Until Then: Perfect Family

The month flew by so fast. Ryuji made it a habit to eat lunch with Ayane every day to show his dedication. Ayane wasn’t moved by this however. Their trip to Tokyo was coming up and Ayane made sure to discuss this with Ryuji a few days before their supposed flight. They were having lunch in her office again when the subject popped up.

“How many days will we be staying in Tokyo for?” Ryuji asked. Ayane put down a document she was reading to answer. 

“Well, the ribbon cutting will be a day after our arrival and there will be a party in my honor by evening of the same day.” Ayane said. Ryuji remembered what his grandfather told him about Ayane. He wanted to ask a question about it but he didn’t know how to say it without offending Ayane. Seeing him troubled, Ayane called out to Ryuji.

“Hey, if you want to ask anything, just ask. If you’re trying to win me over, honesty is the best way to go.” Ryuji felt calm after what Ayane said. 

“I’m assuming your ex will be at the party.” Ryuji said to which Ayane nodded in response. She wasn’t bothered after hearing him mention his ex. All Ayane felt for those people were anger and resentment. Ayane realized that it was best to be honest to Ryuji to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future. 

“I’m going to be honest, Ryuji. I asked you to come along to help keep me in line.” Ryuji was confused over what Ayane said. Ayane saw this and explained further. 

“I’m sure you’ve heard about my past from your grandfather. I’m sure they’ll try to hurt me again if I’m not careful. I had plotted an elaborate revenge plan for them and I need someone to keep me from getting carried away.” Ryuji understood Ayane’s desire for revenge and he was willing to help her succeed. What they did to her was beyond unacceptable and she was cheated out of her happiness. With a smile, Ryuji agreed with Ayane.

“So we’ll be partners in crime, then?” Ryuji said with a smile on his face. Ayane let out an exasperated sigh.

“I still don’t understand how you’re so cold and uninviting to others but you have this side of you that is the total opposite.” Ayane said. Ryuji stood up and sat next to Ayane. He placed his hand on her chin and made her look up and meet his gaze. 

“Only those who are important to me get to see this side of me.” Ryuji said; his voice was calm and deep which sent a chill up Ayane’s spine. They both stared at each other for a few seconds. Ryuji placed a kiss on Ayane’s forehead before he stood up. Ayane blushed from the kiss. She felt her face getting hot.

“Lunchtime is over. I should get back to work. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Ryuji took his phone from the table and left Ayane’s office. She was left there, dazed. Rei entered her office all of a sudden which made Ayane jump. 

“Aya, I need your signature for these…” Rei looked at Ayane and saw that her face was red. Out of concern, she came up to her and touched her forehead to check if she had a fever. Ayane jumped at the contact of Rei’s hand on her forehead. Confused, Rei raised her eyebrow at Ayane. 

“What’s wrong with you? Are you sick?” Rei asked. Ayane shook her head and turned her back on Rei. 

“It’s nothing. What were you saying about needing my signature?” Rei ignored Ayane’s behavior earlier and handed her some documents. She explained what they were for and Ayane skimmed through them. She signed them and handed it back to Rei. 

“By the way, have the twins had their lunch?” Ayane asked to which Rei nodded in response. Ayane decided to spend the rest of the day with the twins since she’s been busy for the past few weeks and haven’t spent that much time with them. She went to the room next to her office. When she opened the door, the twins turned their heads and saw their mother. They ran towards Ayane. 

“Mommy!” Ayane opened her arms and hugged them both. 

“Would you like to spend the rest of the day with mommy?” The twins nodded their heads in unison. Ayane took their hands in hers and went out of the room. Rei just exited her office and saw them.

“Where are you going?” Rei asked. The twins turned to Rei and ran up to her. 

“Mommy Rei… come with us?” Kayda asked. Ayane looked at Rei and smiled. 

“Would you mind going to the meetings alone today? I’d like to spend my time with the twins since I’ll be leaving for Tokyo next week.” Rei understood Ayane’s intentions and agreed.

“You owe me for this.” Rei joked. Ayane laughed and asked the kids where they wanted to go. They didn’t know what to answer. Ayane thought that it’ll be Halloween soon and decided to go to the mall to buy some costumes. She told Rei about this and she agreed. 

“Call me if anything happens.” Ayane told Rei. They went down to the lobby and asked the valet to get her car from the garage. A minute later and her car was by the entrance. Ayane’s car had car seats for the twins and she strapped them on before driving. She went to the nearest mall so it’s easier for her to get back to Archetive. The twins weren’t fussy when they’re with their mother. Ayane took them by their hands and went inside the mall. She knew of a store that sells costumes for babies and toddlers and that was their first destination. 

“How about a dragon costume and a tiger costume? That’s what your names mean anyway.” Ayane said to the twins. They didn’t resist their mother’s request and tried on the costumes. Kayda wore a dragon onesie while Kotaro sported a tiger one. Ayane couldn’t help but squeal about how her children looked so adorable. She took pictures of the two of them before she went to the counter to pay for the outfits. She took them to a fast-food restaurant to have some snacks before going to a kids’ playroom. 

“You have to finish your snacks or else you’ll get hungry in the playroom.” Ayane reminded the twins. They weren’t picky eaters which made Ayane happy since she doesn’t have to worry about what her kids eat. Just as they were on their way to the playroom, Ayane’s phone rang.

“Rei?” She answered. 

“Aya, I need you back here. Remember that Suzuki Erika that you pissed off at the party? She’s making trouble here and I thought you might want to handle this.” Rei sounded excited about it. Ayane sighed and agreed. She wanted to spend more time with the twins but she has her responsibilities in the company. 

“Could you watch the kids for me? I’ll wait for you here.” Rei agreed and ended the call. Ayane signed the twins in for the kids’ playroom and watched them from the outside. They were happily playing with other toddlers. Ayane waited for 20 minutes before Rei arrived. She apologized for taking so long. Ayane left the kids in her care and went back to the company. The designated time for the twins was up and Rei took them out and helped them put on their shoes. They were supposed to head home; while walking Kayda noticed something on the ground. She picked it up and showed it to Rei. 

“Mommy Rei, look.” Rei took it from Kayda and noticed that it was a wallet. She looked around to see if anyone was looking for a wallet but there was no one. Thinking that there must be information on the owner inside of the wallet, she opened it only to find a picture of a child and an old ID. 

“Oh this is Mr. Taizo’s wallet. He must’ve dropped it here.” Rei stared at the picture of the child inside the wallet. She thought it looked exactly like Kotaro except for the eye color. She compared the two side-by-side and was almost sure that they were the same kid. An assumption was already forming in her head and it made her uneasy. Thinking about returning the wallet first, she took out her phone and called Mr. Taizo.

“Hello?” Mr. Taizo answered on the second ring. 

“Uh hello Mr. Taizo, it’s Rei. I found a wallet with your old ID in it. I thought you might want it back.” Rei heard over the phone that Mr. Taizo was fussing over something. He was silent for a few seconds before he spoke again. 

“Thank you Rei. I’m glad that you found it. I’ll head over to where you are.” Rei told Mr. Taizo her location and ended the call. Rei brought them to a waiting area where there were benches. She bought some cotton candy nearby and let the twins’ have some to keep them from fussing. Mr. Taizo arrived shortly. 

“Here you go, Mr. Taizo.” Rei handed him the wallet to which Mr. Taizo took and clutched it near his chest. Kayda and Kotaro noticed that Rei was talking to someone. They went up to the two adults talking. 

“Mommy Rei… who are you talking to?” Kotaro asked. Mr. Taizo looked at the kid and his eyes suddenly widened. 

“Ah I recognize these kids. So you’re taking them out for a stroll.” Mr. Taizo asked while tousling the kids’ hair. Kotaro and Kayda smiled at him. 

“Anyway, thank you so much for finding this Rei. This means so much to me.” He said. Rei shook her head and put her hand on Kayda’s back. 

“She’s the one who found it, Mr. Taizo.” Kayda looked up at the old man and smiled. Mr. Taizo felt warm seeing her sweet smile. He bent down and put his hand on her head. 

“Thank you for finding this, little lady. What’s your name?” Kayda looked happily at Rei before she answered.

“I am Kayda. My brother is Kotaro.” She said while pulling on Kotaro’s arm. Kotaro was a bit shy compared to Kayda’s outgoing personality. He lowered his head when he greeted Mr. Taizo. He looked at Kotaro with a soft expression. After that, he stood up and looked at Rei.

“Thanks again.” He said. Rei just smiled. She wanted to ask a question but didn’t know how to start it. Mr. Taizo was about to leave when Rei mustered up the courage to ask.

“Uhm, Mr. Taizo, the kid in the picture inside your wallet, who is it?” Mr. Taizo looked at Rei and smiled. He took out the wallet again and showed her the picture.

“This is my grandson, Ryuji. This is the only photo left from his childhood. His stepmother burned all of his stuff when my wife and I took him in.” Rei was dumbfounded. She could already see the resemblance between Ryuji and Kotaro now but seeing his childhood photo, it was like a weird coincidence. She couldn’t process the information just yet. 

“Is that so? Well, I’m glad we could return it to you. We’ll be going now.” The twins waved goodbye at Mr. Taizo. Rei helped them in the car and she drove back to the mansion. When they arrived, Rei immediately looked for a photo album of the twins. She found what she was looking for. It was a photo of Kotaro having the same exact pose as the one in Mr. Taizo’s wallet. She couldn’t believe where her mind was going. 

Is it possible that Ryuji is the father of the twins? Rei thought. Without enough evidence, she ignored her assumption. She decided to investigate further and find out what was going on. Ayane arrived home a few minutes after Rei and the kids arrived. Rei didn’t tell her about what happened earlier with Mr. Taizo. Ayane was excited to tell her the story of what happened at the office. Trying to divert her attention, Rei listened intently to Ayane’s story. 

Meanwhile, at the Tennouji residences, Mr. Taizo just arrived from the mall where he and Rei saw each other. Ryuji was already home when he arrived. 

“Where have you been grandpa?” Ryuji asked. He was sitting on the couch reading a magazine. Mr. Taizo sat across from him. 

“I dropped my wallet at the mall. It was a good thing that Rei was the one who found it. She called me and I went over there to take it back.” Ryuji was indifferent. 

“She had her kids with her. Now that I looked closely at one of the twins, he surely looked like you when you were young.” Ryuji’s attention was snagged. He looked over at Mr. Taizo, waiting for a continuation of the story. Mr. Taizo saw this and stopped talking. He waited for Ryuji to start asking before he would start talking again. 

“What were they doing?” Ryuji caved in and asked a question. Mr. Taizo chuckled. 

“They looked like they were just spending the day together. The usual parent-child bonding.” He said. Ryuji seemed satisfied with his answer and kept silent. 

At the Kamenaga household, Ayane and Rei were busy talking about what had happened at the office. 

“She was saying some pretty inane things about you while I was there, I can only imagine what happened when you arrived.” Rei said. Both of them were in the kitchen making dinner. Ayane was chopping up vegetables while Rei was cooking rice. 

“Well, let’s just say Archetive is no longer collaborating with Suzuki Real Estate.” Ayane said proudly. Rei’s eyes widened and she burst out laughing. 

“I can’t believe I wasn’t there to see it.” Rei said while laughing. Ayane prepared the meat for the curry and placed the vegetables on a plate. 

“It wasn’t much of a scene. After shredding the contract in front of her, she just left angrily. I expected a cat fight to be honest.” Rei was done setting up the rice cooker and Ayane was ready to start cooking the curry. Rei sat on top of the counter while Ayane was in front of the stove. 

“At least it’s all over now. I believe she’s not an idiot and won’t try to bother us again.” Rei said. The sound of onion and garlic sizzling in a pan of hot oil filled the room. Ayane was quiet the whole time she was cooking and when it was time to leave the curry to simmer for a bit, she took off her apron and hung it by the refrigerator. 

“I’m going to go upstairs and get the kids. Watch that the curry won’t be overcooked.” Ayane said to Rei. She went upstairs to her bedroom and found the kids flipping through a picture book. When they heard the door opening, they turned their heads toward it. 

“Kotaro, Kayda, it’s time for dinner.” Ayane announced. The twins got up from the floor and ran to their mother. Hand-in-hand they went downstairs together. The nannies have already set up the table. Ayane placed the two in their own high chairs and Rei came in carrying the bowl of curry. They were having dinner together when the doorbell rang. Rei and Ayane looked at each other, confused who could be at the door at this time. One of the nannies was about to stand and answer the door but Ayane stopped her. She got up and went to the door. When she opened it, she was surprised to see who it was. 

“Ryuji?” Ryuji stood outside the door carrying a box of cake. He had a smile on his face.

“Good evening.” He said. Ayane snapped out of her trance and opened the door wider telling Ryuji to come in. 

“What are you doing here?” Ayane asked. Ryuji entered their house and handed the box of cake to Ayane. 

“I missed you.” He said with a cunning smile. Ayane scoffed and burst out laughing. 

“You’re crazy. We were together for lunch today.” She said. Ryuji just shrugged at her. 

“Well, we’re having dinner, come join us.” Ayane offered. Ryuji agreed and followed her to the dining room. Rei and the twins looked over and were surprised to see who their visitor was. Kotaro and Kayda became excited seeing a familiar face. Ayane placed the cake in the center of the table. She called out to Ryuji and pointed to an empty chair next to her. One of the nannies brought out a plate with a spoon and fork and placed it in front of Ryuji. 

“What brings you here, Ryuji?” Rei asked as she passed the bowl of rice over to him. Ryuji took it and put some on his plate. Ayane took the bowl of curry and proceeded to pour some over Ryuji’s plate. Everyone looked at her and when she realized what she’s done, she put down the bowl of curry and apologized. 

“I’m sorry; force of habit.” Ryuji didn’t mind; in fact he preferred Ayane to do these things for him. He reached out and held Ayane’s hand which made her blush. She pulled her hand and looked away.

“You should eat.” She said. Ryuji chuckled and ate the food. 

“I came here because I really wanted to see Ayane.” Ryuji said. Rei had a big smile on her face while Ayane avoided eye contact. She looked over at the twins and noticed that they were done eating. They usually feed themselves but they always get food on their clothes and faces. Ayane and Rei were done eating and waited for Ryuji. 

“You’re crazy, Ryu. We have lunch together every day. How can you miss me when we see each other every day?” Ayane said. Ryuji and Rei laughed at Ayane’s exasperated expression. Ryuji put his hand on Ayane’s shoulder and pulled her closer. Ayane kept avoiding his gaze; she was trying to hide her blushing face. Rei looked at the two of them and couldn’t help but laugh. She stood up and took the plates from the table. 

“I’m going to clean up here. Aya you should go with Ryuji and bathe the twins.” Rei said. She left the dining room before Ayane could even refuse. Ayane sighed and stood up. She took out Kotaro from his high chair and Ryuji took out Kayda. He followed her up to the second floor of the house. Ayane entered her room and placed Kotaro down. Ryuji did the same. She went over to the wardrobe and pulled out a pair of pajamas for the twins. She went to the bathroom and started the water for the bathtub. Ryuji looked around and observed the room. He noticed that the walls were filled with pictures of the twins. He saw one where it was just Ayane and the twins. 

The twins are really close with Ayane. Maybe it’s because they grew up with her. Ryuji thought. Kayda took one of their story books and brought it to Ryuji. He took the book and smiled at Kayda. 

“Do you want me to read this to you?” He asked to which Kayda nodded in response. Ayane called out to the twins. 

“The bath is ready.” Hearing their mother’s voice, they quickly ran to the bathroom with Ryuji in tow. Ayane slowly undressed the two and placed them inside the bath. Kotaro and Kayda played with their bath toys while Ayane scrubbed them clean. Ryuji followed what Ayane was doing but he was doing a terrible job. She looked at him and laughed. Ayane could see that he wasn’t used to children. She grabbed his attention and showed him how to properly scrub Kayda’s skin. Ryuji listened and was able to do it properly. The twins saw how their mother and Ryuji were interacting. 

“Daddy!” Kayda said. Ayane and Ryuji were surprised when she said it.  

“Daddy!” Kotaro followed along with Kayda. Ayane was surprised but Ryuji seemed to enjoy being called daddy. 

“Kotaro, Kayda, he isn’t your dad.” Ayane said but the twins frowned and refused to call him other than daddy.

“No, he’s daddy.” Kotaro said. Ayane sighed and stopped arguing. Ryuji chuckled at Ayane’s facial expression. Ayane stood up and grabbed the twins’ towels. She handed one to Ryuji and he took Kayda out of the bathtub and wrapped her with the towel. Ayane did the same with Kotaro and she carried him out to the room and placed him down on the bed. Ryuji followed suit. 

“Do you know how to put a diaper on a baby?” She asked Ryuji to which he shook his head. Ayane couldn’t help but smile from his cluelessness about babies. She told him to follow exactly what she’s doing. Ryuji managed to put on Kayda’s diaper without any problems. He dressed her up in the pair of pajamas that Ayane picked out. After the twins got changed, they settled on the bed and waited for their milk. Rei came up to the room and brought two bottles of milk for the twins. 

“I’ll handle this. You can talk downstairs if you want.” Rei said. Both Ayane and Ryuji stood up and walked to the door but before they could leave the twins called out to them.

“Goodnight Daddy!” They both said in unison which shocked Rei. She looked over at Ayane who was covering her face with her hand. Ryuji beamed with happiness when he heard the twins.

“I’ll tell you later.” Ayane said to Rei. Ryuji waved goodbye at the twins and said goodnight. They left the room and went back to the living room on the first floor. They sat on the couch with a good distance between them. 

“I was going to apologize for the twins’ behavior but you seemed to be enjoying it.” Ayane said. Ryuji met her gaze and laughed. 

“I’m enjoying spending my time with you.” Ryuji said. Ayane looked away and avoided his gaze. Ryuji moved closer to Ayane until their arms were touching. Ayane looked over at him and when she turned her head; their faces were merely inches apart. Their eyes met and they stayed like that for a while. 

“I can’t believe the cold Ryuji could have a soft look in his eyes.” Ayane muttered under her breath. Ryuji heard this and a smile stretched across his face. 

“Are you trying to seduce me, Ms. Kamenaga?” Ryuji asked playfully. Ayane smiled and was willing to play along. 

“Seducing you would be my greatest accomplishment.” Ayane said jokingly. Ryuji smiled at her playfulness and decided to keep playing. He leaned closer causing Ayane to lean back until she was lying on the sofa with Ryuji on top of her. 

“My, aren’t we moving a bit too fast?” Ayane said sarcastically which made Ryuji laugh. He leaned even closer to Ayane which made her look away. 

“You’re going to be mine anyway so I don’t mind the pace.” He said. Ayane scoffed and ended up laughing. Ryuji sat up and held his hand out for Ayane. He pulled her back up to sit and they laughed at their behavior. 

“You are really shameless, Mr. Tennouji.” Ayane playfully pushed Ryuji away from her. He took this opportunity to grab her arm and pull her towards himself. Ayane was surprised and looked up to meet his gaze. His eyes held sincerity and warmth in them that Ayane found it hard to look away.

“If it means I can win your heart, then I’m willing to be shameless in front of you.” His voice was soothing, like a subtle sound over a vast field; soft and quiet but at the same time alluring. Ayane could see in his eyes that he was serious about every word he spoke. She felt something weird inside her, a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time. She quickly pushed herself away from Ryuji’s grasp. She stood up and turned her back on Ryuji.

“Uhm, about our trip, it’ll be in a few days so… don’t forget.” Ayane immediately changed the topic and tried to avoid his gaze. Ryuji smiled at how flustered Ayane had become. He stood up and put his hand on Ayane’s shoulder. She jumped from his touch. 

“I’ll be picking you up so we’ll go to the airport together.” Ryuji said. Ayane turned to look at him and nodded her head. 

“Well, I won’t keep you up late. I better get going.” He said. Ayane showed him to the door. Before Ryuji got in his car, he turned back to Ayane and planted a kiss on her forehead. Ayane’s cheeks were flushed and she tried to hide it. Ryuji waved goodbye, got in his car and drove off. Ayane closed the door and leaned on it, slowly sliding down to the floor. She covered her face and held her chest. 

I shouldn’t be feeling this way. She thought. She pulled herself together and went upstairs. She opened the door gently before going inside. The twins were already asleep and Rei was on her phone. When she saw Ayane walk in, she slowly slid herself away from the twins.

“Did Ryuji go home already?” Rei asked. Ayane slumped down near the bed and sighed. Feeling concerned, Rei sat next to her. 

“What’s the matter?” She asked. Ayane covered her face with her arms and refused to talk. Rei stayed there by her side, silently waiting for Ayane to start talking. Ayane lifted her head and looked at Rei. 

“Rei, what’s wrong with him?” Ayane asked. 

“Why? What did he do to you? Did he hurt you?” Rei, feeling alarmed, unconsciously held onto Ayane’s arms and squeezed it tight. 

“No, it’s just… Why is he so fixated on me?” Upon hearing this, Rei let go of Ayane’s arms and pinched her cheeks. Ayane was about to raise her voice when Rei covered her mouth. She slowly massaged her cheeks that have turned red after Rei pinched them. 

“Why did you do that?” Ayane asked. Rei sighed and hung her head in her hands. She looked at Ayane like she was stupid. Ayane raised her eyebrow at her. 

“I thought something happened between you two.” Rei said. Nothing unusual had happened between them but something was happening to Ayane. She couldn’t understand why she feels the ways she does. Rei seemed to understand what was going on in her head. She put her arm around Ayane’s shoulder. 

“You’re starting to like him, aren’t you?” It seemed that Rei had hit a nerve and Ayane quickly denied it.

“No, you’re crazy. It’s just… I don’t understand why he’s acting like that.” Rei sighed. She knew why this bothered Ayane. It was something Ayane was afraid of; something that reminded her of what happened in the past. Rei was surprised that she’d agree to a bet with Ryuji but deep down; she could see that Ayane was yearning for something that she couldn’t give. Although Ayane hasn’t realized this yet, Rei was certain that she was thinking about it when she agreed to that bet. 

“Why don’t you just give him a chance? Stop shutting people out. Let them in. Let them in your life.” Rei advised. Ayane clenched her fist and sighed. She looked up at the ceiling and thought about what Rei said. 

“What if it happens again? What if he’ll end up the same way Kenji did? I don’t think I can take it if it happened again.” Ayane’s voice was quiet but Rei could hear the agony in her words. The pain she’s went through caused her to fear the one thing she wanted; Love. 

“What if it doesn’t happen? Are you going to let an opportunity go to waste just because you were scared?” Rei rebutted. Ayane stayed silent, not knowing how to answer.

“Think of it this way: if you have a box of chocolates and you ate one but you didn’t like the flavor, would you throw away the rest of the chocolates without tasting them?” Rei asked. Ayane understood her metaphor but fear was still lurking inside her heart. She looked at Rei, sighed and shook her head. 

“I understand. It’s getting late, Rei. I’m going to bed.” Ayane said. They both stood up from the floor and went their separate ways. Before Rei could leave the room, Ayane stopped her. 

“Rei, thank you… for everything.” Rei looked back at her and smiled. 

“Good night.” Rei closed the door behind her and Ayane was left in the room with her sleeping twins. She kissed their foreheads and pulled up their blankets. Ayane was seriously thinking about what Rei said. Her kids need a father and it seems that Ryuji was the prime candidate.

A little more time and maybe I can learn to fall in love again.

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