“Hello, Ms. Yuri!”
I met Anne-Marie on the way to work. She greeted me happily and I returned the greeting.
“Good morning, Anne-Marie.”
“I think the weather is really nice today! It would be nice to have a picnic on a day like this. Don’t you think so?”
As always, her unchanging radiant and clear smile brightened up the surroundings. Seeing that, the emotional fatigue I was feeling due to the unplanned freeloader in my house seemed to fade away.
“You’re right. There’s a place nearby where people often go flower-viewing in the spring. I’ll let you know later so you can go with Hestia.”
“Really? Thank you.”
It has been barely half a year since Anne-Marie moved to this place, so she was yet to spend spring in Ferret. So when I said that in passing, Anne-Marie was delighted and smiled brightly.
“Ms. Yuri, you should come on a picnic with us when the flowers bloom.”
“Yes! A picnic is more fun with more people.”
Is that so? I think it’s been several years since I went on something like a picnic with another person. At least, I’m sure I’ve never done it in this life.
“Okay, when I have the chance.”
I didn’t give a definite answer this time either and made a promise for later, but Anne-Marie’s smile was still as bright as ever.
“Yeah. We definitely have to go when you have the chance, Ms. Yuri.”
Seeing Anne-Marie like this, I couldn’t help but think she was really the healing female lead. Well, of course, it makes sense why the male-leads in the novel with all their various tiring pasts, were drawn to Anne-Marie, including the villain. I mean, just looking at her made me feel like I was being soaked in warmth.
As I walked towards the coffee house, I thought to myself that I had done well in keeping Lakis away from her.
Then I suddenly remembered something and fumbled through my pocket.
“I bought this for you, Ms. Anne-Marie.”
What I brought out was a red ribbon that could be used as a hair tie. I went out to do a request the other night and when I was walking through the shopping district, I saw something that would look pretty on Anne-Marie, so I bought it.
My dog in my previous life, Coco, had a collar with this kind of red ribbon, which it liked. Ah, of course, this does not mean I think of Anne-Marie as a substitute for my past puppy…
It’s just that looking at Anne-Marie reminds me of Coco, so when I walked past something that reminded me of Coco, I naturally thought of Anne-Marie and when I came to my senses, I was already handing money to the merchant…
That’s all it is.
Mmm, but still, Anne-Marie might feel bad if she knew so I didn’t tell her anything about Coco.
“Thank you, Ms. Yuri! It’s very pretty.”
Anne-Marie’s face flushed red. She seemed happy to get a gift.
Since I first met Anne-Marie, there were times like this where I gave her a present without notice. At first, Anne-Marie didn’t know how to react because she was on tight budget due to taking care of hers and her sisters livelihood, so she couldn’t prepare anything to repay me.
“For me, seeing you happy is enough repayment of its own. Being able to see my friend smile is something I want the most, Ms. Anne-Marie.”
Now, ever since I said that, she accepts my gifts happily with a pure heart. Of course, since most of my emotions were basically void, I didn’t really feel that way with Anne-Marie. It was nothing but a speech designed to make Anne-Marie feel at ease after grasping her mindset.
But then again, whenever Anne-Marie smiled, my heart seemed to grow warmer so it might not be a complete lie.
Anne-Marie shyly fiddled with the present I gave her. Her hands were still fair and pretty but had slight blisters due to her work at the clinic.
“I think this would look great on you though, Ms. Yuri…”
“I prefer seeing it on you than on me.”
When I said that, Anne-Marie looked even more touched.
Uh, I didn’t really say that to make her feel touched. I was just saying the truth. No matter how prettily I adorned myself and looked in the mirror, I couldn’t really feel anything. On the other hand, when I looked at Anne-Marie who reminds me of Coco, I got a very minuscule shred of feeling, like a dandelion spore sitting on my heart.
Besides, even if you take everything aside, looking at pretty things makes you feel good, doesn’t it? In that sense, Anne-Marie was someone I enjoyed gifting.
And so, like that, Anne-Marie and I walked together to our various destinations with the clear sunlight shining down on us.
The sound of Anne-Marie chattering brightly next to me was like the singing of a sparrow.
* * *
My day at the coffeehouse was the same as usual. I take an order when a customer arrives, and when business is dull, I clean or arrange the store.
“Hi, Ms. Yuri. It’s a clear, sunny and beautiful afternoon!”
And sometimes, I even have to welcome an unwanted, annoying customer.
At the familiar voice digging into my ears, I looked at the customer in front of me with slightly cold eyes.
You came again?
That was the thought that crossed my mind as soon as I saw the man with a big smile on his face. The man wasn’t fazed by my icy gaze and smiled even more.
“Wow, seeing you at this time, you look like the goddess of the sun, Ms. Yuri! So today, I present you a sunflower in your image!”
A man with slightly messy brown hair spat out a bunch of nonsense before bringing out the flower hidden behind his back with a ‘tada!’.
His eyes were hidden behind his bangs, making his face hard to see but from his sharp nose, always smiling mouth, and sharp jawline, you could guess that the face under the stifling head of hair was quite attractive.
But his sloppy attire, his bushy hair that seemed like it hadn’t been washed in four days, and his stupid smile made him look pathetic. Even more so today, because he was holding a sunflower with a half-broken stem.
This man was a regular of the coffeehouse. His name was Snow.
About three months ago, he began to show up frequently in this neighborhood.
“I do not accept personal gifts.”
I spoke coolly after glancing at the sunflower held out before me. Then Snow opened his mouth as if asking what I meant by that.
“Huh? I picked this sunflower for myself. I was just showing you so you can have a look!”
“Could it be you want it? Makes sense, my sunflower is so pretty enough that you’ll fall for it at first sight. Mmm, but I’m gonna have to refuse. This sunflower is mine from today.”
Naturally, I froze, and as if making fun of me, he had a serious look on his face while putting his laughable sunflower preciously in bosom.
“A cup of coffee, right? Strong.”
Yeah, what am I doing even dealing with this guy? I ignored the man and turned around.
“Gasp, that’s right! Ms. Yuri, you must be quite interested in me. To think you even remember that…”
That’s because you always order the same damn thing.
“But…but still, my sunflower…”
“Not interested. I don’t want it.”
I cut off the voice coming from behind me.
His whole play of acting moved, then getting sullen and talking about his sunflower wasn’t even funny at all. Snow didn’t even live on Ferret Street, but he went out of his way to come to this coffeehouse from afar and became a regular here. Plus, he was a weirdo who remains undaunted by my cold gaze which chased most men away.
At first, this bothered me, so I did a background check on him. He was 23 years old. Unemployed. An ordinary man, who lived on Swan Street, the nearby neighborhood.
“Here’s your coffee.”
Every time he came, he sputtered this kind of unpredictable nonsense, but his needling didn’t really offend me. In particular, once the drink he ordered was in front of him, he became quiet as if he wasn’t just running his mouth, and drank his coffee slowly, savoring the taste almost with reverence.
Although he was a weirdo, he was definitely different from the nasty men that popped up from time to time. So I simply dealt with him appropriately and let him come to the coffeehouse.
Actually, there was a reason why I felt so generous; I got glimpse of his eyes through his bushy hair and found out they were violet in color. Violet was the color of my favorite character’s eyes in ‘Chain of Flowers’. Of course, my favorite character was someone so attractive, he can’t even be compared to this frivolous man.
My favorite character was one of the sub-characters in the novel, and he was nicknamed the guardian of the eastern region which was where I currently lived, so naturally, he was incomparable.
Since I was already thinking about my favorite character and I had some spare time, I decided I might as well organize the novel’s story in my head again. I mean, especially since Lakis Avalon, the sub-villain, had also appeared.
It was titled: ‘Chain of Flowers’.
The world in this novel was divided into a total of four sections and each section was managed autonomously. Among these four, the main setting of the novel took place in the East, which was where Ferret Street(where I lived) was located.
The stage for characters to appear was limited to the eastern region and the west, where Carnot was located, while the south and the north were only made reference to.