22 years ago…
“When I’m 30, I’m going to be married!” the 8 year old boy, Sakurai Sho, exclaimed as he and his neighbor and closest female friend, Kuroki Meisa, walked home after school.
The topic arose when Meisa, who’s still in first grade whereas Sho’s already in the third, told him that the first graders would have a substitute teacher starting the next day because their teacher, Nakama-san, would be getting married to her long time boyfriend, Nakai-san. And she was just exclaiming that she liked her teacher’s boyfriend because he was nice and funny every time he drops by at their class when Sho suddenly declared that.
“Pffft…” the two year younger Meisa replied, not wanting to be defeated by her favorite playmate who’s also her number one competitor. “I’d already be a mother by the time you get married…”
“Oh really…” Sho snorted. “How would you know that? You’re just a kid!”
“You are too!” Meisa pointed out.
“But I’m two years older so I know more than you…” Sho declared with a proud grin as he held his head high and looked down at her.
“That’s unfair!” Meisa pouted. “You’re always gonna be two years older!”
Sho laughed and shrugged as he said “That’s life…”
“Life is unfair!” Meisa continued pouting as she looked up at the sky and pouted more as if showing the angels her displeasure. But then she felt something cold dropping to her cheeks. Wiping it away, she saw that it was water and she realized that the sky is cloudy too. Without further adieu, she broke out into a sprint.
Taken aback, Sho was left momentarily behind before he ran too and managed to catch up to her.
“What’s going on?” he asked, holding to her arm so that she wouldn’t run away again. After all, his mother told him that Meisa’s his responsibility, that because he’s older, he should take care of the two of them.
“It’s raining!” Meisa complained with a hint of fear already visible in her young face.
“We have an umbrella you know!” Sho replied, having already extracted the object from his bag and using it to cover both of them. But even though the umbrella was big enough to cover them both and that he’s still holding her arm, it still didn’t stop Meisa from walking very, very fast.
“Will you slow down!” Sho ended up complaining as Meisa didn’t care whether she’s stepping on land or puddle, resulting to the specks of mud now adorning his pants.
“We need to get home now!” Meisa insisted. “We have to be inside already!” she added, her voice a little panicky.
“You’re not going to get sick, we have an umbrella…” Sho patiently explained to her. But when Meisa turned to look at him, still with a pout in her lips and fear in her eyes, he remembered, it wasn’t the rain or getting sick that Meisa was afraid of. It was something else entirely.
With a resigned sigh, he placed his arm over her shoulder to pull her closer underneath the umbrella as he too hastened his footsteps.
“Yes, father, I do…” Sho heard her say to the priest and he couldn’t help but smile, his heart suddenly feeling warm and giddy.
“I do father… Yes, I do…” Meisa heard him excitedly answer the priest’s question and she couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle, although there’s nothing else but happiness now present in her heart.
”By the power vested in me… I now pronounce you man and wife… You may now kiss the bride…” the priest finally said and both Meisa and Sho could no longer contain their smiles.
And by the altar, right in front of the priest, Aiba Masaki and Becky, now husband and wife, turned to each other, their faces the symbol of absolute happiness and contentment. And then Aiba raised the veil that covered his bride’s face and captured her lips amidst the applause and cheering of those present, Sho and Meisa among the loudest of all.
“So, this really is it huh…” Tsukamoto Takashi exclaimed as he joined their table at the reception of their friend’s wedding with a wine glass in hand and an expression that’s a mix of happiness and nostalgia. “We really are one less from now on…”
“Yeah…” Matsumoto Jun, Aiba’s best man, agreed. “It kinda feels weird…” he added to which Sho nodded and agreed.
About a dozen years ago, ever since the four of them first met in college, he, Jun, Shii and Aiba had been friends. Well, Jun and Aiba were friends longer than that since they were high school buddies but it still did not change the fact that the four of them had always been tight knit.
They were, are, quite a good-looking group too, to the extent that their schoolmates would sometimes refer to the as the most handsome group in all of Meiji. And with those looks and intelligence came their popularity. It didn’t end there though, because it didn’t take long before their group became known as the playboys.
In Aiba’s defense though, it was mostly only Shii, Jun, and Sho, with Shii taking the lead. Aiba had always been the more serious one in terms of love issues and the like, but it still didn’t stop the tag from sticking to him.
“I’m not sure what to think of it actually…” Shii continued. “Whether to think that marriage is something that breaks up friendship like ours or whether it’s about time that I should consider seriously searching for that one special woman myself too…” he added jokingly.
Jun and Sho laughed at that, knowing that the first half was said in pure jest, seeing that they’re all so happy that Aiba had finally found that woman who compliments him and loves him as he is in Becky, but mostly because they knew that there was a hint of real realization in the second part of his statement.
“What’s this? Another one of Tokyo’s most sought-after bachelors is considering getting tied down too?” Inoue Mao asked as she joined their table, her plate now adorned with an assortment of cakes and other sweets.
Mao is Aiba’s bubbly and charming younger cousin by three years, who’s had the fortune, or misfortune, of tagging along with them in their less colorful pursuits and who now knows them like the back of her hand.
“Mao-chan… What is that?” Jun asked, eyeing her plate of sweets in confusion.
“Food Jun-kun… What else?” she replied a matter-of-factly.
“That’s not food…” Jun replied in disgust, wrinkling his nose at her.
Mao stuck out her tongue at him before taking an acceptable amount that’s just about right to fill her mouth. The three men in the table watched her in amusement as she savored the sweet taste in her mouth. Only when she had swallowed everything did she, or anyone else for that matter, spoke up.
“So, who among you guys are getting married next?” she asked interestedly.
“Absolutely…” Shii replied immediately. “Not me…”
Jun laughed but he too replied “No, not me either… Sho-kun, maybe…”
Sho almost inhaled half his drink the moment he heard his name being volunteered. “What? Why me?!”
“Well…” Shii shrugged. “I specifically remember you saying during the engagement party that you’re absolutely happy that Becky had embraced the possibility of forever with Aiba-chan… It sounds like you’re not opposed to the concept at all…”
“That’s right…” Jun agreed.
Sho snorted, remembering that night himself, specially because it was a night all three of them became quite expressive of their thoughts on Aiba and Becky’s then-pending wedding.
“That is if the concept of forever is for someone else other than me…” Sho clarified.
Before anyone could react, another woman joined their table. She was taller than Mao though, and while Mao had more of the sweet, charming air, this one had the feisty, challenging character. Her name is Kuroki Meisa.
“Why? Who’d want to spend forever with you?” she asked Sho as she took the seat next to him.
“A lot of women Mei-chan…” Sho grinned. “And it’s all thanks to you that I’m still single up until now…”