Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: On her visit to say her final goodbye to her late parents, Yuriko has discovered a letter addressed to her - her real name. She debates what to do with it.


Volume 3, Issue 11

"A Blank Page"


Yuriko parted from Sairi with a promise of future meetings and asked the car to head towards Mariko's apartment. Yuriko watched the late afternoon sun strike its harsh contrast against the buildings as they sat in rush-hour traffic. She pulled out her cell phone, left a message on Mari's machine and put her hands behind her head.

The car seemed to be stalled in a tide of pedestrian traffic, waves of humanity passed them on both sides as they sat at a light. Yuriko watched as a group of schoolgirls left a clothing store and, laughing and shouting, ran across the street in front of the car. She smiled as the driver bit back a curse. As long as girls were running across streets and boys were holding up walls, she thought, the world would be okay.

Time passed slowly, almost liquidly, for Yuriko. She felt comfortable in her skin, as she hadn't in several days. And despite her agitation at how far behind she would be at school, she had the odd sensation that today was the best day she would have for a while. She placed her hand over her breast pocket and felt the envelope, but she made no attempt to pull it out. Not yet. Not without help.

At the next light Yuriko told the driver that she'd walk the last few blocks. He thanked her when she gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder - and a generous tip. She gave him a smile and walked through the traffic as jauntily and unconcerned for her safety as the schoolgirls had been.

By the time she arrived at Mariko's apartment, Yuriko had amassed a considerable collection of bags. Take-out, sake' and several containers of ice cream were in a variety of plastic containers. Yuriko kicked the door, hoping Mariko would get the hint. If she tried to open the door, their dinner would end up on the floor.

Thankfully Mariko understood her perfectly. She answered the door, with her arms outstretched to take some of the burden. Yuriko, as one hand was freed, took the bag out of her mouth and thanked her friend.

"I can always count on you to bring me the good stuff," Mari said appreciatively as she eyed the ice cream.

"I've been told I'm a connoisseur," Yuriko confirmed.

"So?" Mariko asked, as they put their dinner into more ordered form. "How did it go?"

Yuriko swallowed the mouthful of curry she had and nodded. " I cried like a baby."

"Really?" Mariko was surprised. "Are you okay?"

"Fine, fine." Yuriko waved away her friend's concern. "In fact, better than I have been in a while."

They lapsed into silence as they ate, sitting at the small table in Mariko's kitchen.

When she had eaten a fair amount of her curry, Yuriko poured some of the sake' and gave Mari a concise synopsis of her day – and her visit to their hometown.

"It was so odd...I felt like I had never been there before - not for real. Like I only knew it from pictures. I didn't miss it at all." Yuriko finished her curry and story together.

Mariko nodded. "Last time I brought Hachi home to visit my parents I felt the same way. It's got no soul, does it?"

"No, I guess not." Yuriko poured more sake'.

"Did you..." Mariko hesitated, "did you visit your parents' house?"

"No. Just the cemetery." Yuriko shifted a little where she sat. "Mari, I need a favor." She stood and bowed, her hands pressed together. Righting herself, she said, "This is going to suck, so have more sake'."

Mariko looked at the blonde questioningly and tossed down her sake', then refilled the glass and drank that too. While she had done this, Yuriko walked over to her jacket, pulled out the envelope and tossed it onto the table.

"What the heck...?" Mariko picked it up and read the inscription. "Oh my god."

"Yeah." Yuriko said. "If you didn't write it, there's damn few other people who could have."

Mariko placed the envelope on the table gingerly and glanced at Yuriko, who was pouring more sake' for both of them. "Who do you think it's from? Where did you find it?"

"Leaning against the memorial stone." She paused. "Who else?" Yuriko couldn't keep the acrimony from her voice. "Misao wouldn't write me - heck, she probably doesn't remember me, except in her dreams. You're the only friend I really had and I don't have that big a family."

"Fumie?" Mariko asked quietly.

"Or Takeshi." Yuriko drank. "Or both."

It was Mariko's turn to pour. It was clear that the envelope would remain sealed for at least another bottle.

The two women stared at the dark object. "What's inside, I wonder?" Mariko said. "Joy? Disappointment? Reconciliation or irrevocable separation?"

Yuriko said nothing. After a moment, she turned to Mariko, and pretending that the envelope didn't exist, she recounted her meeting and lunch with Sairi, the sometime personal security expert.

Mariko laughed. "You're the only person I know who could go to a funeral and pick up a woman. If you bottled whatever it is that you have, you'd make a fortune."

"Pheromones, good tailoring and big puppy dog eyes," Yuriko confided. "You can't bottle that kind of thing." They both laughed.

The second bottle of sake' had been emptied and the third opened. Yuriko felt a little calmer, except for the random blood pressure spikes every time she looked at the envelope. It taunted her with its mysterious contents, but still she couldn't bring herself to open it.

"I can't take it any longer!" Mari cried out and snatched the thing from the table. "I'm opening it," she announced.

"No!" Yuriko lunged for it, but missed, partially from the sake' and partially from ambiguity.

"Tough. The anticipation is worse than the actuality, usually." Mariko took the envelope across the kitchen, where she slit the top open with scissors. Sliding her fingers in to grasp the letter, she glanced up at Yuriko. "Well?"

"Well what?" Yuriko said sullenly.

"Do you want me to read it?"

Yuriko slammed down the last bit of sake', took a deep breath and nodded. "Read it."