A group of friends- Mimi, Sora, Hikari, and Miyako- living in the heart of Tokyo struggle with men, parents, and careers. What's the life lesson learned? Comfort foods must always come in fours.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything except what I actually do own. Like my computer.
Author's Note: I took down 'Only Alive' and will be incorporating it into this story, but you won't be able to tell. Ah well, it'll amuse me…. Don't like it, don't read it, but I hope it lives up.
Despite the overpowering panic that is slowly settling in the pit of my stomach, I'm actually pretty excited. Today I will be moving in with my long-time boyfriend, Ichijoji Ken, with whom I have been madly in love since we met in grade school. I've been planning this moment for like, years, but I've been walking around in a daze all morning. Not that I'm having second thoughts or anything (have you seen my boyfriend?), I'm just slightly overwhelmed by the idea. In a good way, of course. It's a big decision, but I'm looking forward to it with a sort of nervous enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, today is also the day I will be moving out of the apartment I've shared with my three best friends in the entire world. We've been through everything together and (miraculously) we still like each other. Part of me desperately aches at the thought of leaving them, but they were actually the ones who encouraged me to take this big step. I know they're right (they generally are) but still…. I look around the flat now and realize for the first time how perfectly painful leaving it will be.
Takenouchi Sora is sitting at the kitchen table making a list of all the things that she says I should remember as I adjust to a full-time relationship. She warned me that living with a man is like being trapped against my natural feminine will, but I know better. Sora may joke a lot about the opposite sex in a very condescending way, but she is a romantic at heart who melts at the smallest gesture of love. She is a fashion designer for a big business company in Tokyo, and it seems like she knows half the city. She's always working and flying for shows at all the big world cities, but her favorite stress-relieving pastime is gardening. She keeps a miniature greenhouse on the balcony of the flat, which everyone dubs "Sora's Corner" and is basically off-limits unless given special permission to stroll around by the gardener herself (not that there's much room to stroll anyway).
I want to cry now that I remember the vinery and plants that could take over all of Japan in a matter of two months. I can't believe I'll never have to deal with garden bugs again!
Turning away, I spot Yagami Hikari labeling my boxes for me. She's always doing things like that, helping me with stuff I usually forget. And she never expects anything in return. She's one of those few individuals who help people for the sake of helping people. That's why she's a teacher, and a really good one at that. She teaches second grade at a private school a little distance away from the apartment, but she loves living in the city so she doesn't mind the commute. I shared a room with her in college, and ever since then we've been the best of friends. There isn't anything I haven't told Hikari.
But now that I think of it, I won't have her around to talk to until three in the morning anymore…. I'll just have Ken, and he's not even a night person! He's a morning person! Dear God, why did I ever get involved with a morning person? They're practically a different species!
Hikari sees me hyperventilating, and she leaps over the boxes to grab my hand.
"Oh, Miyako, don't worry, it'll be all right!" she insists. As usual, she's read my mind and found the root of my panic-attack.
Sora looks up form the table with a worried expression. "You'll be fine, Miyako."
"I'm living with a man!" I wail. "How can you tell me I'll be fine?"
"But you love Ken, sweetie, and he loves you," Hikari reassures. "You'll see, things will work out. You're just nervous, that's all."
"I don't wanna leave!"
"It's not like we'll never see each other," Sora points out. (She's always been the sensible one.) "We'll still do everything together, just like always. The only difference is where we drop you off at night. See? Nothing's really going to change."
I sniffle quietly. "I guess you're right."
"That's a good girl," Hikari pats my hand lovingly. Then she glances at the clock on the stove. "Ken's going to be here soon. Are you ready?"
I nod. "Everything's packed."
"And if you forget anything, you can just come back later. Or send Ken to get it. He's your slave now." Sora grins. "That's one of the biggest perks about these things, you know."
I smile back, feeling a little better. Not that I would do that sort of thing to Ken. But on the other hand, it would be nice to have someone at your beck and call…. Possibilities.
Then I frown.
"But where's Mimi? I don't want to start moving until she's here."
Sora purses her lisp in thought. "Well, she did say she was having some trouble at the café earlier this morning. But she promised she'd be back in time. Besides, you know Mimi. She's always late."
"I'm sure she'll get here any minute now," Hikari says.
The doorbell rings. I fly towards it, throwing the door open eagerly. But I'm only greeted by the nervous smile of my boyfriend. His dark eyes brighten when he sees me.
"Hi," he greets simply, leaning in for a kiss.
But I shove him back and glance up and down the hallway. I can feel the panic-attack coming back.
"She's not here!"
"I'm sure she's on her way!" Hikari offers vainly.
"Who?" Ken asks, confused.
"Mimi," Sora explains. "We're waiting for her to come before-,"
"I'm not leaving until she gets here!" I declare nobly.
Ken smiles weakly, utterly confused about the rituals of female bonding. "I can wait."
"Go ahead and start loading the boxes in the car, Ken," Sora advises him. "It'll save time."
"Right." He steps inside and reaches for the nearest labeled box, but I slap his hand away. "No! I told you I'm not going anywhere until she gets here!"
"Now, Miyako-," Sora begins in her motherly tone, but I refuse to listen.
"Nothing happens until she comes. I want all of us to be here one last time."
Hikari nods understandingly, but Sora tries again to be the reasonable voice in the crowd.
"By the time Ken finishes loading the boxes, she'll be here anyway. This is the most economic way of-,"
I'm about to interrupt her when suddenly I hear footsteps in the hall. High heels click rapidly on the floor, nearing our door, and we all instantly recognize the sound. Hikari looks vindicated, "I told you she'd be here in time."
"Sorry I'm late," a soft voice gasps as a young woman darts through the door.
"We were expecting it," Sora smiles.
Tachikawa Mimi is gorgeous. A goddess through and through. I think she did some modeling back in the day, but she owns her own café now. She's a very talented cook. You wouldn't think so, but she's actually pretty business-savvy. Granted, mathematics is not her strongest skill, but she can bargain her way out of death if she tried. The only problem is most of her exploits get her in some nasty trouble once in a while, and she has a tendency not to think things through completely. But she usually pulls out of it okay. She has a knack for that, for making things work out in the end. It's in her personality to take things as they come and try and make the most out of it anyway.
"All right, Ken, now you can start."
He flashes me one of his killer smiles and I melt. After he leaves with the first box, I turn around to see Hikari stifling laughter. "You two are so cute," she gushes between giggles. "It's like you just met yesterday."
I flush, embarrassed, which only causes them to laugh even louder.
Then I notice the strange look on Mimi's face. She's a little pale, as though she'd been running, and her eyes have that nervous expression to them. I gaze at her carefully.
"Mi, are you all right?" I ask.
Sora and Hikari immediately turn to stare at her, frowning in their silent studies. Mimi is a little annoyed.
"No, no- I mean, yes! Yes, I'm fine. Why?"
"I don't know. You just aren't acting like yourself."
"I'm nervous for you," she replies easily.
Sora smirks, "Liar."
Mimi and Sora have been best friends for almost as long as Hikari and I have. They bicker and squabble constantly, but it's a sisterly kind of relationship that no one on earth could break apart. They even have a tendency to finish each other's sentences. It's kind of scary sometimes.
Mimi throws her coat and purse on the couch.
"I'm fine. It's just been another hectic day at work. I don't know what I'm going to do."
Hikari becomes concerned, "Is it that new restaurant again?"
"Yes," Mimi grumbles. "They had this huge sign on the sidewalk and a girl dressed up as a cocktail waitress outside to attract people in."
"How sleazy!" I say.
"Tell me about it. And her outfit was hideous," Mimi tells Sora with a sigh. "But by the time I left there was a line going down the block to get a table. I'm losing more and more customers every day!"
"Not true," Hikari says. "Everyone loves your café. And people usually turn out more loyal than you'd expect."
"Thanks, Kari," Mimi smiles at her distractedly. "But if this keeps up, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do…."
"We'll think of something," Sora promises.
"Yeah," I agree. "This means war."
Mimi laughs. I love her laugh. It's so rich and contagious, and beautifully genuine. That's when Ken comes back, and he takes two boxes this time while the rest of us hurry to move things around so the bigger boxes are closer to the door. There's this one gigantic box (clothes) that I try shoving out the bedroom door, but it gets stuck by the sofa. So I grab one end of the couch.
"Hikari, help me move this out of the way," I call to her.
She comes over and we struggle to drag the sofa away. Mimi's purse falls over the edge when I jerk my end of the couch too hard. Hikari reached down to grab it and freezes. I frown at her.
"What's the matter?"
Her eyes are huge.
Her mouth drops open but she can't bring herself to speak. Instead, she reaches down to pick a small carton from off the floor where it had fallen out of Mimi's purse. I lean forward to read the label when Mimi suddenly jumps for it, grabbing it from Hikari's hand so fast it takes us a full minute to realize what happened.
Hikari straightens, her brown eyes still huge.
"It's nothing!" Mimi sputters.
"What's nothing?" Sora asks interestedly.
"Well, it has to be something," I protest, immediately curious.
"What're you hiding?" Sora demands.
Hikari squeaks out a laugh of disbelief, then claps a handover her mouth when Mimi shoots her a look.
"Then if you're so innocent, let's see it." Sora holds out her hand expectantly.
"See what?" Mimi asks.
Sora narrows her eyes. She looks like your mother when she does that. "Mimi."
The woman bites her lips and refuses to speak.
"Come on, just let me see what it is-,"
She shakes her head violently.
"Mimi, you're acting like a child!"
Hikari makes another noise- a cross between a giggle and a snort- and Mimi glances at her pleadingly. But the younger woman shakes her head, wiping away the amused expression and frowning slightly at her dear friend. "Mimi, this is serious."
"I don't even know if it's true," she protests, breaking her silence and devoting her attention solely on the youngest member of our musketeer band.
"Know if what's true?" Sora interrupts.
I place my hands on my hips sternly. "Guys, come on. I don't want to leave with all this secrecy and deception. Those aren't good vibes. Do you want to curse my relationship?"
Mimi looks away, chewing her lip worriedly.
"Mimi, come on. You can tell us anything, you know that," Sora tries again. She takes a step towards her. "We're your friends. Any problem of yours is our problem, too. We've been there, done that, remember?"
She smiles faintly. "Not this one," she murmurs. It's especially serious when a woman like Mimi takes a philosophical tone like that.
I feel my brow crease in concern. "Mimi? What is it?"
With a loud sigh, she finally throws the carton on the ground, stepping back and crossing her arms over her chest resolutely. She looks irritated now, though not by us. Her foot taps impatiently on the floor while the rest of us gather around the object to examine it carefully. Sora gasps aloud and I feel like I have to sit down. In fact, I do. I collapse onto the sofa and clutch my heart.
"You're not serious?" I cry.
"Those things are hardly accurate," Mimi dismisses easily. "I wouldn't trust them."
"But- but-," I stutter, still reeling in shock.
Sora's face is the palest I've seen in years. She stares long and hard at the carton, and then searches Mimi's face with a concerned desperation. "How long have you suspected-?"
"Three weeks," she answered shortly. I can see how uncomfortable she is, even around us.
Hikari's doing some quick calculations in her head. "That's enough time for these tests to be fairly efficient with the results."
"So? It could still be a mistake." Mimi pauses. "It is a mistake." She closes her eyes and leans against the wall. "Oh, God, this is all a mistake," she moans. Sora is at her side in a second, holding onto her arm for support. "This is ridiculous, Sora!" Mimi goes on, opening her eyes again. "Completely ridiculous! I can't- not now!"
"It's okay, honey," Sora says soothingly, stroking her arm.
But Mimi's shaking her head. "It's not. It's not."
I bite my lip nervously, dropping my voice low. "Do you know who- who's the father?"
Mimi groans and sinks to the floor.
"I'm sorry!" I apologize in a panic. "I'm sorry! That's a horrible thing to ask right now! I don't know why I brought it up! I'm so sorry, Mimi! I swear I didn't mean anything by it-,"
"Calm down, Miyako, I'm not upset with you," she interrupts dully. She buries her face in her hands. "I can't even remember when this happened."
"Really?" Hikari asks, kneeling down on the other side of her.
"Really," she affirms miserably. "I have no idea…. Oh, God, I'm going to be an awful mother!"
"That's not true," Sora says swiftly. "You're just going to have an awful father."
"But I don't even know who the father is!" Mimi starts to laugh. "I must be going insane! I can't believe this is happening to me!"
"You don't have any idea?"
"I broke up with Yamato a while ago-,"
"-not that far back-," I correct.
"-and then there was that stupid fling with Taichi-,"
"-baka-," Sora interjects moodily.
"-but then I think I was drunk when Daisuke took me to that party at his friend's house a few weeks ago-,"
"-never trust Daisuke-!" Hikari warns.
"-oh, and Michael came back to see me that one week, but nothing happened. At least I don't think anything happened…."
"My God, Mimi!" I burst out, hand over my mouth. "I know you're scared of commitment, but seriously, four potential-?"
Mimi scrunches up her face tearily. "I really am going to be a horrible mother!"
I go over to her and give her a hug, which is a signal for the other two to give her a hug as well. Pretty soon we're all pressed together in a really awkward embrace that's strangely comforting in its own way. Mimi's sniffling, Hikari's frowning, Sora's thinking, and I'm crying (more like wailing).
"We're all going to be fine," I insist through tears. "We'll get through this, too."
Sora agrees. "We'll figure this out, don't worry."
"It will come together in the end, you'll see," Hikari comforts, squeezing Mimi's shoulder.
"I'm too young for this!" Mimi whimpers. "I'm not ready for this! I can't do it! I'm not even married! My parents are going to freak-,"
"Never mind the career, never mind the parents, never mind the men," Sora interrupts forcefully. "We've got each other, remember? You've got us."
But Mimi's still shaking her head. "I can't- I can't- I just don't know-,"
"Come on, we'll make it. When have we let each other down before? That's not going to start now. Nothing will separate us."
"Not even Ken," I quip up as a joke, my voice a little strained, and they all laugh a little, relieved, just as he walks through the door.