Haruka got herself a glass of red wine and popped down on the couch with her twelve year old daughter Misaki. Misaki, dressed in bright pink pyjamas, was glued to the evening's most popular entertainment show, Gossip On!
"Misaki, why do you watch this nonsense? I should really consider banning you from this."
"Noooo mama, you can't! I already finished my homework and did my chores. And my friends all watch it, if you didn't let me watch it I would have no friends!"
Haruka rolled her eyes, but pulled her daughter closer to her so they were snuggling on the couch. Her two boys, Kenta, who was seven, and Shoji, who was only three, were already in bed. This was the most peaceful time of the evening. She slipped on her glasses, pulled out her racing magazine and was about to start reading when a name on TV caught her attention.
"Music sensations Michiru Kaioh and Kiyoshi Sato to tie the knot!"
"MUUUM!" Misaki yelled, despite being right next to her. "It's Michiru Kaioh!"
Misaki had met Michiru a number of times, mostly at functions held by Usagi or at Hotaru's birthday parties. Although Michiru still kept in intermittent contact with the other girls, she spent most of her time overseas and only returned to Japan for concerts or very special events. She never missed any important events held by the Princess and never missed anything important to Hotaru. Haruka and Michiru, who used to be attached at the hip, had grown apart due to distance and the different directions their careers had taken them. Initially, they had tried to keep in touch –visiting each other when their touring took them to nearby countries and calling almost every day. Then, when Haruka's parents had encouraged her, in not so subtle ways, to marry Takuya Suzuki, the son of one of their business associates and she had agreed, the two of them had a massive argument about whether one should marry for love or not. It was a stupid argument, but it caused a fracture in their relationship, and since then, they had seen each other only at other Senshi events, and only spoken truly honestly on topics that related to their daughter, Hotaru. There was no animosity but the depth of their friendship was gone. They were only close in the same way that Haruka was close to Rei or Ami, tied more by their bond as Senshi than anything else.
In the last few years, they had barely spoken at all. Michiru's main base was in Vienna, and Hotaru, who was now twenty-two, had been studying in Berlin, Germany for the last three years, and didn't require much from her parents besides a constant allowance and love. Setsuna, her other mother, had returned to the time gates long ago.
Still, Haruka felt a lurch in her chest and shock that Michiru, her Michiru, was getting married and she was hearing about it on Gossip Now! The reporter went on to explain that Kiyoshi Sato, the lead singer of the Vexed Truth, a Japanese rock band that had risen to international success when they started creating mash-ups with the classical violinist Michiru Kaioh, had fallen in love with Michiru the day he met her, almost five years ago. Apparently he had asked her to marry him by getting down on his knees in a five-star restaurant in Paris. Shots were shown of the couple looking happy, Michiru in gorgeous designer dresses, Kiyoshi in his trademark dirty denim jeans and untucked shirts. The wedding was set six months from now, it would be held in Tokyo and would be a traditional Japanese wedding. The show ended the segment by showing Michiru in a number of kimonos, and speculating on which style of bridal kimono she would be wearing for the wedding.
"Mama! Why didn't you tell me Michiru Kaioh was getting married?!"
Haruka just stared at her daughter blankly. She didn't have an answer.
"Mama! Are we invited to the wedding? Oh Mama I can't wait to go! Oh Mama I'm so excited!"
Misaki was almost jumping up and down, overtaken by her excitement. Haruka tried to get her mind to formulate a response, but luckily for her, Misaki was more interested in talking about the wedding than listening to anything her mother had to say. Disorientated and strangely sad, Haruka had an early night, heading to bed soon after tucking her daughter in.
Saturday morning was chaotic as usual. Haruka woke up at 7am, went for a long run, prepared breakfast for her three little darlings, and then started the Saturday morning sports rounds. Misaki, who was the opposite of Haruka at her age, refused to do any sports except for swimming, and that, only because Haruka insisted that she take up a sport. Luckily Ami and her daughters went swimming every weekend, so Haruka would drop Misaki off at the pool with them. Kenta played soccer, so she would take him and Shoji to the match, and then pick Misaki up on the way home afterwards. Takuya, who had taken over his parent's company two years prior, was often busy on Saturday, sorting out loose ends in the office.
After Haruka had finished making lunch, and the children had eaten, she noticed that she had a missed call on her mobile but no voicemail message from an unfamiliar number. Shrugging it off, she went out the back to play catch with Kenta and Shoji and the family dog. After dinner, when she checked her phone, she noticed another missed call from the same unfamiliar number but again no voicemail. She was about to call when the phone buzzed in her hand. It was from the same number.
"Tenoh Haruka speaking."
"Haruka." That soft, distinctive voice that she would recognise anywhere.
"Hi Michiru." She had to speak carefully, to ensure that her voice remained neutral and that it betrayed none of the unease and excitement she felt at being called by her former best friend. "What can I do for you?"
"I…I was calling because…"
"Oh, congratulations by the way. I heard of your engagement from Gossip Now!" She had tried to keep the bitterness out, she really had but she knew she had failed.
"I….that's why I was calling actually...I didn't mean for you to hear from gossip whatever it is." Michiru sounded sincerely apologetic about this, taking Haruka by further surprise.
"Did you even tell Usagi?" Presumably she would've told Hotaru, though Haruka was a little surprised that the little firefly hadn't called her about it.
"Haruka….it's more complicated than what the news media are making it out to be."
When Haruka had been a formula one racer, the media had, more than once, made it sound like completely untrue rumours were true. She remembered the discomfort when one paper broke the story of her coming out and her alleged relationship with a female model, even though she wasn't gay and she had only met the model at a function once. It was awkward explaining that to her parents.
"Haruka…I'm not actually engaged."
"I….I…" There was silence on the other side for a little while. "Kiyoshi…asked me to marry him…but I…I said I needed time…so we're not engaged, but the media doesn't know that. They somehow got a hold of the news that he had asked me, and it's become…exaggerated…and it's very difficult. So, no, I haven't told anybody because we are not engaged."
Haruka's heart unexpectedly started beating faster and she felt relieved by the news. Relieved? Why should she be relieved? She was relieved Michiru had not gotten engaged without telling the other Senshi, especially the Princess, that was all. They all deserved to know, but especially the Princess. She definitely deserved to know. After all, what kind of impact could it have on Crystal Tokyo?
She realized that she had zoned out. "Yes!?"
"Uh…" She tried to figure out what Michiru had asked.
"Really, you didn't have to say yes. I can always stay in a hotel. It's fine. But….I'm kind of glad you said yes, I've really missed you…I've missed us."
"Are you sure it's ok if I stay with you?"
Shit. That's what she had asked. And now she had agreed. She couldn't get out of it without being a jerk. Also, she had missed Michiru too. She had long regretted the stupid fight they had, and the fact that they had never really recovered from that. Maybe this was their chance. The kids would have no problem with it, and Takuya surely wouldn't either.
"Yes, it's fine. We have more than enough space."
"Thank you. I really hope I'm not inconveniencing you, Haruka."
"No, no, it's fine. Misaki will be so excited. She's a big fan of your work with Vexed Truth."
Michiru laughed softly. "She must be all grown up now…I haven't seen her in years."
"She is. She's twelve now. She's grown up so fast. I have no idea how to handle her sometimes."
"I'm sure you do well, Haruka. How are the boys? And…Takuya?"
"The boys are good. Kenta's always messy and loud, but Shoji's a bit of a softer character. They're growing fast. Takuya is good, busy with the family business. His parents retired about two years ago, so he has a lot more responsibility now."
"That's good…that's good for your family. And you, Haruka?"
"Yes, good. Busy, with the kids and work."
Michiru sighed over the line. "I'm looking forward to seeing you."
"When will you be coming?"
"Um…that's the other thing…..on Monday afternoon…I can always stay in a hotel for a few days, before I come stay with you-"
"No, it's ok."
"Are you sure?"
Haruka smiled. "Yes, I'm sure. Call me when you get here ok? I'll come and pick you up."
"Thank you, Haruka."
Then suddenly, Haruka realised she'd forgotten to ask a very important question. "Is…Kiyoshi coming?"
There was silence on the other end for a moment. "No, Haruka, just me."
Haruka smiled, again feeling that sense of relief. "Ok, Michiru, see you on Monday."