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  Lan flips his shirt and places it on top of the rest of his clothes in the travel bag. Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, underwear, socks, he counts in his head. Hiroshima was hot this time of year, but he packs the jeans anyway.
  He tilts his head back and closes his eyes, inhaling through his nose in a slow breath. She hasn't answered. Lan walks into the bathroom and gathers up his toothbrush, toothpaste, other miscellaneous toiletries and zips them up in a sealed bag before laying them on the top of his clothes.
  
The notepad next to his black carry on was lined down to the bottom. He counts off in his head at the list.
  
Phone, charger, laptop, charger, medications, e-cig, juice, watch charger, USB hub, POWER BLOCK.
  
He looks to the left at the tangle of black wires that make up the technology he's bringing with him, almost all USB in nature.
  
Lan goes down the list and without a pen nearby, he digs his thumbnail into the paper, crossing it out one by one, pausing over medications. Those were last minute, so they sat on his dresser for now. He gathers up the laptop and the bunch of wires and places it on top of his clothes and zips the suitcase up to meet in the middle.
  
The front of it gives him pause, smiling a bit as he runs his fingers over the logo of the company that made it. The suitcase itself was perfect, undamaged, but because the logo was stamped on it upside-down, he got it for a steal at an outlet. A fifth of what it was worth.

  She bought this for you.

  Lan's smile drops almost immediately at the thought, and grabs the suitcase from the handle on the top, setting it next to his bedroom door.
  
He looks over at the living room wall, the barrier separating his apartment from Saya's. She hadn't refused, but she hadn't said yes, either. Resting a hand on the door jamb, he looks at his watch.
  

  August 9th.

   Saya, though, was standing outside of Lan's door with her hands to her sides, her index finger tapping rapidly on her thigh. She realizes representation of anxiety as it happens, but it helps her think. Or so she convinces herself.
  
She had been there for the last few minutes, weighing the pros and cons of Lan's offer. There were a few things she would have to make sure of first.
  
Her finger stops as she reaches up and knocks on his door, waiting.
  
She hears Lan pull the chain and opens the door, and she forgets his height for a moment even as he leans out. Saya goes from looking at his shirt up to his face.
  
“You.. sorry, I nearly..” he visibly relaxes when he sees it's Saya, but looks at her and the edge of his door. He could have easily hit her with it, but she was just out of reach for that.
  
Almost immediately, she holds up a hand to him to take control of the conversation:

  “One. We would be going as..” Friends? “neighbors.”

  Lan starts to nod, but she continues.

  “We have separate rooms, like we do here.”

  He simply rights himself and looks down at her as she counts on her fingers.
  
“This is a vacation. For me.” She tilts her head a bit, remembering Reo's business card. “I know that you.. your family's business is based out of Hiroshima, but that is not why we're going.” 'We're', what a strange thing to think when it comes to him.
  
“If you have to deal with that in some way, I can keep myself busy.”
  
“And lastly, I pay for myself. I hate being beholden to anyone, even you. Or your brother.” She looks at her fingers at the four held up, then up to Lan, who is wincing a bit.
  
“What?” she inquires.
  
“Your.. the..” He looks behind him for a moment, thinking of the printouts he made for both of their tickets, whether she accepted or not.
  
“Travel is.. already paid for?” Lan says, the sentence sounding more like a question than a statement.

--

 

  Saya squints up at Lan, but there's not much to read. Resting bitch face. “Paid.. for?” She imitates the upward lilt of his voice.
  
Lan lets go of the doorknob and hooks his hands in his pockets, his thumbs out. “It's.. faster than the train, and cheaper, and..” he turns to the side, unable to look at Saya's face. “already booked.”
  
“It wasn't me, it wasn't!” He backpedals, holding his hands up in front of him defensively. “Reo..” Father.. “wanted to know if I was coming home for the holiday, and I said yes. That I was bringing a friend. And they went ahead and booked a ticket in your name as well.” Lie right to her face, Lan, that's what you're good at.
  
Saya seems to accept it, she was three-fourths pissed off about the situation, one-fourth excited about the trip, but she didn't let any of that show. She hopes the latter can overcome the former as she looks up at her neighbor.
  
She studies his face, all she's ever seen on it has been guilt or spite. Saya looks to where Reo stood before in front of her door, then back to Lan. Spite. And how he looks now, this can't be how rich people act, she thinks, and the ticket isn't that expensive, after all.

  Who are you?

  Lan goes back and forth between his facade and the truth. He has already told Saya lies, what's one more? He thinks. He looks up at the skyline in the afternoon sun and sighs, shaking his head.
  
“Alright. You deserve to know the truth, so I'm going to tell you all of it.” He pulls the door to his apartment open and steps to the side. “Are you okay with coming in? I know all of this seems suspect but.. here.” In an effort to show his sincerity, he holds a key out to Saya, who takes it tentatively.
  
“It's my apartment key. If you want, I'll leave the door open. All we're going to do is sit in the living room and talk, like we did in yours. Is that okay?”
  
Saya looks into Lan's apartment, the same as when she had to use it to get to her own. “Oh, hold.. hang on..” he says, leaning in and flicking a few switches on the wall so that the interior lights up.
  
“Lan you're kinda.. freaking me out here,” she admits, holding up the key. “This means nothing from the inside, but I get what you mean by it.” The realization makes Lan's cheeks flush in embarrassment.
  
She taps it on the back of her other hand, thinking to herself. “I don't think you're a bad man, but I don't think you're being honest with me, either. So..” She motions into the apartment. “You.. tell me the truth, and we'll go from there.” Saya makes no moves to go in ahead of him, which takes him a moment before he gets it and nods slightly.
  
“Right, right, alright..” Lan ducks his head under the door's frame and steps into his own place. He stops at the entryway to the kitchen and points at it. “I don't.. really do tea, but is a bottle of water okay with you?”
  
Saya glances over at her own apartment door, then down the walkway at the other rooms, and down at the key he gave her. Stepping into Lan's apartment, she lets the door close but does double-check that it remains unlocked. Your mother would kill you if she knew about this, she thinks.
  
“Yeah, that.. water is fine, yes.” She steps out of her shoes, leaving them in the landing as she moves further in, and he moves into the kitchen.
  
She takes stock of his room, and it hadn't changed even though she had only a passing glance in her rush to get to her own apartment through his.
  
Saya looks at the TV, on a news channel with the volume down low enough that she couldn't make out the words, not that she was fluent in Japanese. The couch seemed like it was used, but there wasn't much else to the room. Two armchairs sat to the left and right of a central coffee table – none of them seem to have been used recently.
  
Everything screams premade, ready-to-use furniture. Everything in its right place, she thinks. She scans the walls, and finds no art, no decoration, just the same off-white color that matches the off-white of everything else.
  
A showroom. The only thing out of place were the pictures she didn't have time to examine last time she was here, walking over to them. Lan was behind the counter itself, rummaging in the fridge as she looks from frame to frame.
  
An older woman, in black and white, clearly happy and laughing at something off to the side.
  
A younger version of the woman, with an Asian man standing proudly next to her, and in front of them a per-teen boy in a suit himself. All were smiling. Saya recognizes the blue eyes of the woman, and the blue eyes of the boy. She looks over at Lan for a moment, when he was younger?
  
The woman, about the same age, with what looks like a flight headset on, smiling in the backseat of a small plane even though the microphone covers part of her smile.
  
Lan, older, standing next to a younger boy with black hair and dark eyes, Lan smiles, but the boy's visage is almost expressionless. Reo?
  
Saya concludes that the woman must be Lan's mother. And by the way Lan conducts himself versus how he looks in these photos, she knows that this person is no longer around.

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About the author

drac

Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

[email protected]

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