Chapter 20: Amabile
Her hair was sticking on her forehead and cheeks. Her hand in her panties was attempting to give her some pleasure, a sense of relief and safety. But she wasn't in the right mood, Kahoko was really pushing it and the release wasn't anywhere near. The frustration soon overwhelmed her and tears started flowing freely from her eyes. Sobs soon followed and filled the empty room. Things kept piling for the last two years – slowly and steadily.
Around three years ago, Hino Kahoko decided she loved the bipolar devil, who happened to be her boyfriend, so much that she was ready to unite her life with his for all of eternity in good and in bad times and all that romantic jazz. It's not like she hadn't experienced living with Yunoki Azuma before. She has been sharing a roof with that person for almost seven years all in all, and she couldn't complain that it wasn't something unmanageable. On the contrary, as their personalities kind of melted into each other, each gaining character attributes of the other, opening up, letting their guard down, it became quite easy to understand each other, communicate and live with each other. Lately though, Kahoko felt they were drifting apart, felt that their relationship became a small off-key note and the vivid colors of the first years were fading and were turning into muted ones. Was it her fault?
She surely had devoted herself to teaching and playing music, she was young, it was natural that Kahoko would want to work a lot, making people around her happy and grow 'bigger'. The part about making people around her happy included making Azuma happy as well. She made progress in cooking, she always remembered important dates and gave gifts to her husband, but… gifts for men are always a bit of a trouble. There aren't so many different 'unique' and 'special' gifts. It comes down to this as nature dictates, after awhile, things got repeated and 'recycled'. And oh well, if Kahoko was to be honest, when you ascend the stair of success, you start prioritizing work over anything else. You get less time for yourself, let alone for others and choosing the right gift, leaving lovey-dovey notes, etc.
What about Azuma? Azuma was and is — always- an ambitious, hard-working, and at the same time, popular person. In the business world, this rarely equates to free time or a personal life. Expanding business, in particular, the flower and kimono chain of shops he owned, in other Japanese islands meant that he had to run from meeting to meeting, increase the hours he stayed at his office rather than his house as well as decrease the hours he spent in the past pampering his wife. By no means did it mean that he cared and loved his Kahoko less, but to be able to communicate feelings, you need to first be able to see the person you want for more than the typical procedures of a day. Plus, it's a painful truth that the romance and burning passion doesn't last very long. One year is an extraordinary case.
Normal or not, the situation should be fixed. It should be changed soon. Kahoko felt terribly lonely lying on their bed alone and having to endure extra stress from waking up very early without her consent really because her body found the wrong time to mess up with her. Azuma had been on a business trip to Hokkaido a week now, e-mailing her here and now to check if she's okay. Kahoko wouldn't want to worry him, would she? So, she always said she was fine. Azuma, probably too busy and too tired, had forgotten to let her on the details of his return, or at least that's what Kahoko was thinking.
She really didn't wish to descend that dark rabbit hole of self-destructing worries of adultery again. She made that mistake once, a month or two ago, when Azuma returned home late at night oozing a strong perfume and found a shirt of his with lipstick on the shirt's collar the next day. Kahoko trusted her spouse and Kahoko is a person, as everybody knows, that tries to see the good in everyone. But Kahoko is a human being with weaknesses and bad moments. Those two days were full of unfortunate events in her workplace; a festival was coming up and her pupils were assigned to perform, but her best violinist got tendonitis and couldn't perform, which meant that she not only had to find a solution for this problem, but also manage the expenses for the festival with a small budget… Her nerves were fragile in other words. Smelling another woman all over him, wasn't that unusual, considering the need for Yunoki Azuma to go to dinners with customers, but the combination of the perfume and her nerves and their relationship gradually getting the label 'boring' in her head AND the lipstick was an explosive one, to say the least. Azuma got his pride awfully hurt at such an accusation and didn't sleep at home for three days in a row. No e-mails, no news and no greetings at all. Kahoko was afraid that he wouldn't want to see her again. She had to show some stubbornness waiting for him outside of the HQ in the cold night for him to come out and meet with her and let her apologize.
After this incident Azuma tried to make-up with her by getting himself a day off and spending it with her. In spite of the good intentions, Kahoko started worrying about other new things. Apart from the morning that passed by mostly sleeping (because both of them were very very tired), Azuma and Kahoko went out for a walk then for a lunch, then returned home for some music practice together, an outstanding dinner made by Azuma, and then lots of cuddling on the sofa and some proper sex after a long time.
"The dinner was splendid! I missed your cooking…. You are so much better than me," Kahoko said coming out of the bedroom, where she went to change into a light translucent robe covered with flowers.
"You've learnt from the best so you have acquired the techniques and skills to do it right. Don't be humble. Through the years, you've mastered the 'art'. The meals you prepare are delicious." Azuma smiled, while drying the dishes with a towel. It was a special day and he should show that he could still spoil her.
"Are they?" sadness flickered in Kahoko's eyes. "Do you really taste my bento box or the supper I prepare for us? Hasn't it become a mechanical routine to eat?"
Azuma froze for a second. Yes, he was lying. He always thought of other things while eating instead of savoring the flavors and the textures like he used to when he was younger. He tidied up the kitchen and went to change his clothes as well. "I'll be right back."
"I know, because it's the same for me too. Tonight, I remembered what it means to eat." Their eyes met. "Thank you."
Kahoko put in a mix CD she had created once to ease the atmosphere and sat on the sofa. Soon, Azuma appeared in his yukata, sat next to her and gestured for her to sit on his lap and in his arms. She obeyed silently and flushed a tinge of red. She could hear her heartbeats. When was the last time they had shown affection with honesty? Kahoko's hand shaped a fist — how had everything become so estranged? What were the right words to speak her heart out loud? Could Azuma read her thoughts?
Azuma noticed how her frame and her posture were tense and sad. He knew he had caused part of this. But could things turn back to the way they were? Would he be happy if he had chosen a quieter work life? No. He wouldn't. He might have been tired every day and night, but he didn't regret it. And he was sure Kahoko loved her work as well. Before sleeping every night, exhaustion was written on their foreheads, but there was a sense of fulfillment in their hearts. Azuma stroked her hair with love and kissed the crown of her head.
Kahoko grabbed his hand and placed it on her chest where her heart beats.
"I love you!" she yelled at him with a broken voice.
"More than your work?" Azuma cut her in. And she couldn't give an answer.
"I miss you…" she whispered, understanding that she was content with her work and shouldn't talk like a little child, who thinks love is above all, that love is enough a reason for every case.
"I can't promise you anything except for trying." He paused, contemplating if he should come out and tell her. "Kissing you every night, while you sleep and before I close my eyes gives me the strength to go forward. You make me happy just by lying next to me."
"I-I… I didn't know…" Kahoko was left speechless. She thought she had become a convenient stranger. She fell in deep slumber and never realized Azuma's tender gesture.
"I know that this isn't very sound proof of my feelings and I know this doesn't console you much or erase your feelings of loneliness. We should try getting intimate again with every chance."
Kahoko finally smiled at him. "From time to time such days as this one would be an oasis. I can't wait for when the next one will be. In the meantime, could some of those teasing notes you used to write to me have a come-back?"
Azuma chuckled.. "Sure, why not. Remember you asked for it, my lady."
Suddenly, Kahoko remembered the little girl, whom Azuma called "my lady", and whom they met during their stroll. Azuma was very kind and gentle with the kid that approached him in the park; he played with her, chased her, and pushed her on the swing… He seemed to truly enjoy it instead of simply pretending to.
"Would a baby of our own make you smile like today?"
"…" Azuma hadn't really thought about children and blinked at Kahoko's question. "I just found the little one amusing. She was mischievous and reminded me of myself. I'm not sure if I'm ready yet. Kids are a great responsibility. I'm… hesitant about whether or not I would be a good father.
Kahoko kissed him on the lips, closing her eyes and convinced herself that she should cherish the last hours of Azuma's day-off. "For now, you are my king and I am at your hands."
"And you are my queen, so you deserve some royal treatment." He kissed her neck and at the same time, undid the belt of her robe. His hands slid slowly from her thigh upwards to her breasts and then up to her shoulder to remove some inches of the fabric. He sucked her skin there, making her shiver from anticipation. Azuma lifted her and switched their bodies to a lying position. "You are beautiful," he said and leaned over…
…Love, love, love is a word so small
let fill me up, up, up, 'till I can't see at all
I want to be blind, only my hands to guide me
to take all of you inside me
City fast asleep, lights hum in the grey
like her breathing will someday…
End of flashback
The other new things that she worried ever since that day had to do with the forming of a family. When would be the right time for both of them ― they were busy enough with their work to have problems with their relationship and one more person to care about would be more trouble. How would a baby change their relationship? Was Azuma negative about having a baby? What if she couldn't bear a child? Would Azuma still want her as his wife? She was terrified at her own thoughts. Loneliness can be a bad councilor. Kahoko thought that she would heal her heart if she had a piece of her beloved one, Azuma's baby. She could give up concerts for a while and dedicate herself to being a mother. But was it a good idea? Having a baby involved Azuma, too. What if he got angry with her or even worse, what if he left her? Would being simply a mother satisfy her? What about being a woman?
It was still 8:00 a.m., Sunday. Some of the questions above had been erased in her mind while others were still lingering. After that day-off, both Kahoko and Azuma had returned to their hectic routine. It was like they dreamt a sweet dream. Kahoko decided to sleep a little more.
— • — • —
When Kahoko woke up for the second time that day, she found a suitcase in the living room. Azuma was back but not in the house. She searched for an e-mail or a note that would inform her about her husband's plans, but she didn't find anything. She sighed. The house felt empty and it wasn't a big one. Kahoko didn't want a villa or servants, so they chose something modest. A retire with a view — modest according to Azuma's opinion at least. Kahoko opened the curtains in the living room. The sun glowed over Tokyo and warmed her. It will be fine; she convinced herself and headed to the kitchen to prepare lunch for the two of them.
Azuma entered the house at 5:37 p.m. He found Kahoko sitting on the floor with her back on the sofa and with the big teddy bear he had bought her for a present one White Day. In front of her, there was a variety of his favorite dishes. He understood what happened and felt very guilty.
"Kahoko?" He got no answer. Azuma got worried. Was she sulking or did she feel unwell? He got closer. She was sleeping. She must have dozed off while waiting for him to come. He noticed that her eyes were puffy. She had cried? Did he hurt her that much? "Kahoko?"
"Hmn…" It took some seconds for her to come around. "A-Azuma? Am I dreaming or…?"
"You are not dreaming. I'm back." He took her hand and kissed it. "I thought you were out with friends or for work, so I didn't leave a message. Then again, they called me for a technical problem that occurred and other formalities for which they needed my approval. I wouldn't have known when I would be able to come home anyways." He helped her stand up and took the teddy from her arms, placing it on the sofa, and hugged her tightly. "I'm sorry. I have already nibbled something at work. I appreciate the gesture; we can keep it for later."
"I'm sorry, I ate too. My stomach was hurting and I needed to fill it. We can keep it, but it's not the same. It won't be fresh like you love it." She didn't return the affections and started tidying up the table, removing all the dishes she prepared and taking them to the kitchen. She was ready to throw them in the trash bin, but Azuma stopped her.
"It's okay. I still want to eat them." He took the plates from her hands and gripped her from the wrists.
"NO! IT'S NOT OKAY!" Kahoko yelled and tried to free her wrists to hit his chest. "You don't love me anymore, do you? You don't think of me at all!"
"That's not true." Azuma being stronger than her, led her to the other kitchen bench and sandwiched her between the bench and himself. "And you don't send e-mails either.I don't want to be an annoyance." Kahoko's resistance broke and her eyes watered.
Azuma caressed her cheek and the small of her back to relax her. Kahoko searched for his lips, biting it softly. Azuma deepened the kiss soon. They would change; they should change. He wanted her smiles and her body's warmth more often. He wanted to eat properly with Kahoko again. And she wanted these things, too. Azuma turned her around, bent her over the bench and started undressing her. Hurting each other couldn't go on. For now, the longing, the frustration or anger transformed into carnal desire. They did it in the kitchen, continued in the shower, and ended in the bathtub catching their breaths.
— • — • —
Kahoko sank in the foam some centimeters and allowed herself to rest against Azuma's chest. She purred from pleasure like a cat. That was paradise. He kissed her head, took the sponge and started rubbing and washing her body, her shoulders, her arms, her breasts, her stomach, but when he reached her tummy, Kahoko leaned away.
"Are you okay?"
"Don't lie to a professional liar, Hino Kahoko."
Kahoko got scared. What should she say? No, she knew what she should say. The problem was the how. And she was having fun… Azuma wouldn't leave her alone if she didn't spill the beans.
"Oh." She inhaled and exhaled. "Am I a good lover?"
"Huh?" Azuma was taken back. "You never to cease to amuse me. Hmm… let me think…"
"Mouuuu, teaser!" Kahoko turned her body around.
"Can't you tell?"
"To ask you, it means no. Simple logic."
"I guess…" Azuma said with a pretentious skeptical face and Kahoko got the message.
"And… would I make a good mother?" asked Kahoko, avoiding his gaze.
Azuma examined her and wasn't sure how to interpret the question. Was she suggesting that she wanted a baby or that she had one? The reaction he got touching her belly indicated the second option. OMG, OMG, OMG! Kahoko was pregnant! THEY WERE pregnant.
'Should I get happy or panicked?' Azuma thought as he stared at her expressionlessly. He wasn't Hihara to burst into grins and yell and celebrate, and he wasn't Tsukimori to think of it as a disaster to his career.
"Azuma?" Kahoko got anxious about the silence and turned to look at him to find an answer. "Does this mean no?"
"Does this mean you carry our baby?" Azuma thought he should check first. It wouldn't be wise to jump to conclusions.
"Y-Yes. Are you mad?"
"You… and I… when?"
"On your day-off, we overslept and I forgot to take the pill. We were also in the right mood… That's the only way to explain it."
"Are you sure? I thought you had your period last month."
"Yes and yes. I checked it with my doctor this week. And without checking, I knew this week has been a hell. Don't dare doubt it's not yours. He or she is bullying me already. I have nausea every morning." Kahoko got sad. "I'm sorry. You don't want it, do you?"
Azuma held her hands in his and although surprise was evident on his features, Kahoko dreaded a bomb, a negative statement. Azuma was just thinking. Okay, Kahoko is pregnant. So? What did he feel about it? Oh, his work, the company he built with his own hands, what would happen to it? Could he have only one thing? Should he choose?
"I'm sorry, I should have been more careful. It should be something that we would decide together. Please, don't hate me."
Azuma took her hands and kissed them. He smiled. "You'll be a wonderful mother. Let's hope I can become a good father."
A/N: Amabile means "with love".
Sorry for the long wait! One more chapter and the curtains fall. Listen to "Now Three" by Vienna Teng. They lyrics in this chapter are from her wonderful song — I don't own anything.