When Inui got to the river, Kaidoh was already waiting. Inui stopped a little way off and watched him for a minute.
It had been 22 days since Inui had spent any time with Kaidoh beyond a greeting in the halls at school. They had talked on the phone a few times, but Kaidoh seemed to regard the phone as an instrument for imparting information, not social discourse, and so their chats were brief and unsatisfying, at least to Inui.
It was -6 degrees Celsius today and Kaidoh's breath puffed out in front of him in white clouds. His hands were in his pockets and a dark red tuque was pulled down over his ears.
Inui wanted to press his cheek to Kaidoh's, to see how cold his skin was. "Kaidoh," he called and climbed down the bank.
"Inui-senpai." Kaidoh's hair was in his eyes. He never seemed to get it cut often enough.
"Thank you for meeting me," Inui said. Without tennis every day, it was hard for him to see Kaidoh. Studying took so much of Inui's time and even at school, Kaidoh was hard to find. He stuck to his classroom even during lunchtime and when Inui did manage to find him, there were never more than a few moments to spend together.
"I'm sorry to take up your time," Kaidoh said.
"You're not," Inui said. "I scheduled some time for relaxation over the break. And I missed you."
Kaidoh looked down and didn't reply.
"Have you been having a good break?" Inui asked.
"Yes," Kaidoh said. "And you?"
"I've been studying a lot," Inui said. "It's good to rest for a while."
Kaidoh nodded. "I know you've been working hard." Kaidoh's lips were chapped, the skin starting to lift away. It was 35 days since Inui had last kissed Kaidoh. He wondered if Kaidoh ever thought about it, if he missed it.
"The schools I'm considering are all close by," Inui said. "So I'll be living at home next year. We can still get together on the weekends."
"Of course, senpai," Kaidoh said and Inui didn't know just how to take that. He felt colder now inside than out, his guts chilled and contracting.
"I have something for you." Inui handed Kaidoh a parcel. Kaidoh unwrapped it and took out a large knitted loop. "It's a scarf," Inui said.
"Thank you, Inui-senpai," Kaidoh said and turned it over in his hands. It was dark green wool, dense and heavy. "Why is it in a circle?"
"It's not quite a circle," Inui said. He picked up the end of the loop in his gloved hand. "Start here at my thumb and trace along the surface."
Kaidoh's hands were bare. He ran one finger along the scarf, curving down, then back up. When he came to Inui's hand, his finger was on the underside, opposite Inui's thumb. He looked at Inui with a frown on his face. "Keep going," Inui said. Kaidoh did and eventually he came back to Inui's thumb again.
"I don't understand," Kaidoh said.
"It's one-sided," Inui said. "If you cut it down the middle, you'd still have one loop. I'll show you with paper some time."
"No," Inui said. "I don't knit. I bought it."
"Thank you," Kaidoh said again.
"Here," Inui said and took the scarf away. He draped it around Kaidoh's neck, looping it twice.
He wanted to say something, to tell Kaidoh how much he wanted to be with him, how sorry he was that they had drifted apart. But he didn't know how Kaidoh would react to something that sentimental and he was reluctant to take the chance.
So when he was finished with the scarf, Inui put his hands on Kaidoh's shoulders. "Stay warm," he said.
And then Kaidoh's arms were tight around him and Kaidoh's face was pressing into Inui's shoulder.
"Senpai," Kaidoh said. "I am warm."