“Jin! That’s not even a word!” Erika complained as she cooked away in the kitchen of their family home. Yui was off auditioning with her father for some odd reason or another. Erika herself wasn’t too sure of how it started but it was there. That passion for acting. Of course the girl hadn’t received too many major proposals but she was only just starting. So to help her out, Erika decided that today she would cook a meal for the entire family; only Jin seemed intent on distracting her from it.
“Eri,” He separated himself from their short embrace quickly. She already missed the small amount of warmth he’d surrounded her with. It was stupid wasn’t it? The fact she actually enjoyed her husband’s company, How utterly preposterous a notion.
She sliced quickly and easily all the tomatoes and reached for the onion. “I want to talk to you about something.”
Her knife hit the board with a clack. “Is it something bad?”
“Not quite.” His lips gave off the slightest hint of a smile.
“Something good then?"
“If you would make it so.” He wiggled his eyebrows at that and Erika couldn’t help but laugh along playfully as she hit his arm. A year ago she would have cursed herself for doing this. She was older now, wiser, and Jin really wasn’t so much bad company once she got used to him. Over the past year she’d grown to even be friends again with her husband. Their second year anniversary was coming up soon.
“I want to take you with me. Eniwa, Hokkaido. Game?” The last part of his sentence was uttered so quickly so that all she could really get from it was Hokkaido and game. She reached back against the kitchen counter letting it offer her its silent strong resilient strength.
This time it wouldn’t be so simple as ‘you couch, me bed.’ No it would be far more complicated, far less quiet and awkward, and far more...enjoyable?
“Sure.” She smiled blushing quietly as she realized the implications of her words. They hadn’t even kissed yet and here she was going on trips into unknown areas in Hokkaido with strange men, like her husband. Still at the sight of the broad smile on his face she found it hard to think of it as foolish on her part.
Especially when he grabbed her by the waist lifted her onto the kitchen counter letting her wrap her own legs reflexively around his hips to stay onto his body. He gave her the smallest peck on the cheek and placed his forehead directly onto hers as her hands lung limply from his shoulders. “Thanks.” He was soft in tone, his breath warming her lips slightly as it exited his own and rested on hers.
As he moved away she could only stay on the counter feeling her legs turn to jelly slowly but surely as they had so many times before now for so many different men ranging from directors to princes, but never for someone like Jin. She’d never thought they would. When had he started having this effect on her? And as horrible as it sounded, why didn’t she want to stop the man who had ruined all her aspirations of having a career, a life, completely separate of that of her mother’s?
But her life would never be like that. She knew that for certain, because Jin was nothing like her father. Jin wasn’t like any of the other men she’d ever loved too, they had been harsh, taking advantage of her naivety, using her to get into her father’s good books or something of the type. Jin never seemed that way, no he was earnest and no matter how annoyed he was with her he never showed it. He kept himself in check and hell...even tried to love her. Though recently she could tell she had made his job easier as a husband by finally becoming a more complacent wife than the crazy woman she’d been.
“Yeah,” She chirped happily seeing him turn back from the door, as he was about to take his exit.
“Something’s burning.” And then the scent, which she had no idea how she’d ignored for so long wafted up into her nose and she immediately flushed in embarrassment at having been caught not paying attention to the true task at hand. Truth be told she’d been admiring every aspect of Jin. It had become a sort of favorite past time of hers. She missed being with someone romantically, and sadly her husband was becoming a great prospect in her heart. Especially with the way his arms were looking recently, and with the way they felt around her, holding her close.
“AGH! JIN! NOW WHAT?” She yelled attempting to cover up her mortification as she opened up the pots and pans looking at the delightful setting she’d planning to make completely ruined.
What was worse...she didn't even care really. All she could think about was- those few delightful seconds of intimacy she’d had moments before.
She really did have a sickness when she fell for someone. It was as if all thoughts of everything else important and her life’s mission disappeared completely.
She felt Jin come back up beside her and hug her from the back as she uselessly attempted to turn the concoction of doom. She relished in the feeling of him against her.
“Forget it. Let’s go out tonight.” He whispered into her ear and Erika refused to shiver even though she felt it in every single bone of her body.
“And what will the others eat?”
“Nothing as delicious as I’m hoping to have.”
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no no no! He had to stop stringing her along like this. Saying things like this and then not acting on them each time she went along. It just wasn’t fair to let her think, things that weren’t running through his head. “No.” She smiled so brightly that he could hardly believe this was the same woman in front of him. “You’re going to fix this though. I’m done. This is what you get for interrupting me while I was making the most delicious meal for all of us.”
“Please we all know you’re not the connoisseur in this family. Your mom is.”
“Oh you prefer my mom’s cooking do you?”
Jin silently raised an eyebrow as if asking her ‘Really’? He put his finger in the red sauce that Erika had been on her way to plating and brought it up and stuck it in her mouth quickly and pulled it out just as quickly.
Erika wished she could have reveled more in the gesture but the horrible taste in her mouth made her forget about all else. “Okay...maybe you’re right. Let’s go start this over.”
And so the couple stayed in the kitchen cooking till barely it was time for dinner to come out.
When they finally emerged both of them looked like complete messes. Erika’s pristine apron was dashed with smears of yellow sauce and there was rice in her hair. Jin had splatters of flour all over his and a smear of tomato sauce on his cheek, which Erika wiped off the moment she saw it.
None of them noticed Nao's quiet smile to herself as she observed the couple. They seemed truly happy in a way that she would never have been able to experience.
For that...she was happy.
Mao climbed onto the bus looking at the destination a faint smile on her face. Kyoto was the home of the original parliament, the perfection of art, and even a pretty darn good soccer team.
None of these reasons were why Mao found herself going towards Kyoto today though. No she was going to Kyoto to meet someone who really might have known her mother best out of all females. Kuroki Meisa.
“You again!” She turned around to look at the offensive sounding voice and saw the cute little conductor boy who had dropped her off here yesterday.
“Yes, me again. Work the day shift do you?” He blushed as if she’d predicted just correctly, without waiting for a response she started towards the back of the bus.
The minutes ticked by and one by one she saw the conductor boy going to every passenger but her. When he finally stopped by her he sat down.
“So you came from Tokyo, went to Osaka and now you’re going to Kyoto. Are you on some sort of tour or something?”
“Man they should really evaluate you for your job. Here’s my ticket.” He flushed easily. The boy was quite young and Mao couldn’t help but tease him a little. “I’m from Tokyo, that’s home. If this is a tour...I should be having more fun.”
“So you don’t have anywhere to stay really in Kyoto?”
“Well...I suppose not. I’m kind of relying on an iffy acquaintance. I last saw her when I was a kid so-“ But Mao could hardly get the words out of her mouth before the boy rattled off again.
“Kyoto is my home! You can stay with us, if you’d like! I mean Ryo and me. He’s the bus driver, a little cranky but good-natur-”
“Gee I don’t know I heard a rumor among the block of stranger’s that never talk to a kid you don’t know.” She cracked a smile and saw him return it. He was cute she’d give him that much and he’d obviously taken an interest in her after last time. “Why help me out little tyke?”
“You seem like you need it. You look desolate.” This she did not need to hear.
“Sad.” He agreed and Mao wanted to sock his little face in for assuming anything about her. What might have seemed endearing now only proved to be annoying.
“Don’t you have something better to do than sit here beside me asking me about why I’m so ‘desolate’?”
“Not really. My job consists of checking and making sure everyone is safe and I doubt anyone on this bus is a bomb blaster.” He said indicating towards the rest of the bus.
“I don’t know. The old woman there looks like a risky one to me. You should frisk her.”
“I’d much rather frisk you.” He admitted out loud and realized what he’d said and immediately clapped a hand over his mouth. God he hated his hormones. Mao burst into laughter so hard that she was clutching her sides as she rolled over to beside the window slapping it with emphasis on how funny she found this.
“What’s your name?” She puffed out still bursting into laughter at intervals that left the boy looking like he’d like to die, preferably in her arms.
“Tegoshi Yuya, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”
“What’s your number Tego-chan?”
“Seriously?” He asked his smile a mile wide at the idea that the hot girl on the bus had asked him for his number. She nodded.
“I may need to take you up on that offer. So shoot...I want the whole shebang. No risky business with me though, meaning we won’t be indulging in your favorite activity of frisking. Guaranteed?”
“Absolutely. I’d be happy with just friendship and if you tell my air hostess training friend that conductors have something called the kilometer long club...and it’s better than the mile high club and its stupid turbulence.” He smiled wistfully looking into the air as if there was something he was looking at and Mao snapped her fingers in front of his gaze. He immediately broke out of his daze to look at her. “Deal?”
“Deal.” She held out her hand and so they shook on it. Mao couldn’t help but like the innocence on his face. He was so untainted, Mao would be willing to bet her life savings Tegoshi Yuya had come from a happy family, slightly poor maybe but that was why he was working so hard now at such a young age. With a mother who was really the homey type, kept dinner ready and hot on the table, maybe a sister he was really protective of, and a father who worked hard and came home every night without fail.
She was instantly jealous of the young boy.
“YUYA!” Mao heard a throaty voice yell faintly from the front of the bus stopping her from drowning deeper in the green sea.
“Ah that’s Ryo-chan. He’s not too happy a camper. He must be a little older than you. Wanna come meet him?” Tegoshi asked and Mao shook her head.
“If you don’t mind Tego-chan I’d like to sleep a little.” Tegoshi shook his head just as furiously as he had with his other actions, with emphasis and boy like eagerness. In a second he’d taken off his jacket and covered her upper half with it, knowing well enough not to adjust it in the ‘right’ places. He didn’t want a black eye.
“What was that for?” She asked a smile touching her face as she looked at the boy who was now in his plain white conductor shirt with starched blue pants.
“So you don’t get cold. I’ll remember to wake you up this time Miss-“
“Toda.... Toda Mao.”