Jazz was typing furiously, trying to get this proposal done before her client would arrive. This was the first wedding she was planning and she wanted it to be perfect for the happy couple. She still was amazed that it was Ishigami of all people who would use the new service MJS offered. It was a logical step from marriage matchmaking to wedding planning after all.
She sighed. This was a lot of work, especially since she hadn’t recourse to former plans. Of course she could use some of her old connections and experience from her event planner days, but a wedding was really something different. Especially since she had to convince Ishigami first to actually contract her.
She quickly hit the ‘print’ button and walked over to the tea kitchen to get another tea when she ran into Miho.
“Hey, how’s your new intern doing?” she greeted Miho with a huge grin. H had proven to be blessing and Jazz had made the transition from matchmaker to wedding planner smoothly.
“She’s doing one of my clients just now,” Miho smirked and Jazz laughed. Ever since their little conflict had been resolved they were back to being friends again.
“Kunihiko is opening Long Island tonight, how about a drink after work? You can bring your fiancé,” Jazz suggested, stressing the word ‘fiancé’ by saying it with French pronunciation.
“Let me call him and I tell you later, okay?”
Jazz knew that Goto was working odd hours, the problem when being a cop obviously. Well, Kunihiko was working a lot, too, and he and Jazz couldn’t meet up that often either. But still she was on cloud number nine with him.
She nodded and waved briefly, already on the way back to her office. Ishigami would arrive soon.
“Ishigami-san, let me congratulate you to your engagement.” She smiled warmly and bowed her head.
“Thank you, Miss Mann. As you know my time is short. Please let us get on with the topic. Why should I let you plan my wedding?”
Right to the point, like always. Jazz was still smiling and motioned for him to take a seat.
“As I already told you this will save you time and money after all. I already know all your preferences, your favorite food, music, colors. Yours and of course those of your bride. Any other wedding planner would need time to get to know you; I already do. I know things about you and your bride that no other wedding planner could know so I can make sure your wedding will be simply perfect for you. I know how important perfection is for you after all.”
She slid him the folder with her concept over the desk.
“Please have a look at this, Ishigami-san. And tell me if that is at least close to your idea of a perfect wedding.”
The venue, the menu, the band – everything was chosen basing on the profiles of both Ishigami and Liana. Jazz hoped she would work more with the bride after convincing Ishigami; the woman was definitely easier to get along with. Blue as dominating color theme since both liked blue best. Some classical music for the ceremony and a jazz band, live music for the venue of course. Bouquets of freesia since the bride loved those – and Jazz, too. The scent would be heavenly.
Jazz still knew some caterers that would provide great food, both sweet and hearty dishes. She had called the famous photographer Jinpachi Yushima and asked him about good wedding photographers. They could order the cakes from Larme. A lot of possibilities and choices, yet she was sure that her first proposal was already close to perfect.
“What is a pudding pyramid?” he asked curiously.
“You know champagne towers? All the glasses stacked up and someone pours a bottle of champagne into the topmost one so that it flows in all glasses in the end? Imagine a tower made of glasses full of pudding. We can play with the colors and flavors so it will be really impressing, both visually and in taste, of course.”
He nodded once.
“A pudding cake?”
“Just an idea. You can also have a traditional cake, I just wanted to show you the possibilities.”
“Can I keep this?” He raised the folder questioningly and Jazz nodded.
“Of course. Take it home, sleep over it, show it your future wife. When you have decided you can call me.” He was hard to read but Jazz had a good feeling.
“Was that all?” he sternly asked and again Jazz nodded.
“If you don’t have any questions left we are done,” she confirmed.
“Good. My fiancée will call you about this. I think she will be the one to make the most decisions concerning this wedding. And… please focus more on her preferences than mine while making your proposals. I want it to be the perfect wedding for her after all.” There was a faint smile playing on his lips and Jazz mentally patted her own shoulder for obviously finding the perfect match.
“My goal is it to plan the perfect wedding for both of you, Ishigami-san. But I will keep your words in mind.” She bowed slightly and so did he before he left.
Jazz grinned. Okay, her first wedding planning assignment. This day was going to be great!
This day turned to be complete trash. After a really successful and satisfying day at work Jazz walked into Long Island in the evening, happy to be able to see Kunihiko again after a few days with only calls and texts. Although she really wanted to take things slow she noticed how much she enjoyed being around him and that she actually wanted more time with him. Greedy little Jazz.
“Hello, guys!” she loudly called into the bar as soon as she saw the usual guests. Saeki, Takao, Yamato and Yuta. Ren, from whom she just learned he was a prince of a neighboring kingdom of her homeland, wasn’t there. But Kunihiko was. Jazz ignored the stares of the others when she walked towards the bar and leaned over it to drop a light kiss on Kunihiko’s lips. She loved the way he blushed slightly when she did this in front of his friends. Usually he was fine with a bit PDA, but when his gang was around he was adorably shy. Thank god only then.
“Hello darling,” she purred and slid on a bar stool.
“Hello love,” he answered just for Yamato to groan and roll his eyes. Takao had averted his gaze and Jazz assumed it was because this display of affection wasn’t within his comfort zone. Saeki only grinned and Yuta pouted a bit.
“No one ever greets me like this and calls me ‘love’ or ‘darling’.”
Jazz chuckled but when Kuni suddenly leaned over the counter a bit and handed Yuta a glass of beer with a wink and a low: “Here you are, darling,” she burst out in a full laughter. She wasn’t the only one.
The usual banter soon was resumed and Jazz got a cocktail and some gossip, but Takao was unusually quiet, even for his means. He couldn’t look at Jazz and for a moment she was afraid he had seen or heard her having sex with Kuni in the storeroom the other day… but no, that wasn’t likely. They had met after that and Taka had acted just fine. No, there was something off but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
Half an hour later Miho came in, without Goto but with a huge smile when she saw the tumbler of whiskey already waiting for her. Like always she made herself right at home. Jazz was always impressed how easily Miho found a place in a group, no matter if she knew the people or not. Well, she already knew Takao and Kunihiko and ever since Jazz had suggested Saeki as a tester for their female clients Miho of course knew the scriptwriter. But Yamato and Yuta were new faces for her, still she treated them as if she knew them their whole lives.
They were just talking about some event Miho had to attend with Goto when she looked at Takao.
“What’s wrong with you today?” She sipped from her glass and Jazz chimes in.
“Yes, you are a bit quiet. Is everything okay?”
“If you have troubles in matters of the heart you can always ask us,” Miho said, but the devilish glint in her eyes made clear that she wouldn’t make it easy for Takao.
“Uhm… no, it’s something else…” he said, scratched the back of his neck and stared at his feet.
“Something serious?” Jazz asked. Takao nodded.
“Something you can’t tell us?” She was suddenly aware that everyone was now staring at them. This wouldn’t make it easier for him to tell.
“Actually…” Takao hesitated. “It’s something work related.”
“Oh.” Jazz nodded, she understood the importance of confidentiality after all.
“Boooooring,” Miho said in a singsang voice. “Hey, Kuni, can I get another one?” She raised her empty glass and the conversation around them continued, Takao breathed deeply and gave Jazz an apologizing smile.
“Actually… I really have to talk to you.”
“Am I in trouble?” Jazz jokingly asked. Takao didn’t answer, but his serious face made her smile drop.
“Shit. Am I really in trouble?”
“We should talk. Somewhere private.” Takao got up and waited for her to do the same.
With growing unease Jazz followed Takao upstairs, not even aware of Kunihiko’s worried gaze.
“As your lawyer and the one who was in charge of your divorce they sent this letter to me instead of you,” he explained while Jazz was still staring at the piece of paper in her hand. Her trembling hand.
This was impossible. Outrageous.
“When did you get it?” Her voice sounded strangely distant in her ears.
“Today. I tried to call you but couldn’t get you on the phone. Sorry, I didn’t want to ruin your evening with this.” He was sitting next to her, unsure if he should pat her shoulder comfortingly or not.
“No, it’s okay… I will need some time to take care of my living arrangements from now on.” She still stared at the words in front of her eyes, they suddenly lost their meaning.
“We can still go against this,” he said reassuringly.
“Takao, they want to take my apartment from me. And I know exactly that it’s not Ai who’s behind this.” She sighed. There was it, black on white. Obviously Ai hadn’t even been in the position to transfer the property rights for the apartment in the first place. Which meant that the contract in which he did exactly that wasn’t valid. And now Kujuro enterprises wanted the apartment back.
Or better, Ai’s mother wanted it back. This was her last friendly kick in the ass for her former daughter in law.
“But you have a divorce settlement. And he had been the owner of that apartment at that time,” Takao pointed out.
“Let’s be honest. The Kujuros have more money than I can imagine and I can’t afford to pay for a long legal war. I just can’t. So far most of my own money went directly into MJS and what I get out of the business is enough to feed me and make sure that I can afford clothes so I don’t have to go naked. But I’m not exactly wealthy, by no means. I had only some money because I didn’t have to pay rent.” She let the letter sink and sighed. “I need a drink. If I can even afford that now.“
“I’m sure Kuni won’t charge you,” Takao muttered, making her smile faintly.
When they came back down into the bar the chatter was a welcome distraction for Jazz. She walked behind the counter, grabbed a bottle of Tequila and a shot glass, poured herself a drink and downed it without batting an eyelash.
“Whoa, easy there. What’s wrong?” Yamato asked but Jazz only refilled her glass and downed it again.
“Jazz? If you’re in the mood for shots you can always ask me to join,” Miho said, but there was a slight crease between her eyebrows. She was a bit worried at the sudden change of mood of her friend.
Without a word Jazz grabbed a second glass, filled it and slid it over to Miho. And refilled her glass a third time.
“Last time we had Tequila was real fun,” Miho mused and Jazz only snorted a dry laugh.
“Yeah, I remember. Hey, Miho, you do like me, don’t you?”
“Depends. When you give me alcohol I like you. When you nag me about glitter in your panties, I don’t.” Miho shrugged and took the glass. “Cheers.”
“Say, if I suddenly was homeless, could I crash on your couch?” Jazz came back from behind the counter and took a seat. She didn’t dare to meet Kunihiko’s eyes.
“My couch?” Miho frowned.
Jazz was aware that she was petty and selfish and wallowing in self pity, but she couldn’t help it. The apartment was the only good thing she had left after her trainwreck of a marriage. Due to the prenup she didn’t get much else. Not that she wanted money. Maybe she should call Ai and ask him if he knew about this. If he could prevent his mother from going on with this bullshit. But knowing Ai she immediately dismissed this thought. He wasn’t even bale to tell her that he and Jazz were divorced, or that Ai was gay. Or anything that would make his mother mad.
“That old bitch wants the apartment back. She’s suing me for it.” Another shot.
“Well, my couch is still free, but you know… you might not want to sleep on it after – anyway. Can I help you somehow?”
Jazz shook her head. She knew she couldn’t impose on Miho. Hell, she just got engaged! Of course Jazz couldn’t stay at Miho’s place. What was she thinking?
“Does anyone know a good realtor? And cheap. Scratch good. Only cheap.” Jazz felt like crying. Alcohol wasn’t helping any so she stopped refilling her glass. Now that part of the matchmaking fee would go to H Jazz had even less money than before. And the wedding planner service was still in the early stages, there was no money in sight yet. She knew how expensive living in Tokyo could be. Maybe she had to move into a cheaper part of town.
“Doesn’t Selina have a guest room?” Miho asked.
“She’s thinking about moving herself. Something closer to the office,” Jazz mumbled. And closer to the office meant also more expensive and that meant probably less space.
“I have a guest room,” Takao said but Jazz only smiled sadly.
“That’s sweet, but I can’t take you up on that offer.”
“Why not?” he asked and Jazz chuckled.
“I couldn’t guarantee for your virtue,” she answered with a wink before she sighed. “No, we are working together, that’s not a good idea. Plus, you are a man and I am a woman – I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about how living with a woman can be. No, keep you illusions until you move in with someone you really like so you won’t want to kick her out immediately.”
And Jazz needed some privacy after all.
“Can they just do that? Go against a valid divorce settlement?” Yamato asked.
“The problem is, the apartment hadn’t really been part of the divorce settlement. He transferred the property rights before the divorce, thinking it would be clever. But that was also before he was CEO of Kujuro enterprises and therefore before he actually held the property rights. The apartment obviously belongs to the company, not him.” Jazz sighed. Ai was working with real estate all the time, that was what his company did after all! Okay, mostly it was about commercial property, but that couldn’t be that different, could it? How could he fuck that up so badly?
“Wow. What are you doing now?” Yuta asked.
“Drinking, obviously,” Jazz answered.
“You can still sleep in the office,” Miho pointed out. Jazz laughed. The thought alone was hilarious, greeting clients in her pj in case she overslept.
“Or you could move into the room upstairs,” Saeki suggested. Now that was a good idea – no, wait, she would have to ask Kunihiko for permission.
Shyly she peeked over to her lover. He seemed a bit angry, definitely unhappy. Okay, so not the room upstairs.
“Sorry, I feel bad for ruining the mood. I better go home now – as long as I still have a home,” she lamely joked and grabbed her purse, shoved the letter in and slid from the chair. It was hard enough not to cry and the smile she wore was already crumbling.
She could hear them talk while she hurried outside.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” That sounded like Takao.
“She needs a moment to herself, to let it sink in. I’ll talk to her tomorrow. We’ll find a way,” Miho assured him.
A few steps out of the door Jazz took a deep breath. The tears were already gathering. That was a punishment. She had been too happy lately and now the universe reminded her that everything had a price. Without a bit of suffering life just wasn’t the same.
Fuck it! Jazz had always prided herself in being independent and strong. She was used to not having much money and willing to work hard. She would make it. Blinking her tears away she straightened up and exhaled deeply. Okay, no new shoes for now, no fancy restaurants and shopping trips. That was okay, not even a serious cutback of her quality of living.
She turned around, only hoping that she didn’t look as if she had cried. “Kunihiko. What are you doing out here? You’re having guests.”
He stepped closer and cupped her face in his hands, intently looking at her.
“Why didn’t you ask me for help?” There was disappointment in his voice and only now she realized that he might have gotten the impression that she didn’t trust him enough, trust their relationship enough to share this burden with him.
“Sorry, I – it just didn’t come to mind. I’m so used to fixing things myself…” She shrugged lightly.
“If anything comes up, any problem at all, I want you to talk to me about it. I want you to know that you can rely on me.” His thumbs gently wiped the traces of some treacherous tears away that had managed to escape before she could hold them back.
“I know.” She sighed, but this time it seemed that together with a lungful of air also some of the anxiety and the anger left her.
With a small smile she looked at him. “So, do you happen to know a good realtor?”
He shook his head. “Jazz…” he softly chided her. “That’s not the first thing you should ask.”
With her brow slightly knitted she pondered his words. Did he really want her to say ‘Help me’?
“There’s an easy solution to your problem, isn’t it?”
“I need more money?” she asked back. That would be a solution, but she wouldn’t ask him for money. Never.
He let go of her face and sighed. “No, not that. I was thinking of something else.”
Oh. OH. Her eyes went wider when she realized what he was talking about.
“Jazz. Do you want to move in with me?”
Her heart stopped beating for a second. This was not what she wanted. It was sweet and she knew that he really meant it, and she would lie if she said she wasn’t happy to hear this. But not like this. Not just because she might lose her own place.
“Kunihiko…” she started but he cut her off.
“I’m not finished yet.” He reached into his pocket. “I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. I know we aren’t together for that long yet, but every time I come home and you are not with me it feels wrong.” When he pulled his hand back from his pocket he was holding a key.
“I want you to come and go as you please. Although I’d rather have you there every night and every day. And not just as my guest. I want you to live with me.”
She was speechless. In her effort to make sure they didn’t rush things she had completely forgotten that they still should be moving forwards.
“I love you,” she muttered, fighting with her tears again. It was the first time she actually said that to him. ‘I like you’, ‘I love the way you kiss me’, ‘I love it when you fuck me like that’ – she had said all that already, but never ‘I love you’.
It felt better than anything before. She had guarded those words so carefully, always afraid to break whatever spell was binding them if she said them out loud. Always afraid of jinxing everything.
“Is that a yes? Will you move in with me? Even if Takao manages to win your apartment back for you?” He was smiling, so happy, so gentle, so sweet.
“Yes, I’ll move in with you. But don’t complain about my hair everywhere and that my 60 pairs of shoes take up to much space or-“
He cut her off again, this time with a kiss. And another one. And another one. Until she finally pulled back, snatched the key from him and grinned.
“Now it’s too late to change your mind, you know that, right?”
“I wouldn’t even dream about that,” he replied, still smiling.
“Okay, we better get back inside or Miho drinks all your whiskey and everyone else under the table,” Jazz said with a chuckle.
“Say, one quick question… glitter in your panties?” He arched an eyebrow and Jazz giggled.
“Maybe I will tell you about that one day. Or you give me more Tequila and Miho and I reenact it for you.” She leaned in and quickly licked over his lips once before she turned around and walked back into the bar as if nothing at all had happened.
Maybe this day wasn’t complete trash after all.