A week passed and still they had no leads. He'd known this would be difficult, but with nothing at all to show for his efforts, Tomoya was at the end of his rope.
Kanako seethed. When they weren't roaming around Nakano with Kanako crammed in the backpack, she mostly parked herself in a corner of his room and sat there scowling. Tomoya understood how she felt but found this a bit excessive. He had to be careful about what he said and did in her presence. When he was lugging this bundle of joy around on his back, he found welcome relief in chatting with people who were unaware of his situation.
Today they were once again hanging around Nakano Broadway when Tomoya's phone began to vibrate. It was Ena.
"Sorry, got a few minutes?"
"I guess so, sure."
Tomoya shrugged and headed for the usual meeting place. Since their first encounter he'd seen Ena fairly often. She evidently hung out at Nakano Broadway, too, and he ran into her there several times. He'd been summoned by phone before, too. Kanako, who might have seen this as a way of letting him blow off a little steam, hadn't made too much fuss about it lately.
* * * * * *
The day ended, and again the search had been fruitless. It was a ten-minute walk from Nakano Broadway to Tomoya's place. Lately Kanako had gotten into the habit of poking her head out of the backpack on the more deserted stretches. A piercingly cold wind swept through her long hair as she looked back at the scenery flowing by.
"You're seeing Ena a lot lately."
"I'm sorry, but I just can't seem to find it."
Kanako had spoken without reproach, but Tomoya took it to mean she was blaming him for not finding her right arm. He hung his head. Hoping to raise his spirits, Kanako assumed an unnaturally cheerful tone.
"Do you like Ena?"
"She's . . . all right."
That much he knew without being told. All he ever did was sit there wearing a sappy grin and making agreeable noises while Ena talked. He never tried to make his move. Sure, there was no big hurry, but he was also vaguely aware that if he kept putting it off, their acquaintance was liable to come to an end without anything ever happening.
Headlights: a car was coming in the opposite direction. Kanako ducked back inside the backpack. The car passed, but she didn't put her head out again.
"Am I a burden?"
This from inside the backpack. Tomoya quickly turned to answer but realized that she couldn't see him. Voice cracking, he said,
"No, not a bit."
Kanako didn't speak again. They went home and turned in for the night.
Copyright (C) Shokichi/Web Japan, English translation (C) John Brennan
Edited by Japan Echo Inc.