They were together four years.
Everything was perfect. Their love was perfect. Nothing seemed to be wrong.
“No. I get it,” she said, turning her gaze away from the computer screen. “You don’t want to be with me anymore.”
She thought that the distance wouldn’t get between them.
“No, Ann!” he immediately responded, sounding a little desperate—something atypical of him, as he was never one to beg. “That’s not true! I love you! I just—”
But, it seemed like it was straining them more than she thought it would.
“I understand, Ren. Long distance... is hard.” She clenched her hands in fists, choking back tears. “I-It’s not for everyone... I’m sorry I can’t be there for you like you want me to. I know that you’re hurting... that you feel lonely all the time... I’m sorry... I’m selfish.... I’ve been a horrible girlfriend.”
“Ann, please... please don’t cry...”
“I love you, Ren... but... you’re right. This can’t go on... This isn’t realistic.”
“I never said that, Ann... I just—”
“—Let’s break up...”
There was a long pause. A long, painful pause.
“...What?” he finally broke silence, sounding like his own spirit had shattered in pieces.
A tear finally ran down Ann’s cheek.
“I can’t do this to you anymore, Ren...” she said, wiping another falling tear from her cheek. “You’re obviously not happy.”
“Ann... that’s not true...”
“Be honest with yourself, Ren! I’m not there enough for you. They keep sending me farther and farther away every time you have hope I’ll come back soon. Doesn’t that make you sad?”
“Of course it does! But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. That doesn’t mean I want to end things with you!!”
“But... I don’t want you to be... sad all the time....” she sobbed, burying her face in her hands.
“I’m not sad all the time! Ann... stop talking all this nonsense! I miss you, alright? Of course I miss you. It’s not unusual to miss someone you love when they’re far away!!” he tried to reason with her.
“But... I’m always far away!!” Her head snapped back at the camera on the top of her computer screen. “Doesn’t that bother you one bit?”
“Of course it does!!! But I know you’ll always be there and around. I know you’ll always come back. And I’m willing to wait. I’ll wait for you as long you need. Please, Ann... I love you... I—”
She shook her head, still doubting of everything—of him. “I just... want you to be happy, Ren... I don’t... want you to resent me.”
“Ann... I don’t resent you. I’ll never resent you for making your own decisions.”
“You say that now... but...”
“But... in the end... that’s how it always ends up being in long distance relationships. One person always ends up resenting the other for their personal choices.”
She took in a shaky breath, letting it out slowly as she tried to regain her composure.
“So, let's just end it here, okay?” Ann forced a smile, letting another tear fall down her cheek. “Go meet someone else who’ll always be there for you. Who’ll satisfy you in a way that I can’t anymore.”
“No, Ann...” he still refused, shaking his head. “I don’t want another woman. I want you and only you. You’re the only woman for me. Please...”
“Goodbye, Ren... Take care and stay safe. I’ll never forget about you...”
“Ann— No! Wait—”
After clicking the “end call” button on her skype screen, she slammed her laptop shut, wailing away as her tears came pouring out like a waterfall.
Breaking up... was never easy.
Two years later...
“Phew!” Ann breathed after setting down a large box on the carpet, wiping off a drop of sweat on her forehead. “This should be the last one.”
Two days ago, she had just moved into her new apartment in Tokyo, gradually settling herself in since she arrived. After two years of traveling abroad and compiling months and months of modeling experience, Ann was ready to settle herself back in Japan. She signed up for an agency that was about fifteen minutes away, which had plenty of opportunities for her to continue on her career, so Ann couldn’t be anymore excited to continue onward with this new experience.
Ann stopped for a moment, walking out of her room to inspect the results of her hard efforts in setting up her whole living space. The apartment was slightly bigger than a typical one in Japan. Apparently, Ann was the first tenant here, as this was a relatively new apartment complex; so everything, including the smooth wooden floors and lightly gray painted walls, were pretty much neat and pristine. And the place smelled new too, like a brand new house. Her furniture had already been set out with the help of some movers she hired. The feng shui seemed off though—perhaps a coffee table or kotatsu between her TV set and the adjacent couches was needed?
Either way, Ann was grateful. It was a relatively nice place. She went back into her room, finishing up with her unpacking in the small space. Shortly after unpacking the last set of items, Ann’s phone rang. It was Shiho.
“Hey, Shiho!” Ann answered gleefully as she leaped right onto her bed. “I finally unpacked everything!”
“Oh, that’s great, Ann!” cheered Shiho on the other line. “Why don’t we celebrate later? You’re free tonight, right?”
“Of course!” the blonde chirped, kicking her feet in the air. “I’ll be starting in a few days, so I have some free time.”
“Yay! Can’t wait! Let’s head to the Shibuya diner around seven then? Does that sound okay?”
“Mm! sounds good, Shiho.”
“It’s good to have you back, Ann. I really missed you.”
“I missed you too. See you then!”
After hanging up the phone and setting it aside on her bed, Ann let out a light sigh, just simply looking at the moving ceiling fan and feeling the large gust of air it blew against her enervate body. Perhaps she should shower first before getting ready to meet up with her long time friend, after all the unpacking and moving around she had done today.
Regardless, it was good to be back. It was indeed. Ann wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ll just have the turkey club sandwich and an iced tea—unsweetened please. Thank you,” Ann said to the waitress taking her and Shiho’s order. After the waitress repeated their orders to ensure she had the right selections, she gave took their menus and went off into the kitchen.
“Wow, Ann. Even after all these years. You still have quite the appetite.” Shiho chuckled.
“Hey. I don’t eat the whole thing. I just eat half of it and save the other half for later,” Ann said, leaning forward with her arms resting on the table. “So, how have you been, Shiho? It feels like it’s almost been months since we last skyped.”
“I know, I know. I just been super busy with work and stuff,” Shiho replied. “My schedule has been out of whack these last few months.”
“Nursing doesn’t sound like an easy job.” Ann said. “But, you got this, Shiho. You’ve always wanted to help people, and I’m pretty sure you’re a kick ass nurse on the floor.”
“Thanks. I try. It’s definitely a challenge, but I work with wonderful people. And Ryuji has been so supportive of me, I couldn’t have done it without his help too.”
Ann smiled. It was good knowing that both her good friends were doing well. Although Ryuji was an idiot, she knew he had a good heart for the most part. Over the years, he had matured into a fine young man, and Ann trusted that he’d make Shiho happy (otherwise she’d have to kick his ass).
The waitress came back with their drinks, setting them down on the table.
“How is Ryuji, by the way?” Ann asked, sipping her iced tea from the straw.
“Oh, he’s good. He’s still teaching gym at the high school in Yokohama. And we’re living together now. We’ve been living together for almost a year now.”
“Aww... how sweet!” The blonde enthused with a beaming smile. “I’m so glad you two are happy.”
“We are, and...” Shiho paused, lifting her glass with her left hand. “Notice anything different?”
“Huh?” Ann bobbed her head to the side.
Shiho raised her glass at Ann. “Look a little closer...”
Ann looked at the object she held in her hand, something glinting bright on her ring finger.
There was a ring on that finger.
Ann’s azure eyes widened. She gasped, her hands on her mouth. “OH MY GOD SHIHO!!!!!” She snatched Shiho’s left wrist, looking closer at the ring on her finger. “He... You... You’re engaged!!!!”
Shiho giggled. “Uh huh. He proposed a few days ago.”
“Why didn’t you tell me!?”
“I knew you were coming back soon, so I wanted to wait until then to give you the news.”
“Ahhh!!!” Ann squeaked in glee, now holding Shiho’s hand and drink with both hands. “Oh my god! I can’t believe it! I’m so happy for you!!!”
“Hehe... And I want you to be my maid of honor.” Shiho smiled. “You’re okay with that, right?”
“Oh, silly! Of course I’m okay with that!” Ann said, wiping a happy tear from her eye. “More than okay!!! Oh my god! My best friend is getting married!!! This is so exciting! Ahhh!!!!”
There were disapproving stares shooting toward the giddy and enthusiastic Ann, but she didn’t care. Her best friend was getting married! This was more than big news—it was fantastic, enormous! Ann couldn’t be any happier for Shiho.
“Have you guys planned a date, yet?” Ann asked, letting go of Shiho’s hand.
Shiho shook her head. “We’re supposed to meet with a planner in a few days to go over a bunch of venues first.”
“You gotta take me with you! I want to help as much as I can!”
“Of course, Ann. I was just about to ask you too.” She laughed. “I’ll message you the details later. But in the meantime, now that you know about the news. What about you?” She switched the subject. “How have you been?”
“Oh, I’ve been great. Had a chance to explore many different countries and different cultures. It was fun! But now, I just want to settle in somewhere—somewhere to go back to whenever I’m done with work, you know?”
“That’s understandable. And I’m glad you decided to come back. What about Rui? How’s he been?”
Tonegawa Rui was Ann’s boyfriend, who she had been dating since her last visit in France for several months. It was a nice coincidence meeting someone who was Japanese like her while traveling around the world. He was a young respectable man who had also been traveling around like her, someone Ann could confide in during those times away from home when she had no one else to talk to. At first, Ann was a bit hesitant to go anywhere further than friendship because of the requirements of her job at the time she was abroad, but since they shared common ground, and were often together, she was willing to take the risk with him and see how it would turn out.
So far, he’d been good to her, and she enjoyed his company whenever he was around. Since she was back in Tokyo, there was a bit of a long distance between them for now, but his trips were supposedly only short-term and not for long, so they'd still have some time to spend together while he was back home.
She could handle it—the long distance. She wouldn’t make the same mistake like she did in her last relationship before him.
“Rui’s been great.” Ann smiled, looking at her phone on the side of the table when it vibrated. “Speak of the devil...”
“Oh? A message from him?”
“Yeah,” Ann replied when she picked up her phone, swiping to unlock it to view her new messages. “He’s in Kyoto right now for a wedding shoot.”
“Oh, that’s right. He’s a photographer, right?”
“Yeah. Not being bias here, but his works are really great! I definitely recommend him if you’re thinking of hiring a photographer for your wedding—he specializes in weddings too.”
“Hmm... Will consider it. You think he’ll give us a discount?” asked Shiho in a slight jest.
“I’m pretty sure he would since you know me. I’ll talk to him about it when I get back, and I’ll let you know what he says,” Ann said as she typed out a reply to him, tapping the “send” button on her screen and setting her phone back down to give Shiho back her undivided attention. “Have you thought of any places for your wedding yet?”
“Not yet. But we both agreed on where our honeymoon would be.”
“Where is that?”
“Hawaii.” Shiho smiled. “I’d like somewhere romantic, sunny, and with lots of water too.”
“Haha, you’ve always liked the ocean.” Ann chuckled. “Well, if that’s what you want, then Hawaii is definitely the place. It’s beautiful....” she paused, her face beginning to fall. “...last time I was there.”
“Wasn’t that one of the places you were staying for a while when you went abroad?”
It was also a bittersweet place for Ann at the same time too. All the good memories she had there. And even after all these years... she still found herself feeling a bit wistful at them.
The blonde blinked. “Huh?”
“Oh.” Shiho looked at her with concerned eyes. “You just spaced out there for a moment. Just making sure you’re okay.”
Ann smiled. “I’m fine. Anyways... Congratulations, Shiho! I’m so excited for you!” She picked up her glass and raised it to her. “Let’s make a toast! To Shiho’s awesome engagement!”
Shiho chuckled, raising her glass to Ann’s. “Right. To my awesome engagement.”
Ann didn’t get back until about nighttime. There was a lot to catch up with Shiho, but learning that her best friend was now getting married was big news, and Ann couldn’t be any happier for her.
She collapsed on her bed, staring up at the ceiling fan that was slowly spinning in circles. After a while, her phone on the nightstand vibrated, and Ann reached over for it to see what kind of notification it was.
1 new message - Rui
She swiped her screen open, viewing the new message.
Rui: Hey, are you free right now?
Rui: I was hoping to call you
Ann smiled, typing back:
Ann: I’m free right now. Go ahead and call
And a while after that, there was a video call. Ann answered it, revealing her boyfriend on screen, wearing a black beanie and a red long sleeved plaid shirt.
“Hey,” she greeted with a warm smile, waving at the camera on the top of her screen.
“Hey, there,” he said, smiling back with his charming smile. “How are you doing? Just wanted to see you and hear your pretty little voice.”
“Oh, you. Still quite the charmer, I see.” She chuckled, laying back down on her mattress. “I’m fine. Went to spend time with Shiho earlier today—and guess what? She’s getting married!”
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” he responded with enthusiasm like her. “Congrats to her. I’m happy to hear that.”
“I know! I can’t believe my best friend is getting married. I’m so excited for her too!”
“I’m guessing she made you her maid of honor?”
Ann nodded brightly. “Uh huh!”
“Is there a date yet?”
Ann shook her head. “No, not yet. Ryuji just proposed to her a few days ago,” she said. “They’re going to meet their planner soon though— Oh! Will you be able to lend a hand in this too? She’s going to need a photographer, and I know you’ve done many weddings—”
He smiled, interjecting her with a raise of his hand. “—Sure. Any friend of Ann is a friend of mine.”
The blonde jumped in excitement. “Thanks, Rui! You’re awesome! We’ll talk more about it when the time comes. Anyways, how have you been? Any idea on when you’re coming back to visit?”
“I still have a few projects to do. I’ll be flying down to Hawaii tomorrow. Don’t have an exact date to tell you when I’ll be done, sorry.”
“I see,” she replied, feeling a little disappointed.
“Haha, don’t worry. It shouldn’t be long. I promise.”
“How’s your apartment coming along?” he asked, changing the subject.
“So far, so good. I like it.” She perked up a bit, moving the camera around to show him what she had done in her room so far. “It’s a newer complex too, so there shouldn’t be many maintenance problems. Oh! And they have a little clubhouse in the building where the landlord’s office is. There’s lots of activities you could do there. And they hold free breakfast there every Sunday too. It’s really nice.”
“Sounds nice. Can’t wait to see it when I come back.”
“Yeah. I’ll show you around. It’s easier to show than it is to explain.”
“Haha! Alright. Anyways, I have to attend a night shoot in a bit. But I’m glad to hear you’re doing great, Ann.”
“Same with you too.” She smiled.
“Alright, then.” He waved at the camera. “Goodnight, Ann. Love you.”
“Goodnight, Rui.” She waved back. “Take care.”
After hanging up the phone, Ann set it on the nightstand. For a while, she simply laid on her bed, thinking.... just thinking... until she decided to get out of bed and walk up to her work desk, pulling out a small box from one of the side drawers.
“Hawaii... huh?” Ann said to herself as she sat on the chair, opening the small box that revealed a shimmering, sterling silver shell-shaped locket necklace that rested immaculately in the center. “Brings back memories...”
Opening the locket revealed a picture of her huddling up close to a young man with messy raven hair, both in bathing suit attire.
“I want you to have this, Ann. I didn’t get you something the last time we were here... but I wanted to make sure I gave you something in remembrance of our second trip here...”
“Oh, it’s beautiful, Ren!! I love it! Thank you!”
“I’m glad. I think it suits you well.”
“Let’s take a picture of us here—to place in the locket!”
“I wonder... how you’ve been,” she wondered aloud, a small smile suffusing her lips as she gently stroked the image of his nonchalant smiling face with her thumb.
“I love you, Ann.”
“I love you too, Ren...”
Those were the good days. Happier days. Sometimes... she wondered if she made a mistake leaving them behind... leaving him behind.
Since it was also Ryuji who was getting married, was there a chance she’d cross paths with him again? Would she see him again? Her heart fluttered at the thought of it... Why? Their relationship ended two years ago. There was no way there’d be any lingering feelings left, despite how abrupt it ended.
“It’ll be alright...” she told herself, as she always did whenever the case of doubt came at her. Whatever came next of this, she could handle it—even if she were to cross paths with him. “He’s alright. We’re alright. If I have to see him again, then I can deal. We’ve moved on. The past is gone. There’s nothing left of it. Everything is fine.”
She closed the locket and then the small box it was in, then placed it back in the drawer ever so carefully as if it were a delicate thing—and it was, at least to her. It was a memory she had always cherished so deep in her heart, no matter how things had ended for them, no matter how far apart they were now in their lives.
Even if they were to meet again, things were so different now... He probably found a new lady worth his time now, forgetting Ann—replacing her. Last she heard, he was already dating someone else, and seemed to be faring well on his own. Good for him. She was happy to hear he was doing well. He deserved the very best.
...Not that it should matter now. Ann was seeing someone else too.
A few days later, Ann tagged along with Shiho and Ryuji to meet their wedding planner for the first time. They toured several different venues, each one with their own charm and flair. Afterwards, they headed off to a sushi restaurant in Shinjuku, concluding their little venue excursion for the day.
“I loved the last venue we went to. It was beautiful,” Shiho said as she sat next to Ann in the waiting area. The small modern restaurant wasn’t as crowded as Ann initially thought it’d be today, so at least their wait for a table wouldn’t be long—she was starving after all that walking.
“Yeah. It was garden-like. And elegant. Do you think that place best fits your vision of the wedding?” asked Ann.
“Yeah... but unfortunately, it’s a bit pricy. We’re kinda in a budget, remember?” said Shiho.
“Well, we can make some adjustments if it’s what you really want. Remember, it’s your wedding and your call,” Ann pointed out. “Sure, we’d have to cut back on some things like guests, but you want to invite guests who are most important to you, right?”
“She’s right, Shiho,” Ryuji chimed in, sitting next to Shiho. He placed a hand on her shoulder. “We don’t need a million people for our wedding. And you did say you didn’t want it too fancy, right? Besides, at the end of the day, it’s just you and me. That’s the most important, right?”
“Yeah.” Shiho smiled, leaning onto Ryuji’s shoulder. “You’re right.”
“So, Ann...” Ryuji turned to her with a smug grin. “When’s yours coming up?”
“H-Huh!?” Ann recoiled a bit, the question taking her back. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. Rui hasn’t hinted at it yet?”
“Um, no. We’ve only been together six months. I think it’s too early to bring something like that up.”
“Half of a year. That’s long enough.” The blond shrugged. “Some guys I’ve known have popped the question at four months. You never know.”
“Yeah. But how long have they known the girl for before asking her out? They could’ve been friends before going out together.”
“True. Still. If you love someone and really know it, I wouldn’t hesitate on it.”
“So... it took you two years to figure out you wanted to be with me forever, huh?” Shiho meddled in, stifling a laugh.
“What!? No!!! I knew waaay before that. I just wanted to wait before—”
“Hey. You said you wouldn’t hesitate if you knew it...” Ann called him out with a smug grin.
“Oh! Shuddup!” he snapped, crossing his arms in a fit. “Dammit! Where is my best man when ya need him?”
“He must be running late,” Shiho said, checking the time on her phone. “Have you messaged him, Ryuji?”
He pulled his phone out, looking through his messages. “Yeah. He said he was stuck in rush hour at the train station a while ago. Should be here in a bit.”
“Wait.... Who... Who did you select as your best man?” asked Ann, a bit hesitantly as she thought of only one person in mind. "By any chance..."
“Oh, ah. About that....” Ryuji hesitated, scratching his head. “I probably should’ve brought this up yesterday with you, Ann. But—”
“—Sorry I’m late.”
Ann’s heart nearly stopped at that voice. For a moment, that voice sounded like...
“Oh my god...” she thought to herself, turning her gaze toward the man who had just came up to them. “It... It really is—”
She finally faced him, taking in all his features—that messy raven hair, those glasses, those dark silver eyes, his tall lengthy figure. It was almost as if his appearance hadn't changed one bit since she last saw him.
It really was him.
She immediately stood up from her seat, her eyes as wide as saucers.