AN: Omg, I need to stop
with the WAFF. The scene in the beginning is inspired by the filler
episode where Kaoru thinks she's gotten engaged to Kenhsin, yes.
I hope it wasn't out of character for Tsubame to cry this much. But. Well. Generally, she does cry a lot. A lot. And this takes place over an extended period of time, so there's no danger of her drowning in her tears.
The rice ball thing is a bit cheestastic, but in my mind, that would be at Kaoru's suggestion. You know how she is. :P
Even little Kenji semed
to take an interest in the shining contents of the store
"'Engagement ring'?" he asked, nose pressed against the glass.
"Yes, it's a Western tradition that's becoming more and more popular these days! They're meant to symbolize a couple's eternal bond," Tae explained.
"I don't know about needing a ring for that, but they're really pretty, aren't they?" Kaoru sighed wistfully and held out her hand, trying to imagine what one of them would look like on her finger.
"What about you, Tsubame-chan?"
Yahiko groaned inwardly. That nosy, prying, Tae, same as always!
"Hmmm, I really like that one." She pointed to a simple, slim, gold band embedded with a single, small, diamond.
"My, what modest taste-- just like Tsubame-chan to pick that one," Tae tittered.
Tsubame giggled bashfully. "The other ones just wouldn't look right on me, don't you think?"
Yahiko took hold of his wife's hand and tugged impatiently. "Come on, you ninnies, do you really plan to spend all day gawking at those rocks?" With that, he began dragging Tsubame away from the window.
Tae tsked, but commented, "Well, after all, we can't expect men to be interested in these things!" and followed.
Kaoru wound up and prepared herself for giving Yahiko a good talking-to, but as the group started moving once more, she noticed him throw a glance over his shoulder, squinting at the window in the spot Tsubame had pointed to earlier.
Yahiko, you rascal, she thought. What are you up to now?
her tray for the third time that week.
"My, Tsubame-chan, it's been a while since you were this clumsy! Whatever is the problem?"
"N-nothing..." she stammered, her cheeks reddening. "It... it's just..."
Tae grabbed the younger woman's hand and hustled her into the kitchen. "It's problems at home, isn't it?"
"It's nothing, really, Tae-san! Yahiko has been busy giving a lot of lessons lately, and it seems like he's never home anymore and... well... that's all..." Tsubame knew she'd said too much; the sharp-eared Tae had probably already picked up on something she hadn't meant to reveal about her state of mind at that moment.
Sure enough, this tidbit of information was enough to rile the restaurant owner. "Are you sure he's really out giving lessons?"
"Yes!" squeaked Tsubame. "Wh-what are you saying, Tae-san? Where else would he be?"
Tae raised an eyebrow, and, arms folded, gave her the "You-know-exactly-what-I'm-talking-about" look.
Tsubame squeaked in dismay again. "No, no, Tae-san! Yahiko would never...!"
"It's been two years already, since you two were married?"
"Well, yes, it'll be two years this spring, but,"
"Could it be, 'that' happy period is over already?" Tae seemed more as though she were speaking to herself, reveling in the possible scandals this situation could be indicating. In her thirties by now, Tae had never married, but took as much joy as ever in the relationships of others.
"Stop it, Tae-san, stop!" Tsubame was on the verge of tears, and Tae knew this time, she'd gone too far. "H-he... I trust him. It's Yahiko, so I trust him. It's just that... I'm a little lonely when he's not around. That's all. I'm not... I'm not worried about that."
Tae patted the waitress on her head and dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. "There, there, dear. After all, you're the one who knows him best. I'm sure everything's just fine."
Tsubame wanted to believe that, but as the weeks
went by and Yahiko seemed to get busier than ever, all she wanted was
to crawl into bed, throw the sheets over her head, and cry.
Then, out of the blue, he came home for lunch one day for the first time in a fortnight.
"Megumi came by the dojo today; she's in Tokyo to hear some famous Western doctor speak. I wanted to go to the Akabeko to get you, but she was already running late," he said in a businesslike tone. Tsubame could tell something was on her husband's mind; his motions were uneasy, his eyes restless. "But I brought you back some of these-- Megumi's ohagi."
"Here--" He handed her one from the box he was carrying. Tsubame couldn't understand why he moved so jerkily. It couldn't be that he was hiding something, something he was finally ready to tell her?
She mentally scolded her hands for betraying her with a tremble, staring at them without fully processing the item they were holding. "Go ahead, eat it," Yahiko urged.
Tsubame took a nibble, and then another, before she felt her tooth hit something hard. Yahiko couldn't seem to stop fidgeting. "What's this?" she held the rice ball up to the light and spotted a glimmer of something shiny.
Tsubame was speechless with joy and relief.
"W-well, do you like it?" Yahiko stammered. "I remembered that time, you were looking at it, and--"
"Oh, Yahiko, is this all?" She was crying, though she wasn't sure which emotion she was feeling was the one responsible.
"I thought you said the bigger ones wouldn't look right on you! I already worked so hard to-"
"No, that's not what I meant," she laughed through her tears. In an uncharacteristic move, she threw her arms around her husband and buried her face in his shirt, the half-eaten ohagi falling to the ground forgotten. "I didn't want to believe Tae-san when she said it, but I was still worried that..."
"Tae? Don't you know better than to listen to her by now? And what sort of ideas has she been putting in your-" Something clicked inside his brain. "Oooh. Oh! You thought I was-!?" He took her by the shoulders and pushed her back so that they were looking each other in the eyes. "How could you be so stupid?"
She was sobbing and laughing all at once. "I know, I know, I'm such a stupid girl, I can't believe I was ever afraid when all you did was to... was to..." Tsubame glanced at the ring in her hand, and her words dissolved in tears.
"Shh, shh, shh, it's okay now, it's okay." He wiped her face with his sleeve. "I never realized being so busy would make you this upset, but you see, it was all for you."
"I can't believe you did all that extra work for meeeeeeeeeeee-" she wailed.
It took a while, but finally,
Tsubame's sobs had died down into the occassional hiccup. "Feel
better?" Yahiko asked, feeling her forehead.
She nodded sheepishly. "I'm sorry."
"Want some water?" She shook her head.
"I'm so glad," she sighed, looking down at the ring on her finger.
"Yeah?" He smiled. "I'm glad you like it, even after all that-"
"No, it's not the ring. Or not just the ring. I'm glad you'll have time to be with me again." Even though they were married now, for over a year, even, saying things like that still made her turn beet-red with embarassment.
Yahiko laughed a little in spite of himself, and brushed away her momentarily hurt expression with a kiss on her nose. "I love you."
The tears were starting up again, and when she reached for him, he took her in his arms. "I'm so happy, I'm so happy!"
For months afterwards, Tsubame would blush at the very memory of that incident, but one thought made her decidedly unladylike outburst seem minute in comparison: Yahiko really loves me. I was right to believe in him, Yahiko really loves me!