Ringo’s never been one to get discouraged from stalking people. But she’s getting tired of waiting for Shouma to answer one of her calls. She hasn’t seen him since she found out what his parents did.
Ringo calls him every day, leaving a voicemail when he doesn’t answer. It’s emotionally exhausting, hoping he’ll answer and being disappointed each time. Nevertheless, Ringo refuses to give up. She’ll get through to him eventually.
For now, she just needs to think of something to say, but she finds herself at a loss for words. She’s far from quitting, of course, but she’s tired. Tired of begging him to come back to her. Tired of making promises he won’t believe.
“Hi, Shouma. It’s me again,” she says into her phone. “I’m not sure if you even listen to these messages, but I just wanted you to know that… I miss all the times we spent together. I miss you . I know I never appreciated you enough before, so… Thank you.” Her voice cracks as tears fall from her eyes. “I love you.”
There. She said it.
It’s not exactly the happy love confession she wanted it to be. The words she worked up the courage to say are probably just forgotten data on a lifeless machine to which she just poured out her heart. Shouma might even delete the message before hearing it. If he could at least hear those last words, she’d be happy. If only she could get him to stay around her long enough to say it to his face instead of standing alone, clutching her phone, her eyes puffy from crying, wondering as always if Shouma cares enough to listen.
It’s like the universe is trying to tear them apart.
No , she tells herself. She loves him. If she’s destined to be with anyone, it has to be him. And Ringo Oginome has never been one to give up on destiny. She’ll make him hear those words if it’s the last thing she’ll do.
From then on, she ends every voicemail with the same words:
“Thank you. I love you.”
Shouma Takakura is utterly horrified.
He thought ending things with Ringo would get rid of all his worries. Sure, he misses her like crazy, but at least he doesn’t have to worry about getting his heart broken. It’s better this way. Really.
Of course, his plan would probably work better if he didn’t listen to each and every one of Ringo’s voicemails. He tries to justify it to himself, usually saying that it might be about an emergency involving Himari. He knows it’s not, but he ignores reason, along with the lingering fear that the messages will stop coming, for a minute each day in order to hear Ringo’s voice.
Then he hears those words— Thank you. I love you. —and he is absolutely horrified.
Horrified because the butterflies in his stomach are telling him that he might love her back. Horrified because she might be lying. Horrified because she might give up on him.
It’s been a while since anyone has terrified Shouma this much. When his parents disappeared, everyone else slowly abandoned him too. The only people he could trust were his siblings, so he blocked off anyone else who tried to garner his attention with their plastic smiles. That’s how it was for years.
Then Ringo barged into his life without invitation and changed everything because that’s just the way she is.
Surprisingly, Shouma’s starting to accept that. With every voicemail, every “I love you,” he grows more and more in love with her, and he doesn’t try to stop it. Maybe what they have is worth the risk of heartbreak. Maybe, with time, he can open up to her more and confess his own feelings. All he needs is a little time.
But there’s no time.
It’s not until the flames are engulfing her that he finally works up the courage to say something. He wants to tell her that he listened to every single voicemail—that her message was always one of the best parts of his days. He wants to tell her that even when he pushed everyone away, her persistence made him feel a little less lonely. He wants to tell her so many things, but he settles on what matters most—the same words that took his breath away every time he heard them:
“Thank you. I love you.”
Shouma can’t quite put his finger on what it is, but he feels like some vital part of his life is gone. Then he opens his phone and finds a myriad of voicemails from an unknown phone number with no caller ID. Curious, he decides to listen to them.
And it’s like the void in his heart is being flooded.
He hears the voice of a girl asking him to come back to her. Thanking him for things he can’t remember doing. Saying she loves him. And he knows he’s heard that voice before even if he doesn’t know when or where. Tears fall down his face as he listens to her. He can almost picture her face in his mind, but the moment he thinks he’s about to remember her, the picture in his head falls apart. It frustrates him to no end.
He needs to see her.
Unfortunately, he has no way to find her. There’s no image to look for, no number to call back. So Shouma settles for hearing her voice, listening to the voicemails every day, carving the sound into his soul. He makes sure that when he does meet her, he’ll know.
And he does.
He’s taking the train from school, and all he can think about is getting home and finally eating some food. He forgot to bring the lunch he prepared, and he hasn’t eaten anything in several hours. It doesn’t help that the girl next to him brought food with her. He can smell the delectable scent of curry wafting from the pot wrapped up in cloth on her lap. When his stomach rumbles loudly, she gives him a knowing smirk.
“Sorry,” Shouma mumbles. “Your curry smells really good.”
“Thank you,” the girl says with a grin. “I made it myself.”
Shouma gawks at her. That voice .
“Are you okay, Shouma?” Her eyes widen when she realizes what she just said. “Shouma…”
“Oginome…” His heart swells when he remembers her name. “I finally found you.”