Chapter 1 - The Cream-Colored Girl

Edwin Arnold had never been able to get the better of that girl. Not even once. He was confident in his physical strength and thought himself fairly sharp to boot. Despite that, he was beset with a losing streak that left him at a loss for words.

Not much has changed since that day two years ago...


The ticking of the grandfather clock served as a reminder that time continued to pass inside the cafe. Yet the 19-year-old Edwin paid it no mind and hummed to himself in his usual spot by the counter.

'Dang, it's perfect!'

He had fully incorporated the details from his interviews and proofread the article three times already. He continued to hum as he hastily made his final marks.

If his article could withstand the scrutiny of the afternoon's editorial meeting, he'd finally have a chance to be published. If he was going to show them what he was really made of, he had to make sure everything was perfect.

He raised his head and peered over the counter.

'...What do you think, Agnes?'

'Heck if I know. Who cares?'

As she yawned, her cream-blonde hair waved around.

Agnes' curls swayed and bounced as if they were dancing. There was no wind to tousle them, and yet they moved--just as they had two years ago.

'Why'd he have to come barging in here so early in the morning? We're not even open yet!' She quibbled to herself as she dried the glass in her hand and placed it back into the cupboard.

'Come on, take a look! I mean...please look over it for me. You know, it's pretty rare for a newbie reporter like me to even earn a shot at getting their own column, right?!'

Edwin pressed his hands together and bowed his head.

Agnes silently stared down at him.

She had long grown used to how overly formal he was toward her despite her being two years his junior. 'Geez, this is why he is so annoying,' she thought to herself. Relenting, she scanned the page as she dried another glass.

'Impressive work, ace. There're three spelling mistakes. Oh--isn't the date wrong?'

'Ah, I see it now...' Edwin thought. He re-collected his red pen, and began to make his corrections.


'It's not like fixing those will help you much.'

'What? If you've got something to say, then just say it! I'm putting my all into this!'

'Chill out. It's just a cooking column...'

'So what? An article is an article!'

'I guess everyone starts somewhere... Still, Ed, I'm not sure you've got what it takes to be a reporter.'

She stood and muttered to herself about Edwin while he toiled away at his corrections. 'You're a slow writer, you have no attention to detail, and you're a bit of a numbskull to boot. Sure, you passed the paper's preliminary exam thanks to my help, but isn't it a stretch to think you could be a full-blown reporter just because of that?'

She immediately regretted speaking up. Edwin collected his draft, stood, and grinned a wide smile.

'Whatever. Being a righteous reporter is cool!'

He told Agnes to expect some good news and bounded out the door leaving the room silent--save the chime of the door's bell.


'How very Edwin...' Agnes shrugged. On the counter next to her, a drowsy black cat let out a yawn.

第1回 クリーム色の少女

エドウィン・アーノルドがその少女に勝てたことは一度としてなかった。少なくとも覚えている限りは一度もだ。腕っ節には自信があったし、これでもそこそこ頭も切れる……つもりなのだが、出会った瞬間から今日まで、ぐぅの音も出ないほど負け続けている。

そう、2年前のあの日からずっとだ。


大時計がコチコチ鳴って、その年季の入った喫茶店に今も時間は進んでいる事を知らせている。でも19歳になったエドウィンは、そんな事にはお構いなしにそのいつものカウンター席でウンウンと唸っていた。

「いやいや完璧だろう、今日の記事は」もう3回も見直したし、取材してきたコメントもちゃんと盛り込んだ。ペンでカリカリとアンダーラインを引きつつ、エドウィンはもう一度唸った。

午後の編集会議で通れば、ようやく自分の書いた物が紙面に掲載されるのだ。今日という今日は手が抜けなかった。ここは一つ、万全を期すとしようじゃないか……。

エドウィンは上目遣いでカウンターの先を伺った。「……アニエス、どう思う?」

「さあね、しらない」

一つあくびをしながら、クリーム色の髪が横切っていく。アニエスの2年前と何も変わらないその癖っ毛は、動きに合わせてくるくると巻いて、風も無いのに踊っているかのようだ。

まだ営業時間じゃないんだけどなー、どうしてこの人は朝っぱらから押しかけてるのかしら。そんな事を呟きつつ、手にしたグラスの水気を素早くふき取って食器棚へと返していく。 「いいから見てくれ! ……いや、お願いします見てください。知ってるだろ? 新米記者の俺が コラムを取るチャンスなんだって!!」エドウィンはぴたっと手を合わせて頭を下げた。「……………………………………」

エドウィンは2つ年下の自分にも、(てら)いもなくそんな事ができるのをアニエスは知っていた。だから困るんだよね、もう。また1つ洗いあがったコップを取りつつ、アニエスはチラリと視線を走らせて言った。 「スペルミスが3箇所もあるわ。わぁびっくり。

あと日付が間違ってるんじゃない?」なるほどな。エドウィンは即座に赤ペンに持ち替えてチェックを始めた。


「……イマサラだけど」

「なんだよ。言いたい事があるならいえ!俺はこのコラムに命賭けてるんだ!」

「お料理コラムだけどね」

「お料理コラムでも記事は記事だぜ」

「まあね。……でも、エドに記者の仕事は向いてないと思うんだ」だって記事書くの遅いし、注意不足だし。鈍感じゃない。私が特訓してあげたおかげで通信社の試験にパスできたのはいいけど、そんなので記者をやっていく、なんて無理じゃないの?

アニエスはずっと前から不思議に思っていたのだ。どうみても勉強が得意じゃないエドが、どうして記者なんて目指したのか。

でもすぐに後悔した。エドが原稿をトントンと揃えニヤリと笑って立ち上がったからだ。「フン……正義の記者ってカッコイイだろ!!」

朗報を期待しててくれと言い残したとき、エドの姿はもうなく、ただカラカラと扉の鈴が鳴っていた。


はいはい、そんな事だろうと思った。肩をすくめたアニエスの傍で、寝ていた黒猫がブニャーと鳴き声を上げた。


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