by Moon Momma
* * * * * * * *
After class the next morning, while Molly was walking to the library, Keiko caught up with her. "Why do I get the feeling that you didn't go home last night?"
"What do you mean?" Molly asked.
"Oh, come on, Molly. You've been acting like you're half-asleep all day, and you've got this idiotic smile on your face. No one smiles through Dr. Natsuki's classes. You spent the night with what's-his-name."
"Nothing happened. Not that, anyway."
"You don't need to be embarrassed. I mean, you're what, twenty-three, twenty-four? It's perfectly normal."
"We didn't sleep together, Keiko," Molly said, exasperated. "But we are engaged."
Keiko stopped abruptly. "Engaged? You and the old, fat, married guy?"
"He isn't old, he isn't fat, and he certainly isn't married. Do I look like a homewrecker to you?"
They started walking down the sidewalk again. "So it's this mysterious gorgeous millionaire of yours. Sorry, Molly, but I want proof. What's his name?"
"I'm not going to name-drop."
"Come on, tell me, or I'll tell everyone you're sleeping with a married man."
"Keiko! You wouldn't!" Although, Molly thought, she really might.
"Okay, okay. It's Sanjouin Masato." Molly blushed again, and was even more embarrassed to feel herself smile broadly when she said his name.
Keiko stopped walking again, and grabbed Molly's arm. She stared at Molly, then burst out laughing. "You shouldn't have quit going to your analyst, girlfriend. You are living in fantasy land."
"Are you saying someone like Sanjouin Masato couldn't possibly be interested in me?"
"Are you a supermodel, movie starlet, or debutante?"
"Case closed." Keiko let go of Molly's arm and they continued walking. "Really, Molly, I'm worried about you," Keiko said more seriously. "All these memory lapses you have, and now this fantasizing about some rich guy you saw in a magazine. Something's wrong."
"Hey, I can't help it if you don't believe me." Molly walked on, leaving her friend behind her, staring and shaking her head.
* * * * * * * *
"Mr. Sanjouin." The voice floated around the edges of his awareness, barely impinging on his daydream.
"Mr. Sanjouin!" Thinking about last night was much more pleasant than whatever that voice wanted of him. He decided to go on ignoring it.
"Yo! Masato!" His secretary's voice about three centimeters from his ear startled Masato out of his daydream. "I'm sorry, Miss Tazaki. I was preoccupied."
"You were on another planet. These need your signature." She dropped a stack of letters onto his desk. "And the friends you're meeting for lunch are here."
"Tell them to come on in." He picked up a fountain pen and began signing the letters. Wait, better read them; better make sure Miss Tazaki wasn't planning to redecorate the offices again without asking him. He stared at a letter, seeing Molly's face instead of the words.
"So are you going to sign those things or what?" Zeb's voice made Masato look up again. "I'm starving."
"Sorry." Masato quickly went through the stack of letters, hoping he was putting his signature in the appropriate places. He didn't really care what Miss Tazaki did. She could trade the offices of Sanjouin International for a cage at the zoo, for all he cared today. He capped the pen, stood, and picked up the letters to give them back to Miss Tazaki. "I'm a little distracted today." He let Zeb and Mallory walk out of the office in front of him while he took his jacket from the coat rack and went over to his secretary's desk.
"We had a very pleasant evening last night," Mallory said. "Please tell Molly we enjoyed meeting her."
"Yeah, we hope you two had as good a time as we did," Zeb added.
Masato was appalled to feel himself blush. Mallory looked at him, one pale eyebrow raised. "I believe they had the most fun after we left."
Zeb laughed, a pleasant sound, lower than his normal speaking voice. "Ah-hah. So Masato the Hermit has finally ended his celibacy."
"Why don't I believe you?" Zeb asked.
"All right, nothing happened, except that I asked her to marry me and she said yes."
That stopped them both short. Then they were hugging him and slapping his back. "Congratulations, that's wonderful news," Mal said.
"You'll invite us to the wedding, of course," Zeb added.
"I wouldn't think of not inviting you," Masato said. The truth was, they were his family, all the family he had, except for Molly.
* * * * * * * *
A week after Masato proposed, he had to go to India to meet with some of the craftsmen that he bought jewelry and fabrics from. Seeing him off at the airport was one of the hardest things Molly had ever done. "I'm sorry," Masato said, holding her as she cried. "I pay people to do most of the traveling for me, but sometimes I have to take care of things in person. Believe me, given a choice between getting on an airplane and staying with you, I'd much rather stay with you."
"I know, but--"
"Besides, it's only for nine days. We'll both be busy--I know you've got a lot of schoolwork to catch up on--so it won't seem so long."
The thought of her increasing piles of late schoolwork was not as comforting as he had probably meant it to be, but Molly forced a smile. "I know, you'll be back before I know it. Have a good trip. You'll bring me something, won't you?" she teased, or tried to.
"Of course I will." He kissed her, then it was time to board the plane. She watched him go, wondering how she was going to make it through the next nine days.
* * * * * * * *
The first three days were all right. Masato called once, to let her know that he had arrived safely. His deep voice over the static-filled phone connection cheered her up immensely. Once she knew that he was okay, she immersed herself in getting caught up in her research and classwork, and hardly noticed the passage of the first few days.
The fourth day she started to become aware of how lonely she was. She ate lunch at the cafe where Masato had taken her the day she was released from the hospital, and it helped a little, to lose herself in those memories for a while. In his honor she ordered chocolate-hazelnut torte for dessert, and nibbled at it a little. It actually wasn't bad.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a young woman maneuvering a stroller onto the cafe's patio. A strange feeling, a strong sense of recognition, washed over her. She waved at the woman, then stopped, realizing she didn't know the woman after all. The woman gave Molly a puzzled look, then pushed the stroller, which contained a baby girl, over to Molly's table. The woman's long golden hair was bound into two pigtails, each pigtail topped with a ribbon-tied bun. She had wide blue eyes and a fresh, cheerful face. The fat baby girl had bright strawberry-blonde hair and big cinnamon-brown eyes. "I'm sorry," the woman said, "were you trying to get my attention?"
Molly could have perished from embarrassment. "No, I'm sorry, I thought I recognized you. I guess I was thinking of someone else."
The blonde woman laughed a little. "You mean there's someone else in the world who wears her hair like this? I only keep it like this because my husband thinks it's cute."
"It is. It's pretty. Anyway, I'm sorry I bothered you. It's just... I lived near here when I was a kid. I'm always thinking that something or someone looks familiar, then it turns out I don't know them. It can be kind of embarrassing."
"That's ok. I'm meeting my husband here, but if you're alone you could join us, if you want."
"That's very kind of you, but I've really got to get going. I've got a class soon." Molly put down money to cover the meal; she had picked up Masato's timesaving trick of not waiting for the check. "That's a beautiful baby, by the way."
"Thank you." The woman glowed. "She can be a handful, but she really is a joy to Mamoru and me."
Molly took a few steps backwards and waved shyly at the woman. "Well, anyway, nice talking to you. Enjoy your lunch; this is one of my favorite places. Bye."
"Bye. Have a nice day!"
Molly turned and left the cafe, not seeing the woman stare thoughtfully after her.
* * * * * * * *
The next several days were agony. The hours stretched out endlessly. Molly couldn't eat, she couldn't concentrate on her work, she couldn't sleep. She yearned for Masato, she felt like she would die if she had to go one more minute without seeing his face and hearing his voice.
Finally, it was the last day. Molly could barely even think, she was so anxious. She would meet him at the airport late that evening and then they would be together, he would be safe at home with her, and she could be with him as much as she wanted. She didn't even bother going to her classes that day. She stayed home and daydreamed about when Masato would be with her again.
That evening, he called her from the airplane. "Listen, love, my flight is late and I won't be getting in till about two in the morning, so why don't we just wait till tomorrow evening to get together? I don't want you trying to get out to the airport that hour of the night, and I'll be too tired to be very good company anyway."
"Okay," Molly said, but disappointment choked her voice with tears.
"What's wrong, Molly?" he asked gently.
"I miss you. Oh, Masato, I can't wait till tomorrow night."
"You can come over in the morning and watch me sleep off my jet lag," he offered.
She laughed a little in spite of herself.
"I miss you too, love," he went on, "but when I see you I don't want to be tired and dirty and grouchy from traveling."
"I don't care if you are tired and dirty and grouchy, as long as you're with me."
He was silent a moment, then he sighed. "I love you, Molly. It won't be much longer. You'll be okay."
"I know." She tried to get hold of herself. She was probably making him feel guilty, and she didn't want to. "I love you too, Masato. See you tomorrow."
"See you soon, Molly-chan."
The rest of the evening, she tried to force herself to keep busy. She cooked, cleaned up the uneaten meal, took her laundry to the machines on the ground floor, and scrubbed the bathroom. She went through all these tasks mechanically, not noticing anything she was doing. Then she tried to sleep. It was impossible, so she stared at the flickering of the TV screen without comprehending any of the images.
Finally, she started to doze off when a sound startled her awake. It came again, a knock on her door. She sat up, her heart thudding painfully. Was it the police, coming to tell her something had happened to Masato? Had his plane gone down? She stumbled to the door and opened it.
It was Masato, his suitcase in one hand and briefcase in the other. He looked exhausted, unkempt, unshaven, and hungry. "Oh, Masato," Molly said in a small voice, and threw her arms around him. He dropped his luggage and gathered her into a huge embrace. "Oh, Masato, I thought you were just going to go home."
He held her closer and whispered, "Home is where you are, Molly," then gave her a long, deep kiss.
When he finally came up for air he said, "Besides, you asked me to bring you something, and I couldn't wait to give this to you." He fished around in the pocket of his long coat, and came up with a small polished wooden box.
Already guessing what was in it, Molly took the box and opened it. Inside, on a bed of green silk, was a ring of heavy, elaborately-worked antique-looking gold. It was set with three large, square cut rubies separated by two vertical rows of tiny diamonds. "It's beautiful," she breathed. She took the ring out of the box and held it up to admire it.
Masato took the ring from her and slid it onto her finger. "I commissioned it from a jewelry-maker I buy from who makes modern jewelry based on antique styles. The rubies represent passion and lasting love."
"It's gorgeous." Molly held out her hand, admiring the subtle gleam of the gold and the sparkle of the rubies and diamonds. "Thank you. I love it!"
"Good." He kissed her again. "Now I can go back to my place and rest and get cleaned up. I'll see you tomorrow evening."
"Okay. I'm so glad you came here first, though--and not just because of the ring."
He left, and Molly went to bed. Though she was exhausted from not sleeping well in over a week, she lay awake for a long time, admiring her ring and imagining the day that when he came home it really would be to her.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 5
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury