With a Love Sorceress I'll Make My Romance Last!
A little more than a year ago to the day, an elevator door opened and chimed. My shoes echoed against the lobby floor, almost in time with the set of heels from the woman next to me. The sliding doors of our office opened as we approached, letting in the late autumn chill. Soon enough, we would go our separate ways and head home for the evening.
I gathered my courage.
“Miss Inoue!” I called, causing her to turn. “Would you...consider going somewhere with me this weekend?”
Amamiya’s heels stopped in her surprise. She clutched her purse and held an unreadable expression. “Did you have something in mind?”
She’d met my question with a question. I took in a breath and decided to be more direct.
“We could go to a movie.” More nervously, I added, “Just the two of us. None of our other coworkers.”
It was as clear as I could be without losing my composure. I stood, nervously awaiting her response.
“A movie?” Amamiya frowned, but forced a smile. “I suppose, Hiroyuki-kun, if that’s what you want.”
Back then, I had been so happy about her acceptance that I barely noticed her frown.
And now, it was happening again. I’d asked Mia to go to a play and she hesitated in front of me, a downtrodden expression in her eyes. She tried to hide her disappointment, but I knew it was there.
I instantly raised a hand. “Hold on a moment,” I requested. “I need to go, uh, commune with the trees! It’s an elf thing. I’ll be right back.”
Dashing away from the confused Mia, I hurried towards the trees in the backyard. I pointed towards a leaf, pretending to talk to it, when in truth I was speaking to the shadowy bird on my shoulder.
“What did I do wrong?” I harshly whispered to Claire. “Are plays not acceptable in this Kingdom, or something?”
Claire spread her wings, taking a brief flight to the branches in front of me. She turned to stare me down with her steely eyes.
“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” Claire commanded.
I ruffled my hair, frustrated. “Because I don’t even know what I’ve done wrong! Everyone loves movies! I’m sure a play isn’t too different!”
Claire let out a defeated breath. “Roki-kun,” she admonished, “we’re not talking about everyone. We’re talking about Mia. Does Mia love plays? Did Amamiya actually like going to the movies?”
My thoughts halted in place. I had been so certain after our first date that Amamiya enjoyed movies as much as I did. We laughed about the stories and discussed the plot lines together all the time. Was I wrong? Had I been wrong this whole time?
“Hiroyuki,” Claire spoke again, using my original name. “I know you think you need to take initiative. That’s how your father taught you to be. But I’m going to ask you to stop thinking of Mia like a girl you need to win over, and think of her first like an equal partner.” The Claire-bird puffed up her feathers. “Wouldn’t you ask a partner where she wanted to go and listen to her answer, instead of just commanding her?”
Claire’s words burned like a knife in my chest. Was I really that terrible at listening? Had I really spent a whole year with Amamiya and never even realized something as important as the fact that she hadn’t even enjoyed our first date?
I slapped my face and tried not to dwell on the past. Mia was waiting for me, and I would look weirder and weirder the longer I stood here talking to a tree branch.
“Wait,” I paused, “Madam Claire, how did you know about my father?”
Instead of answering, Claire took flight. Her dark feathers dashed against my face as she flew to settle upon the front porch post, right next to where Mia awaited.
“Right, right,” I mumbled, “focus on the mission, I suppose?” I smoothed down my blonde hair and put my best foot forward, as I repeated inwardly to myself ‘Treat her like an equal partner. Not just ‘a girl’ — an equal partner.’
Mia eyed me worriedly as I returned.
“My apologies,” I said as I cleared my throat. “Sometimes the uh, trees, speak to me and I have to quell the spirits of nature. Or, something like that.” I felt a twinge of guilt from lying to her, but the truth was far more confusing.
“Oh?” Mia blinked. “Maybe you could talk to our orchards sometime. I’d like to know if our trees are doing well.”
“Uh, sure,” I agreed without thinking. I then quickly redirected. “But, about our date! Is going to the theater a bad idea? Do you not like plays?”
Mia nervously twiddled her gloved fingers together. “It’s not that I don’t like plays,” she began, looking at her feet. “It’s that I still have a lot of chores to do today, and well, if I’m being perfectly honest…” Mia took in a breath. “Crowded places frighten me.”
As she said the words, sparks suddenly appeared in the air nearby. I watched in awe as the sparks outlined a glowing rectangular shape, then popped out a book from nothingness. This book sprawled itself open: a flutter of blank pages flew past. It settled upon the first page and black ink burned upon its fibers.
It titled itself: ‘The Book of Mia’s Language’
Underneath that, the ink then wrote, ‘Entry one: She doesn’t like crowded places.’
The book hovered in the air, and Claire fluttered herself to land upon it.
“As you truly listen to her, this book will fill itself out,” Claire explained. With a hint of a smirk in her eye, Claire then added, “and every statement in here is true for each parallel self — Mia and Amamiya both.”
It felt like a punch in the gut. How had I never known that Amamiya didn’t like crowded places? She never told me. She always went along with my ideas. She would always smile and say…
“If you’d like to go there, Jun, then I don’t mind.”
When did she start saying that? How long had it been that way?
“Mister elf?” Mia’s voice broke through my frozen horror.
“S-sorry,” I replied, shaken. “Forget the play then. What would you like to do for our date?”
“Oh! I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it.” Mia grew flustered. She looked at the rows of bushes along the side of her house, seeing how most of them were overgrown and in need of trimming. “I’d really like to go with you somewhere, but I still have yard work to do. Perhaps we could go to that play tomorrow?”
She smiled the way I had seen so many times: the smile that always put herself second. Even now, she was still willing to go to the play, despite how much the crowd would frighten her.
Stepping forward, I grabbed a pair of hedge trimmers from the ground. I hefted up the heavy metal with a grin. “We need to trim these bushes down, right? Then maybe clear those leaves over there?”
“That’s alright!” Mia objected. “You’re a regal elf! I can’t ask you to do that! Elves don’t do peasant work like...this…”
Mia’s sentence trailed as I started trimming the overgrown branches. It wasn’t glorious and it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I was determined to help.
“I’m the one that asked you on a date,” I mumbled, keeping my gaze on the greenery. “I asked you for your time, without even thinking about your situation. This is the least I can do.”
“If you’re sure,” Mia whispered, watching on in silence.
At length, Mia grabbed her smaller trimmers and began working on the bush across from mine. We didn’t say anything. The hot summer sun beat down above us, and we slowly clipped away. Yet, when the breeze picked up from the lakeside, I realized the silence between us wasn’t so bad. When I stole a glance at Mia, she finally didn’t look so nervous. She happened to meet my gaze at the same time. We both frantically looked away and went back to working on the branches in front of us.
I remembered quiet days, under the chill of the air conditioning in our office.
Amamiya and I used to work late. We were always fighting the deadlines, staying at our desks until long after everyone else had gone home. That was how we met. We were the only ones left on the floor and I offered to get her coffee.
We’d just sit there for hours, typing away on our reports, and yet...with just us there, we would fall into a comfortable silence. Somehow, those late nights were some of my fondest memories.
How had I forgotten?
After we started dating, I took on Amamiya’s work. I sent her home, saying that because she was my girlfriend now, I didn’t want her to have to work overtime. So she would go to her apartment, and I’d stay at the office until the late hours of the night. Both of us, alone.
Why did I do that? How had I never realized?
‘The Book of Mia’s Language’
‘Entry two: she likes spending time on projects with others by her side.’