And three hours later they were leaving the hotel waving away to their typical aging hostess, who simply bowed and gave Jin a look that made Erika wrap her hand tightly around his wrist and pull him through the door faster. Which of course caused him to yelp at the strain he felt.
Why were old women so grabby anyways? She thought rudely as she saw the way she shook Jin's hand.
She was probably just overreacting.
“Oww...Eri why do you feel the need to damage my wrist movements?”
“That old woman was definitely checking you out.” Jin smiled shaking his head. This girl was definitely going to need some therapy if she thought an old lady wanted in his pants.
“She was not checking me out of that I assure you. I just asked her to have room cleaned tonight.” He assured her but Erika seemed far from appeased.
“Whatever.” She said softly and Jin pulled her quickly to his side and squeezed her shoulders with his arms.
“It really is whatever. Now walk with me! The woman said ten minutes down this way.” Erika simply nodded softly. She was being stupid really she knew it.
“So how are things with work at the Studios?”
“We never talk about it!” She honestly wished he would just trust her a bit more. She knew working at her father’s studios had to be difficult but it was the only way she could learn to be a real support to Jin. If he could talk to her about things like this.
“You really want to talk about work? Look around! We’re in a beautiful little town by a beautiful little river, just about to reach the most beautiful little restaurant and you want to talk about our home issues? Let them go Eri. Seriously you’re better off.”
“I want to help.” Her tone was so earnest that Jin’s face grew more tired as he leaned his head onto hers as they continued walking.
“To be honest. You can’t. Your father won’t listen to me at all. I feel like I’m not needed really. The only reason I have that job might be because I married you.”
“Is that really how you feel?”
“Right now with you in my arms I don’t feel it but at work where he undermines my every strategic move yeah Eri I feel it.” He suddenly stopped narrowing his eyes. “I think we’re here. Come on, let’s go in and forget all about this okay? I came here to have a good time with my wife, not talk about my father-in-law.”
“Jin.” The very sound of her voice was pleading with him but he shook his head.
“No more Eri please. I beg of you don’t push this.” So she nodded softly vowing to discuss this with him on a later time. She held onto his hand as they stepped inside taking in the look of the small space. It was filled with a vibrancy that hadn’t been present on the empty streets of the tiny town. The bartender gave them a quick wave as if telling them to hold on. Erika was in culture shock as she took in the orange and red walls.
True enough, in a moment or two he had dashed away from the bar, and reached them.
“Hi, welcome to my little palace! I am Alberto Sanchez. True enough to the words of the owner of their little vacation home the man looked like a typical South American, hair slightly frizzed at the top, a moustache so black it was almost comical, and the most happy of smiles that Erika had ever seen. Sure it was stereotypical but she felt instantly comfortable here.
“Table for two please,” Jin said smiling back at the man. Erika doubted anyone could keep themselves from smiling at the guy.
“Are you two honeymooners?” Erika looked up at Jin and saw him nod and felt a little tug in her tummy. Their other honeymoon had been awkward, and horrible, and it had been Italy. Here she was in a dingy little town in Japan and she was having a better time than she could have ever expected.
“Then you have to have the special private room! Come with me! No extra charge don’t worry, you two look like good kids. You deserve a good time and no one ever uses this place anyways. How long have you two been married then?”
“Two years.” Jin replied and Erika chose as usual to stay silent and listen to her husband carry on conversations. She was slightly more okay with it now than she would have been a year ago.
“Ay carumba! A little late for your honeymoon isn’t it? Let me guess? Trouble in paradise with the family.”
“You have no idea.” Jin replied as the man opened an orange curtain leading them out from bustling restaurant. Erika saw a tiny boy rush out of the kitchen with dishes all over his arms. She turned her head in befuddlement, how did people do that. Lift so much on the shoulders, take the strain of all those burdens; she’d never be able to understand it. Part of her was envious.
When she entered the curtain herself and saw the sight that beheld her eyes she felt her breath hitch in her throat. Who would have ever thought a sight like this would be here? There was an entire wooden deck completely empty leaving you to look into the wilderness that stretched around the restaurant. There were lights streaming from one end of the deck to the other and all over the transparent glass that was the ceiling.
“Wow.” She uttered softly, noting the beautiful plants that were strategically positioned at corners. She turned her attention away from them to look at Alberto who was extremely happy at her reaction she could tell. He could barely keep the blush off his face. “This is beautiful did you do all this yourself?”
“Yes, this was just empty rotting space. I took it up as a project and just finished it this past summer. It took a better part of my back to do it too.” He joked and Erika smiled and Jin bowed in gratitude.
“Arigato gozaimashta. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“Tip well.” He said the joking behavior never leaving his eyes and Jin nodded and Erika let out a giggle.
“I’ll be back in a while to take your orders. Feel free to take up this place as your own little dance floor. You can hear the music from inside which is what makes the curtain amazing. I’ll see you two in a little bit.” Alberto made his way out and Jin turned to look at Erika.
“Guess we’re just lucky today.” He said smiling at her and she nodded sitting down.
“I’m famished, all that discussion tired me out. I need some energy in me.”
“You better get some. I’m not letting some bullshit excuse like that stop me tonight.” Jin said honestly as he sat down. Then he realized the connotations of what he said and immediately started blushing as he fumbled and Erika laughed. “I meant dancing. I really did!”
Lightened by the joke they picked up the menu. Jin quickly began turning it and scanning the items with the speed of lightning.
“How do you do that?”
“Do what?” He asked his eyes never leaving the menu as he flipped yet another page. For a tiny restaurant this sure was an intense menu.
“Read so quickly, decide so quickly what you want and what you don’t. I’m going to be honest here. I don’t think I could ever throw away options or accept them as quickly as you do.”
“Carpe diem.” He replied and Erika looked at him her eyebrows fuzzled and he finally set down his menu putting his hands in front of him. “Live for the day, the more I dwell the more time I lose. I can always change my choices can’t I?”
Erika didn’t know why but in this perfect environment, and with the perfect man, suddenly that seemed like the worst thing he could have possibly ever said to her.
She could only struggle to smile in response as they exchanged banters on what to eat.
It was late and she was lost. Mao had to give up. There would be no way she would be able to see Meisa tonight. She would have to resign herself to that fact that she would not be leaving Kyoto as soon as possible to get to her grandmother as she wanted to. She pulled out her cell phone and looked through the listings looking for Tegoshi’s number. She passed by Shun’s for a moment and stopped at it. Shun...she couldn’t understand the sudden urge to call him and thank him for all he had done for her. Without him she would have never had the guts to do this. If in fact he had never found that one lone copy that hadn’t really worked at all of her mother’s acting on camera then she would have never had hope. She would have never done this. She had learned quite a bit about her father as well. Something she hadn’t expected nor set out to do.
Grandmother Nao had told her quite honestly that her father was still alive, unlike her mother. That he was the most cowardly sort of man, and that he deserved the worst sort of damnation possible. Mao had never met him officially of course but she had seen him once. At least it had looked like him from the few pictures she had of her parents’ horrible wedding day.
She remembered the way Jin had looked at her. As if there was something familiar about her face, Mao had returned the look curiously as a child. He’d come up to her and given her the smallest of smiles, asked her where her parents were. She had informed him she lived with her grandparents and did not have parents.
She had seen the most broken expression on his face. She remembered asking him if he was going to cry and seen him quickly change his expression and pick her up in his arms and take her to the information desk at the store. She remembered wanting to ask him so eagerly if he was the man in the picture she kept in her small purse slung over her shoulder.
Of course she never did. Not that it mattered; he had in no way raised her or been a real father, just like Erika. They had never done anything for Mao other than create her very existence from their genes.
A cold wind caressed her face and Mao saw that her eyes were watering and shook her head. What was she doing? This was just hurting her. The more she learned. The more she hurt. Her heart ached, her heart ached for the family she should have had. If perhaps Jin had never been a coward, or Erika had been more opinionated like she had been when she was younger maybe Mao would have finally had the family she had deserved.
It wasn’t fair. Mao couldn’t stop herself from opening the small purse as she wrapped her legs around her larger duffel bag that lay at her feet. She pulled open her wallet and saw the small picture she had been referring put away safely behind the picture of grandmother Nao yelling at her with Yui laughing beside her. Erika looked like a vision as her younger self. Dressed in obviously some of the richest silks, her onyx hair providing a startling contrast. Jin had his arms wrapped around her waist and had his head resting directly beside hers. If their expressions had been more loving perhaps it might be the most romantic of pictures Mao had ever seen. They even looked like pieces of a puzzle meant to fit together.
But they had hated each other at this point. She quickly pushed the picture away. This was too much, too much emotion for her to handle. She was drowning. She needed to distance herself, find a more unbiased perspective of handling this story. She might be using this as an excuse to know more about her birth parents but seriously...she’d thought she would be stronger than this.
It had never been meant to be such a painful journey.