Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis.
I chuckled silently.
She was talking to the cat.
And the way I see it, she was talking to it intently, complete with the gestures and facial expressions, as if she was talking to a normal human being.
I chuckled again, and then checked to see if my hiding place was safe. After all, it would do her no good if she found out that I saw her talking to Karupin. Her face will just erupt into one of those endearing blushes that were very characteristic and becoming of her. But then again, perhaps I'd let myself seen, just so I'd witness another round of those famous blushes from her—the blushes that were only for me now. Another time, another time, I told myself. For now I was content to see her animated face.
Her eyebrows were pulled together and she was frowning at the cat. Curious about what she was chiding it for I edged closer, and began to hear snatches of the one-sided conversation.
"Karupin, you know what, you are one sly cat." She said at the said cat that was curled up at her feet, mewing occasionally, its eyes closed. Sly about what? I thought, confused at where this conversation was heading.
"Are you listening? Listen, cat." She scratched its neck and it purred. I wonder what's going on with Sakuno…she addressed the pet as 'cat,' not by its name. Is there some hidden animosity? But in the first place why is she talking to it? I blinked, thinking that my wife had gone crazy, but kept on listening to her.
My eyes widened at the next thing that came from her mouth.
"Karupin, in this house I am the mistress, the lady. You are not going to mew around stealing my husband's attention, okay? Do you understand that? I want you to stop hogging him all to yourself."
"I am not jealous of you; I just wanted to remind you."
Dumbstruck, I listened on.
"Fine. I am. A bit. I think. Just, just don't monopolize him, okay? Because sometimes I feel unloved and ignored. Sometimes I feel as if you're the wife and not me, taking into account the ratio of affection we receive from him. Well, yeah, just don't tell that to anybody."
What in the earth was my wife saying? Then a barrage of memories came down on me: the night when Sakuno came home late, and me telling her that I gave her dinner share to Karupin, and the times when I went on trips and tennis conventions alone, and always brought it with me without telling her. I blinked. Well, I never knew she was capable of jealousy. Sakuno seemed very…placid that I never thought she'd feel that way of anyone, of anything, ever. I blinked twice, for the nth time that day, and realized that there were still a lot that I did not know about her. I was lost in my thoughts that I did not hear what she said after that, just her saying, "But then it exactly wasn't all your fault, you know. Oh well, don't mind me. I was just being crazy."
True. She is being crazy…being jealous of a cat…
"Truce, Karupin." I heard her say.
I think my wife has gone bonkers. But for Sakuno to be that jealous…and of Karupin no less, it has to be founded on something. And I guess all of the things I remembered were just some of the reasons why she acted that way…
I watched her rubbing the cat with her feet, and came to a realization. I stared at my wife, and thought, starting today…
It was the first time he cooked dinner. I had to admit that I was surprised. He had never cooked anything before. And I never questioned why, in fact I never noticed it until now. It was on the day when I had that crazy talk with Karupin the cat. An hour before dinner, when I was about to start making it, I found him in the kitchen, staring at the pots and pans, ingredients, and everything else. I stopped short at the sight of him in a black apron that I haven't seen before, perhaps it was his father's…and I nearly laughed. But I managed to clamp my hand on my wayward mouth and silently watched him puttering around in the kitchen. Or try to putter around, I guess.
He was muttering to himself, the way a nervous person would mutter to himself. And that, to me, was another revelation. My husband was never nervous. He wasn't a man whose feathers were ruffled. But right now…I was further convinced he had never cooked anything before. So I stepped in.
"What are you making? Here, let me." I let the sentence hang, not stating whether I wanted to help, or to take over. I was watching his reaction at the corner of my eye, as I took out my own apron. I ignored the subtle exhale of relief and looked at him expectantly.
"An American dinner," was all that he said.
"But don't you like Japanese dinners more?" That was what he always demanded: Japanese meals. And that was what I always cooked.
He shrugged. "It was supposed to be for you." Then he added in a grunt, "Lasagna."
I blinked again. "Okay…" I went, and never really got the significance of me cooking for myself.
"I bought them from the store earlier. Here they are." He handed a grocery bag to me and I noticed that he hadn't bothered doing anything else except let it sit in the counter. I stifled a chuckle. But I guess he heard, since he looked at me, annoyed.
I composed myself and set out everything. But then he noticed that he was still hanging around, that he didn't escape, like I expected him to. I turned to him and asked, "Yes?"
There was silence, before he replied, "I'll help you."
Oh. He was still wearing the apron. I nodded, then turned my back on him and smiled. He stood beside me on the counter, and we began an arduous thirty minutes of me cooking and him messing everything up. In the end, I just made him run around getting the other necessary ingredients while I tried to salvage the food.
Later, when we sat down to dinner, I had to admit that though it was tough, it was a good experience: cooking with my husband.
That was the lone word for the cooking attempt that I had made earlier. I had wanted to cook for her, but in the end, she was the one who cooked for the two of us. Again. Well, I just had to try again. And then I had another great idea. I knew for a fact that she bought her lunch at her office, so this was a chance to make her something nice…Now, if I can just handle it, everything would be fine. Tomorrow…
The next morning I woke up extra early. This was so I could finish my morning exercises early, and carry out my plan while she was still asleep. This way there was no chance that she would take over.
And so, I donned that hideous black apron again and set to work. That is, after a great deal of staring at the blasted contraptions before me.
It took me about an hour to make something that simple. It was a good thing she was a heavy sleeper, else she would have woken up a long while ago, what with the clanging chopsticks and pans…Anyway, this was the best that I could do, and it did not look that bad.
Oh well, here goes.
And I slipped the thing inside her bag. She was going to get a surprise at lunch today.
Oh, and later this afternoon, as well.
I nearly laughed when I saw the contents of my bag today. Aside from the usual contents, there was a suspicious looking lunch box inside. I eyed it for a moment, and suddenly everything clicked. Why my husband woke up earlier than usual, the sound of clanging so early in the morning, the way he casually handed my bag to me earlier this morning…
And so at lunch time I took out the harmless looking little bento and put it in my desk. I remembered his disastrous attempts to cook last night, and was almost afraid to open it. But it was my husband…and so…I opened the thing.
I have to admit, it isn't as bad as it looks.
"Sakuno-san, you're not eating lunch at the cafeteria today?" My office mate asked.
"Nope, not today, Eri-san."
"Eh? Is that a bento?"
I smiled at her, and nodded.
"From your mother?"
"Nope, my husband."
And I couldn't help but be cheered by my office mate's REALLY?! Look. After all, even though we were on a first name basis, she never knew that I was married. I didn't have any pictures with Ryoma on my desk, seeing as the ones who would see it would go berserk asking if I knew the Echizen Ryoma. After all, he was quite the legendary tennis player. It was more peaceful if people did not know that I was connected to him. And besides, nobody asked, and I wasn't going to voluntarily give out information.
Hmmm. My husband was giving me a lot of surprises this week. And I'm deriving a lot of fun from it.
And as it turned out, there was more.
After work, I always took the train back home. Sometimes, I would take a few detours and buy a cake, or something to decorate the house with. In the days when I didn't do overtime, I was always the first one home, on account of the fact that my husband always stayed behind in the tennis club, helping out the ones who needed more help. Often, he arrived just before dinner.
But that afternoon was different. I was one of the last workers who went out of their office, and was confused at the flock of people just outside the building, apparently fawning over someone.
Who is it? I craned my neck. And saw a man, leaning casually on a pole across the street. His tennis bag was sitting on the floor next to his feet, and he had on his usual tennis clothes, complete with that old hat. No one had approached him, I guess because he was sporting such an aloof atmosphere. But not me. I blinked once, and in a daze, I crossed the street and walked up to him.
There she was.
"I waited for a long time, you know." I told her. She was still standing there, her eyes blinking every now and then. That seemed to be our signature sign of surprise. I chuckled inwardly, and congratulated myself on surprising her. It was a job well done. I picked up my tennis bag and her bag from her still hands, and walked towards the station.
"Come on, Sakuno."
She just blinked again.
I sighed and turned back, then took hold of her hand and half-pulled her towards the direction of the station.
Back at home, she still couldn't utter another word.
"What's up with you?" I said, annoyed. "Starting today I'm going to be picking you up. And I want the people whom I pick up to be able to talk to me. Okay?"
Satisfied at her slow nod, I went up to the kitchen to start dinner. It was a cool move, I thought to myself. Cool husband, cool husband. I grinned to myself.
But it was all foiled when the clanging started and she stomped to the kitchen and took over cooking dinner again. I sighed inwardly, when it came to the kitchen, the cool husband factor went down. Really down.
The next day, he was there again, leaning on the same pole, his hands on his pockets. What is going on with him? I have to admit that I still couldn't believe that he had picked me up yesterday, and was going to pick me up every afternoon. Everything that had happened yesterday afternoon seemed like…a hazy dream to me. But there he was again, apparently waiting for me.
I resisted the urge to voice my wondering thoughts aloud and slowly began to pack my things. He had made me another bento again. I would have to ask why he was acting so unlike him this week…
I was lost in my thoughts, and it took Eri-san three tries to get my attention.
"Oh? Oh! What is it, Eri-san?" My officemate's eyes were alit with curiosity, and her gaze was glued at the window, where the man leaning on the pole across the street could be seen.
I think I know what she's going to say next…
"Is that Echizen Ryoma I see? The famous tennis player?
"Yes," I said to her slowly.
"Oh! My brother is a big fan of his! So much that he watched the games over and over again at her house, and it was on a lot that I got hooked too! He is a pretty impressive player."
"True." I agreed. It seems that she hasn't caught on yet…
"But then he is so aloof and private that it is hard to see him around…" She mused.
"True." I agreed again, amused. My husband was good in being cold and silent. Aloof: Eri-san had zeroed in on the most Ryoma quality. My officemate was a sharp one.
"And he's handsome too, if you like the mysterious, cold type…"
I raised an eyebrow at that, but agreed heartily inwardly.
"I wonder if I can get his autograph…I wonder what he is doing here right now, as if he is waiting for someone…"
I could feel something coming…something…something…
And I was right when I thought that she was sharp. Her gaze flitted to me then to him outside, then back to me with an intense glint in her eye.
I looked at her with a questioning gaze, anticipating…anticipating…
"Echizen Sakuno. Could Echizen Ryoma be your…be your…"
Then she sighed. "I guess it's wishful thinking if I say he's your brother, right? After all you do not look alike. He's your husband, right?" She looked at me. Then before I can reply she said, with a hopeful look, "Or he's your brother-in-law."
I bit my lip and said, "Sorry, Eri-san, he's my husband."
She exhaled and said, "Oh well, of course he's your husband. Why else would he pick you up?"
"Hey! Why are you saying sorry to me?" She laughed, "Shouldn't you already be used to the reactions of his fangirls? Don't think about me; go to him, Echizen Sakuno!"
I went out of the office, grateful that what happened wasn't much of a scene. As I did so, I heard Eri-san mutter, "But I didn't know that Echizen Ryoma has a wife…wow, he is good at keeping his life private…"
Outside, I approached him, trying to ignore the looks that were thrown my way, especially from females…the fangirls. Didn't Japan know that Echizen Ryoma was married?!
This was my thought as I trudged my way to my husband. He looked up at the sound of my footsteps approaching him, and he smiled at me. But he must have seen the dark look on my face—the grin faded away.
"Why the look?" He asked me, taking my bags again, and leading the way to the train station.
"Doesn't Japan know that the Echizen Ryoma has a wife? All of those fangirls are eyeing you like a piece of candy." I blurted out at him.
"Why would I tell them? They don't matter to me," he said, giving me a weird look.
I had nothing to say to that, so I shrugged.
There was silence—we were both pensive.
Suddenly he turned to me and said, "Could you perhaps be jealous?"
I stopped in my tracks, shooting him a What?! look.
He motioned to the females whose eyes were boring holes on our backs. "Of them."
I raised an eyebrow at his observation and rolled my eyes. Then I shook my head and walked ahead, trying to hide my flaming cheeks. Of course he was spot on. I was speechless, since when was he this sharp when it came to relationships?
I could hear him chuckle once. As he caught up with me he put his free arm around my shoulder and planted a kiss on the top of my head. Then he intertwined his fingers around mine and raised it.
"I think that was enough announcement to the females of Japan. Or do you think they need more evidence?" He grinned at me crookedly.
I could only walk on because my hand was attached to him. Otherwise I would have collapsed at that unexpected attack of sweetness. "Was that you?" I choked out.
He laughed. "You're right. That wasn't me. The me of a few years ago that is, before landing with you."
My face flamed, but despite that I retorted back the classic, "Who are you and what have you done to my husband?"
"He's here." He squeezed my fingers then turned to me mischievously. "You didn't answer my question. Do you think Japan needs more evidence? We could do more than just hold hands you know. I could do more than just kiss your head…"
If it was possible to turn redder I did. "I think that was enough evidence." How can I be embarrassed when we are now married? I shook my head and snuck a look at him. There were still traces of a grin there. I smiled, it wasn't often when he showed this side of his, and often, it was only to me. This was a first—showing his playfulness to people he did not know. And I could guess the exact reason. My smile widened.
I squeezed his hand—he still hadn't let go. He turned to me and I grinned at him. "Let's go home!"
One of the things that I love about this bedroom was that it had its own bathroom. During the mornings I no longer needed to walk a longer distance just to wash my face and brush my teeth. But then there was also another added bonus: if I was lying down on the bed I could perfectly see my wife emerge from the bath, toweling her long hair dry. Then it would be my chance to brush her hair. It was one of our routines, and it comforted me to have my hands running through her hair, cold yet dry at the same time. And I know she liked it too, her head often lolled back into my hand, her eyes closed. Sometimes she ended up sleeping, and I had to carry her to the bed.
One particular evening, after I had frowned about her being very light, I laid her down and stretched out next to her, propping an elbow, just to look at her. She had changed me, in many ways. Enough said.
I kissed her in the nose, whispering in the air, "Thank you, Echizen Sakuno, my wife."
AN: Bah. I'm drowning in cheesiness. I'm sorry I wouldn't be able to do the part when Sakuno gets pregnant…maybe as a separate one shot or sequel or side story? Sorry about that…but I think it's time to wrap this fic now… and I hope I can also wrap up my other fics. OH WELL. When I have time I'll be editing this again. Thank you for reading!!!