Hkiaru couldn’t look at him directly. Not dressed all in black and looking lost.
Bowing, Hikaru muttered, “I’m sorry,” he handed his envelop over to Chiyo.
She bowed her head. “Thank you for coming.”
Dressed in a black dress, she stood by the registry and collected the various envelopes of condolences into neat piles beside her. They stood high.
Hikaru filled in his details and moved to pay his respects with the rest of the crowd.
His suit was stifling, the heat overbearing. It took all of his grown up control not to loosen his tie or remove his jacket. ‘I hate funerals. They make me feel sick.’ His stomach gurgled.
Ruby sat by herself to the back of the room on a cushion. Her eyes were red and she looked shell shocked.
‘What is she doing on her own?’ Was his first question. ‘She should be with the family.’ His heart ached to see her so visibly distressed.
Before he could go to her, he went through the motions. Bowing to the bereaved family, briefly contemplating the memorial tablet and Yuki’s portrait, and then offering a prayer with his hands clasped together.
As soon as he could, he hurried over to Ruby and sat beside her.
She took one look at Hikaru, bottom lip trembled and eyes welled up. And then she lost it. She sobbed loudly.
Everyone tried to ignore it, Hikaru could see it in the way they kept their gazes fixed straight ahead of them. Looking over at Takashi for a second, he saw distress.
It was an impulse that had him lift Ruby into a standing position and guide her through the doors outside.
Takashi nodded his head in approval as Hikaru threw a glance back to check that this was the right thing to do.
Once outside, free and clear of all others, he wrapped his arms around her. She didn’t hesitate in turning fully in his embrace and burying her face into his neck.
He gasped at the contact. Hot tears seared his skin.
Around them, the world continued. People walked around them on the path, no-one dared to interrupt, it was obvious it was a funeral nearby. Lots of black and signs with directions posted on every available surface.
Hikaru whispered into her ear. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
She shook her head.
“We can’t stay here.”
“I don’t want to go back to the house.” she sobbed.
Hikaru could only assume that she was staying with Takashi. His skin crawled as he remembered what it was like to live in a house that had once seen the dead living, filled with the memories, and haunted by them.
“Okay, come with me.”
Trusting completely, she didn’t fight him as he led her to his bike. She hopped on the back, sitting sideways, her hand clutching at his jacket desperately.
Pushing off, he worked hard to get them to his apartment, ‘I should’ve taken the jacket off,’ he was dripping in sweat now.
Ruby hopped off and stood to the side as Hikaru went through his ritual of hauling the bike inside and storing it before leading the way up the stairs to his apartment.
Inside, he headed straight for the kitchen. “Iced-tea?” He gulped down a glass quickly for himself.
“Please,” she sounded muffled.
He checked to see if she was alright and found her in the lounge room, looking intently at his wall of shelves. “It’ll be here… I’m going to have a quick shower.” He changed his mind and settled on getting clean.
Vaguely, she nodded.
He rushed through the water and dressed in a sloppy shirt and shorts to deal with the heat. When he emerged, she was on the balcony doing nothing. Her drink was untouched.
“Please don’t ask me if I’m alright?” Her voice became thick, a fresh track of tears clear against her cheeks. “Everyone’s been asking that.”
“Do you want to talk?” Hikaru leant his forearms against the rail and stared off at the building across the road, not really seeing it. His entire attention was centred on the woman.
“I want to scream.”
“Then scream.” He stood by as she did so, letting it all out. In the sudden silence, she gasped. It tore at him to hear that. Without thinking, he turned and gathered her in his arms, holding on as she restlessly moved her arms.
After a while, she shoved him back a little. “It’s too hot to do that.”
Hikaru went back inside and came back with her drink, the condensation on the outside melting in with the sweat on his palms.
She gulped it down when he passed it to her. “You seem very calm about all of this…”
He grimaced. “I knew that Yuki wasn’t well.”
“We all knew.” She snapped. “They tried to play it down around me, that the doctor visits were nothing, saying that she was moving like that because of old age.”
“They were trying to protect you.”
“If I’d known the real extent, then I wouldn’t have left. I wouldn’t have been living on my own while here… I wouldn’t have left her side.”
“That’s not what she wanted you to do.”
“How do you know!” She snapped.
“Because she kept that secret from you so you could do things without worrying.” He replied.
It was a minute before Ruby spoke again. “Yuki was like a mum to me.”
“What about your mother in Australia?”
She shrugged. “I have four brothers and sisters and they’ve all done things she can be proud of and show off. I’m over looked most days.” She rolled her shoulders. “This isn’t a normal request, but could I borrow some clothes, I can’t stand being in this dress.”
He nodded. “You can get dressed in the bedroom.” In there, he pulled out of a cupboard the same sort of clothes he wore, dropped them on the bed and left the room. Then he headed for the fridge, looking for something stronger than ice-tea.