer must have stopped by again today. She never gets into the music like this unless that person comes to hear her. Not that she isn’t amazing all of the time, but there’s something different about it after she gets visited by that stranger…”
I nodded while wearing my still-blank expression, and my cousin knocked on the door, receiving a shout “Come in!” from the inside. Apparently people in this city didn’t lock their doors, either. I suppose if you didn’t have much to lose, it didn’t really matter.
The inside of the house was basically the same as the outside, worn out and shabby, and in the corner of the room near the window was positioned an old piano. The girl was sitting at this piano, playing as if she were just an extension of the instrument. I swear, I had never heard anything so beautiful in all of my life, and I probably will never hear anything better.
She was tall, and had long, slender legs and arms that were better described as graceful rather than awkward. Which was why I wondered how on earth she had managed to get that bulky cast on her leg. Maybe she was a lot clumsier than she looked… I knew one thing for sure: she could really play the piano. Risako and I stood there for a moment quietly, as to not disturb her and let her finish playing the song and I found my eyes wandering to the girl’s hands.
They moved effortlessly across the keys, gliding along their ivory surfaces like a skater on ice. It was almost dizzying to watch, because she was playing a difficult piece that required her hands to move quickly and without error. The song quickly built into a crescendo, and as it ended I felt myself slightly out of breath.
Mother used to tell me that people didn’t just listen to music. You sort of invest a little bit of yourself in a song emotionally, which makes it more of an experience, rather than just a performance.
“Did you write that yourself? It was so beautiful…”
Yurina grinned at me shyly, nodding her head a bit. I could tell that I would probably get along with her a lot better than I had with Natsuyaki. Risako introduced us to each other, and then she pulled a couple of chairs over to the piano bench so that Yurina wouldn’t have to move much. In fact, she looked as though she was having trouble just turning around to face us.
So I was curious…
“Um, if you don’t mind me asking… how exactly did you manage to injure your leg?”
The tall girl seemed to be uncomfortable answering my question. “Well… we were rehearsing, a-and I…” Risako cut in at this point, and her eyes were filled with a bitter sort of fury that I had never seen her display before.
“It wasn’t an accident. Takahashi-san didn’t see it, so she didn’t believe me when I told her, but… Miyabi definitely tripped her when we were going through the routine. I know she did it on purpose, too, because I saw her watching Kumai-chan when we started to dance, and she never took her eyes off of her. It was like she was waiting for the perfect moment so that she could be sure she’d really hurt Yurina, and now our center’s got a broken leg…”
I couldn’t help but be so incredibly angry at Natsuyaki at this point. I didn’t even really know the poor girl sitting across from me, but… this wasn’t right at all. And the one who took her out was getting away with it, and was probably going to benefit from what she had done, too.
The injustice of it made me really mad. So mad, that I wasn’t really thinking through what I was about to say next.
“Well, don’t worry, Kumai-san… I’ll make sure that she regrets what she’s done…”
Risako blinked at me. So did Yurina.
“Does that mean… you’re gonna do it? Are you going to replace her?”
My eyes shifted over to the injured girl, who was regarding me curiously. She didn’t seem angry… more like… relieved.
“Yes… I mean, if that’s alright with you, Kumai-san… I don’t want you to feel like I’m taking your place forever. This is all a bit rushed for me, really…”
“No, it’s okay… To be honest, I only really perform so that I can have enough money to support myself… It’s just a job for me.”
“…You don’t like it?”
“Not really. I’d rather just play my piano all day, but that would never be enough to feed me or get me clothes and stuff.”
The city revolved around the charisma of the theatre. Unfortunately… musicians weren’t nearly as popular as the girls that sang and danced. They were lucky enough if people would stop and listen to them on the street. That’s what Risako told me once. It hadn’t always been like this, but for now, there wasn’t much hope for change. My cousin tried to lighten the mood by changing the subject.
“So, did she stop by here today again?”
A faint blush was crossing Yurina’s cheeks. “Y-yes… I still couldn’t make out what she looked like, though. She didn’t get close enough to the window. I think she actually climbed up into that tree out there just so she could listen…”
They were talking about that mystery person again.
“Does this happen often, or something?”
“Well… a few days a week… someone always comes and sits outside my window to listen to me while I practice. At first I was frightened, because I thought someone was trying to break in, but they left as soon as I was done. Then after the first week or so, I learned that it was a girl, because she spoke to me for the first time. She’s got a very quiet voice, and it’s kind of scratchy and rough, the way she speaks, but I think it’s kind of nice… different, you know? She told me she liked my music because it was very soothing and it helped her to relax… The only other things I know are what I can guess… She always sounds so tired… like she just wants to sleep… I think her heart’s really worn and broken, like something really bad made it that way. So whenever she shows up to listen, I put my all into my playing, because I like to think that maybe I can do a little bit to brighten up her life somewhat.”
Risako let out a little ‘aww” sort of noise, which made Yurina begin to blush even more furiously, and I watched as the tall girl fidgeted with her hands. It really was cute… even if maybe the idea of a stranger always hanging around would have personally freaked me out.
At least she wasn’t going to be bored while she took a break from dancing.
I was beginning to wonder, though… about all of this.
Shouldn’t I have been more careful…?
If I got too attached…
What if I didn’t want to leave after my two weeks were up?