I love you. I love you. I love you.
The words played on repeat in my head as I watched Haruto make two separate bowls of cereal for us. He didn’t have a client today, so he had waited until the mini-mart downstairs was open before grabbing a few things to make us breakfast. When I had woken up beside him in the morning, those were the words that had played on repeat in my head as I listened to his breathing and watched his sleeping face.
I loved him.
Everything made sense now. The hesitation to eat him. The fascination with him. Some of those feelings manifesting as hunger. Everything.
“Do you like sugar in your cereal?”
I blinked, realizing that Haruto had asked me a question. I opened my mouth, wanting to say something, but nothing came out. Haruto didn’t seem put off by that. He just gave me a warm smile, placing both bowls on the dining table before pouring a small amount into each bowl.
“I’ll take your silence as ‘a little is okay’,” he said, laughing at his own joke before sitting down. I sat down across from him, taking the bowl he had placed in front of my chair. Of course, eating it would burn, but the pain was incomparable to what I would feel if he was upset at me for rejecting the food he had offered. I took a spoon full of cereal, watching Haruto do the same. My eyes flickered away from him when I noticed that I had been staring too much and was probably making him uncomfortable.
In the silence of breakfast, my thoughts whispered to me, asking me how I was going to go about things now that I knew what I felt for the man sitting across from me. For the most part, I ignored my thoughts and focused on the bowl of cereal in front of me, and other times I would think for a bit and get anxious when I came to the logical conclusion that there was no way Haruto and I could have a proper relationship. I was in one of these panic-induced moments when Haruto called out to me.
“Wern.” His voice was soft, but I still felt like I had been caught doing something bad. I raised my gaze to meet his eyes. “Is everything alright?” he asked, cocking his head to the side a bit.
I swallowed the food in my mouth, feeling it burn my throat as it made its way down. “Yes, everything’s fine,” I said in a whisper.
Haruto didn’t say anything at first. He sighed, looking away from me as he ran his fingers through his hair. “You know, Wern,” Haruto started, looking up to meet my gaze. “When you say everything is okay, you know people can tell it’s a lie, right?”
My eyes fell to the wooden surface of the table, staring at the spot that reflected the light of the bulb above. Of course, I knew that, but it was a common courtesy to leave people alone when they said things like that.
“You know when my foster mum used to lock me up and beat me over the smallest things my teacher at school would ask me the same question, I asked you,” Haruto said, leaning forward.
“Are you alright?” he said, mimicking his teacher’s voice. “I would look at her, straight in the eyes and say, ‘yes, everything is okay,’ but it wasn’t.”
“I would look at her with my throbbing red arms and scared back that she could see if she looked down my collar and say, everything’s fine,” he said. “You know, because of that child protection services weren’t called until about two years into my stay with my foster parents. I got abused for two years because I refused to say that I was hurting when I was. I took it in silence, and I can see that you’re doing the same thing, Wern.”
His words made a chill run up my spine. Haruto was right, but not in the way he thought he was. I wondered how he would react to my thoughts about him. I wondered if his eyes would go widen with fear and if his hand would curl away from me in disgust if I told him that I was struggling with my instinct to kill him and consume his traumatic memories?
What would Haruto think if he knew that I was a monster?
You’re a monster.
The words echoed in the back of my mind like it was mocking me. It was telling me that Haruto would never love me and that all his kindness—all the things that made Haruto good—would be taken away from me if he knew.
Haruto narrowed his eyes at me, reaching out his hand until his fingers touched the tips of mine. “Wern?” he said in a small voice, making me blink back the tears that had glazed my eyesight.
“You don’t have to tell me anything now,” Haruto said, caressing the knuckles of my hand with the base of his thumb. “I’m just telling you so that you know that I’m here if you need to get something off your chest,” he explained. He looked shocked. I guess he hadn’t expected me to act like this over his words.
“I’m alright,” I said, doing that thing Haruto said he didn’t like—lying about being alright when it was obvious that he wasn’t. I even had a forced smile on my face. He didn’t scold me about it this time, and instead, he smiled back, giving my hand a squeeze before returning his attention to his food.
I watched him, dwelling on how much my chest fluttered with every movement he made. His memories had started moving across his chest and back. Talking about his experiences with his foster parents must have triggered them. As much as the memories were sad. Traumatic. Horrific. The pit of my stomach squeezed up, signaling hunger and interest. I felt disgusted with myself, but I couldn’t help it.
It was who I was.
My stomach turned at the self-admission.
I was never ever going to show Haruto who I was.
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