Kaito Takhi paused outside of the jewelry store before he went inside to look at the different displays of engagement rings. He was convinced that Tamiko was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. They met two years ago at a mutual friend’s house party and immediately hit it off. She was stunning and he enjoyed getting to know her better. He asked her to have dinner with him and they went to his favorite restaurant the following evening.
After that first date, they began dating. She was the first girl he had taken home to meet his family. Yes, things were serious between them and he was going to ask her to marry her. All he had to do was find the ring. He glanced at his watch. It was a quarter to six. He had until half-past six to browse before meeting Hana and her friend, Sally for dinner.
Sally Johnson was in Tokyo for the weekend. She was staying with her friend and former university classmate, Hana. On Sunday evening she would take the 47 minute train ride back to Yokohama and to her position as Early Years teacher at Horizon Japan International School.
After graduating from University, she decided to spend the summer in Japan. She stayed with Hana in Tokyo. They took day trips to other parts of Japan. They spent the weekend in Kamakura where Hana’s parents lived. Sally met Hana’s younger brother and sister. They all spoke very good English and it was Hana’s father who suggested that she took a job teaching English in Japan for a year. They taught her basic Japanese. When she returned to New York, she enrolled in a Japanese language program. At the end of the year, she applied for a teaching position in Yokohama and got it.
She has been here in Yokohama for two months and was still getting used to the people, the place and the culture. On the weekends, she visited Hana and they hung out in the city. Tonight, they were going to meet Kaito, her older brother for dinner. Sally was looking forward to meeting him. Hana had recently posted photos of the two of them on her Facebook page and Sally couldn’t get over how good-looking he was. She realized that it was foolish of her to be into a guy she hadn’t even met and who had a girlfriend.
“Earth to Sally.” Hana’s voice broke into her thoughts, startling her. The taxi had stopped and she realized that they had reached the restaurant where they were meeting Kaito.
“Sorry,” she mumbled before getting out of the taxi and stepping onto the sidewalk. It was a beautiful, balmy evening. The sun had set but the area where they were was ablaze with lights. She could see the faces of the people walking by very clearly. It was then she spotted him.
Hana saw him too and she waved. “There’s Kaito,” she announced unnecessarily. And started to head toward him. Sally followed her.
As they approached, she saw him look first at Hana and then at her. By the time they reached him, she was very nervous and her heart was beating really fast. He was even more good-looking in person. He looked first at Hana who hugged him and then at her. Over Hana’s head, their eyes locked. It was as if time stood still and there were just the two of them. Everyone and everything faded into obscurity.
And then, Hana was pulling her forward until she was standing right in front of him. “Kaito, this is my very good friend, Sally. Sally, this is my brother, Kaito.”
Kaito held out his hand first, his eyes riveted to her upturned face. “Hello, Sally,” he said in English.
She took his hand and felt a jolt of electricity pass through her, rendering her breathless. “Hello, Kaito,” she managed to say. “It’s good to finally meet you.”
His eyebrows arched. “You speak Japanese?” He sounded surprised and impressed.
Before she could answer, Hana chimed in. “Yes, she does. She took classes in New York and we’ve been teaching her while she was here last summer. She’s teaching English in Yokohama.”
Kaito hadn’t taken his eyes off her. “How do you like teaching in Yokohama?” he asked in Japanese.
“I like it very much. Yokohama is amazing.”
“Did you get a chance to see the Sparkling Fireworks Show?”
“Yes, I did and it was—”
“Guys, can we continue this conversation inside?” Hana interrupted in English. “I’m starving.”
They went into the restaurant and as they walked to their table, Sally was aware of the attention she in particular drew. She was used to the locals staring at her, an African American woman. Kaito sat opposite her and Hana beside him. It was a nice, cozy place giving one the impression that they were dining in someone’s home. She liked that their server described each dish as he prepared it right in front of them at the counter.
Over mouthwatering Kobe Beef and Chateaubriand steak and sushi chased down with Sake drinks, they talked. Sally learned that Kaito was a Risk Analyst at an investment firm. He helped businesses to determine the amount of financial risks that involved concerning investments and operational costs. She could tell from the way he spoke that he loved his job and Hana mentioned that it was one of the top ten highest paying jobs.
Throughout dinner, they exchanged glances. There was no doubt that they were attracted to each other but she kept reminding herself that he had a girlfriend. Hana didn’t seem to notice anything but Sally couldn’t be sure. She had to be careful not to give herself away. After tonight, there was no guarantee that she would see Kaito again. And in less than a year they would be worlds apart.
“You mentioned that your teaching assignment is a year long. After it is finished, I guess you will be returning to America?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“She can always come to Japan for the summer or maybe I will go to New York instead. I haven’t been there since I moved back to Toyko. Maybe you can come with me, Kaito and you can bring Tamiko. How is she, by the way?”
Kaito lowered his eyes. “Tamiko is fine.”
Hana was about to say something when her cell rang. She flipped it out. “Hello?” A big smile spread on her face and she announced, “It’s Riku.” Riku was her boyfriend. Excuse me.” She left the table, talking animatedly in Japanese.
Silence settled over the table following her departure. Sally could feel Kaito’s eyes on her and she raised hers. For several minutes they just sat there, trying not to stare at each other and then he spoke in that low, cultured voice of his. “You did not seem surprised when Hana mentioned Tamiko.”
“Hana had already told me about her.”
“Tamiko has always wanted to go to America. I too would like to see it.”
“You’ll like it. New York especially.”
“Yes, I would like to see New York, especially.” His eyes held hers captive when he said that.
She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. “There’s a lot to see,” she muttered breathlessly.
“Is there a man in your life?” he asked quietly. He held his breath as he waited for her answer.
She shook her head. “No, there isn’t.” Did she detect a look of relief on his face?
Kaito expelled his breath. “Good, because I want to see you again,” he admitted.
“You can’t,” she protested. “What about Tamiko?”
Before he could reply, Hana returned to the table and sat down. “Riku wants to take me out,” she said. “He’s going to be here in ten minutes. Kaito, do you mind taking Sally back to my place?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t mind.” He looked at Sally who was looking at Hana and thinking, I’m afraid to be alone with your brother because of what can happen between us…
“Thanks, Kaiko. Don’t wait up for me, Sally. I’ll be coming in very late.”
Kaiko paid for dinner, brushing aside their objections and they left the restaurant. After waiting with Hana until Riku arrived, Sally and he walked to his sleek black Jaguar which was parked a little way from the restaurant. After holding the door for her to get in, he walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in behind the wheel. She strapped herself in as the engine roared to life and they pulled away from the curb.
“I have a confession to make,” he said. “Before I met Hana and you for dinner, I was in a jewelry shop looking at engagement rings.”
Sally turned so that he couldn’t see the disappointed expression on her face. “So, you’re going to marry Tamiko.”
“I was seriously considering it and that’s why I went to shop for a ring but I didn’t see any that I liked. I was going to continue looking next week but after meeting you, I’m not sure about a lot of things anymore.”
“Do-do you love Tamiko?”
“I thought I did but after meeting you, I’m not sure.”
“Kaito, I don’t want to get involved with a man who’s already in a relationship with someone else and isn’t sure how he feels about her.”
“You’re right, Sally. I got carried away by my attraction for you. I put you in a very awkward position and I am sorry.”
“I–I just don’t want to get hurt.”
“The last thing I want to do is to hurt you or Tamiko.”
“I hope you figure out what you want.”
For the rest of the ride, they spoke about other things and then he was walking her to the door. Using Hana’s spare key, she opened it. She turned to face him. “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did,” she said.
His eyes darkened. “Then, I had better leave now. Goodnight, Sally.”
“Goodnight, Kaito.” She turned and went inside, closing the door quietly behind her.
Kaito walked away, his mind spinning, his heart racing and his body aching. I’m attracted to her in ways I can’t explain. The feelings she stirs in me are the kind you read about in novels. What am I going to do about her and Tamiko? All the way back to his place, he tried to figure out what he was going to do. He cared for Tamiko but he never felt that spark with her. When he met Sally, there were fireworks. Even now, he got butterflies in his stomach just thinking about her. He wanted to see her again so badly he could almost taste it but she wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and rightly so, until he figured out what he wanted. Somebody was going to wind up getting hurt and he hated himself for that.
He decided that he needed to get away and go to some place where he could think clearly. He booked a flight to Okinawa where he spent two weeks at a luxury beach hotel. Early in the mornings, just before the sun rose, he went swimming and then for long walks along the beach afterwards. He thought about how surprised and disappointed Tamiko sounded when he told her about this trip. Most likely she wanted to come with him but he explained that he had a lot on his mind and needed to be alone for a while. They spoke on the phone every other day.
In the evenings he ate dinner and then went up to his room afterwards. He sat on the terrace with a panoramic view of the sea thinking about Sally. He wondered what she was doing at that moment. Was she thinking about him? Did she want to see him as much as he wanted to see her? He remembered what she said before they parted company. “I would invite you in but I’m afraid of what would happen if I did.” He knew only too well that if he had stayed, he would have lost his head…
He closed his eyes as he tried to imagine what it would be like to make love to her and he sucked in his breath sharply when raging desire surged through his body. Agitated, he sprang to his feet and walked over to the rail, gripping it until his knuckles gleamed whitely in the twilight. He had a decision to make and soon.
Sally was in her room trying to read but she was distracted. She couldn’t stop thinking about Kaito. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face, his eyes, his lips…Frustrated, she closed the novel and got up. She walked over to the window and leaned against it, looking out. Several weeks had passed since the night they met. She wondered where he was and what he was doing. Was he thinking about her?
She would never forget the look in his eyes when she told him why she couldn’t invite him in when he dropped her off at Hana’s apartment. They were ablaze with the same passion that stirred inside her. She knew that if he had stayed they would have ended up making love and she wouldn’t have forgiven herself afterwards. He had a girlfriend and until he sorted out whether or not he still wanted to be with her, she had to stay away from him. It was hard, though. She wanted so much to see him again. It was all she could think about. It was a good thing that she didn’t have his number or she would have been tempted to call him.
Sighing heavily, she turned away from the window just as she heard a knock on the door. Wondering who it could be, she quickly went to find out. When she opened the door and saw Kaito standing there, her heart leapt. For several minutes they just stared at each other. His eyes were restless on her face and hers eagerly drank in the sight of him. “Hello,” she finally said in Japanese.
“Hello,” he replied. And then in English he said, “I had to see you.”
“Come in,” she said, stepping aside so that he could enter. After closing the door, she turned to face him, her heart racing. “How are you?”
“Much better now that I’m here with you,” he said quietly. He couldn’t stop staring at her and he ached to touch her. “Sally, ever since we met, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.
“What about Tamiko?”
“That’s why I’m here. It’s over between us. After I returned from Okinawa, I went to see her. I felt awful, especially when she began to cry. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt her but I couldn’t help the way I felt about you. Before I went away, she sensed that there was a change in my behavior towards her but she didn’t suspect that there was another woman until I told her. I’m glad that nothing happened between you and me before I ended my relationship with her. It would have been unforgivable.”
“Yes, it would have been.” She felt sorry for Tamiko because she knew that if she were in her shoes, it would take a very long time for her to get over Kaito. “Are you hungry? We can grab something to eat and then go to Yamashita Park.”
He shook his head. “No, I would rather stay here.” He reached out and pulled her into his arms, his eyes smoldering as they met hers briefly before dropping to her lips which parted. Groaning, he bent his head and kissed her. She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back. The kisses became very passionate, their breathing harsh and heavy and soon they were tearing at each other’s clothes, anxious to be rid of them and to feel flesh against flesh. In a matter of minutes, they were under the sheets, making love as the bed creaked in protest.
Hours later, they got dressed and had dinner at a restaurant near Yamashita Park, the seaside park with its long walkway which connected Yokohama’s best attractions. Afterwards, they went for a walk in the park, holding hands. It was late when he walked her back to her place and before they parted company, they made plans to see each other the following evening.
Sally stood on the Osanbashi Pier watching the Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks. They were spectacular. Kaito joined her and she smiled as he handed her the ice-cream. It had been ages since she had one. Her engagement ring glinted in the lights that blazed in the sky. She laughed when she saw that the pink ice-cream was in the shape of an elephant. Kaito put his arm around her waist and she leaned against him as they watched the fireworks.