19 June 2020
“A table for three, please,” I said to the waitress, who promptly leads us to a table at the corner of the cafe. She left after putting three menus on the table.
“This is expensive!” the girl in a bun, Aika, exclaimed as she read the menu.
“Well, Donna’s taste, as usual,” said the other girl, Momoko, who sits beside me.
The waitress comes back and we start placing our order. As she left our table, I pull out a piece of paper from my handbag, putting it on the table.
A piece of paper showing three of us standing in between lotuses, with another girl in short hair posing beside us.
A piece of paper from the summer a year ago, that contains all of our regrets.
15 June 2019
“Don’t you girls feel a little bit stuffy with all these exams and assignments?” the girl with the short hair, Chiyori, asked as the last bell rang.
“I do...,” Aika replied as she turned from her table, then laid her head on top of Chiyori’s table.
“Then, let’s do something!” Chiyori immediately stood up with a smile on her face.
“What are you planning?” I asked Chiyori as I put all the pens into my leather pencil case.
“Hm…, go somewhere to refresh our minds!” Chiyori replied.
“Let’s do that after the national examination, yeah?” Momoko gave her reply from the back of my seat.
“No way! That’s too long! Let’s go this weekend?” answered Chiyori, which made Momoko frowns.
“I will do all the trip planning! All you need is just to follow me and have fun!” Chiyori continued to convince Momoko.
And that was how the trip started out.
19 June 2019
The night before, Chiyori sent out a message informing us to meet up at the school gate for the trip. With my yellow-coloured short dress, I waited inside my car, parked near the school gate.
It was 9.50 AM when I heard a knock on the window. As I lifted my head, I saw Momoko and Aika standing before me. I gestured them to come inside the car as we wait for the trip planner.
It was 10.15 AM when I heard Chiyori’s voice out of the car. “Nice, we are all here! Let’s go!”
“Where do we go?” I asked.
“To the train station! I already bought the tickets for all of us before coming here,” Chiyori replied, opened up the car door.
“Then, let’s take my car to the train station,” I answered her, about to call my personal driver.
Chiyori then grabbed my hands and pulled me out of the car. “Let’s walk, the station is only five minutes away.”
“But, it’s hot!” I replied to her, used my hands to shade the summer sun from my face.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Follow your trip planner, please?” Chiyori smiled at me. Got slightly annoyed, I ended up following Chiyori and walked to the train station.
It was 10.25 AM when we reached the platform of the express train. The station was crowded; it seemed like everyone was about to go out to enjoy the summer.
As I stood in the queue, inside my mind, I was questioning Chiyori’s decision to take the train. I mean, we could have travelled in my car. Fully air-conditioned, without the need to wait in the queue. Private too, so we can chat without minding the noise.
It was 10.35 AM when the train started moving. To be completely honest, I was not paying any attention to the discussion that Aika and Chiyori were having as they sat across me. My eyes were glued to my smartphone, wished that the train could have travelled faster.
It was 12.45 PM when Chiyori gestured us to walk out from the train. She opened up a piece of paper, and asked one of the station staff for direction, then led us to take another bus.
“Can we stop to have lunch first, Chiyori?” I asked as I heard my stomach grumbles.
“Hmm, we have to take this bus, though. The next bus is not coming until another three hours,” Chiyori replied.
“How much longer to the destination, then?” I asked Chiyori, as I tried to control my emotion.
“Just twenty more minutes on the bus. We will have lunch as soon as we arrive there, ‘kay?” Chiyori replied to me. I sighed and agreed to follow Chiyori’s plan for the trip, although it did not suit my preferences.
It was 1.20 PM when we finally reached the lotus garden. “Let’s put our belongings and have lunch at the villa,” Chiyori said as she walked past the garden.
When I heard the word ‘villa’, I imagined it being a small, modern, cozy house, with wooden decking and a pool to enjoy. I was slightly excited, thinking that maybe the trip was worth it after all.
But the villa that Chiyori mentioned was nowhere near my expectation. It was small and old, with the lights flickering as if they were about to go out in five more minutes. There was neither wooden decking nor pool, but cracked wooden pillars around the place. The tin roofing seems like it would not hold up if heavy rain happens to come on our way.
From there on, I only remembered being disappointed throughout the trip. I regretted the fact that I voluntarily agreed to make Chiyori as the trip planner.
19 June 2019
“Do I really need to go on a trip right before the national examination?” I asked to the reflection in the mirror.
Yet my hands were holding various clothes, clearly excited with the fact that I would be going on a trip with my friends. Another fifteen minutes passed by, I decided to wear a black and yellow striped tank top, paired with jean shorts.
“I should be using any free time during the trip to study for the exam,” I uttered to myself as I packed my notebook and pencil case unto the white canvas bag. Then, I walked to the school gate, as Chiyori asked us to.
“Momoko!” I heard a familiar voice calling out to me as I waited for the pedestrian lights to turn green.
I turned my head and saw the girl in a bun waving at me from afar. I waited for her to reach where I was standing, then we walked together to the meeting point, where we saw the Mercedes Benz car parked.
As I knocked on the car window, I felt really lucky to have a rich friend, who could let me enjoy the air-conditioner of a luxury car while waiting for the trip planner.
Chiyori finally came after a while, suggested us to walk to the train station. Not that I complained, but I did wish that we can just take Donna’s car to the destination. But, the group had decided to follow Chiyori’s plan for the day, so we took the train.
As the train moved, I pulled out my notebook from my bag. Chiyori noticed that and immediately complained, “Momoko! I suggested this trip so we can take a break from studying, you know!”
Disregarded Chiyori’s complain, I put on my earphones, glued my eyes on the study material, with the pen on my right hands. I glanced at Chiyori, who was about to pull my notebook, yet got stopped by Aika.
Aika seemed to realize that I just wanted to study and did not want to be disrupted, so she decided to occupy Chiyori throughout the train trip. At that time, I felt really lucky to have a friend who could understand me well.
We took a bus after the train, then arrived at the lotus garden. We put our belongings at the old house that Chiyori’s dad owned, then walked to a nearby restaurant to have our lunch. It was a humble lunch; white rice, with steamed fish and seasonal vegetables.
We went to the garden after lunch. We started from the corner of the garden, where we found a well and peeked around it.
“If you toss a gold coin, it will grant your wish…, or so my dad used to say when I was a kid,” Chiyori stated as she laughed.
As Aika and Chiyori were praying by the well, I noticed that Donna was standing a little bit far with her eyes glued to the phone. I decided to stand beside her and watched the maths tutorial on my phone, used as much time as I can to study.
I was determined to get the best score on the national exam. And I would not let this trip to prevent me to reach that goal.
We then walked at the old ornamental bridge, placed in the middle of the pond with the lotus that were in full bloom. As we waited for Aika and Chiyori while they were taking pictures, I leaned to the bridge and continued with the math tutorial on my phone.
“Let’s take a picture together, four of us!” Chiyori exclaimed, loud enough that it reached me without removing my earphones.
I put my phone in my pocket, followed Chiyori and had our pictures taken.
19 June 2019
“Chiyori, where are we going?” I messaged the trip planner early morning.
“It’s a secret!” Chiyori replied.
“Tell me, is it Instagrammable?” I asked, which replied soon after with a sticker of panda that holds a ‘yes’ sign.
“Then what kind of clothes should I wear?” I asked again. I stood up and opened my wardrobe, laid a couple of skirts and blouses on top of my bed, took pictures of them and sent it to Chiyori.
“The blue chiffon blouse and white skirt will look really great with the place!” Chiyori replied after a while, followed with a thumbs-up emoji.
I quickly got changed to Chiyori’s recommendation, contemplated the shoes and the crossbody bags that match the outfit until I realized I had to go out before being late.
I walked out of my house towards the school, when I noticed a tall girl in a black and yellow tank top at the crossing road. “Momoko!” I shouted aloud.
The girl heard me, turned around and waited for me to walk together. “Your bag seems heavy,” I commented as we walked.
“Well, I have some stuff,” Momoko replied, with worries all over her face. Being the top score bearer of the school, I realized that Momoko must have been worried to go on this trip right before the exam period.
Followed her lead, we reached the school gate and found Donna who was sitting inside her black car. We met up with Chiyori soon after, who pushed us to walk to the train station. Throughout the walk, I noticed Donna’s face darkened as if she hated Chiyori’s idea.
For that reason, I decided to take a seat beside Chiyori on the train. Momoko, who sat across me, pulled out a notebook and a pencil case as soon as the train moved. Chiyori was about to disrupt her by pulling the notebook away, but I grabbed her wrist and diverted her attention.
“Your skirt looks pretty! The length is perfect for you!” I commented, stared at the skirt. Chiyori immediately pulled the skirts downwards.
“I wish it is slightly longer, though,” Chiyori replied as she gave out an awkward laugh. She kept her hands at the hem of her skirt, looked uncomfortable. Then, I noticed that Chiyori had a band-aid on the back of her palms.
“Is your hand okay? What happened?” I asked as I touched the band-aid. Chiyori immediately brushed off my hands; I saw her face being surprised.
“No, nothing that you need to worry about,” Chiyori replied again, smiling brightly. I noticed that something was off, yet Chiyori cut me off from asking more question. Instead, she pulled out her phone and showed me the lotus garden that we were about to visit.
“The whole area is surrounded by lotus?” I asked.
Chiyori nodded her head. “It is in full bloom now. It would have been too late if we come after the exam.”
“The point of attraction is this ornamental bridge. It is in the middle of the pond, so when you take pictures, it looks like you are surrounded by the lotus,” Chiyori showed some more photo.
“How do you know such a pretty place?” I asked with admiration after browsed the photos of the garden.
“I used to live here when I was a kid,” Chiyori replied.
We reached the destination soon after. Finished our lunch, we went to the old well. Followed Chiyori’s lead, I threw a gold coin and prayed: I wish every one of us to remember this trip well.
“This is the ornamental bridge that you showed me!” I exclaimed at Chiyori. She nodded her head, pulled her phone from her black crossbody bag, gestured me to pose for pictures.
I strolled closer to Chiyori, tried to see the photos that she had taken. “Thanks! It is really pretty!”
“Okay! Then, let’s take a picture together, four of us!”
19 June 2020
“And that was our last trip ever with Chiyori,” I said.
I pull out another piece of paper with Chiyori’s face on it, along with the three paragraphs article beside it.
“An 18-year-old girl has been found dead in her house,” Aika grabs the paper, reading it out. She paused as she wipes the tears that roll down on her cheek.
“Police found out that the girl had been beaten to death by her drunk father, who then went missing. The autopsy suggested that the girl had also been sexually abused, at least for a couple of months before her death,” Aika pauses. She puts down the article, lays her head on the table, with her shoulder shudders uncontrollably while she cries.
“I am glad that I went on the trip, although it was a poorly planned one,” I said as my eyes get glossy, about to shed tears.
“I should have enjoyed the trip to the fullest, without a single care for the exam,” Momoko stated as she taps Aika’s shoulder, calming her down.
“I…, I noticed something was off, but I could not say anything to her,” Aika said in between her cries. “I should have done something to help her out.”
And there are the three of us, mourning the loss of our friend at the corner of the cafe, whose death fills us with regrets.