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Salvation of a Saintby Keigo Higashino
The pansies in the planter had flowered—a few small, bright blooms. The dry soil didnt seem to have dimmed the color of the petals. Not particularly showy flowers, but theyre tough, Ayane thought, gazing out onto the veranda through the sliding glass door. Ill have to water them when I get a chance.
“Have you heard a single word Ive said?” Yoshitaka asked.
She turned around and smiled faintly. “Yes, everything. How could I not?”
“You might try answering more quickly, then.” Yoshitaka, lounging on the sofa, uncrossed and recrossed his long legs. In his frequent workouts, he took pains not to put on too much lower-body muscle—nothing that would prevent him from wearing the slim-cut dress pants he preferred.
“I suppose my mind mustve wandered.”
“Oh? Thats not like you.” Her husband raised a single sculpted eyebrow.
“What you said was surprising, you know.”
“I find that hard to believe. You should be familiar with my life plan by now.”
“Familiar … Maybe so.”
“What are you trying to say?” Yoshitaka leaned back and stretched his arms out along the sofa top, ostentatious in his lack of concern. Ayane wondered if he was acting or if he truly was that nonchalant.
She took a breath and stared at his handsome features.
“Is it such a big deal to you?” she asked.
“Is what a big deal?”
Yoshitaka gave a derisive, wry little smile; he glanced away, then looked back at her. “You havent been listening to me at all, have you?”
“I have been listening,” she said with a glare she hoped hed notice. “Thats why Im asking.”
The smile faded from his lips. He nodded slowly. “It is a big deal. A very big deal. Essential, even. If we cant have children, theres no point to us being married. Romantic love between a man and a woman always fades with time. People live together in order to build a family. A man and woman get married and become husband and wife. Then they have children and become father and mother. Only then do they become life partners in the true sense of the word. You dont agree?”
“I just dont think thats all marriage is.”
Yoshitaka shook his head. “I do. I believe it quite strongly and have no intention of changing my mind. Which is to say, Ive no intention of continuing on like this if we cant have children.”
Ayane pressed her fingers to her temples. She had a headache. She hadnt seen this one coming. “Let me get this straight,” she said. “You dont need a woman who cant bear your children. So youll throw me out and switch to someone who can? Thats what youre telling me?”
“No need to put it so harshly.”
“But thats what youre saying!”
Yoshitaka straightened. He hesitated, frowning slightly, before nodding again. “I suppose that from your perspective it would look that way, yes. You have to understand, I take my life plan very seriously. More seriously than anything else.”
Ayanes lips curled upward, though smiling was the furthest thing from her mind. “You like telling people that, dont you? How you take your life plan so seriously. It was one of the first things you said when we met.”
“What are you so upset about, Ayane? You have everything you ever wanted. If theres something Ive forgotten, just ask. I intend to do everything I can for you. So lets just stop all this fussing, and start thinking about the future. Unless you see some other way forward?”
Ayane turned to face the wall. Her eyes fell on a meter-wide tapestry hanging there. It had taken her three months to make it; she remembered the material, special ordered direct from a manufacturer in England.
She didnt need Yoshitaka to tell her how important children were. She had wanted them herself, desperately. How many times had she dreamed of sitting in a rocking chair, stitching a patchwork quilt, watching her belly grow larger with each passing day? But God, in his mischief, had made that impossible. So she had given up—it wasnt like shed had a choice—and resigned herself to living without. She had thought her husband would be okay with that.
“I know it might seem silly to you, but can I ask one question?”
Ayane faced him again, taking a deep breath. “What about your love for me? Whatever happened to that?”
Yoshitaka flinched, then gradually his smile returned. “My love for you hasnt changed a bit,” he said. “I can assure you of that. I do still love you.”
That was a complete lie, as far as Ayane was concerned. But she smiled and said that was good. She wasnt sure how else to respond.
“Lets go.” Yoshitaka stood and headed for the door.
Ayane glanced at her dresser, thinking about the white powder hidden in a sealed plastic bag in the bottommost drawer on the right.
Guess Ill be using that soon, she thought, the last glimmer of hope fading beneath the shadow inside her.
As she followed him out the door, she stared at Yoshitakas back, thinking, I love you more than anything else in this world. Thats why your words were like a knife stabbing me in the heart.
Thats why you have to die, too.
Copyright © 2008 by Keigo Higashino
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