Estrogen - Chapter Twenty One
The lack of a coinciding schedule even prevented us from celebrating Erika’s birthday. We agreed that rather than taking time away from both of our studies, we would wait ‘till she returned for Christmas and celebrate it then. It would be three occasions in one: her birthday, our anniversary, and Christmas. I looked at the calendar and realized that we’ve been together for so long now that I couldn’t even remember the first time when I confessed to her. I wondered how I felt at that precise moment; and if time rewound, would I be able to do the same?
In university, everyone had aspirations to become someone great, and my working status for Fujimaru-senpai was no longer an occupation looked upon with envy. I found out that some students were promised internships with foreign designers over the summer break and realized that there truly will always be someone greater out there.
Fujimaru-senpai did not return to Japan even once after her wedding and we’ve only been able to communicate through telephone. I dutifully took down notes of what she would like for me to do, and tried to ignore the noises on her end.
“Did you want that sealed?”
“Don’t bother, it’s not like anyone else is going to look at it.”
No seal; I scribbled next to my fifth note.
“Okay, got it.”
“Make sure to check the sample package before more is made. Just because I’m not in Japan does not mean they can use my name and send out shitty products.”
Fujimaru-senpai’s language had been getting progressively… graphic as time went on. I made no comment outwardly but jotted it down in my heart. Sometimes, I would hear the strain in her voice and I wondered if she regretted marrying her husband. Even now, did she still have feelings for Hoshimura-senpai?
“Fashion season is right around the corner, decline all invitations for me.”
When she first got married, she said she was looking forward to the next fashion season, but now…
“Regarding the magazine, I will have the articles prepared by the end of this week. You are to send them to my usual editor and”
There was a noise on the other end that I heard; it was indistinguishable, but it was loud enough to be transmitted to me and Fujimaru-senpai was clearly distracted. From Japanese, she switched to English easily and conversed with whoever else was on the other end. Even though it was a horrible act, but I still strained to listen; as if I could decipher her fast paced English.
“Give me a moment.”
Finally, she put down the phone and I was left with muffled sounds. I heard the rising and falling of voices and the unmistakable sounds of something crashing against a wall. I shrunk back into my seat and clutched onto the receiver tightly. What kind of a life was Fujimaru-senpai leading in Canada?
She returned to the phone a few moments later and picked up where she left off. It was as if the interruption never occurred, but I heard the restrained emotions in her voice. Like she was subtly trying to tell me something about her current state of affairs; but the message was lost in translation and phone line.
I plunged into finals season by the first week of December and could not look up from my books even for food. I was struggling in a couple of my courses and I needed terrific finals to pull up my marks. It was my goal and I was willing to work for it. Ten days later, I could finally sit down in the living room and breathe. I was officially on Christmas break!
Erika still had a few more exams to go, as hers were all pushed ‘till the end of the exam schedule. She sounded patient, but I knew she was just as anxious as me to get those things over with.
Fujimaru Asura, previously crowned as the most beautiful woman in Japan, was spotted with a round belly and flat boots yesterday. It would appear that the model turned wife and business woman is about five months pregnant.
Shocked, I could only stay in my seat and watch the entertainment news with my mouth hanging open. Fujimaru-senpai had never mentioned anything about pregnancy, but then again, she never mentioned anything about her married life either. I wanted to say that she got fat, but truly, it was clearly a baby bump that even I could not deny. Unknown to me, it appeared to be the story brewing for the past couple of days. So much so that every channel I flipped to, if there was entertainment news, there was some mention of it. In Japan, she was still regarded as the most beautiful woman regardless of her martial status. To everyone else, they thought that her husband was her first love and all congratulated her on such a beautiful marriage. However, to me, I knew that she’s always had a truly beautiful love story long before Matsumoto Anthony showed up.
That afternoon, I sat in the living room and watched the same news over and over again on one channel and the next. Food or water were no longer important and if it weren’t for my sister returning home from school, I would not have noticed the passing of time either.
In those hours, I thought about many things.
As if finally a conclusion reached me, I stood from the sofa and ran upstairs to grab a purse and shoved in a few of things I deemed essential. For example: my wallet, my music player, my keys and my cell phone.
“Where are you going? Mom and dad are going to be back soon.”
“I’m going to stop by a friend’s house.” I was stopped in front of my sister’s room; she was just tossing her uniform into the laundry basket in her room. “It’s an emergency. Go ahead and eat without me and don’t wait up for me either.” It was the first time that I’ve exercised the freedom that my parents have given me with such force that my sister could only stare at me with bewilderment.
Looking back on it, I didn’t know why I lied and said it was an emergency. Perhaps in my mind, I did think of it as the world ending for Hoshimura-senpai, and somehow, it translated into an emergency for me.
The bus ride took me to a neighbourhood that I could recognize with some familiarity, but certainly not one that I was comfortable with. Looking left and then right, I stood at a crossroad and wondered which way I should head. After a moment of sorting out my memories, I turned to the left decidedly and strolled down the dimly lit road towards Hoshimura-senpai’s home.
It was Reika who greeted me at the door.
“Senpai.” She was taken back by my presence and even forgot to invite me for the first few seconds. “Ah, sorry. Please come in!”
“That’s alright.” My smile was tight on my lips and I glanced past her for a second. “Is Hoshimura-senpai home?”
“Natsuki?” Having recovered from her shock, Reika looked conspicuously curious before shaking her head. “No, she’s not. Don’t you know that she has an apartment in the city? She’s probably there.”
No, I never did hear of it. Then again, it wasn’t as if I was extremely close to Hoshimura-senpai to know of such details. I’d like to think that I was closer to Fujimaru-senpai, but that was only because work necessitated it.
I didn’t know how I appeared to Reika at that moment, but neither of us knew quite what to say. Finally, she cleared her throat and stepped out of her house and tugged the door close behind her. “Are you still going out with Maki-senpai?”
“Eh?” I flinched back in surprise before nodding. “Yes.”
“Is that so.”
She was unreadable and I was about to ask why but she sighed and looked away. “Her address, remember it.”
Five minutes later, I was standing at a bus stop once again. There was no written direction, but my brain had memorized the verbal landmarks more than enough. Besides, I’ve lived in this city practically my entire life; I wasn’t that big of an idiot not to know the major intersections at least.
It was when I stood in the foyer of Hoshimura-senpai’s apartment building did I feel the doubt creeping about me. It started at the tip of my fingers when I was faced with the panel of the in-building directory, wondering if I should place the call. From what perspective did I have the right to offer her any words? I wondered.
The security guard was now sending me strange glances and without a choice I punched in Hoshimura-senpai’s number and waited for the line to connect. It took three rings for Hoshimura-senpai to pick up. During those three seconds, so many thoughts raced through my head that it should have been impossible. They were conflicting thoughts of not wanting her to pick up, and then wanting her to pick up, even scenarios of what I should do should either of them happen.
Her voice came out crisp and clear over the receiver and my body tensed immediately.
“Ah, hello, Hoshimura-senpai.” I almost wanted to bow, but remembered that she couldn’t see me. “This is Megumi… I… I’m sorry for intruding, but I was wondering if I could talk to you…”
There was a moment of brief silence; I thought she was going to turn me down and was about to breathe a sigh of relief and regret at the same time.
“Sure, come on up.”
And the butterflies started again.
Hoshimura-senpai’s apartment was situated on the seventh floor and I watched the red number change from floor to floor. Even when I was already inside and sliding off my shoes in her foyer, I still did not quite know how to carry myself. Perhaps I was a little too rash when I decided to see her tonight. And yet, the urge was so irresistible at that moment I thought my life depended on it.
“Would you like anything to drink?”
“No, that’s alright, thank you.”
She sat on the back of her sofa and looked at me with a smile, waiting for me to start patiently. Her place reminded me of her; clean and simple. I did not know that she had her own place, but when I thought about it, I realized that I must have been stupid to think that she would still live with her mother at such an age; especially when she was already established and has…
… had a girlfriend of her own.
The past tense on that word reminded me why I was here and I swallowed before picking up my head. There was a scatter of dim lights all around us; there was that floor light and those wall lights. Shadows danced atop her furniture and even on her. For a second, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to start; wondering if I was stepping over any lines that I shouldn’t be crossing.
“News…” I started and my voice croaked. “The news said that…”
Her expression was unwavering, looking without commenting, waiting for me to go on.
“The news said that Fujimaru-senpai is pregnant.”
I think I expected tears and curse words to fly about. However, when I saw the smile grow lop sided a little bit more, I realized that I wasn’t surprised either. At length, she sighed and let her head drop, hiding her face from me. If she cried, I wondered to myself, would I be able to comfort her?
“So I’ve heard as well.” She offered a shrug before looking up at me again. “Good for her. I’m sure her child will be beautiful just like her.”
Those words were like what I heard the last time. They were words of a congratulatory nature and words of a silent consent. It made me frown, made me angry, made me sad and made me cold at the same time. “Don’t you feel anything?” So my tone could not be controlled and accused her of betrayal. I remembered the noises I heard when I last spoke on the phone with Fujimaru-senpai and wondered if Hoshimura-senpai had just let her go so easily to a marriage that was without smiles. “Don’t you feel at least a little bit sad?!” I was agitated when I didn’t even know whom I should point fingers at or whom I should feel sorry for. “Can you just smile so easily when your girlfriend of the past ten years just moved on without a second word? Was your love…”
a complete lie?
I chocked on my thoughts and licked my lips; it was then that I noticed my tears have begun once again. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly my tears could come when it came to the two of them. Perhaps I was mourning my shredded fantasies, or maybe I was mourning for something more tangible.
Hoshimura-senpai rose from her perch slowly and approached me at equal pace. She had on a pair of sweat pants and large, white T-shirt. It appeared that she was about to turn in when I showed up at her door. “Megumi-chan,” her voice was low and her position close to mine “if I screamed, if I yelled, if I whined, if I cried, do you think it will bring Asura back to me?” The quiet lull of her voice calmed me cell by cell, and I lifted my eyes to look up at her. “If I stayed at home and moped all day long, do you think that will bring Asura back?” She chuckled, and I heard the bitterness in her voice. “Nothing I do now will bring Asura back, we both know that. When she made that decision last year, I knew it was final. So since she’s already moving on, can’t you grant me the same privilege and let me move on as well?”
They say to let love go and see if it comes back to you. They say your first love will always be the hardest to forget.
What do they say about your first kiss? And your first intimate evening with another?
Perhaps it’d always been hidden so deep inside of me that I never really gave it a second thought. To me, Hoshimura-senpai was unattainable and untouchable because… well, let’s face it, who could compete with Fujimaru-senpai? From the first second of that knowledge, some things were then forfeited. On a night like this, when I stepped in to hug her for the pure sake of wanting to comfort and wanting comfort in return, maybe a little bit of that cage had been chipped away.
She, like always, was patient and gentle.
In the morning, I woke between silk sheets and looked up at the ceiling with a disorientated head. Pushing myself up, I clutched the sheet to my naked body and looked around the room. It was empty, and it gave me the time and space to dress. The reality did not hit until I exited the room and saw her in the dining room, sipping on her cup of coffee.
“Morning.” She greeted casually.
“Morning.” I answered quietly.
Then I remembered –not that I once forgot- what happened last night and the implications truly settled in. My stomach turned and even the aroma of coffee made me want to vomit. Did I regret what happened? Probably a little; but at the same time, most of my guilt came from the knowledge that I might treasure this for the rest of my life. It was such a disgusting thought that I had to put a hand over my mouth as if bile was threatening to spill out.
I looked at her alarmed face and took in a couple of deep breaths in an attempt to calm myself.
“What…” I started on a stutter before finally lowering the hand that I had placed over my mouth. “What are we going to tell the others?” I asked, in what I hoped was a calm and adult like tone in regards to this situation. My mind was already whirling, many thoughts raced together at once trying to gain favour. Of course, I thought to myself, we will need to explain to everyone we know. Then we will need to face each other and discuss the implications of last night as well. Then we will need to think about where we stand in relation to one another. Then we will need to…
“What do you mean?”
Her question jolted me out of my own essay of responses and I looked at her for a moment before frowning slowly. “I mean… what happened last night… what are we going to tell everyone else?”
“Why is there a need to tell anyone about what happened?”
I flinched back; unexpectedly, the question whipped harder than I imagined possible. “I… I’m dating Erika, and she deserves a proper explanation regarding what happened. Don’t you have...”
“She doesn’t have to know.” Hoshimura-senpai cut in with an amused little grin, as if I were telling a joke. Rising from the table, she walked towards me casually.
Everything about her was so casual that it was like I just stayed over for an evening and we fell asleep watching movies or something.
“Megumi-chan, we’re both adults; the decisions we made last night were done by ourselves, no one else could be blamed or be held responsible for it. Such a thing is common in this day and age. I can promise you that I won’t even breathe a word of this to anyone else. So you can tell Erika if you want to, or not if you don’t want to.”
I think for the first time in many years, I’ve finally, actually, truly saw Hoshimura-senpai. Around her, there was no longer that halo of gold. The smile that used to quicken my heart no longer held any sway; in fact, it looked fake and almost disgusting. This entire situation was disgusting.
I am disgusting.
Without another word, I turned and grabbed my purse, which was left on her sofa last evening, to leave. Ignoring her calls after me, I all but ran out of the door and down the hall towards the elevator.
I am disgusting.
I looked at the mirrored walls of the elevator as it descended slowly. Then I understood, there was no such thing as fairy tales in this world.
To be continued...