It took years (06): Epilogue

(14th February)

The street was crowded—something unusual on a cold night. But Yossi knew exactly why: it was Valentine’s Day; the day when Love fills the air. As she looked around, she saw couples everywhere. There were one right before them and another to her right, and both were locked tightly in an embrace, looking very much in love. Yossi looked down at the arm locked around hers and felt she isn’t doing badly either. At this very moment, she felt like the happiest person in the world, and she knew it wasn’t only for now but for the all the days that would come.

Touching the new addition on her left ear and remembering her escort wearing a similar one, Yossi felt another wave of bliss cruise through her warm body. She wondered why they had wasted eight years until now. She had to catch back on all their missed time. She lowered her arm, allowing the other arm to slide down and adroitly grabbed onto the hand she had been longing to hold for a long long time. She was finally holding hands with Rika.

A slight frown formed on Rika’s face, however, it disappeared almost as fast as she was, again, distracted by the voice coming from the gadget on her ears.

Yossi fully understood the reason behind the frown: in Japan, it is weird for two adult women to be holding hands though being arm-in-arm isn’t. But Yossi couldn’t care less now.

As an old man in a business suit approached them Yossi smiled back politely. When she realized the man was obviously giving them a look longer than necessary she raised a brow in bemusement. Did the stranger recognise them or had his smarter than ordinary kinky mind understood their touch as something beyond the threshold of mutual friendship?

Not that Yossi had minded. Their slightly intimate gesture could be explained—that was if there were a need to: everybody knows Yoshizawa Hitomi and Ishikawa Rika are ‘good friends’, of the same age, same audition, ex-Morning-Musume members and from the same agency; in other words, they are fated to be together. The thought alone made Yossi bask in happiness again.

The line went dead. Yossi watched the phone drop back into the capacious bag and readied herself. Two crucial seconds passed and nothing happened, she could still feel Rika’s hand holding on to hers. It was obvious that Rika had no intention of letting go. Grinning, Yossi looked sideway at her new-found girlfriend and asked: “How’s it?”

Rika nodded subtly. “I told mom I’ll be going to your place to stay for the night.” A broad smile began to grow on her face. “She’s ok with it, since she knows you.”

Yossi laughed, scratching the back of her head. “So… are you going to tell her about us?”

Rika shrugged. “I don’t know. Just wait and see… You?”

Rika’s words seemed to have struck a nerve in Yossi. Stopping suddenly, she looked back gravely before saying: “My mother might understand but my dad…” she then shrugged and laughed nervously. “Oh~ Why do I suddenly feel your parents are going to take it better than mine?”

“Well,” Rika laughed and looked cheekily at Yossi. “Why don’t we go to my place then?”
Realising it might be a better idea, Yossi yanked out her cell phone and pressed on the numbers to call home. Rika quickly stopped Yossi. “I was joking.” She took the cell phone from Yossi and dumped it into her own bag, then turning to Yossi again, she said, “Whatever the future holds, we’ll face it together, ok?”

Yossi never felt as assured. As they continued their saunter—still holding hands dearly—toward the subway station, Rika spoke again, “But I don’t want others to know… just yet.”

Sensing the apprehension in Rika’s tone, Yossi nodded her head assuredly.

“And not even your good friends,” Rika reiterated.

“My good friends?”

“Maichin & Ayaka.”

Yossi felt a nail htiing the back of her head; she was just thinking about telling her buddies the good news, wanting them to share her joy. She hesitated, but when she saw the worrying look on her girlfriend, she nodded.

A triumphant grin. Rika understood that was hard on Yossi. Much as she, too, wanted the world to know she just wasn’t ready yet. She needed more time to gauge, to be mentally prepared for people’s reaction.

“What about Gatas?” asked Yossi.

Rika shook her head.


Rika frown slightly before shaking her head.

“Not even Shibata-chan?”

“No.” Rika’s frown deepened as she shook her head again.

Berry CUTE?”

“NO!! Not the kids!”

“Berry cute.”

Rika stared at Yossi. “I said ‘NO’”

Yossi laughed. “Berry cute, you look very cute now.”

Still drowning in her unaccustomed new bliss, it took Rika longer than usual to understand her girlfriend’s weak little joke.



It took years (05)

(14th February - part 3)

Yossi didn’t look back—she didn’t have to—but continued to stare at the gushing waters in the canal; she knew the voice all too well; the pain in her chest creeping back.

Rika quickened toward Yossi, her hand reaching out as she approached. “Why are you doing here? I was looking everywhere else for you.”

Yossi slopped her shoulder when she felt the extra weight on it, her eyes just in time to catch Rika’s hand dropping back to its side. A moment of compunction seized her, quickly changing to anger. Nobody asks you to come, she screamed in her head. She turned, not giving Rika another look, and walked back to the bench, deciding to leave after grabbing her bag.

A voice shouted. “YOSHIZAWA HITOMI!”

Despite herself Yossi just froze in her tracks. Leaving like that would upset Rika greatly, and it was something she had vowed never to let happen again.

“Sit down?” Rika asked in a mellowed voice.

For a moment, Yossi didn’t move as if many thoughts were running through her head, then she walked and sat down between one end of the bench and her bag, determined to keep Rika at a distance.

But Rika never allowed that to happen; she slid the obstructing bag across the bench and sat down right beside. She leaned forward and looked sideway when Yossi still hadn’t talked.

At this moment, a man, who was jogging past, slowed down to have a double take, seemingly to realize the girls seated nearby were people he had seen on TV. Though Yossi is always aware of public scrutiny, the stare hadn’t bother her as it normally would; she and Rika weren’t even doing anything newsworthy in the first place. When they were alone again, she felt the balmy wind caressing her arms. It was a moment she might have actually enjoyed if not for today.

“I think we need to talk,” began Rika.

Yossi found great irony in those words.

“Talk? After all these days when you had been keeping quiet? I rather you continue to do so.”

“Yossi please… just listen to me.”

Despite Rika’s pleading, Yossi was sure she had heard enough. She could read Rika like a book: the girl loves the art of deception, or rather, the irony of it—like her decision to return the present on this day.

“Save your words, I knew exactly what you wanted to say,” she said as her hand moved unconsciously over her pocket to feel the object beneath it.

Rika’s eyes followed. She knew from the outline that it was the box she had earlier placed in Yossi’s locker.

“Then why are you acting this way?”

Yossi felt her anger rising from the recrimination.

“How should I be acting then? Be happy?” Her voice was just loud enough for another jogger who had run past to look back.

They ignored the jogger.

“Why? You meant to say you aren’t happy at all?”

There was bitter in Yossi’s laughter. Extending her leg, she reached into her pocket and retrieved the little box. “You think I should be happy to see this returned to me?” She broke into another laugh, clearly feeling the area around her eyes turning hot; she didn’t know another person was getting the same sensation around her eyes.

Rika closed her eyes, her thoughts spinning. Perhaps she had mistaken Yossi’s confession, which would explain why Yossi was acting this way. And it seemed to be the only logical explanation now. She began to dread where the talk was heading to.

Yossi breathed deeply. “I want what you will say. ‘We can still be friends’…” She stopped when she noticed the tears glistening in Rika’s eyes. She looked away, remembering her secret vow and started to hate herself again. So what if Rika only wanted to remain as friends? Her innocuous request surely hadn’t deserved such harsh treatment back.

“Are you regretting now?” Rika asked, her voice choking slightly.

“Regrets? HA!” A snigger. “You think I regretted meeting you? Or the time we spend together? Or even liking you?” the voice trailed… “Though you never felt the same for me.” Yossi looked away, fighting to hold back her tears. She clutched the box tightly in her palms, feeling the sharp edges cutting into her flesh. “It hurts so much to know you think I’m not good enough…”

“Wait! Did you open it?”

How much more pain did Rika want to inflict? Holding the base of the box with one hand, Yossi pulled the cover open. Although the evening sun had set turning the sky slightly dark, she could still see the contents in the box clearly. “Great!” she snorted as if she couldn’t believe her bad luck. “One is missing.”

She gave the lone earring a closer look and noticed it looking dull, its sparkle gone. Perhaps it had known that it had outlived its usefulness—the person it was meant for hadn’t wanted it—but the incomplete set did not bother Yossi anymore, it really didn’t matter anymore.

Rika gasped under her breath. It seemed like in a fraction of a second, she had realized what had had happened. She leaned closer, gingerly hooking her arm under Yossi’s. When Yossi had not backed away, she took Yossi’s palm into hers and gripped it, feeling the box safely between their fingers. She leaned on Yossi’s shoulders, a grin beginning to show on her smooth complexion. “Care to listen to me?”

The sudden intimate gesture made her body flush and Yossi felt herself drawn towards the soft and alluring touch on her arms. It was the first time Rika had touched her in this way. The warmth on her skin felt soothing and calming, her senses relazed. If this temporary bliss was to be a parting gift from Rika, she would treasure it till it lasts. When Rika snuggled closer, she hoped time had stopped…

Rika’s voice when she spoke again was almost a whisper. “I never questioned this relationship we have: I always thought we’re good friends, good working colleagues, good partners… until that day, when you suddenly told me how you felt.”

Yossi felt her stomach churn.

“I have to admit that you had me there. I became confused and scared, because I know what all these are about, and that is something I can’t accept.”

Yossi felt like dying. She shut her eyes, hoping the same could be done for her ears. She didn’t want to hear anymore, it was killing her; she should have walked away earlier.

Rika nestled closer. “I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking. And whenever I closed my eyes, I would see you—everything about you… Everything… I started to hate you. Why are you doing this to me? How can I face you from now? I tried to act like nothing had happened. But it’s hard. I can’t even look at you in the eyes like before.”

Rika looked up at Yossi. When their gaze met, Yossi mouthed the word softly. “Sorry.”

Rika stopped Yossi by putting her finger on the lips. It traced up to caress the corner of Yossi’s eyes. “These beautiful eyes, your smile, your presence, and even hearing your name make me scared. I asked myself why? Why can’t we be like before?”

“Sorry, Rika-chan, I am sorry…”

Rika leaned her head back on Yossi’s shoulders, smiling. “Soon, I came to know why.” She tightened her hold on the arm. “I’m scared, and the reason I'm scared is because I know if I were to reject you, you’d no longer be there for me, not when I’m happy or sad or in the future. I'll be losing you…”

Yossi raised her arm around Rika and held her closely. Their heads touched.

Rika finally knew how it felt to be in love.

“I realise you have become an important part of my life.” She looked up and continued when Yossi returned her gaze. “I want to be with you. I couldn’t care anymore. There's no right or wrong in love. If I were to let you go, I would never be happy again in my life.” She felt Yossi’s kiss on her forehead. “On my birthday, you’ve given me the best gift in my life. I wanted the same for your birthday, but I couldn’t wait that long…”

Yossi held her breath, feeling her heart now in her throat.

“I love you.”

When Rika closed her eyes, their lips met. Though it wasn’t the first time they had kissed, it was the first time they had truly kissed—the first time their kiss had lasted more than just a playful peck.

When they parted, Yossi saw it: a sparking diamond on Rika’s left ear beaming at her.