Hikaru stifled a yawn.
The grass under his hands prickled his palms, making them itchy. He kept them there. Watching as the crowd thinned and the stall holders began to pack up. He was feeling content, sort of. The awkwardness was still there, but he was happy to sit in silence and just wait.
“Have you been drawing?”
He was snapped out of his small world. “Huh?”
Her head was tilted back still, chin high in the air, a long line down her throat directed his eyes towards her softly rising and falling chest. Hikaru chided himself and looked away.
“Have you been drawing?” She repeated without a hurry.
“Can I have a look at it when we get back?”
He bit his lip. “No.”
She flicked her head forward, chin coming down hard, and stared at him. “May I ask why not?”
“Because it’s late.”
“It’ll be early soon.”
“No, it’ll be later.”
She sighed. “But it’ll be early morning, making it early, not late.”
Hikaru shook his head. “Not tonight.”
‘That was easy. What’s going on? And that was a pathetic fight to pick.’ Unsure, Hikaru slouched down.
“How much more of your paper do you have to do?”
“Why are you asking all of these questions? I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore.” He swallowed hard after saying the words. ‘These are the sort of things that could start a fight if I’m not careful.’
Ruby shrugged. “Tomorrow is our last day here… I guess I’m feeling like maybe we should try to get along. Like we did before.”
“It wasn’t so awkward between us before.”
“It was in the beginning. I struggled to get you to look at me without blushing,” she chuckled.
That made his face begin to burn. “Well, how else am I meant to act around a beautiful woman?”
“You think I’m beautiful?”
His breath lodged in his throat.
“If you brought your research with you, would you like to come with me around Japan?”
‘Come on mouth, just say it! YES!’
“I thought so.” Ruby sighed. “It was worth a try.”
“Oi. I hadn’t said anything.” He grumped.
“I know, and that means you don’t really want to.”
“No it doesn’t. It means I’m shell shocked. I thought you said that there was something wrong with me and I had to go deal with it. Why are you back flipping and inviting me?”
“Why are you getting mad with me?”
“I’m not mad, Ruby. I want to know where I stand. You’re changing your mind again.”
“I’m not. I really want to spend more time with you and see if what’s between us is more than flirtation. When you tried to be chivalrous-”
“I was trying to help you.”
“You were trying to help yourself.” She told him.
He bristled at that. “Hey, this is my life and I can live it any way that I want. If I want to go on a holiday, then I’ll go on a holiday. If I want to work, then I’ll work. I don’t have to explain anything to you. And I don’t have to put up with this.” He leapt his feet and looked down at the woman making his blood boil. “Stop trying to judge me. I really don’t have the time to give to you. If you like the idea of being ignored in favour for work, then I pity you.”
“Like I told you; I happen to run a very successful freelance business,” her chin jutted out. “Just because I’m giving you attention now when I’m relaxing doesn’t mean I’ll be any better than you with my time. I’m a hell of lot worse than you’ll ever be.” Struggling, she tried to roll over to get her feet under herself.
It wasn’t working.
Without hesitating, Hikaru bent, slipped his hands under her arms and hoisted her up. Once she was on her feet, he released her.
His hands buzzed from the contact.
“If time is such an issue to you, then why are you trying to start something with me? Don’t you care if you hurt someone else?”
She huffed and began to walk away.
“Hey!” Hikaru strode after her. “Answer my question.”
“No. I’m not going to answer such a stupid question.”
“So my feelings are stupid? They’re that stupid that you can get me to fall in love with you and consider building a life with you, and you can just walk away and go back to your busy life in Australia?”
Ruby stared at him. “That isn’t what I meant.”
“Then explain it.” Grabbing her arm, he brought them both to a stop. He steadied her as she stumbled. “I can get that I’m selfish with my time. But I want to protect you from that. What do you mean by saying that you want me, but would treat me worse when you’ve finished this holiday?”
She screwed up her face.
“Real mature.” Hikaru rolled his eyes, his jaw clenching.
“I haven’t admitted to anyone, but I’m happy that everyone here has been trying to find me a boyfriend, because that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’ve been spending most of my time with Takashi’s family. They’re doing this, looking out for me, throwing their best choices into my path. I get to protest and pretend that I’m here for a holiday, when really I want to have what Chiyo has. I want a relationship. I was prepared to move everything here for a man.”
Hikaru loosened his hold on her.
“I am husband hunting.” Ruby pouted as she spoke the words. “I can’t find one on my own in my own country.”