A Charmed Life
Chapter 36: Getting to Know You
Copyright© 2016 by The Outsider
22 October 1994 - Newton, Massachusetts
“Hello, Jeffrey,” Keiko Takahashi whispered before kissing him again.
“What are you doing here?”
“I believe I am kissing you, Jeffrey.”
Jeff shook his head. “I mean, where did you come from?”
Keiko looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “You do not remember that I am from Spokane, Jeffrey? Is your memory failing you?”
He blinked. “You’re teasing me!” he exclaimed, his eyes narrowing.
She smiled. “A little. I am a student at Boston College studying for my Masters in English Composition now.”
“Wait, you already have a Masters, Keiko.”
“In teaching, yes, but not yet in English. I wish to have more knowledge in my academic field.”
“You look wonderful, Keiko. Is it... ? Is it time now?”
“It is our time? I believe that it is, Jeffrey. That is the reason I chose Boston when deciding on where to obtain my Masters. I wish to see if you and I truly have a future together; I believe that we do but life often gets in the way of one’s plans as Ken’s death showed us.”
Jeff stopped short.
“Jeffrey, you do not have to be worried about bringing up Ken’s name around me; you should know this already. Yes, he was my brother and, yes, he was killed in the Gulf War. Both of those are facts we must accept; we cannot acknowledge one without the other. The three years since his death has allowed my family to gain some perspective on this. We celebrate him rather than mourn him.”
Jeff hugged her. “You are right, Keiko; I’d better get used to saying that, huh?” He hugged her again. “I can’t believe you’re here! How is it you showed up here today? Did someone let you know we would be here?”
“No, I have been hearing of this restaurant since I arrived at BC. I was studying today and missed lunch; I thought it would be a good opportunity to come here and not battle the peak-time crowds. It was a pleasant walk today.”
“I am glad you missed lunch, then. How are your parents?”
“They are well, thank you. And thank you for the flowers following my graduation, Jeffrey.”
“I couldn’t let the event pass unnoticed, Keiko. I think about you frequently, especially since the beginning of this year.”
“And I you.”
At that point Heather hustled up to them. “Jeff, is this her? Is this Keiko?” she asked, excited.
“Yes,” Keiko answered, “I am Keiko Takahashi. You are Heather Donnelly, are you not?”
Heather wrapped Keiko in a hug of her own. “It is so good to finally meet you!”
“And it is good to finally meet you, Miss Donnelly,” Keiko laughed at Heather’s exuberance.
“Oh no! No, no, no! ‘Heather.’ I’m ‘Heather, ‘ please. May I call you ‘Keiko?’”
“Yes, of course.” Keiko glanced over at the rest of the group that was present for Heather’s luncheon. “I have interrupted a private event. I apologize.”
“You’ll be adding to it, Keiko. Come on over!” Heather insisted. She hooked one of Keiko’s arms and began leading her to the table. Keiko looked back at Jeff, a question on her face. Jeff shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
“Everyone! This is Keiko Takahashi!” Heather announced once back at the table. Kara, who’d visited Jeff at Fort Bragg and met her brother Ken, gasped; she sprang from her seat. By the time Kara hugged Keiko there was a small knot of others waiting for their turn. Jeff watched with a smile.
“Where did she come from?” Heather asked while her mother and grandmother introduced themselves to Keiko.
“Apparently she’s a Masters candidate at BC.” Now it was his parents’ turn to greet Keiko as he watched.
“I thought she already got one?”
“‘Oh, yes, it’s vurry nice... ‘“ Jeff quoted; Heather smacked him on the arm. “She did get one, Heather, in May. She has a BA in English Composition and a Masters in teaching from UVA. She said she’s working on a Masters in English Composition now.”
“And she’s been there since Labor Day, roughly, but hasn’t contacted you until now?”
“Seems that way.” Jeff shrugged. “I don’t know, Heather. She and I have a whole lot of talking to do before I can give you a complete report.” Heather stuck her tongue out at him.
When Keiko was finished meeting everyone Kara and Marisa brought her back to where they were seated. Jeff’s father handed him another beer while Tom Cavanaugh patted him on the shoulder. Jeff pulled an empty chair over from a nearby table and sat next to Keiko. Her hand found its way into his while they talked to Kara, Marisa and Stu. It felt natural, right; they smiled at each other.
The luncheon ended forty-five minutes later. He and Keiko hadn’t let go of each other’s hand that entire time; they did have to let go of one another to say goodbye to everyone. His mother extracted a promise of a visit to Enfield for Thanksgiving. After saying their goodbyes they walked hand-in-hand to Jeff’s truck.
“I don’t know why, but I expected you to be driving the same vehicle that you were when you visited us in 1991, Jeffrey,” Keiko said as they approached his truck.
“I would be if someone hadn’t set it on fire last year.”
Keiko raised an eyebrow. “‘On fire, ‘ Jeffrey? What sort of women have you been associating with?”
“Wait, I didn’t say anything about a woman! I said ‘someone!’” he protested as he opened Keiko’s door for her.
“A lucky guess,” she said while she stepped into the truck. Jeff closed her door, shaking his head as he walked to the driver’s side. Great, he thought. I’m already losing arguments to her... Jeff walked around to the driver’s side and climbed in.
Keiko directed him to her apartment building. Jeff parked along Commonwealth Avenue and was led inside by her. The building, built sometime in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, was constructed of heavy stone which darkened to a deep chocolate brown over the years. Originally built as a Gilded Age single-family home, it had been divided into three large apartments, one on each floor.
Each of the bedrooms in the apartments bore deadbolts to better keep out roommates sharing those apartments, roommates who didn’t always know each other before moving in. Keiko led Jeff to the third floor, passing through the common room in that apartment on the way to her room. The others sharing that space stared in disbelief when they passed; she’d been buried in her books since she moved in. She pulled Jeff in and locked the door behind them.
Keiko bore into Jeff when she kissed him again. He was very aware of every curve on her body while she pressed into him; his hands roamed over her back. The difference between his six-foot-two frame and her five-foot-six was a slight hindrance but they suffered through it. They released each other some minutes later. Both were breathless.
A look around her room told Jeff that she had the bedroom facing Commonwealth Ave. The large room held her twin bed, a desk, a dresser and a loveseat. Rather than the riot of just-out-of-high-school decorations he remembered from his barracks room, Keiko’s choice of furnishings tended more to the minimalist, reflecting the aesthetic young woman’s style. Keiko pulled his attention back to her and to the loveseat.
“‘Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly, ‘“ Keiko quoted when they sat.
“Is this the East Coast version of the Hotel California? I’m never leaving?” he responded with a smile.
“No,” she said, lowering her eyes. “We are not at that point in our relationship, Jeffrey. We still have so much to learn about each other; your visit to Spokane three years ago barely scratched the surface.”
“Very true. Things went well for you at UVA?”
“Yes. I graduated summa cum laude and with the two degrees I pursued. Before graduation in May I knew I wanted a Masters in English as well. A search told me both BC and BU offered the degree I was looking for, but that BC had an actual campus. I knew I wanted to come to Boston, to try and find you, to see if my childish hunch about us was true.”
“‘Childish hunch?’ You didn’t really feel something when you visited Bragg?” Jeff asked in confusion.
“No, I definitely did, Jeffrey, do not worry. No, my concern was that you had moved on without me. That you had found someone else during our time apart.”
Jeff blew out a breath. “I very nearly did, Keiko. I found that I couldn’t lie to her, or myself, about my feelings.”
“It was Allison, Keiko. I think I mentioned her in ‘91; I know you said that Ken talked about her during your time at the beach in ‘89. She’s been my friend since our sophomore year in high school. We spent the last half of senior year together as boyfriend and girlfriend; we lived together for the two months after my visit to you and before she left for the University of Texas in August of 1991. We were close that summer, though we didn’t get that close. Not for lack of trying, but neither of us felt comfortable taking that step.”
“Honestly, I could easily have fallen for her; in a way I suppose I did. Like you, she’s brilliant and beautiful. Physically, she’s a little different than you - five-nine, golden blonde hair, bright blue eyes - and emotionally her strength didn’t emerge until late in her undergrad years at MIT, but ... I love her, Keiko. There’s no other way to say it: I love her. She’s more than a former girlfriend, more than the other sister Heather now is or even the actual sister Kara is, in many ways.”
“Jeffrey, you know that I asked you not to stop living while we were apart, neither at Fort Bragg in 1989 nor at my parents’ in 1991. This was the ... risk ... I took. You did not bring anyone to Heather’s graduation party; is there no one in your life, then?”
“Not romantically, no. There’s been no one who I’ve gotten close to since Allison. I do live with two women though, Keiko.”
Keiko’s eyebrows rose. “A ‘Three’s Company’ situation?” she asked.
“Sort of.” Jeff explained his relationship with Charlie and Emilie and theirs to each other.
“Then they will not be upset if we begin to date?”
“Not at all. I don’t know what your class schedule is like, Keiko, but my schedule will be ... difficult to manage ... until at least next fall.” He explained how paramedic school fit into his life and how he’d adapted his work schedule to accommodate it. He would have very little free time for close to a year.
“You are just getting started with paramedic school. I am just now adapting to the pace of life here in Boston; this is why I have not tried contacting you. I was a bit off-balance after classes started. We will make things work. That is, if you want to?”
“I most certainly do, Keiko.”
Jeff told Sean about Keiko’s appearance at Heather’s graduation party when they next worked together the following Tuesday night. Sean, of course, wanted to return the favor to Jeff by inviting Keiko and him to dinner at his place as soon as possible. Jeff demurred until he and Keiko had established a true relationship.
One invitation that Jeff accepted for the both of them was to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Though Jeff and Sean worked Thursday nights together every week, that particular Thursday they both were given the day off, allowing each of them to spend time with their respective families.
Jeff drove to Keiko’s place the day before Thanksgiving, early in the afternoon, while she was in class; they’d exchanged keys only two weeks into their relationship, already that comfortable with each other. Traffic out of the city that night would be ridiculous and best avoided by not leaving for Enfield until early Thanksgiving morning. He stayed in her room and studied while waiting for her to return.
Jeff was buried deep in his pharmacology notes when she returned that afternoon. They walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner, watching through the large window while the masses attempted to leave Metro Boston. They shared a quiet meal together before walking back to her building hand-in-hand through the snow flurries that started during dinner. They studied again after their return, so they’d be ahead while at his family’s house.
They readied themselves for bed around nine that evening since they would leave by five the next morning. One of Keiko’s roommates was a local from Dartmouth, so she headed home that night. The other two women were from the Midwest and would stay in Boston.
“You’d have thought I was getting ready to ravish all three of you from the looks they just gave me!” Jeff whispered after Keiko closed the door to her room.
“And that that t-shirt stretched across your chest? You do not think that had something to do with it?” He looked down; his PT shirt with “ARMY” emblazoned across it was close to six years old and a little small now. “No, Jeffrey, you are all mine,” she whispered back.
“Getting kinda possessive after only a month aren’t you, Keiko?”
“I have waited five years for my chance, Jeffrey,” she reminded him while they embraced. He pinched her butt, causing her to jump. He kissed her on the nose before turning to his sleeping bag and bedroll, intending to open them.
“You are not sleeping on the floor, Jeffrey!”
“I’m not going to fit on that loveseat, Keiko.”
“Very true. You will fit in my bed, however.”
“Uh, Keiko, are we ready for that? Plus, it’s a twin, remember?”
“So, we will need to get close to each other.” He looked hesitant. She stepped back up to him and held him again. “And no, I do not believe we are ready for that. I want to feel your arms around me all night, Jeffrey, nothing more. I wish to be close to you.” He nodded in acceptance.
She shooed him over to the bed and under the covers while she moved to the light switch. He heard her cross the carpet; then she slipped under the covers with him. She pulled his arms around her and snuggled into him.
“Keiko, I apologize ... my body ... being this close to you,” he whispered into her ear.
“Jeffrey, you are a man; it is expected. I will not hold any involuntary reactions against you. Now, relax. Try to get some sleep; our alarm will go off at 4:30.”
As with exchanging keys, how rapidly they’d reached this point surprised him. Her gentle breathing soon stilled him to sleep.
“Did you have a good weekend with your family?” Sean asked him the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Ambulance Twenty-two was defending the Malden and Medford areas against sickness and injury that night.
“Yeah, it was great. She loved Enfield and the towns out there, though she said the ‘hills’ were too low; I think growing up among the mountains spoiled her. Mom, Dad, Kara and Stu like her already, and Matty’s already calling her ‘Aunt Keiko.’ Thanks, kid. No pressure.”
“When did you come back?”
“Early Sunday,” Jeff replied. “I’m glad we left Enfield when we did; traffic was already getting heavy in Sturbridge where the Turnpike meets 84, even at nine in the morning.”
“You think you guys are up to having dinner at my place this Sunday?”
“Yeah! That’d be great, Sean, thanks! Can we bring anything?”