Noriko felt tired. More tired than she had ever done since she accepted she had fallen in love with Urufu again.
He didn’t protest when Yukio suggested he was her boyfriend, but then he didn’t acknowledge that she was neither. That kind of left her in limbo, and now she had to push the issue.
They were seated by a huge wooden table in the house that was indeed strangely Japanese inside. Very traditionally Japanese at that, except for a couple of rooms one of which she sat in right now.
Wooden flooring. She could see the ground beneath her through gaps she believed were deliberate. The room had to be abysmally cold in winter.
Most of the house, the parts that didn’t face the street, could just as well have been from some peculiar Edo era movie. With utility details that must have been modern half a century ago skillfully hidden to preserve the look of an old Japanese rural home.
She drank the impressions. Even if Urufu hadn’t been born into this world, this was still part of what had formed him. Every detail counted now when she was on the verge of finally hauling him in.
The aunt, the old lady of the house, had given her a searching stare and then looked at Urufu. Then, during a fleeting moment when they changed rooms, she grabbed Noriko’s arm.
“If you can heal him, then I approve. If you can’t, then break up!”
As demands went that one was unfair, but Noriko didn’t care. If she merely had to move a mountain or two then that was fine. She had smiled at his aunt and met her eyes in what was probably a very rude way.
“I don’t need your approval, but I need him whole,” she had answered.
That bought her a wolfish grin and a huge surprise. She never expected Urufu to get that part from his mother’s side.
Right now it was make or break. They were alone. Urufu sat facing her across the table.
“I need to know,” Noriko said. “Are we going out?”
If only she could close her ears. Her eyes were already shut as she waited for his answer.
“Please, Noriko! Look at me if you want me to answer that question.”
She opened her eyes.
“Noriko, there are a number of constraints...”
“Yes or no,” she demanded.
He was silent for a moment. “If you want to, yes, but...”
Yes! He said yes! “I understand.” He finally said yes! “You can tell me all about the buts later, but you’re my boyfriend now? I’m your girlfriend?”
“I give,” Urufu grinned. “You want this arse of a man you can have him. Yes, you’re my girlfriend, or I your boyfriend, or whatever you prefer.”
Then a sudden second of fear. “But you don’t really love me, or at least won’t tell me if you do?”
Urufu’s eyes went soft and his grin thinned into a smile. Two hands reached out over the table. “That’s the thing. I think I’ve been in love with you for a while now. I… I just never noticed.”
And she needed to make once thing absolutely crystal clear. More for herself than for anyone else. “But you still love Kuri?”
Urufu nodded. “A part of me always will I’m afraid. Do you still want me as your boyfriend knowing that?”
And she needed an edge. A something that was hers alone. “Did you ever tell her you loved her?”
He shook his head. “Never so she heard. I was too scared.”
“Do you love me?”
“Yes, I love you Noriko.”
It had to suffice. She had something Kuri never got. She had a confession. “I love you Urufu.”
He didn’t spoil the moment by stating the obvious, that he already knew. He just squeezed the hands she had placed in his.
In a way she surprised herself. She’d seen Urufu and Kuri, and she’d seen the awful courtship of Yukio’s and Kyoko’s. Both couples had been madly in love when their mutual feelings were confirmed. Even for Kuri’s part. There was no way the tall beauty hadn’t known all along. For her own part Noriko mostly felt relief. Maybe the burning feelings would come later. Or maybe they had already passed. After all this was the third time she fell in love with him.
But she did feel love. A deep and profound love. So she squeezed back.
It was a perfect moment of shared silence for them. Too perfect.
“You can come out now,” Noriko said.
Two, no three faces popped around the door post. All grinning wildly. Then Kyoko dashed to her side.
“I’m happy for you!” There was a moment’s hesitation. “For you as well,” she added to Urufu, and Noriko knew her friend hadn’t forgiven him yet. At that moment Noriko understood how she in ways was older than her friends. Kuri and Urufu excepted obviously. And she also understood something equally important. Kuri was her friend. Noriko hadn’t forgiven her for sleeping with Urufu, and maybe she never would, but Kuri was still a friend.
That thought was the final one in a long chain of thoughts and fears. Tears welled up in Noriko’s eyes, but she didn’t try to blink them away. Instead she let go of Urufu’s hands and rose to hug Kyoko.
“I’m happy. I’m so happy,” Noriko mumbled into Kyoko’s shoulder. “If that had to happen to end what was already broken, then I can live with it. Maybe they needed an end for us to have a beginning.” There was no maybe, and it wasn’t the end, but it was an end, and it definitely was the beginning for her and Urufu.
If worst came to worst a day would come when she would have to let him go, but even if such a day eventually came, what was the alternative? To never have him at all? A life where she never got to share her love with him? That was no alternative at all.
“Are you certain about this?” Kyoko whispered.
“Yes,” Noriko answered. And neither her voice nor her mind held any lies. “I love him so very much.”