Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: The mystery of Amba's absence is solved, but Yuriko is no less unsettled by recent events. Midori can put her mind at ease about one thing, at least.
Volume 4, Issue 18
“The Phone Always Rings Twice”
The morning had dawned hot and thick. Rolling out of bed, sweaty even in the air conditioning, Yuriko had bolted for the bathroom and the coldest shower she could stand.
As Yuriko shut the water off and grabbed a towel, she could hear the sound of Midori’s phone ringing. She put the towel to her face reluctantly, enjoying the feel of the cool water on her overheated skin.
She caught the sound of Midori’s footsteps heading for the living area. The third repetition of a reggae ringtone – Midori’s current favorite – was interrupted by the writer as she picked up the cell.
Yuriko wrapped the towel around herself and stepped out of the bathroom in time to hear Midori respond to the message with something between a grunt and a snort. Yuri came out into the main room to see her lover looking down at her phone in some surprise.
Midori looked up, her face still sleepy. “It’s an email from Ritsuko. She says, ‘I’ve made up my mind – I told him no.’”
It took Yuriko a few seconds to provide herself context. When finally she remembered a rainy night and Midori’s sister’s surprise encounter in the street with her married lover, she responded with much the same noise as Midori had.
“Hunh,” Yuriko said.
“She says she’s going home.”
“So, what do you think?”
Midori looked up again, her eyes narrowed in thought. “I think I’m a little relieved, actually.”
“Tell her.” Yuriko turned back to the bathroom to apply the first of the many skin emollients and toners that filled her morning these days. Her hair and makeup specialist had been adamant - apparently an idol's skin was as important as her voice. Who was Yuriko to argue with a specialist? She opened the first tube and squeezed a pearl of moisturizer onto her fingertip.
Midori followed Yuri, keying in the message. She finished, but kept the phone in her hand. Propping herself in the bathroom doorway, the writer watched Yuriko apply a thick pale cream to the area under her eyes. No more than thirty seconds later, she looked down at her phone, just as it chirped.
“She says, ‘Me too.’” Midori laughed. She read for another moment, then smiled at her sister’s message. “The rest is thanks for everything, etcetera. And she says to tell you that she’ll have the gallery send you your bowl.”
Yuriko nodded happily. “We’ll have to have a really nice place to display that.”
“’Will have to have?’” Midori commented, with an arched eyebrow.
“You know, when we…” Yuriko looked up, a little surprised at herself. “I guess I was assuming we’d build a house or something.”
“We could, of course.” Midori looked thoughtful, then asked tentatively, “How would you feel about just staying in Tokyo? If you want to move out, I’d totally under…”
“No!” Yuriko interrupted quickly. “I’m fine with that. I mean, actually,” she stood up and turned to face her lover. “I guess we’d really better talk about this, huh?” She took a deep breath. “I’d really like to live in the city, but we could get a summer house too, if we want.”
Midori’s lips quirked. “I spent my childhood in the woods – fresh air gives me hives. How about we just stick with an apartment here?”
Yuriko let her breath out with a relieved sigh. “Thank you gods,” she muttered. “Yes, I’d *much* prefer that. I just didn’t want to be a jerk if you wanted the house in the country…”
“And the children and dog?” Midori teased, pulling on Yuriko’s towel until it unwrapped. “No thanks.” She moved closer to the idol, offering her mouth for a kiss; an offer which was taken up immediately.
When the kiss ended, Midori spoke quietly. “While you're gone, is it all right if I look around for us?”
“I’d like that,” Yuriko whispered into her lover’s thick hair.
“We’ll need a room for me to lock myself in, and a huge bath for you. Is there anything else we’ll need?”
“A place for Ritsuko’s bowl.” Yuriko shook Midori’s shoulders slightly.
“Of course, the writer laughed, leaning in for another kiss. “And a place for the bowl.”
"What about a guest room?" Yuriko asked suddenly. "What if your..." she stopped as if keeping herself from saying another word, biting her lip to keep her mouth shut.
Midori stepped back and laughed into her hand. "You were about to ask what if my parents want to visit, weren't you?"
Yuriko blushed. "Yes," she pouted. "Am I over thinking things again?"
Thankfully, yes." The writer patted her lover gently on the shoulder, then reached up to smooth a small clump of face cream into the skin below her jaw. "My parents loathe Tokyo. It's just one of the many charms of this city for me."
"No, but seriously," Yuriko protested. "You've got brothers and sisters and sisters-in-law..."
"And one brother-in-law and three nephews and four nieces." Midori continued. "What does that have to do with..." she pulled away with a jerk, as if she'd had a shock and looked down at her phone. It rang. Yuriko guessed she'd had it on vibrate as well.
Midori turned away as she answered the phone. Moving into the living area, she listened intently to whoever was calling her, nodding from time to time.
"Oh, really!" She said at last, turning with a smile back towards Yuriko. "How wonderful! Congratulations!"
The conversation continued in this vein for some time until after some minutes of well-wishing, Midori was able to get off.
"Make that five nieces. Yuuka and Satoshi just had a baby girl."
"Wow! That's wonderful!" Yuriko stepped up to give the happy aunt a hug. "See? We'd better have a guest room. After all."
"Yuri!" Exasperated, but laughing, Midori pushed her lover off. "There are perfectly wonderful hotels for my family to stay in should they ever want to visit."
"Six nieces," Yuriko commented thoughtfully. "Can't forget Momoko-chan. And we promised Sakura-chan and Misono-chan that they could drop by..."
Midori's phone rang. From her tone as she answered, it was obvious to Yuriko that it was her mother. Yuriko retreated into the bathroom to finish up her skin car regimen as the phone call continued along the usual lines of "I was just there, Aoi. Yes, I know, but I have book signings this week..."
The conversation was short, fraught with frustration on both sides and ending with obvious irritation.
Before Midori could even complain, the phone rang again, this time it was Hayao - who was calling, Yuri supposed, to calm his sister down. By the time the call ended, he had been at least partly successful. Yuriko blessed Hayao in her mind and reminded herself to invite him out to dinner sometime soon. Perhaps buy him a boat or a car, or just hand him a big pile of money for being his sister's keeper.
The phone bleeped with incoming mail. In a flash of inspiration, Yuriko realized that this meant it was one of the younger members of the family.
"It's from Sakura-chan." Midori appeared in the bathroom doorway once again, reading from her phone. "She's coming down this weekend and wonders if she could...what?" Midori looked up to find the singer staring at her with a victorious smile.
"Okay! Okay! I concede!" Midori raised her hands in surrender. "One *small,* not terribly comfortable guest room." She stalked away, as the phone rang again.
Yuriko laughed and went into the bedroom to get dressed.
The rain had started while she was in the car on the way to the rehearsal hall. Yuriko stared out of the window, watching the water falling in sheets from the sky.
"Rainy season," she muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Are you not feeling well this morning?" Nami asked quickly.
Yuriko looked at her assistant with surprise. "Ah, no, I'm fine. I was just thinking that we'll be off on tour before the season ends."
"Yes. Only a few weeks left." The young woman couldn't keep the excitement out of her tone. "Will Yukano-san be joining you?"
"No, she's got commitments of her own. We're hoping that she can catch up on the European leg."
"Oh." Nami sounded disappointed.
Yuriko shot a sharp look at her assistant. "Why do you ask?"
Blushing, the redhead waved away any concerns the singer might have. "Really, it's nothing." She laughed a little at herself. "It's just that I had the idea in my head that I'd be an "assistant to the stars" - You know, making reservations at fancy restaurants and opera in Vienna, and following you two beautiful people around..."
Yuriko didn't mean to be unkind when she started to laugh. But the idea of her and Midori as "the beautiful people," while probably true to the rest of the world, seemed utterly absurd to her. Last night, this particular beautiful person ate a pork cutlet salad from a convenience store for dinner.
When she got her breath back, Yuriko put her hand on Nami's arm. "I fear I'm going to be a terrible disappointment to you. So I might as well start the process off right away. I need you to do something right away for me."
Nami waited with modulated anticipation.
"I need you to get me a baby gift."
Nami's mouth dropped open. "Okay, today *you* win." She said after a moment. "I wasn't expecting that."
Yuriko grinned. "What were you expecting? Drugs? Women?"
"No," the assistant said, "but not a baby gift." The young woman perked up immediately. "Who for?"
"Midori's brother and sister-in-law. They just had a little girl. I wasn't around for the others, and ...well, let's say I screwed up with my own niece, so I want to do this one right." Yuriko turned to her assistant, her face serious. "Do you have any nieces or nephews?"
"One of each," Nami answered. "Do you have any ideas about what they want?"
"Not a clue," the blonde leaned back. "And no idea what to get. Here's your big chance to earn your pay. Make it something good."
There was silence for so long from beside her that Yuriko looked over, concerned. Nami appeared to be deep in thought. Her notebook was open on her lap, and she was running her pen over the surface lightly.
"Do I have to get approval from you first?" Nami asked quite suddenly, her eyes still focused on something in the distance.
"No ponies," Yuriko stated.
"No ponies." Nodding, Nami wrote down "pony" with a circle around it and a line through it.
Yuriko wondered if this was a bad thing she had just done, then decided to go with whatever her karma was for the deed. "No, you don't need my approval. Just let me know so I don't gape like a carp when they thank me." *Or, when they tell me they'll never speak to me again,* she thought.
Her assistant nodded once more firmly, and on the pad appeared "carp" with a circle around it and a line through it.
Caught between a giggle and shudder of fear, Yuriko laid her head back and tried to not think about anything at all for the remainder of the ride.
To Be Continued
Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.