Perhaps it was too early to be taking down Christmas decorations on the third of December, but a part of Aimi enjoyed the return to normal routine. Christmas here in Scotland was different to how she had spent it in Japan - in Japan, it was hardly a religious celebration. The trees too, decorated and beautiful, were a tradition Japan didn't much partake in.
Yet Aimi had loved it when she first came to Scotland over two decades ago. She still did now - but there was no wistfulness in her gaze as she gently set the tiny snowflake baubles back into their bubble wrap. Next came the crystallised red baubles her brother had bought for her when he visited the year before.
Speaking of brothers, where was Eiji? He had been making tea, but she hadn't even heard the kettle boil. He had moved to Scotland three years after Aimi herself, although he lived in Edinburgh. Did they not know how to make tea in Edinburgh? With a huff, Aimi went to investigate.
She found him in the hallway, amber eyes skimming over her collection of Christmas cards. "Mum and Dad really don't need to send us cards all the way from Japan."
"They're allowed to miss us," Aimi retorted with a roll of her eyes, "besides, I like it. Means they're thinking of us."
Eiji smiled, revealing that stupid tongue piercing he was probably too old for, "there's one from Grandad, too. I wonder if mine just got lost in the overseas post?"
Aimi snorted, rolled her eyes, and pushed past to reach the kitchen. "If you ever spoke to him, he might remember to send you cards." Briefly her mind drifted to Ren - but no, she wasn't worrying about her today. Instead she set about making the tea Eiji was supposed to make, reaching for matching reindeer mugs.
"You've got a lot of friends, huh?" Eiji mused. Aimi couldn't see him from her position in the kitchen, but she still heard his little intake of breath. "This one's still addressed to 'Aimi and Niall Davidson'?"
Despite herself, Aimi winced. "Uncle Daniel's still in denial I guess," she replied softly, "sometimes I think he liked Niall more than I did." She tapped out one spoonful of sugar for Eiji's tea, a frown tugging at her delicate features. "You'd think three years would be long enough for him to realise we won't get back together - and that I've gone back to my maiden name."
Yes, she and Niall had parted on good terms. After twenty-two years of marriage and a child, it was a difficult decision to make. But people changed, and over the years they drifted. Different aspirations, different plans in life, and after a while it became clear there was no way to keep them both happy. She liked Scotland just fine, he wanted to move to Australia for work. She wanted to have another kid, Niall said they were too old for another baby. Aimi wanted to change her career, Nail thought it was foolish.
But they kept in contact, and they had Ren to keep them civil. All in all, as divorces went, it was a good one. If such a thing really existed.
The kettle whistled, jolting Aimi from her thoughts, and she let out a hiss of surprise as steam clouded her glasses. She poured the tea without a word, but her mind kept drifting.
"Niall was nice enough," Eiji mused - and Aimi wondered if, in her thoughts, he had said something beforehand. "But you could do better. You know, if you ever decided to remarry."
"Unlikely," she replied - but laughter bubbled in her chest. No doubt if given the chance, he would love to play matchmaker. "I'm too old to be remarrying. Besides, there's no one I'm interested in."
He appeared in the doorway, curious brows furrowed in plain disappointment. "Aww, I miss having a brother-in-law."
"Tough luck. Here, drink your tea."
It was a sweet strawberry green tea, something delicious yet difficult to find in Scotland. It wasn't traditional Japanese by any standards, but the sweet, rich aroma brought a smile to her lips as she settled down at the kitchen table.
Eiji dropped into his own chair much less gracefully, slurping his tea so loudly it made her cringe. "I'm just saying," he mentioned, "you don't plan on moving back to Japan, and there's plenty of attractive guys in the UK. You just need to look for one."
"I'll leave the dating to Ren," she replied with a snort of laughter. Briefly, she wondered how Ren and her fiance were doing - and she was tempted to check her phone for a message. Yet she resisted, standing by her promise not to be so obsessive. Instead she turned to Eiji, wincing as he scalded his tongue on the too-hot tea.
She had other family besides Ren, and she was sure everything would work itself out in the end.