Sawako waited at the subway station.
She held her bag with both hands in front of her, waiting quietly for the train to arrive.
Her breath condensed into the cold Sapporo winter air, dissipating as it hit her red winter jacket.
She had just gotten off of work, and was on her way home. She tuned out the noise of the crowd around her as her mind began to wander. She thought of Shota as she played with the ring on her left hand, turning it on its axis.
Her head darted up as the train's whistle sounded. The lights of the subway train blinded her and the other waiting passengers as it pulled into the station. She scanned the LCD screen attached to the train as it stopped. Toho line. This was her train.
"This is the Toho line to Sakaemachi Station," a woman's voice echoed robotically through the bustling station, "All passengers to Sakaemachi Station, please board the train."
Sawako boarded the train and found a place to sit. The doors closed as the robotic woman warned passengers not to get in their way. She looked out the window as the train began to speed away.
The familiar stations passed until the train made its way to Sakaemachi, her stop.
Sakaemachi was the northernmost station in the Sapporo Metro, and Sawako could not ride the train any further. She would have liked to ride in the warmth of the crowded subway car, but would just have to brave the bitter Hokkaido air as she walked the short distance to her apartment.
As she walked along the streets, passing the familiar shops and apartment buildings of her immediate neighborhood, she wondered why she chose an apartment so far away from the university. If she had chosen an apartment near Sapporo Station, she would hardly have to ride the subway at all.
The answer of course, was cost. Apartments near the city center were far more costly than the ones out near the edges. Sawako only made so much money. As a university student, she could only afford so much. And if she was honest, she didn't mind the relative quiet that the edges of the city brought as opposed to the bustling, vibrant streets of downtown Sapporo.
Well, bustling and vibrant for Hokkaido, anyway.
These thoughts zipped through Sawako's mind as she made her way up the stairs to her apartment. She climbed the flights of stairs, counting them as she went. She much preferred the stairs to the elevator as it gave her the exercise she never quite had time to fit in. She made it to the sixth floor of her enormous apartment building and opened the door leading to her hallway. She walked a distance before reaching room 654, her apartment.
Sawako turned the lock to her apartment and opened the door. She entered the dark room and left her shoes in the genkan. She fumbled around in the darkness, searching for the light switch. She finally found it and the room was illuminated. The unnatural light it brought was somewhat depressing, so she made her way to the window and opened the blinds. Some natural light was let in, but the grey, overcast skies of November let little natural light into the entire city, let alone her tiny apartment.
She sighed and stared out the window, idly watching the storeowner across the street sweep the late autumn leaves off the storefront. She sat there for a while, thinking about her day, right arm supporting her chin. She was just about to turn away when she heard a sound.
Sawako looked beside her and noticed her cat, Junko sitting on the windowsill, begging for attention. Sawako had adopted Junko when she first moved to Sapporo, around two years ago. She had adopted her as a kitten, but she had since grown to full size. She mused at how fast cats grow up.
Junko purred as Sawako scratched the underside of her chin. The cat closed her eyes in contentment as Sawako scratched the spot where she liked to be scratched most. Sawako was grateful to have this animal companion to greet her every day after school and work.
Sawako jolted as she heard a faint beeping coming from her handbag. This scared Junko away and she jumped off the windowsill. Sawako made her way to the table where her bag was sitting and fished for her phone. Upon finding it, she pulled it out and checked her messages. She could already guess who it was from.
How was your day?
Sawako smiled and pulled the phone to her heart. She could always count on Shota to message her as soon as she got home. She started to type a reply.
Pretty good. Same as always. Went to school, worked at the café. Nothing too interesting. How was yours?
She sent the message and set the phone on the table. She continued stroking Junko, who had returned after being scared away earlier.
Her phone beeped again.
Oh, you know. The same, haha. Went to school and then worked. SOOOOO fun. You wanna do anything today? I haven't seen you since Wednesday.
Sawako felt a tinge of regret. After she and Shota had moved out the dorms, they had been living in separate apartments. Shota wanted to move in with Sawako, but she turned him down for fear of how her parents might react. And to be honest, she didn't mind the quiet. She still wondered every day what it might have been like if she had gone with her gut and moved in with Shota. It certainly would have been cheaper, not to mention nice to see Shota each and every day.
She must have taken too long to respond, because another message came in.
Ryu left today. He and Chizuru went back to Kitahoro for the weekend. Might be an opportunity to spend some time together?
Sawako's heart skipped a beat. Given that they lived in separate apartments, Sawako and Shota didn't get as much time together as they would have liked. Especially considering that Ryu and Shota had chosen an apartment practically on the other side of the city, near Kotoni Station. They saw each other most days at the university, when their schedules matched up. But between school and work both of them hardly had time to see each other besides on the weekends. Sawako could go to Shota's place whenever she wanted to, but they could never get much privacy when Ryu was around. And Sawako's place was too far from where Shota worked that he rarely made his way there with his busy schedule. Sawako wished they had planned the whole situation much better when they were moving off-campus, but this was just the way things had worked out.
Considering all of this, Sawako jumped at the opportunity to spend a weekend at Shota's place. She liked Ryu, he was a great friend, but she much preferred spending time with Shota alone. She picked up her phone and typed a response.
Absolutely! I haven't had the chance to spend enough time with you! Let me pack a bag and I'll make my way over.
Giddy with excitement, she quickly packed enough clothes to last the weekend, putting them in the small backpack she used for school. Realizing she had schoolwork to do, she threw her laptop in with the bundles of clothes.
Junko knew what this meant and started to complain, mewing repeatedly until Sawako gave her attention.
"I'll be back soon enough, Junko-chan," she said as she scratched the cat under the chin, "It's only for a few days. I've left you plenty of food to make it that long."
She pulled on the backpack and made her way to the genkan. Pulling on her shoes and red winter jacket, she turned to see Junko staring at her from atop her living room armchair.
"Now don't pout, Junko-chan," she said, "You'll see me when I get back."
She placed her hand on the doorknob, ready to leave the apartment.
"Guard the place while I'm gone!" she said to Junko as she opened the door.
Sawako made her way down the steps, running down them with a new spring in her step as she went. She breathed a breath of fresh, cold air as she opened the door to the outside. The skies were getting darker as the sun set on Sapporo. She walked swiftly through the streets, admiring the lights as they began to illuminate. She made her way towards the station, thinking of how wonderful her weekend was going to be.