Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Eyes crinkled up in the corners and hands pressed to stomachs as laughter echoed on a warm summer evening.
“You ain’t right for that…”
“Well. He does look like a fish.”
“Hiroto stop oh my gawd.” They shared another bout of laughter. Sighing, she leaned back against her couch and looked at him. He sat across from her, his feet pulled up underneath his bottom. He wasn’t in full business attire, rather sweatpants and a loose t-shirt. His hair which had grown longer was pulled back from his forehead with a small ponytail holder. His skin was kissed by the sun and his cheeks filled with merriment. In between them rested a large bowl of popcorn and on the television was some show she could care less about. She observed him quietly as he laughed at something on the tv, his dimples deepening and smile wide. There, still, were the tiny beauty marks on his neck that decorated his skin like little handsome freckles.
“You’re staring at me so intensely. What’s the matter?” He asked, smile still on his face as he turned to look at her. She felt her cheeks grow hot and cleared her throat.
“N-nothin. I just was thinking…”
“About?” He turned his body towards her.
“I’ve missed being with you like this.” The faintest coral surfaced in his cheeks.
“I’ve missed it too.” She closed her eyes and sighed again. It had been two months since they had met each other again. In that time, it was scary how natural they grew to be around each other again. The week after that disastrous meeting, he had asked her politely to lunch and it had slowly became their thing. They talked about everything and anything in that short time, the food and drink serving to enable a bond. She wouldn’t dare admit it to him yet but… it felt good to let him back in… little by little. It soothed her heart and his presence was oh so comforting.
“Is summer really here?” He snort.
“I think the heat outside answers that question.” She sucked her teeth and opened her eyes to look at him.
“Why do you ask a question you know the answer to?” He asked with a small smirk on his face.
“Cause I want to know how much longer we have like this. Aren’t you going back home someday?” He laid his head back against the couch cushion, his gaze upon her soft.
“When I have finished doing what I have to here, I will leave. I am in no rush.”
“Do you think you will never see me again?” She looked down.
“Hey,” Her eyes lifted.
“You can’t get rid of me that easy. Don’t worry.” He gently laid a hand on her thigh.
“I should probably go. We have that meeting tomorrow hm?” He said, removing his hand from her skin as he stood up.
“Yeah…but it shouldn’t be too bad this time around.” He chuckled.
“For you maybe. You do realize that your boss shoots eye darts at me every time we’re together right? That man cannot stand me.”
“I don’t care too much for him either if I am honest.”
“What did y’all talk about that last meetin? Y’all both came in lookin all mad. I know he said somethin to you.” He bent down to pick up his shoes by the door.
“He had a lot to say indeed.” He said with a sudden frown.
He stood outside of the board room, locking eyes with Rossi. He had tried to prepare himself because he had known sooner or later that the tension would be white hot between them. Rossi looked him over once then spoke,
“I wish you would’ve stayed in your little vacation land. You being back here gives me the most horrible headache.”
“I missed you too Antonio.” Rossi sneered.
“It’s been peaceful without you here Iwase. Don’t come back starting trouble.”
“I’ve never started trouble Antonio. That has been all your doing.” He leaned against the wall next to the door.
“But I will finish it if I have to.” He added, his tone dry but serious.
“You make such idle threats Iwase.”
“They are far from idle.” He watched as Rossi’s face grew as red as a tomato.
“I have no time to argue with you.” He simply blinked, a bored expression on his face.
“I won’t tell you again Hiroto Iwase. Keep your eyes off of my employee. Don’t even waste your time.” Ah, the true reason why he was upset.
“Ah were you mad I wasn’t paying any attention to you?”
“Listen you pompous imbecile, I told you before that she was off limits. Do you not understand what that means?” He couldn’t help himself and laughed, making the man in front of him even more angry.
“You really think that you have a chance. I see no reason in fighting you over her. We’re both grown men, surely we can handle this situation better than fighting like two middle school boys hm?”Rossi was quiet but tightened his jaw.
“My hope is that she sees how much of a vicious snake you are. As I’ve stated before, your intentions are far from pure. Am I correct?” Rossi inhaled sharply through his nostrils.
“What are you-”
“Let us see the real reason as why you don’t want me to get close to her. Your adamancy to the both of us being associated makes me most suspicious. Besides, this is more than just a game to see who wins the girl right? What lies deeper behind your facade?” Rossi was silent, looking as though he was about to burst.
“I know you’re wondering: what is it that he knows? It’s all over you.” He continued with a tone devoid of emotion.
“Iwase…be very careful with your implications. They could very well be the end of you.” He slid his hands into his pockets.
“We shall see about that hm?” He pushed off of the wall.
“We have a meeting to attend. Straighten up Rossi.” They both gathered themselves and soon entered the room.
Of course, as he told her about it, he had left some parts out. Actually a lot of parts out. He couldn’t say everything. Even with the small bits he told her, she still didn’t understand.
“Wait…. why are you two outside arguing like y’all was in grade school?” He cleared his throat.
“I wasn’t arguing. I simply made points and stated facts.” She pursed her lips.
“I never had two men fight over me like this. It’s ridiculous.” He chuckled and slid on his shoes. He gently laid a hand on top of her head, gently sifting through the curls with his fingers.
“But on the inside, something about it thrills you doesn’t it?” She shoved him.
“Shut up, I don’t like it at all.” He grinned with a sigh.
“Sure?” She looked up at him, a frown on her face.
“I don’t like seeing you go to blows over me Hiroto. I’m serious.” He soon let the grin fade.
“I told you that I would fight for you didn’t I? I meant that.”
“Are you saying that as a friend or as the man who’s in love with me?” Her question made his heart beat faster. He took his hand off her hair and slid them into his pockets. He wanted to caress her face but decided against that. In this new friend stage, he had been very careful about physical touch. He knew it was inevitable when it came to statements and such. He would not regret once in a while letting her know he loved her. But touch was something that he both craved and withheld from. For now it would have to be. He leaned down, bringing his face closer to hers.
“Both.” She reached up and gripped his shirt, a deep red blush in her cheeks.
“Look, just…just be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.” He smiled and pressed his lips against her temple.
“Yes ma’am.” He closed his eyes and and sighed before reaching up and grabbing her hands on his chest.
“I should get out of here okay?” He pulled her hands away and stepped back from her.
“See you tomorrow.”
The next day, she had found herself in Rossi’s office five minutes into her starting her shift. Based on his stern face, she was wondering what the problem was. He still hadn’t told her after ten minutes. It was beginning to make her a bit nervous.
“Antonio? What’s up?” He just sat quietly, fingers steepled, face pressed against them. She sighed.
“If you don’t want to ta-”
“What is your relationship with Mr. Hiroto Iwase?” His question took her aback and her mouth dropped open.
“You heard me Rae.”
“Why do you want to know?”
“By that do you admit that there is something between you?”
“I-I don’t understand where this is coming from.” He finally lifted his head and looked at her, his expression serious.
“I’ve watched you two for quite some time now. I wanted to ask you if there was something between you because your eyes always manages to find him and vise versa.”
“We’re only business partners.”
“Only?” Okay his prodding was starting to irritate her. She sucked her teeth.
“Why is any of this your business? What is it with you two? Y’all scrapping like two animals in the wild.” He slowly stood up.
“Rae, I hope that in our relationship it has been made clear how I feel about you.” She stood still as he came around the front of his desk.
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t want to share you with anyone. You’re a treasure that I want only for myself.”
“I was never yours to begin with. That is something you have failed to understand. First it was Kwasame and now Hiroto. Enough already.” He grew quiet.
“If you value me, you would cut out all the possessiveness and bring it down to a 0. You can’t stop me from falling in love with another man no matter how hard you try. A friend and business partner is all I’ll be to you. Accept it for what it is. Now, if you’d excuse me, I have to get back to work.”
She turned on her heel and pushed through his set of double doors. This was getting out of hand. She didn’t know what all transpired between the two men but she wanted it to stop. She was not a prize to be won like some fair game. Even so, she worried about Hiroto. She knew how men like Antonio could be, he didn’t. It was a whole new game park in the Big Apple, one he had never played. Lord please make this stop before it gets out of control. Heading back to her desk, she sighed and got into the assignments for the day.
He dipped underwater. The warm gentle lull of the bath relaxed him and soon he came up for air. Sliding his wet hair back from his face, he sighed. Today had been exhaustive. He had been working since 9 in the am and only just got settled at near 11 pm. Leaning his head back against the rim of the tub, his eyes found the scenes of the city. The sun had gone down. Dark blanketed the sky. But, alas, what wonder was in the lights that glowed. It was daylight in the night and how curious it was. The city that never sleeps. He was sure the heat from the lights was so intense it felt too like day. He smiled. It reminded him of Tokyo. He felt a pang of homesickness. He couldn’t wait to return. He soon got out of the tub and wrapped a towel around himself. He soon fell into his bedsheets with a loud sigh.
“Ebere?” She sat on the couch and stopped plaiting her little sister Erica’s hair. She looked up into the face of her mother. Immediately, a scowl began to form.
“Sweetie, you haven’t been as communicative as you were pre-hiatus. Is there something wrong?” Oh, there was a lot wrong. Anger bubbled up in her chest but she held it down. She had stopped by her parent’s house to visit her sister and nem and as much as she tried to refrain from showing irritation towards her parents, it slowly crept out little by little. She turned her back to her mother and began tenderly plaiting again.
“Ma, I’m not going to always be in a talkin mood.”
“You know… it hurt my feelings when you didn’t tell me or your father you left. You just vanished.”
“…I needed space from you guys. That’s all.”
“Was it something me or your father did?” She wondered if… if it was eating her up inside.
“Why would you say that Ma?” She kept her voice steady and fingers relaxed. She heard a sharp inhale of breath. Hm. Interesting.
“No reason. I just thought maybe…maybe we upset you perhaps. You know, the last time we talked about that boy you liked…I think we upset you then.”
“That was a while ago Mama.”
“Guess it was.”
“Ma, Rae don’t seem mad at you. Breathe.” Erica spoke up, looking at her. She smiled and gently laid a hand on her shoulder.
“Thank goodness. It’s good to have you back honey.” She grew still as her mother pressed a kiss to her temple before leaving them in peace. She was digging. Perhaps, she wondered if Amee or Tre had spilled the beans. But it wasn’t quite time yet to blow the whistle. She figured she’d let them sweat some more. She would collect receipts reeeaall soon.
After visiting Erica, the week had flown by and soon it was Saturday. She had a family function to attend today and to be honest, she had been considering asking Hiroto to come with her. A part of her wasn’t so sure. Was it too soon? She watched him as he ate in front of her.
“Hiroto?” He looked up from his lunch into her eyes.
“Yes?” He asked, his mouth full of food. They sat at her small dining table, the television quietly talking in the background.
“I want you to come with me somewhere.”
“Where is this somewhere?” He asked, swallowing.
“Um… well… I-I want you to meet my…my family.” He grew still.
“Yeah. I mean… you’ve never met them. I’ve met your family so it only makes sense right?” He smiled.
“We actually are having a barbecue today at a local park. I know you’re eating now but…”
“It’s okay. I’d be honored to come.” She smiled and sighed. Whew.
“Okay then. Wanna leave in like two hours?”
“Sure.” This was sure to be interesting.
He swallowed thickly and looked over at her as they got out of the car. She smoothed down the pleats of her high waisted shorts and looked up at him.
“You look so nervous.” She commented with a grin.
“I’m nervous as hell.” He said with a shaky breath. She came up to him and pulled on his shirt, making him lean down.
“It’ll be okay.” She gently reached up and moved some fly hairs out of his face.
“Breathe…” He licked his lips and took a deep breath before she let go of his shirt.
“You’ll be fine Roto…” He smiled at her shortened version of his name. It had been a while.
“If you say so.” She grinned.
“Come on.” They slowly made their way over to a large gathering of people. He reached out and grabbed her hand, slowing her pace. She glanced at him and softly squeezed his hand before pulling him along.
“Aye, is that Rae?”
“Who dat she wit?”
“Hey y’all!” She announced loudly over the music that was playing. The group of older women they had walked up to all eyed him, some weary, some hesitant, all curious.
“Who dis?” She slowly let go of his hand and slid her hands into her pockets.
“He’s a friend of mine.”
“A friend huh?”
“This friend have a name?” She looked up at him.
“Gon introduce yourself. It’s all right.” He felt the color drain from his face and his throat go dry.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Hiroto.”
“Hi-what?” One of them asked loudly.
“He said Hiroto Auntie.” Rae replied with a grin.
“Oh…where he from?”
I’m from Japan ma’am.” Her eyebrows would have gone all the way up into her hairline if they could.
“Alla way from over there?”
“This one of yo Japanese friends huh? You sho been likin these Asians since you came back from over there.” Rae blushed and pursed her lips.
“Auntie please… And no… he just a friend.”
“Mmhm. Okay Mr. Jus’ a friend. He cute.” He felt his cheeks grow warm.
“He aiight.” Rae teased, looking back at him. He smirked. Just ‘aiight’ huh?
“I apologize for my rudeness. I am a bit nervous.” He said with a smile. He reached out to shake their hand.
“Rae and I attended the same high school while she lived in Japan. Business brought us back together.”
“That’s what you do eh? You a businessman?”
“Okay! That’s good!” One of the ladies spoke up to his right.
“I be honest I was expectin you to speak Japanese.” He laughed some.
“I learned English a long time ago so I’m fluent.” The older lady he was speaking to nodded. He could sense that she was taken aback. But nonetheless, she was being kind.
“Have you met Rae brothers yet?” Rae jumped in.
“Nah, we bout to go find em.”
“Okay. Well, it was nice meetin you Mr. He jus’ a friend.” The one Rae addressed as ‘Auntie’ spoke again. He chuckled and gently squeezed her hand. He liked her. She was full of personality.
“The pleasure was all mine ma’am.” She smiled some as he let go of her hand.
“Come on, let’s go that way.” Rae slid her hand around his arm and pulled him through the throng of people. The smell of meat cooking made his mouth water and his stomach growled.
“All of these people are your family?” He shouted over the laughter, music and smoke.
“Yeah!” She too had a big family it seemed. It made him smile. Honestly, he had never seen so many black people in one place and for the first time, he felt how she had felt in Japan. Being the only Japanese in a sea of brown was a bit unnerving. But they were Rae’s people… they raised her. It was interesting to see just where her origins came from. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t enjoying himself a bit.
“Tre! Ramon!” She shouted as she pulled him closer towards the group of men who sat around shady trees. The smell of smoke hit his nose and he inhaled as one of them stood.
“Who this cat?” One of them asked, taking a drag from some form of a cigarette. The smell was sweet.
“This is my friend Hiroto.” The man who stood glanced over him, bark and bite written all over him.
“This the same Hiroto that broke your heart a while back?” Again, he paled. Rae sighed.
“Tre don’t be rude.”
“Nah, answer my question Nug.” She was quiet for a little while before answering.
“Yeah. But, we moved past that! It’s all good now.”
“Nah it ain’t good with me. I gotta problem with you.” He pointed and started to come towards him but Rae stepped in between them. He stood still, feeling the atmosphere charge with tension.
“Tre. Don’t start nothin right now. This a fam thing.” He felt his heart pound against his chest and tightened his fists.
“Your sister and I have been able to make amends and start over. I know we’ve only just met but I assure you that I have your sister’s wellbeing in mind. I don’t want to start anything with you or make a bad impression on you.”
“Too late for that. I finally put a face to a body. I’m the wrong one to start somethin with I can tell you that…”
“You hurt my baby sister breh. Ion know how I feel about you bein here right now…”
“Tre. Hey.” Rae pressed against his chest, making him back up some. He looked down at her.
“Take it down a few okay? Look, I invited him. Clearly, if we wasn’t cool I would not have. Besides, I wanted him to meet the most important man in my life. He’s good people Tre. He and I both made dumb mistakes in the past. You know you have too.” He looked up from her and their eyes met. He tightened his jaw.
“Yeah. I guess.” He went back over to his seat and sat down.
“He meet Ma and Pop yet?”
“Nah. Where are they?”
“Probably by the ribs knowin Pop.”
“Okay. Hiroto, you ready?” He gave a curt nod.
“One moment..” He locked eyes again with her brother.
“As her brother, I can’t imagine how you feel. From what Rae has told me about you, I greatly respect you. I hope someday we can be on good terms.” He bowed and ignored the sudden chuckles of the men surrounding him.
“What is this nigga doin?”
“Yo…” Tre tightened his jaw and waved his hand in an upwards gesture.
“Aiight man. Get up and gon with my sister.” He slowly rose and with a sligh bow went with her.
“Ma, Daddy… I’d like you to meet someone.” He took a deep breath, his palms growing sweaty. Rae’s father and mother were right in front of him. Please let me make a good impression. Please Almighty Father.
“Who is this?” He opened his mouth to speak,
“I was asking my daughter.” Her mother interrupted, cutting him off. He gripped the material of his shorts and tightened his jaw. He could see where Rae got her beauty and sharpness from.
“Don’t be rude to him Ma. He was just answerin your question.”
“Why is he here?” Rae sat up straighter.
“I wanted him to be here.”
“Why? He’s not family.”
“I wanted you to meet him.”
“Why would I want to meet or deal the man that broke my baby girl’s heart?” Her father growled in a gruff tone as he watched his every move. His skin felt flushed and he was starting to grow nauseous.
“Funny, you didn’t share the same sentiment when I was bawling over Kwasame. If I remember correctly, you out of everyone was begging me to get back with him.” Rae shot back with ease. Her father grew red in the cheeks.
“Rae, honey, it’s not a good time for him to be here. This was only for family members. It’s inappropriate.” Her mother spoke up, eying him with thinly veiled disgust.
“No see, the only person who will decide that is me. He’s my guest. I have the say on if I want him to go and I want him to stay.”
“Y’all are being very unreasonable right now. Y’all not even tryna be nice and I don’t like that.” She continued with an eye roll.
“You hungry Hiroto? Let’s go grab somethin.” She stood up and put her hands on her hips as he slowly stood. He clenched his jaw and bowed his head.
“It was nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Marshall.” Her mother waved him off with her hand rudely. His father just stared at him, a cool expression on his face. Rae slid her fingers through his and pulled him close as they began to walk away. It seemed that he could do nothing but make war with those closest to her. Feeling heavy in his chest, he inhaled sharply as they grew nearer to the food.
“Roto…” He sat on the grass in front of her and by his face she could tell he was bothered. He wasn’t even eating any of the food he had on his plate.
“Hey…” He slowly brought his eyes to hers.
“I feel bad Ebere. I didn’t know just how deeply what I did-”
“It’s in the past remember?” He swallowed tightly.
“I apologize on behalf of my parents. It wasn’t right how they treated you. And about my brother…Tre always been that one to jump off. It’s what he does. But I think you impressed him today Hiroto.” He looked back at her, who held a wine cooler in her hand.
“I impressed him?”
“Yeah. Typically, most men I bring around him gets intimidated and runs off.”
“Did your boyfriend do that?” She pursed her lips.
“You should have seen him. When Tre tried it with him, he jumped behind me like some scary cat, near ran back to the car. You held your own and stood firm.” Things grew quiet.
“Everybody wanted us to be together because we were good looking. Add the fact that he was black and my family was already makin weddin plans, durn near callin him son.” He took a sip of his beer.
“Ah. I see. Is that what your family values?”
“Not unlike what yours does.” He sighed.
“People get so attached to looks and they ignore love.”
“Yeah.” He was quiet for a while before,
“I don’t know if this was such a good idea. Your family is great but I don’t think I belo-”
“Don’t even start that.” She cut him off. He better not. Out of all the men she had brought around, he was the only one worthy to be here. She would not let Tre or her parents intimidate him into thinking he wasn’t.
“Don’t feel like you’re not worthy of being here. If I brought you then you are. Now… if you’re not hungry, we can take it to go so you have somethin for later.” He glanced over at the food he had compiled on his plate. A sample of everything they had. His real first taste of American food.
“Okay. Thank you.”
“I hear my jam on…Let’s go dance, shake off this tension.” She got up and pulled him by his hand.
“Get up.” She said with a strong tone. He licked his lips and slowly stood.
“Like I did, my family needs time to heal. But it will come Hiroto. They will forgive you.” He nodded with a shaky smile.
“Okay. Okay, let’s go bust a move.” She smiled back at him and pressed his hand against her lower back as she tugged him through the crowd of dancing bodies. She turned around and grinned as she began to dance. A polyrhythmic song came on and her family all began to join her. She laughed as a young woman came up to her and began to hip bump with her.
“This is my sister, you remember her right? Amee?” He smiled, glad to see one face familiar to him.
“Hey. Good to see you again.”
“You’re not upset with me?”
“Well, whatever my sister decides I back her so… if you here you must be aiight.” He smiled and let out the tightness in his chest in the form of a breath.
“You fine an all but can you dance? You lookin stiff over there.” Amee joked. He began to move and Amee’s eyes grew wide.
“Damn Rae, he got rhythm! Okay!” She came over to him and did some silly moves, bringing laughter to them both.
“You did not just do the running man at a function.” Amee cried, dapping at her eyes.
“Sure did.” But soon, a smooth song came on and she gently wrapped her arms around his neck. She didn’t say a word, just let him lead her body in the dance. She sighed against his chest. In the midst of all the sweaty bodies and the humid summer air, he smelled so good to her. Opening her eyes, she found that they faced her parents, who did not look happy. She reached up and grabbed his hand, placing it on her waist. Her mother watched them like a hawk, her face tight with irritation.
“I’m glad I came. Thank you for inviting me.” She smiled and closed her eyes off from her hating parents. They never got this close before so she had to be tipsy. But, she didn’t mind it. His fingers brushed her lower back and she smiled. It felt right. He felt so good.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad you didn’t let my family scare you away.” His breath fanned across the nape of her neck and his lips pressed against her ear lobe.
“I couldn’t do that.” She bit her lip.
“I think I’m getting drunk…” She said lowly.
“Ah…maybe we should go?”
“Nuh uh. Not yet.” Not while his arms surrounded her like a warm solid blanket. They had been careful not to be too touchy but this time she would allow it. They danced along the summer breeze until the sun grew different hues and the lightening bugs came out to light the way through the dark.
A/N: Woo y'all. I been writing up a storm this whole week lol. Lawd. I hope you guys enjoy this chapter! I think that Hiroto did so well with rae's fam despite them...well...her parents and Tre makin it hard on him lol. Tre I can understand. But Shaundra and Kendrick? Nah. They just being rude for no reason. Please don't get me started on Antonio Rossi. He don got on the last, first, and both sideways nerves. I just... like... how dare...he???!! I mean... what the mess. *sigh* whatever lol. I can't. In the end, my babies Rae and Roto got to enjoy themselves and that's all that matters. :) Till next time, take care! God bless you!
Be set free by the renewing of your mind!
Shine into the sky, bright and yellow!