Hikaru felt sick as he watched her divide her clothes into piles. ‘This is the last time she’ll be here with me.’ He hugged the futon tight as he moved it to the cupboard. Given half the chance, he would latch onto her and never let her go, make her miss her flight, and keep her in his apartment forever.
He slipped the futon away.
“Hikaru, I think some of your clothes have gotten mixed up with mine,” there was a light laugh in her tone. When he turned, he saw that she was holding his shirt up. “I think it went through the wash with my clothes.”
He nodded his head. “Most likely.”
For the rest of the chore, he hovered near by. She had a system for packing all of her clothes and other items into that one suitcase. It involved a skill Hikaru never thought a woman such as herself had. She placed the big heavy items near the bottom to take up most of the room. Then, she stuffed smaller things in and around them, filling up the nooks and crannies. For lighter fabrics she rolled them to be sausages and stacked them in. Finally, after she had punched the top of the bag and reassured him that she was getting rid of excess air, she placed her toiletries and other items on top and slapped the lid down.
“Perfect.” The word wasn’t said with true satisfaction. Ruby sat pensively staring at the suitcase. “I just have to make sure my passport and wallet are in my handbag.”
‘And you’re ready to leave.’
He wouldn’t be seeing her off at the airport, that wasn’t going to be their final goodbye. It was to happen when Takashi came with his car to drive Ruby.
“So,” he sighed.
She gave him a weak smile. “You’re getting you apartment back to yourself.”
He tried not to cringe at that thought. An empty, silent apartment.
“Are you sure I can’t pay you?”
He shook his head.
“Thank you.” As she had been taught probably by Yuki and Takashi, she folded forward into a respectful bow.
“What are you going to do when you get home?”
Straightening up she thought for a moment. “Go home and check my emails. Even though everyone knew I was going on holiday, they’d probably sent me a tonne of work projects that need to get done ASAP.”
“So you’re going back to work?”
They fell silent.
“When do the holidays end?” She asked him.
“In a little bit. I’ll be back lecturing soon.”
“Not that much.”
“Yeah, because without other people in our lives, we throw ourselves into our work. We let it consume us.”
He shook his head. “Not anymore.”
She smiled. “You’ve changed your mind?”
“Yeah.” That was all he was going to say on the subject. He’d gotten into habits that he never would’ve considered before and he had no intention of giving them up when the new term began.
He wanted to ask, felt the words burning on his tongue, but the fear of her ‘no’ meant his lips remained clamped together. He looked everywhere around the room but at her.
Without a second thought, his eyes latched onto her. Her eyes shined. His lips loosened. “Will you come back to Japan?”
She began to grin, crinkling the corners of her eyes. “Is that an invite?”
‘Don’t wuss out. If you say something to play this down, then you will lose this one chance to see her again.’ “Yes.”
A blush covered her cheeks.
“I want to see you again.”
Leaping to her feet, she threw herself into his arms.
He cradled her close, tingling everywhere that they made contact. He was going to miss this touching when she was gone, but the hope that she would return fluttered in his chest.
“Does that mean, you’re my boyfriend now?”
He chuckled. “Maybe.”
“You could come to Australia.”
His heart stopped. “I don’t speak English.”
“I can teach you.”
“So that I’m fluent?”
“Hmmm, maybe not that good. But enough so that you’re comfortable talking to other people.”
He buried his face into her hair and breathed in deep. Her shampoo filled his senses. Flowers, sweet and summery, that was her smell. ‘It would be creepy if I went and brought a bottle so I could have a little bit of her with me, always.’
“I’ll email you.”
“I’ll be waiting,” he replied.
“You better not back out of this, I really do want to see you again.”
“Just get the visa needed and come back.”
She rubbed her face against his neck, inhaling deeply. “I will.”
Hikaru thanked the air conditioner for keeping the air cool, so he could hold her tight. After a while, she slipped from his arms and went about getting the rest of her stuff ready, moving the bags to the end of the hallway. When Takashi arrived, they said a polite goodbye. He helped to get her bag down to the car. She looked back at him and waved as they drove off.
The sun beat down on his skin, causing it to burn. Sighing, he returned to the shelter of the building.
Back inside his apartment, he could smell her still.
Everything was tidy now that she had cleared up her mess. ‘She’ll be back,’ he felt the corners of his lips twitch. ‘She won’t be gone forever. She’ll email me and we’ll talk and she’ll come back.’
Even though cynicism would tell him that it wouldn’t happen like that, that she would get home and forget him, he felt the bubble of hope radiating warmth in his chest.
Picking up his sketch pad, he settled in and began to draw.