Jazz felt strange, this had been the first fight between her and Kunihiko but it had actually been looming for a while now, casting its shadow over their happiness. He had a problem with the fact that she had slept with quite a few men, before and after meeting him, but he had also said he could live with it. Obviously he couldn’t.
Jazz sighed. She stubbornly refused to feel guilty, she had warned him, had given him the chance to change his mind but he had assured her he was fine with her past. Only he wasn’t. The comments about the men she had been with, the jealousy he had shown, the insecurity wasn’t only a burden for him, but also for her.
Although it was way before her usual time to get up Jazz left the bed and tiptoed into the bathroom, got ready quickly and dressed for the day, having already decided to skip breakfast to get out of the apartment as fast and silently as possible so she wouldn’t wake Kunihiko up. She didn’t want to face him now.
Her caution was unnecessary, he had already left, maybe he hadn’t even slept on the couch at all, it was hard to tell. Now that she thought about it, they hadn’t shared breakfast or dinner for a while now, one of them always out or at work. They did meet up for lunch every other day, and they spent the nights in the same bed. Except for last night.
Burying herself in the bed sounded tempting but she had appointments that day and wouldn’t miss them just because she was having trouble in her personal life. She was a professional after all.
After a first stop in the office Jazz hurried towards Larme to meet Liana Starling, future Mrs. Ishigami, and pick a cake for her wedding. She spotted her through the huge window already, quickly checked the time and sighed in relief when she saw that she was still in time.
“Liana, good to see you. Being engaged suits you, you’re looking great,” Jazz complimented the bride to be.
“Thank you, we are very happy,” Liana said with a smile. “We met Miss Fujiwara the other day. Did you know that her fiancé works with mine?”
“I’m aware of that, and so is Miss Fujiwara. It might have been a surprise for Goto, though.” After all he hadn’t read the reports.
“So, uhm, she said she… she wasn’t in charge of creating the profile of…” Liana began but Jazz interrupted her, still smiling.
“I’m sorry, but I won’t talk about that. Confidentiality, you understand. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like me talking with Ishigami-san about your date with Baba, would you? If you feel uncomfortable working with me now I can recommend you another good wedding planner, but I hope we can simply move on from that topic and create the perfect wedding for you and the man that loves you.”
Liana nodded slowly and then smiled. Her deep blue eyes sparkled and she leaned towards Jazz as if to tell her a secret.
“I can’t wait to try the custard pudding cake. If it’s any good I already know which one I’ll pick.”
Jazz smiled back and nodded.
“Well, then let’s start trying cakes.”
It was a bit weird to have Aki serve them cake, but Jazz got used to act as if she didn’t know her clients when she met them outside of work.
“Thank you,” she just said and smiled warmly when he sat down a plate with chocolate cake in front of them.
“You are very welcome,” Aki replied with his usual smile, making Jazz blink a few times.
“Oh, this is good. I love chocolate,” Liana exclaimed and took another bite of the layered chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and frosting.
Jazz took a forkful of cake and carefully ate it. It melted in her mouth and made her sigh in contentment.
“If I had to choose that would be my pick,” she admitted but knew that her opinion wasn’t important here. Still, it was a fantastic cake.
“It’s the first one, shouldn’t you at least try the others?” Aki asked, smile unwavering.
“Sometimes you know what you want the moment you see it, no other options needed,” Jazz replied airily, earning herself a chuckle.
But of course she still tried the other cakes.
“So, which one should it be?” she asked Liana after trying five different cakes.
“The lemon one was good, but not good enough. I liked the chocolate cake and actually the custard pudding one was really good. The rest was okay, but not what I want.”
Jazz jotted that down in her notebook, furrowed her brow briefly and motioned for Aki to come over.
“Say, would it be possible to combine two cakes? To have both the chocolate one and the pudding cake?”
Aki tilted his head for a moment.
“I have to ask our pastry chef, but I think it’s possible. We can send you an offer and then you can decide.”
Jazz nodded and thanked him, waited for Liana to finish her cake and got ready to leave. On a whim she ordered some cake to go and once she and her client parted ways she quickly called a number she knew by heart now.
“Osanai? It’s Jazz Mann, I’m wondering if Mr. Aikawa already had lunch today.”
“Oh, Miss Mann. No, he hasn’t. He is very busy at the moment, too busy to even leave the office.”
Jazz made a decision.
“Do you think it’s possible for me to bring him lunch? So he won’t have to leave but still gets something to eat.”
“He is in a meeting right now but afterwards it should be possible. In half an hour maybe.”
She smiled. Jazz hated arguments, she preferred to actually have a harmonious relationship. So even if she thought herself to be in the right she still wanted to make up and act like an adult instead of sulking all day long.
“That would be perfect, but please don’t tell him about my visit. I want it to be a surprise.”
“Understood. I will announce you to the security, though, so you can come right up.”
“Thank you, Osanai. Till later then.”
With her smile even growing Jazz looked for the closest convenience store to get some kind of bento for Kunihiko. And something for Osanai.
Half an hour later she was standing in front of Kunihiko’s office, her heart pounding in a mixture of excitement and anxiety. She hoped that he had cooled off enough for them to talk about this like adults – and maybe even make up like adults. There was something about office sex that made her knees weak.
She waved towards Osanai and put a bento on his desk, raising her index finger to her lips to tell him not to give the surprise away by talking to her. After a quick knock against his office door she simply entered, figuring Osanai would have stopped her if Kunihiko was still in a meeting or on the phone.
He was neither, instead he stared at the computer screen, the crease between his brows deep and his whole expression dark. Maybe he was still upset about their fight but Jazz figured that there was more behind his bad mood lately. He must have been really busy.
“Lunch delivery,” she cheerfully announced just for him to stare at her as if she was a mirage.
“Jazz? Sorry, did we have an appointment?”
“I didn’t know that I need an appointment to see you now. Although that might explain why we haven’t had dinner once in the last two weeks,” she said, realizing that she still was rather miffed.
Okay, that start wasn’t the best but she could still make it.
“I brought you lunch. And cake,” she smiled and set both bags down on his desk. “I guess you haven’t eaten yet.”
Kunihiko sighed but turned away from his desk, ran his hands over his face and got up.
“You’re right. Lunch sounds good and I wanted to take a break anyway.”
His small smile relaxed Jazz, the tension didn’t vanish completely but at least decreased. Even more when he came closer and kissed her briefly.
“Thank you,” he muttered and for a moment everything was fine between them. They ate, sitting on a small couch, and talked a bit, not about their fight, though.
“What’s going on? You are working a lot lately,” Jazz wanted to know but he only flashed her a troubled smile.
“We are having some problems right now, some business partners are a bit – unreliable. But don’t worry, it will be fine.”
“If there’s anything I can do…” she offered but he shook his head.
“You can’t help me with that, but thanks.”
His tone indicated that the discussion was over but Jazz still was uneasy. Did he keep secrets from her? Well, she had to trust him, after all she always said that trust and honesty were the most important things in a relationship. So she changed the topic. Jazz put her bento down and turned a bit so she was pressed against his side.
“I might not be able to help with your work, but I certainly could do something else for you. Maybe take your mind off things?”
Her hand rested on his thigh and she could feel him tense under her touch.
“Is that really the only thing you can think of?” he curtly huffed and Jazz blinked but pulled her hand back.
“What? Now I‘m not even allowed to touch you anymore?”
“That’s not it. It’s just…” he sighed and scooted away from her a bit.
“Just what?” she asked. “Kunihiko, just what?”
“Not everything in life can be solved with sex, okay?” He scowled at her and for a moment she didn’t know what to say.
“Okay… first of all, I have NO IDEA what got your panties in a twist like that, but I’d say as long as it has nothing to do with me you better calm down before snapping at me like that. And secondly,” she had risen on her feet, the anger she had felt last night back in full force, “I’m not trying to solve anything. I thought you might enjoy a bit of attention, but obviously I was mistaken.”
“It’s not about ‘attention’ and you know that,” he growled.
“Then what is it about?” she challenged him to answer, but he kept silent.
“Is it still about jealousy? About the men I have been with before you?”
She forced herself to stay calm, to not yell at him. Osanai storming in wasn’t what she needed right now.
“No. But I have to admit that doesn’t help. I start wondering if there’s even one man-”
He stopped, obviously biting his tongue.
Jazz narrowed her eyes on him.
“One man what? One man I haven’t slept with?”
Her hands were trembling, she was so angry that she could barely keep her voice down. She knew it. She had known that one day he would hold this against her. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did she ever think he would be really okay with this? With her?
“There is one. My ex-husband. But you already knew that. Aside from him? You better assume I slept with every man I ever met, that will save you some brooding,” she hissed and grabbed her purse and stormed out of the office, ignoring when he called her name.
She directly rushed into the lady’s room, hid in a stall and forced the tears down. Did they just break up? Was it over now? What the hell did just happen? Jazz was close to hyperventilating, she covered her mouth with her hands to prevent her sobs from escaping when she heard the restroom door and the chatter of two, maybe three female employees.
“Did you hear? Another project was cancelled.”
“Really? That’s the third one this week.”
“If that goes on like this they might fire some people.”
Definitely three different voices.
“I heard that Mr. Aikawa angered some influential bigshot somewhere.”
The first voice again.
“You mean that woman that came here the other day?”
“You don’t know her?”
Second voice again.
“No, do you?” the first one asked.
“Yes. She’s the mother of that CEO from that real estate company.”
Jazz’s heart stopped for a moment. That couldn’t be… Ai’s mother? Was it really Akane Kujuro? Wasn’t it enough for her to ruin Jazz’s life and take her apartment away? What did she want with Kunhiko? And why didn’t he tell her about that? Didn’t he trust her at all? Well, she would show him what she was able to do.
Not even 30 minutes later Jazz stormed into Ai’s apartment, knowing he was home.
“Jazz, what brings you here?” he asked innocently but Jazz was so angry that she didn’t even greet him, instead she rushed past him into the living room, opened a cabinet and grabbed a bottle of booze.
“You are a spineless coward, Ai Kujuro! Since when is your mother on this revenge trip?” She could hear Kou coming from the kitchen but she simply ignored him.
“What are you talking about?” Ai asked back.
“What I am talking about? I’m talking about your mother! I’m talking about the fact that you are suing me out of my apartment! That your company is responsible for several business deals falling through for Aikawa.com! I’m talking about your mother going all out because she’s still miffed about our divorce, something YOU were meant to tell her! Instead I had to, and in the worst possible way!”
She took a sip from the bottle and sputtered, the alcohol too strong for her to just gulp it down in her anger.
“Whoa, whoa, easy there. I am suing you?” Ai was standing in front of her now, brows furrowed.
“Not you, that damn company of yours! You didn’t know?”
He shook his head and briefly glanced over at Kou.
“No. I mean, I gave it to you in the first place.”
“Well,” Jazz said and put the bottle down, not attempting to take another sip, “maybe you should grow a pair and go to your mother to tell her that there is no need to punish me and everyone around me since divorcing me doesn’t hurt you at all. I mean, I know she doesn’t like me, but this is going too far.”
“Don’t you think you’re exaggerating?” Ai carefully asked just to get a very dirty look from Jazz.
“Oh please! She’s still angry that I didn’t want to quit my job to be a housewife and pop out two or three grandchildren!” she chuckled wryly. “Maybe I should tell her why I never got pregnant in the first place.”
Kou and Ai shared a look.
“Jazz… I’m sorry that this is happening to you but maybe you’re overreacting,” Ai slowly said.
“You think? Because I think I should be ripping your balls off, you won’t need them to make babies after all. And even that would be a pretty light punishment for the fact that you haven’t told your mother about our divorce like we said. If you would have just done that she wouldn’t have been so shocked when she ran into me and Kunihiko the other day and she wouldn’t have thought I was cheating on you. Pretty ironic, by the way.” Jazz was in full flow now. “I was fine with being your pretend wife as long as it was just about you and me, but now… shit, Ai, there are jobs at stake. I mean, forget the apartment, I can find something else, but this is really shitty. She’s punishing people who have nothing to do with the whole mess between you and me!”
“Ai,” Kou said urgently when he saw Jazz’s expression. “I think you owe her that much.”
It was strange, although Kou wasn’t exactly a calm and shy person he rarely spoke up when Jazz was around, maybe he just didn’t like her, maybe he actually felt bad for putting her through the whole faked marriage while having an affair with her husband the whole time. Jazz didn’t know and didn’t care, she wasn’t that keen on spending time with them anyway. But now he took her side and she was grateful for it.
“I’m just not ready to tell her yet,” Ai sighed but Jazz glared at him.
“I’m sorry, Ai, I know it’s a very private thing, but I won’t allow her to destroy the company of Kunihiko just because she’s petty. If you don’t tell her I will. I have more than enough proof, she will believe me in the end. She has to.”
There was no way for Jazz to back down now. She would show Kunihiko that she was capable of cleaning up the mess that she created, although involuntarily and unintentional. But this was still on her somehow. Maybe if she had tried harder to get along with Ai’s mother. Maybe if she had be more careful after the divorce. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
And afterwards? Jazz sighed, it was already late and she was tired, emotionally drained now that the anger slowly subsided, only leaving the hurt behind. Did Kunihiko really call her a slut? Maybe not verbatim, but it was the gist of it, right?
“If you don’t tell her by tomorrow noon, I will. Sorry, I can’t let this slide any longer.”
Without giving Ai the chance to reply Jazz turned around and left.
Sleep. She just wanted to go to sleep now, maybe curl up in bed and cry a bit. But she didn’t have a bed. Back to Kunihiko’s apartment wasn’t an option, her own place was already cleared and she didn’t feel like explaining this whole mess to anyone. With a sigh Jazz headed towards a hotel she knew, glad that she had visited enough to know which one would be a good choice now.
After an unpleasant night, full of doubt and without much sleep Jazz trudged into her office, glad that she didn’t have early appointments. She was still waiting for a message from Ai and she really hoped that he would have the guts to face his mother and not cowardly let her deadline pass so Jazz would have to do this herself. Kunihiko hadn’t tried to contact her either and although it was some kind of relief, not having to deal with this on top of everything else, there was a sting she couldn’t deny. Was it really over now?
Well, she figured it had been only a matter of time until things went pear shaped, lucky in love wasn’t meant for her after all. She wouldn’t go back to do the reports, it just didn’t feel right anymore.
“Didn’t you wear that outfit yesterday?” Miho’s voice dragged her back to the present.
“Yeah, minus the wrinkles,” Jazz wryly answered.
Miho walked into the office and sat down in the chair in front of Jazz’s desk.
And Jazz told her.
And the more Jazz revealed, the darker Miho’s eyes seemed to get. There may or may not have been the crack of knuckles as she balled her fists so tightly all blood fled from beneath the skin.
“I wasn’t wrong about Aikawa,” she declared, her tone tight, taut – that calm before the storm type of restraint that warned destruction was imminent. “That stupid fucker loves you or he wouldn’t be so manic about our work – but that cow Kujuro? You know I was a ninja assassin in a past life right? I’ll take that bitch out, just say the word.”
Jazz laughed, the first genuine laughter since she had – well, since the dance off two days ago.
“It’s fine, Miho, I think I can get that sorted out. Somehow. Unfortunately not without outing Ai in the process and I really want to avoid that. It’s not on me to tell his mother but you bet I will without batting an eye if necessary.” She sighed and rested her head on the desk.
“Just waiting for high noon to draw my gun, though.”
Miho shook her head and glared unmerciful death at victims not actually present.
“It’s not fine,” she snorted, and seemed to be looking for some other words that maybe shouldn’t be articulated, or published, anywhere, ever. “So, you’re bunking with me until this shit is sorted right?”
“Depends. What did you do on the couch? No, don’t tell me. I better not bring my blacklight, but yeah, if it’s okay with you I’d rather stay with you than going back to a hotel. It’s rather – it reminds me too much of all the occasions on which I frequented hotels.”
Jazz made a face and sighed again. She didn’t feel guilty, there was no shame, no handprints on her body and soul. Whatever she did so far happened with her consent and in most cases she enjoyed it, very much so. There was nothing she truly regretted and she wouldn’t start pretending it was otherwise. And still she felt responsible for the whole mess she was in now. If she hadn’t been so stupid to belief Kunihiko would be really fine with her experiences and number of lovers she wouldn’t be where she was right now.
“Remind me to start acting like a fuckin’ adult already, will you?”
“You’d have to keep track of those panties if you did that,” Miho chortled, but there was still murder in her gaze. “Heh, forget the couch, you can snuggle with me, I’mma kick Goto out for a while.”
Jazz knew her well enough to not expect her to sit on her hands – Miho was a meddler, through and through. Miho told herself that by virtue of Jazz telling her all this, it was permission, if not clear instruction, for her to butt in and say her piece – also Miho’s own honour had been challenged.
“I’m a bad influence am I?” she sniffed, hazel eyes glinting. “Ooooh Aikawa, you are so dead.”
“Can’t wait to get me into your bed again, can you? Poor Goto, you’re not even married yet and you are already making him sleep on the couch.” Jazz laughed lightly. “No, it’s okay. Couch is fine, but please, don’t make me listen to you going at it like bunnies.” She quickly checked her phone again. Still no sign from Ai. He only had two hours left before Jazz would take matters in her own hand. And she really wasn’t keen on that.
“Let me treat you to lunch as token of my gratitude, how about it?”
“Goto will live,” she smirked. “He doesn’t like glitter much so I’m informed. And you know he has his own apartment to sleep in right? It’ll be just you, me, and my wine cellar until this is done.”
She then shook her head.
“You know you don’t need to pay off your best friend to take care of your right?” she said, rolling her eyes. “But you know, boozy lunch works for me.”
Lunch was boozy.
But not so boozy that Miho wasn’t in full possession of her faculties… and her rage. She knew she couldn’t KILL Kuni, should she kind of wanted to – eh but that meant admitting she had been wrong about he and Jazz being perfect for one another.
Sure, her own pride was a liiiiiitle bit hurt, but on the other hand, being a bad influence could have been taken as a compliment – she should totally take that as a compliment. With this on her mind, and a vicious grin on her face, she slammed her palm against the door of Long Island, drawing all eyes to her instantly.
And she didn’t care, not one, little, bit.
In fact, it made her next utterance easier, because she didn’t have to call the patrons to attention, she already held it.
If it was possible to see rage radiated from someone – it was visible, wafting from her in shuddering waves of I will fucking shank you.
“I need to have a quiet word with Mr. Aikawa,” she said, loud enough to be heard by all, but with that palpable warning of imminent death for anyone who failed to follow. “So I would appreciate (see leave or die), if you could give us the room (see gtfo if you value your existence).”
Takao groaned lowly when he saw and heard Miho. He didn’t know her that well but he knew she had kind of a temper and Jazz had told him some stories that made him wonder if Miho would ever need his help as a lawyer in other issues than those concerning MJS.
Saeki raised his eyebrow in interest, he could never resist some drama and even less a woman who was so wonderfully capable of showing emotion. Angry sex was some of the best sex after all.
Yamato only grinned. “Hey Kuni, you’re in trouble, huh? What did you do to make her that mad?”
Kunihiko only shrugged and poured Miho a whiskey.
“Guys, you heard the lady. Maybe you should step out for a minute.” He knew there was no use in stalling, but he was a bit irritated that it was Miho and not Jazz who came to talk. Or to yell at him, at least that what it looked like right now.
Takao furrowed his brow. “Are you sure?”
Kunihiko hadn’t told anyone about his recent troubles yet, not those at work and nor those with Jazz. He simply nodded. Let them think whatever they wanted to think.
“But I wanted to watch this? Might give me some inspiration after all. Beautiful enraged woman storms into a bar and threatens the owner. I need to know how this will end.”
“You will know, but you don’t have to witness it. Get out for now,” Kunihiko said firmly, the stress of the past few days making him impatient.
Grumbling Saeki slid from his chair, followed by Yamato and a still concerned Takao.
Miho allowed the men to file past her before approaching the bar and sitting herself up on a stool.
She then dropped her credit card onto the bar top.
“Whiskey please,” she requested, trying to restrain herself, but lunch had been pretty boozy already.
Really, she was just asking out of a strange sense of courtesy.
“And, when you’re done pouring, you can skip the ‘this is none of my business’ part of the defence, because my bestfriend is breaking into a thousand pieces because you can’t let go of a past that has nothing to do with you, and bad influence on her or not, you can bet what manhood you pride yourself for having, I will protect, and defend her no matter what.”
That was as good an introduction as she could manage.
Kunihiko sighed and slid the glass over the counter.
“So she sends you here to do what? Threaten me?” He should have known that Jazz tells Miho. Hell, he had actually expected Miho to storm in much earlier.
“No,” she disagreed. “She didn’t send me, and I am not here to threaten you. This is an informative mission – I’m, R2D2 and this may be your only hope, because you are clearly missing some serious subtext that maybe you’ve not spent enough time with her to pick up on.”
Her eyes narrowed, looking beyond him and fixing upon a bottle of whiskey before her gaze slid back to him.
“Do you know, that I’ve never seen her happier, in all the time I’ve known the woman, than when you two finally hooked up?” she offered, her tone suddenly light, conversational. “All that crap with the moron husband just sort of lifted from her, and underneath it all was someone shiny and light. You did that, you know?”
Shiny and light. Happy. Yes, he knew what Miho was talking about, and he had fallen so hard for that bright smile, the way Jazz laughed, a bit dorky but with this sound that made his heart soar. And he really wanted her to be like that, always.
“That moron husband is one of the things bothering me actually,” he finally admitted. “That and every other man who ever – anyway. Some things are hard to explain and I don’t even expect her to understand me – or you.”
“You’ve got me all wrong, Aikawa,” Miho laughed, pointing at the bottle now seeing as he didn’t seem to be able to multi-task and hadn’t gotten her point. “I absolutely understand, because I wasn’t wrong about you two. I know you love her so much, the idea anyone ever touching her other than you, whether she loved them or not, boils your blood. You simply can’t stand the concept she was anyone else’s but yours.”
Okay, now her smile was a little creepy, until it seeped slowly toward cold again.
“Ai broke her so badly, made her so miserable, trapped her in a place where she thought not only would she never love again, but that love wasn’t for her, that she didn’t even deserve it,” she continued. “Do you have any idea the courage it took for her to admit to herself she loves you? Jesus Christ! You don’t marry someone you don’t love excluding all others and she did only to be betrayed so summarily she resigned herself to loneliness… forever… until you. And you’re worried about what? That she’ll cheat on you because our job entailed – past tense – sexually profiling people so we could find them happiness in their lives we hardly dared dream for ourselves?”
Kunihiko raised an eyebrow. Miho seemed ever agitated but not only because of Jazz. Well, there had to be story there but he now was too busy with his own problems. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey and refilled her glass.
“That woman came visiting me in my office the other day,” he suddenly said. “Showed me a list of names and dates. A long list. Some of the names I even knew. Told me that she had someone tailing Jazz because she had been sure that Jazz only wanted to marry for money. I nearly kicked her out when she said that.” A dry chuckle escaped his lips. Of course he knew that woman. She was from a very influential family after all.
“So the PI she had hired followed Jazz for over a year. Do you know how many names -?” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Aikawa.com has business relations to some of those names. And suddenly they dropped those relations. Projects we had been working on for months. A lot of money and a lot of time.”
He poured himself a glass. “I know it’s not her fault. But I can’t say it didn’t sting when I saw that. And suddenly more of my business partners called off projects. That’s just… I thought I could try to handle one thing first, and maybe afterwards have a long talk with her. About how many men she had really been with.” He knew he was pathetic, swearing his love to her and now? But he needed some time to think, not to feel for once.
“Of course I know how many names,” Miho nodded, a little more soberly now she had her whiskey. “You think mine would be any shorter?”
She let that sit for a second, the tilted her glass in Kuni’s direction.
“You know, you came to us too, right?” she pointed out. “Your name is on that list of however many men – men, I might add, who are now mostly happily married to women because of MJS and have nothing to do with us anymore?”
Rhetorical question of course.
“Still, she might tell you how many, but don’t you dare ask her that,” she said, and her eyes narrowed.
Eyes like Godzilla considering how much indigestion eating that cab might cause.
“You already called her a slut once, you know that right? Looked right at her and called her a filthy, dirty, whore who you couldn’t trust not to hump the leg of the next passing man despite any declarations she’s made to you. A… whore.”
His eyes widened. He did not do any of that sort! He would never!
“That is not what happened,” he stated firmly. Did Jazz say that? Think that? He knew that there were some things better left unsaid because once out in the open the words could never be taken back. So he usually stopped talking BEFORE he actually said something like that. “And I don’t like you talking like that about her.”
He could be cold, too. He could be angry to the brink of being destructive, but he didn’t want to. He chose not to be like that. And still…
“She was the one saying things like that and before I could even object she was already rushing out. Didn’t come home at all. She didn’t even tell me where she was.”
“That is how she thinks you see her,” Miho clarified firmly, utterly impervious to anything he might say about herself. “Whether you said it explicitly or not, my best friend, who loves you more than she values her own self esteem, believes that is how you view her – and because she loves you, that much, she will try to protect you by walking away if you let her.”
Miho scowled now, but this time it wasn’t angry. It had to be clear, if Kuni had any sense about him at all, that Miho’s love for her friend was what drove her, and in turn, she hurt also.
“Don’t let her do that,” she said, an imperative statement grammatically speaking, but her tone of voice actually made it sound more like a plea. “Because she might never pick herself up again… mhmm, and maybe, after you… she shouldn’t.”
Kunihiko thought of Jazz, of her smile, her warmth. How she made cookies when she was happy and how she wanted him to teach her Japanese cooking so she could do that for him. And then he thought about that list again. He knew that the woman who slept with all those men was the same he wanted in his life so badly, but he had troubles matching those images.
Did she really think he considered her a whore? Would actually asking her with how many men she had slept make it easier for him? Probably not. But wasn’t Jazz the one who always said honesty was the most important in a relationship?
What do to? What to feel, to say? Was there even a way to apologize?
“I won’t let her go,” he slowly said. “But I can’t just ignore what happened, can I?”
In a single gulp, Miho emptied her glass, snatched up her credit card and dumped a bunch of bills onto the bar instead, before hopping off the stool.
It seemed she was done with the roasting.
She waved over her shoulder as she headed for the door, but paused to look back at him – sober, completely sober.
“We may have enjoyed the sex, but never loved the men we had it with… until we stopped doing it for the ones we actually do. You, are the one among this many you’re so concerned about, the one she never knew until she did, and it stopped her in her tracks completely. If you can’t be happy with that?”
She inhaled, and then exhaled.
“Then shit, I guess I was really wrong about you after all.”
Then she turned out the door muttering, to herself, bitterly.
“I fuckin’ hate being wrong.”
After lunch Jazz anxiously stared at her phone. Shit, she would really have to go and talk to Akane. Great, another one convinced she was only a money grubbing whore. She took a deep breath and browsed through her contacts until she reached the entry ‘monster in law’. Her finger hovered over the call button and she nearly let her phone drop when it suddenly rang.
“Fuck it, Ai! You wanna give me a heart attack?” she yelled and took the call.. “You better say you’ve talked to your mother, you spineless jerk.”
“I love you, too, but now I’m too wiped out for pleasantries. And yes, I talked to her. Told her everything. She still wants to talk to you, though, so you better get your little ass over here.”
Jazz groaned inwardly. And outwardly.
“You know I’m not exactly keen on seeing her,” she sniffed and Ai laughed.
“So am I, but cling together, swing together,” he chuckled.
“Oh please, swinging with you is out of question,” she shot back.
“I know, I know. But don’t worry, I think she’s feeling bad for what she did,” Ai said nonchalantly.
“You think?” Jazz asked, clearly not convinced.
“Okay, let me rephrase this: She won’t take no for an answer and if you want to get over with this, you better come here. I’m here, too, and so is Kou. Although mother isn’t amused about it.” He chuckled wryly and Jazz sighed. Better get this done now before it took even longer to resolve this mess. God, she should have stayed in Europe after all.
Gathering the last shreds of strength Jazz agreed and left the office.
There was no solace in the fact that Akane seemed beyond pissed whenever she looked at Kou and Ai because she looked at Jazz with the same disgust. But Jazz wouldn’t back down now.
“So you lied to me. All the time you lied to me.” Akane didn’t even take a second to greet Jazz but she hadn’t expected anything else.
“No, I didn’t. When Ai introduced me I didn’t know either. And believe me, it might be a shock that your son loves another man, but it’s even more shocking to find out that your husband does.” Jazz had enough. She was a victim of this lie after all, not the one who came up with it.
“Ladies, please calm down. We are all hurt here,” Ai started only to earn a glare from both his mother and ex wife.
“I think you are the only one here who shouldn’t talk right now. Kou, your mother and I, we are the ones who had to endure this after all.”
Ai raised his hands in mock surrender but Jazz ignored it.
“I know you don’t like me, Kujuro-san, and I actually don’t care. But when I said ‘I do’ I really meant it, although I was the only one back then. I told Ai over and over again to be honest with you. You are his mother, you deserve that much.”
Akane acknowledged Jazz words with a brief nod, but her stern expression didn’t waver.
“And I don’t care if you want the apartment back, although I hope we can get that resolved without our lawyers.” Jazz wouldn’t need it any longer when she went back to Europe. And that she couldn’t stay in Tokyo any longer was crystal clear.
“What I can’t accept though is the fact that you use your connections to ruin a company for the mere reason of its owner being an associate of mine.” Her voice didn’t show any trace of compliance, she wouldn’t budge on this.
“He’s hardly only an ‘associate’,” Akane said with a scowl.
“He is what I say that he is, nothing else. I don’t care how much you despise me, but even you should know that ruining the lives of all those working there won’t change the fact that your SON lied to you, not me. So you better undo whatever you did or I swear I’m going to make it public. I wonder how YOUR company will take such a blow.” Jazz was bluffing, of course she was, but her pokerface was flawless.
“So you came here to threaten me?!” Akane was already half out of her seat when Jazz got up.
“I came here because you SUMMONED me here, if I wanted or not. And only because you don’t like what I have to say doesn’t make it a threat. I know some people at Shiki Publishing and I’m sure it will be easy to spread some pictures and maybe even emails showing that the CEO of Kujuro enterprises cheated on his lovely wife with his best friend. His best MALE friend.” She didn’t dare looking at Ai and Kou, feeling sorry for having to actually say this. “And THAT isn’t an empty threat either.” With her head held high Jazz stalked out of the room only to slump against a wall in the hallway. She needed a few deep breaths to calm down again but heard footsteps rushing towards her. It was Kou.
“Don’t worry, it’s okay.” He flashed her a sad smile. Poor Kou. At first he had to watch the man he loved marrying a woman and now said woman threatened to drag their relationship out into public.
“No, it’s not okay,” Jazz whispered. “I’m sorry, Kou, I really am. But I can’t let her do that. I just can’t.”
“I know. Don’t worry, we work that out. Ai said he would step down as CEO if she doesn’t relent.I don’t think she can risk that.”
Jazz nodded slowly. “I hope you can get over this crap,” she said and smiled back at him. “At least one of us should be happy in the end, right?”
That night Jazz slept poorly, in Miho’s bed that smelled like fresh sheets and someone else. All she could think about was that this wasn’t the place where she should be, where she wanted to be. And although she was grateful for Miho and her somewhat fierce friendship she couldn’t help but poke at the still fresh wound in her heart, wondering if Kunihiko even cared what Jazz did, where she was now. Or if he was glad that she was finally gone.