Episode 5: Kioku no MeiroThis week's letter is from chanponchan-san:
Konnichiwa I-sensei! I always have fun listening to you while I'm at work. To be honest, what I have isn't even really a problem, but well, it bothers me a little and that's why I'm writing in? Recently I realize that I'm surrounded by the oddest kind of couples, and I wonder how is it that I can't even find a normal relationship in my life. I'm already in my mid-20s but haven't really dated much. My best friend tells me not to worry so much, but I can't help it! I really want a dashing prince of my own, but I have no idea where to find my destined partner! What should I do???
Thanks for writing in, chanponchan-san! I'm glad you like listening to me at work...won't you get into trouble though? Haha. Mm, it's quite difficult isn't it? Trying to find the right person for yourself...
Sayashi Riho woke up with a pounding headache and absolutely no idea what she was doing or where she was. Unfamiliar stationery, scratchy upholstery under her thighs, and her mouth felt like someone shoved sand into it. Squinting blearily, she shifted, and a jacket fell from her shoulders to settle around her butt.
"Oh, you're awake! Good thing we picked you up before anything bad happened! You need water?" A perky lady in a neatly pressed uniform swooped down on the still groggy Riho, who was valiantly attempting to process her surroundings.
"Um, yes, that would be wonderful." Riho found herself saying, cradling her head with one hand. Her brain started parsing information before it clicked that the lady was wearing a police uniform, and judging by her surroundings, she was at a police station. How did she end up here? Why was everything spinning?
She was still trying to put things straight in her head when the cheerful policewoman came back with a glass of water and aspirin, which Riho gratefully downed. After a minute of two of silently blinking, Riho looked up at the policewoman, who seemed to be waiting considerately for her to gather her wits.
"What...happened? Why am I here?"
"We were hoping you could help us with that. A couple of our patrol officers saw you with a bunch of boys who were up to no good. Did they drug you or something? You were out cold when our officers found you."
Riho stared in shock, then quickly re-examined herself. Nope, her clothes seemed to be in order, except for a rip at her sleeve. The policewoman noticed her actions, and laid a comforting hand on the young girl's shoulder.
"Don't worry, according to my colleagues nothing seemed to have happened. The troublemakers were fighting, it seemed. Probably over you...do you remember anything at all?"
"I think...there was a party? Someone gave me a drink...and I don't remember much after that..." Riho winced as she vaguely remembered climbing down a fire escape and faint impressions of being chased by something...or someone.
"Children these days...you should be more careful." The policewoman tutted disapprovingly. Riho hung her head in shame. She was always a model student, and it would be awful if this got back to her school, or worse, her parents! They would be so worried...and so disappointed.
"You...you won't tell my parents, right?" Riho whimpered, looking terrified. The policewoman looked at her sternly, but Riho's best impression of forlorn kicked-puppy was second to none.
"I'm on scholarship at a private school, please, don't tell anyone! I don't want to disgrace my family." Riho started to sob -- slightly theatrically, truth be told -- but her fear was genuine even if her actions were somewhat played up to gain sympathy.
The policewoman softened after a minute or two. "Well, if you be more careful next time..."
"I promise!" And I'm never drinking again, I swear.
Riho shuddered inwardly. Her memory was a mess!
"Well, if you're feeling better, why don't you come with me? We've caught the boys involved, but if you can identify them that would be great."
Riho nodded cautiously, eager to follow instructions and hopefully get out of this without any stain against her permanent record. Walking was a bit of a challenge with her persistent headache, and she hoped fervently that the medication would kick in soon.
The policewoman brought her to the holding area and told her to wait while she arranged for the suspects to be brought out. Riho spent the time waiting and trying to dig through her memory for anything beyond the fire escape. She vaguely remembered running into someone, she thought...but everything afterwards was a jumble of noise and faded colour. It was frustrating.
"Look up, kiddo. Do you remember anyone here?"
The policewoman came back with a couple of her colleagues, who were escorting a bunch of boys, five in all. No wait, four boys and a girl. Riho had very good eyes, and despite the short hair and boyish clothes, there was no doubt to her that one of them were a girl, and a good-looking one at that.
"You..." Riho paused in front of the other girl, who was glaring sullenly at the cops. The lanky teen narrowed her eyes at the confused Riho, who was struggling to remember what happened the night before. A flash of recognition lit in Riho's eyes as she thumped a fist into an open palm.
"I remember you! You were...holding me?"
There was a triumphant snort somewhere behind them, and the boyish girl glared over Riho's shoulder at the cop standing there. Riho stared at the person she vaguely recalled, remembering how close the other girl's face had been to hers. Riho frowned, trying to piece together her fragmented memory. She lifted a hand to her lips as something else floated into her mind.
"Did you...kiss me?"
More than one voice erupted in the room. Riho's eyes were wide as she vaguely recalled something, but she couldn't be entirely sure. Just that the girl in front of her was really familiar, and then...something?
"IT WAS NOT A KISS! YOU BUMPED INTO ME, YOU IDIOT! IT TOTALLY DOESN'T COUNT."
Riho found herself being shaken by the suddenly angry stranger, before the police stepped in and separated them by force. Riho was escorted out by the nice policewoman as an argument broke out between one of the portly policemen and the girl-who-dressed-like-a-boy.
"Don't worry about it, kid. We'll take care of the matter. You just go home and rest, alright? I'll get one of my colleagues to give you a ride."
The policewoman assured a rattled Riho in a motherly air. Riho nodded distractedly.
She seemed to be missing more than a few pieces of memory, and it was going to bother her until she worked it all out!
Michishige Sayumi hummed tunelessly to herself as she picked up the trash and started cleaning the remains of the wreckage from the previous night's party.
All in all, it was a successful party, she felt. After she had ascertained that the cute little girl she had been looking for all night was no longer around, Sayumi had then decided to join the party proper and started drinking like a fish. Despite having done so the previous night, Sayumi still managed to get up before noon with no visible ill effects. It was a trait the Michishige women shared, she found. Both her mother and sister were also similarly immune, and this was why she could clean up while her girlfriend languished in bed.
Reina was currently huddled under the blankets and exhibited no signs of moving out from underneath it any time soon. When Sayumi had attempted to tug the blanket off her curled up girlfriend, all she got was a miserable growl in response as the hungover kitty curled into a tighter ball. Sayumi had shook her head then and left the glass of water and aspirin by the bedside table. It was no good trying to force Reina to do anything, and there were better things she could do with her time.
Like trying to fix the worst of the damage left over from the night before. Her sister had cleared up the broken glass, but she might have to replace a couple of chairs. Maybe the coffee table too. What happened last night again?
Oh yeah, a certain Charmy Ishikawa. Sayumi shuddered. She was beginning to understand why Eri had stayed well away from the famous reporter. The woman had seemed harmless enough, but put alcohol into her and it was like unleashing her inner Hulk. With marginally less smashing (unless provoked), a lot more swearing, and possible anger management issues.
It would have been funny if only Reina had stayed out of harm's way. At somewhere past midnight, the kitty had woken up from her stupor and then promptly challenged the drunk-as-a-lord Ishikawa to an arm wrestling contest. Do not ask how that happened, or why it would even make sense at all, because Sayumi would not know and did not care to find out, concerned as she was in making sure that Reina didn't lose her fingers or end up with a broken beer bottle through an eye or worse. And this was after she had more than a few drinks in her too. It was amazing there had been no casualties.
Sayumi sighed as she made a few calls to order replacements. With some luck, she would have new ones in before Reina woke up and raised holy hell over the damage. Her girlfriend was thrifty to a fault, and Sayumi really didn't want that argument to happen. Living together was proving to be a challenge for their relationship at times, but Sayumi was determined to make it work. Even if Reina had a tendency to leave her accessories all over the dresser. While hogging the TV all the time. And never sorting the laundry into whites and non-whites...
But even so, Sayumi still loved her troublesome kitten. Because when she was stressed, Reina would buy them each a tub of ice cream, they'd put on a good movie they both liked, and then bitch about anything and everything while gorging on every unhealthy tidbit you could think of. Reina listened to her whenever she had something to say, whether or not she understood what was going on. And when she was sad, Reina would make her laugh. The woman had her flaws, but there was no such thing as the perfect person. They just had to work through their differences.
Just as Sayumi was clearing away the last of the debris, the doorbell rang. Bemused, Sayumi wandered over to the door and opened it.
"Osu~ Hi there Michishige-san! Is Tanaka-san around?"
"What are you guys doing here?" Sayumi asked incredulously. Three people stood outside her door, two of whom were carrying guitar cases. The one who spoke had no such burden, although she was carrying a backpack and a basket full of fruits.
"Oh, Tanaka-san didn't tell you? We couldn't make it to the party yesterday, but we told her we'd pop by today to visit before practice this afternoon. Figured we could hang out here and head down to the studio together later. If...it's alright with you?"
The speaker ended with a questioning note to her sentence, and Sayumi sighed. She had met her girlfriend's band members a couple of times before, but she didn't know them very well.
"It's alright, come on in. Okada-san, was it? Reina's still sleeping, she got really smashed last night."
"Just call me Okamari, Michishige-san. Ojamashimasu
Sayumi stepped aside, letting the three girls in. They politely took off their shoes at the entrance, looking around curiously. One of the guitarists grinned at the mention of Reina's drunkenness.
"Really? Damn, too bad we weren't here. Would have loved to see Tanaka-san get smashed! All we got to do last night was chaperone Marin on her date..."
"It was not
a date." The other guitarist said flatly, giving the older girl the evil eye. "And you two didn't have to come along. I was the only one who promised to go."
"And leave you to the wolves? Not happening." The first guitarist laughed, patting Marin on the head like a disobedient puppy. Marin frowned, but didn't protest the action.
"It was just a performance, and it wasn't even me performing. Asahi-chan wouldn't have let anything happen to me."
"But she is the problem.
" Okamari muttered in between coughs, before handing over the fruit basket to their host. Sayumi raised an eyebrow, having heard the comment, and Okamari shrugged helplessly with a 'what can you do with this kid?' glance back at the baby of the group.
"Well, it was a good show your girlfriend put up though. She's really good on that keyboard of hers."
"She really is! I think she added in a little something I suggested to her when we were jamming together at the studio the other time..."
"Wait, you guys were jamming together? When did this happen?"
"Last week? I ran into her after lunch and she just finished piano lessons, the studio was still open so we spent an hour talking and playing on our instruments. It was weird trying to make my guitar work with her piano, but it was a good learning experience." Marin's expression was light, though bland, as per her usual fashion. Then she frowned as something else occurred to her.
"And she is not my girlfriend."
Okamari and Uozumi (otherwise known as Nee-san) exchanged long-suffering glances and heaved dramatic sighs. Nee-san slung one arm around the youngest of the group, shaking her head sadly as Marin looked confused about why her band members were reacting this way.
"I'll see if I can wake Reina." Sayumi said after a moment, obviously amused by the interplay between her girlfriend's colleagues. "Warning though, she won't be in the best of moods."
"I brought chocolate!" Marin piped up suddenly, rummaging around in her bag after putting her guitar case down. "I found some sweets I think Tanaka-san would like too. That might make her feel better."
"Gosh, you two need to stop gorging on sweets. No wonder you guys have delicate stomachs!" Okamari flicked Marin in the forehead, making the younger girl squint defensively.
"But I like sweets..."
Sayumi laughed as she returned to their room. The LovendoЯ girls knew about her and Reina's relationship and were totally cool with it, which had endeared Reina to them a little more than she would have otherwise. It also helped to be able to mark Reina as hers, since Sayumi always got a little jealous whenever Reina spent time with other girls.
"Reina? Time to wake up."
"Reina. You have visitors."
Something like "tell them to fuck off" came from underneath the blanket. Sayumi chuckled. The hangover wasn't going to go away like that, so she yanked the blanket off the suffering kitty and dodged when Reina kicked out reflexively. It was a little like dealing with a very aggressive baby, Sayumi mused as she all but forced Reina to drink water and aspirin, then let her girlfriend bury her face into her stomach while stroking Reina's light brown hair affectionately.
"Sayu...tell them to go away..." Reina whined, her voice muffled from being pressed into her girlfriend's tummy. Outside from the living room, Sayumi could hear the voices of the band members, and the sounds of an acoustic guitar being played (tuned, actually, not that Sayumi would know).
"You have to go to practice with them later anyway." Sayumi rubbed Reina's back comfortingly. Reina grumbled, shifting this way and that on the bed, kicking reluctantly at the covers.
"Don't wanna..." Reina pouted, squinting as she rolled to look up at Sayu from the woman's lap. Sayumi leaned down and kissed her on the nose.
"You never miss practice, Reina. Don't start now."
"I love you too." Sayumi said blandly as Reina crawled to her feet, cursing and staggering to the bathroom so she could wash up. Sayumi made the bed almost absently, before going back out to the living room where the other band members were chatting quietly.
Nee-san was the one tuning her guitar, and she apologized for the noise when Sayumi came back out.
"It's alright. Reina's washing up now, she'll be out soon."
Sayumi joined in on the conversation, and soon the girls were exchanging stories about the strangest things they had seen during the course of their work. Okamari had them all howling with laughter at her description of her grandmother crashing one of her gigs.
"...so there was my dear old Baa-chan, sitting on her little foldable stool in the middle of a mosh pit and eating her bento while surrounded by huge guys with tattoos and piercings... I didn't know whether to laugh or cry..."
"What's going on?" Reina stalked out of the room with a towel around her neck. She looked and felt considerably better after a quick shower, and she was dressed simply in t-shirt and shorts before flopping down matter-of-factly into her girlfriend's lap. Sayumi 'oof'ed at the sudden weight, but smiled and wrapped her arms around Reina's waist. Reina leaned back comfortably, looping one arm around the back of Sayumi's neck. Nee-san whistled at the sight, and Okamari grinned.
"Just telling 'em about my family. I think they're all crazy."
"Well you're not much better. It must be in the genes." Reina snarked back, earning a pinch in her side from her girlfriend. "Itai! Sayu! What was that for?"
"That's not very nice, Reina." Sayumi chided her wayward girlfriend, who pouted back stubbornly. The band members watched this scene quietly, a bit awed by how tame their leader was around her girlfriend. Marin broke the silence first by scrambling over and handing Reina a few different packs of sweets and chocolates in a little plastic bag.
"I saw these the other day while I was out, and I thought you'd like it too. I tried them, they're good!"
Marin said proudly, and Reina couldn't help but grin back at the baby of the group. Out of the other three band members, she doted on Marin the most, mostly because they both loved sweets and Marin was adorably innocent. She accepted the gift graciously, and Marin beamed.
"So how's your new song coming along?" Sayumi asked after a few minutes of idle chat. Reina broke off from snacking and swallowed before answering.
"Pretty good. Okamari and I need to figure out some stuff around the bridge though, it's a bit rough there."
"Yeah, Nee-san and I are practising hard too. We've got some really hard guitar solos this time." Marin piped up, her mouth still full of chocolate. Nee-san poked her in the cheek, mouthing "swallow first" to the younger girl, and Marin scowled before doing as she was told.
"I was talking to Shacho about holding a mini underground tour. I think he liked the idea about hitting indies venues, reconnecting with our roots and all that." Okamari leaned forward enthusiastically, and Reina nodded approvingly. Behind her, Sayumi frowned slightly.
"Will you be gone for long?"
"We're only planning for venues in and around Tokyo proper. Furthest we'll go is Nagoya this time." Nee-san said quickly, hoping to defuse the situation in time. Reina shot her a grateful glance, and she acknowledged it with a tiny nod.
"It's all still in the planning stages. Top secret though! Don't go telling anyone about it." Reina nuzzled Sayumi affectionately, making her girlfriend giggle softly.
"Who would I tell? Except Eri, but she already knows about us, and she hasn't told anyone else yet."
Reina was about to banter back playfully when her phone started wailing loudly. Marin, who was nearest to it, grabbed the offending article and tossed it to her leader, who caught it deftly and grimaced when she saw the caller ID.
"Ugh. Can I not pick up?"
"Who is it?" Sayumi looked over Reina's shoulder, and Reina sighed.
"Someone who really doesn't like me..." Taking a deep breath, she accepted the call, and was about to put it to her ear when a really loud voice echoed through the speaker.
"TANAKA REINA HOW DARE YOU CORRUPT MY DAUGHTER..."
Reina made a face and disentangled herself from Sayumi, excusing herself as she walked into the room to continue the call. Everyone exchanged bewildered looks.
Two minutes later Reina walked back out with a tense scowl on her face. Sayumi stood up and walked over to embrace her wordlessly, and Reina's expression relaxed fractionally, her shoulders slumping.
"Can I not deal with her?"
"You don't have to if you don't want to." Sayumi soothed, stroking Reina's hair. Reina sighed, resting her face against Sayumi's neck.
"But I have to. My cousin's in trouble again, and somehow it's my fault even though I have nothing to do with it. I can't just ditch the kid."
The band members exchanged glances again while Sayumi tightened her grip on her girlfriend. Reina sighed before pushing herself away gently.
"Guys, I gotta pop down to the police station for a bit. I'll meet you at the studio later?"
The three band members had another silent exchange before Nee-san spoke up.
"We can tag along if you let us, Tanaka-san. We've still got some time. Us girls gotta stick together when stupid shit happens!"
"Yeah! We've got your back!" Okamari pumped her fist in the air. Marin just nodded with the other two.
"You guys..." Reina seemed genuinely surprised by the show of solidarity. Sayumi pushed her forward from the back, and the other band members swarmed around their pint-sized leader, towering over her as they went for a group hug.
"LoVendoЯ is the best! Yaaaaa~~!!!"
~*~*~It's never easy finding the right person for yourself, chanponchan-san. I understand how you feel though, I too worried about never finding my prince back in the day, and ended up going out on random dates with really inappropriate people because I was desperate. Though in the end, I found my dear R-kun not through being desperate, but because we already knew each other from before and built on a relationship from there.
Now, I'm not saying that all relationships have to start that way, but I feel like you shouldn't stress about it so much! Maybe your prince is already somewhere near you and you don't even know it! Just keep yourself available, and maintain an open mind. Be calm and confident, guys like that! If you really want to meet people, maybe join a club or some kind of group activity? It's always easier to bond over shared interests!
Good luck, chanponchan-san! There surely will be someone for you out there! Never give up!
"What's this about inappropriate people?"
"Reina, you didn't really think you were my first girlfriend, right?"
"From the way you were in bed, only straight girls would be that lazy."
"Hey! Just because I'm not as athletic..."
"Whatever. So. Other girlfriends?"
"...are you jealous?"
"Not if you sucked as much as you did during our first time. Or didn't know how to suck, actually..."
This chapter took me the longest time to write. Haha.
Thanks to Kuji for helping me get through it, and providing the title for me as well!
You know, this story wouldn't exist without her egging me on.
EDIT: Lol thanks for wedging, rndy~