[The Haruhi Suzumiya characters are the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa, etc. No infringement of their rights is intended. -HJC]

On the evening of the sixth of July, I stopped soaping up my wife's back and put my attention to massaging her shoulders. "You're really tense. It's about tomorrow, isn't it?"

"She isn't the only one." She looked down at the tiles on our bathroom floor.

"Oh?"

"I too can show you what I looked like back in High School. And if that isn't young enough, I can extrapolate what I should have looked like in junior high, elementary, or would you like to see the kindergarten Yuki?" She turned to face me.

"No." I turned her around to sit in my lap. "The Yuki I have now is my trophy. The slight external changes show the hard battles we've had to wage over the years to free your soul. It's a victory I will savor for the rest of my life."

"And yet tomorrow, I become their thing again. Not even a toy. I'll just be a tool that they pull out of the shed once a year. Like a snow blower, that just sits ignored for most of the year."

"Those are their terms. One day in purgatory to earn a year's freedom. It's the reverse for her."

"You love her." Yuki looked into my eyes. She wasn't looking for confirmation or denial, just support.

"I made my choice, and I haven't regretted it for a moment since." I hugged my Yuki to me.

After the bath I got ready for bed.

Yuki reached over and removed the ring from my finger. "I will return this to you, when I am myself again, and you are mine again."

"And that will be the day after tomorrow."

"Should she ask for me, that thing will arrive and simulate me once more. Whatever she wants to do with it is fine. I will be watching, but you have my forgiveness. As if I had a choice. Please, enjoy your day pass." She kissed me and then left. I heard her drive off to stay at the one hotel on our small island.

I wondered if she met with the other brigade members, or if she avoided them and spent the entire day locked in a room to hide her shame. That one day a year when they would all gather from far and when to be ready, in case they were called for, or if I blew it.

I read one of Yuki's favorite books for a while, then turned off the lamp and went to sleep.

In the morning I was awakened by the smells of breakfast. That was a violation. She was not allowed to arrive before I awoke. Did I half wake earlier that morning, and was that her justification? There was nothing I could do about it, but get dressed and go downstairs. The rules of her existence, like so many other things, were strictly off topic.

"Morning, Kyon." She had one of Yuki's aprons over her high school uniform.

It reminded me of that time long ago, when it was Yuki who had only her high school uniform.

"Happy Tanabata, Haruhi." I sat at the dinning table and looked at her for a while, but found no changes from that day. I supposed that even if she had aged one day per year, it would still be less than a month for her.

"Is there something in my hair?"

"Just the same old ribbons. I kind of miss the variation in hairstyles each day."

"Too much of a pain. I got bored with it." She brought the breakfast items over to the table.

Over breakfast, she asked about my life and the friends we knew. I wasn't allowed to ask what she had been doing. That part of her was locked away for the day, and I knew better than to pry at that dreadful seal.

She went to the one room in my house that was reserved for her own use, and changed into casual clothes.

We walked hand in hand to the beach. There where few signs of the usual vacationer traffic. The cleanup crew had done an excellent job the previous day, and the beach was for a day reserved for just us two. Itsuki's organization was well aware of the danger of having petitioners accost her.

The lunch she prepared was, as always, divine, naturally. Or should that be supernaturally?

After lunch she read through a year's worth of news magazines and constantly bombarded me with questions about recent events. I didn't consider it odd, that she did not herself know everything instantly. The girl in front of me was after all only the tip of the iceberg. No man can look on the true face of God and live. I was thankful for her mercy.

After dinner we retired to the master bedroom and made love. It wasn't just sex. I wasn't just a gigolo putting on an act. I will always care for her and I could see some of the pain she has to deal with. She only gets one day off a year, and I was truly flattered that she chooses to spend it with me.

In the morning I reached over, but she was gone. Just like on that one day so long ago, when I told her my love was for another.

"Good morning." Yuki was sitting at our desk.

"Good morning." I reached out my hand for the ring.

"First go wash her stink off of you, and then you will be mine." Yuki's smile showed that she was making a joke out of it.

"As you command." I rose, bowed to her, then headed to the bathroom. As I left I could hear Yuki undressing. She would soon follow, to ensure that every centimeter of my skin was properly scrubbed.

-HJC