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You catch yourself looking at your partner, and sometimes you catch his nephew looking at you.

 


 

Narukami delivers you lunches and dinners, supposedly homemade and supposedly delicious, but you wouldn’t know; they all go into the trash. When you ask him why, Narukami smiles blandly and says he just wants to know you better. It’s almost nauseating to see how transparent he is. Could he be any more stupid, falling for you of all people?

He calls you “Adachi-san,” your name heavy and loving in his mouth, and this grates on your nerves like nothing else. Some part of you thinks he should just cut the crap and call you Tohru, seeing how he already acts like he’s your fucking wife. You do your best to ignore that part.

 


 

It’s ridiculous; while his nephew chases after you, you’re trying to catch Dojima’s attention any way you can. Back in the city, being a good worker hadn’t worked, and in Inaba, being a bad worker isn’t working either. You give him lukewarm coffee, and he invites you over to review old case files. He gives you his old tie and nothing comes of it. Dojima simply doesn’t give a damn about you or anyone else in this town, always running in circles over a dead wife. It’s clear you have no chance with him; spitting in his coffee is the closest you’ll ever get to intimacy.

On the street, you see Dojima with another man, Taro Namatame, and they’re walking together, shoulders almost brushing. Dojima’s laughing, happier than he’s ever been with you. The look he gives to Namatame is one you’ve seen on yourself and on Narukami. Hot coffee runs down your hand, and you don’t feel your skin blistering. Dojima doesn’t get his coffee, and you bandage the burns in your room, alone.

 


 

Lately, Dojima's been leaving with Namatame after work, and nothing about your life changes. Dojima still harangues you in the office, so you misplace a file you know he needs. Narukami still makes food for you, all neatly packaged in Tupperware boxes, all neatly disposed of when you get home. Midnight, alone, your hand on yourself, and you’re just so, so, so tired.

 


 

The tension that’s been simmering inside you, fluid and thin, breaks one day. You forget to throw out Narukami’s meal, and when you open your fridge, there it sits. Cabbage rolls and that’s a sick joke; didn’t you tell him before that you hated cabbage? The leaves slide against each other as you chew and something’s off, something doesn’t fit, maybe it’s your teeth. You’d rather go hungry than eat this, but you do anyways.

In the same sense, you’d rather starve than touch him, but you do anyways. It’s terrible, teeth sliding against teeth and nothing fits, you think your gums might be bleeding, and something dark and bitter drips down your chin. His arms are around your shoulders, and your hands tighten around his neck. He calls you “Adachi,” and he calls you “Tohru,” and you don’t say his name at all. He really needs to trim his nails; they hurt and your back is wet with red, or is it your face that’s dripping with tears? You really wish you were doing this with anyone but Narukami.

 


 

On this particular day, your reflection irritates you to no end. Standing in Narukami’s bathroom, the man in the mirror has the same face as you. Same messy hair, messy clothes, messy tie, but your life is so much more a mess than his. He’s got a smile on his face, too wide and too confident, and all you’ve got are bags under your eyes and drying blood on your back. You turn away, catching Dojima’s eye as you leave his nephew’s room. You’re out of the house before he can do anything but blink.

 


 

Later on, you think back to Narukami’s eyes on you, and your lips curl into a smile to match your reflection’s.