Estrogen - Chapter Nineteen
I didn’t know what role I played when I was surrounded with arrangements for a wedding. Not just any wedding, but Fujimaru-senpai’s wedding. She sometimes would sit opposite me and carry on with her own work. I sometimes wondered if she will not even take a look at the wedding arrangements. In the end, it was like I was planning for a dream wedding; except, in my vision, I saw Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimura-senpai together. Her sparkling engagement ring pained my eyes every time I would catch sight of it. Unlike the silences of many months past, these moments of silence spoke of a true divide. I felt it and I was sure that Fujimaru-senpai could not have missed it either. It was like we were now finally, truly of different worlds.
After that impulsive move in March to run to Hoshimura-senpai, I never saw her again. She focused on her games and I tried to focus on school. It was early May and the exams were right around the corners. There ceased to be any reason other than exams more vital in life.
However, between one dream and another, I couldn’t help but still wonder whether love was just this.
My friends did not turn to me after that confrontation, but I think I could understand a little of their ground as well. Even though there were no longer pretensions between us, there lay a more tentative approach for a renewal of friendship. This one would be based on all the secrets that have been exposed and will no longer pose as threats. It felt much better, to spread out all of my cards and know that I did all that I could do.
Fujimaru-senpai wedded on an early May afternoon. The wedding took place at a lake side park beneath bowing willow trees. It was an archway naturally made for the two of them. Since the engagement ‘till this moment of vows, I’ve never seen the groom even once. The one time when I chanced his presence in Canada was all but forgotten, and the details could not be called forth to my mind no matter how hard I tried.
“You know they say a girl is the most beautiful when in a wedding dress.” Erika commented quietly next to me as we stood at the entrance of the archway and greeted those who stepped past us to take their seats.
“That is only true when the girl is marrying for love.”
“Are you saying that Fujimaru-senpai is going to look hideous?”
I gave her a look that had her smiling just a little. Who could possibly find Fujimaru-senpai hideous? However… maybe there was merit in saying that perhaps Fujimaru-senpai will always look the most beautiful next to Hoshimura-senpai. Speaking of whom, Ito-senpai had already seated herself, but Hoshimura-senpai was no where to be seen. Ito-senpai had told us that Hoshimura-senpai would be here and wouldn’t dream of missing this for anything else.
How would it feel? To see your former girlfriend parted only five months ago marry someone else?
“Do you think Hoshimura-senpai will show up?” I voiced my concern quietly; finally.
“I don’t know.”
“Will you attend my wedding if I were to marry someone else?”
Erika turned and looked at me carefully for a long moment before returning her gaze to the stream of people still arriving.
“Why? Are you planning on marrying someone else?”
Caught in between a “yes” and “no”, I opted for something more non-descript in the end.
From afar walked towards us a familiar figure and my heart could not help but race as Hoshimura-senpai grew closer. She had a smile for us and paused to chat only briefly. “I hear Megumi-chan was the master mind behind this wedding? Good job, it looks marvellous.”
My lips moved and tears threatened to well up once again. Her smiling face twisted my heart even more, and I wondered if Hoshimura-senpai could indeed let go of her love so easily.
“Thank you.” In the end, I offered a feeble smile and a nod.
“Where have you been? Ito-senpai was looking for you.” Erika relieved me of my discomfort and spoke instead. I was thankful, knowing how much Erika disliked the senpai.
“Ah, no where in particular, I’ll see to Shina now.”
So like that, she brushed past us and towards her seat. Her arm brushed against mine and I shivered involuntarily. The urge to turn around and call out for her was great, but thankfully, my restraint was greater.
Matsumoto Anthony’s entire family was present, but only Fujimaru-senpai’s mother was in attendance. Apparently, her father’s health still kept him from making any sort of attempt to get out of bed. The groom looked dashing standing aside the priest in his attire of white suit, hands clasped in front of his body. When the harp played out that familiar song, one by one, the guests rose and turned towards the entrance of the archway.
Fujimaru-senpai stood in a gorgeous wedding gown that was a present from Vera Wang. She held a bouquet of white lily in her hands and surveyed the crowd before taking her steps down the aisle. She had no one to hold her hand and offer her away. All eyes were on her as she strolled down the aisle with seeming indifference. It was only when she drew close to me did I notice the one peculiarity in her attire. Sharply contrasting the million dollar gown and accessories was the old and worn necklace that she had around her neck. After a moment of reflection, I realized that it was the necklace that was once two. Fujimaru-senpai had half of the heart and Hoshimura-senpai had the other half; now, the heart was whole, resting on Fujimaru-senpai’s chest alone.
I couldn’t help the glance that I sent towards Hoshimura-senpai’s direction. She watched with as much indifference as the bride.
The day after her wedding, Fujimaru-senpai and her husband returned to Canada.
May and June flew by with school bearing its full force down upon us and having to take care of Fujimaru-senpai’s work here in Japan. Although she had not left me anything that required executive decisions, the miscellaneous tasks were enough to fill up my hours. We conversed on a regular basis via telephone. Sometimes, I could hear noises from her end, a male’s voice that she usually ignored.
Erika and I were apart more often than together. I felt the conviction of knowing that we are no longer at the beginning stages of our relationship where we would need constant attention and reassurance. At the same time, when I would be stuck in a meaningless conversation –that was awkward and trying- with my friends, I so needed her assurance that everything will be alright.
At the end of June, we tossed up our hats and graduated from our alma mater.
The two months of summer were supposed to be relaxing, but with the uncertainty of university acceptances, it became a summer of anxiety.
“If I don’t get into an university, can I work for you full time?” One day, that question slipped off my tongue in the middle of my conversation with Fujimaru-senpai.
She paused for a brief second. “I don’t want some failure working for me.” Marriage or not, Fujimaru-senpai still had her tongue. “However, I trust my eyes; someone whom I brought under my wings cannot possibly be barred entrance.”
It gave me a confidence boost and I could finally approach the days without jumping at every little thing. It was in the third week of July when I received word of my acceptance. Sadly, it was not from my top university, but it was still second on my list. I was ecstatic; but to say there was not even a shred of regret would be lying. Erika received her invitation a week after mine from the National Institute of Art. It was my first choice and to see her with its acceptance letter stirred my jealousy, but I was truly happy for her. That evening, we pulled an all-nighter talking about things that did not matter.
Oh well, I thought as I finally fell asleep some time early in the morning, if I do well enough after my first year, I will see if I can transfer over. That thought accompanied me to sleep.
“Here, part one of your present.”
On my birthday, early in the morning, Erika handed me a wrapped box. As always, I shook it first and guessed at its content. And as always, I would max out my three tries and open it with a pout. Turning the box over, I lifted my eyebrows and looked over at Erika.
“I cannot understand how you still do not have a webcam in this day and age.”
Paired with a snort, I offered her a cheeky grin.
“What can I use it towards? I see you every day!”
She pinched my cheek with affection, a gesture that I had gotten used to, but her smile dimmed slowly. “Yeah… we used to be able to see each other every day.”
Now that we were to separate for university, the reality sounded like a dream. The National Institute of Art was in the neighbouring city and my university was thankfully situated in my city. Even though the trip wasn’t horrendous, but it would still take up a good portion of one’s day. Needless to say, we won’t be seeing each other every day. Perhaps Erika had come to terms with reality faster than I, and thus, she prepared such a present.
“Wait, you said part one, does that mean there are other parts?”
My eyes surely must have sparkled when I questioned her, for she feigned annoyance and turned her head away. I laughed, knowing that I was right and declared that I was looking forward to the rest of the day.
In the end, part two was the latest computer software every fashion designer would dream of. By then, I was blindly wishing that part three would be a new laptop! Part three was a scrapbook with the first page already filled for me, decorated with photos of us.
Moments after Erika closed the door to shower, I was just about to flip open the scrapbook and add something of my own weight when the door bell rang. Caramel was the first one at the door and she did not forget to throw looks over her shoulder at me as I scrambled up and towards the door.
“Hey, sorry, I hope this is not a bad time.” She said with a smile, so how could I not smile back and shake my head?
“Not at all. Erika just went in to shower, did you want me to…”
“There is no need.” Hoshimura-senpai did not wait for me to finish my sentence before speaking on. “Do you know long it took me to remember this address?” She feigned extreme sadness but then smiled at me again. “No matter, for today is a joyous occasion. Here.” She pulled something out from behind her back and handed it to me. “Your birthday present. Happy birthday, Megumi-chan.”
To say that I was not touched would be a complete lie. My shock must have been evident on my face for Hoshimura-senpai laughed and patted my cheek lightly. It was a brief moment of contact and I keenly felt the callous on her fingers; along with the mild jolt of electricity that surged through my body.
It felt sinful.
Hoshimura-senpai did not stay, and by the time Erika exited the bathroom, all traces of any visitor had been erased. For some reason, I did not tell Erika of Hoshimura-senpai’s visit and the present stayed hidden in my bag for the entire time.
Why didn’t I say anything?
I did not know the answer either.
In the middle of August, Erika hopped onto a bus and headed for her university. I was with her ‘till the very last second and watched the bus depart ‘till I could no longer see it. My trip home was the same length as my trip there in the morning, but never had I felt so cold in August. Erika promised me that she would text me as soon as she was settled and got Internet connection.
When I saw her name flash on my cell phone screen, I was so surprised that I could not help but gasp into the receiver.
“Ookina-kun, I hope I am not interrupting anything.”
“Not at all! Is there anything I can do for you?” As much as I wanted to think this to be a social call, I knew it was unlikely. Ito-senpai and I were not close and we barely speak unless occasion called for it.
“It’s not like that, I just…” Here, she hesitated before I heard a sigh on her end. “Has Hoshimura-senpai gone to see you recently?”
My eyebrow shot up and I blinked at my wall for a second. “The last time I saw her was on my birthday…” The word tasted bitter, and I could not help but remember how Erika still had no idea of Hoshimura-senpai’s visit.
There was a moment of silence on both ends and I could feel the tension building. I hated awkward moments; that silence could drive me insane.
“… is something wrong, Ito-senpai?” Finally, I broke the silence and asked.
“Ookina-kun, I hope you do not take this personally.” That was never a good start to any conversation. “I hope you will put some distance between yourself and Hoshimura-senpai.”
That really was the first and only word that I could think of in this situation.
“I’m saying this for your own good as well.”
“Ito-senpai, I’m not understanding what you’re trying to say. I barely see Hoshimura-senpai… I think the distance between us is great enough already. Any greater and I won’t even be able to see her at all.” The last sentence was a jest but my laugh was weak. Truthfully, my mind was already disturbed by Ito-senpai’s words that I could not think of a more witty reply.
“Is that so.” I heard another sigh before she spoke again. “In that case, I am sorry that I troubled you; please disregard this conversation then.”
Just like that, a phone call that lasted five minutes was able to turn my life inside out. I sat on my bed and starred at the opposite wall, mulling over every word that Ito-senpai spoke, and heck, even the words that she did not speak. I wanted to call her right back and ask what that was all about. Then, I wanted to call Hoshimura-senpai and demand an explanation.
Strangely, the thought of calling Hoshimura-senpai had my heart racing and guilt returned to my head. No, I definitely could not call her!
A string of notes brought me from my trance and I looked down to see an incoming text message. Erika?Megumi-chan, what are you doing this weekend? Hoshimura
Now, I’m just confused.
To be continued...