‘That was so embarrassing.’
“What are you grinning at?” Ruby was pushing the shopping trolley.
Hikaru wriggled his eye brows.
Knowingly, she smiled. “Oh.” And then she giggled. “Is that all?”
“What do you mean by ‘is that all?’ Does that sort of thing happen to you regularly?”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “Forget to have condoms on hand just in case? No. Not normally.”
Hikaru grumbled. ‘Maybe we should buy some, just in case. Then again, it was probably a good thing nothing happened last night.’
Ruby looked startled.
“My phone is vibrating.”
He slipped his hands onto the handlebar of the trolley and shifted it out of her way as she pulled out her phone from the back pocket of her shorts. “Moshi moshi?”
Hikaru moved ahead of her so as not to be eavesdropping on her conversation. ‘I’m thinking agedashi-dofu in katsuo-bushi soup… I don’t think I have any tofu left though, better buy some.’
He continued down the same path of thought as he moved along the aisles picking up ingredients. Fried tofu in soup was easy to make.
Ruby gripped her phone in her hand and looked like she was close to tears.
Hikaru wanted to give her a hug. “What’s wrong?”
“Takashi just called.”
“He wanted to check in on me.” She sniffled.
Without thinking, he tugged her into his arms. Her nose buried against his neck.
“I said that I would have dinner with him tonight, and I really want to see him, but I don’t know what to say or do now that Yuki isn’t… now that it’s just him and I and I’ve pretty much been the worst person leaving him to live in that house alone when I’m perfectly capable to go over and at least see him every day. God, Yuki would be disappointed in me.”
Walking around them, a grandmother who stood with proper posture peered at the embracing couple with cold judgement. She’d be too polite to make a fuss openly, but it was obvious to Hikaru she didn’t approve.
He stared back her defiantly. ‘So what? She doesn’t know that this isn’t romantic at all, that someone is hurting and in need of comfort.’
The grandmother slinked off.
Ruby lifted her head. “Sorry.”
“Shit, I’m always crying on you,” she swiped angrily under her eyes. “Did anyone see?”
He shook his head. ‘She’s a foreigner, she has some leeway when it comes to etiquette, no matter how fluent she is in the language.’
“Good,” she slipped her phone away and continued walking as if everything was alright.
That evening she left Hikaru to eat alone. She didn’t come home for hours.
Hikaru busied himself with cleaning, watching television, and sketching out stuff. When all of that failed to keep his mind off the emptiness of the apartment, he got up and walked out.
He rode his bike around for an hour, returning home to darkness.
Scrubbing a hand over the back of his neck he headed for the bathroom.
“I’m back,” Ruby’s voice called out. “Hikaru?”
He almost leapt for the door to the bathroom, but stopped just in time not to make a fool of himself. Any more than usual. “I’ll be out in a minute,” he replied and finished up quickly.
Ruby had her futon rolled out and was lying across it, staring at the ceiling, still in her blue dress.
“How was dinner?”
“Good,” her fingers played with a length of hair on her shoulder. “We had a long talk and things are a little easier… I can’t believe I let them get that out of hand. But he’s forgiven me for it.”
Hikaru stayed on the edge of the room, leaning against the wall, just watching what she was doing and listening.
“It was childish of me to run away when he needed me. Chiyo should never have had to step in like that. He needed me and I was too chicken shit to be there.”
Hikaru swallowed. ‘Maybe I should’ve listened to Chiyo and refused to let her stay with me. Then I wouldn’t have had this time living with her. This has made my summer amazing.’ Moving away from the wall, he shuffled to the door way to the bedroom. ‘What am I going to do when she leaves?’
He paused in the doorway. “Don’t blame yourself.” He filled the silence. “Was Yuki the first loved one you’ve lost?”
“Then you had no idea how you were going to react to something that big. Don’t blame yourself for something unforeseeable.”
There was a long pause, Hikaru figured the conversation was over and took one step forward.
“Why do you take everything so seriously?”
He halted and spun around. “I don’t.”
“You pretend to be aloof and tell people to do as they please, but you’re serious.”
He didn’t respond.
“I’m sorry. Takashi just made me think of somethings. I didn’t mean to project it onto you.”
“How can you live without control?” He charged ahead with the question even though she gave him an out.
“Because living isn’t about controlling.” Ruby rolled upright and continued until she was standing and moving his way. “If it was, then we’d stop death and do everything to a plan.” She stood stock still.
“Control stops things from going wrong.”
“You mean you feel nothing. So you don’t waste time mourning.”
He recoiled back. “That’s not fair.”
“Neither is not trying anything with me for months because of fear.” She grabbed his face and yanked, planting a dramatic kiss before breaking it and reaching into her bra.
He was stunned.
She withdrew a foil square. “No excuses tonight.” Ruby, did pause. “Unless you don’t want to.”