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But my optimism waned, and by the following Wednesday morning I despaired of ever again seeing the Takarazuka woman. There were so many possible impediments. She might even have moved to another city. I decided that if I did see her, I must make the absolute most of the opportunity, whenever it came. So I purchased a small box of very elegant rose-shaped chocolates, which I would carry around always — replacing them before they became stale. I would continue buying real flowers on Thursdays, but if I chanced to see the Takarazuka woman some other day I would tuck the envelope under the broad red ribbon ornamenting the chocolate box and give it to her. That evening, I discarded the envelope’s contents and inserted a new, longer letter.
The new letter told my real feelings. How, through seeing again and again the delicate expression on her face, I had come to feel I was looking into her soul. That I held for her the deepest affection and respect. And that I harboured only the most honourable intentions.
Instead of the reply card and pre-stamped return envelope, the new letter simply stated my address and that I hoped she’d grace me with a reply, but that I understood if she chose not to. As before, I wrote it all in English and Japanese, but this time added an apology that I couldn’t express myself better in Japanese and so what I wrote may seem strange. I asked that she forgive this because the words of the letter were the only way I knew to say what was in my heart.
At 8:16 the next morning, I approached my final rendezvous with Denny after we’d each made two passes along the length of the platform. He was waving frantically, and reported seeing the Takarazuka woman right where the first door of the first car would open. I rushed onward, transferring the envelope from my breast pocket to the centre of a bouquet of marigolds and petunias. But pushing through the crowd took time — and my reward was merely to glimpse her profile through the already-closed doors. Yet this was only the slightest of disappointments, because now I knew she still took the same train on Thursdays, at least sometimes. And now I knew where on the platform to wait.
I’d seen my angel and felt sure to see her again soon. As I arrived at the office, I was still floating.
That day I gave the flowers to Miss Ohtani, the receptionist, who, as on previous occasions, thanked me much more formally than the other women. Miss Ohtani was extremely beautiful, very expensively dressed, and not liked by the other female staff. The men called her the “ice queen.” It was said she came from an old and wealthy family. That day, for the first time, she gave me a slight smile, which I interpreted as a sign she understood the gift of flowers did not relate to her personally.
At lunch time, I stood enraptured before the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre, beaming stupidly in no particular direction. Suddenly, I realized. I’d left the envelope in the bouquet.
I did not return to the office that afternoon, calling in to report acute stomach pain — which was not a lie. Friday being a holiday, I had the long weekend to ponder how I might resolve the horrible mess at work. And in addition to that mess, I feared that my carelessness, which showed an insufficient concern for propriety, might make me unworthy of the Takarazuka woman.
Miss Ohtani, as receptionist, went on duty at eight o’clock, which was usually before anyone else arrived. On Monday I showed up at seven and waited, so I could at the first chance beg forgiveness and offer meek explanation. But she didn’t come in that day. During lunch hour, I reviewed our written policy on sexual harassment and confirmed I’d committed a violation. I pondered the consequences of a formal complaint, and considered whether to start looking for a new job.