The scent of smoke – Part 12

There was no grace period when Jazz woke up the next morning, no blissful temporary amnesia. She opened her eyes, found herself in her own bed, under her own blanket, without the man she had married.

The thought of calling in sick at work was tempting – Liana would surely understand after Jazz’s impressive display of being unwell the day before – but staying at home had lost its allure. She trudged into her bathroom; a long hot shower later she walked back out and got dressed. Routine had its perks, for example the lack of cognitive activity needed for it. Doing her makeup and hair took just enough time so she had to rush out without breakfast. She could get something on the way to the office, a coffee and maybe a sandwich. The migraine had vanished, just a dull pressure had settled in the back of her head, made its home there. For now she could ignore it, for later she might get painkillers. If only everything was so easily fixed.

On her tiptoes she sneaked to the apartment door; if Subaru was still at home he had made no sound so far, but better safe than sorry.

The weather didn’t match her heartbreak; blue skies, the sun was shining and the air was clean enough to see the skyline in the distance.

After the successful award event more work piled up on her desk so Jazz dove right in, ignored her personal phone in favor of answering the calls of potential clients and making orders for future events. When Liana came in to greet her Jazz had already diminished her to-do list by a couple of items.

“Hey, are you feeling better today?” She took a seat in front of Jazz’s desk, satisfied when her inspection showed no dark circles under Jazz’s eyes anymore.

“I slept a lot and now I’m ready to tackle this pile. And I’m really sorry for yesterday; this migraine came out of nowhere.” Jazz shuddered at the memory; she would never be able to set a foot into that store again.

“All’s well that ends well. Miss Osmond has a wonderful dress now, you had some sleep and I have a date tonight.”

This got Jazz’s attention, she leaned back in her chair and grinned.

“Is that so? Things are getting serious, huh? Good for you.”

“Hush, you are one to talk. Your husband came to pick you up yesterday because you weren’t well. That’s the level of intimacy and care I aspire.”

Jazz’s pen hit the desk, clattered and rolled down on the floor.

“You okay?” Liana’s brow furrowed but Jazz quickly picked her pen up and smiled.

“Yeah, sorry. Too much coffee. So are you going out for dinner?” Distraction, evasion, deflection – the holy trinity for people to change a topic and Jazz played all of them like finely tuned instruments.

“No, he’s coming over for dinner. I’m going to cook something and we are watching a movie afterwards.” A light blush stained Liana’s cheeks, she picked at the hem of her skirt and smoothed it down again.

“In that case, make sure you get out of the office in time. I bet it’s difficult enough to date someone who’s basically on call 24/7.” Seeing Liana happy like this cut deeply into Jazz’s wounded heart. She put on a brave mask and dropped her gaze on the papers in front of her again.

“Isn’t it the same with you and Ichiyanagi-san?” Liana got up, her fingertips brushed over the surface of the desk.

“I guess. And that’s how I know it can be difficult, so make the most of the time you have with Captain Ishigami.” Jazz found a typo in a proposal, marked it in bright red and kept reading.

“Maybe we should form a support group. ‘Dating a cop 101’ with you, Miho and me,” Liana joked and waved before she left.

Jazz stared at her phone. She could call Miho; her friend often held good advise when Jazz hit a wall. Only this time… Miho would kill Subaru. Maybe not literally, but she would not hold back her anger and disappointment. If Jazz wanted him humiliated and shunned in their social circle, this was the way to go. But as long as she hadn’t decided what to do, whether to fight for her marriage or give up, she couldn’t tell Miho. The risk of getting swept away by Miho’s temper scared her; if this marriage failed she didn’t want to blame herself for not trying everything in her might. For now, she would keep it a secret. With a sigh she returned to her paperwork, stared at the words until they blurred before her eyes.

 

Liana had long gone home when Jazz stepped out of the office building and closed her coat. Despite the sun all day temperatures dropped in the evening; typical late summer weather with chilly nights and mild days. Her gaze fixed on the pavement in front of her Jazz trudged towards the train station. She could get dinner on the way, something simple. Or maybe something fancy, a pick-me-up of sorts. Soul food. She craved the food of her home country, not the Japanese cuisine which only reminded her that she was still a guest here, a visitor. Would she be even able to stay once her marriage was over? Another thing she had to research; another point on her list to consider.

Back home she found the door locked and lights turned off; Subaru was not in the apartment, but there was a note and a pink rose waiting for Jazz. The note said: ‘Please allow me to explain tonight.’

She took it together with the rose into the kitchen, crammed both into Subaru’s ridiculously overpriced blender he had bragged about for months, and gave it a few spins. Childish, yes, spiteful even, but it made her lips curl up in the first genuine smile for two days.

With a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea she snuggled up on the couch, flipped through the channels until she was tired enough to go to bed. She didn’t even clean her dishes away, just locked the bedroom door and crawled into bed.

Later that night there was a series of soft knocks at the door but she refused to acknowledge them, just stared at the ceiling in the darkness until Subaru’s footsteps faded away in direction of the living room.

She kept the pattern up for another three days, sneaked out in the morning and locked herself into the bedroom at night. Subaru was still blocked on her phone and she threw out every note he left for her without ever replying. She was angry, hurt and confused and she showed him in every possible way without actually talking to him.

Whenever she thought of him, caught glimpses of mementos, whenever someone mentioned her husband her emotions boiled up until she felt sick.

 

“God, it’s been ages since we had a decent dinner together.” Miho browsed through the menu while Jazz stared at the same page for minutes.

“You want a starter? Or we could just order a bunch of dishes and split. Like a buffet.”

In contrast to Miho’s chatter Jazz only hummed; she lacked appetite the last few days. Eating wasn’t fun anymore, just a way to get energy.

“Are you still mad because I had no time the last few days?” Miho let the menu sink and frowned, waved for a waiter when Jazz stayed silent. She ordered several starters and a few main dishes, another drink and one for Jazz. Once the waiter nodded and left she turned her attention back to her friend.

“Subaru is the same at the moment. As if I’m keen on working with him.”

Jazz blinked, a crease between her eyebrows appeared as confusion furrowed her brows.

“You are working with him?”

“Yeah. Didn’t he tell you? I swear, he only does that to annoy me.” The dynamic between Miho and Subaru left lots of room for jabs and quips, but also for pranks and intentional neglect when it came to conveying messages to Jazz. “Turned out the attack on his golden boy had been executed with a gun from our target. Katsuragi thinks it’s a good idea to strengthen bonds between the departments and Ishigami agreed.”

Their drinks arrived and Miho took a sip, sighed in contentment and propped up her arms on the table as she leaned towards Jazz.

“So, what’s new in your life?”

Too many words rushed though Jazz’s head, got in the way of each other so she ended up shrugging.

“Work is crazy. The award show got really great reviews and now I’m swamped.”

“Oh yeah, I bet. Hey, was your stalker guy there, too?” The ice in her glass clinked as Miho swirled her drink.

“He’s not a stalker, I’m not a stalker, and yes, he had been there. Won first prize. Danced with me. Afterwards I made sure the event came to a good ending and went home – unstalked.”

The feeling of having forgotten something crept up on her, Jazz washed it down with a swig of her cocktail.

“Wait, wait, wait. Danced with you? How many times does this make? You dance awfully often with a guy who’s not your stalker but keeps running into you.” The more she drank, the louder Miho got.

“Can’t help it, you know I love to dance and he’s a great dancer. And he’s good at respecting my boundaries. Hasn’t even asked for my name yet, even less for anything more.” Another swig and Jazz’s glass was almost empty.

“Booooring.” At the arrival of their food Miho perked up, waited until the waiter was gone before she rearranged plates and bowls on the table.

“You are aware I’m still married,” Jazz pointed out. The food smelled incredible, its aroma wasted on her as she felt her throat tighten at the thought of eating.

“I am, your husband is sulking in my office all day long after all. I guess I’m seeing more of him than you do at the moment.” With nimble chopsticks Miho snatched bites here and there. “The good thing is, now I have someone for the grunt work. We are going to raid a ship soon, so there’s plenty of paperwork.”

The alcohol seeped into Jazz’s mind, muffled noises and pain. She nodded mechanically, zoned in and out of the conversation just enough so Miho didn’t get suspicious. At the end of the meal she had barely eaten.

“You wanna take the leftovers back home for Ichiyanagi?” Miho asked as they split the bill.

“No, bring them back for Goto. Tell him I said ‘hi’ and thanks for talking to Subaru.” Not that it had helped, but no one could have known.

“Hey, are you okay?”

Jazz focused on Miho and smiled. “Yeah, just – really, really tired. I feel like sleeping for a week straight.”

“Work, huh? Yeah, after this case I need a break, too. Maybe a long weekend somewhere. An onsen sounds good. Hey, about we go on a couples’ retreat? You, Ichiyanagi, Seiji and I?” With the paper bag filled with leftovers in her hand Miho marched towards the street, her free hand raised to hail a cab.

“So the guys can do whatever guys do while you and I get massages?” Jazz barked a laughter; they had done that once or twice. Fun times.

“If Ichiyanagi wasn’t so uptight I would be fine with you and I giving each other massages. But his level of jealousy is epic and I don’t want to ruin another vacation by having to listen to him ‘reminding you whom you belong to’.”

“It’s not as if you and Goto were exactly discreet,” Jazz grumbled, her stomach churning at the memory of that night, of Subaru all possessive and insatiable. Just because the barkeeper had flirted with her.

“True.” Miho opened the door and slid into the backseat of the cab, waited for Jazz to follow her before she told the driver the first address. “Hey, do you want to have dinner one of these days?”

“We just had dinner.” Jazz slumped into the cushions of the backseat, curled up so she could rest her head against the window. Tokyo at night was bright and lively, rushed past them fast enough for Jazz to get dizzy.

“I mean with the boys.”

The glass cooled Jazz’s forehead, fogged under her breath.

“Maybe once your case is solved. You don’t want to work with Subaru and also spend time with him afterwards.”

If even Miho couldn’t tell something was wrong, Jazz did a good job at acting normal. Whatever that was.

Sneaking around, avoiding the same person he couldn’t wait to see only a few days ago. Emptying her mind to not think about him, about them. This was her new normal. This was her life now.

Light spilled from the windows into the night; Jazz braced herself. Either to dash into the bedroom or to confront Subaru – both options were terrifying. She couldn’t keep this up forever, but wasn’t ready to face him yet.

“I could just leave,” she whispered, fingertips resting against the door. “Turn around and never come back.” To go back to her family, start a new life there. Europe was just a flight away.

Her keys jingled as she unlocked the door, pushed it open and stepped inside.

“I’m home,” she mumbled as she slipped out of her shoes. Subaru leaned against the doorframe to the living room, arms crossed in front of his chest.

“Welcome back.”

One comment

  1. I like how your characters and their actions/reactions are very *real*… I think we can all definitely see these feelings and behaviors happening irl…hell, we’ve probably all felt/done some aspect/level of this ourselves at some time. Even though you may think what was the point of this chapter (if your tags at the end are any indication), I like it in that it really shows the nitty-gritty of Jazz’s path of thoughts and emotions throughout this ordeal, and so all the better fleshes out her (and even some of the other chars’) personality as well as their relationships with each other. Makes things all the more relatable and engaging, imho. I enjoyed this, and am looking forward to the next chapter! (Make Subaru squirm!)

    Like

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