I don’t care any longer.
Noriko never planned on doing this. A year earlier she wouldn’t have dared, but a lot had happened during that year.
I’m sorry Kuri. She was pretty certain she’d be rejected, but Kuri still had supported her when she broke down after Nao’s a betrayal. A betrayal that it turned out never happened.
She felt Urufu’s hands cover her own, and even though it felt like him caressing her, his fingers soon started to disentangle hers. From how rigid his body went Noriko understood he tried to break free, so before he did that she pressed herself harder against his chest. Or given the difference in height, his stomach.
Nao was even taller than Urufu, so Noriko was already used to such a ludicrous difference.
“Noriko, I understand you’re in shock, but this isn’t the time.”
Idiot! She allowed herself to be pried free from Urufu.
Nao was an idiot as well. If he noticed conflicting feelings in her he should have talked it out with her. Instead he invented a ploy where she’d hate him, and to a degree she did. Even though it turned out only being lies, in the end he still hurt her. Even though he’d only acted on his own fears, he still trampled all over her feelings.
Well, he’d reached his goal, if he had one to begin with. Whatever love she felt for him vanished, buried under the result of his actions.
Right now, however, Noriko had another problem to deal with.
“Urufu, I’m shocked, but not for the reason you think.” She let go of him and sat down on her chair. “Sit!” she said and nodded at his.
He did as told, and hesitantly he picked up his fork.
“Please tell me,” he said.
Noriko sighed and drew breath. This required gathering some courage.
“What he did was unforgivable,” she said. Somewhere inside her she knew she still dodged the real issue at hand.
“But it was all lies!” Urufu put down his fork and met her eyes.
I can’t pretend any longer. Urufu’s insensitive, but he’s not blind. She reached out with her hand and took his fingers.
Urufu flinched, but he didn’t retract his hand.
“I’m in shock they never went away,” Noriko said. That was deliberately cryptic.
“What went away?”
“Didn’t go away,” Noriko corrected him. She allowed herself to caress his fingers. He’d move his hand soon enough. “My feelings for you. I didn’t know, but I think Nao did.”
This time Urufu did move his hand.
“I…” He coughed silently. “You...”
“I know. You love Kuri, and I’m just a kid. Urufu, you promised. Don’t treat me like a child. Your loving Kuri is one thing. I have to respect that, but I at least want to be treated like a rival.”
For the first time Urufu smiled honestly. There was an embarrassed sheen in his eyes, and Noriko noticed him fidgeting a little.
“Like a rival, you said. You’ll have to talk with Christina about that.” Urufu gave her a twisted smile. “Weren’t you in love with Nao?”
Noriko nodded. When did everything become so complicated? “But I think I never fell out of love with you.” She said it. She looked down at her plate. There wasn’t anything more she could do. Urufu would reject her feelings, and she’d feel sad and a little lonely. Still, it wasn’t as if she lost anything. He had rejected her once already.
“You flatter me. I’m not worth that effort.”
How dense can you be? Noriko looked up and met his eyes. “You don’t get to decide that. You have no right to my feelings. They’re mine and mine only.” At least until you share them, she thought. A bitter little thought.
Urufu cut himself a piece of beef, pushed a little potato and sauce on it with his knife and ate. After he swallowed he looked at her. “I apologise. I’m no less honoured that your affection lies with me than I was last summer, but I’m poor rebound material.”
The smile that came to her lips was listless. Noriko could feel how it barely managed to reach her eyes. “I can’t do anything about how I feel.”
“You know I still love Christina. I probably always will.”
That’s an opening, you know. Noriko’s mind filled with giddy surprise he didn’t reject her outright. You might not even understand it yourself, but that’s an opening. “I know. I’ll never force you to abandon those feelings. You share a background and age after all” I have a chance! As long as I don’t push him into a corner.
Urufu took another bite, and Noriko joined him in the dinner they shared. He was a surprisingly good cook, and his choice for today’s meal was excellent for a conversation. The food cooling did little to detract from its taste.
They ate in silence for a while, and Noriko stole glances at him from time to time.
You’re handsome, but you’re not stunning like bro, or beautiful like Nao. So why did I fall in love with you to begin with?
“I’m flattered about how you feel,” Urufu suddenly said. “You promised not to make me stop loving Christina, so I won’t try to stop your infatu… feelings,” he said.
Noriko stared at him. “Infatuation? For a year, even though I got to know you and accept your relationship with Kuri? Even if I spent half a year with Nao? Infatuation?”
She watched Urufu bite his lower lip.
“I apologise. I won’t demean what you feel. Please forgive me.”
Noriko didn’t answer. Memories of Urufu’s conflicted feelings about his lost wife rose in her. In the end those probably were what destroyed what he had with Kuri, and Noriko didn’t plan to go down that route.
Just as she was about to respond her phone rang, and Noriko rose, walked to Urufu’s small desk and picked it up.