Ulf rode his bike to the square feeling giddy with joy. It was over an hour's worth of cycling, but it was worth it if he could have a full day with Christina to himself.
He watched the Saturday morning pass around him as he wheeled and pedalled through a Tokyo only lazily awakening to the end of summer. Tomorrow would be the traditional dating day for teenagers, but a Saturday morning wasn't as packed, so he brought the bike all the way to the statue and leaned on it while he waited. If more people arrived he'd take his bike and move out of the way. The statue stood alone so if needed he could wait a bit away and still see everything that happened near it.
Ulf flipped his left arm and looked at his wrist. Half an hour early was maybe a bit excessive, but he didn't want to risk being late and that last time when they became a couple she had waited for him here. Besides morning slowly shifting to midday offered warmth, and he enjoyed watching the street-life even when there wasn't all that much of it to see right now. Another hour or two and Ulf knew more people would take to the streets.
He longed to see Christina, but that longing came with a lot of guilt. It was something he needed to clear with himself as well. Maria. Now he understood that the reason he flinched whenever Christina came too close was because he felt he was cheating on his wife. She was lost forever in that other world, but somehow it didn't matter. Did it count as cheating if they could never meet? Did it count as breaking up, or divorcing, if you walked out the door one day never able to return?
And he couldn't even send her a message. He couldn't let her know he was fine, or at least mostly fine. He couldn't tell his children that he wasn't lying dead in a ditch. His children. Remembering them hurt and he sat down. In the end he betrayed not just one but three people. Betrayal or not, they were forever gone. He could go on as much as he wanted with Yukio about going back home, but that would probably never happen. No matter how much he dug not a single rumour surfaced about an arrival going back.
Because of all that he couldn't tell Christina that he loved her. But he did. Maybe more than life itself, and that was the second problem. He'd never allow her to know how he lived for her. That she had become his reason for living didn't matter. This feeling of guilt had nothing to do with Maria. There just was no way he could load Christina with that kind of a burden. No one should feel responsible for someone else's life. OK, you were responsible for your own children, but not a grown up person, not even your wife or girlfriend.
Ulf chewed on his lower lip. If it made him look girlie so be it. He hadn't cared much the last thirty years, and his attitude garnered him both enemies and admirers during his university years. It permanently built him a reputation as someone with integrity. He had spent half his life deserving it.
Lost in thoughts he barely noticed how half an hour had passed, but now the real wait started. Last time she had been early. He could as well kill some time while he waited, so he rolled up his arms and gave his bike some much needed maintenance. It didn't make him too dirty and it was kind of fun working with his hands for a change.
When he was done there was still no sign of Christina, and now she was half an hour late. Ulf called her but only got the message that her unit was off service. He emailed her in case she could read but not talk. Then he went to work giving his bike some serious work.
Maybe it wasn't really needed, but he had loved caring for his bikes with a passion that caused others to give him strange stares during his university years a world ago. His second girlfriend, at the time, broke up with him giving him a lecture about the difference between passion and obsession. She was, Ulf reflected, probably right. Since then he tried to be more aware of his surroundings before he allowed himself to be totally immersed in what he was doing, but he accepted that his peculiar kind of blindness went hand in hand with his ability to get things done in a timely fashion. It was a part of his personality.
Another half an hour passed, and another, but she never arrived. After two hours and five failed attempts to call her he gave up. By now he was more than a little afraid and also a bit angry, so he rode to her apartment, climbed the stairs and knocked on her door in a very pre mobile phone era style. There was no response but her door was locked.
Ulf was scared enough now to entertain the idea of entering by force, but it was unlikely she'd be inside unable to hear him hammering on her door, so in the end he abandoned that idea. He walked to the railings and stared down at the small parking lot below as if Christina somehow would magically arrive just because he wanted her near. A lonesome bike stood a bit away from his own, but mid afternoon it was just as empty as he rationally knew it would be.
He did call Kyoko, but she knew nothing. On a whim he called Ryu and Midori as well, but neither of them had heard anything.
There was nothing to do. He walked down the stairs, locked his bike and returned back up. Some time he could spend looking over the railings, but there was nothing to see but the equally dull apartment complex across the street and in the end he sat down outside Christina's door and prepared himself for a long wait.
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