When Nanako got home from work, her son was asleep on the living room sofa. This wasn’t particularly unusual, as Langa was known to nap occasionally, sometimes in odd places. The unusual part was the boy lying underneath him, gently combing his fingers through Langa’s hair as Langa buried his nose in the boy’s t-shirt. The boy had a fond expression on his face, a small smile resting on his lips.
“Hello,” she said quietly as she stepped deeper into the room and the boy jumped slightly as he noticed her. He started to move to stand up but stopped when he couldn’t figure out how to do so without waking Langa. Instead, he smiled brightly at her and offered his hand.
“I’m Kyan Reki, I’m Langa’s friend. I’m sorry if I’m intruding, Langa invited me over, but I don’t think he meant to fall asleep.” After shaking her hand, Reki returned his own back to Langa’s hair. This must have been who Langa was spending all of his time with lately, Nanako thought.
“It’s nice to meet you, Langa’s mentioned you,” she replied. She sat down on the chair next to the sofa.
After talking to Reki for a few minutes, Nanako has decided that this is the sweetest boy she’s ever met, a close rival only to her son. He’s extremely respectful, he asked her about work and complemented their apartment, and smiled the entire time. Whenever he spoke, he gestured wildly with one hand and all his words came out with a smile. At one point, while he was telling her about how Langa helps him with his English class, Langa had started to stir a bit, his face turning further into Reki’s stomach and his hand moving around from where it rested on the edge of the couch. Without stopping his speech, Reki moved his hand from Langa’s hair and into his searching fingers, still gesturing around with the other.
Nanako had to stop herself from cooing at the two of them. When Langa was younger, before he got so tall, he would sometimes cuddle her like this or occasionally curled into a tight ball on Oliver’s lap. She was glad to see Langa trusting like this again. After Oliver passed, he had closed himself off from all of his friends in Canada and he spoke to Nanako less. But lately, he’s been much more open with her and now she can see that he’s been opening to others as well. Her heart swells as Reki returns his other hand to Langa’s hair, the conversation has turned toward how they spend their time at Dope Sketch.
“Are you staying for dinner?” she asked when Reki took a break to breathe during his monologue about someone, their manager, named Oka.
He looked surprised, “Am I invited?”
“Let me help you cook, I can-” he moves to get up but stops, remembering again Langa’s weight on his legs. She motions for him to stay down, persisting that she can handle dinner and that he should stay so he doesn’t wake Langa up. He hesitantly nods his head and looks down at Langa and then asks that she at least let him set the table when dinner is ready, to which she agrees.
I’m so happy for him, Oliver, she thinks, you would be too. She grabs a spare chair from their closet and sets it next to their two-chair dining set and then begins cooking. As she prepares dinner, she takes glances at the boys still resting on the sofa. They’ve stopped holding hands, instead, Langa has wrapped his arms around Reki’s waist, resting them in the space between his back and the sofa. This new position has squished the side of Langa’s face even closer to Reki’s shirt, and Reki has a dopey grin on his face as he keeps one hand in Langa’s hair moves the other onto his back, swirling his fingertips in small circles through Langa’s jacket.
She had been worried about Langa when they moved to Okinawa. He hadn’t spoken to her much, for the first few weeks, but after a while, he started opening up again. She thought back to their conversation a few days ago. Something had been eating at him, he said he had broken a promise and that he screwed up. Now she supposed he had been talking about Reki. Considering the bundle of boys on her sofa, Nanako guessed that they had made up. She smiled down at the pan on the stove and then took a glance at the photo of her small family set up on the table. He’s gonna be okay, Oliver.
When dinner was close to being finished, she looked back to Reki, figuring she could allow him to set the table because of how insistent he was. Between the last time she had looked at them and now, Langa had woken up. He and Reki were talking quietly with small smiles on their faces. Langa had sat up a bit on one elbow so he could look at Reki’s face, and Reki was back to curling his fingers around Langa’s.
Reluctant to interrupt them, Nanako softly called, “Boys?” They both lightly jerked their attention towards her. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she continued and Reki smiled wide. He shoved at Langa’s shoulder and pulled him to stand up with him and they both came into the kitchen to wash their hands and set the table. When Langa walked past her, he gave her the smallest of smiles; she thought that the last time she had seen his eyes go so soft was before Oliver had died. She resisted the urge to pull him into a hug, not wanting to embarrass him.
During dinner, Reki was still enthusiastic about everything he said. He complimented her cooking and told her about his favorite dish that his mother makes. Langa participated in the conversation, but he was quieter, still sleepy from his nap. He and Reki bickered over small things, smiling the whole time.
After a while, Reki pointed to the photo that sat with them on the table and said, “Mrs. Hasegawa, do you snowboard too?”
She had been expecting him to say something about Oliver, maybe offer condolences, but she thought this was a better point of discussion, much lighter. She laughed, “Yes, I did go snowboard with the boys, though I’m afraid Langa surpassed me in skill fairly quickly. I was pretty even with Oliver, though.” Langa had been much better at her than snowboarding by the time he hit twelve, but she could still hold her own when she and Oliver would race, they were neck and neck almost every time. Nanako almost got lost thinking about the slopes until Reki gasped.
His eyes got wide and he turned to Langa. “Langa, we should take her skating! I bet she could figure it out just like you did, she could be a pro in no time!”
Langa’s eyebrows raised, “I mean, sure,” he said, “I hadn’t really thought of that.”
“Skating?” Nanako intervened.
Reki turned back to her, his grin back upon his face, “Yeah, Langa’s an amazing skater, it took him a second to figure it out but he treats the skateboard like a snowboard and it’s awesome! If you’re good at snowboarding, you could probably do it too!”
This was unexpected. “Skateboarding?” she asked again. She looked at Langa, “Is that what you’ve been up to?”
“Yeah,” Langa shrugged. “It’s fun.”
This must be where all his cuts and bruises came from. Nanako had been starting to worry that maybe he was getting bullied or something. Her mind kept her up at night of all the possible things that could have been hurting her son. A tightness in her neck that hadn’t noticed before released when she looked back at Reki’s wild grin. He really will be okay, Oliver.
“Please tell me you wear padding and helmets.”
“Well, Mrs. Hasegawa, the thing is, they throw off your balance so--” Reki starts, but stops when Langa swats at his shoulder and gives him a tight-lipped eyebrow-raised look that Nanako takes as meaning Dude, she’s gonna make us wear pads if you keep talking. Nanako responded to this by narrowing her eyes at Langa with a look that said We’ll talk about this later before she looked between him and Reki and said, “Just please be careful, okay boys?”
Reki nodded quickly and said “Sure,” and then after a pause, “Will you come skate with us though?”
“Reki’s a really good teacher,” said Langa, nodding along with him.
“We should take her to the skate park, we could invite Miya too,” Reki said to Langa, who tilted his head to one side.
“Why invite Miya?”
“Because he doesn’t have a lot of friends. And if we bring snacks, I bet we could get him to eat something other than those gross protein bars.”
Langa nodded along and Nanako felt her chest tighten again. Reki wasn’t only a sweetheart towards Langa but also whoever this Miya person was. She understood now why it must have been so hard for Langa to be apart from him. Reki was exciting, he brought energy with him everywhere. He was exactly what Langa needed in Okinawa, he was his best friend. The lost look on Langa’s face when he and Reki weren’t talking almost reminded Nanako of her reflection when she thought about Oliver being gone. She was so incredibly happy that Reki was back and so was Langa’s smile.
She agreed to go to the skate park with them if they promised to wear helmets, and they agreed. After helping Langa wash the dishes, Reki thanked Nanako again for the meal and said he’d better get going home before his mother worries. Langa gave Reki a ride home on his scooter and when he got back home, sat next to Nanako on the sofa. She immediately pulled him into a hug, wrapping her arms around his head and shoulders.
“I like Reki,” she whispered.
“Me too,” he muttered back and wrapped his arms around her tightly.