Breath in…

Breath out…

Deeply…

Calmly…

In…and…out…

Her breath flowed easily past her lips, sliding back in just as simply. The technique was one she learned while pregnant with Satsuki. It was used in the first stage of labor; to ease only the initial discomfort first experienced. Still, to this day, she found the skill useful in many other ways. Though, she surely felt that it would have been even more useful had she learned about it earlier on. But that was only a past she could revisit in her dreams.

She hadn't been home for five minutes before his tall frame filled the doorway leading into the kitchen. His familiar face, still unbelievably light despite the massive amounts of work and worry he took on, greeted her with that same half smile.

"Welcome home." Takumi said. He leaned against the doorway, tilting his head slightly so strands of short dark hair crossed before his eyes.

She had to look away from him, turning her back to him as she rushed to put away her gloves and satchel. Her heart pounded with uneasiness. It almost reminded her of a time so long ago, before everything became so twisted and confused and complicated. A time when she had less of a reason to lose her breath around him.

"You're back." Hachi answered. Any sign of her distress was undetectable. She'd gotten too good at playing this game--his game. "I thought you were going to take at least another week to finalize everything."

"It went quicker than expected. I just stopped by to drop off a few presents."

Now she could almost laugh at these conversations. How they had gotten to this point seemed so trivial and-not for the first time-she wondered why she kept torturing herself like this.

Silence seemed to stretch between far longer than it really did. The tension in this beautiful house was about more than he could stand, but he endured. If he'd any resemblance to the man he used to be once before-before her-he'd be stepping out without hesitation, without looking back. But that was then and that man was lost somewhere in that time where tears gently cracked his hardened heart. Devastating him along with the soft fingers that clung to him.

He wanted to step forward, to say something to her, but any words coming from him would fall on deaf ears. She wouldn't believe him in this world he'd made. Instead, he relented as he always did, letting her have the semblance of peace she'd earned. He slid into the hall, meaning to check on Satsuki and say his goodbyes before returning to his apartment. But, first, his hand dipped into his pants pocket, retrieving a small black velvet box. He flipped it open silently and looked at the small heart shaped golden locket. His face felt contorted from the helplessness he felt, knowing his greatest confession would never be heard by the woman he loved.

All he could do now was wait and breath.

In…and…out.

Calmly…

Deeply…

Breath out…

Breath in…