Hiyori was due back today. Kirishima had set off in his car for the airport to make the plane’s arrival, and while he waited for the two to return, Yokozawa was preparing dinner: today they were having chilled Chinese noodles.
Noting that they would be back any minute now, Yokozawa washed the just-boiled noodles in cold water and placed them on a clean plate. Just as he was seasoning the noodles with thinly sliced toppings, he caught the sound of someone running outside in the hall. He rinsed his hands off in the sink when the door to the genkan was flung open just as he was stepping out to greet them.
“Oniichan, I’m back!”
“Welcome home, Hiyo.”
Hiyo, who’d practically flown inside, was tanned all over, almost completely black now. The shoulders peeking out of her dress were already starting to peel, and now that she’d removed her shoes, he could clearly see the outline of sandal straps on her feet.
Seeming to have roused just to greet Hiyori, Sorata calmly wandered in from further inside, rubbing against Hiyori’s legs while she arranged her shoes.
“Sora-chan! I’m back~! Thanks for takin’ care of everything while I was gone!” When Hiyori scooped him up, Sorata eagerly nosed her face. “I’ve got some souvenirs for you! Wait right here—I’ll put it on you now!” She rifled through the pockets of her bag for a moment before pulling out what looked to be an aqua-colored ribbon.
“‘S that a collar?”
“Yup! Grandma taught me how to do lacework, so I made this!”
“Wow, not bad.” It fastened in the back behind the neck, and a small bell hung from the front. She’d undoubtedly chosen the color because it resembled the color of the sky.
Removing Sorata’s current collar, she fastened the new one about his neck. The sky-blue collar really suited his white and black coat.
“Still, look at you—you’re burned to a crisp! Did you have fun at your grandmother’s?”
“Yup! A ton of fun! I even made some new friends there! We’re gonna be pen pals now. Oh, and at the airport, I had Papa buy me some cute stationery too!”
“I see.” His eyes crinkled as he watched her chatter merrily; it’d been far too quiet these few days without her here. Now it finally felt like things were back to normal.
“Oh, I got some souvenirs for you, too, Oniichan! I had Grandma send them, though, so I can’t give ‘em to you til tomorrow…”
“Well it’ll be ‘tomorrow’ before you know it. I can’t wait til they get here.”
“‘Kay! Look forward to them!”
Kirishima, arriving now belatedly, trudged into the living room while he pieced through the mail he’d picked up on the way. “I’m baaaack. Hiyo, Yuki-chan’s sent you a summer greeting card.”
“Really?! Oh wow, it’s got foreign stamps on it!” She pored over the postcard Kirishima handed her with a serious expression. If Yokozawa recalled correctly, she’d mentioned to Hiyori that her family was going overseas for vacation. She’d probably fired off a postcard to Hiyori the moment she arrived.
“Well let’s dig in—we’re having chilled Chinese noodles tonight.” At the description of the evening’s menu, Hiyori raised both hands in joy.
“How’d you know, Oniichan?? I was just thinking earlier that I wanted to have this for dinner!”
“Well I wanted it myself; now, both of you go get washed up before we eat.”
After shuttling her off to the bathroom, Yokozawa set the table—there was pudding in the fridge for dessert, but he’d set that out after their meal.
“Woooow it looks delicious!” Hiyori voiced her excitement as she surveyed the meal. It made the effort all the more worthwhile with such an appreciative audience. Even six months ago, he never would’ve expected his rusty cooking skills to make a comeback under these circumstances.
As she settled into her seat, Hiyori innocently asked, “So, what did you two get up to while I was gone?”
“…Just, busy with work.” Nothing that they’d done was anything they could possibly tell Hiyori about—but despite his smoothly delivered lie, Kirishima dropped a bomb on them when he sauntered in from the living room behind her.
“We had a lot of fun, just the two of us.”
He snapped a leg out to kick Kirishima for his suggestive phrasing, but this didn’t seem to discourage him at all, and he continued purposefully, “What’re you blushing for, Takafumi?”
“Cut. That. Out!” His face erupted into flame at being called by his given name for the first time. Even without glancing into a mirror, he knew he had to be beet red by now.
“Heeeey, did something happen while I was gone? C’mon, tell me!”
“It’s nothing—now just, eat up. Your noodles’ll get soggy.”
“Ah—Oniichan!” Ignoring her question, Yokozawa fled into the kitchen, and despite fanning himself fervently with his hands, his flushed face just would not cool down.