Maybe because it always hid under the huge layers of kimono? She had put all her weight on me, I had to grab her to keep my balance.
She gave a cheeky smile and kissed me.
“What are you doing?”, I pushed her away instantly. “ Why are you here?”
“What do you mean? You wanted me, didn’t you?”, her voice sounded confused.
“What are you talking about? You are married. Also, you aren’t suppose to be here.”
“Akihiro san. I am still not married yet. I am sorry if you misunderstood anything”, Naoko’s face was bright and stern under the silver spotlight.
“I have always loved you. I never thought of anyone else other than you. Then that day when you said that and left with Reina, I had made up my mind to stop the marriage as soon as possible and send word for you. Father wanted me to marry that businessman but I never wanted that. That is why I acted as if I liked the man and bought time to console my father and get rid of him.”She rushed to hold my hands.
“Is that so? I don’t believe you.” I took a step back from her without breaking eye contact. “Then why didn’t you yourself say that to him again? Were you afraid of something?”
Naoko stood still, hung her head. She knew she can’t hide everything from me. I know her too well.
“He was not my type. He always made jokes on me. Teasing me. Showing off his foreign language skills. He sound so stupid you know! Whereas I, Nagasawa Naoko the only daughter of the great Nagasawa household should have dominated him from the start. How dare he talk me around!”
She fell on the ground covering her face sobbing softly. I should have felt pity for her, but I continued my torture that I never intended to begin. I was shocked myself. From where did all this courage come!
“Even so, you never raised your voice against him? That’s odd.” My voice never wavered. “May be you really like being told around. After so many years someone really dared to talk to your face. Even your father never dares that way. You like the challenge don’t you?”
What am I doing? Stop already. She is not your enemy.
Naoko lifted her eyes and looked at me. “ You know I can have you executed for what you just said?”, she said with a sad smirk.
I continued,“Maybe you have really fallen for him. Right now, you are just selfconscious about what to do with me. If you really hated him, you could have said that much sooner. I know you have grown that much. You wouldn’t have taken Reina and gave her to me for nothing. You said you trusted me. You really wanted me to be happy too. You knew that day was our last goodbye, but still your gut feeling wanted to know a little more about your childhood friend. So you stalled the marriage.”
Her eyes were really the mirror of her heart. It lit up in disbelief that I have known so much even if we didn’t talk much these days. She realized I am not really bound to her anymore. I’ve grown as well. Tears swelled up again. She thought she can let go of me now if she wanted, but she might not. Just not yet.
“Everything is fine, Naoko.” I hugged her. “ I really love you, but as a friend.” Yes I do. I have always loved her that way. “ You will always have me when you are lost. Do you know Naoko? You have given me the best gift, Reina. She made me happy. She was all that I was looking for in my life after my parents died. She made me feel like family.” I kissed her forehead.
When she had calmed herself down, I took her to that old shrine where we last met. We entered the shrine and prayed with all our heart. I asked God to give her all the strength she needs to fulfill her duty as a wife in the West and to bring my Reina back.
“Thank you Akihiro-kun. Hope you find Reina soon.” She said with a priceless smile. “She is around somewhere. Take care. Goodbye.”
She bowed gallantly under the starry night, turned around and walked away. Before she turned I got a glimpse of something shiny in between the folds of the robe. It was the brooch.
As soon as Naoko went off, I was again gripped by the loneliness around me. The pain of losing Reina was coming back. The anxious heart throb was getting stronger. How many more days I have to deal with this pain? Did I make a mistake? Am I going to be alone forever? This is not what I expected. I was walking aimlessly around the shrine, my mind sinking little by little in the fear of dying alone. Suddenly, I heard a familiar sound. It was not a loud one, but a faint moan. It was a sound I recognize very well. I heard it first when Reina was sitting under the sun and I patted on her head. She also makes this sound when she is hungry. Reina has become a bit daring lately. She did jump around a lot and gets herself stuck here and there, to cry for help she makes that same noise. This time I am sure she is again stuck somewhere and needs my help. I searched frantically around the bushes until I saw a pale white tail limping over a thick branch. I went near it and found Reina. Her legs stuck in a rabbit trap.
“There you are, my love.”
“Prrr,” she said looking up at me with a big smile.
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