Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story so Far: Yuriko's dinner with Sayaka's family has been pleasant, maybe more so than she expected. Having chosen the "schoolmate as honored guest" option for the evening, Yuriko is facing a barrage of amusingly personal questions.

Volume 2, Issue 8

"The Truth"

"Well," Akaishi Miyuki said, "we've covered career, I guess next on the list should be your future plans, but..." she gestured at Yuriko, "this is pretty much your future, so we'll skip that."

Yuriko grinned, "It seems rather strange to say that my future consists of going to high school," she nodded, "But my producer tells me that initial test reactions to the show are very positive and that it should be a hit." She sighed loudly. "It looks like I'll be back in school for a while."

"That's good news," Sayaka said suddenly. When everyone turned to look at her, she blushed slightly. "Well, for us it is."

Narrowing her eyes, Yuriko gave the girl a long look. "I guess I shouldn't complain, eh? It could be worse - I could be with a touring circus as a clown or something." She turned back to Miyuki. "So, next question then?"

"I guess next up in order of intrusiveness would have to be personal life."

"Mother - you wouldn't."

"She would and should. Now hush you," Yuriko said. "Your parents aren't the only people with embarrassing stories about you."

Sayaka blinked a few times. "This is a conspiracy!" She sat back heavily on the sofa, pretending to pout. "Fine!" she said, affecting a mood, "I was only trying to protect you." She laughed as she gestured towards her mother. "Do your worst!"

"We know what the press says about you..." Miyuki began, then stopped, and cleared her throat. "How much of that is actually true?"

"All of it," Yuriko answered immediately with a completely straight face.

"All of it?" Kyuusuke asked, surprised.

"Every last word." Yuriko sipped at her sake. "I'm very careful to be open with my life, since the press have no regard for privacy anyway." She shrugged. "It's a lot less stressful in the long run."

"My," Miyuki said. "So, then you don't have a...anyone special in your life?"

"Nope. No one important person, just lots of important people."

A moment of silence met this comment. Miyuki refreshed her cup of tea, without drinking from it. "I must say, you aren't anything like I imagined. I assumed you were a wild type of person, rebellious and out of control. Instead you seem very in control of yourself."

Yuriko shook her head. "Not at all. Sayaka-san and I have talked a little bit about this - I can't be in control of everything, so I try to be realistic about what I can and cannot control. The rest - I let it flow most of the time."

"Very intelligent of you." Kyuusuke said.

"Do you have any impertinent questions you need answered?" Yuriko shot him an impudent look.

"Yes," he responded, "just one. I've heard some of your songs - what kind of music do you listen to when you're not belting out pop?"

"Mostly classical - I prefer strings, especially cello. Biber, Dvorak, Elgar, that kind of thing."

Kyuusuke nodded, satisfied and lapsed back into role of observer. The conversation veered, then, as if they had all come to a tacit agreement and ranged among various topics. As time passed in pleasant conversation, Yuriko came more and more to like this family. And more and more, she found herself wishing she didn't.

The evening passed quickly. Later, perhaps, than was decent for a school night, Yuriko found herself making her farewells to the Akaishis and thanking them for a wonderful dinner - and a small taste of their family life. Miyuki slipped on shoes, and accompanied Yuriko to the front gate. The night was crystal clear and cold, and the two women stood, shivering slightly as they talked.

"I want to thank you again." Yuriko said, "I realize I gave you very short notice and your hospitality is greatly appreciated."

Miyuki waved her hand in dismissal. "I'm home all day - it's easy to cook for one more. I should thank you for coming. Sayaka has talked so much about you since you arrived at school. I admit to more than a little," here that lovely smile crossed her face, "curiosity about the big idol at my daughter's school." Her smile disappeared and her mouth tightened for a moment. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but..." She paused, trying to find a way to express her thoughts. "I think we'd all like it very much if you'd come back again. I suppose I'm trying to say that...we aren't a big family, or a rich one, or in any way special, but sometimes we all need a family, no matter how small."

Yuriko could feel her eyes fill with tears before she had a chance to respond to the offer. Her throat tightened and she had to clear it twice before answering. Bowing, she expressed her gratitude. "I don't know what to say," she admitted, almost whispering.

Miyuki spoke quickly. "You've obviously learned to live with yourself, I admire that. But if you ever need a home-cooked meal, or...anything..." she finished lamely, "please remember us."

Yuriko felt the tears spill over onto her cheeks. "Thank you," she said hoarsely. "Thank you so very much." She bowed again, not having any idea what to say to this woman, whose simple offer had so profoundly affected her. Taking her leave of Miyuki, Yuriko stepped out onto the street, waved once, and walked off into the night.

Yuriko walked for some time, drying the tears that threatened to come again when she thought of Miyuki's words. Without knowing exactly when, Yuriko found herself holding her cell phone, finger poised over the buttons, ready to dial. She looked down at the phone and thought about the number she still knew by heart, knew the ring of the phone, the number of seconds it would take before it was answered...with a jerk she slipped the phone back in her pocket. Not tonight. She was too tired. There would be time later - when she was more herself.

She hailed a taxi and let the smell of musty upholstery and smoke carry her thoughts away from families.


It was almost midnight before she entered her own apartment. As the door closed, something inside her loosened, something that had been clenched all night, despite the good humor and the sake' and the amusing conversation. Yuriko sighed with relief. She glanced at the answering machine with resignation. Three flashes.

"Yuri, it's Mariko. We need to talk. Call asap." Mari always used the English term "asap" and Yuriko laughed to hear it. Mari was sounding much better. She thought about calling her friend, then decided it was too late.

Kishi's gravelly voice filled the answering machine tape. "When you get home from wherever you are, call me." Her agent sounded weary, but then, Kishi always sounded weary.

The third beep sounded, but no voice spoke. Yuriko was reaching for the "erase" button, when a shifting sound could be heard and she stopped her motion, allowing the tape to run. This didn't sound like a wrong number, or an obscene caller. There was another shifting noise then a clearing throat.

"Uh..." the voice was deep, unrecognizable, "watch your mail for something important." Then the sound of a phone being hung up. Watch for something important?

Yuriko grabbed up her mail and sorted through it quickly. Bills, a few junk mail offers, a fan letter package forwarded by her office. Nothing special. What did the caller mean, "something important?"

Yuriko replayed the message, listening for any sounds that might give her a clue to his identity. She could hear faint traffic sounds - he probably used a phone booth. No point in having the call traced. He didn't sound particularly violent or angry - it didn't *sound* like a threat. Did he mean a mail bomb? No, if anything, the caller sounded embarrassed, uncomfortable. Yuriko shook her head and popped the tape out of the machine. She'd take this to Kishi the next time she was in the area - let her agent deal with it.

Yuriko yawned so hard that it hurt. Now was not the time to worry about such things. She needed sleep.

Before she fell asleep, Yuriko did think to jot a note to Ryo, asking him not to pick up the mail on his way up the next day.