Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: A long week doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter. Yuriko and Midori come home to find a distraught Ritsuko on their doorstep. After a spat between siblings, Yuriko’s ready to call it a night.

Volume 3, Issue 13

"Seven Plots"

 

Yuriko carried the tea tray into the living room for the second time that night. After serving everyone, a thought occurred to her. "Perhaps, Ritsuko-san would like something a bit more relaxing than tea?" she asked meaningfully.

Midori asked the question of her sister with a glance, who answered with a much relieved nod. "I’d love some wine if you have it."

"I think I do, but if I don’t will sake serve?"

Ritsuko made a face but answered in the affirmative.

Midori returned with a bottle of red wine, which she opened with alacrity. "Yuri?"

"No thanks," said the singer. "I’ll stick with tea for now." She checked the clock on the mantle and thought about her schedule for the morning, as Midori poured out two glasses of wine. As she drank, the idol wondered if the world would end if she simply didn’t go in the next day. With a silent, resigned sigh, she decided that it would.

Ritsuko thanked her sister, took a long drink, then sat back on the sofa with a sigh. "A long time ago," she began with the usual fairly tale formula. "At least, it seems that way to me." She sipped at her wine for a moment. "When I was in school, I became fascinated with Kutaniyaki," she said for Yuriko’s benefit. Midori nodded, remembering her sister’s early interest in pottery. "I’d travel to shows, galleries, museums, whatever I could get to, to see different artists, different periods. I met him, Nokoru, at a gallery. He and I happened to be standing in front of the same piece and we started talking, you know, about the feeling of the piece. It was…nice."

Ritsuko looked back and forth, her eyes red and puffy. Midori nodded briefly. "So, when he asked me to join him for a drink, I said yes." She looked down at the glass in her hands. "I knew he was older, and married – he wore a ring - but you know, I was a senior in high school and flattered that an older man would find me interesting enough to talk to." Her cheeks colored. "I know how it sounds, but it wasn’t like that – he didn’t proposition me. We talked about art and had a few drinks, then he walked me home – and that was it." Her voice was forceful, as if she needed to convince them.

"The next time I went to a show, I was, you know, looking for him. There weren’t many people interested in Kutaniyaki in school, none in fact, and he was so…" her shoulders dropped with resignation. "When I say it all aloud like this it sounds like every soap opera ever, but it didn’t feel that way. When I was with him it was just…nice. It wasn’t high drama, or passionate love or anything like that. We just liked each other’s company."

Ritsuko turned her gaze towards Midori. "He never even made a move on me! We were meeting about once a month by then and I was wondering a little about it. So, over dinner, I asked…you know, if he…was interested. And he looked so surprised that I felt embarrassed. Like it had never even occurred to him." She finished off her wine and leaned forward to pour herself more.

"When I told him that I was leaving to study Kutaniyaki in Kanagawa, he took me out for a really nice meal. He was always really honest with me – he had told me he was married, even though it was obvious, and that he had children…" she became lost in some memory for a moment, then pulled herself back to the present. "But I was leaving soon, and I…we…" she paused. "So, yeah."

"Ever since then, we’d see each other when we could – not so often that is became annoying or embarrassing, but enough that it was…a habit, I guess. When I came back home, I was pretty focused on trying to build my career as an artist. And Nokoru was so supportive – he gave me business contacts and helped with setting up shows and when I started coming to Tokyo regularly, he rented an apartment, where I could stay." She looked up defiantly. "I told Aoi and Father that I was staying with a friend – and he was a friend, so it wasn’t a lie."

"But?" Midori prompted.

Ritsuko smiled bitterly. "Recently, he’s been acting strangely. For a while now, he hasn’t had much time to see me and I’ve been busy, so…it wasn’t a big deal. But there have been more excuses recently and, when we do see each other, it’s like he’s avoiding me – or he cuts our time short with really banal reasons. Last night I came to town and he said that we wouldn’t be able to get together at all. So, I asked him if it was over."

"Admirably blunt of you." Midori sounded genuinely impressed.

"Right – and I wouldn’t really have cared so much if he just said yes, you know?" Ritsuko dashed tears from her eyes angrily. "But the stupid jerk lied and said that he was falling in love with me too deeply and that he didn’t want to hurt me and…oh god, I feel like a total ass for being this upset about it." She hunched over as sobs once again wracked her body. "I mean, he’s obviously a loser," she said between spasms. "I’m better off without him." She slapped her wineglass onto the table and rubbed her face. "I feel so utterly stupid. Why couldn’t he have just told the truth?"

"’Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.’" Yuriko commented sotto voce. When she realized that both women were staring at her, she stuttered an apology. "It’s a quote from Demosthenes…something someone told me a long time ago." Her stomach clenched momentarily when she realized that it had been her father who had been in the habit of quoting classical philosophers – clearly, he had been born in the wrong time and place. Yuriko’s thoughts wandered off for a moment, envisioning her father as a minor feudal lord, as she realized just how out of time and place he had truly been. But her attention was drawn back to the drama in front of her by Ritsuko’s bark of laughter.

"Yes, I guess that’s true. He’s probably sitting at home right now, feeling righteous for freeing me." The girl looked as if she wanted to spit. "I was perfectly happy with us the way we were – I don’t want to get married, I don’t want to have children…why couldn’t he just leave it the way it was?"

Midori patted her sister on the hand. "That’s the eternal question isn’t it? Why are things never just good enough the way they are?" She shot a look at her lover, who was lost in thought once again.

Ritsuko finished her wine and stood abruptly. "I’m really tired. Is it okay if I…?"

Midori stood quickly. "Go ahead and make yourself at home. We’ll try and be quiet in the morning, but no promises."

Ritsuko shook her head, an understanding, if exhausted, smile on her lips. "No, that’s okay. I have to get over to the gallery early anyway. If I don’t, the owner will do something weird with the set-up. I’m not sure why, but they always do." She took a step towards the bathroom, then turned around quickly. "I’m really sorry for being so inconvenient and bothersome."

Midori’s lips tightened and she rolled her eyes. "Shut up and go to sleep, Ri."

"Thanks, and good night."

"Good night."

Yuriko was on her feet, before the girl had reached the bathroom. She accompanied her lover into her bedroom, sitting on the bed, her mind far away in place and time, as she thought back to random scenes from her childhood.

"Isn’t it funny," she said airily, "how other people’s lives seem so predictable, but your own seems so…immediate."

Midori made a noise of agreement. Seating herself next to the idol, she leaned her head on Yuriko’s arm. "Mmm. Ritsuko’s story is pretty obvious, from our perspective." She lifted her chin, staring into the middle distance. "It seems so bizarre to me to think of my little sister carrying on an affair with a married man for all that time. But I guess I’ve been fairly self-absorbed these past few years…maybe longer than that. My whole life, probably. I’ve never been good at being there for other people – running away always seemed like the best option. And there was Ritsuko, grabbing life with both hands, and I missed it, completely."

"I was thinking," Yuriko laughed self-deprecatingly, "about me – speaking of self-absorbed. As I listened to Ritsuko-san, I couldn’t help but think what my life might have been like if I had looked for Fumie – or even just sat her down and told her about myself at all. When I look back at my childhood, there were so many signs that my parents didn’t approve of me, that they really disliked and distrusted me. And I guess I treated them like the enemy all the time. We fought all the time, about everything, until I stopped talking to them altogether. It’s not all that surprising that they threw me out when they did, when I think about it. I’d been pushing every button for so long – I guess my sexuality was the last straw."

"That’s not how Mariko-san tells the story, you know." Midori smiled at the look on Yuriko’s face. "She’s your biggest fan – from way back before there were other fans."

"I know," Yuriko said, warmed by the thought. She put her arm around the author and pulled them both back onto the bed, where they lay, staring at the ceiling.

"Even though it’s awful to think this, I’m a little glad," Midori said quietly, "that I’ll never have to meet them. I’m not sure that I could behave if they treated you like that, because I’m your fan, too." She rolled over and kissed the idol soundly.

"And I’m yours," Yuriko said, returning the kiss.

"What are we going to do about her?" Midori asked, gesturing with her head towards the living room.

"Same thing sisters always do in novels," Yuriko responded, "you’re going to let her cry herself sick on your couch for a week, then throw her out, causing a rift between you for years, until you both forget why you’re angry at each other, but still won’t talk."

Midori groaned, laying her head on Yuriko’s chest. "I hate those kinds of books," she said with a quiet laugh.

 

Continued

Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.