A Guest For A Picnic

[Sequel to After a Hard Day’s Work]

It was a nice sunny day, and Ruby was hanging the laundry on the balcony. Hanging socks wasn’t fast work, but she was well armed with clothes-pegs and time. She was humming Mijuku Dreamer, and was completely unsuspecting of the Hazel Hazard slowly approaching her.

With a triumphant “Zura!” it pounced, grabbing Ruby by the sides while her arms were stretched upwards. The ensuing shriek was loud enough that people on the street below stopped and look up. At least one person wondered if someone was getting murdered, and if they should call the police.

Yohane burst out of the office door.

“Ruby, is everything alright?!” she shouted, then saw the scene on the balcony. She sighed deeply. “Hanamaru…”

“H-Ha-Hanamaru, that was mean…” Ruby said with tears in her eyes. She’d fallen on her butt, and was looking up at the Maru Menace who was standing there looking slightly embarrassed. Hanamaru sheepishly scratched the back of her head.

“I’m sorry, Ruby,” she said, and actually sounded like she meant it. “You were wide open, and I didn’t think it would frighten you that badly, zura…” She leaned forward and offered a hand to Ruby. Ruby hesitated for a moment, then took the hand and let Hanamaru help her up.

“Just… ne-never do that again…” Ruby said while trying to get her breathing back under control. “As punishment you’re hanging the rest of the laundry.” She sounded serious, and Hanamaru’s expression sank. But she didn’t argue.

“Yeah, that’s fair, zura,” she said, then kissed Ruby’s cheek. “Sorry,” she said again before leaning down to pick up the clothes-pegs Ruby knocked over when she fell. With the heat of Hanamaru’s lips still lingering on her cheek, Ruby was tempted to forgive her right away, but decided she should at least wait until Hanamaru was done with the laundry.

Ruby walked inside and sat down on the couch. Her heart was still pounding, and she thought it might have stopped for a moment there. Yohane sat down next to her, and pulled her into a hug. Letting Ruby’s head rest on Yohane’s chest while she rested her own chin on top.

“You okay, my little demon?” she asked, and Ruby could feel the vibrations of Yohane speaking.

“I’ll be fine,” Ruby said while slowly calming down. She had really hoped she would grow out of being so easily spooked, but that hadn’t happened yet. “Thank you, Yohane.” She snuggled against the fallen angel who was gently petting her.

“I have to get back to work,” Yohane said after they’d been sitting there for a few minutes. “I really need to get done with this before we head out,” she said in an apologetic tone. Ruby shifted so she could look at Yohane.

“I understand,” she said, and smiled. “I’m feeling a lot better now, thanks.” Yohane kissed Ruby’s forehead, then their lips met for an extended moment before Yohane reluctantly got up. Inwardly she cursed her bad luck for having to work extra on her day off. Staying on the couch with Ruby was so much more tempting. She headed back into the office, thinking she’d better get it over with.

Hanamaru was nearly done with the laundry, so Ruby got up to watch her from the balcony door. When Hanamaru hanged the final bra, she sighed contently, and turned around. She wasn’t expecting Ruby to stand right there, so she jumped a little. Which gave Ruby a certain amount of satisfaction.

“All done, zura,” Hanamaru said after taking a deep breath. “So… er…”

“I forgive you,” Ruby said with a smile. Hanamaru looked really gorgeous with the sun against her back. Like a real golden flower. “But seriously never do that again,” she added sternly.

“I won’t,” Hanamaru replied, trying to sound serious even though she just wanted to smile at how adorable Ruby was. “I promise. Idol’s honour, zura.” Ruby giggled, and allowed Hanamaru to give her a make-up kiss. Ruby thought Hanamaru tasted like a flower too. Hanamaru thought Ruby tasted of cherries.

“Come on, we have lunches to make,” Ruby said, and turned to head over to the kitchen. They had a picnic to prepare for, but Hanamaru felt like she’d rather eat Ruby. That’d have to wait. They were expecting a guest today.

When they’d gotten most of the food done and packed, the doorbell rang. Ruby hurried over to open the door, finding their expected guest outside.

“Dia!” she exclaimed and threw herself onto her sister to hug her.

“Oof,” Dia grunted. “I’m happy to see you too, Ruby, but it’s only proper to let me get inside first.” She was secretly thrilled about the reception though. It’d been nearly two months since they saw each other last.

“I’m sorry,” Ruby said with a blush, and let Dia inside. She took Dia’s bag into the living room while Dia took off her shoes and scarf. Dia headed inside, and spotted Hanamaru finishing up the lunches in the kitchen. A bit of mischief sprang forth in her mind.

“Hanamaru-san,” she said sternly. “I’m here to make sure you’re treating my sister right.” Dia was good at adding gravitas to her voice, and Hanamaru visibly jumped. Especially because of what happened earlier. Did Dia know? Of course she didn’t, and her expression mellowed. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I think Mari’s a bad influence on me.” She walked into the kitchen and hugged Hanamaru. “Good to see you again, Hanamaru-san.”

“And you too, Dia-san,” Hanamaru said, hugging back and calming down. Ruby giggled, thinking it was probably best to not tell Dia about Hanamaru startling her so badly. It didn’t take a lot to put Dia into over-protective mode. “So it’s just you this time, zura?” It was more of a polite question, since of course they already knew.

“Yeah,” Dia said, and took a seat. It felt nice to rest her feet a bit. “Kanan’s busy with a diving course, and Mari has family event that’ll last the whole weekend.” Dia didn’t add that she got lonely and bored at times like this, which was a major contributing factor to choosing now to come visit. “Where’s Yoshiko-san?” she asked.

“Dia, it’s Yohane,” Ruby said as she sat down next to her sister. Dia’s expression displayed a hint of disapproval.

“Right…” She wanted to ask if maybe it was time for Yoshiko to put such foolishness behind her, but she couldn’t. Ruby’s earnestness convinced her to try to stick to Yohane, at least for the visit. Dia really would do anything for her little sister.

“She has to finish up some work before we can go, so she’s doing her best,” Ruby continued. Dia certainly couldn’t claim Yoshiko didn’t work hard. Then cursed inwardly because she had failed already.

I’ll at least call her Yohane in person, she thought, then ruffled Ruby’s hair. “How’s my favourite sister doing?” she asked.

“Dia, I’m your only sister,” Ruby said with a giggle, though she couldn’t hide the happiness in her voice at hearing Dia say that. “I’m doing good! Okay, some of the classes are still a little hard… but I shall overcome!”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Dia said with obvious pride. “Though… Hanamaru-san and Yoshi- Yohane-san are treating you right, aren’t they?” Hanamaru gulped. Both she and Yohane were far more worried about suffering Dia’s disfavour than they were about Ruby’s parents.

“Of course they are!” Ruby said cheerfully. “I’ve never been happier.” She beamed with honesty, and Dia felt relief, but also just a hint of melancholy.

“You’re growing up so fast,” she said and hugged Ruby tight.

“Hey, I’m already grown up!” Ruby complained, and Dia chuckled.

“I guess you are,” she said, and patted Ruby on the head. Ruby didn’t feel like she was being taken seriously, and pouted a little. Hanamaru watched the two of them, and felt a little jealous. She’d also like a sister like Dia, and she wanted to pat Ruby on the head.

Yohane came out of the office, looking a little tired, but satisfied.

“I’m done,” she said. “Ah, hello Dia-san.” She had heard the doorbell ring, and figured it was Dia. Dia got up to give Yohane a quick hug.

“Hello, Yo- Yohane-san,” she said, very nearly messing up again. “Good to see you again.”

“Likewise,” Yohane said, and felt confused while hugging back, a little thrown off. Since when did Dia call her Yohane? She could tell from Ruby’s grin that she must have managed to convince Dia somehow.

“Are we ready to go?” she asked, and Hanamaru gave her the thumbs up.

“Yup! Are you sure you don’t want to rest a little first, zura?” Hanamaru asked back, and Yohane considered it.

“No, I think it’s better to stretch my legs and get some fresh air,” she said. If she got onto the couch or into a chair now, she worried she wouldn’t be able to get back up for a while. Ruby had also gotten up, and gave Yohane a quick peck on the cheek as encouragement.

“Good job,” she said. It was such a force of habit that she momentarily forgot Dia was right there. Yohane looked mortified between Ruby and the slightly shocked Dia. Even though Ruby had dated these two for years, Dia deep down still thought of Ruby as a precious, innocent baby.

“Ah…” Ruby said when she realised what she just did, and looked nervously at Dia.

“N-no, it’s fine,” Dia said quickly, more to herself than to them. “We’re in your home, after all. Just… when we go outside…” They nodded at her.

“Yeah, we know,” Ruby said. They all knew they had to be a little careful of what they did outside. Because of the attitude towards public displays of affection in general, but also because they were all girls. Holding hands and a few other things they’d decided were okay. They’d switch up who got to be in the middle.

It didn’t take them long to get ready to go outside. Today was a warm day, but it was helped by the wind which was a little stronger than usual.

They’d split up the labour. Hanamaru was carrying the food, Yohane had the drinks, Ruby the blanket, and Dia had sunscreen, bug spray, etc. So they’d also split into pairs. Ruby was holding her sister’s hand today, and Hanamaru and Yohane each other’s. Maybe they were a little old for sisters holding hands, but Dia didn’t object.

It seemed like several others had had the same idea, as they were far from the only people at the park when they arrived. Families, friends, couples, all sorts seemed to be present, and well spread out. They found an open spot almost right away, and got everything set up.

As they were unpacking the food, Yohane made sure to keep an eye out for seagulls and other flying fiends. Never again.

Once they were finally done, they all took their seats, and grabbed something to eat. Especially Dia, who hadn’t had anything since breakfast. Yohane felt a little awkward in these situations. She knew Dia wasn’t fond of her more… eccentric side. Thankfully Hanamaru had no problem leading the conversation.

“So how are things going with you, Dia-san?” Hanamaru asked. Dia quickly devoured an egg roll before answering.

“Things are going well,” she said. “I’ve gotten through most of the planning for my final year project, and so has Mari, to my pleasant surprise.” Dia smiled gently. “I was worried I’d have to push her along more, but she’s taking it seriously.” She took another bite before adding: “I guess we’re both feeling the pressure from our families…”

“A-are mother and father…” Ruby started to ask, but Dia reached out and squeezed Ruby’s hand reassuringly.

“It’s not that bad, Ruby,” she said softly. “I’m doing fine, I assure you. Please don’t worry about it.” It was an honest plea. Ruby worrying on her behalf was one of the last things Dia would ever want. As the youngest daughter, Ruby was afforded more freedom in what she wanted to do with her future. Dia had obligations to live up to, and she took them seriously. She didn’t begrudge her little sister that freedom. In fact, she would never hesitate to speak in Ruby’s defence, even to their parents. She was proud of Ruby for taking a path she believed in, and she wanted their parents to be as well.

“How about Kanan-san, zura?” Hanamaru felt it might be best to move the subject along. Dia pondered her reply for a moment.

“I think she’s finally feeling like her diving instructor business is carrying itself,” she said. “She always seemed worried that the only reason people attended her courses was because she used to be in Aquors. While she hasn’t said so, it seems like she’s more confident now that people are coming because her teaching has a good reputation.” Dia smiled warmly. “She can be a silly girl.”

“And the three of you are…?” Yohane finally said something.

“Good,” Dia said honestly and without hesitation. “Now I shan’t claim I’ve never had worries or issues, but we’ve always worked them out.” She took a large sip of her drink. “I’m very thankful for the both of them,” she added dreamily. “Even if Mari’s jokes still aren’t funny.” She displayed just a tiny uncharacteristic grin before it was gone. So quickly you might have thought you imagined it.

“How about you two?” she asked Hanamaru and Yohane.

“I have some rough deadlines coming up,” Yohane said first. “It’s infernal work, but someone has to do it.” She couldn’t help letting a little bit slip. “I feel like I’m getting better at it, so hopefully there won’t be much overtime this round, but with my accursed luck…” Hanamaru and Ruby giggled in unison, and reached out to pat Yohane’s shoulders. Dia was impressed by their coordination.

“At the bookstore we just had two signing events in two weeks,” Hanamaru said. “One for a light novel author, and one for a regular novel author.” She sighed a little. “Last guy was a real jerk. Total diva, even though he’s not that famous. We never get the really big authors.” Her tone conveyed her exact feelings towards the man completely. “But now the schedule is clear for a while forwards, so we can just do our regular business.” Which she was thankful for.

They kept chit-chatting until the food is all gone. Yohane managed to keep hers safe from wicked wings today. They sat for a little while longer, watching people play with their dogs, and kids play with each other. Ruby wondered what it would be like to have her own some day. Their own.

After a while they wrapped things back up, and headed home. Dia was staying the night in the guest room, so Hanamaru, Ruby, and Yohane had to behave. The walls weren’t that sound-proof.

~Wulf

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Posted on June 6, 2017, in Fiction, Storytime and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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