November 6, 2023 -
Big, fat tears were rolling down Retsuko’s face. A gut-wrenching sob tore its way out of her throat.
“Wait,” She dragged in a mangled breath. “Wait!”
She tried to reach for Tadano’s hand, but he took another step back from where he had jumped up, hovering just out of her reach.
“We are not doing this.”
“Tadano, please. Just-”
“You are doing this, apparently. But we are not.” He ran a hand through his mane. “God, Retsy.”
His pet name for her, while he talked to her in that patronizing, dismissive tone. A tiny bit of sustaining rage cut through her agony, and she leapt to her feet, snarling her next words.
“Well, what do you want me to do, Tadano?” Her eyes bore into his. He just glared at her, and when no answer was forthcoming, she snorted in derision. And wilted. She had used up the anger, and the tears were back, full force.
"I know what it is that you want me to do.”
Tadano took a step towards her. Retsuko took a step back.
"You can’t even say it out loud, can you.” A statement, not a question.
“Retsuko, come on!” Not Retsy.
"No!” She grabbed a handful of fur at the top of her head and wrenched at it.
“I have supported you in everything you’ve been working for, for all the years we’ve been together. You have no idea what I sacrificed to be with you. What you’ve cost me. I wanted-” She gulped hard, reigning herself in, feeling dizzy and sick.
“I wanted-” Another sob, smaller and sadder. “Well, I guess that doesn’t matter. What I wanted. What I want. For all you talked about supporting me in anything I wanted to do, I guess you didn’t really mean that.”
“Are you serious? How can you even say that? What have I ever done to make you say that? What are you talking about?”
She looked at him, eyes shinning like dull coins.
It took a few seconds for her meaning to reach him, and when it did the implication had him physically reeling.
An unnerving glow grew Retsuko's eyes as she gazed at him. Tadano threw open his hands in appeal, his next words stuttering out.
“We talked about this. You were fine. We agreed it was for the best, that things happened the way they did. You never said you actually wanted-”
“You talked. Not me. You didn’t listen. You told me how I felt. You never asked me. You decided for me.”
“But I need you to hear me now. Hear me when I say I’ve never wanted anything more in my life.”
“You can’t just-”
“I’d never thought I’d have this opportunity again, Tadano. But somehow...” Retsuko shook her head back and forth. “Somehow I’m getting another chance. I can’t not take it. Can’t you understand that?”
“What even-” Tadano clenched and unclenched his jaw. “Not fair, Retsuko, to throw all this at me, years after the fact. Not fair at all.”
“Well, join the damn club, Tadano.” The words were angry, but Retsuko’s face would have broken anyone’s heart.
“Can’t you just-”
“No.” Her voice was steel, and Tadano looked at her with the blank terror of a drowning man.
One heartbeat. “I’m going through with it.” His eyes were horrible voids.
Two heartbeats. “I’ll do this on my own if I have to, but I don’t want that. I want you, need you with me.” The malodor of desperation in the room was thick enough to choke both of them to death.
Three heartbeats. “Help me, Tadano. Help me do this. Please.” She was reaching for him again. Despairing brown eyes met disbelieving blue, and-