Secret Santa : For aradiantsun
It's hard to imagine how one little decision could make the entire course of your life take a drastic turn. What do they call it...the butterfly effect?
Some things may have remained the same. I think Shouji and I would've broken up eventually.
But without you, I'd probably still be floating through my existence, going from romance to romance like a butterfly from flower to flower...
I wonder where you are now? You're not floating, are you? Have you found a place to stay, a place where you belong? Somehow if feels as though we're stuck in limbo, skimming through
life until we meet up again, and things will return to the speed it once was.
"Uwaah...I feel floaty-floaty..." Nana "Hachi" Ichinose muttered beneath layers of blankets. She tugged at the chord of an electric blanket wedged between the layers, and checked on its setting. "...can't get sick...it's almost New Year's..." She weakly placed a
hand over the graceful rise of her stomach. "...and I have to stay healthy for the baby..."
Hachi closed her eyes and sighed, coughing mid-way through. "...what a terrible wife I am...can't even manage to stay well for the holidays." She turned her head to the side, and gazed lucidly at the phone on her bedside table. The light indicating a mail or phone call wasn't blinking. ...Jun-chan went home with Kyousuke-san for the holiday...Takumi shouldn't be back until New Year's Eve... She had spent Christmas Eve with her computer and some rented DVDs from Tsutaya. She had managed to have them returned before Junko headed out to the country for the weekend.
"AAAAAGH I HATE being stuck in bed!!" Hachi gathered what little energy she had into one outburst, throwing her blankets off in a temper tantrum. She reached over for her phone, and flipped it open.
In a furious flurry of fingers, Hachi started to angrily text her husband. "I'm dying from this cold! I'm as sick as a dog and you're up in Hokkaido shooting an interview?! Does Christmas mean nothing to you, you heathen?!" Never mind the fact that she wasn't exactly Christian herself...
She dropped her phone angrily on the bedside table, and stalked into the bathroom. "Just because I'm home alone and sick doesn't mean I can't enjoy my time alone!" She turned on the shower, the hot water instantly steaming up the bathroom. "Steam will be good for me, anyway!"
While the water heated up to an acceptable temperature, Hachi walked into the kitchen, peeling off her pajamas while rummaging through the fridge. "There!" She pulled out a pristine Christmas shortcake, complete with strawberry garnishes and dark chocolate ribbons. She set it on the kitchen table with a single fork, and went back into the bathroom to shower.
I'll eat the whole thing by myself! Hachi determined with an uncharacteristic resolve. I spent over 5,000 yen on that cake, I'll eat it all by myself!!!
Shutting off the water and wrapping herself in a towel, she stepped back into the kitchen, dripping wet and leaving foot-shaped puddles in her path. The chair to the kitchen table screeched as Hachi pulled it out to sit on. She grabbed the fork in a tight fist, and raised it dramatically to make the pivotal stab in the still flawless cake.
Mid-way through lowering the fork to pierce the icing, the doorbell rang, and Hachi froze in her towel. "...." She sweatdropped, and dropped the fork onto the table. Shuffling towards the door, she looked at the video screen of who was outside.
Gaaah! Shin-chan! Nobu-san!! Hachi felt her fever freeze into a deathly chill. She suddenly felt the dampness of her hair, and the lack of clothing on her person. "J-just a minute!!"
She hurried back into the bedroom, and clumsily put some sweatpants and a jacket on. She wrapped her hair in a towel, and went to the door, cracking it open just a bit to let her eyes peek out.
"...wh...why didn't you call?" Hachi asked the two meekly in lieu of a greeting.
"We did, Hachi!" Shin responded indignantly. "It kept going straight to voice mail!"
Hachi sweatdropped, and ran from the door to fetch her phone. They're right. Hachi sheepishly opened the phone to a dark screen. She must've shut it off after texting Takumi in a fury. She turned back to head into the kitchen, to see Nobu and Shin kicking off their shoes.
"I didn't say you could come in!!!" Hachi flailed her arms.
Both boys looked up with shamed looked on their faces. "Oh..."
Hachi's resolve evaporated at the pathetic looks in their eyes. "...alright, alright..."
She turned on her heel to move back to the kitchen table. "It's not like Takumi is going to be home anytime soon..."
"He's not home for Christmas?!" Shin exclaimed, only to be silenced by Nobu's elbow to his side. "Ack!"
Hachi pulled out two more forks, and three plates. "You should know, Trapnest's up in Hokkaido to make an appearance for the Snow Festival..."
Shin and Nobu responded in silence. Hachi huffed, "Come on inside, then! Have some after-Christmas cake!"
The boys drug their feet as they walked into the apartment. "...so this is where Hachi is spending her Christmas, huh..." Shin muttered below his breath. "Suddenly being alone in here doesn't seem so bad..."
Nobu shot Shin a warning glance. "Say, why don't you come back with us, hang out at Yasu's place? You shouldn't be alone during New Year's."
Hachi shook her head. "I'm actually sick, I don't want to pass it off to any of you, you have to work." She cut off a slice of cake, and rested it on the plate before handing it to Nobu.
"Mmh..." Nobu looked down at the slice of cake, at a loss. "Well, then..."
"It's fine!" Hachi laughed nervously. "I washed up before serving the cake, so you'll be fine!"
That isn't it. Nobu retorted to himself. He picked up the fork in order to take a bite of the cake.
Say, Hachi--" Shin spoke up as he took a piece of cake. "Do you need us to pick up anything for you? If you've been stuck up here the whole time, let us get you something!"
"Eh?" Hachi looked up from the cake. "Oh, I have everything I need." She smiled brightly to Nobu and Shin. "Just having you two visit makes me feel a lot better!"
Nobu silently ate his cake. Even without the makeup, you look lively as ever.
The silence dominated the conversation as the two boys ate. Hachi watched them, happily sipping some tea to soothe her throat.
Shortly after they left, Hachi walked back into her bedroom to see her cell phone's light flikering. She opened it up, and saw there was a voice mail from Takumi. Her face warmed with a smile, and she listened to it.
"It's me. Call back." Click. Typical of Takumi - curt and blunt. No formality or frivolity.
She felt her nerves unwind - he did call, after all. He did want to talk to her...
"Hello?" A deep voice answered after the third ring.
Hachi curled her legs up onto her bed, "It's me."
"Ah. Where were you? You're not going out while you're sick, are you?" Takumi didn't sound overly concerned. He was probably mostly asking out of concern for the baby.
Hachi shook her head, "No." She smiled. "I'm sorry, I had visitors and didn't hear you call."
Hachi hesitated. "Shin and Nobu." Maybe if she mentioned Shin first, it wouldn't seem as bad--
"You let them into my home?!"
"Only for a little bit! I've been all alone since Christmas Eve, and I had no one to eat strawberry shortcake with!" Hachi's voice quickly elevated in volume.
"You know I don't feel comfortable with you letting strangers in while you're home alone! You have to be careful!" Takumi replied in a considerably calmer - though as Hachi saw it, condescending - tone.
"They're not strangers, they're my friends!" Hachi argued. "You don't know what it's like! I bet you've got all of your friends around you right now! You've never had to spend a New Year's alone!!" Ah, now the tears are starting...
"I can't believe this..." Takumi made an exasperated sigh. "Stop crying, you'll hurt the baby."
"That's all you care about!" Hachi yelled into the phone. "What about my feelings?!"
"Shh..." Takumi tried to soothe. "It'll be fine. You're just sick and moody. Get some rest and it'll be better when you wake up."
Hachi hiccuped. "You don't know anything, Takumi..."
"I know." Takumi responded with a hint of amusement.
Hachi fell to her side, exhausted by the surplus of energy she exerted while arguing. She closed her eyes and let the tears dry. "I don't want to be alone for New Year's..."
"I know. Get some rest."
"I hate you, Takumi..."
"No you don't." Takumi said with a laugh. "Don't say that, you'll curse the baby."
"...get home, Takumi..." Hachi mumbled.
"As soon as I can. Sweet dreams." Takumi said warmly before hanging up.
Hachi hung up, sighing as she drifted off into a light sleep.
She was abruptly woken up by the doorbell ringing, followed by a strong knock.
She slowly sat up, rubbing her eyes. Who could that be...?
Straightening her sweats, she slipped her feet into a pair of slippers, and walked over tothe doorway. A man wearing a jacket and gloves stood on the other side of the door, and knocked again.
Hachi opened the door. "Yes, may I help you?"
"I'm here to pick you up, Komatsu-san." The taxi driver stated matter-of-factly, although he appeared surprised to see the wife of a wealthy band member donning sweats.
Hachi paused. "..." She looked around wondering if she had forgotten an appointment. Still, the fellow addressed her by her maiden name. Perhaps her parents sent for her?
"NANA?" she wondered out loud. She turned back to the driver, and bowed. "Just a moment please, I am not finished packing..." She excused herself from the front door, and hurried back to grab a tote and some clothes and make-up.
She dug her feet into some sneakers, and smiled sweetly to the patiently-waiting driver.
"Sorry to make you wait, I'm ready!" As ready as can be, considering... She was appalled at the thought of arriving wherever she was headed in sweats and makeup-less, but...
"Yes ma'am." The driver took her back, and headed towards the taxi.
Nana, are you spending New Year's alone, I wonder? It seems to suit you better than it would me...
I wonder what we'll say, the first time we're back together? 'Long time no see'? Or maybe 'I told you so'? Maybe we'll be at a loss for words. I get the feeling I will be.
Hachi stared out the back seat window as the city passed her by. She felt herself slipping in and out of consciousness. The slow hum of the car's motor lulled her to sleep, the warm air from the heater wrapping itself around her like a hug.
"Nana? Nana, time to get up. You're home."
A familiar voice stirred Hachi out of her familiar dozing state. She wondered to herself if she would ever have a restful night's sleep again, but she figured with a baby coming, she might as well get used to it.
She opened her eyes, and saw her mother had opened the door to the taxi.
"Mama?" Hachi breathed, looking around. "Am I home?" I feel like Dorothy...
"Took you long enough!" Nami took Hachi's bag, and freed the walkway for Hachi to make her way inside.
Hachi blinked deliriously. "Am I dreaming...?" She muttered to herself as her mother pulled her gently out of the taxi.
"We heard you were all by yourself for New Year's, so we made up your bedroom for your visit." Natsuko said with a restrained smile.
Hachi blinked. "Mama, what's wrong?"
Her mother laughed. "What are you talking about? Nothing's wrong!" Hachi observed with both annoyance and amusement that her mother wasn't much different from her at times - they both laughed when they were lying.
"Whatever, Mom..." Hachi muttered, walking up the steps into the Komatsu household. She couldn't help but feel a little pain that Nana hadn't appeared in some Christmas miracle.
I guess miracles are reserved for only little girls these days...
Kicking off her shoes, Hachi walked into the living room to sit down, and stopped in her tracks when she saw that her usual spot on the sofa was occupied.
She wasn't sure whether to cry or laugh. Takumi seemed so outrageously out of place in her parents' country home. She slapped a hand over her mouth to hide whatever reaction she ended up having, though once Takumi looked at her, she burst out laughing.
"Why are you wearing your sunglasses!" Hachi pointed at him. "You already look too cool for this place!"
Takumi sweatdropped. "Happy New Year to you too, Nana."
Hachi stepped forward, and seated herself next to Takumi precociously, resting a hand on his knee. "When did you get here? Have you had any tea made?"
"I got here a little over an hour ago." Takumi, pulled off his sunglasses and looked down at his wife. "What took you so long? Obviously it wasn't getting cleaned up."
Hachi frowned and playfully swatted his shoulder. "I had to at least pack some things! Geez!"
Takumi laughed, and put his hand on top of her head to softly pat it. "Alright, alright. Don't get your blood pressure up!"
Hachi pouted out her bottom lip, and slumped against Takumi. "Why didn't you tell me you were here?"
"It was an attempt to surprise you." Takumi turned down the television the Komatsu's had left on. "Besides, I have to go back tomorrow."
"Mmn..." Hachi responded quietly, her mood quickly swinging back to one of disappointment. "So how much time do we have?"
"Until I go back to Hokkaido? Eh. About eight hours." Takumi toyed with a strand of hair falling into Hachi's face. "But I made time for you. Aren't you happy?"
Hachi looked up to Takumi suspiciously, not yet at ease. "Wasn't this kinda unreasonable of you? Coming all the way from Hokkaido for just eight hours."
"It'll be twelve hours total." Takumi corrected her. "But it's the best I could do, considering the circumstances. You'll have to be happy with what you get for now."
Hachi rose her volume in protest. "That's not what I'm talking about!"
Takumi faced the television, looking to Hachi from the corner of his eye. "Then what?"
Hachi's cheeks flushed. She needed to stop getting so worked up over the tiny things. She always chided Takumi's warnings as being an empty gesture of concern, but he was right. Her body wasn't really suited for the roller-coaster of emotions she was prone to when she had a baby in tow. "Why would you step away from work for only a few hours after I had just gone off on you?" Hachi folded her arms over her swollen chest. "It makes so sense."
A pause fell between the two. Takumi sighed as he crossed one leg over his knee, and bounced his foot impatiently. "Even I'm prone to the occasional fit of jealousy." He admitted plainly.
Hachi stared at him, an impish grin creeping across her face. She hunched her shoulders in a fit of joy, a giggle bubbling in her throat. Oh I see! Takumi's jealous!
"Besides," Takumi sweatdropped, as though attempting to recover what remnants of nonchalance remained. "The last thing we need is for the baby to be born into a household of resentment--"
"Of course, dear~!" Hachi sung, and hugged her arms around Takumi's waist.
"Hey! Keep it down, we're in your parents' home!" Takumi scolded.
"It's ok! Husband and wife should be lovey-dovey!"
"Alright, enough! I only have this set of clothes!" Takumi warned.
Hachi pulled back. "Right." She was still in heightened spirits, even if it was just for now.
Nana, maybe this year...
Maybe this year, we'll see each other again. You always have a place here.