Minutes after they were cashed out, Talia found herself sipping a cinnamon mocha latte at The Bulldog, a café she had always loved but she was shocked to find Koyama steering them towards it.
Barely anyone she knew came to the little boutique coffee shop. It was too out of the way, a treat, but Talia couldn’t imagine drinking coffee anywhere else. Not when it was made so lovingly, with just the right measures of ingredients rather than the haphazard way she usually got her coffee at corporate franchise stores. In some ways it was the perfect place, no one she knew would find them. Somehow she’d like it kept like that. The shorter this whole exchange of conversation was, the better.
Reminding herself of this, she chose to gulp down an overly large amount of the coffee, sure it burned her throat but she’d finished approximately 1/8 of her cup in one shot, only 7/8 to go.
“So how have you been in the two months since I saw you last?” Keiichiro asked smiling as he spun his spoon his coffee but his eyes were fixed on her face. He seemed like the type of guy who would go ahead with whatever he wanted.
Most people were only along for the ride. Keiichiro made the decisions, you lived with them. “I’ve been good. I just came from a meeting with my publisher and editor actually. I had a Skype session with them at the Tokyo division of their company.”
“What kinds of stories do you write?” He asked straight up. He seemed genuinely interested which made her heart swell a little bit with happiness. Normally, most people in her life asked for the sake of asking, or to find out if they had invariably become some sort of muse in her life…mostly selfish reasons.
“Love stories.” Again he smiled ironically and she couldn’t help but shift in her seat uncomfortably as he looked at her. “What?”
This time, unlike their exchange a few minutes ago, he chose his words carefully phrased to make sure she wouldn’t want to run away from him screaming. “It’s funny…you seem so passive about love in reality that’s all.”
“Passive?” She uttered. The way this guy prompted her mind to analyze herself, it was too much really. She was sure she was going to start developing wrinkles if she spent more time with him than was necessary. She wasn’t that passive about it was she? She was…well wasn’t she in love right now? Was her relationship with Haruma just passive? Hearing him describe it as such was making her mind a little bit confused, like it was getting lost in this murky smog of adjectives.
Again, he chose his words carefully, a few seconds of silence passing the time as she examined the way his eyes peered away from her face as he spoke. “You don’t really seem like you’re in it for the love. You seem like you’re in it for the security.”
“I’m in it for the love.” She corrected him and he shrugged it off casually as if to say ‘If that’s what you think’. “What would you know?”
At this point he turned to look quite blatantly at her, smiles abound on his face. This was a topic he could joke about, albeit the circumstances that led him to his jovial behaviour were dire indeed but that didn’t mean the comedic and life value of his past experiences wasn’t there. “I happen to be an expert on this topic.”
“Sleeping around with women doesn’t make you an expert.” She corrected him and saw him turn to look at her as in admiration. He mustn’t have expected her to be so blunt with him.
“Contrary to what you think,” He scratched his throat, folding his fingers together in a conjoined fist as he peered at her again. “I don’t sleep around. In fact, I haven’t been in a serious relationship for almost a year.” His eyes connected with hers and she felt it again, this was the gaze that had kept her awake so many nights when her mind drifted off to him when she had no control over herself. It was the same type of gaze she’d felt at the baseball game but now neither of them had anywhere or anyone to look away to. It was like they were naked in front of each other but in an even more private way than it would have been physically. She felt like he read too easily into her emotional insecurities…and how could he when he barely knew her?
And yet he seemed to know her better than most people, people who she had actually tried to talk to about how she felt. When she realized they really didn’t care, she realized she didn’t need to care about how she felt either. She could just shove it away to the side. Deal with later, if ever. “How would I know whether you’re saying the truth?”
“You wouldn’t. Trust your instincts then.” There was a sense of warmth emitting from his appearance. Something that made her feel innately comfortable with him, and it wasn’t the sort of warmth that came from fake charmers but something that felt more genuine. “I’m an executive with very little time to play around. If I’m not marrying her in the future…I wouldn’t care about the woman sitting in front of me right now.”