The hardest thing was saying goodbye for the first time.
Mitsuha grips the strap of his bag and Taki keeps a steadying hand on her waist, holding onto the handhold for both of them. They don’t speak; quietly swaying with the train and enduring the cramped quarters of the morning commute like everybody else.
Vivid memories of everything they’d shared over the weekend can’t quite quell the rising anxiety when the voiceover announces that they're approaching Yotsuya station. What if we forget again? If it dissolves like a dream all over?
He should get off and change to the Chuo line, to make the commute to Tokyo station quicker, but he tightens his fingers on her waist and rests his chin on her head when she swallows and grips him closer convulsively.
“Hey. I’ve got an idea,” he says softly.
So many years of study, of research and labs and practice. And on Monday, she’ll be scrubbing in as a surgical resident.
“Dr. Miyamizu has excellent suture technique, with an almost instinctive grasp of suture materials and knotting techniques. She will make a wonderful addition to any surgical program, but her passion for cardiovascular work reflects in her outstanding record.”
Those lines from her supervisor's letter of recommendation make her tear up with gratitude every time she recalls them, so she takes a deep breath as she gazes unseeing out the train window. Maybe she’ll pick up something from depachika for dinner to celebrate after she buys the thank you gift. She can afford to splurge today.
After all, it’s not so often that dreams come true.
She’ll reflect later on how apt those thoughts were in that moment just before they were finally moving in parallel, face to face.
The next trains will be along shortly, so he hurries to pull a marker out of his bag.
“Here. In case I lose my phone, or the data gets wiped again somehow.”
He reaches out for her hand and she shakes her head hopelessly.
“I have to scrub before surgery. I’d have to wash it off,” she says, and her eyes sting at the thought of purposely erasing his memory.
He blinks with dismay before he smiles and offers his palm. “Well, nobody will notice if a junior architect has ink on his hands. Full name, please. And your number. You know what they say about second chances.”
Not to waste them.
She laughs and swipes away her tears impatiently before she complies like some high school student with a crush instead of a fully grown woman.
As she writes, she's heartened by the sight of her braided cord around his wrist. And she has an idea of her own.
She smiles and hands him back the marker before folding up her T-shirt sleeve. “I only have to scrub up to my elbows.”
He beams. “See? We’ll always find a way.”
He has no idea why he immediately seizes on the idea of going to a café, or why she instantly agrees, two complete strangers suddenly deciding to go for a drink instead of completing their original errands. They quickly discover that they both live in Western Tokyo. Maybe they’ve passed each other at some station or convenience store, but it feels like there has to be more than just casual recognition here.
Neither of them can explain why they’re both feeling such relief and joy, why hearing about each other’s successes over the past few years brings such pride and delight, if not clarity about all the emotion.
Different backgrounds, different interests, different career paths, plus he’s three years her junior. But how they know each other remains a mystery that they don’t manage to solve despite talking easily for a couple of hours.
And it somehow doesn’t feel like enough to exchange only email and LINE contacts, although it makes tears threaten again when she traces her fingers over the name on his business card. Tachibana Taki. But they both eventually have to heed the notifications popping up on their phones, and they make their way back to the station.
They’re crossing the skybridge when the wind gusts and her hair flutters into her face, and he reaches out to brush it back with a pang of guilt. He has no idea what had possessed him to ask for the braided cord out of her hair, which reminded him so much of one he'd used as a good luck charm for years before he'd lost it somehow. She'd been pleased to give it to him, and even helped tie it around his wrist. “A Square knot,” she’d explained, “easiest and most reliable for tying most kinds of threads, even surgical sutures.”
Maybe it’s because the sky is bleeding into romantic watercolor shades behind them. Maybe it’s because being with her still feels like something out of a dream. But he leans down to kiss her and curses his own brash impulsiveness for only a second before she sighs and opens her mouth against his.
When they part hesitantly and swallow, it’s like a flashbulb of memory going off.
They both gasp and regard each other with sudden understanding. Neither of them can help the tears that well up all over again.
Both Chuo and Sobu lines are scheduled to depart at the same time, and they end up having to say goodbye quickly before Taki has to rush to catch his train.
She looks for him through the windows without much hope- the Rapid is always crammed to the brim. A shorter ride to the destination, but one harder to endure.
Both trains jerk into motion, and she steadies herself against the window. And smiles when she sees his open palm against the window, her name staring back like a beacon, even if the rest of him is obscured by the crowd.
His train soon speeds up and she loses sight of his hand. But she glances down at the name written on her arm and feels a rush of warmth over the reminder.
This time is no dream.
She has to remember, hold every moment close- make a diary entry. Yes, that’s what she’ll-
Her phone buzzes with notifications even as she’s reaching for it, and she cups her hand over her mouth as she laughs softly, feeling her heart squeeze.
LINE (Taki T.)
Forgot to add
LINE (Taki T.)
I love you.
She immediately taps out a reply:
I love you, too.
It’s as if the rest of the world just falls away for the rest of the weekend. Leaving each other is simply unthinkable.
So they don’t.
Not that the world doesn’t prod them a little. They both have to text friends to cancel plans and make excuses, and there are awkward conversations with family over missed dinners and safety concerns.
But the need to weave together the dividing years and space, to restring the bond between them is far more important.
There’s something extraordinary about sharing something as ordinary as meals, conversation and just being able to hold hands when they remember how far they’d come to do just that.
The best part though, is waking up together, warm and loved and tangled in each other’s limbs.
She stirs when she feels him sleepily cup her breasts in his hands.
“Pervert,” she mumbles.
His hands jerk lower to squeeze her close. “Sorry."
She cuddles back against him and smiles.
“No. It feels good.”
He snorts with laughter. "I know."
She laughs too.