A few days later, Okusan and her daughter left home in the morning, telling us they were off to visit a relative in Ichigaya. Classes hadn't resumed yet, so K and I remained behind as house sitters. I didn't feel like reading, nor like taking a stroll, so I simply rested my elbows on the edge of the brazier, propped my chin in my palms, and allowed my mind to wander. There was no sound from K, who was in the adjoining room. It was so quiet that neither registered the other's presence. This was nothing out of the ordinary for us, and I didn't give it a second thought.
Around ten, K suddenly opened the fusuma and appeared before me. Standing on the threshold, he asked what I was thinking about. I hadn't really been thinking about anything. Or if I had been, then I suppose the young lady of the house, as usual, was the object of my musings. If I were dwelling on her, then I was also dwelling on Okusan, and my thoughts of the ladies, of late, were no longer separable from K himself, whom I couldn't push out of the picture. I'd come to regard K, in some sense, as a nuisance, but I couldn't very well report this to his face. Rather, I continued to look back at him in silence. As I did so, he determinedly entered my room and seated himself before the brazier. I immediately removed my elbows from the edge and nudged it a bit in his direction.
Uncharacteristically, K initiated a conversation. Where in Ichigaya, he wondered, had Okusan and her daughter gone. I told him I thought they were visiting an aunt. K asked in turn who this aunt was. I informed him that this aunt, too, was married to a military man. Then he asked why they'd gone so soon, as women customarily waited until the fifteenth before making New Year's rounds. All I could say to this was that I didn't know.