The natural, um, peculiar nature of Ami and Cathy’s relationship was on display as I walked into the apartment. It was obvious in some points that Cathy had tried to decorate (probably with Haru’s help) but it was haphazard and spaced all over the room, as if someone else had gone about tearing down the odd cupid or paper heart decoration… I wonder who. My nose was assaulted almost immediately with a heady smell of cinnamon, but it wasn’t real cinnamon, it smelled a lot more like that cheap cinnamon candy. I really should have been able to put two and two together, but maybe I was too worried with, um, all the other things going on that it didn’t make sense until
Cathy and Haru appeared seemingly out of nowhere, both dressed almost completely in fuzzy red and pink… things, and where they weren’t fuzzy they were, um, edible. Both of them were wearing about six pounds each of edible jewelry, from necklaces and bracelets to rings and, in Haru’s case, a giant pair of neon colored glasses that seemed to be made of some kind of licorice. As they shouted, I caught a strong blast of the cinnamon candy, probably in the shape of those gummy heart things that are everywhere this time of year. The two bounced all around me as I took a step into the apartment, which wasn’t so much a problem for Haru as it was for Cathy, as she had significantly more to, um, bounce. They were ushered away by Ami with a scowl. As if in protest, she was dressed in simple jeans and a black shirt, although there was a mark on her back in a vague heart shape, suggesting someone may have tried to slap a sticker in her back at one point… and possibly succeeded.
“Why is it always my place,” she groaned, tossing the two in the direction of Mei, who was sitting happily on the couch. Mei, surprised, quickly juggled her bright red martini over to Eri. The quiet Math teacher, enjoying a drink of her own on the rocks, easily caught the drink and set it on a side table. Mei then rose to her feet and scooped up the two excitables in her powerful arms.
“Knock it off, you two. Damn sugar junkies.”
They kept bouncing and wiggling, even in Mei’s arms, overjoyed beyond almost anything I’d ever seen. Well, maybe not Haru… but I’d never seen Cathy this crazy happy, ever. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something else going on.
“Is there something going on?” I decided to ask.
I couldn’t get an answer. Mei pretended not to hear over the two sugar maniacs. Ai, who was admiring a houseplant on a stand by the window, said she hadn’t heard anything, just like that, and went back to the bush. Ami was too busy fussing in the tiny kitchen and getting everyone drinks (except me, I went to get my own ginger ale) so she wouldn’t tell me anything, and I couldn’t find Ms. Arakawa anywhere in the small living room or the apartment. My guess is that she was either in the bathroom or the bedroom and, um, that’s all I’ll say about that. Eri, of course, didn’t say anything… but this is Eri we’re talking about. With everyone refusing my request, I decided to take a seat on a chair that was opposite the couch, in what I hoped was out of any sort of, um, Danger Zone.
“Settle down, dammit!”
“Mei-mei, can I have some of the candeee water?”
“Hell, no, Yamamoto! We don’t need you any crazier!”
“One drink won’t hurt me, Mei-mei… you’re the light-weight!”
“WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?”
Mei reached out to throttle the tiny music teacher, leaving the foreign exchange teacher to play around some more.
“Ooooh, awl mah candy mayks a rattley noise if Ah do this!”
“Knock it off, dumbass,” Ami said, setting down a plate of snacks, “You look like an idiot.”
“Ami,” I asked, watching the chaos unfold in front of me, “Shouldn’t you be doing something about this?”
“I’m going to stay out of everything that’s happening today.”
A-ha! So something IS going on!
“So what’s going on?”
“What, with them?” Ami totally misunderstood my question, “they’ve been hitting the drinks and candy pretty hard as we all waited here for you. One by one they came barreling into my house, and here I am playing waitress.”
“Shouldn’t Ms. Arakawa be taking care of that?”
“She’s barricaded herself in the bedroom.”
“Why on earth would she do that?” I was reminded of Ami’s bedroom, stacked to the ceiling with book after book, from the time Cathy locked both of us in there last summer.
“Well, given what the plans are for today,” she picked up a plate and a cup, “I wouldn’t blame her.”
“Wait, so… what? Ami!”
But it was too late, she’d already zipped back into the kitchen. It wasn’t like her to avoid things like this. In fact, except for Mei’s usual brashness and the Sugar Twins, everyone else seemed a little… off. Ai was very busy admiring a plant she’d seen at least a dozen times before, and Eri was even shyer than normal, plus she seemed to be helping herself to more drinks than usual, whereas Ai seemed to be drinking LESS… it was like I’d gone through into some kind of mirror world where nothing made sense and everything smelled like cinnamon!
I sat in my chair, sipping my Ginger Ale and feeling very nervous. I had entered into the warzone, but I was still waiting for the firing to start. From what I’ve read, this is the worst part. It’s like when you spend all day looking at black and heavy clouds, until you just want to yell “RAIN ALREADY!” But if I started yelling in this company, there’s no telling what would happen.
One little word and five pairs of eyes turned to me. Ami was still in the kitchen, and Tomo was still absent. I immediately regretted saying anything after such a long pause.
“Valentine’s Day, right?”
Still no response from Ai, and Mei still had her hands full. Eri was ignoring my gaze more than usual. I decided to go for the kill.
“Don’t worry, Kenny-boy,” Mei grunted, still trying to hold on to Haru, “There’s plenty of chocolate for you.”
“Well, I didn’t mean it that way…”
“I know you didn’t. I just got my hands full here.”
“HA HA!” Haru’s tiny throat erupted with laughter, “Didja hear that Cathy? She’s got… her HANDS FULL!”
“Yeah she shore does!” Cathy replied, giggling, “That’s reel funny, Miss Tanawka… but you ain’t laughin!”
“I know!” Haru’s eyes suddenly took on a manic look, “We can TEACH her how to laugh!”
She suddenly jammed her tiny fingers into Mei’s side, wiggling them furiously. I saw Mei’s face contort into a weird shape, which suddenly exploded into laughter that was half happy and half agony.
“AHAHAHAHAHA-knock it off, Yamamoto! AHHHHAHAHA-I swear to God I’ll kill you!”
“Yay!” Cathy hollered, putting her own fingers into Mei’s left side, “TIKKEL TAHME!”
With both of them, um, attacking her, Mei couldn’t take it anymore. She stood up from the couch, tossing both of them onto seat cushions behind her, and stormed off for the bathroom.
“Little bastards,” she grumbled as she went down the hall, “now I have to go pee!”
Cathy and Haru were still rolling about on the couch, laughing, and making sure not to come into contact with Eri sitting on the end. I did notice that her shinai was neatly positioned next to the arm of the couch, opposite of the hand that held her drink. Is that technically dual-wielding?
“Oh, Kenny-kenny…” Haru said as the laughter died down, “we’re gonna get YOU next!”
“I’m not ticklish,” I tried my best to lie with a straight face.
“Oh no…” Cathy said, lounging on the couch, “Wee’re nawt gawna tikkel ya…”
“Well, maybe some of us are.”
Ai had decided the plant was in no dire peril at this very moment (apparently) and had instead sat on the arm of the couch next to Cathy. Her skirt was, of course, too short, and her legs were certainly on display in the tiny red dress she was vacuum-packed into. She leaned over suddenly (and I swore I could hear the seams screaming in panic) and whispered something into Cathy’s ear. The gaijin’s already-red face grew to resemble a tomato as she chuckled at whatever it was Ai had said.
“Heh heh heh… yeah.”
Great, now there’s some kind of plot afoot. Why do they say “afoot” anyway? Does it mean something is moving? Like, walking? Because it sounds really weird to talk about your feet right now. And no, before you ask I’m not one of those guys who has a “foot thing” or maybe even a “foot moe” even if Ai does go through great lengths to wear shoes that look sort of like Medieval torture devices.
Any further thought on feet was disrupted by the bathroom door banging open, announcing Mei Tanaka’s return to the madness. She made it halfway down the hall before banging on the bedroom door with enough force to turn it into toothpicks.
“That’s enough, Tomo. You gotta get out here with the rest of us.”
The entire room fell silent, except for the odd clinking from the kitchen as Ami toiled away. We could hear just faintly a few squeaky replies from Ms. Arakawa before Mei shouted back.
“No excuses! We all voted on it! No backing out now!”
“What the hell is going on…” I said, slowly and with no lack of worry. I got avoided again, this time even by the Sugar Girls.
“Oh, Ken darling,” Ai focused on the ceiling, “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Mei began banging on the door again and, with a groan of frustration, Ami stomped over to the door, key in hand.
“Damn it, Tanaka, if you break my door…”
She unlocked the door quickly and, just like that, went back to work. Mei entered the room quickly and emerged a few moments later with Ms. Arakawa slung over her shoulder. The poor little domestic was wailing in a sort of terror I couldn’t understand, trying desperately to thump Mei on the back with her little fists. Sadly, it did no good: her hands bounced off Mei’s muscled back harmlessly, and even when Mei dropped Tomo onto the couch, between Haru and Cathy, she still tried to thump her fists into her. Mei didn’t even notice as she then picked up Ai, who squealed in a very-unladylike fashion before being squeezed in between the couch arm and Cathy. Mei finally forced herself between Haru and Tomo, and suddenly they were all lined up like sardines. It was Eri, Haru, Tomo, Mei, Cathy, and Ai, all with barely enough room to breathe, all looking very uncomfortable, but seemingly for different reasons.
“Honestly, Mei… this is very uncomfortable.”
“Deal with it, Hasegawa.”
“I can’t breathe, Mei-mei!”
“Shut up and sit there!”
“But it’s hotttt!”
Haru made to stretch out her tiny form to get a little breathing room, accidentally knocking into Eri’s face as she was about to sip her drink. The Math teacher’s hand strayed to her shinai as she shot Haru a glare that would have frozen over Guam. Haru, with a terrified squeak, sat back down and pouted. I let them all sit there and stew before, comfortable in my own chair, I decided to speak again.
“This is getting ridiculous, guys. Obviously, there’s something going on, so why don’t you all just tell me about it.”
More silence. This was getting annoying.
“Someone just tell him!” Ami shouted from the kitchen, “tell him about your stupid idea!”
“I’m starting to think this isn’t going to be about chocolate,” I sighed.
“Oh, don’t worry, Kenny. There’s still gonna be chocolate for you!”
“Shut up, Yamamoto,” Ami shouted again from the kitchen, “Hasegawa, you started it. GO.”
All eyes turned to Ai (no joke intended) who looked a little flustered, not like her usual, um, collected self. Trust me, the rest of her was still very collected in that dress, but she was having trouble hiding behind her glasses and bangs this time.
“Well, you see… we were all talking, about today, and what today is all about, and… we decided that Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to really… make things happen.”
“Make what things happen, Ai?” I asked, leaning forward in the chair.
“Well, we figured on such a romantic day, we could try our best to be romantic… with you.”
I almost fell forward out of the chair, managing to catch myself on the table in front of me just before I hit it. That was not what I was expecting.
“You want to WHAT with me?”
“Oh, no no no, Ken darling… not like that… it’s just, well…”
I glanced down the couch, which was nothing but red faced and tightly closed mouths.
“Well, what?” I asked, frustrated, “because getting these two sugar-drunk doesn’t seem very romantic to me.”
Haru hiccuped, half out of fear and half because, well, she’d been drinking for a while.
“Well, that happened after we made the decision,” Ai said, uncrossing and crossing her legs again in a nervous manner that also made ME nervous,
We voted on it, you see.”
Ms. Arakawa suddenly exploded forward in a flood of words, almost unintelligible due to her panic.
“I didn’t vote for it, Mr. Watanabe! I didn’t! I didn’t! I never wanted to do this, but they told me I had to!”
“Okay,” I said, helping calm Ms. Arakawa down, “Now I’m getting a little scared, ladies.”
“Oh, they’re all just overreacting!” Ami shouted from the kitchen yet again, “It’s just a little kissing contest!”
“See? There’s nothing to worry about, like Ami said. It’s just a little–WHAAAT?!”
I leaped up from the chair, only to see her leaning proudly against the wall that divided the kitchen from the living room.
“They all voted and decided the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day was if they all got a chance to kiss you.”
I felt the blood drain from my face, down to my feet and, I swear, right out my toes and into the center of the Earth.
“A-are you serious?”
“They definitely are,” Ami said, smiling smugly.
“And why are you so pleased with this, Ami?”
“Because I didn’t vote for this stupidity,” she replied, toweling dishwater off her hands, “I abstained.”
“So that means you’re not going to…” I swallowed down a lump in my throat, but Ami cut me off before I could say the, um, “K” word.
“Ha! You wish,” she sneered, “Wouldn’t that be great for you: it’s not enough that you’re the Golden Boy, but then you get to kiss your #2? NEVER!”
I don’t see how our tests scores even factor into this, Ami…
“You’re lucky I even got you some damn chocolate!” she said, throwing an angry arm over to a small side table, where a pitiful little box of store-bought chocolate sat. Giri choko. “Obligation Chocolate.” What you get for other people you work with. I should have known.
“So,” Ami brought back her smug smile, throwing the drying towel at my face, “I guess you better get those lips ready!”
She was taking far too much joy in seeing me lose my mind like this. I mean, this isn’t normal… is it? Do guys do this? Do girls do this… to guys? I didn’t really get out much in college, I don’t know what happens at parties. I never even had one of those silly playground kisses in elementary school, and now… now this? With my former students, no less? Somewhere, I swear, there’s a group of policemen sitting around, doing nothing, and they’re not quite sure why!
“There has got to be something illegal about this,” I stammered, trying to inch my way to the door. In a flash, Eri’s shinai whipped out from behind the couch and caught me at the back of my knee, sending me collapsing awkwardly back into my chair.
“Not illegal,” Eri said, rising from the couch slowly. She took a few steps until she was standing right in front of my chair, her rather short self towering over me in this, um position, still clutching the shinai. I was a sitting duck, there was nowhere I could go!
“Time to make decisions.”
Wow. If Eri uses that many words, you KNOW it’s important.
“But…” I fumbled to sit back upright in the chair, “but this is all so sudden. I…I don’t think I’m ready for this.”
Wait… is the guy the one who’s supposed to be saying these things?
“Oh, please!” Mei said with a snort, “It’s been almost ten months since you came back… you’re telling me we haven’t spent enough time together? All of us?”
“Okay, okay, I give you that, but…”
I sat there in the chair, every muscle in my body tensed up like I would explode at any minute. I had to tell them, I had no choice. It would be the only way to stop this madness. It might ruin me, but I’ll have to say it.
“I’ve….. never really kissed a girl before.”
There was a tiny bit of silence, then, before Ami called out.
“Bullshit! What about you and miss bleach-blonde, up against the filing cabinet?”
Oh, crap. I’d tried to wipe that from my memory completely. Thank you so much for bringing that up.
“Well then… I guess that’d be my first.”
“THAT was your first kiss?” Ai asked, her eyes wide over her glasses.
“Yeah,” I said, ashamed, “not exactly the best to start with. So, you see, it’s really not fair to do this–”
“Oh, my goodness!” Ai cut me off, exclaiming, “That’s a TERRIBLE way to have your first kiss, all smashed up against office furniture.”
“I suppose you would know?” Mei asked with a smirk. Ai shot her a glare and continued, seeming very… philanthropic?
“That’s the only kiss you’ve shared in your adult life….”
“Well, technically ever…”
She stopped again, her eyes growing wide again.
“Dear me,” she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose is a businesslike manner, “then this is something we definitely must rectify!”
What, rectify? NO! That’s not what I meant to do at all! You were supposed to feel sorry for me, or pity me, and then be so disgusted that you wouldn’t want to do this. You weren’t supposed to get all noble on me, Ai… ESPECIALLY not you!
“I will volunteer to give you your REAL first kiss, Ken darling. It’s the least I could do.”
Suddenly, where there was once so much hesitation, everyone was shouting at once.
“Wait, he didn’t really start the kiss, and he didn’t like it …”
“So this would be like his real first kiss, Mei-mei! I wanna do it!”
“Not on your life, Tiny. He’s mine!”
“Wait!” I shouted, “How is this any better than what Kanagawa did to me, if you’re all going to, um, jump on me like this?!”
“He’s right!” Ai said with a snap of her fingers, suddenly very deep in thought, “Hm, well, Ken darling, you really weren’t expecting THAT kiss, right?”
“Uh-huh…” I said cautiously, not knowing where she was going with that sentence.
“And you didn’t like it, right?”
“No, I did not…”
“Then tell me, Ken darling…” that cunning look came rushing back into her eyes as she stared me down, “if any of us were to kiss you, right here, right now… would you like that?”
I tried to say “no.” I really did, but my mouth was suddenly dry and I couldn’t make a word. I felt my face go red-hot, like I’d just eaten all of the cinnamon I could smell in the air, and I’m afraid that said more of my answer than any word could.
“Oh ho ho,” Ai grinned like a fox, “I think we have our answer. Come now, Ken darling…”
She took another step forward, and she was locked dead-center on me, like an incoming missile, and there was nothing I could do about it. Then, suddenly, like a total eclipse of the sun, Eri’s dark bob of hair and bottomless dark eyes floated directly into my line of sight from the left. It was silent, and smooth, and slightly terrifying, which is oddly how I would describe what happened next.
“Okay?” she asked.
I could just make out a tiny bit of blush around her cheeks before she leaned into me, and I felt her kiss. If I had to be honest with myself, I’d respond by saying yes, Eri, that certainly was okay… but only for a moment. After that moment, she reopened her eyes and backed away, now blushing more heavily, and gave me a short bow, I assume of thanks.
“Eriiiiiii!” Ai cried shrilly, pouting her ruby red lips out, “Why did you do that?!”
“First,” she replied, then quickly snatched the dishtowel Ami had thrown at me and roughly rubbed my lips until all trace of her was gone from them.
“Oh!” Ai took a step back, clutching at her neck, “Are you saying you think I would contaminate you if you kissed him after me?!”
Eri shook her head.
“Not you. All.”
I never knew she was such a worrier when it came to germs.
“Well!” Ai shot back, in a bit of a huff, “I bet Ken won’t mind my germs, will you?”
I was still in quite a bit of shock. It was so smooth…
“Nuh-uh, Ai-ai!” I heard Haru shout, “I’m next!”
And she bounded in front of the Science teacher and leapt at me. Apparently all the worry was gone now that Eri had opened the, um, floodgates. Her kiss was clumsy, like a headbutt. She pulled back and I checked quickly to make sure my teeth were still there.
“Naughty Kenny!” she squealed, “Opening your mouth! I’m not French!”
“It wasn’t on purpose,” I replied, “I feel something gritty…”
I poked about with my tongue and, sure enough, she’d left some sugar all over.
“Sweetest kisses ever!” she giggled, finding her way back to the couch. I was still reeling when Mei pushed Tomo forward, looking for all the world like she was about to curl up like a hedgehog.
“I voted against this, I really did…”
“Oh, come on Tomo!” Haru hollered, “It’s not so bad! Just a little kissy-kissy!”
She turned back to me, fixing her soft jaw in a resolute scowl. She toweled off my face again, this time to get rid of the sugar, and leaned down quickly to give me a millisecond peck on the lips, withdrawing faster than a French army.
“Oh, come on!” Mei bellowed, standing up for her turn next, “give him a REAL one, Tomo!”
She gave a slap right between Tomo’s shoulderblades, which sent her toppling forward onto me. I didn’t get another kiss, but instead got a faceful of, um, red sweater.
“Well, that’s better than a kiss, all right!”
Ms. Arakawa righted herself as quickly as possible (not easy when she’s so, um, heavy) and went back to beating feebly on Mei. The PE teacher easily put her aside and stood in front of me. I managed to say something that sounded like “eep” before she tried to kiss me…
“Wait, wait!” I shouted when she was halfway there, “take it easy, okay?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re usually, um, strong and stuff, and you go after everything like it’s life and death. Just… take it easy.”
“Oh, just for that,” Mei growled, cracking her knuckles, “I’m REALLY gonna let you have it!”
And then… she did.
I was absolutely blown away. I had expected something like Haru’s headbutt, only more like a baseball bat to the face, but this was soft, and surprisingly gentle. She let me go and looked down on me, proudly, like I was some sort of prize kill on the Savannah.
“Now, Kenny-boy,” she flipped her long ponytail back behind her, “Tell me that ain’t the best kiss you’ve ever got!”
And speaking of Savannahs, Cathy was next.
“Awwww, Kenny. Ah’ll be nahce to ya.”
She gave me a little touch on the forehead, and sat back down.
“What the hell was that, McIntyre?!”
“Weyl, Ah’m a good li’l Suthern gurl. Ah wuzn’t trained ta go ’round smoochin fer no reasin! Ah’m a deb-yoo-tawnt!”
“A what?” Mei asked flatly.
“Whatever. Hasegawa, you’re next.”
“Oh, fuu!” she was still pouting in the corner, over by the houseplant again, “You’ve gone and worn the poor dear out, I hope I don’t hurt him!”
“Oh, don’t worry about him,” Mei waved her off, still grinning, “He’s got all of tomorrow to recover!”
“Well then,” Ai grinned, coming closer to me, “When you put it that way…”
She bent over and kissed me, and it was obvious she, um, she knew what she was doing… but it was a little harsh. Almost as harsh as Haru. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she was trying to impress me, or someone else, rather than just letting things, um, happen. She took her time, and when she finally let me go, I had to catch my breath.
“Ai Hasegawa always leaves ’em breathless!” she proclaimed, to a small amount of applause from Cathy and Haru. Mercifully, it seemed to be over, until:
“So, Kenny-boy… who won?”
“Who’s the best kisser?”
“I… what?” I was still shaking cobwebs out of my head… or maybe giant, cinnamon hearts.
“Well, it is a contest, isn’t it?” said Ai, comfortably back on the sofa arm, “We need to know who the winner is.”
“I think I did good!” Haru shouted suddenly, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, anyway!”
“A ringing endorsement,” Mei shot back.
“I don’t think I can say who really ‘won,’ or anything,” I started to say, but found myself getting booed… BOOED, by Haru, Cathy, Mei and even Ai. Just how much had they all had to drink?
“Come on!” I shouted over the boos. I turned to the nearest person for support. Good, traditional Eri.
“Come on, Eri, do you really think I have to say who won or lost?”
All eyes were on her then, and she slowly turned to me and said, in her trademark style:
The room exploded into cheers, laughter and applause from the others. Et tu, Ozawa?
“Fine, fine!” I said after the noise died down, “I’ll give you a winner, but you all have to promise not to be mad, okay?”
“It’s okay…” Ms. Arakawa said softly, “I know I didn’t win, so… so at least it’s okay, with me.”
“I just had fun giving Kenny-kenny a biiiiig smooch!”
“I don’t know what you two are babbling about. I want to win!”
“Do you really think you can top my glamorous offering, Lady Muscle?”
“Yeah, four-eyes, I think I can!”
Before Ai and Mei got into a fistfight over it, I stood up from my chair and held my arms up for silence. They all waited for me like it was storytime at the preschool… and yes, given what just happened that’s as awful as it sounds.
“Okay, everyone, okay… if you really want to know what was the best… and by best, I mean the one that got the most, um, reaction out of me.”
“Quiet, Ai,” I gave her a look before continuing, “It really was… honestly… it was Mei.”
Haru looked sad, Cathy laughed, Ai sent up a ridiculous wail, and Eri looked down at the floor in defeat.
“Ahahahahaha!” Mei stood up, raising her hands high in victory, “Champion!”
She raised her hands a little too high and knocked them on the low ceiling to the apartment. Thankfully, the guy upstairs won’t mind the noise. She came over to me and, just when I was afraid she might kiss me again, she snagged me in a headlock and carried me over to the kitchen.
“Now we drink!” she proclaimed… and drink we did. By about ten o’clock, I could barely stand, Mei was even worse off, and Ai was well on her way to being out as well. Cathy and Haru, still fairly fresh, were playing videogames on the television while Eri, even a little tipsy herself, sat in the chair I had been in, acting a little surly. I decided to try and cheer her up.
“What’s up, Eri?”
“I lost,” she replied, flatter than usual.
“Hey, don’t feel bad! You were really good, really! Mei just… surprised me more, y’know?”
“Surprise?” she asked, looking up at me and losing some of the displeasure in her eyes.
“Yeah, it was a surprise.”
She shot up from the chair and nailed me with another kiss. To be fair, the extra surprise did help… but the competition was over. Mei and Ai started laughing uproariously from the couch and, when I finally flopped back into my seat next to them, they laughed all over again.
“Didn’t see that one comin’, now, didja, Kenny-boy?”
“No, I did not.”
“If you knew a little more about Ms. Tanaka, you probably wouldn’t have been so surprised, Ken darling…”
Ai said that suddenly, out of nowhere, and almost immediately the air in the room changed.
“Hasegawa,” Mei’s voice suddenly got very hard, “That’s enough.”
“I know, I know,” Ai put both hands to her head and shook it, “I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry. Too much to drink.”
“What’s the talking about?” I asked, still loopy from the drinks and not realizing something very serious had just happened. Mei got her face very close to mine (in a bad way) and let me know how serious things just got.
“She didn’t say anything, Kenny. So you’d best forget about it.”
And that was what eventually killed the party about half an hour later. It’s amazing how one little sentence can bring everything down. I bet something like that happened in the USSR back in 1991.
“That’s about it, I think. You should get back to your apartment.
Ami, who had stayed out of everything from the beginning, had done little more than pick up cups and plates for the entire evening, helped me up the stairs and over to my apartment, as all the straight lines in the world suddenly seemed a little wavy. I figured, after what I’d just gone through, a little extra drink to help me forget the whole evening would be a good idea… sadly, it didn’t work.
“Here,” she said, taking my key from me and opening the door, “go sit down, I’ll get you some water.”
I did as I was told, and a happy Baka jumped into my lap. The extra warmth of the dog made me incredibly sleepy, and I had to be woken up when Ami came back and told me to drink a glass of water. I did, and almost immediately fell back asleep. Now, I can’t be sure, and I may have been just dreaming… but I remember, almost plain as anything, waking up just a bit one more time… and Ami was kissing me. Maybe she’d been drinking, too, or maybe it was all just a dream… but if it was a dream, would she really have said something like this?
“And there’s one from me. I get the last laugh.”
I don’t remember anything else, just fading back to a warm, fuzzy sleep with a dog on my lap. I asked her about it Monday on the walk to school (we all spent most of Sunday recovering), making sure Cathy wasn’t able to overhear, and I got an immediate answer.
“I wouldn’t ever do anything like that. You were drunk. I gave you water and then I left, because if you kicked it in the night I didn’t want to be blamed for it.”
Now, call me crazy, but when I woke up Sunday, I found that little box of chocolate on the counter next to my refrigerator. And I swear, I SWEAR she didn’t have the chocolates with me when we went up to my apartment the first time. Did she come back, and if she came back… was THAT when it happened?
Oh, and as it turns out, that box was just a leftover from something else. There was homemade chocolate in there, and it was pretty good, too.