Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

 

Epilogue


"One…two…three…heave!"

With a whine and the accompanying grunts of several people, the recalcitrant window shrieked its way up in its frame. A fragrant breeze blew in immediately and Yuriko stood back, inhaling deeply.

"When was the last time you opened that window?" Hachi asked, wiping the sweat from his face.

Yuriko thought for a moment, then shrugged. "I don't know…maybe never?" She smiled and handed Hachi a glass of lemonade. "But it's open now. Thank you."

Hachi took the glass with a grunt and plopped himself down next to Mariko on the couch.

Yuriko took another deep breath and stretched happily. "It's such a beautiful day out, isn't it?" She walked over to the chair that faced the couch and sat with limbs sprawling artlessly across the chair's arm.

Mariko looked up from the letter she was reading and asked, "Where are your slippers?"

Yuriko wiggled her bare feet a moment, then pouted theatrically. "Midori threw them away. She said they were ratty."

Hachi choked on his lemonade. Mariko leaned over and patted him on the back until he recovered, then sat back with a smile as he confronted the blonde.

"Yuri! Don't tell me you've become henpecked!"

Yuriko leaned back, her arms behind her head and rolled her eyes. "Hachi - you are such a generous person. You mean 'pussy whipped' and yes, yes I am." A huge, goofy smile broke out on Yuriko's face. "Horribly whipped."

"When does Midori-san return?" Mariko asked.

Yuriko glanced at her watch, "Three hours, twenty-nine minutes and, oh, fifteen seconds from now." She looked up at her friends with a grin, "but who's counting?'

"How was the trip, anyway?"

"She says it was successful."

Mariko laughed, placing the letter on the table in front of her, "In other words, she was bored and miserable."

"Exactly." Yuriko said. "She says that St. Petersburg was perfect - she was bored, lonely, driven to hard drinking and smoking by the misery around her
and she hated her hotel."

"So the book ought to be a best-seller, then," Hachi commented. "You know," he said thoughtfully, "it says something about you, Yuri, that she had to go that far away from you to be unhappy enough to write."

Yuriko closed her eyes. "Yeah, but in the meantime, I've been bored, lonely and hate my hotel too." She laughed as a pillow hit her square in the head.

"After all we've done to keep your spirits up!" Mariko barked. "You ungracious wretch. Not to mention how busy you've actually been. What was it, three TV appearances last week?"

Yuriko sat up and poured herself some lemonade, nodding. "'Best Years' is number one in the ratings, my new album will probably premier in the top ten and I've got three new movie offers that don't completely suck." She sipped her drink, then sighed.

Hachi smiled softly at his melodramatic friend. "But you miss Midori-san."

"Like you can't imagine," Yuriko agreed.

Mariko picked the letter she had been reading back up from the table where she had set it down. "Is this the first letter you've received so far from Aya-san?" she changed the subject delicately.

Yuriko nodded. "She and Yamazaki-kun seem to be happy in California. They're both attending UCLA - and," Yuriko laughed a little, "she's gone into script editing to help pay for pre-med."

Mariko looked impressed. "So that work you gave her is helping her out." She smiled at the blonde. "One more for your "insatiable need to fix things" file."

"Cool huh?" Yuriko said with a self-satisfied grin. Looking around she said, "I've got a new letter from Sayaka-sempai around here too, if you want to read it."

Mariko waved her hand generally. "Summarize - I'm too comfortable to make you go find it."

Yuriko looked up, trying to remember the salient points. "She is studying at Waseda University to be a writer, which isn't surprising. Sato-san is studying poli-sci and interning at a lower house member's office, so I think I see where he's headed. Oh wait," she said suddenly and bounced out of her chair, grabbing the pile of mail and sorting through it quickly, "she sent me this." Yuriko handed over a newspaper clipping.

Mariko shook out the folded paper and scanned it, then handed it over to Hachigoro. She looked at Yuri questioningly. "Did you ever tell Sayaka-san?"

Yuriko shook her head. "No, I never did, but you know - I think she worked it out all by herself." She took the clipping back from Hachi and scanned the article. The headline shouted, "Solar Sensation from the Land of the Rising Sun!" in English. There was a two-column article about the newest star in women's college basketball, one Yamamoto Kaori, from Tokyo, with a very nice picture of the girl sinking a three-pointer for her team. Yuriko shook her head again, as she folded the paper back up and laid it on the table. She sighed.

"I'll never know if I could have handled that better, you know."

Mariko gave her a hard look. "You have to let it go, Yuri. There was nothing you could do."

"I could have talked to her..."

"And said what?" Mariko snapped.

"Midori asked the same thing," Yuriko said. "And I've been thinking about it. I could have said that," she heaved a deep breath, "that she doesn't have to be scared."

When Mariko spoke her voice was very quiet. "If someone had told you that right before your parents threw you out, would it have helped?"

Yuriko didn't answer.

Hachi broke the uncomfortable silence with a cough. "Do you hear from Sayaka-san often?"

Yuriko's face cleared. "About once a week - she writes, I call. I'm, Midori and I, are going over her parents' house for dinner next week. I'm actually looking forward to it," she said with a surprised laugh. "After all, she's my sempai - it's my job to keep in touch." She leaned back in her chair. "Who else? Let's see, Ryo-kun went home to stay with his brother...I told you about that, right?"

Mariko nodded, "That creep Ishida-sensei, I remember...poor Ryo- kun. They don't look anything alike, either. Ryo-kun is one of the most beautiful boys I've ever seen." Mariko pretended she didn't hear Hachi clearing his throat, until she laughed at him. "You're not beautiful, silly, you're handsome. It's different."

Hachi grinned, "As long as I'm something!"

"Well," Yuriko comforted Hachi, "You're the handsomest man *I* know."

Hachi made a face. "Thanks, I think." He ducked as Mariko threw a pillow at him.

Yuriko rose and walked over to the kitchen, where she made more lemonade. Carrying the pitcher back, she smiled at her friends who were bickering happily at each other. Mariko thanked the blonde as her glass was refilled.

"Did I tell you I saw that boy the other day?" Mariko asked as she lifted her drink.

Yuriko looked puzzled. "Which boy is that?"

Mariko snapped her fingers a few times, trying to stimulate her memory. "Oh, you know - that gangly one with the criminal brother."

Yuriko laughed. "You have a unique grasp of details, Mari. You mean Togai-kun. You saw him? Where?"

"At the studio. He looked happy as a clam weighed down under forty pounds of electronic equipment. He didn't see me, because he was being berated by that annoying gaffer, you know the one."

"I do." Yuriko said. "You know, I haven't seen Uto since I got him that job at the club." She grinned evilly. "What are you doing Saturday night? Fancy a night out on the town?"

Mariko laughed. "Double date? It could work." She glanced at Hachi, who nodded happily. Mari looked at the clock and back at her fiancée, "Well, what do you say, Hachi? It's almost time for Snow White to awaken to her Prince's kiss."

Yuriko choked on her drink. "You mean her Princess's, don't you?"

"Whatever." Mariko waved her hand insouciantly. "We'll go away and leave you two to a private reunion. So, we'll see you on Saturday?"

Yuriko stood and escorted her friends to the door. "Eight o'clock at your place?"

She waved as they walked down the hall, and slipped back into her apartment when the elevator doors had closed.

She fluffed up a few pillows, straightened the pile of mail and sat down to wait. The mail sat there staring at her and she shuffled through it, finding the envelope she was looking for. She withdrew the letter and read it over.

"Dear Yuriko,

I can hardly believe it! You wrote me back! I'm so happy I can't stop crying. How silly is that? My husband teased me about it. But then, you know I always was sentimental.

But onto important things - thank you so much for the invitation! We've been watching your new show and enjoying it immensely, but little Momoko is extra excited now, that she knows that Yuriko on TV is her aunt. It's a little overwhelming, I've been telling everyone I know about you and it seems like you're everywhere these days. I'm so proud of you.

I spoke to Takeshi and we'll both be there, if I have to drag him physically away from his laboratory. I can't wait for you to meet my husband - he's a devoted fan of your music. I have to admit, I'm not. I still like enka, just like I used to. But we look forward to meeting Yukano-san, too. I definitely admire her writing.

I guess that leaves me with one more thing to say. I'm sorry I never knew, I never realized...and I'm sorry that you didn't think you could tell me. But after following your career all these years - and seeing you in the papers all the time, I'm very glad you seem to have settled down! Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I worried that you were becoming too much of a playboy. Now I'm being silly again.

Well, there's not much left to say, is there? I can't wait to see you, little sister. Hopefully it will be the first time of many.


Fumie"

Yuriko grinned at the letter and stuck it back in the envelope.

***

The knock on the door startled Yuriko out of a half-sleep. She rubbed her eyes and stumbled over to the door calling out "Who is it?"

There was no answer, and Yuriko began to think that she had imagined the noise, when it sounded again. She looked through the peephole, but saw no one. Cautiously she opened the door, leaving it chained and looked out. There was no one to be seen, but a quick glance downwards showed her a gift box on her doorstep. She closed the door and opened it up, stooping to take the box. With a small smile, she opened up the box to reveal a pair of extremely fluffy, extremely pink, slippers. She dropped the box, and stepped
out into the hall, closing the door behind her.

As the door swung closed, Midori, who had been hiding, stepped into the open, and into Yuriko's arms.

"Tadaima," she said into Yuriko's chest.

"Okaeri," Yuriko answered, then kissed her for a very, very long time.


The End