“Everything alright?” Hikaru was sprawled across the bed, staring up at the ceiling. The morning breeze was cool as it wafted in through the window.
“Now it is, but… Yuki isn’t going to be able to move for another few days.”
‘Ask what’s going on? Or let them have privacy?’ Hikaru worried about the correct procedure. “What’s happened?” He settled on being nosy.
Takashi paused. “Yuki isn’t well. We’ve been at the doctors doing a lot of tests.”
“No idea what it is?” He sat upright, his brow furrowed.
The lapsed into silence. “If you need anything…”
“Thank you. I am going to ask that you look after Ruby, please. Make sure she has a good time and stays safe.” He sounded like a concerned father, trying hard to hide the horrible truth from his child.
“Does she know?”
“Only that Yuki has been to the doctor.”
“Okay.” Hikaru didn’t know what else to say.
“We’ll tell her more when we know what we’re dealing with. Until then, we’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything.”
“What excuse should I give about you not being here?”
Takashi paused again.
‘That must be the constant sound around his wife, people not knowing what to say and so they just shut up.’ His skin crawled with the memory. ‘They did that around mum.’
“I’ll just say that you missed the train.” Hikaru supplied.
“Yes, please. We’ll try to make it tomorrow… but I’m not sure. Maybe we should just say that we can’t make it at all… then we’d have to explain and Ruby will want to come home… no. We missed the train and will try for tomorrow.”
The two men said their goodbyes and hung up on each other. Hikaru headed down stairs. He paused when he heard female laughter.
“Chiyo, that’s wonderful. Are you sure I can borrow it?”
“Of course. I’m not going to wear it.” She replied.
Ruby giggled. “No-one to impress this year?”
“Oh my god! Spill it. Who is he? When did you meet? Is he a nice guy?”
“Jeez, Ruby. Stop with the inquisition. Anyway, I’m getting too old to be wearing yukatas.”
“You can get away with it because everyone thinks you’re just a tourist.”
“Oi. Here I thought I still looked very cute in it.”
“You do, but face the facts Ruby-chan, we’re getting old.”
“I know. It seems everyone around us is settling down and doing the right thing.”
“Yeah. My sister is pushing me onto every guy that she knows and doesn’t understand why I can still be single.”
“My entire family is the same… I am too.”
“What?” Ruby sounded surprised.
“I want to get married and have a baby.” Chiyo clarified.
Silence. Hikaru could only hear his breathing for a long time. ‘They can hear me, they know I’m there and listening, anytime they’re going to find me and yell.’
“What?” Chiyo snapped.
“Nothing, I didn’t say a thing.”
“That’s what I mean. You said nothing.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know.” Chiyo grumbled. “But at least don’t look so scared of me. So what if I want a family?”
“You could just have the baby.” Ruby prompted.
“Why not? Why do you have to get married?”
“Because I want to. Not every marriage ends in disaster. And this is Japan. Single mothers are not the norm here.”
“I don’t suppose marriage ends in disaster, never have.”
“Then why don’t you want to get married?”
Ruby didn’t respond.
Hikaru stared at his bare feet. ‘She isn’t interested in marriage. She doesn’t want to acknowledge us to anyone. Damn I’m stupid. Why am I attracted to a woman who will disappear from my life as soon as her holiday is over and not worry about it? What if I want this to last? Doesn’t she care if I get hurt.’
Hikaru was shocked at the place his mind arrived at.
He didn’t want to be a summer fling.
He wanted a relationship that could lead to the happy life Chiyo was describing. A family. Someone to come home to and who was dependent on him.
‘Ruby would hate that. Not enough excitement.’ He backtracked his steps, closing the door to his room loudly and making sure he made noise as he hurried down the stairs.
“Hello Shinjo-san,” he nodded to the woman as he entered the lounge room. And then gasped. “Wow.” Ruby stole his attention. “That’s… wow.”
“High praise coming from a professor of literature.” Her cheeks bunched under her eyes as she grinned.
‘Don’t stare. Don’t get caught up in it all. Look at Chiyo, she’s attractive, available, and looking for a partner.’
But he couldn’t.
The yukata suited Ruby perfectly, the obi cinching in on her naturally curved waist to highlight it more, the perfect green colouring with blue and purple flowers floating all around. She was a beautiful vision.
“When’s the festival,” he forced his eyes away and directed the question to Chiyo.
She didn’t glare at him.
‘Must be forgiven.’
“This weekend.” She simply said.
Ruby raised her hands, the large sleeves hiding her body from his view, and covered her mouth. She giggled. “Sorry,” her voice was muffled by her hands. “I’m just really excited for a festival. Haven’t been to one in so long.”
Chiyo rolled her eyes. “Actually, we probably have some yukats you men might want to wear.”
Hikaru swallowed hard. “No thank you.”
“Why not?” She countered.
He simply shook his head; inside his chest his heart was pounding. ‘Why is she suggesting I look like a fool? Is this her revenge?’