Through the windows Christina saw Yukio drifting away from the beach just to be promptly returned by Jenny. Watching the petite girl pulling him back with a life guard grip made Christina panic a little, but it was all over so quickly she never had the chance to become really afraid.
Idiot, what were you thinking? It’s the ocean and not a timid little pool.
Christina turned and faced the photographers. Crap, I botched the shot! “Sorry, I saw something disturbing. Retake?”
She saw the man growling silently, and he had all rights to do so. She’d just wasted a good shot with the sun streaming through the windows, and now they needed to wait until it returned from behind the cloud where it was hidden.
Christina glanced at the clouds and ran to the second set followed by surprised stares and more than a few angry glares.
“You’ll want some with neutral light. It’ll be a few minutes before the sun’s back again. What about it?”
Of all those present only her personal photographer, Kinoshita Dai, had the brains to move his gear from the moment she looked at the other set. Kinoshita Dai, an arrival like herself, and one of the best photographers she had encountered during her two lives.
They were inside the shopping mall. Inside a shop for surfing and beach volley attire more specifically. The cost for the shoot most likely surpassed what the shop made during an entire month, but the owner could easily afford it. This was part of a nation wide campaign using the Odaiba beach and mall as a lure for city youth.
Sitting in a chair by the wall Ryu returned her glance. Her boyfriend, but not really the man she loved. Still, she had grown fond of him despite his many shortcomings.
He was an idiot for missing out on the fun at the beach, but in truth she was grateful for his company. For some odd reason it dulled her longing for Ulf.
The shot drew out, and Christina had time to change into several bathing suits before the sun finally graced them with its presence again. By that time most of the club members had withdrawn under parasols, and Christina noted that only their Swedish guests still played along in the water, and of those the tomboy’s boyfriend, Jun, seemed reluctant even from this distance.
That wasn’t, she admitted to herself, entirely true. A bit further out in the bay Ulf clumsily did backstrokes, and had he been born here she would have been worried. As it was she saw how he lazily bobbed up and down on the waves whenever he got tired.
Then he had enough and made for the beach with heavy breast strokes. Just the way he had been taught once, just as they had both been taught once. Now the kids learned how to crawl – it was a more efficient way of swimming after all.
All at once forty years of life slammed into her. She missed her innocence and ignorance. In ways she missed her childhood more than her first youth, because memories from that youth were exactly what brought her to chose her career above love. Both times.
She hated herself.
Strong arms held her from behind, and it took a while before she realised she wasn’t dreaming. It wasn’t Ulf.
Ryu? She turned. Have you grown that fond of me? She smiled through her tears. Thank you!
He was her boyfriend now. Slowly becoming one for real as well, because despite her saying that she refused to feign that relationship, her feelings for Ulf stood in the way for her growing respect for the boy rapidly growing into adulthood who faced her now.
I could learn to love you. I think I already do, at least a little.
In the background a strange mix of angry growls and the endless smattering of a shutter took her back to reality.
Damn, I blew another shot!
“What’s the matter with that kid!”
“What’s the matter with you,” Dai responded. “If you had at least achieved basic competence you’d grabbed some of the best shots in your entire career. Moron!”
“Shoot’s over. I’ve got everything we need.”
“What the hell...”
“Shut up you idiot! That’s Kinoshita Dai!” A third voice.
“I am, indeed. And you’re incompetent. My kids would have done a better job.”
Christina stared at her photographer. I guess they could, if you had any. They’d be, what, thirty, forty? The surreal thought made her grin and as she gripped Ryu’s shoulder harder sudden mirth came out as laughter that freed her from weeks of worry.
She didn’t care about the sound of metal falling to the floor. She didn’t care about the gasps from below the stage. She hardly noticed the whirl when Dai’s camera came alive once again.
Life was wonderful, Ryu was wonderful and somewhere out there Ulf was wonderful as well. Lost to her, but wonderful anyway, and that knowledge didn’t hurt any longer. She’d love him for the rest of her life, but for the first time since she broke up with him she admitted that because she was an adult there was room for another love.
With a huge grin she threw herself around a very surprised Ryu and bit his ear. “I’m falling for you,” she whispered, and through her cheek she felt how he flared red in an instant.