“Jazz? Jazz!” Kuni made his way through the sea of tables in the café until he reached her, pointedly ignoring the man she was with. Jazz stared at him, looking shocked and a bit embarrassed.
“Mr. Aikawa? What are you doing here?” She got up and shot her company an apologizing glance.
“Miss Fujiwara told me I would find you here.”
“She did?” Jazz’s expression clouded over. She would have to talk with Miho about this; she had definitely crossed a line. This was not okay.
“Jazz, dear, won’t you introduce us?” The other man looked up at Kuni with an amused smile and Jazz wanted to kick him so bad – and she would. Later.
“Oh, sorry. Of course. Mr. Aikawa, this is my – my husband. Mr. Kujuro. Ai, this is Mr. Kunihiko Aikawa, a client.” She swallowed, the word had left a foul taste in her mouth. Husband. And client, too.
“Oh,” Kunihiko’s face fell for a second. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know… I don’t want to interrupt your date. I just thought – anyway, continue your date. Sorry, Miss Mann.”
Her heart broke. She had been prepared for it but not like this, not now. She stared at his back while he hurried away. Ran away. It was better like this, at least she tried to convince herself of that.
“So that’s the type of man you’re working with? Lucky girl,” Ai smugly remarked. Jazz slowly sat down again.
“Not now, okay? Can you please just try to act like a human being and stop being such a jerk?” She rubbed her temples with her fingertips, trying to will the tears away. She had just told the guy she was crushing on like crazy that she was married. She didn’t tell him that she was married to some giant douchebag who just never considered her feelings – not even now.
“I’m just saying, I wouldn’t mind ‘testing’ him myself.” Ai grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
“Screw you,” Jazz hissed, pressing her eyes shut, hoping to keep the tears at bay.
“Wait – are you crying?” His voice suddenly sounded almost gentle. “Oh hun, is it that bad?”
“What do you care? Sign the damn papers already so we can get this divorce!” Getting angry now was safe, much better than thinking about the look on Kunihiko’s face. ‘It’s better this way, it’s better this way’ ran like a mantra though her head, she could only hope that her heart would understand this rather sooner than later, too.
Ai sighed. “You like him, don’t you?”
Jazz stubbornly refused to look at the man that legally was her husband.
“Don’t try to fool me, I know that expression. You’re head over heels for him.” Ai quickly glanced towards the exit where Kunihiko had disappeared shortly before.
“That doesn’t matter,” Jazz said, still trying not to choke on her own emotions. Pesky little buggers.
“From the way he looked at you I’d say he likes you, too.” Ai simply ignored her objection, instead he watched her face.
“That. Doesn’t. Matter. He’s a client after all.” And a man. A funny, smart, incredible sweet man. Handsome.
“Hm, might be hard to marry him off when the only one he has eyes for is you,” he mused, making Jazz huff a bitter laugh.
“I’m not the ideal wife material, don’t forget that.”
Ai stared at her, searched her face for the answer to questions he didn’t want to ask. Are you okay? Will you make it? Did I really hurt you that much?
“What happened to that cheerful and romantic girl I met back then?” His smile told of fond memories of a younger Jazz, a few years ago.
“She found out her fairytale of love and marriage was just a lie.” Jazz’s voice was flat, but her words still found their target. Almost as an apology she added in a softer voice: “How’s Kou doing?”
Ai flashed her a small smile. They had a history of hurting each other, but somehow they always managed to stay at least friends. Sort of.
“Good. Very good. We are going on a trip next week.”
Jazz nodded weakly.
“By the way, are you coming to grandma Kujuro’s birthday? You know how much she likes you.”
Jazz chuckled. “She doesn’t like me, she likes the sweets I’m bringing for her.”
They were silent for a moment before Ai took the papers in front of Jazz, signed them and put his seal on them.
“There, all done. The apartment is yours now.” He smiled and so did Jazz.
“So the divorce is next, right? When will you tell your parents?” She put the papers away, glad that this was taken care of.
“I have hoped you would accompany me…”
Jazz laughed. “Fat chance!”
Ai chuckled. “Figured so much. Now, what will you do about that hottie earlier?”
Jazz smile faded. “Nothing.” She shrugged. “It wouldn’t work out anyway. I’m all kinds of fucked up after all – thanks to you.”
“Love, you have already been fucked up before you met me,” Ai replied sweetly, making Jazz swat his arm.
When Jazz came back to the office Miho was already gone. Good, that gave her a short period of grace before Jazz would chew her out – or the other way around, one could never be too sure when it came to Miho.
She checked her schedule again and made a quick call before she dropped by Selina’s office.
“Hey Sel, will Miho be back today? Or is she done for today?”
Selina looked up from her computer screen. “She said she had a test drive and won’t be back before tomorrow around noon. Do you need anything?”
Jazz shook her head. “No, nothing urgent.” She couldn’t tell Selina the whole story after all, still hoping to get this mess figured out before Selina figured it out.
“Well, I’m off for today, too. I have another appointment and won’t be back today. No clients scheduled for the rest of the day anyway. If you need anything, call me.”
She waved and Selina just nodded before she went back to – do whatever she did at that desk all day. She really needed to get out every once in a while. Maybe Selina should take a client or two herself instead of burying herself in the paperwork.
With that thought Jazz headed for the office of her lawyer, Mr. Takao Maruyama, to hand over the paperwork that made her sole owner of that cute but not so little apartment in a very nice part of the city.
When Jazz came back to work the next day she was still angry at Miho, but the first flare of rage had already subsided. She would at least not throw a tantrum now. Instead she thought back to that conversation she had with Takao who had asked her for a private talk, unrelated to the legal issues she had been there for.
“I just got a call from a friend,” he had said with a serious expression. “Kunihiko Aikawa?”
Jazz had nodded. She knew what that most likely was about. “One of our clients.”
This was no breach of confidentiality yet. Besides, Takao was a lawyer and he had to keep every conversation with a client confidential, too. He knew what he was allowed to say and to ask after all. But this wasn’t a lawyer-client talk. He had asked her for a minute in private so Jazz knew she had to watch her words.
“Well, he was a bit upset because he just found out that he had obviously… uhm…” Takao had blushed and Jazz would have been delighted if it had been for another reason.
“He had obviously what?”
“It seems as if he had sex with a married woman and now he feels bad because he didn’t know. He doesn’t want to interfere with the marriage of two people, even if it was a one time thing.”
Jazz had wanted to kick herself. Of course Kunihiko was the kind of man who would be upset because of that. Not only because he might feel betrayed by her, but because he might feel as if they both had betrayed her husband.
So after a not so good night’s sleep she knew she would have to talk to Miho – who was the reason for this drama after all.
Miho’s office was dark, but she was in there for sure. Behind the closed door, she rubbed at her temples and grimaced at the laptop screen in front of her like it was performing some terrible torture on her.
“In what universe is prognorious a real word, Microsoft?” she muttered, irritably punching at the delete key several times.
Jazz considered knocking but decided on a different tactic. A knock immediately followed by her opening the door. No time for Miho to actually answer but Jazz didn’t want to be rude. Not from the get go at least.
“Whatever the laptop did to you, you probably deserved it,” she coolly said, arms crossed in front of her chest as she glared down at Miho.
“Can’t argue with that,” she shrugged, squinting as the light streamed in through the door behind Jazz.
She took a moment to study her friend and colleague, her own expression a little cloudy – hung over perhaps?
“I’ll deal with the laptop’s grievances later,” she then declared. “Apparently yours are a lot more pressing.”
Her tone of voice wasn’t quite as flippant as usual, but Miho had a list of all the questionable things she had done and would do, so she knew all the possible reasons Jazz might be mad at her.
“I take it Mr. Aikawa caught up with you then?”
Right to the point. The faintly smug expression that remained on Miho’s face, just as if she still was convinced that she had made a very clever move, fanned Jazz’s anger.
“Oh yes, he found me. Nice little café by the way, you would like it. Remind me to send you there next time I ruin your life.” Jazz grabbed a chair and sat down.
“He came just in time to find me with another man, who’s is currently still my husband, I’m just saying. It got a bit uncomfortable, but hey, at least that rids me of the question whether I should do anything stupid and throw all my convictions over board or not.”
She threw her hands up as if it was a reason to celebrate before she glared at Miho again.
“Honestly, what were you thinking?! I just asked you to take over this client so stuff like this exactly would not happen!”
Miho listened, tilting her head here and there, nodding to ensure it was clear she was listening. She winced at the husband part – that she had not known, mostly because Jazz hadn’t mentioned it. In Miho’s world, if a guy is a fucktard, you divorce him.
“Okay the whole cafe, husband thing – yeah that was shitty,” she agreed, leaning back in her chair a little, but not TOO comfortable so as to seem like she was gloating. “For forcing that situation on you, I apologise – but you know precisely what I was doing, and precisely what I WOULD do the moment you handed me sexy IT CEO barman over to me for reasons that were and are, very obvious. You’re mad it went south…”
She leaned back in a little.
“… because you love the guy.”
“Stop spouting nonsense! I’m mad because you forced this situation on me, yes! Because I had to act like a fucking adult and you KNOW how much I hate that! If I were good with this stuff I would have handled this whole mess on my own, without your meddling! And now this poor guy thinks he’s some kind of homewrecker, he blames himself instead of me for being a cheater.”
Jazz slumped down on the desk in front of her, her forehead connecting with the wooden surface, making a little thud.
“All I wanted was some distance so I could figure this out and now I’ve really hurt him and Ai, this gloating bitch, is having a field day!”
She straightened up again and quickly wiped her face.
“Okay, I might have blown any chance with Kunihiko, but I want him at least to know that he has done nothing wrong. So since he is your client now, you will call him and tell him you are sorry, that you didn’t know I’m still married because I’m actually just getting a divorce. That there’s nothing he should feel guilty about, my currently still husband knows about the conditions of my job and no, that’s not why we are getting divorced.”
She hesitated for a moment.
“You don’t have to tell him that I was stupid enough to marry a gay guy.”
“Do you know, why, I sent Mr. Aikawa… or is it Kunihiko, now… to see you?” Miho posed evenly.
“Because you love to see me suffer?” Jazz asked back, her tone tired but full of sarcasm.
“Other than that of course,” Miho smirked, leaning back again. “Because even before you’d actually articulated, as you actually did just now, that you even wanted ‘any chance with’ Mr. Aikawa, it was clear he wants the same.”
Jazz groaned in frustration. “Of course he does! I fucked his brains out! You know that this happens sometimes, he’s just projecting some feelings into this – this thing between us, but they are not real! I mean, he came to us because he is looking for love. That is why I wanted you to find him a nice wife.”
Actually saying it hurt. Even thinking about it hurt every once in a while. But Jazz wasn’t stupid. She could come across as a bit naïve or careless, but she wasn’t stupid. Except for that one time she dove head first into a marriage with someone she fell head over heels with she usually didn’t make rash or unreflected decisions.
“He wants someone to love, but he doesn’t want me.” It didn’t matter what she wanted. She would not fuck this up even more.
“I AM finding him a nice wife,” Miho insisted. “A petulant, jaded, slightly damaged, barely self-deluding one, but a nice one non-the less. Mr. Aikawa didn’t mentioned you over and over just because you had some sweet sex – man like that, money like his, he’s had all the great fucks he can ever want in his life. No, he left here the moment your location was from my lips like the devil was snapping at his heels because he, like you, made a much deeper connection.“
Jazz wished so much for this to be true, so much that it hurt, but she couldn’t believe it. She was afraid. Handing him over to Miho, distancing herself from him wasn’t only meant to protect him, it was mostly to protect her.
All the flirting, the dating other men, the sex with her clients – it didn’t mean anything to her. Just some fun, nothing serious, nothing that could hurt her. And still she was sitting here, fighting her tears, trying to be reasonable.
“You know that I can’t do this…” she whispered. “You know it… and I thought you would help me, not make it worse…” She took a deep breath.
“Tell him we are sorry. He can get a refund if he wants to. I’m done with this.” Jazz got up and left Miho’s office, practically fleeing it to lock herself into her own office, and cried.
Miho clicked her tongue, and stared blankly at her laptop screen for a moment.
Of course it hurt to see Jazz that way, but someone had to dish out the tough love, and that someone was Miho.
She cracked her knuckles, placed her hands to the keyboard, and send Jazz an email to be found whenever she checked it next.
Subject: Re: Aikawa Kunihiko
Message: You want to be childish? Two can play at that game. No. I won’t call him. I won’t apologise. I won’t tap-out on your behalf. YOU do it if that is what you ACTUALLY want. Just know that if you somehow do manage to pull off that piece of bullshit, he WILL be married within three months, I will make it my single-minded mission.
It took Jazz half an hour to get over with this ugly crying fit. Honestly, did really people exist who looked pretty while crying? She doubted it. But she had no meetings today and although her eyes were red and swollen it was nothing a bit of concealer and new mascara couldn’t fix.
The mail from Miho didn’t help at all. Jazz took a few deep breaths and started writing a letter to Kunihiko. He deserved to be free of guilt after all. He deserved to be happy, even if Jazz couldn’t be.
Dear Mr. Aikawa,
please accept our deepest apology about the incident concerning Miss Mann. Her relationship status has changed already some time ago yet she wasn’t able to file a divorce due to personal reasons. Her job is in no relation to the end of her marriage. Unfortunately Miss Fujiwara wasn’t aware of that detail; to no time it was her intention to mislead you.
We regret if this has caused you distress and offer you a full refund of your payment.
If you want to continue our cooperation we will gladly make sure that no future inconveniences will occur again and we offer a special support of your case with a guaranteed marriage after three months.
Sincerely, MJS marriage matchmaking agency
Jazz sealed it with the company stamp and shoved it into an envelope before she could change her mind.