Of course Miho had a perfectly serviceable office, but after the last couple of days and what had occurred before that… it wasn’t that she didn’t WANT to go into the office, and she certainly wasn’t avoiding Selina, not even Jazz – despite her text message – it was more maybe that Miho hadn’t really intended on having to change the business plan.
She was thrown, not that she would say it aloud, nor did the studious expression on her face betray it. Her planner was open at her right hand, her laptop open before her, mobile phone to the left and two empty cups of what might once have been skinny cappuccinos behind the screen – there were two test drives in her schedule at the end of the week.
“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath.
Selina was still out of commission, and it wasn’t like Miho could ask Jazz to cover the date scenarios because she was in love with Kuni, even if she couldn’t admit it to herself.
When her mobile phone beeped a text message, somewhat grumpily Miho picked it up, and in that moment her expression changed. Whatever it said made her smile and tap out a quick response before putting the phone back down, noting Jazz’s message there in her history.
“Yeah, this is going to hurt,” she exhaled – a sigh but not one of frustration this time.
Though her lips were pursed, and her eyes wandered to her left hand – she would have to tell both Jazz and Selina, and she fully expected to cop a serve.
“You’re nuts,” she told herself, shaking her head, but her expression was wry. “But… worth it.”
Nuts maybe, but in love just the same, and for a change, she’d been the weak one – which she didn’t really like.
“Need to get back to being a bitch,” she smirked, then looked over her shoulder for a waitress – she needed MORE coffee.
Another busy day was lying before Jazz when she hurried into the café to get a quick whatever with lots of caffeine and sugar to go on her way into the office. After that date with Yu she was thrown off the track, struggling to find her footing again. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? She had managed before. There were also good things happening, Riki Yanase had called her, told her that one of the profiles she had sent him had piqued his interest. Good. She had to get some matchmaking done, that kept her busy and seeing the happy couples almost didn’t hurt at all.
“A triple espresso to go, please,” she said to the barista with a smile before she glanced around the café, just to spot Miho sitting on a desk. Why wasn’t she in her office? Why hadn’t she been there at all for – Jazz wasn’t even sure. A day? Two? Well, now was the chance to find out. She took her cup and paid with a smile, thanked the barista and made her way over to Miho’s table.
Which is entirely – so coincidentally – when Miho had turned her head, just in time to see Jazz approaching.
“Ooo-kay,” she murmured, and may even have looked uncharacteristically nervous?
Anything is possible.
She tried, however, to pretend like the last proper conversation they’d had, had been an argument – though yanno, Miho was totally in the right – and smiled a blithe smile the moment she made eye contact.
“Morning,” she greeted.
Yep, that passed for casual.
Miho even shoved some of her crap aside on the table so Jazz had somewhere to put her coffee down – so thoughtful.
After having worked together for so long, and having known even longer, Jazz could tell that Miho wasn’t exactly thrilled to see her. It wasn’t that Jazz was completely over the moon either, but they were both adults and should be able to act as such. Especially since Jazz had been thinking a lot in the last few days.
“Morning. Are you coming to the office today? There’s mail for you,” she said and sat down, although there was a lot she wanted to ask that had nothing to do with mail or even work.
Well, maybe it was a bit work related, after all she had seen Miho with a client in a situation that wasn’t exactly professional. And Miho knew, at least if she had checked her phone ever since.
“There is a rumour circulating that I might manage to make it to my office before lunch,” Miho smirked – typical Miho bravado. “I need a secretary. Do you think Selina would go for that? I mean, for what we end up charging clients to cover your missing panties, surely that’d pay a secretarial wage.”
The waitress arrived, hearing the words ‘panties’ and ‘wage’, but she managed not to look too puzzled.
“Another skinny cap for me please,” Miho smiled at her, and the woman departed.
Jazz huffed in feigned indignation.
“Just so you know, last time I actually managed to get back WITH my panties on. But I think Selina will give you hell. Remember how she reacted when we joked and said we needed an intern?”
Selina had a lot to prove and running a successful business seemed her way of coping with some things. Not that Jazz was keen on failing, but in the end she could always go back home if everything went downhill.
Miho was certain there was no downhill, and shit, maybe… MAYBE… Selina would have to seriously consider that intern now, since there’d soon be two less people to complete test drives.
Because regardless of what was going on in Miho’s own life, she hadn’t stopped plotting Jazz’s happiness, whether Jazz was/would be happy about it or not. That really isn’t a contradiction.
The issue at that moment, however, the one they were busily dancing around most indelicately with obviously contrived idle banter, was not really about Jazz at all.
“Sorry I didn’t answer your text,” Miho apologised, and actually looked down at her planner, away from Jazz’s face.
Apologising was difficult for Miho, it REALLY was.
“FYI, I WAS on my way out – the elevator wasn’t my idea, and for a change of pace, all that happened in there was… an uncomfortable ride to the roof bar.”
But damn, Miho couldn’t hide the tweaking of her mouth. It wasn’t a tell that she was lying, just that the memory was, perhaps, not ALL uncomfortable.
Jazz tilted her head slightly.
“It’s fine. I guess you were – busy.”
She had to fight her own grin because she had a very good idea what had kept Miho busy. Or rather, who. The only thing she didn’t know was if Miho had simply broken a rule, or if she had scorched the land and salted it to make sure there would never again grow something on it – figuratively speaking.
“I have lost a client that day, by the way. He paid his bill up to now, but… well, it looks as if he had to sleep with someone else before he realized how much in love he was already. That was awkward.”
She chuckled dryly.
At this Miho seemed genuinely surprised.
“You? Lose a client? That’s rare,” she agreed with a slow nod. “He must really be in love with whoever she or he is to walk after all that money spent.”
Well that didn’t ring a friggin’ bell at all.
When the waitress returned, there was a brief reprieve, and Miho smiled and thanked her, before lifting the cup to her lips to lick up some of the chocolate dusted foam.
“And well… it’s funny you mention losing clients really…”
That sentence kind of trailed off a bit as she hazarded a sip of the hot liquid.
“Yeah, but as long as he’s happy now,” Jazz shrugged and a small smile played on her lips. It was all about making people happy after all.
And then she froze.
She stared at Miho, back at her hand that held the cup.
Back at Miho’s face.
“Holy shit…” she muttered and put her own cup down.
“Miho, that’s – what is that?” Jazz pointed at the glittery ring on Miho’s hand.
Miho’s cup lowered slowly to the table, and she too stared at her left hand.
She remembered the exact moment she’d stopped wearing her wedding and engagement ring after her husband’s death; it hurt, even now, sharp and tearing, and she grimaced. There was no regret in placing this new ring there of course, but it did remind her, constantly in fact, of something she had sort of wanted to forget.
The pain that is, not the lover she’d lost.
“Right, I DID lose a client, but I gained a ahh… fiancé,” she declared, pinching her lower lip between her teeth before looking at Jazz again. “Didn’t think I could just, text you back with a, ‘having a great time, getting married lol’,” she added.
For a second Jazz was speechless, a very rare occasion. She could only stare at Miho. But then a huge grin appeared on her face, the excitement bubbled over and Jazz squealed, actually squealed, loud enough to attract attention from other guests in the café.
“Oh my god! Miho, that is – I’m so happy for you!” She hugged Miho tightly, ignoring the struggle.
“Lemme see.” Without waiting for Miho to actually react Jazz grabbed her hand and studied the ring.
“God, it’s huge. And beautiful.” After a quick glance at Miho’s face she added: “And I don’t even want to hear that his other accessory is also huge and beautiful. But I want to hear everything else. It’s this cop, right? Are you-“
Jazz’s expression grew serious now. “Are you sure about this? I mean… you know. Are you okay?”
Clearly Jazz’s momentary speechlessness gave way to this verbal torrent, and it first squished the breath out of Miho, then tried to sweep her away with questions and all this bubbling excitement Miho herself hadn’t yet really come to feel.
Too much to sort out. Shit, parents to meet.
Still, she smiled, because suddenly there seemed to be no more tension between them.
“Jeez, you’d think I’d asked you to be bridesmaid or something,” she muttered, “which I’m not going to, since that implies you have a choice, which you don’t – nor does Selina not that she knows yet either… ahh… am I okay?”
She thought on this for a second, letting Jazz scrutinise the ring up close.
“Apparently it was his grandmother’s.”
Then glanced at her phone. Goto’s text had been one word.
And that had been enough to make her feel all warm and fuzzy and ‘omg so Notebook in love’, it almost made her sick, or maybe just the narrator.
“Yes to the big and beautiful other accessory whether you want to hear it or not, and yes to the cop part.”
There her smile turned wry.
“As for am I sure, am I okay…? I wouldn’t have said yes if I was unsure, that would just be cruel – truth is…”
… truth is, unlike yourself deluding ass I actually managed to admit to myself I loved him…cough… not that Miho would say that and ruin the moment.
“… the truth is we were already falling in love, every, appointment and the only thing really holding me back wasn’t office protocol but fear, fear of going through what I already know is hell. But you know, maybe I figured denying myself happiness is also hell.”
Yeah, that was a WAY more subtle message – good job Miho!
“It’s really beautiful… and his grandmother’s? Damn, that guy knows how to go for the kill, huh?” Reluctantly Jazz let go of Miho’s hand.
“Selina doesn’t know yet? Hm… better tell her soon. You know she doesn’t like to be left out. More importantly, haven’t you still some clients? You can’t do the reports anymore , that much is certain. We might have to reschedule some appointments but I will take care of that, no problem.”
She still grinned, completely happy for her friend.
“Ha! You know that Sel and I have been event planner, so no need for you to get a wedding planner. We will plan the perfect wedding for you, just you wait! And we have to go out and celebrate this! Oh, and we have to meet your fiancé. Sorry, he won’t get you before he has convinced us that he’s worth it. So much to do…”
For a second she remembered that there wasn’t much time for all this. In a week Jazz would leave – and she hadn’t told Miho yet.
“Jeez girl, slow down,” Miho laughed. “This isn’t a shotgun wedding, it’s not happening tomorrow, so there’ll be heaps of time for you to go nuts, not that I’m much for a big deal to be honest.”
The whole rescheduling of appointments bothered her of course.
“As for rescheduling, I can manage. In fact, I’ve already gotten a hold of Kyobashi to let him know we’ll probably be looking for a couple of extra test drivers; they’ll need to be skilled up, but that’s no biggy – he can do most of the ‘grunt work’ so to speak. The clients I have who have indicated they wished to participate in the date scenario, well, I’ll tell them myself it’s off the cards, and that I don’t need it to find them their happy match – if they want to argue then really, I think that says they were just looking to bend me over some furniture or something.”
“Everyone wants that of course, but not really the right mindset for a guy looking for a wife, right?”
Jazz frowned. “You know that wasn’t why we came up with the idea in the beginning. It was to make sure that our FEMALE clients get the best possible consulting and won’t have to go through meaningless dates and horrible sex like we did back then. And until Kyobashi can recommend us someone who can take your place in these test drives – not that I think ANYONE could take your place – I still can fill in. Although my schedule is a bit tight the next week…”
She bit her bottom lip. Should she tell Miho now?
“How about this? I take over your clients if they insist on the date scenario and you try to find a match for that café owner on my list. You know, the young guy that kept me up all night. He has rejected every single offer I have made him so far.”
That was a good deal, at least in Jazz’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, love, but if you think I’m going to let you sleep with any of my clients when you haven’t sorted your own shit out, you’ve another thing coming,” Miho snorted. “I don’t want you being that client you just lost, then really regretting it. I’ll deal with my clients, this is my doing, and if need be, I’ll refund them from my own pocket. If you want me to take over the final stage for café guy though, I can totally do that.”
She then narrowed her eyes on Jazz.
Lip biting, uh huh.
“So what gives?”
“Awww… you have this hot guy in your portfolio… oh well, let’s not argue about that now. We should go out for drinks to celebrate. Tell Selina already so we can have a small party tonight. Or tomorrow, I don’t care. As long as I get some cocktails soon I’m fine.”
Jazz simply ignored Miho’s last question.
“I have another appointment soon, I better go to the office now. Will you accompany me or rather come later?” She grabbed her cup and looked at Miho expectantly.
Stubborn versus stubborn.
“All my clients are hot, but really? Misdirection? Come on Jazz, think you’re the only one who can tell when her friends are saying everything?”
Miho closed her laptop over and placed her planner on top.
“You know I learned some interesting sadist techniques from this one client, and I’ll torture you to get answers if I have to,” she added with a wicked grin.
“You would torture me for fun, so don’t you think you can scare me.” Jazz shrugged and waited for Miho to gather her things together.
“But you are right, I have to get my stuff sorted out. That’s what I’m doing now actually. Get the apartment renovated. Get the divorce done. Ai wants me to come and tell his parents but I think he can manage that on his own.” Jazz huffed a dry laughter. As if he would really manage anything like that.
“I – I think I need some time off. Without clients and work and – you know. So next week I start some extended holidays but I will be there for any wedding talk you need.”
“You want time off but you also want to take on my clients?” Miho laughed. “You know all three of us are pretty messed up.”
Shaking her head, she slid all the things into her bag and pulled the strap to her shoulder.
“Have YOU told Selina?” she then asked, pausing to chug half her cappuccino before beginning to walk. “Me off date scenario duty and you out for, how long?”
“Can’t help being greedy. A girl can get everything she wants after all, can’t she?” Well, maybe not everything.
“Sel knows. She doesn’t know how long exactly, but to be honest I don’t know either. She wasn’t really happy about it as you can imagine. And I think when she learns that you are out of business she will really need some alcohol. Or sex. Maybe both.”
After a short moment Jazz gathered all her courage.
“Can you do something for me? If – if he’s still your client, can you find someone nice for him? I know I messed that up and I know it’s not fair to drag you into this, but I can’t do that on my own. Or at all. I – I might be away for some time. Enough time to make good on your promise. Or your threat, whatever you want to call it.”
Hadn’t Miho said she would find someone for him within 3 months? Jazz only wanted him to be happy in the end. She couldn’t be any more selfish right now.
“It was a promise of course,” Miho replied, stopping on the pavement just outside the café. “Are you running? Is that hat this vacation is?”
Ya – Miho shifted back into tough love mode. Still, that promise-threat about finding Kuni a wife? She meant to do it, and in fact was already working on it.
Jazz shook her head.
“No, not running. More like – letting go. Making a clean cut and try to start again. You know how that works. I can’t drag around some of the stuff any longer. Might even sell the apartment, I don’t know yet.”
They reached the office building and Jazz was grateful, she didn’t know what else to tell Miho now.
“Go and tell Selina. She might be angry at first but she will be really happy for you. We both are.”
With a wave she went off into her office.
After telling Selina about her shiny new commitment, Miho flopped down into her comfy office chair and took out her phone. She didn’t call Goto, after all, he had his own work during the day which really didn’t allow him to take calls as freely as Miho’s job did. Instead she shot him another text, apologising for having to cancel the dinner date she’d agreed to less than an hour ago.
When her phone rang in her hand she was surprised, but smiled and answered.
“Maybe I should have called you after all,” she said in greeting, leaning back.
“You just caught me at a good time,” Goto told her, a smile in his voice. “Miss Mann took our news well then?”
“Better than I thought she would,” Miho admitted. “No drama at all except perhaps for her super level of excitement and the declaration that she and Selina will be planning an extravaganza of a ceremony.”
Goto chuckled, and it put warmth in Miho’s cheeks.
Jesus Miho, you’re not seventeen anymore.
But the sound of his laugh was so pleasant and genuine, she just couldn’t help it.
Got it bad.
“Is that what you want?” he asked – a genuine question not fearful of the answer.
“A huge fuss?” she sought in clarification, but didn’t wait for it. “Nah – though you know, this is your first marriage so, if you want to go all out I’m fine with that too. Just, no white for me.”
“You in white is hard to imagine,” he mused, and immediately Miho guffawed.
“Are you trying to suggest, Mr. Goto, that I’m somehow not pure enough to wear white?”
“Ah no, no of course not,” Goto rushed, in full and flustered retreat. “I just meant, you know that… you…”
“That I couldn’t possibly be pure, because what woman who makes a man moan like I’ve made you moan, could be?” she offered lightly, knowing full well where ever he was taking the call, he was blushing furiously.
On the other end Miho heard some shuffling, like he was switching the phone to his other ear.
“If I start thinking about that right now, I’ll be in trouble,” he admitted, and now Miho laughed.
“You have your own office right? I could always swing by and help get you out of trouble,” she offered – in no way innocently.
“You are trouble,” he asserted, and she could tell he was shaking his head. “And you can wear whatever colour you like.”
“I feel like we’re jumping the gun just a little with ceremony preparations, when I haven’t even met your folks,” she chuckled.
“We should do that, soon,” he stated, and now he just sounded happy. “But your text made it sound like work’s a bit up in the air for you right now?”
“Yeah, Jazz is going on ‘extended vacation’, but you know when she suggested she might sell her apartment, that makes it sound a whole lot more permanent,” Miho replied. “Which makes it difficult for me to get her and Mr. Aikawa together. I’m going to really have to get my plot on.”
“You sure that’s what she wants? What he wants?” he asked, and Miho was already nodding before he’d finished.
“Yes and yes, without a single doubt,” she affirmed. “She’s having trouble seeing beyond her baggage – familiar story I know, but if I can see the light, then I’m going to shine it the hell into her eyes until she opens them and sees it too.”
“Remind me not to get on your bad side,” he joked.
“It’s bound to happen at some time or other,” she acknowledged. “But you’re cute, so that’ll work in your favour.”
“Do you think, maybe, you could come up with a more masculine descriptor?” he sighed.
“Why? Are you insecure about your manhood?” she questioned, then grinned like an idiot. “Because you shouldn’t be – your manhood is…”
“Miho!” he interrupted, and she let it go.
“Okay okay. Anyway, I’m sorry for redacting my yes to dinner. I want to see you but by the time Jazz and Selina are done with me, it won’t be pretty.”
“Now that is something I can’t imagine,” he said affectionately. “But, if you need someone to hold back your hair, I’m your man.”
“Yeah, I guess you are,” she smiled, exhaling. “We should definitely catch up tomorrow.”
“Dinner at my place?” he offered. “I’ll even tidy up.”
“Ha ha, you know I know you’re shocking at that.”
“The effort should mean something, surely,” he responded.
“Yeah okay, we’ll see,” she snickered. “Seven-thirty?”
“Perfect,” he agreed.
“I’m going to wear white lingerie, just so you can see how well you think it works,” she added cheekily.