It started drizzling halfway through the journey back home. We drove in silence; her last words replaying in my ears. She had a daughter – what the hell? Who would have thought such a thing would have happened? I had an affair with a married woman – well, I didn’t know that she had a husband yet it still bothered me too much. A phantom image of an unknown Japanese girl started surfacing in my head.
All of a sudden, I was riddled with guilt – it felt as if I had betrayed the kid and her father.
Ritsuko pulled over then, just near the entrance to my apartment. Getting out of the car as swiftly as I can without letting the rain get in, I glanced back at her as I stood holding the passenger door open a tiny crack. “Thank you for sending me home. Please drive safely,” I said hurriedly before shutting the door close.
As I circled the back of her car and made my way to the entrance, she called my name. Stopping in my tracks, I turned back in time to see her dashing in the steadily increasing downpour towards me.
“Can I come upstairs?” she asked.
‘Of course you can’t!’ my mind exclaimed but my lips remained quiet.
“Why?” I asked. “I mean, I don’t want you to get caught out since the rain is getting heavier. Plus shouldn’t you get back to your daughter before it turns completely dark out there?”
“Oh, she’ll be fine. She’ll be having dinner with my mum at this time. So, can I?” she added the last words with a hopeful lift of her voice.
I wanted some time alone; I was really exhausted with the day’s work. Yet having her stand in front of me with that puppy look on her face was too much even for me. Sighing, I motioned her to follow me as I made my way into the elevator. She was fidgety beside me, moving her weight from one foot to the other. I wondered what she was thinking; what went on in that mind of hers.
Getting off on the 7th floor, I was greeted by my neighbours, who were making their way into the elevator. Ritsuko stood there and watched silently as I ruffled my neighbour’s son’s hair – I could feel her eyes staring intently behind me. Introducing her to my neighbours, I managed to shake off her gaze yet I knew that somehow this was just the beginning.
Something about her behaviour was off.
Unlocking the door to my house, I allowed her to step in before me. The 1LDK space that the company had provided for me was quite spacious for my liking – it reminded me of the studio apartments that we had back in Malaysia. While the concept was almost similar, the Japanese design was of course much more minimalistic and organised.
When I first stepped in a few days ago, I wanted to ask if I could get a smaller place because the apartment felt too big for me to be living there alone. So why did it feel small and cramped now that she was here?
Ritsuko was busy studying the space; I could almost see her mind compartmentalising my unit. I suddenly remembered the meeting I had with Akagi after lunchtime this afternoon and the pointers he gave me on how to deal with Ritsuko. Apparently she was an enigma to her colleagues too.
I wonder if he knew about her backstory; wait a minute, why did it matter to me?
“What are you thinking?” Ritsuko asked, breaking my thought process all of a sudden.
“I was just thinking about the meeting I had with Akagi-san this afternoon.”
“Oh, have you decided on the script?” she asked as she made herself comfortable on the couch. I lifted my brows at her but decided to ignore her actions. I wanted to have at least a peaceful night.
“Well, we’ve already decided on the storyline before I moved here. If things go well, we’re planning to make it into a trilogy. I have some research to do still but I think I’ll be able to work on the storyline and character’s dialogues in a couple of days,” I said as I made my way into the kitchen to brew a pot of tea.
“What’s it about?”
I smiled wryly at her. “How about I tell you after I’ve completed the story?”
“What’s wrong with telling it now?” she pouted. Damn, why must she look so cute? “We were supposed to discuss it together after all.”
“Of course, but as Akagi-san said, I still need time to settle down. I have certain things to do first – basic things like setting up a local bank account, mapping out places that serve halal food and finding a place to rent. If I start a discussion about it, I’ll be too hooked up in it to pay attention to anything else and you’d probably influence my story if you start picking them apart – most people do that to me.”
She seemed surprise with my excuse. Just then, the kettle began to boil.
“Do you like writing that much?” she asked me while I began pulling out the tea bags from the drawer. Pouring milk into the teapot, I stirred slowly as I contemplated her question.
“I wouldn’t say I liked writing that much. It’s more like writing is a drug that courses within me. Once I have a dose of it, I’d want more of it. I’d keep returning back to it regardless what’s going on elsewhere; which is why I prefer to write or talk about it when everything else has been taken care of.”
I could see that she didn’t understand where I was going with what I was saying but she was probably too polite to inquire further. Carrying the mugs as I walked away from the kitchen counter, I handed over one to her as I sat opposite of her.
“What are you going to have for dinner later?” she asked.
“I’m planning to run down to the 7 Eleven nearby and grab some bread.”
“Just bread alone? Would that be enough? You should have said earlier; we could have grabbed dinner together.”
I made sure she saw my hesitation clearly. “After what I’ve found out, I don’t feel like going anywhere with you.”
Understanding perfectly what I was referring to, she let out a loud sigh.
“Look, I know what I said back then; I was only looking for a one-night stand. Honestly, I was back then – but my wants changed after spending the night with you.”
“I somehow find it hard to believe that now.”
“You’ve got it all wrong.”
“Please explain to me how did I have it wrong and in what way?”
“I’m … a widow. My husband passed away.”
“My husband’s dead!” she snapped at me, surprising me with her sudden burst of temper. “I’m a widow. When you slept with me, you were sleeping with a single woman. You weren’t helping me commit adultery, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Ah, I see. That’s good then.”
Sipping my tea, I slipped on the mask of calm and composed, almost emotionless being. I watched her as I said those words, wondering how she would react.
I was sure she’d explode.
She didn’t disappoint.
“That’s good? That’s all you’re saying? I could see how disturbed you were when you thought that you had aided me in committing adultery and now all you have to say to me is ‘that’s good then’? Are you serious?”
“I didn’t want to be caught in an extra-marital affair so since you’ve cleared it up, I don’t have anything to worry about. That’s all that matters to me.”
“Aren’t you wondering why I followed you back home?” she asked, putting down her cup of tea.
I didn’t like where this is going. Of course I was wondering why she followed me but I wasn’t going to admit that.
“No, not really. It doesn’t matter to me, to be honest. I’m just being polite as you’re a colleague and you’re obviously senior than me in both position and age. Since I’ll be working with you, I don’t want to create any bad blood.”
She got up from her seat just then and approached me.
“What if I told you I want to create something between us; something more …. intimate than bad blood?”
“Like I said, it doesn’t matter to me; I just don’t care.”
“Then I suppose I have to make you care.”
She stood in front of me then, putting one knee beside my thighs as she leaned in. I knew what she was up to but as if in a trance, I was locked in her gaze. Her lips met mine softly, almost in a breathless whisper; the tenderness she showed me just a day ago came crawling back into my mind.
I have always been a sucker for kisses for it usually set the mood for me. If the kiss was awful, I wouldn’t even think about going further up the base. As if knowing my weakness, she came into me, falling deeper into the kiss as she hitched herself up onto the couch, both of her knees on each sides of me, effectively keeping me in place between her legs. Her arms slowly made its home around my neck.
The kiss was soft and tender; she was slowly drawing me in. Her scent surrounded me; I was a slave to the citrus and lemongrass whiff that always seemed to follow around her. Intoxicated, I allowed myself to be lost in her, letting her guide me with her lips and tongue.
She broke the kiss softly with her arms still wrapped around me. Leaning back a little, she studied me.
“I want more, Akhila – I wouldn’t have left the other day if I knew you were staying. I would have taken my sweet time with you.”
“You were after a one-night stand. You made that perfectly clear, so why?” I asked, not trusting her words even though the truth behind them was clear to be seen in her eyes.
“I was, but the way you changed in bed, the way you simply took over me was … I can’t put it in words but I’m convinced that there’s more to you than what you’ve shown me.”
“I’m not interested in having sex with you again, or anything else for the matter. I’m not interested in bisexuals,” I added the end words quickly, aiming it such as to sting her.
My aim seem to have missed widely. “Oh, I know. It doesn’t matter to you – as you have just repeated such a few times minutes ago – I think I’ve shown you what I intend to do to change your mind. I’m not going to back away easily, more so when I know I’ll be seeing you often, which means I’ll have more opportunity to do what I want.”
Laughing, I settle back a little, making myself comfortable despite her still hovering and enveloping me.
“You intend to force yourself on me?” I asked.
“Not at all; I wouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t want me to do – the kiss wouldn’t have happened if you had pushed me away, you know? You’ve proven your strength over me just two nights ago.”
I had no comeback to what she had just said. It was true; I could have pushed her away anytime, but I didn’t. My curiosity got the better of me then.
“There’ll be no repeat performances after this,” I vowed.
She only smiled at me as she eased away from me, standing up and straightening her clothes. “We’ll see about that,” she said as she walked over to the door and let herself out; her half-drunk tea still warm on the coffee-table.