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Noriko waited outside the station. 'Park side,' she had said.

One Yakobuson Anderusu would arrive together with his girlfriend from Sweden. Anders Jakobsson the name read in her email with the names flipped in the western style. Nesrin Kaplan was the other name other name in her mail.

Kapulan Nesurin? Noriko thought. Apparently it wasn't Swedish in origin, but she was his Swedish girlfriend who wasn't Swedish. Noriko never understood the naming antics of the people from the wild north.

In reality they weren't arriving from Sweden at all. When they learned of the Himekaizen final exams they simply rearranged their itinerary and spent their first two weeks travelling Kyushu and the Kansai area.

Japan Rail Pass. So much cheaper for foreign tourists, and yet we have so few of them visiting. From exchanged emails Noriko had learned that a similar system existed in Europe where you could go train-hopping from country to country. Apparently it was popular among young people.

You Swedes are strange. Boyfriend and girlfriend, and she hadn't even graduated high school, but still their parents must have agreed to them spending a month together alone in Japan.

Noriko shook her head. Different places, different rules.

Behind her the great street to the imperial park lay mostly empty. A few schoolgirls in their uniforms mixed with tourists on their way to the park or the station made a feeble attempt at making the street look a little less of a stone desert. Apart from the original red brick station building the surroundings were depressingly ugly. The desolation made Noriko feel even more alone than she was.

She waited alone, because her idiot brother was in Hokkaido with their mother for a week and wouldn't be back until after Obon. Noriko and her father stayed in Tokyo for the same reason. Just like they had done two years earlier. Last year Noriko had gone north with her mother.

Half past one, Saturday the sixth of August. Kuri wouldn't come. She had to plan for tomorrow and if she didn't show, then Urufu would be absent as well. Probably biking around Tokyo in this heat like the moron he is. Kyoko leaves south the day after tomorrow. She's busy packing. That left Yukio who had just come back home from the west coast.

So where are you? Half an hour late and they'll be here any moment now.

And there they were. “You won't be able to miss us,” Yakobuson-san wrote in the last email. And then she saw him. He was true to his words. What are you wearing? Gods!

Not only did the waving apparition dwarf Urufu, but he had a neon green top-hat on his head. The girl at his side was a dark beauty with hair to her waist, looking nothing like what Noriko had expected from Sweden. My Swedish girlfriend who's not Swedish. So that's what he meant!

He was pointing at the sign Noriko had in her hands and lumbered in her direction with a huge backpack. The girl, Kapulan-san, carried an equally enormous backpack, but otherwise she wore nothing as horribly out of place as the ridiculous hat Yakobuson-san had.

Good day, I'm Wakayama Noriko,” Noriko said when the pair came close enough for her to greet them without shouting. Yukio, you little… You'd better teleport here or do whatever people do to flash into existence in the manga you read.

She smiled at her foreign visitors. The club's. They're not mine. They're visiting the club. Gods you're a tall one!

Anders Jakobsson.” A huge hand shot out and down. It enveloped her small one. “Damn you're short!” He bent forward and it was all Noriko could do to avoid being embraced in a bear hug.

Sorry,” she said, “but I'd rather not hug.” With your girlfriend right next to you as well. Or do all people greet each other that way in Sweden?

Nesrin Kaplan, pleased to meet you.” That hand was smaller and came from a more normal height. She was a girl after all. Noriko took the offered hand after Yakobuson-san had released hers.

You wrote that you'd wait for us here with a friend,” Yakobuson-san said.

Noriko nodded. Being around Urufu and Kuri had done wonders to her English, but the Swedes still spoke too fast in their sing song accent.

I'll call him,” she said and dug up her phone from her handbag.

That won't be needed,” said a voice from behind her.

Yukio?

Sorry I'm late.” He switched to English. “I'm Yukio Matsumoto, pleased to meet you both.” Yukio looked up at Yakobuson-san. “Man, how tall are you really? We don't get many like you over here.”

He's 196, and he's got muscles as well,” Kapulan-san said and snuggled up closer to her boyfriend.

He did. It was like looking at a walking blond wall. You didn't pick that T-shirt by accident. There's something with you that I don't like, Noriko thought.

That's a lot,” Yukio said and turned to the girl. “You two are staying in my father's place. Mom's here with a car to get your luggage.” He took a look at the gigantic backpacks and smiled at Noriko. “Looks like I have to make the trip to the apartment as well. Noriko, they're waiting for us in the park. Could you take them there?”

Noriko looked at the backpacks. It made sense and she nodded. “Follow me,” she offered to Kapulan-san. “Yukio will be back after he's dumped your luggage. Anything you need from it right now?”

Not me. I have my sunglasses and wallet. Anders?”

The tall Swede shook his head. “Maybe I should get rid of this one though,” he said and took off his hat.

Thanks for small gifts. “Maybe you should. It's hot today,” Noriko said. This is going to be interesting. They talk so fast, and my English really isn't all that good.

Tomorrow promised to be interesting with the visiting giant in tow. Yakobuson-san was certain to attract interest when they arrived at Shibuya.


***


Thank you Amaya!” Ulf said. Sometimes his legal guardian was just the best. Right now was one of those times.

Last day the club met their visitors from Sweden and showed them around some parts of central Tokyo, and today they'd bring them to Shibuya.

Sunday. Today is the day for Christina's mad stunt. Thinking of her made his stomach contract. Christina Agerman. If anyone in Tokyo could pull it off it would be her, but still. If I'm this nervous how mustn't she feel right now?

Through the windows Ulf saw the congested traffic and normally he would have preferred taking his bike into central Tokyo but Amaya didn't even have a bike. At least her car was equipped with a good AC.

She drove expertly and knew almost all short-cuts from her job as a police. They didn't talk much and Ulf was beginning to enjoy the silence when she turned to him with a question.

Urufu, this girl of yours. Do you love her?”

Ulf looked at Amaya. I think too much before I answer a question, and she's just about the only one who knows I'm not preparing a lie while I'm thinking. “I love her. It scares the hell out of me but I really love her.”

Much?”

Ulf laughed. It was a hollow laugh, mirthless. Christina, my heart hurts the first time I see you in a day. I feel like my lungs will explode when I first hear your voice. My body isn't large enough to make room for what I feel, and I'm drowning in you. When we part at evenings I just want to hold on to you so you don't disappear. The days we don't meet I'm lost.

Urufu?”

Yeah,” Ulf answered. He could hear how hoarse his voice was. “Yes, very much.”

Amaya frowned and took a corner. “For your sake I hope she loves you back. You're a difficult one to live with.”

I'm sorry. I'm grateful you took me in despite the way I behaved when we met,” Ulf said. I hurt you, and you still cared for me even before you believed I was who I am.

Urufu!”

Yes Amaya?”

She wheeled the car to a revolver style parking house and hit the brakes. “One day you need to give voice to your feelings.” Amaya opened her door, left the car and waited for him to show his head over the roof. “You talk a lot about rational things but you never talk enough about emotions. You have to or you'll lose everything,” she said after he popped up his head.

The car slid inside its box and was winched inside the belly of the parking house. Ulf watched it vanish. “I don't like to talk about my feelings. Words can't be unsaid and I feel vulnerable,” he admitted. Amaya was probably the only one he could talk about everything with. I am really grateful to you. You made me a home in this world.

She studied him with one of those intense stares of hers.

Bloody mind-reader, but that's why I trust you so much. You've never abused your ability to read me. “Yes Amaya?”

It's mother dear,” she said.

What did I do wrong this time? OK only abused a little bit. “What is it mother dear?” By now Ulf knew better than to push her when she got into one of those moods.

They walked the first street towards Shibuya in silence. Traffic was bad and the heat murderous. The air stank of almost melting asphalt.

You're still hurt Urufu. You told me how much you lost when your daughter died, and I can only understand parts of it.” Amaya sighed and drew new breath before she continued. “When sis died I was devastated, and I cried a lot and the world was a black place.” Amaya stopped in her tracks and faced Ulf. “But,” she said and pointed her index finger at him,” and this is an important but. My parents had it worse. So I guess you had it worse.”

Ulf took a step backwards. Amaya ripping into his memories like this opened up old wounds.

Urufu please tell her what you feel. You're closing in on yourself and you never let anyone inside. It would have been bad enough if it was just a teenage fling, but it isn't, is it?”

And you are way, way, way too perceptive! When did you find out? “Amaya?”

Mother dear, I told you!”

Yes mother dear.”

I hear when you talk about her. There is something off. You two share just too many memories for having met in May, April?”

Ulf nodded and they continued walking. Amaya needs to know. I think she's already guessed anyway. “Christina's my age. As in she's fifty like me and sixteen like me.”

Beside him Amaya smiled and hooked his arm into hers. “If I had any doubts they vanished when you asked me for this favour. Your girlfriend is crashing a fashion shoot and wants an adult to back her up when she's offered a job?” Amaya shook her head. “That's not how a sixteen year old thinks.”

She was right. Ulf knew that. Any teenager with that kind of guts would simply never think in terms of a backup. Especially not in terms of 'member of the police force for added credibility' kind of backup.

You know that I love you, mother dear?”

Me you can tell, and I know. It's not I who need to hear those words. I'll bet you a week's salary you haven't told her you love her properly!”

Ulf declined to take her up on the bet. I thought this game of love would become easier with age but the only thing that happens is that the stakes increase. He blew out air in a half whistle. I'm together with a girl most men would want as a trophy. But would they love her? Why did I have to fall in love? If it had just been desire I wouldn't be this vulnerable.

If it had just been desire he could have slept with her by now. There had been opportunities. But I want to hold you, and talk with you. I want to listen to you when you breathe and when you talk. I want to watch you laugh and I want to be there to see how you wipe that golden hair of yours from your face with your fingers. He closed his eyes and let himself be led by Amaya for a few steps. For now he only wanted the sight in his mind. A golden girl almost his own height. His golden girl.

The sound of cars and the smell of asphalt built a background for his thoughts. He could feel Amaya steady his steps when she noticed he was no longer watching where he walked.

Christina, I want you by my side. Always. Christina, the day I tell you those needs will never come, because if I tell you how dependent of you I have become, then what we share turns into a cage for you. I love you so much, but I can never tell.

He opened his eyes again. They were almost at the great Shibuya intersection.
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