Slowly opening my heavy eyelids, my younger sister fills my vision. I raise my back from the seat and look around to see that we have reached our destination. Since we are traveling far by car, it seems I ended up sleeping before I knew it.
I open the door and step outside to stretch my body that is stiff from sitting too much. I take a deep breath, then I slowly breathe out while looking at the scenery around me once again.
“I see… we’ve arrived.”
“Haa~ I’m so tired.”
Getting out from the driver’s seat, Mother staggers as she walks next to me. She must be tired after driving a long distance, she looks pale with fatigue.
“I think our luggage hasn’t arrived yet, so let’s take a break!”
“Agreed~! I’m tired from sitting in the car for the whole time.”
Looking at my sister who is scrambling to be the first one to enter our house, Mother and I make a wry smile. I find our family name [Hayase] engraved at the nameplate by the front door. That’s when it finally hits that this place has become our new home.
“Hinata~ would you massage my shoulders later? They hurt so much.”
“Sure, but can I take a walk around the town first?”
“Don’t go crying if you get lost, okay?”
“I’ll be okay, I have my cell phone.”
I take out my cell phone and show it to my mother. If I get lost, I can look up the internet for a map. If that doesn’t help, then I can just use it to contact someone.
“Alright then. Take care, though.”
I wait for Mother to enter our new home after my sister, then I go for a walk.
People are born, and death will eventually come. It may come earlier for some, and latter for others, but everyone shares the same, unavoidable fate.
When I had been in my 3rd year of high school, I had thought that [death] was something far away. But on the contrary, it came so soon for me.
Right, I have departed from this world once. But for some reason, I am back living again in this world. Although, since I have a different appearance and name now, perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that I have reincarnated. However… I can clearly remember my memories from before I died.
I don’t know how or why I get to keep the memories of my past life when I reincarnated. What I do know is, that I have been living my second life uneventfully.
(This is so nostalgic.)
As I walk leisurely, I look at the landscape of the town. Every time I see a familiar scenery, I feel my chest tighten. It’s strange how it feels both warm and cold at the same time.
I have come to this town for the first time in my life. But, it’s not my first time, either. The previous me had lived in this town for eighteen years before I died, so it’s natural for me know this town well. I smile wryly at the contradiction, as I look around this nostalgic town.
(So, it’s been 16 years since then.)
I come to realize how long it’s been since I died before, and I am hit by the fact that time flows really fast.
I was in my second mother’s womb right after the previous me died, and I was born several months after. I started having my own awareness when I was a kindergartner, and that is when I recalled the memories of my past life. Either way, I have been living my life normally.
(Although, I never thought that I would come to this town again…)
The place where I lived is far from the town where the previous me lived, so I couldn’t do it. No, I could have come here if I wanted to. But I didn’t, because I was terrified.
The me who had been living in this town is already dead. I was terrified to meet someone I know—it ached me. Although, it’s true that I was also curious to know what happened after I died. I never thought that I would be moving here because of Mother’s work, I wouldn’t even dream of it.
(I wonder, is everyone doing well?)
Are Dad and Mom healthy? How is my crybaby sister doing when she’s grown up? What kind of careers are my dear friends taking? And… what about————
What should I do if I meet her? I am [me] now, and I am no longer the [previous me]. There is nothing I can do about it. I don’t have the rights, either. The only thing I need to do now is to live my current life to the fullest, isn’t it?
(……Let’s go home.)
It’s about time for our luggage to arrive, and I’ve got to help organize them. I turn back my heel, retracing from the way I—
I see a familiar person standing there.
My heart takes a leap, a cold sweat is coursing along my cheek, and my head goes blank. My mouth trembles, I can’t even breathe properly.
(C-calm down, me!)
I strain my eyes to look at her, and I am certain that they look alike. But, the one I am looking at is a young girl that looks the same age as me. Sixteen years have passed since then, so she should be thirty-something years old now. That’s why, I am mistaking her for someone else, that girl cannot be her. Telling that to myself, I calm my pounding heart.
Being called at all of a sudden makes my calm heart take another leap. I made such a scene from my surprise that I end up startling the young girl in front of me as well. She is making such a frightened face that she looks pitiful.
“I-I’m sorry for calling out to you all of a sudden…… I must have scared you.”
“It, i-i-i-it’s okay.”
To calm myself, I take a deep breath repeatedly and adjust my breathing.
…Yosh. As a result, I have managed to somewhat regain my presence of mind. Starting anew, I look towards the young girl who called at me.
Like I thought, they look alike. I know that this girl isn’t her, but I can’t keep my heart from pounding faster. It feels so nostalgic that I can feel the corner of my eyes heating up——No, no. I seriously need to calm down.
“C-c-can I help you?”
Putting on a stiff smile, I try to answer in a natural way to avoid making her wary of me. But in reality, my face is cramping and my voice has broken into a falsetto. I am acting so suspiciously, but still, I’ve tried my best.
She gives me a strange look for a while, but then she holds out something in her hand to me.
“Here, I am wondering if this is yours.”
Certainly, the plain handkerchief that is lying on the palm of her hand is mine. I must have dropped it when I was loitering around while looking at the scenery. Then, she noticed it by chance and picked it up for me.
“Yes, it’s mine. Thank you for picking it up.”
“Don’t mention it. I did nothing much.”
Said the girl as she gives me a sweet smile.
She must be finding it weird because I am looking at her without saying anything. She gives me a strange look as she tilts her head.
Oops, this won’t do. I’ve been staring at her too much.
“Sorry, you look like someone I know.”
“I see. It’s all right, please don’t worry about it.”
“Oh yeah, as thanks for picking it up for me… well, it’s rough around the edges. But, please have some if you’d like.”
I produce a pouch from my pocket and present it to her.
“Aww… you don’t have to.”
“I made it myself, so I don’t know if it’ll suit to your tastes. Although, it’ll make me happy if you’d eat them.”
It’s what I made before we departed—cookies to fill our tummies when we feel hungry.
“Wow… you made it yourself? You’re amazing.”
“Nah, baking cookies is pretty simple. It’s nothing that amazing.”
“Fufu… thank you very much. I’ll be eating them plenty.”
“Yup. Then, thank you very much for returning my handkerchief.”
“I should be the one thanking you for the cookies. Thank you.”
She politely bows, then she turns and walks away. Her back overlaps with the sight of my childhood friend, and I end up watching her until she is gone from view.
“Hm… they look really similar, except for their personalities.”
At least, the girl that I know isn’t that polite, she’d never smile so gently, either. I wonder… is she in this town right now? Does she smile like that girl did? Is she… leading a happy life?
(I don’t even have the right to pray for those things.)
I open my hand, which I had clenched before I knew it. It’s damp with sweat.
(I should go home.)
I swing my head to drop my thoughts about it. I start walking home, as if I’m running away from something that I can’t see.
——Today, I am living in this town again.
It’s a town full of memories from when I was called with a different name. But this time, I am here as someone else entirely. I don’t know what kind of action I should take.
From the time the present me—the girl named [Hayase Hinata]—was born, this is the moment when I truly start living my life.