“Hunter, this is Kimiko. Kimiko, this is Hunter. You’ll be traveling to England together in a few days.” England? What does the USSS need there? The United States “Secret Service” has been doing shady stuff lately.
I silently nod to Kimi and she sticks her hand out. I stare at her in concern while she meets my eyes with an innocent gaze until I take her hand.
“I’m Kimiko. Well, you already know that,” She laughs, our colleague not knowing that that sentence implied more than just knowing her name a second ago.
“Well, I’ll leave you to get to know each other. I’ll send the details of the case to you soon.” She walks out of the room.
“So. Kimi.” I clear my throat, trying to make it less awkward. I look at the flower in the middle of the table, put carefully in a glass case. Red and white. How ironic.
“How have you been?” I ask. I kick myself immediately. How have you been sounds like you know her. You’re supposed to say how are you, you idiot. And even worse, I called her by a nickname.
She glares at me, “You mean since the date?”
I clear my throat, “Sure.”
“Good. So you live here in Chicago?”
“Yeah, actually. Moved a few months ago.”
“Nice, nice.” She acts like she doesn't know me. Well, two can play at that game.
“Let’s go out somewhere.” I force a smile for the camera, “Quick coffee break. I know a cute cafe a block away,” I open the door for her, and follow Kimi out into the hallway.
We step into the elevator wordlessly.
“Hey, Ki! It has been forever,” A random girl jumps into the elevator at the last possible moment and Kimi hugs her.
“Ah, Stacy! Missed you. Did you just get back from Spain?”
“Last week, actually. It was a boring case, just had to be there for the investigation to go on,” Stacy rolls her eyes.
“The new rule right?” Stacy nods. “Like I don’t even know what the USSS is up to these days,” Kimi laughs.
I step out and clear my throat, signaling that the elevator door is open. “Kimi.” All of us step out.
“Oh, hello! Who is this Ki? Your boyfriend?” Stacy raises a bright blond eyebrow.
I smirk at Kimi, “A potential.”
“Well, then! I best be going, Kimi. Seems like you’re busy,” Stacy winks at Kimi and walks off before she could protest.
Kimi punches me in the arm and I wince. “You know you’re long past that,” She says snarkily.
“But we’re just getting to know each other.” I pout.
A red and white flower for a final touch. I place it in my pocket and drive to her apartment complex. Kimi smiles and gets in the car.
She says the flower looks pretty. She asks what kind it is. I say it’s forgein. From South America.
She glares at me until I look away. “So…”
“So?” She draws her lips into a thin line.
“It’s slowly getting colder and colder, isn’t it?” I shiver, making my point.
“Yup. Last winter, it was freezing. But November 11, that was a really bad day. Almost died. Well I guess you know that, don’t you?” Kimi scowls at me, knowing that I know that November 11 meant more than when it snowed.
A rose felt too classy. So I bought this one. It matches the tux.
It’s such a beautiful flower. Red and white were always my favorite colors. I can tell why so many people buy those bouquets for 1000’s of dollars. This is a special occasion, so why not?
I swallow, and stay silent.
“Is this the coffee shop you were talking about?” Kimi suddenly stops, and I stumble into her, losing my footing. She yelps, and without thinking I steady with my hands on her hips.
She pulls away, and I hide, hoping I’m not blushing. “This is it,” I say and open the door for Kimi, breathing the smell of coffee in.
“Have you been to England before?” I ask.
“Once,” Kimi ends the conversation.
“Oh, for your Mother right?”
I sigh, and shake my head. “Okay, Kimi, either talk to me or don’t, but don’t leave me with nothing to say.”
We get to the restaurant. I ask for a salt packet and the waitress hands me one. I slip it into her soup, saying it’ll taste better. My hand brushes against the flower and I feel the pollen on the tips of my fingers. I dust it off, and smile at Kimi, asking about what she does in her spare time.
“What should I say?” Kimi says coldly. “You should be glad I didn’t kill you on sight.”
“It wasn’t my fault.” I sip my coffee that Kimi brought me.
Kimi says she feels sick and that she should be going home soon. I smile. So the flower did work.
“And tell me how a murder attempt isn’t your fault?” Kimiko digs her nails into my skin.
I look around, sighing in relief when I saw that no one cared. “This one just isn’t. I didn’t even succeed anyway. And trust me, I’m glad you didn’t die.”
“So there have been others?” She raises her eyebrow, something I didn’t know she could do.
“No! I mean, no.” I sip my coffee again, hoping it’ll save me from this conversation.
“Well, were all of them dating for the first time in a year? Was she traumatized so badly she didn’t talk to anyone for two years after that? Was she finally starting to talk to people only to run into her almost-killer!” Kimi’s voice slowly rose, drawing attention from passerby.
I take a sip of my coffee one last time, finishing it off, and get up to throw it away when I feel my stomach churning. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.
“Hunter? Are you okay?” She frowns, and gets up when I stumble. “Hunter?”
“Kimi...” My voice comes out slow and drugged.
“Hunter!” Kimi calls for help as I fall down.
She whispers into my ear, “Don’t worry. This time I won’t fail.” I see one last thing fall out of Kimi’s pocket before the world turns black.
A red and white flower.