Summary: Not a big fan of weddings, the missing groomsman bails on his speech. The event organizer just wants her proposal. But life has other plans. [AU]
Yay! Here's an update before I start my finals week. I just want to put out a thank you to those who reviewed my last update, your words were so kind and inspiring. Your words help me want to finish up a chapter and get one uploaded as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoy this one just as much as the last chapter. Don't forget to leave me your thoughts!
Disclaimer: I do not own GALS! nor any of its characters. Neither do I own the song "Hanging By A Moment" by Lifehouse.
"Hanging by a Moment" by Lifehouse
There's Nothing Else To Lose
The bright neon signs were just as lively as the noise coming from inside the pub, which she could hear from where she stood just outside. She wasn't supposed to go, really, but Rei insisted that Ran would love to have them at her birthday celebration, and Tatsuki really wanted an excuse to go out and meet new people, so she agreed. Except now, Tatsuki bailed on her and she's standing alone outside a pub for a party where she most likely didn't know more than half of the people there in the cold winter night, probably looking silly to the smokers around her.
A buzzing sensation startles her, and she realizes that she received a message on her phone. She takes the phone from her coat pocket and sees that Rei had texted her.
He was looking for her, she supposed, and it kind gave her a warm feeling to know that he was expecting her. Taking in a deep breath to brace herself what's to come, she makes her way up to the few wooden steps until she's in front of the door. The music grew louder the closer she came to the door, and she braces herself for the possible catastrophe that seems to be happening inside as she grips the door handle. And just as she was ready to pull the handle to open the door, a force not hers pushes the door towards her, and unable to react, the wooden frame hits her head and she falls back from the impact.
"Ow!" she winces, massaging the spot on her forehead through her brown beanie.
"Oh shit," says a familiar voice. "I'm so sorry, Aya!"
She looks up to see a very apologetic Yuuya towering over her small frame, and behind him was Rei looking curiously at what had just occurred. The incident, and her clumsiness, makes her blush, embarrassed at the way she made an entrance. Nonetheless, she accepts Yuuya's hand which he offers to help her get up.
"Are you okay?" Yuuya asks worriedly.
Aya smiles. "I'm fine, Yuuya. Don't worry."
Except that she winces when she touches the part of her head that made impact with the door through under her beanie. There was no wound, she figures, when she saw no blood on her fingertips, but she can feel that a bump was going to emerge soon. As she examines her own head, she doesn't see how Rei frowns at the situation before his eyes.
"I'll go get some ice inside," he says casually before making his way once again inside.
"Great idea," says Yuuya. "Here, Aya. Let's sit here while we wait for Rei." He ushers her to one of the tables outside that were unoccupied, placing down the beer he was holding on the table while he takes out a seat for Aya. "Again, I'm really sorry, Aya. Hope I didn't do some permanent damage."
She laughs lightly at the penitent man and at how guilty he looks when really, when to her no damage had been done, at least not among friends. "Yuuya, I'm fine," she says at the man protectively standing beside her. "It's probably just gonna be a small bump that'll subside in a day or two."
"Still," the blonde insists.
Just then, Rei reemerges with a towel full of small ice cubes. She smiles as he approaches and she reaches out to take the makeshift ice bag, but he ignores her hand and places the towel directly on the sore spot on her forehead, slightly sliding away her beanie for direct skin contact. The sudden feel of an icy sensation makes her wince, but she stays put.
"Thanks for getting the ice, Rei," says Yuuya.
A cellphone rings and Yuuya takes out his mobile device from his pocket. "I've got to take this call," he says as he makes his way down the steps of the pub and settles somewhere by the sidewalk before he picks up the phone.
Left alone, she feels his presence even more especially with the proximity between closing in with how he keeps the ice settled on her forehead. Aya doesn't know why this makes her uneasy having him this close, but at the same time she feels relieved to have him there at such an unfamiliar place with an equally unfamiliar crowd. He hasn't talked about his date since it happened, and neither did she bring it up during the times he had lunch over at her office (Tatsuki kept prying, but they've come to learn just how well Rei can ignore Tatsuki's prodding).
"So are you just naturally clumsy, or do you just have a knack for memorable entrances?" he asks jokingly (even though the evenness of his voice doesn't give it away), breaking the silence.
She blushes, a little bit embarrassed. "Would you believe if I said a little bit of both?" she tries to make light of it.
Aya sees him grin through her lashes. "I wouldn't put it past you."
There's a relief she feels when he removes the ice from her head, the cold it leaves slowly subsiding and there's numbness on the spot where the door had hit her. She rubs the spot where the ice used to be, and then pulls down the beanie to cover hear head once again.
"Better?" he asks.
She smiles at him, thankful. "Much."
"Shall we go inside? Maybe this time I open the door, yeah?" he smirks. "We wouldn't want a bump on top of that bump."
She frowns at the reminder of her clumsiness. "Fine. Go be the gentleman and open the door."
So he leads her to the entrance and opens the door for her as he promised, and she enters the pub filled with people drinking and chatting, several people dancing to the music, others were playing pool and darts, a few were keeping tabs on the score of the baseball game on the mounted television screen, and everyone was generally trying to have a good time.
"Is Miyu and Yamato here?" she inquires while they continue to make their way through the crowd following Rei's lead.
Visibly, he shakes his head. "Miyu has been under the weather lately and Yamato's out on a official business."
He doesn't see her frown as he continues to walk in front of her. "So basically I don't know anyone here. Fun."
"Well there's Yuuya," he offers consolingly. "And Ran? And me."
She raises an eyebrow he can't see. "Oh, so you're going to entertain me this whole night?"
"Of course not," he says.
And then there was that disappointing feeling again she can't quite place. If you asked her, she wouldn't be able to explain to you why she felt disappointed, only that she was. It keeps happening a lot lately with Rei like that one time a few months ago he'd cancelled on a lunch because Hana had suddenly called him up to meet, or the fact that he still hadn't taken her up on that beer.
"I have other friends too, you know," he turns to grin at her when they finally reach a free table, and she knows he can see that annoyed look she was making. "I'm just kidding. You'll be fine. Just make friends."
She takes off her coat without replying to him and places it over one of the free chairs before pulling it out so she can sit.
"Hey, I was wondering where you guys went," says a familiar voice.
"Hey, Yuuya," Aya was only too happy to say, finally another familiar person in a crowd filled with strangers.
"Hey!" calls another and they turn to the opposite direction where they see a fiery corn-haired woman approach them, pushing aside other passing pub patrons like she couldn't care less, hands up in a exaggerated waves. "Where have you—Oh, hi, Aya! I'm glad you made it."
Aya smiles and stands up to receive a very friendly hug. "Happy birthday," greets Aya, taking out an item covered in birthday wrappers and handing it over to Ran.
Ran gasps. "A gift? You shouldn't have."
"But really, she's glad you did," Rei points out.
The birthday girl glares at her friend. "You didn't need to Aya, but thank you. And weren't you supposed to come with your friend?"
"Tatsuki couldn't make it, sorry," Aya replied.
But Ran waved off her apology as if it were hanging in the air. "Don't worry about it. Be sure to enjoy yourself, okay! Rei, get her a drink!"
Aya is flustered with all the hospitality going around from people she barely knew. "It's okay, I can go down to the bartender myself—"
"What do you want?" Rei asks, unperturbed.
"Um," the events planner mumbled. "Nothing too strong, please. Maybe a cocktail?"
Rei gives a curt not and turns around toward the direction of the bar.
"So, enjoy, the drinks are free flowing until midnight. I will come back later, I just have to make my way to other guests," laughs Ran who was already making her way to some group of people over by the bar where Rei was like the busy host she was.
"I will just make a trip to the men's comfort room, okay?" says Yuuya as Aya sat down again, taking off her beanie and placing it on top of the table, as well as her purse. "I'll be quick!"
Aya nods as she watched the golden haired man make his way past the crowd to another portion of the pub she's not familiar with, disappearing as he went deeper in sight. And as soon as he's out of sight, she notices an unknown presence come up to her.
"Hey, gorgeous," a stranger says, and she turns to her side to see a blonde man, slightly older than her, lean over her chair, coming to close for comfort, in her opinion. "Need some company?"
The way his face dips closer to hers makes Aya extremely uncomfortable, and she feels the need to say something but before she can even find her voice, the stranger is pulled back by someone else.
"She doesn't need your company," says a deep voice Aya has grown accustomed to, and his arrival, a glass of her cocktail in tow, makes her feel relieved. "I think you should stop making the lady uncomfortable, buddy."
The blonde was visibly annoyed at the arrival of Rei, but he doesn't aggravate the situation, opting to move on to another possible pick-up for the night. Aya breathes out a huge breath of relief when he's gone and Rei takes his seat beside hers, putting down her cocktail in front of her.
"You must give Takato a hard time fending off those kinds of guys from you," comments Rei as he takes the beer bottle he earlier placed on the table before getting Aya a drink on the bar. "And from keeping you from getting hit by doors."
"Oddly enough, that doesn't happen quite as often as you think," admits Aya with a small smile as she takes a little sip of her cocktail.
"Either!" she laughs.
"What doesn't happen often?" Yuuya asks as he resurfaces.
"Me getting hit on by people in a bar," Aya says cheekily, sipping her cocktail. "And getting hit by doors in general."
Yuuya laughs as he took his seat. "Maybe you should come to bars more often. Life seems to get pretty exciting for you."
"I'll head over there for a while," says Rei, gesturing to Ran over at the bar who was talking to a couple of her friends. "Going to some friends. You going to be alright here for a while without me?"
The question was directed to Aya. "No, go and enjoy!" she says, not wanting to be the girl he'd have to babysit all night. "I promise I'll stop being bumped by doors."
"And I'll keep her from getting hit on by random guys," smirks Yuuya, putting his arm around her shoulders in a protective manner.
Rei gives him a look, and she can't quite read it—a change in expression in his deep brown eyes when his best friend puts an arm around her. She passes it off as him being annoyed at his friend's overly playful antics.
"So, how have you been, Yuuya?" asks Aya once Rei was out of sight, turning to face the blonde for ease of conversation.
He shrugs casually. "You know the usual, been busy with work, and the wedding, and—"
"I meant," says Aya, making her voice louder to be heard over the music sung by one of the pub goers in the karaoke machine. "With her?"
He raises an eyebrow suspiciously, and a rather worried expression is painted on his face. "W-what are you talking about?"
She moves her gaze over to the corn-haired girl over at the bar chatting with Rei and two other blonde women, both of whom were shorter than Ran. He follows her gaze finally realizing whom she was referring to, and she notices the relief that overcomes him. One of the blondes had pink highlights and similar features with Ran, (she's seen her a couple of times, and remembers that it's one of the sisters of the groom, the youngest one) and the other had dirty blonde hair at shoulder length, and she notices how Rei would let his hand rest on the small of her back, listening to their conversation and laughing at the jokes Ran makes.
"I didn't know Rei liked to be surrounded by blondes." She hopes she sounded more like she's joking rather than fishing. And it look like she achieved the tone when he gives her a small snicker of approval.
"So Rei told you about her, huh?"
She shakes her head. "He doesn't need to," she says. "I also work for Miyu and Yamato, so I've heard stories."
"Ah," he says, taking a swig of his beer that she thought was his way of making it easier to talk about the topic. "It's the past, and she's moved on."
"Sometimes the past tends to haunt us," she says. "But you're avoiding her."
"No, I'm not," he tries to deny miserably, chugging down the remnants of his beer. She gives him a knowing look, and he turns to look steal a glance over where the subject of their conversation was. "Fine, maybe I am."
Aya turns as well, finding her excuse to look over the group having a conversation at the bar. The short-haired blonde now had her arm wrapped around Rei's waist, while his was over her shoulder. The woman whispers something in Rei's ears, and he grins at whatever she says. Suddenly, Aya finds her throat dry and with no more cocktail to quench it.
"Do you want to talk about it?" offers Aya finally, changing her gaze from the small group to Yuuya. "You can tell me anything."
Yuuya's eyes snap back to her. "She talked to me a couple of weeks ago. Said she had something to say," he says trying to level his voice. "Basically she told me everything she should have years ago."
"And did it help?"
He shrugs, letting his shoulders fall limply. "I made another woman mad because of it," he says with a hollow laugh. "I had this date, and she's upset I stood her up for my ex. I haven't been able to talk to her since. I think I messed it up pretty badly with her."
Wait, Aya thought. This sounded oddly familiar. Too familiar, in fact.
"Oh my god," she says suddenly. He looks at her and his reaction to her reaction made him realize that she knew. She pieced it all together. "You and Ma—"
Reaching forward to cover her mouth with his hand, he nearly topples over the beer bottles on the table. His action receives some stares from patrons around them, including some of their friends over at the bar particularly giving them a curious brow. Realizing how it all looked to others, he retracted his hand leaving a rather surprised Aya speechless. Aya did not see this coming… at all.
"You and Mami?" she asks again, this time in hushed, but pitched, tones. "Oh my god, you and Mami?"
"Okay," hushes Yuuya, his face contorted in guilt for accidentally revealing what was supposed to be a huge secret. "Stop saying it already. Yes, me and her."
Her mouth remains agape at his admission, slumping back into her seat, eyes blinking. "How long?" she finally manages to say.
Yuuya bites his cheek, considering his next words. "A few months now," he admits. "Look, it's not something I really want to talk about right now."
She watches his steal a glance over at the bar where the other four got back to their conversation. "Okay," she mumbles, watching Rei whisper something to the blonde girl wrapped around his arms and sees her laughing at whatever it was he said. "I understand."
"Anyway," says Yuuya trying to break the awkwardness that came about from the earlier topic of Mami. "You want me to get you another round of beer?"
Aya snaps her eyes back at the blonde beside her. "How about song karaoke songs?" she offers gesturing at the empty mini stage over to her right. "I heard you used to sing back in high school?"
Yuuya's face falters at the memory. "That was a lifetime ago," he says. "Plus, that mini stage is just for show. Nobody really wants to do karaoke here in front of judgmental and drunk pub patrons."
"Then how about a dance?" she asks over the upbeat country song playing in the background.
He laughs as if it's the silliest thing he's heard in his life. "Oh no, no, no. You wouldn't want me dancing."
"Because his skills as a sweet talker doesn't necessarily translate to sweet moves on the dance floor," interrupts a certain brunette with a cheeky smile. He comes out from behind Aya, his own beer in his hand and bringing two more bottles with him for the other two. "Hi, I'm Masato. A friend of the Kotobuki family."
Blinking, she stares at the newly arrived Masato. "Uh, hi. I'm… Aya?"
"You're not sure?"
"Sorry," she says, shaking her head. "You surprised me."
He smiles charmingly. "Sorry about that. But nice to meet you, Aya. I've heard so many things about you from Rei."
She furrows her brows. "Have you now?"
"All good things!" Masato promises. "You're really much prettier in person, you know?"
"Ah, another charmer."
He bows his head as if he's taken back to olden times. "Now where were we at trying to convince Yuuya to dance?"
The reminder causes her to shift her gaze back to the best man who had managed to stay quiet during the whole exchange. He switches from Aya to Masato, both of whom had a mischievous glint in their eyes, worrying him. "Oh no, I know what you're planning. Nope, not going to happen."
But then a familiar track comes on, a more current and upbeat song, that they're all sure they've each heard in the radio over the past couple of months. Masato starts with small movements, swaying his torso from side to side, his movements infectious enough to cause Aya to stand from her seat and start swaying to the beat. They both hold out a hand for Yuuya who leans back on his chair, hands up in the air in defiance, but they were not taking no for an answer so they each grab an arm, pulling him off from his seat and dragging the blonde to the small space on the opposite side of the bar where a few other people they didn't know were willing to dance in public.
It starts with small steps, with Aya taking both of Yuuya's hands, alternately pulling and pushing them to the movement of her feet, swaying against they beat and completely not caring that they look absolutely ridiculous. Masato, who was dancing around them, was pulling out random dance moves from different decades that didn't match the song that was blasting through the speakers. At one point, Masato grabs Yuuya by the hips, and the latter jumps back at what he considered was an assault, and Masato forces it to sway.
"You two are being silly!" he tries to shout over the blaring sounds while he's refusing to melt into their dance moves.
But the other two were not deterred. Instead, Aya pulls Yuuya into her and she tips her toes so she can reach his ear and tells him, "The world isn't going to wait for you to get back on track and keep up, Yuuya. The world is moving on, and so should you."
Suddenly he's still, not resisting the movements but not following them either. Aya stops for a while too, giving the blonde a soft but knowing smile and a small squeeze in the hands.
"Come on, Yuuya!" urges Masato, who's now dancing behind the older blonde in an attempt to display some break dancing moves (to which other dancers around are clear to avoid). "Have fun with us!"
Aya follows up with small curl in her lip and a raise in her brow, waiting for the blonde to make his move, until finally he sighs, relaxing first his shoulders and then his back, making small movements that could, if you look closely enough, resemble the ones Masato and Aya earlier made. So Aya takes is as her cue to lift his arms as if he were a puppet, and this time there was no resistance as Yuuya made offbeat movements with his feet.
For the next few songs they dance with their uncoordinated and silly moves, not caring that most other patrons around were either amused or entertained by their lack of dancing skills. It was fine, because it seems like Yuuya was having a good time now, dancing without the need of Masato or Aya to drag him around or hold his arms. Aya considers this a victory.
"Thank you," whispers Masato when he twirls Aya, pulling him to his chest as if they were in a ballroom.
"For Yuuya," he answers. "I can't remember the last time he enjoyed a party without getting drunk to numb his feelings."
She smiles and he twirls her out, and she spins expecting to find Yuuya when she turns around, but then someone else grabs her hand and holds her by her waist to keep her from tumbling, and the touch is electrifying around her fingers that she wonders how she forgot, for a few minutes, that he was in the same room as she is.
"Woah there," his gravelly voice says, settling her to her feet. "You guys seem to be having a lot of fun over here."
She meets his brown gaze and his wonderfully perfect grin, and he's still holding her hand when she realizes that their faces just a few inches away from each other. He lets go of the grip on her back first once she's regained her balance, and they he releases her hand while he continues to smile at her. "I didn't know you had mad moves on the dance floor," Rei jokes.
She swallows a lump on her throat as she wipes the sweat dripping on her forehead. "A talent I reserve for a special occasion."
"And you got Yuuya to dance," he adds.
She looks over her shoulders and sees that Yuuya is sill dancing with Masato, and another blonde girl, Ran's sister, joins them. "Well, it wasn't that hard."
"I hardly believe that."
"Well, you'd be surprised at the things I can do," she says proudly.
"I'm pretty sure I will," he grins.
And they stand there awkwardly, seconds longer than she would have wanted, not knowing what to say or what to ask him next while he stands there casually, watching his friends enjoy the night.
"I should get back to my drink," she finally says, ducking to get around him and back to the table where an empty cocktail glass awaits her. He follows her, and she knows because somehow his presence is too palpable for her, and too overwhelming.
"Seems you're all out," he says when they get back to the table. "Let's go to the bar and get you another one."
The mention of the bar makes her hesitate, unsure is she wants to join the conversation composed of him, Ran and the girl he's got his arms wrapped around for almost half the time she's been there. "Um, maybe I should get going anyway," she makes an excuse that isn't really true. "I have to be somewhere early tomorrow," which wasn't a lie, she did have plans for tomorrow morning.
Rei frowns, and there was flicker in his eyes that came and went so fast she figures she must have imagined it.
"What about one last drink?" he offers instead.
"I'm not sure…"
"Just one," he insists, and he had his hand outstretched for her to take. "Come on."
She relents, and she doesn't know why she found it so hard to say no to him, not wanting to face the idea that maybe she still wants to spend some more time with him.
So they make their way to the bar, finding one empty stool which he offers to her and she takes it, letting him stand by her side. Ran and the other blonde wasn't in sight, so she figured they must have gone back to their table. He gestures the bartender, and he makes an order for each of them, not taking long for the bartender to give them their drinks. He clanks his bottle with her glass and takes a big swig while she drinks a fair amount of the sweet cocktail, feeling her chest heat up from the intake.
"So," she starts when he doesn't, tapping the glass she held in her hands. Hesitating, she blurts, "Tatsuki's going to be annoyed that he missed his chance to meet your girlfriend. Hana, was it?"
He takes another sip of his beer before answering her. "Tatsuki's too much of a gossip. That shouldn't be good for him."
She feels her world become smaller when he doesn't deny who the girl is.
She offers a weak laugh she hopes didn't sound too half-hearted, "Well, he lives for the dirty secrets." She bit her lip before asking again, "I guess that first date must have gone well seeing as how you've brought her here."
He shrugs looking at her, and she instantly regrets that she asked because she's not sure she can control the expressions she's making. "We've gone out on a couple of other dates, you know, getting to know you and all. But she's Ran's friend to begin with so," he trails, letting her fill in the blanks.
She didn't know what to say after that, so she brings her glass to her lips, taking small sips at a time, eyeing glances at him but never for too long.
"Thank you, by the way," he says.
She looks at him, finding his gaze still fixed on hers. "For what?"
"For coming," he answers simply. "I… I'm glad that I have other friends here."
She looks at him funnily, not fully understanding what he meant, but he shrugs so she doesn't ask, simply nodding instead.
"I should really go now," she finally says when she finishes her drink, wanting the awkwardness to end. She hops down the stool and starts making her way back to where she sat earlier with Yuuya to get her purse, coat and beanie, and he follows her as she does.
She slings her purse over her shoulder before putting on her coat, and finally her beanie. "Please tell Ran and the others that I went ahead," she says, turning to Rei. "Good night, Rei."
He smiles, his hands reaching out and she blushes as it closes in on her face, not knowing what he was about to do. His fingers grab the edge of her beanie, tugging it lower for her, his fingertips slightly brushing against her pale skin making her heart skip a beat where it had no business skipping. They linger on her skin for what she thinks is a couple of seconds longer than they should, but she instantly misses them when he takes his fingers back, pocketing his hands to his sides.
"Good night, Aya."
The trip back to her apartment was warm on her face, and she's sure it was because of earlier's encounter since the night air kept her hands freezing inside her coat's pockets. When she gets home, still dazed form the events of Ran's birthday, she doesn't instantly notice that Takato was there waiting for her. They've already made their apologies from their previous fight, and they've both tried to avoid the topic of Aya going back to studying.
"You're here," she says approaching him to give him a peck on the cheek. "You didn't say you were coming over."
"I was going to surprise you," he replies, his tone even. "I didn't know you went out."
She smiles, taking a seat beside him on her couch. "I was going to Yamato's sister's birthday party, remember? I told you about it last night."
"Ah," Takato says, letting Aya lean against his chest. "Right."
"Tonight was quite fun, actually. I got Yuuya to dance, and I met Masato for the first time. I also saw the girl Rei's dating. Tatsuki's gonna wish he came—"
"Tatsuki didn't come with you?"
She shakes her head from under his chin. "He couldn't. Backed out at the last minute."
She hears him sigh, but she guesses it's because he's tired. "About tomorrow's breakfast with my parents," he starts and she nods from beneath him. "Maybe we shouldn't bring up your work that much," he says, a tone of hesitance in his voice. "And maybe we shouldn't bring up about your plans to study again."
Pulling herself apart from him, she turns to face him. "Why not?" Takato's parents weren't the easiest people to deal with she had to admit. They're a bit uptight and they always had a clear plan for their son, similar to her own actually. "Are they still disappointed with my decisions?"
Takato frowns. They've had this conversation before.
"They just don't understand how you can leave such a lucrative job for whatever it is that you do," he says, and bites his tongue quickly regretting the words that come out of their mouth when they did. He sees the hurt look on her face and he sighs, fixing the glasses on the bridge of his nose. "Look I'm not trying to pick a fight—"
"And yet we always seem to fight whenever you bring up my job whatever it is," she says angrily, trying to bite back the tears forming on her eyes. "I know that you're disappointed in me, I see it in your eyes all the time. But I thought you'd love me enough to support me."
"I do love you," he says immediately, reaching out to hold her hands and she doesn't pull away. "But you have to admit, it just doesn't seem logical that you chose to leave your job."
She clenches her fists under his touch. "It's doesn't have to make sense. I'm happy doing what I do."
Takato leans forward. "It's not always about happiness, Aya. In this day and age we also have to be practical. How am I supposed to support you when you—"
She turns her eyes to his, her cheeks red from frustration. "That!" she screams. "That's what's wrong with this whole situation. Why does your support have to be conditioned on something?" She pulls her hands away from his, and stands up pacing away from him. "If that's how you choose to support then you should just stop!"
The air is too thick for Aya, suddenly her senses were on hyper alert that even his swallows she can hear.
"You want me to stop?"
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," she says, weariness in her voice. Her hands move to her face, pressing against her eyes and gripping her hair. "I want to you to stop."
His eyes doesn't leave her, following her movements as she falls down sitting on her calves. "You can't talk to me about it," he says softly. "But you can talk about it to him."
She looks up to him, narrowing her eyes. "What?"
"Don't do that," she says, squeezing her eyes closed. "That's not fair."
He stands up now too, walking behind the couch, leaning against its back for support. "How can I help you if you keep getting mad at me every time we try to figure out what you're going to do with your life?"
"That's the problem, Takato," she breathes out. "You think that there's a problem to fix. You think I'm a problem that you have to fix—"
"That's not true—"
"It is!" she exclaims, standing back up. Her hands run through her dark tresses in frustration. "It is," she says again, softer this time. "Do you know how hard it is to always feel like the girlfriend your boyfriend always needs to fix? You want to fix my resume. You want to fix my career. You want to fix my life! It's exhausting, Takato." She holds the area in her chest just above her heart. "It's exhausting."
He stays silent after that, looking at her with examining eyes that she saw were just as weary as hers. She didn't intend to sound so mean because she knows that deep down it was not his intention to hurt her. But things have been said, and now she can't take them back.
"It's exhausting," he repeats, "being my girlfriend." It wasn't a question. It was more like a bucket of water was splashed on his face.
When she hears her words out loud again her face crumbles. "No, Takato that's not what I meant."
He shakes his head. "I think I know what you meant. I'm sorry that's how you feel."
The way his voice spoke shatters her heart. "Takato—"
"I'm going to leave now," he says and she watches him retreat toward the doow.
"Takato," she calls out wanting to take a step forward but finding herself frozen in place. Why can't she go to him? She needs to stop him, make him understand that she didn't mean what she said. "Takato, please—where are you going?"
"I'm going to give you what you want," he says without looking back. "Space."
Why wasn't she running to him right now?
She watches him reach the door and turn the know, and then he takes a step, and then another, and then another until she loses sight of his back, and all she sees is her door. He's gone, she tells herself. I made him leave.
Tears streams down her face, and she can't seem to make them stop. Her legs gives way as if a huge boulder fell on her shoulders and she finds herself alone, trembling. She might have imagined it, because her body doesn't feel like her own at that time, but she thinks she heard herself sobbing through the night.