Chapter Three

『  Tsubasa,

The coffee maker is set to brew, all you have to do is flip the switch.  Also, if you would like, I made you a bento in the refrigerator you can take with you to work, but you aren’t obligated to take it if you don’t want to.  I couldn’t get to sleep easily, for obvious reasons, and keeping my hands busy was the only way to occupy my thoughts.  From tomorrow I will begin properly searching for employment and I will do my best to not trouble you as much as possible.  We can talk whenever you wish.  I’m beyond grateful that you’ve accepted my selfish behavior for a second time when you have every reason not to, and tolerating me and my daughter in your home.  It’s the happiest I've seen Momoko in a long while.

I hope you have a good day at work.  If you need to contact me for any reason, even if it is to tell me to leave, my number is 090-XXXX-XXXX.

–Miki.  』

I crumpled up the note she left and threw it in the garbage.  I flipped the switch on the machine and set the coffee to brew.  While it did, I opened the fridge to see the old plastic bento box she used to make lunch for me in the same place it always was back when we were living together.  I don’t know if this was an appeal, or genuine consideration for her current circumstances.  By telling me in the note that she was going to properly search for employment from tomorrow, I felt it was safe to assume she was currently a freeloader.  Obviously I don’t owe her any kindness, but my own hesitation in closing the door on her face yesterday means I have at least quietly, reluctantly, accepted some modicum of responsibility for the welfare of the child, at least.

But I don’t have the first idea on how to care for a child.  This isn’t one of those cutesy mangas where I adopt some relative’s bastard child because no one else wants to be bothered to take care of it.  This is the child of my cheating whore of a wife.  All I know how to do is throw money at this kind of a problem.  

After sitting down at the table and reading the news on my phone while having my morning cup of coffee, I saw the door to the bedroom Miki and Momoko were in open up, and the little girl dashed out quickly to the bathroom.  She didn’t close the door behind her, and I could hear a low pitched “oh no!” followed by some sniffling.  I was concerned, but I didn’t think I had the right to check on a child that wasn’t mine who was using the bathroom.

The best I could do was walk close to the door and talk to her.

“Momoko.  Is something the matter?”

“Eh!  Tsubasa-san!  I’m sorrrryyyy!  I didn’t mean to!”

She’s sorry?  For what?

“I don’t know what you didn’t mean to do that you feel the need to apologize for, but I can promise you I won’t get upset.”

“You won’t?”

“I won’t.  You don’t have to tell me, either, if you don’t want to.  But if it’s something I can help you with, I will.”


There was a short silence before she came out with it.

“I peed my pajamas.”

Right.  I have no idea how to help this child at all.

“I tried to wake mommy up, but she won’t open her eyes.  Mommy was all shaky, and she got up last night and was doing something in the kitchen and talking to herself.  I was pretending to be asleep when she came back into the room, but she smelled like yucky beer.”

“Alright.  That’s not a problem.  Your mother left me a note saying that she was having trouble sleeping.  Nobody is in any trouble, okay?”

“Really?  Even though the futon is wet?”

“It’s just a futon.  It can be cleaned.  What about you… do you have some underwear or clothes you can change into?”

“Um.  I do, but they are in mommy’s bag.  She hasn’t unpacked anything yet, and I’m not allowed to open it up without her permission.  She says there are important things in there I don’t need to see.”

I sighed.  What kind of things did you bring in my house that your own daughter can’t see?  It’s not drugs is it?  I have no idea what kind of life Miki has lived apart from me over the last five years.  I don’t know a single thing about her or Momoko’s situation.  What I do know, I had learned from an investigator five years ago, and that was more than enough to turn my stomach.

“I don’t think it’s good to stay in wet pajamas.  Are you able to undress and wipe yourself off? It’s okay to use a towel.  I may have a shirt that might be a little big, but you can at least wear it until your mother wakes up and can find you some proper clothes to change into.”

“Mommy… says I shouldn’t ever undress unless she’s there.  Especially not around men.”

“I agree with her.  But what would you like to do?  If you decide to, I have no intention of coming inside there.  I can place a clean shirt just inside the door and you can close and lock the door until you're done changing.  Or I can try to wake up your mother.  It’s just… I don’t want to invade her privacy either.  I want you to feel that the room you are sharing is a safe space for both of you.”

Checking my watch, I was wasting a fair amount of time with her.  I just know that neither my mother or father would find it acceptable that I remained in soiled clothes.

“You won’t come in?”

“I’ll eat a thousand needles before I even think about it.”

“Um… okay.”

“Just wait there a second, okay?  I’m going to go find a shirt.  It’s one of your mommy’s from when she was younger.”

“You have one of mommy’s shirts?”

“I do.  She left some clothes here a long time ago, before you were born.  I’ll be right back, Momoko.”

Hardly anything in my apartment had changed since Miki left.  That includes all the clothes she left behind.  It took no time at all to go through the dresser drawers to find a smallish pink shirt she had gotten as a souvenir from our Hawaiian honeymoon.  There were even panties, socks and bras as well, but I don’t think they would fit Momoka at all.  

I had returned with the pink t-shirt and slid it vertically through the slight crack in the door and then laid it down after twisting my wrist.  I pulled my hand out and closed the door.

“Momoko, do you see the handle on the door?  There’s a little button you can push.  If you do it, the bathroom door will remain locked.  When you are done, you can just pull the handle down and the button will pop back out and you can open the door from the inside again.”

I heard a little metallic popping sound a moment later.

“Good job.  You can just leave your pajamas anywhere in the bathroom, okay?  Your mommy will take care of it when she wakes up if you tell her.”

“Tsubasa-san, the shirt you gave me is big.”

“I’m sorry.  It’s the smallest thing I could find that could fit you.“

“It’s okay.  I think it covers up enough.”

“That’s good.  I’m going to be heading out to work and will be locking the front door.  I don’t really get any visitors, so if anyone comes knocking, leave it to your mother to decide if she’s going to answer it, otherwise ignore it completely.  Can you do that for me?”

“I can do that!”

“Great.  Just so you know, unless your mother says otherwise, you have my permission to watch television.  I know it can be lonely or scary if she won’t wake up easily for you.  I’m also leaving some money on the kitchen table.  You can tell your mother when she wakes up that she can use it to buy you some extra clothes, or underwear, or um, a toothbrush if you need it…  I’m sorry, I kind of suck at knowing what to do for a young girl like you.”

“It’s okay, mommy says the same thing sometimes.”

I found myself chuckling at her honesty.

“I’ll be off to work then.”

“Um… have a good day at work oji-... Tsubasa-san!”

“Thanks.  Now that you told me to, I definitely will.”

I quickly finished up what I needed to do, made sure I had everything important on me, left some money on the kitchen table, and put my coffee mug in the sink before grabbing the bento in the fridge and heading out the door and to my job.



Looks like mommy’s awake.  I’m glad she waited until Pony Princess was over before she did.  I don’t always get to watch it and it’s my favorite show!  I got up from the couch, wearing the pink shirt that ojisan gave me and went to see how mommy was doing.

“Good morning mommy.  It’s already ten in the morning.”

Mommy was sitting up in the futon holding her head.


“Ojisan already went to work.”

“Did he…?  What time did you say it was again?”

“After ten, because pony princess is over.”

“You were watching television?”

“Ojisan said I had his permission.  I accidentally peed the futon, and he gave me this shirt to wear.”


Mommy felt the futon where I was sleeping and had to feel the spot where I peed.

“Where are your pajamas?”

“Ojisan said to leave them in the bathroom.  He didn’t come in or anything, he just put the shirt inside the door and showed me how to lock the bathroom door.  He also said that I can’t let anyone in the house unless you answer the door.”

“Ugh… hic.”

I walked over to where mommy was and rubbed her back.  She always feels sick when she drinks beer at night.

“Ojisan said this room is our safe space.”

“Is… that so?”

“Uh-huh.  Also, he left money on the table and said it was for buying me underwear.”

Mommy sighed and let her head droop.

“I really can’t do anything right…”

“Sure you can.  You found a nice ojisan for us to stay with.”



“No.  Nevermind.  Did he say anything else to you?”

“Um… I don’t think so.”

Mommy sighed.

“Have you eaten anything?”

“Ojisan had to go to work, so I didn’t ask him to make me anything.”

“Yeah.  It was mommy’s fault this morning.  Forgive me, okay?”

“Un.  Can I watch more television?  Pleeeeease?”

Mommy reached for me and gave me a hug.  Mommy is always like this after drinking that yucky beer.  If I didn’t take care of her, she wouldn’t make it.  When she let me go, she held onto my shoulders and looked at the pink shirt I was wearing.


“HM?  What’s Ha-wa-ii?  Is it something good?”

Mom let out a small laugh.

“It was something good, sweetie.  It’s a special island where you can go to be happy.”

“Is it expensive to go there?”

“Yeah.  Really expensive.  I only went there once a long time ago.”

“Was it with ojisan?”

I got bonked on the head softly by mommy.

“I’ll make you breakfast in a little bit.”

“Okay.  But can I watch more television?”

“You can.  Just keep the volume down.  Mommy has a bad headache because she did something stupid last night.”


I went to rush out of the room, but mommy had grabbed me by my shirt.

“Just a moment there little missy.  First we change your clothes, then you get to watch television.”

Mommy pulled out some of my clothes from our roller luggage and helped me change into them, taking away the nice soft pink shirt I was wearing after I did, then she let me go watch television!  After that, mommy went to the bathroom for a little bit and then she made me breakfast.  She also spent a little time sitting on the porch while using her phone before we went out to the store.  I got a whole bunch of new clothes!  I even got pony princess underwear and pretty striped socks with toesies!  When we were done shopping, we came back to ojisan’s apartment and mommy let me watch more television until I felt sleepy.


When I had some free time at work, just before lunchtime, I sent a text message to Miki.  It wasn’t anything specific, I was just following up on telling Miki the same thing I had told her daughter from earlier.  I explained the situation that occurred when I was having my morning cup of coffee, how her child ran to the bathroom and the subsequent meddling I had done.

『I’m surprised you still have that shirt.』

『I don’t know if your size has changed much over the last five years, but everything you left behind is still in the house.  I left money on the table for you to do some shopping to buy your daughter a few more outfits and some undergarments so that she won’t have to rely on a stranger to help her out if she has another accident in the future.  I understand being in an unfamiliar place can be stressful to a child, but as you can imagine, I don’t have any experience with children.』

『I know I forced myself on you, and again, I’m really, truly grateful, but why are you doing this much?  Just a room and some time was more than enough.』

『Children are innocent, aren’t they?  It’s not like they can choose the circumstance to which they are born.  Whatever grievances I have with you, it’s not Momoko’s fault, is it?』

『No.  It’s all my fault that I’m not good enough to take care of her on my own.』

『As long as you’re being earnest and want to do good for her, then that’s what matters.』

『You took the bento.』

『It’s been a long time since I saw an octopus weiner.』

『Just so you know, I’m not scheming anything.  I swear!  I was just… being in the apartment again had shaken me up a bit.  Before I realized it I was making one for you as if it was something completely normal for me to do.  When I had that thought, I went to put the bento in the fridge and saw beer-sama calling out to me…』

『Miki.  If you are being serious about doing better for your child, I won’t throw you and her out on the street.  I already missed my chance to do so when I didn’t close the door in your face when you showed up yesterday.  For now, just prioritize her.  I have no idea how you parent her, what you are strict about and all that, so I told her she had my permission to watch television until you woke up.』

『I appreciate that.  That child hasn’t had it easy with a mother like me.  Watching television in peace is a luxury for her.』

『She looks just like you.』

『Why do I think right now that’s about the only thing saving both of our asses?』


『Anyway.  I’ll thank you for the money again, and we will be heading out to the store in a short while to buy her some extra clothes.  When I find a job and start receiving pay, I’ll return your money back as soon as possible.  Is there anything you’d like me to make for dinner?  I’m pretty sure at least you don’t dislike my cooking.』

『Just ask your daughter what she wants to eat, or you can decide it yourself.  More than anything, it would be best if your child felt she didn’t have to be so wary of the place she’s going to temporarily be calling home.』

『There was still some leftover money from the grocery shopping yesterday.』

『Then hold onto it in case you need it.』

『I’ll keep it in case she asks for another ice cream or snack.』

『Is it safe to assume your finances aren’t good?』

『I was getting a little help from my mother from time to time over the years.  Father hasn’t let me set foot in his house since… then…  I haven’t had a job since before I quit and settled down with you after we got married.  So the kind of job I can get now, probably won’t be more than freeter work.』

『Then I just want you to answer one question for me and do not lie about it.  Are you using drugs?』

『Drugs?  Why would you think that?』

『Your daughter said she wasn’t allowed in your luggage to even get some underwear.  That there were things in there she wasn’t allowed access to without your permission.』

『Ah.  It's just important personal documents, my stamp, a mostly empty bankbook, and some prescribed medicine.  At times I’ve had to pick up and go from one place to another in a moment’s notice with her.  I couldn’t afford to have her think those things were something she could play around with and misplace.  Getting replacements is costly and time consuming.』

『Just so I don’t have to say it later, as long as you are staying in the apartment, don’t bring any drugs or men in there.』

『I’d ask how shameless a woman you think I am, but that’s a question that’s been answered already, hasn’t it?  I wouldn’t do either of those things anyway.  Even back then, I showed you that much respect.』

By that, of course she meant to say all of her extramarital affairs occurred outside of our apartment.  

『Then we’ll leave it at that.  I’m going to take lunch now and try to enjoy an octopus weiner.』


『What is it?』

『When would you like to talk?』

『Later, when it is just us, and your daughter isn’t there to hear what she shouldn’t.』

『Okay.  Enjoy lunch, and I’ll talk with Momoko about what to make for dinner.』


The bento wasn’t half bad.  It had rice, pickled vegetables, two wieners cut into the shape of an octopus, and a couple of the meatballs from the spaghetti last night.  Well, everything in the bento box went right down, so I don’t have any particular complaints.  From what I understand, the meatballs were made by Momoko-chan.  At least those might have had something like love put into them.

“Tsubasa!  I’ve got good news for you.”

Usui Nobita, from the personnel department had come to find me.

“What is it, Usui-san?”

“We have a new hire, and I’d like you to take care of showing them the ropes.”

“How is that good news?”

“Because she’s sexy as hell.  You’ve been dry for a while since your wife left you, right?  Why not try and get close to her and see what happens?”

I rubbed my forehead at his idiocy.

“Usui-san, this is a place of employment, not a dating service.”

“C’mon man.  Live a little!  Even if it’s just some flirting, it can’t hurt.”

“Flirting is just sexual harassment someone hasn’t reported yet.”

“Such a grump.  Anyway, I already talked with your section chief.   She’ll be reporting to you tomorrow for on the job training.”

And just like that, yet another problem was dropped into my lap.  It’s one thing if I’m looking for a woman, but I’m not looking for an office romance right now.  Maybe after I convince Miki to sign the divorce papers and she leaves to a place where she can take care of her daughter reliably I’ll pursue something.  But then again, it’s not like there’s no guarantee another woman won’t do the same thing to me that Miki did.

I finished up my work and when I punched out, I was walking home when I saw a cute stationery shop.  It was quite by accident that I recalled what Miki said to me in our earlier conversation over text messages.  She was worried her daughter might play with her important documents.  So… it might be worthwhile if she had something like a coloring book and crayons, wouldn’t it?

I remember loving to color books with dinosaurs and mechas when I was her age.

I entered the shop which looked like it was getting ready to close for the day’s business as it was.  

“Excuse me?”

“Hello!  Welcome to Iro-Iro Fantasia.  May I help you find something?”

The clerk who greeted me was a young woman in her early twenties.  

“Ah… yeah.  I have a relative with a little girl around four years old staying with me right now, and I don’t have much in the way of entertaining her besides a television.  I was hoping to maybe get some coloring books and crayons or whatever might be popular for a child her age.”

“We have plenty of such things.  Would you like me to show you to them?”

“Please do.”

“Then please follow me, customer-sama.”

The clerk showed me to a certain section with a number of very kira-kira books.  There were ones made by the Mouse-land company, some by Jibli–a famous Japanese animation company, and some other foreign and domestic ones that I couldn’t begin to identify.

I ended up picking up a few and browsing them, but was at a loss for what Momoko might like.

“Can… you recommend something directly?”

“Certainly.  One moment, please.”

The clerk had chosen a few coloring books, and after that, both colored markers and crayons.  Leading me to the register, standing on display on the counter in front of me was a plush animal that resembled a unicorn.

“Is this popular with children?”

“Yes.  It’s from a series called Pony Princess.  It’s very popular with girls up until ten years of age.”

I asked her to also add the plush toy to the purchase.

“Understood, your total is…”

She bagged up everything nicely, and after thanking me, she saw me out and locked the door behind me.  I don’t really know what possessed me to buy it, but it was too late to think of the reason why.  A single coloring book and box of crayons should have been enough.  Maybe I’m just soft for kids, considering I never got to have one of my own with Miki?  Not that I’m trying to play that kind of role, but perhaps this might be a good learning experience for the future for when I do have one?

When I entered my apartment, even though for the last five years there hadn’t been a response to “I’m home.”

Today there was.

“Welcome home, Tsubasa.”

The voice was that of my runaway wife come home, Miki.

I probably shouldn’t keep calling her that.  She stopped being my wife even before she left in truth, but because we hadn’t signed the divorce papers… 

“Momoko wanted curry, I hope that’s alright with you?”

“Curry?”  I sniffed the air.

“She takes it a bit milder than you prefer.”

I shook my head.

“That’s fine.  If it’s something she is happy eating, I don’t particularly mind.  Is it alright if I give her something?”

“I’m sure she’d like that.”

“You aren’t going to ask what it is?”

“I doubt you would give a child something dangerous.  It’s not like I’m in a position to spoil her, so if you want to do it, I don’t have a single reason to complain.”


“Momoko!  Tsubasa has something he wants to give you!”

Miki had raised her voice to call out to Momoko who was dressed in proper clothes and holding onto a pillow between her legs as she watched television.  I walked over to her and handed over the big black shopping bag with handles over to her.

“Um… what is it oji-... Tsubasa-san?”

“I know television is entertaining and all, but I passed by a shop thinking you might like something else to have when you get stuck with only a boring show to watch.”

Momoko took the bag and opened it.  She looked inside for a moment before pulling out a number of things.  The very first thing being the plush unicorn.


Forget about volume control for a moment.  She had immediately hugged it and spun around in a circle cutely.


Ah, no, little girl.  I didn’t have the first clue.  Please make sure to thank the clerk lady at the stationery store.


She had held out the push unicorn up in the air for Miki to see from her vantage in the kitchen.

To see a four year old girl become that excited over a simple plush doll was cathartic.  It took a number of hugs, some more twirling around, and some loud squealing before she calmed down enough to look through the rest of the bag.

“...coloring books?”

“Ah… I wasn’t sure what you would like, so I just selected a few.”


The cover had some character that looked like a blonde European princess in a blue dress with a snowy background.  I think it was one of the Mouse-land books the clerk had tried to show me.  Along with the other coloring books, one of which was a color-by-numbers type, there was also a deluxe box of crayons with the crayon sharpener built into the box, and a pack of colored markers in a plastic sleeve for organization’s sake.


Without any prompting past her loud voice, she had immediately clung to my leg with a hug.  It seems children’s love is easily purchased.  Well, I’d probably do the same if I had been given a Gundam or Masked Rider coloring book when I was that age, too.  My hand carefully pat the top of her head, letting her know it was fine and that she could do whatever she wanted with them, since they were hers now.

“Um, can I color at the table?”

“You can color wherever you want, but please don’t color on things outside the coloring books.  If you finish coloring them all, just let your mother know and I’ll pick up a few more.”


She looked cute trying to hold the box of crayons, sleeve of markers, the Frosty coloring book and her plush unicorn all at once and walk to the kitchen table.  I decided to help her out a little once she got there, putting the items on the table as she climbed up into the chair.  Once she had, she arranged everything neatly, giving her little unicorn a few pats, and opened the coloring book, asking the unicorn what colors she should start with.

Miki had also come over to the table to see her excited daughter.

“We went shopping earlier.  I managed to get three outfits, some underwear, socks, and a pair of shoes she can grow into over the next year.”

“That’s good.  The curry smells nice.”

“It’s the same old curry as always, just a little less spicy.”

“Will it be ready soon?”

“About twenty minutes.”

“Have a moment?”

She nodded.

I had her follow me to my bedroom.  I don’t know if she dared to enter it while I was at work, but I let her know which drawers had her things, and the only thing that had changed, was in the closet, to make room for a few suits and such that I needed to buy over the years, some of her dresses had been put into a cardboard box on the floor, which I opened to show her.

“I realize you are traveling light, and I have no idea if these fit you anymore, but they are your clothes…”

“Tsubasa… why did you never throw them away?”

“I just never got around to it.  I didn’t have any reason to open the drawers with your underwear, and with your clothes out of sight, it was easy to just put it all out of mind.  At least it seems like it’s not a bad thing that I did, since now you have suitable clothes to wear when searching for a job.”

“That’s right…  It’ll be a big help.”

She had stood still looking at the open closet.  After a moment she had covered her mouth with her hand and her eyes watered enough that a few tears spilled.

“Excuse me for a moment.”

She had fled my room and ran into the bathroom.  Though she probably did her best not to show any weakness, for whatever reason, small sobs could be heard from within.  It was enough to have her daughter cast a look my way, and I felt the need to address that I wasn’t a bad guy who would intentionally make her mother cry.  Even if she had done far worse to me.

I sat down at the table and let her know that her mother was just a little bit emotional at finding I had some of the clothes she had left behind.  It was probably the same kind of feeling as getting coloring books for Momoko.

“You don’t have to say it like that.  I already know you aren’t like those other misters.”

“Other misters?”

“The people me and mommy stayed with.  None of them really like me being there, and they never bought me things like a pony princess or a coloring book.  You weren’t trying to make mommy cry, she just does that sometimes.”

“Is that… so?”


Momoko wasn’t even looking at me as she said it.  She was just coloring the dress of the character in the book a pretty sky blue.  I can’t even imagine what this little girl has been through.  But for now at least, she won’t have to worry about those kinds of things.

“So you don’t like spicy curry?”

I didn’t really know what to say to her, so I just asked a random question.

“If it’s too hot, then my tongue keeps stinging after I finish.”

A reasonable concern.  I also was weak to spicy curry at that age.  Until I was about eight, my mother made it mild then put a portion aside for me, and then made it spicy for my father.

“What else do you like to eat?”

“Anything that doesn’t have too much garlic or anything with bell peppers.”

She really doesn’t like bell peppers.

“Hmm.  Your mommy is going to start looking for a place to work starting from tomorrow, so how about we get pizza for dinner so she doesn't have to cook?”


Again with the excitable voice.

“Momoko, is there a pre-school you go to?”

“Nope.  I go with mommy wherever she goes.  Except sometimes at night.  I have to sleep alone then.”

For fuck’s sake Miki… what are you putting this child through?

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that here, okay?  As long as you and your mommy are here, you won’t have to be alone at night.”

My saying that was enough to make her daughter stop coloring.

“Mommy won’t have to go to your room at night?”

I shook my head.

“...I…”  She paused.  “I thought that was why you gave me these coloring books.  I mean… you took mommy into your room just now.”

She’s no doubt intensely wary of her surroundings.

“That was only to show her the clothes she forgot to take with her a long time ago.”


“See.  Right now both you and your mommy have a lot of clothes now.  I’m sure things will get better for you both.  I already said it didn't I?  This is a safe space for you both.”

She just stared at me for a little bit and then went back to coloring.  I have no idea if she believed me yet or not.  The worst part is, I can't blame her if she didn't.