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Fingers slid through his hair. 

    “Hiroto…” He stirred and slowly opened his eyes to find her above him, a gentle smile on her face. He blinked and reached up to grasp her wrist. 

    “Rae?” She smiled wider, her teeth showing. 

    “Why you sleepin out here?” 

    “Out here?” He looked around them. Vast field surrounded them, the shreds of grass tall and green. 

    “Rae…how did you get here?” She giggled and leaned down to press her lips against his forehead. 

    “Don’t be askin dumb questions. You’re the reason I’m here.” He looked up to find her eyes on him, her hair shielding everything. 

    “You look so tired baby.” Her voice was quiet and her fingertips softly caressed his chin. He sighed and closed his eyes. 

    “I am.” He felt her kiss his lips before he felt her lean back. He slowly lifted from her lap and laid next to her. Wrapping an arm loosely around her waist, he sighed against her chest. She was so warm. Her sweet scent filled his nostrils and he smiled. 

    “Rest for a while. I’ll be here to protect you.” She wrapped her arms around him and soon he fell into a relaxed deep sleep. 



    He jolted awake. Gripping the side of the tub, he slowly sat up. There was a dull ache in his neck and the water had grown cool. He sighed and leaned back against the smooth porcelain, laying his head back against the rim. Reaching up, he pushed his hair out of his eyes. This was the second time he had fallen asleep in the bath this week. This was the first dream he’d had of Rae in a long while. He felt a soft pain in his chest. His heart ached. Looking up to the ceiling, he grew still. Tears began to well up in his eyes and he didn’t try to stop them. He missed her so much. But the pain he had caused her… the pain she felt because of him…It was too much to think about. So he hid behind the mountainous agendas, business plans, contracts, meeting notes and assignments. Behind his cherry wood doors. If he worked hard enough, maybe he wouldn’t see her teary eyes and hear them in her voice. Maybe he wouldn’t relive the day it all happened late at night. He sat in the bath until it grew cold. But alone, always it never failed. Standing up, he shivered. He didn’t want to think about it any more… not tonight. He hoped when he fell asleep, he’d have some peace.     



     “Mr. Iwase?” A voice called softly. He didn’t reply. Instead he stared at the stack of paper work that piled up on his desk. He stared. It stared back. The longer he looked at it, he felt his heart begin to pound in his chest and a vein in his temple throb. 

    “Mr. Iwase?” The response that met his secretary was a growl and she blinked as she peeked her head in. 

    “Are you okay?” He sat up straighter, clearing his throat. 

    “What do you need?” 

    “Ah, there is a visitor-”

    “Kiko yes?” His secretary blushed and slowly lowered her eyes. 

    “Yes sir.” He stood and passed her as he slipped through the door, much to her surprise. 

    “Ah, Mr. Iwase…” He sharply inhaled and turned the corner. As he came into the foyer, a baffled Kiko blinked as she stood. 

    “I-I was just getting ready to come to you…” 

    “I decided to meet you here.” She bit her bottom lip. 

    “What I have to say I don’t want others to hear…” She whispered quietly. 

    “Kiko,” She looked up at him. 

    “I want you to leave.” Her mouth dropped open and she stared, hurt and shock finding its way into her features. 

    “I’m…I’m sorry?” 

    “Leave. Now.” Her fingers gripped her small purse and she pinched her lips tightly together. 

    “Hi-Hiroto… why are you being like this?” He inhaled through his nostrils. 

    “I have enough on my plate right now. Your presence has become a burden. If you have nothing productive to add to my day then refrain from coming to visit.” He didn’t say another word and turned to go back into his office, the shocked stares of his employees burning a hole in his back. He let the wooden doors close behind him and sighed before falling into his seat. She had made it her mission to visit him twice a week, sometimes three. She was satisfied with sitting there watching him work. He on the other hand was not. He felt suffocated. In lieu of securing familial affairs and business, he was starting to feel greatly overwhelmed. The stress had built up so much that his body was starting to ache. He reached up and intentionally messed up his hair. Reaching for his phone, he dialed Tobu’s number. On the fourth ring, a gruff voice answered, 



    “It’s one in the morning Hiro-kun…” 

    “I apologize for calling so late.” He figured it would be late. 

    “What’s wrong? You sound stressed as hell.” He smiled. Tobu was astute as always. 

    “Do I?”

    “Am I right?” He sighed and his grin fell off his face. 

    “I could honestly go for a smoke right now.” He felt like he could smoke several packs. He heard Tobu sit up. 

    “You haven’t smoked since junior high. It must be bad man.” 

    “Everything is piling up around me…”

    “I’m sure that woman isn’t making anything better.”

    “Yeah about her…”

    “When will you admit that you never should have brought her with you?” He blinked, licking his lips. 

    “I wanted to give her a chance to be free.” 

    “I understand Hiro-kun. But, she hasn’t taken the chance. She doesn’t see anything outside of wanting to take you from Rae.” He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. 


    “You can’t fix her.” 

    “Is that what I’ve been trying to do?” 

    “Mm. Perhaps she’s okay with it. Maybe she doesn’t want to change. She’s okay as long as she has you chained at her side.” 

    “No…that’s unacceptable.” 

    “Where’s Rae?” 

    “Ah…I believe she took a break. Rossi has another employee in her place.”


    “It’s been about two months.”

    “Wow. Quite some time.”

    “Yes. I’m glad that she decided to do so.”

    “What about you?” He furled his eyebrows together. 

    “What about me?”

    “You should take a break too Hiro-kun.” He reached up to ruffle his hair.     

    “I can’t.”

    “Can’t or won’t?”

    “Can’t. Who can I trust to take care of affairs while I’m gone?” 

    “What about Ishimoto?” 

    “I could ask him…but I don’t think he’d bite.”

    “You’d basically give him top position as long as you’re gone. Who wouldn’t bite?”

    “How can I be sure he won’t…”

    “Are you concerned about loyalty?” He turned to look outside of his window.


    “Ishimoto is not a man who will play you. He’s one of your best employees, has a strong head on his shoulders and wants to do the right thing. He believes in your vision and supports you. Out of every employee there, Ishimoto is the last one you have to worry about.” He balled his lips and inhaled deeply. 

    “Very true…” Ishimoto Shouchi was one of his most honest and prudent employees. He believed in the vision he had for the company so much that he had followed him to the States. He truly was a genuine guy, a man who tried to make his wife and small son proud.     

    “Ishimoto will do fine.”  

    “I think so too.” Tobu agreed. 

    “Now that that is settled… where shall I go?” 

    “Don’t dwell too hard about that. Just go where you feel you must. Rae is coming back in a little while right? You wanna be ready for that right?” He licked his lips and smiled softly. 


    “If you guys don’t reconcile soon, I’ll make you two reconcile. It’s been ten years already. You two might as well stop and get back together. Put us all out of our misery.”  He smiled.

    “Mm.” Tobu sighed. 

    “I miss that woman and I want her back in my life. So, I need you to hurry up. I don’t have time for your games.”

    “Mm. I’m sure she misses you too Tobu.” He snorted. 

    “You have to do it right this time. Because this time, if you screw up, I will put you in the hospital. I love you and all but I love Rae more. You got one chance. Don’t blow it.”  He chuckled. 

    “I understand.” Tobu sighed again, a smile in his voice. 

    “Let me know how it goes hm? All jokes aside, I know you got this. Just take some time for you. When she does come back, you will be ready.” 

    “I will.”

    “Mm. Now let me go to sleep.” 

    “Alright. Thanks man.”

    “Anytime.” He hung up and smiled as he set the phone down on the couch. Tobu was right as usual. The man really didn’t think of himself as an old sage but he was quite wise for his young age. He always had been. For that, he was grateful. He owed Tobu this trip. He owed it to him to get Rae back. Biting his lip, he got up and got his briefcase. Gathering his belongings, he turned off the lights and began to head out of the office. 




    “You’re going away?” He stood over suitcases and placed items inside. 



    “None of your concern.” The exasperated woman who sat on his couch got up and walked over to him and grabbed his wrist, stopping him from placing something else into the suitcase. 

    “Hiro…” He didn’t meet her eyes. 

    “Look at me.” He tightened his jaw and brought his eyes up to hers. 

    “You cannot convince me to stay.” 

    “It’s not about that.” 

    “What is it about?”

    “Let’s go home.” She gently smiled at him. He stared into her eyes with a dull glare. 


    “Yes. Back to Japan. I’m sure by now your mother has gotten better.” He felt a small smirk come to his face and chuckled, making her blink. 

    “You’re free to go back Noa. At any time, you can go.” 

    “What…what about you?” He licked his lips before speaking again, 

    “I’m staying here.” Her eyes grew wide. 

    “How…how can you not want to go home?” Truly, this woman was in an alternate universe. It was time she came back to earth. 

    “I will go home but it won’t be with you.” His words registered on her face and he slowly pulled her hand off of his person. 

    “I have to finish packing. Do whatever you want to.”



    A few days later… 

Hocking Hills, Ohio 



    Rich green swirled around him and the smell of pine and dirt gave off a heady scent. His legs began to ache for the road. In yet another place of unfamiliarity, he felt a bit unsettled. But the nature more than made up for it. He had decided on a place called Hocking Hills, a suggestion by one of his business associates. He’d never been to the state of Ohio but from the beautiful looks of it, this wouldn’t be his last visit. Smiling to himself, he continued driving until he came to his temporary residence. He had secured his absence with Ishimoto who was honored to temporarily take over for him while he was gone. He had forwarded all of his business meetings and agendas for the next two months to him as well. 

    Sighing, he got of his rental car and took in a deep breath of the crystal clear air. The moon was high and bright. He set eyes on the cabin he had rented for his stay. He wanted to keep things simple. The best part of it was the sound of gently flowing water. It had a small waterfall next to it. He knew it would be a place where he felt he could finally pull out everything he had been hiding. Everything that needed to come out. He pulled his belongings into the house and soon after got into a bath. Closing his eyes, he submerged underwater. 


    After much fighting, he had decided to make an appointment with a local therapist. A part of him didn’t want to. But a greater need dwelled within him. For the moment, at the moment, he needed to be free. He had to lay everything out on the table…he couldn’t keep himself enslaved any longer. 

    “Mr. Iwase?” He sighed and reached up to rub his temples. He nervously licked his lips and stood up.


    “Did you want to start our appointment?” He didn’t want to be here. Maybe he should go. He felt disoriented and lifted a shaky hand to slide through his hair. The man smiled in a friendly manner and motioned towards a hallway. You have to do this. It’s time to stop running. He took a breath. 


    “Please… this way.” Slowly, he began to follow the man and soon they stepped into his office. 



    “It is nice to meet you. I am Dr. Satou Ryoichi.” 

    “Iwase Hiroto. It is nice to meet you.” He nodded.  

    “Would it make you comfortable to converse in Japanese?” Satou asked. He blinked. He privately worried being in America too long would make him lose traces of it. Perhaps Satou missed their native tongue as well.


    “No problem then. Is this better?” He nodded. 

    “That’s good. I am well aware that you have a very busy schedule so we will utilize the most of our time.” He gripped the insides of his pockets. 

    “There is no need to rush. I have dedicated two months to this.” Satou nodded. 

    “That’s great! Now, I know that this is a slightly far drive for you. Are you sure that you would not feel more comfortable elsewhere? I want to make sure I am not inconveniencing you.” He shook his head. 

    “It’s fine Mr. Satou. There are no cutting corners around this one. Besides, it is quite nice to have someone to share in my mother tongue. I doubt I would get that anywhere else.” Satou laughed and nodded. 

    “Indeed. Well, today will be a bit impromptu. I shall leave the floor to you. We can talk about anything that you are comfortable with sharing.”  He nodded, nervously turning to look out of the window. What about that which he wasn’t comfortable?

    “I see.” 

    “Also, one more thing. In this space, everything you share is confidential and will not leave this room.” He took a deep breath. Was anything truly confidential? Having to put himself in the open again was nerve wracking. 

    “Where do I begin…” 

    “Wherever you wish.” 

    “I should warn you Doctor…it’s quite a bit of years.” 

    “We’ll take it one at a time.” He stared out of the window, at the greenery. 

    “I have tried for so long to hide this. I had succeeded for a while but I suppose it must come out again.” Satou was quiet but attentive as he began to speak again. 

    “There was this girl that I once loved. She was radiant and shined like gold. She was pure, her heart big and warm as the sun. Her laughter could stop war and her glance could start them.” He turned to look at Satou. 

    “This girl saved me in so many ways. And yet, though we have aged and grown into man and woman… still I can’t forget how I ruined her. I’ll start at the moment my life turned into hell.” 



    “HIROTO! OH MY GOD SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE!” The voice that screamed his name sounded so far away…Was he dead? He felt weightless and lofty. 

    “Hiroto! Open your eyes honey!” Wait. It was growing closer. No. He didn’t want it to. Drifting in and out of consciousness felt strange. Almost like playing with life and death. He wanted to feel this a little longer… 

    “We’re lifting him Ma’am, please let go…” Police? No… leave me alone… leave me be. He didn’t want to think or be moved. He just wanted to let the dark surround him in quiet stillness. 



    “What happened?” He swallowed, a lump forming in his throat. 

    “I had just broke her heart…” 

    “Does this girl have a name?” 

    “…Her name is Ebere.”  His heart twisted painfully.

    “Ah. Interesting name.”


    “How did you break her heart?” He tightened his jaw. 

    “My parents wanted me to get married…I was insistent on Rae being my wife. I couldn’t see myself living without her. But apparently…the approval of people who had made my life hell was more important.”

    “You promised your parents marriage?” 

    “Yes. That day… I was figuring out how I would tell her…I had promised her so many things. I’d come with her to America. I’d never leave her. I’d never hurt her or betray her. Fate had it that she showed up…I didn’t know what to do. How could I tell her I had chosen something that would destroy her?” 



    The monitor beeped and he felt the darkness recede as sudden light and life slammed into him, taking his breath. His eyes popped open and he gasped for air. The light was so bright. He squeezed his eyes shut and gripped what lay underneath him in his fingers. Okay, he could move. He felt detached. Tiny white blue dots converged behind his eyelids and the intake of his breath was much more apparent. Silence. Nothing moved and yet everything did. The blood in his veins rushed at the speed of light. His heart pounded against his chest. He licked his dry cracked lips and slowly reopened his eyes. Four crisp white walls and a large window. Cool morning air. His fingers pale from gripping the sheets. Letting go, he turned to see the machines and tubes connected to him. 

    “Rae…” He spoke softly, his voice gruff. The air sent goosebumps across his flesh and he shuddered. The line of his heart peaked with a steady beep but as his eyes watched it dully, he felt dead. 

    “Rae…” He began to pull the needles out of his arm and grit his teeth, the pain of the IV needle fresh like rain. Pressing down on his arm, he slowly placed his feet on the floor. Cold sensation shot through his body but he ignored it. The smells of the hospital were starting to catch up to his nose and it was turning his stomach. More signs he was still alive. Food. On the table, there was some left with a napkin. Grabbing the napkin, he tied it around his bleeding arm and ripped off the hospital gown. He tore open the closet and began to dress in his clothes. He had to get out of here. While he had a chance, maybe he could catch her. If he hurried… maybe he could make all this right. Looking out of the window, he was glad that he wasn’t too far up. Slipping out of it, he jumped. The minute he hit the pavement, he began to run. 



    “Where did you go?” 

    “I went to her guardian’s home first.”


    “Nothing. Rae wasn’t there.”


    “I didn’t have enough time to explain everything to Ms. Minako but by the look on her face, she had already gotten the gist. I soon left and tried to contact my friend Tobu with the hopes that he could drive me to the airport.” 



    “What is going on Hiroto-kun?” Tobu asked as he sped down the freeway. 

    “I fucked up Tobu. I really fucked up.” 

    “W-what do you mean?” He couldn’t sit still and lifted fidgety fingers to slide through his hair. 

    “I let her go Tobu. I let her walk away from me like a coward.”         

    “You did w-what? H-how?” 

    “I wanted to get back at my parents. Show them the hell they showed me. I thought agreeing would do it. But…” For the first time in their entire friendship, Tobu looked pissed. 

    “What did you do Hiroto?”  The anger so evident that he had even stopped stuttering and dropped the honorific. 


    “If you let Rae go because of some dumb shit… I will kill you.” He felt like someone had punched him in the gut. Tobu had never cursed at him… much less cursed at all. The tone of voice so unlike the one he was used to. It was unnerving. 

    “I-I agreed…I agreed to marry another girl…” Tobu’s fingers gripped the steering wheel and for the longest he was quiet. He felt dizzy and squeezed his eyes shut. 


    “Do you want me to feel sorry for you?”

    “No…N-No I just want to get to the airport.” Tobu’s jaw tightened. 

    “I hope she is there.” The rest of the ride was silent and once they pulled into the parking lot, he didn’t waste any time. He got out of the car and ran into the entrance. Running up to a flight attendant, he caught his breath to speak. 

    “Excuse me, are there any flights to the United States still within the airport?” The woman blushed but pursed her lips. 

    “Let me see. One moment.” She typed for a few moments. 

    “Ah, there is one flight scheduled to leave today.” His heart beat faster. 

    “There is someone important on that plane that I have to see. Is that possible?” The woman pursed her lips deeper, her eyes growing sad. 

    “I’m sorry sir but the flight just left.” He felt his knees grow weak and gripped the counter. 

    “She’s…she’s gone…” He felt tears well up in his eyes and they fell faster than he had time to comprehend. Cries escaped his chest and he pressed his face against his hands. Rae…His Rae…gone. 

    “Don’t…don’t leave…please. Don’t go…stay…stay…with me…” He cried, slowly falling to his knees. The woman came from behind the counter and gently touched his shoulder. 

    “Sir? A-Are you okay?” He wasn’t okay. And for a while after that, no one was okay. 




    “…After that, Tobu stopped talking to me. Ms. Minako stopped talking to me. It seemed everyone I had loved suddenly wanted nothing to do with me anymore. The only people who wanted to be around me were my parents.”

    “Ah, that must have been ni-”

    “They only wanted me to meet the girl they had chosen to be my wife. It wasn’t because they felt sorry or anything of that nature.” Satou frowned and leaned back in his seat. 

    “Hiroto… if I may call you that?”

    “Go ahead.”

    “The way in which you talk about Rae…you still love her strongly.”     

    “I can’t express how much.” 

    “The first thing you must do is forgive yourself Hiroto.” He shook his head, tears welling up. 

    “No. I can’t. How can I? You don’t know how deeply I hurt her.” 

    “If you want to move forward…with your life…you have to try. Wherever she is… do you think she would want you to hate yourself?”


    “I don’t think so. I think she would want you to move on. You never quite know. She might very well be waiting for you to come retrieve what was lost.”  He swallowed. 

    “I don’t think you understand. Just how far I sunk. You know nothing about me. But once the layers come undone, you will see that I have a lot under my skin.” Satou was quiet, waiting for him to continue. 

    “It still haunts me. I can’t sleep. On repeat, memories of her and I… the love we once shared… the hurt and betrayal in her voice… A part of her died that day.” 

    “May I ask how you came to know her?” He looked away. 

    “The way we met was unfortunate. But I’m glad out of it I met her. The day she arrived I had to protect her against some perverted classmates. The school was very poor in its administrative policies. Rather, the institution we attended was more concerned about money and fame. Being that everyone who attended came from prestigious families, it made sense. Rae was the only one who hadn’t been included in that social circle. Because of that, she had a target on her back. But even so, I thought she was very much like me. Aside from her skin color, she was the ugly duckling. As was I. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. Everything from the way she held hashi…to the way she held her cup…delicate like sakura.” Satou smiled. 

    “She sounds beautiful.” 

    “Her eyes were so big and brown. So expressive.” 

     “Was she Caucasian?”

    “No. She is African-American.” 

    “Ah…That adds another level of complexity I’m sure.” 

    “Everyone wanted to see us separated. They wanted me to hate her because she was dark. Because she wasn’t wealthy. But I loved her because she was different. Out of every woman I had been with… Rae was so tender. She loved just as hard as I did. She supported me when I fell, took care of me without complaint. She gave her friendship and love freely and cherished all of who I was.” 


    “That is why…when I chose to hurt her the way I did… it almost destroyed me.” 



    He sat on the side of the road, an almost empty bottle of sake in his hand. He watched the cars fly past. The night was quiet and the stars hidden behind clouds. He lifted the bottle to his lips and drank it all until he fell back against the pavement. He wasn’t sure how he made it back to his parents’ house or how he went to school the next morning but he had. He tuned out the lessons and looked out of the window. All they did was regurgitate what was taught to them. Information he already knew. Pointless. 

    “Iwase?” Eyes found Hasune Michiko who looked sheepishly at him. 


    “Um… um…are you o-okay? Where is…your girlfriend?” He clenched his fingers together. 

    “Clearly, she’s not here. I’m sure you can see that.” Hasune blushed. 

    “I-I’m sorry f-for asking s-stupid q-questions. You just look so…so alone.” He stood and leaned down, her face closer. 

    “Would you like to keep me company?” Her blush grew in intensity and her eyes grew wide. 


    “Yes or no. Simple question.” His eyes held no life in them. She slowly nodded, the blush creeping down her neck. 

    “Y-yes…” If he were in the laughing mood, he would have laughed. Women were all the same. They didn’t know when he tested them. But so many times, they failed. Eager to have a taste of him, to brag to their friends. All of them hypocrites. Not one of them were as innocent as they passed it off. 

    “You want to know what it’s like right?” He whispered into her ear. She grew stiff. 


    “You want to brag right?” He stood up and grabbed her hand. 

    “I’ll give you something to brag about.” She could barely keep up with her short legs and he nearly pulled her down the hall. Slipping into an empty closet, he soon fell into his routine…something as natural to him as breathing. He pressed her against the storage rack and lifted her skirt. 

    “If you wanted me before Michiko, you should have told me.” She squeezed her eyes shut and gripped the rack above her. He lifted her into his arms and slid in-between her legs. 

    “I-Iwase…” He leaned down and pressed his lips stiffly against hers. He didn’t want to hear her speak. It was better that way. She lifted shaky hands to grip his uniform jacket. Thus began the best time of her life and yet again another day in his despair. 



    He felt his body begin to tremble and he gripped his fingers together tightly.

    “It was the same. Every time. At some point, I fucked until I grew numb. Until I couldn’t feel it anymore. The pleasure became dull… a slightly burn in the back of my throat. I used it…I used them to escape my pain. Replace pain with pleasure and everything becomes much better. So I thought. But it did nothing to replace what I felt. Still, in the back of my mind, I wanted her. Nights were spent being tormented…So close…so very close. It didn’t feel the same. What my hand could do did nothing compared to the euphoric rush I got just being in her presence. So, I stopped. Stopped everything. I had nothing left. I had given pieces of me away and nothing remained but an empty shell.” 


    “It’s as if my demons laugh at me. They know I have never stopped loving her. In my dreams… it’s sickening. My past becomes blurred with my present and I can’t distinguish between them. The me that was a lifeless being only living to be used. The me that’s trying so hard to push past that…” He looked up into Satou’s eyes, his own lackluster. 

    “Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like you’ve been used so many times that you have nothing left? Have you ever felt fear in wondering if you will do the same thing to the one you love?” He gripped his fingers together tightly. 

    “I was scared…scared to truly love her. I was so damaged. What if I unintentionally hurt her? What if I couldn’t control myself? What if I let myself get too carried away? I tried to stop it. But, it was too late. Once I fell, I fell hard. I’ve never recovered from that. I’ve never wanted to. Falling in love with Rae was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve experienced. I tried so hard to be careful. Even now, I’m proud of the fact that I made it… We made it.  But then it breaks my heart. To know I betrayed something so innocent. Her love inspired me, encouraged me and pushed me to be better.” 




    “Yeah babe?” 

    “Come here…” She came over to where he sat. 

    “What’s up?” 

    “I need a moment to rest. I’m so tired.” 

    “Aw. My poor baby.” She sat behind him and he reached up, gently grabbing her thighs. 

    “You’ve been working so hard.” She massaged his scalp. He sighed and turned to press a kiss to her smooth skin. 

    “It’s wearing on me.” 

    “Don’t worry about it. Don’t think about work right now.” 


    “Hush. Focus on me.” He took a deep breath and relaxed, leaning back into her. She slid her hands down his chest some and kissed him. 

    “Your daddy’s tryna work you to the bone.” She said with a smile against his lips.     

    “He wants me to be in his business.” 

    “Do you want to?” 

    “It’d secure our future.” 

    “But do you want to?” He whined cutely and poked out his lip. 

    “I don’t know.” She giggled and blew on his lip, making him suck it back in. 

    “Well you gotta make up your mind. We bout to get to graduation time real soon. Surely he gon want him an answer before then.” He sighed again. 

    “He’s groomed me for this my whole life. I should want to right?” She kissed his nose. 

    “Should and want are two different things Roto.” 

    “I know…” 

    “I don’t like seein you struggle like this. It should be a really simple answer. If you want to or not.” He opened his eyes and looked up at her. 

    “Simple is never simple in my family.”  She sucked her teeth. 

    “Well…” He grinned and turned, pressing his face against her ribcage. 

    “I don’t want to think about any of that. I just want to spend time with you before it gets cold.” She pressed a kiss to the top of his head. 

    “It’s kinda nippy out here already. Why you ain’t tell me it was gon be this cold? I’m in shorts…” He smirked. 

    “I like your legs out.”

    “I bet you do.” She chuckled. Sighing, he bit his lips in a smile. 



    “Let’s go visit them.”


    “My parents.” 

    “Now, you know…” He lifted his head and his eyes smiled at her. 

    “I know what you’re going to say and I don’t care.” She laughed and lightly hit his forehead. 

    “You tryna start somethin ‘tween me and them huh?” 

    “Not at all. If I am going to work there, I want them to see the motivation behind my hard work.” Her cheeks grew red and she looked down. 



    “Stop…” He lifted up and brushed his lips against her cheek. 

    “Stop what?” She gently slid her fingers around his neck. 

    “Stop making me fall in love with you.” She whispered. He gently caressed her lips with his thumb. 

    “That’s something I’ll never stop.” He pressed his lips against hers and she wrapped her arms around him. 

    “I will work hard to give you the life you want Rae. Whatever you want… just tell me and I’ll make it happen.” 


    “If I have to endure my father…then I will.” He pulled back and leaned down to press a kiss to her thigh. 

    “Are you hungry?” She swallowed but nodded. 

    “Takoyaki?” He smiled. 





    It had been hours since he had left his appointment with Dr. Satou. He laid in a bath, hot water relaxing his muscles. Steam curled around him. He closed his eyes. For the first time in a while, he felt the tiniest bit better. The only person he had really opened up to completely was Rae. Somehow, it had to come out. For all these years, he felt tortured with his shame and guilt. He had abandoned her. Lifting hands out of the water,  he stared at them.


    “Hiroto?” Eyes looked up to find beautiful brown eyes looking down at him. 


    “I don’t want to keep this going.”

    “That is?”

    “Bein mad at you…”  He closed his book and smiled. 

    “I’m sorry sweetheart. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

    “I know. I forgive you.” She leaned down and kissed him, the silence and shock of their peers an afterthought. 

    “I can’t stay mad at you. Lucky you.” He smiled against her lips and quickly pecked her again before clearing his throat. 

    “It seems we have the whole class’ attention once again.” He said, opening back up his book. 

    “When don’t we? They need to get they life.” She snort ahead of him as she picked up her pencil. 



    He smiled to himself as the memory popped into his mind. Rae had always been so loving. She still loved him as much as he loved her. That itself gave him the strength to do this. If she could have courage, then why couldn’t he? So many years later, she was still teaching him things. All his life he had run away. And while he refused to run away from her, he had to stop running from himself. Once again, he had to face his demons. It was frightening to think about. To be honest, he wasn’t sure he was ready or all that willing. However, he was determined to go back to New York a different man. It was time to strap on his boots and go to work. For her. For them. 

Chapter End Notes:


A/N: And so Hiroto's recovery begins! It broke my heart writing this because he is SO HARD ON HIMSELF. Like... he literally blames himself for everything. As we can see, life after Rae was not peaches and cream (as Rae would believe). Hiroto really suffered... he really took it hard. I love the bits with Rae to be honest. Her love really kept him together. And no matter how messed up he is... he still finds comfort in the affection she showed him. I'm literally preparing myself for next chapter you guys. Because I know it will be a hard one to read and to write. Y'all I gotta be honest, this spring break I thought my creative spark would just FLY and it really hasn't. It was kinda hard to write this chapter (like literally hard to write). I kinda didn't want to. But, then again, I really did. So, I pray and hope that this chapter does not reflect any of that lol. If so, please let me know and I can reconstruct it ASAP. As always, I want to provide quality so if it is not there, let a sista know! :) I also gotta shout out my baby Tobu in this chapter. lol. LOVE ME SOME HIM. He's so real like... dude. He really down for his brother and keep it 100. I LOVE THAT. *sigh* Confluence is going to be on and poppin when Transcendence is over lol. Oh yeah man. lol. Anywhoo... God bless you guys! I can't wait until Hiroto reaches the point where he truly finds freedom! Take care! See you soon! <3 

D&L <3 

Be set free by the renewing of your mind! 


Shine into the sky, bright and yellow! <3 

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