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Ten years ago Saya escaped a forced marriage in the house of Hara, granting herself the freedom to follow her will. And for ten years she has been content to live a life of near poverty and menial labor in exchange for being the master of her own destiny. That was until she met Jun, the hotel heiress who stole her heart and taught her what love and protection could feel like.
Now Saya finds herself torn between two worlds: her girlfriend's reality, comprised of formalities and endless wealth, and her own head, which pulls her to the isolation of the Japanese countryside. Jun wants her to settle in the city, yet Saya is not sure she can live with the pressures to conform to high society.
In the midst of this dilemma is the one thing Saya wants more than anything else - a divorce from the man who tried to ruin her life. But the leash connecting her to the Haras runs long, and Saya soon finds that her heart's call of "Aitai," or "I want to see you," not only echoes for Jun when they are apart, but for the people who forced her to become the woman she is today.
"AITAI." takes place from October, 2013 - May, 2014
“Let’s get out of here,” Saya said, resting her chin on Jun’s shoulder. “I’ve always wanted to make love in front of a fireplace.” No better time than when they were staying in a cabin with one of those very things.
“And you say we’re Westernized?”
“What? Haven’t you done it before?”
Jun scoffed. “In front of a fireplace? No, I can’t say I have.”
Saya lifted herself out of her seat so she could nip her teeth against her girlfriend’s earlobe. Do anything to her ear and she’s mine all night. Indeed, Jun shuddered and placed her hand on Saya’s thigh. “There you go. First time for everything.”
“Ehhh.” Jun put down her wine glass. “Oh, that reminds me. I have something for you.”
Saya echoed her girlfriend’s ehh as Jun reached into her inside jacket pocket. She pulled out a little black felt box, the kind coming from…
All of the flirtations, the naughty desires disappeared from Saya’s system the moment she recognized such a box. Don’t you do it. Not here. Not in a place like this. Not in front of these people. Not ever! Saya looked around, wondering if any of the other Isoyas saw this. No. They were all preoccupied. Deliriously preoccupied.
“Oi, what’s that look for?” Jun touched Saya’s chin. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Jun…” Saya scooted away from the table, almost knocking over her wine glass.
A lurch forward and Jun caught it, rousing the attention of Fujiko from across the room. The older woman studied her niece’s table with mild interest before conjuring a laugh for the man whose lap she sat on.
The black jewelry box remained on the table. Jun snatched it up and opened it without the fanfare Saya expected from a proposal, or a “just because” gift that cost millions of yen.
Inside was a keychain.
“Nani kore?” Saya settled back into her seat, taking the box from her girlfriend’s hand. Jun looped her arm around Saya’s chair, and by extent her shoulders, leaning next to her and pointing to the charm on the chain.
“I found this while cleaning out some things in my condo. Do you know what it is?”
Saya picked up the keychain, fingering the charm. It was some kind of Chinese character, looping and lining a single word that Saya could not read. She didn’t know if that was because she was a high-school dropout or because she didn’t study archaic kanji like her girlfriend did.
“It’s an old kanji for au. Before it was simplified to the one we use today.” Jun’s slim finger outlined the parts of the keychain that represented the modern kanji, taken straight from this older one. “I don’t remember why I got it a long time ago, but I want you to have it.”
“Nande?” Saya didn’t mean to indirectly reject her girlfriend’s gift, but she didn’t get it.
“Because when you’re gone, I want you to know that I want to see you.”
Jun drew lines down the length of Saya’s short hair while her girlfriend stared at the charm. “Aitai,” she said beneath her breath. Just what she needed. A constant reminder that she missed her girlfriend.
“Here, give me your cell phone.”
“Because that’s what you do with charms, silly.”
Saya stared at her through the corner of her eye as she dug into her bag and pulled out her cell phone, currently turned off. As it has been since I met up with her. Jun snatched it from her hand and looped the string of the keychain through the tiny hole notched into the plastic case.
“There.” Jun dangled the keychain in front of Saya’s face. “I should give you presents more often.”
She wrapped both arms around Saya and brought her in for a kiss, the heaviest, and hardest in front of the family like that. No, no you really don’t have to give me presents. Saya endured the kiss until Jun pulled away and drank the last of her wine.It took a few more kisses and covert touches to the thigh and beneath her shirt to make Saya remember what she wanted again. Her. I want her. Not presents, not desserts, not even a rug in front of a fireplace, which she was only half serious about. No, all she wanted was Jun, the woman she missed when they were apart. Not that she needed more reminders of that.
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