Ruby was flapping her hands and pouting. “No, it wasn’t that bad, I swear. It was just… a little uncomfortable.”
“Really?” He grinned. “A little?”
“Okay, a whole heap.” Sighing she lowered her hands to the table and rolled her eyes. “Your turn. Give me an embarrassing story.”
Needing courage, he gulped his beer. It wasn’t affecting him too badly, though he felt really relaxed and his tongue moved on its own to reveal different things of his life to this woman, and he was heating up quickly. Over the course of the meal he unbuttoned his shirt from around his neck.
“Maybe not an embarrassing story, but I can admit something rather embarrassing.”
She moaned. “Nooooo, not admit. I demand a story.” Her fist thumped the table top.
“No, seriously, this is embarrassing to admit but I don’t remember the last time I went on a date or who it was with.”
Both her hands slapped over her mouth, muffling the shriek of laughter that jolted him slightly. “Oh my god.” Dropping the hands, she stared at him agape. “Mamiya-san!”
He sighed. “Can you stop calling me that?”
She blinked at him. “What do I call you then? Hikaru?”
“Yes,” he said without thinking.
“But that’s so intimate to use someone’s given name.”
“You’re from Australia, don’t they do that all of the time there?”
“Yeah, but this is Japan and you’re the quintessential Japanese man.”
He snorted. “Mild mannered, awkward, and hasn’t gotten laid in a long time.” Frowning, he added. “That’s all a little too much like me.”
“Well why are you like that?” Her hair flowed over her shoulder as she tilted her head to the side.
In the middle of the table, their beer bottles were lined up. Takashi’s bottles were there also. He and his wife had left earlier with Takashi slapping Hikaru on the shoulder and warning him of the joys of teaching with a hangover.
“I don’t have the time.”
“I work,” he clarified.
“So does most of the population of the world and they at least try to have some romantic attachment.” Ruby laughed.
The sound made him smile, it nice to hear and know he was the one making her do that, even if it was at his expense. “I’m obsessed with my work and have done nothing but work to get to this point in my life. I’ve only been a professor for a year. I know my mother would like me to get married and have a few kids, but I wouldn’t know what to do with a family.”
“All you do is work?” she asked in disbelief.
“Don’t you want to do more?”
“Why? I love my work. It fascinates me. Everything about it is so amazing. I love reading, it’s like I’m in possession of pieces of an author’s soul and they’re talking only to me, telling me about the worlds they saw, the real worlds and the fantasy worlds. And they left so much information behind. It’ll take hundreds of professors hundreds of years to decipher every metaphor, simile, and… you’re laughing at me.” Hikaru narrowed his eyes at the woman. “What is it?”
“You have so much passion.”
“I love it.”
“Ever want to travel? Maybe see where these authors came from?”
“Well, if they left their souls behind, what are you planning on leaving behind?”
That puzzled him. “What do you mean?”
“Are you going to leave only essays about someone else’s work? Is that going to be your soul?”
He chuckled. “Wow, now we’re getting very philosophical.” Pushing back, he rose up, his head spun a little, and wandered over to the kitchen. Once in front of the sink he allowed his body to go through the motions of filling the sink and stacking dishes.
Ruby appeared at his elbow. “Don’t do that.”
“Why not? It has to get done.”
“You’re my guest,” her hands landed on his arm and she tugged.
The heat sipped up his arm and made him tingle all over. That sobered him a little, enough not to open his mouth and admit he liked it when she touched him. “I’ll wash, you dry.” He tugged his arm back gently and did as he wanted.
She sighed. “Fine, but I’m not going to stop questioning you.”
“I wouldn’t expect any less.”
“What are you going to leave behind?”
He turned the water off and plunged his hands and the first plate into the water. ‘What will I leave behind?’
Ruby accepted the first plate he finished and rubbed it with the tea towel. “I’m going to leave behind my art for people to marvel at. And I hope I’m going to leave a happy family.”
“Are you married?” The question popped out. He grimaced and his body temperature rose sharply.
“No. But one day I’ll have kids. I don’t have to be married to have a family, though it would be nice to meet a man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”
‘Takashi was right, she’s interested in getting married.’ That irritated him. “Why not go on one of those dating apps?”
She smirked. “Because, I’m not ready to settle down just yet. I have so much of the world to see and experience before babies take over my life.”
“So you’re financially stable?” ‘Rude!’ His brain screamed at him. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.”
“No, it’s a fair question. I’ve waited to have kids for many reasons and that’s one of them. So many of my old classmates had them early and struggled; they wanted to be there for their child but had to work most days to make ends meet. I never wanted that. I will not have that.” Her chin jutted out in defiance.
He admired her. “You have a lot of passion.”
She bumped her shoulder into his. “We’re alike.”
“You’re an awkward mild mannered man who hasn’t gotten laid in a while?”
“Alike, not exactly the same.” She widened her eyes. “Mild mannered is boring.”