Yamada Ryosuke x Shinkawa Yua
Fluffy First Date
Ryosuke tried to focus on the busy streets, the sounds of crunching on the road as a bike passed him, the tell-tale murmuring of the people eating lunch at the small café on the corner—little things to distract him as he walked the path to the park that he knew well enough that he could likely do it with his eyes closed. Anything to keep his mind off what he’d be facing when he arrived.
Despite his best effort, his mind drifted to the first time they’d formally met…
“I’m so sorry! Forgive me!” he’d cried out as he’d been looking down at his phone, earbuds in, lost in his own world—sometimes an exercise in putting up a wall between him and other people so that he would not be approached by them—though more often, an unintentional side effect to how attached he was to his music and games. Either way, that day he’d nearly run over top of the young woman who was attempting to walk through the same door he was.
Embarrassed he’d bowed, shuffling forward quickly to open the door, and then he’d finally looked up at her, recognizing her but not entirely sure from where. A same kind of recognition passed across her features before a wash of warmth spread across her skin, pinking all the way up to the tips of her ears before she hurriedly brushed past him to enter the building.
That was the first of many such moments, though none of them were quite as abrupt as that one, they were all rather fun, and truth be told Ryosuke had begun to look forward to his weekly ‘run in’ with the girl he’d come to know as Yua-san, who, as it turned out was an accomplished model, actress, and even singer. They’d talk about their work, and their hobbies, granted on a rather impersonal level as a lot of their lives involved being discreet and careful with information, and no matter what, they hardly knew each other all things considered, despite being in the same kind of profession.
As it turned out, her grandmother attended the same ‘Silver Sneakers’ fitness/health class that his own grandmother did. She was also responsible for picking her grandmother up each week—same as him, though sometimes his sister would need to if he were out of town or simply too busy to make it there—but among them all his schedule was the most flexible, even if it wasn’t the least busy of the siblings.
Truthfully, he didn’t mind, as he was close to his grandmother and generally delighted in their ride from the fitness center to her home—often finding himself entertained by her enthusiasm and her penchant for being the only seventy-year-old woman he knew who was a little too wild and crazy for her age. In a good way, and that only held true until he’d met Yua-san’s grandmother, Ruka, who was thick as thieves with his own. Apparently, long held friends, he found himself wondering if the two of them actually attended the fitness class for their health or for the joy of harassing all of the other elderly men and women.
At least I know where I got my sharp wit and penchant to laugh at the wrong time from.
As each week came and went, he began to notice a pattern—their grandmothers were taking longer and longer to exit their class. Often, it would seem the other members of the class were long gone, fifteen or twenty minutes passing before the two women would come through the doors, laughing, smiling, and a twinkle in their eyes.
They’d say goodbye and leave, a simplistic routine, and then one day when Ryosuke had been stopped outside his grandmother’s house she handed him a piece of paper, “That sweet Yua-chan has some events she has to attend for the next few weeks. I told Ruka that you could take her home on the days when Yua-chan couldn’t make it.”
Ryosuke blinked, then looked down at the piece of paper, seeing a phone number written there and started to ask what he was supposed to do with it, but she’d already opened the door and gotten out before he could form words, looking back at him with a smile and pointed at the paper, “Make arrangements with her, I have no idea when her work begins.”
And with that, she was gone, and Ryosuke was confused, but willing to help, of course. He’d texted Yua-san, a strange start to a somewhat less formal friendship to be sure, saying simply—‘This is Yamada Ryosuke, and I have been told to contact you to find out what days you need me to take your grandmother home.”
She had thanked him profusely, and he’d taken her grandmother home twice. He would always drop her off first, before his own grandmother because to do otherwise would be entirely too awkward. He’d learned a lot about the two friends and their ongoing behavior that usually rewarded them with a multitude of dirty looks from the other elders in their class, as well as many interesting facts about Yua-san.
Truth be told, he considered the two grannies to be sweet, innocent little old ladies who just focused on the joy of each day…simple as that. He’d hardly have even guessed how devious the two grannies could be, not until last week when both he and Yua-san had once again appeared to pick them up.
The two had exited the doorway that led to their classroom with a hop in their steps and entirely too happy to have just spent an hour and a half doing whatever they did in their ‘fitness’ class that he was becoming all to suspicious was actually more like a child’s recess for the two women than anything else.
“We’ve decided that you should take Yua-chan to see the gardens near your house, Ryosuke,” his grandmother said simply.
He narrowed his eyes, immediately suspect of her motives as he glanced to the side to see Yua-san’s response to this—finding her face impassive and her eyes slightly narrowed at her own grandmother.
“Yua-chan loves gardens,” Ruka said, stepping closer to him, then whispering in a way that implied confidentiality but was entirely too loud to not be taken as a comical jest, “She would love seeing the gardens with a handsome young man like you, Yamada-san!”
“Baba!” Yua-san cried out, stepping around him to reach for her grandmother’s arm, “I’m sorry, please forgive her,” and just like that she was dismissing the idea.
Ryosuke wasn’t sure if he was hurt, offended, or relieved to be perfectly honest, though he didn’t really have time to figure it out as his own grandmother spoke in her best authoritative tone, “Nonsense, my dear, Ryosuke is a little slow on the uptake, so don’t hold that against him, I’m positive he’d enjoy the time with you! I’m quite sure.”
For his own part Ryosuke’s mouth went dry and he opened and closed it trying to figure out what he was supposed to say, his grandmother continuing, her voice dripping with sweetness, “Why, you’d never turn down an afternoon with a lovely young woman like Yua-chan, would you dear?”
He was glad that Yua-san’s eyes were cast to the floor because there was at least a five second window where he was unable to control his expression of horror and the clear message he sent to his grandmother that they would be speaking about this privately before he cleared his throat, “Of course, I would never do such a thing. An afternoon at the garden sounds delightful, we should certainly do that!”
There, that was all he needed to say, right? Because that would make the grannies happy, but also was so non-committal that they could just continue to brush it off indefinitely.
“Next week would be good,” Ruka announced brightly nodding vigorously, “We’re not having class next week because our instructor has an out of town obligation—and since the two of you would be coming here normally, you can just go to the gardens instead.”
Ryosuke felt the palms of his hands begin to sweat, his eyes fixed on Ruka before they moved slowly to take in Yua-san’s expression of doubt, her hand reaching to embrace her grandmother’s arm, “Baba, I am positive that Yamada-san has someone else he’d prefer to take to the gardens, and you should not bother him with such inquiries!”
At first, he was a little put out about her calling him ‘Yamada-san’ after she’d begun to call him ‘Yama-san’ after he told her he didn’t like her calling him by such a formal name, and she’d finally after a few weeks of pestering begun to use a little less formal name—but now it appeared they were back to ‘Yamada-san’ again. After he’d considered that for a moment, he just felt overall embarrassment, because he hadn’t really dated anyone, ever, as his lifestyle meant that was nearly impossible—not just that, he preferred not having the complication that a girl in his life would create, not just on a professional level. But none of that meant that he didn’t want to date, or wouldn’t be willing to date if the right girl came along.
Plus, he didn’t really like the way her words made him feel in the pit of his stomach, like she wasn’t good enough, or whatever the thread of doubt that was woven through her words, no matter how subtle.
“Don’t be silly, I would be delighted to take you to the gardens, Yua-san,” the words came out with confidence, if not with a bit of extra emphasis on the informality of her name, and they also came out without his permission or tacit approval. It was like a compulsion, and then it was done, his grandmother clapping her hands together in delight.
“It’s a date then,” Ruka had said brightly, winking at Ryosuke as he stared openly in shock at the way she’d said the word ‘date’ before grabbing Yua-san’s arm and dragging her away to prevent her protest or offer an excuse why she couldn’t possibly go, her head turning to glance back at Ryosuke with uncertain eyes before she was drug around the corner, Ruka calling out, “Call the dear and tell her where to meet you Yamada-san!”
After they’d disappeared, he turned to glare at his grandmother, “Jiji!! How could you two be so horrible, that poor girl might not have wanted to do this—and you two just decided to…”
“Ryosuke,” his grandmother smiled, reaching out to touch his face, her voice gentle but firm, “Why would two young, beautiful, talented, entirely too busy to think about their own future kind of people not at least go on a single date? How could it hurt anything?”
“That’s not up to you,’ he’d insisted, “I could have made my mind up and as…”
“You two have been seeing each other nearly every week for a year,” she stated plainly.
Has it been a year? How did time pass that quickly?
“If you were going to, you certainly would have,” she laughed, turning to walk down the hallway, while Ryosuke was dumbstruck staring after her, “We’re not getting any younger, and I don’t have time to wait for you to open your blind eyes. I’d like great grandchildren before I die.”
Ryosuke opened his mouth to protest, after all he has a married sister, and that should be her job, but the look his grandmother leveled at him when she glanced back made him snap his mouth shut, “Don’t you dare say it, there’s nothing wrong with me wanting all three of you to give me one, is there?”
He wanted to protest, because honestly the entire train of thought was so completely off the rails he couldn’t begin to grasp her logic but the she smiled, humming softly before she spoke, “…besides, I’m mostly kidding about the grandchildren—though I think you’d make some beautiful babies,” his cheeks flamed red and he wanted to run away, “but really, Ryosuke, all I want is for you to be happy. I know you’re lonely.”
He couldn’t argue with that. He was lonely, and few people knew him better than the women who were closest to him.
And that was exactly how he ended up in the situation he was in, going on a date with Yua-san at the gardens. He’d at first thought perhaps they would tell their grandmothers that they’d went, and not actually go—but as he had texted with Yua-san, too embarrassed and shy to actually speak to her directly about these plans, she’d seemed genuinely excited to see the gardens and his own enthusiasm slowly grew to match hers.
Three days before their scheduled ‘date’ a sudden realization had hit him—he was approaching this as a real date…not a pretend one, not an inconvenient trick their grandmothers had played on them, not at all. Once he’d realized that, he’d set about making his plans—albeit, very flexible ones to be sure, but plans none the less in case Yua-san also felt like this was a real date.
While he’d admitted to himself that he was approaching this as a real date, it still took him a while to process the fact that he actually wanted this to be a real date. He’d been around hundreds of girls, and he found most of them too childish with the way they would play games, or try too hard, and especially found most of them dull and boring. It wasn’t their fault, well, the game playing thing, sure, but the other? Not their fault—he just had certain expectations, right or wrong, and he wasn’t going to settle for someone that didn’t consistently tickle at the edges of his mind—someone who challenged him to see the world in a different way, and especially someone he felt was his equal. That was all on him of course, as he was the one who was so picky and particular.
Yua-san certainly tickled at the edges of his mind, and more often than not, his body as he’d begun to notice she wasn’t just a girl, but she was a girl. She was smart, creative, witty, and altogether beautiful. He’d somehow along the way of the past year grew to enjoy being in her company, and even more than that, he genuinely looked forward to their weekly meetings. It had become a bright spot in his life, and the realization was what led him to seeing this as a real date, because their grandmothers may have initiated it, but it was something he’d really wanted to do for a while when he finally admitted it to himself.
That said, as he neared the park he found himself growing more and more nervous by the second, plagued with doubts.
This is insane. She is probably not even approaching this the way you are! She’s just doing this to be nice and to make her grandmother happy. Okay, okay, you’ve got everything sorted so you don’t have to make it a date if it’s not, just calm down!
He jumped when his cell phone ring tone sounded, knocking him out of his internal monologue, “What do you want, Chii-chan?”
He really didn’t have time for this. Whatever ‘this’ was, he definitely didn’t have time for it.
“Are you there?”
“What do you want, Chii?”
“I want to know if you’re there, idiot!”
“No, I’m almost there though,” Ryosuke started to hang up, grimacing when Chinen’s voice rose in his ear.
“Don’t you dare hang up on me, Ryo,” he cried out, “I’ll never forgive you—“
Ryosuke took a deep breath, trying to not take his nerves out on others, his words clipped and overly formal, “Okay, Chinen, what can I possibly help you with today?”
“I wanted to tell you to just be yourself,” Chinen was smiling through the phone and whatever irritation Ryosuke had with him melted instantly.
“I don’t know how to be anyone else,” he muttered, turning the corner to see the gates to the park looming up ahead, “…but I’m really, really nervous.”
“Ryo, you’re an amazing guy, not just a pretty face, but kind hearted, warm, and thoughtful,” it felt a little like Chinen was reading from a list, “…you can cook, you clean, you have a great sense of humor, and honestly?”
“Eh?” Ryosuke was a little afraid at this point, any of the members being too nice usually ended with a horrible insult by the end.
“I’d date the hell out of you if I were a girl,” Chinen clearly wasn’t joking and Ryosuke had to laugh at his sincerity.
“Well, thank you Chii-chan,” Ryosuke shook his head lightly at his friend.
“You’re supposed to say you’d date me in return,” Chinen muttered, clearly pouting.
“Oh, don’t worry, I’d…” Ryosuke was poking good fun at him now, “What did you say? ‘Date the hell out of you’ too, Chii.”
“Of course, you would!” Chinen laughed on the other end of the line, “Go have fun, call me the minute you’re done…unless you aren’t done till tomorrow morning—cause I’m sleeping in!”
“I’ll be done this afternoon, you pervert,” Ryosuke laughed, “I’ll let you know how it goes, I promise!”
“Okay, by—“ there was a shuffling sound, something knocking over, and the tell-tale echoing that could only mean that Ryosuke had been on speaker phone the whole time, “Damn it, Keito—“
There were other voices then, and Ryosuke’s voice flared, “What the hell, Chii? Who’s there with you?”
A chorus of hellos rang out in his ear, realizing that Keito, Yutti, Dai-chan, and Yuyan were all there, “What the…you guys are such idiots!”
“We’re rooting for you!” They all chimed in and before he could call them all the horrible names that were swelling up in his throat in response, Chinen called out, “Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do!” and just before they disconnected the call, Dai-chan’s voice was screaming some kind of safe sex reminder before someone else tackled him and his voice was muffled, Yuto’s voice speaking quickly, “Have fun, Yama-chan!”
Then the call ended.
Ryosuke sighed, looking at the blank screen, turning the volume on his phone down and tucking it in his pocket as he entered the park, making his way to the bridge where they’d agreed to meet. He distracted himself from his nerves by watching the fish in the pond swimming in happy patterns in the warm spots the sun was creating. Lost in his own thoughts.
Yua-san had not really known what to expect, and while she’d been harboring some new-found feelings toward Ryosuke for many months, she never intended to act on it, least of all somehow manipulate him into a date—as he’d made it rather clear his number one love was his career. She knew she couldn’t compete with that.
Good intentions or not, everything changed the day their grandmothers had basically set them up on this date, and while she wanted to be mad, the bigger part of her was just excited at the possibilities, even if nothing ever came from it. She’d tried really hard to not get her hopes up, kept reminding herself that Ryosuke wasn’t just any guy, and beside him she felt very inexperienced and mostly like she had nothing to offer him.
She entered the gates to the park, turning both ways to see if she could make out the bridge he’d mentioned, her eyes landing on him standing there, looking out over the water and she wanted to cry.
God, he’s so beautiful.
She glanced down at her outfit, a simple white sweater with her favorite blue and white floral skirt—something she’d finally settled on after practically emptying her entire closet and dresser all over her bedroom floor as she’d tried to find something she felt pretty in. She’d never been so nervous in her whole life—she had been to photo shoots where she had to wear the skimpiest of bikinis and even then, didn’t feel the nervous fear she felt this day.
Maybe there was a lot more at risk today than any other day, whatever it was, she’d finally thrown on something that in retrospect made her feel rather matronly—certainly not a fashionable outfit that made her look like one of the top models in her industry.
She had her coat across her arm as the walk had proven to be longer than she’d expected and it seemed to her that the midday spring sun had raised the temperatures by at least fifteen degrees. She steeled her nerves, taking a deep breath and took the first step toward the bridge where he waited for her.
She was flooded with relief when she realized that he was dressed very casually as well, even wearing tennis shoes, something she didn’t think an idol would even own, let alone wear in public—he had on a simple white shirt, very loose fitting, and black pants with a sweater, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses hanging at the top of his shirt. Nothing special at all that she could see, and her nerves were calmed a bit as she approached him.
Ryosuke was going over the plans one more time in his head, he had several different ones depending on how the mood was and whether it seemed like they were sincerely going on a real date or not. In fact, he’d made sure to set the timing for the date around lunch so that if the day didn’t go the way he’d hoped—then he could easily say he had plans with his Mother. He actually did have plans later that afternoon with her, but he could always exaggerate and say they were earlier than they really were if he needed an escape route.
He’d just noticed motion out of the corner of his eye, turning to see Yua-san walking up the bridge toward him. She nodded to him, tilting her head down, as the tender smile he gave her made all of the butterflies in her tummy spin into a frenzy, a shyness settling over her, and he realized he would have to be the brave one here, stepping forward to greet her, “Yua-sa…” he gulped hard, knowing he wanted to be clear as he could be, without being overtly forward or suggestive, but still wanting her to understand his intentions, “Yua-chan, you look lovely today, thank you for coming!”
She blushed, and imagined it reached to her toes, laughing in her embarrassment at how directly he’d said those words, and especially the shift in his tone, and her name, she smiled an uncertain grin up at him, “You look very handsome today as well, Yama-san.”
“You could just call me Ryosuke?” he suggested, holding his breath.
“Ryosuke,” she whispered, then nodded her head, looking rather small and childlike to him, something that made him smile even more, a protectiveness swelling up inside of him, despite knowing what a strong, independent woman she was.
He knew how she was feeling, caught somewhere between wanting to be where she was and wanting to run away, so he shuffled to stand beside her, gesturing down the other side of the bridge, “The first thing I wanted to show you is the Lotus Pond, it’s just this way…” he reached over to gently place his hand at her elbow as they began to walk forward.
Some of the butterflies that had calmed down swelled back up in her tummy as she felt his hand on her arm, so she took a deep breath, trying to actually look around, finding herself amazed as she took in the beauty of the gardens, “This is…it’s just exquisite!”
“It is beautiful, though, I’ve already seen the most beautiful thing in the park today,” he smiled as the compliment flowed smoothly from his mouth, squeezing her arm gently to ensure she knew what he meant.
Yua-chan turned to look at him, laughing lightly when he winked quickly at her, then studiously ignored her as they got to the bottom of the bridge, so hot and cold, she couldn’t get a firm reading on him. He paused, releasing her arm to put his glasses on quickly, then gestured forward and she couldn’t help but think how cute he was, just a positively normal guy, wearing glasses even.
The next hour passed quickly as he took her to all his favorite spots in the park. The weeping cherry trees, the Nobedan stairs, the rice and iris fields, the wisteria trellis, and all the other beautiful spots that were on the way to the waterfall. Not only had they both lost track of time, they’d actually thoroughly enjoyed their time together, engaging in conversations about the gardens, but also about each other, their childhoods, hobbies, goals, and even their favorite colors. Neither of them had invested much time in people outside of their immediate circles, so it was a wonderful treat to feel so comfortable with someone else.
The possibilities are endless.
The path they’d been walking on loomed up ahead, a split that branched off in two directions. He’d arrived there very early this morning to put his dual plan into place with the help of the park officials who knew him well as he was not only a patron, he was also an investor into the park. They’d given him free reign to put his plans into motion and he’d been thankful for their kindness and help. The sections beyond the split were closed to visitors for the day to ensure they had privacy.
One direction would lead them to the bottom plateau where he’d set up a simple meal, with a table and chairs, close enough to the falls to enjoy the sounds and environment but not get wet from the spray. It was his ‘let’s remain friends’ plan—a simple lunch, a simple goodbye, and then onto their separate lives.
The other direction would lead them up a short winding path, which allowed them to approach the middle spill pool before the falls went over the edge to the bottom—he’d set up what he called his ‘I desperately want you to see how much I like you so I am doing this really extravagant thing to show you’ plan there. It included a hideaway built with a covering to shield them from the midday sun, filled with fluffy blankets and pillows. Set up on the ground next to the falls to eat, with a gourmet meal he’d prepared. One of the staff was supposed to have put all the food out for him when they were nearing one o’clock and they would be approaching the falls.
The closer they got to the split the more nervous Ryosuke became. It was probably unwise to put himself into the position of making such a huge decision based on a few hours of touring a park, but what was done, was done, and now he knew he had to make up his mind.
To be honest with her, or to just go on like we have been.
Go right, to making it clear that he had growing feelings for her, or go left, to be safe and remain friends.
He ran his hands down the front of his shirt nervously, glancing to the side to see Yua-chan watching a butterfly float gracefully in front of them, almost hovering around them as they walked, completely oblivious to his internal battle. They were only a few feet from the branch in the path, and Ryosuke wanted to turn to run back the way they’d come so that he could avoid making such a decision.
He jumped when she spoke, “It appears we have made a fast friend!”
Ryosuke’s eyes were fixed on the butterfly in front of them, beautiful with the black and white pattern in its wings, a glimmer of bright blue appearing here and there, “She’s beautiful,” he gestured to the butterfly.
“He,” she looked at him, smiling, “The male butterfly has the colors—the female is rather plain looking next to him.” She glanced away, feeling a lot like the butterfly represented her next to Ryosuke. Ryosuke noted the way her shoulders dropped, and her face seemed to fall at the direction her thoughts were taking her—though he wasn’t clear on the why of it.
Ryosuke found himself, once again, amazed at how brilliant she was. She knew things that other people overlooked, small details that others never really tried to discover—but she could tell him so many things, about flowers, and life, and yes, butterflies.
She tried to keep a conversation going, as the last few minutes had been spent in easy silence, but she didn’t want it to seem like they’d run out of things to talk about so soon, “My grandmother taught me that to follow a butterfly, well, I mean she says they are actually spirits, and if they’ve visited you and you follow then it will unlock a mystery or solve a problem that you have.”
Ryosuke watched as the butterfly drifted gracefully across the space, then flittered quickly down the right-hand trail, his eyes following, wide and amazed, whispering, “Is that so?”
“Hmm?” Yua-chan turned, having not heard exactly what he’d said, but jerked her head to look down at her hand when he’d reached over to take her own in his and without pause began walking down the trail to the right—the direction the butterfly had gone, as she moved to go with him.
She thought her heart might explode out of her chest.
Yamada Ryosuke, the boy I actually like, is holding my hand. Right now. He’s holding my hand right now!
She wanted to squeal but controlled herself, amazingly, and just gripped his hand in return, as his fingers tightened on hers when they began to climb the path that was leading them up the side of a hill. When they’d reached the top, Ryosuke had stepped up, the incline steep, turning to reach both of his hands down to help her get up the last little bit. She grasped his hands, and he easily pulled her up, her feet shuffling forward, tripping as they hit the ground, falling straight into his solid, unswaying form.
His hands caught her arms as her face landed in his chest, laughing softly as he helped steady her, she kept her face down for a moment trying to not let the embarrassment overwhelm her, leaning back, “I’m sorry!”
He laughed then, finding her flustered state absolutely adorable, “I didn’t mind.”
She nodded, then her eyes drifted past him to see the water falls across the space, and the makeshift canopy, surrounded by baskets and flowers, and everything. He gestured his arm in front of them, and she slowly walked forward, taking in the beauty of the scenery as well as the setting he’d created, the lovely blue and white fabric shading the sun, the quilt covered with all the matching pillows, her skirt billowing out reminding her that these were indeed her favorite colors.
Her eyes drifted to the large wooden platter beside the tent, where there sat a wide assortment of colorful food and drinks, “Ryo-chan,” the name fell naturally from her lips without thought, “What have you done?”
He smiled at the name, shuffling his feet, “I wanted to, well, I guess it’s simple enough to say, this is a date, and this is what I do on a date…not that I’ve had any experience, I guess.”
She looked at him then, her eyes wide, “I find that hard to believe!”
She didn’t wait to be invited to sit, rather, she plopped down on the fluffy quilt that felt like it had layers of padding between it and the ground, laying back on it and stretching her hands at the soft fabrics feel on her skin. Ryosuke thought she looked like a small kitten enjoying the spot of sun on the floor and couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled out. She sat back up, laughing with him as she quickly untied her shoes and set them to the side, She shifted backwards under the canopy, her eyes wide and full of child-like joy as she took in all the details.
Ryosuke smiled, the kind of smile that moved through his entire being, as he knew in that moment he’d done the right thing, made the right choice, and quickly removed his shoes as well, joining her under the canopy.
“Well, I mean, my job…it’s intense, and for a long time we weren’t allowed to date, and then when they changed it, my career had taken off…and well…you know…”
“Hmm,” she nodded in agreement, looking at his warm eyes with understanding, “I do, quite.”
She seemed flustered then, “I mean, of course, nothing to the extent that you experienced with Johnny’s and the whole idol thing of course, nothing quite like that, but there’s that whole thing with appearances and things…I just never really felt like I could deal with the scrutiny—so I avoided relationships for the most part.”
“I see,” he nodded, his mind drifting to some of the articles he’d read about her which mentioned relationships, wondering what that meant when it differed from what she was saying. In the end, he was too curious to not ask, “I’d seen some information about relationships in some articles, I thought…”
“Oh,” she waved her hand in the air, “the set-ups—my management company thought it would make me seem more ‘accessible’ if I would have some relationships—after all, apparently, it’s supposed to be me fulfilling every man’s fantasies, right?”
He thought this topic might make her bitter, but her tone was still conversational—he felt like he should at least acknowledge the truth of what she had been though, what all women like her faced, “I think it’s wrong how women in our industry are made to pander to an audience that completely disregards their humanity…”
She stared at him, and he seemed to know what she was thinking, “I’ll admit, I have some of that in my line of work…I don’t know if you…”
“I’ve watched some of your performances, I was actually thinking we’re not much different. Most male celebrities aren’t treated the way idols are—the expectations are different I guess.”
“I have never had to do something I didn’t agree to,” he defended, though he didn’t know why, “I understand who I am to the public, and I don’t mind playing that role so long as I can be who I really am when not on the stage or in the public eye.”
She smiled, “I feel the same way, most girls like me really carry a resentment with them, you know? I mean, I don’t necessarily like it, but I’m at least honest about the fact that I have my body to thank for getting me to where I am today—for the most part, it would have been impossible without compromising that way—which means I didn’t have a choice, but now I do, and I am thankful for that. I try to use it to help younger women have the same power and control over their futures that I do.”
“That’s amazing,” he smiled, meaning it, “It’s good that you are working to make positive changes.”
“I’ve read enough about you to know you’re up to the same in your side of the business,” she mentioned, glancing past him to watch the water ripple to the shore.
“I do what I can, but we’re an entity of its own to be honest, Johnny’s doesn’t answer to anyone, everyone answers to them,” he smiled, turning to watch the water with her, “I do what I can though, with the power I have.”
“It’s good to be able to talk to someone who understands,” he turned at the tone of sincerity in her voice, looking at her intently, her smile twinkling brightly at him, “Thank you.”
“No, thank you, it’s really nice to say these things out loud,” he smiled at her, glancing just beyond her, “Are you hungry?” he asked gesturing to the platter, food having been forgotten in the discussion they’d been having.
“Honestly,” she smiled, looking longingly toward it, “I’m famished.”
He’d filled her plate with everything there was to be had—a thick cut of the baguette he’d baked earlier that morning, spread with a thick coat of his spiced biltong butter, a scoop of toasted red quinoa, a serving of brightly colored steamed summer vegetables with toasted almond flakes on top, his smoked trout potato salad made with cream cheese and his special blend of herbs, a mini quiche, one of his salmon and minted cucumber wraps, a sesame crusted chicken strip, an assortment of shaved meats and torn mozzarella, and one of the small caprese jar salads.
They’d eaten, more than either of them imagined they could, and he was quite thankful she wasn’t one of those girls who refused to eat in front of a guy—rather, she’d eaten nearly as much as he had. They’d found themselves laying back on the pile of pillows next to each other, Ryosuke had moved the canopy away once the hottest part of the day had passed so they were able to look up at the blue sky filled with puffy white clouds.
He’d shifted up to cover the food after a little while, lamenting, “I made too much of everything, didn’t I?”
“Wait, what?” she bolted up, looking at the container he was closing, “You made all that?”
He nodded, not daring to look at her, as it wasn’t uncommon for people to think it was strange for a man to be so interested in cooking, “I have been taught to cook since I was very small. I really enjoy it.”
He shrugged, tucking the last container back in the basket before turning to see what she was thinking.
She was openly staring at him, eyes wide, “Ryo-chan, I thought you’d purchased all of it from a gourmet restaurant! I can’t believe you made that! It was absolutely amazing! I want the recipes, especially the one for that!”
She pointed to the strawberry watermelon lemonade that was almost empty, gushing, “That has to be the best I’ve ever had in my life!”
He blushed, shaking his head, “Thank you, it was no—“
“Don’t you dare say nothing!” she laughed, reaching over to playfully punch him in the arm, “You’re an idol, a movie star, and I know many other responsibilities pull you in all directions—I can’t begin to imagine how you did all of this—but it most certainly wasn’t nothing.”
“It was nothing compared to what I wanted to do,” he mused, then startled at his own honesty, “I mean…I just..It’s..”
“Ryosuke,” she leaned forward and down to catch his eyes, her voice soft and soothing, “It’s okay, I feel the same way.”
He nodded, shifting to lay back down on the pillows, too embarrassed to continue to be openly transparent in front of her, but she didn’t move, she just stared at him, her eyes drifting over him slowly as he seemed fixated on the clouds above them.
His eyes moved from the sky to her face, a disarming smile appearing as his hand shot out to grab hers, pulling her down beside him, laughing lightly, “Stop staring at me like that, it makes me feel weird.”
“I’d think you’d be used to being stared at like that, being an idol and all,” she laughed back, turning to look at the sky.
“It’s not something I have ever adjusted to, I think somehow I will always be that insecure, uncertain ten-year-old boy,” he mumbled, shifting on his side to face her, his eyes taking in her soft form and smooth skin, “Do you feel that way or are you as confident as you seem to be?”
She laughed, a deep belly laugh, turning to look at him, “I’m certainly not confident, not at all…I guess I am just driven to succeed. If someone says I can’t, then I will die proving to them I can.”
“That’s pretty much the same for me,” he murmured, “You know, I have to tell you the truth, I didn’t know who you were when we met. I just thought you were a stunningly gorgeous woman who I was blessed enough to get to talk to once a week.”
She shifted, turning a bit toward him so she could see him better, a bubble of laughter filling the air at his words, “Then I will be honest and tell you, I knew who you were but only through your movies, I didn’t know about your group. I was quite shocked that the shy, non-imposing young man I knew for all that time was a hot, in demand idol!”
He smiled, shaking his head lightly, then raised his eyebrows up and down, “Hot, huh?”
“Oh, shut up!” she laughed, laying onto her back again.
His eyes widened, as he reached up to remove his glasses when the butterfly drifted above them, flittering this way and that before moving to land on the handle of the basket next to them. Ryosuke stared at it as its wings opened and closed slowly, the shimmering blue color moving in strange patterns as he tried to memorize it in his mind’s eye.
The butterfly certainly had answered his question, hadn’t it?
Time seemed to fly by quickly as they approached the three o’clock hour. Ryosuke reluctantly glanced to his watch, “It’s nearly three, and I am supposed to meet my Mother to help her move some furniture.”
She understood nodding, as he reached behind him into one of the baskets, “I almost forgot, I have a gift for you.”
“What?!” she sat up quickly, huffing, “I don’t have anything for you!”
He smiled when he turned around, something hidden in his hands, as he grinned at her, “You’re the gift, Yua-chan.”
“Oh, my gosh,” she laughed, shaking her head lightly, “How do you know to say these things? It’s just too much!”
He grinned brightly, shrugging, “I just told the truth, that’s all.”
“Well, I don’t know about me being the gift, but I…” she murmured, before he interrupted her, his eyes holding hers as he spoke bluntly, “You are the gift, it’s okay if you don’t know it yet, but you should know, I don’t say things I don’t mean.”
She felt like she could cry at those words, but it would be insane and he’d probably run away afraid of what he’d gotten himself into, but it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to her. She took a deep breath, nodding, and whispering, “Thank you.”
He smiled that make your toes curl grin he had a penchant of doing that caused her heart to skip a beat, and then her eyes widened when he moved his hands in front of her and opened them to reveal a glass orb that seemed to have some plants in it. He held it forward for her to take, and she gently picked it up into her own hands, lifting it to look inside of it, finding some plants and a tiny little scene with a hut and a little Totoro figure inside of it.
“How…how did you know Totoro was my favor—“ she stopped, glancing up at him and then shaking her head, “Baba told you didn’t she?”
He didn’t try to deny it, nodding his head, as he patted the bedding they were laying on, “And that you loved the color blue and in particularly blue flowers.”
“And strawberry lemonade, too, I’ll bet,” she mused, tilting her head toward the pitcher, laughing, “I’ll have to have a talk with her about giving all of my secrets away,” she took a deep breath, gesturing to the small terrarium, “Thank you, this is beautiful.”
“They’re air plants, I’ll send you instructions on how to care for it—but I figured you were a lot like me and didn’t have the time or schedule to facilitate growing things,” he tapped the glass, “I made this with the best kind of plants that won’t require a lot of attention and will stay alive no matter what.”
“I love it!” she couldn’t curb her enthusiasm, it seemed as if he’d thought of everything.
“I had certain hopes about today, just how it might be, and I guess I really wanted you to have something to remember today,” he shrugged, feeling exposed as he spoke the words, “I didn’t want you to forget easily.”
“I could never forget this.”
He looked down, suddenly feeling very shy, but pushing through it, “I really like you Yua-chan.”
“I really like you too, Ryosuke,” she reached over to squeeze his hand gently, “I’d stay here all day with you, but we both have obligations,” smiling at him before she stood up, knowing one of the two of them had to give in and get them moving. She stretched, squeaking as she yawned, the sun soft and warm on her skin, and then gesturing for him to get up so they could clean the mess up.
Ryosuke stared at her, not sure he’d ever seen anyone as altogether beautifully attractive, and at the same time utterly preciously cute and adorable, “You’re breathtaking.”
She rolled her eyes, completely dismissing him as she picked up her shoes, and he couldn’t help but log away the thought that he’d need to make sure she knew that to be true, because clearly no one had ever told her that before. He intended to see to it she knew It as a matter of fact, not conjecture.
They’d made their way out of the park once he’d convinced her he’d paid the employees a generous sum of money to clean up after them, reluctantly leaving the little piece of the world that seemed to be a quiet, safe place for two of them. They’d made it to the sidewalk outside the park, their trek through the winding paths far less animated and joyful as the one through it to begin with, neither particularly happy that their time together was coming to an end.
“Can I see you again?” He blurted out, unable to wait another second to ensure this wasn’t a one-time deal, turning to face her, still holding her hand in his.
“If you didn’t ask, I was going to,” she smiled, her expression excited, “How about tomorrow?”
They both laughed then, their enthusiasm for one another quite clear, “I’ll call you later and we’ll figure something out!”
His eyes were drawn to his watch again, “I shouldn’t have made plans…”
“I did the same thing,” she murmured, smiling when his eyes shot to hers, “just in case this went badly!”
They both nodded, laughing at how things had turned out in the end, “Thank you for a wonderful lunch and tour through the park, Ryo-chan.”
She leaned forward to place a quick, chaste kiss on his cheek before releasing his hand and quickly turning to walk away.
“You’re welcome,” he whispered, knowing she wouldn’t hear it, dumbstruck as his hand touched the cheek where she’d kissed him. He watched her walking away, her slight form swaying like there was a melody only she could hear, the white and blue skirt flowing softly around her legs as the wind blew gently.
He reluctantly turned to walk away, moving only a few steps when he just couldn’t walk away like that, the need to just get one more look at her a compulsion swelling up inside of him so that he might choke on it if he didn’t seal away one more magical memory. He stopped moving, twisting around, hoping to get one last glance of her figure as she left, a smile blossoming across his face as he realized she had stopped walking and was turned back to look at him.
Their eyes met for a moment, a play of shyness sweeping over them before the black and white butterfly, fluttering sweeps of blue flashing through the air between them caused them to laugh, and when their eyes reconnected—a delicate swirl of emotions and truth were shared in an exchange in which spoken words were no longer required.
I already miss you.
I already miss you, too.