Grandma gets into a cab. I had hoped to bum a ride, but she says she doesn’t want to ‘ruin our walk back home.’ Gee, thanks, Grandma. I thought you knew we weren’t for real. What are you trying to do?
After we wave Grandma goodbye, we head toward the train station. The ride back proves uneventful, both of us too exhausted to talk, probably due to the exertion from acting all night. We get off at our stop and walk onto the street. It seems, at least for a time, we are traveling in the same direction. I wonder how long we’ll share this road. When will she veer off to a separate path? I’m not sure if I’m happy about that or not.
“Aoi told me about Mr. Hoppy,” Junko says out of the blue.
“Oh.” I guess we should still make some polite conversation. “I’m glad she found him.”
“I mean,” Junko says. “She told me how you helped her find the rabbit.”
“It was all Miki,” I insist. “I had nothing to do with it.”
We come to an empty crossroads. She stops. Is this where she walks off? Has our evening come to an end at last? She takes a deep breath. I wonder what’s coming.
“I apologize,” she finally says. “About…well…I haven’t been very nice to you.”
I’m about to counter with some sarcastic ‘about time’ remark but think better of it. Maybe hanging out with Grandma mellows one’s temperament. Or maybe I’ve just had too much tea.
I say instead, “It’s okay.”
She says, “I want to say I haven’t been myself, but that doesn’t give me an excuse. I’ve acted terribly.”
“Well...” I fumble for words. “I haven’t exactly been nice either. Yeah. About that time in the closet, I probably shouldn’t have done that to you. Sorry.”
“I can’t believe those two never thought about the broom closet being locked from inside.”
“Yeah, me too. I thought we made a pretty big racket.”
“Imagine what would’ve happened if a teacher walked in right then.”
“That’s what I was thinking too.”
We share a look. She giggles. Then we both laugh.
And in that laughter, all that dumb hate evaporates into the clear night air.
“Don’t worry about it.” I wipe away my tears. “Getting slammed, slapped, and dragged into boyfriend stunts. That happens to me all the time.”
“I did let you be my boyfriend,” she says. “For one dinner only, mind you.”
“Oh, I am overcome with gratitude!” I gush.
She sticks her tongue out at me.
“Hey.” I smile. “What I want to say is: we’re cool. No bad feelings.”
She appears to think about something. Then she takes out a piece of paper from her purse and scribbles something on it.
“Here.” She hands it to me.
“My number,” she says. “I owe you one for today. If you ever need a favor, call me.”
“Alright.” I put the note in my pocket. “I’ll call you when my house is burning down or something. You know, nothing you can’t handle.”
She’s standing really close to me. Instead of backing away, she gets up on tiptoes and looks intently at my face, as if trying to confirm something. What is she doing? What’s going on here? Her face is only centimeters from mine. Her lips awfully close. I feel time stop.
“You just might be a wonderful person,” she says quietly.
Then she smiles, twirls, and disappears into the night.