Siopao: (12/15/2017) Back with another story. For a long time, I wanted to write something like this. Just a warning, this story could possibly be rated M (for Mature). I'm keeping it "T" for now but there are adult themes (such as language, alcohol use, and a future lemon/lime, etc.) going to be included throughout the story. Don't like, don't read.

This chapter is written in Rei's POV. Setting is about 3.5+ years post-series, after everyone has already graduated college. The gang is 22-23 years old.

Enjoy my new Gals! story, Rainy Way Back Home.

Disclaimer: I don't own Gals!

Rainy Way Back Home

Chapter I — 1,278 Days

When did it become like this?

The days I spent with her seemed so effortless. I could be at peace knowing that we didn't need to do anything extravagant or excessive during our many outings together. Everything was sweet simplicity— she was never very complicated, she never asked for gifts, nor did she have unreasonable demands. She just wanted to be with me.

When did it happen... when I could simply just kiss her whenever I wanted without having to ask permission? Or hold her hand, as if it were just another routine part of my day? When did it all start to feel so natural? I was a part of her as much as she was a part of me.

1,278— I count the days. It has been exactly three years and six months. Sadly, that number didn't signify the length of our relationship or anything romantic like that. It was the amount of time I've gone without seeing her face, hearing her voice, touching her skin, or stroking her hair. Her image taunted my dreams and her bell-like laughter rang in my head throughout the day. She was my first thought in the morning and the last name I whispered before closing my eyes at night.

I didn't really have that many regrets. But I could say with certainty that letting her go 1,278 days ago has been my most marked mistake to this day.

Why didn't I cherish her more?

When did I become so dependent on her?

When did being without her become so unbearable?


I flipped through the pages of my book, engrossed in its contents. I was currently reading Kishidancho Goroshi, the latest release from the great Murakami Haruki. I took a sip of my piping hot cappuccino—extra shot of espresso, of course— allowing the warm fluids to soothe me on this brisk autumn morning. The cafe was bustling with people trying to get their daily dose of caffeine in order to jumpstart their day. A few seemed to be in no rush, much like myself, and took a seat to enjoy the morning paper or to use their laptops. I liked to relax and take it easy on mornings like these— after all, I wouldn't have to go into work until later this afternoon, so it was appropriate for me to just sit back and enjoy my novel. Despite the busy atmosphere, I was at peace. There was something about a busy city that put my mind at ease. The chaos was comforting to me.

My moment of contentment was then interrupted by the woman sitting across from me, who happened to intentionally clear her throat just now. Ah, that's right. I had company; I'd almost forgotten that I wasn't alone. I peered up from my morning read to find her face, which looked to be quite annoyed from the way her eyebrow was arched and her lips in an irritated sneer.

"Rei?" she snapped, setting down her half-finished mug of coffee. She always added a heaping portion of cream and sugar— it was to the extent that it made me cringe with disgust. There was no possible way that the coffee was still even edible with how sweet it looked. "Didn't you hear a word I just said?"

"Hm?" I replied, uninterested. My eyes never left the printed pages. I had no clue that she was even conversing with me earlier. After all, tuning out such an annoying voice was easy for me.

"I told you not to be late later," she repeated, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

"To what?" I asked, genuinely unaware of what she was talking about at the moment.

"Rei. The shoot, dammit!" she erupted. Her screechy voice pained my eardrums and I furrowed my eyebrows in irritation.

Ah, the shoot. That's right, I'd have to go into Shibuya later on for another magazine shoot. This time, I think it was some sort of ad for a cologne... Versace, perhaps? Or maybe it was Burberry? Not positive on that though, I'd come to lose track of how many products that I modeled for these days. I knew it made me sound a bit ungrateful but I really couldn't care less about designer labels. These big-time gigs were just another way for me to pay the bills.

Yeah, you guessed it. I was twenty-three years old, a recent graduate from a prestigious National University, and I was still involved in modeling after all these years. You'd think that I would have quit this phony industry by now but I really couldn't help that I was a bit of a natural. At least, that's what I was always told. It was only a side hustle, though. On the days I wasn't using my valued biomedical engineering degree, I kept myself busy with my old hobby and pastime of modeling. I'd evolved from doing local interviews with gal magazines onto professional advertisements, usually for major clothing brands and fashion lines. It wasn't necessarily thrilling but it paid extremely well and kept my mind off of things... especially from nostalgic thoughts of a certain midnight-haired girl.

"Yeah, got it," I grunted, still disinterested in what she had to say. As much of a lax person I was, I would never be late to a professional shoot. I didn't need this woman around to be nagging at me about that.

"I swear, Rei," she growled, "if it weren't for us being together, I would have—"

"What?" I asked, a bit taken aback by her statement. I finally shot my eyes up to look at her for the first time since we arrived to this cafe. Damn, just looking at her face irritated the hell out of me. "Together? Since when did we slap a label on whatever this was?"

"Um, yes? I didn't think we'd need a whole in-depth conversation to make things official, seeing as we're both adults. And, if I recall correctly, we were very much together last night in my bed. Or should I remind you tonight?"

"I still don't recall saying that we were exclusively together," I said, my eyes once again scanning my book's pages. Did this person think she owned me, or something?

"Call it what you want, then," she said. "I know you liked it. Besides, you can't escape me. I'm your publicist, remember? Or do you think someone else out there can get you connected with big label companies like I can?" she asked sarcastically.

I groaned inwardly. Yeah, I regrettably admit that I was hooking up with my modeling publicist, Ueno Asako. She was a horrid woman, if I had anything to say about it, but she was good at her job. It started a few weeks ago, when we both happened to get shit-faced drunk after a company party— all the models, photographers, editors, and publicists were present that night. That is, everyone except for Yuuya. If he had been there, I'm sure he would have stopped me from getting involved with this huge mistake of a person.

"Asako," I said, piercing her emerald eyes with my notoriously cold slate orbs, "Don't ever threaten me like that again."

"You can't continue on in this line of work without me and you know it," she spat as she got up from her spot. I suddenly had a huge headache. So much for a peaceful morning. I rubbed my temples to alleviate the throbbing pain.

She spun on her heels and headed for the door, allowing her long, waist-length brown hair to whip around her. Good riddance.

Watching Asako's back as she walked away was a bit bittersweet; something within me suddenly began pulling at my heartstrings. It reminded me of a certain dark-haired girl's back as she, too, walked away from me. The last time I'd seen those long, ebony tresses was over three years ago, now. I wondered how she was doing and, all of a sudden, I found myself recalling some memories with her...

It was the end of our first year in college. She and I had gone to the same university together, just as we had both planned. I was studying biomedical engineering while she took up studying biochemistry. As much as I'd like to say that I did well during my freshman year, it was apparent that she had excelled by leaps and boundaries beyond me. She racked up a perfect 4.0 GPA, while also being on the leadership board of several clubs at the university. I was never envious or anything petty like that. As a matter of fact, I was proud of her and was equally as proud to be the person who could be by her side. Her outstanding grades were no surprise, really. After all, she was the most intelligent person I knew (as much as she always denied it).

And that's exactly why she was offered that prestigious award from the Dean to travel oversees to Germany for the rest of university. It was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity that was only offered to the elite of the student body, and she was hand-picked by the school board to fill the role as grant recipient. She would be fully funded by the university— her tuition, books, lodging, airfare, and the like. All this, for the small price of leaving her life in Japan behind.

I supposed that it was a price she was willing to pay. I knew that holding her back would do nothing for us. I could see that she wanted to go and it was never in my place to ask her to stay. I wanted her to become the very best version of herself that she could possibly be. After all, I'd come to grow quite fond at that ambitious side of her. We had come to grow so close during our freshman year— no surprise, really, since we spent many late nights and endless weekends studying together. It was tough being in a top-ranking National university but we were able to somehow get through it with one another's support.

We agreed to wait for each other during her exchange program. She would finish the last three years of her biochemistry degree in Germany and come back home. It would be hard, she and I both knew it. Despite some doubts, we were willing to give it a shot.

Everything was going so well with us. That is, until the stormy night before her flight. It was the night that would change my life.

I still remembered the cold, teary look she gave me; those sad, misty eyes would forever be etched in the back of my mind. I still could never figure out if those were tears or raindrops clinging to her eyelashes like that.

I really regretted what I said to her that night, even to this day. Why the hell did I say those damn words to her? I knew I couldn't take them back— no, not words like those. I've said some pretty absurd things to her before but even I knew that what I said that day was crossing the line. I was really the worst.

I looked up to the skies, observing the wispy cirrus clouds being swept across the blue canvas. Despite being thousands of miles apart, we were still under the same sky, moon, and stars. I wondered if I had finally chased her away for good. I sat back and wondered what she was up to.

That analytical and serious student.

That ever-so emotional, yet selfless, person.

That strange girl who managed to stealthily win my heart without me even noticing that I was falling deeply in love with her.

That Hoshino Aya.

If I ever got the chance to, I'd make my amends. Even if it was the last thing I ever did with this sorry excuse of a life of mine.


Shit.

I looked beside me at the digital clock on my right. Its bright neon green numbering signified that it was 1:33 in the morning. I looked over to my left side and found Asako under the sheets, most likely undressed. Her long brown locks were sprawled out on her pillow and she was clinging onto my chest. She was much more tolerable when she was asleep and silent like this. In the dim light, her long tresses looked a bit like Aya's. I shook away the thoughts and tried to recall the night's events.

It seemed like we got drunk after the photoshoot. Ah, I remembered now— we ended up at some bar and came back to her place sometime before midnight. I must have passed out not too long ago. I sat up and heard her stir next to me, yet she did not wake. I sighed with relief and slowly made my way off of her bed. My head spun from the alcohol. Would I be fine getting home in this state? I could catch a cab. I really didn't feel like staying here until the morning. She'd be sober and back to her normal, nagging self once again.

Truth was that I knew this wasn't healthy, in the least bit. Not for her, not for me. This wasn't the first time I'd gotten myself into a situation like this, either. Before Asako, there was Mina, a model I did a fashion shoot with. Needless to say, she and I broke things off once she found out that I was hooking up with Asako. It was quite messy, as I recalled. And, even before Mina, there have been a few other women— some were one night stands while a select few dragged on for several weeks. I wasn't really proud of my streak but it just became a part of who I was, lately. Not that I really felt anything when I was with those girls. I was numb to feeling any sort of emotion towards them.

Yuuya never approved of my new lifestyle. Yet, he couldn't say anything. He knew, hell— the entire gang knew, that this was my way of coping. She was gone and this was all I could do to make me forget my royal mistake of letting her go. The drinking and womanizing was my unhealthy means of drowning myself. It all began about a year after she left.

She promised me that she would come back to Japan after a year in Germany, just so that she could spend a few weeks with us— with me. I still waited patiently for that one summer's day for when she'd be back, but her arrival never came. I think that's when I had given up on seeing her again.

I kind of expected that to happen but when she really didn't return, I went quite into a chronic depression and slipped into my shitty lifestyle of drinking. The alcohol and my continuing success in the modeling industry brought on the women and, well, you know the rest of the story.

But who could really blame her for not coming back? After all the shit that I said on that night before her flight, I don't think I would have returned, either. Hell, after all the drama and hurt I put her through in high school, I was surprised she even stuck with me then.

My time without her had definitely brought my plethora of sins into light. I've come to learn to do some inner reflection. There were so many things I wanted to say to her— so many apologies I needed her to hear. Not just from that night but even from before then. I was really hoping to finally say them aloud to her, face to face.

There was nothing else I could turn to. I felt weak but I didn't know what else to do or how to live. I figured my new lifestyle was fine, as long as I wasn't hurting anyone. And, plus, Aya surely would have gotten herself a nice catch of a boyfriend over in Germany, right? She was perfect, after all.

I stopped my self-loathing and pulled up my jeans, buttoned up my wrinkled shirt, and threw on my black bomber jacket. I reached into the pockets and found my apartment keys, wallet, and phone inside.

I checked my phone and noticed that there were seven missed calls, all from Yuuya. All were from around 9-10 PM. I really hadn't checked my phone since then? Ah, that's right. I was taking several shots of vodka and chasing it down with more alcohol around that time. I shook my head. I was really a special case, huh?

Yuuya only left one text message: Dude. Call me. It was sent at 10:17 PM.

Was everything alright? Maybe he had a big fight with Mami and got kicked out? It was pretty late, should I even call him back? It had been several hours since that text, after all, and he was most-likely asleep. After giving it some thought, I decided to return the call on the cab ride home.

"Rei?" His voice was groggy. I must have woken him up, like I'd anticipated.

"Yo," I replied nonchalantly.

"Where did you disappear off to after the shoot?" he asked. Yuuya didn't model as much as I did but sometimes we still worked on collaborations together. It was mostly to satisfy our loyal fans who had followed our work since our high school days. Damn, it felt like it was so long ago. Thinking about it made me feel nostalgic. It's been a recurrent theme for me these days, I supposed.

"I went out," I simply responded.

"With Asako?" I could hear the slightest bit of judgement in his tone.

"Maybe."

"Come on, Rei, I told you that nothing good is ever going to come out of messing around with her."

"Save it, Yuuya, I'm not really in the mood. Why did you want me to call?" I snapped. I didn't feel like being lectured. As if I already didn't know that what I was doing was shitty.

"Oh! R- Right! You aren't going to believe it. It's crazy, Rei," he responded, suddenly jolting from his previous grogginess.

"What is?" I always hated it when he was vague like this. I wished he would stop beating around the bush and just get straight to the point. My brain didn't have the capacity for his guessing games right now.

"She's— She's here," was all he said. I furrowed my eyebrows.

"She?" He couldn't mean...

"You know... Aya-chan."

I froze.

Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of sick, twisted joke?

I sat dumbfounded in the taxi seat. I heard the voice of my supposed best friend on the other line but none of his words were registering in my mind. I tried to collect my thoughts but, mixed with the alcohol and lack of sleep, they were all in a muddle. I thought I was dreaming for half a second. Aya was seriously back?

"Hello? Rei?" Yuuya said, shaking me from my thoughts.

"Y- Yeah?"

"I said she's staying with Ran-chan tonight. She was the one who picked her up from the airport and then called me to tell you. Tomorrow night, you're free right? We're going to meet up at Palm Tree."

"I..." I said, then paused. "I'll go if I feel like it."

"Don't be an asshole. You've been waiting for this, haven't you? She's finally home!" Yuuya commented. If anyone in the world knew my feelings towards Aya, it was Yuuya. He was the one who could see through any of my facades, no matter how much I put up my thick defenses. He knew I wanted to see her more than anything. It's all I've ever talked about for the last three and a half years.

"Whatever," I grunted. "I've got to go. Ja."

"Wait, Rei—" I heard him say, but I hung up anyway.

I paid for my trip and got out of the cab as it pulled to a stop in front of my apartment building. I took the elevator up to the thirteenth floor in silence; I just wanted to think to myself. I got to my apartment and closed the door behind me. I didn't go straight for my bedroom, despite the late hour. I'd have to be up soon to go to a meeting at my engineering firm but how could I possibly get some sleep, now?

I leaned my back on the door and looked up at the light above my doorway. A strong feeling stirred within me— Excitement? Nervousness? Maybe fear? This was the most emotion I'd felt in an extremely long time. I closed my eyes and sighed. I was in disbelief.

Finally. You're home.

Rainy Way Back Home

Chapter I — 1,278 Days

End.

Siopao: Please let me know what you think! I actually have all of the chapters written already (the story isn't too long) but won't continue if the feedback is non-existent. I've wanted to write a more mature, adult-themed Aya-Rei story for a while now. Review your thoughts/opinions/suggestions please. :)