Wishful Thinking



He was at her doorstep. She could not believe it.

She let him in, of course—beneath the astonishment was, as always, that teeny tiny bit of curiosity that wanted to know why he was here. He might want to apologize. But somehow, that didn't feel like the reason. His posture was stiff; he looked more put off than uncomfortable, more defensive than remorseful. Something was going on.

She had, obviously, spent the whole of Friday avoiding him. Unsurprisingly, that had proven to be a very easy task. He wasn't at university any more and Fujiwara Design was nowhere near there. And that was how her day had become Mayama-free. She had come back home to take her neighbour's dog for a run (he was really starting to put on weight and she loved to run; she had missed her morning jog that day because she had, more or less, stayed up the entire night, thanks to a certain someone.) and that had been it. No sudden visits, no phone calls or even a text.

Yet here he was at three in the afternoon, with a cigarette in one hand and his car keys in another. She looked pointedly at the cigarette until he sighed dramatically, stubbed it out in the ashtray nearby (her father smoked too. She was trying to get him to quit.), and came back to stand in front of her with the same expression on his face as before.

"You can sit." Her voice sounded too harsh, even to herself. She was proud of it.

He didn't move an inch. She crossed her arms in front of her, and scowled. "Why are you here?"

He looked down and she felt liberated. She hadn't exactly been up for a staring contest. "Okay, well, if you're just going to stand there, saying nothing, then—"

"I heard Nomiya-san is taking you out tonight."

She was lost. Of all the things to say, she had not expected this. Most of her wanted him to apologize, even though she knew that wasn't why he was here. She had even entertained the idea of him wanting to talk about Harada-san. She was extremely relieved that that wasn't the case, because she would have slapped him for sure. He had hurt her pride yesterday. She wasn't depressed, she was furious. Self-pity had not kept her up last night, indignation had.

The same three words over and over. How could he?

How could he have been so cruel? How could he have treated her that way? How could she have let him? The questions had been endless. She had finally put a stop to them by telling herself that he had had absolutely no right to have said such things to her. That was simply not the way to tell someone to let go of you. She was angry, for sure, but her feelings had not changed. Didn't he know that it would take much more than that to get rid of her?

"What about it?" If this was going to be another diatribe against Nomiya-san, she wasn't exactly going to stand there and listen. It would give her savage pleasure to literally kick him out of the house.

God, she was violent.

"I don't think you should go." He took a step towards her. She glared at him. He ran a hand through his hair, adjusted his glasses, pulled his jacket closer – all signs that said he was extremely uncomfortable having that particular conversation. "Nomiya…well, you've only known him for a couple of weeks. You don't know the kind of man that he is."

"I know that he's smart, funny and very kind to me." She had no idea why she was even talking to him any more. He was not going to dissuade her from seeing Nomiya-san.

"Yamada, I really wish you wouldn't go." And then, he had the audacity to take another step towards her and grab both her hands.

Just who did he think he was? She was beyond angry. She was spitting fire. She snatched back her hands like he had scalded them and looked him straight in the eye. "Stop telling me what to do." He took a step back hastily, looking horrified. She was on a roll. "I don't care what you say. You have no right to be patronising. I know how to take care of myself."

"Yes, but Yamada—"

"I asked you to stop. I will go to see Nomiya-san tonight and nothing you say is going to make me change my mind."

He sighed. "At least promise me that you'll call me when you get back home."

Oh, now he was concerned? The nerve of him! Where was this warmth yesterday? She wasn't going to give him an answer. "Shouldn't you be at work? It's the middle of the day."

"I'll be working late tonight. I just stopped by to—"

"I thank you for your concern." No one could have missed the bite in her tone. "I think you should leave. Now." She really needed to start getting angry more often these days.


"No, Mayama." It suddenly struck her that, for the first time in forever, instead of running away, she was chasing him away. She could appreciate the humour behind that particular thought. "I need you to go."

His eyebrows furrowed but he did not speak. He was displeased, she knew, and two days ago, she might have listened to him. But all said and done, he had not apologized. And judging from their conversation, the thought had not even occurred to him. He was going to continue to be her friend by ignoring what had happened—by ignoring the things he had said.

It was not what she wanted.

He left her, then, his footsteps heavy and slow. She sighed. Lately, they had been having a lot of fights. She didn't know where they stood any more, or what was going to happen to their friendship. But she had not broken down. Her pride had sustained her. And that made her slightly happy.

His attempt to intervene had only added fuel to the fire. Not only did she want to see Nomiya-san now, but she was determined to have a good time. She needed to start having a life that did not completely revolve around Mayama (he had said the truth back then, just not the way he should have.) and she was going to take the first step right away.

First things first, she needed to find a nice dress.

Three hours later, she stood in front of her full length mirror, assessing her reflection in a very detached manner. After almost an hour of contemplation, she had settled on a red strapless dress that came up to her knees, with a very bold (for her) slit on one side. She had opted for very little make up, but she couldn't resist going a little heavy on the eyes. She liked the overall effect, though. She had not dressed up in ages, and it felt good to take some time off, care a little more about her appearance and generally look forward to a pleasant evening.

She glanced at the clock on her night-stand—it was already half past six. She needed to leave right away if she wanted to get to Subaru's on time. It would be so embarrassing to keep Nomiya-san waiting. As she locked up behind her, Mayama's visit earlier that day came to mind. She bit back the anger that it instigated, telling herself that a furious Yamada was not good company.

She ate in silence, occasionally taking a huge gulp of her drink (it tasted so good), too preoccupied to strike up a conversation with him. Needless to say, Mayama currently occupied most of her thoughts and her indignation at what had taken place between them earlier was compelling her to focus on remaining calm. A part of her knew she needed to pull herself together but Nomiya-san's aberrant silence provided no encouragement.

She wondered why he had looked at her strangely when she had arrived, the smile tugging at his lips when he had greeted her anything but genial. She had immediately excused herself to the restroom then, blushing furiously at the thought of having committed a fashion faux pas. But no, her lipstick hadn't been smudged, her hair hadn't been in complete disarray and she hadn't been showing more cleavage than she ought to. She had returned to their table, relieved and puzzled. She had expected Nomiya-san to lull her into a sense of peace—he was always so pleasant and decorous that she usually found it impossible to be anything but comfortable in his presence. But although the man in front of her, eating contentedly, wore a smile that seemed to grow in sincerity each time he looked at her, he was still not the Nomiya-san she was acquainted with.

She bit back a sigh. The waiter was back at her side to refill her glass. She had counted on Nomiya-san's pleasant manners and calm countenance to get her through the evening but seeing him even slightly rattled made her panicky. It was not fair to assign all of the blame to him but she did wish that the evening could be saved somehow.

A controlled sip. She had to avoid making a drunken fool out of herself. But maybe the wine would help ease the tension.

"Yamada-san?" He had stopped eating and was looking at her in mild concern. It took her a moment to realise that he had been saying something earlier.

"I'm sorry?"

"I asked if you liked the food."

"Oh. Of course!" She hadn't exactly concentrated on the food. She looked at her plate then, and realized she had barely eaten anything. And the food in her mouth tasted like cardboard. "It's really quite delicious. I absolutely love it."

"Really?" He looked amused as he placed his elbow on the table, his chin resting on his palm. "Because mine tastes like cardboard."

So profound was her shock at hearing him voice her thoughts that she could only stare at him, with her mouth open. He laughed—head thrown back and shoulders shaking—and she could not doubt his sincerity, then. She was mortified beyond words; there was no escaping now, he had caught her lying straight to his face. "It's-it's not that bad…" she mumbled weakly, trying desperately to salvage the situation. He only chuckled more at that.

"I'm terribly sorry," he replied, continuing to grin at her. She felt the embarrassment ebb away with the increase in his bonhomie. "but the look on your face…"

She giggled. "No, I can imagine. It's just…" Ah well, what would it hurt? She leaned forward conversationally. "I was thinking the same thing and hearing you say it—well it just sort of took me completely by surprise."

He looked back at his plate and sighed. "I'm never taking Yamazaki's advice again. I'm terribly sorry, Yamada-san."

She waved away his apologies, for, after all, terrible food was the reason they were back to normal. It struck her, however, that it was so unlike Nomiya-san to be thoughtless. She'd only known him for a couple of weeks but it was extremely obvious that he was the kind of man to demand perfection in every little thing he did.

He tilted his head towards her, "What is it?"

He was also the kind of man to not let anything go by unnoticed. Subtlety wasn't exactly one of her stronger suits. "Please don't be offended-" his small smile was enough encouragement. "-but it seems a little strange that you wouldn't have thought to ask for a second opinion or checked online or—" she stopped abruptly as he nodded at her.

"Well, to that, all I have to say is that I'm sorry. I've just been extremely busy lately and my way of unwinding—" his lips twisted in disdain. "—as it turns out, is to stop being particular about details."

She giggled. "I think you should unwind more often, Nomiya-san. You don't want people calling you a workaholic."

"Miwako already calls me that," came the defeated reply. Before she could reply, the waiter suddenly appeared at their table and gently placed the bill near Nomiya's plate. She only had the chance to open her mouth to protest before the credit card had been placed on top of it and it was whisked away by the waiter within seconds.

"Wha—wait—um—Nomiya-san!" The wine was finally working. She was scolding her employer. Of sorts. He looked just as surprised by her reprimand. "I could have paid, you know! You've barely eaten anything and I've already downed two glasses of wine and—"

"I'll remember to mention that the wine was excellent in my review then." He looked amused again. "Might be the only redeeming quality of this place." He murmured, as an afterthought.

She shook her head, knowing arguing was pointless. "Come on." As soon as the waiter placed the card on their table, he was at her side to help her with her jacket. "There has to be some place here that's worth eating at."

"Now, that was delicious." She was definitely drunk. But like most drunk people, she couldn't care less.

Wine on an empty stomach had obviously been a bad idea, which was why Nomiya had been forced to settle on the small ramen shop down the road, which had served the best ramen she had tasted in years. The shop was run by a cheery, middle-aged man and his unnaturally quiet son, whose way of asking her if she needed seconds was to look at her pointedly. Between her and Nomiya-san, the bottle of wine from Subaru's, was almost empty.

Perhaps it wasn't fair to let Nomiya-san take half of the blame. She was almost entirely the reason why they were out of wine. Except for his windswept hair, Nomiya did not look even slightly inebriated. But she told a different story altogether. She was slumped in her seat, her arms flat on the table. She was having difficulty focusing on his face. A small part of her wondered at her appearance but who cared? It wasn't like she was trying to impress anyone. So what if her dress had hitched up a little—as long as she wasn't flashing anyone, she couldn't see what the problem was.

"Yamada-san," he sounded contrite. "I'm really very sorry about how today has turned—"

"For the hundredth time, I'm having fun." Funnnnn. She was starting to slur. She closed one eye. "I-I was feeling a... little uncomfortable in the beginning so that little laugh over the...the food! Yes, that little laugh over that, well it made me all better."

"I'm glad to hear that." He sounded more amused than usual. She grinned at him. She was terribly funny sometimes, even if she did say so herself.

They were the only customers in the shop. The street was quiet—no cars racing down, honking furiously and no distant roar of buses. She wondered if it was getting late or if this was just a deserted area. She should probably get home, but...she felt comfortable here. If Nomiya-san continued to remain silent, she just might fall asleep. The table looked rather inviting, actually. Maybe if she rested her chin just so, and closed the other eye too—wow, she was actually pretty comfortable.

"I should take you home." Her eyes popped open instantly. What on earth was he talking about? She didn't need to go home. All she needed was a pillow—oh, she should talk. Nomiya-san had said something.

"There is absolutely no need for that Nomiya-san. I'll—I'll just rest here for a couple of minutes—just a couple—and then I'll go home. I'm not that drunk." There.

"I'm afraid that's not possible. The shop owner is about to close up. We should leave, Yamada-san."

"But I'm really cosy here." She murmured. She did not have the strength or the will to stand up. It required too much effort.

"Here, I'll help you." He put his hand on hers and pulled her to her feet. Instantly, the world started to spin. She felt something similar to regret. Maybe I shouldn't have had so much wine.

Nomiya chuckled. "Yes, maybe." Oops.

She placed a hand on his shoulder and steadied herself. Everything continued to spin but she had no choice but to try a few, wobbly steps on her own. That wasn't so hard. If she concentrated entirely on placing one foot after another and not on how long it would take to reach the door, she just might be able to pretend she wasn't drunk.

Behind her, Nomiya-san sounded worried. "You've been drinking a lot more than I'd guessed."

Her mouth opened of its own accord. "Isn't that funny? To think that Nomiya-san had guessed...wrong."

He didn't reply and if she hadn't been drunk, she might have thought to turn around and look at him. But when they finally reached the door, he caught her hand and stepped in front of her. She was suddenly too tired to speak so she simply watched him vacantly while he studied her.

He sighed. "I can't take you home now. You need to sober up, Yamada-san." He glanced at his watch. "It's not too late. I'll get you some water and perhaps something else to eat and—" He was cut off by his phone. He stared at the screen for a few seconds, then silenced the ringer and shoved the phone back into his jacket.

"Looks like you're avoiding someone." She slid to the ground and drew her knees to her chest—no, Yamada, bad idea. She let her legs stretch out in front of her. That wasn't so bad, was it? It took her a moment to realise he hadn't replied to that particular comment either. She shrugged to herself. Everyone had secrets. She closed her eyes. Maybe Nomiya-san was right. If she ate some more, had enough water and waited for a bit, she might feel...less drunk.

The sound of his phone ringing shocked her out of her peaceful musings. "Maybe you should just answer that. Get it over with."

He looked at her piercingly. "It's Mayama." Nausea suddenly hit her. Oh god. It was official. Mayama could now make her want to throw up. If it wasn't bad enough that he could make her cry all night—hey, wait a minute. Wasn't this an improvement on wallowing in self pity?

The phone appeared in front of her. "He probably wants to talk to you."

"Why do you—"

The ringing stopped. He sat down next to her. "You don't own a cell phone. He must have called you at home and when you didn't pick up, he must have guessed you were still with me. Here." He nudged her slightly. "Call him back."

She turned away. "I don't want to." Did that really sound as childish as I think it did?

"Why not?" He bent his knees, his hands splayed behind him. Easy for him. "He's just worried about you."

"I can take care of myself." She was starting to feel more sober by the minute.

The ringing started again. Nomiya adjusted his glasses and muttered, "He's rather stubborn, isn't he?" She looked away when he pressed 'answer'. "Yes?" Pause. "Yes, she is." Her mind switched back to almost three weeks ago, when she had first met Nomiya-san and Mayama had driven back with her. This situation felt somewhat similar.

Nomiya-san was still talking. "I do know what time it is, Mayama." His dry tone brought an involuntary smile to her lips. "I'll take her home when she decides to leave." She observed that Nomiya-san hadn't informed Mayama that she was drunk. Why would he? Mayama would get a hundred times worse if he knew. "I've got to go, Mayama. You do realise that I have company?" Without waiting for an answer, he ended the call. He looked sideways at her. "You don't look very drunk any more."

"That's because I'm not." There was no way she'd be able to hide what she was feeling at the moment.

"Yamada-san." His gentle tone compelled her to look him in the eye. She knew he'd read her in a second. He'd probably known all along. Yamada could be dense at times, but she'd be a complete idiot to believe Nomiya-san hadn't already guessed what was happening. She waited for him to ask the inevitable question. She tried to pull herself together so she could give him a composed answer. She'd give him as little of the truth as possible and leave. The world wasn't spinning anymore. She waited and waited, until, finally he—broke into a grin, "How about some dessert?"

She burst into tears. What else was new? He pulled her up gently. "Come on. I promise to find something better than cardboard this time."

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