I don’t care for Inui-san. Sometime when I wasn’t looking he began to act familiar towards my brother, and snatched him away right from under my nose. Niisan is far off someplace in his head all the time now. I wish he would talk to me like before, that quiet soft voice he uses for Kaasan and me. I liked to listen to it. I liked to listen to him. Niisan’s secrets were mine to keep, and I was proud to have them.
Perhaps now my brother tells his secrets to Inui-san. And perhaps Inui-san keeps them in that book of his. I always see him writing in it. That irritating kari-kari sound and that self-satisfied grin. Somehow Niisan is blind to this. Tousan and Kaasan too. But I’ve been watching Inui-san, and I do not care for him at all.
And I wonder what they could be studying, hidden in Niisan’s room for so long. The door is slightly ajar. I see Inui-san’s fingers on the small of my brother’s back, Inui-san’s face close to his ear, speaking low. Is he telling his secrets to Niisan too? I watch until the door is closed. Inui-san is shutting me out, smiling at me. You are still a child, his eyes say. Niisan is leaving me behind, I think. Suddenly he seems like an adult. And it’s Inui-san who has done this, and I hate him for it.
Inui-san likes to trick people, but not me. Not me. It’s obvious that he thinks he can win me with a few pretty words, a gentle senpai’s smile.
Tonight Niisan leaves after dinner. I watch his bare feet shove into his sneakers. My gaze rests there, and ridiculously it occurs to me that his ankles are beautiful. He turns and briefly we exchange a look. There must be some sort of accusation in my eyes, or perhaps he projects an accusation there. Niisan hisses rather than turning his anger on me. After a moment he says “Ittekimasu” in a voice so quiet it is almost a whisper, looking away. There is color in his cheeks. I know that it’s Inui-san he’s going to see. I don’t need to be told not tell Kaasan or Tousan. Because of Inui-san I must keep these kinds of secrets for Niisan, and I don’t like it at all.
My brother is someone who does not give his affection freely. It should be received and returned gently, because Niisan’s heart is delicate inside, more than anyone knows. Inui-san couldn’t know this. Suddenly I’m afraid that Inui-san will hurt him. Maybe the tears that are almost never in Niisan’s eyes will be there one day, because of Inui-san. I would never forgive him, if he did that to my brother.
It is a long time that Inui-san is in my disfavor. I find new ways to make it clear to him that I dislike him, as I smile and respond to his warm words with icy keigo. One day Niisan asks me directly about it. At last we come to that inescapable question. For some reason I begin to cry, and I’m afraid it will make Niisan angry but I can’t stop, and my nose begins to run and my eyes turn puffy, and I feel so terribly like a child. Sobbing as I sit on my big brother’s bed. I can’t look at him. But then Niisan wipes my nose with a tissue and my breathing is little hiccoughs as he holds me in his arms. The last time we’d done this our arms were little spindles, but Niisan’s are much bigger now, more like Tousan’s than mine.
He tells me that he’s sorry. I’m sorry Hazue, he says as he pats my back. We’ll go somewhere tomorrow. I nod, ashamed. It should be Inui-san who’s apologizing. He’s fiddled with the order of things, and now everything feels different even though it looks the same, and I can’t stand it.
One day I see them together. Niisan looks so small walking next to that big lanky figure. Inui-san is coaxing conversation from him, talking constantly until my brother speaks, and then he is suddenly silent and attentive. His eyes are intent on Niisan, and I wonder if he’s thinking perverted thoughts. Then Inui-san almost walks into a telephone pole, because he’s not paying any attention at all to his surroundings. At the last moment Niisan grabs his jacket, pulling him out of the way. I see them laugh, and I laugh a little too, despite myself.
I wonder if Inui-san would lie to my brother. I wonder if there is a tenderness between them, somehow in the way they walk quietly together, the way Niisan’s face gets calmer. Inui-san’s hand is on my brother’s shoulder now. I’m certain I can see Niisan tense a little, then relax again, allowing the touch. Accepting it. Infuriatingly I couldn’t hate Inui-san so much anymore, as I watched my brother walk away with him, light-hearted.