Saturday, 22 July 2017
There was, Yukio decided for himself, a certain perverted satisfaction in watching Himekaizen descending to hell while he was doing the watching from the outside.
He never told Kyoko. Even lovers held secrets from each other. Total honesty hurt more than it provided. In her case doubly so since her best friend, and his, both were stuck in that hellhole. She’d be angry with him for being so callous about what Kuri had to live through, and she’d be aghast he held the same attitude towards Urufu’s fate.
Thing was, Yukio couldn’t care any longer. No matter what atrocities the madman playing at being principal threw after their best friends, it didn’t even come close to what they inflicted on each other.
This was the reversal of his and Kyoko’s drawn out shyness from last summer, one that bordered on idiocy. One that kept then from becoming a couple for a full two months during which they each knew their feelings were mutual, and still none of them made a move.
In Urufu’s and Kuri’s case it was a shared love they both decided to destroy, and in doing so they kept hurting each other and those closest to them. In the end Yukio grew sick of watching the horror show.
He’d been on the verge of cutting contact with his best friend when suddenly the lunatic five from Sweden arrived and made everything interesting again. Ai’s big brother Jun who chased after skirt a continent away, and the love chain trio. The chased after skirt was here as well, and despite being a bubbly ball of never ending happy energy Jenny-sempai was by a wide margin the most sane of the bunch.
Secretly Yukio doubted if the honorific ‘sempai’ should be applied to the insane, but they were fun to watch, and something in how they talked and reacted made Yukio suspect that each of them would easily have made it into a prestigious university had they been Tokyoites.
The cut-off was four point three for my year, Urufu had once told him. A high school where the weakest admitted student averaged above four on a scale from one to five was scary. With perfect grades when he graduated, Urufu had merely been one of almost half a dozen in his class, and classes were apparently smaller in Sweden than in Japan.
Scariest of all, while Yukio could accept that Urufu’s English was better than Jeniferu-chan’s, despite her being from the US, that both Jenny-sempai and Alexander-sempai matched her was beyond the pale. English was still a foreign language in Sweden, just as it was in Japan.
At the moment he tested his own English out.
“Surprisingly good for a Japanese,” Rika-sempai commented, as she had done several times before. Not only to him, but to just about every junior I the club.
“I had a good teacher,” Yukio said and turned to Alexander-sempai to continue the conversation Rika-sempai had just interrupted.
“It was fun, and very cool,” Alexander-sempai said, but Yukio felt the graduate had his attention fixed on the girl he was infatuated with.
Why don’t you just move on. She rejected you. But Yukio suspected it wasn’t all that easy.
They stood waiting for the water bus to arrive and take most of the club and the lunatic five to the beach out in the Tokyo bay. With finals looming closer this was probably the last chance they had to spend time together for two weeks.
“So,” Yukio started, “hot springs in this weather made sense after all?”
Alexander-sempai nodded, and from the corner of his eye Yukio saw Rika-sempai do the same.
Most of the other students hung around the ice cream parlour a bit away; hardly surprising as it was Kuri’s treat. For once she made them company, which meant the entire place was packed with body guards and Vogue employees.
They’d have a shoot at the beach, and for that reason Vogue paid for everyone’s fares. Kuri must have forced the issue one way or another.
“Sorry?” Yukio said when he realised he hadn’t listened to Rika-sempai’s question.
“Those two, who are they?”
Yukio looked at Kuri and Ryu holding hands surrounded by people from Vogue, but he knew the question wasn’t about Ryu. “Kuri and Nao. They’re models and students at Himekaizen,” Yukio said.
“I think I’ve seen them before.”
They’re plastered to the walls all over Tokyo. Of course you’ve seen them. “They’re kind of famous here,” he said instead. At least that was true for Kuri. She was the foreign teenage femme fatale, which made her a lot more interesting than the well behaved Takado Nao. Cute was the last thing Kuri tried to be.
“Funny,” Alexander-sempai said, “she’s got a professional make up. I could have sworn they didn’t know how to do Europeans here.”
We can’t. She had to teach them if what she told me last year is true.
“And she actually looks good in that school uniform. That tall she really should look like a scare crow,” Rika-sempai unhelpfully added.
Yukio looked at Kuri again. He didn’t know fashion at all, but in his eyes Kuri had always looked a little like a scarecrow. He set his eyes on Kyoko from the very start after all.
He let his eyes wander across the pier. By the rails Jun-sempai and Jenny-sempai looked very much like the cute couple they were. Almost by their side, but not close enough to be a disturbance, Ai-chan kept her distance from Ryu while keeping an eye on her older brother.
An occasional gust of wind mitigated the oppressive heat, and Yukio followed a small piece of paper as it danced all the way to where Emma-sempai stood with her ice-cream in her hand and for once seemed to have forgotten all about Alexander-sempai. A second year club member from Irishima High made an insincere attempt to hit on her, but she just laughed him away in a way that told Yukio she didn’t mind being friends with the younger student.
You lunatic five, you’re just another side of Urufu. Have you come here to change us a little, to make us more like Urufu himself? Yukio didn’t know from where the question came, but he committed it to memory anyway. It could come in handy later.
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
The music booming from below the hillside carried scattered memories from Christina’s teens. Both of them, and all mixed together.
First she couldn’t understand why she’d mix up memories from more than thirty years apart, but then as the remembered just how ancient some of the music was, things fell in place. There were songs from a time before the idea of a life with fashion ever entered her mind, and most of them she shared with Ulf, even though she hadn’t known about him at that time. That came later, as did her reintroduction to old, and usually pretty awful, music.
Still, something nagged at her mind, and it wasn’t until an especially atrocious melody reached her that she remembered how the last weeks of the first trimester during that awful year brought smiles and grins to them all. It hadn’t been Ulf’s doing, but rather Noriko’s and the strange bunch of visitors’ who stayed with them that summer.
Noriko, I owe you an apology, and more than a little gratitude. Christina ended that thought as she turned on her heels and started walking in search of her friend. You were the best rival I could ever have wished for.
Less than a minute she found Noriko chatting with Kyoko, and Christina felt a wide grin splitting her face open. “Noriko, Ko-chan, do you remember...”
Sunday, 9 July 2017
Kyoko wondered why Noriko and Urufu were late, and she was on the verge of asking when the doorbell chimed again and they came inside.
The ancient air conditioning unit coughed asthmatically in a futile protest when hot and humid air welled in, and most of those present agreed with apathetic nods. In a few weeks everyone should be used to summer temperatures, but right now most looked like they longed for the wetness of just a handful of days ago.
Those not overcome by apathy shared two tables with a quintet of surprise guests. A surprise to everyone but Urufu, Kyoko suspected.
She glanced at the tables where two Tokyoites, who had spent enough time in Sweden to share inside jokes with two girls and a boy who were most definitely not Japanese, made an attempt to translate questions and answers from all parties. After a while most seemed to agree English was a good enough compromise, to the dismay of the first year club members.
Urufu barked something in Swedish, and all five guests turned their faces in surprise. One of them, a girl short enough to have to tip toe even in Japan, grinned and responded with a big grin on her face after she delivered her answering words.
“What was that about?” Kyoko heard Noriko say from the position beside Urufu she monopolised whenever she had the chance.
“He said that Santa Claus wondered if there were any nice kids here, and Jenny told him he’d better grow a beard first,” the female of the two Japanese born guests said.
Japanese born, because her entire outfit was distinctly western, showing way more skin than was proper from someone with the looks of a classic Japanese beauty. She might look Japanese, but Kyoko knew she had spent enough years in that strange country of Urufu’s to be anything but. She was also the former student council president of that Swedish high school, or chairman of the students’ union as she preferred to call it.
“Where’s your club chairman?” she said.
“And you are?” Urufu answered.
Kyoko looked at the two of them, then at Noriko, who’s lips turned into a disapproving smirk, and then back at Urufu again.
“Rika. I’m Rika Uchida.”
Uchida Rika? She even uses the western style for her own name. Rika-sempai I guess.
“Ulf Hammargren, pleased to meet you. Christina’s working today, so I’m afraid you’ll have to do with me as club representative.”
Rika-sempai shrugged, just the way Urufu and Kuri used to. “I don’t care. Just thought it was polite to ask for her.”
And that was just about as far from polite as you could be.
Urufu grinned and grabbed a chair. As he sat down Noriko took one for herself and sat down beside him.
Kyoko noticed Rika-sempai’s amused smile. “Girlfriend?” She said.
“No,” Urufu said.
“Not yet,” Noriko added.
“You like him that much?”
“Enough not to hand him over to you.”
“Oh, gutsy. I like that.” Rika-sempai grinned. “Don’t worry. I’m not interested in kids.”
“Noriko, she’s not competition, so just drop it!” Kyoko interrupted before Noriko had a chance to say something most of those present weren’t supposed to hear.
She felt Yukio clasp her hand, and closer to a year together with him had taught her how to read his thoughts from the way he touched her. This time she read firm approval.
Rika-sempai exchanged looks with the other Tokyo born guest, Hasegawa Jun, Ai-chan’s big brother.
“See, they’re the same here as well.”
Jun-sempai smiled and turned to the other male guest. “Alexander, maybe there’s hope for you as well,” he said in English.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Rika-sempai said. “Besides, shouldn’t that mean there’s hope for Emma as well,” she added and grinned at a girl who had mostly stayed silent since the five of them suddenly arrived in the café less than half an hour earlier.
“Chance?” Ai-chan said from a table she shared with Nana-chan.
“Eh,” Jun-sempai said and grinned sheepishly. “It’s a bit of a mess. See, Alexander is in love with Rika, which everyone back home knows, and Emma’s in love with Alexander, which also everyone knows.
“And they’re all very good friends ever since Emma more or less forced Rika to share a, eh, what’s the word, ‘fika’ we call it, with Alexander.
Fika, I know that word. The date that’s not a date, where you drink coffee even though you don’t have to drink coffee. And just like ‘fika’, Jun-sempai’s explanation made no sense at all.
Urufu coughed loud enough to have everyone stare at him, which was probably a good thing since both Emma-sempai and Alexander-sempai had turned beet red during Jun-sempai’s little speech. “Lemme see if I got this right. The kid over there,” Urufu nodded at Emma-sempai, “is in love with him,” and shot Alexander-sempai a grin, “so she arranged a date between him and her rival?” At the last word Urufu bowed ironically to Rika-sempai.
The five guests exchanged looks between themselves, and almost as if reaching and agreement they said more or less in chorus: “Yes.”
Urufu shook his head. “You’re strange all of you. I admit utter defeat.”