by Imari Jade

Shy and mild-mannered Harou Kikuchi dreams of far-away places and hopes one day to leave Osaka, Japan to see the world. But until then he does his best working for Mr. Suzuki the owner of Suzuki's Bakery.

Kenta Yamada lives a lonely existence, reading books or working on accounts. He dreams of one day finding someone to spend time with and share his love with.

He meets Harou, a young man starved for human affection. One kiss awakens the passion in Harou's eyes. Would one caress or a hug win him Harou's heart?


Chapter One


The door to Suzuki’s Pastry and CafĂ© Shop opened.

“You have a customer,” Mr. Suzuki, the shop owner said to his pastry apprentice Harou Kikuchi.

The bakery sat on a corner of a quiet suburban neighborhood in the Japanese Prefecture of Osaka. It was a quaint little white building with pink and yellow awnings to match the pink and yellow trim of the doors and windows. The shop’s customers were mainly people who lived in the mixed Japanese/Korean neighborhood, but every now and then a vacationing tourist would stop in to sample one of Mr. Suzuki’s sweet tasty pastries.

The inside of the shop had a homey atmosphere with white tables and chairs and a couple of private booths. The inside walls, like the outside, had been painted in pastel colors to give it a friendly feel and make it pleasing to the eyes and senses. Students from the local high schools and universities kept the shop filled in the afternoon. Today, students from the soccer team and the cheerleaders were there to celebrate their latest victory, keeping Harou and the other apprentice, Bae Karm, very busy.

Twenty-two year old Harou bowed to his boss, straightened his white uniform jacket and walked from behind the counter to escort the customer to one of the little booths. “Good afternoon, sir, and welcome to Suzuki’s.” He bowed politely and handed the man a menu.

“Arigato,” the man said. “You are very kind.”

Harou brushed his bangs away from his eyes. “Would you care for coffee, tea or milk with your dessert?”

“Tea,” the man said. “Hot.” He lifted a hand and moved some of his hair out of his face and tucked it behind his ears.

Harou went off to get the tea and found himself gazing over at the customer. The man appeared considerably younger than Harou first thought when he entered, maybe because he walked with his shoulders hunched beneath the pea green trench coat. The man had real nice eyes. They were large, arresting and heavily lashed, similar to his.

Harou finished preparing the tea and carried the pot over to the table to serve it.

The man thanked him.

“Have you made a decision?”

He nodded. “Yes, a slice of apple cake.”

“A good choice,” Harou told him, “Mr. Suzuki just took one out of the oven.” He smiled and walked off. After returning with the slice of cake, Harou left to wait on some other customers who had arrived.

The man finished up about twenty minutes later, got out of his seat and walked up to the counter. “Do you have any day old bread?” he asked Harou. “I would like to feed the ducks on my way home.”

The man’s deep sultry voice startled Harou. Why hadn’t he noticed it before? “Yes sir,” he said, reaching beneath the counter and pulling out loaves of bread. “I used to like to feed the ducks when I was a kid.”

The man smiled. “You’re still a kid,” he said. “You should enjoy it while you are young.” He paid his bill and left the shop.

“He is an odd one,” Mr. Suzuki said, joining Harou at the counter. “He comes in once or twice a week and always leaves with loaves of day old bread.”

Funny, Harou thought as he wiped the counter top. He’d never noticed the man before today. “How long has he been coming in?”

“About a year,” Mr. Suzuki answered. “I remember him because he always orders cake, never pie or cookies, just cake.”

“You do make the best cakes in Japan,” Harou told him. “Perhaps he knows this too.”

“I just think he is lonely,” Mr. Suzuki said. “He always comes in alone. Sometimes he brings in a book or a newspaper to read and then he leaves right around this time.”

Harou understood loneliness. He didn’t have any living family. His parents had died right after his birth and he’d gone from one foster home to another. Finally, at the age of ten, he came to live with Mr. Suzuki. So now, every evening he went home to a tiny apartment, fixed himself some dinner, read a book or watched television until time for bed. Occasionally he went out with Bae Karm for a drink, but Bae Karm had a girlfriend and usually spent most of his free time with her. “Maybe you’re right,” Harou said. He promised he’d make it a point to smile at the man and inquire about the ducks the next time he came in.

Imari Jade - "Skinship"


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