I found my muse this week, and so here is another chapter. This is a very long chapter to make up for the shorter than usualChapter 5.
Thank you for all the comments. I've been reading requests to add the POV of Miki. Sorry to disappoint you, but the story will remain Yuu's POV. I've been thinking about changing it to Miki, but well...laughs in secrecy...maybe when the time is right.
Please keep up the R&R! My muse gets inspired like that.
The elevator door finally opens and I take a step forward towards freedom. As it starts it's descend, I take a deep breath.
It has been a long day.
It has been a long week to be precise.
Mark has been sick in bed for the last week, and my days at work have been, to say the least, trying.
It is difficult when no one wants to talk to you.
People in the office are still avoiding me. It has been two weeks since a random object has been thrown across the studio space, but I know I still haven't been friendly. The smile that I used to muster up for others hasn't appeared in a while.
I learned the ability to smile to please others when I was in the sixth grade. When have I lost this ability?
The one person who does try to speak to me, I don't want to speak with.
Miki has come up to my desk a few times since Mark became sick.
She talked about the project. I answered her with as few words as possible.
She talked about having heard from our parents in Hawaii, I nod but I said nothing.
She asked me out to lunch the other day. I hesitated. Part of me wanted to finally be able to sit down and talk to her, but something in me cried no, and so I offered some excuse about work and deadlines.
Was it anger that stopped me? Fear?
Mere self-preservation probably.
The chime of the elevator wakes me from my thoughts and I walk out quickly for my escape.
My escape is halted though.
A pair of familiar dark eyes catches my attention at the far end of the lobby.
The familiar grin of Satoshi Miwa welcomes me as I take large strides towards my old school friend.
As I get closer, I see that he is not alone.
I smile knowinglyg at the two black-haired girls on either side of Miwa.
"You always manage to find yourself surrounded by beautiful girls."
Miwa smiles haplessly at me as he lifts them up with his arms.
"Ayaka has work and the babysitter cancelled at the last minute. It was a super-dad-to-the-rescue moment."
I look down at the sleeping pink clad infant girls he is carrying on each arm.
"They have your hair and eyes. But I think they must get their good behavior from their Mother."
Miwa sighs in defeat as he gently place them one by one back in the stroller.
"They were crying their lungs out earlier ago while I was waiting for you. Rocking them to sleep side by side was the only way to quiet them down."
With his hands free, Miwa reaches out and catches me off guard as he grabs my head in a headlock.
"What's up with not even letting me know you were here in Tokyo?"
I mockingly struggle to get free. "I have been swamped with work since I arrived!"
Miwa tightens the headlock and messes with my hair using his other hand.
"Not good enough Matsuura Yuu. You've been back for more than a month!"
"Ow ow, I knew you were busy with your twin girls!"
"You would have given me a chance to escape from the house!"
I raise my hands in defeat. "I give up! Forgive me Miwa-sama. I should have called, I should have!"
Miwa finally releases my head and as I stand, we look into each other's eyes.
We burst into laughter.
Miwa extends his hand and grasps my hand in a firm grip.
"Good to see you Yuu"
I shake his hand firmly and smile truly for the first time in more than a month.
"Good to see you too Miwa."
I look across the table at Miwa.
27 years old, married, operates his own talent agency, former school play boy.
And now he is bottle-feeding a tiny infant girl in front of me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see women at nearby tables pointing at Miwa.
"You know, all your fans from high school would swoon more to see you like this."
"Hey, why do you think I like to bring them out with me?"
I laugh before I take a sip from my coffee cup.
"So fatherhood hasn't changed you. I thought Ayaka would have managed by now."
"Ayaka knows it's just for show." He winks at my direction. "But enough about me Yuu. What has been going on with you?"
I lift my cup to my lips again to delay answering the question.
"Well, I'm back in Japan to head my first major project. There were some difficulties at the start, but I'm managing and everything is proceeding well now."
Miwa eyes me as he continues to bottle feed his baby daughter. "What about outside of work?"
I lift my hands above my head as though to stretch.
"Same old thing. Though I'm thinking about getting a dog when I return to the States. A colleague of mine in New York is a part-time breeder. He is always asking if I'm interested in one but I think it's kind of hard to have a pet in the city. It's the same problem living in Tokyo, don't you think?"
But Miwa was not to be distracted.
"If there is no one in New York, you should use this chance in Tokyo to meet someone new."
I finger the rim of my cup.
In my hesitation, Miwa speaks up.
"Everyone moves on eventually."
There is something in his voice.
There is something I need to know, and I think he knows the answer.
"How long has she been dating him?"
Miwa stares down intently at the baby in his arm. Intently away from my prying eyes.
"She has been dating him for two years."
I look down at my hands on the table.
Two years. That's a long time.
"Miki didn't have anyone serious for years. Not after you. All through University, I'd see guys go up to her, and sometimes she would go out with them once or twice, but there was nothing long-term."
My hands must be very fascinating. I can't look away.
"Then something changed two years ago."
"She met Nishi."
The veins on the top of my hands are quite blue aren't they?
"Nishi is one of the co-owners of Oda Stadium. Miki met him when her firm was hired to renovate it."
"It is actually kind of interesting it was Nishi that Miki chose after all these years. In many ways, Nishi isthe complete opposite from you."
I close my fists. White knuckles. They are definitely white.
Miwa laughs softly.
"Where you keep everything inside you, Nishi is a what-you-see is what-you-get kind of guy."
"He is the kind of guy you notice at a party, because he is outgoing and warm to everyone, and he will be telling the crowd the most interesting stories."
"He displays an abundance of energy in everything that he does."
He pauses again.
"And he loves her. She is happy."
I release my fists and lean back on my chair.
That is a lot of information to digest at once. Some of it falls in with what I had imagined in my head. So that is how they met. So that is what he does. So that is what they are.
What we were, and what they are.
A world of difference.
"I never stopped loving her you know."
I finally look up into his eyes.
He looks back at me.
Silence fills the air between us.
It was something that we both knew. This knowledge created a tension that had hung in the air between us from the moment I got off the elevator and saw Miwa in the lobby.
Somehow, saying it out loud, released that tension.
It was as though we could both finally breathe.
An eternity seemed to have passed until finally Miwa gets up and walks around the table until to reach my side. He bends down and places the now sleeping baby girl in my arms.
"There is a lot in life to look forward to."
I look down at the soft pink bundle in my arms. She feels so soft. Her eyes closed to show fully her long lashes. She seems to smile in her sleep. Looking at her, a swell of warmth grows inside me.
"There is, isn't there?"
I look up and smile back at Miwa.
Miwa chuckles. "I was just thinking, the sight with the two of us like this, holding two babies between us, it's bound to bring back our coupling rumor back in high school."
"Let's face it Miwa, there were rumors about you with everyone in the school."
"You might have been the best looking one I was paired up with."
We both burst out laughing.
"Alright Yuu, it's time for me to bring my girls home. It's almost dinner time and Ayaka is probably home by now."
I glance at my watch. "Wow, we've been talking for almost two hours." I stand up to help tug in his still sleeping daughters. "They are beautiful Miwa."
"Of course. Just look at their Father and Mother."
"Say hi to Ayaka for me okay?"
"Yup, I will. Ayaka is always concerned about how you are doing. I'll report that you are healthy and fine. But you're welcome to do that yourself. Come over to our house next week for dinner."
I nod with a smile. "I'd like that."
"So that's a yes. I'll hold you to that. You better keep your word or else I know where to find you."
I pause. There is something that has been bugging me.
"How did you know I was back and how to find me in the first place anyways?"
Miwa pushes the stroller through the opened entrance door and looks back at me with a smile but serious eyes. "There are people close to you that care about you. Don't forget that."
With that, he gives a wave and the door closes behind him.
I stare at the closed door for a while before grabbing my own belongings to leave. The afternoon with Miwa re-energized me and I want to head back to the office quickly to gather some papers that I can work on tonight.
Miwa would sigh if he knew our talk just immediately led me to do more work, but I think it actually did much more than that.
As I enter Higurashi Designs, I notice that the light in the main studio space is still on. Someone is still here.
"Hello?" Miki's head pops out with a curious express from the staff room. "Yuu, what are you doing back?"
I was caught momentarily off guard. Instead of following my normal instincts to just run quickly to my desk to grab my papers and leave, I walk towards her to the staff room door entrance.
"I forgot some papers and decided to come back. What are you still doing here? It's almost 8 o'clock."
Miki gives a small smile and a shrug. "I felt inspired earlier and decided to stay and get all my ideas down." She looks down shyly at the cup of tea in her hands. "It's your project that I'm working on. I really like it a lot Yuu."
It's been a while since I've seen this side of her. Since the first day I've been back, it felt like there was a cold wall between us. Professionalism? Detachment?
What if it was I who built that wall?
That means I can tear it down any time right?
"I met up with Miwa earlier this afternoon."
"Oh?" Her eyes lighted up. "How did it go?"
I smile widely. "It was great." I smooth the hair on the top of my head with a guilty expression my face. "I really should have called him ages ago but somehow I just procrastinated. Good thing he somehow found me."
I pause. Then, "It was you who told Miwa to come find me, wasn't it?"
Miki looks down at her cup for a while and then walks into the staff room. I silently follow her in.
With her back to me, she opens the kitchen cabinets and reaches in to pull down something. I can't see what it is.
She suddenly turns around to face me with a bright smile and I see she has a jar in her hands.
A marmalade jam jar.
"Say Yuu, do you remember when we were kids and I used to tease you and say you were like marmalade?"
I start laughing out loud and put my hands on the counter for support.
"You remember right? I'd say you were sweet on the outside, but bitter in the inside because you would always make fun of me."
I nod as I continue laughing. There is something about her wide smile. It brings me back to that morning nine years agowhen we sat across each other at the breakfast table. She smiled widely in triumph as she pointed to the marmalade jar and then at me to draw the comparison between us.
"I miss the sweetness."
I stop laughing. I look at her closely. She is no longer smiling widely. She is staring intently at the jar held in her hands. She looks up at me with a weak smile.
"You have been bothered since you came back, and whatever it is that has been bothering you, it made you act all bitter, and only bitter."
"Bitter marmalade is no good you know. I didn't like it."
I look at her in silence.
"I told Miwa you were in Tokyo and asked him to meet you because I was concerned. I know you have always been close to Miwa, like brothers. Back when we were in high school, you could talk to Miwa like no one else. I hoped that he could help to lighten whatever it is that has been weighing on you."
Her eyes look up at me, filled with question and hesitation, as though unsure of my reaction.
"It's been a while Yuu, since I felt the sweetness part in you. I miss it. I miss it a lot. I wanted to help bring it back."
I remember Miwa's words from earlier. There are people close to you that care about you. Don't forget that. I've made Miki, Miwa and probably also Mark, worry over me. Miwa was right to remind me, because I have forgotten. I have been alone for so long that I forgot there are still many people here who would be upset to see me behaving like I have.
"Thank you for doing that Miki." I smile reassuringly at her. "We had a great afternoon, and I do feel a lot better after having met Miwa."
She sighs in relief. "I'm glad to hear that."
I realize it's been a while since we've stood alone talking like this. The strange awkward cold wall that had stood between us for the last month, no, the last nine years, seems to eased a little bit.
I look at her. I'm not sure what is it that I feel when I see her. A lover? A sister? A colleague? Perhaps it doesn't matter. She is someone that cares about me, and who I care for in return.
I don't want her or anyone else to worry about me again.
I need to take steps forward and make myself happy.
"Now that I know you are not mad at me for me arranging your rendezvous with Miwa, you know, there is a long line of people who know about your return to Tokyo and want to meet with you." She grins at me.
"Who?" I ask with a laugh.
"Let's see." Miki pretends to think seriously. "There is Meiko and Namura-sensei. They come to Tokyo quite often for work, so you can see them quite easily. There is Ginta and Arimi. You probably haven't gotten them an engagement present yet, so you should do that. And I ran into Tsutomu a while back and he said something about a tennis rematch.
I laugh loudly. "Well, it seems my grand return has been greatly anticipated."
"Indeed it has." She looks warmly at me. "Welcome back Yuu."
I look at her smiling face and a thousand different emotions wash over me. I want to keep seeing this smiling face. I want to keep seeing this smiling face looking at me. Whatever it is that troubles inside me, I want to move on. I don't want her to worry over me. I don't want to feel bitter any more. Find the sweet part of me again, as she would say.
I smile back. A sincere and true smile.
"It's good to be back."