Everybody loves the bad boy; everyone wants to fuck Mr. Rochester. Our dude was a prize-winning asshole, don't get me wrong—he locked his mentally ill wife in the attic with an alcoholic while he tried to two-time her with the nanny. I know healthcare was pretty rough in those days, but that's negligent treatment by anyone's standards. Still; everyone wants to fuck his brooding bad-boy self. I am no exception to that rule, because Hikaru Hitachiin gives off that bad-boy demeanor in spades, and I lapped it right up. Fun for a weekend of thorough debauchment? Absolutely. But then my best friend had to go and get engaged to his best friend, and now I'm not only seeing him again, but he's supposed to be designing me a bespoke bridesmaid's dress.
After a long and thorough google stalking, sparked by a search to find out what the hell bespoke even means, it turns out that my boy is not just a super-famous, super-rich fashion designer, but also from one of Japan's most prominent families, which is not exactly smack dab in the middle of my comfort zone. Not to mention that as a first-year medical intern, my free time could be measured in mere minutes, none of which I wanted to spend getting poked and prodded in the non-fun way. So I'd tried just texting him my measurements. Within twenty seconds, he'd responded.
-Sorry but I don't trust the girls at the mall to take accurate measurements. I'll be at your apartment this Thursday at 3:15.
-That's great, actually. I'll be doing rounds until 5, but have loads of fun sitting in the hall.
-I know you're super important and fancy as shit, but I can guarantee you my schedule is way less flexible than yours. I'm a first-year medical resident, and we HAVE. NO. TIME. I'm available Friday after 5. Take it or leave it—Lulu down at the mall has been dying for a chance to feel me up.
-Oooo, can I watch?
So here I am, and here he is—the fling I thought I'd never see again is standing inside my Brooklyn apartment. Honestly, I am not sure if this is supposed to be an actual fitting or just an excuse for another hookup, because he's been in my apartment for a full fifteen minutes and all he's done is criticize my empty refrigerator and complete lack of interior design skills. Not exactly promising foreplay, I admit, but I'm pretty sure he's the type who gets off on conflict. Over half my stuff is still in boxes, and the sofa has one seat completely covered in laundry. Clean, fortunately, but still. This is maybe not my finest moment ever. He's already commented on the wallpaper (green and gold and completely hideous) and the lack of energy flow (whatever that means) and now he's starting on the furniture: "I can't quite make out the lines underneath all that laundry, Jenn, but I bet that couch is 30 years old"
"It probably is." I pick up a shirt off the pile of clean laundry, start to fold it, and then realize I have no place to put it except on top of a stack of boxes. "This used to be my grandmother's apartment, but she moved in with my aunt in Long Island last month. I've only been here for two weeks."
"Can't you get someone to tidy this place up for you?"
"That's a great idea. I'm sure it would be super-cheap to hire someone to do that in New York City. Sallie Mae probably won't mind if I have to skip a couple payments."
"She's your landlord?"
I stare at him over another shirt. "Seriously?"
"Student loans. Ever hear of them?"
"I mean, I've heard of them," he tosses off, plunking himself down on the laundry-less portion of the couch.
"Is critiquing my apartment part of your creative process? Because I honestly thought this would involve less talking."
"What's the rush? Hot date?" His tone of voice makes it clear that he seriously doubts that's an actual possibility. He's already pulled his phone out and is scrolling rapidly. Everything about him is communicating his total disinterest in my dating life.
"Actually, yes." I will go to my grave before telling him my hot date is Mrs. Finkelstein across the hall, and that our evening together will consist of her dropping off some brisket before she goes to temple. Mrs. F has known me since I was four months old and has decided that her new mission in life is to make sure that I eat enough to keep up my strength. Since she is a marvelous cook, I have zero objections to this plan.
"Great, I'll stick around so I can meet him." Hikaru's clearly not buying what I'm selling. "Maybe I can give him a few pointers. Tell him what you like."
This is the point where I'd like to tell him he has no idea what I like, but we both know that is not true. Hikaru Hitachiin spent a very thorough 72 hours exploring and cataloguing my likes, and the memory of just how good he was at exploiting them suddenly runs through my mind like a flame. "Ugh, just do your measurements and go."
"Well, isn't someone eager." He's staring up at me insouciantly from the couch, and suddenly encouraging him to get on with this when this involves his hands all over my body seems incredibly reckless. The whole point of Hikaru was that he was someone I'd never see again. No awkward encounters, no debating about whether to call him again. The absolute last thing I wanted or needed right now was a romantic entanglement, even if he had been a candidate for one.
"Fine, I'll have Yvette bring my stuff over." He turns his attention back to his phone, fingers moving swiftly, before tossing it aside and propping his feet up on my coffee table. His slim-fitting jeans make his already-long legs look even longer, and the heat of his hazel eyes on my body is an almost physical sensation.
"Oh my god. You were actually planning on coming over here and getting in my pants, weren't you?"
"I figured I had a fifty-fifty chance," he shrugs. Catching the glare I level at him, he smiles disarmingly. "I thought at least I could treat you to dinner, and I didn't want to take a chance on getting food stains on my fabric samples."
"That is such a bullshit excuse."
"It's true!" he protests. "But since you have a date lined up, I guess dinner is off the table. Not that I don't generally prefer my dinner off the table and other things on it, myself, but I've been assured you're not usually that type of girl. I must be very special." He's practically preening.
"You were in the right place at the right time." Fucking Laney and her fucking big mouth.
"So no chance of a repeat?"
If I'm being honest, I'm tempted. Hikaru is a known quantity of uncomplicated pleasure, and it would be lovely just to lose myself in him for a night. I can tell he knows I'm weighing my options by the smirk on his face. He stands up, crossing the room in just a few steps until he's standing in front of me, too close and not close enough. He leans in, running a finger down my arm, and I can feel his indrawn breath against my ear. "You know," he starts, and then there's a knock at the door. He steps away. "That's Yvette."
"That was quick." I take a step back myself, trying to quiet down the adrenaline pulsing through my veins. "Wait, that was really quick. Were you making her wait on the street?"
"Of course not. My driver was circling the block." His driver. Oh, obviously. Doesn't everyone have a driver on standby?
Hikaru goes to the door and I get a glimpse of a leggy blonde with a chic updo handing him a large overstuffed portfolio.. They confer quickly in Japanese before she flashes me a smile over his shoulder and leaves.
"Clear off that table, please," Hikaru orders, turning and shutting the door behind him with his foot. The cocky playboy is gone, and his gaze on my body has shifted from heated to coolly appraising. I shove a stack of journals and a couple textbooks off the coffee table onto the floor. He raises an eyebrow at me, but really there's no place else to put them. I haven't gotten around to clearing out Bubbe's bookshelves yet. I join him on the couch, making sure to put a couple inches of space between us.
"Here's what I have so far." He draws several large sheets out of the portfolio. "They're just basic sketches, but I wanted to give you some options and we can move from there. I'm assuming you've talked to Laney about her vision for her wedding?"
"They got engaged what, two weeks ago? No, I definitely have not talked to her about her vision for her wedding. You're the designer—didn't she talk to you?"
"She said she didn't care what anyone wore and she was fine getting a dress off the rack." I swear I see him shudder. "But you guys have been friends for years—you never talked about what you wanted you future weddings to be like?"
"You and Kyoya have been friends for years. Didn't you talk about your weddings?" I return.
"Yeah, nondisclosure agreements and stock ticker tape are exactly the right note one wants to strike for a wedding." He sorts through the sketches before showing me one. "This is my favorite."
The dress is gorgeous, with a plunging neckline and multiple layers of sheer fabric in the skirt, giving it a floaty, wispy effect. The sketch includes a view of the back, which is basically a couple of thin straps. It's sex on wheels, and I could never pull it off. For one thing—"I can't wear a bra with this."
"You ever been in Virginia in the middle of August? It's hot as hell and twice as humid. I'm not wearing something structured and binding."
"Beauty requires sacrifice. Besides, this wedding is in six weeks—I don't have time to go back to the drawing table."
"No way, Hikaru. I'll grab something at David's Bridal instead if you try to put me in a strapless bra."
He rolls his eyes so hard I'm a little afraid he'll do some damage, and crumples up not only that sketch, but the next four underneath it before throwing them dramatically on the floor. "Fine. Strip."
"You can keep your underwear on, obviously. I need to see what I'm working with, and I can't do that with when you're wearing jeans and that … whatever that excuse for a top is that you're wearing."
"I'm not going to strip down in front of you!" I'm actually a little stung about his comment on my shirt. I'd spent a decent chunk of time trying to figure out what to wear before deciding on a loose, flowing goddess top in a delicate floral print.
"Jenn, it's not like you have anything I haven't seen before." He seems to realize how that sounds, because before I can squawk in utter outrage he amends, "I mean, this is literally my job. I'm around semi-naked models on a regular basis. I'm not going to try anything hinky." He leans back, lacing his hands behind his head. "Unless you're worried about your hot date getting the wrong impression?"
I am, actually—if Mrs. F. caught me half naked with what she'd term an "eligible bachelor" I'd never hear the end of it. But I can't very well tell Hikaru that I'm worried the octogenarian across the hall is going to slip bridal magazines under my door for the next six to nine months if she sees me in my skivvies, so I'm fresh out of excuses. "Can't I just put on something a little more form-fitting?"
"I don't remember you being this shy." Hikaru cocks an eyebrow at me.
"Are you daring me?"
"Maybe." His grin is positively wicked.
"What are we, in sixth grade?" I'm fresh out of excuses though, and I can already tell he's not going to give in on this one. I shuck off my jeans and top. "Behold my glory."
"Knew I'd get your pants off," he says under his breath, pulling a measuring tape out of the garment bag. He circles me twice, and then starts to measure every inch of me. I'm not sure what I expected, but this isn't it. His hands are not quite impersonal, but they move over my body with professionalism. His attention is entirely occupied with the measurements of my frame; his eyes are focused, with no sensuality in them.
When he sits back down on the couch, I move to put my clothes on, but he pulls a pencil and a blank sheet from the portfolio. "Hang on just a sec," he says, and then the only sound is the soft scratch of his pencil moving quickly over the paper. He glances repeatedly at me as he sketches, a frown of concentration on his face. After about ten minutes—which seem to stretch into forever as I stand before him in only my bra and panties—he motions that I can put my clothes back on. I do so with a quickness.
"Now you wait." He continues to sketch, his attention now focused on his drawing. "And I wouldn't say no to a snack."
I sigh. Mrs. F leaves for temple at 6:15, and it's a quarter till right now. She'll be over soon with enough food for a small army. "I can do you one better. My date is bringing dinner to me. Hope you like brisket."
"I don't do threesomes, just so you know. And I'm hungry now."
I want to throw up a little in my mouth at the idea of Mrs. Finkelstein getting jiggy with me and Hikaru."It's not a date, it's just my neighbor," I confess. "And she should be popping in any minute now. I'd assumed you'd be in and out in five minutes."
"I'm deeply hurt, Jenn. I'd have thought you'd remember that I always take my time," he says distractedly, still concentrating on his rapid sketching. The early evening sun streaming in from the windows gilds his dark red hair, bringing out glints of rich gold. He puts the first sheet down on the table and pulls out another sheet, presumably to begin another design. I drift over, hoping for a peek, but he shoots me an irritated glare. "No. I don't like people watching me work."
"Ass," I mutter, but I move into the kitchen. I had baked a couple loaves of challah last night so I could repay Mrs. F back in kind. I unwrap them from the foil now and put them in the oven to warm up. I spend the next ten minutes digging through the box of kitchen stuff to find plates and silverware, rinsing the packing dust off them, and clearing off enough space for to lay them out on the table before I take the challah out.
Hikaru is winding up his flurry of drawing. I can count four sketches, but when I crane my neck over his shoulder, he just rolls them up. The scent of freshly baked bread fills the small apartment, and I'm overcome with a wave of nostalgia for all the Shabbat dinners I'd had with my family at this table. Hikaru interrupts my reminiscences by reaching for a loaf, clearly intent on breaking off a piece for himself. I smack his hand away. "You can wait for the rest of the food to get here. Don't be rude."
"I am never rude," he sulks, then brightens when we hear a knock at the door. "That's the food, right?"
Mrs. F doesn't bother to wait for me to open the door. She is dressed to the nines for temple, the effect only slightly marred by the Tupperware containers peeking out of the reusable grocery bag she's lugging in. "Gut shabbes*, honey. You didn't bake a challah, with your busy schedule? You should be studying, I know how it is for a young doctor." She stops, realizing we're not alone. "Nu*, Jenny, you didn't tell me you had a friend over?"
"Mrs. F, Hikaru; Hikaru, Mrs. Finklestein." I take the bag from her and set it on the table. "Of course I made you a challah. And he's not my friend, he's …" I trail off, not knowing how to finish that sentence. I couldn't tell the woman who is basically a second grandmother to me that he was a fuck buddy, right?
Fortunately for me, Hikaru is a little quicker on the draw. "I'm a friend of a friend, really. Just helping out with some wedding planning. Jenn's going to be maid of honor." He started pulling containers out of the bag. "Mrs. F, this smells divine. I can't wait to dive in." He's really pouring on the charm.
"Hold on, young man," she trots over, shouldering him aside. Hikaru is close to six feet tall, and Mrs. F. is maybe five foot two with heels on a good day, but he gives way easily. She pulls a pair of brass candlesticks out of the bag and fits them with white candles. "Honey, I noticed last week you haven't unpacked your candlesticks yet, and I know your grandmother would want me to make sure you keep Shabbat."
She holds a matchbox and looks expectantly at me. I sigh, but I know she's right. We each light a candle, circling our hands around the flame three times, welcoming the light of Shabbat into our home and hearts. Mrs. F covers her eyes, but I keep mine open, watching how the candlelight bobs and flickers. We chant the blessing together: "Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha'olam, asher kidshanu b'mitvotav vitzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat." I translate for Hikaru's benefit, "Blessed are you, Hashem our Gd, Creator of the universe, who hallows us with mitzvot and commands us to kindle the lights of Shabbat."
Hikaru looks bemused, but Mrs. F just pulls out a small bottle of Manischewitz and a stack of plastic cups. She pours a splash in three cups and hands one to Hikaru, who takes it uncertainly and holds it while we make the blessing over the wine. Mrs. F and I toss ours back, and I don't even pretend to conceal my delight at the shocked revulsion that crosses his face when he cautiously sips the aggressively sweet wine. We make the last blessing over the challah, and then I wrap up the second loaf for Mrs. F to drop off at her place before she heads out.
I hear her talking to Hikaru behind me. "So are you a doctor too?"
"No. I'm in fashion."
"Oh." A long pause. "Well. That's nice." Then to me, as I hand her the wrapped loaf, "My Daniel is coming into town next week. He still doesn't have a girlfriend."
"He's been together with his boyfriend for five years; I'm pretty sure a girlfriend is not in the cards for him." Daniel's been out for close to fifteen years, since he was 14, but Mrs. F is convinced he'll eventually come to his senses, as she puts it.
"It's just a phase," she shrugs. "Soon he'll want to give his Nana a great-grandchild, you wait and see."
"Gay men can have kids, you know."
"Why he should want to be with another boy when he could be settling down with a nice Jewish girl like you—but maybe I shouldn't talk in front of your friend." Mrs. F shoots Hikaru what is almost certainly meant to be a subtle glance, but winds up being something only slightly less inimical than a full-out glare.
"Oh, hey, look at the time. You don't want to be late."
"All right, honey. I'll tell Rabbi you said hello." She reaches up to pinch my cheeks, which I hate, but I'd die a thousand deaths before telling her. "Such a shayna punim*." Then to Hikaru, "You make sure she eats her vegetables, yes?" It would take a braver man than he apparently is to say no to Mrs. F, and he just nods with a dazed expression as she sweeps out of the apartment, high heels clacking on down the hall.
"What was that?"
"That was a Jewish grandmother." I start opening containers; brisket, glazed carrots, tiny roast potatoes, and of course, a small container of Mrs. F's famous pickled beets. Heaven.
Hikaru breaks off another piece of challah and shoves it in his mouth disconsolately. Taking pity on him, I dish him out an extra large helping of brisket. "She didn't seem to like me much. Grandmothers usually love me."
"She doesn't think I should be wasting my time on anyone who's not a doctor, a lawyer, or Jewish. Really she'd prefer two out of three." I take a bite of glazed carrots, and the sweetness is an explosion in my mouth. "Yentas gonna yenta, what can you do?"
I see him turn this over in his head for a minute, but fortunately he decides to moves on. "That stuff with the candles—you do that every Friday night?"
"Pretty much." I offer him the pickled beets after taking half of them for myself. "My mom's a rabbi, so it's kind of baked into the cake by this point."
"I didn't know women could be rabbis."
"There've been female rabbis for a hundred years, Hikaru." I have to stop myself from launching into the lecture my mother has ingrained in my head: The first female rabbi was actually in Germany in the early sixteenth century, but … I love my mom, but she can be more than a little bit pedantic. "
This would normally be the point where I'd ask him what his parents do for a living, but of course I already know, due to the google stalking. And besides, that would make this start to feel like a date—getting to know each other, trading funny family stories. Hikaru must feel the same way, because he abruptly gets up, retrieving his sketches and a ring of fabric samples from the coffee table before thrusting the papers at me. "These better be acceptable, because I'm not going through another round of designs. We're running on an extremely abbreviated schedule here, even for me."
I move my plate away to lay out the drawings. The dresses are far simpler than the design he'd showed me earlier—quietly sensual, almost intimate. I'm sure what details exactly make the difference, but if the first dress was a torch, these were candlelight. All four of them capture exactly the mood of the laid-back garden wedding Laney is planning. I glance up at Hikaru, who is pushing the carrots around his plate. "These are perfect."
"Obviously. I'm extremely good at my job," he says, still not meeting my eyes. He looks almost vulnerable, and I realize that ever since he walked into my apartment almost all I've done is insult him. Then my neighbor comes in and basically tells him he's not good enough for me. I wouldn't have thought a guy like Hikaru would care what the octogenarian next door thinks about him, but on the other hand, I can't imagine a guy like Hikaru has much experience with being not good enough.
"You're going to have to pick which one I should wear," I tell him. His head comes up, and I'm struck by how his hazel eyes pick up and reflect the light from the candles. "I'm not exactly good at fashion—big shock, I know—and," I take a breath, "and I trust you to figure out which design is best."
He smiles at me, this small, crooked, almost shy smile, and it's the most genuine thing I've seen from him since I met him, and I'm getting distracted by how almost unfairly handsome he really is. He takes the sketches back, letting his fingers linger on my hand just a second longer than he needs to. He pulls out the third page, holding it for me to see. It's a modified version of the first design he'd shown me earlier, but quieter, more modest. I love it.
Taking my hand, he pulls me from the table and over to the window. He thumbs through the fabric samples, ripping out a pale, watery, gold, a celery green, and a robin's egg blue, then holds all three up to my face. "Free tip; never wear green. It makes you look like you're going to vomit." He tosses the green square to the floor, then turns me slightly to better catch the last of the sunlight. "Got a preference between blue or yellow?"
"You choose," I said, savoring the warmth of the light on my face. It feels so good to let this go, and just trust that Hikaru knows what he's doing. I don't want him involved in my life, but I can let him take this one thing off my plate.
"Gold it is." He lets his palm linger on my cheek, and I lean into it. His fingers run softly along my jaw before moving around to cup my head. "I'm gonna kiss you now," he says, tilting my face up.
I make a small sound of assent, and then his lips are on mine. He's gentle, so gentle. I forgot how gentle he could be. I lean into him, wanting more, but he backs off, his hands still buried in my hair. "We doing this?"
And yes, yes, yes, I want this. "It's just fun," I remind him breathlessly. "No complications, right?"
"Just fun," he agrees, lowering his head back down to mine, and oh, he is a good kisser. This is such a bad idea, but just for one night I want to let go and forget all my responsibilities. Just for one night I want to stop thinking and just be.
Gut shabbes: Good Sabbath; the traditional Yiddish greeting for the Sabbath, which starts on Friday night.
Nu: This can be translated as so, but it's so much more than that. Nu is almost infinite in its meaning; it can be hello, what's up, what were you thinking, etc.
Shayna punim: Pretty face. This is a Yiddish endearment usually used for little girls. You can have a shayna pumin but you can also be a shayna punim.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you so much to HopelesslyAngela, livexinxlaughter, .ra, nataliecheng2103, and yuki0123 for the follows and to HopelesslyAngela and nataliecheng2103 for the favorites. Just a note on the portrayal of Judaism in this story-this is Jenn's Judaism. It doesn't necessarily look like your Judaism, or your friend's Judaism, or even my Judaism. Out of respect for the Divine Name it's traditional to not write it except for prayer or study-so in this story I'm using standard alternatives. In other words, "Gd" is not a typo! :) I hope you guys are enjoying the story-reviews are always appreciated to let me know what's working and what's not. I'm trying very hard to keep to a biweekly schedule, but The Rona is still wreaking havoc on everyone's schedules. Stay safe!