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The drive was smooth and quiet, the black stillness of the night enclosing around her. She felt the wind brush past her face and sighed as she sat in the parking lot. Reaching into her pocket, she grabbed one of the many cards he had sent her over the course of the half year they had been re-acquainted. Looking at it, she smiled.
In case you need anything. Let us see if you remember counting. -R
Flipping the card around, she found characters ゼロし-ななはちいちにさんしにご on the back. Rolling her eyes, she pursed her lips. He knew damn well she wasn’t gon remember… but maybe… maybe she could. She tried hard to remember learning numbers and bit her lips. She wasn’t sure what the first character was but she recognized し,いち,に,and なな foggily. She began to fill in the blanks and got: -4–7-12-342-. The rest she had to look up on her phone to complete the number. 04-78123425. His number. She wasn’t sure if it was going to work over here in the States but if he gave it to her it must be. She dialed the number and was directed to an operator.
“The number you are trying to reach is international. Who is the person you are trying to call?” The woman said in a bored tone. She licked her lips.
“I will connect you shortly.”
“Thank you.” There was a short pause before,
“Hello? Iwase speaking.”
“Hiroto?” The language switched in the blink of an eye.
“When did we get on shortened versions of my name?” He laughed warmly into the phone.
“You’ll always be Rae to me. Whether you like it or not.”
“Well until I say so… it’s Ebere got it?” He cleared his throat.
“Yes ma’am.” She sighed.
“I’m impressed. You actually remember Japanese numbers?”
“I remembered a few.”
“So, may I ask why you’re calling?”
“Oh you don’t wanna talk to me?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Is everything all right?” She let the phone relax against her shoulder and leaned back against the seat.
“No. It’s not.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Convince me from getting out my car right now.”
“Eh? Where are you?”
“None of your business.”
“Ebere..you’re concerning me.”
“Where are you?” He repeat, his voice getting closer in the phone. She sighed and looked out of the window.
“Havana Park.” She heard a ruffle that sounded like he got out of bed.
“It’s four in the morning…what are you doing there right now?”
“Just wanted to get out of my house. And think.”
“All this time I’ve been here thinking, mind running all night. I can’t seem to understand why no one wants me… why time and time again I am left behind… I’m tired and I’m ready to give up.”
“There are a lot of people who want you Ebere…”
“Your sister Amee loves you. Your brother too! You brighten up your co-workers at your job I’m sure. And I-”
“I already know about you so don’t even say it.” She sighed heavily. He was quiet as she continued to speak,
“I don’t know what to do…” Finally, he replied, his voice always calm and almost whisper like.
“Think about the people who you can trust… are all these people not enough?”
“I don’t know who to trust. Everything is so confusing…”
“That I understand. What of those who care? Are they worth it?” It was quiet for a while before she answered.
“Some of them are worth it…”
“There you go! That worth is what you should hold on to.”
“I guess.” She said with a sigh.
“Listen, sit tight for me. I’m coming to get you.”
“I’m already up…”
“You need me right now. So I’m coming. Let me put something on… we can sit and talk…all morning if you want. How does that sound?” His voice was soothing and gentle. But it was getting on her nerves. Did he not just hear her tell him to stay put?
“Promise me you won’t do anything to yourself…”
“What could I possibly do??”
“I’d rather not take any chances…”
“Fine. I’ll stay put.”
“Okay. I’m heading to the car now.”
“That was quick.” She said with a snort.
“Talk to me the whole way hm?”
“Um….” She couldn’t think of anything.
“What did you eat for dinner?” He supplied. She blinked as she looked out into the darkness.
“I didn’t eat dinner.”
“Eh? You’re not hungry?”
“That’s no good. I’ll have to make sure you eat.”
“There you go… with your parenting.” He chuckled.
“You make me want to baby you.” He said with a light teasing tone. She let a small smile come to her face.
“W-what did you have for dinner?” She heard the steady sound of his car on the road and the occasional click of his steering signal.
“I tried American food tonight.”
“Yes. Burger. Fries. And milkshake.”
“Y’all have the same thing in Japan.”
“It’s nothing like in America. It was strange…I never noticed that all you seem to eat is bread here.” She snort.
“We do not!”
“Bagels…lunch roll…sandwich…all bread!”
“Okayy… and?” He sighed playfully.
“And nothing. It was good. I felt fat. And ran it off.”
“Hm.” Silence enveloped.
“Talk to me.”
“And say what?”
“Anything.” She was quiet for a while before,
“I think you’re tryna make me go back down memory lane with all this talking.”
“I feel like… we’re teenagers again.” There was a thoughtful pause.
“Conversation with you was always easy. It was always true and genuine.”
“I haven’t been up like this in very long time.” He said into the phone, his voice amazed.
“I don’t usually be up like this either. But… tonight I guess I’m restless.” There was a significant pause until he spoke again.
“I suppose we can hang up the phone now.”
“I’m right beside you.” She looked to her right and found him smiling at her with the phone to his ear. She swallowed and hung up. She slowly opened her car door. He got out and leaned back against the hood.
“Now what was this about convincing you not to get out of your car? Where were you going to go?” She pursed her lips.
“I wasn’t gon do nothing…”
“Considering the days you have been having lately, I’m not surprised if something ran across your mind once or twice.” She sucked her teeth and looked away. She couldn’t stand how he could read her like an open book.
“Stop reading me.” She replied irritably.
“Look, you ain’t have to come out here.” He hadn’t looked away from her yet, mouth closed.
“I wonder…if I hadn’t…would you be beyond our reach in the midst of the trees?” She sighed loudly and began to walk away from him.
“I shouldn’t have called you. You’re irritating me already.”
“Anything other than sorrow.” He replied.
“Ugh.” He caught up to her faster than she would have liked and slowly began to walk backwards in front of her.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I said no.”
“Okay.” They headed into a dimly lit area of the park, not too far from their cars.
“It feels… it feels like my parents all over again.” He said softly, the wind carrying his voice off into the night. She looked over at him.
“Yet you gave them your life for another ten years that they didn’t deserve.”
“And look where it’s gotten you…”
“It’s gotten me here with you again.” She found his eyes looking at her and she swallowed. Why did he have to look at her like she was the only woman on earth?
“Stop looking at me like that.”
“I-I don’t know… I just… I don’t like it.”
“Ah, I’ll stop.” He turned his eyes down and set his gaze on the ground. She took a deep breath and before she warned him, she took off running.
“Hey!” She ignored him and shot through the darkness. Her emotions were getting the best of her. She couldn’t endure his presence for very long before her eyes started to water. It was surreal being with him again. How she could go from no contact at all to weekly interactions with him was too much for her. What really disturbed her was how much she had wanted to kiss him that day…As soon as she had slid her fingers into his hair…the strands soft and silky as she remembered… she had wanted to roll around in the sand on that beach. It was completely unacceptable. It wasn’t fair. Why did all of the feelings and emotions come back with the quickness?! It wasn’t okay. If she caved in now… if she let him back in too early…she wouldn’t be able to live with it.
Though his voice was like the scent of lavender… it caused a storm to rage within her and she couldn’t take it. It scared her how natural they were… almost as if they had never left each other. Her fingers too had said “this is where I belong”.
“Ebere! Wait!” Oh shit. He was closer than she expected. She pushed her legs to run, outstretching her hands to feel her way through the dark. She had to get away from him. Too much was going on… for her to gather her thoughts. Her parents… the people she called her family…. him…Kwasame….Peter Lugiano… all of it just too much. She stumbled over a branch and ran into a tree, her hands smacking harshly against the bark.
“Shit…” She cursed, her hands throbbing. In her attempt to get away, she had gotten lost. It was darkness everywhere… Not the best or smartest moment of her life. Sighing against her bruised hands, she bit her lip.
“Why are you running?” She jumped and spun around. How had he caught up with her?! He had a small flashlight in his hand and was pointing it at her.
“How did you catch me?” She asked, her voice low, breath heavy.
“You forget I am a runner.” He responded, his breath only slightly labored. She sucked her teeth.
“Where’d the flashlight come from?”
“I always carry it on me.”
“Do you have to blind me with it?” She asked, a scowl on her face.
“Ah, my apologies.” He lowered the light. She pursed her lips. Irritating.
“You know how far we are?”
“About a five to ten minute walk from the parking lot.”
“You didn’t get very far.” He said quietly, looking at her.
“You get on my damn nerves.” She replied and started to walk past him. He gently grabbed her waist, stopping her.
“Don’t feel as though you have to run away from me.”
“You ran away from me! You left me first!” His eyes had grown sad even in the low light.
“I nothing! Let go of me.” He didn’t say anything else, just let his fingers slide away from her. Biting her lip, she continued to walk away from him.
“I can’t wait to go home. This was a mistake… calling you… you being here…. us together…”
“Do you really believe that?” He asked quietly as they walked back.
“You’re angry right now… I’ll let you be free in that expression. But you don’t really believe it was a mistake.”
“How you gon tell me what I think?”
“Ebere…” He slowly slid his fingers through hers and pulled her to a stop.
“What happened to that light that helped bring me out from my own darkness? Is it completely gone?” She grew still, her breath light.
“You may not see it or feel it… but I know it’s still there inside. And I know we both are like wounds that haven’t healed.” He lifted her hand and pressed it against his cheek.
“You’ve walked in the darkness far too long. Just as I did. This time, I won’t do this without you Ebere. Not again. I’m trying… please…I want to do this with you…” She swallowed tightly.
“I don’t want… you to hurt me again Hiroto…”
“I know baby… I know you’re afraid.”
“Please…just take me back…I can’t do this…”
“Okay. That’s fine…let’s head back.” He loosened his fingers to pull away but she gripped them, holding them against hers. He didn’t say anything on the walk back and for that she was grateful. His hand was warm and big as ever, her hand still swallowed up within. Even though she wasn’t ready…it felt right. Finally, something that felt like it belonged. Biting her lips, she took a deep breath. The love she had for him… it had never died. And she felt it never would. They got back on the main road and soon their cars were in sight. He walked her up to her car door.
“Will you be alright?” She nodded, her eyes on their intertwined fingers.
“Don’t thank me. It’s nothing.” She nodded.
“Get going. You need some sleep.” She balled her lips and lifted her eyes to his.
“Yeah.” He slowly let go of her hand and slid them into his pockets.
“I’ll see you soon?”
“Unfortunately.” He smiled. She sucked her teeth and turned to open her car door. Getting inside she started the car. He tapped on her window. She rolled it down.
“Be safe going home Ebere.”
“Good night beautiful.”
“G-Good n-night.” Soon the night would turn into day and she prayed that she would learn to walk in the light again. Not for anyone but for herself. Praying to God to help her get back… get herself back…
“Jesus… help me… help me come back.”
A/N: After everything Rae has been through, it's not a surprise that not wanting to live crossed her mind. I just thank God Hiroto was there for her. <3 Poor Rae! Happier days, the days she truly desires... they are on the horizon. She just has to get through this storm!