Chapter 25:

I’ve already fallen.

Light of my darkest eve

“Taro? You there man?”
Hanji saying my name snaps me out of my trance.
“Huh- uh, yeah, sorry. Guess I just surprised myself is all.”
“Surprised yourself? What about how much you surprised me? For a second there I thought you were gonna take me here and now in the booth.”
“I’m… not the type.”
“I didn’t think you were the type to make out with a girl with no hesitation like that either.”

She finishes talking with that same incredibly cute giggle as before, and I feel my heart leap out of my chest.

I… can’t be in love with Hanji. Can I? No, there’s no way.

She’s selfish, she’s manipulative, she’s cold, I love her, she’s cruel, she’s vindictive, she’s a liar, I love her, she’s a user, she’s a sex addict, she’s inconsiderate, I love her, I love her, I love her, I love her, I love her, FUCK.

“Let’s get two copies, we should both keep one of that last photo. A reminder of the boldest you’ve ever been, right?”
“Haha, yeah, I like that idea. Let’s got two.”

How the fuck could I let this happen? I was so sure I could avoid falling for her. I believed I could keep going on these dates and spending all this time with her without catching feelings, but I was so wrong.

I try to kick those feelings out of my head by remembering everything about Hanji that makes her unfit for a romantic partner. I try to think of her manipulative behaviour, her nonchalance about hurting people’s feelings, her confession that she doesn’t think she can even fall in love, but everything I try, all I can think of is her gorgeous face, her smile that could save the world, her refreshingly unabashed personality… everything about her is perfect to me.

I want her. I want to be with her. I love her. Why do I love her? Why did I fall for someone so completely unobtainable? Why am I so stupid?

No, maybe it’s not even because it’s her. I’m sure I’d have fallen for anyone who gave me the same affection she does. The flirtation, the attention, the kindness. She held out baits and I took every single one. Hook, line, sinker. By the time I even realised the drug she was spoonfeeding me I was already completely addicted.

But I don’t care. I’m hers completely. She’s won. I’m wrapped around her finger so tight she could do whatever she wants with me.

I’m hopelessly, hilariously in love with her.

“Taro, man, don’t just stare off into space. We got games to play and cake to eat, hurry it up.”
“Ah- right, sorry, let’s go. Air Hockey next?”

“You know it. Then let’s waste some money on the crane games too, I’m in a gamblin’ mood.”

Wait, what am I even complaining about? I’m on a date with the woman I love, right? Even if she doesn’t feel the same, who cares? I can enjoy this time while it lasts. I’ve been handed everything I want on a silver platter, and the only caveat is that I have to live with the knowledge that she’ll never love me back.

“Ready to get your ass whooped?”
“Born read- wait, scratch that.”
“Too late, no take backs.”

As soon as she finishes speaking she perfectly slots the puck past my defence and into my goal. I put the puck on the table again and immediately fire back, starting a rally that ends in a point for me.

“Oooh, you’re better than I expected. This’ll actually be fun.”
“I’m upset you doubted me. Game on, Hanji.”
“Fighting words. Let’s see how they hold up.”

Right, there’s nothing to complain about. She’s here with me, we’re having fun together, I’m getting to enjoy her company. What more could I ask for?

“Ooh, close game. Closest anyone’s gotten to beating me in a while.” In the end she beat me 7-6.

“Dammit, almost had you at the end. Rematch or move on?”

“Let’s move on to the crane games, I wanna get the big fuck off panda bear in the close one.”
“There’s two machines with the panda. First to get one wins?”

“Challenging me again so soon? You must be brave.”
“Well, this time I’m gonna win.”
“Put up or shut up, Taro boy, let’s play.”

We spend a lot of time in the arcade playing various games and enjoying each other’s company. It’s the sort of date I always dreamed of having. I win her the big panda, she destroys me at the 1v1 shooter machine, and I absolutely rock her shit at Street Fighter II. When we’re finally done screwing around in the arcade, we wander on down to the cafe to buy the cake we set out to get in the first place.

“Y’know, ever since the Photo Booth you’ve seemed a lot more confident and upbeat. Did kissing me make you absorb my attitude or something?”
“Maybe, but I haven’t tried sleeping with anyone I just met yet.”
“Ooh, you’re on fire today. When did the cute and flustered Taro become the snarky and brash Taro? I’m kinda liking this new you.”

She gives me that same flirtatious grin and wink as before, and it sets my heart alight. Her smile is electrifying, and I’m completely captured by it.

I’m smitten, completely and utterly. There’s no point trying to fight it now. May as well just roll with it.

We finish our cakes, pay our bill to the old man behind the counter, and begin to walk back home, hand in hand once again. We’d been so busy just having fun and being together that I’d let time slip away from me, and the sun had already begun to set.

I wave to Yuuko again as we re-enter the building, Hanji’s other hand occupied with the enormous plush panda, and we step into the lift together. We don’t let go of our grip on each other’s hand all the way through the second floor hall until we stop outside of 2-48.

“I had a lot of fun today, thanks for coming out with me on such short notice.”
“Thanks for inviting me. I had a lot of fun too. We should do the same thing again sometime.”
“I’d like that. Keep your schedule open for me.”

She gives me another wink, before planting a quick kiss on my lips and entering her room.

“Night, Taro.”

“Night, Hanji. See you tomorrow.”

She closes the door behind herself, and I unlock my own door, ready to turn in for the evening.

As I flop down on my bed, the memories of today swarm through my mind. All the time Hanji and I spent just enjoying ourselves and living in the moment. I had no idea that falling in love could feel so…



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