“How’s Mao doing?” Nao sat down beside her daughter on the bed that she used to share.
Two months old, the little girl in front of them was giggling up at the two figures that peered over her with the most concerned expressions she’d ever seen. She hadn’t seen much of the world around her but she recognized the look of worry, the younger woman in front of her constantly wore it when she was looking at her.
And she was being dressed in an overall which only happened when something was upsetting her mother.
But the little baby's musings were left unheard as her mother's voice rang out to answer her own mother.
“She’s beautiful isn’t she?” Erika’s voice was soft as she caressed her daughter’s head and pressed a kiss to the overly large forehead that reminded her of Jin as a child and before he’d gotten a fringe.
It was horrible that she knew exactly what Mao would grow up like. She was still weakened from what had been dubbed by her doctors as one of the worst labours the hospital had ever seen. She'd lost so much weight she looked positively unhealthy. Erika walked with a bit of a lilt to her body as she usually clutched the side of her stomach, a lot had changed since her pregnancy. “I’m glad she made it out…without her I wouldn’t have a reason to live today.” Within seconds she had her baby in her arms as she shut her eyes and remembered the man who haunted her dreams at night still.
She was angry with him but she couldn’t say she didn’t want her child here. She hated him with every single fiber of her being as she had before but she thanked god every day she had Mao with her. It was a familiar feeling hating Jin as if it had been lying there in her body, completely dormant knowing that one day it would have to return to her heart.
“Perhaps that’s why God gave you back to me.” Nao pressed the softest of kisses on her own daughter’s temple and Erika found her mind racing back to the hospital even though she didn't want to go back to that moment.
She hated herself for thinking of it every second of every day, even when she should be concentrating solely on her daughter or listening to her mother. Every second she turned to look somewhere else in her home there he’d be in her mind, looking at her smiling. If she closed her eyes and allowed her imagination to fly with the wind he would come up behind her and embrace her. Then he’d come around and grab Mao and hold her so tightly that she would feel like crying at the sight of her family and immediately whip her eyes open. She couldn’t stop herself from returning back to that moment and wondering…would things have ever turned out differently?
She struggled and looked away from her daughter and her mother to look across the room where the dresser lay and gulped when she saw the figure leaning against the dresser.
She wasn't stupid, she knew he wasn't really there.
But the imaginary Jin that was leaning against her dresser still smiled at her and still made her heart beat…even if all she wanted to do was throw something at him.
She hated loving him.
She lay in bed weakened and looking outside the hospital room.
She didn’t know much.
She knew she’d almost died, she knew she lost a lot of blood, but she didn’t know anything else. She didn’t know how she felt, she didn’t know why she was back here and she didn’t know what to do about the man looking at her guiltily under her eyes.
“Erika. I’m ready. I’m staying. I can’t leave you, I see that now. I’m ready to take responsibility.” His words sounded rehearsed, and sure he may have meant them but for how long?
Considering his past words of never letting her go she doubted he could have meant them for long. She wasn’t sure if it was the hormones or her heart… but could she take the risk with her daughter? She didn’t want another broken household for her daughter…and she would grow up fine without a father. Erika herself would have grown up better without the presence of a Toda Takuya in her life. Mao did not need another Toda Takuya.
“Jin,” It was the first time she’d spoken directly to him in three weeks. He’d been staying in a hotel close to the hospital so he could spend every waking moment with her. Mao was with Nao and Takuya. Jin’s father had gone back to China already. “You don’t belong here.” As she said her words she realized she truly did mean them. For him, it would be best to leave her here and pretend their years together had never happened.
Sure she’d always have Mao as a reminder but- Jin should erase these years from his life.
His eyes shot up from looking at his hands shamefully to looking insistently at her.
“No Erika, this is exactly where I belong. With my wife and my daughter, I need to take care of you two.”
“You don’t need to take care of anyone Jin.” She turned to look at him with the same eyes he remembered from the first days of his marriage. It was as if the Erika he had gotten to know the past two years did not even exist when this one took her place.
“Erika don’t do this. You love me. I love you.” She let the slightest laugh out from her mouth as she flicked her hair with her hand and shook her head.
“I may love you. That may be true. You definitely don’t love me Akanishi Jin. I’m sorry to say that you have to leave me. I am not willing to stay in a relationship where the man is willing, and forcing me to accept that I say he leave me.”
“Don't make me pay so heavily for a couple of words, Erika try and underst-“
“ENOUGH!” The heart-rate monitor spiked up. She was obviously displeased. Each shaky breath that left her got shakier. “Just get the hell out of my life okay? I don’t need you here and Mao sure as hell doesn’t need you here." She looked up at him with glassy eyes. She wished she could stay stronger, she could look like those women who were hard and left unaffected. " Go do whatever it is you need to but don’t you EVER find your way back here.” The smallest of cracks could be heard in her tone.
He gulped as he took in the appearance of his wife, what could he do to make her understand that he saw everything clearly now? That his education could wait longer? That he could take her with him eventually? That it would wait for him if she insisted on leaving him?
He got up slowly and knew that she wouldn’t push him off. Not only because she was fragile and weak but because she’d just admitted how much she still loved him.
He just had to show her that his feelings hadn’t changed either.
He hated seeing her cry.
He brought his lips down to hers and felt her respond within a second. She wasn’t passionate and she sure as hell didn’t look like she was enjoying it. He could feel the tense pressure in the muscles of her mouth and the way her teeth would precariously brush the edge of his mouth as if they were ready to bite down on him. The way the nails of her hand dug into his wrist as if trying to draw blood but he continued kissing her. He wasn’t going to stop until she relaxed, until she understood.
And apparently she learned that. She let her nails off his wrist and used her hands to push him off her with the most pressure she could muster but he didn’t budge. She was still weak, and he was still strong.
He pushed her onto the headboard and she let out a whimper but he didn't let her breathe for long.
He didn’t know what effect he was having on her until he felt a wet tear fall from her long lashes onto his cheek.
At the sensation of her tears, he moved apart from her and his mission to convince her of his feelings without words if she wasn't willing to listen to them.
She was crying with her eyes wide open as she brought her legs up to her chest and sank between her knees.
He gulped. “Eri- I-“
“Just please. Please. Get out.” Her words were broken between sobs. He wanted to tell her he'd never give up, that he'd always love her, that she was the only thing that meant anything to him.
He had to believe that she would understand. That he would come back. He would never leave her here with Takuya, he would never leave Mao with Takuya.
She couldn't understand right now he realized as he took in the image in front of him.
His plane was supposed to leave tomorrow.
And he could not save her if he could not leave.
One Saturday afternoon Toda Erika looked up at the back of her husband.
Who controlled his emotions and walked out.
Never looking back to see that she was staring at him as he left.