- ... Hello, Abe.
Mihashi’s voice was low, but less shaky than usual. He wasn’t hiding anything from Abe anymore, and that, in turn, made him a lot more relaxed when speaking, down to his voice. On the other hand, the person who was now tripping in his own words was Abe. He badly wanted everything to sound just the same as usual, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that so cynically. Not when Mihashi sounded almost... regretful, for whatever reason. So Abe had to insist on the initial plan, of being honest to a fault if needed until things were cleared up and the sun could shine again.
- Hey, Mihashi... Are you alone already?
- Yes... Tajima has already left.
- Are you angry at me?
- N-no, I’m not... - Mihashi gulped as he said that, for he didn’t know yet whether he was going to get an even harder scolding than he had already gotten from Tajima for being low on spirits since Friday.
- Hey. I... Don’t take this hard, okay? Promise you won’t yell at me, or cry or anything?
- I don’t know. But I will try. - He was confident and transparent about it, and it made Abe feel all the less secure in his stumbling words. And he nearly wavered in that resolve.
- I... it’s... I... Don’t know how I feel. - Abe says, and pauses for a moment, and hopes that it'll be for the best if he just starts spitting words without thinking too much. - I don’t want you to... Think I am downplaying your feelings or anything, that’s not it. It’s just, I really don’t know. When I said I like you, well, I really like you. I just hadn’t considered dating... you or anyone else, really. But... If I had to date someone, well... ah, I guess I'd like it if it was you, yes...
Just after blurting out those words, Abe’s regular loud voice vanished as he realized “hey... isn’t that pretty much a confession, too?”. Mihashi didn’t seem too bothered by it, though, and until the last minute, Abe's feelings swayed, unsure if all of it had been a prank to get him to admit to something or what else.
- I am happy to hear that, Abe.
Both sides of the line went silent for a while, neither of the boys really knowing what to say now that any other interpretation was out of the way. But, again, it was Mihashi who had to go ahead and say it, inconspicously like gentle drizzle. - Does that mean you’ll go out with me?
An ashamed “g-go out?” crossed Abe’s mind for a second, but he knew that was it, and he was ready for it, right? He had been trying to get ready for it, yes. Come on, it’s not that serious, right?... Well, it is, but as long as he wasn’t lying about any of it... That would be okay, and that's what Abe had settled on.
- Yes, I guess. Oh, but I don’t know how to do any of that. Uh... Dating, I mean.
- It’s okay. I don’t know either. - Mihashi sounded relieved at that statement. That, and the fact that both were willing to learn. As for how... - But Tajima said he would try to help us if you accepted.
Just as he heard that, Abe felt a wave of fury pass through his body, and remembered he had something else he absolutely had to clear up. Was all of this talk only a byproduct of one of Tajima’s stupid ideas, in the end? Did Mihashi really... like like him, or was he just being swayed by Tajima’s wicked mind? And, well, he still needed to hear all about it from Mihashi’s mouth, anyway: "What did Tajima want, after all?"
- And what about Tajima, then? Why did he visit you and picked up your phone yesterday? - “Uh oh, I’m already starting to sound like some jealous freak.” Abe thinks, resentfully. Good thing Mihashi didn’t take that hardly at all, as if that was as natural as falling rain and crashing tides.
- Well... he was trying to cheer me up. I didn’t feel like having fun.
- So... was it Tajima that suggested you should confess? - Abe was scorning, full of confidence in that disillusioned proposition. He was just waiting for that gentle drizzle to become a thunderstorm in no time. Wasn’t that bound to happen eventually, anyway?
- Um... No, I wanted to confess myself.
- ... You did?
That was when Abe finally saw sunlight. And, yeah, Abe really wanted to know more about the feelings of the youth who seemed to care so much about him.
- For how long?
- Mihashi... For how long have you liked... liked me, then? - Abe did feel a bit like a stupid baby speaking to Mihashi like that, but he just had to ask it clearly, and admittedly he still didn't have many words to describe such feelings in his vocabulary yet.
- Uh... Fourteen months?
"... Oh." That was precisely for how long they had known each other. That might not have been just an effect of Tajima's ill wind after all.
- Why did you confess only now, then? Were you wanting to k-kiss me or anything like that? - Abe realized a bit late into the sentence that sounded incredibly immature, laughable and perhaps even a bit conceited, but Mihashi didn’t seem to be disgusted by it at all; but perhaps he did feel a bit weary, at last, by the influx of questions and wild conjecture thrown at him.
- ... I wasn’t really thinking of kissing or anything. Tajima told me I should be honest, eventually... and I agreed, since we... aren’t too busy with games or tests, now.
Upon hearing that, the tears that had furtively formed in Abe’s eyes since the beginning of all those questions started falling. He realized he was... crying? “Oh, what are these tears for...” he wondered, but just then it struck him that, all the while, for months and particularly on these last few days, he had only been doubting Mihashi’s intentions... and feelings. Of Mihashi, who just had the purest intentions and feelings towards him, in the end. How stupid could he get? And, at that thought, Abe sobbed loudly, and Mihashi finally realizes he had been silent for he was crying too much. Instead of stuttering and trying to make things sound fine between them as he usually would, however, Mihashi is much more on point at that.
- Abe. Didn’t you say I can’t cry? T-then... you can’t cry, either. - The way childish-cute Mihashi put it sounded almost like a parent playing “pinky promise”, and it makes Abe sob even louder, a strange mix of happiness and chest pains overflowing from his body through the dirty mess that was his crying face and his runny nose. - S-stop being stupid. How would I? - Abe lets out among sobs and sniffs. - Ugh... it’s your fault I am going to have a headache now... - Abe thought of just going back to his usual behavior at Mihashi, but realizing how stupid he had being all along didn’t help him at easing his loud cry at all. Both just had to stay silently on the line for a few seconds, and then minutes, Mihashi smiling painfully but gladly on the other side while Abe tried to recover his usual breathing pace, slowing down, so as to make the tears stop flowing.
- Ughh... Sorry...
- It’s okay, Abe. I love you.
At that single short sentence, Abe’s cheeks started burning so hard, the tears might as well have just evaporated? as he flinched, probably looking very stupid. Mihashi didn't let him indulge in any more shame than that, though.
- Can we meet tomorrow before class? There is... somewhere I wanted to go. With you.
“Somewhere? Go?” Abe thinks, but opts to just let Mihashi decide for the both of them for the time being. He clearly isn't in top shape for that. - Um. Yes. Let’s meet. The usual place?
- Yeah. We can talk about the game, too. And other things. - Mihashi says warmly, and both smile at their phones, on both sides of the line. - I miss talking to you, I just wanted to see you now.
“Oh, I probably won’t be able to take this 'dating' thing if it’s always going to be like this.” Abe thinks out loud, as he flushes wholly again.
- Ah, sorry!
- Wait, did I say that? No, no, forget it. It-it's okay. Really. Anyway... Let’s meet, yeah. I’ll be there twenty minutes in advance, alright? - and Abe really hoped Mihashi hadn't heard that, and that they could just talk naturally.
- Yes! - Mihashi answers gleefully before saying his goodbyes, sensing that Abe might want to end the call. - Thanks for calling me, Abe. I... am going to sleep so much better today because of it. Thanks, really.
- Uh, no, no way. - Again, Abe felt that he himself should thank Mihashi for being so considerate even though he had been quite stupid all the while. For fourteen months, actually. - Nevermind it. Anyway... 8:15, right? I will be waiting, them. Oh... Call me anytime.
- Yeah! I will be there. ...I think. - Classic old Mihashi.
- See you tomorrow, then.
- Yeah, see you tomorrow.
Neither of them really wanted to end the call. But Abe had started worrying that his family might notice how he had been taking his time, so he hangs up. Once Abe finishes the call, there's a brief second in which he gets to stare at his phone before his little brother, who had gone unnoticed eavesdropping behind the door, let it crack and screamed at Abe who pretty much jumped from his bed in a startle.
- Wait, was it Mihashi?!
- Shut up, brat! And if you ever tell anyone that- - Abe yells angrily, angrier than Shun had ever seen, at his brother who rapidly runs off. Before Abe can even finish his sentence, his brother is already in the kitchen, telling everyone the good news, and Abe has to get up from bed and run after the boy, even though his face was still swollen and he wouldn’t ever want to get out of bed and show up in that state. But that little runt had to pay.
- Oh, I’m so glad! - his Mom didn’t seem to be too fazed by it, and just smiled happily at Shun’s statement.
- Oh, is it? - his Dad said in a surprised tone, and Abe was very afraid of what kind of reactions he might get when his bloodshot eyes passed through the living room, but there his dad stood, simply smiling. - That’s good. Good for you.
- W-what are you talking about? Hey, Shun, you’ll pay... for this! - he didn’t have the heart to say “spreading lies” anymore.
- Wahahahaha!! Told you he was acting weird! - and Shun kept picking on Abe until he finally decided that was too much for a single day. Give it up. Go to bed.
On the next day, Abe and Mihashi met before class. Abe had waited for Mihashi by the school gates, as they had promissed, and Mihashi arrived late, not so unexpectedly. Both walked down the school entranceway together, talking about lighthearted matters.
- So... See you after class, then?
Mihashi smiled sheepishly, and they parted ways after waving to eachother.
In the afternoon, however, in time for practice, both were nowhere to be found. The truth behind that was something that, for now, only Tajima knew. Though Momoe didn’t approach him because he knew the reason, no, but because there was something unattended between the two of them, and it was time to scold Tajima again.
- Tajima! Why didn’t you approach me first thing today?!
- C-coach Momoe!... Why? Should I? What’s wrong?
- Don’t “what’s wrong” me! Didn’t Abe tell you and Mihashi to speak to me today as early as you could?! Speaking of which... Where is Mihashi now, anyway? Is he giving up on baseball or what?
- Well... - Tajima scratched his head and looked downside and upside before having the courage to answer that. He quickly made up an excuse, something about an special training regimen or what have you. - He and Mihashi aren’t coming today, probably. Both had something important to atte- ...
Momoe didn’t even let Tajima finish that sentence, however. The uncompromising coach was already groaning full force at just that.
- Grrrrrrr... How do you guys expect to even go into Koushien like that?! All of you will sprint for 20 kilometers to catch up on missed practice days if I ever see those two again!
- Wahh! Come on, coach!!
That loud and angry roar surely reverberated through the whole school, and every student must have wondered what had gone into Momoe and the baseball club boys this time. At least, every attending student. However, it couldn't possibly be heard from the amusement park in the next town, where Abe and Mihashi celebrated the beginning of their relationship on that very moment. So, all was well for now.