Along With a Lost Child
“Hinata——!! Come here! Fast, hurryyy!!”
I hear Mother’s loud voice out of the blue, and I end up dropping the book that I was reading. You’re going to bother the neighbors if you shout that loud. It’s embarrassing, too. It seems that she is calling me, but I really have a bad feeling about this. I really don’t want to go. Just when I think of pretending to be sleeping, Mother has come into my room.
“Hinata!! Why didn’t you come?! I called you.”
“Knock first, Mom. So, what happened?”
“It’s terrible! I can’t open the lid of this strawberry jam! Open it!”
——I couldn’t even care less about that, I feel exhausted.
“…What can I do with you.”
I receive the jar from Mom and tries to open the lid, but it’s quite tight in place. Next, I put more strength as I turn the lid like I am trying to pull it apart.
Oh, it opened.
“Kyaa! I knew I could count on your brutish strength, Hinata!”
Did you mean that as a praise, Mom? I’m not too happy about it though, Mom.
My hand hurts because I was grabbing the jar tightly. While I’m rubbing where it hurts, I make a scowl at my frolicking Mother. But, since she is looking into the jar, she doesn’t notice my glare at all. It feels somewhat vexing.
“Hmm, I wonder if this is still edible.”
For some reason or other, she is sniffing at the jar. Really, what is she doing?
“It’s three months past its expiry date, after all~ Ah, Hinata, can you try a lick?”
“Throw it away! Right now!!”
Dear Mother, are you trying to make your daughter do a poison taste? Expiry date is placed for a reason. Not to mention that it’s already three months over.
Mom argues that it’s a waste to throw it away, so I silence her by saying that I’m going to buy her a new one. It’s tiring that I have to go out for this, but it’s much better than suffering from an upset stomach.
“Ah, can you buy me some chocolate while you’re at it? The strawberry one.”
I get up from bed and grab my purse. Then, I go out as the errand girl.
I quickly bought the requested items and leave the supermarket. I have nothing else to do in particular, so I’m planning to head straight home and take an afternoon nap. Spring break is going to end in the blink of an eye, so I have to make most of the time by lazing around. I want to sleep all I want during the break, but I also feel like spending time to make some confectionery. If only we have longer breaks like in summer.
“Hic, sniff, uuh…”
While I’m pondering about how to spend the rest of my spring break, I hear the sound of a crying child from somewhere. After looking around, I find a girl crying nearby. She should be about 5 or 6 years old… she’s wiping her flooding tears with her small hands while crying out loud. Although the pedestrians are looking at her with worried faces, they aren’t calling out to her at all. Unable to leave her alone, I slowly approach the girl.
“Hic, M-mom… ugh, w-where are you…”
“Did you get separated from your mom?”
I crouch to match the height of my eyes with hers before I gently talk to her.
“Y-yeah. She’s suddenly g-gone.”
“I see— in that case, do you want to search for your mom together with Onee-chan?”
She’s looking at me with her large, teary eyes, which have turned beet red from crying.
“Yup. Ah, I know, do you want to eat some chocolate?”
I take out the strawberry chocolate that Mother asked me to buy. Then I give it to the crying young girl.
“Can I, have it?”
“Sure you can—”
I make the gentlest smile I can muster to give her a peace of mind. The girl’s sad look turns bright soon enough.
“Thank you, Onee-chan!”
…Yup, it’s good that she’s happy now. She’s eating the chocolate merrily. It’s Mother’s chocolate though. Well, I just need to buy another one later. Alright, now I just need to find her mother. But in reality, I don’t even know what her mother looks like, much less where she would go. It seems that I have no choice but to search earnestly.
Yosh, let’s try walking around the area.
“Say, do you like being carried in the arms, or a piggyback?”
“Mm… the arms.”
“Okay, the arms it is. Up you go.”
I hold her up in my arms in a way that she would be able to find her mother easier as I walk. It’ll be easier for her mother to find her, too, like this. I ask the girl about her mom’s traits, like her hair, her clothes, and I try looking out for those who match the description.
…Who knew that after searching for Saki and Tsubaki yesterday, this time I would be looking for the mother of a lost child. I’ve gotten so busy somehow after moving here.
“So, your mom isn’t here.”
We have been looking around, but we still couldn’t find her. I tried calling out some people who look similar to the description, and I’ve also asked the shopkeepers, but it was in vain.
“Ah, that’s it.”
It’s late for me to realize, but in situations like this, we should go to the police box instead. There’s a chance that her mother has visited the police box when she noticed that her daughter has gone missing. Strike while the iron is hot. With that decided, I head towards the nearest police box.
“……The police box here had been demolished?”
“Eh? Yeah, it was torn down and moved to another district about seven years ago.”
“I, I see.”
The place that was used to be a police box is now a beauty parlor. When I ask the storekeeper, it seems that it was moved quite a long time ago. According to him, the new police box is located pretty far from here.
Uwah, what do I do now? The girl looks at me, worried, so I smile to assure her that everything will be okay. There’s nothing to achieve by staying here, so I decide to return to where we came from for the time being.
“Are you tired? Do you feel thirsty?”
“No, I’m okay.”
“There, there. You’re a good girl~”
While carrying her with one arm, I use my other hand to pat her head. She gives a pleasant look as she narrows her eyes. Looking at her, I really want to reunite her with her mother as soon as possible.
I hear someone calling my name and I turn around to find Tsubaki there. She’s carrying a shopping bag, so I guess she is back from shopping.
“Yes. Um… is the girl you are holding, your acquaintance?”
She looks as if she’s just discovered a rare thing.
“Mm-mm, it seems that she got lost. We’re looking for her mom together, right—?”
I look towards the girl and we smile at each other. Although she was cautious at first, she gradually opens up to me after a while. Watching our actions, Tsubaki makes a charming and gentle expression.
“I was thinking of going to the police box. But apparently, it has moved somewhere else. I’m lost about what to do.”
“The police box is quite far away from here… Ah, there is a community center nearby. I believe you should go there instead.”
“Really?! Mind telling me how to get there?”
“I will guide you along the way.”
“Eh? But, are you sure? You’re in the middle of shopping.”
“I have finished. I’m currently free, too. Please don’t mind about it.”
She gently pats the girl’s head as she smiles at me. Really… she’s such a good girl.
“Well… sorry, I’ll be counting on you.”
I walk next to Tsubaki who is leading the way. Then, I stealthily take a look at Tsubaki’s side profile. Her well-featured face looks pretty. Now that I think about it, I feel like I’ve been seeing her every day ever since I moved here. Well, our chance of meeting is high because we’re neighbors. But still, you know…
“Um… is anything wrong?”
She’s realized that I’ve been staring at her, looking somewhat sheepish. There is a faint blush on her cheeks. I wonder if she’s just shy.
“It’s nothing. I just thought that we coincidentally meet each other a lot.”
“Now that you mention it, that is the case.”
“…It gives off the feeling like it’s fate, doesn’t it?”
“You don’t have to be that shocked.”
I feel that the faint blush on her cheeks has gotten more obvious now. I didn’t think that it would shock her that much, it makes me feel guilty.
“Um, I’m sorry for saying a stupid thing. I was just joking around.”
She looks downcast, like she’s having a mixed feelings about it. Hmm… did I really offend her that much? I’m reflecting on my actions.
Is she tired? The girl is closing her eyes while letting out a cute sleeping sound in my arms. She has a lovely sleeping face.
“She must be tired.”
“I guess so. Sorry, but can we walk slowly so that we don”t wake her?”
We walk at a slower pace to reduce the shaking. Naturally, we stop talking, too, only walking forward in silence. Although, it will get harder to find her mother now that the girl is asleep. I continue to watch out for people that might be her.
“Hinata-san, we’re here.”
“This is the place?”
I stand before a building with ‘Community Center’ written on the doorplate. There is also the word ‘Receptionist’ written in a paper patch. Just when I am about to enter the building, my shoulder is suddenly grabbed from behind.
“…..eh, yumi… chan?”
I turn around to find a lady who seems really flustered and tense. She frightens me a bit… I mean, a lot. I pretend to be calm on the surface, but my heart is actually beating like crazy. The lady is looking at the girl in my arms, so maybe she is the mother. This girl is called Yumi-chan, I totally forgot to ask her name.
“Are you her mother?”
“Yes, I am! I wasn’t looking for a bit, and she’s suddenly gone. I’ve been looking for her all this time…. Um, could it be that you have been taking her into your custody?”
“Well, I suppose…. Yumi-chan, look, it’s your mom.”
I feel sorry to call her when she’s still sleeping, but we’ve found her mother and all. I gently shake her body to rouse her. Although, she seems to be pretty tired, and isn’t waking up at all. After shaking her a few more times, she finally opens her sleepy eyes. Then, after she looks at her mother with her half-opened eyes, her eyes turn wide open.
I slowly pass the girl over, and she hugs her mother tightly. The mother also returns her hug lovingly.
“Ooh— a touching reunion.”
“…Thank goodness we managed to find her safely.”
Tsubaki and I watch over the reunion of the mother child on the sideline. Nevertheless, thank goodness we managed to find her mother safely.
“Um, I’m very sorry for the trouble! It’s all because I didn’t properly watch her.”
The lady looks really apologetic as she lowers her head, so I shake my head to the sides in a fluster. She doesn’t raise her head until a few minutes have passed, and with some persuasion from me. It’s troubling how she keeps thanking us, but well, it’s not a bad thing. It makes me happy knowing that I’m useful to someone, and being thanked is a fortunate thing.
“Thank you very, very much.”
“Bye bye, Onee-chan.”
I wave at the smiling girl as we part. Her mother gives us a slight bow and holds her child’s hand as they walk home.
“Oh well, that’s one case closed. I guess time for me to go home, too.”
“I concur…. Is it all right for me to accompany you on our way home?”
Our houses are next to each other, so we’ll be going to the same direction. There’s no reason to refuse. Besides, walking together is more fun than walking alone, isn’t it?