One More Chance
She's exhausted. She is now on lunch break but decides to make do with a simple coffee. The coffee shop is nearby and she's cold so the hot drink will be a relief. Her blood is chilled, her hands are going numb so she blows on them and hurries across the street, shivering and hoping that the heater inside the shop is on. The door slides open and she hurries inside to join the line but her rush causes her to stumble and crash into the man in front of her. She stumbles but he steadies her as she apologizes profusely. Her words are cut short when the man sucks in breath sharply.
She takes her first proper look at the stranger she'd crashed into and her breath catches in her throat.
It comes as a question but his identity is unmistakable. He looks older, worn and as tired as she feels but she can still see the young boy she used to spend all of her day with and she suddenly doesn't know what to say.
He stares at her, as if trying to frame her into his mind, before he gives her an uneasy smile. "Would you like to get some coffee and talk?"
She numbly nods and 5 minutes later she finds herself sitting across from him, her hands being warmed by the steaming liquid even as she sits there frozen.
"How are you, Akari-san?" Takaki finally asks and she gets a sudden urge to glare at him. Akari-san? When did she stop being simply Akari?
When they went their separate ways, her mind tells her and she swallows the sudden lump in her throat.
"I'm fine. I'm on my lunch break and then I'm going to pick up Kaoru from school. He's my son," she adds for clarification. She doesn't know why she feels that he has to know she's married and with a child.
"Ah, you have a child as well? I've got a girl. Name's Mio," he reveals and that is when she notices the ring on his finger.
"You got married?"
"Six years ago," he tells her. "To my high school friend Kanae. She was apparently in love with me for ages and tracked me down to give us a shot."
The statement remains unspoken. That Kanae had done what both of them had been too afraid to do.
"I see you got married as well," he continues with a glance at her hand. "Is he treating you well?"
"He is," she responds.
There's another lull of silence before he begins to speak again. He tells her many things such as how he joined his school's kyudo club and how he had originally been working as a computer programmer but how he'd quit to accomplish his dream.
"I'm not quite a space pilot yet, but I'm getting there." He grins at her for the first time and it's the grin that used quicken her pulse, make her heart beat and melt her. It no longer does any of those but she finds his smile a beautiful thing to observe nonetheless. "Couldn't have you disappointed in me, you know?"
"That'd be a terrible mistake," she replies easily and for a moment it's like they're not complete strangers anymore, that they're still best friends. The moment leaves quickly, however, and she's left to salvage the conversation by sharing how she and her husband work together, how her boy just started school and how she's planning a vacation to America soon.
The time passes by quickly and suddenly she realizes she has to go. He notices her glance at her watch and and makes to stand as well.
"It was great seeing you again. I haven't seen you since...the train crossing," he finishes quietly.
"That was you?" Her question comes out as a whisper.
He nods. "I waited to see if it was you, but by the time the trains had passed you were already gone."
"I'm sorry," she blurts out suddenly. "I thought it might have been you but I had somewhere to be and-"
He stops her by raising a hand. "It's fine. It's actually the best thing that could have happened to me."
He doesn't elaborate and she feels a rush of sadness and anger. How could he say something so terrible? Her expression must have reflected her feelings because he adds gently, "Akari-san, if I didn't want to talk to you I wouldn't be here."
She wants to believe him but he's still calling her Akari-san so she just nods. Together, they walk out of the store and in the front, unsure of what to say.
"It was nice seeing you, Takaki-kun," she finally says. "Perhaps we can do this again."
He nods. "It'd be nice. Plus, I'd like to meet your husband and Kaoru and I'd love for you to meet Kanae and Mio."
"We can make it a double date," she says in response.
And though they're saying these things she knows that he knows they have no way of contacting each other, yet neither of them make an effort to pull out their phones or ask for information.
"I'm going left," Takaki says.
"I'm going right."
He smiles but it's a sad smile. "Well then, goodbye Akari-san."
They separate and begin walking away. Soon his footsteps are lost in the sound of the city and she knows he's been lost in the crowd. She feels oddly empty as she makes her way to the light so she can cross the street and though there's noise everywhere she can hear her footsteps echo as she walks head down, looking at the pavement. There's an odd feeling in her chest that she hasn't experienced in a long time. Disappointment.
Her head shoots up, unwilling to believe it. But he's there, struggling to get past the crowd, pushing and shoving.
She stops and waits for him and soon he catches up to her before bending over, grabbing his knees and trying to catch his breath, which comes out in pants and is visible in the cold.
"Akari," he says again as he looks up at her.
"Takaki," she replies, feeling breathless.
"Let's-" He stops and stands up straight before looking at her in the eye and pulling out his phone. "Let's not be cowards again. Not this time."
She nods, feeling oddly weightless as she pulls out her own cellphone. In a matter of seconds they both have a new contact.
"Kanae and I are free most of the next week. Perhaps we can schedule our meeting then," he says. "And maybe when the time comes we can take our kids to see the cherry blossoms fall."
Will you go with me?
"I'd love that. I'll let Yuuichi know."
His smile is genuine this time. "Alright. See you later, Akari."
He makes to move away and she grabs his arm before pulling him into a hug, gripping the back of his jacket tightly.
"I missed you so much," she says to him. In response, he pulls her closer.
They break away and she stares at him, taking in his features.
"I'll call you tonight," he promises and she has never before realized such a simple sentence could sound so wonderful.
"I'll be waiting."
Then he turns and begins walking away. She shakes her head to clear her thoughts and reaches the crossing. The crossing light turns on and before she takes a step she turns around, hoping to catch one more glance at him. He's done the same and when their eyes meet he waves enthusiastically, a grin on his face. Her own face breaks into a large smile and she returns his wave just as enthusiastically until he disappears into the crowd and she follows the crosswalk.
And though it's begun snowing and she can hear someone say that the temperature dropped even lower, Akari has never felt warmer.
A/N: EDIT: I gave Akari's husband his correct name. At least I got the Yuu part right form my memory lol
Takaki and Kanae being together comes from the manga ending in which he quits his job and she goes looking for him in Tokyo before running into him at a park.
Read and Review Please. Constructive criticism is, as always, welcome.