A/N: I just want to warn you, if you are a big Hikari fan, you may not care for this depiction of her character. I am not a big Hikari fan. I am not a Hikari fan (period) and I think it shows. She always seemed a little too “perfect” to me and I found that to be untrustworthy. Add to that that I’ve always sensed a meanness behind her sweet façade and you get what you see below...
Disclaimer: These characters are based (loosely) on someone else’s. But you know what? They’re still kind of mine.
Chapter 2: Beggars Would Ride
Hikari checked the baby again. He was still sleeping soundly in the stroller despite the surrounding din of a busy outdoor café in the middle of its lunch rush. She had promised the waitress that her companion would arrive and that they would order momentarily more than forty five minutes previous and the woman was beginning to give her openly hostile glares. Not that Hikari was going to let that bother her. If the woman wanted to free the table so badly, she could damn well work up the courage to walk over and ask her to leave.
Still Hikari could not help glancing down the street for what felt like the one hundredth time, hoping to see Miyako. Hikari wasn’t even the one who had wanted to meet here for lunch. No, that had been the decision of her, now late, companion. Truth was, between the three kids and Takeru, Hikari didn’t really have the money to waste on overpriced western food at ridiculously themed, unexplainably popular “cafes”.
But Hikari could also admit, if only to herself, that she would rather die than admit as much to Miyako. Hell, she’d go back to work teaching kindergarten before that happened, never you mind that there were days she couldn’t hardly stand her own kids, much less anyone else’s. Why she had ever thought that she wanted to be a glorified nanny, she couldn’t even remember.
Finally she caught sight of Miyako, click, click, clicking down the sidewalk in almost whorishly tall heels, immaculately pressed suit jacket, a designer hand bag held just so at her hip and Hikari had to remind herself that, all other things being equal, she did not hate the other woman.
“Oh my god!” Miyako exclaimed, even as she slid into the seat opposite of Hikari and motioned the waitress over, “I am soooooooo sorry! We had a big client show up right as I was about to walk out the door and I couldn’t escape.”
Hikari offered what she hoped was a serene smile of acceptance at the other woman’s profuse apology.
“I tried to call you at the apartment, but you must have already left,” Miyako continued, “And your cell phone isn’t connecting.”
“What?” Hikari was proud of the way her voice seemed to almost drip genuine concern, “It must have run out of charge!” Truth was she had canceled cell service on her and Takeru’s phones two months previous so as to have the money to pay the NHK subscription fee. Takeru had just wanted to toss the bill, but Hikari wasn’t going to have her neighbors seeing a bill collector, even one of the powerless NHK collectors, banging on her front door. Not while there was still another option, anyway. “It doesn’t matter,” she lied, “We weren’t waiting very long.” Thankfully, the waitress chose that moment to step over and take their order.
“So...” Miyako began carefully once the impatient waitress had left with their order, “You said Takeru was going over there...” the words trailed off suggestively, hinting at the unspoken request for gossip, “Has he?”
Hikari frowned, unable to keep the memory of a drunken Takeru, stumbling through the apartment door in the wee hours of the morning last Wednesday, or, she supposed by then, Thursday, from running though her head. “Yes,” she answered primly, only the barest hint of her displeasure with the memory flitting across her face.
“And?” Miyako prodded when Hikari didn’t hurry to continue.
“And.” Hikari answered, her thoughts interrupted by a young man in a French apron setting their drinks before them. She thanked him, as did Miyako before he was quickly absorbed back into the ebb and flow of the lunchtime crowd. “And,” she began again, pausing to take a sip of her iced water, “He says you were right. There was definitely something wrong.”
Miyako nodded, though if it was in agreement with her own assessment or Takeru’s, Hikari could not be sure. “I said as much last Sunday, didn’t I,” Miyako reminded Hikari. Hikari nodded. “Did Takeru notice anything in particular when he went,” Miyako asked.
Hikari almost snorted her water. As if Takeru had remembered much of anything after spending the evening killing off as many of his remaining brain cells has he could. Still, “He didn’t say anything in particular…” Hikari hedged, “He just mentioned that something felt off.”
“Hmmm,” the waitress chose that moment to bring out their order, setting the plates on the table with what Hikari felt was a good deal more force than the task required. She gave the woman her most impassive stare, all but daring her to actually open her mouth and make a complaint. But she did not. And it was just as well, Hikari thought. If she was finally going to crack and go bat-shit crazy on someone, she’d at least like it to be her own husband. He had more than earned it. Hikari fought down a sigh.
“Well,” Miyako picked up her sandwich, pulling the toothpick from the center and setting it on the side of her plate, “What are we going to do?” Miyako asked.
And that was when it hit Hikari, really hit her, that somehow, this had become her problem, too. And she wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. Hikari wanted to push back from this overpriced, glorified turkey sandwich she was being asked to call a lunch. She wanted to push back from friendships that should have long since run their course and disappeared down memory lane. She wanted to push back from her asshole of a husband and his refusal to ever put anyone else’s needs before his own. She even wanted to push back against the very children she loved more than life itself.
And in that very same instance, she knew that she couldn’t. Not wouldn’t.
And that terrified her. They were all, every last one of them, killing her, sucking her dry, and damned if she could do a thing about it.
So she did the one thing she could do. She smiled. She smiled the secretive little smile she had perfected in a childhood spent wondering if today would be the day that she lost her brother, the only person in the world who had ever tried to put her needs before their own. Hikari did this in the hopes that the simple gesture might help hide the terror she was certain was showing in her eyes, even as she reached a hand over to soothe the unperturbed sleep of her youngest, still safe in his stroller next to the table.
“I don’t know,” Hikari finally answered, hoping Miyako wouldn’t be able to hear the tremble of utter exhaustion running through the undercurrents of her voice, “I wish I did,” she admitted, “But I don’t.”