It has been 3 months since Recca and Yanagi's wedding, 2 months since they came back from their honeymoon, and a month since they announced that they are having a baby. The past few months, everything seems to have been focused on the two. Fuuko has been pestering me, since then, asking when we can announce our engagement.
It had always been strange with Fuuko and me. I don't know what happened, what the events were that lead to this engagement, but I knew at that moment in time, the only thing that existed was me and her…
Our story didn't start after the UBS, nor did it start in high school, during graduation or anything like that. Our relationship then can only be described like this: I was her popsicle (she insists I am a banana-flavored popsicle. Monkeys like banana… get it? I know, inside joke.) and she's my monkey.
Finding out who my sister's killer is, was a bit of a wake-up call to my life. I started asking myself questions, what have I been doing with my life? What will I do now? I've found the killer, but the killer has been long dead. Trust me, I wasn't confused, maybe I just became scared. Scared of being betrayed again and much more scared of losing someone close to me again.
I may never want to admit it, but Hokage became family to me. I know they will never betray me, it's the fear of losing them that blows me away.
I became Kaoru and Ganko's big brother. I was never forced to be their big brother, I just suddenly had a sort of affection for both of them. I listened to their problems, and helped them with their homework when they come over. Don't get me wrong, I am still "Ice," but after my wake-up call, I decided I needed company, I don't want to be alone anymore. The kids gave me that sense of companionship.
Recca, Domon and Fuuko were the 3 sources of my entertainment. I go sit on the sofa and watch the three of them bicker, non-stop. I may keep a straight face, but, gosh, they're hilarious. My friendship with Recca may have improved after our battle with Neon and Miki, both of us respects each other's skills and after that, treating him as our leader doesn't seem as bad anymore. We hang around sometimes, playing with the almighty Playstation during weekends, or just hang around like "normal" teenagers do. After all that, I still don't get how he can stay in front of the TV for long hours.
Domon is a different story, trust me, he's not bad, he's just always acting… stupid. I don't hate him, he's a good teammate and a friend. We'd never probably be closer than what we are now, but I can live with that.
With Yanagi, it has become a sisterly thing. She has found out that I had a thing with kids, seeing how I acted around Ganko and Kaoru. One day, she decided to take me to her kindergarten class, and believe it or not, I discovered I had knack with kids. I adore those little rugrats. As annoying as they can get, they never irritated me. As loud as they can get, their whining was music to my ears.
Then there's Fuuko. Like I said, it has always been different with her. She will go to my house, entering without even knocking, sometimes. She will just sit there, sometimes not talking sometimes being very loud. She doesn't have any problems with her family, she just usually goes to check on me. I wouldn't call her a best friend, we just, knew each other.
We don't really have real conversations, she just sits there watching me make dinner or sometimes watching TV. Usually, she stays over for dinner, then we'd both watch TV. The silence didn't give us an awkward feeling, it gave us peace and contentment. "Silence is the real conversation between friends. It is not the said but the not needing to be said that matters most." She goes home knowing that I was left happy with the wordless conversations we had. I see her leave happy that though there was nothing said, it felt like she just poured her heart out to me. It has always been like that. Whatever you would want to call what we have, you decide.
When I graduated, I moved to Canada to live with my relatives and continue with my post-secondary in University of Victoria. There weren't any hard feelings between me and the Hokage when I moved to Canada, they understood that I needed the reunion with my relatives and that I want to pursue my studies there. I decided to take Biochemistry and Microbiology as my pre-medical studies, I graduated and I was soon on my way off to Harvard Medical School. I specialized in Pediatrics and surgery.
I wanted to do my internship in a different country, so I decided to apply in countries except Canada, USA and Japan. Besides, I took three other languages before, I think it's time to practice them. I was accepted for a year residency in Milan, and to tell you now, this is where the real story starts.
I went to Italy, not knowing what to expect from the country. Before I went, I went back home to Japan to tell Hokage of my plans. It has been about 8 years since I last saw them. I got back there seeing that Recca and Kurei settle their differences and are now living *peacefully* with Kagero and Shigeo. I told them that I was going to Italy a few weeks after my visit, but I have a feeling that someone was missing from the normal bunch. I asked where Fuuko was, and just when I said her name, I caught a mischievous glint in Recca's eye.
"She went away, Tokiya-kun. After high school, her parents took her to France to study there," Yanagi said.
That got me interested. "Really? What did she get in to?"
Recca shook his head, "You wouldn't believe me, but she got into culinary arts."
I laughed. I laughed really hard. "You're kidding right?" No offence to Fuuko, but the words COOK & FUUKO didn't match in my mind then. I challenged her before to cook us dinner, during one of her visits, we eventually ended up going for Chinese Takeout.
Kurei looked up from his laptop, "Hey, don't laugh at her cooking. I visited the restaurant she's working at now and she has made head chef. I was pretty amazed."
"Kurei-sama says that every girls' cooking is great except for Neon—chan!" That earned Aki a glare from Neon, "Right, Kurei-sama?"
"What are you talking about? Neon's cooking is wonderful!"
Aki raised her eyebrows to this, "That wasn't what you said when you got a taste of that thing she called cake on Ganko's birthday."
Kurei looked at Neon nervously, "Cooking isn't based on how you can bake a cake." Then he looked at me, probably deciding to change the subject. "You should go visit the restaurant sometime it's in Milan, probably near your internship. I forgot the name of the restaurant, but you could ask around." He went back to his laptop, concentrating, then looks back up to me, "Here, this would help, I asked for her phone number while I was there, call her."
Fuuko's in Milan. For some reason, that's all I needed to know and that's all that mattered. I haven't seen her for the longest time. We really weren't able to communicate as much as I expected we would. She's in Milan.
I breathe in the cool Italian air. I was finally there. In the first week, I didn't have time to actually tour the city or call Fuuko, I had to start work two days after I got there, it kept me busy.
I only had time the next week, after I got settled in my new apartment. I decided to call Fuuko that night, hoping she was at home.
It had been about a year and a half ago since the call that started it all. I still remember everything vividly as if it just happened yesterday.
I was home at that time, just cleaning the house since I came home from the restaurant 3 hours ago and I had nothing to do. The phone then rang and of course I got up and answered it, turning down the volume of my stereo while I was at it.
You should have seen the shock in my face when I found out that it was Mi-chan. I haven't talked to him for the longest time since he left. There were a few letters, and hardly any phone calls. I missed him so much. He was so busy with his University life and I was busy trying to graduate and get into a decent college. I was so happy to hear from him.
So, we talked, we laughed and reminisced. He told me about his life in Canada, his trip back to Japan before coming here, and his trip here. I told him the same things, though he still can't believe I am a chef, I think he'll live.
"So where did you get my phone number?" I asked, "It's not listed on the phone book."
"Kurei gave it to me when they told me you were here," he explained. "We were then talking about your career in cooking."
"Why don't you visit the restaurant sometime?" I invited him so I can prove to him that now I can cook, "At least you can get a taste of fettuccine a la Kirisawa."
He laughed, "Sure, why not? What time do you get off?"
Plans of our reunion were quickly made. We decided to see each other the following weekend when he gets the day off, so we can do a bit of sight seeing afterwards. After that, we began talking about our life in general. We talked for the longest time, for almost the whole night, but who can blame us? It's been more or less 6-8 years, we're back to the getting-to-know-you part.
So, when weekend came, he came in the restaurant and for the first time since we met each other, I was the one that prepared and served the food.
"This is a big change, Fuuko," he teased, "So, how was your first class in Culinary Arts?"
I punched him softly on his left arm, "Hey, no teasing!"
"Fuuko!" I looked up to my assistant chef. "Come over here for a sec."
I heard Mi-chan mutter, "unbelievable." I in turn, shot him a glare, leaving him eat his pasta.
I already asked our manager if I could get off early, he of coursed agreed saying, "Of course, my head chef needs her vacation, too!"
Mi-chan was waiting for me outside, seeing that now we could finally have a decent conversation without me getting called to the kitchen, as soon as I saw him, I practically threw myself to him and gave him a big bear hug.
"Whoa, hold your horses there, Fuu!"
I didn't, I hugged him tighter, "I missed you so much Mi-chan, why did we have to be so busy we had no time to call each other?"
I was surprised when she gave me that hug, even more surprised when she hugged me tighter. I ran my fingers through her hair, "You've grown your hair really long, Fuuko." I liked it.
I heard her sigh and for a moment, she just snuggled her head in the crook of my neck. When she finally loosened her hug, I kissed the top of her head, "I missed you, too, Fuuko. Come on, how can I not miss my monkey?"
She looked at me for a moment, "You cut your hair Mi-chan, why?"
I smirked, "well, my aunt didn't like my hair long. She was afraid lice might infect it. She asked me to chop it off." I shrugged, "Besides, it's a nice change for a change of lifestyle. Now come on, I am finally getting a chance to see the city, let's go."
I offered her my arm and she hooked her hand around it. We walked around the city, occasionally stopping to let her explain where we are. It felt nice to be around her again, her presence was so comforting.
I can't stop staring at her face. I realized she has changed so much. All those tomboyish features that made her look tough was all gone, instead, it was replaced by softness. She had a major change in her wardrobe, too. I could never have imagined her wearing a camel plaid skirt that was an inch above her knee, she wore a plain brown button-up and a camel, belted shirt dress on top. She had an air of elegance around her. She has changed so much, it's so hard to believe this once was the girl who always punches Domon.
I felt his eyes on me, he was probably thinking about my hair again. Moving to France with my family brought out a difference in my life. I never even wanted to be a chef in the first place, but next thing I knew, I made it a goal in life. I started asking my dad for cooking tips, and watched my mom cook. They taught me their secret recipes and it really heightened my interest for culinary arts. I guess I wanted to prove that I can cook. In France, my French classmates looked so sophisticated and the fact that I hanged around with a different bunch of people when I went for University, they pretty much influenced me to change. As they say, c'est la vie.
I wasn't the only one who changed, though. When Kurei came here for vacation last year, he didn't wear any of his masks, the purple nail polish and the horrible lipstick I still shiver at the thought of the lipstick. When I went to Japan for vacation half a year ago, Yanagi's face matured so much that I almost didn't recognize her. Recca has cut his hair so there were no annoying bangs hanging around his eyes. His wardrobe changed a lot, too. I think, Kurei influenced him. When they picked me up in the airport, he was wearing some dolphin gray twill shirt and khakis to match, the first thought that entered my mind was, "Whoa." There's Kaoru with his short, spiked-up hair and Ganko wearing light make-up with a floral blue dress.
Of course, there's Mi-chan. Though he still dresses the same, dress shirt, and pants a la Tokiya, his now short hair gave him more of a business-look around him. His face has changed a lot. Gone were the signs of stress and hatred, time has changed his face. The icy façade now gone replaced by a more warm smile.
He nudged me and I looked up. "Yes, Mi-chan?"
"Oh, it's nothing. I just--" He paused and his brows furrowed, as if deep in concentration. "You just look so different, you know? I was just thinking."
"Oh yeah, I was thinking about it, too. You seem more peaceful now."
He smiled at me, "Fuu, are you doing anything tonight?"
I thought about it for a moment, "I don't have anything planned, you want to do something?"
"Want to come over my apartment so I can cook you dinner, just like old times? Then maybe we can watch a movie afterwards?"
I smiled, I wouldn't miss that for the world, "I'd love to."
I was in the middle of chopping vegetables when she rang the bell. I told her it was open and it was like we were back in Japan.
As usual, she came over to the kitchen and asked what I was cooking, after knowing what was being served she went to the living room and watched TV. This was her first time in my new apartment, but I felt like she has already engraved every corner of the room in her memory.
Dinner has always been spent quietly, when it's done she will usually help clean the dishes, and although it has been 8 years, we had no reason to change tradition now. It's like we were back in time having silent conversations in front of the TV.
It continued like that for a while. Occasionally, we would go out for dinner, sometimes go to the opera house to watch an opera or ballet. Soon, our casual dates happened frequently. What used to be a bi-weekly thing soon became weekly. What used to be weekly was replaced by a daily thing.
Walking her home simply wasn't a simple action of seeing her safely home, but it became a walk under the stars.
We didn't really want to call what we had a boyfriend & girlfriend relationship, since he never asked me out. It was more of a natural thing, like I wouldn't even ask if he want to go out, he just knows I want to go out vice versa.
Our "trips" outside had become more frequent, and I found myself always looking forward to the day I will see him again. Of course, our chosen careers weren't any help. There were days that he had to work morning and afternoon, I have work at night. That never bothered us, most of the time, before going to sleep, I'd get a call from him and we'd talk on the phone.
"Fuuko-chan, why don't you want to believe me? I tell you, based on what you've been telling me, Tokiya-kun likes you!" I hear Yanagi sigh on the other line.
Arguing with Yanangi would never help me, but I do it anyway, "I don't think he does, Ya-chan! He's just acting like a normal friend would do! Besides, every guy I tell you about, you always say he digs me."
"Normal friend? Are you kidding me? So tell me, how does he hold your hand again? What time does he call you at night to ask how your day was? Tell me Fuuko-chan, how do you feel every time you stand outside your door about to go in and he's there standing waiting for you to go in?"
She had a point. Admit it or deny it, I like holding Mi-chan's hand. It didn't really happen before, usually I just have my arm hooked around his, and that was it. In the past month or two, entwining my fingers with his gave me comfort and peace. Our walks usually consist of my head on his shoulder and my hand safely held in his.
Now that I think about it, everything changed between him and me the time he called me and told me he was in Milan. The simplest thing in our life, before, evolved into something new. Every moment spent became a dream that has come true, but one that I will never forget was our first kiss.
It happened when we were walking in the park at night. We were just doing what we usually do, walk, talk then stay silent. That night, I knew something was going to happen.
We passed by a Jazz band, playing their music in a small nightly concert. I remember him asking me to dance, and me agreeing to after a moment's hesitation. At that moment in time, only the both of us existed. We were immediately taken in our small world, no one would be able to disturb us and wake us up from our dream.
I remember the feel of his hands on my back and how I held onto him staring right into his eyes. Maybe it was the romantic atmosphere, maybe it was because of the intensity of his stare or maybe, it was bound to happen… we kissed. It wasn't a kiss shared between friends, nor was it a kiss full of passion, but to describe it simply, that kiss holds in it months of talking, of walking and being together. The moment his lips touched mine, three words immediately formed in my head and apparently in his, too. "I love you." A breathless whisper that was said with all the tenderness in his voice, eyes of blue that stared back at me full of emotion, a touch that was soft and gentle and a sweet kiss to prove his declaration.
I will never forget the look of her face after I told her I loved her. I would never forget the way she stroked my cheek and caressed my hair. She brought my head down, so are foreheads were touching and her fingers danced, touching my lips and I kiss them.
"I love you, too." Those four words changed me. The little empty spaces in my heart were filled again with the hope of a new life.
We were still engrossed in our own world, not realizing the band has stopped playing. We were brought back to reality when applause were heard and everyone was looking and smiling at us, some snuggled up close to their partners, thinking when the same thing happened to them.
After that kiss, life went back to normal but only this time, it was better. We sometimes discussed the future, and both of us were planning to return to Japan. She wanted to build her own restaurant and I wanted to do my practice there. Our desire to move back was only increased when a wedding invitation was found in our mail. Recca and Yanagi were getting married, and I was one of the chosen best men and Fuuko, a maid of honor. We quickly made plans, we quickly packed and I was excited. I wasn't excited because I would be a Best Man, but I am much excited in what I was about to do.
I'm not the type who jumps into decisions quickly unless I am sure with what I am doing, so when I bought that engagement ring, I knew what I wanted to do and I intend to do it. I still can't believe where I proposed, though. It's the most unromantic place you would ever want to be when proposing to your lady. I proposed to her when we were on our way to Japan, in the Business Class of an airplane. She was sitting comfortably beside me, I was holding her hand. My plans then were to propose once we reach Japan, but those plans immediately flew out of the window the moment she looked at me with the sun visible behind the clouds shining behind her through the window. She looked breathtaking.
I was just staring at her while she was telling me some joke. I was still holding her hand, but my other is practically clutching on to the violet, velvet ring box, I brought it out. I laid it down on the fold table and the look on her face then was indescribable.
"Marry me, Fuuko."
He couldn't have said that phrase better. My heart beat increased ten times than normal, and my brain was screaming for joy. I didn't know what to say, the word yes seemed so simple, but how else could I say it or express that 3-letter word?
"Yes." And I knew I couldn't have said it better.
Now we're back in Japan, but we still haven't told our friends that we are getting married. I wonder how they'll react when we tell them?
I heard a car pull in our driveway. It's probably Mi-chan, he promised he'll be home early because he has a surprise for me.
"Fuu, I'm home!" I heard him call out.
I met with him in the foyer and was immediately drawn into his embrace, "So what's the big surprise, Mi-chan?"
He bent down and kissed my nose then he murmured in my lips, "No big surprise, I just want to spend a lot of time with you."
Those words makes me feel so special and maybe small sweet moments like this makes us feel complete with each other.