Erika danced on with Jin as was expected of her. They’d had a formal wedding ceremony. Everything had been perfect from the way the centerpieces looked to the way her new husband looked.
They had spoken a maximum of twenty words to each other since the awkward ceremony.
“Erika-“ He said finally a sigh heaving out. He knew he should have had this conversation with her before their wedding. “I’m sorry. I didn’t really want to marry you.”
“What?” She couldn’t help the reply that formed automatically in her throat. “Do you have any idea how fucked up that is?” She couldn’t keep herself from swearing. Ken’ichi’s face floated to her head. The way he’d always been so dirty, so vulgar, everything about him had repelled her and attracted her.
Just like Jin but in a completely opposite way.
“I thought this might have the slightest chance of working out if you really did love me.”
“Well I don’t. I was forced back here from China too you know? It’s not like I ever wanted to come back here.”
“You said you loved me.” She couldn’t stop herself. The reasons for blaming him all came out tumbling. “You forced your father. You always said that you wanted to be with me. God. No wonder this all happened. You’re lying, you always wanted back.”
“Get over yourself.” He couldn’t stop himself either. “Ever since I’ve shown up here you’ve been nothing but rude and spoilt. Why on earth would anyone want to marry you?!”
“Shut up!” Her anger boiled over as she pushed him off her and ran the other direction, anywhere. She couldn’t bring herself to care for the sounds of alarm that occurred as people ran towards Jin. She knew she’d probably gotten him into trouble but what did she care. She was just seventeen. She should have gotten another year of freedom at the very least. She should have had a career, like Meisa. She should have-
“I’m sorry.” Her mother stood in front of her. Erika stared at her mother who looked as if she were about to crumble before her eyes. In all her years taking incredibly outrageous crap from her husband Erika had never seen her mother crumble in front of her. This was strange. It made her heart ache seeing her mother like this.
“I’m so sorry,” Nao rushed at Erika who was startled by the sudden display. Her mother had been nothing but for this marriage. Forcing Erika to look at it as a happy occurrence in anyway possible.
Erika had to bring her arms around her mother. Even though she was logically reminded that it was supposed to be the other way around. That her mother was supposed to be comforting her she couldn’t stop her mother’s tears and thus held back her own.
She knew only one phrase would stop her mother’s tears. “It’s okay Mom...it’s okay.”
Even though it really wasn’t.
(A Year Later)
Erika walked in behind her husband. He was taking her to the most extravagant jeweler in their province. Both father’s had insisted that Erika’s collection was too bare and so for their very first anniversary it was decided he would get her the most expensive diamonds possible.
“This one.” She heard someone say and immediately recognizing the voice she turned to the owner. Shota. He was nodding to an individual who immediately took away the jewelry to pack it for special order.
“Shota!” She couldn’t help but exclaim and he smiled brightly at her waving her over. Erika was about to run away straight to him before Jin caught her arm and made them walk over, hand in hand. Shota’s features contorted into confusion taking in the sight of Jin and Erika.
“Erika-chan” He said more visibly dampened than when he’d first seen her.
“Shota-kun,” She said softly unable to stop herself. She remembered that he was the youngest prince of Japan but nothing could stop her familiar way of calling to him. There was something about him that struck a chord of familiarity within her. Something that insisted he was just as okay with her words as she was with them.
Jin flicked his eyes between the two before bowing and paying his respects. “Shota-sama, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Erika’s husband. Akanishi Jin. We went to your debut play together.” Shota looked startled but didn’t let the revelation in the least distract from his sunny disposition in front of the newly revealed couple.
“You’re smart snatching this one up before anyone else. She’s quite the sweet one isn’t she?” Jin wasn’t sure what the hell to say.
Was he in the middle of some triangle now? Jin wasn’t sure how he was supposed to think or act. He wasn’t sure what he was thinking either or what he wanted to do to the guy. Punch his face in for dropping a line so obviously on his wife, or throw her into the prince’s arms and be done with the girl. Both options seemed too appealing to cause him to make a decision.
“So when will you be getting married?” Jin asked himself. Erika stepped back from the two, as she often did. All she wanted was to speak to Shota herself but as usual around anyone else Erika couldn’t bring herself to interrupt the conversations the other two would have. All Erika wanted to do was run away as far as possible with Shota, as far from Jin as possible. She hated him.
They slept, actually slept, together in the most uncomfortable manner; they refused to let her have her own bed. Hell! It was just year into their marriage and already her father-in-law was pestering her about grandchildren.
She had to resist the bile that floated up onto her tongue when she thought of making children with Jin.
“Well...if you guys promise not to tell anyone I’ll let you know. I came here to pick out a ring for my bride.” Erika’s breath caught in her throat but she forced a smile. She couldn’t imagine him being married. “I’m marrying Horikita Maki. It was only decided last week.” His eyes glazed past Jin’s fixed stare into Erika’s downward one.
“Who’s she?” Erika couldn’t help but put in. The demand in her voice made Shota laugh and Jin flush in embarrassment.
God couldn’t she keep her emotions to herself, women. Jin tightened his hold on her wrist and she likewise dug her nails into his arm.
They really were a pair.
“She’s the heiress of the Horikita coal and steel industry. My father’s been trying to get into their company for a while.” Jin added the last part in a whisper, solely for her ears. Erika felt the urge to scream. Why did everything in this world seem to revolve around money? It made no sense.
“She’s younger than you, Erika. She’s around fourteen close to fifteen. I’ve known her all her life. To be honest I’m not that comfortable with it but what can you do right? Prince of Japan has to marry someone deemed worthy by his parents. I’ll be honest I think it’s strange getting married to someone that much younger than you. Don’t you think Jin?” Jin wasn’t sure what he was supposed to take this as when the younger man prodded him. From personal knowledge he knew that the prince was only twenty. Jin himself was near twenty-two already.
Jin shrugged. “I wouldn’t know...like Erika would tell you I’ve loved her since she was twelve. For me, age is inconsequential.” Erika couldn’t help but look up at him at this point. He’d told her he was lying about that at their wedding. Seriously she couldn’t keep track of this guy. Annoying bastard.
“Nice answer.” Shota said letting his gaze linger on Jin’s for a moment more before he stood up a smile on his face. “Well I should be leaving. I was on my way when the pair of you,” Erika held back a grimace “came in. It was great meeting you Jin. Until the next play, Erika.”
“Are you working on something new?” She squealed out before she could stop herself. The passion on Shota’s face made her feel envious every time she saw it. The opportunities he had, those she would never get.
“I’ve been cast in Death and the Maiden. I’ll let you know if anything develops through Meisa all right? You better be there on opening night.” He smiled and bid them goodbye quickly leaving the jewelers in his gray suit. Erika couldn’t fight the tears that came to her eyes as the door closed between them once more and she caught him turn back and catch her gaze as the door shut. She couldn’t breathe.
“Can we leave? I’m not in the mood.” The low volume of her voice made Jin realize as he nodded that her emotions for Shota probably ran deeper than that of a fan and actors. As much as it pained him to realize it, he knew he had to be here for her.
“Come on...let’s go home.” He pulled her into his side and Erika couldn’t stop herself from using Jin just like she used to when she was young.
The sobs escaped her mouth and she felt his arms tighten around her as they led her back to the car. Here, in this situation, she could breathe with Jin, no matter how much she hated him she realized at that moment, he was her husband.
And that reassured her for once, that he wouldn't leave her, nor hurt her.
Not like she'd been hurting him for the past year.
And she vowed to become a better wife. So he could rely on her just as she relied on him right now.