I’m surprised at how quickly I’ve gotten used to this new routine.
I can sleep in an extra half an hour, which seems to take the edge off my mornings. I go for a short run, shower, and read a chapter of my textbook whilst shovelling my breakfast into my mouth. I’m usually out of the dorm room before my usual train arrives at the station, meaning I can leisurely walk to my first lecture without any stress.
The evenings are good as well. When I’m not working I grab some food from the local convenience store and hit the books. On the nights where I do have to work it’s about the same as living in my flat, but the extra time in the morning more than makes up for the inconvenience.
But today is different. The weekend is finally here, and I can return back to my comfortable little flat and my shy little girlfriend. It’s true what they say; “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I almost feel my heart skip a beat as the train doors slide open and reveal my station’s platform. A week ago I wouldn’t have even taken note of where I was, but now event the stained concrete of the platform feels like a welcome mat, guiding me back to my “other” life.
The train pulls away behind me, still laden with people of all walks of life returning to their homes and loved ones. I tap my pass against the gates and walk through. The date briefly flashes on the gate’s display, and I realise that this is probably the longest time that Hanako and I have been separated. A tinge of melancholy grips my chest, but it is soon washed away by the knowledge that we will soon be reunited. I feel as if I am returning from some epic journey, although it’s barely been 10 days since I left our unit for the university’s dorms.
I fumble for my keys outside our door. I’ve become so used to using the dorm’s keys that it took me a moment to wonder why they didn’t fit in our more common lock. When I do finally manage to throw open the door, I am surprised by the sight I see before me.
Hanako is standing in the kitchen, holding a frying pan up to her face with both hands. She looks as tense as a mousetrap, ready to spring at a moment’s notice.
“Of course. Who else did you think it would be?”
Hanako relaxes, and the frying pan clatters to the floor.
“I-I don’t know… I j-just heard strange n-noises.”
I falter for a moment before starting to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Hanako pouts for a second, but soon gives a nervous giggle.
“It’s good to be home. I’m going to put some washing on, and then I thought that we could go out for dinner. You know, like a date.”
Hanako blushes ever so slightly, and I begin to doubt whether I will be able to leave her again tomorrow evening.
“Yeah, you know. I was thinking about that place just up the road that you like. I managed to squeeze in a little overtime this week, so let’s treat ourselves. How about some oysters?”
I try for a second to realise the error in my suggestion. Hanako has long since been able to go out with me on dates, so long as we keep the overall interactions with the general public to a minimum. But I’ve obviously missed something this time; my suggestion has been greeted with a grimace…
Idiot. Next time open your eyes. Only now do I realise that Hanako is in her apron, and is surrounded by mounds of freshly cut vegetables and meat.
“Ah, sorry. I didn’t realise that you had already started cooking. How about we postpone the date until lunch tomorrow? It’s not like I’ve made a reservation or anything.”
Note to self: as soon as her back is turned, cancel the reservation.
“B-but… I can w-wrap all of this…”
“No, please, I’ve been living off oden and sandwiches for a week; some home cooking is just what I need!”
Hanako’s slight frown migrates upwards into a slight smile. With renewed energy she picks up the frying pan from the floor and puts it on the gas stove. Within seconds the ever-increasing roar of sizzling oil reaches a crescendo, drowning out the drone of the range-hood’s fan. Not wanting to be seen to be slacking off I drag my bag of laundry to the washing machine and start loading it up.
We spend the night indoors, cuddling on the couch and watching TV. Before I realise what’s happening, Hanako has fallen asleep on my chest. Ah well, as far as romantic evenings go it might be a bit of a failure, but neither of us is really into that kind of thing anyway. I’m just happy to have Hanako in my arms again. I gently pat her hair until I slide off into the oblivion that comes with sleeping on the couch.
Sunday comes and goes without incident. By the time we had woken up, finished the housework and packed my bags for the week ahead, there was no time to even consider going on a date. Hanako microwaved last night’s left-overs for lunch, and before I know it I’m kissing her goodbye on our doorstep.
“I think we have a shift together on Thursday night. I’ll see you then.”
“C-call me if you’d like…”
Damn, I’d almost forgotten about that last week. I was so wrapped up in my study that I simply sent Hanako an email before going to bed to let her know that I was all okay.
“Of course I will! I’ll give you a call tonight to let you know I got there okay. Love you!”
“L-love you too.”
I strike out into the darkening night, ready to begin another week of intensive study.