A Kiss and A Promise
Akiho snapped her cell phone closed with a loud exhalation. “They, um, know I’m staying with a friend tonight.” She wouldn’t meet Touko’s eyes as she spoke, dropping her own to her lap.
“Are you sure you want…this?” Touko’s voice was pitched softly, a gentle murmur that melted deep into Akiho’s body.
“Mmm,” Akiho said, even as she shook a little. For two years, this woman had possessed her every thought – and now that she was a reality, Akiho wasn’t really sure what to do.
They sat at the bus stop, Touko’s hands wrapped around Akiho’s. “There’s so much to tell you,” Touko said, “I don’t even know where to begin.”
“Touko-san…”Akiho framed the name awkwardly. “Before we go anywhere, or…do…anything…I need to ask something.”
“Anything. Go ahead.”
“While you were gone, did you…think about me, or did you…go out with anyone else?”
Touko’s hands squeezed Akiho’s. “You want to know if I’ve slept with anyone?”
Akiho looked up quickly, surprised at the older woman’s blunt turn of phrase. Her eyes flamed. “Yes. I do.”
Chuckling, Touko shook her head. “No. I haven’t even thought about anyone else since I met you.” She pulled Akiho a little closer, laying her head on the soft brown-gold curls. “I meant what I said – I love you and I waited for you. Are you scared?”
“Yes,” Akiho admitted. “But not for the reason you think I am.” She pulled her hands back and moved away slightly to be able to look Touko in the eyes. “I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing for two years. I don’t know what you’ve seen or who you know. And all this time, I’ve thought only about you. So, naturally I’m scared.” She took a deep breath. “For all I know, you’re just using me.”
There was a pause, then laughter. Touko threw her head back and howled for a moment, then gasped, between short fits of laughter, “You haven’t changed a bit, Akiho-chan.”
Akiho stood, with her hands on her hips, scowling at the other woman. A small smile peeked through the scowl, then her face relaxed. “I have, though,” she said, and took her place by Touko’s side once more.
While they waited for the bus, they sat and talked, and caught up on two years of separation. By the time the bus arrived, it was if they had never been apart, not for a single second.
“Happy Birthday,” Touko lifted her glass.
“Thank you,” Akiho responded, blushing slightly. After prolonged discussion, they had decided on a small, mid-range restaurant for dinner. The setting was neutral, not too many families, not too intimidating and, as Touko joked, something affordable on a teacher’s salary.
The last two years had been kind to Hiiragi Touko. Having left her first teaching position so precipitously, it would have been surprising if she had been able to find a suitable job at all…but she had. Interestingly, it was at a boys’ academy which, while presenting many challenges, would never be a source of the kind of difficulty she had found herself in with Akiho.
“I really like it,” Touko was saying, as if the fact surprised even herself. “I mean, sure the kids aren’t the best students, and their English is abominable, but I like them, and I like the school.”
“You sound really happy,” Akiho smiled. “I’m glad.”
“What about you? After exams?”
Akiho shrugged. “My sister is at W University, but I don’t presume to aim that high.” She laughed. “Chika-san and I are planning to go to school together.”
“How are your sister and Chika-chan?” The teacher was careful to keep any inflection from her voice.
“Good,” Akiho nodded. “It’s always hard to tell with my sister.” They both laughed. Akiho ducked her head slightly as she said, “I told her I was meeting you tonight.”
“Oh? And? What was her reaction?”
“Torn between righteous indignation and shock, so all she said was, ‘That’s a surprise’.” Akiho sounded vaguely annoyed. “I almost wish, sometimes, that she would come right out and *say* something, but she never will. I don’t know how Chika-san stands it.”
“I guess I’ll never have that problem with you, will I?” Touko’s sarcasm just made Akiho blush.
“Um,” Akiho changed the subject awkwardly, “where do you want to go after this?”
“I thought,” the older woman kept her voice mild, “I’d leave that up to you.”
“Me?” Akiho squeaked nervously. “What do you mean?” She tugged at the napkin she held in her hands, wrapping it around one hand, then the other.
“Akiho-chan, I can take you home, if you want, right now.” Her voice was low again, that seductive tone sliding through Akiho like molten metal. “Or, we could go for a walk, or a drink or…somewhere else.”
“Like?” She knew, of course, what Touko was saying…it was just that she wanted more time – more time to think about it, or something.
Touko grinned. “That’s up to you.”
“What do you want to do?” Akiho asked breathlessly.
“I want to be with you.” For a second the older woman looked completely serious. “I don’t want you to think that I only took you out tonight for one reason.”
Akiho managed to pout, disappointed. “You didn’t?” She asked, trying to keep the smile off her lips, but allowing the tease into her voice.
“Well…when you put it like that…” Touko pinned her with her eyes, letting her voice drop back down into that smooth, seductive tone.
Never in her life had Akiho felt this way before. Her skin hurt, it was hard to breathe. She positively ached to do *something.* She wanted to be half as seductive as Touko was, have that look in her eyes, have that fullness to her lips. But Akiho felt childish next to the older woman, positively puppy-dog like. She bit down on any reply, afraid that she would shatter any illusion Touko had with a stupid or careless comment. Instead, she just nodded her head quickly and said, “Let’s go.”
It was getting late. Touko refused to help Akiho make a decision…if anything, the older woman had made it plain that there was no pressure to stay the night. If Akiho said the word, they’d be on a bus to her house in a second. But Akiho didn’t want to say the word. She was happy in this limbo space, nowhere in particular, going neither in one direction, nor another. If pressed at this very moment, she might simply answer that what she wanted was to ride the Yamanote line all night long, circling the city – and the issue.
They passed a convenience store and Touko ran in to buy them canned coffee and snacks. While the older woman was inside, Akiho paced back in front of the store, her eyes half lingering on the magazine covers in the window. By the time Touko returned with a small plastic bag, Akiho had made up her mind.
Akiho was glad for the low lighting that emphasized the panels on the wall, rather than the people who stood before them. It was excruciating enough to have to pick a room at all, much less to think that someone, somewhere, was watching you do so.
She punched a button and slipped some bills into the slot. A key fell into the holder, like it was a can of juice, the metal clanking dully against the large plastic key holder.
She kept her eyes on the floor beneath her as they walked to the room, not wanting to see, or be seen by anyone. It was irrational, she knew. It’s not like anyone cared. And at a brief glance, Touko looked like a boy, but even thinking that bothered Akiho more than she could express. Why should she care who saw her? She wasn’t ashamed, she wasn’t someone who did things according to other people’s expectations. She wasn’t her sister, painfully aware of people’s perceptions and oh-so-concerned that she shouldn’t show any weakness. In a rush of movement, Akiho grabbed Touko’s arm in her own and clung to it, her face defiant.
A few more moments brought them to a bland beige door set in a beige wall. Touko opened the door and gestured Akiho in.
A few steps into the room and Akiho relaxed. It wasn’t awful – just slightly goofy. There was one large mirror across from the bed, which was round and covered in plush red material, but the room was otherwise normal. Only a few things located subtlely around the room reminded erstwhile tenants of the most popular use of such a place. There was a small refrigerator with a selection of energy drinks, and a stand with an interesting variety of lotions, and upon closer inspection, condoms. Akiho tore herself away to look at the other side of the room, where there lay a bathroom that was anticlimactic in its normality.
“Would you like to take a shower?” Touko’s voice startled Akiho visibly. There was a pause as the older woman rubbed her hand through her unkempt locks. “Do you want to go?” There was the barest hint of anxiety in the question, although whether for Akiho or at her, she couldn’t tell.
The defiant expression returned and Akiho’s jaw tightened. “No. I want to stay.” She softened her tone and her expression and moved towards the object of her desire, one arm outstretched. “I’m sorry if I seem childish. It’s just that…” she laughed a little and shook her head, taking Touko’s hand into her own. “I’ve wanted all to be perfect for so long, I’m not really sure what to do now…” She pulled herself closer to Touko, her face lifted.
Touko’s boyish face looked down at hers, seriously. “You’re not childish at all.” She moved her mouth a little closer to Akiho’s. “In fact, you’ve become a very beautiful woman.”
Akiho could feel heat in her face at the words. Her heart was, once again, pounding painfully in her chest. The texture of her clothes, and Touko’s skin against her own was profoundly noticeable. The sound of her own breathing was loud in her ears. Touko’s mouth was all she could see for a long moment, then her eyes closed and she felt too many things to know what they all were.
It wasn’t the first time they had kissed. Akiho had the memory of their first two kisses burned into her mind, and body. Many a late night she would remember those kisses and feel the same overwhelming desire as she felt now. Those memories had been her companions in passion many times, but now, she could feel herself melting into something that was both herself and not herself at the same time.
Touko’s lips were soft at first, and warm, then they firmed up as the kiss went on, pressing against Akiho. She could feel strong arms wrap around her and brought one hand up to slide along the other woman’s jaw and into her hair.
Akiho’s eyes opened as they broke apart, slowly. Touko looked slightly embarrassed, then said, “Would you mind terribly if I took a shower? I still feel grungy from trying to fix my bike.” The older woman pulled her hands away from Akiho and stared down at them. She ran them both through her disheveled hair and made a face.
Akiho laughed and nodded. “Of course.” Backing away slightly, she glanced at the bathroom, wondering if she could bring herself to suggest that they shower together. But the older woman was already halfway there and Akiho found herself struck once again speechless and unsure.
She sat on the side of the bed opposite the bathroom, facing a wall that held a stereo console, television and light controls. She could hear water turn on, and put her face in her hands as she imagined the other woman showering. She stood up suddenly and removed her leather jacket, hanging it neatly on a hangar attached to a coat rack in the corner. She returned to the far side of the bed, sat, then stood again and began to pace.
“Breathe, Akiho, breathe.” She wondered how, since this was so painfully mortifying for her, if her sister and Chika had ever progressed past a chaste kiss or two. As straight a talker as she was, she couldn’t imagine, for the life of her, ever asking either her dearest friend or her sister how far they had gotten. And Akiho didn’t have any other friends who had serious lovers at the moment. She knew one girl who had been to a hotel with a guy, but that had been after a party and not much more than drunken sex. Akiho could feel herself sweating nervously, as her thoughts wheeled.
She wasn’t an innocent – she knew what people did when they were attracted to one another, and she knew her own body well enough. Akiho curled her hands into fists. She would die before ever saying “Be gentle with me,” or “I don’t know what to do.” Her lips pressed together tightly. No, it wasn’t that all – she knew what she wanted. It was just, she had really never done this before, and what if she was the worst lover in the world…? Or, even worse, what if Touko was? She slapped herself sharply across the face – in her imagination. Staring at her reflection in the mirror, she muttered, “Get it together Akiho,” disgusted with herself. Then she laughed at her own indignation and made a face at herself.
The water shut off. Akiho closed her eyes and listened to the sounds coming from the other room, imagining Touko moving back and forth, toweling her hair and body dry, wrapping herself in a robe….
The door opened. Akiho whirled around, her eyes large and inquisitive. As the sight of Touko standing in the doorway, her usually ruffled hair matted and wet, her face puffy and eyes slightly red from the water, Akiho clutched her hands to her chest so she would not explode with delight. She couldn’t help but think that this must be what Touko looked like the morning after…she closed her eyes and shuddered with pleasure.
“Do you want to…?” Touko gestured behind her, as she ran a small towel across her hair. She looked at Akiho with a bright smile. “It helps.”
Torn between the shower and jumping Touko where she stood, Akiho was paralyzed. Forcing herself to breathe she said, “I think I will, thanks,” and headed quickly towards the bathroom before she could change her mind.
As Akiho folded each piece of clothing neatly into the bin that sat on the shelf, her attention was focused on the already full bin next to it. She resisted pulling the clothes from it and smelling them. She had no desire to be discovered with Touko’s underwear pressed to her face; an image that made her laugh. She turned on the shower and let the hot water relax her a little.
Only a few minutes had passed when a light knock on the door and the sound of the glass sliding came from behind her.
“I thought,” Touko’s smooth voice slid into her brain, sending flashes of excitement through her, “that I’d help you dry off.”
Akiho bit her lips at that, at the obvious comeback that sprang to her mind immediately. Instead she reached out and turned the water off.
“What, no snappy comeback?” Touko laughed.
Akiho shook her hair out and spread her arms to the side, to allow Touko to wrap her in a towel. “I’m trying to behave.”
“Pity. I was hoping you’d be at least a little bad.” The words were breathed into her ear. Akiho practically melted into the floor as strong arms held her tight and warm lips pressed against her neck, just under her ear.
“Touko…” Akiho moaned as the older woman’s teeth nipped lightly at her skin. She pulled away and turned around in Touko’s embrace, offering her mouth to the other woman.
Their kiss was cut short by Touko, who led her out of the bathroom, over to the bed. Akiho followed gladly, not even caring, when the other woman pulled her down to the red plush covers, that the towel that covered her parted and fell away from her body.
Akiho wondered, then, if it was like this for everyone. If her sister had ever looked that way at Chika. She prayed fervently, as Touko took complete control of her, that she had.
Her hands moved aimlessly over Touko’s shoulders and into her hair, threading themselves into the short locks. Akiho tried to capture a memory of each moment for herself; every sensation, smell, taste, but as she tried to focus on one thing, another interrupted and she lost it. Touko’s hands on her, so gently that she almost screamed with frustration, the smell of the other woman’s skin, the taste of her tongue – each one of these things passed by in a blur. Just before she ceased to think clearly at all, Akiho felt the briefest moment of sadness that there was simply too much to ever really remember.
Then Touko moved down her body, and everything that she was, everything that she felt and thought, merged into one place, and one thing, and one word that kept repeating over and over.
Before she had even caught her own breath, Akiho moved, drawing Touko up, kissing her, stroking her, trying to possess her and be her. For two years she had fantasized over and over what she would do to this woman, and now she had the chance to do it. Akiho smiled wolfishly up at the other woman. Touko looked back at her, her eyes dark and full of need. Once again Akiho felt as if she might explode with happiness.
“Akiho-chan,” Touko’s voice was soft. “I think you are the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Akiho’s only response was to kiss Touko until the other woman gasped.
Touko yawned, and pressed her face into Akiho’s hair. Her breathing was deep, loud inhalations of Akiho’s scent. Akiho giggled and pressed herself close into Touko’s embrace. Her toes wiggled of their own accord, rubbing against the smooth skin of the other woman’s legs.
Looking up at Touko’s sleepy face, Akiho could feel herself going goopy and sentimental. It felt so ridiculously trite; but she did want to never let go, to be with Touko forever, to hold her and protect her and all the things that she had read in books that she had thought were just clichés, but turned out to be true after all.
But once again her sensible nature asserted itself. Her eyes closed and she breathed in the smell of Touko, on her hands, and the skin pressed up against her, and she wondered, now what?
“Akiho-chan,” Touko’s voice was slurred and sleepy-sounding against Akiho’s head.
“I want us to be together.”
“I want that too.What do we do now?” she barely had the courage to ask the question. In answer, Akiho could feel Touko’s arms tighten around her.
Touko relaxed a little and pulled her face away, to be able to look the younger woman in the eyes. “Well, first, I guess I’d better go and find an apartment for us.”
“An apartment? But…what about Chika-san?”
Touko smiled gently. “I think it’s still a good idea if you two go to university together, but…what about weekends, or if Haruna-chan wants to visit? I can’t have you stay with me at school, and I can’t afford to stay in a hotel every time we want privacy.” Touko laughed.
“Oh.” Akiho closed her eyes again and snuggled into Touko’s arms. “That sounds nice.” After a moment, Akiho opened her mouth, then closed it, took a deep breath and said, “I love you.”
Her face was tilted upwards by the pressure of a finger, and her lips were met with the soft warmth of Touko’s lips.
“I love you too.” Touko said.
“Really?” Akiho laughed.