“Hina, is it true that Hasegawa moved to your apartment?”
Upon hearing that, Hina spurted out the tea she was drinking. She coughed a couple of times before directing her gaze at the source of that voice with narrowed eyes.
Mei, who was eating her after-meal pudding, tilted her head in puzzlement.
The two were having lunch at the company cafeteria. The floor was covered with wood tiles and the walls were painted white. Trendy music played in the background throughout the open space with massive windows. Perhaps to accommodate most of the employees, there were plenty of seats available. The large desk was occupied by the Planning Department for their lunch meeting.
Luckily no one was seated in their vicinity. No one surely heard what Mei said earlier as well as their conversation from then on.
Despite knowing that, Hina still lowered her voice to a whisper and asked.
“From whom did you hear that…?”
It’s only been a week since Hasegawa moved. It’s a little unbelievable to have it leaked so fast. It’s unlikely that Hasegawa would say anything himself so could anyone have seen him going home to the apartment? Hina listened intently as she expected that.
“I heard it from a friend in the General Affairs Department.” Mei replied along with a heart gesture.
Hearing that the source was the General Affairs Department, Hina could surmise what happened. Someone in the department saw Hasegawa’s change of address and noticed that it was the same apartment as hers and told Mei about it.
She’s very kind and amiable, and office gossip spreads like wildfire. Despite being a little wary of the information gathering ability of her junior, Hina pretended to be unaffected and continued eating her meal.
“So, is it true?”
Mei leaned in curiosity but Hina shifted away from her a little.
“Well, it’s true but…”
“So it’s really true! Then, do you know his room number?”
There’s no way she could tell her it was next door to hers so Hina could only reply a mumble. Honestly, she didn’t know what to say.
Of course it should be kept a secret that they live next to each other but the risk might be bigger if she says she didn’t know and they were found out later.
“…How about you ask him directly?”
After she managed to say that, Mei immediately agreed with a resounding yes.
Hina breathed out a sigh of relief at her response. She thought she could finally start eating properly again but Mei dropped another bomb.
“It might just be my imagination, but I think Hasegawa likes you. What do you think?”
Hina choked hard. The pasta she was trying to swallow got stuck in her throat. She gulped down water as fast as she could.
Seeing her coughing with tears forming in her eyes, Mei worriedly asked.
“That reaction… Could it be he already confessed? For real? But there’s no sweet atmosphere between you two.”
“W-Why would you think that..?”
As she tried to hide her slightly blushing cheeks, Hina wanted to ask her to tone down her voice but Mei gave her a teasing smile and hurried on.
“Because if I think of it that way, everything that Hasegawa has done in the last few days would make sense! Him seeking you out continuously during lunch and so on! Besides, Hasegawa has been partial to you since before, hasn’t he?”
“What do you mean?”
Hasegawa used to pass all the troublesome and unpleasant work to her. And while other people from the sales support team could have taken them, she found out that Hasegawa nominated her to handle them all. So prior to receiving his confession, she thought for sure that he hated her.
Even on the day he confessed, she also received documents under his supervision.
“I mean, he always nominated you to do the work because he couldn’t leave it to anyone else, right? After all, your work is the most accurate and reliable!”
“Where did you get that information…?”
“From the boss! He told me when we out drinking last time. It looks like he’s also a bit concerned that Hasegawa always nominates you to do the work.”
She easily exposed such a frightening information source with a sweet tone. Hina was surprised to know she went out with the boss, but what’s more frightening is that he’s a married man with a kid. It felt like she came across another person’s Pandora’s box without meaning to.
Seeing Hina’s face darkened, Mei waived her hands to dispel her doubts.
“Ah, that’s not it! I have no relationship with the boss! Rather than the boss, I actually get along with his wife more! On that day too, his wife joined us soon after, you know-”
Mei explained that she just happened to share the same gym as his wife. If she joined her circle of friends, she will surely expand her network and might be able to meet even the Prime Minister.
“Putting that side, what happened after? Has Hasegawa approached you or something?”
“No way. Hasegawa only nominates me because I’m useful. There’s nothing romantic about that.”
At her denial, Mei uttered a voice of complaint. At the same moment, Hina’s phone rang with good timing.
Since she didn’t want to be questioned further, Hina answered the phone without a second thought, but immediately regretted after hearing the voice at the other end of the line.
“Hina, is now a good time to talk?”
The moment she heard Hasegawa’s voice, she didn’t say anything and hung up right away. In front of her, Mei was looking at her with imploring eyes.
Then her phone rang again. Hina sighed as she stood up. She signaled with her eyes and moved out of earshot. If Mei knows it was Hasegawa on the phone, she’ll bug her even more.
Hina answered her phone and lowered her voice as she possibly can.
“…Why did you hung up earlier?”
“Never mind. How did you know my number?”
Hina grumpily returned his displeased questioning with her own.
“I got it from a colleague. More importantly, are you free to talk now?”
“What is it? I haven’t finished eating lunch so I’d appreciate if you could get to the point.”
“Okay. Well, to put it simply… Hina, let’s go on a date.”
“…What?” Hina answered without thinking, to which Hasegawa teased with sarcasm, “Have you gone deaf?” Then he asked her again.
“Even though I’ve moved next to yours, our relationship hasn’t progressed at all. Well, what do you say?”
“Even if you ask me… A date is…”
Indeed, despite having moved next door, nothing has changed between them. To Hina, it was only natural because she didn’t like him but Hasegawa is clearly dissatisfied.
“I have planned the perfect date…”
“Um, no thanks.”
Hina immediately cut him off. She heard him panic with worry and she laughed lightly.
The fact that they could talk like this on the phone actually meant that they’ve become closer than before. But it’s still not to the point where it can be considered as dating.
“Then, where would you like to go? I won’t voice any complains so feel free to tell me.”
“But I was the one invited. I’m not saying I’m going though…”
“Then, you won’t go?”
“I just want to stay at home on my day off.”
Hina scratched her cheek at the thought of seeing Hasegawa. She didn’t really want to hurt his feelings but after being kissed before, she wanted to keep her distance. She felt that their hearts have inched closer but she’s hesitant to deepen their physical relationship as well.
In other words, she’s a little scared to be alone together with him. She’s not scared that Hasegawa will do something. Rather, she’s scared that she’ll let herself get swept away if he does something.
As she was contemplating on what to say, she felt someone approaching. The next moment, her phone was snatched from her hand.
The person who took it was Mei.
“Is this Hasegawa? I’m sorry I’ve been eavesdropping. A date, right? Let’s do it! Let’s have a double date!”
Hasegawa probably asked the same over the phone. As if to dismiss her objection, Mei immediately spoke in her cute voice.
“I think Hina is just nervous to be alone with you. So I’ll bring my boyfriend and let’s have a double date! If I tag along, Hina will surely agree! Okay, sure! I’ll pass you the contact details later.”
Watching Mei who looked like she was about to finish the call, Hina covered her gaping mouth.
After agreeing to schedule the double date on the following Sunday, Mei hung up. She took a step towards Hina and smiled mischievously.
“Hina! I’ve already guessed but will you fess up about Hasegawa?”
“No… Err, fine.”
Hina nodded while averting her eyes.