Homecoming - Chapter Two

She was back in Japan. She was back in Tokyo.

She was having repeated not very woohoo-ey, but more boohoo-ey moments ever since getting off the plane four days ago. On her birthday.

At least she’s landed on her birthday and not on...er, five days earlier. That would surely be too much of a coincidence. Wouldn’t it? She wasn’t thinking about it, really. Or him.

Nope, she was thinking about being back in Tokyo, seven years older, celebrating her thirty-second birthday with a Hanami in Shinjuku Goyen. That was it.

She’d thought about not coming, but couldn’t be so cruel as to say no. She’s been talking about Hanami for seven years, of how beautiful the clouds of cherry blossoms were, of how beautiful Tokyo was during cherry blossom season...So she was trapped.

Not that she was complaining. Much. Or out loud. She truly loved Tokyo during cherry blossom season. She truly loved Tokyo. Period.

She’d spent more than half her life in this city. She’d fallen in love in the district of Shinjuku. She’d lost her brother here. She’d experienced her first love and first heartbreak here. Everywhere she turned, there were memories. Happy ones, sad ones, bittersweet ones.

She was home. No matter how long she was away, no matter where she lived, Tokyo would always be home to her. She’d missed it in these past years, sometimes so much it felt like her heart was shriveling, withering inside her chest, so much she cried herself to sleep sometimes. But she knew it’s been worth it. Leaving her beloved city behind, leaving everything behind; her life, her friends, her family...It had been worth it and if she had to do it again, she’d do it in a heartbeat.

She had a new life in New York, she had new friends, a new family. She was content, even happy, in those times when she refused to think of the past. She’s learned to live in the present, to think about the future. Because it was those two that mattered. Present and the future. The past was the past, a wonderful memory, but growing more and more distant.

Although she couldn’t truly consider it distant while standing in the middle of Shinjuku, could she?

She shook her head, whipped out her cell phone and leaned a little closer to the mass of cherry blossoms on a branch. A perfect Instagram photo to share with her buddies in the States. And a perfect distraction for the mind.

The angle was just right, the light fell just so...She snapped the shot when everything inside her stood on alert.

Crap!

It couldn’t be. Could it? There was someone behind her. She knew that. She felt eyes on her. That someone was approaching. That someone stopped and she felt herself go rigid. It couldn’t be. Could it? She was just jittery today. Wasn’t she? There was no way she could know the specific person behind her just from feeling eyes on her, from knowing someone was indeed behind her.

But she did know. Oh, God, did she ever. She’d always been able to tell when he was around. She had no idea how or why. It had been a simple fact.

Jesus!

The person behind her—she refused to think in terms of names!—silently stood behind her, waiting, and she slowly straightened, unconsciously clutching the phone in her hand.

She wouldn’t turn. She refused to turn. Because, maybe, just maybe, she was mistaken.

It could happen, right? People were wrong all the time. Right?

“Hello, Kaori.”

She obviously couldn’t be categorized into the people-who-are-wrong-all-the-time category. Because she knew that voice, she knew that presence, she knew that specific type of energy field the body behind her created.

She sighed softly, turned, and looked into his eyes for the first time in seven years.

“Hello, Ryo.”

X
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Ryo inclined his head in acknowledgement of her greeting, ramming his hands into his pockets, lest he did something he might regret later.

She was beautiful. Even more beautiful than he remembered. Her face was leaner, giving her a more mature look, her hair longer, accentuating the changes in her face, but her lips were the same, with that fuller, utterly kissable lower lip, and her eyes were as big as he remembered. And as sad as he remembered. Though she’d always tried to mask the sadness in them—sadness he’d usually put there—he’d always seen right through. Her entire body was leaner, but not unhealthily-leaner. She looked healthier, sleeker, the lines of her body perfectly delineated, and curved in just the right places.

She was fucking beautiful.

“You look good,” he said, opting for a blander version of what was echoing in his mind.

It was her turn to incline her head. “Thank you.” Was that a slight blush on her cheeks? He couldn’t be sure. “You, too.”

“Thank you,” he parroted her, feeling a little bit like an idiot. They were acting like complete strangers. Not at all like two people who’d lived and worked together for six years.

Pushing his hands deeper into his pockets, he leaned back, rolling slightly onto the balls of his feet, trying to come up with something to say, anything, except nice-seeing-you-take-care. He didn’t want to leave yet.

She was looking at him half-expectantly, and half-hopefully he’d get the hell away from her, and he opened his mouth, but before he could make a sound, a small voice interrupted.

“Mom?”

Kaori broke eye contact and looked to her left with a smile that transformed her face from a polite-nervous-embarrassed mask into something that almost brought him to his knees. He followed her gaze, and encountered a pair of enormous, hazel eyes staring at him curiously.

The little girl—she looked to be around five or six—wore red Converse high tops, black jeans, a black T-shirt emblazoned with the Tokyo Tower, and a red hoodie. The ensemble was almost a copy of her mother’s.

For there was no mistaking who the girl’s mother was. The hair color, the eyes, the facial features...He was looking at Kaori’s daughter.


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