thank you for everyone who had followed this story. I'm not very good at updating, so sorry for that. I hope you enjoy this last chapter :)
There is no Shangri-La, you know. Every relationship is messed up. What makes it perfect is if you still wanna be there when things really suck.
Scrubs – Carla to Dr. Cox
Remember that time when we were little and we used to make a top five list of things we like or don't like. Of the food we'd love to eat, movies we'd love to watch, boys we'd love to date, things we'd love to do if we were to win the million dollar lottery (not that we had money to even buy the ticket in the first place).
I've been thinking lately about things I'm afraid of the most. Why? I don't know, I just do. Shall I tell you my list?
Brace yourself for the ride. Here goes.
5. I'm afraid of being alone. (And yet I'm alone here in the strange country. Don't you love the irony?)
4. Earth worm, cockroach, mice, rats and gecko. I hate them. I glued the pages of my biology book back in high school. Yes, you guess it right, I got an E in the test, but hey, life is but a compilation of success and fails, right?
3. I'm scared of height and I fear of falling. Yet I love going to the carnival and try the highest roller coaster. What's with me and the irony? Or is it my way of cope with things and basically try not to be such a pathetic paranoid?
2. I'm afraid of missing things I'm supposed to experience in life. Like what, you ask? Like puppy love, sleepover with friends, eating cake and ice cream while watching chick flicks on repeat, or to fall in love, break up, then fall in loves again. Like enjoying sunset and sunrise on the beach, like climbing up the mountain and walk on the clouds. Because life is nothing without those little things to fill the volume, right?
But Tsukushi, can you guess what my number one fear is? Do you know what's keeping me awake and eating me alive?
I'm afraid that I might not be able to see and talk to you again. I'm afraid that I can never face you and said I'm so sorry to you. Not because I don't feel sorry, because God knows I do. But because I'm too afraid to see the disappointment in your face. I don't mind your being judgmental, or angry. But your being disappointed in me.. that would be the worst, don't you think?
I'll say it to you now, if you don't mind. I'm sorry. I'm a coward, I know. But this is the best I can do for now. I'm sorry.
And if you don't know already, I love you.
She read it over, smiled, then crushed the paper into a small ball before threw it into the basket. A futile exercise she had been practicing for the good part of the past couple of years.
She turned her head to see Soujiro looked at her curiously from the newspaper he was reading by the portable heater.
'Nothing,' she put her pen down and walked to the kitchen to make herself a cup of strong black tea.
Summer had turned into fall, and fall had turned into winter.
Soujiro had kept his promise to her and refused to answer Tsukushi's question about her address, even successfully persuaded Akira to hold any information he had in hand to Tsukushi's wrath, saying only that she will go back to Japan when she's ready.
'You're a cruel woman,' he said to her the last time she said she wasn't ready yet again. 'Do you know how many jet lags I have had this past few months?'
She was lying on top of him, feeling him filled her up fast. Her elbow rested on his bare chest, strands of long hair fell onto his face, her smooth, soft tummy felt addictively at home on his long, lean abs.
'But I'm making it up to you now,' she said seductively to him, moving in a way only she knew how to send him over the edge, until he rolled her down and it was his turn to move the way only he knew how to make her come.
'I'm sorry,' she said to him afterwards.
He didn't say anything, only indicating that she had a long way to make up to him, to which she said he's a sex maniac and what was she thinking in the first place, falling in love with someone so insatiable in his sexual appetite.
'This,' he moved his hands under the blanket (it was cold and the heater in the apartment wasn't working properly) until her breath hitched and she had to beg him not to stop.
'Did you have boyfriends?' he had asked her on the last day of summer.
'A few,' she glanced to see his face darkened slightly but kept his quiet.
She wondered what crossed his mind. If he had been angry, she would have had no clue. The answer came easily enough with her fifth or sixth orgasm that night. Really, she thought amusedly. Men are idiots. What did he set to prove anyway? It wasn't all about sex. She would be just as happy to sit on the couch watching news on TV together, or sipping cappuccino in a café facing and talking to each other, reading free city newspaper looking for the newest restaurant review, maybe a few kisses here and there. That would have been enough.
But she hid her smile and buried her face in his shoulder, her body still hummed with ecstatic release, joints a bit ached from the epic rounds.
'I love you,' she told him before he drifted into sleep.
'Hmm..' came his reply, eyes half closed.
'And don't worry, you are the best.' She couldn't hold the laugh and quickly jumped from the bed and ran to the bathroom before he could have grabbed her.
She refused his offer to find her a new place to live.
'What's wrong with this place?' she looked at him in mock offended expression.
'It's so small.' He stretched his long legs from where he sat on the sofa and right away they hit the edge of her coffee table. Just to prove a point.
'It's big enough for me,' she rolled her eyes and continued reading her novel. 'Plus it's close to the train station. I'm a poor expat in this country. I don't have car, you know.'
'I can get you a car easily. Plus it's practically the two of us living here now.'
She turned her head to see him and shook her head. Typical rich boy.
'Only a couple of days every two or three weeks,' she reminded him. It's hardly counted as living together by any standard.
'At least move somewhere where the heater works,' he complained to her at last. It was mid June and the night and morning were a bit chilly. They had gone to bed wearing socks and sweatshirt. Not his preferred choice of sleepwear (OK, so socks were okay, preferably the thin kind - knee length or mid thigh, but definitely not the sweatshirt).
'You're such a sulk,' she laughed at his expression. 'It's not half as cold as Japanese winter.'
But she threw the magazine in her hand and crawled on the couch onto his laps, slowly circled her arms around his neck and kissed his mouth.
'See, it's not too bad,' she said softly when they both pulled out at last, his hands firmly placed on her waist.
'Akira said he's coming to visit next week.'
'I miss him too,' she inhaled the scent of after shave on his chin. It's citrusy with a very faint hint of spice. 'Is he going to stay here as well? It might be a little bit too crowded for the three of us. Do you think he's OK to sleep on the couch?'
'Hell no,' he looked at her with horrified expression. 'Why would he do that? I'd stay in the hotel myself if I could have just persuaded you enough.'
'Sulks,' she rolled her eyes and pushed herself off his laps. There was a loud knock on the door. The doorbell must have stopped working, she thought idly as she walked to the front door.
If one were to ask about her favorite Australian season, she would have answered it 'winter' immediately. It's a nice break from the long summer and an almost year round beach culture. The sky was always clear, and she even loved the crispy, chilly morning.
She thought about it when she opened the door. How funny, she thought, that she was still wearing sweatshirt and thick socks with no makeup (it was Saturday morning!) while the person in front of her was wearing pretty looking long coat with boots and scarf. It's even funnier that they couldn't seem to say a word to each other, only stood there bracing the cool temperature outside while their lips stayed shut.
Years later, when both were asked what was crossing their mind that particular moment, they would both answer 'I can't remember'. Fact was, unfinished thoughts elbowed each others, pushing and pulling, knocking their mind – and heart.
None remembered who made the first move. Yuki felt her chest heaved in short sharp interval, as if she had had a sudden asthma attack. The next thing she remembered was Tsukushi pulling her into a tight hug, before giving her a slap on the cheek, then another hug.
'I waited patiently this past five months,' Tsukushi said, 'for you to get ready to tell me your story.' She pulled herself out off their embrace. 'I can't wait anymore.'
She quietly eyed Soujiro who had let her knew his presence. 'I just can't accept the fact that you trust him so much more than you do me.'
Was her friend crazy, Yuki thought. Shouldn't she be mad at her? Disappointed at her? Shouldn't she curse her and vow never to see her face again?
'Tsukasa told me his story the day he and Soujiro had that fight.'
She paused and looked at her friend solemnly. 'I've been waiting for you to come back and tell me yours.'
What was there to tell? That she was sorry? That it was a mistake?
I'm sorry,' she stuttered, uncertain of what to say next. 'It was all my mistake.' Because that was essentially what she had been feeling the entire time.
But Tsukushi shook her head.
'But you and Tsukasa….'
'Tsukasa and I have problem. We are working on it now.' She shrugged her shoulder in her typical fashion. 'It was a different problem than the one we had years ago, but we're working to solve it just as hard.'
'I.. I don't know what to say.'
'I do. Tell me you're going back to Japan.' She smiled and looked at her earnestly. 'That's the least you can do for me.'
'Tell me again why we do this?' Soujiro buttoned up his coat before lay himself on the blue and green checked picnic rug.
August was definitely not the ideal time to have a night picnic. Especially one when you have to fight the chilly wind.
'Shhh, here's to warm you up,' she handed him a tall champagne flute, full to the brim.
He sat himself up before accepting her offer.
'To your last night away from home,' he said, touching his glass onto hers.
'To your last night being the freeman,' she raised her glass, smirking.
She had accepted his not so subtle suggestion of living with him once they arrived in Japan tomorrow.
'You know what,' she looked at the clear black sky. 'People used those stars to find their way back home back in the days.'
'They still do.'
'When the acid clouds and heavy smog don't cover their vision?'
'You are one bitter woman.'
She laughed and slid closer to him.
'It's my favorite,' she said, whilst sipping her champagne and looked up at the group of stars in the sky. 'I used to draw it back in the elementary school.'
'The constellation. It's called Southern Cross.'
'Because people used it to find their way home.' She smiled quietly. 'Home.'