If you’re reading this and you’re neither my mother nor my student, I humbly request you to return this to the address mentioned on the first page.
But if you have been given this notebook by my mom, then, congratulations for obtaining my life’s work and my condolences, for you are now bearing my life’s work.
Uh… I think I have to start over…
Hope you’re well. Who am I? I’m a fox. Confused? Don’t worry, you’ll understand by the end. Forgive me for acting poetic when I’m not and for telling you a story you know too well. But bear with me.
There was once a hungry fox who reached a vineyard while in search of food. She stopped near one of the trees that bore ripe grapes hanging in bunches. Her mouth watered at the thought of satisfying her hunger with the luscious-looking grapes.
So she tried to catch hold of them, jumping as high as she could, but failed. They were beyond her reach. After her numerous attempts amounting to not a single grape, she was upset.
She tried to convince herself that it was better to leave the vineyard and search for food somewhere else and eventually went away.
She went back to her skulk and one of the other foxes told her to have some from their catch that day, but she paid no attention. She was deep in thought about how to reach that prize that so generously waited for her.
The fox, still unfed and hungry, went the next day and the days after to the same tree. While other trees in its vicinity might be shorter than it, she didn’t care. She wanted the grapes of that very tree. She ignored her hunger and tried different things, piling stones and jumping from their tops being her most frequent choice.
One of the foxes came to check up on her after she hadn’t appeared for a day or two. It came to see rabbits in the vicinity of the vineyard but focused on finding its friend. After little searching, it found the still body of the fox under a tall grape tree, unmoving beside a pile of rocks. She was no longer breathing and from her falls, had bruises all over. A few grapes were on the ground but none where she lay.
“All you had to do was leave your delusions aside long enough to live.”
Now, why am I telling you this story? Because I am the fox. I am a fool that chased a far fetched dream that was beyond my capabilities and understanding.
But I don’t wish to leave my aspirations and just ‘go on living’. That is why I’m, let’s just say, lost. And I will be lost until I find my way, hidden amongst the grove of dreams I kinder.
“And how many times have you read this for you to say it word by word?” Hanae takes her eyes off the notebook and closes it.
“I don’t know… ten-fifteen times?” Akira shrugs with a playful smile.
“No, seriously, how many times?” Hanae pushes back from the restaurant table and takes in the bustle in it. A waitress arrives to ask if they needed anything more.
“A strawberry shortcake for my friend there,” Akira replies promptly.
“No, wait, I can’t! I have a compet-”
“Don’t worry! You’ll burn it by the end of today! It’s you we’re talking about!”
Hanae sighs and folds her hands. “Now, would you tell me why you made me read that?”
“What- You know why I showed-”
“I’ve read this take on the fable before, right? In that article about you?”
“No more ‘but’s. Just tell me! What’s the problem?”
“There is no problem! I just got excited seeing this somewhere and…”
“I thought I’d finally know what made the editor choose me…”
“You know… It’s been years since you got offered that contract! Why would you still doubt yourse-”
“I’m not doubting myself! I’m just…”
“Then what? You got the contract because it was good, right?” Hanae says, fuming, “Even if people around you don’t find something in it, the judges of the competition did and you got the contract! So quit being mopey about it!”
Akira tries to stop her, but Hanae continues her rambling.
“If you really need to know, you’ll ask the editor, judge or whatever and you’ll get an answer! If you haven’t done so in so long it means you don’t want to in the first place-”
“Here is your order, okyaku-sama,” the waitress says, placing a plate with a pastry on the table.
This helps Hanae snap back to herself and notice a few people at the neighbouring tables staring at them. She averts her eyes starts fiddling with her hair nervously.
“Haha… good thing there aren’t too many people around,” Akira says with a snicker.
“Just shut up now, okay?” Hanae says as she takes a bite of the cake.
“And about me not wanting to know it, I did try. But the only answer I got was ‘You need to find it yourself’… Like that’s ever going to happen!”
“Why does it bother you so much, Akira? The company doesn’t bother you about it. So?”
“I just hear it so much! ‘It’s just a fable’ they say! I- it is and all I did was change the ending, but there should be something in it that made them choose this over the ones the other participants wrote that day…”
“Were they good?”
“Yeah, but I could see that they were all about the same as mine.”
Hanae takes another bite. “Then? Just stop worrying!”
“Hmm…” Akira rests her head on her hand. “But-”
“Just finish that… That should be enough for dragging you here, right?”
Hanae puts the strawberry that she had saved into her mouth and sets the fork down.“Hmm? Enough? You’ve got to be joking, right?”
Hanae snickers. “I never asked for a trade! You said you’d treat me to anything I like and I said ‘okay’.”
“Suits you! That’s what you get for teasing and making fun of me all the time!”
“You still want to know, huh?”
“That? Yeah! Why wouldn’t I?”
“Then talk to Matsumoto. That idiot can twist everything he finds! He would probably say something dumb and-“
Akira laughs .“Your image of him is so trashy!”
“He is trashy! Well… sometimes…”
“Alright, I’ll send this to him and see.”
“Hmm? You already have his contacts?”
“I wondered why Makoto-san gave me two numbers. Turned out one of them was Matsumoto-kun’s!”
“Did you… call him before?”
“No, I asked Makoto-san. Her playfulness gave it away.”
“I see. Well, good luck with that.”
“Hmm? What was that about?”
“I told you. Nothing!”
“What is it, Hanae?”
“Nope. Nothing.” Hanae takes a peep into her bag and pulls out her phone. “Oh, look! Fuuji-kun wants to talk!”
“Let’s see how much of it was a lie!” Akira says reaches for Hanae’s phone.
Hanae puts it back in her bag and stands up. “Oh, well, thanks for the treat, Akira. I really really have to go now,” She says evasively. “So…thanks again. Bye.” She swiftly walks to the exit door, fixing her eyes on the ground.
“Huh? Wait, Hanae-” Akira sees Hanae exit. “Seriously, she can’t even lie properly! Or maybe she was just shy because of all the people looking at her back then?”
She signals the waitress. “Guess I’ll just have to see for myself what that ‘good luck with that’ was about.”