Wishful Thinking


The brown eyes large with amazement. His tight grip on her hand. The mop of wavy hair shielding his eyes from view. The tightly held jaw with the cigarette caught between his teeth.

The images had flashed through her mind over and over again in the last two weeks. But here she was, still, with tears dripping down her nose and into her half-finished mud pot, still thinking about them, still grieving over…what, she did not know. Maybe it was the pain of rejection—or worse yet, maybe it was the pain of rejection because there was someone else.

The chill of the soda can startled her enough to cut short her relentless sobbing. Morita stared down at her, his eyes shining with something akin to intrigue. "Here." She took the can before he could press it against her cheek again. "Drink up. You need to stay hydrated to continue crying."

The advice was both absurd and extremely Morita-appropriate at the same time. She couldn't help the chuckle that escaped her, although it sounded more like a sob. That's what happens when you cry too much. You become a blubbering mess of a person—someone who turns into a pool of tears at worst, manages a weak, watery smile at best. She hung her head at the thought. Her entire posture screamed pathetic, but as seemed to be the case in recent times, she couldn't quite bring herself to care.

Morita settled down beside her on the small stool next to the potter's wheel and opened his own can of some unrecognizable soft drink. They were in the university and she was sure that if Tange-sensei happened to find Morita lounging in her work room, he would throw a fit. The poor man was constantly under stress due to Morita's "disappearing acts" that prevented him from finishing his college work on time. She had often wondered what Morita did that was so important as to leave his friends without a word of explanation but she also knew that asking him was pointless. He would simply give her a bizarre answer that could either be a complete joke or the entire truth and she would be left to choose which one it was.

They sat in companionable silence, for a while – Morita sipping his drink casually while Yamada clutched her own can, allowing the moisture to seep into her hands and leave them sticky. She had never confided in anyone about her feelings for Mayama – she had never even confessed to him, ironically enough, but she would be fooling herself if she thought he hadn't already guessed. But the urge to talk to someone about it overwhelmed her – it was true that nothing anyone could say would make her feel better (her mind was quite made up on the matter) but maybe companionship could help her somehow. So far, she had only had her own conscience to listen to. Maybe it was time to have someone else listen to her for a change.

"Mayama's an idiot." The words were spoken with such utter conviction that she didn't realise how much she believed that until she said it. "He's such an idiot. He's always trying to act like he's a good, decent guy – someone who's pleasant and polite and—and gentlemanly." She recalled how he had struggled with himself to not come across as imposing when he had talked to Harada-san the previous night. "He's always reigning himself in…like he's afraid that people will think badly of him if he tried to be impulsive. He's so afraid—of doing the wrong thing and facing rejection."

He had sounded so guarded on the phone with Harada-san. She thought back to all those little instances when she had chanced upon him talking to the older woman. His voice, although gentle, had also sounded slightly frustrated. He would be pleading with her to let him help her and she would always refuse. The conversation would end in resignation (on his part) and he would return to the business at hand with a grim countenance. He would brood over it until he couldn't anymore.

She remembered his restlessness after the phone call and how much he had wanted to go see Harada-san. In the end, he had got what he wanted. She knew this about him but she continued to say it anyway. "But he would give up the façade in a second, if he was in any danger of losing something very dear to him." Her voice was barely above a whisper now. She was talking to herself, unaware of Morita watching her closely. His mouth was set in a firm line and his eyes, for once, seemed dull and clouded. He jerked his head in understanding but she didn't notice. She had observed Mayama numerous times before but she had never really stopped to think about just how much she had watched him in the few years that she had known him. A part of her, as usual, was disgusted by the obsession. But these small discoveries made her feel happier—as if, by unearthing this trait of his, she had somehow managed to get closer to him.

"I wish he would stop acting." She was angry. "I wish he would just say what's on his mind instead of quietly going about his work, shutting himself down to the rest of the world and letting his wishful thinking help him get by."

Morita continued to remain silent, gripping his soda can tightly. She let out a sigh, her anger dissipating with the release. "But I still like him." And now, she was sad. She kept flitting from emotion to emotion so fast that she was starting to become mentally exhausted. "I like him just as he is and I don't want him to change. I like him with all of his faults."

The atmosphere was heavy with her words, uttered gently, in frustration. Tiredly. And yet, lovingly. It was just like her to continue to hold on to him, even when she was no longer blind – and really, when had she ever been? – to his numerous faults. Even when she found little things about him that annoyed her to no end, they simply made her hold on to him tighter.

"You're in love." Morita stared at her with wide, shining eyes. The darkness that had previously clouded his face had disappeared without a trace. Yamada looked up for the first time since she had started to vent. He leaned closer, his face just inches away from hers. "This is love, Yamada. Love!" He stared at her in awe. "It's amazing!"

And just like that, she was both crying and laughing again. Her wailing barely suppressed his exclamations of, "This is awesome!" and "So awe-inspiring!" and so on and so forth. Morita often came across as crazy but right then, Yamada wanted nothing more from him than just that. God knew she needed the ridiculousness to keep her weeping in check.

"Nomiya-san?" She was quite surprised to see him. They had not arranged to meet. "Please, come in."

He stepped inside her workroom, the usual smile gracing his features. "I meant to ambush you outside the university and offer you a ride home. But I was afraid I wouldn't find you on time." He looked around the room with interest. The furniture – chairs, stools, tables – had all been pushed to the very end of the room to make room for three potter's wheels, and lots of bits of thick paper (with rough sketches of some indistinguishable object on them) and some colourful portfolios, all strewn on the floor. Most of the pottery items – bowls, vases, pots, cups – were resting on newspapers covering the furniture. The whole room had a rather harassed look about it, which was not entirely unappealing. His smile turned apologetic. "I'm sorry about dropping by unexpectedly. I just thought I'd come over to see how you were doing."

"Quite well, thank you." She smiled at him and found him staring back at her attire with an unreadable expression on his face. She was only wearing jeans and a tank top, along with a dirty white apron. She blushed in embarrassment when she realised how messy she must look. He was neatly-dressed, as always. He was wearing khaki corduroy pants with a button down white shirt and his usual brown leather jacket. The difference in their appearances only made her blush harder.

"Are you all right, Yamada-san? You look flushed." She waved away his concern hastily and turned away from him, under the pretext of poring over a binder, and tried to calm down. She then placed one of the chairs (that were pushed up against the wall) in front of him and indicated that he should sit down.

He nodded at the small parcel he was holding, "Miwako and Yamazaki send their love."

She thanked him, placed the cake inside the small refrigerator residing in one corner of the room, and tried not to dwell on the fact that he had not mentioned Mayama. Ever since her first meeting with Nomiya-san, Mayama's behaviour around her had become increasingly difficult to understand. He was now prone to sudden fits of anger that were characterized by the pursing of his lips, the clenching of his fists, the cold tone of his voice and eventually ended with him storming out of the scene. She had often wondered if the reason for these 'outbursts' was stress due to work or frustration because of something more…personal.

This was a train of thought she would rather not indulge in, especially not after just having confided in Morita that morning. She focused her attention on Nomiya-san; something about the relaxed manner in which he was studying her artistic pieces soothed her. She smiled slightly and walked up to where he was standing. He was staring curiously at the only colourful item on display—a tall, narrow vase with numerous sunflowers, white lilies and red roses painted on it.

"Yamada-san paints too?" The surprise in his voice was evident.

"Not at all. A friend of mine is a very talented painter." Hagu-chan had taken a liking to that particular vase and had shyly asked her if she could be allowed to paint on it. Yamada had been more than happy to oblige. She made a mental note to drop it off at Hanamoto-sensei's on her way back home. Somehow, the thought of selling this vase did not appeal to her. It belonged with Hagu-chan.

"I wonder if Yamada-san's friend would be willing to paint a few more?" He seemed to be talking to himself.

"I'm afraid not. She's quite busy at the moment." There was no way she was asking Hagu-chan for help. The poor girl was already under a lot of pressure. Yamada hardly ever saw her anymore. Every time she visited Hanamoto-sensei, Hagu was in her room, with her door closed. Yamada knew that meant she was painting—and obviously did not want to be disturbed.

She must have said a little more sharply than she had intended to—she was fiercely protective of Hagu-chan that way, even when it came to something so insignificant—because he gazed into her face longer than necessary, as if searching for an explanation. She chose not to elaborate, however, and deliberately changed the topic, "I've added a few more to the collection since the last time we met. Perhaps Nomiya-san would like to see them?" Without waiting for an answer, she led him to a long table, slightly removed from all the other furniture, on which she had placed quite a number of earthenware—all of which had the Fujiwara Design logo engraved at the base.

She waited, feeling strangely nervous, while he inspected each and every item silently. When he finally looked up at her, he was smiling. "These are wonderful, Yamada-san. I cannot thank you enough." The sincerity in his voice made her glow with pride. This was the first time that someone outside her circle of family and friends was acknowledging her talent.

"I enjoyed working on this project, Nomiya-san. I should be the one thanking you." She murmured, feeling strangely embarrassed. She was not used to gratitude, she decided. And she definitely did not know how to take a compliment.

He waved aside her gratitude but smiled down at her good-naturedly. Nomiya-san was always smiling, she realised. He exuded a calm, confident aura that was quite charming. He was also so pleasant that it was impossible to not let your guard down around him. She felt herself relaxing in spite of herself and the smile she returned was neither watery nor weak. Nomiya-san was a nice change, she decided. Granted, he was Mayama's boss and continuing to work with him would mean continuing to be in closer proximity to Mayama. But she preferred not to think about that either.

There were so many thoughts that she tried to shut out, but she only succeeded in locking them up in a deep, dark corner of her mind. Eventually, they would all spill out and consume her and that's when depression would truly hit her. She would spend the day in bed, alternating between sobbing and drifting in and out of a dreamless sleep. She sighed. Nothing that was happening to her was new, to be honest. She had been in this place before and she had handled the situation no differently. It was despairing to know that she would continue to be a part of this vicious circle. Was there really no way out of it?

"Yamada-san." She looked up, startled. What did it say about her, if she managed to lose herself in her thoughts when she had company? It was different with Morita—she had known the guy for just as long as she had known Mayama. But this was Nomiya-san – her employer, in the loose sense of the term. Someone she had business relations with. She murmured an apology and focused on his face. It was devoid of emotion but when he spoke, his voice seemed gentler than usual, "Would you like to have dinner with me this Saturday?"

She walked briskly as she neared the boys' apartment complex. She was carrying some of Morita's favourite dessert—she had no clue if he would even be at home. That was Morita for you. Despite knowing him for years, there was just no way of guessing when he would have to leave "for a short while". But she had wanted to thank him for this morning. She figured that food was a better way of expressing her thanks than words, at least when it came to Morita. Takemoto could receive it for her if he wasn't around.

There was no need to worry about Mayama being present. She knew his schedule like the back of her hand and today was Thursday. Thursdays had Mayama working late into the night. She opened the door to the common room, relieved that—

He was lying on the floor, staring at his uplifted hand that held (as usual) a cigarette. She knew just from his posture that he was thinking about Harada-san. Irritation coursed through her. She had been looking forward to a whole day without him—why did he have to ruin it? She was quite aware of the fact that just his expression would finish her off. Her night would be spent wondering about what had happened between him and Harada-san recently that had brought that look to his face.

The irritation turned to anger. It was time she started to assign some of the blame to him. It was his fault that she was in this state—she had no idea where she was going with that. She let the door slam shut behind her. He didn't even flinch at the sound. "Why do you keep doing this?" She spat out the words. "Why don't you just tell her how you feel?"

He continued to ignore her as he sat up, his back to her. She clenched her fists, waiting and waiting—"It's not that simple."

"It really is that simple." Her reply was immediate. She knew enough about Harada-san to say that. She had been happily married for three years until her husband had died in a car crash. She had been severely injured in the process and Hanamoto-sensei had sent Mayama to care for her, believing that having a companion would help her move on. Yamada truly did not understand where the complication was. Yes, the woman had been married. Yes, she was older. Yes, she still suffered from a few injuries that were making her recovery a slow process. But Yamada knew Mayama did not care about the wounds. "All you have to do is tell her. Just put it out there. You work with her, for god's sake. You can't go on without saying a word." He remained silent. She continued, with a sudden boldness. "I hate seeing you like this—following her around all the time, rushing to her side even she refuses you, it's just…" She sighed, aggravated.

"Then why do you do it?" She stilled at the coldness of his tone. "If it's so pathetic, why do you follow me around?" She took a step back involuntarily, hardly believing what she was hearing. He still refused to look at her but his words were sharp and clear. He stood up and walked over to the window on the other side of the room. She couldn't answer his question, her breath was caught in her throat, her eyes refused to move away from his still form near the window, her mouth was agape, she couldn't—she couldn't—

"You should find someone else." The finality in his voice hit her like a slap. Why was he being so cruel? "Find someone else to make you happy." She blinked rapidly as she fumbled for the door and couldn't get out of there fast enough. She tried desperately to choke back the inevitable sob as she closed the door and came face to face with Takemoto.

He blinked at her in surprise as he took in her flushed face and trembling hands. "Yamada—" She didn't give him the chance to ask the question. Instead, she thrust the dessert at him with a breathless, "Give this to Morita when you see him, okay? Tell him I said thank you." (So much for not having to spell it out.) and hurried out of there before Takemoto could protest.

Surprisingly, she managed to hold back the tears as she exited the apartment complex. Maybe she was getting stronger. Or maybe, she simply didn't have the energy to shed the few tears. She slowed down to a walk when she was a safe distance away from the building. The weekend was going to be hell. There was absolutely nothing to look forward to—nothing to cheer her up. She stared desolately at the sky, Nomiya-san's dinner treat the farthest thing on her mind.

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