What was it about an armful of groceries that made it become heavier and heavier the farther a person walked?
Whatever it was, Hokuto felt like her arms were going to fall off by the time she reached her front door. She put the down the brown paper bag briefly to fetch her key from her bag, and then let herself into the apartment. She was cutting things a little close today, but that really couldn't be helped, could it? After all, Subaru-kun had a hot date with Sei-chan and she'd had to make sure that he looked his best.
It was, she had to admit, one of the best outfits she'd designed to date. The dark shirt showcased his lovely clear skin and the red of the jacket really set off the green in his eyes. And the hat... well, there were few outfits that weren't made better with a hat. The look on Sei-chan's face when he'd come to pick Subaru-kun up from his apartment had been priceless.
There was no way Sei-chan was going to be able to resist her wonderfully, gorgeously, irresistibly cute little brother.
She chuckled to herself as she shuffled into her slippers and took the bag of groceries directly to the island, setting it down and quickly putting things away. She grabbed two bowls from the pantry and dumped a bag of chips into one, and rice crackers and peanuts into the other. Homemade snacks would have been much better, but concessions had to be made. There simply wasn't enough time for anything else!
Hokuto was just placing the two bowls on the kotatsu when the doorbell rang.
"Come in!" she called.
Feeling a flutter in her chest as the heavy metal door opened with a creak, Hokuto decided that it was official -- Mondays were her new favorite day of the week.
"Forgive the intrusion," a light voice called from the entryway.
"Marina-chan," Hokuto scolded as her girlfriend peered around the wall of the entryway, "I told you that you don't need to be so formal!"
Because she was in school six days a week and Marina's work schedule was so busy, they didn't get to see each other often. Their Monday TV dates were something Hokuto looked forward to all week. And Marina, as usual, was gorgeous today. Even in casual clothes with her hair tied back and only the slightest hint of makeup, she was much more elegant and refined than Hokuto could ever think about being.
It was a good thing that Hokuto was perfectly happy with what the universe had chosen to bestow upon her, because if she weren't, she might just be jealous. And it was much better to be able to appreciate her girlfriend's elegance and exotic charm without something as troublesome as jealousy coming into play. Hokuto simply didn't have time for things like that; she had enough to deal with as it was.
The dreams that she'd been keeping to herself were getting worse, and the sense of unease she'd been carrying around for months was beginning to coalesce into something that was becoming very urgent.
But tonight was Monday and Marina was here and Hokuto had decided that for a couple of hours, she wasn't going to worry about a single thing. There was nothing she could do right now, and therefore it didn't do a lick of good for her to dwell on things she couldn't change.
"As always, Marina-chan ... perfect timing." Hokuto flopped on the couch and patted the cushion next to her. "I just got home!"
"Did you have to stay late today?" Marina asked as she crossed the room and -- much to Hokuto's disappointment -- sat on the opposite side of the couch.
"No, but I did have to help Subaru-kun get ready for his hot-hot date with Sei-chan," Hokuto said, scootching over. Because really, there was no sense in waiting for her to come over if Marina was feeling shy today. They only had one evening a week together and Hokuto wanted to make the most of it!
"Ah, how are things going with that?" Marina asked, smiling.
"Well, Subaru-kun is still being adorably dense," Hokuto sighed, shaking her head. "And Sei-chan is a paragon of patience, as always." She snaked her fingers in between Marina's, running her own thumb along the fine, delicate line of Marina's.
"Really?" By the expression on her face, Marina seemed somewhat suspicious of that last part.
"He's certainly still giving the appearance of it." Hokuto sighed and shook her head. "I swear, I don't know what to do with the two of them..."
"Well, I suppose when it comes down to it, there's nothing you really can do, right?" She squeezed Hokuto's hand. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen."
It was a very Marina thing to say.
"Do you believe in that?" Hokuto asked suddenly, turning to face her fully and taking Marina's other hand in hers. "Do you think something can be 'meant to be'?"
"Like fate?" Marina asked, cocking her head in what really was the most adorable way.
"Fate, destiny ... whatever."
"Hmm..." Marina closed her eyes for a second, her dark lashes resting against her pale skin. "To be honest, I don't really know about much that sort of thing ... but sometimes I hear about things that seem much too perfect to be coincidence."
"Oh?" Now this was something Hokuto was curious about!
"Like old high school friends randomly meeting each other on the river in Paris, for example."
"TV dramas don't count, silly!" She let go of one of Marina's hands to playfully poke her in the chest.
"No!" Marina protested, eyes wide. "That actually happened!"
"No it didn't!" Hokuto laughed. "That's something straight out of a shoujo manga ... 'a coincidence that cannot be denied' or something," she added, dramatically placing her hand to her cheek and widening her eyes in what was most certainly a terrible imitation of a typical shoujo heroine.
"I promise, it really happened -- it was one of my customers!" Marina's face was totally serious. "He ended up marrying her!"
"Then why on earth does he go to a cabaret club?" Hokuto blurted.
Because really ... if destiny actually was a thing that existed -- and she was fairly sure it was -- if it existed and brought those two people together in such a wonderful, romantic way ... why would it then bring them to a place where the man would pay for the company of women?
It didn't make an ounce of sense.
"I feel bad for him," Marina explained. "He always comes with the president of his company ... I don't think he has a choice..."
Well, that made more sense.
Hokuto nodded in commiseration. "Such is the life of a salaryman, I suppose ... always scrambling to please the boss, even after hours."
She supposed there were some things not even destiny could prevent.
"And then ..." Marina continued, "Well ... then there's us..." Her voice trailed off as she looked away.
"Yeah ..." A faint blush made its way across Marina's face. "The police ... you coming to my rescue ..."
"Oooh, the two of us as destined lovers?" Hokuto liked the sound of that.
And now that she thought about it, the whole thing really had been a wonderfully dramatic coincidence, hadn't it.
"Oh yes - that was definitely something out of a shoujo manga." Hokuto laughed.
"I know I've said this a thousand times," Marina said, "but, thank you. I can't begin to express how much I appreciate your help..."
Hokuto pressed her finger to Marina's mouth, cutting off whatever she might have been planning to say next. "And I've told you a thousand times that no thanks are necessary."
And suddenly Marina was leaning forward, brushing the finger away and pressing her lips against Hokuto's.
They'd kissed before, of course, but Hokuto was caught off-guard because Marina was usually impossibly shy about this kind of thing. Hokuto didn't mind being the enthusiastic one, but this was, in fact, the first time Marina had ever initiated anything at all.
And it was wonderful.
She sighed into Marina's mouth, enjoying the slow infusion of warmth that spread through her body at the caress of her lips and the feel of long, silken hair between her fingers. It somehow eased that nagging sense of not-right that she'd been carrying deep inside for many months.
After a moment, Hokuto pulled back, smiling as she tucked Marina's hair behind her ear and cupped her cheek. "Do you want to skip the show?"
Marina's eyes widened. "No!" she replied -- an automatic response that made Hokuto laugh out loud.
"I feel like I should be insulted," Hokuto lamented, sinking back into the soft cushions of the sofa. "Being set aside for a television program."
"But it's Tokyo Love Story!" Marina exclaimed, her eyes still adorably wide.
And despite Hokuto's disappointment, Marina was making an excellent point. They were only three episodes into Tokyo Love Story, but Hokuto was convinced that it was going to be the best drama of the decade.This was saying quite a lot, considering the decade had just begun-but Hokuto was absolutely sure it would be the case!
"Fine," she jokingly huffed. "But I'm going to expect you to take responsibility later."
"Absolutely." Marina leaned in and kissed her again, quickly. "It's a promise."