Chapter 41 - The First Date
I woke up to a lovely sight as the birds outside the window started chirping. Usually I would've detested the noise as it disrupted my sleep, but right now, I didn't mind.
Kristina was lying against my chest with her arms wrapped tight around me. I was holding her in my arms as well.
We were a tangled mess.
I watched her breathe quietly as I took strands of hair away from her face. She stayed up all night watching anime with me to help learn the language quicker.
She even took notes.
I didn't even bother hiding my smile. This girl always does her best in everything. That's one of the reasons why I adore her.
I was still admiring her features and thinking about how perfect she was until I remembered our situation.
Guilt and pain weighed on my chest.
When will I ever wake up to a morning like this without those heavy things ruining everything?
I felt her stretch a bit in her place before she fluttered her eyes open, meeting mine immediately.
It seemed like she was about to smile until she forced her lips into a thin line. She then let out a deep sigh and buried her face against my chest.
Was she going to sleep again? It was still early; and it was Saturday.
I wasn't going to disturb her but she suddenly looked up from my chest and met my eyes.
What was she doing?
I smiled at her before patting her head. She was acting like a small child.
"Ohayou gozaimasu." I said, cracking a mischievous grin. It was meant as a joke, but obviously this girl would take it as a challenge.
She knitted her brows and replied. "Ohayou, baka."
I snickered as I ruffled her hair. I'm so proud of my student.
And despite saying those things and looking so displeased, she wasn't letting go of me.
Maybe she was sleep-talking?
She was staring at me quite intently for a while now and I was starting to wonder what I did wrong this time.
Aside from the fact that I was leaving her again that is...
Wow I sound like such a jerk.
Because I am.
She placed her hand on my chest and clutched on my shirt. She slowly adjusted her position and laid her head gently on my arm. So right now, we were eye-level.
She had a stern look on her face, looking pissed as hell. I still sighed contentedly. Call me crazy, but I'd still love waking up to this face.
"Nani?" I laughed, tracing my fingers on her cheek up to her forehead, trying to smooth out the wrinkles she was forming by looking so upset.
After a stare-off of about a few seconds, her expressions slowly softened into something gentle.
I felt a tinge of pain in my chest. That was probably my fault.
I was still contemplating how to apologize to her again, and how to make it up to her. What should I do? This wasn't just a simple matter that could be solved by a simple apology.
I wasn't expecting her to hold my face, demanding my full attention.
She stared into my eyes and suppressed a sigh. I could hear her breathing getting shaky, so I held the hand that was cupping my face.
"Aishiteru." She said. My heart stopped. "Aishiteru, baka."
I'm in love with you.
I'm in love with you, idiot.
Her words were a bit wobbly as she had just learned that phrase last night, but the way she said it held so much emotion.
I guess it really wasn't a dream last night.
I cracked a silly grin as I pulled her into a tighter embrace. I was so happy and sad at the same time.
I let out a small sigh before I kissed her forehead. I'm not counting that kiss.
I'm too damn happy right now. What did I do to deserve such happiness?
"I mean it, Daniel." She said, breaking the little dance I was doing in my head. Her eyes were blinking slowly as her lips quivered. "I love you."
In the middle of those words, her voice cracked, like she was holding back a sob. And that broke my heart.
"I love you." She said again, clearer, stronger. "I love you."
I felt like my heart was getting stabbed every time she said that.
"I love you." She said again, this time quietly like a whisper.
She hugged me all of a sudden and spoke against my chest, her voice muffled. Was she embarrassed?
"Saying it a hundred times won't be enough." She said, regretfully. "But I really love you."
I swear she could feel my heart beating so hard as her face was pressed against it. I was going crazy. She was killing me.
And it was still early in the morning.
I pulled her face from my chest to make her look straight into my eyes. It didn't take long for me to kiss her fully on the lips when she looked at me like that.
"I love you." She said again in between kisses. I could feel her tears staining my cheeks. My eyes were welling up as well.
It felt like every time she said that, she was also saying something else.
I love you
Don't leave me.
"I love you too," I said before kissing her again. "I swear I'm going crazy because of how much I do."
I never thought feelings could ever be this intense. I always thought it was just an exaggeration when people said they were crazy in love.
Now I understand why people lose their minds over it.
After another tight hug, I took her hand and squeezed it before pressing my lips on the back of her palm.
I then placed her hand on my cheek and sighed heavily. I'm about to explode with both happiness and sadness.
Why was everything happening all at once? Can't life slow down a bit?
I snuggled up to her like a big baby, taking advantage of the situation. This was the most comfortable place in the world. In her arms.
"What time are we going?" She asked. My mind buffered for a bit. She meant the date.
"Depends on you. It's still early. I know you like to sleep in on the weekends."
She nodded in agreement then kissed my forehead.
I feel like I have a really spoiled or goofy expression right now.
"Before lunch then. Let's sleep for now."
She made a small yawn before shutting her eyes and falling asleep in an instant. I silently chuckled.
It was about an hour before noon. We got inside my car and I began to warm up the engine. Kristina buckled up beside me. "Where do you wanna go?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Anywhere is fine."
That didn't really help.
I would've chosen somewhere nice but I doubt she'd like it. I'm pretty sure she would've preferred to stay at home but I at least wanted to take her some place different.
"Amusement park?" I suggested.
"Hmm..." She squinted her eyes, trying to consider it. "It's okay I guess."
So it's a no then.
"I don't feel like watching a movie," she replied.
"Beach?" I tried again.
"It's too cold."
"Wanna go hiking or something?"
"What about the zoo?"
"Not in the mood for the zoo."
I sighed. Anywhere is fine, she says.
I leaned back on my seat, knowing this was gonna take quite a while.
"I know," I said, with all seriousness in my tone. She looked at me with anticipation as I continued. "Let's go to a love hotel."
She slapped my shoulder.
Yeah I think I deserved that.
"Well where do you want to go then?"
She held her chin and appeared to be deep in thought for a while. "I remember Ella telling me about this Aquarium that opened a few months ago. Wait I'll check."
She pulled out her phone and searched for the said Aquarium. Several results appeared and she pressed on the very first one.
"They have a seafood restaurant, a souvenir shop, a water park... Oh they even have rooms for tourists. How convenient. This Aquarium must be huge."
"Want us to get a room then?" I couldn't resist.
She narrowed her eyes at me.
I grinned, accepting that silent challenge. She picked up some commonly used words in the animes we watched last night.
"Sore wa yoi kotode wa arimasen, Poopy-chan," I shook my head pretending to be disappointed. "Anata wa motto doryoku suru hitsuyō ga arimasu."
That's not good, Poopy. You need to try harder.
Her already narrowed eyes turned into slits as soon as I finished my sentence. I wasn't anywhere near fluent; I still needed practice.
She groaned, then typed furiously on her phone again. She repeated what I just said on a Japanese translation app she downloaded last night and glared at me when she found out what I just said.
"I will." She declared, determined.
Yeah, I have no doubts she will.
"Ganbatte," I raised my fist a bit to cheer her on. It was a tease, and she took it as a challenge.
So we ended up going to the Aquarium.
Our little Japanese competition went on for like an hour inside the car. She learned new words again and was delighted at the fact that she was getting the hang of it.
I enjoyed the exchange of foreign words too. We were having so much fun that we almost forgot about our date.
Our long overdue first date.
There were a lot of people in the water park. Kids mostly. We didn't have any plans on getting wet so we walked around it and went straight for the Aquarium.
The entrance was huge and I admit I was excited to go inside. I've never been to an Aquarium before.
It was like a tunnel when we stepped inside. Plain white walls surrounding us and only one way to walk on.
After walking for a bit, we finally reached the first part of the attraction.
It was like we were in the middle of the ocean, only, we were inside a really long glass tunnel that connected to somewhere we were yet to find out about.
The lights were a bit dim. Everything seemed to be enveloped with the water's reflection.
A huge manta ray swam right above us. I couldn't contain the whoaa that I've been holding in for a while now.
That was so awesome.
A hand reached for mine and I felt our fingers interlock in that brief moment. I glanced at her face and swear my heart fell to the floor. She was just quietly smiling at me.
Why do I feel like my face was heating up? Wow. I'm glad the color of our surroundings concealed my face.
"What?" I asked, masking my embarrassment by tightening my hold on her hand.
She released a small laugh.
Is it just me, or did she look ten times prettier today?
"Nothing." She said. "I've never seen you look that amazed before. It's refreshing."
We slowly walked forward, following the line on the floor. The glass tunnel seemed like an endless path of water and sea creatures, and there were absolutely no complaints from me. Not one.
"What are you talking about," I said, swaying our hands back and forth as we walked. "I'm always amazed at my cousin's idiocy."
She rolled her eyes laughing. I just smiled.
This was really happening right?
How did I receive such a blessing?
"Dolphins!" She suddenly exclaimed, pulling me closer to the thick glass that separated us from the aquatic world.
The dolphin looked friendly, and seemed like it was greeting us. It was doing some flips and it kept nodding its head at us.
"Beautiful..." she smiled, admiring the creature. I was looking at her rather than the dolphin.
"Yeah," I replied, feeling high. "You're beautiful."
She smiled and quickly turned away to hide her face. I couldn't help myself. I was just being honest.
I looked to my right and noticed that the dolphin was just staring at me in anticipation. I chuckled and gave it a little wave.
It seemed pleased and mirrored my actions, waving its fin at me as well before swimming back to its family.
We continued on walking and encountered various sea creatures. I decided not to let the moments go to waste and took several pictures and videos on my phone.
Of course, I took her photos as well. She didn't notice. She was really beautiful.
It was still a long walk along the tube but not a second of it was boring. It was perfect too because there wasn't much people around. There was a penguin show outside, that must be where they all were.
"Can I ask you something?" She started, not looking at me but at the school of fish swimming right beside her. "Why do you think Mr. Watanabe is after you and your dad? I get the business part. But do you think there's something else?"
I looked at her and gave her a brief nod. We had the same thoughts. "Sounds suspicious doesn't it? I feel like he has an ulterior motive too."
"I'm worried." She said. "He isn't a criminal, right?"
I chuckled, but I had absolutely no idea. "I don't know him personally. I've never met the guy. But by the way my dad and Tops' dad talk about him, well. They make him sound like an over-aged bully."
She looked at her feet as we walked, deep in thought.
"Is he the reason why you and your dad left for London when we were kids?"
She looked genuinely curious, but there was a hint of sadness in her voice that made me feel guilty.
"Yes," I replied. "Though I don't know the whole story because my dad never talks about it. He's the only one who can ever agitate my dad so much. I think that's saying a lot already."
Kristina nodded in agreement. Everyone who knew my dad knew that he was very cheerful and that he was never one to lose his composure.
"I don't really care about what happened to them in the past." I explained, keeping my voice steady, but I was gritting my teeth. "But at present, he's a major threat to the business my dad and I worked so hard for."
She suddenly stopped walking, her eyes still glued to her feet. Her grip on my hand loosened and I panicked for a bit.
Did I sound too selfish? Did I hurt her again?
I was about to say something until she spoke up, raising her head and gazing at my eyes weakly. "I understand. You have to stop him. I know you can. But I still feel uneasy. Why did he specifically ask for you when you guys have never even met before? Why is there a deadline?"
"I wish I knew," I said, grudgingly. "But that's why I have to go meet him. To settle things."
"Yes," she replied, determined as well. How was she still so supportive even though I was leaving? "You have to help your dad."
I nodded. We just stood there for a while, not knowing what to say next. The dolphin that greeted us earlier was back, along with some of its friends. Or siblings maybe.
The frowns on our faces were slowly turned upside down. They gave us a little show, waving their fins and flipping in place. It seemed like they were dancing.
We were enjoying the small show they provided us with, but I knew our hearts were heavy.
Kristina held my hand tighter again. I turned to look at the side of her face. She didn't dare meet my eyes when she spoke.
"Can't you just take me with you?"
I was surprised. I never expected her to say that. Before I could come up with an answer, she shook her head vigorously, as if taking back what she said.
The dolphins imitated her as well, and shook their heads in unison.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what I was saying. Forget I said that."
I made her look at me by holding her arm with my free hand but she still averted her gaze.
"I would," I said, with all sincerity. "Someday I'll take you there. I'll show you every place I went to. I'll show you where I grew up. But not under these circumstances."
Not when the Watanabes were acting like this. Not when our company was being threatened. Not when the press was still looking for me, ready to publicly harass me and anyone I was associated with.
"I understand, I understand. I'm sorry for suggesting that. I was out of my mind for a moment there." She hastily said.
I could feel my heart break with every word.
I pulled her into a tight embrace, caressing the back of her head for comfort.
I'm the one who should be sorry.
"Please don't think I'm prioritizing the business over you," I said. I was starting to have second thoughts about meeting Richard after seeing her like this. "If you don't want me to, I won't le--"
"No!" Her yell came out muffled because she her face was buried in my chest. She looked up at me with knitted brows. "Don't say that. I'm not stopping you. I'm not selfish enough to tell you to stay here with me. You're making the practical choice Daniel. I would've done the same if I were in your shoes."
I was quiet. What was I supposed to say?
"I just..." she mumbled, searching for the right words. "I just have to sort out my thoughts. I'm still confused as to what I should do when you leave... How should I support you where I can't see you..."
She placed her hands on each side of my face. I don't know if her eyes were turning glassy, or if it was just from the water's reflection.
"I love you." I said
I pressed my forehead against hers and held back a sigh. Why do I feel like tearing up?
"I love you too." She replied
The words we were too proud to admit before were coming out effortlessly from our trembling lips. Maybe it was to make up for lost time. Maybe it was because we both knew that it wouldn't be long until we can't say those words in person anymore.
We didn't realize that the dolphins had invited more of its friends. Now I was confused as to who was giving the show. Us or the dolphins. They seemed genuinely interested in us and kept imitating our actions.
"What do you want for Christmas?" I asked, out of the blue. It was a month before Christmas and I was leaving after the holidays. I had to get her something to hold on to while I was away.
"I don't really have anything I want..." she mumbled.
"Except me of course." I teased to lighten up the mood. She snorted and rolled her eyes. The dolphins were everywhere. I swear it should be them paying us for this sappy love story we were showing them.
"What about you?" She asked. "What would you like for Christmas?"
I just smiled at her. She looked suspicious.
"For Christmas, I'd like something only you can give me."
Her eyes widened like saucers and I almost burst out laughing. I wonder what she thought of.
"And that is..?" She asked, cautiously.
I held her face and tucked the loose hair behind her ear. She was so beautiful.
"Well..." I said, starting to get a bit embarrassed with what I was about to say. "I don't want to leave without fulfilling my promise to you."
She looked into my eyes confused for a while until she finally understood what I meant. I chuckled in response to her flushing cheeks.
"You can't possibly mean..."
"I'm seventy kisses short." I grinned.
She probably didn't know how to handle her emotions, so she concealed it by laughing and hitting my arm. "A normal person wouldn't count those things you know."
I shrugged my shoulders. "Well, as you already know, I'm not normal."
"Yeah, you're not." She agreed, shaking her head. Then she thought about it and nodded, giving me a small smile. "Fine. So in the weeks until you leave, we're gonna finish that silly childhood promise?"
"Nah," I replied, much to her confusion. I placed my hands on her lower back and pressed her body against mine. I playfully rubbed my nose on hers as I explained. "I want to complete the promise in only one day."
Her eyes widened again.
"Are you serious?" She said, incredulously. "All in one day?"
I was feeling smug. She didn't look like she hated the suggestion. She just looked surprised.
I pecked her lips twice and grinned mischievously at the face she was making. "Sixty-eight to go. Can you handle it?"
She sent me a piercing gaze before she stood on her toes and pulled my face for a deep kiss.
Her lips her warm and they seem to fit perfectly on mine. The way her hands caressed my cheek and neck as she kissed me was almost inviting.
When she broke the kiss, I was still caught on a daze. I almost forgot to open my eyes, as weird as that sounds. But as soon as I did, I met a really beautiful but smug Kristina watching me with triumphant eyes.
"The question should be, can you?"
I still haven't gotten over that last kiss. Damn it. Sixty-seven to go.
I pinched her cheek and hugged her so tight I was afraid I'd hurt her. She just makes me so happy. I don't know what I'd do when I get back to London without her by my side.
I won't know what to do with the feeling of emptiness.
We already confessed our feelings to each other. We've both confirmed it as well. Now the question that has been lingering in the back of my mind has resurfaced.
I released her from my embrace, her face all smiles. It's now or never.
"I'm scared to leave, to be honest." I started, my hands falling to her arms. "I'm scared someone will take my place while I'm gone. I mean, I trust you. But it's the people around you I don't trust. You have no idea how beautiful you are. You might not think so, but I'm sure a lot of people see what I see in you."
Her expression showed nervousness. She didn't know where I was going with what I was saying, but she stayed silent and let me finish anyway.
"I at least want people to know that... you know. I'm yours and you're mine, as cheesy as that sounds... I mean. Do you know what I mean?"
She had no reply, but her face looked like she was a resisting a laugh due to my rambles. I didn't plan to ramble damn it.
Why was my face feeling really warm again. Now the heat's travelled down to my ears and neck.
"You said we weren't officially going out yet," I said, almost biting my tongue. I'm so nervous. This conversation went way smoother in my head. "And if you still don't want to it's fine but..."
I trailed off my words.
I said it was fine but I was still afraid of being rejected.
I suddenly lost all confidence I had a while ago and didn't have the guts to look at her in the eyes for a while there. She was looking at me so intently. She was taking in every word I said.
"Daniel." She said, snapping me out of my trance and making me look at her gorgeous features. I took her hand that was on my face and held it against my chest.
I took a deep breath and released it slowly.
"Will you be my girlfriend?"
I felt like all the air was sucked out of me as soon as I said those words. I lost half the strength in my knees too.
I never expected to be this nervous.
I didn't want to rush her. But I just thought this was the perfect time to ask her. We've been together for some time now and we know our feelings are real.
I wanted it to be official. I had to ask.
I had to hear her answer before I leave.
I feel so damn miserable. I don't want to leave her. Not when we've reached this far. Why was Richard's timing so convenient? Was sucking the joy out of people his ultimate mission in life?
She clutched my chest and I heard her take a deep breath. I swear I've never felt this anxious in my life.
She met my eyes and I had no idea what my face looked like. Lame, probably, because she still looked like she was containing her laugh. Or smile? I don't know.
"I'm sorry," she said.
My heart dropped.
"I'm sorry I took way too long to admit my own feelings," she said, regretfully. "I wasted so much time, and now I feel like I've pushed you to a corner. I'm sorry."
Why does she keep apologizing? She doesn't have anything to be sorry for at all.
"You're the most annoying person I know, but you're also the sweetest. You stayed with me even though I'm such a difficult person to be with. I honestly think I don't deserve you."
"Don't say that," I said, almost pleaded. It was the other way around. It's me who didn't deserve her. "I never once thought that about you. You're so easy to love. Even back when we were kids. You're the only girl I ever cared about this much."
I don't know how to explain how I felt right now. Vulnerable. Weak in the knees. I felt panic. I felt like I was ripping my own heart into pieces.
I just loved her that much.
"I know," she replied, the look in her eyes so tender, so comforting. "That's why I'm apologizing."
I was too caught up in my own whirlwind of emotions. I didn't understand what she meant.
"I'm sorry I made you wait so long," she said, her eyes brimming with tears. "I'm sorry I wasted precious time. And if it's okay with you..."
She clutched both her hands unto my chest as she looked at me. The dolphins were staying still, almost as if they were waiting in anticipation for her next words as well.
I held my breath as I cupped her cheek affectionately.
"I'll be your girlfriend."