our coming of age (has come and gone)
part one: confessions
our coming of age has come and gone
suddenly this summer, it’s clear
The rainy season in Tokyo came to a close and with it followed the heavy, humidity soaked days that seemed to stretch on forever. It was almost like time was suspended - the thick air weighing down the hands of a clock until hours lasted days and days lasted weeks.
It always made Hikari tired, summer did.
While it might have been the weather, it was more likely it was the lingering weight of the responsibility on her shoulders that brought on this exhaustion. Perhaps when she was younger — much younger — the summer time held a sense of wonder and excitement, but a childhood fraught with the trauma of saving the world didn’t colour August with the happiest memories.
No matter the reason, Hikari yawned, drawing her knees up to her chest. She felt pleasantly buzzed, the third peach Horoyoi Takeru had brought her starting to hit. She rested her cheek on her knee and closed her eyes.
Seated beside her on the curb outside of Daisuke’s apartment, Miyako pulled out a cigarette.
“Daisuke’s parties always get so out of control,” she muttered, as she fumbled in her purse for a lighter. “So obnoxious.”
Beside her, Ken grimaced. “Miyako, don’t smoke,” he chided. “You know I hate it when you smoke.”
Placing the cigarette in her mouth, Miyako sighed, bringing the lighter to its end. “I know, I know, I’m sorry,” she mumbled, flickering the wheel to spark a flame, “I know you hate it but I’m drunk. And irritable. I can’t help that I smoke when I’m drunk and irritable. You know that.”
Rolling his eyes, Ken leaned back on his hands. “Let me rephrase then: you know I hate it when you smoke when you’re drunk.”
Letting out a stream of smoke, Miyako turned to her boyfriend, annoyed. “I wouldn’t be out here smoking if Daisuke hadn’t turned a small get together into the party of the century,” she hissed, “that apartment is way too tiny and the walls are way too thin; someone is going to complain.”
Turning to face her friends, Hikari knew Miyako wasn’t wrong. Daisuke’s parties did tend to get out of control; while he promised small, intimate gatherings, they never came to fruition because everyone knew that wasn’t ever what he really had in mind. You went to Yamato and Sora’s if you wanted small, intimate gatherings. You went to Daisuke’s if you wanted to get liquored up and loud with your greatest friends.
What else would cramming nearly twelve people into Daisuke’s shoebox apartment mean?
And Daisuke’s parties did get loud. Historically, a neighbor had always complained and one time, the police even turned up, causing Daisuke to turn as white as a sheet. While they had debated amongst their friend group whether that would be the end of his shindigs, only a month passed before he had them over again. Statiscally, Miyako was right; chances were, someone would complain tonight, especially given how rowdy it was getting.
Last she had seen, Taichi and Yamato were out on the balcony, in their own cloud of smoke and discussing deep, life issues, like their burdensome fate or Digimon-Human relations, as they were prone to do when talking too much. Music blasting in the background, Takeru, Mimi, Jyou, and Daisuke were seated cross legged in a circle, loudly debating about who had more of an impact on Japanese pop culture; Eiichiro Oda or Hikaru Utada.
Sora, Koushiro, and Iori, the most reserved and responsible of the group, had opted out entirely.
Hikari had come to the party with Takeru, as she always did, not only because he often paid for her alcohol at the conbini on the way over, but also because she went everywhere with Takeru. She hadn’t really seen him since arriving, their arms laden with bags full of beer and chuhai, as often happened at parties, the pair of them splitting off before coming back together at the end of the night.
She had spent some time mingling before heading out to the balcony, trying to follow Taichi and Yamato’s conversation, before her head started to feel heavy, the alcohol settling in and the fatigue wafting over her. She had downed too much too fast, forgetting that she hadn’t really eaten much during the day. Needless to say, when Miyako had poked Hikari in the arm and asked if she wanted to get some air with her and Ken, she had quickly agreed.
“Do you ever think,” Miyako mused, her elbow propped up on her knee, “that we’re wasting the best years of our lives?”
“What do you mean?” Ken asked, shifting towards her.
Miyako waved her hand, smoke fluttering everywhere. “I mean are we wasting our twenties by spending every few weekends getting drunk at Daisuke’s,” she took another drag of her cigarette. “Shouldn’t we be doing something more exciting? Travelling or exploring or something?”
“We travel,” Hikari responded, sitting up. She stretched her legs out in front of her. “We were just in Okinawa a couple of weeks ago.”
“Plus,” Ken brought a hand up and stroked Miyako’s long, lavender hair, “one might argue that our youth was largely wasted on some heavy subject matter. So, maybe now is for resting.”
Frowning, Miyako kept her gaze fixed on the ground. “Maybe. But it still feels like there should be more though, don’t you think?”
A silence settled over the trio, all parties unsure of how to respond. There was some truth to what Miyako was saying; after saving the world so many times, day to day life sometimes felt mundane. This was it? That was all that was left?
It was all part of the lingering trauma, the heavy baggage they all carried around. It manifested in different ways; for Ken, it was a deep sense of guilt that still plagued him years later, breeding an intense loyalty. For Miyako, it was an insecurity that she had never done quite enough - that there was always something missing. It’s why she had spent so much of university travelling and studying abroad, chasing new feelings and experiences.
For Hikari, it was something else entirely. But she tried not to think about it.
“I think,” Ken leaned forward and dropped a kiss to the top of Miyako’s head, “that it’s late and you’re drunk. We should probably head home.”
Miyako let out a deep breath, stubbing out her cigarette beside her. “You’re probably right,” she said, her voice sounding small and sad. She slid an arm around his waist, resting her weight on him. “I’m very drunk, you know.”
Ken laughed, wrapping his arms around her as he stood, pulling Miyako with him. “Trust me, I know.” He turned to Hikari and smiled. “Did you want to get going as well? You can take the train with us; you seem tired.”
As if on cue, Hikari yawned, and they laughed. She shook her head. “No, I think I’ll stick around for a bit,” she brushed off the back of her legs as she stood. “I should probably go check on Takeru, though. He’s probably had a few more since we’ve been outside and I should make him drink some water.”
“What a nice wife you are,” Miyako slurred, leaning over and bopping Hikari on the nose. “Making sure hubby isn’t too wasted.”
Hikari rolled her eyes, bumping her hip against Miyako’s as they began to walk back towards the apartment. “You’re kind of a mean drunk, has anyone ever told you that?”
Miyako’s face crumbled. “Yes!” she whined, “why do people say that?”
The three friends bickered as they made their way back up to Daisuke’s apartment, snipping and giggling (and crying a little bit, if you were Miyako) in the elevator. Stepping out into the hall, the sounds of their friends boomed off of the walls. Hikari winced.
Someone was definitely going to complain. This went against many building rules - if not some by laws. How Daisuke hadn’t been evicted was a wonder to everyone.
“God, it’s so loud,” Hikari said, biting her lip, walking down the hall.
“I told you!” Miyako said, bounding up in front of her. “Just let me tear into Daisuke!”
As they approached the door, Daisuke’s drunken slur boomed behind it, the paper thin walls doing nothing to contain or hide anything he was saying.
“Oy, Takeru —” he all but yelled, “when are you going to fess up?”
A beat passed. “Fess up about what?” Takeru asked cooly, his voice echoing, though not as loud.
The trio paused. They knew the tone of voice both Takeru and Daisuke had taken on. Daisuke, aggressive and accusatory, Takeru, defensive and irritated. They exchanged a glance, nervously.
Unlike Taichi and Yamato, who had spent their formative years squabbling their way into a deep, familial friendship, Takeru and Daisuke had never really found common ground. They were too different, but not different enough to balance each other out the way Taichi and Yamato had. While they were civil and had established mutual respect between them, they were far from close, both finding the other obnoxious and self-absorbed. As a result, arguments still bubbled up, especially with the aid of alcohol.
“Fuck,” Miyako said under her breath. “I do not want to deal with them fighting. I will definitely cry. Maybe we should just leave.”
“My coat is in there,” Ken whispered, sighing heavily.
Miyako pursed her lips. “Can you get it later? Tell Daisuke to bring it by tomorrow?”
Ken shook his head. “My Suica card is in the pocket.”
Hikari rolled her eyes. While arguments between Takeru and Daisuke were never pleasant, it wasn’t the end of the world. “Let’s just go in,” she said, stepping in between the couple. “I’ll break it up.”
Placing her hand on the doorknob, Hikari heard Daisuke’s voice respond.
“When are you gonna stop pretending that you’re not into Hikari-chan, huh?” Daisuke said. “It’s been years. Give it up.”
Hikar’s hand stiffened. She felt her heart pick up speed and her body get hot.
“You are absolutely obsessed with Hikari-chan,” Daisuke continued behind the door, “you’ve been obsessed with her as long as I have known you. Are you really going to deny it?”
“You sure you’re not talking about yourself?” Takeru responded, his voice still measured and cool, but an edge had settled onto it.
Hikari bit her lip hard; the conversation was taking a turn she didn’t feel comfortable listening to, but even less comfortable breaking up. She glanced over her shoulder at her friends, twin concerned expressions playing on their faces.
“Don’t go in,” Miyako mouth, waving her arms. “Just give them a moment.”
Nodding, Hikari withdrew her hand, jumping at the sound of Daisuke’s loud laugh.
“Please, Takeru, that’s long over,” he explained, “but not for you, am I right?”
“You guys probably shouldn’t be having this conversation,” Jyou’s calm voice interjected. “At least not this loudly; Taichi-san will hear you.”
“Taichi and Yamato are out there probably agreeing to name their first born child after each other,” Daisuke responded, still loudly, “they aren’t listening. Besides, they know anyway. We all know.”
“Know what?” Takeru asked, his voice sounding hard.
“Know that you have feelings for Hikari,” Daisuke exclaimed, “we all know! Don’t we, Mimi-chan? Jyou-senpai?”
Mimi chucked awkwardly, her soft voice entering the conversation. “Well, I wouldn’t say we all know, just that we have a strong suspicio—”
“Oh, please,” Daisuke scoffed. “We all know, is what Mimi-chan means to say. She’s just too nice. We all know you’re head over heels for Hikari-chan.”
The conversation behind the door grew quiet, but it felt thick with tension, even on the other side. HIkari swallowed.
“Okay, now, let’s go inside now,” Miyako prodded with a hush, poking Hikari in the back. “Now is the perfect time.”
“You’re right,” Ken whispered, stepping behind his girlfriend. “We’ll be able to break it up before Takeru gets mad at Daisuke for spouting nonsense.”
Hikari nodded, placing her hand back on the doorknob, before pausing again when Takeru began to speak.
“I’m not really pretending,” Takeru’s voice sounded, clear and calm. “So you can stop yelling at me that I’m trying to hide something, Daisuke. Especially if you claim you all know anyway.”
Daisuke let out a whoop. “So you admit it? You admit you have feelings for Hikari-chan?”
“Of course I have feelings for Hikari-chan,” Takeru said, his voice losing the hard edge it had earlier. “Of course I do. But I’m not going to do anything about it.”
“Why not?” Mimi asked, sounding confused. “If you have feelings for her, why not tell her?”
“Self-preservation,” Takeru responded. “It’s easier this way, for both of us.”
“Ahh,” Jyou drawled, “good course of action. Dodge rejection before you can be rejected. Mimi-kun, you wouldn’t understand this.”
Mimi guffawed. “Of course I understand rejection! I’ve been rejected!” she insisted, “and I can say from first hand experience that it is worth it to ask someone out and be rejected. It builds character!”
“Who has rejected you, Mimi-chan?” Daisuke asked, a loud slurping following.
“Taichi-san, years ago,” Mimi said quickly. “And it sucked, but I got through it! So, Takeru-kun, I say go for it! Flirt with Hikari-chan a bit! See what happens?”
At this, Takeru laughed loudly. “First off, you’re still in love with Taichi-san. Secondly, I’ve been flirting with Hikari-chan for years and she never notices. And if she does, she’s not interested in commenting on it. So it’s easier to leave it at that.”
As Mimi began loudly protesting, Hikari felt hot and flushed, unable to open the door. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing; Takeru had feelings for her? And he was openly admitting it to their friends at one of Daisuke’s parties?
Was she really drunk? Was this a dream?
“OK, I’m going inside,” Ken hissed, stepping forward, “we’re eavesdropping on our friends. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Ah, but it was just getting good!” Miyako whined. “Ken, why are you so noble?”
Ken pulled open the door. “Miyako, not now—” Hikari stepped forward, pressing her hand to the door.
“Wait!” she whispered, cutting him off. “Just wait.
Ken turned back to her, confused. “What is it?”
A lump had formed in Hikari’s throat and when she swallowed, it hurt. Exhaustion was settling over her. “Can we pretend that didn’t just happen? That we didn’t hear anything?”
Furrowing his brows, Ken frowned. “Well, I wasn’t going to admit that we were standing out here listening…”
“I know, but,” Hikari looked between him and Miyako, feeling frazzled. They both looked so calm; of course they were — their lives hadn’t just been accidentally turned upside down. “Let’s just never speak of it again. Keep it between us. Forget it ever happened.”
Stepping behind her, Miyako pressed a hand to Hikari’s arm. “Are you okay? I know that was a lot. Do you—”
“I’m fine,” Hikari said quickly, shooting her friend a smile. “I just...don’t want to talk about it. Ever. So can we pretend that that just didn’t happen?”
Ken and Miyako exchanged a glance, a wordless conversation travelling between them. Something about it made Hikari feel annoyed. She knew the type of closeness that came with speaking without words.
She had the same thing with Takeru. The thought of it made her bristle. It never had before.
“Of course, Hikari,” Miyako said with a nod. “Of course.”
“Thank you,” Hikari swallowed again.
Stepping into the apartment, they were met with the gazes of the four friends sitting in the living room. Takeru’s eyes met Hikari’s.
She looked away.
“Oy! What the hell were you doing out there with the door open?” Daisuke asked, raising his beer in their direction. “Do you want my neighbors to complain?”
“Miyako felt like she might throw up,” Ken bluffed, always a faster thinker.
Daisuke balked. “So you thought it would be OK to see if she was going to throw up in the hallway ? Come inside to the bathroom! You must really want my neighbors to complain.”
Ken sighed, picking up his jacket off the back of a barstool in the kitchen. “She felt dizzy and was trying to catch her breath.”
Mimi shot up, running over, looking concerned. “Oh, no, Miyako-chan!” she cried, hands flying to her friend’s face. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Miyako laughed, playing along. “We’re going to go home now. I’m just going to run to the bathroom.”
“Don’t throw up in there!” Daisuke called after her as the door to the toilet room clicked shut. “I don’t want to clean up your vomit!”
As Mimi and Jyou began chastising him and Ken suddenly looked like he wanted a cigarette, Takeru stood up and came over to Hikari. He shot her a lopsided smile.
Her heart pounded. It looked different now.
“You okay?” he asked, his hands coming up to rub her upper arms comfortingly. “Your face is kind of red.”
Hikari nodded. “I’m fine,” she said. His touch was making her feel dizzy. “I think I just drank a bit too much.”
Takeru grinned. “By my count, you’ve only had three, and you’re not a lightweight.”
Despite herself, Hikari felt herself smiling back. “I didn’t eat much today. So it hit me harder.” She stepped out of his grasp. “I think I’m going to head home.”
“Oh,” Takeru frowned. “OK. Let me get my stuff.”
“No, no, it’s okay!” she said quickly. “Stay and enjoy yourself. I’m going to go with Ken-san and Miyako.”
Takeru quirked a brow. “But we always go home together.”
“And I don’t usually get wasted off of three cans of Horoyoi,” Hikari said with a smile. “I don’t want to ruin the night for you. So just stay, OK? I’ll be fine with Ken-san and Miyako.”
Rubbing the back of his neck, Takeru nodded. “OK, if you’re sure. But call me when you get home? I’ll worry if you don’t.”
The dizzy feeling came back at his words. Hikari nodded. “I will.”
x x x
Fifteen minutes later, she, Ken, and Miyako made their way down the street.
“I want another cigarette,” Miyako sighed, “it’s been a long night.”
“You know you can’t walk and smoke,” Ken scolded as he draped his jacket over her shoulders. “You’ll feel better tomorrow if you don’t anyway.”
Miyako sighed. “You’re right,” she conceded. Sliding up to Hikari, she laced her fingers with hers and squeezed.
“You okay, Hikari?”
Hikari squeezed back. “Of course,” she replied. “I’m fine.”
x x x
Lying in bed that night, Hikari raised her left hand above her head and stared at it, bending her pinkie.
She swallowed. Her throat still felt tight.
The folklore behind the red thread of fate depicts a belief that an invisible string is tied to your pinkie and connected to the one you were supposed to be with. It was a romantic notion, one that suggests that there is truly someone out there for everyone; you just have to find them.
That seemed impossible. With billions of people in the world, what were the odds that you would find that other person? Maybe they lived in a different country, speaking a different language, or living a completely different way of life. The chances were so slim, so miniscule, that it seemed foolish to hope for such a thing.
Despite this, Hikari knew that she had found her other half. She had found it at eight years old, in Takeru. She didn’t need evidence; she just knew.
But she had evidence. Everything about their existence was proof that they were, for lack of a better word, made for each other. Fate had not only brought them together under extreme circumstances, but it also appeared to have gone out of its way to craft the perfect companion for each other.
He was Hope and she was Light. The powers that kept everything balanced. One couldn’t exist without the other. Didn’t that say enough? No one else in their group of chosen children had corresponding crests.
(Don’t even get her started on their Digimon; a truth that she would never admit was that she was surprised when Miyako turned out to be her Jogress partner. She hadn’t considered that it would be anyone other than Takeru.)
How could she not think that if there was a red thread attached to her pinkie, that the end of it led to him? She had spent too many years listening to the words of the universe and everything was telling her that what she knew was true, even if invisible strings weren’t involved.
She hated it.
She had already had her fate laid out for her at such a young age. So much of her life was already predetermined. For even the love of her life to be hand selected for her, without her input?
It felt like too much.
It was easier until a few hours ago. It was easier for her to live with this knowledge for herself and to decide that it was all OK because Takeru didn’t feel the same way. That perhaps, even if there was a string leading her to him, there was another on his other pinkie, leading to someone else. That maybe, this was one aspect of her life that hadn’t gone according to plan.
But now she knew; now she knew how Takeru felt and it was exhilarating and alarming and soul crushing all at once. What was she supposed to do with this information? For so long, she had been content with how things were; she, steadfast and comfortable with her knowledge, and he, oblivious and destined for someone other than her.
Bringing her hand back down, Hikari rested it on her forehead and let out a choked breath.
She hadn’t expected requited love to hurt this much.
Or at all, really.