Just a chat, nothing more.
Jazz shrugged, scooped some curry into a bowl with rice and handed it to Subaru.
“Thanks. Do you want some tea?”
“Yes, please.” She filled another bowl with curry, shuffled over to the table. “So, today I was hunting for locations and you will never guess who I-”
“Sugar?” He set the cup down, turned back to get his food.
“No, thanks. But you will never guess who I met today.” She made a pause for the dramatic effect, waited until Subaru sat down.
“I probably won’t, but I guess you will tell me now.” He dipped his spoon into the curry, blew on it.
“Yushima Jinpachi.” Her chair scraped over the floor when she leaned back, smiled at her husband.
“Who?” He ate, focused on temperature and taste of his food.
“The photographer? Yushima?” Someone as sophisticated as Subaru had certainly heard that name before.
“You are aware that I am working with top of the political hierarchy in Japan, plus countless of actual celebrities, aren’t you?” He stirred a few drops of soy sauce into his curry, tried it again and scrunched up his nose. “Did you forget to season the food?”
The clank of her spoon on the table got his attention, with a frown he stared at his wife.
“Nothing. You know what? You always complain about my cooking, so it’s all yours now. Either you cook or we order in.” She pushed first her bowl back, then her chair.
“Are you miffed now because I like my food to actually taste like something?” Subaru yelled after her, but Jazz just waved over her shoulder, slammed the door to the bedroom shut behind her. Out of her clothes and into the shower, to wash away the anger, the vague nagging guilty conscience talking to Liana had caused. The warm water poured down on her, all over her, swirled down the drain, but didn’t take the emotions with it.
Eyes closed she could almost believe she was somewhere else, but the cool tiles she rested her forehead against anchored her to reality. A last sigh and she lathered up, massaged shampoo into her hair.
The water took the suds with it, but didn’t drone out Subaru’s voice. It echoed in the bathroom, got clearer when he came closer.
“Hey, listen, I like your cooking. And I know you had a long day, so taking time to make dinner for us – I appreciate it. Do we really argue about a bit soy sauce now?”
She turned off the water, took a generous amount of conditioner, worked it into the lengths.
“How long do you plan to make me talk to your back?”
“Why? You used to like that view.” She looked over her shoulder, watched his crossed arms unfold.
“Is that an invitation?” His fingers already worked open the tie, but he didn’t pull it off yet.
“Depends. Are you going to season me with soy sauce?”
“I’m going to season you with something else,” he announced, quickly stripped down and stepped into the shower with her.
“Wash my back.”
Armed with a washcloth and body wash he did as told, moved his hands over her back, down to her butt, from there over her hips before he pulled her closer against his chest. With his chin on her shoulder he whispered into her ear.
“You little outbreak earlier wasn’t because of the soy sauce, was it?”
Jazz tipped her own head back, sighed.
“Not really. I wanted to tell you something exciting and you had to one up me again.”
“You wanted to tell me you met a photographer?”
Jazz squirmed, turned in his embrace and looked at him.
“No, I wanted to tell you I met this photographer – not for the first time by the way – in a wonderful art museum while looking for a location because – and now comes the really exciting part – I got the G&A awards job.”
“You did? What happened to Yamamoto?” Water dripped from his hair into his wide eyes, he blinked, wiped it off with one hand.
“Well, his trusty combination of catering and a ballroom somewhere in town couldn’t convince the higher ups, not even with Tres Spade as possible venue.”
Considering how fancy some of the artists could be Jazz was surprised, usually they jumped at the chance to walk down some red carpet.
“And your idea was a bit more extraordinary?”
“Everything about me is extraordinary. Haven’t you noticed yet?” Her breasts pressed against him she grinned, wiggled her hips.
“Oh, I noticed. First thing I noticed about you.”
There it was again, her laughter. Carefree and happy.
“Let’s get rinsed off,” she suggested, but didn’t move.
“You get me dirty again.”
Wrapped up in her robe Jazz padded barefoot towards the kitchen. She was starving, her interrupted dinner plus the physical activities were taking their toll on her body. On weak knees she put her bowl into the microwave, set the time and went back into the bathroom where Subaru’s clothes were still on the floor. His tie, his shirt, his pants – she picked them up, took them to the hamper.
A lazy hum from the bedroom told her he was at least listening.
“Have you smoked?”
The bed creaked, fabric rustled.
“Not me, but our new squad member is a smoker. We shared a car today.”
Jazz scrunched up her nose, glared at the clothes in her hand.
“Cold, second hand smoke. Yuck.”
“I know you don’t like it, so I’ll take care of the laundry.”
“Tell your coworker to stop smoking when someone else is around. That’s not only rude, it’s harmful,” she grumbled, buried the offending clothes deeply in the hamper.
“Hey.” In his boxers he stepped behind her, nuzzled her neck with his arms wrapped around her. “Less angry now?”
She hummed, the ping of the microwave alerted her.
“Some food and some make up sex – best combination.” She turned around just enough to peck his shoulder, ran off towards the kitchen.
“Didn’t I pay enough attention to you lately for you to get moody?” He wandered after her, found her singing an easy tune under her breath.
“I like it when you’re happy.” Arms crossed in front of his chest he leaned against the doorframe, watched her milling around.
“Because you get more sex when I’m happy?” She flashed him a grin, handed him a cup of tea.
“Because I just like it when you are happy. I love you, that’s part of it.”
“You old sap.” A quick peck and she got her bowl from the microwave, slid on a chair and dug in. The first spoonful was quickly gone, the next she chewed thoroughly. “And it’s seasoned just fine.”
This time he didn’t argue.
“The flowers and the cake are ordered, but Miss Osmond asked for assistance picking out her wedding dress.” Liana handed Jazz some papers, waited for feedback or an order.
“Okay, can you schedule an appointment in our usual bridal shop? Try to get one from noon to open end.” Jazz scribbled some notes on one of the order forms, put it aside. “Anything else?”
“No, not really. Do you have any instructions for me?”
“Have you already booked a band or DJ? Asked if they want some performances? A photographer maybe?” The word was out before Jazz could think about it, but the way Liana’s eyes narrowed at her served as a reminder of their conversation the day before.
“No. Do you know a good one?”
“Several.” Jazz opted to ignore the dry sarcasm in Liana’s voice, reached for her file with flyers and contact infos of wedding photographers, handed it over. “Pick one, they are all good. Not exactly award worthy, but good.” With her sweetest smile she sent Liana back to her own desk, wondered again why this was such a big deal for her assistant.
Miho stared at the print out in her hand. This was impossible. Weeks and months of research and painstakingly reading, comparing and marking thousands of maps, papers and phone transcripts she had found a solid lead. Well, as solid as it could be.
“Seiji! Get your sweet ass over here, I need second opinion!”
Goto, buried in a similar high pile of papers, cleared a path and trudged over, leaned over the shoulder of his wife and looked at the part she pointed at.
“That’s the third time I see the name of this ship. Can’t be a coincidence anymore, can it?”
“Unlikely. How about I make some phone calls and see if we can get our hands on some waybills and such?”
“Good idea. You got someone for that?” She turned her head just enough to notice the crease between his eyebrows.
“Mhm, I might just have. Will tell you after the call.” He straightened, changed his mind and leaned in again, kissed her ear. “Good job.”
“I’ll show you ‘good job’,” she grumbled, with a smile though. “If this turns out to be something, I’m going out for a drink tonight.” Arms high above her head she stretched, worked out the kinks of her back and neck, rolled her shoulders. Caught him smiling at her.
“If this is what we were looking for, I will buy the first round.”
“What are we celebrating?” Jazz asked, the fruity cocktail in front of her begging to get tasted sooner rather than later. Before ice watered it down too much.
“Small success at work. And you? I heard you have some good news, too.” Miho swirled her glass with bourbon, looked at Liana who held a margarita.
“We got a highly coveted award show job. Snatched it from a coworker who thinks it’s enough to offer champagne and hors d’oeuvre.” A lot of careers had skyrocketed after such a chance, some had crashed furiously. Jazz was hellbent on making it her breakthrough, not a nosedive.
“Congrats.” Another round of raised glasses.
“And she ran into that guy again. The ponytail one.” Liana pursed her lips, not because of the lime in her drink.
“Oh?” Miho blinked into Jazz’s general direction, raised an eyebrow. “Do I have to look into that after all?”
“Nah, it’s fine. I already know everything I need to know. His name, occupation, Instagram account.” Jazz leaned back, but shot a sharp gaze towards Liana.
“You looked him up?”
“I found out his name by accident so I figured I could just – you know, stalk him a bit.” Jazz shrugged, made Miho grin.
“That’s not all you did,” Liana pointed out. “I was there when you talked to him, don’t forget that. I saw you do this – thing.”
“I what?” Jazz blinked, waited for an explanation, hackles already rising.
“You did this thing, this beaming smile and the cutesy head tilt. No need to give a guy your number or your name when you look at him like that. He’s getting ideas anyway.”
“Liana, may I ask a question?” Miho’s glass made a clinking sound as it touched the table in front of her. “Why did you get divorced?”
The direct question and seemingly random change of topic stilled the conversation briefly.
“I – we didn’t fit that well together anymore.”
“Regarding what?” In detective mode Miho wasn’t easily thrown off a track, her observational skills impressive.
Liana pursed her lips, wiped the salt off her finger by rubbing it with her thumb.
“He wasn’t as committed as I was.”
“Did he cheat?” Jazz had never asked before, they weren’t that close yet after all.
“No. He just – he stopped caring. Everything was a joke and when I got angry he shrugged it off. Basically he avoided taking responsibility for anything.” Head held high Liana met Jazz’s gaze.
“That’s a very rational, well reflected answer.” While Jazz considered herself a sensible person she was definitely more emotional when it came to past relationships. Not talking badly behind her ex’s backs, but in some cases unable to let it just go, the anger and annoyance caused by heartbreaks and breakups.
“I already talked about that with my therapist.” Not enough though, as Jazz assumed from the big gulp Liana took from her glass.
“So you prefer the serious type? Straight-laced, rational, responsible?” The look Jazz and Miho shared, a raised eyebrow here, a light nod there, and everything was hashed out.
“Well, he should have some sense of humor at least, but not just run off whenever there’s a problem or try to get out of by joking.
“A hard worker? Dedicated? Not easily distracted?” Jazz added to the catalogue, her grin grew when Liana nodded.
“Sure, sounds better than some lazy bum.” Catching up on the sneaky glances the other two traded Liana straightened up. “Hey, wait, we are not talking about me right now. It’s about you and the ponytail guy.”
“No matter how often you bring that up, there’s nothing between me and him. Glowing or not, I wouldn’t risk my marriage for some attention from random men.” Jazz gaze wandered through the bar, back to Liana. “Without wanting to sound cocky, but I could go and chat up at least four, maybe five guys here. I have a pretty good idea what kind of man is interested in me and who not. That doesn’t mean I would actually do it and pick them up. I’ve been on the other end of that situation before and honestly, it was shitty enough, I wouldn’t do that to anyone else.”
“You have been cheated on before?” Liana’s eyes widened, her glass paused only inches away from her mouth.
“Yep. Ruined my final year in university for me. Great guy, we were together for a bit more than two years. He banged this other chick behind my back for three months. He broke my heart, I broke his nose, and we still aren’t even.” Years later there was this tension in her stomach and her heart when she thought about it, less intense than when she had found out but too strong to ignore. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, smiled when she opened them again.
“Wow. I – I had no idea.” Slumping back into her chair Liana exhaled.
“Of course that doesn’t rid me of suspicion and it also doesn’t guarantee that I won’t make mistakes. Never say never. But I would not knowingly get myself into a situation that would destroy my marriage and hurt my husband. I love him after all, and he doesn’t leave me wanting for anything. Not attention, nor love or satisfaction. I would be stupid to throw that away for some fling.” With a shrug Jazz ended her short monologue, followed up with a swig of alcohol.
“And if she’s one thing, so it’s not stupid,” Miho concluded.
“Thank you.” Jazz raised her glass towards her friend who reciprocated.
“But you are still an attention whore and a limelight hog, so you love your audience and them fawning over you.”
“Hey, I thought you were on my side!”
Snickering into her glass Miho motioned for the waiter. “I am, but I’m also honest.”
“A little less honesty next time.” Jazz pouted, only perked up when Miho ordered her another cocktail.
Their conversation moved to lighter topics and after a few more rounds they shared a cab, dropped Liana off at her flat before Miho and Jazz headed towards the next stop. Jazz’s place.
“Should I call your hubby to help you inside?” Swaying lightly even while sitting Miho giggled at Jazz’s pout.
“Nooooo… I can do it. I’m just – I need to find my keys…” A hiccup rattled Jazz and her purse, the jingling of keys muffled by layers of clutter.
“You could just ring.”
The cab stopped, the driver waited for the women to figure out who actually had to get out.
“Don’t wanna wake him,” Jazz muttered, dug deep in her purse and howled a triumphant ‘Aha!’ when her fingers curled around cool metal.
“Okay, text me when you get home. Love ya…” It took her two tries to open the door and find her feet, slowly she staggered towards the door, one hand on the wall for support. Tomorrow her hangover would be the just punishment for going overboard, but her buzz pushed all the thoughts of consequences aside for now. The world spun and wouldn’t stop, Jazz managed to down a glass of water before she fell into bed, without even taking off her makeup or clothes.
The morning sun woke her up, found her grumpy and tired, her eye makeup smudged and her clothes wrinkled. The morning sun – Jazz turned around, patted the empty bed next to her. It was cool, the sheets smooth. Subaru hadn’t slept there last night.
With a groan she sat up, ran her hands over her face and squinted at the alarm clock. Not even 6am, still enough time for a shower and a bucket full of coffee. On the way to the bathroom she checked her phone, found a text saying Subaru had to fill in for someone and stay for the night shift. Wasn’t the first time and would definitely not be the last, so Jazz just shrugged it off, pulled off her clothes while walking and reached the shower already naked.
Clean, dressed and with a huge cup of coffee she already felt human again, smiled when she heard the key turning in the front door.
“Morning, darling!” she chirped, poured Subaru a tea – coffee wasn’t a good idea, he would go straight to bed after a full day of work after all – and hopped from her chair.
“Hey.” He pressed a kiss on her cheek, walked right past her towards the kitchen.
“You smell like smoke again.” Nose scrunched up she watched his back, how he opened the fridge and grabbed some leftovers.
“Yeah, same coworker. Asked her to stop smoking but – well, it was a shitty night and dealing with any withdrawal symptoms wasn’t worth it.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Despite the churning in her stomach she followed him into the kitchen, hugged him from behind and rested her chin on his shoulder. Or better, she tried to, but without heels she was too short.
“It’s not that bad. I will throw my clothes into the hamper later and take a shower before I go to bed.” He shoved a piece of braised vegetables into his mouth, chewed slowly.
“Okay. I gotta get ready for work now. You will be here when I get home?” Jazz drained the rest of her coffee, put the cup in the dishwasher. Subaru was a neat freak after all.
“I guess so. You want anything special for dinner?”
She kissed him, didn’t mind the drop of sauce on his lips.
“Nope. Surprise me.” A last pat on his bum and she rushed to get to work, left Subaru behind to sleep and take care of his clothes.
Snatching the biggest chance of her career so far didn’t mean Jazz could skip out of her other obligations. With the Nomura-Osmond wedding delegated unto Liana she had some wiggle room but still more than enough work to keep her busy and distracted all day.
One glance at her planner, just before she wanted to finish for the day, destroyed her dream of a quiet night in that would allow her to nurse her still aching head back to health.
“Yes?” a voice answered from the other office, just through the door.
“What day is it?” Jazz still stared at the planner, there was no chance to miss the date.
“Wednesday, why are you asking?”
She had forgotten about it. Dammit.
“Nothing, I just realized that I have to go to this thing tonight.” Did she still have the spare dress in the closet?
“What thing?” Liana’s face, with furrowed brow, appeared in the doorframe.
“This band I wanted to check out. I consider adding them to my live music options for events and they invited me to see them play today.” Sorting through her purse, packing the essentials into a smaller one, more fitting for the evening Jazz looked up, smiled at her assistant. “What do you say, you want to come with me? Good music, maybe a drink and dinner?”
“Are you hitting on me?” A perfect eyebrow cocked Liana smirked, shook her head. “No, thanks. I can’t go out every night, I’m still feeling the last two cocktails of last night.”
Since Jazz was in the same boat she didn’t argue, just nodded. “Okay, in that case I’ll tell you how it was tomorrow. Go home now, I’m out in ten, too.”
Changing into her spare dress and touching up her makeup didn’t take long, Jazz sent Subaru a quick message and hailed a cab to the small club where the band would play. Pop jazz. Thanks to countless puns with her name Jazz wasn’t into that music genre anymore, but a friend told her about this band that gave pop music a new spin with old instruments and vintage vibes.
The club was clean, had a cozy interior. Actual red velvet ropes separated private areas from public ones, lots of polished dark wood on the walls and the bars. A stage filled with instruments and four musicians. With her burgundy shift dress Jazz fit right in, she fluffed up her hair once more – the golden color guaranteed her instant attention in a country where most people were brunette – held her chin up high and her shoulders squared to ward off the annoying guys, preying only on weak and insecure woman. Her openly worn wedding ring wasn’t enough of a repellent, there were always the smarmy ones who didn’t care about her marital status, only about conquering.
The bar counter was mostly empty so she slipped onto a barstool, motioned for the bartender and asked for a virgin cocktail. Something that would make it look as if she was drinking but only raised her blood sugar, not the blood alcohol.
The singer joined the other band members on stage, they started with something easy, a catchy tune that sounded vaguely familiar but she didn’t recognize it until the singer crooned the chorus. A few jotted down notes and Jazz could focus on listening. At least it wasn’t a waste of time, after the second song she found herself turned towards the stage, her feet tapping in time with the music. A few other guests chatted, watched the band or drank, but the club was far from being crowded. So it was easy to spot him right when he entered.
“Holy crap…” Jazz muttered when Yushima Jinpachi, photographer and apparently music lover, walked through the door, directly into her direction.