by Moon Momma
* * * * * * * *
"I can't go to the meeting tonight, Keiko," Molly said to her friend. Actually, it was Keiko who had talked her into joining that stupid committee, which had started out harmless enough but then deteriorated into whining sessions for people who thought the University's curriculum was "irrelevant."
"But, Molly, aren't you concerned about--"
"Why can't you come?"
Molly tried to smile mysteriously. "I've got a hot date with a gorgeous millionaire."
"Yeah, right. Look, Molly, if you don't want to be on this committee any more, just say so, even though I think you'd be totally selling out by quitting."
"Okay, I'm a sellout. I quit." Molly laughed; Keiko looked truly shocked. The dark-haired woman was one of the few friends Molly had made in Tokyo, and was really very nice, but she was just way too serious about some things.
* * * * * * * *
Molly was ready by 7:15. She was wearing her little black date dress, the only dress she owned. It was high-necked, sleeveless, short (but not too short), and snug (but not too snug). Through none of her own doing, she had been blessed with the perfect figure for this dress, and she knew she looked terrific in it. She would ask Masato when he arrived if sandals or heels would be more appropriate.
The bell rang promptly at 7:30. When Molly opened the door, Masato started to say, "Hello," then just stared at her. "You look... terrific."
"Thanks. Come on in. I wanted to ask you, should I wear heels or sandals?"
"We're going to a restaurant near the harbor and I thought maybe we could go for a walk along the waterfront after. So sandals might be more comfortable."
Comfort versus glamor. Molly made the appropriate choice for an evening like this. "Heels don't bother me." She went to the studio apartment's small closet and pulled out her black pumps. "Let's go."
* * * * * * * *
Dinner was delicious, and afterwards they went for a walk along the harbor. The bridges and ships were lit up like a wonderland. Molly tucked her hand around Masato's elbow; after a while he shifted her hand down and folded his around it. They talked about everything in the world, and found that they had so much more in common than Molly would have ever imagined. It felt so comfortable, so right, being with him like this.
There was a dark area to their left; they walked over there, away from the crowds, and leaned against a wall topped with wrought iron. "I don't know," Molly said. "It kind of creeps me out, being around a graveyard in the dark."
"There's nothing in there that can hurt anyone."
"I suppose not." Molly looked down into the starlit cemetery. Suddenly the world tilted, and a flood of brief, intense emotions washed over her: terror, anger, heart-piercing grief. She cried out and covered her face with her hands.
Masato's arms went around her and he held her close. "What's wrong?"
"I know this place," Molly sobbed. "Something happened here, something bad. I stood here once, at this wall, and cried. I felt so sad..."
"Maybe someone important to you died and was buried here. Maybe you should come here one day and look at the names on the markers, see if any of them are familiar."
"I don't think I can go in there."
"I'll come with you. Will that help?" She nodded. "Sunday morning okay?" Masato asked.
Molly nodded again. "That would be nice of you. You don't have to, though."
"I want to help you. I know it's important to you, to find some answers."
"Thank you." She was still snuggled close against him. She felt so safe in his arms, like it was where she belonged. They left the cemetery wall and walked closer to the water for a while longer, their arms around each other.
Masato took Molly home before too late, in deference to her early-morning seminar the next day. They stood outside the door to her apartment, holding hands. "I'll pick you up about ten o'clock Sunday morning, okay? But I'll definitely call you before then."
Three nights and two whole days before she would see him again. "Maybe we could do something on Saturday, too?"
"Sure. Let's set it up when I call you." Masato hesitated another moment, then said, "Might as well get this out of the way." He gently took her face between his hands and kissed her. The kiss started out light and tentative, then deepened when Molly put her hands on his shoulders and pulled him closer. After a long time they pulled apart. "I feel like that's something I've been wanting to do for a very long time," Masato said softly.
"Me too," Molly answered, looking into his deep blue eyes.
The moment passed. Masato relaxed and smiled. "Anyway, now I don't have to worry about whether or not to kiss you goodnight, because I've already done it." Molly smiled too, and he leaned down and kissed her once more, quickly. "Goodnight. I had a great time."
"So did I," Molly said. She watched him walk to the elevator, and felt all warm and sparkly inside. I'm in love, she thought, surprised.
* * * * * * * *
In contrast to Molly's usual experience with guys who said they would call after a date, he really did call her the next evening, Friday evening. "You know," he said, "this is the first day since we met that we haven't seen each other. I miss you."
Molly was almost too delighted to say anything. She was lying on her all-purpose futon, which was currently folded up into couch configuration. She rested her feet on top of the back of the couch and clutched the phone close to her ear with both hands. "I don't think I can last till Sunday morning."
"I don't think I can, either. Tell you what--I have to do some grocery shopping in the morning. It'd be fun if you came with. And tomorrow night there's a band I'd like to hear playing at a jazz club. Either of those interest you?"
"Both of them." Molly thought briefly of the paper she was supposed to be preparing for her seminar on Monday. She could pull all-nighters tonight and Sunday.
"Great." He sounded genuinely happy. "I'll pick you up about 11:00. We'll have lunch, too."
"I can't wait."
"Neither can I." He hesitated a moment, then spoke quietly, almost shyly. "You know, I really did miss you today. I couldn't concentrate on work at all. You... You're really something special, Molly."
She could hardly speak. "I can't wait to see you again, Masato."
They said goodbye, and Molly hung up the phone. She hugged herself for a moment, wondering why she felt like laughing and crying at the same time, then got up and found the journal articles she was supposed to analyze for her seminar paper.
* * * * * * * *
On Saturday they shopped at several different open-air produce markets and gourmet shops. Masato bought fresh vegetables, seafood, and meats, and lots of pre-prepared foods. "I can cook one thing," he explained. "I can make really good stir-fry. I just vary the vegetables, meat and sauce every day. I cheat with the rice, though. I get a big take-out order of rice, enough for a whole week, and keep it in the refrigerator. It heats up fine in the microwave."
"I can make really good chili," Molly said. "Mexican food, too, but I can't find the ingredients here."
The shopping finished, they had a quick lunch. Molly told Masato more details about her proposed dissertation topic, and he told her about his business of importing luxury goods, art objects, and handmade crafts. Then he dropped her off at her apartment with a promise to pick her up that evening to go to some clubs.
They had a lot of fun dancing and listening to some great bands. Molly didn't know much about jazz, though she enjoyed listening to it. Masato was very knowledgeable and taught her a lot, opening her eyes to the many subtleties of the art form. Molly didn't want the evening to end, but they did have a date the next morning.
When Masato pulled the Ferrari in front of Molly's building, he put an arm around her shoulders and they kissed for a long time in the car. "This is the one drawback with Testarossas," Masato finally said. "It's hard to make out in one."
Molly laughed. He was so good at making her laugh; the last time she could remember laughing so much was before her mother was diagnosed with cancer. "I am kind of getting a sore neck," she said.
"Come on." His smile was a little regretful. "We've got a date in the morning, and I'm sure you must have studying to do. I hope I haven't been distracting you too much." He got out and opened the passenger-side door for her.
At Molly's door, they spent about ten minutes kissing goodnight. Masato finally pulled back to look at her. The expression in his eyes was so tender, she had to reach up and touch his face. "I really should go now, Molly," he said softly, and gave her one more brief, light kiss on her lips. "See you in the morning."
* * * * * * * *
The next day was cloudy and a little chilly, as spring experienced a small relapse back into winter. Molly would have preferred bright sunlight for a visit to a cemetery, but Masato was able to go with her today, when he might not be another time, and she was eager to find answers to the puzzle of her missing memories.
Molly and Masato walked through the rows of headstones, looking for dates from nine or ten years earlier. They found quite a few, but none of the names jarred Molly's memory.
Suddenly, one configuration of headstones seemed familiar. The world tilted wildly, and words flashed into Molly's mind, "Forget... loser... what he deserved..." She cried out and buried her face in her hands. Another brief memory--a horrible thing with huge wings...
"Molly." Masato's arms were tight around her. She buried her face in his sweater, and he stroked her hair until her shaking stopped.
"Something happened here," Molly was finally able to say. "Something terrible. I don't think it was exactly what I've been looking for, but it was awful. I just... I can't quite remember, though. Just something about someone getting what he deserved. And this monster..." She started shaking again.
"Come on, Molly." With an arm firmly around her shoulders, Masato led her towards the exit. "It was a mistake to come here."
"No. I know now, something awful happened, to me or someone I cared about. At least I know that much."
"Maybe you're better off not knowing what happened nine years ago."
"I need to know. I need to fill in the holes in my life. I need to understand why my world goes all weird at unexpected times. Whatever it is, knowing would be better than not knowing. Don't you feel the same way about your three missing years? Don't you want to know what happened to you, and what you did during that time?"
"I'm not sure. What if it was something so terrible I couldn't live with it, and that's why I forgot it in the first place?"
"Well, I do want to know what happened to me. I have to know."
He looked at her a little sadly, and touched her cheek. "Then I'll keep helping you look for answers."
Their arms around each other, they walked along the harbor till they came to a place where they could climb down to some rocks right at the water's edge. They stood there on the shore, holding each other, watching the gray waves lap at the rocks, listening to the horns on the ships and the seagulls' cries. "I love the sea," Masato said softly. "The sea and the stars. Two things that are far beyond our abilities to control. We can learn about them, but we can't make them do anything. We come and go, but they remain essentially unchanged."
Molly rested her head against his chest. Through his sweater she could hear his heart beat, lending a gentle rhythm to the sounds of the harbor.
"I want to tell you something, Molly. I wanted to say this when we talked, Friday night, but I was afraid."
Molly looked up at him. The cold wind was blowing strands of his long auburn hair across her face; she brushed them away. "Okay," she said, trying not to betray her nervousness. What could he be afraid of saying to her?
He was silent for a moment as he gently stroked her hair. "I love you, Molly," he finally said.
"Ohh." She drew in a shaky breath. "Oh, Masato, I love you too."
"I wanted to tell you, on the phone Friday. I almost said it then. But I was afraid you would think I was moving too fast. I mean, we only met, when was it? Tuesday?"
"I think I loved you the first moment I saw you. I feel like I've loved you forever, instead of just a few days."
"I know. Thursday night, when you brought me home, I realized that I already loved you."
Masato held her closer. "So this isn't moving too fast for you?"
She smiled at him. "Not at all."
"Good." He kissed her, a long, deep kiss. "I feel like I've spent my whole life waiting for you to come into it."
They stopped for lunch, then he drove her home. On the way, they passed a park that Molly had walked past a few times but never gone into. "Slow down," she said to Masato. "Have you ever gone into that park?"
A strange, hard look came over his face. "No."
"Neither have I. For some reason, it really creeps me out. I was just wondering if it's really a nice park or if there's something wrong with it."
"I don't go in that park. It bothers me, too. There's... evil there."
Molly put her hand on Masato's leg. "Stop."
He veered the Ferrari into a parking space along the street. "What?"
"Masato, I fainted when I first saw you because you made that weird deja vu thing happen to me. Now I find out we both avoid the same park. I think that whatever happened to us involved both of us, and that park.
"Do you want to go in, and investigate?"
Molly thought of the park, and quickly repressed the sense of overwhelming terror and crushing grief. He was right; there was evil there. "No."
He took a deep breath. "Neither do I."
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 3
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury