『I Had Already Fallen in Love With Her』
In the first game of the season, the team from the high school we were facing was made up of regular competitors.
Our team was decently strong for our prefecture, but we hadn’t made it to Koshien last year either.
After six innings, it seemed like everyone had lost hope. The score was 0-7. We were probably going to lose the first match.
“…Ahh, maybe I ought to just go home after all?”
When I said that a little louder than I had intended to, Kobayashi turned to look at me.
“You don’t want to watch the rest here?”
“I guess, the thing is that… Somehow… It feels like I’m going to cry. Pathetic, right…?”
We will definitely lose.
I didn’t know if there was only one cause for it, but whether it was the regret for my inability to take the mount myself, the sadness I felt for the baseball club, or maybe some other feelings I couldn’t put into words, I sensed that the only way my feelings would leave my body was through tears.
The only thing I knew for sure was that, for now, the tears hadn’t escaped my eyes just yet.
And that I was ashamed.
“Then, if that’s the case, let’s just watch it at your place. Endo-kun, you live alone, right?”
That’s right. Because of various circumstances, I live alone.
It didn’t seem like Kobayashi-san was very concerned about visiting the home of a young man who lived alone though.
Thinking about that actually made my urge to cry even stronger.
“Are you saying that you want to see me crying that much? Kobayashi-san, that’s a bit…”
Even though I tried to play off her suggestion with a joke, I felt my voice quiver as it died away.
“I saw your crying face last year anyway, so why not now?”
When I saw her smiling at me like that, I finally felt the tears in my eyes.
I really did cry a lot last year.
I had been aiming for Koshien along with the rest of the baseball club until last year, but during a district-qualifying match I broke my shoulder and was forced to quit.
Baseball was basically the only thing I had really known up until that point, so it had felt like my life was over.
That moment had lead to my love for her.
I’d liked baseball ever since I was a kid.
My father, a junior high school teacher, used to play baseball in his youth and still served as the advisor to the baseball club at school.
Maybe it was his influence. Since my only siblings were older and younger sisters, I never really had a brother to play catch with, but my old man often took me to baseball games.
I eventually played baseball at the elementary and junior high school level, and when it was time to pick a high school to go to, I made my choice entirely based on the strength of their baseball team.
In my prefecture, there was a high school that had a strong team and was coincidentally located near the apartment where my aunty lived.
On the same floor as my aunty’s apartment, there was a room that, having been used by my grandmother until she passed away, was also owned by my aunty. It was decided that I could live there during my time in high school.
My aunty is a single professional who usually works late, so we don’t see much of each other. However, since my mother is a housewife, she often comes around to check on me. I’m not too lazy when it comes to housework though, so I haven’t really run into any trouble.
It’s not as if I was on bad terms with my family, but I didn’t know what I’d do to keep myself entertained in a house full of women for an entire summer, so I was only planning on going home for a single week over the holidays.
Maybe the reason I didn’t feel very close to them is that I spent so much of my childhood playing baseball that it felt like I didn’t see them much.
I’ve stopped playing baseball now, but it wasn’t as if I had ever wanted to quit the sport.
It happened in autumn last year during the middle of a match.
I remember when my class was discussing who would be competing for the school sports competition in volleyball, basketball, table tennis, and softball.
“Endo ain’t playing in the baseball club anymore, so he can play softball, right?”
Someone said that suddenly.
The club members for the specific sports weren’t allowed to compete in them, and the baseball club was banned from playing softball.
The rule was probably put in place to keep everything fun and fair for everybody, but naturally, people still wanted to find loopholes to give their team a better chance of winning.
Finding someone who had played a sport for years but wasn’t in its club must have seemed like the ultimate catch to them.
“If Endo is on the team, then we’ll win for sure!”
“Oooh, if we have a fastball pitcher like that, no one can stand up to him, huh?”
“We’ll win the next three years in a row!”
“Does anyone volunteer to be Endo’s catcher?”
Suddenly, a wave of selfish expectations for me washed through the classroom.
No, my shoulder is broken, you know?
Well, truth be told, I had recovered to the point where my shoulder didn’t hinder my day to day life, and it hadn’t really bothered me for a while, but it would still be difficult to play anything properly.
Maybe if I took it easy as I played it would be fine, but the idea of our team losing because of me left a bad taste in my mouth.
At the time, I tried to appeal to the homeroom teacher with my eyes to find some way to calm everyone down.
“Ah, Endo-kun is in the broadcasting club, so he can’t play full-time!”
Then, a high-pitched yet strong voice cut through the loud room.
“…Eh, since when?”
I wanted to know that too.
As her friend timidly asked her that, an energetic girl stood in the middle of the classroom with a confident grin as if being in the limelight was only natural for her. It was Kobayashi-san.
“Since yesterday. I figured Endo-kun had a good voice, so I invited him. Someone who used to be in the baseball club would be good at shouting from their belly, right!?”
“Ehh~” “No way…?” “That’s too bad…” As various disappointed voices rang through the classroom, Kobayashi-san smirked at me mischievously.
“Now, now, now! Being in the broadcast club means he has a job to do after all. You guys aren’t going to play unfairly now, are you? Right?”
Sensing an opportunity, the homeroom teacher finally got involved to settle things down.
In the end, it was decided that I’d play a small role in the social basketball matches that took place in the morning before any of the real matches.
“…So, I apparently joined the broadcasting club yesterday?”
After school, I followed after Kobayashi-san, who was making her way to the broadcasting club’s studio.
“Oh, you want to start today? Just be careful about the first day jitters.”
Even though I had wanted to say more, there was something about her smile that stopped my thoughts dead in their tracks.
To put it bluntly, I was dazed by her smile.
“Well, if you don’t like it, you can just leave whenever you want, so why not join us for now? The broadcasting club is cool, you know? Besides, if you’re involved in the broadcasting club, you can enjoy all the sports, not just the ball games! We only have club activities once a week too. Well, there’s broadcasting duty as well, but if you’re not feeling up to that there’s always someone who can step in.”
Then, she opened the door to the broadcasting studio near the back of the school, which the broadcasting club used as their clubroom.
With her bright smile never leaving her face, she held open the door and turned to look back at me, as if inviting me to join her.
Into her clubroom, into her daily club life.
“…You saved me.”
With a quick bow of my head, I entered.
It was Tuesday, so the only people inside were two seniors from the 2nd year, whom I greeted.
After signing my name on the club sheet, I was told I’d be meeting the other members tomorrow.
When I delivered the sheet to the club advisor in the staff room, it was time to go home. That was when Kobayashi-san and I coincidentally discovered that we traveled home the same way.
“Everyone sure is being tough on the walking wounded, huh?”
Saying that suddenly, she laughed softly.
“Well, to be fair, my shoulder doesn’t cause me any trouble on a daily basis anymore. But, still, you saved me. Thank you.”
As I lowered my head to her again, Kobayashi-san gave both my arms a light pat.
“No, no, not at all. I really did think that Endo-kun would have a good voice, so I’ve been scouting you for a while, you know? That’s cause the people in the sports teams, especially the baseball team, seem to have really nice voices. That’s why I’m really happy that you joined the broadcasting club, Endo-kun!”
The smile on her face looked full of joy, but for some reason I saw a glimpse of a snake and an apple.
“My… voice? I don’t know if I should be happy if that’s the only thing I’ve got left.”
I didn’t mean to, but a really pessimistic thought found its way to my mouth.
“Ha ha, you’re a glass half empty guy, huh?”
My negative words that seemed to beg for sympathy instead elicited a small laugh from Kobayashi-san.
For some reason, I was happier to hear that.
“But… Even if you break your shoulder, it’s not as if you’ve lost everything, right?”
Then she said that quietly.
“Baseball isn’t just about playing, right? Even if you become a coach or a masseuse or even a commentator… I’m sure you can use all the abilities and experience you’ve gained somewhere, Endo-kun.”
She had always been the center of attention in class, and I had always thought she was a noisy person by nature, but there was something about those gently spoken words that reached deep into my heart.
“Is… that so…?”
Just why was it so? The tears that had never flowed even after listening to the doctor at the hospital or having to hand in my club resignation form suddenly began to drip down my face.
I didn’t say anything as I walked beside her in silence.
“…Ah, here’s my place. I’ll give you a towel and some tissues, and some tea and cakes if you’d like.”
We entered through the gate to her house as she pulled me along by the hand.
No, I can’t.
We’re just classmates.
I would be a bother to her.
At the time, I tried to stop myself with reasons like that, but I’m glad that at the time I just accepted it in silence.
I knew just how unreasonable I was being, but as I sat on her doorstep, the tears wouldn’t stop coming as I wept, crying about the cruel end to all of the years I had spent on baseball.
And, by the time my tears had dried, I realized that I had already fallen in love with her.
Edited by: mazaran