I had a lot of fun writing this one! I had a few issues that prevented me from posting this along with the others at Christmas, but here it is at 3,800 words.
I drew brythian as my victim. Here was his prompt:
I decided to go a different route for this one and challenge myself! I hope you like it brythian, along with everyone else who participated in the Secret Santa exchange and whoever reads it!a story about one of the girls in a relationship with Hisao, and their encounter with Kenji/Iwanako, while Christmas shopping.
Secret Santa 2017
“I don’t know why you were worried,” I say. “They’re a lot nicer than you seemed to have prepared yourself for.”
“Oh sure,” Hisao answers, with good natured sarcasm. “I’m sorry. It’s just a little...awkward.”
“Surely, I can’t be the first girl you’ve ever introduced to your parents?” I tease, leaning into him a bit as we walk arm in arm.
“Well, no. But you’re the first one that I’ve introduced since...huh. You know what? I don’t think I could list all the ways. You’re the first actual girlfriend I’ve introduced them to, the first person since I transferred to Yamaku, the first foreign friend of mine I think they’ve met-”
I elbow his ribs. “Half foreign.”
“Right, sorry. But you know what I mean. I just didn’t know how they would react.”
“I admit that I was nervous as well, but after overhearing you talk with them over the phone I felt much less apprehensive about it.”
“I still feel like I need to apologize for how uncomfortable my bed is.”
“Oh please,” I laugh. “It can’t possibly be worse than that couch.”
“I just wasn’t sure what the proper etiquette was, or what.”
“Hisao, dear, we’ve been over this. It’s okay! Really. I know it would have been a bit...unconventional...to get a hotel down here for a variety of reasons. I don’t mind sleeping in your bed for the few days we’re here. Besides...it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been in your bed,” I giggle.
“Great, that’s exactly what my mom needs to hear.”
I enjoy the rise I’m getting out of him enough to push a little further. “I won’t say a word, Hisao. But believe me. She knows.”
“I actively choose to believe she doesn’t and I’m going to keep it that way, thank you very much.”
“Is that why you insisted you sleep on the couch? Or was that your mother’s idea?”
“I brought it up before she had to.”
“Well that’s no fun. It’s colder here than it is at Yamaku. Those blankets might not be enough.”
“Your ‘healthy adolescent sex drive,’ I’m assuming?”
I giggle again. “Don’t worry. I know how nervous you are about how these few days are going to go. But don’t be.”
“You were able to find everything okay, right?”
“Mhmm. After the tour you gave me, I had no problems.”
“That’s good. It took me days to learn the layout of my dorm, much less the school.”
“The hallway leading from your room to the bathroom really isn’t that difficult a landscape to navigate.”
“I guess I was worried.”
“You don’t need to motherhen me,” I say, lowering my voice a bit and drawing it out, a hint of mock exasperation bleeding into my tone. “It’s not the first time I’ve had to figure out the layout of a new place. I pick up things like that very quickly.”
“The split level didn’t give you any trouble?”
“No. If you must know, most houses and buildings have the same three or four basic layouts. All that matters is the small details, like that step. But you showed me where it was. I didn’t even need my cane, the second time I got up last night.”
“I lived there my whole life and I would still stub my toe on the damn thing at least once a month.”
I laugh again. “If it makes you feel any better, I still bite the inside of my lip while chewing about as often.”
With only two days before Christmas, I can feel the electric sense of excitement around us. The air is crisp and clean, with an undercurrent of...cinnamon?
I wrinkle my nose. “Does something smell like cinnamon to you?”
“Oh, there’s a display of scented pine cones by the door.”
I cough quickly to try and clear some of the fragrant miasma out of my sinuses. We’re still making our way through the parking lot, so there must be quite a few of them stacked up to reach this far.
“Not much farther now,” Hisao says. “Watch the curb.”
I smile at what he says, not just because I find it amusing, but because he said it in the first place. It seemed just the other day that he would blunder over himself and feel embarrassed for making some comment or even a simple phrase that would involve sight of some kind, or struggle to say the same thing while avoiding certain words. I take a small amount of pride in the fact that I was able to break him of that habit.
It’s a small step, but it’s progress. And it also shows how close we’ve become the last six months.
I hear a set of doors sliding open, and am hit gently with a breeze as we step through them. All the normal sounds from outside are instantly replaced with a constant buzz of activity. I hear the beeps of registers mixing with the squeaks from the wheels of shopping carts. Rustling bags. Snippets of conversation that waft on the spicy air. And above it all, the soft tone of Christmas carols being pumped through the overhead sound system.
“Goodness, it seems everyone else had the same idea we did today.”
“I guess so. But don’t worry, we’ll be out in the mall soon enough.”
Hisao had mentioned he wanted to take me out and around today to his parents this morning, who were more than a little hesitant about the prospect. I certainly didn’t blame them for their concern, and they seemed to let go of the majority of their misgivings after Hisao and I both assured them that we would be okay. When Hisao suggested we go to the mall, I eagerly agreed. I love getting the sense of different towns and cities when I travel, and experiencing them in a way other people might not be able to.
According to Hisao, the mall is pretty standard, set up with a few anchor stores on either end of it. We entered through one of the department stores, so we have to get through it to get to the mall proper.
“Was that Hanako on the phone earlier?” Hisao asks me as we gingerly make our way through the store.
“Yes,” I answer. “She’s doing well. She said she’s getting together with a few of the other newspaper club members for a get-together tomorrow night.”
“Good,” Hisao answers, audibly relieved.
Hanako had been a point of worry regarding what to do for Christmas, even more so than our own plans. Hisao had been invited back home by his family, and while rather apathetic about it, couldn’t find a real reason to say no except for wanting to stay with Hanako and myself.
My decision was a little easier to make, especially after what happened this last summer at the airport. Akira was heading back to Inverness with her boyfriend for Christmas, and that seemed to satiate our parents to the point they didn’t try too hard to object to me wanting to stay with Hisao and Hanako. When Hisao expressed his parents were inviting him back home and invited me to come along with, I was a bit torn about what to do.
Hanako was the one that suggested Hisao and I go together, much to our mutual surprise. She privately explained to me that she would be fine, and legitimately wanted us to spend the holidays together. It was such a relief to hear that for several reasons; Hanako has definitely come out of her shell more the last few months, and I was worried that we might have been subtly neglecting her as Hisao and I have grown closer. When she insisted over my objection, I almost broke down and cried because of the tremendous concern that had been weighing on me.
We made a compromise, however; Hisao and I would spend Christmas together with his parents, and then the three of us would end up spending two nights in Hokkaido together to finish up winter break.
I’m looking forward to that, but not so much to forget to enjoy and indulge in what’s happening now.
I can hear and smell the subtle differences in each department as we move through the store. Some sections are far busier than others, and as we move into a new one, the faint musty scent of books makes itself known.
“How many people actually stay at Yamaku over winter break?” Hisao asks, shaking me out of my recollection of how we ended up here.
“Not as many as stay over the summer break,” I answer. “If students can only manage to get home for one of the other, most choose Christmas.”
“Mutou asked us casually who was staying for the break. Whoever raised their hand ended up getting a few printed-out pages. I was just wondering what they were.”
“Hanako told me about them. It’s just some information about what’s going to be available on campus and how some of the rules change with the decreased staff. Things like the pool and a lot of the administration offices close down, while places like the cafeteria remain open. They even do a large dinner on Christmas for everyone.”