Chapter 12: Hikari (Light)

Takeru was asleep beside her, his light breaths tickling the back of her neck in even intervals. He laid so perfectly still that it made her aware of each of her own movements, afraid she'd wake him. Hikari had never known anyone who slept as peacefully as him. He looked angelic.

"Tell me, Hikari. Am I missing something for you too?"

In the moment, she had been taken aback by his question, but before she could properly digest any of it, he had already laughed it off as a joke. It was only now that they had retired for the night that she could give it another thought.

Thinking back, she wished she hadn't said what she had, her values having overtaken consideration for how Takeru could interpret her words. She hoped he hadn't misunderstood them for anything more than what they were.

In truth, it was easy for her to remember her exes in detail because she had only ever had two. They were both very serious, and she hadn't done any casual dating in between them. Being in her late twenties, she knew this was slightly odd. Aside from Miyako, who had only ever been with Ken, everyone else she knew had enough dating experience where there were bound to be forgotten memories here and there.

Mimi for example had been a serial dater who had enjoyed her life to the fullest before settling down with Michael, and while Sora was currently single, she too had her fair share of ex-boyfriends who hadn't worked out for one reason or another. Even within her own family, it had become a running joke that her brother would bring home a new girl to every holiday, effectively ruining holiday photos for life when their relationship would inevitably end.

She supposed if she were being objective, however, she was no different. Her brother may have been the less committed one, but at the end of the day, neither had found their one.

Unlike Miyako, Hikari had a late start to the dating scene. She had steered away from it in secondary school, choosing instead to focus on her education, but that changed once she went to university. In her first year, Taichi introduced her to his football club junior to show her the ropes, and much to his annoyance, they started dating. He became her first boyfriend, and it was he who taught her love. She experienced all of her firsts with him, and they dated for nearly the entire time she was in university. He was a year older than her, however, and they drifted apart in her final year when he had already graduated. She was too busy trying to graduate, and he was too busy trying to get assimilated into society as a newly independent adult, and they just couldn't make time for each other.

Even though she was the one who broke up with him, this was when she experienced her first heartbreak. It was tragic at the time, though now with the knowledge of how messy breakups could be, it had gone relatively well as far as separations were concerned. She and Miyako would listen to Sora and Mimi speak of jerk ex-boyfriends like curious younger siblings, sympathetic but unable to relate. Her breakup was sad but amicable, and to this day they still remembered to wish each other a happy birthday every year.

It took her a year to get over her university boyfriend, and she remained single for that entire year.

Then she met him, the one Takeru had asked her about. He was her brother's age, and he swept her off her feet. Takeru had heard correctly, because it was true that everyone thought they were going to get married. She had thought it too, but neither were in a rush, and they spent four long, wonderful years getting to know each other. She fell in love with him hard, and back then she wondered just what she had done to deserve someone as amazing as him. Even now, when she thought back at their time together, she could remember nothing but happiness.

There was no drifting apart the way of her university boyfriend, nor did they have irreconcilable differences or a fight that caused irreversible damage. Instead, she had a cruel epiphany.

It happened at Mimi's wedding. As part of Mimi's bridal party, she had been bragging to him for months about how incredible it was going to be, and when the day came, it lived up to every expectation. The lavish wedding felt like love in tangible format to her, and she could still remember how magical it had felt to be in that environment. She brought him as her guest, and she even recalled talking to him about how excited they were for their own wedding to each other.

But then came the vows. It was when she saw the raw, sincere way Mimi looked at Michael that she caught his eye in the crowd and realised she could never look at him that same way. Michael completed Mimi, but he…


He was missing something, even if she didn't know what it was. To this day, she still couldn't articulate it.

From that point onwards, she saw that invisible connection everywhere. Mimi and her husband. Joe and his fiancée. Miyako and her boyfriend. It seemed to her that every couple had "it"—whatever "it" was—but the two of them.

Although she couldn't define it, and although she loved him so deeply, he wasn't the one, and that awareness led to the demise of their relationship. He began to suspect something was wrong, but it took her weeks before she could finally gather the courage to tell him. It was a difficult, heart-wrenching breakup for them both. She couldn't explain herself clearly, no matter how much he tried to understand her. Despite the confusion and heartbreak, he never once got angry with her and wished her the best.

Her friends and family were just as confused as she was, because to them they had been in a perfect relationship. They loved each other, they didn't fight, they were so happy. Her brother and Sora, close friends with him due to their same age, even staged an intervention to make sure this was what she really, truly wanted. She remembered crying to them both that she was unsure. This only perplexed them further, but she refused to take him back.

Despite not wanting to be his girlfriend anymore, he was so imperative to her life that she wanted so desperately to try to remain friends with him. They tried for a short while, but he ended up telling her that he just couldn't. He couldn't pretend to be her friend when in reality he was still in love with her. Somehow, that conversation was just as upsetting as their breakup, but she tried to understand him the same way he had tried to understand her.

Four years of memories were severed in a moment, and he disappeared from her life. He even cut off communication with Taichi and Sora, unable to cope. He had probably blocked her number, but she also sent him a happy birthday message every year. He never responded.

She mourned the loss of not only their relationship but their friendship. Losing both made it all the more painful, and at times, she even regretted it. Michael and Mimi, who had looked so picture perfect on their wedding day, experienced marital spats. Joe kept everyone puzzled with his perpetual engagement. Miyako grew increasingly frustrated with Ken's inability to commit.

In contrast, she had never experienced such conflicts in her relationship with him, yet she left him for a reason she couldn't explain.

From that point, she stayed single because nobody she met after him even came close—that is, until Takeru came along.

Sweet Takeru, a blast from her past who had reopened up her excitement for the possibilities of future. It was too early for love, but she had always felt a sense of predetermined connection towards him from an early age, curiosity being fulfilled a decade later.

During both of her breakups, she had cried a lot, but now that she had Takeru, she felt even more certain that she had made the right decision. He made her so happy, to the point where she wondered why they hadn't attempted this earlier. They had known each other since they were eight, but it had taken them twenty years to get to this point.

She wondered whether her life would have been any different had it been Takeru with whom she had shared her first date or her first kiss. Would he still have gone to France, or would he have stayed in Japan so that they wouldn't have a decade-long gap of not getting to know each other? Would they still have grown apart in university, or would the close proximity have only made them be stronger? Would she have looked at him at Mimi's wedding and this time think that they too shared a love that pure?

She moved to look back at him, and even though her movement was slight, it was enough to wake him. He raised his head, looking disoriented.

"Sorry, go back to sleep," she whispered to him. He was such a light sleeper.

He was barely awake, his eyes still shut, but he raised a hand to cup her face and drowsily kissed her once. He mumbled something in French in her ear, pulled her closer to him, and was asleep again.

Had he never left, she supposed his fluency for his grandparents' language would have been lost. He probably wouldn't have become so close to his maternal grandmother either, which he had admitted had been the case been prior to moving there. The person she was during school and uni and her throughout her twenties were all so different, and he had changed too, so perhaps they wouldn't have worked out along the way, and they too would be stuck only wishing each other happy birthdays every year.

She placed her hands over Takeru's, and as she tried to sleep too with his arms around her for warmth, she decided that rather than dawdle in what could have been, she liked the way they were now, whatever this was.

She thought again about his question. He hadn't given her the opportunity to answer, but had he, of course she would have said no. In reality, she realised, she couldn't honestly answer that question without a commitment from him.

She could see the light that existed at the end of the tunnel, but she needed him to craft some hope for a lasting future.

13 September 2020