It was an ordinary rainy afternoon in Tokyo. Everything was soaked, and umbrellas were hiding all the people’s head from the clouded sky. The growing tenebrous city was welcoming all the workers going back to home, some high school student running under their schoolbag or waiting under porches for the rain to stop. There was yet, among the lot, a young woman that didn’t care of being soaked, but that was running for a whole other reason. This teenager’s name was Kitajima Maya, and she was so grateful that she couldn’t wait for the rain to have the cordiality to stop soaking the ground to run toward the man she owed almost everything she had. Hijiri Karato heard her knocking on his door and received, to his great surprise, a drenched, exhausted, barely breathing, yet smiling like the happiest girl in the world that she currently was, Maya.
“Good lord, Maya, did you run all the way here without carrying any umbrella?”
“I did.” She said, satisfied. “I had to thank you! I had to thank you for—for everything yes indeed, but today, precisely, for having—renovated our old theatre. It was so—so generous of you! Of course you are always generous to me but still! When I saw the theatre, yesterday old and dirty, now beautiful and shinny, with all those red curtains and the black carpet on the floor! And the roses, as always, on the very stage, which had have its entire floor fixed and waxed! It was—it was magic, Takumi-san, it was magic!” She had to fight her tears and regain her breath, but she couldn’t help but speak her mind gratefully. “You see, before today we all thought that none would have come to see us—our play, and even—even Hayami-san, when he came—he said so too! We were all so hopeless! But then, everything changed when your generous move had been done! Now we all work with so much—so much energy inside us! We owe you so much—I owe you so much!”
She stopped, getting aware of her friend’s unreadable expression. There was something wrong in it, but she couldn’t tell. Hijiri knew something that Maya didn’t: he didn’t do any of this great—of this so marvellous renovation: Masumi did. Again, he managed to be more aware of Mays’s current situation than him, despite the fact that they were seeing each other almost four times every week, less now that they got a theatre to start rehearse in, but still. He did it again, using his former self, his former part of Mr Purple Rose, to please her and help her. And he didn’t like that, because it wasn’t the first time, and if he kept doing it, sooner or later, Maya would see that sometimes, she is thanking him for having done things he had never heard of. He had to find a way to make Masumi stop. He couldn’t let him put him in danger by this reckless behaviour.
They took a cup of tea inside. Maya explained him how difficult her rehearsals were to her. Everything would be great if the character she played was a dog. But the thing is, it’s a wolf. A wild wolf, which got fangs, and wild manners, and that has fear of human kind in its heart, which had been tore from its forest, and which is scared and wild. That is what she can’t reach: wildness. If it keep going on like that, no one would believe Jane seriously think she is anything but a little puppy. Hijiri began more and more cheerful as Maya was talking, and when she ended her speech, he said, teasing her.
“So, you need to go to a forest, right?”
“That’s exactly what I need to do.” She said.
“Indeed. Do you know what would be great, in a situation like yours? It would be really wonderful—really marvellous, if you knew someone—anyone, a friend, for example, that owned a house, somewhere in the countryside of the area, with, let’s say: a lake, and a forest near this lake.”
“Yes it would be great, indeed…” She answered, searching in her mind who could possibly fit this description. After a moment, Hijiri, desperate, snapped his fingers near her eyes to get her attention and pointed himself out with his index with an incredulous expression on his face. How come she didn’t immediately think about him? Her eyes widen with amazement as she cried: “Really?”
He nodded and, to his great surprise, she dissolved into tears. Puzzled, Hijiri feared for a moment that he upset her in any way, but when he asked what was wrong, she only said: “What would I do without you!” And he smiled to let her calm herself down.
They took off this very evening, and were at Nagano by ten, so when they arrived to the mansion, the caretaker were already gone, and hadn’t been warned that they were coming. Maya was so glad to see this place. Nothing had changed since the last time she came. She could vividly remember all the days she spent there to rehearse for the part of Helen Keller, with a fold on her eyes and earplugs keeping all the sounds away. She lived those days in the dark and silent, until one day…
“Do you remember, Kirino-san” She said with nostalgia “When you came to see me this day.” She walked toward the stairs. “I was here, and I had my ankle twisted, so I fell and then you got me before I could hit the floor.”
Hijiri hadn’t any memories of this day, obviously, but he did remember what his friend told him. “You used your hand try to find out who I was, and I had a rose on my jacket. You touched it and found out and asked if it was me, and then I took your hand to say yes.”
Maya felt so happy to be able to speak freely about this moment. It was the happiest moment of her life. She could remember vividly, how she hugged him then and how he held her tightly. She turned her look toward him.
“Then, you hugged me.” Hijiri said painfully. He could only imagine, Maya, younger, hugging Masumi, the man she hated more than anything else in the world. Somehow, he felt danger, mentioning it. Maya smiled.
“Yes, you have to forgive me for that.” She said with a laugh “I was so overwhelmed by my happiness that I didn’t try to be civiler.
“Don’t apologize for that.” He said and lied “I was happy, this day. That made me understand your feeling toward me, and I was really glad to see how strong they were.” He told her his lines, the lines Masumi had written for him in his letter. Lines he’d rather not to have to tell, because they reminded him that the one Maya had always been in love with, was M. Purple Rose, being Hayami Masumi. Not him.
“If I remember, you hugged me too, this day.” She said, laughing to hide her deep flush. But Hijiri could still see it. “It was the first time you hugged me.” She added softly, and Hijiri felt his heart pounding so hard in his chest he couldn’t help but do as it demanded.
“I take that as an invitation.” He said shamefully, and then he grabbed her arm and pulled her against him to hold her tight In a selfish; childish way, it was a way to get equal in his comparison of Masumi’s deeds. He hugged her, then so would he. He buried his face in her hair, and breathed deeply, enjoying its soft sent with relief. He felt it had been waiting to this moment for weeks.
However, Maya was feeling something really, really different.
Indeed, she was moved. Mr. Purple Rose, her great admirer, her friend, was hugging her, something she had been dreaming for since the other time in this very same place. But there was the entire problem. Because when he had pulled her toward him, she immediately expected that would come the same feeling, she same presence, she same strength, the same sent, all those thing she felt before.
But to her, now, everything was different. A complete different presence was emitted by Kirino-san’s body; his heart beating a total other way, the way he smelled had changed, and his arm wasn’t using the same strength at all. Everything had changed, and if she closed her eyes, she would believe that the man that was hugging her was a different person from the one who did it four years ago. Was it because of those years? Did she grown that taller, that he couldn’t hug her the same way? Was there a difference now that she knew his identity? She couldn’t tell. But that fact was, even as moved as she was, she couldn’t help but finding herself a bit disappointed.
It was almost midnight when Hijiri drummed against Masumi’s door, knowing that his friend wouldn’t be sleeping at this time of the night. A servant opened and let him come inside. When Masumi heard that his friend, Hijiri, was coming, he couldn’t help but feeling a great anger toward his presence here, in his house. Didn’t he have any shame? Didn’t he think he had betrayed him enough to be no longer welcomed in his house? But he let him come in and clenched his teeth, looking at his glass of vine, waiting for his arrival in the room. When finally he showed up, Masumi didn’t look up. He couldn’t. He was trying to put in order a sentence that would make him admit what he did with Maya the other night, but somehow he didn’t how to start. Hijiri spoke first.
“Don’t you have any clue, about the reason for me visiting you at this time of the night?”
At first, Masumi didn’t show any reaction. He tried to understand what he could possibly mean by that. That should concern Maya, of course. That was the only thing that…
“Are you referring to the renovation?” He guessed.
“Indeed. You did it again. You played your old part again, WHY ?”
“Because you were too busy seducing her to notice her real problems, that’s why!” He cried, finally looking at him in the eyes.
Hijiri startled. Masumi was right. He was unable to guess her issues by himself, he always help her about things she actually tells him about. But, what did he mean by ‘seducing her’? Although his behaviour in the mansion was a bit suspicious, but how could he know about it?
“Excuse me, but by ‘seducing her’ what exactly are you meaning?”
“Do I have to be even clearer?” He yelled. “I meant ‘sleeping with her’, that’s was I was referring to!”
“You…lost me now.” Hijiri answered sincerely.
Masumi looked away from him, to hide his expression, and put his fingertips on his closed eyes. He was trying to calm down, because it hurt too much. Finally, he sighed and whispered “It’s useless to try hiding it from me, Hijiri. I know that Maya spent a whole night at the apartment, a little while ago. How could you, Hijiri? How could you do that, after so little time! You barely…”
“Before you could go on with the melodrama, I have to tell you one thing.” Hijiri said with a grin on his face. Masumi startled; was he really making fun of him? Even at such a moment, didn’t he regret his deed? Hijiri looked like he was about to bust into laughter. “It’s true that Maya stayed at my apartment one night, but we didn’t do anything. She just happened to fall asleep on a couch, and I just didn’t wake her up. End of the story.” His expression was so truthfully that Masumi couldn’t help but believing what he said. He felt a huge amount of relief in this chest and felt like he could breathe again, after a long and painful apnoea. But then, Hijiri added: “But if, and I said ‘if’, if we did do something this night, then what? What, do you think Maya isn’t old or smart enough to decide by herself if she can sleep with me or not?”
“Hijiri!” Masumi said, shocked.
“You are not fair Hayami-san! You told me to take care of her, but when I do so, you get angry! You told me you were quitting being Mr Purple Rose, yet you keep sending her flowers! You told me that you were going to marry that whatever her name rich girl, yet you can’t accept the fact that Maya is having her own life, choosing someone else than you! You are the one who decided of all this!”
“Yes, and now I see how great that mistake was!” Masumi yelled, jumping out of his armchair.
The two of them were looking in each other eyes, both horrified by what Masumi just said. But Masumi, yelling that, finally understood that he should never have done this; giving away his Mr Purple Rose part.
“I—deeply regret this decision, Hijiri.” He said, trembling. “I do. I can’t bear it anymore. I thought I would be strong enough, but I’m not. It hurt too much, Hijiri. Thinking that Maya—that she does not need me anymore, it’s worse than being hated. I’m nothing, nothing to her…”
Hijiri, even angry, could not blame Masumi for what he just said. Because this feeling, he could understand it very well. Except that he didn’t lived five or six year loving Maya tenderly. He could only imagine. Maya was so, so gentle, so sweet, and so passionate, that he could not imagine living six years protecting her without falling in love with her too. To him she was already…
“But…a few days ago” Masumi went on with a weak voice, his red eyes blinking. “She came to see me, at my office…and there was something in her behaviour…some tiny details in her way of speaking that gave me hope.”
“I think that she—doesn’t hate me anymore, Hijiri.”
Masumi raised his gaze on his friend, and the expression he saw then widened his green eyes.
“You knew?” He asked.
“Since the very first day, I guessed that it might be possible. But I didn’t give much credit to it. Since there wasn’t anything to do about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know that right now you want to stop everything, Hayami-san. But I can’t let you do that. Because, right now, if we stop, if I tell her the truth, she will feel she had been deceived, tricked, again. And that would be true, and it would be our fault! We are playing with her feelings! We can fool each other telling ourselves that this was the best thing to do, for her sake and happiness, but the truth is: we are just manipulating her and there is no other way to say it.” Why was it so painful to say it out loud? “And she would hate me! And she would hate you even more and no one would blame her for that!”
Masumi stepped back and fall in his armchair. Hijiri concluded with a hoarse voice :
“Her heart would be broken, maybe forever.”