Re: Akira Pseudo-Route [Updated as of 3/11]
Posted: Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:04 am
Hey y'all, sorry this update came so late. I took a small detour to work on some other things I've been sitting on. We're also going through a rather critical point in the story, so the burden to not fuck everything up is weighing pretty heavily on everything I do and I'm starting to feel a bit of intimidation with regards to that, so please bear with me if updates take nearly a month to churn out.
I also apologize if it seems like I'm ignoring comments, but it's starting to get to the point that responding to everyone would create a post about 3,000 pixels long at the shortest, and you all seem to be forming your own discussions that don't require input from me. I am truly thankful for all the praise and attention the route is getting, and please don't forget that.
Act 4 - Part 6: Crisis
The air is laced with a mix of cigarette smoke and overbearing perfumes despite being in the open, a thick crowd wandering up and down the sidewalk outside a brightly lit building.
Drum beats and random notes spring out of the open door of the jazz club as the band inside warms up, ready to begin performing at any moment, and yet Akira is nowhere to be found. Granted, she still has a few minutes until the 9 P.M. mark, but I figure if the jazz concert were such a big deal she’d be here earlier.
Then again, she's proven to me once again today that she always shows up when I least expect it. Then again, it shouldn't come as a surprise that she'd show up at my workplace, given that it's where her boyfriend also works.
It could have gone with being a bit less awkward, though, especially with me hearing a lot of things I wasn’t meant to hear.
But even so, the situation between them has become clear. Tetsuo wants one thing, Akira wants the other, and they can’t both get what they want. It’s all Tetsuo’s call -- he can’t keep stringing Akira along while he continues to hop at promotions like a carrot dangled on a stick.
Either way, I’m not given much time to dwell on it as soon a familiar head of blonde hair enters my sight, this time wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and a pair of loose-fitting jeans, her feet clad in sandals. The set of rubies that usually hang from her ears have been replaced by shimmering silver studs, reflecting a faint green glow as they catch the light from the neon sign in the window.
She dodges through the crowd with ease, a glimmer in her crimson eyes and a smile on her face as she stops in front of me. “Aww damn, you got here before me.”
“I was just getting here myself, actually.” I reply.
I’m a little embarrassed that I decided to show up in work jeans and a t-shirt, but it doesn’t seem too far off dress code considering all the loosened ties and unbuttoned collars around me. If anything, I’m already sticking out more than usual thanks to being about ten years under the average age.
Akira, however, seems to fit in even without her usual attire. She’s dressed as casually as can be and yet she still radiates an aura of beauty and maturity, as though anyone would be able to tell that she’s a corporate lawyer off the clock.
“Have you ever been to something like this before?” She asks as we begin to walk inside, making a beeline for one of the empty tables near the stage.
I shake my head. “Not really, no. I was invited out to a rock concert with some friends once, but I decided to turn them down. The tickets were too expensive.”
“Yeah, concert tickets can eat your lunch sometimes. The club pays them to do these gigs though, so we get to just kick back and enjoy.” She says, shrugging her shoulders.
We manage to reach a good table before it can get snatched up by someone else, landing a spot within perfect distance of the stage. An area in front of the performance area has been cleared out, no doubt to make it easier for other performers who may arrive later on. Or perhaps it’s opened up for people who can dance to this kind of music.
I slide the chair out for Akira, who gives a short “hah, such a gentleman” before taking her seat and glancing at the stage. There are about a dozen people getting ready, each carrying a different instrument. Trumpet and saxophone players each prepare for the show while others tune their guitar or hammer beats into a drum, lacing the air with random notes.
One man at the front of the group adjusts a microphone, the mass of his belly seeming to bulge against his hawaiian button-up shirt. A pair of sunglasses rest at the top of his head and a saxophone hangs by a black strap from his neck, the stage lights glimmering on its golden surface as he wrestles with the mic stand.
He seems to get distracted by someone in the audience, however, as he soon drops everything he’s doing to offer a wave and a hearty laugh in… our direction?
I look across the table to find Akira waving back with something of a grin.
“You know him?” I ask, trying to strike up a conversation.
She glances back at me with a surprised look, as if she had forgotten that I was here. “Oh, yeah, him. We wound up in a few classes together when I was back in college.”
“Small world, huh? You’re pretty good at running into people.” I reply, unable to hold down a chuckle of my own.
“It’s just the location.” She answers, pausing for a moment to flag down a serving girl and make a request for a glass of scotch. “Everyone winds up here, somehow. Then again, it’s not surprising to find him here, since his dream back in school was to start a freelance jazz band.”
My reply is delayed as the man on stage gives a few announcements and quickly introduces each person on the stage, from the three trumpet players to a short girl on bongos. After a short applause, he cues off the first song before taking a seat between two other saxophones, each of them differing in size.
The lights dim and the first number begins with a huge kick, musical notes reverberating off of every wall before slowing into a calm, easy-going tune led by a trumpet player.
“A freelance jazz band? Maybe you could have hopped in with them. I could imagine you playing a saxophone.”
Her heel taps to the beat of the song, a wistful smile appearing on her face. “I was almost in a jazz band, actually. Back when I was still an aspiring musician.”
My mind is soon filled with my mediocre attempts at learning to play guitar back during my first year in high school. “I think we were all aspiring musicians at some point.”
“It's just what music does to people.” She responds, glancing over at me every so often while she watches the band. “I'm not gonna claim to be some big appreciator of the arts, but music is part of what being a person is. It comes with your personality or your taste in food.”
“Hell, I'd say it's a lot like food. Food for your ears.” She adds with a smile.
“I've heard some things that could be considered an acquired taste, yeah.” I reply with a chuckle.
She gives a short 'hah.' “Yep. Helps to keep a balanced diet. Good thing there's no such thing as fatty music, at least.”
“You could count death metal, maybe. I can imagine too much of that stuff killing you.”
“Hah. I've never really been a fan of metal. There's some good stuff out there, but it's not really something I try to listen to all the time.” She says, probably trying to call up some examples in her head. “I had another friend my second year of high school who wanted to start a band. 'Metal Town' or something like that.”
“Well, Lilly tells me you aspired to be a lot of things back in high school as well.” I reply, setting my elbow on the table and leaning into my hand.
Her shoulders drop as she lets loose a relaxed sigh. “That was so long ago.”
My lips curl up in a smirk at the memory of that conversation. “Yeah. I bet you would have made a great cheerleader, though.”
“I was just trying out for the hell of it. If anything, I only would have gotten serious for the swim team.” She responds with a dodgy expression, glancing off in the other direction as if to dispel the thought. “Besides, it’s not like my father would have let me go through with it. We had a very strict ‘no fun allowed’ policy growing up.”
“Is that what happened when you tried to join a jazz band?”
“Yep, same thing that stopped me from enjoying everything else in high school.” She says with a sour look, no doubt mentally begrudging all the rejections. “I played piano, but I think it was better off being called a machine of child subjugation. Lilly had to go through the same torture between academics and our weekly manners classes.”
“She had such a beautiful voice, though. I’ll never forgive my father for making her quit the choir.” Akira adds, brow narrowed in spite.
Piano classes between a study session and a lecture on being a proper lady. It’s almost like something out of a Charles Dickens book. Still, it’s fun to imagine Akira sitting at a piano and wearing a frilly dress, an annoyed scowl on her face.
I wonder if Lilly has similar thoughts of her childhood, even though the lessons seemed to have much more of a lasting effect on her.
“So why did you want to play piano in a jazz band if you hated playing it?” I ask, relaxing in my seat as the performance on stage transitions into something mellow, led along by another one of the saxophone players.
The words linger in the air as her beverage arrives, a small glass filled about half-way with caramel-colored liquid. “It was a fleeting thought, really. I wanted to pick up saxophone when I was a third year, but the only opening in the school’s band was for alto, and I wanted to play tenor.”
I tilt my head at her answer, unsure of what to take from that statement.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” She says with one eyebrow raised in confusion, the rim of her glass sitting against her lip.
“What’s the difference? Is it kind of like acoustic and bass guitar?”
She meets my disconcerted expression with one of her own before letting out a short laugh and setting her glass down without taking a drink. “Oh, they all sound different. Alto is small, so it’s able to hit high notes well. Bari is huge and they’re able to play a much lower range. Tenor is… I guess what you’d call ‘medium-sized.’”
That’s all news to me. I thought there was just one type of saxophone. Are there different types of flute and trumpet as well?
I turn and glance at the band, noticing that the three saxophone players are sitting in the order she described. “The one in the middle? I could imagine you playing something smaller.”
“I got that a lot.” She says with a wistful smile. “But I was always a fan of tenor. It’s just got that deep sound to it – I don’t know how to describe it. I think tenor is a more satisfying instrument to listen to, even if they’re always playing second fiddle for the alto.”
Is it good for me that she likes the underdog when there’s a main attraction present, or is it just referring to music?
I’m definitely overthinking it. Either way, I doubt I could pick up a musical instrument quickly enough to impress Akira, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Tetsuo already plays guitar or something of that caliber.
She takes a long-deserved sip from her drink, letting out a contented sigh after the first gulp. “They always have good stuff here, even if it’s expensive. Good thing it’s all I’m having tonight.”
All she’s having tonight? That’s strange; past experiences dictate that having good booze is enough of a reason to keep going until you can’t go any further.
“Short on cash?”
“Nah.” She answers, shifting in her seat as she rotates the glass on the table. “I’ve been letting things get a little too out of hand lately. Plus Tetsuo’s been on my case non-stop about the alcohol, so I figure just a little self-control could go a long way.”
I glance around the club, noticing that the band has shifted into a different piece. Club-goers leave their seats and tables in pairs and take to the empty floor, beginning to glide and sway with each other in a dance. A few of them are well kept in high-class business suits and shimmering dresses, while others seem to be less focused on looking nice and more about having fun.
The saxophone… the tenor sax, right? He stands up and begins playing to the crowd, his body swaying and his instrument rocking back and forth as he plays a solo to the mellow background, seeming to match the mood perfectly. It almost makes me want to go out and…
Nah, that would be a bad idea in every sense. “I thought jazz clubs were for relaxing and listening.”
“Well, there’s nothing saying that you can’t slow dance to jazz,” she returns as both of us glance out to the people on the dance floor. “It’s pretty much the same as your basic, boring slow dance, although there’s some other stuff involved.”
We both watch the samba of human figures out before us, some of them entering as duos while others pair off while weaving in and out of the couples. Somehow they all know the motions by heart, as if it were imprinted in their minds.
“Not even gonna ask me for a dance?” Akira says with a teasing smile, the glass in front of her emptied and a glint in her eyes.
The idea gets more and more appealing each time I switch my gaze between the dance floor and Akira, restrained only by the knowledge that I know nothing about dancing in the slightest.
I shrug my shoulders. “I’d probably just embarrass both of us in the attempt.”
“It’s not embarrassing if we’re both making fools of ourselves.” She counters, resting her chin in one hand, eyes filled with anticipation.
I can’t help but chuckle at the notion, standing up and pretend to crack my knuckles. “Fine then, if you insist.”
Before I can sit back down or say something like ‘just kidding;’ she hops to her feet and grabs my hand, tugging me onto the dance floor with an eager grin on her lips. “Too late to take it back now.”
“Wha- hey! I wasn’t being serious!” I object despite doing nothing to resist.
She yanks me all the way into the crowd before turning to face me, standing only a short distance away. “C’mon, we’re not gonna do anything complicated. I’ve always wanted to try this.”
The pressure in the air gets stronger and stronger as Akira eyeballs me with expectation, hands on her hips. No one else seems to have even noticed our presence as couples dodge around us in their slow turns and whirls, some spinning and doing extra hand motions while others stick to a simple slow dance -- none of which I know how to do.
I shrug my shoulders and continue to glance to either side, hoping for a semblance of what I’m supposed to do. “Well you’d better teach me how it’s done then, because I don’t even know where to start.”
She gives a short ‘heh,’ cementing the fact that I’ve fallen into a trap. “It’s not that hard, you know. Just…”
Her voice trails off as she grabs both of my hands. My entire body heats up in a flustered huff as she places my left hand on her waist, her fingers intertwining with the digits of my right. She steps even closer as she sets her one free hand on my shoulder, standing only a breath away.
“What, never danced with a girl before?” She jabs as my face burns up and I avoid eye contact.
I don’t know why, but somehow this is more embarrassing than letting her dry my hair or waking up on top of her on a sofa. Before, I always felt that she was just playing around with me, kind of like a warm-spirited joke.
This is different, though. It’s mutual, in a sense. She’s joking around about it, certainly, but I don’t feel that she’s treating it all at some kind of a prank-- there is a part of her that genuinely wants to dance with me.
“Never danced with a girl? I think the answer to that is pretty obvious.” I counter, unable to get the feeling of my hand against her slender waist out of my brain. Her fingers clasp my other hand, their soft touch sending a spike of unwarranted pleasure through my head.
Akira taps a beat against my shoulders with two fingers, matching up with the music around us.
“It’s easy.” She says while keeping the tempo constant, muttering a ‘one, two, three – one, two, three’ just audible enough for me to hear.
It sounds simple enough in concept, but… “Even if you say that, I’m still clueless when it comes to this stuff.”
I feel my body yanked to the side as she steps off without a warning, forcing my foot to follow hers. She taps more strongly on the first beat of the three, yanking me in the other direction each time.
At this point we aren’t so much dancing as we are wrestling for control over who gets to move where.
“Got it figured out yet?” Akira says aloud as she continues to pull me around the dance floor, completely unfazed by my inability to follow unless shoved.
My eyes jump between Akira’s face, our clasped hands, and my feet as I’m unable to concentrate on any one thing, the scene around me spinning out of focus. The crowd, the dim lights and neon signs, the performing group on stage – everything blurs together, like I’ve entered a world where only the two of us are present.
“Where did you learn to do this?” I ask as I’m tugged in the other direction once more, each time with less force as I start to understand the rhythm.
She shrugs without changing the position of her hands or even losing the beat. “Manners class.”
“What? I can remember you talking about never having the chance to dance with someone before.” I reply.
“I meant with someone who wasn't my manners tutor, or at least someone who wasn't sixty years older than me.”
I can get a feel for the music thanks to her hand, but nothing else seems clear to me. The positioning of my feet, which way we’re going next, keeping an eye on the crowd around us – I’m even having trouble figuring out where I’m supposed to be looking.
She's only an inch shorter than me. If I looked her in the eye while we were this close, I’m not sure I’d be able to hold down the temptation to do something I’d most certainly regret later. At the same time, I can’t just watch everything around me, as that would come off as rude or even disinterested.
In the middle of my thoughts we wind up bouncing against another couple, causing my hand to slip from Akira's waist and our bodies to press against one another.
“Hey now, arms’ length, mister.” Akira chides with a mischievous smile before adjusting her weight and bringing us into a spin, almost shifting me off-balance.
It takes all of my focus just to keep from tumbling to the ground with her in my arms, just barely able to manage getting back into position with one hand on her waist. “I thought you said we weren’t going to do anything complicated!”
I am far too nervous for this. It’s just a simple dance, right? A simple dance with the girl I’m in love with who would never let me live it down if I tripped up and made a scene like that.
My comment is met by a what appears to be a disinterested glance in the other direction, as if she were trying to cover up for something. “C’mon, it’s a learning experience. Someday you’ll be sweeping cute girls off their feet, won’t you be thankful then?”
“I wish I was good enough to do that now.” I return, my face heating up in embarrassment once more as I quickly realize what I just said.
Rather than look offended or scoff at my attempt at humor, she holds my hand even tighter as the song reaches its climax. “Hah, surely you couldn’t mean me?”
She remembers that night, and all the things I said while my self-control was at wit’s end.
She’s playing coy about it, but it’s quite clear nonetheless.
How does she feel about it? Is she disappointed in me and she’s only laughing to try and keep from getting angry? Is she embracing it despite the fact that she already has someone else to fill the position?
Before long, the music fades out and shifts into applause as Akira releases my hand and steps away, a satisfied smile on her face. “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
My arms fall to my side and my heart pounds with fervor, unable to focus on anything else as my eyes trace each and every movement of Akira’s body. “Not with you showing me how to do it by force, no. Are you sure you don't have more experience than you say?”
“Hey, don't give me all the credit. You weren't so much of a stick in the mud once you loosened up and got into it.” She says with a look of satisfaction.
Her beaming expression soon fades into a half-smile, however. “Maybe you could convince him to give it a try.”
“Mr. Shuugetsu?” I ask out of curiosity.
“Yeah, Tetsuo.” She says as we begin to walk back to the table. “I was hoping to get him out here tonight, actually. Naturally, he refused and wouldn't even let me try to convince him.”
And after having tried it myself, I can't understand why he'd refuse. What exactly is so dangerous about being seen dancing with your girlfriend at a night club? Corporate figures aren't allowed to have fun?
“Maybe you should try a different approach, then? I think he’d listen if you just said something that got through.” I reply, sliding my chair out and taking a seat. I almost contemplate ordering a drink for myself after all that, but it wouldn’t be proper if Akira’s trying to limit herself.
I’m not sure how their conversations go when I’m not eavesdropping on them, but Akira would have tried that sometime. Anything I say at this point may as well be empty advice.
She laughs at my statement. “He doesn't seem to want to continue having a life outside of his career.”
“Well, he does have a pretty significant position by the looks of it.” I offer, unsure of what to say. “From what I gather, it seems like he’s pretty confident that you understand and support him.”
Her frown only seems to deepen at my words. “Is that really what he thinks? Jeez…”
The conversation goes dead for a few moments while Akira mulls the statement over in her head, thinking of an appropriate answer.
“I’ll give him as much love and support as he’ll let me. As it stands; I see him once a week, talk over the phone every other night, and go out maybe once a month.” She picks back up, sounding more disappointed than angry. “And talking is what we need to be doing a lot of right now.”
“What exactly is wrong between you two? I mean, I understand that the lack of contact is terrible, but is it really so bad as to warrant that much stress?” I ask.
She closes her eyes as she takes a deep breath and releases another long sigh. “You remember that job offer I mentioned a week or so back? The one I got while I was in Scotland for my aunt?”
I nod, a nagging feeling festering in the back of my head and only beginning to grow as the next words enter my ears.
“I’m thinking of taking it.”
In an instant, everything stops. The sound of the jazz band’s next song, the hustle and bustle of the audience, glasses tapping against tabletops and each other, the clack of billiards bouncing off of one another, everything.
She’s thinking of taking a job offer... In Scotland?
I sit in silence, trying to wrap my head around the concept. “I, uh… What do you mean by that? How are you gonna work in Scotland from Japan?”
“I’m not gonna work from Japan.” She says with a blank tone, not a trace of regret where it should be. “I’m gonna work in Scotland with the main branch of my father’s company.”
It feels as though my heart just disconnected from everything and dropped straight into the pits of my stomach. My mind goes blank and my throat dries as she sits up with a resolute expression.
“It’s been six years since our parents left us here, and I think it’s time Lilly and I put everything back together. I’d get shorter hours for better pay, and we’d be closer to our family.” She continues, as if she were trying to justify it more for herself than to me.
“But why?” Are the first words to spring out of my mouth, restraint leaving my addled thoughts in an instant. “You’re just going to leave everything behind? Your job, your penthouse, all the relations you’ve built up over the years? Everything you’ve built for yourself?”
“Yep.” She answers, eyeballing the empty glass on the table like she were searching for something. “It’s a clean start.”
“A clean start? Really? What does Lilly think? Hanako?”
She leans back in her chair, arms crossed. “Lilly supports it as well. I haven’t had a chance to hear what Hanako has to say, but she’s an adult. She knows that some things have to happen.”
Something burns in my brain and a haze fills my sight, my chest thumping with a strange anxiety. “It has to happen?”
“Life isn’t a fairy tale, Hisao.” Akira responds, a downcast look in her eyes. “It’s not what I want to do, but it’s for my family. I still have things I need to take care of here though -- with Tetsuo, my friends, and with you.”
She shakes her head in annoyance at the mere mention of his name. “Especially Tetsuo. He doesn’t know about this yet and I’m not going to tell him in that damned office, he deserves better than that, and so do I. I’d like it if we could end things on a less troublesome note, but there’s just not enough time to get things on the right track before I’ve gotta go.”
Was that why she wanted him to come to this concert so badly? Am I only being told this because she couldn’t get him out here first?
At any rate, I know that she’s going to end it. It’s unknown whether she’s putting an end to it because she has to go or if it has to do with the haphazard state of their relationship, but it’s over.
Then again, so are things between Akira and myself, if she goes through with what she has planning. All the phone calls and text messages in the world wouldn’t matter, unless I were to somehow work enough to buy plane tickets to Scotland every weekend.
“And there’s also what you said to me a few nights ago.” She adds, leaning her cheek against one hand as she locks eyes with me.
…But even then, it wouldn’t matter. “What do you mean?”
“You know, a few nights ago when I decided to share that bottle of scotch with you, and you said, uh…” She trails off, pursing her lips together and shooting me a bewildered expression. “Damnit! I had what I was gonna say all worked out and my mind just went blank the second I tried to pull it up.”
“It’s alright, I think I already know what you’re going to say.” I respond, forcing a chuckle despite being so nervous that my heart could rupture at any moment.
She reaches across the table and puts one finger over my lips before I can tell her to leave it as is, “I spent more than a few hours thinking about what you told me and I’m not gonna let you leave until my side is said and done.”
My lips are released as she props her head up on one arm, chewing on the words. “It’s really difficult and weird putting this out in the open, but I, uh… I don’t reject it if you truly feel that way about me. I’m a little flattered, honestly, even if I…”
Her voice trails off again, this time into an awkward laugh. “Things would be a more than a little complicated if I returned those feelings, you know?”
It was inevitable. I may have gotten my hopes up in the back of my head, but I knew it would eventually come to this.
Still, the fact that she doesn’t outright reject me is a bit of a blessing. Better than being completely shunned and accused of having ulterior motives for wanting to be friends or something.
Even if none of it will matter soon.
I wave one hand back and forth, feeling as though my head might erupt if any more blood were to rush to my face tonight. “Well, that’s what I figured. But, I mean, I’m not going to take it back. I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.”
She seems to take it all in stride, offering a warm smile. “That’s so sweet of you. But still, Hisao, you should be falling in love with girls your age, like... Lilly, or Hanako.”
“I’m not saying you wouldn’t be a great catch for anyone-” She says, leaning forward and pointing at me. “…But we’re six years apart. There’s just no getting around that.”
“Yeah, we’re six years apart.” I repeat, feeling a strange fatigue wash over my thoughts. “I’m in school and you’ve got a high-dollar job and a college degree. You come from a rich family and I come from people that are about as middle class as it gets. You’re fit and healthy and I’m a kid with a heart problem.”
A frown forms on her lips in response to everything I saw, only growing deeper the farther along I go.
I take a deep breath before continuing. “But maybe that’s why. You’ve got a sense of humor that makes me want to laugh with you. You’ve got that bravado that makes me want to know more about you. Even though there was an age gap and you were already taken, I couldn’t stop myself. And now here we are.”
“C’mon, now you’re just trying to make me feel bad.” She says before reaching over and flicking me on the forehead. “If it’s any consolation, I think you’re adorable and any girl should feel lucky to have you.”
“You shouldn’t joke around about stuff like this.” I retort, trying to find the nerve to at least laugh about how terrible of a situation this has become.
She gives me a teasing look before leaning in even further, her eyes centered on my gaze. “You think I’m kidding? You need to get some confidence, Hisao. I’m already jealous of any girl who gets to play with your hair on a daily basis.”
Her voice takes a more kindly tone after that, as if the previous things were only said in a joking fashion. “It's really easy to laugh when I'm around you, even though we always wind up talking about depressing stuff. And on top of all that, you're a lot wiser than you let on and you're a really interesting guy, at least when you finally decide to talk about yourself.”
So... why can’t it be this way all the time? She doesn’t have to be jealous of someone else if it can be her. If she just turned down that job offering and broke things off with Tetsuo and convinced all of her friends and family that dating someone six years younger was alright and…
Of course it can’t work. Who am I kidding? She has her own business to take care of, and I shouldn’t ever forget that. Nothing has changed; I want to be a part of her life, but it’s still impossible to accomplish with anything short of a miracle.
“I’m just someone who’s curious. Maybe you should ask more questions.” I counter.
“Maybe.” She replies, that warm smile never fading from her face. “But it’s better to just go with the flow at times. There are some answers that only life can lead you to, no matter how much you dig for them.”
Is that what she’s doing now? Letting life take her to new discoveries?
I don’t like it. Leaving behind all of her friends and everything she’s built for herself, all because she wants a new beginning? What’s waiting for her when she starts over -- a life with the father she has a grudge against halfway across the world?
We’re both stuck in a trench, it would seem. Answers only lead to more questions and solutions only lead to more problems. Does she believe that flying to a separate continent and ‘starting over’ there will somehow fix everything? That she’ll forget about the situation with Tetsuo and that her relationships with all just magically fade from memory?
“Even so, there are some things you can’t find unless you’re digging for them. I’ve spent the better part of my life being dragged around by circumstance and I think it’s time I found something for myself.”
The words leap out of my mouth without restraint, only to be met by a hesitant Akira.
“Very true, but make sure you don’t dig so deep that you can’t get out.” She says, letting out a long sigh.
With that, the music around us reaches its climax, met by a standing ovation from everyone else in the audience. Akira checks her phone for the time before pushing away from the table, standing up and stretching her arms. I take my cue and join her, walking side-by-side out of the club as the band gives their final announcements.
As soon as we reach the exit and continue down the sidewalk, she nudges me in the side. “Well, I had fun, even if we had to talk about a few depressing things.”
“Yeah, I’m glad you invited me.” I reply, a mess of mixed emotions swirling through my head. “And I’m really thankful that you at least gave me an answer. It’s better than being left hanging.”
The next thing that happens turns the mess in my head into a maelstrom. Akira grabs my shoulder and leans in, pressing her lips against my cheek. She then takes a few steps ahead and turns around to face me, one hand in her pocket.
“And I’m really thankful that you’re so understanding, Hisao. You wanna know something? There are only two people here who make me want to stay in Japan. Hanako is one, guess who the other is.”
One hand flies to my cheek, my mind shutting down in its entirety as I try to fathom what just happened. I lift the other in an attempt to say goodbye as Akira turns around and begins to walk away, one arm raised in a wave as usual.
The lock clicks as I turn my key in the handle, opening the door and falling facefirst onto my bed after a few steps in.
It’s not fair.
It’s not right, and it’s not the way things should be.
Every single damned time I think I’ve got a grasp on the situation, she throws a wild card at me and throws everything out of balance. One minute I’ve got everything down and I’m ready to make a move, and then the starting line is moved right out from under my nose.
What kind of an answer am I looking for now? One I have to dig for until my fingers are numb and raw, or is it something that will come to me in some kind of a dream or vision?
I don’t have time to wait for an answer, though! I need something that will keep Akira here in Japan, and I need it now. I don’t even know when she’s leaving, but the sooner I can convince her to stay, the better. She understands and even accepts my feelings, and I'm not going to let things end at a halt even if she never reciprocates.