And other things.
‘Now what? What do I want from this woman? What kind of life is there for us?’
He pumped his legs to propel the bike further. Ruby’s hand held onto his waist, infusing her heat into him. Inside his stomach it was doing backflips and cartwheels. Especially as the night before burst into his memory.
‘What would a future with her look like? She’d move here to Japan and live with me. She said that she could live nomadically, so as long as she had the internet she could do her work and live anywhere. I’d go to uni for the day and she would do as she pleased. When I’d get home, there would be discussions about how our days were and maybe arguments over who forgot to shop. We’d cuddle in bed. We’d make love. We’d sleep.’
He smiled as he thought about it, but as he was puffing, his smile was distorted into a rough ‘o’ shape.
‘The weekends we could go and explore the city and any local attractions on. Maybe go and play in the park with the kids.’
‘Kids. I never really cared if I ever had one, now I kind of want a future where they’re there.’
Carefully, he slowed the bike as they arrived at their destination, and held it steady for Ruby to jump off first.
“What do you want to try first?” she looked excitedly around the amusement park, bouncing on her toes, hands clasped behind her back.
Hikaru chained up his bike and surveyed the options.
People were heading in through the entrance in different formations. Some families, others couples, and there were groups of friends laughing and racing through to get to the other side where they could try the different rides.
“Well?” Ruby queried him.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Let’s get in first and find the line with the least amount of people.”
“Good luck with that, it’s the school holidays and every kid will be lining up to go on the good rides.” She followed him to the entrance and they made their way inside the property. “Let’s go there.”
And so began the day of ‘Let’s go’. They rode everything in sight and waited in line for half the day.
“Tell me about your family,” Ruby prodded him as they waited.
“Nothing much to say. My dad died when I was little, and mum was a great mother.”
“So you didn’t rebel?”
“No. I loved her. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I wouldn’t want anyone else for a mother. I am proud to say I am her son.” He tilted his head to the side and studied her face. “What about your family? You hardly talk about them.”
“It was different.” Ruby shuffled her feet. “I have siblings, but none of us were treated as the favourite. I don’t think my parents even liked children.”
He said nothing.
She continued. “They didn’t really talk to me. They’d talk at me, but it was more to find out information than to get to know me or to share things. I learnt very quickly that anywhere outside of home was the best place. I did a lot of extracurricular stuff with the school, I did every single sport I could. My parents didn’t care, they’d feed me and send me off on my bike.”
The ride came to a halt and they began to shift up the line. But it wasn’t their turn yet, they had to wait another turn.
“When I got to high school, I was either studying or working.” Ruby rolled her shoulders. “My siblings did the same as I did, for their own reasons. They wanted people to notice them so they went out to do things that people would have to acknowledge. They wanted to be the best, so they practiced a lot.”
“And what did you want?”
“I wanted to be far away from home. I didn’t care where, just out of the house. And then I met Chiyo and the exchange program became a reality and here I am.” She held out her arms and spun in a tight circle. “Far away from my parent’s home. With Yuki and Takashi, things were different. I think they expected to deal with a kid with homesickness, they were shocked to see that I not only wasn’t worried, that I was happy.”
“They treated you like family.”
“Yes. Yuki was my best friend, we had a lot of conversations.” She added. “I am grateful to my parents, they gave me life, the necessities like food, shelter, and education. They just didn’t know how to have children and love them.”
Hikaru grimaced. “Where as Takashi and Yuki who couldn’t have kids knew exactly how to love you.”
“Yeah, that’s the sick twist of fate.”
The ride ended and this time it was their turn to hop on and have fun.
Afterwards, they giggled as they walked to the next line to stand and wait in. Ruby bumped her shoulder into his. “Thanks for listening. Lots of people roll their eyes and tell me to get over myself, that kids out there have it a lot worse than I did.”
“True. But this is something important to you.”
“And you? Anything you need to explain?”
Hikaru shrugged. “You know about my mum. Other than that, I have no issues.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
He rolled his eyes. “What other issues do I have?”
This made her rub her hands together. “Where do I begin?”
He held his hand up to halt the conversation. “No, on second thoughts, I don’t want to know.”
Laughing, she took his hand and brought it close to her face to inspect. “Then tell me what you do want.”