He hasn't changed.
He still wears a white button down shirt, the top button left open, giving him an air of casual professionalism. His hair is the same ebony black, locks mysteriously falling over his face. And as he turns around to face her, Kana Sohma still feels her breath being stolen right out of her chest.
She hasn't changed.
She still has the same innocent eyes. The same light brown hair that shone like gold in the sunset. And when she called out to him, Hatori Sohma felt his heart hammer against his chest. Although there were other people crossing the bridge around him, they were a blur to him—all he could see was her.
"Hatori-san!" She smiled as she approached him. "It's been such a long time!"
He nodded, agreeing. "It has been a while."
"How are you?" She ran a hand through her hair. "Really, it must've over two years! I think the last time I saw you was at my wedding…"
Kana held her newly wed husband's hand and smiled for the hundreds of cameras that were flashing. She felt radiant. Her husband kissed her cheek. "Come on," he whispered, nodding towards the crowd that was still cheering. "We should go receive our guests."
She nodded, scanning the crowd of familiar faces. Suddenly, the handsome one of a former colleague and mentor came into view. "Hatori-san!"
He turns. His eyes catch hers, and suddenly his face contorts in so much agony and sorrow that she stops breathing for a moment. He dips his head in respect, and disappears into the crowd.
Despite the little band of gold on her ring finger that linked her to the man beside her, she could not stop herself from breaking free to search for him.
But he was no where to be found.
- END FLASHBACK—
"Sorry about that," Hatori said. "I was needed somewhere else. I offer my very belated congratulations."
"Oh, I'm divorced now, actually." Kana said, holding up her ring finger, which was now bare. "I've been divorced for three months now."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Oh, it's fine. We ended on good terms, my husband and I. I think we were better off as friends to begin with." She smiled, but there was a bit of sadness in her eyes. "It's just different now. Living alone… I had forgotten how alone it was."
From the look in his eyes, she could see he understood.
"But I did the right thing," she added, as if trying to convince herself. "I was never really happy with him. I'm sorry," She breaks off, shaking her head. A laugh escapes her lips. "Look at me, rambling on."
He smiles too, and it lights up his face. "You haven't changed. It's good to see you."
The way he said it suggested it was a goodbye, and she wasn't quite ready to say goodbye. "Hey, have you eaten? Let's get something to eat and catch up, okay?" She grins. "My treat."
Over dinner they talk. She learns that he is no longer a family doctor and is practicing at one of the biggest hospitals in Tokyo. He learns that she went back to school to study psychology and is now working at an institution. The conversation flows easily from there as they fall into an old pattern.
"You never married?" Kana asked.
He shook his head. "I guess I never found the right person. Or that she never found me."
"Well knowing you, she probably couldn't find you since you spent too much time in the office." They shared a laugh.
"You know," she continued shyly. "I actually had a bit of a crush on you when we were working together." It seemed so juvenile to call it a crush, but what other word was appropriate for the heart-beating, palms sweating, teen-romance sensations that he invoked in her? Or once invoked in her.
Or still invoked in her.
Her eyes widened when he admitted that he had feelings for her too, at the time. "Then something could've happened…" She said teasingly, expecting him to smile.
Instead, his eyes get a distant look, filled with regret and guilt.
Ayame had always told him that letting Kana go was perhaps the stupidest thing that he'd ever done.
Hatori hated to admit it, but the flamboyant snake was right.
After he erased her memories, he had fallen into a self-dug abyss of guilt. Days began to whirl together. In order to put things from his mind, he began indulging in other things such as books, and yet something was always missing. Even Ayame said that he lost his "sparkle", whatever that meant. He wasn't aware he was "sparkling" to begin with.
And then Shigure said that there was no way only one woman could make him happy. Which lead to him pointing out the hordes of women that Shigure had dated.
Maybe there was only one woman that could make him happy. But he'd lost her, and he wasn't going to get her back. All he could do was keep attending to Akito and go on with life as if nothing had happened, even though it was killing him.
Every tiny bit of news that Mayuko or Ayame relayed to him about Kana killed him a little inside. They meant well, but they didn't understand how it felt. They thought it'd make him happy to hear that she was happy. That she was dating someone new. That she was getting married. But it hurt him, it hurt him so much knowing that he wasn't the one making her happy. It killed him, knowing that he couldn't be with her.
To spend so much time with someone, to have your relationship grow and develop, to fight and make up countless of times, to realize how much you loved each other, to be so in love that you are about to make to ultimate commitment… and then to have them not remember any of it. It was the worst feeling in the world.
But now things were different. Now she was no longer married and he was no longer cursed, and Hatori could not ignore the old feelings of attraction that were resurfacing.
After dinner, they took a walk. The air was crisp and cool; the lights just dim enough to make the atmosphere seem idyllic. Maybe it was the fireflies flickering, or the gentle breeze that caressed their skin, but something was causing them to feel things they've suppressed for too long. His hand closes over hers, and it's the most natural feeling ever.
As he pulls her closer to him, Kana is shocked at the familiarity of his touch, of how her body reacts as it settles against him so easily. It was as if her body remembered something her mind didn't. It shocked her so much that she stiffened, and he pulled away.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to—"
"No, no, it's okay." She breaks off, upset that the mood is broken.
"Is something wrong?" His eyes are concerned as he brushes her face gently with his fingers.
"I…" She laughs uncomfortably. "It's just that… It felt too… right." She shakes her head in disbelief. "Does that make any sense? It that weird?"
His reply was to kiss her lightly on the cheek, so she couldn't see the moisture in his eyes. "No, it's not weird. It's not weird at all."
He would probably tell her someday. He would delicately break the news to her, and pray that she would understand. It hadn't been his choice. It hadn't been anyone's choice. If it'd been his choice, they'd be happily wed with children by now.
Or maybe he wouldn't tell her. He would make her fall in love with him again, and they would move on. The harsh memories from before would only be that—a memory. The guilt and the pain would fade away, like a watery drop of paint.
It didn't matter right now. It was amazing, this feeling of being in control. He could choose what he wanted to do now. Nothing could stop them, not the curse, not Akito, no one.
He didn't want to choose right now. All he wanted was to be with her. His hand finds its way to hers once more. They have a lifetime in front of them, together.
"No," he murmurs quietly. "It's not weird at all. It's perfect."