When Jazz came back home after a long day of visiting venues, trying cake and picking out the right napkins to the right tablecloths she was surprised to see the lights on in the living room and kitchen.
“Kuni? Are you home already?” She took off her shoes and padded towards the kitchen where she could hear him rummaging through the cabinets.
“Oh, hi.” He looked up from his search for the right pan and smiled sheepishly. “I wanted to be done before you come home.”
Jazz walked over to him and gave him a peck on the cheek.
“And with what did you want to be done before I came home?”
“Dinner. Something simple, but I thought I haven’t cooked for you for a while now. It’s only pasta, though.” He motioned towards the pot on the stove.
“Thanks, that’s great. I didn’t have time to eat much today.” She skipped towards the fridge and opened it. “Do you want a drink? Maybe some wine for dinner?”
“If I drink I will fall asleep right away. It was a hard day, week, month,” he said, slightly sour.
“Yeah, I get what you mean. We could use a break. Maybe a lazy weekend.” Jazz put the bottle of wine she held in hand back into the fridge.
“You don’t want any?” he asked and motioned towards the closed fridge.
“Nah, I’m also a bit tired lately. Might be good to take a break from drinking for a while.”
Kunihiko faked a shocked gasp and Jazz chuckled and swatted his arm lightly.
“Don’t act as if I’m always drinking!”
“You’re definitely drinking more than I do,” he teased her just for Jazz to grab his face, still laughing, and kissed him.
“That’s just because you’re rather a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.”
One kiss followed the other and they would have forgotten about their exhaustion and taken things further if it wasn’t for the pot and the water in it boiling over. She chuckled when she pulled back.
“I leave you to your cooking then. I go and change into something more – comfortable.” She winked at him and left for the bedroom, glad to get out of her dress and the rather constricting bra. Maybe she needed some new clothes. Maybe – and she shuddered at this thought – a bigger size. Kunihiko and his good cooking… she had definitely gained some weight. Well, he seemed not to notice or maybe he just didn’t care and Jazz felt better than she ever did in a relationship. As long as it were only a few pounds she was fine with it. She should work out a bit anyway.
Dressed in a tank top and shorts she came back into the kitchen and helped him getting their dinner ready.
“Oh, by the way, you got mail. Seems important. Manila envelopes and all. I put them on your desk.”
“Them? More than one?” He seemed surprised and Jazz shrugged.
“Three or four, and some other stuff. Sorry, I have just grabbed the mail and rushed up here.” She grinned sheepishly. “I really needed to pee.”
He chuckled and kissed her. “You are so sexy, you know that?”
It was strange, even this, domestic evenings, nights without the passionate and hot sex from the beginning, just lazing around on the couch, sharing meals, getting to know each other better with every passing day – this was so much more than Jazz had ever hoped for. Sometimes she was a bit scared of the extend of her own feelings, her own happiness, but then she remembered how hard she had fought for this, how hard THEY had fought for this. It wasn’t a gift, it was the result of persistence, communication and a lot of trust.
They talked some more, ate in a relaxed atmosphere and afterwards Jazz took care of the dishes as thanks for him preparing dinner. When she came out of the now clean kitchen she found him staring at some files in his hands.
Drying her hands with a towel she walked over to him.
“Why the serious face?” she asked, taking a seat next to him. “Business?”
“No,” he blankly said and handed her a file.
“This is… a marriage candidate? What-?!” She stared at the profile. Japanese woman, 28, good at housework. Loved to cook. Good education. The picture showed her in a kimono, very traditional.
“What is this crap?” She threw the file on the coffee table and grabbed another one. Almost the same, just the age and the name were different.
“You know, back then when I came to MJS… my family wanted me to find a bride. My parents are – rather conservative. Traditional. I guess they think they gave me enough time to find a wife on my own.” He sounded a bit shocked, but also sad. Of course. He hadn’t told his family about her, about their marriage because she asked him to keep it a secret for now.
“But this? I mean, look at those profiles… how many are there?” She quickly counted the files. “Five? And all of them are – so completely dull. Nondescript. Here, this doesn’t even say if she gives good blowjobs. Or blowjobs at all. All the important info is missing! Who should be able to make a decision based on this crap?”
It was one thing that his family meddled with his love life, Jazz had already understood that it wasn’t an uncommon thing in Japan. But her professional pride was another thing. This was exactly why they had founded MJS – because the dating world in Japan was really tricky. Like everywhere else.
Kunihiko only chuckled and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer until she straddled his lap and rested her head against his shoulder.
“You know, I often wonder how your profile would have looked like,” he mused, gently stroking her back.
“Well, there would have definitely been a whole paragraph about my fellatio skills,” she answered, slightly muffled against his shoulder.
“And that alone would have gotten my attention,” he played along before he got serious again. “No, really, what would you write in your own profile.”
“Hmm…” She thought about this, it had never occurred to her to create a profile for herself. “I would have asked Miho to make it, so it would have been full of praise of course.”
She chuckled, imagining Miho writing things like: ‘Great body, but damaged heart. Handle with care or I will hunt you down and rip your balls off.’
“Of course,” he agreed with a grin. The friendship between Miho and Jazz was definitely something special, and he was aware that he had crossed a line when he doubted it. It would take some time to fix things with Miho, but he really wanted to prove her that he was the right one for Jazz, that he would make her happy.
“So, what are we going to do about this?” Jazz wearily motioned towards the stack of matchmaking profiles.
“I’m going to meet all of them and ask them about their opinions about blowjobs. Just so their profile is complete. And then I tell them that I already found the perfect woman for me.”
She swatted his chest playfully. “Stop joking, I’m serious!”
He sighed and kissed her once more.
“I know you wanted a relaxed, lazy weekend, but I think we’d better go and visit my family. I will call them tomorrow. We can take the bullet train and be back in the evening.”
Jazz sighed. It was her fault that they were in this situation; only because she asked him to keep their marriage a secret for now. Now she had to fix things. Sooner or later she would have to meet his family anyway, although she had hoped for some better circumstances.
“Okay. I think I have time this weekend, no weddings so far.” She raised her head and cupped his face, kissed him softly. “I’m sorry for bringing you into this position.”
Kunihiko chuckled lightly and kissed her back, not that softly. “I actually like the position I’m currently in,” he almost purred into her ear, making her giggle.
His hand dropped to her ass, squeezing lightly. “Yeah…”
Three days later they boarded the train, Jazz with conflicted emotions. Kunihiko had already warned her that his family was rather traditional, conservative and strict. Not so much his parents but his grandparents and aunts and uncles. She was nervous. Last time she met her parents-in-law she found herself under scrutiny of Akane Kujoro and we all know how THAT ended. And back then she hadn’t even been working for a marriage matchmaking agency where the clients had to literally bare everything of them in order to create a profile.
She was nervous. She was beyond nervous to be honest. Although she had brought her laptop to work during the trip she couldn’t focus at all. Instead she fidgeted with her clothes, her hair, her hand until Kunihiko sighed and grabbed her hand, squeezed it lightly and smiled reassuringly.
“Relax, love. It’s okay, it’s not as if they could do anything. We ARE already married. You are just going to meet my family and I’m just informing them that they can stop looking for my future wife because I already have a wonderful wife.”
She smiled back, still nervous. If it only was that simple.
“Tell me again that you love me,” she demanded, almost pouting.
“I love you. Only you. You are the only woman I want to spend my life with, the only I can see myself with in the future.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips gently, one after the other. “And that is exactly what I am going to tell my family.”
Jazz took a shaky breath and nodded, slightly choked up. “Thank you…” She knew she would need some strength to face his family but she wanted to be a wife he could be proud of; a wife who would support him, fight for their love.
The trip seemed to take forever but they arrived before noon.
“We can have lunch somewhere but I assume that my family has prepared something,” he said, giving her the choice and effectively a short reprieve.
“We don’t want to keep them waiting,” she firmly answered, putting this off wouldn’t help after all. Better to get over with it before her anxiety spiked.
“Okay. Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” Kunihiko hailed a cab and Jazz wished it would drive anywhere but to the address he gave the driver. She was such a coward.
They were heading towards the house of his grandparents, a huge and traditional estate that took her breath away. Jazz knew that Kunihiko was quite wealthy but she had assumed that he had earned the money with his company, not that money ran in his family.
“Wow…” She couldn’t help but stare in awe and growing terror. Her own family was rather – well, average. Her parents had a small house, nothing fancy, and both worked hard for their money. She and her siblings – a brother and a younger sister – had been brought up in the knowledge that working was necessary and that there was nothing to be ashamed of in earning their own money. So Jazz had started working part-time jobs as soon as she had been old enough. It helped her pay for clothes and her hobbies and later to get her through college. She had been a babysitter, worked in retail and service, fully aware that her future career better offered a bit more glamour. She would have never guessed to end as an event planner in Japan but she loved that job. She loved working at MJS even more, being an associate, a founding member of the agency was something that filled her with pride.
She might not have the same background but definitely the same dedication to her job like Kunihiko. Jazz straightened up and took a deep breath. She was ready to face whatever would come, with Kunihiko at her side.
At least that was what she thought before stepping into the house, with the tatami mats and the paper doors it felt like stepping into another century. Or one of the historic dramas they showed on TV. Hadn’t Saeki just written some script about a forbidden love in the Edo era?
She quickly focused again, the surroundings making her nervous again.
Someone dressed in a kimono took Kunihiko’s jacket and threw Jazz a questioning glance but Kuni simply helped Jazz out of her jacket and handed it over. Was that a relative or some kind of staff? She didn’t dare to ask, simply followed her husband without a word. She didn’t want to embarrass him after all.
In front of some paper doors they stopped and Kunihiko turned towards her. Jazz could hear voices and her heart started to race again.
“It’s okay, just breathe. We will be fine, I promise.” His voice was only a whisper but it helped her to calm down. When she nodded Kunihiko opened the door and they stepped into a huge room, filled with several people, all clad in traditional Japanese clothes, sitting on the floor.
“Ah, Kunihiko, you finally arrived.” A stern looking, older woman beckoned them closer, or better, him. She frowned when she noticed Jazz.
“Who is that? You didn’t say you were bringing someone.”
Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and straightened up again.
“Sobo, thank you for having us. This is Jazz Mann. My wife.”
With a nervous smile Jazz bowed her head, just enough to show respect but not so much that she would make herself small. She was a smart and proud woman after all. And she was married to Kunihiko.
“Obaasan, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Kunihiko’s grandmother didn’t even spare her a glance, instead she glared at Kunihiko.
“Your wife? What is that nonsense? We send you a choice of profiles for suitable young women. Why did you bring someone like her?”
Now that escalated quickly. Jazz bit her tongue, didn’t want to make a bad impression right from the start.
“Sobo, you wanted me to get married and I did. Even before you sent those profiles to be honest. But I preferred to choose my wife on my own. I wanted someone I actually love and here she is. She is smart, successful, independent and at the same time she supports me, helps me to see where I’m wrong without being presumptuous.”
Jazz blinked a few times. She knew he loved her, he told her often enough, but hearing him saying all these things about her in front of his family was something else. She felt the love well up inside of her, her smile grew and was genuine now. But only for a second.
“You already married this woman? Without introducing her first? Without asking for our permission?” His grandmother seemed disappointed, clearly disapproving of their marriage.
“I didn’t know I needed ‘permission’,” he replied, still respectful but standing his ground. His grandmother made a sound between a snort and a click of her tongue.
“It would have been only proper to introduce us first. Why did you hide her from us?” She shot Jazz a taxing gaze, finally acknowledging her presence. And all the others followed her gaze so that Jazz found herself the center of attention.
“Besides the obvious issues.”
That hurt, but Jazz kept her head up high and her eyes trained on his grandmother, still slightly smiling.
“And what would be the obvious issues, obaasan?” She sounded calmer than she felt, proud that her emotions didn’t show in her voice.
“You are not Japanese. We know nothing about you and your heritage. Your family. We can’t know if you are honorable.” There was no accusation or malice, she was just stating the truth.
“You could just ask me. I can tell you what you need to know.” Jazz’s offer caused a stir in the group but Kunihiko stayed calm so she figured she hadn’t just accidently offended everyone in the room.
“You could lie,” a woman, probably Kunihiko’s aunt, said.
“I could, but what would that do for me? I’m actually a stickler for honesty.” Jazz shrugged, but she knew that if they didn’t want to listen to her they wouldn’t.
“I think we should have a more private conversation. Miss Mann, would you excuse us, please?” Kunihiko’s grandmother pointed towards the door and Jazz shared a short glance with her husband who gave her a smile and a nod. She was guided away by the same person who greeted them first, still unsure of their status in this house. But since it didn’t matter much to her she was simply polite and thanked the woman who bowed her head briefly and left Jazz in a smaller room without much furniture. This wasn’t going well.
She hadn’t expected them to welcome her with open arms, but at least to be allowed to stay for the explanation. Not getting send out of the room like a child when the grown-ups talked. Jazz made up her mind and slipped out of the room, tried to find her way back to room with Kunihiko and his family. She followed the faint sounds of voices until she could hear them more or less clearly. These walls were really thin.
“… the matchmaker? No one marries the matchmaker! That’s just not –“
“Sobo, I am not discussing this! Marriage matchmaking is a respectable business; after all you hired a matchmaker for me, too. So what if I fall not for the potential bride they show me, but the one who is trying to set me up? She knows me, she knows me better than anyone else. And she still fell for me. I think that is the most important part of this whole story: we LOVE each other. She has proven that over and over and I am willing to prove it for the rest of my life.”
Her heart felt like bursting at those words. He really stood up to his grandmother, only for Jazz. Only for them.
“But she is a foreigner!” someone else said, a male voice.
“That doesn’t matter. She is a wonderful person, honest and kind. Respectable. She comes from a respectable family, has studied and worked hard to get where she is now. She and her friends have their own business and lately they have even expanded their service, now offering wedding planning as well. They are making people happy and Jazz is making ME happy. I don’t care about where she was born.”
Jazz held her breath, trying not to make a sound and give the fact away that she was eavesdropping.
“What if one day she decides she wants to back?” another voice asked.
“Then I will go with her.”
They had never talked about this and honestly, Jazz hadn’t even thought about going back home ever since they had cleared everything, ever since she had decided to really do this, to accept her feelings for him and not to hold anything back anymore.
“If you had introduced her before rushing into a marriage like a fool we could have at least find someone to do a background check on her,” his grandmother stated.
“And I would have asked you not to do that,” Kunihiko shot back. “I trust her. She has told me everything I need to know, even if it wasn’t flattering.”
“Son, you have to admit that it looks rather strange when you go to matchmaking agency only to marry the matchmaker in the end. Head over heels. We are simply worried she might have – ulterior motives.”
Was that his father? Jazz blood started to boil. She wasn’t some money grubbing gold digger, she had her own business! (And the divorce settlement from Ai, but that wasn’t the point here.)
Jazz cleared her throat loudly, announcing her presence.
“May I enter?” Her heart was pounding like crazy but she wouldn’t back down now. Not when all this was about her.
“It is rude to eavesdrop,” his grandmother said, rather miffed.
“It also rude to talk about people behind their backs,” Jazz firmly answered. Not backing down.
“I understand that you are concerned,” Jazz continued, “and I take it as a sign of your affection towards Kunihiko. But I don’t like what you are implying. Fact is that we have a prenup, and fact is also that it was ME who wanted that. I understand that he is a successful business man and that his name and property have to be protected.”
She looked at Kunihiko who seemed relieved to see her. Good, at least one person here.
“Actually Jazz didn’t want to marry me at first,” he suddenly said, earning some surprised and some disapproving glances. “I had to woo her and convince her to give me a chance. And when she said ‘yes’ I just jumped at the chance.”
That was a very sugarcoated version, but it wasn’t a lie after all. What if they learned of her divorce?
“Is there a reason for your hasty wedding?” his grandmother asked, glaring at Jazz.
“What do you mean, sobo?” Kunihiko tensed a bit and Jazz could feel her stomach churn.
“There are two likely explanations,” the older woman went on. “Green card or… Kunihiko, did you – get her with child?”
Jazz gasped. She paled before the blood rushed into her face. “Are you implying I tricked him into marrying me?”
Kunihiko grabbed her hand, surprised to feel it trembling in his.
“I think we are done here. If you are rude towards my wife I feel not obliged to stay any longer.”
“If you go now – Kunihiko, you know what might happen,” his grandmother almost threateningly said.
“If that is what you have to do, then do it.” Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and tugged at Jazz’s hand. She had trouble to hold her tears back. This wasn’t what she wanted for him, being threatened to get kicked out of the family because he married her.
She managed to pull herself together until they were outside, standing at the street trying to find another cab.
“I’m sorry,” they said at the same time, just for Jazz to lose it and burst out into tears.
“I’m so sorry, really! I didn’t – when I asked you to keep it a secret for now I didn’t think this would happen…”
“Hey…” Kunihiko hugged her tightly. “It’s okay, it’s not your fault. They would have been unhappy with my choice even if I had introduced you before. It’s not about me being married, they want me to marry who they see fit. But I want you, so tough luck for them.”
“Shit,” she muttered. “Kuni, I feel as if I should offer to set you free so your family can be happy – but I can’t. I know I’m selfish, but I don’t want to give up on you. Give up on US. On what we have.”
“Shhhh…” He cupped her face and kissed her softly. “I wouldn’t accept that anyway. You have said ‘yes’, now you’re stuck with me. You are my wife and you are the only one I want. It will be fine, don’t worry.”
“But they are your family!” Jazz sobbed, thinking about her own family back home. They might fight every now and then but they still loved each other. They wouldn’t turn their backs on her just because she married someone they didn’t approve of.
“You are my family now,” he corrected her and wiped some tears off her cheek. “Although it might be difficult now to get you into my family register so you can have my name.”
She shrugged. “It’s only a name, right? As long as I can be your wife I don’t care. It was just – it’s nice to have the same name. Not necessary, but nice.”
He chuckled. “I could still take your name, you know?”
That made her laugh. She had never even thought about it. “Wouldn’t they be furious if you did?”
“Do you really think that’s important right now?”
She shook her head before she rested it against his chest. “Let’s go home, okay?”
But before they could call for a cab the gate to his family’s estate opened.
“Kunihiko?” It was a middle aged man and Jazz practically jumped back a bit only to get pulled back by her husband. He didn’t want to let her go, not even to preserve appearance.
“Otousama,” he replied and Jazz’s eyes widened. His father.
“I am sorry for the way things escalated. You know your grandmother can be – rather stubborn. I am sorry if she has offended you and your wife.”
Jazz could see the similarities between the two men; if Kunihiko looked like that in 20 or 30 years Jazz wouldn’t complain.
“I know this is a bit sudden, but this is my choice,” Kunihiko firmly said, squeezing Jazz slightly.
“It is. And I am sure Miss Ma- Jazz is a wonderful woman. After all she is the one who captured your heart. It might need some time but I will do whatever I can to calm the waves. I only hope next time we meet will be under better circumstances.”
Jazz pushed against Kunihiko’s chest until he finally gave her free and she could face his father.
“I am grateful for your words and I also hope that we can meet again soon. At a more joyous occasion.” She looked at Kuni briefly and he nodded.
“We are going to have a ceremony in some time and want to invite you. And mom of course. And whoever is happy for us.” Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and his father exhaled loudly, apparently relieved.
“We will gladly come and celebrate with you. Jazz, take good care of my son. He can be a bit foolish sometimes, but he is a fine man.” Mr. Aikawa bowed back and Jazz nodded.
“Don’t worry, I will.”
On their trip back home they both were unusually silent. Jazz couldn’t focus, her mind was racing like the train they were sitting in. She stared out of the window, unable to actually see something. All she could think about was the expression on Kunihiko’s face when his grandmother insinuated that he had knocked Jazz up. And the small box in the bathroom, hidden behind the towels. The pregnancy test she had put off for much too long already.