Original Character introductions
Takao Naritomo: The older of Takao's two uncles. Despite his stern appearace, he has a soft spot for children, especially for his favourite nephew. Works as a pediatrician, and his hobby is playing games on his computer.
Takao Kazutomo: The younger of Takao's two uncles. Happily married with three daughters. Lives in Hokkaido due to his wife's job.
"I hope Mama will be happy."
Now in his second year of elementary school, Takao Kazunari was running down the corridor from the lift lobby to his apartment, with a sheet of paper clutched to his chest and a huge smile on his face.
He took the key from the inner pocket of his pants and quickly unlocked the door, swinging it open with his usual greeting. "Mama, I'm home!"
But instead of his mother's usual cheerful reply of "Welcome home!", he heard something unusual: his mother was talking to someone, and she sounded angry.
But at who?
"Mama…?" He peeked into the living room, where his mother's voice was coming from.
His mother was on the phone, and he could see the expression on her face. She was furious.
"No, you are the one being unreasonable. You have already said plenty, and I refuse to listen to any more of your baseless arguments. Even if we had been together back then, it doesn't make any difference now that it's over between the two of us. We made that decision years ago, and we promised not to regret it. I don't know what's become of you now but I know you're not part of the team anymore. What happened to your dream? I thought you said you weren't going to give up— stop. I've heard that excuse time and time again; it's starting to get old. Now, I will ask you again. How did you get your hands on this number? Did you get it from Kazutomo?"
The child stepped back, and retreated back into the hallway. He contemplated listening in to that conversation, but it hurt for him to hear the kind and gentle mother he had always known speak in that manner.
He returned to his bedroom, and closed the door behind him. He looked at the sheet of paper he held in his hands— it was an essay that he had written for an assignment earlier that week and his teacher had praised him in front of his class for it. He was going to show it to his mother, knowing that she would be proud of him, but…
"I wonder what happened…" He threw his backpack onto his bed and sat down on the soft covers. "She isn't usually like this… I wonder who she was talking to…"
He looked down at the essay that he wrote, at the simple title written in hiragana: boku no kazoku, my family.
The only family I have is my mother, was how the piece started. My mother works at a hairdressing salon and always greets her customers with a smile. No matter how tired or busy she is, she is always waiting for me when I get back home from school. She is kind, gentle, and she loves me a lot. I love her too. But I don't have a father like everyone else. Mama always tells me that he is in a place far from here. I don't know how he looks like, but Mama says that I look like him. I hope I can meet him one day. I wonder what kind of person he is. I hope he is a nice person, just like my Mama.
It was a short and simple essay, but it conveyed his true feelings.
He didn't expect his teacher to like his essay, since he had little to write, but to his surprise she did. He had read it out to the class that day, and when he was done everyone applauded. Even his best friend Sorata Aoto, who barely says anything at all, said it was good. This was the first time something like this had happened to him, and it made him feel really happy.
But seeing his mother like that… it felt wrong for him to interrupt.
He couldn't deny, though, that he was curious to find out who his mother was talking to.
Judging from her tone and words, it's probably someone she doesn't get along with. There were some phrases that were bothering him… "had been together back then"… "it's over now"… "Kazutomo", his uncle's name…
… Could it be…?
"Kazu? Are you in?"
"Can I come in?"
"Sure…" He hid the essay behind his back and placed his hands on his knees.
He watched nervously as his mother opened the door, and a pang of worry struck him when he saw the feigned smile on her face.
"What is it, Kazu?"
"Well… O-On second thought, it's nothing."
"Come on, you know you can ask Mama anything. You can just say it out; I won't get angry."
"Okay then… who was that you were talking to earli—" Upon seeing the momentary change of expression on his mother's face, the child immediately regretted his decision. "F-Forget I asked that! It's nothing! I'm sorry!"
"It's okay. You don't have to apologize. I should be the one who's sorry instead."
"Because I can't tell you who that was."
"Is it because… that person is my father?"
Looks like he hit the nail on the head.
"Mama, are you angry with him? Did he do something bad to hurt you?"
"No, he didn't do I'm not angry."
"You're lying! You sounded really mad earlier!"
"It's the truth, Kazu."
"Then if you're not angry, then what are you?"
"I guess I'm… disappointed. With your father."
"Hmm…" Tomoko ponded for a moment, before putting a teasing grin on her face. "Not telling."
"Eh?! That's unfair!"
"You'll eventually find out some day. And besides, it's almost time for dinner. I'll go set the table, so why don't you change your clothes and go wash up?"
But he didn't move from where he sat, until his mother left the room.
He fished out his now-crumpled essay and looked at it once more. But as his eyes glanced upon the last section he stopped reading. He took the flimsy sheet in both hands and tore it up into little pieces, which he disposed of into the wastepaper basket by his desk.
If the father that he had longed to meet was someone who had and will hurt his mother…
… Then it would be better not to have one at all.
That was what what eight year-old Takao Kazunari had decided that winter.