Chapter Three

Kotoko sat on the dark couch, embarrassed of the breakdown she had prior from entering Kinnosuke's home. Her eyes dashed toward his wife. Blue eyes, short, blond hair, she was a petite woman, with a turn-up shape nose and soft cheekbones. She was very pretty.

Kotoko returned her gaze toward Kinnosuke. He silently handed her a cup of water.

"I'm sorry about earlier."

He ignored the nervousness in her tone. "It's okay."

She placed the water on the glass table. "No, it's not okay. I told myself if I ever saw you again I would apologize and not cry for the mistake I made." She looked at her folded hands on her lap. "But I failed in that as well."

Kinnosuke looked away and took a sip of his drink. He was at loss of words she imagined. After all, she blamed herself for his depression seven-years-ago.

"But I'm a little too late in apologizing, am I?"

He chapped his lips softly and settled his cup on the table along with hers.

"It's never too late to apologize," he said. She felt the tears in her eyes when he easily gave her a smile. "I forgave you a long time ago, though."

She looked away from him and pressed her fingers against her temple. Again, she was trying so hard not to cry. Sudou glanced at her direction, his eyes narrowing a bit. She picked up her cup and sipped on the water, not wanting for him to see her sad expression.

She needed a distraction.

Kinnosuke provided such distraction by saying, "So, whose the guy?"

She looked at him. "Oh, he's a friend. Well, best friend and roommate." She gripped the cup in her hands. "Your wife is very pretty," she commented.


He leaned back in his spot, trying to get comfortable.

"What's her name again?" She felt silly for asking. But she did not want to refer her as that woman forever.

Kinnosuke did not seem to mind her forgetfulness. "Christine."

"Where did you guys meet?"

"At the university."

He pulled out a small toy from behind his back and rested it on the table. It was a small, wooden car, entirely colored in blue. It rolled forward a bit on its black wheels and sat next to the remote control.

"Oh, I never saw her before."

"You transferred when she arrived," he explained.

She had nothing to say to that. Or rather she preferred forgetting about what she had done in the past. Instead, she glanced at his wife and stared at the child on her lap.

"Your son is handsome."

"He takes after his mother."

No, she had to disagree. There was a bit of him she could see in his son's round face.

"He looks a little like you," she told him as she returned her attention to him.

He scoffed. "You're blind. I see my wife's face in Luka."


"My son."

Again, she felt silly of not knowing that he was referring to his son. How she wanted to slap her face in humiliation and possibly hide behind a throw pillow.

"You know, I recently been hired by your dad."

Her humiliation faded away at the thought of her father. How long had she not visited him? Two months? Maybe three? Was she a bad daughter for not seeing her only father?

"It feels nice to work with the old man again."

She said, in a low voice, "He liked working with you too."

"If it wasn't for Christine, I wouldn't have come back," he said. "Heck, I wouldn't be married to her." He did not notice that he slowly started to rant. "I would've been alone if she had stopped loving me. But I'm glad she didn't or else she probably would've married Irie."

He held her utmost attention when he mentioned her old flame. "What do you mean that she would've married Irie?"

He glanced at his wife, who spoke with Sudou quite amiably. By the look in his eye, she could tell that he did not feel compelled to tell her of his wife's past. But he had no other choice when she sought for information.

"The Irie Toy Company was going down, so I had heard." He stumbled on his words. "To save the company, Irie had to marry Christine."

Kotoko creased her forehead, her eyebrows lifting and folding together. Did they even ask how Irie felt about being set up to marry a stranger?

"How did Irie feel?" she asked.

Kinnosuke shrugged. "I don't know. He didn't go through with it when I arrived though. In fact, he was the one who called it off; said he had a woman in his life. I'm just grateful the bastard didn't marry Christine."

Kotoko played with her fingers absentmindedly. Another woman in his life, she thought. Could it have been Matsumoto?

"Whatever did happen to Irie?" She had to ask to quench her curiosity.

"He quit school and took over the company his dad own."

Kinnosuke seemed knowledgeable about Irie. It surprised Kotoko that he even remembered what Irie had done with his life. But it also saddened her that he still held a grudge against the man she once loved. She did not need words to confirm his hate. His face revealed everything.

"I'm glad he is doing well," she said.

He then grew quiet and surprised her after a couple of seconds with two little words—if one does not count the conjunction as two. "He's married."

Shocked, she fumbled to say, "What?"

He quickly explained, "I saw him with his wife at your father's restaurant not too long ago. Mr. Aihara told me that they come regularly; even Irie's parents and brother come to visit at times. I guess it's some sort of family tradition. But he looks happy." Her shock expression did not fall. "I think he is. Heck, maybe because I haven't seen him in years, but he got colder, if that is even possible."

Snapped away from her shock, she asked curiously, "Colder?"

He nodded his head. "His wife is the same way too. She has a cold personality, just like him." Why did Matsumoto flash in her mind? "Maybe he's not happy and he's sad. I mean, the way they talk to each other, it's almost robotic. It's a bit weird."

"Hmm…" What could she possibly say to that?

He then asked, "You never talk to him?"


If she did, she wouldn't be asking him questions about Irie. Maybe he knew that but he simply wanted to confirm his suspicion. It was most likely that.

"Oh, I thought you did. You guys were pretty close." He regretted saying that. The way he shifted his eyes to a side he knew he had spoken out of line. But before he could apologize, she had to explain.

"We were never close." She picked up her cup of water. "Yep, we weren't even friends. We were just two people living together." She then took a long sip of her drink.

Kinnosuke glanced toward his wife and softly smiled. "Your friend was looking at us. He's quite protective over you, you know that?"

Indeed, Sudou was. She looked at her friend. He fidgeted in his seat as Christine chatted away, ignorant to his jittery legs.

Kotoko smiled behind her cup of water and gently said, "I know."


Her first day of teaching began tomorrow. She was growing nervous at the thought. They were only children she had reasoned but she still felt intimidated.

She had to get out, to explore, or something. As long as she left the apartment and avoided her nerves. Picking up the keys from the bowl, she marched past Sudou, who sat on the dark, navy couch, one leg propped on the coffee table, as he flipped through a car magazine.

"Where are you going?" he asked. He did not look away from the page he was on.

"I'm heading out."

He knew what that meant. She wanted some time to herself. "Call me if you need me."

"I will."

She escaped from the apartment in hurried steps, opened the garage, and stepped in the car. Driving around in the city, she had no particular destination. But soon driving became tedious as she decided to park near the mall and ventured inside.

She took the escalator to the second floor and noticed a toy store ahead. Caught by the delicate-looking and expensive toy (as she took a glimpse at the tag), she entered the store and examined each one.

She picked up a train piece. It looked simple, and was entirely made of wood, but it held a high artistic value. She wondered who made such beautiful toys. She flipped it over and read the dark printing.


She placed the toy back on the shelf and slowly retreated from the aisle.

There was only thing on her mind. She had to get out of here.

She left the store in a rush and sat on a bench nearby.

What should she do? Should she return home? Or should she continue on with her window shopping? It was just his last name printed on the back of the toy. It's not as if she bumped into him or something. She was overreacting. Besides, she had come here to battle her nerves. If she returned home, she will only get worse.

She had to explore to forget what she had seen.

She left the bench and headed into a men's department store. She should get Sudou a new shirt. It always seemed that he was wearing the same shirt every day. Maybe he really was. Yep, she definitely needed to buy him new shirts. But she could've sworn she bought him new clothes not too recently.

Moving each shirt to a side, the hanger sliding over the bar, she ignored the man nearby and accidentally bumped her shoulder against him. She looked away from the black shirt she was seeing and gave a small bow of her head.

"I'm sorry."

She was about to return her attention to the rack when all too familiar eyes greeted her. She backed away from the man, no longer interested in buying Sudou shirts. Not when Irie Naoki stood, unchanged (perhaps he looked a little older in the face), dressed in a rather-looking expensive suit.

"Irie," a woman called him nearby.

And she did not want to confirm her suspicion that the woman who was his wife was none other than Matsumoto. No, she definitely did not want to know. But one look at her direction, and she knew, even if her face had aged beautifully, that it was Matsumoto.

And if she needed more proof that it was her rival, she said, "Aihara?"

Kotoko fled from the store. It probably looked foolish (even stupid) to them for leaving in such abrupt behavior but to Kotoko it was the right thing to do. Otherwise, she would've stared, mouth agape, and possibly faint. That was a lot worse than what she was doing now.

Inside her car, she began to calm herself. It was just a coincidence, anyway. She doubted she would see them again. In fact, there will never be a second time. She could not picture seeing them twice. With that in mind, she turned on the car and headed home, keeping her small coincidence to herself.

Sudou did not need to know about her small encounter. He will only try to smother her with his protectiveness. No, she really shouldn't tell him. It was a small encounter that will fade away in a memory.

It was not that big of a deal.

Or so she thought.