This Saturday evening of early April, it was almost midnight when Rena checked carefully one last time that everything was well in order in the kitchen after her dinner with Jurina. Noticing a forgotten towel, she placed it back in the adequate drawer, before switching the light off. As she was moving towards the bedroom to join Jurina, her attention was suddenly caught by a certain vase of blue flowers.
Her steps slowed down despite herself, deciding to make a last-minute change in her plans to once again take a look at the beautiful bouquet of forget-me-not decorating her living room table. Once within reach, she extended her arm to graze carefully the flower tops with her fingertips, a smile forming gradually on her lips in appreciation.
A little before 8 PM, Rena had been slightly caught off guard when Jurina had arrived for their dinner date with a bouquet of flowers in hand. The unexpected sight rendered her momentarily speechless, her mouth nevertheless soon tugging into a genuine smile as she accepted with pleasure the offered flowers.
Rena felt deeply touched by Jurina’s gesture. No, it wasn’t the first time the young ace gave her flowers; she actually did it quite often at the early stages of their relationship. At first, Rena believed it was only Jurina’s way of manifesting her love for her, before figuring out that there was probably another deeper message her girlfriend wished to convey tonight through those flowers.
If there was one thing Rena knew for certain, is that Jurina never did anything by chance. That notion in mind, she progressively came to the conclusion that Jurina had chosen this type of flowers for a particular reason. Rena didn’t ignore the meaning of those flowers; a meaning that started to have real significance in the light of the complicated situation she was currently living with Jurina.
If her intuition was correct, then Jurina was subtly trying to indicate her that – despite the distance and the separation – her feelings for her had not changed, and she remained utterly faithful to her.
Rena admired the blue flowers for a little while, before retracting her hand when a small voice emerged inside her head. A voice that was telling her that there may also be another hidden meaning behind those flowers. At that thought, her smile vanished, now seriously wondering if Jurina was not also attempting to restore the emotional closeness and intimacy between them.
A connection that they were progressively losing.
More than two months ago, their little bubble of happiness had burst when their relationship – that they had cleverly managed to keep under the radar for two years - had unexpectedly made the headlines of a magazine. The fact that people’s opinion remained divided on the subject - some choosing to believe the assumptions and some others not to - didn’t change a very simple truth. Since that day, their life had never been the same anymore.
Rena’s initial hope and optimism regarding the future had progressively given way to a harsher reality. Believing that they could preserve what they had and keep on with their lives as if nothing happened was pure illusion. It was a foolish wish that Jurina wanted so badly to see granted, yet Rena wasn’t naïve.
The world simply wasn’t as forgiving.
It was a constant daily battle between her mind and her heart. When the first was urging her to do what was right, the other was too driven by her feelings for a certain twenty years old ace. Her conflicted emotions were impacting her mental balance in a devastating way and gradually eating her alive. Plagued by anxiety, she was sleep-deprived and had long ago lost her appetite. During the day, her work granted her with much welcomed distraction; enabling her to push her concerns at the back of her head for a few hours.
But the respite was only temporary. As soon as she went back home and was confronted with the deafening silence of her apartment, her negative thoughts surfaced with incredible ease - as if reminding her that they had never truly disappeared - and stubbornly refused to quiet down and leave her in peace.
For two months, she had desperately searched her mind for a satisfying solution that would finally put an end to her misery. And indeed, one quickly came to her mind. What if she and Jurina made a break?
One evening, she came really close to suggesting such an arrangement to her. Make herself convincing enough to have her understand that - in order not to take further risks of being caught in another scandal, one that could this time have severe consequences on their careers - they would cease all contact for a few months. However, Rena ended up dismissing this idea, realizing how little chance it had to work.
Already, Rena could see how much difficulty Jurina was having accepting their current situation. The distance she was imposing them was met with misunderstanding, and causing Jurina evident frustration and non-negligible pain. Meeting only once every three weeks had already been an abrupt and drastic change in their routine. What made her naively believe Jurina would agree to a temporary separation, especially when this time there would be no form of interaction to speak of?
The clock was ticking.
The longer Rena was refusing to take action, the more she could feel herself losing her last shreds of sanity. Soon or later, one side was incontestably going to take the upper hand, and win her internal battle at the benefit of the other.
Rena was now lying in bed, listening distractedly to the sound of water running in the bathroom as Jurina was finishing getting prepared. After changing into her pajama, she had attempted to pass time by reading a book, much in vain. As interesting the story proved to be, she found herself incapable to focus properly on the words written. Soon, she was left with no other choice but to place a bookmark inside the novel, leaving it aside the moment after.
Rena heaved a deep sigh, hoping she would finally be able to get some decent sleep tonight. Lately, she only managed to sleep for a few short hours before waking up, constantly having real trouble closing her eyes again when she was wide awake and her brain refused to shut down. Some nights, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she would seek help from those precious pink little pills on her bedside table.
Much as their help was always greatly appreciated, she refused to rely on them too many times, aware of the side effects coming with a long-term use.
At the sound of the bathroom door opening, Rena diverted her attention to the young girl who had appeared, their eyes meeting instantly across the room. When Jurina inquired if she needed to use the bathroom again Rena replied negatively, the bathroom light being immediately switched off as a result.
The bedroom soon plunged into complete darkness as Jurina walked her way around her side of the bed, Rena feeling the mattress shifting slightly as she slid under the red sheets. Once the younger girl was properly adjusted and no more sound could be heard Rena prepared herself to go to sleep and laid on her side, taking in that it was way past midnight when she glanced one last time at the alarm-clock.
She had hardly closed her eyes that she felt the girl behind her moving and nearing closer, Rena’s small brown orbs shooting open when Jurina snaked an arm around her waist. At the contact, she tensed. Her throat felt thick, and she felt a twinge of guilt in her gut. Rena loathed so much the way her body reacted on instinct when Jurina initiated a moment of intimacy lately.
Her girlfriend wasn’t doing anything inappropriate or out of the ordinary; she was purely and simply in search of affection, and in need of the physical closeness she was missing. Those last two months, such moments had tremendously decreased, which was more than logical considering they were unable to meet as frequently as usual.
Not only did it prove to be quite an issue for Jurina who had always been a very affectionate person, Rena didn’t feel completely at ease during those times. When Jurina kissed her she certainly never pushed her back, but she didn’t either let the intimacy develop into something more. Even though Jurina never protested, she didn’t miss the disappointment in her eyes a few times, when it was evident she wished to prolong the moment a little more.
Tonight, it appeared Jurina wasn’t going to be satisfied with a simple cuddle. Indeed, she didn’t have to wait long to feel a palm slipping under the hem of her red tee-shirt, fingers tracing light patterns on her skin. Her motions were unusually slow and hesitant, almost as if the younger girl was testing the waters, afraid her actions were not going to be well received.
Even though Rena had her back turned, she could literally feel the apprehension emanating from her girlfriend. It transpired in every tentative move she made, in every chaste kiss she gently pressed to the nape of her neck.
When she felt fingers progressing upwards to her chest, Rena knew she would have to intervene very soon. A part of her wished so much she could give her what she longed for, but another couldn’t go through with it when her mind was not at it. Even if she let her proceed, she wouldn’t be able to deceive her. It wouldn’t take very long before Jurina would sense she wasn’t enjoying herself.
Rena squeezed her eyes shut, dreading the way Jurina was going to react to her rejection. Until now, Jurina had never been pushy and always followed her wishes, but a little voice inside her head was telling her the tide was very soon about to turn. “I’m… I’m not in the mood.”
Jurina stilled her hand at once.
Rena didn’t have to wait long to feel it slowly withdrawing from underneath her tee-shirt, yet Jurina didn’t completely move away from her. For a little while, she didn’t say anything, until her slender fingers caressed her bare arm in a soothing gesture. “What’s wrong?”
Rena heard the question well, but no words managed to leave her lips. Until now, Jurina had been very patient with her, but Rena didn’t fool herself into believing her compliance would last forever. One day, Jurina was going to press the matter and she could sense they had reached that point.
“I know that you’re tired and worried about a few things lately…” Jurina conceded. “But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more. Since I reintegrated SKE, you haven’t been the same, and you barely let me touch you. If I did anything to upset you… then I need to know what it is. I want to fix it.”
Rena’s sense of guilt increased when she distinguished the helplessness in the very last words she uttered. Jurina wasn’t blind. Being anything but a very attentive girlfriend, it was evident she would end up calling into question her explanations. However, if there was one thing she didn’t anticipate, is that Jurina would start convincing herself that she may in some way be responsible.
When did such an idea form inside her head? Rena was conscious she hadn’t been completely honest with her these last two months, but she refused to let her believe such a thing. “No… you did nothing wrong. Of course not.”
Her answer visibly had a positive effect as Jurina seemed a little more relaxed, even placing a lingering, loving kiss against her shoulder. “Can you turn around? I want to see you.”
It was a very simple request, but Rena realized she couldn’t consent to it. Until now, she had done her best to keep her emotions in check every time Jurina was visiting but tonight, her mask was progressively slipping. Was it due to her terrible unease of hurting Jurina with another rejection? Or was it because this time, Jurina wasn’t letting it go easily as usual? Gradually, she could feel her eyes moistening, and it was inconceivable to let Jurina see her in such a state.
When she felt a hand on her shoulder and Jurina hovering over her to try and take a peek at her, she covered her hand with hers, making sure her voice remained neutral enough to not betray her true emotions. “Can we… Can we just sleep?”
For a short moment, Rena wondered if Jurina wasn’t going to persevere as her hand didn’t move from her shoulder, but her fingers ended up slowly and progressively retracting. “Alright,” Jurina capitulated.
After that, the younger girl put some distance between them, Rena believing the matter was truly over when she didn’t add a single word. The minutes passed, Rena wondering if the younger girl had not fallen asleep when - after tossing and turning a few times – she stopped moving altogether. That was precisely the moment when a small, hesitant voice chose to break the silence. “Maybe… Maybe I should sleep on the couch.”
Rena widened her eyes and turned around in alert, her eyes falling on the girl who had gotten out of bed and was now sitting silently on the side. “W-Wait,” her heart raced. “No, don’t leave. You don’t need to leave.”
Petrified, Rena watched the younger girl who wasn’t making a single move - internally praying her words would reach her and she would change her mind - but to her dismay Jurina reached for her pillow, cleverly making sure their gazes didn’t meet in the process. “I don’t want to…” Her voice quivered as she slowly placed her blue pillow onto her lap. “But I think it’s best if we don’t sleep together tonight.”
Rena tried to protest but Jurina was already standing on her feet, walking progressively out of the bedroom. At the sound of the door closing behind her, Rena couldn’t contain herself any longer, tears springing to her eyes. Leaning her back against the headboard, she buried her face in her shaking hands, the truth now impossible to deny. Slowly but surely, they were drifting apart.
Rena couldn’t sleep at all.
For the past few hours, her brain had refused to shut down and kept her wide awake, her latest conversation with Jurina playing in her head over and over. Each time she arrived to the part she hated the most – the one when her hurt girlfriend left the room - her chest constricted in pain. Tilting her head to the left, her eyes lingered on the empty space beside her, well aware that she was the only one to blame for Jurina’s absence.
Her thoughts drifted towards the younger girl currently staying in the living room and – as she suddenly felt the irrepressible need to see her – gradually got out of bed. Not a sound could be heard in the apartment when her bare feet progressed slowly on the floor, relieved when – as she gazed down at the motionless form on the black couch – she discovered that Jurina had thankfully managed to find sleep.
Kneeling down by her side, her fingers seized the end of the blanket that had slipped below Jurina’s waist, pulling it up bit by bit to cover her body and protect her from the chilly nights of April. After that, she didn’t pull away quite yet, her fingers venturing upwards to caress tenderly the long dark locks of hair falling down her shoulders, until retracting when she didn’t want to take any more chance of waking her up.
After what happened last night, it was evident she couldn’t afford any more delays. For both their sakes, they couldn’t keep on like this. Her indecision had only served to make things worse, causing them both great suffering. Yes, she had been very selfish. By stubbornly refusing to take the next step, she had only attempted to keep her precious girlfriend by her side a little while longer. The simple thought of not having Jurina in her life anymore had just been too unbearable to consider.
Rena studied the sleeping girl before her. It may now be past 4 am, she didn’t feel like joining her bed yet. The temptation to run her fingers through Jurina’s long black hair and relish the feeling of her smooth skin under her fingertips was hard to resist, especially when she was so very close. Nevertheless, she refused to give in to her selfish desires, instead settling for quietly observing her. Her eyes being now accustomed to the partial darkness she could distinguish Jurina’s features a little better, admiring at length the beautiful, juvenile face of the girl she adored so much.
For so many years, solitude had been one of Rena’s best companions, persuading her that she had no void to fill. As she progressively grew more confident over the years, she believed her heart to be well protected and safe from what those foolish songs called ‘love’. Against all odds, Jurina was the one to prove her how terribly blind she had been all this time.
Jurina was her sun.
Caring, affectionate and utterly faithful. From the instant the younger girl had found a place inside her heart, her life had never been more complete. Jurina had left her mark on every inch of her skin, unleashed so many unsuspected desires. These last two years, she had relied so much upon that constancy in her life; relished day by day that pleasant warmth enveloping and protecting her.
They had undoubtedly reached a point of no return. Her selfish side emerged once more, advising her to take advantage of this last moment of proximity before it was too late. This time, she surrendered to her heart’s yearning and pressed her lips gently against Jurina’s, her voice breaking a little when she whispered her last words of affection. “I love you, Jurina. I always will…”
There was no time left to dither. Now, she knew with an absolute clairvoyance what needed to be said and done.
Jurina, who was sitting at the dinner table, watched helplessly the older girl who was finishing doing the dishes. This morning, they had merely exchanged a few platitudes, the food having a somewhat bitter taste when Rena served them both breakfast. As soon as breakfast had been over, Jurina had offered to give a hand but Rena had declined, immediately busying herself in the kitchen.
At this point, she couldn’t tell what was hurting the most. The fact that Rena was persisting in keeping something from her with an uncharacteristic stubbornness, or the fact that she had absolutely no idea what was going inside her head. This morning, the atmosphere had never been heavier; almost to the point of becoming suffocating. Jurina simply couldn’t bear it any longer.
She had to do something. Anything.
Decided, she stood up from her chair, walking towards the kitchen where the older Matsui was busy washing some dishes in the sink. Once she stood by her side, her eyes fell on the white bowl previously full of rice that her girlfriend was now finishing to wash, Jurina immediately extending her arm across the sink to take it away from her grasp when Rena was about to dry it next.
Rena jumped a little, the contact of their fingers touching briefly snapping her out of her daze. Jurina didn’t miss her reaction, somehow hoping her arrival would provoke some sort of interaction between them. To her great dismay, Rena didn’t look at her nor did she address her, remaining desperately silent despite the fact she was now standing a few inches away from her.
While drying the bowl with a towel, Jurina stole a few glances at her, pondering over what to do to alleviate the evident tension. More than anything, she wanted to help her get better. Rena’s declining health concerned her a great deal, and you didn’t have to be a genius to figure out she had had more than a few sleepless nights lately. But how on earth was she supposed to come to her aid, if Rena was reluctant to share her problems with her?
Much as she searched her mind for an explanation, she couldn’t find anything to justify the gradual changes in Rena’s behavior. The only thing she knew for certain, is that it had all started around the time she joined SKE back. Yes, Rena was still somewhat worried about the pictures released by Bunshun
; she had more than once mentioned it to her. However, since that day, their private life had not been exposed in any sort of magazine.
That was why Jurina was convinced it had to be something else. Something Rena was – for a completely unknown reason – deliberately choosing not to tell her.
Jurina placed the bowl back inside the cupboard above her head, a despondent sigh leaving her lips as none of her questions were getting an answer. Even though Rena was physically present in the room, she was not with her right now. In fact, the more she observed her, the more it looked like she was lost in a distant, foreign place. A very dark place she badly wanted to pull her from.
In a small attempt of restoring the emotional and physical connection she raised her arm and reached out to her, before thinking against it when she remembered the bad response her actions had provoked the last time she had tried to initiate a moment of intimacy between them. Last night’s events were still imprinted in her mind, the pain still vivid after her girlfriend’s inexplicable rejection.
Regardless, she refused to give up. Going back to her seat and ignoring the elephant in the room was not an option. Eventually, Rena would have no choice but to let it out. And when she would finally be ready to share whatever was burdening her, she wanted her to know that she had an attentive ear at her entire disposal. It was precisely those ideas that Jurina wished to convey when she spoke up. “I don’t know what’s happening between us, but I’m here for you. I know we can solve it.”
Because, if there was one thing Jurina refused above all, it was to be pessimistic. They had been through so much together these past eight years. Overcame successfully every single obstacle on their path – on a personal and professional level - even the most challenging ones. Why would this situation be any different?
“No, we can’t…” The words left Rena’s lips in a calm, monotone voice.
Jurina frowned - trying to comprehend why she had made such an absurd comment - but the girl who was now drying her hands remained completely unreadable.
This time, Jurina didn’t hesitate to initiate contact, caressing her back in a comforting gesture. “Don’t say that,” she protested softly, “If you tell me what’s wrong, then we’ll find a way to make it work. We always do.”
Rena stayed quiet for a little while and Jurina studied her attentively from aside, wishing she had the magical power to get inside her head. When she opened her mouth to speak again, Jurina held her breath in anticipation, hoping her girlfriend was at last going to reveal what was troubling her. “I don’t want to keep on doing this.”
Jurina stared at her in utter perplexity. Right now, Rena – who was for a weird reason purposely avoiding eye contact - was not making sense at all. “I don’t understand… What are you talking about?”
“Us… It needs to end.”
Jurina’s heart stopped.
The room had been pretty silent before but now it felt deafening. She couldn’t feel anything. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t even think for a few long seconds. The words made her feel like she was being constantly stabbed in the heart.
For months, she was convinced not to play any role in Rena’s transformation. Last night, Rena had even assured her she hadn’t done anything wrong. Was it just a lie then? Was she, after all, truly at the origin of the problem?
“I love you,” Jurina’s voice broke, her heart quivering as she slipped her arms around her waist from behind. “I will fix this. Please tell me it’s not too late. Please say that you still love me.”
“It’s over…” Rena’s emotionless voice ended up destroying her last shreds of hope. “Leave… Please leave.”
Tears formed inside Jurina’s eyes. She had wanted so badly to know what was wrong with her girlfriend, yet never could she have imagined one second the possibility of Rena falling out of love. When did Rena’s feelings start to change? How come didn’t she notice anything? Despite hearing the demand loud and clear she refused to comply, on the contrary tightening her hold around Rena’s waist.
Her lungs constricted, making it so hard to breathe. Despite how badly her heart was currently aching, she was still willing to forgive the person responsible for her distress. If Rena apologized right now and said she didn’t truly mean it, then she would gladly forget everything. It was not too late yet.
Rena was her everything.
She couldn’t possibly be losing her.
Yet Rena never came back on her words.
Slowly and gradually releasing her hold, tears were streaming down her face when she took a step back. Jurina found it now impossible to stay in Rena’s presence any longer. She couldn’t even muster up the courage to look at her. With a blurry vision and unsteady steps, she left the kitchen and moved towards the entrance, desperately trying not to break down when she put her vest on.
When her shaky hand came in contact with a small metallic object inside her pocket she realized what it was and retrieved it, leaving her spare key near the front door. No words were spoken when her fingers circled the door handle, nor did she turn around to gaze at the girl who had just shattered her heart to pieces.
If she had looked into Rena’s direction one last time, then she would have witnessed the silent tears falling down her cheeks.
TO BE CONTINUED