Hikarus thoughts weren’t simple as her skirt pulled up on her thigh. ‘We’re so close.’ Only centimetres separated them, her body heat reaching out to him as they relaxed in the afternoon sun at the park on the grass.
On the play equipment, children squealed and chatted away.
“What’s the guarantee they’ll walk by and see us?” He questioned. ‘If I shift just a little to the side, we’ll be pressed against each other, skin to skin, from shoulder to wrist.’ He felt the urge to move. It made his muscles tense and get ready.
But the other half of his brain stopped him. ‘You can’t be doing that in a park, getting happy because you’re touching a girl. How old are you? Twelve? Baka. Hentai! Show some common decency.’
“One hundred percent because here they come.” Her head rotated towards him, the sudden closeness making her jump back a little. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be that much in your face.”
He swallowed hard. Being so close he could see the different fleck in her eyes and the sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose.
Noting how being that close was making his heart race he reached over and squeezed her nose. “I thought that was the mission, to look closer than we are?” He was acting like a kid again.
Which was surprisingly fun to do as he watched her rub her nose and glare at him. And the little bubble of a chuckle worked its way up his chest and burst from between his lips. “Adorable.”
“Adorable,” he repeated and reached over again to do the same thing.
This time, she knew what he was planning and knocked his hand to the side. But that didn’t deter him. She kept slapping his hand away and giving him playful shoves to his chest. They were laughing and acting like teenagers when an older woman called out to Ruby.
The colour was still high in her cheeks as she turned to speak to the other woman on the path a few metres away. “Hey, Cha-chan. How are you?”
Hikaru felt overly flushed.
“Good. And I see you’re well Ruby-chan,” the woman nodded to him. “Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon.” He nodded back.
She waved to Ruby and wandered off.
Ruby collapsed backwards. “One down.”
Watching the older woman leave, he wondered again why this was a better solution. “Why do we have to do this? Why don’t you just tell these people that you’re not interested?”
“Because they’re like family to me and ‘no’ isn’t a word they respect.”
He waited for her to continue on her own.
She saw his confusion and sighed. “Takashi’s family are determined to marry me off while I’m on holidays here, even better if I’m married to a Japanese man and won’t have a reason to leave the country.”
“They like you that much.”
She shrugged. “After living with Takashi and his wife Yuki for so long, their family has just accepted me and think I am their daughter.”
Hikaru remembered the conversation Takashi; he’d likened her to a daughter and wanted nothing but the best for her.
“Each of them have their own suitors they’re throwing at me.” She continued. “You’re Takashi’s choice.”
“Then why am I here? Shouldn’t you be avoiding me?” He frowned.
“I don’t have any objection to you. It’s nice hanging out with you, actually. Takashi did well.” She didn’t look at him while she said this and the blush darkened.
“Should I be flattered by that or are my rivals that bad?”
“I’ll say you’ve been saying to me every time you don’t want to answer; do as you please.”
He gave a humourless laugh which led to him sitting upright and resting his elbows on his raised knees, chuckling.
Suddenly she was upright and poking him in the side. “What?”
“Why do you tell people to always do as they please?”
His turn to shrug.
“That’s not an answer.”
Breathing in deep, he inhaled her perfume, filling his senses completely, making him a little giddy. “Life’s too short to do things that make other people happy. You should be doing what you want. You can’t control other people’s opinions.”
“Wise words. Do you live by them?”
Now he grumbled. “I can name a list of people who would disagree with this; but yes, I think I do.”
“And why would they disagree?”
“Because I prefer to be working.”
“Prefer it to what?”
Hikaru couldn’t say it. His tongue was unable to shift in a way that explained things. Nothing happened.
She shifted so she sat facing him. “Come on.” Ruby stared intensely into his eyes. “Answer the question. What is it that everyone else thinks you should be doing but you only want to work?”
On their own his lips twisted up and he turned his head to look away.
“Real mature.” This time, she reached over and pinched his nose.
Popping open, his lips parted and he gasped in air. “That wasn’t nice.” He knocked her hands to the side.
“Answer the question.”
“You know; most people give up when they realise someone doesn’t want to answer the question.”
“And I bet those people back off and never push further when they stumble across an embarrassing situation and just assume the worse.” Her jaw clenched. “Now tell me.”
He hesitated. ‘What is with her?’ “Why do you want to know this so badly?”
“Because I want to know this about you.”
“And that’s an answer?”
“Yes, in case it wasn’t obvious.” She said this with straightest of faces.
He blinked as he realised she was as Takashi claimed, interested in romance. The little comments, the smiles, the eye contact. He struggled to admit something that would be that embarrassing situation for her. “I prefer work to falling in love. I just don’t have the time for both and I chose the former over the latter.”