Chapter 20:

A Cliché

Mismatch Romance


Ugh, I’m going to be late. Can this traffic move any faster? Thanks to Prez’s “research.” She learned that Rika and her fiance would be taking an 8 pm flight to Okinawa. The plan was for me to arrive at the airport before 6. But, between cleaning up, and eating Saori’s snack, I left a lot later than planned. after getting ready

Bzzt. It’s the group chat, isn’t it?

Dachi: So have you found her yet
Me: Nope, haven't even made it to the airport itself
Saori: Well the map app did say that there was a lot of traffic along that way.
Prez: I told you we should have used a helicopter but noooo that’s too extra
Dachi: Of course it’s extra! Who takes a helicopter to an airport?
Saori: A helicopter owner
Me: The rich
Prez: Me ;)
Dachi: More like people with far too much money. (–.–)
Me: lol

Heh, these guys. Even now they're still checking in on me. I hate to admit but I’m happy you forced me to join that weird club. After all, I was able to make real friends. I even reconnected to the one I lost. Without these guys, who knows where I’ll be? Just another thing I have to thank you for, huh?

After standing in traffic for about an hour, I finally arrived at the airport. Even though I wasn’t planning on it. I checked into Rika’s flight. Hopefully, I can find her before she boards. Still confessing at an airport, how cliche.

Once I passed security, I noticed a girl wearing a blue dress, who had peach-colored hair in two low pigtails. Could it be? I follow closely behind her, making sure to stay out of her sight. Once she sat down, I approached her but instead of seeing her typical sparkling green eyes, they were brown. Then, it hits me.

This isn’t Rika!

Soon after an announcement is called from the intercom. “Final boarding call for Flight 143 to Okinawa at gate A1.”

I immediately looked up. No way I’m at gate E1!

I ran back to the other side as fast as I could. I even toss my backpack to the side, hoping with less weight I can run faster. Luckily, I made it to the gate just in time. I took a deep breath.

“No regrets,” I said softly. Then I headed inside.

I quickly took my seat at the window. I noticed Rika was sitting a few seats in front. I don’t think she spotted me yet.

Once the plane reached cruising altitude, I headed over to Rika’s seat. I can feel my chest tighten. It’s fine, I’m on an airplane, I’m safe.

Then came darkness.

“Attention passengers, we apologize for the sudden loss of light. Power will be restored momentarily. Please stay in your seats.”

“Si…r, S..i…r.”

“No! No no no. I can’t breathe. My chest…it hurts. Help! It’s dark. Mother, MOM! It hurts, it hurts. Please make it stop.

“It…. Ka….”

I’m going to die, aren't I? I don’t want to die!

“KAZUMA!”

Father?

“I feel his warm gentle hand behind my back. Kazuma, let’s breathe together. One, two, three breathe. One, two, three breathe. Good. Remember, nice and slow. I’m here. Now open your eyes and name five things you can see.”

“Grass, the garden…”

“Kazuma focus.

“I’m scared”

“It’s okay to be a little scared. But remember you’re not alone, we’re always here for you.”

“Try again,” he said as his voice began to fade. “Tell me what are five things you can see”

I opened my eyes. And took another breath.

“The TV monitor, the airplane window, the emergency lights, my tray table, and Rika?”

“Now what are four things you can touch, she says.”

“My armrest, the leather seats, the exterior wall, and your arm on mine.”

“Three things you can hear.”

“The sound of the engine, a baby’s laughter, the call light.”

“Two things you can smell,”

“A flowery perfume, and some fresh coffee”

“One thing you can taste.”

“Saori’s cupcake from earlier.”

“Thanks, Ri- I mean Tanaka. I’ll be okay. You should go back to your seat.”

“But you’re shaking. Here let me just sit by you for just a little bit. This seat next to you is empty, isn’t it? Plus my fiancé is sleeping anyway.”

“I nod.”

It seems at some point I returned to my seat. Likewise, the power returned as well. I decided to take a closer look at Rika. She has her hair down, her face covered in makeup, a tight dress, and high heels. Hmm, I still think natural suits her best.

She places her hand on top of mine.

“Um to help with the shaking if that’s okay.”

“Thanks. I’m sorry for causing a scene. Even after six years, I still hate the dark.”

“Don’t apologize, everyone has their fears.”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that. I’m not sure if you heard about the kidnapping publicity stunt six years ago.”

“I have. Because of it, my family became extremely cautious of my online presence, or even announcing my connection to them.

“Well, that incident was real. And I was the kid that was kidnapped.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. One night my father and I had a bad argument. It was actually about reinstating my friendship with Dachi. He refused, so I ran away. Big mistake. The last thing I remember was being tied up and being put in a trunk. I was held in that dark trunk for three days. I lay in a pool of urine in vomit. I was dehydrated and hungry. Occasionally, they would come by to hit me.”

“Kazuma, that’s awful.”

“In the end, I was found and the perpetrators were arrested. But, the story doesn’t end there. Before being arrested an exchange was held, for myself and the money. The deal was that I and the third party would meet in the middle. But I couldn’t move. I should have. Things could have turned out better if I did, but I didn’t.

“You were just a little kid. Of course, you were scared to move.”

“I guess. In the end, my mother took off her heels and ran to embrace me. Things get hazy from there. Because of that incident, I ended up getting diagnosed with PTSD. It was difficult to enter cars or be left alone in the dark. My father even had to help me regulate my constant panic attacks.”

“I see”

“At the same time, my mother was becoming ill. There was a conversation I overheard, where my father begged her to go be seen by a doctor. But she would say my health and wellbeing is more important right now, and that she’s alright. One day she collapsed and a few days later she passed. She was infected with tetanus. A sharp metal object must have pierced her when she ran towards me barefooted.”

“I’m sorry, Kazuma.”

“It's okay. Over time, therapy helped. Though, it is still hard for me to be in dark, enclosed spaces. I guess, it was after her death that I and my father’s relationship changed. Where he became colder and obsessed with legacy. Where I started to push people away. Damn I’m pathetic, aren’t I? If only I wasn’t so stupid back then. Things could have been…”

“Rika raised her hand and chopped my forehead.”

“Bad Kazuma bad,” she says. “Remember what you said to me, don’t criticize yourself. Remember, you didn’t choose to be kidnapped. You were also just a nine-year-old kid. None of this is your fault. You’re not stupid. Got it!”

I chuckled, “Yeah I know, thanks. You know besides my therapist, I haven’t told anyone else. It feels nice. But enough about my past, how’s your future going? The makeup looks nice.”

“My future? Well, it’s alright. Johnson is nice. About the makeup well, Johnson said a woman looks best when dressed up in makeup.”

“I see. He hasn’t tried anything funny has he.”

“No, not at all. He is not really interested in intimacy or romance. I guess our training was for nothing, kidding. He is aware that our marriage is just for political and business reasons. So while we act like a happy lovey dovey couple in public, behind closed doors we’re platonic.

“I’m just glad he is not a fifty-year-old creep.”

“My parents aren’t that crazy. Tee-hee. But Kazuma what are you doing here?”

“Um…business.”

“Well…I hope it goes well.”

“Looks like your fiance is waking up.”

“I guess I should go.”

“Thank you, Tanaka, for everything.”

“No problem, Kaz- I mean Ito-san.” She gets up to leave.

“Wait, Tanaka…”

“Yes?”