Chapter Eighteen: Through Trace's Eyes

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This is a special chapter comprised of a series of scenes from Trace's perspective throughout the story so far. Each little part starts with a bad haiku because I felt like it. —RM

I— 
walking down the stairs
I see him sitting there
I am lost and found

"We can't try?" Hiroto sat down beside me on his couch and leaned into my shoulder. I was still hungover and totally not ready for his sudden confession. His brown eyes were big and he bit nervously on his full lower lip. I wasn't sure if he thought I'd feel bad but I found it off putting.

Last night our friend group had gone bar hopping and I'd crashed at Hiroto's place. He was the most recent addition to our gang and someone I met at the Japanese cultural centre. He was new to the city and a cool guy so we became friends easily. Super chill. Most of my friends were queer and when we found out Hiroto was, too, that made things easier.

But the past few weeks I'd noticed Hiroto had been looking a little too intently at me and laughing a little too hard at my jokes. To me it spelled trouble. I didn't fuck friends because it blurred the lines too much. So his apparent interest in me was far too awkward for my liking.

And then after hanging out today, Hikaru slapped me with 'I like you as more than a friend."

I leaned away from his pleading eyes, not saying anything while I adjusted my prosthetic and started packing up my things. Japanese was more impersonal than English and I found myself transitioning to careful Japanese.

"I'm sorry if I made you think I had romantic interest in you. But, I have always seen you as a friend. I think that's where we're more compatible, right, Hiroto?"

Hiroto scoffed. "I understand. But I have feelings for you because you don't make things complicated. And being with a Japanese person in this country is comforting. It reminds me of home. You remind me of home."

My brain scattered and I hesitated. "Hiroto..."

"We have so much in common. Just kiss me. ...If you don't feel anything, then I'll let it go."

I sighed. "Fine."

I moved  towards Hiroto and he tilted his head towards me and our lips touched. He had pale skin, thick, dark lashes, and he was attractive, but, I just wasn't into him.

He kissed me and I was slow to respond, and as soon as his tongue started to seek entrance into my mouth I jolted back.

I couldn't do it.

Hiroto was nice, but that was it. The only thing we really had in common was our Japaneseness, and I had the sneaking suspicion I was symbolic for him. Hiroto came from a wealthy family in Japan and even though I had, too, I'd done a lot to put my own mark on things.

Being as involved as I was in video games wasn't how my parents envisioned me but I was fine doing my own thing. Hiroto, on the other hand worked at one of his dad's companies in an office position. He'd admitted freely before that his salary was more than workers who'd been there longer than him and his parents sent him a couple thousand dollars a month to keep him occupied. His condo was paid for and he just had to worry about utilities.

None of it was a problem. If he saw fit to use his parents as a bank then that was up to him, but, I felt like he let the money get to his head. He was fun to be around but not the kind of person I would want in a boyfriend.

All those thoughts raced through my head the moments our lips touched. As soon as whatever the hell that was was over, I got up. I went to the bathroom and gargled the taste of Hiroto out of my mouth before making a beeline out of the apartment.

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