On New Year’s Eve evening, Kotaro, who was a son of Tohko, had continued to use her laptop computer since he had finished eating toshikoshi-soba, which was buckwheat noodles eaten as this day’s Japanese custom: Japanese people would like to cut off this year’s misfortune from themselves on New Year’s Eve, eating buckwheat noodles that tended to be cut more easily than other kinds of noodle. Of course, it was a sort of superstition for good luck.
This evening, Kotaro was allowed by his mother to stay up late as much as he wanted.
Tohko would have liked to use her own computer, too. However, Kotaro had learnt to use computer recently. So, Tohko gave up her computer to Kotaro while he was at home and wanted to use it. If she had some matters she should search online, she used her cell phone’s internet.
The next year was about to take the place of this year soon. A little while ago, Tohko got a telephone call from her parents and heard that it was snowing heavily in her hometown.
The snow had reached a depth of 50 cm though it was still December.
Tohko’s mother had often said to her, ‚ÄúPlease come back to home during at least New Year.‚ÄĚ
Naturally, Tohko also hoped to do so, but was worried about her own physical condition because she could not take a vacation for a long time during Year-end and New Year season and it would be hard to come and go far places like her hometown. Therefore, she decided that she would never go anywhere from this Q prefecture during this holiday.
In this western Japan area she was living after having taken refuge from Tokyo’s radioactive contamination, it seldom snowed. So, it was fun for her to think about her own hometown where snow was always falling thick and fast. She could enjoy snow by indulging in imagination and often enjoyed it like this recently.
This evening, she was earnestly immersed in an image of such steady snow again, sitting next to Kotaro who was using the computer. Then, Kotaro said to Tohko, ‚ÄúWhat a lot of places you’ve been to, Mom!‚ÄĚ
Kotaro seemed to look at the photographs saved in Tohko’s computer.
‚ÄúYeah, I liked traveling once. And I had to go on business trips to various places because I worked at a publishing company and wrote articles about sightseeing.”
Tohko also peered in the display of the laptop computer.
There were many photographs on the display and most of those were taken by Tohko while she was traveling.
‚ÄúYou did a job editing magazines, didn’t you?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYeah, I was editing some magazines for girls and women. Flowery, gorgeous, and delightful magazines!”
‚ÄúReally? Were those magazines sold at book stores actually?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOf course, they were really displayed at book stores all over the country.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThat’s great!‚ÄĚ Kotaro uttered a voice, obediently admiring her job, and continued to open the files of photographs one after another.
Then, Tohko went back to a place of her imagination where snow was falling steadily.
Kotaro already finished drinking a glass of hot lemonade Tohko had made for him. Tohko was still sipping it.
When Tohko was a little child, it often snowed heavily on this New Year’s Eve.
During December, the ground was rarely covered with snow readily.
Tohko, who hoped that it would snow as soon as possible, had used to wait for it anxiously.
However, myriad flakes of snow had used to begin falling like a present from the heavens on every New Year’s Eve. It snowed as if blessing a brand-new year, too. ‚ÄúMom, who is this?‚ÄĚ
Suddenly, Kotaro asked, showing Tohko a piece of photograph.
She looked at it and caught her breath.
A man in this photograph was ‚ÄúThat man,‚ÄĚ who was her ex-boyfriend.
Tohko had never thought that there were any photographs of him in this computer.
She wondered when and how this photograph had been slipped in this file.
Not so often checking her own computer, she hadn’t noticed there had been this photograph there.
‚ÄúWell, he is an old friend of mine‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHe is Akihiko Waki, isn’t he?‚ÄĚ
Kotaro said, and Tohko was extremely surprised. She had never intended to conceal the presence of her ex-boyfriend from her son, but she had not told it to Kotaro. That was only because he was still little.
But honestly, it was really astonishing for Tohko that Kotaro knew the name of ‚ÄúThat man‚ÄĚ clearly.
‚ÄúYes, that’s right.‚ÄĚ
Tohko could not but reply so because she had never deceived her son Kotaro so far.
This was a photograph of Akihiko Waki without doubt.
The problem was how Kotaro had gotten to know the name of Akihiko and how he had noticed this photo was Akihiko’s.
‚ÄúLately, I’ve had the same dreams repeatedly.‚ÄĚ
Kotaro said, and Tohko muttered, ‚ÄúDreams?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI noticed that those were the dreams of the hot spring resort where we had gone together.‚ÄĚ
Tohko felt like that something like the time and space around her lurched.
And she waited for what Kotaro would say next.