Life’s a Beach.
“D-d-do you th-think they’ll l-like me?” Hanako asks me nervously as we hop off the bus. I give a long, scrutinizing gaze up and down my stuttering girlfriend as she pulls her suitcase to her side. How could they not?
“I think they’ll love
you.” I say earnestly, a sincere smile creeping onto my face as I do.
She bows her head, hiding amongst her silky violet locks but I can see her smiling. I get why she’d be nervous but there’s a good reason why I chose to ask her to come here rather than meet my mom. As much progress as she’s made with me, meeting my mom would be like throwing her in the deep end with a ravenous shark. She’d be eaten alive.
“H-how far is it?” She asks, looking around as the sea breeze blows through her hair.
“Not far. Maybe a little over half an hour to walk there.” I say, slinging my duffel bag across my shoulders for comfort.
“Is that n-normal person speed or your
speed?” She titters, raising her hand to her mouth.
“So help me, Hana…” I sigh but give her a smile anyway. “Get moving, or I’ll leave you for the wild dogs.” I say, increasing my speed only for Hana to keep pace quite easily.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
We reach my grandparent’s home and it looks exactly how I remember it. For a couple of old folks, it’s quite a big house but then, they did have five kids. And now two more kids are rocking up to impose on them for a few days.
I look back at Hana as I knock on the lacquered pine door. For forty-year old house made of wood, it’s been expertly maintained, even in my grandparent’s twilight years.
“H-hello?” A small voice calls out from behind the door.
“Good afternoon, madam. I’m just enquiring if your refrigerator is running?” I say with a beaming grin, looking at Hana who looks confused.
The door swings open and an elderly woman, built like a barrel, grins widely at me.
“That joke is older than I am, Aki!” She wraps her arms tight around my torso and I pat her back.
“Easy, Nana… You’re going to break me in two!” I splutter with a smile. She’s surprisingly strong
“Sadao! Aki’s here.” My grandma calls as a familiar man appears on the hall. He trots out onto the front porch, cane in hand, as I step back a little.
“Are you here asking for money again?” He glowers a little and I smirk.
“Do I look like Uncle Yoshi to you, old-timer?” I snark before opening my arms and my grandpa pulls me in for a hug. Maybe it’s just my brittle bones but their affection always seemed a tad excessive. I’m not going to complain though, I’ve missed these guys.
“It’s great to see you again, little buddy.” My grandpa says, resting his hand on my shoulder. He’s a mountain of a man, the only sign of frailty in his elderly form being the wooden cane he hobbles around on.
The pair suddenly become aware of my companion and she hides in her hair. I step back and take her hand in mine, smiling like a doofus as I pull her forward a little.
“Guys, I’d like you to meet Hanako!” I squeeze her hand and she looks up slightly.
!” Hana blushes profusely as she bows and my grandparents share a look. “YouhaveaverybeautifulhomeandI’mhonouredtobeallowedtostay
…” I whisper reassuring.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Hanako.” My grandpa smiles widely before my grandma steps up and takes Hana’s other hand, causing her to flinch a little. Social anxiety plus meeting my family is obviously playing havoc with her nerves.
“Thank you for looking after our dear little Aki, Hanako. I know he can be a handful.” She shoots me an accusatory glare, making Hana laugh.
“H-h-he can be…” She admits, with a demure smile.
“If he ever steps out of line, feel free to slap him upside the head or give him a swift kick in the pants. God knows he needs it sometimes.” Grandpa continues.
“I w-w-will, sir.” She nods, giggling.
“I come visit my loving grandparents and the first thing they do is encourage my girlfriend to beat my ass…” I sigh in a mockingly resigned tone.
“Language, boy!” Grandpa scolds with a smile. “There’re ladies present.”
“Would you like some tea, Hanako? Aki tells me you’re quite fond of it.” Nana asks and Hana nods.
Akio and I share a concerned look as our phones go off in rapid succession.
“It’s from Taro. Apparently he went back to Yamaku.” Akio says, furrowing his brow as he types a reply. I check my phone and see a similar message, he must have sent one to all his friends. It’s nice that I’m counted amongst them.
“He didn’t stay with Ritsu? That’s… odd.” I say, closing my phone after I send a reply of my own. “I hope he’s okay.”
“I’m sure he’s fine. Mostly. He’d say if something was wrong.” Akio says, not entirely convinced by his own words.
“Is everything okay?” Akio’s grandmother asks as she places a tea set on the table.
“Everything’s fine, Nana. Just a friend saying he’s back at school. He went to visit his parents with his girlfriend.” Akio smiles with a nod, sliding his phone back into his pocket.
“That’s nice. I hope they had a nice time.”
“D-d-do you n-need any help?” I ask tentatively and receive a shake of the head.
“No, no… You’re a guest in this house.” She offers a teacup to me and I nod with appreciation.
“Thank you, um…” Oh balls
, I didn’t ask her name!
“You can call me Rinko…” She says with a soft smile. “You must have heard me call Sadao earlier.” She gestures to her husband, who brings over two mugs of coffee for himself and Akio.
--” I feel Akio’s hand on my leg and his warm smile soothes my jitters a little. I don’t think I’ve stammered this much in weeks. It’s so nerve-racking to be here…
“So how did you meet?” Rinko asks, taking her place at the table.
“We’re c-classmates… W-we sit next to each other and he h-h-helped me join the Newspaper Club. I can be r-r-really shy so I asked him to h-help… He told jokes and s-sat with me until the club started…” I say with a small, blushing smile and look at Akio, who’s grinning with flushed cheeks.
“I didn’t do much…”
“Y-you did a lot
. And I’m th-thankful you did.” I kiss his cheek and he goes scarlet. Behind the stuttering and the shyness, my heart beats wild for him and I’ll never shy away from those feelings.
“Who’d have thought Aki would be such a gentleman?” Sadao says, taking a sip of coffee and smirking at Akio. I guess the humour comes from the maternal side of his family.
“Oi, I’m a gentleman! I’m very gentle! And manly! Right, Hana?” He looks to me for support, a small look of desperation in his eyes.
gentleman.” I chuckle a little as my fingers interlock with his. “Apart from that one time…” Okay, I have to tease him a little. He’d do the same to me.
“What time?” His grandmother glowers at him and Akio panics. It’s quite funny.
“Hana’s j-joking! Tell them, Hana! P-please?” He chokes a little and I kiss his cheek.
“G-g-got you, Aki
…” I smile demurely as he goes slack-jawed and his grandparents laugh loudly.
“She’s certainly a match for you, boy!” Sadao’s compliment makes me blush
“Yeah… She really is.” Akio turns to look at me with a sincere smile that melts my heart.
“First pool, now poker… Hanako the Hustler, that’s your new name
.” Akio pouts a little indignantly as he throws his cards on the table.
“No one likes a sore loser, Aki. Good game, Hanako.” Sadao groans as he gets up and steps towards his sleeping wife on the couch. “I think I better take the little lady to bed.”
He rouses her gently and they both give a wave and a smile as they head out of room, down the hall and up the creaky stairs to bed.
“So, what’s the verdict?” Akio asks as he collects the cards and begins shuffling them once more.
“They’re very nice! Wonderful
, in fact.” I stretch before leaning on the table, my chin in my hands. “I’m quite jealous, actually. A-a-after the f-f-fire…” Akio looks up when I stutter at my own mentioning of the fire. Breathe deep, Hana…
“I’m not saying growing up at the orphanage was bad
. It was… f-fine. But I do wish I still had s-some family who could have taken care of m-me.” I lament quietly and Akio fills the silence with the rapid-fire claps of cards being shuffled.
“I’m not even going to pretend to understand what that was like for you…” He says quietly, setting the cards down. “But I’m told that the family of the 21st Century isn’t made of flesh and blood, but friends and if that’s true, you have plenty of family. Lilly and Akira might not be here right now but they’re your sisters all the same…”
He takes my hands into his and rubs the back of them with his thumbs. “Taro and Ritsu… All those guys would go to bat for you if you needed it so I guess you can count them too.” He’s right. I might be short of flesh and blood but I have a lot of friends, a lot of people who care… And then there’s him.
“Wh-what about you? Are you my family?” I ask quietly.
He looks from my eyes down to our joined hands and slowly retracts his. Oh no
“I can’t be your family…” Akio, please, no
… He reaches up his grey undershirt’s sleeve and pulls out a playing card. “I want to be more
.” He turns the card over.
The Ace of Hearts. You son of a--
“You sc-scared m-m-me, you asshole!” He chuckles at my exasperated outburst and slides the card in his hand to reveal a second underneath it. Joker
“Besides, family aren’t supposed to do what I want to do with you…” He smiles warmly and my heart only beats faster, the feeling of anxiety quickly being overridden by love. He leans across the table and kisses me deeply.
“You got me…” I admit with a sigh, feeling a mixture of relief and love.
“And you’ve got me. Forever
.” He meets my eyes and all I want is to hold him close. We push the small table from between us and embrace tightly, our bodies pressed together as much as humanly possible. He’s got me. I’ve got him. In this very moment, that’s all we need.
God damn it, that cold shower didn’t help at all! I walk back from the bathroom with a towel around my waist. Last night was intense. Probably the hottest and heaviest we’ve ever been. How we didn’t escalate past kissing and some light petting, I’ll never know… Hell, if that was intense, sex with her is going to be
No, stop that! Get your libido in check, dumbass. This is your grandparents’ home and you will
behave yourself. I get dressed and walk down to breakfast.
“Damn, Nana!” I exclaim, taking in the wonderful spread she’s preparing. It smells delicious.
“Language.” Grandpa calls from the back door, where he smokes.
“Sorry. But really, you didn’t have to go to so much trouble…” I smile, sitting down at the breakfast bar.
“Nonsense, Aki! We have a guest!” Nana replies.
… What do you guys think of her?” I ask, looking for their reactions.
“She’s lovely.” Nana begins, looking at Grandpa who throws a thumbs-up back at us. “Is she always so shy though?” She asks conspiratorially.
“She has anxiety because of her scars so she’s a little wary of strangers, no matter how friendly. She’ll warm up to you guys, don’t worry.” I explain.
“She certainly knows how to put you
in your place.” Grandpa laughs, spluttering a little on his own smoke. “She’s something special, that one.”
“She sure is,” I admit with a smile. “I’ve never met anyone like her. She’s so smart and charming and drop-dead gorgeous.”
“F-f-flattery will get you n-n-nowhere, Aki
…” A teasing voice says behind me. I turn and find my girlfriend standing just inside the kitchen. Oh wow…
Hanako stands with her arms behind her back, wearing a vibrant yellow sundress. Her hips sway a little, accentuating the flowing dress as the hem flares a little. “D-do you like it?” She asks quietly.
“Wow… You look radiant
.” I whisper and my Nana chortles.
“Good morning, Hanako! Come take a seat, breakfast is ready.” Nana says as she serves up two helpings of miso soup followed by two plates, each with rolled scrambled egg, bacon and sausage. It’s a hearty meal to start your day with, to be sure.
After breakfast and a little more time spent with my grandparents, we head out into the coastal countryside.
“It’s beautiful here…” Hana sighs with a smile.
“Yeah, the view’s real pretty.” I say, purposely staring at Hana until she notices. She nudges me with her elbow with a smirk.
“Don’t smooth-talk me, Aki
“How long are you going to keep using that?” I ask with genuine concern. It’s fine coming from my grandparents but the way she breathes it in a husky tone strikes me as inherently wrong. Perverse, even and not in the good way.
“Don’t you like it?” Hana asks, picking up on my trepidation.
“It’s… strange. I much prefer you using my full name in that sexy voice of yours.” I joke and Hana flutters her eyes.
“Oh really? Do you like it when I talk like this? Ah-Ki-Ooooh~…
” She purrs in a teasing tone. God damn
“Yeah… That’s…” I struggle to form words as my cheeks become warmer, causing Hana to laugh.
“Oh dear! I’m not going to have to throw you in the ocean to cool off, am I?”
“I may go in willingly. Between that and the dress and you just being you
…” I admit sheepishly.
“I’ll be sure to restrain my h-hotness from here on out.” She gives a cute little salute.
“Speaking of, are you wearing sunscreen?” My own question seems to lead me on a tangent in my mind that leaves me stumped. “Huh
“W-what is it?” Hana asks, leaning against me a little.
“Can your scars get sun burn?” I ask, honestly curious and it takes Hanako by surprise. She tilts her head as she mulls the question over. Any hang-ups she might have about talking about her scars fall by the wayside when she’s presented with my conundrum.
“I… Don’t actually know. I don’t think I even considered it before.” She furrows her brow and brushes her hair out of her face. “I just applied my sunscreen all over, like the bottle said.” She chuckles a little.
“Never been sunbathing or anything before?”
“N-not really. I’m fully covered most of the time… This is my first time wearing a sundress since I was little.”
“Well you look amazing
.” I say genuinely and lean in for a kiss.
“Th-thank you. Are you okay in shorts?” She looks down at the scar on my right calf and I nod.
“If it’s no problem for you to wear that amazing dress in public then I’m great. And if anyone does have a problem, with either of us… Fuck’em.” I grin mischievously and Hana nods with a smirk.
We made our way along the coastal walking trails, resting now and then before going further. A few passers-by looked at us but it was little more than quick glances before they were gone from our sight and minds. I held on to her hand the entire time, making sure to reward her with kisses when she didn’t freak out. Equal parts affection and positive reinforcement.
We walk further and admire the mossy rocks of Jodogahama Beach and finally to a more secluded spot with a crystal clear view of the ocean.
“I thought Lilly‘s summer house was beautiful but this
place… It’s just so tranquil.” Hanako smiles, looking out at the ocean.
“It’s something all right. Not a lot to do other than admire the view though.”
“Is that such a bad thing, city boy?” She looks over her shoulder at me as I get up from resting my tired legs by sitting down on the mix of sand and slate.
“No, but I think I’d go crazy just sitting here on my lonesome.” I chuckle as I heave myself up on my cane.
“But you’re not alone. You have me.” Hanako turns and holds onto her sun hat as a sea breeze blows through her hair and dress. Wow.
“And I thank god every day that I do…” I say as I walk over and embrace her tightly, kissing her firmly on the lips.
“Hanako… I love you.” I whisper as our lips leave each other and I look deep into her violet eyes. A smile creeps across her face.
“I know.” She smirks. For a split second, I think about protesting her glib remark, only to be stunned into silence by a passionate kiss and the greatest words I’ve ever heard in my life, said by the most amazing woman I’ve ever known.
“I love you too, Akio.”
Author's notes: With this, I think I've covered all the missing pieces I needed to cover in terms of Hanakio's behind the scenes adventures. From here on, their stories will be concurrent with Monomyth and other one-shots that take place in the new semester. There's definitely more to come so keep your eyes peel and thanks for reading!