The train ride had been torture, sitting with the rest of the group; Takashi and his wife to one side of the aisle, Hokuto right beside him. And he was carrying the stuffed toy.
It got the better of Hikaru and he asked what type of toy it was.
“A cuddly yokai, you know from that anime that’s on tele at the moment.”
Hikaru regretted admitting he had no clue what he was referring to because what followed was twenty-minute video on the tiny screen of Hokuto’s phone being shoved under his nose.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he muttered into the pillow. “kind of cute.” He yawned.
When he woke up, the sun was gone and his stomach was growling.
“I should’ve gone shopping before coming home.” He’d made sure there had been nothing left in his fridge that could go off while he was gone. And he hadn’t ordered any groceries. “I better go out for some dinner.”
Ducking through a quick shower, finding clothes, he made sure he had money before leaving the apartment. Hopping onto his bike he pushed off and headed down town.
Randomly he pulled up outside of a restaurant, chained up his bike and walked inside.
He turned to the voice and found himself face to face with one of his first year students. “Hello, Megumi-san.” At a glance, he guessed she was dressed in a uniform and didn’t normally run around in an apron during the holidays. “I didn’t know that you worked here.” ‘I don’t know anything about you other than you did write a very well planned essay last term.’
“Yeah, to pay for school and living out here. Are you meeting someone?”
He shook his head. “Just me, I need to eat.”
“Well, I’ll be your waitress today if you would like to take a seat and I’ll take your order.”
He smiled as he took the seat she pointed at off to the side by the window, a small table for one or two people.
Quickly she rattled off specials. He picked one and asked for some tea.
“So your wife isn’t going to be joining you?” She asked when she returned with his tea.
She flushed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
He snorted. “It isn’t rude. Does everyone in class think I’m married or something?”
Flirting a little, she flicked her eyes up at him from under her lashes, blushed, and looked away. “We all have our theories. But no-one has been able to prove anything.”
“You can now.”
“Yay,” she smiled sweetly. “If you don’t mind me saying, sir, but you seem a lot more relaxed. Have you been enjoying the holidays?”
He nodded his head. “It’s been a good one. What about you? Been working the whole time?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I’ve been studying, of course.”
He chuckled loudly enough for other customers to look their way. He ignored them. “That’s what all teachers want to hear from their students.”
He didn’t scoff his meal down in record time and got out of there. He sat and savoured it, enjoying the banter he had going with his student as she would pass him to go and serve someone else or clean a table. When the time came, he made sure that his spot was easy to clear and paid his bill.
The next day, he went grocery shopping. While inspecting the fresh produce and considering what he would be cooking for dinner, he bumped into a fellow professor and her partner. They stood for a while talking. At first, she blinked at him in surprise.
“You must be having a good holiday.”
Hikaru shrugged off the implied comment. ‘It’s becoming like an automatic response to seeing me.’
That evening, after dinner, he had been working on his paper doing revisions of it. Knowing that Hokuto had said that he would look over it for him if he liked, he sent him an email.
Tapping his fingers on the table top, he worried. ‘I shouldn’t take advantage of him like that… but can I stand spending more time with him this holiday? As long as he doesn’t try to force me to watch that anime again, we should survive a meal together.’
He sent another email saying that he would like to thank him with buying dinner.
Straight away his phone rang.
“Are you alright?” Hokuto asked.
Hikaru snarled down the line. “Yes. Just because I’m being nice-”
“That isn’t it,” Hokuto broke in. “I offered, being serious, but not expecting you to take me up on the offer.”
“Well…” he swallowed.
“Ruby really changed you.”
“No. She gave me new ways to look at things. This wasn’t her.” He smiled as he thought back over their conversations. ‘She was my catalyst. But all of this is happening because of me. I’m changing.’
“Whatever you say.”
Hikaru rolled his eyes. “Are you going to look over it?”
“Yeah, of course. I want to see what you’ve been doing.”
The rest of the week passed in a similar manner. Hikaru left the apartment every day to go for a bike ride somewhere. It didn’t matter where, just as long as he was doing something. It became an addiction, he wanted to go out and try new things and speak to people.
When he returned home, he would sit and sketch. Sometimes they would be in order, like a story. Other times, he’d do a study of what caught his attention on the day’s expedition.
He was happy and relaxed.
With the doors to the balcony open he stepped out and leaned against the railing, a glass of iced-tea in his hand. Hikaru smiled. The heat was dreadful, squeezing the sweat from him, but he didn’t mind.
Then his phone buzzed back inside with a message.