I’m glad I met Hatori!
I’m happy I’m in love with Hatori…
Sohma Kana is getting married in a week. She is, she decides, the very luckiest girl in the world. Her beloved Shibue is exactly the opposite of the man she has always dreamed of marrying, she thinks with a wry smile, but then isn’t that the way of life? To be ironic to the last?
At the moment, she is hurrying through the busy town streets, going to buy more flowers and ribbon from the local craft store – they’d gone through four rolls already! – her thoughts are scattered wildly, mentally going through her most recent to-do list. Let’s see, she thinks, Mayu-chan’s picking up the bridesmaid’s dresses, and mother’s got the catering covered...
She’s so intent on her thoughts that she doesn’t notice that the pavement slabs are uneven and nearly trips, but a strong hand grabs her left arm and saves her from a nasty fall. Wind momentarily knocked out of her, she turns to thank her rescuer. Her brown eyes widen in surprise. She stares, unblinkingly at the man and breathes “H-hatori-san?” She hasn’t seen her former employer in over two years.
Hatori, as she has always privately, if inappropriately, referred to him in her thoughts, looks just the same as he did on the day he impersonally accepted her resignation. His hair is overly long though, and Kana has to resist the sudden, surprising urge to brush it out of his eyes. She hopes she is not blushing. After all, she once had an unrequited crush on this man. She knows she is. Shibue or no Shibue, this is still the handsomest man of her acquaintance.
She pulls herself together, glad he cannot hear her inner monologue. She smiles at him, “How are you? I don’t think I’ve seen you since I’ve come back from Tokyo. I hope the clinic is doing well.”
He is, as always, curt. “It is.” There’s an awkward silence between the two of them. She wishes that he would, for once, open up and really talk to her. But he’s never done that; he’s never been anything but purely professional. With a start, she realizes that he’s still hanging on to her arm, but he removes his hand in the next instant. In the same polite tone one uses to inquire the time, he asks “I hear that you are getting married soon? My congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Kana hears herself saying, a little dazed. Hatori is turning to leave, his long overcoat swirling gently behind him. “Wait,” she cries, catching onto his sleeve, “It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you, Hatori-san! Won’t you have coffee with me? There’s a little café just around the corner. Please?” She doesn’t know why she doesn’t want him to leave just yet; after all, they aren’t really friends. But she also feels that if she lets him leave now, she will never see him again. Something in her rebels at that thought.
He pauses in midstep to look at her; trying to think of a polite way to refuse. “Please” Kana whispers, surprised at the urgency in her voice. She thinks he is surprised at himself too, because he nods once, slowly. Yes.
Something akin to joy threatens to bubble inside her. “It’s just this way,” she points “Not far at all.” She has to take two steps to match one of his, but even so, they fall into a steady rhythm. He doesn’t say anything, but then neither does she. She is surprised that the silence is a comfortable one, given the situation. A woman who is about to get married to another man, and her old crush. But then, the crush had always been one-sided. He’d never loved her.
And after awhile, she had gotten over him, and given her love to another.
They arrive at Le Fin Café, a place where Kana has always patronized. It’s a cozy place, with tall chairs and small tables. The waiter comes to seat them. “Dr. Sohma!” he exclaims “So long since we’ve seen you here with Kana-san! You should come by more often!” Kana stares at the man. “Hatori-san? Here with me?” She’s never been to this café with Hatori. Never. She would remember something like this. It used to be a daydream of hers, to go out for a coffee-date with Hatori. But the waiter looks so certain that she falters and looks at the man behind her. “We’ve never been here, have we?”
His face is impassive. “No,” he turns to face the waiter “You must have gotten me mixed up with someone else”. The waiter doesn’t look too convinced, but in the face of two denials, has no choice to lead them to a table.
It’s the corner table; the one near the glass case with all their cakes. The skeptical waiter asks for their order. “Two cups of coffee, mine with cream and sugar, and his black,” she hears herself say automatically, “And two slices of dark forest cake”. It’s Hatori’s favourite cake and he drinks his coffee black. She recalls this with absolute certainty.
She wonders how she can remember something she never knew.
The waiter leaves with their order, so turns to face Hatori seated directly across from her. “You like that cake, right?” She’s feels a little uncertain now. She shouldn’t have ordered for both of them like that. But she really hadn’t meant to. It’d just felt like habit somehow.
“Yes.” His voice is unexpectedly soft.
“Oh. Good” she finishes lamely. They are both silent again, but this time, the silence is ripe and feels laden. Kana shifts uncomfortably in her seat. She’s successfully badgered her old boss into a cup of coffee with her, and now she can’t think of a thing to say. She falls back on the topic that’s been at the forefront of her mind for the past couple months. After all, everyone likes to hear about weddings, right?
“The wedding’s going to be next week. At the church on tenth. You got an invitation right?” She knows he did. Their family is sprawling, with an insane number of branches, but she made sure that Sohma Hatori got invited. She’s not close to many members of her family, living outside the main house, but Hatori was a good, if distant, boss.
“I did. Though I am unable to attend.” His voice is now clipped and formal.
“Really?” She tries to keep the disappointment out of her voice, but knows she hasn’t succeeded. She’s always been too open and easy to read. Not like him. His eyes have never given away anything.
Dragon eyes. The thought springs to her mind, unbidden. She scolds herself for indulging in childish similes.
He offers no explanation as to why he won’t be coming. “I’m sorry,” he says simply. Some emotion flickers in his pale eyes, but it’s too fast and strange for her to read. “Tell me about your fiancé” he asks.
Kana smiles at him, her face lighting up. Shibue is her favourite topic these days. She can, and has, talked about him for hours on end. “I have a picture,” she offers, taking it out of her wallet, and handing it over. It’s a picture of both of them. Springtime in Tokyo, where they met. Shibue is standing to her left, his arm carelessly around her waist. He’s barely an inch taller than her, with blond hair and glasses. Certainly not tall, dark and handsome like she used to dream of. She loves him anyway. In the end, dreams can’t weather harsh reality.
“He’s a dentist. I work in his office now. So all that training you gave me is being put to use!” She flashes him another grin, hoping he’ll be pleased at the compliment. His expression remains wooden, as he passes back the photograph. She tries another tactic, “Maybe you two would like to meet? After all, you’re both in the health profession…”
“I’m fully booked for the next couple weeks.” He hesitates, “Do you….are you happy with him?”
It’s a strange question. Kana thinks she ought to feel a little offended at his presumption. She isn’t though. The question is almost natural and the answer feels owed. So she replies it as truthfully as she can.
“Yes,” she says softly, “I’m happy with him. I love him. Very much. Like I’ve never loved anyone.” She feels almost shy.
He nods then, a slight incline of the head. And finally, for the first time that afternoon, smiles. It’s a wistful smile, but a smile nevertheless. “I’m glad,” he says, “for both of you.”
The coffee comes then, along with their cake. She’s glad of the interruption. The mood has turned almost melancholy, and she doesn’t understand why. She should feel deliciously happy. After all, she is marrying the love of her life in a week.
They finish their coffee and cake quickly and silently. Kana suddenly wants to be far, far away from this place, away from reserved doctors and feelings she doesn’t comprehend.
Hatori walks her outside the café, and after murmuring his good wishes, turns to leave her. “Hatori,” she suddenly calls, too agitated at the moment to notice that she’s forgotten the honorific, “I’m…I’m sorry”. She doesn’t know if she’s sorry that he won’t be able to come, or for taking up his time this afternoon. So she leaves the reason unsaid. An apology in general.
It sounds thin to even to her own ears.
But Hatori nods at her, seemingly not noticing her confusion. “Goodbye” he says. It sounds so very final. He walks away then. Tall and solitary, down the street and out of her life.
Kana suddenly realizes she’s crying. She doesn’t know why. For no reason at all, she feels like her heart is breaking.
I’m sorry... I couldn’t protect you.
~Kana to Hatori, before her memory was erased