Yuuto shifts his weight from one foot to another, and then back again, watching the minute hand slowly inch towards twelve with narrowed blue eyes.
"Yuuto, could you please stop?" Tokomon complains from his perch on his head. "I'm getting seasick from all this bouncing."
"I'm sorry Tokomon, but Mom told me to remind Dad right on the dot," the boy explains. "She doesn't want Dad to be late again."
Tokomon giggles, ill temper immediately forgotten. "Yeah, that's true," he says thoughtfully, "your dad is always late."
Yuuto sighs in agreement. Saturdays are always busy at home. In the morning, Mom has to drive Kouki to violin lessons at Auntie Yukiko's house and Dad has to work on the newest draft of his new book. In the afternoon, Yuuto has basketball practice, and Mom has to drive him because once Dad enters the "writing zone," it's hard to get him out. Add the annual reunion on top of that today, and Yuuto ends up with two stressed out parents.
He surveys the clock again and eyes the door to his father's study. If he weren't afraid of being rude, he would go there now and tell Dad to get ready. Otherwise…he shakes his head and sighs.
Yuuto has two secret fears, although he's only ever confided them to Tokomon. The first is maybe a bit irrational: he worries that Mom prefers Kouki to him. After all, Kouki looks so much like Mom, has a Plotmon, and gets to inherit Mom's old whistle. Then again, Mom has never given him any reason to think that that's true. Besides, one could argue that because he looks like Dad, he's Dad's favorite, and he knows that to be untrue.
Even more, however, he worries that Mom and Dad will get divorced. He knows, though he can't remember from where, that Mom and Dad were divorced at one point, although they got married again when he and Kouki were young. Grandpa Hiroaki and Grandma Natsuko are divorced. The mere word sends chills down his spine. If it has happened before, couldn't it happen again? He loves both his parents equally and couldn't bear the thought that he could only live with one of them.
Thus he was worried this morning when he heard Mom and Dad arguing in the bedroom. He knows that parents argue – bossy Momoko says so, anyway – but he gets nervous whenever he hears Mom and Dad raise their voices at each other.
"All I'm saying," Mom said, as she came out of the bedroom, "is that you need to think about it. If we miss our chance this time, we might not get another one. It's a very good deal, plus the school district is great."
"Listen, I know what you're saying," Dad said, as he followed her out. "I'm just saying that we need a little more time to think before we invest in something as big as a house."
"That's what you said last time," she said, "and by the time we got our act together, it was too late."
"We're not in any hurry to get a house, are we?" said Dad. "We've lived in this apartment for over ten years and it's been fine."
"It's fine now," Mom corrected him. "Once the boys get older, they're going to want their own rooms. They're already getting too big…"
She sighed and stopped herself from saying more when she noticed the two boys staring at them from the breakfast table. Yuuto noticed her and Dad exchange a look; his parents have always seemed to be able to communicate without words. Then she was smiling as she greeted each son by tousling his hair. Yuuto leaned into her touch; Mom exudes a comforting aura, even when she's unhappy.
"Kouki, are we ready to go?" She glanced at her watch. "We are going to be late!"
"I'll just go get my stuff," Kouki said.
While his older brother headed back into the bedroom and Dad headed back into the study, Yuuto caught Mom and Tailmon by the front door.
"Mom, you and Dad aren't mad at each other right?" he asked anxiously.
"Of course not," Mom assured him, stroking his messy blonde hair. "I'll see you in two hours in the Digital World, okay?"
"You're not coming back before then?"
Mom glanced at her watch. "We're already a bit late, so I think we'll just have to use the gate at Uncle Koushiro's after Auntie Yukiko's lesson," she said. She dropped a quick kiss on his head as Kouki rejoined them, violin case and Plotmon in tow. "Make sure Dad doesn't show up late again."
Despite Mom's words, Yuuto is not reassured. Parents – even one as nice as Mom – don't always tell the truth. For example, Mom has always insisted that Santa Claus is real, until he and Kouki caught Dad putting presents under the tree last Christmas.
The minute hand finally lands on twelve. Dad is still on the computer when Yuuto dashes into the room. "Come on Dad," he says. "We're going to be late!"
"What's the hurry?" Dad asks, as he pulls up the Digital Gate.
"Mom is waiting," Yuuto says pointedly. "She will be angry if we're late.
Dad only laughs. "Don't worry," he says with a smile, reaching over to pat Yuuto on the shoulder before fishing out his Digivice. "We won't be the last ones there."
The Digital World appears in a whirl of colorful light. Yuuto could see the sea of uncles, aunties, and cousins already waiting there. Although he catches a glimpse of Mom and Kouki, standing by Uncle Koushiro, they only wave while Uncle Taichi and Yuuki greet him and Dad. Even though Yuuto normally adores Uncle Taichi, who has just about the coolest job in the world, he wishes that he isn't so talkative and keeping Dad away from Mom. Before Yuuto could do anything, Uncle Daisuke and Ogano arrive, prompting another wave of greetings.
He crosses his arms over his chest and sighs audibly. Dad notices and misinterprets.
"See?" he says, nudging Yuuto on the shoulder. "We're not the last ones."
Yuuto rolls his eyes and does not respond. It does not escape his notice that Mom and Dad have not made eye contact once, or said anything to each other, and that Dad does not go over to stand beside Mom, instead opting for a spot on the side.
Now that everyone here, Ogano, who has self-appointed him the leader despite not being the oldest, leads the children on a run across the meadow. Yuuto joins, though halfheartedly. Usually, reunion is a good opportunity for him to play with all the cousins and their Digimon in the Digital World. Often they would even find wild Digimon who are eager to join in the fun. Today, however, he has a plan hatching in his mind.
He glances at Kouki, who seems completely oblivious to his younger brother's inner turmoil. While Ogano and Momoko start arguing over whether to play hide-and-seek or tag, an argument they seem to revisit every time, Yuuto discreetly edges away and starts to head back to the clearing where the parents are gathered.
"What are you doing?" Tokomon asks. "Don't you want to play with the others?"
"I just want to say bye to Mom and Dad first," Yuuto says.
The clearing comes into view. All the parents, having seen the children off, have begun turning around to walk in the other direction and converse among themselves. Yuuto's sharp eyes quickly pick out Mom in her pink sweater. She is among the last to follow the crowd, arms wrapped about herself and looking thoughtful. His attention then turns to Dad, who is lingering on the side, glancing at Mom.
A smile slowly creeps up Yuuto's face as he watches Dad find his way to Mom's side, slips an arm around her waist, and kisses the top of her head. Mom looks up at him and smiles. Then she lays her head on his shoulder and Yuuto notices Dad murmur something in her ear, which is rewarded by a quick kiss.
Generally he would be grossed out by his parents' display of affection – who wouldn't be? – but now he feels a warm, sweeping relief. Mom and Dad still love each other.
Almost as if she knows he is there, Mom turns around and gives him a small wave. Maybe even a wink, though it's hard to tell from a distance. He grins.
"Yuuto, what are you looking at?" It is Kouki, who has noticed that he is missing. His older brother comes over and curiously follows his line of vision. Once he realizes what Yuuto is looking at, he makes a face. "Are you spying on Mom and Dad?"
Yuuto's grin grows wider. "Come on, let's go catch up with the others," he says, making sure to wave back at Mom before he and Kouki turns back to join their friends.
Thank you everyone for following and supporting Perhaps Love. In this story I took an optimistic view of the epilogue – Takeru and Hikari are actually together 25 years later, there just happens to be a reason that they are not standing together. Of course it took seven chapters and an epilogue to get there, plus countless versions of the story over the course of at least five years.
The epilogue is probably not what you expected; it ties my story into the canon epilogue, but it jumps quite far into the future and doesn't go into the aftermath of Takeru and Hikari's reconciliation. I made this choice because I prefer leaving happy endings open to interpretation.
In case you are wondering why it took me 30,000 words to get to this point, here's some background so you could get a sense of the story's evolution, and why I made the choices I did.
Background (completely optional reading):
Originally, the idea was that they did get married at one point, but are divorced by the time of the canon epilogue. That brings the question of why they got divorced. I considered the possibility that maybe either Takeru or Hikari had what the other considered to be an affair, or simply fell out of love, but decided that either would be too simplistic. So I decided to make the divorce be organic and stem from their own personalities, in fact adopting popular anti-Takari arguments (which I had the pleasure of deconstructing as the story went on).
Once I decided that the divorce is due to endogenous factors, it no longer make sense for them to divorce after having two kids together, especially in Takeru's case since his parents did the exact same thing. So they must've divorced early on in their marriage, after the honeymoon period and before they were mature enough to talk through their problems. If that were the case though, that also means that they either got back together, or remarried someone else, because they had kids by the time of the epilogue.
Being biased, I decided that over the course of the story they would understand each other enough to get back together. So the version of Perhaps Love that you see here is written around three key scenes that came very clearly to me: the scene in chapter 3 when Takeru told Hikari that he hated her, the scene in chapter 5 when Takeru comforted Hikari in the park, and the scene in chapter 7 when Takeru told Hikari he loved her during the television interview. I also added Takeru writing his first novel as a parallel plotline, both to show his character evolution (which I'm not so sure I did that well) and to drive the romance plot along.
I am sure that I didn't necessarily make the most popular choices, or even the right choices, when it comes to plot and characterization. For example I was worried about the reaction to chapter 3 and 4, since I didn't want the story to be perceived as melodramatic. The roundabout way of getting to the epilogue is probably also unnecessary given the current version is quite different from my original vision; if they are simply not standing together because they had a fight early in the day, why does it take seven chapters to set it up? To that I can only say...I hope that you enjoyed the more scenic route to the end!
So I am very thankful for your readership, especially if you are still reading this block of text, and hope that you will have time to leave one last feedback.