Ariel-Illustration ” I am who I say that I am!”

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Drawing on paper in ink gel pen, acrylic and wax crayon. When you look in the mirror, you can see your own reflection the way others cannot. “I am who I say that I am!”-says Ariel. He’s perfectly right!

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Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch.17-19. The letters. 23 years later.Epilogue

  1. The letters

Dest: Professor Hideo Shibata

 

“ Dear Father!

Forgive me for the pain I  have caused to you! I know I was always your odd child, the one no one could comprehend but I had to leave this world to set everyone free.

  I cannot live without love, I cannot live a lie and I don’t want anyone to suffer because of me.

      You have Sumiko by your side and her love is boundless.

           Take care, Father! Thank you for all your love !

                                               Your son,

                                                     Ren.”

 

Reading the letter in the privacy of his study, the elderly man slumped deeper in his chair. He was both angry and pained. How could this happen? Why were all his loved ones running away from him, finding solace in death?! He had loved them, cherished them, protected them ! Why did they desert him in such a cruel way?! He shut his eyes, nervously scrutinizing the darkness behind the eyelids, trying to summon the shadows of his lost  wife and child… But the moment of bitterness was soon replaced by the deep sense of loss and failure. He had meant well, but he had missed the truth of their feelings….In the solitude of his chamber, Professor Shibata was crying inside….

 

Dest: Miss Hanako Ikeda

 

“Dear Hanako!

 

       Don’t cry for me. I couldn’t let you  become prisoner of a loveless marriage! You are free now.

Go, find yourself a good man who would love and cherish you as you deserve! Be happy!

 

                                             Your friend,

                                                   Ren.”

 

For Hanako, Ren’s suicide was a  hard blow, shattering all her dreams and leaving her in an awkward position. She always had a crush on Ren; he was beautiful and gentle but the truth is, he never showed any interest on her. But Hanako tended her dreams of him all along, knowing that they were meant to be together. Even his moments of anger against her were not deterring the girl from her hope of happiness by his side. Unrequited love doesn’t  just go away. It haunts the heart , painting illusory hopes on its sky.

   Hanako read the letter , throw it away angrily , only to pick it up and read it again,crying….She cried but slowly calmed down. It was the loving kindness in the words that were making her slowly realise that there’s à future before her, one where she can find happiness. She read the letter one more time, attentively; then she put it the drawer of her desk.        She left her room, determined to fulfill her dreams.

 

Dest: Mrs. Sumiko Nishimura

 

“Dear Sumi!

      My sweet, loving sister! Please don’t cry! I know you are upset but I couldn’t enter a loveless marriage. I knew I couldn’t make Hanako happy and such a life would’ve been an ordeal for both her and me. You know that I’ve tried to make her change her mind.

But I leave this world at peace because I saw you happy and knowing that I have left you in good hands. Kenzo will always take care of you; he is a good man. Please, keep an eye on Father and promise me that you will be happy!

       Remember me and know that I loved you more than anything in this world….

 

                                                    Your little brother,

                                                                  Ren.”

 

 The tearful Sumiko could hardly read Ren’s letter. Images of her little brother, cuddling up in her arms after Mom’s death were rapidly alternating with those of the soft spoken, reserved adolescent and later, the beautiful yet elusive youth. She  had always lived with the feeling that Ren has grown more on the inside and that what they were all witnessing, was both a creation of their hopes and his way of protecting them from constant worries over him.

  “But he looked so happy lately!”- murmured Sumiko. “Why didn’t he confide in me?! Oh, Ren! I wish you have told me about your chagrin!”

  She kissed the letter, crying, unaware of the reality behind Ren’s last line:

“ ….I loved you more than anything in this world….”

 

 

Dest: Mr. Kenzo Nishimura

 

“Itoshikute!

 

          You were right: I love you and I cannot live without you. But I cannot live on the expense of Sumiko’s happiness. You made me a promise; make her happy! She deserves that.

       Please,take my ashes to our place, where we saw the shooting star. Wait until it’ll come for me. Live a happy life, my beloved.  One day, we’ll meet again! You’ll see….

                                                          Aishiteru! Ren.”

 

 For Kenzo there was no place to cry; at least not at home. The heartbroken family was relying on his strength and support; outside his home, all eyes were on him. Once again, he was on the front page of magazines, followed by paparazzi eager to ask him over and over again about the mystery behind the suicide of his brother-in-law. Those questions, relentlessly repeated were tearing his heart to pieces. He knew the answer but he couldn’t tell them or anybody else. The truth was buried deep inside his aching heart. JT was his only confident in this tragedy.

   Then, up in the mountains, after the shooting star took away Ren’s ashes and the silence of the night became unbearable, Kenzo returned to the cabin. Numbed by the emptiness inside him, he crawled in bed, hoping to fall asleep fast. He grabbed the pillow and froze: hidden under it lied a small,withered maple leaf, the one that Ren had picked from the forest the first time they came here. Kenzo stared at the leaf in disbelief…..till his eyes filled with tears and he cried and cried…..

 

18.Shooting Star. 23 years later.

 

 Life had been good for Kenzo Nishimura. One year after Ren’s death, his son, Takashi was born. The arrival of the little boy brightened everybody’s life, lifting the veil of sadness. Happy woman and happy mother, Sumiko was blossoming and her  ailing, elderly father had found solace in his nephew. Takashi was a child born under a lucky star. Though they never spoke about it, both his parents were determined to insure for him all the freedom he would need. Ren’s tragic departure had changed the mindset of the family elders too. Neither Professor Shibata, nor uncle Seiji Nishimura would’ve interfered with Takashi’s life choices.

   Two years later, Hanako Ikeda married the man she fell in love with and who was in love with her. Sumiko and Kenzo joined the  wedding preparations and they helped in organizing a beautiful ceremonial for their friend.

       So after 23 years, Kenzo could say that he was an accomplished man. Takashi was finishing his studies at the university. He was becoming a doctor and he was already nagging his father to rest  more and to take care of himself. Kenzo has developed a heart condition lately and Takashi was keeping an eye on him.

      Deep inside, Kenzo knew that his days were numbered. He was  slowly withering. He didn’t want to frighten Sumiko,but he could foresee the outcome of the process.  So, one evening after she was asleep, Kenzo descended to his study and called Takashi in.

  The young man was sitting in a chair facing his father. A few moments, Kenzo watched him lovingly and with pride. The boy was the living image of his mother, seasoned with a pinch of Kenzo’s charm. Responsible and straightforward. A worthy legacy of his parents.

   Kenzo took out two envelopes from his desk drawer and laid them on the table before him.

-Takashi, I need you to do something for me- he said. You have here two letters that I wrote some time ago; one is for you, one is for your mother. Keep them safe! If anything occurs to me, you can both read them. I rely on you!

-I wish you would rest enough, so that nothing unpleasant could occur !-replied the young man with a serious face.

-I will follow your advice anytime soon, doctor-chuckled Kenzo. No worries! I promise you that I’ll stay here a few moments more, then I’ll go to sleep-he concluded with a smile.

-Don’t make promises you cannot keep, Father!-said Takashi with a grin. I hope I won’t find you still sitting here in the morning.  Good night and pleasant dreams, Dad !

   He kissed his father, took the enveloppes and left. Kenzo relaxed for a moment. He opened the drawer of his desk and took out a small, lacquered box. It contained a heart shaped pebble, polished by the sea. The heart of the shore. The memento of his love. He held it in his palms, eyes closed, breathing in the scent of the sea and recalling the memory of those days….

-I’m coming, itoshikute….I’m coming soon.

     They found him in the morning, gone to the stars , with a peaceful smile on his face, holding the pebble in his fist. After the incineration ceremony, it was Takashi’s turn to climb the mountain, carrying the urn with his father’s ashes, to wait for the night and the sign from the skies.

     Under the sizzling dome of the Universe, he recalled the story he had read in his father’s personal letter.

“ My dear son!

       24 years ago, a year before you were born, I have fallen in love, deeply and hopelessly with a unique, wonderful person. I’ve met him a few months before uncle Seiji introduced me to your mother. The person I am talking about is your late uncle, Ren. He was close to your age at that time. He was beautiful,gentle and fragile I’d say, body and soul. We fell for each other in an all consuming love. But the marriage arrangement  and the prejudice of time against such a love was putting things in a different perspective.

        Knowing that it was impossible for us to part, Ren decided to leave this world and save his beloved sister’s happiness. Your mother never knew about this and I did my best to protect her from this painful secret. I wanted to make her happy. I loved her in my own way; but I have never forgotten my one and only love! 23 years have passed and I still see Ren’s face before my eyes, I still remember his scent and I feel the touch of his skin on my fingers. You might think that I am delusional, but I know he’s waiting for me.

   I am ready to go. You are a brave and admirable young man and I know that you will take care of your Mom. She’s young enough to survive the loss and find happiness again. My dear son! I’ve shared my secret with you in the hope that you will understand. Life is full of unexpected. Take care and be happy! I love you, Takashi! Kiss Mom from me, will you?

    After cremation, spread my ashes from the plateau of the mountain at night. You’ll know when to do it. There will be a sign. Goodbye, my dear child!

                                                                  Your loving father,

 

                                                                                        Kenzo.”

 

  Once again, the shooting star arose from the dark belly of the Universe and followed its path in the skies. Takashi opened the urn and the wind lifted the ash towards the blazing traveller. The star blinked. In the silence of the night, Takashi heard a faint whisper:” Wait for me, Ren! I’m coming.” An invisible hand touched him gently, then the light faded into the night.

        

 

        

     

  

 

19.Epilogue

 

  He woke up, sitting alone on an unknown shore. Around him, the sand was blindingly white and smooth.The clear blue sea was calmly moving back and forth, its playful ripples fingering his bare feet. He looked up and saw a much brighter sun than he remembered.  It was a mild summer day and he was feeling surprisingly well. He curiously examined his hands: they were smooth and younger than he remembered. He felt his face and found none of the familiar wrinkles.

 A small breeze ruffled his hair and Kenzo shuddered.What happened? What was he doing here?-he wondered. How did he end up here? And where is  this “here”? He shook his head:he couldn’t find the answers; his mind was a blur.

   He felt someone moving behind him and then, two arms embraced him lovingly. He breathed in the familiar scent and closed his eyes, leaning against the one embracing him.

-Itoshikute….I’ve told you we’ll meet again!- whispered Ren in his ears. Nothing can separate us from now on! This place is for us  forever!

     Kenzo smiled.

   Somewhere, in this mysterious and vast Universe, on the shore of the Shooting Star, two hearts united by a boundless, timeless love had been finally reunited. Somewhere, sometimes, the river of Time brings such forever entwined threads of fate to rest on the blazing white sands of a  turquoise sea, under the light of the blue sun….

 

PS.

 

I dedicate this story to all loving hearts because love knows no gender! And in this unforgiving world, under the careless blink of faraway stars, love is all that we have to keep us warm inside. Love and let love. It’s simple as that.

The Two Scheherazade:The Storyteller and The Poet. Illustration

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The two Scheherazade are sitting under the Tree of Magic, where stars grow like apples on the branches….

Drawing on paper in aqua color pencils and ink gel pen. Enjoy!

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch. 14-16. The answer. Aishiteru. Itoshikute.

  1. The answer

 

  The wedding ceremony was glamorous and joyful. Sumiko and Kenzo were making a beautiful couple and  after that, everybody cheered and enjoyed the party. With a beaming Hanako by his side, Ren was calm and polite, but very much silent. Half disconnected from what was happening around him, his thoughts were drifting away. When his father announced the renewal of the engagement between Ren and Hanako and that they were due to marry next June, the youth rose to his feet with a courteous smile, bowing politely but had nothing to say.

  During the party, he danced Hanako dutifully, then taking Sumiko from the hands of her husband, took her to the dance floor.

-You are so beautiful, Sumi!-he said lovingly. Are you happy?

-Yes! How could I not be, Ren? I am very happy and I wish you to be happy, little brother. Take care of Father while we are on honeymoon,will you?

-Of course, Sumi! Enjoy your trip and don’t forget how much I love you!

She embraced him and left a loving peck on his cheek, then returned to Kenzo. The party went on till midnight, then guests and family spread to their homes, while the young couple boarded a plane and left to their two weeks trip around the world.

    The next day, Ren walked to the pond and sat on the gravel shore, waiting for his Koi friends to emerge. Light was twinkling on the ripples as the red spotted white Koi swam up to his feet. Soon, the black one followed, waiting patiently his turn. Ren split the greenery between them and fed them slowly. The black Koi looked restless, swimming up and down, like looking for someone else to come.

-He’s not coming anymore, my friend…-said quietly Ren, swallowing the lump in his throat. It’s over….

 The fish seemed to understand his words. After nudging gently his colorful mate, they began to swim back and forth, faster and faster, in a hypnotic entanglement, bending the layers of water into a swirling tail of shimmering froth. Then, with a coordinated hit of the tails, they disappeared in a  final splash of sparks and rainbow droplets, like a shooting star in the skies of the water.

  As the surface of the pond quieted down, Ren stood up.

-I see…-murmured the youth. He’s got an answer to his unvoiced question.

 

 

  1. Aishiteru

 

 Two weeks passed and Kenzo was returning with Sumiko, content with himself, but eager to see Ren. He was missing him badly. Looking for the youth at the apartment,he learned that  the tenant moved out recently but left no address. The young man was baffled. He asked around family and friends; but no one knew where Ren lived. He took a vacation, he was visiting his father, but aside from that, he had vanished into the thin air. Yes, he had spoken with Sumiko after they came back from the trip but he wasn’t returning Kenzo’s calls.

-What did he say?-asked Kenzo slightly exasperated, turning to his wife.

-He said that it was about time for him to become independent. Oh, Kenzo! Don’t be so upset! I think he needs a bit of time to sort out all these recent changes in our family life. He’ll be back when he’ll be ready. Anyway, I’ve told him about the party for our new home and that he won’t be excused-added Sumiko with a sweet smile.

-You’re right, my dear. We should give him a break. Let’s go out and take advantage of what’s left  of our vacation !

   On the other side of the town, an inconspicuous car was rolling casually in a street with neat but modest flats. He stopped near one of the buildings, waiting patiently for the arrival of a particular tenant. JT knew him well. There he was: a gracious, slender young man with dark, melancholic eyes. Kenzo’s confidence-man waited till the light turned up in the room of the apartment, then  he sent a message to his boss: “I’ve found him.”

    Two days later Kenzo was knocking on Ren’s door. The door cracked open and the youth was standing there, pale and visibly upset.

-Hello, Ren…

   The youth opened the door to let Kenzo in.

-So….you found me- he said with a sigh.

He shut the door and showed Kenzo in. The young man sat on the couch, watching his beloved as he moved around, placing two beers and some crackers on the coffee table next to him. He looked fragile, almost ethereal and the bluish shadows underlining his eyes were speaking of sleepless nights and deep inner turmoil.

-Why, Ren? Why did you move out?- Kenzo’s question broke the silence.

-Because that was a place filled with memories I had to leave behind. You should do the same, Kenzo! It’s over! It must be!-said Ren, pleadingly.

   Kenzo jumped to his feet and grabbed him.

-How could it be over when all I have in my mind is you?! I love you, Ren and I know you love me too! Look at you: you’re like a ghost since I’ve left!

-I feel like one….-said Ren and his voice cracked. Oh!…..

He buried his face in his palms, snuggling in Kenzo’s arms. “ I can help it… Aishiteru” he whispered. “Aishiteru” murmured Kenzo, kissing away his tears, easing the pain. “Aishiteru”echoed every caress that followed, each passionate kiss and intimate touch. “Aishiteru=I love you” was the name of the maelstrom of feelings that swept them away that evening, entangled, entwined, embraced….All the yearning summed up in the days of separation was bubbling up , unstoppable….

-I have to go now-said Kenzo finally, dressing up. Don’t forget to come to visit us on Sunday noon! Sumiko is cooking something special !

-I know-said Ren softly. He stood there smiling, reminding Kenzo of his first impression at the pavilion:“His beauty can put the Moon to shame.”

-Please, keep an eye on him, JT!- said Kenzo in the car. I want him to be safe and well. I count on you!

 

16.Itoshikute

 

   JT followed with increasing anxiety Ren’s movement after Kenzo’s visit. The youth made some small, odd shoppings, then spent most of Saturday in the park, sitting at the pond and feeding the Kois. He woke up early on Sunday and JT could see him through the open window pacing up and down his room. Then….nothing. No move. Silence. JT sent a quick message to Kenzo:”I think you should come here! Something doesn’t feel right.”

   Ten minutes later, they were speeding up the stairs. JT opened the door with a spare key. They found the youth in the room, lying on the floor, gasping for air. Kenzo kneeled and held him up, shouting desperately:

-Ren!!! What have you done?!

-Itoshikute…..whispered the youth. Hold me….It’s cold and it’s…getting… dark….

Kenzo squeezed him, muttering helplesly:“ Don’t leave me, itoshikute….Don’t leave me, my shooting star…..Hold on….”

But when the paramedics arrived and then took him away, Ren’s already lost consciousness. The medical team took a sample of the liquid left in the glass on the floor, hoping to find the antidote. Slumped in the rear seat of his car, Kenzo was clutching to the pile of addressed letters left on the coffee table by his beloved, while they were following at high speed the ambulance. His mind was racing from Ren’s broken image to that of Sumiko waiting at home, unaware of the unfolding tragedy. How was he going to tell her about it?! He leafed through the letters and found the one written for him. He held it for a moment in his palms, barely touching it… but he was unable to open it yet. Instead, he slipped the small envelope in a hidden pocket of his jacket. He sighed, trying to calm down. The family needed him and he wasn’t going to fail.

  Ren didn’t come back from the coma. For days, Sumiko and Kenzo kept watching him, hoping in a miracle. But there was no change for the better. Finally, Kenzo sent her home to rest and sleep, while he stayed at the hospital. Leaning back in a chair next to the bed, he was reading the diary of Ren’s mother. It explained a lot. On the last page, there was a line, written by her:”I don’t want to be saved!”. And right there, the youth has made an addition: “ I understand now, Mom! I know the feeling.” Reading it, Kenzo swallowed hard; rising his eyes, he looked at his love lying on the bed. He was visibly slipping away…Kenzo grabbed his hand, desperate to hold him back. As the new day was dawning, Ren quietly set forth to the stars, leaving behind all his loved ones in grief. After he was cremated, Kenzo took the urn of ashes up to the mountains, to that place where they were once counting stars together. He made that trip alone. Sumiko and her father were in no condition for such an endeavor.

 Once arrived to the plateau, Kenzo waited till nightfall. He left the cabin, looking for the place where once they stood together. The skies were teaming with stars and the nightwind was whispering in the grass….He stood there,holding the urn to his chest, waiting for a sign.

    The shooting star emerged from the depth of the Universe, crossing the night sky in majestic arch. It slowed down above the plateau area, waiting. Kenzo opened the lid of the urn and the nightwind slowly lifted the soft ash towards the blazing traveller…The shooting star blinked; then retook its flight, delving into the night and leaving behind a trail of sparks….

 

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch.12-13.Heaven and Hell. Countdown

  1. Heaven and Hell

 

But the evening started with a phone call from Sumiko. She talked a lot with Kenzo, then asked about her brother. Ren was still gloomy. He took the phone with a heavy heart, guessing what was about to come.

-Hello, Sumi….-he said. What happened?

-Oh, Ren! What’s wrong with you? Hanako came to me crying about how you treated her! She’s such a sweet and sensitive girl! It took me awhile to comfort her! Father is very upset too. You must make amends, Ren!

The youth swallowed the words coming to him and took a deep breath before replying.

-I’m sorry. I was nervous and busy. Tell Father that I will make amends.

Sumiko let out a sigh of relief.

-I will tell him. Look, Ren. We agreed with Kenzo to go out on a double date with you and Hanako next week. I’ve got an invitation for us at Cinema City and after the movie, Kenzo will take us to a fancy restaurant. This way we can bring the family together and remove the bitter taste of today! You agree?

-I do, Sumi!-said the youth, disarmed by her plea. Good night, ane! I love you.

Ren slumped on the couch, exhausted. The world was spinning around him. He closed his eyes and let the tears stream down his cheeks. Kenzo sat next to him and took the youth in his arms.

-Sssshhhht….-he whispered, caressing him. Don’t cry, itoshikute (beloved). I’m here…..

    Silence enveloped them soothingly and the night spread its wings upon the world, bringing healing sleep and peaceful dreams to the tormented,loving hearts. Out in the Universe,the planet was gracefully  rolling on its celestial path….

     When dawn lifted with curious fingers the withering curtains of the skies, the first rays of the sun found the two young man sound asleep on the couch, lovingly holding each other.

 

  1. Countdown

 

     The following months went on without major disturbances. With Kenzo’s love, Ren “survived” to a number of double dates, giving some satisfaction to his family and to Hanako. But days were slowly adding up and the month of June was dangerously coming closer.       

   Doomsday. Kenzo and Ren were having a slightly different approach to it and different expectations about the future of their love. For the more pragmatic and stubborn Kenzo, that day wasn’t changing anything; he refused to envision a future without Ren’s love. But for Ren, that day was a turning point in his life and it meant the end of all physical involvement with Kenzo.The time left to then was one of all consuming love lived at high speed. They both knew that this was that “once in a lifetime”  kind of love, both elating and shattering, blazing and burning to ashes. A love to live for, a love to die for.

       Kenzo travelled a lot with business, taking Ren with him all the time. Luckily, the wise and more mature Sumiko managed to convince Hanako to come to terms with that and  to stop nagging her fiance.

-You’ll have a lifetime to spend together, Hanako!-she said, trying to cheer up the impatient young bride. Look, we can go together to make the wedding plans and shoppings. Kenzo has given me freedom in choosing all I want. This way you can make your own wedding arrangements too. What do you say, Hanako?

-Thank you, Sumiko! You are so good to me! I can hardly wait to go with you-replied the girl excitedly.

    Days passed and seasons changed and summer set in with the lively month of June. Nature dressed up in lush green, warmth brought with it life boosting rain showers. June was a month of blooming fertility, a month of blessing and joy. But not for everyone. The days before Kenzo and Sumiko’s marriage were becoming increasingly difficult to Ren. He was facing two personal disasters: ending his love and ending his freedom. Still, he was putting up a brave face, hiding his pain deeper and deeper inside.

   Friends and family were caught in a frenzy of preparations, nervous and excited. The last evening before the ceremonies, Kenzo and Ren met at late hours in Ren’s apartment. The moment felt awkward. There were so many things to say; yet words were difficult to find. They were both talking about unimportant details, trying to fill the meaningful silence between them.

-Dance with me!- Ren said suddenly in a soft voice. Before all is gone…I want you to  dance with me…

     He started music; the song was a mix of dream and passion, about a love lost. It was Gackt’s “ Last song” that Ren loved very much. Kenzo took his love in is arms and they danced…they danced….till they danced out all the unspoken words. And the music was playing on….

     Finally, they stopped and Kenzo kissed the youth.

-Good night, Ren! See you in the morning!-he said with a smile.

-Goodbye, Kenzo…..-replied the youth, returning the smile. But night has already moved into his eyes.

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch.10-11. Labyrinth. Hanako

  1. Labyrinth

 

   The next morning, Kenzo accompanied his uncle to the airport and took a warm farewell from him. He then hurried to the park to meet Ren. He took the path to the red pavilion  in a breath! It never felt so faraway…

    Ren was leaning against one of wood columns supporting the roof, lost in thoughts when Kenzo burst in the pavilion. Ren turned to him and for a moment, they gazed at each other, motionlessly. Then, they flew in each others arms, clinging desperately to one another. Were they trees, with that surge of love and bursting emotions they would’ve grown into one in a split of a moment, unbreakable, inseparable!

   Before the youth could say something, Kenzo cupped his face in his palms, kissing him deeply, passionately and then held him strong again.

-Don’t say anything….I won’t give up on you. I love you like I never loved anyone before!-he breathed in Ren’s ears.

    Ren shuddered. He slowly unfolded from Kenzo’s embrace and faced him.

-She’s my sister and she seems to love you. Tell me how can I deal with this without jeopardizing her happiness?

    He walked to the railing of the pavilion, leaning over it , breathing heavily.

-We still have time till June next year-pleaded Kenzo. We can spend time together and work it out. I can handle everything  for your love! Ren! Ren….listen to me…This is not an ordinary love that we have. Don’t give up on it!

  He stepped to the youth, delving a hand in his rebellious strands. Ren turned with a sigh.

-I will stay with you till the marriage. I don’t want to cheat on Sumiko, Kenzo! I can’t do that!

-It’s fine with me, Ren. We’ll get through this together! Come, let me take you home. I would like to talk with your father.

    As JT drove them to the Shibata family house, Ren was leaning against Kenzo’s shoulder in the car; he was exhausted. It all happened so sudden! He needed that slim ray of hope to cope with all that occurred lately. Reading his late mother’s diary was offering him a way out of the entanglement but  he wasn’t ready to use it….Maybe, just maybe there was a miracle lying ahead.

     Late that evening, Professor Shibata had a talk again with his son.

-Ren, Kenzo came and offered you a  job as his private secretary. I know you still have courses to attend; but he’s leaving you the choice of time you can spend by his side, learning and working. I hope that you’d accept his offer. It would be a good opportunity to strengthen family ties and it would offer you some financial independence.

“ Hmm. He’s moving fast!” thought Ren.”Oh, well. Let’s see what will come out of this!”

-I’ll take the offer, Father-he said loudly- and I’ll do my best to comply. I will call Kenzo-san in the morning.

 

  1. Hanako  

 Kenzo’s arrangement for Ren worked surprisingly well. The youth moved out from home to a small apartment close to Kenzo’s place. As a private secretary, he could spend more time with him and they didn’t have to hide anymore. It was a perfect cover up for both of them. Kenzo’s engagement created a small tide of guesses and regrets in the media and in the heart of so many wannabe ladies; but after a while, they found new eligible bachelors to pursue and dream about. Life was good.

   One day, while Ren was at work, someone tapped his shoulder, calling him.

-There’s a girl outside, looking for you-said his colleague.

   Ren raised his eyes and looked at the door. Here she was: Hanako Ikeda, his fiancee. Surprised, the youth stood up and walked to her.

-Hanako! What are you doing here? Why did you come?

  Visibly annoyed, he took the girl out of the room and dragged her to a corner of the hallway.

-I wanted to see you!-she protested. We are engaged and I want to spend more time with you, Ren!

-Hanako….-the youth sighed. I’ve told you before, I tell you again: I cannot give you what you desire. Please, try to understand that. Go and find yourself a  young man who would love you and make you happy! Leave me alone.

   Hanako protested, tears building up in her eyes.

-I don’t want another young man! You are my fiance and I want you!

-Won’t you introduce me to this lovely lady, Ren?

Kenzo was standing there, with a mild smile on his lips. Hanako blushed while Ren made the introduction in a restrained voice:

-Hanako, this is Kenzo Nishimura, my boss! Kenzo, meet my fiancee, Hanako  Ikeda!

-Nice to meet you,Miss Ikeda!! Kenzo’s smile widened. -I didn’t know you’re engaged, Ren!-he continued, playfully raising an eyebrow.

-I’ve also learned  about that only recently-murmured Ren. But she’s leaving,anyway. Come, Hanako! Let me lead you out!-he said, grabbing her firmly by the elbow.

-Goodbye, Miss Ikeda!-said Kenzo with a courteous bow.

-Goodbye, Nishimura-san!- she replied, trying to keep up the pace with her annoyed fiance.

  Ren lead her out of the building and said once again:

-Goodbye, Hanako! Don’t come again, please. I am busy; I work here.

He turned swiftly and shut the door, leaving the unhappy girl standing alone in the street. Kenzo was waiting for him at the escalator.

-Hey! What have you done with the poor girl? Why are you so hard on her?-he said, teasingly rising an eyebrow.

 But Ren was visibly distraught and didn’t take the joke. He bit his lips nervously, then turned.

-Kenzo, I love you and I wish I could be so easygoing and pragmatic like you. But I am not. I don’t want Hanako to have expectations I can never fulfil. I can only hope that my harshness will drive her away and that she’ll find the love she deserves in someone else’s arms! I have nothing to offer her…

-I know, Ren. I walk the same shoes, remember!-said Kenzo, trying to appease him.

-No, you are not, Kenzo! You, at least like Sumiko and her love is not a burden for you. But I can’t even think of Hanako in that way…And I don’t want to make her life loveless and miserable! I have to go back to work, boss- he added with a small smile. You won’t pay me for small talk, will you?

He turned and left Kenzo alone in the hallway.

   “ Me and my big mouth!” thought Kenzo, hoping that he could comfort his love at home, in the evening.